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