Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Jazz Day

Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph
by Roxanne Orgill
illustrated by Francis Vallejo
Candlewick, 2016
Grades 2-6

In 1958, fifty-seven jazz musicians gathered on a street in Harlem to pose for a photo for Esquire. The photo entitled "A Great Day in Harlem" became an iconic image from the 20th century, and the story behind the photograph is amazing.

In this extended picture book, Roxanne Orgill uses free verse poetry to describe how the photograph came to be. It was conceived by Art Kane, an art designer and fan of jazz music.  Kane was not a photographer; he didn't even own a camera. Kane pitched his idea to Esquire, made an open invitation to musicians in New York, and borrowed a camera. The rest is history.

As readers turn the pages of Jazz Day, they are introduced to jazz musicians including Thelonius Monk, Mary Lou Williams, Count Basie, and Duke Ellington.

Ten in the morning was unspeakably early
For Thelonius Monk
Who was always
Taxi waited outside his building
On West Sixty-Third
Meter Running
An hour and more
While Monk tried on jackets
To complete the perfect outfit

The poems eloquently convey the mood of the day while also describing the interaction of the musicians, their attire and how children in the neighborhood lined the curb to watch the event. Vallejo's realistic, acrylic and pastel illustrations capture the festive atmosphere and emotions of the musicians as they gather on the street.

When everyone is in place...

all eyes looking
this way
it has to be perfect
for Esquire

Dizzy sticks out his tongue

Near the end of the story a page folds open to reveal the impressive black and white photograph. Be sure to read the back matter which includes short bios of several musicians, an author's note, an extensive bibliography and a diagram that labels each person in the photograph.

There is so much goodness packed into just sixty-six pages of Jazz Day. It is a recommended purchase for school and public libraries. Pair Jazz Day with Duke Ellington by Andrea Davis Pinkney, Harlem by Walter Dean Myers, and Jazz on a Saturday Night by Leo Dillon. I predict that we will hear more about Jazz Day when the ALA Youth Media Awards are announced in January.

Click here to view the photo "A Great Day in Harlem."

Monday, July 18, 2016

Coyote Moon- Blog Tour and Giveaway

Coyote Moon 
by Maria Gianferrari
illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline
Roaring Brook Press, 2016
Grades K-5

Today I'm taking part in the Coyote Moon blog tour. The book officially hits shelves tomorrow. As part of the blog tour, I'm giving away one copy of Coyote Moon donated by the publisher. The details and entry form can be found at the bottom of this page.

The engaging narrative of Coyote Moon follows the journey of a female coyote as she hunts for prey at night. Gianferrari writes in the present tense in a style that is poetic at times. The precise language and word choice make for a thrilling read as the mother coyote creeps, charges and pounces in her quest to find food for her family.

Ibatoulline's realistic illustrations use somber colors to give readers a sense of what it is like to hunt for food in the dark. One exciting spread shows the coyote leaping through the darkness with just one word "Pounce!" printed on the page. As the sun rises, the coyote is successful in catching a turkey to bring back to the den for her pups. The killing of the turkey is realistic, yet the author and illustrator are sensitive to the young audience. The turkey's tail feathers can be seen on the page alongside the face of the coyote and the sentence, "Now coyote's family will eat."

Back matter provides readers with additional facts about coyotes and lists of books and websites for further reading. Read aloud Coyote Moon to elementary classes as part of a science unit on predators or food chains. The book would also make the perfect mentor text for students writing narratives or poems about natural science.

Visit the publisher's site to preview pages from the book.

Read the Reading for Research blog post and interview with Maria Gianferrari and her editor, Emily Feinberg.

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

Be sure to visit other stops on the blog tour this week.

July 15   Pragmatic Mom

July 19   Debtastic Reads

July 20   Kid Lit Frenzy

July 21   Librarian's Quest

July 22   KidLit 411

July 25   The Reading Zone

July 26   Bartography

July 27   Unleashing Readers

Coyote Moon- Giveaway

Friday, July 15, 2016

Gorillas Up Close

Gorillas Up Close  
by Christena Nippert-Eng
Photographs by John Dominski
and Miguel Martinez
Henry Holt and Company, 2016
Grades 3-6

The majority of the animal books in the 500s section of my school library focus on animals in the wild. Occasionally there are books about animals that were rescued and rehabilitated such as Winter's Tail: How One Dolphin Learned to Swim Again or Owen & Mzee: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship. When I sat down to read Gorillas Up Close, I was expecting a typical expository text about gorillas in their natural habitat. I was pleasantly surprised that this is a unique book featuring gorillas living at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago.

The book evolved from a course taught by Professor Christena Nippert-Eng at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Students were assigned to observe gorillas at the local zoo as a way of improving their observation and data collection skills. According to the author's note, several students collaborated with Nippert-Eng to research, write and photograph the images for the book.

In Gorillas Up Close, middle grade readers will learn about the behaviors, diet, family structure and habitat of the western lowland gorilla. The Introduction asks readers to ponder several questions about how gorillas and humans compare and the challenges and ethics of keeping gorillas in captivity.

"What should be the role of zoo gorillas in ensuring the future of the species?"

The book is well-organized into chapters about each type of gorilla in a troop: silverbacks (leaders of a family troop), infants & juveniles, adult females, teenagers and bachelors. Photographs and detailed information about specific gorillas make the book feel like a family photo album at times. Readers will learn how zoos design habitats, group gorillas, feed the animals and provide opportunities for the gorillas to use tools and solve problems they might encounter in the wild. I was especially impressed with the back matter that offers tips for identifying and observing gorillas in zoos. Young readers will gravitate to the baby pictures of members of the bachelor troop in the back of the book.

There are many ways Gorillas Up Close could be used in classrooms. The book could provide supporting evidence for students writing persuasive pieces or debating whether or not animals should be kept in captivity. It would also make the perfect nonfiction companion book to The One and Only Ivan. Place the book on display in a library or classroom and an animal lover is sure to snatch it up for pleasure reading.

Visit the publisher's site to view pages from the book.

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

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson's Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions

Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson's Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions
by Chris Barton
illustrated by Don Tate
Charlesbridge, 2016
Grades K-5

Chris Barton and Don Tate collaborated on last year's successful picture book biography, The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch. I'm pleased that the duo is back with the engaging picture book about engineer, Lonnie Johnson. Johnson was a creative and inventive child who tinkered on projects and built rockets at home in Alabama. He went on to build a robot for a science fair in 1968. Later, Johnson had an important role in NASA's Galileo probe to Jupiter. He was tasked with creating a "lightweight backup system able to keep essential functions going" if power was lost.

Young readers will be especially interested in how Johnson used his knowledge of science to invent the Super-Soaker water gun while working on a new cooling system for air conditioners and refrigerators. Barton's narrative captures the essence of the determined Johnson. Tate's digital, cartoon-style illustrations have lots of kid appeal. The word "WHOOSH!" is effectively placed on several pages adding a sense of excitement and joy.

Whoosh! is an inspiring story that will make children delight in what is possible. Put Whoosh! into the hands of students who are assigned to read a biography for class. They will thank you! Be sure to read the author's note explaining how Barton came up with the idea for the book (hint: librarians are involved).

Read Don Tate's blog post about interviewing Johnson and doing research for the illustrations. 

Check out Chris Barton's blog post about NASA's Juno spacecraft.

Friday, July 1, 2016

The Great White Shark Scientist

The Great White Shark Scientist 
by Sy Montgomery
photographs by Keith Ellenbogen
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016
Grades 5 and up

It's Shark Week on the Discovery Channel, and it's the perfect time to review the latest Scientists in the Field book, The Great White Shark Scientist. Author, Sy Montgomery, and photographer, Keith Ellenbogen, have teamed up on another exciting marine biology story for kids. (Last summer the duo brought us The Octopus Scientists.)

The Shark Scientist features Dr. Greg Skomal, a biologist studying great white sharks in Chatham, MA (not far from where the setting of Jaws). Organized chronologically by day, the book follows the work of Skomal and his crew one summer as they tag sharks off the coast of Cape Cod. In her signature narrative style, Montgomery eloquently blends dialogue, description and facts to paint a vivid picture for readers.

"Look at those rocks!" says Keith, marveling at what looks like hundreds of dark boulders on the beach. 

"Those aren't rocks," says Greg."Those are seals- lots of seals!" Cynthia, Jeff and Pam set to counting them. It looks like there are 250 just in this one group. "The sharks eat everything," explains Greg, "but it's these seals that's drawing them to the Cape." (p. 5)

Ellenbogen's impressive photographs capture sharks underwater, divers in submersible cages, and Skomal on his boat tagging sharks. Readers will take a way a new appreciation of sharks and an understanding of why humans need to save them. The Great White Shark Scientist is a recommended purchase for schools and libraries. It would make an exciting and informative nonfiction read aloud for grades 4 and up.

Visit the publisher's site to download a discussion guide.

Other reviews of The Great White Shark Scientist:
Kid Lit Frenzy
Geo Librarian