Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Monday, April 24, 2017

Moto and Me by Suzi Eszterhas

Moto and Me: My Year as a Wildcat’s Foster Mom
By Suzi Eszterhas
Owl Kids Books. 2017
ISBN: 9781771472425
Grades 2-5

Note: Louise is writing all the reviews while Cathy is on Sabbatical until February, 2018.

I am a big fan of Suzi Eszterhas. We have reviewed her Eyes on the Wild series and Koala Hospital. A wildlife photographer, her books are scrumptious, as well as informative. Eszterhas supplies an engaging narrative full of animal facts, beautiful color photos mirror what is explained in the text that makes her books extremely eye catching.

In Moto and Me, Eszterhas explains, “As a child, I used to tell my mom that one day I would live in a tent in Africa. So it was a dream come true when I headed to the Masai Mara, a wildlife reserve in Kenya, to photograph animals.” Little did she know that soon she would become a foster mother to a two-week-old serval kitten!  She gave it the name, Moto, which means “Fire” in Swahili, the language spoken in the Masai Mara. 

The gorgeous, full page photographs follow the kitten as it grows from a tiny baby to full size, ready to live on its own. 

Eszterhas narrative balances the tremendous responsibility of raising a wild animal with a scientist’s eye.  

Then, eight months later, “one night, Moto didn’t come to my tent. I woke up in the morning very worried. The day passed without any sign of him, and then the next and the next. I was terrified that something bad had happened to Moto."  Eszterhas spots the serval a week later. Moto had successfully returned to the wild.  

Though no resources for further reading, the author includes facts about Servals, which are at risk in some parts of Africa due to loss of habitat and…sadly, are hunted for their fur.

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Great American Foot Race by Andrew P. Speno

The Great American Foot Race: Ballyhoo for the Bunion Derby!
by Andrew P. Speno
Calkins Creek: an Imprint of Highlights. 2017
ISBN: 9781629796024
Grades 6 and up

Note: Louise is writing all the reviews while Cathy is on sabbatical until February, 2018.

At 3:30 in the afternoon on March 4, 1928, Charles Cassius “C. C.” Pyle lit the firecracker that started a 3,400-mile foot race, nicknamed the Bunion Derby. Starting in Los Angeles and ending at Madison Square Garden in New York City, The Great American Foot Race embraced runners from around the U.S. and around the world. Some were seasoned athletes while others saw it as an opportunity to make some big bucks. All who entered hoped to at least finish in the top ten and win some cash. (The purse was $25,000)

First time author, Speno, takes readers along as he recounts the ups and downs of the “greatest, most stupendous athletic accomplishment in all history.”  Can you image averaging 50 miles per day, running through deserts, up mountains, and hilly New England with little food and water for 84 days? All the excitement is recorded here in Speno’s deft hand. The narrative is engaging (I read it cover-to-cover in one sitting) with lots of historical details seamlessly woven into the text. 

For instance, before 1920, “most of the roads outside major U.S. cities were still unpaved, especially in the South and West. Roads were indirect and rarely went far in any one direction.” It wasn’t until 1925 that the American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHO) began building interstate highways. One of the newly made highways went from Chicago to Los Angeles, traveling through the state of Oklahoma. This road would one day become famous through song and story as: Route 66. The Transcontinental Foot Race ran on Route 66 as a way to promote the highway and the towns along its route.

Complementing the text are archival black & white photos that brings this amazing event to life. 

Back matter includes a map of the route, source notes, a fantastic bibliography, and index.

Speno is an author to watch. His ability to make history exciting is a great skill. To learn more about Speno, visit his webpage by clicking here.

For history fans and those who love running.

Meatless? A Fresh Look at What You Eat Written by Sarah Elton



Meatless? A Fresh Look at What You Eat
Written by Sarah Elton; Illustrations by Julie McLaughlin
Owl Kids Books. 2017
ISBN: 9781926818436
Grades 5 and up

Note: Louise is writing all the reviews while Cathy is on Sabbatical until February, 2018.

During a farm visit, Sarah Elton was asked if she wanted to help kill one of the older chickens.  Her spur-of-the-moment decision (she said yes!) changed the way she thought about meat.
After her experience, Elton decided to explore why some people eat meat while others none at all.  

Elton does a good job balancing the factual narrative with an uplifting tone. Never judgmental, just presents the facts in an engaging way.  It is a very interesting read.  

The book is divided into four parts: A History of Meat-Eating, Why Go Vegetarian?, If Not Meat, Then What?, Becoming a Vegetarian, and Set the Table for Everyone.  Within each heading Elton breaks it down even further into topics. For example, under Why Go Vegetarian?, Animal Welfare, The High Cost of Meat, Greenhouse Gases, Enough Food for Everyone. Each topic is two pages in length, some have sidebars for more detailed information, with illustrations.

Back matter includes tips from kids who are vegetarian, encouragement that there is room at the table for all eating choices, glossary, index, and further reading.

Elton has explored societies food choices in her adult titles, Consumed: Food for a Finite Planet and Locavore. Meatless? will serve as a great introduction to kids who are curious about becoming a vegetarian.

Reviewed by Louise

Monday, April 3, 2017

Out of School and Into Nature: the Anna Comstock Story Written by Suzanne Slade

Out of School and Into Nature: the Anna Comstock Story
Written by Suzanne Slade & Illustrated by Jessica Lanan
Sleeping Bear Press. 2017
ISBN: 9781585369867
K - Grade 4
Note: Louise is writing all the reviews while Cathy is on sabbatical until February 2018.

This handsomely designed picture book biography of writer and scientist, Anna Comstock, is truly inspiring. The narrative is just the right mix of information that never falls flat in the telling.

She loved to hold it close in her fingers, she wanted to feel it squish between her toes, which was why she ran barefoot all summer long, raised slimy tadpoles into pet
toads, and climbed tall trees instead of sitting in their shade.”

Born in 1854, Anna’s observational skills allowed her to discover nature’s secrets. From camouflage to pollination, Anna absorbed it all. She loved nature so much she decided to go to college to learn more of its secrets. Despite the fact that women were not encouraged to seek higher education, Anna attended Cornell University. 

After graduation, Comstock would go on to write and illustrate nine nature books and initiated a nature-study program for teachers in New York State through Cornell. 

Lanan's colorful, watercolor illustrations strengthens this book’s appeal, as does the added engravings of Anna Comstock's art. Quotes from Comstock are set off from the rest of the text in a larger font

Back matter includes an author's note and quote sources
Highly recommended.


Reviewed by Louise

Monday, March 27, 2017

The Search for Olinguito: Discovering a New Species by Sandra Markle

The Search for Olinguito: Discovering a New Species
by Sandra Markle
Millbrook Press. 2017
ISBN: 9781512410150
Grades 3 up
To review this book I borrowed a copy from my local public library
Note: Louise is writing all the reviews while Cathy is on sabbatical until February 2018.

It is hard to imagine, in this world of information overload, that there still could be an animal species undiscovered. Yet, that is exactly what happened in 2013 from the auditorium at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. Kristofer Helgen, a scientist at the museum in charge of their collection of mammals, made the exciting announcement that they had found a new animal. The first new species discovered in thirty-five years.

Facts about this new species and just exactly how Helgen went about tracking it down is the subject of this riveting science book. Full of color photographs that are well-captioned, Markle’s book is perfect for budding scientists. 

Oh, what was the new species? An Olinguito (oh-ling-GEE-toe)

Purchase a copy for your library to find out more about this thrilling science adventure.

Back matter includes an author’s note, source notes, a glossary, ways to find out more information about cloud forests, index.

Sandra Markle has written numerous award winning books for children. 
Other books we've reviewed by her:

Reviewed by Louise!





Monday, March 13, 2017

Alice Paul and the Fight for Women’s Rights by Deborah Kops



Alice Paul and the Fight for Women’s Rights
by Deborah Kops
Calkins Creek. 2017
ISBN: 9781629793238
Grades 6-12
To write this review, I received an Advanced Uncorrected Proof from the publisher.


“Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on         account of sex.”

On July 19-20, 1848, the Seneca Falls Convention, led by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Lucretia Mott was held in Seneca Falls, NY. At the convention, Stanton read from the “Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions,” a statement of grievances and demands that called upon women to organize and to petition for their rights. The convention passed 12 resolutions, the ninth demanding the right for women to vote. This convention served to launch the women’s suffrage movement in the United States. Yet, despite the initial enthusiams, the woman suffrage movement languished into the doldrums until 1912, when a tiny woman with great energy, Alice Paul, became Chair of National American Woman Suffrage Association's congressional Committee (NAWSA).

Kop’s excellent book is the story of Alice Paul and her determination to keeping national attention on the woman suffrage movement. Born in Moorestown, New Jersey on January 11, 1885, Paul was the power behind the passing of the Nineteeth Amendment in 1919, which was ratified to the Constitution in March of 1920, allowing women the right to vote.

A force to be reckoned with, Paul would work until exhaustion and employed militant tactics that at times offended fellow suffragettes. When, in 1913, after orchestrating the first Senate debate on a woman suffragette amendment, “Paul asked a promising volunteer, “Can’t you stay on and help us with a hearing next week?”  The volunteered explained she planned to take a summer holiday with friends. “Holiday?” Paul repeated.” Ashamed, the young volunteer changed her mind and would remain working alongside Paul for many years. 

Paul was thoroughly committed to the equal rights for women, though she did shy away from including African American women. She willingly endured jail, hunger strikes, and being forced to eat by having “a doctor inserted a long tube through one of her nostrils into her stomach and poured milk and liquid food down the tube”, Paul never gave up. After the ratification of the Nineteethn Amendment - the Susan B. Anthony Amendment - Paul would go on to write the first draft of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) and would spend the rest of her life trying to see it ratified to the Constitution. (To this day, the ERA is still short of being ratified to the Constitution by three States)

Relying heavily on primary sources, this engaging narrative is not a biography of Alice Paul, because she kept her private life private. Kop’s states in the Author’s Note, “No one had much luck uncovering what lay behind Paul’s public face, though, and for a simple reason: she did not want most people to know. She would happily talk with journalists at great length about the Susan B. Anthony Amendment (Nineteethn Amendment) and the Equal Rights Amendment, but she resisted talking about herself. And very few documents she left behind reveal her feelings.”  Instead, this is a wonderful story of Alice Paul and the history of women's rights. 

Back matter includes author's note, brief bios of important women mentioned in text, source notes, bibliography, and index.


Alice Paul's admirable perseverance and indomitable spirit, who gave her whole life to the cause of a woman’s right for equality is a wonderful role model for all of us.


More about Deborah Cops, go here.

 Other books to include on a display: Around American to Win the Vote: two suffragists, a kitten, and 10,000 miles by Mara Rockliff; Illustrated by Hadley Hooper, Let Me Play: the story of Title IX: the law that changed the future of girls in America by Karen Blumenthal







Sunday, March 5, 2017

Martina & Chrissie by Phil Bildner

Martina & Chrissie: the Greatest Rivalry in the History of Sports
by Phil Bildner; Illustrated by Brett Helquist
Candlewick. 2017
ISBN: 9780763673086
Grades 2-5
To review this book, I received a copy from the publisher

“Hey, guys —
yeah, I’m talking to you.
You see those two names on the cover?
Martina and Chrissie?
That’s Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert.
You know who they are, right? No?
NO?!
Wow, okay.”

And so begins this exciting informational picture book, a duel biography, of how two women of equal talent, tennis stars from the mid-1970’s till 1990, though they did play against each other refused to be rivals. Instead…they remained friends. 

Bildner’s casual tone conveys great excitement as he explains to readers how Chris Evert, from Fort Lauderdale, Florida and Martina Navratilova, from Revnice, Czechoslovakia “were the greatest rivals in the history of sports. ALL SPORTS.”  

Chrissie was all technique. She was poised, had precision and was in great shape. Martina, had a lefty serve, loved to rush the net and at first was very out of shape. Where Chrissie was calm, Martina was all emotion. They became friends and enjoyed competing against each other. "After awhile, Martina got tired of all that losing." She got a new coach and got in shape. She started winning. Martina's new coach didn't allow her players to be friends with their rivals. Coach wanted her players to "hate their opponents. Like enemies." 

Bildner plays off the rivalry between Chrissie and Martina with the conflict going on between the US and Russia at that time. The Cold War.

Helquist’s illustrations, rendered in acrylic and oil on paper, artfully filling every inch of the pages. Evert & Navratilova, fierce and determined while on the court, are seen smiling when hanging out as friends. 

Sure, if you go by the numbers, then yes, Martina had more wins. But, that’s not the story Bildner wants to tell. Nope. The story is this: these two tennis stars were great because they were friends and helped each other be the best they could be.  “Because they played together, they became the best, equal parts of the greatest rivalry in the history of sports.”

Back matter includes a timeline with more facts about Chrissie and Martina’s games. Sources include books, articles, some audiovisual materials, and websites.


Just in time for Women’s History Month, this is a great book to share with all students.

Posted by Louise

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Rivers of Sunlight: how the Sun moves water around the Earth by Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm

Rivers of Sunlight: how the Sun moves water around the Earth
by Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm
Blue Sky Press, Scholastic. 2017
ISBN: 9780545805414
All ages
This review copy was obtained from a publisher at ALAMidwinter in Atlanta, 2017.

The Sun's role in moving water - The Water Cycle - and why it is imperative to protect it is the subject of Rivers of Sunlight.

"What would happen if I did NOT move water? There would be no rain, no river...no LIFE on your blue planet if I did not move water?"

This is the fifth title in the Sunlight Series by artist Molly Bang and MIT professor Penny Chisholm. What draws me in to this series is the art which mirror exactly what is being explained in the text. Bang's illustrations are so beautiful. Luscious. The paintings are a combination of blues, greens, and browns, resembling a folk art style.

The book asks readers: "Do you ever wonder? Where did your water come from? Where is it going? What keeps it moving?

Throughout, the Sun explains how the world is delicately balanced. Here we learn, with each turn of the page, how the ebb and flow of water replenishes our planet. 

Did you know that in the ocean, "Salty water is heavier than fresh water. Cold water is heavier than warm water. Cold water holds more oxygen than warm water. So the cold, salty, heavy oxygen-rich arctic waters PLUNGE and become a colossal waterfall inside the sea."   

As with every book in this series, Bang and Chisholm always brings back the message of conservation. Water can be everywhere, but if it is full of toxins and pathogens, who can use it? "As the saying goes, "We are all downstream."

Six pages of backmatter offers more details on the role water plays in maintaining life on Earth. I especially appreciate the idea that with each glass I drink, the water has been through sea and sky, lakes and streams, through plants and worms, insects and elephants - giving them life too.

In this time of great uncertainty:
"REMEMBER: You share Earth's water with everything alive, and your life depends on the whole web of life." Without water, H²0, that is free from pollution, there would be no life on Earth.

A perfect complement for any science class, from primary up to adults. The series emphasizes how everything in Earth is interconnected. 


Written by Louise