Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Monday, December 28, 2015

Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras

Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras 
by Duncan Tonatiuh
Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2015
Grades 2-5

Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras was recently featured in our list of Best Nonfiction Books of 2015. The picture book biography introduces readers to an influential Mexican artist who began his work as a printer.

Jose Guadalupe Posada worked as a printer and engraver in Mexico City in the late 1800s. He was known for illustrating political cartoons. Posada's calaveras became popular when he illustrated the poems for a local newspaper for Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead). Calaveras are images of skeletons associated with Day of the Dead celebrations. Most of Posada's drawings were humorous and meant to celebrate life, yet when revolution broke out the artist used his pen to criticize leaders of the Revolution.

Author and illustrator, Duncan Tonatiuh, eloquently incorporates Posada's artwork into the illustrations in the book. The combination of Tonatiuh's cartoon-style illustrations and Posada's black and white etchings are the perfect blend of the present and the past and capture the comical and political nature of the calaveras. On three pages, Tonatiuh breaks down Posada's printing and etching techniques into step-by-step instructions that clearly explain to young readers how Posada created his artwork. Posada's work influenced many great artists such as Diego Rivera; his work can be viewed in museums across North America.

Don't miss the rich back matter in the book including a detailed author's note, glossary, bibliography and list of museums where Posada's work can be seen. Funny Bones is an interesting story of an artist most students probably have never heard of before. The picture book can be used as an introduction to an artist study in art classes or in Spanish classes studying Day of the Dead. Posada's etchings may even inspire readers to create their own calaveras to celebrate life.

Be sure to check out Separate is Never Equal by Duncan Tonatiuh.

The reviewer borrowed a copy of the book from the local library.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Best Nonfiction Books of 2015

2015 turned out to be another banner year for nonfiction books for children. We looked back over our reviews from the year and selected 22 books that stood out as the best of the year. There are still many 2015 titles we plan to review in upcoming weeks.

We've organized the list into three categories: History, Science and Biography. Our hope is that librarians, teachers and parents will find this list helpful as they make purchases for children. We're looking forward to what 2016 will bring in the world of nonfiction.

Louise and Cathy


Arthur Levine Books: Scholastic, Inc.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Calkins Creek

Mesmerized: How Ben Franklin Solved a Mystery and Baffled All of France
 by Mara Rockliff and Iacopo Bruno
Candlewick Press

Roaring Brook Press

Roaring Brook Press

Roaring Brook Press

National Geographic


Beach Lane Books

Ebola: Fears and Facts by Patricia Newman
Millbrook Press

Millbrook Press

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt


Abrams Books for Young Readers

Candlewick Press

Peachtree Publishers

Abrams Books for Young Readers

National Geographic Kids

by Carol Boston Weatherford and Ekua Holmes
Candlewick Press

Friday, December 11, 2015

The Smart Girl’s Guide to Privacy: Practical Tips for Staying Safe Online by Violet Blue

The Smart Girl’s Guide to Privacy: Practical Tips for Staying Safe Online
by Violet Blue
No Starch Press. 2015
ISBN: 9781593276485
Grades 9 thru adult
I received a copy of this book from the publisher
This review reflects my opinion and not that of the Cybils YA Nonfiction Committee

Has your email, Twitter, Snapchat or other online account ever been hacked? Do you worry how easy your personal information - address, phone number, birthday, social security #  - is only a click away for anyone to find? If you feel overwhelmed with how to manage all your personal data, the this book is for you! Penned by Violet Blue, an award-winning author and investigative journalist, this tome offers tips to help keep your online self safe.

Though Blue states this book is for women, the information is spot on for anyone.

This book is packed with some serious self-defense moves. It’s designed to help you get organized so you can navigate the chaotic landscape of online privacy. You’ll learn how to look good to potential employers (or potential dates) safeguard your privacy from sleepy marketers, unethical megacorporations, scammers, stalkers, bullshit artists, and anyone who wants to silence women online.

Divided into ten chapters Blue explains the different ways you can define your boundaries. From email settings, social media and dating services to creating safe passwords for sites where credit card information is stored. Because of her background as a tech reporter, Blue is well aware of the growing phenomena of identity theft. She advices readers to regularly check their privacy settings every three months, and never save credit cards on online shopping sites like Amazon. Linking email accounts can be a disaster waiting to happen, as if always using the same prefix - vblue - for all your email addresses. To keep your passwords safe, never log in to any account using someone else's computer or smartphone.

Chapter four explains how to take charge if a situation arises where you’ve been hacked and your private content - swimsuit shots, selfies with cleavage - turns up all over the Internet. 

Blue’s writing is straightforward, blunt and to the point. She is passionate about making sure women take charge of their online information and urges them to understand the ramifications of what they put out there, especially on social media. Be vigilant. Those horror stories you read about could happen to you.

This isn’t a book filled with technical details of how to do this and that. Instead, Blue guides readers to outside resources, such as websites or software, that is helpful. There is a resource section, divided up by chapters, at the back of the book that is very thorough. 

The Smart Girl's Guide to Privacy would be a valued resource for Internet safety courses at high school and collages. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

How to Swallow a Pig

How to Swallow a Pig: Step-by-Step Advice from the Animal Kingdom
by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015
Grades K-5
ISBN: 978-0-544-31365-1

In classic Jenkins/Page style, How to Swallow a Pig captivates readers with colorful, cut paper collage and interesting science facts. This highly engaging and informative nonfiction picture books uses a sequence text structure to explain the steps animals take to hunt for prey, build homes, and defend themselves. On the Celebrate Science blog, Melissa Stewart describes the text structure as "How-to Sequence Structure" with an "Expository Style."

As with other science picture books by Jenkins and Page, readers will be motivated to pick up the book and read it for pleasure while teachers will want to use the book as a mentor text for expository writing. Readers will enjoy learning how crows crack nuts, how armadillos defend themselves, and how pythons suffocate pigs then swallow them whole. Each step in the process is numbered and accompanied by cut paper illustrations with varying textures and colors. Science-minded readers will appreciate the additional information about each animal located in the back of the book. Pair How to Swallow a Pig with other nonfiction books with sequence text structures such as How to Clean a Hippopotamus or No Monkeys, No Chocolate.

The reviewer received a copy of the book from the publisher.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine

Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine 
by Laurie Wallmark
illustrated by April Chu
Creston Books, 2015
Grades 2-5
ISBN: 978-1-939547-20-0

This week is Computer Science in Education Week. Thousands of students across the country will take part in the Hour of Code and learn about computer programming.  Last year I assembled a display of books in my school library to promote Computer Science in Education Week, and I quickly realized there was a huge gap. Where were the books about women? We have books about Steve Jobs, Steve Wolzniak, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and other men in tech. What about the women in computer science? What about Ada Lovelace, Grace Hopper and Jean Bartik? Creston Books has recently published a biography to help fill the niche.

Laurie Wallmark and April Chu collaborated on Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine, a new picture book biography about the woman who wrote the first computer code. Lovelace was the daughter of the poet Lord Byron, and she had an affinity for mathematics at a young age. Although it was the 1800s, her mother encouraged Ada to pursue math and science and hired a tutor to help Ada further her studies. The accessible narrative text highlights how Lovelace met mathematician and inventor, Charles Babbage, and collaborated with him on an Analytical Engine or "Thinking Machine" that would solve complex math problems.  Young readers will be intrigued by Lovelace's work on the Thinking Machine;  she wrote the algorithm for the machine and created the first computer program.

Chu's pencil illustrations use muted colors to bring a 17th century feeling to the story.  Back matter includes an author's note, timeline, and a bibliography. The story of Ada Lovelace serves as an inspiration to children and is the perfect book to read aloud during Computer Science in Education Week. I'm excited to share the book with children in my school, and it will have a prominent place in this year's library display. Next we need a biography of Grace Hopper.

Visit the illustrator's site to view artwork from the book.

The reviewer received a copy of the book from the publisher.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Sally Ride: a photography of America’s pioneering woman in space by Tam O’Shaughnessy

Sally Ride: a photography of America’s pioneering woman in space
Tam O’Shaughnessy
Roaring Brook Press. 2015
ISBN: 9781596439948
Grades 6-12
I received a copy of this book from the publisher
This review reflects my own opinion and not that of the 2015 Cybils Committee.

The story of Sally Ride is lovingly shared by her friend and life partner, Tam O’Shaughnessy. The two met when Sally was thirteen and Tam was twelve. Tam and Sally would remain friends until they became a couple in 1985.

O’Shaughnessy fills the book with personal stories about Sally’s youth, her time as a tennis player, her college years, being the first woman in space, and her life after NASA.

While working on her dissertation on free-electron lasers while at Stanford, Ride got astronaut fever when she saw an add in the student newspaper. For the first time NASA was recruiting women to join the astronaut training program; Sally, someone loved physics because it explains everything. In August of 1977, Sally received e a phone call from George Abbey, director of sight operations at Johnson Space Center. 

““We’ve got a job here for you, if you’re still interested in taking it.” Sally had made the cut. She was going to be an astronaut!”

With the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger, Ride knew it would be a long time before she could go on another space mission. She retired from NAS to begin a quiet life as a college professor. 

In 2001, Sally and Tam started the  company, Sally Ride Science. Our goal was to bring science to life through science events and books. We wanted to show young people that science is fascinating, creative, and fun; and that the women and men working in science are regular people who come from all walks of life.

Sadly, Sally Ride passed away from pancreatic cancer on Monday, July 23, 2012. She will forever be remembered as the woman who broke gender barriers to be the first American woman in space; was confident and hardworking with a great sense of humor; an inspiration for girls and boys to be themselves, to be courageous, and to reach for their dreams. 

This is a photobiography. O'Shaughnessy packs the book with lots of photographs and personal memorabilia, all well-captioned, that enhances the reading experience. There is only one very minor design flaw; when the type is placed against a red background the narrative difficult to read. Back matter includes a cast of characters, timeline of Sally’s life, and index. 

Highly recommended.

Watch a short video by National Geographic on Sally Ride.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Lincoln's Spymaster: Allan Pinkerton, America's First Private Eye by Samantha Seiple

Lincoln's Spymaster: Allan Pinkerton, America's First Private Eye 

by Samantha Seiple
Scholastic Press. 2015
ISBN: 9780545708975
I was sent a copy of this book from the publisher.
Grades 6-12
This review reflects my opinion and not that of the Cybils YA Nonfiction Committee

Over the centuries, immigrants have enriched our (American) culture and Allan Pinkerton was no exception. Arriving in the US from Scotland in 1847, Pinkerton was a natural at police and detective work. This dynamic biography of American’s first private eye is a captivating read. Pinkerton had a strong work ethic, commanding presence, distaste for corruption that would make this “hard-nosed boss” the most famous detective, especially during the Lincoln administration (1861-1865). In 1849 Pinkerton opened his National Detective Agency and quickly found work on the expanding railroad. 

Full-page and half-page archival photos & engravings accompany the story that highlights some of Pinkerton’s adventures. 

Pinkerton pioneered the technique of going undercover—using a disguise and acting a part—so he could secretly infiltrate situations to gain access to the suspect of the crime without raising suspicion. 

This technique, still used to this day, helped Pinkerton infiltrate the secessionists and successfully thwart their plan to assassinate Lincoln on his way to his inauguration which was to take place on March 4, 1861 in Washington, D.C. With the start of the Civil War on April 12, 1861, six days after Lincoln took office, Pinkerton and his secret agents worked hand in hand with the commander-in-chief of the Union army throughout the war.  

After the Civil War and as the West was being settled there were many gangs found robbing trains and banks which was an extremely profitable business. The Pinkerton National Detective Agency was kept busy  hunting down The Frank Reno Gang, Jessie James, and the Cole-Younger Gang, to name a few. 

Pinkerton would run the agency, even after a massive stroke that left him unable to work in the field, until his death in 1884. His two sons, Billy and Bob took over the agency which, by 1890’s, began shifting their work to crime prevention. It wasn’t long before the name “Pinkerton” also became synonymous with “armed guard”. 

Pinkerton's influence can be seen to this day in how crimes are solved. His hard-boiled character was the inspiration for many detective stories: Sam Spade (The Maltese Falcon), Philip Marlow (The Big Sleep), Lord Peter Wimsey (Dorothy L. Sayers), Inspector Morse (Colin Dexter novels) and Inspector Lynley created by Elizabeth George, to name a few. 

And to think it began with America's willingness to embrace an immigrant from Scotland.

Hand this to fans of Steve Sheinkin.

Monday, November 23, 2015

2016 Orbis Pictus Award

Over the weekend, the Orbis Pictus Award winner and honors were announced during a luncheon at the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) conference in Minneapolis. The Orbis Pictus Award recognizes "excellence in the writing of nonfiction for children."

2016 Orbis Picture Winner:
Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina & New Orleans by Don Brown 

2016 Honor Books:
Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras by Duncan Tonatiuh

Growing Up Pedro by Matt Tavares

Mesmerized: How Ben Franklin Solved a Mystery That Baffled All of France by Mara Rockliff and Iacopo Bruno

Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova by Laurel Snyder and Julie Morstad

Terrible Typhoid Mary: A True Story of the Deadliest Cook in America by Susan Campbell Bartoletti

Visit the Orbis Pictus site to see a list of recommended informational books from 2016.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

A Chicken Followed Me Home!

A Chicken Followed Me Home!: Questions and Answers About a Familiar Fowl  
by Robin Page
Beach Lane Books, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-4814-1028-1
Grades K-3

The reviewer received a copy of the book from the publisher.

Robin Page is known for collaborating with Steven Jenkins on nonfiction picture books such as What Do You Do With a Tail Like This?,  My First Day, Time to Eat and How to Clean a Hippopotamus. Her latest informational book, A Chicken Followed Me Home, is a solo project.

Using a questions and answer format, Page provides young readers with important advice about raising chickens including the kinds of chickens, chick coops, what to feed chickens, and how eggs are fertilized and hatched.

The bold, digital illustrations use contrasting colors to catch the attention of readers. Two pages include clearly labeled diagrams of a hen and rooster. On the page about eggs, Page includes the statistic that the average chicken lays 260 eggs each year. The illustration of 260 white eggs on a red background is the perfect visual for young readers. The book is full of information for curious readers, and the structure and organization make it highly accessible. Back matter includes more questions and answers about chickens and a list of books for further reading for readers who want to learn more.

A Chicken Followed Me Home is a wonderful addition to a primary nonfiction collection and it may even inspire some children to raise their own chickens at home.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Nonfiction News: November 2015

Louise and I have been focused on reviewing the best nonfiction books of the year, and it's been a while since we've shared Nonfiction News. Here are some articles and blog posts that have caught our attention lately.

It's getting close to awards season. Alyson Beecher posted her Mock Sibert list on Kidlit Frenzy today. She has compiled a list of excellent titles; many we've reviewed on our blog.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science announced the finalists for the 2016 AAAS/Subaru SB&F Awards.

Melissa Stewart's blog, Celebrate Science, is a wealth of information for librarians and teachers. This month she write about nonfiction categories: life story, survey text, specialized text, and concept text.

It's also CYBILS Season. Louise is currently serving as a first round judge in the YA Nonfiction category, and I'm the chair the Book Apps. Here are the lists of nominated nonfiction titles in case you missed them.

CYBILS Elementary/Middle Grade Nonfiction
CYBILS YA Nonfiction

Judges are currently reading and discussing the titles, and the short lists will be announced on January 1st.

The Shelf Talker blog on the Publisher's Weekly site has been keeping track of how many stars children's book receive this year. Here's the latest list as of October 19th. There are several nonfiction titles that have received 5 and 6 stars so far this year including The Boys Who Challenged Hitler, Drowned City, Earmuffs for Everyone, and Most Dangerous.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Overturning Wrongful Convictions: science serving justice

by Elizabeth A. Murray, PhD
Twenty-First Century Books. 2015
ISBN: 9781467725132
Grades 8-12
I borrowed a copy of this book from my local public library.

This is a Cybils book. The opinion expressed in this review is mine, not the committee's.

Being wrongfully convicted of a crime you didn’t commit and spending years behind bars is a frightening thought. How can such injustices happen? In Overturning Wrongful Convictions, Elizabeth Murray, a forensic scientist, explains that the very sciences that put people behind bars can also set them free. 

Each chapter explains just how the system can break down and where mistakes have been made. From mistaken eyewitness identification, police misconduct, faulty forensic science, poor legal representation, courtroom mistakes, and other factors that can result in the wrong person serving someone else’s time

Because of her experience as a forensic scientist, Murray’s narrative weaves real-life stories of prisoners and the process taken to prove their innocents with explanations on the different sciences used to convict or exonerate prisoners. Take Kenny Waters. In May of 1980 Waters was accused of murdering his neighbor, Katharina Reitz Brow. Though convicted because blood matching his type was found at the crime scene, eighteen years later and the improvements in DNA testing, Brow would be exonerated. (though he would die six months after his release from an accidental fall). 
Since 1989 more than 1,400 Americans who were wrongfully accused have been exonerated by using the same sciences that convicted them. One organization, The Innocence Project was founded in 1992 with the sole purpose of exculpate those falsely convicted. The organization receives more than three thousand requests each year, but can only accept a small number of inquiries because of the amount of time involved - from one to ten years.

Full-page and half-page color photographs, side bars, and accompany the text. The extensive back matter includes  exoneration profiles of those stories mentioned in the book, source notes, selected bibliography, three pages of suggestions for further reading, and an index. I particularly found the narrative interesting, even with all the scientific information, Murray excelled at making the information accessible. We learn that exoneration is achieved, mostly through DNA testing and fingerprints. 

Overturning Wrongful Convictions: science serving justice is a recommended purchase for high school and public libraries where forensic science is of interest or there are fans of the TV show, NCIS.  How fitting to have a Raven on the book's cover for they are often referred to as harbinger of powerful secrets. 

Monday, November 2, 2015

Rhythm Ride by Andrea Davis Pinkney

Rhythm Ride: A Road Trip Through the Motown Sound 
by Andrea Davis Pinkney
Roaring Brook Press, 2015
Grades 5-8

Rhythm Ride, Andrea Davis Pinkney's latest nonfiction work, is a dynamic look at the life of Berry Gordy, the rise of Motown Records and the success of dozens of African American singers and songwriters from the 1960s to the 1990s. The first chapter,"Greeting from the Groove," introduces the narrator of the story: the Groove. The Groove takes readers on a road trip through the history of Motown and speaks directly to readers along the way.

Full-page and half-page black and white photographs accompany the story of how Gordy established Motown Records in a home in a Detroit neighborhood. Gordy wanted to offer African American artists better recording contracts and larger distribution than other record companies that often took advantage of talented artists.

Each chapter introduces readers to a new artist or group and describes the tight-knit Motown family including Smokey Robinson, The Temptations, Martha Reeves, The Supremes, The Four Tops, and The Jackson 5. Pinkney's lyrical writing captures the feeling of R&B music. As I was reading, I felt like I was in the Hitsville, USA house in Detroit watching history unfold. Pinkney's thorough research is evident in the details she includes in the story. Readers get a true behind-the-scenes look into Motown Records as Berry Gordy hired Maxine Powell to provide etiquette and finishing lessons to Motown artists. Cholly Atkins was hired to choreograph moves for groups when they performed live. It was Powell who gave The Supremes makeovers and helped them become more polished, and Atkins choreographed the movements to "Stop! In the Name of Love."

The book artfully weaves together music, history, and business. In the chapter titled, "Ugly Sighting" Pinkney reminds readers that even though many Motown artists were successful and famous, there were many terrible events happening to African American children and teenagers in our country including Claudette Colvin and Emmett Till.

The last chapter of the book describes the sale of Motown Records to EMI Music Publishing. Be sure to read the extensive back matter including the author's note, timeline, discography, and source notes. Pinkney explains that the voice of the Groove is modeled after her cousin Scoopy, a radio professional and voiceover actor.

Rhythm Ride is a must-read of 2015, and it's a recommended purchase for school and public libraries. I should warn you that the Groove will get into your system while you're reading, and you'll have the urge to put on some R&B music and dance. Don't resist!

Visit the publisher's site to read an excerpt and see photos from the book.

The reviewer received an advanced copy of the book from the publisher.

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Great Monkey Rescue

The Great Monkey Rescue: Saving the Golden Lion Tamarins
by Sandra Markle
Millbrook Press, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-4677-8030-8
Grades 3-6

The reviewer received a copy of the book from the publisher.

Over the past few years we've reviewed  The Case of the Vanishing Golden Frogs and The Case of the Vanishing Little Brown Bats by Sandra Markle. These titles have proven to be high interest books for students in my school because Markle presents the information in the form of a mystery that needs to be solved. Markle's latest nonfiction book for middle grade readers isn't a mystery, instead the story is structured in the form of a problem and solution.

The Great Monkey Rescue describes the plight of the endangered golden lion tamarins in the Brazilian rain forest. The engaging narrative is perfect for upper elementary readers in grades 3-5. Markle describes how the number of golden lion tamarins dwindled to 200 in the 1960s due to deforestation. Tamarins live in the canopy of the forest and travel across the high branches on the trees. When the forest was cleared for cattle pastures and roads, tamarins lost their homes. Map on pages 10-11 outlines the Atlantic Forest in Brazil for readers. Large, colorful photos of tamarins in their natural habitat are effectively placed throughout the book. Captions are chock full of additional information about tamarins.

The book highlights how scientists tried breeding golden lion tamarins in zoos, but when the tamarins were released into the wild they didn't survive. They ate poison fruit and made their homes near colonies of Africanized bees. Eventually scientists had success with integrating tamarins bred in captivity with tamarins born in the wild. As the population of golden lion tamarins increased, their need for forests increased as well. One problem was that small forested areas that were left were like islands surrounded by pastures. The solution was to reforest the area by planting trees that could serve as a bridge between the forests. This would allow the tamarins to walk along the tops of the tress to access another forest. The story ends on a happy note as the population of golden lion tamarins has increased to 3,200.

The Great Monkey Rescue is a well-designed, accessible science book that will encourage readers to think like scientists and find solutions to environmental problems. Back matter includes an author's note, glossary, timeline, and list of additional resources. Readers who are inspired to take action and help the golden lion tamarins may want to check out Save the Golden Lion Tamarins.

Click here to preview the book on the publisher's site.

Friday, October 9, 2015

I Will Always Write Back by Caitlin Alifirenka & Martin Ganda with Liz Welch

I Will Always Write Back: how one letter changed two lives
by Caitlin Alifirenka & Martin Ganda with Liz Welch
Little Brown. 2015
ISBN: 9780316241311
Grades 6-12
I borrowed this book from my local public library.

When her English teacher announced a pen pal program, seventh grader Caitlin thought the crazy-sounding place of Zimbabwe sounded intriguing. I’d never heard of Zimbabwe. But something about the way the name looked up on the blackboard intrigued me. 

She chose the country that, though difficult to pronounce, seemed exotic. In her letter Caitlin is friendly and shares all her favorite hobbies and activities. 
For fun, I like to go shopping at the mall on the weekend. I also like to go roller skating and bowling with my friends. And to eat pizza. What is it like in Zimbabwe?

Little did Caitlin know that this seemly reckless decision would not only change her life forever, but that of her pen pal as well.

Far off in the Mutare, Zimbabwe, Martin is the smartest student in his tiny school, so he is one of ten students who receive a letter from America. To Martin, America is the land of Coca-Cola and the WWF, World Wrestling Federation. Men had big muscles who wore skullcaps and knee-high boots and made lots of money.  Martin was thrilled with his pen pal. He had a friend. In America!

In alternating chapters, readers are pulled in to this amazing friendship that deepens over the six years they corresponded. 

The writers do a wonderful job showing Caitlin’s evolution. At first she is very naive about the cultural differences between her upper middle class life in Pennsylvania and the extreme poverty Martin experiences in Mutare. There are so many things Caitlin takes for granted. From buying a postage stamp to having her picture taken, nearly unobtainable luxuries to Martin. Over time Caitlin grows from a self-centered girl of privilege into someone who does all she can to offer Martin the chance he needs to reach his goal of attending college in America by sending him money so he can remain in school.

The correspondence begins in 1997 and ends on August 15, 2003 when the two finally meet for the first time at the Philadelphia airport. 

Hearing Caitlin say “You Made It!” when we first embraced made me realize this was real. For so many years, I thought i had conjured her. But here she was, as beautiful as i imagined, but much taller.

This duel memoir is a story of hope and friendship that makes for a compelling read. A great introduction to social activism.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton

Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton 
bu Don Tate
Peachtree, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-56145-825-7
Grades K-5

The reviewer received a galley from the publisher.

Earlier this year Louise reviewed The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch written by Chris Barton and illustrated by Don Tate. Peachtree recently published a gorgeous picture book biography written and illustrated by Don Tate. Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton is the amazing story of how one man overcame many obstacles and became a published and well-loved poet in North Carolina in the 1800s.

Upon opening the book readers will see lines of poetry on the endpapers, and it's clear that poetry is central to the theme of the book. Horton had a passion for words as a boy. Tate's accessible, narrative text describes how Horton grew up a slave in North Carolina and taught himself to read using an old spelling book. As a young man, Horton worked in the fields and sold vegetables at the University of North Carolina. He captured the attention of students and professors as he recited poetry from his fruit and vegetable cart. After finding success as a writer publishing his poetry in newspapers and books, Horton's owner refuses to allow Horton to buy his freedom.

The mixed media illustrations (ink, gouache, and pencil) use soft, earth tones. Tate effectively incorporates poetry into the illustrations. He researched Horton's life by reading the poet's autobiography and through research in North Carolina historical societies and universities. In the author's note Tate explains that his goal is to show slavery "as more than just an uncomfortable word." He aimed to demonstrate to readers that Horton is relevant "in their lives today."

Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton is a must-buy for school and public libraries. The power of words and poetry rings true, and Horton's perseverance and determination serve as a an inspiration for young readers.

Visit Don Tate's website for more information about Poet and to download the Teacher's Guide.

View the book trailer for Poet.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Fur, Fins, and Feathers by Cassandre Maxwell

Fur, Fins, and Feathers: Abraham Dee Bartlett and the Invention of the Modern Zoo
Written and illustrated by Cassandre Maxwell
Eerdmans Books for Young Readers. 2015
ISBN: 9780802854322
Grades K-5
I received a copy of this book from the publisher.

Abraham Dee Bartlett was born in 1812 in London, England. As a young boy, Abraham was fascinated with animals, especially those with fur, fins, and feathers. A family friend, who owned a collection of wild animals, allowed Abraham to play with the young animals.

But when it was time to put the animals back, he felt sorry for them. They had no place to explore, no place to hide, nothing to play with. They didn’t always get enough to eat, and their keepers sometimes teased them.
Abraham knew he had to find a way to help the animals.

Maxwell does a wonderful job bringing to life the story of the man whose love of all animals would grow up to create the modern zoo. His careful observations of the animals habits allowed him to improve their lives by offering adequate space for them to roam and he understood that a balanced diet was vital to the animals good health.

The very readable text is enhanced by full and sometimes double-page Illustrations created using cut paper collage and mixed media.The end papers are charming and back matter includes an author’s note, bibliography and further reading, and a timeline.

Go here for a discussion guide
Go here to see the book trailer.