Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

You Can Fly: The Tuskegee Airmen

You Can Fly: The Tuskegee Airmen 
by Carole Boston Weatherford
illustrated by Jeffrey Boston Weatherford
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2016
Grades 5-12

Carole Boston Weatherford is one of my favorite poets and authors of books for children. Her picture book, Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement won many awards and praises last year including a 2016 Sibert Honor.

Weatherford's latest book, You Can Fly, is a small book that packs a big punch. The book is comprised of powerful poems about the Tuskegee Airmen who flew and fought in World War II. The second person narrative style of the poems is effective in placing readers in the story, giving them a first hand account of what it was like to serve in a segregated military.

"As you stand at attention, your commander
tells you cadets to look left and right.
The men beside you may not make it.
You glance at your comrades,
hoping you all beat the odds.
You pray every night to make the cut."

Readers will learn about the elite group of pilots, known as the Tuskegee Airmen, who trained in Alabama and fought bravely in Europe. Weatherford masterfully weaves together social, political and popular culture to paint a realistic picture of the U.S. at a time when men who did not have basic human rights and freedoms were asked to give their lives for their country.

"No use candy-coating the truth:
Gasoline and sugar were rationed
during the war, and metal was reserved
for the defense industry,
but racism was never in short supply."

 Jeffrey Boston Weatherford's black and white scratchboard illustrations are based on photographs from World War II. Back matter includes an lengthy time line of important events and a list of resources including links to museum sites and primary documents. You Can Fly is a recommended purchase for public and school libraries. If I taught American History in a middle or high school, You Can Fly would be required reading for my students.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Crossing Niagara

Crossing Niagara: The Death-Defying Tightrope Adventures of the Great Blondin
by Matt Tavares
Candlewick, 2016
Grades K-5

In stunning watercolor, gouache and pencil illustrations, Tavares conveys the incredible story of the Great Blondin, a tightrope walker who set his sights on crossing Niagara Falls in 1859.

Crowds packed the area to see The Great Blondin walk across the falls. Gamblers placed bets on whether he would make it across or "plummet to his death." Not only did he succeed in crossing Niagara Falls, but the Great Blondin also performed stunts and tricks along the way. Young readers will find a lot to like in this narrative, picture book biography. Fold-out pages and illustrations from various points of view capture the dangerous feat. Crossing Niagara would make an entertaining read aloud for story time or an exciting book for a parent to read to a child. Pair Crossing Niagara with Queen of the Falls by Chris Van Allsburg.

Visit the author's website to see pages from the book.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Nonfiction Summer Reading Suggestions

I spent the weekend creating summer reading lists for K-5 students in my elementary school. While I was compiling this year's lists, I consulted a number of summer reading lists created by librarians, teachers, parents and organizations. I noticed that many summer reading lists shy away from nonfiction titles.

Here are some new nonfiction titles that kids will enjoy reading over the summer months.


Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson's Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions by Chris Barton and Don Tate

Crossing Niagara by Matt Tavares

Samurai Rising by Pamela S. Turner

You Can Fly: The Tuskegee Airmen by Carole Boston Weatherford


Flying Frogs and Walking Fish by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page

Science Comics: Dinosaurs: Fossils and Feathers by MK Reed and Joe Flood

Masters of Disguise: Amazing Animal Tricksters by Rebecca L. Johnson

The Great White Shark Scientist by Sy Montgomery and Keith Ellenbogen

Fun Facts

The Slowest Book Ever by April Pulley Sayre and Kelly Murphy

National Geographic Kids: National Parks Guide U.S.A. (Centennial Edition)

Real or Fake?: Far-Out Fibs, Fishy Facts, and Phony Photos To Test for the Truth 
by Emily Krueger

Here's the coconut I received in the mail from National Geographic proving that it's true, you can mail a coconut.