Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Monday, January 30, 2017

Rolling Blackouts Dispatches from Turkey, Syria, and Iraq Written and illustrated by Sarah Glidden

Rolling Blackouts  Dispatches from Turkey, Syria, and Iraq

Written and illustrated by Sarah Glidden
Drawn & Quarterly. 2016
ISBN: 9781770462557
The publisher gave me a copy of this book at ALA Midwinter 2017.
Grades 9 and up

In her second comic nonfiction, "a narratoon", cartoonist Sarah Glidden (How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less) gives readers a behind the scenes look at the job of creating stories for news outlets. Glidden tags along with two friends, Sarah Stuteville and Alex Stonehill, reporters from the Seattle Globalist, a nonprofit journalism collective, as they travel to Turkey, Syria, and Iraq to research potential stories on the effects of the Iraq War and its impact on the war’s refugees. The idea was that Glidden would watch and listen as Sarah Stuteville and Alex gathered stories. Woven into the narrative is how difficult it is to sell these stories to big media organizations who are reluctant to pay for expensive-to-produce foreign news, especially from free-lance journalists. 

Glidden states in her introduction:
I spent two months with the people portrayed in this book, observing and documenting them and capturing as much as I could with my little digital recorder. I recorded our conversations as we ate our meals, walked around cities, conducted interviews, and unwound at the end of the day with a beer or three. This means what when I returned home, I had hundreds of hours of recorded conversation to transcribe and sift through. It also means that almost all the dialogue in this book is taken directly from these recording, with some minimal cleanup done for grammar or clarity. 

Glidden further explains that conversations were edited and condensed to make this comic readable (and not a thousand pages long). Quite a feat, but the outcome is a smooth documentation of her travels in an area that now are off limits because of conflict.

Another element to this engrossing narrative is Dan O'Brien. A childhood friend of Sarah Stuteville, Dan, an X-Marine who served in the Iraq War travels with them and his reasons for returning to the Middle East makes for an compelling counterpoint to the storyline.

Glidden’s drawings are rendered in soft, muted watercolors. Her writing is honest with a touch of self-effacing humor. 

The story of the refugees, those individuals displaced by the war, is haunting. The stories of lost family members, jobs, a whole way of life that they will never get back is heartbreaking. Many have been stuck in refugee camps for five, ten years. Waiting for asylum. For some refugees they will live anywhere, while others hate the U.S. for invading their country.

The book does not shy away from some tough questions, especially how these countries changed, both good and bad, since the Iraq War. 

At the close of the book, before Glidden leaves to go back to Seattle, during an interview an Iraqi woman says, "I not like your government. She applied for asylum and "will go anywhere but the U.S". 
She says to Sarah Stuteville, "from an Iraqi to an American, she just wants to ask this one question. What is the benefit of your army coming to Iraq?" 

Sarah Stuteville answers, "There is none".

Rolling Blackouts is a eye-opening, emotionally charged tome that everyone should make time to read. 

To learn more about Sarah Glidden, visit her website
More reviews about Rolling Blackouts and Sarah Glidden: The GuardianPublic Radio International, and Rolling Stone.


Friday, January 27, 2017

NF sightings at the ALA Midwinter Conference

I’m back!  

On Monday, around midnight, I returned home from the ALA Midwinter Conference in Atlanta. I am always tired, yet energized after the conference. I spent a lot of time in committee meetings, attending publisher events, and walking through the Exhibit Hall checking out the 2017 nonfiction titles. It does seem that 2017 will be a great year for amazing nonfiction.

The conference ended, as always, on a high note. The winners of this year’s ALA Youth Media Awards were fantastic. Good job to all who worked so hard all year reading and evaluating the hundreds of titles. 

I loved the winners and honor books! Click here to see the list of winners.

Here are some new nonfiction titles I spotted at the conference that I look forward to reviewing.

Birds Make Nests by Michael Garland
Holiday House

Caroline's Comets: a true story by Emily Arnold McCully
Holiday House

Penguin Day: a family story by Nick Bishop

Noah Webster's Fighting Words 
by Tracy Nelson Bauer; Illustrated by Mircea Catusanu
Millbrook Press

Out of the Box: 25 incredible craft projects you can make from cardboard

Rivers of Sunlight: how the sun moves water around the earth 
by Molly Bang & Penny Chisholm
Blue Sky Press

Trudy's Big Swim: 
how Gertrude Ederle Swam the English Channel and took the world by storm
by Sue Macy: Illustrated by Matt Collins
Holiday House

Muhammad Ali: a champion is born 
by Gene Barretta; Illustrated by Frank Morrison
Katherine Tegen Books

Amazon Adventure: how tiny fish are saving the world's largest rainforest
by Sy Montgomery; Photographs by Keith Ellenbogen
Scientists in the Field
Houghton Mifflin

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Farewell and Welcome Back

 As my work begins on a book award committee, I am taking a leave of absence from the blog this year. You won't see any reviews or blog posts from me until February of 2018.

 Luckily we are a blogging duo. Louise has spent 2016 serving on a book award committee. She will return to blogging next month. Hooray!

Farewell for now,

Monday, January 16, 2017

Hopping Ahead of Climate Change

Hopping Ahead of Climate Change: Snowshoe Hares, Science and Survival
by Sneed B. Collard III
Bucking Horse Books, 2016
Grades 3-6

Librarians and teachers in a search of solid nonfiction science books should take notice of Sneed Collard's latest middle grade work, Hopping Ahead of Climate Change.

In this 64-page narrative, Collard focuses on the work of biology professor Scott Mills as he studies snowshoe hares in the Rocky Mountains.  A mystery has unfolded. As climate change has shortened the winter in the Rockies, a number of snowshoe hares are now "mismatched" or have white fur when the ground is bare and brown. This can be deadly to a hare trying to avoid predators in wild.

Readers will be interested in the photos and description of the study conducted by Mills and his team as they pinpoint how long the hares are mismatched as well as the reasons why. The book effectively uses graphs, diagrams, photos and maps to convey information to middle grade readers. Collard does an excellent job of providing background information about causes of climate change or global warming. Back matter includes a glossary, list of websites and related books. Read Hopping Ahead of Climate Change in science classes studying animal adaptations or the effects of global warming. Pair with The Polar Bear Scientists by Peter Lourie.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Some Writer

Some Writer: The Story of E.B. White
by Melissa Sweet
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers, 2016
Grades 3 and up

I have to confess that I put off writing this review for several months for one main reason. Some Writer! is a work of perfection, and I didn't think I could find the words to write a review worthy of the book. However, as 2016 has come to a close I wanted to be sure to give some love to Some Writer! before I take a leave of absence from the blog.

Melissa Sweet masterfully blends photos, mixed media collage and narrative to capture the life and essence of beloved children's writer, E.B. White.  Words were very important to White, and Sweet places the words of the writer throughout the book in the form of poems, quotes, and letters.

The book traces White's early life and summers in Maine and follows his path from a magazine "short writer" to a successful author of children's books. Readers will be surprised to learn about the controversy surrounding Stuart Little and the criticism from well-known librarians. Who knew a mouse born to human parents could be so controversial? Throughout the book, Sweet shares primary documents including pages of from the original manuscript of Charlotte's Web.

I've read Some Writer! from cover to cover twice and plan to read it again. There are so many things to notice on each page: a delicate watercolor illustration of a flower, a vice framing a diagram on boatbuilding, a map painted on a piece of wood with various 3D objects, a tiny handmade canoe, a silhouette of White on a page from The Elements of Style. Each page is a masterpiece. Don't miss the touching Afterword written by White's granddaughter, Martha White.

Some Writer! deserves a spot in the biography section of school and public libraries, and it would make a fitting gift for an aspiring writer or lover of books.