Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Monday, July 24, 2017

Vincent and Theo: the Van Gogh Brothers by Deborah Heiligman

Vincent and Theo: the Van Gogh Brothers
by Deborah Heiligman
Godwin Books: Henry Holt. 2017
ISBN: 9780805093391
Grades 6 and up

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

Note: Louise is selecting and composing all the reviews while Cathy is on Sabbatical. She will return February, 2018. 

The world would not have Vincent without Theo.” 

Deborah Heiligman has penned another masterpiece (Charles & Emma).  In this absorbing biography she examines their relationship and how their strong bond as brothers and friends would last until death they did part; first Vincent and then Theo.

The book reads like a gallery talk that follows Vincent’s emergence as an artist within the framework of his relationship to his family and Theo. Seamlessly incorporated into the narrative are quotes from some of the 658 letters Vincent wrote to Theo that Heiligman used in her meticulous research.

Vincent’s pencil sketches grace each chapter, which Heiligman names Galleries. [(Gallery One: Beginnings (1852-1872)]. Fourteen in all, each Gallery traces Vincent’s growth artistically, while revealing the brothers tight bond. “They promise always to be close, to keep the bond between them strong and intimate…They will be companions in the search for meaning in life and meaning in art.”  Five pages of color reproductions of Van Gogh's pairings are grouped in the middle, including a painting of Theo, believed to be the only painting Vincent did of his younger brother. 

Back matter includes a timeline, author’s note, bibliography of books & articles read for research, websites, endnotes, and index. 


Highly recommended for biography collections.  A must-read for anyone interested in the lives of these two deeply complex siblings.

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