Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Monday, October 30, 2017

The Man Who Loved Libraries: the Story of Andrew Carnegie by Andrew Larsen

The Man Who Loved Libraries: the Story of Andrew Carnegie
Story by Andrew Larsen; Pictures by Katty Maurey
OwlKids Books. 2017
ISBN: 9781771472678
Grades 3 and up
Please Note: While Cathy is on Sabbatical, Louise is writing all the reviews. Cathy will return February, 2018.

“Andrew Carnegie built over 2,500 public libraries. He built them in cities, towns, and villages in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. He built them in Europe, the Caribbean, Australia, and New Zealand.” 

Born in Scotland in 1835, Andrew Carnegie family was poor. His father was a weaver, but was unable to compete with the fabrics being woven cheaper in mills. His family, hoping for a better life immigrated to American in 1848. The family settled in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania to be close to Andrew’s mother’s sister.  His first job was that of a bobbin boy in a mill, but the industrious, hardworking lad soon found another job, a messenger boy. “In his spare time, he learned to operate the telegraph equipment.” 

At age 17, Andrew became a telegraph operator with the Pennsylvania Railroad Company. He thought outside the box, suggesting the telegraph office stay open twenty-four hours a day. In eight years, Andrew was one of the bosses. With the money he earned he invested in the railroad and other companies that produced oil, iron, and steel. By age thirty-five he was a very rich man.

As a young man, Carnegie always knew that learning was the key to his future.” He loved books and made time to read them. After he became rich, he wanted to build libraries so that others, regardless of their income, could have free access to books. In 1891, Carnegie Hall in New York City opened its doors, and still continues to  welcome some of the world’s greatest performers. 

Larsen’s picture book biography keeps a positive tone while offering just the right amount of information about Carnegie’s passion for learning. Maurey’s illustrations reflect what is discussed in the text. 

Back matter includes a brief bibliography. In the author’s note, Larsen does mention that Carnegie, though generous with giving back to the community, was also a ruthless businessman. In 1892, his steel company, The Carnegie Steel Company, crushed the steel workers’ union. 

As someone who will forever be grateful to my high school librarian for opening up my eyes to how libraries can change the world, this is a timely celebration of the man and the importance of public libraries.

Is there a Carnegie library in your community?

To write this review, OwlKids Books sent me a copy of the book

Monday, October 23, 2017

Dangerous Jane by Suzanne Slade

Dangerous Jane
By Suzanne Slade; Illustrated by Alice Ratterree
Peachtree. 2017
ISBN: 9781561459131
Grades 3 and older
Please Note: While Cathy is on Sabbatical, Louise is writing all the reviews. Cathy will return February, 2018.

Suzanne Slade has penned a picture book biography on the life of Jane Addams, known as a pioneer in social reform. Addams is best known for her creation of  the settlement house, Hull House, where she lived and worked until her death in 1935. 

Her mother died when she was two and at age five she contracts a disease that left her back crooked and her toes pointed in. “She felt like the ugly duckling in her storybook: different, unwanted, hopeless.”  While on a business trip with her father at age 6, Jane sees with her own eyes that some families are extremely poor. She makes a promise, that one day she will buy a big house to share with poor families.”  

After graduating from college and enjoying the luxury of traveling abroad, Jane, again, encounters poverty. She saw starving people spending their last pennies on rotten vegetables.”  Her idea of buying a big house returns. She visits a settlement house in London named Toynbee Hall which helped poor people help themselves by providing skills, confidence, and the dignity to start a new life. 

In 1889, Jane Addams founded Hull House in Chicago. Working eighteen hours a day, she provided whatever her neighbors needed: English lessons, childcare, wash tubs, steady work. But most important, she gave friendship, dignity, hope. During World War 1, Addams and 1500 women form the Woman’s Peace Party, an organization that promoted world peace.

In 1931, Addams was the first American woman awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. 

Retterree’s full-page watercolor illustrations complement the text. 

I am of the mindset that no book is too young for any audience. Sometimes, a picture book biography is perfect to use as an introduction with older students, middle thru high school.

Back matter includes an author's note, timeline, a selected bibliography, and source notes for the quotes. 

Share this books with students and they will find out why Addams was labeled, Dangerous Jane. An important historical figure to remember.

I reviewed this book using an Advanced Readers Copy (ARC) sent to me by the publisher. 

Monday, October 16, 2017

Twelve Days in May: Freedom Ride 1961 By Larry Dane Brimner

Twelve Days in May: Freedom Ride 1961
By Larry Dane Brimner
Calkins Creek: an imprint of Highlights. 2017
ISBN: 978-1629795867
Grades 7 and up

Note: While Cathy is on Sabbatical until February, 2018, Louise will be composing all the reviews.

“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” - 
George Santayana, a Spanish philosopher, December 16, 1863- September 26, 1952

History does repeat itself, we witness it year after year after year. At times, our country seems to take big steps forward insuring that all citizens are treated fairly, recognizing the importance of affordable health care, clean air to breath, unpolluted water to drink, free access to the Internet, and a quality public education. But then it happens. After a period of forward-thinking, greed and profit overshadow these lofty goals. We stumble and find ourselves reversing these accomplishments, undoing laws and amendments that set us back years, or in some instances, decades. If history keeps repeating itself, then it is vital that we continue to read about the work that individuals deem important enough to sacrifice their lives to bring about change.

Winner of the 2012 Robert F. Sibert Honor Award for Black & White, Larry Dane Brimner adds another excellent title to his body of work highlighting the Civil Rights Movement. In Twelve Days in May: Freedom Ride 1961, Brimner focuses on the thirteen people, white and black, male and female, young and old, who participated in this historic twelve day bus trip that went from Washington, D.C. to New Orleans, Louisiana. Their goal was to draw attention to the lack of enforcement of the law that banned segregation in buses that crossed state lines and at the bus stations.

Traveling in two buses, the riders left Washington, D.C. on May 4 and were met with minor resistance when challenged where they sat on the bus to being served in the stations. It was ten days later, when they arrived in Alabama, a state that openly flaunted their support of the KKK and Jim Crow Laws that this peaceful protest took a turn towards violence. Klan members threw rocks, broke windows and threw a glass bottle stuffed with gasoline-soaked rags into the bus. It exploded in flames. 

Meanwhile, on the second bus, several Klansmen boarded the bus like ordinary passengers. “As soon as the bus is underway, the Klansmen begin to verbally threaten the Freedom Riders.”  Trained in nonviolence, when the riders did not react to the verbal abuse, the Klansmen grew more violent; several riders are assaulted. 

The overall design makes this book an appealing and powerful read. Large black & white photographs, accurately captioned, complement the concise, finely crafted narrative. There is no excess here; Brimner choses each word deliberately, for their greatest impact. 

Back matter includes bibliography, source notes, index, and a brief bio of all thirteen Freedom Riders: James Farmer, James Peck, Genevieve Hughes, Joseph “Joe” P. Perkins Jr., Walter and Frances Bergman, Albert Smith Bigelow, Jimmy McDonald, Edward “Ed” Blankenheim, Henry “Hank” Thomas, Charles Person, Benjamin Elton Cox, and John Lewis (Cogressman Lewis and author of the March trilogy). 

As educators, both in schools and public libraries, despite shrinking materials budgets, maintaining a balance collection is of great importance. It can be a librarians form of activism to promote books that illuminate our past. 

To write this review, the publisher sent me a copy of this book.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Cybils 2017

It's Cybils time again! I am happy to announce I am a first round judge in the Junior/Senior High Nonfiction category along with these bloggers.

Rebecca Aguilar  Rebecca G. Aguilar

Anne Bennett  My Head is Full of Books

Heidi Grange GEO Librarian

Julie Jurgens Hi Miss Julie

Our fearless leader and Junior/Senior Nonfiction chair is...tada...Jennie Rothschild from Biblio File. 

Nominations are now open until October 15. Please, take a moment and think about which book you would LOVE to nominate. Here is the link to the Cybils nominations page. Keep in mind that books need to be published in the U.S. or Canada between October 16, 2016 and October 15, 2017. ONE BOOK PER CATEGORY PER PERSON. No exceptions. 

You can see a list of what has already been nominated by going here

Thanks, everyone. 

Note: Cathy is on Sabbatical this year and will return February, 2018. Louise is responsible for all reviews until she returns. 

Monday, October 2, 2017

Writing Radar by Jack Gantos

Writing Radar: Using Your Journal to Snoop Out and Craft Great Stories
by Jack Gantos
Macmillan. 2017
ISBN: 9781427291226
All ages
Note: While Cathy Potter is on Sabbatical, Louise is writing all the reviews. Cathy will return February, 2018.

In his new book, Jack Gantos, the hilarious, Newbery-Award winning author, offers his knowledge of writing in this creative writing guide that encourages any aspiring writer to find story ideas in their own lives. His step-by-step guide offers useful advice so that anyone can become a brilliant writer. Don't we all dream of seeing our name on the spine of a book?  

I could go on and on about this fabulous book, but let's listen to Gantos, who is one of the best storytellers around, promote his book,


"More than just a how-to guide, Writing Radar is a celebration of the power of storytelling and an ode to the characters who—many unwittingly—inspired Gantos’s own writing career." from Macmillan.
From adult to children, I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to be a writer. Be sure to have it on your library shelves. Teachers, use it as a guide when teaching creative writing. Like Gantos himself, Writing Radar is a gem. If only Writing Radar had been available when I was a kid maybe my parents might have understood my obsession and used this excellent writing handbook to channel my creativity.
To write this review, I borrowed the book from my local public library.

P.S. I am going to be hearing Jack Gantos speak today (Monday, October 2), at the Maine Library Conference. I am beyond excited.