Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Prairie Dog Song

Prairie Dog Song: The Key to Saving North America's Grasslands
by Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore
Lee and Low Books, 2016
Grades K-5

Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trombore have earned many honors and praises for their picture books including the 2014 Robert F. Sibert Medal for Parrots Over Puerto Rico. Their new nonfiction picture book highlights the role prairie dogs play in maintaining the balance of the grasslands in North America. As the title states, the story takes the form of a song. Each page features a stanza from the song as readers learn about the grasslands ecosystem and how prairie dogs help the grasses and make the soil rich.

"And up above
Some bison grazed,
With the Heaviest hooves
That you ever did see.
Yes, the bison grazed 
And stomped their hooves.
And the owls burrowed,
And the prairie dogs built 
Their homes in the ground.
And the grasses waved
All around, all around
And the grasses waved all around."

One of the strengths of the book is its unique design. Expository paragraphs are placed below the song stanza on the left side of the page. Younger readers will be able to access the narrative/song part of the story while older readers (grades 3-5) will find the information provided in the expository sections of interest.  Lush, paper and fabric collage illustrations depict animals, plants and people in the grasslands. Roth uses a variety of material to show the many textures and complex colors of the prairie.

A detailed timeline with photos, glossary and sources are listed in the back matter. Readers who are interested in music will appreciate the music and lyrics published in the back of the book arranged by Dale Trumbore.

Prairie Dog Song could be read aloud to science classes studying ecosystems or writing classes learning to write in narrative and expository styles. Pair with No Monkeys, No Chocolate by Melissa Stewart and ask readers to compare and contrast the concepts in the two books.

Visit the publisher's website to view pages from the book and to hear the Prairie Dog Song.

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

Monday, May 16, 2016

Bubonic Panic: Blog Tour and Giveaway

Bubonic Panic: When Plague Invaded America 
by Gail Jarrow
Calkins Creek, 2016
Grades 5 and up

Today I'm pleased to kick off the Bubonic Panic blog tour!

Gail Jarrow rounds out her "Deadly Diseases" trilogy with a riveting account of how the plague came to the United States at the turn of the century. Using the perfect blend of history and science, Jarrow provides readers with an overview of how the plague spread through parts of Asia and Europe in the middle ages during the First and Second Pandemics. The story then shifts to San Fransisco where residents of Chinatown were dying from a mysterious disease that caused fever, aches, vomiting and buboes (swelling of the lymph nodes) between 1900-1908.

Jarrow takes readers into the field as bacteriologists and health officials work to stop the spread of the bubonic plague despite the attempts of San Fransisco business owners and politicians to downplay and cover up the epidemic. Middle grade and teen readers will be amazed to learn how long it took for officials to focus on rats and fleas as the cause of the plague. Jarrow also describes the racism that residents of Chinatown faced as they were forced to be quarantined during the pandemic.

The design of the book is excellent. Primary documents, illustrations and photographs give readers a sense of how serious the outbreak was in the U.S. without disrupting the flow of the narrative. A considerable amount of research went into writing the story, which is rich in the use of quotes and details that paint a vivid picture for readers. A five-page bibliography lists the many resources the author used. Jarrow also consulted with a doctor from the Centers for Disease Control and experts in the fields of entomology and pest management. Some readers will be surprised to learn that rodents such as squirrels still carry the plague and infect 1,000 to 4,000 people each year.

Bubonic Panic is an exciting nonfiction story that tweens and teens won't be able to put down. It could be used as a text for a disease unit in a middle school science class or pair Bubonic Panic with the middle grade novel, Chasing Secrets by Gennifer Choldenko. You can read more about Gail Jarrow's "Deadly Diseases" trilogy on the site.

Be sure to visit these other stops on the Bubonic Panic blog tour.

Tuesday, May 17
Kidlit Frenzy

Wednesday, May 18
Unleashing Readers

Thursday, May 19
Teach Mentor Texts

Friday, May 20
Sally's Bookshelf

Bubonic Panic Giveaway

One winner will receive a copy of Bubonic Panic. 

Click here for the entry form or enter below.

Giveaway Rules
Complete the form below to enter.
One entry per person.
You must be 13 years or older to enter.
Entries will be accepted until 11:59 p.m. EST on May 20, 2016.
(U.S. addresses only)

The reviewer received a review copy of the book to write this review.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Dorothea's Eyes

Dorothea's Eyes: Dorothea Lange Photographs the Truth
by Barb Rosenstock
illustrated by Gerard DuBois
Calkins Creek, 2016
Grades 2-5

The students and teachers at my elementary school are big fans of Barb Rosenstock. Rosenstock's historical fiction picture book, The Camping Trip That Changed America, is read aloud to 4th grade students to kick off a social studies unit on National Parks. Students and teachers also enjoy her picture book biographies such as The Streak, Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library and The Noisy Paint Box.

Rosenstock's latest picture book biography introduces children to the photographer, Dorothea Lange. Written in the present tense and a narrative style, readers will feel like they are they with Lange as she observes people and places around her. Even as a child she intently watched people around her.

"Dorothea pretends she's invisible all the time.  Her eyes work better that way."

The story follows the young Lange who became interested in photography and traveled to San Francisco where she set up a studio. The author succeeds in showing readers the importance of Lange's photographs during the Great Depression. Lange brought attention to issues of homelessness, hunger and poverty in our country. Acrylic and digital illustrations in dark, muted colors to reflect a somber mood as Lange photographs people living in poverty.

"Fathers stoop in fields, working for pennies. Mothers nurse sick children, lying thirsty in makeshift tents. Whole families live in jalopies-"

Six of Lange's photographs are featured in the back of the book and will spark discussions for young readers about the power of photographs and art. An expensive timeline is helpful in providing information for readers who wish to learn more about the artist and her impact on society. Pair Dorothea's Eyes with Migrant Mother: How a Photograph Defined the Great Depression. Give Dorothea's Eyes to students looking for interesting biographies for school assignments. It would also serve as an excellent read aloud for social studies classes across grade levels or for art classes studying photography.

Visit the author's website to learn more about the book and to access an educator's guide.

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