Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Monday, December 25, 2017

50 Cities of the U.S.A.

50 Cities of the U.S.A.
Written & researched by Gabrielle Balkan; Illustrations by Sol Linero
Wide Eyed Editions, an imprint of The Quarto Group. 2017.
ISBN: 9781847808707

Note: While Cathy is on Sabbatical, Louise is writing all the reviews. Cathy will return March, 2018.

I love maps. There is something magical about perusing them. I love how a map can transport you to a place you’ve never been or reveal hidden gems in a place you think you know intimately. There are maps that show the ocean floor, the surface of another planet, or a world that only exists in the imagination of a novelist. (Think Middle Earth). There are also historical maps that offer a window into our past. Whatever the subject, maps are perfect for the curious, lovers of facts, or the armchair traveler. 

50 Cities of the U.S.A. is the latest offering from Wide Eyed Editions, an imprint of The Quarto Group, a British publisher. Each page is an exploration of the wonders found in 50 magnificent cities in the United States. The publishers says, “We want to paint a picture of each city’s story, the people who strive to make their communities stronger, the places that encourage creativity, and the moments in history that highlight the achievements of our nation.” 

The colorful, oversized informational format opens with a key on how to use the book. Each double-page spread includes many interesting things to look at. A welcome box is a quick introduction to each city and its most popular nickname. Underneath shows a small map of the US that pinpoints where the city is located, A Day in…gives an example of what to do within a 24 hours period that highlights that city’s food, culture, and activities. Also included are key facts, inspiring people, city icons, and a spotlight on a particular neighborhood. 

I checked out Denver, Colorado to prepare myself for the upcoming American Library Association’s (ALA) Mid-Winter Conference, February, 2018. Its nickname is The Mile High City, because the 13th step of the capitol building is exactly one mile (5280 feet) above sea level. Cool! To avoid altitude sickness, visitors are reminded to drink lots of water and eat food rich in potassium. Things to do in Denver: visit the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, the Denver Mint, or Byers-Evans House. Did you know shredded wheat was invented in Denver in 1890?

Not every state is represented with a detailed map. Missing are Montana, North Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska, Delaware, New Hampshire, but in the back matter under, Cities We'd Also Love To Visit!, the 8 cities from the above states are listed with brief facts. A terrific coffee table book or to use in a social studies unit.

Click here to visit Gabrielle Balkan's site to see the interior of this enjoyable atlas.

Since we are on the topic of maps, another title from Wide Eyed Editions

Atlas of Animal Adventures: a collection of nature's most unmissable events, epic migrations, and extraordinary behaviors.
by Rachel Williams and Emily Hawkins
Illustrated by Lucy Letherland
Wide Eyed Editions
ISBN: 9781847807922

To write this review, I borrowed a copy of these books from my local public library.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Life on Surtsey: Iceland’s Upstart Island by Loree Griffin Burns

Life on Surtsey: Iceland’s Upstart Island
Scientists in the Field series
Loree Griffin Burns
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2017
ISBN: 9780544687233

Note: While Cathy is on Sabbatical, Louise will be writing all the reviews. Cathy will return in March, 2018.

In this new title in the Scientists in the Field series readers visit the island of Surtsey, off the coast of Iceland to follow scientist Erling ├ôlafsson, an entomologist, as he records the arrival and survival of insects on this volcanic island. Erling has been visiting the island, on and off, since 1970. 

Iceland is home to more volcanoes than any other country in the world, and major eruptions happen every five years or so. That’s because it sits on top of an undersea mountain range, the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Glaciers, summer days that last twenty hours, winter nights that last just as long. But, to the average Icelander it’s all pretty humdrum.

Our story begins on November 14, 1963, when a volcano, located fifteen miles off the southern coast of Iceland, under the sea, erupted. As plums of smoke, caused by rock and cinders were spewed violently up from the sea eight times taller than the Empire State Building, the materials settled back down into the sea so that by the next morning, November 15, pilots flying over the area could see land where none had existed before. During the next  50+ years, Erling and other scientists have recorded the plants, animals, and insect that found their way to Surtsey and documented how well they have survived. 

After three years, in 1967, scientist and the Icelandic government worked to declare Surtsey a nature preserve, meaning only scientists may explore it. The island is off limits to tourists.

As we’ve come to expect with this series, the photos, generously placed on every page, are gorgeous. They are well captioned and mirror what is discussed in the text.  

Back matter includes an appendices, glossary, source notes, bibliography, and more information. There are a few side bars with more information, but Burns does an excellent job of incorporating into the narrative 

For years in story time, I used the picture books, An Island Grows by Lola Schaefer and Rotten Island by Bill Steig. Both books, though Schaefer was more in line with facts, told the story of how an island is formed. If you can get your hands on them, read them aloud to classes of all ages, then share with them Life on Surtsey. 

To watch a video on Surtsey, click here. 

To write this review, I borrowed a copy of the book from my local public library.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Meet Cindy Sherman: Artist. Photographer. Chameleon By Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan

Meet Cindy Sherman: Artist. Photographer. Chameleon
By Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan.  
Roaring Brook Press. 2017
ISBN: 9781626725201

Note: While Cathy is on Sabbatical, Louise will be writing all the reviews. Cathy will return in March, 2018.
There was once a girl who loved playing dress up and pretending to be someone else. “She put tape on her face and pulled it into strange shapes to look like a ghoul. She painted herself with poster paint and took the train into New York city with her friends to spend an afternoon “fake” shopping as the paint peeled off her eyelids.”

In this absorbing biography, Greenberg and Jordan do an excellent job of highlighting the fascinating, creative process of Cindy Sherman. In her work, Untitled Film Stills, Sherman would dress herself up in various costumes and photograph herself in any spot that interested her. When she develop the film it would look cracked and grainy. Sherman wanted her photos to resemble black-and-white film stills that were used to promote movies. The project was done over four years and included sixty-nine images.

To this day, Sherman continues to do many interesting photograph series with herself as the main character. Her ability to totally transform herself is truly amazing.

The narrative is paired throughout with well-captioned color photographs of Sherman’s different art projects.

The book includes a section called Production Notes that takes a deeper look at the artist. One fact that stood out for me was that Sherman was the first woman artist in the world to sell a photograph for $1,000,000.  Other back matter: a bibliography, source notes, lists of artwork by Sherman.

Share this with middle and high school students.

Click here to visit the artist's website for more information about her work.

I borrowed a copy of this book from my local public library.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Many: The Diversity of Life on Earth by Nicola Davies

Many: The Diversity of Life on Earth
Nicola Davies; Illustrated by Emily Sutton
Candlewick Press. 2017
ISBN: 9780763694838

Note: While Cathy is on Sabbatical, Louise is writing all the reviews. Cathy will return March, 2018.

Everywhere you look, from big things like elephants to small things like mushrooms, our planet is teaming with life. We can start counting with one, but keep on counting and we get many species. In this engaging informational picture book, Davies explores the many different kinds of living things that live on Earth and how we are all dependent on one another for survival.

Each double-page spread has folk art style illustrations rendered in watercolor that mirror the simple narrative that is perfect for reading aloud. Some spreads offer captions of more detailed information in a smaller italicized font.  

Woven into the narrative is the message that it is up to us, humans, to save our world. “Human beings are part of the pattern, too, and we need to make sure it stays big, beautiful, and complicated…because we could not keep living on Earth if we had to count down instead of up…from MANY to one.

A perfect companion to Davies and Sutton’s earlier work, Tiny Creatures: the World of Microbes. Pair these with the Sunlight series by Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm.

To write this review, I borrowed a copy of the book from my local public library.