Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

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.”

Monday, June 12, 2017

Caroline’s Comets: a True Story Written and illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully

Caroline’s Comets: a True Story
Written and illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully
Holiday House. 2017
ISBN: 9780823436644
Grades 2-5
To write this review, I borrowed this book from my local public library.

Note: Louise is happily writing reviews while Cathy is on Sabbatical. She returns February 2018.
Discovering one comet is pretty exciting, but to find seven more is totally remarkable. McCully’s informational picture book biography tells the story of Caroline Herschel, the first woman to discover a comet and the first woman to be paid for scientific research,

Born in 1786 in Hanover, Germany, Caroline was the only girl in a family where her father and brother were royal musicians. With a mother who felt Caroline’s role was the family housekeeper, once she was taught to knit, she said,  “From that day forward, I was fully employed in providing my brothers with stockings.”

Things became more dismal for Caroline when, at age ten, she caught typhus and then smallpox. “The first stunted her growth, and the second scarred her face. Her father worried that no man would marry her. How would she live without a husband to support her?”

Though her housekeeping skills were always in demand, Caroline eventually became an assistant inventor when William, one of her brothers, decided to build a telescope, better than any that already existed. By 1787, Caroline would be paid for her services by King George III. In her author’s note, McCully says of the Herschels: They were true collaborators.”

Back matter includes bibliography, glossary, and a timeline of Caroline’s life and influence. Caroline Herschel died January 9, 1848. 

A solid addition for collections about women and science.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Trudy’s Big Swim: How Gertrude Ederle Swam the English Channel and Took the World by Storm By Sue Macy

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. 2017
ISBN: 9780823436651
Grades 2-5

To write this review, I borrowed this book from my local public library.

Note: Louise is soldiering on while Cathy is on Sabbatical. She will return February, 2018.

On a beach in France, at 7:09 on the morning of August, 1926, twenty-year-old Gertrude Ederle waded into the surf. Her goal? To be the first woman to swim the English Channel.  Already an accomplished swimmer, a New York Times headline called Trudy, “the greatest free style swimmer of her sex ever developed.”  With a distance of 21 miles, it would take the long-distance swimmer 14 hours; 39 minutes to set a world’s record. “Not only was Gertrude the first woman to complete the swim; she also beat the record of the fastest man by close to two hours.”

A shy person who became overwhelmed by her sudden fame, Ederle also suffered from hearing loss from a bout with measles as a child. She became totally deaf by age 22. Ederle died on November 30, 2003 at age 98.

Macy’s informational picture book recounts the challenges Ederle faced during the swim. The writing perfectly matches the luscious, full-page, color illustrations by Matt Collins. Rendered in Prismacolor pencils, Denril Vellum, Painter 12 and Adobe Photoshop, will definitely keep young readers riveted to the page.  

Back matter: sources and resources + source notes.

A very exciting reading experience for eyes and ears. Perfect to share in the classroom or snuggled up on a couch.

Interesting to note. Macy states in her author’s note that many books will say Trudy was born in 1906, that she was only 19 when she was English Channel.”  Actually, checking Ederle’s gravestone, Macy confirms Trudy's birth day was really October 23, 1905.  That means she was 20 when she set the world's record in 1926.