Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Monday, July 17, 2017

Margaret and the Moon: How Margaret Hamilton Saved the First Lunar Landing By Dean Robbins



Margaret and the Moon: How Margaret Hamilton Saved the First Lunar Landing
By Dean Robbins; Illustrated by Lucy Knisley
Alfred A. Knopf. 2017
ISBN: 9780399551857
All ages.
I borrowed a copy of this book from my local public library to write this review.

Note: Louise is reading and composing all the reviews while Cathy is on sabbatical. Cathy returns February, 2018.

Dean Robbins, (Two Friends: Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass) has done a fantastic job in this engaging picture book biography about an inquisitive woman who grew up during the 30’s and 40’s to write code for the computer commands on the Apollo missions.  

Margaret Heafield Hamilton “loved to solve problems. She came up with ideas no one had ever thought of before.”  She also asked lots of questions.
Why didn’t girls play baseball?”
“Why didn’t more girls grow up to be doctors?
Or Scientists?
Or anything else they wanted?”

Her solution to answering those questions, and more, was to study.

After earning a degree in mathematics, Margaret found she loved writing code for computers. As a software engineer, she went to work for NASA in 1964, to help the scientist use computers to land astronauts on the moon. The book’s climax comes when the computer on the lunar module, The Eagle, goes into overload from performing too many tasks. Margaret had prepared for this problem. Margaret’s code made the computer ignore the extra tasks and focus on the landing.”

The Eagle has landed,” announced astronaut Neil Armstrong.”

A comic book artist, Knisley's illustrations, rendered in ink, paper, and colored in Adobe Photoshop, perfectly complement the text, offering an element of excitment. I love her full-page art.

Back matter includes a lengthy author’s note, bibliography, and additional reading. In the acknowledgement section of the book, Robbins thanks Margaret Hamilton for “generously sharing her life story.”

This is an excellent addition to science collections.

FYI: When I searched for more information about Margaret Hamilton in several encyclopedias (Britannica, Funk and Wagnall’s, and World book) she is not listed. The only source of information was Wikipedia.




Monday, July 10, 2017

Creekfinding: a True Story By Jacqueline Briggs Martin

Creekfinding: a True Story
By Jacqueline Briggs Martin; Illustrations by Claudia McGehee
University of Minnesota Press. 2017
ISBN: 9780816698028
All ages
I borrowed a copy of this book from my local public library to write this review

Note: Louise is composing all the reviews this year while Cathy is on Sabbatical. She returns February 2018.

A true story of how one man, Mike Osterholm, decided to uncover and restore a long ago buried creek. The lush, beautiful illustrations by Claudia McGehee really make this environmental story come alive.

One day, as Mike was working on his farm, a neighbor explained that years ago he had caught a brook trout in a creek that once had been on that very spot. “A brook trout in a corn field? No way!”  Not many believed Mike could bring the creek back to life and fill it with brook trout, but he didn’t give up. Using an old photograph, Mike marked the creeks path. With the help of friends with big trucks, they dug and dug and dug until the water, “seeped in from the sides, raced down the riffles and runs, burbled into holes, filled the creek.”

“But a creek isn’t just water. It is plants, rocks, bugs, fish and birds."

Finally after several years, with patience, perseverance, and a lot of hard work,  Mike had a healthy creek with plants and bugs and rocks and fish and birds.

He called it Brook Creek and it is part of Prairie Song Farm in Iowa.

Back matter includes an author and illustrator’s note, and more information about Mike Osterholm.

A important addition to any library collection.

Monday, July 3, 2017

NF Sightings from ALA Annual Conference at Chicago




Here are a few titles I picked up the ALA Annual Conference in Chicago. #alaac17

Note: Louise is still responsible for all the reviews during 2017 while Cathy is on Sabbatical. She returns February 2018.



Poppies of Iraq 
Written by Brigitte Findakly
Drawn by Lewis Trondheim
Poppies of Iraq is a graphic memoir about Findakly's relationship with              her homeland Iraq. 



The Man Who Loved Libraries: The Story of Andrew Carnegie
Story by Andrew Larson; Pictures by Katty Maurey



The Girl Who Drew Butterflies:                                                                   How Maria Merian's Art Changed Science
by Joyce Sidman



Dangerous Jane
by Suzanne Slade; Illustrated by Alice Ratterree



The 57 Bus
A True Story by Dashka Slater
Two sides of the same crime
Two ends of the same line







Monday, June 26, 2017

#alaac17 Chicago

When this post goes live, I’ll be on my way home from Chicago where I attended the American Library Association’s (ALA) Annual Conference in Chicago. #alaac17  



I always love attending ALA for a variety of reasons. Not only is it an opportunity to talk with publishers, meet favorite authors or illustrators, it is also the place to re-connect with colleagues, people I consider friends who just happen to work all around the United States. And make new connections, too.

I’m excited. I signed up for the  ALSC pre-conference: Perceive. Rise. Engage: Celebrate the 2017 ALSC Honor Books. I did my homework of reading all the books on their list in anticipation of the panel discussions.

Though I have a few invitations from publishers, mostly, my scheduler is chocked full of the numerous sessions I hope to attend. One in particular looks perfect: Graphic Memoirs: How non-fiction graphic novels bring real lives to life.

Environmentalist and activist, and nonfiction writer, Bill McKibben is speaking Saturday. I hope the room isn’t too crowded. When I heard Gloria Steinem talk in 2015 in San Francisco (Librarians Save My Life), I had to sit on the floor. That’s okay, too.

If only I could duplicate myself (where’s Hermione and her duplicating spell?) I’d be able to attend all the 27+ sessions on my list. 

What’s magical about the annual conference, besides the sessions, quick meet ups with friends, traversing the exhibit hall and becoming overloaded with arc’s, is with the Newbery-Caldecott-Wilder Banquet on Sunday evening. Described as the Academy Awards of Children’s Literature, even if you don’t pay the money for a ticket to enjoy the food, going to hear the speeches is simply enchanting. One of my favorite Newbery speeches was given by Jack Gantos. He had everyone in stitches. Oh, then there was the one by Susan Patron when she won for The Higher Power of Lucky. And who can forget Kate DiCamillo and her 2014 speech for Flora & Ullysees. 

Gosh! I remember my first ALA. It was in 2005 in Chicago. The only people I knew were two librarians from Maine, and neither of them was Cathy Potter! How overwhelming it was to navigate the city, attend the exhibits and sessions all alone. I felt so small; frustrated that I had no one to talk to, no one to share this mentally stimulating, re-charging, glad-I-am-a-librarian experience. Attending my first publisher cocktail party! I won’t even go there. As an introvert, it took all my reserve to walk into a crowded room, full of strangers who all seemed to know each other and try and make small talk. Daunting? Yeah!  Fun? Of course! 

Has much changed for me over the past 12 years? A bit. Though I still spend a lot of time alone attending sessions and the exhibits, and I’m still really nervous walking into publisher events, I can now savor this opportunity; I see it as the best buck spent to keep me from becoming stagnant in my job. I return full of ideas, but, best of all, it’s pretty wonderful, for three days, to be surrounded by others who love to talk about…what else…books! 

I’ll be sure to follow up this post with a list of titles I hope to review throughout the year. Woo Hoo!

As the local postal clerk says when asked how he is that day, “I’m living the dream.”





Monday, June 19, 2017

If Sharks Disappeared by Lily Williams



If Sharks Disappeared

Written and illustrated by Lily Williams
Roaring Brook Press> 2017
ISBN: 9781626724136
All ages
I borrowed a copy of this book from my local public library to write this review.

Note: Louise is responsible for all the reviews during 2017 while Cathy is on Sabbatical. She returns February 2018.

The first sentence in Lily Williams informational picture book asks readers this question: What is a healthy ocean? If you answered, “Its a balanced environment where many different animals and plants thrive.” You would be correct.  We know that a healthy ecosystem – here the ocean- is home to a wide variety of plants and animals. They thrive as long as everything is kept balanced.  Sharks are apex predators; they are at the top of the food chain.  “Losing an apex predator species can cause devastating effects in an environment.”

Can you imagine what would happen if sharks disappeared?  Each turn of the page explains in text and pictures just how quickly a once healthy ocean can become out of balance. With no sharks, the population of seals, sea lions, and other pinnipeds would potentially explode. At higher populations, they would eat more and more fish, and eventually, once there weren’t any fish left…´

You get the picture.

Though her first book, Williams knows her audience. Her illustrations are appealing, colorful cartoon-like that perfectly mirror her text. Instead of writing with a doomsday tone, she keeps the conversation realistic, yet, hopeful. For in the end, it really is up to each of us to make a difference.  

This is a perfect resource when discussing the impact humans have on the world.  If you still have a copy of Nicola Davies book, Surprising Sharks, pair the two titles for an engaging, enlightening read aloud.

Go here to see a short book trailer.
Back matter: glossary, an explanation to why sharks are in trouble, ways you can help save sharks, bibliography, author’s note, and additional sources. A fine example of nonfiction for kids.

I love what Williams writes as her dedication. “To Mom, for teaching me that your art can make a difference.”