Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Monday, July 23, 2018

The Brilliant Deep by Kate Messner

The Brilliant Deep: Rebuilding the World’s Coral Reefs: the story of Ken Nedimyer and the Coral Restoration Foundation
Written by Kate Messner; Illustrated by Matthew Forsythe
Chronicle Books. 2018
ISBN: 9781452133508

Ken Nedimyer grew up near the Kenendy Space Center in Florida. His father worked as an engineer at NASA. Watching, first unmanned rockets and then the manned ones that followed, “It seemed like just about anything might be possible if you set your mind to it.”

As an adult, a lover of the ocean, Ken operated a live rock farm in the Florida Keys. (Live rocks are used in saltwater aquariums) One day, a staghorn coral attached itself to Ken’s rocks. Ken and his daughter wondered if more coral would grow if they cut off pieces and attached those pieces to the rocks. 

It did.

Nedimyer then wondered if using the coral from his rocks would help to rebuild a dying a colony?

In this enchanting picture book biography, readers learn about Ken Nedimyer, who has dedicated his life to restoring coral reefs and The Coral Restoration Foundation, a foundation Ken started that now has hundreds of volunteers who help farm and transplant coral on to dying coral reefs.

Forsythe’s illustrations are colorful and slightly fuzzy, reflecting the wonders of the undersea world.

Back matter includes a note describes how many coral reefs are dying off, with tips on how kids can help the Coral Restoration Foundation. A brief bibliography of books, magazines, and online sources, along with a coral reef vocabulary.  
Pair Brilliant Deep with another excellent picture book biography that was published in 2017: Shark Lady: the True story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean’s Most Fearless Scientist by Jess Keating; Illustrations by Marta Alvarez Miguens.

This reviewer used copies from the public library to write this review.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Photographic: The Life of Graciela Iturbide

Photographic: The Life of Graciela Iturbide  
by Isabel Quintero and Zeke Peña
Getty Publications, 2018
Grades 6-12

The reviewer borrowed a copy of the book from her local library.

Photographic is one of the most creative and original nonfiction books I've read this year. The graphic biography tells the story of Mexican artist and photographer Graciela Iturbide. Readers are brought into the story with the combination of first person narrative text, black and white illustrations and Iturbide's own photographs.

A narrator speaks directly to readers at the beginning of each section of the book.

"Paving your own path comes with sacrifice, Reader. Do you know how painful sacrifice can be? Graciela gave up a life of comfort and convention- choosing instead the path of the artist and risking everything."

Don't be fooled by the slim size of the book; it's not a book for very young readers. The figurative language, symbolism, art history, and photographic terms and concepts make it an ideal read for teens.

"Photography lets me look into multiple worlds simultaneously. The serene and the violent. The beautiful and the terrible. The dead and the living."

The story is not organized in chronologically like traditional biographies. Instead, the narrative jumps from present day to 1979 and then back to the 1950s when Iturbide was a child before it shifts into a chronological order. Iturbide married young and had children. After the death of her daughter, she took photography courses then traveled around the globe photographing people, animals and the land. Her photographs depict mothers, gang members, landscapes, rituals, goat slaughters, and more.

I've read quite a few artist biographies written for kids and teens. Sometimes those biographies focus so much on events from the person's life, they miss the significance of the art. That's not the case here. Quintero and Peña expertly convey the meanings behind Iturbide's photographs.

Watch the author and illustrator discuss their process in making this book.

Preview pages from the book at The Getty Store website.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Two Books about Space!

Curiosity: the Story of the Mars Rover
by Markus Motum
Candlewick Press. 2018
ISBN: 9780763695040

On November 26, 2011, NASA launched a high-tech rover, Curiosity. It’s mission: to study the planet Mars to understand how it was formed and how it has changed over time.

Told in first-person, Curiosity explains what led it its creation, the excitement of being launched into space, and the long journey, 253 days, until it landed on the red planet. “Since 2012, I have been exploring Mars.” NASA scientists hope to build a picture of the planet’s past and perhaps discover why Mars changed from being a warm planet with water to the cold, dry planet it is today.” 

British artist, Motum uses the picture book format to the greatest advantage. His double-page spreads in mixed media offer an important visual element to this highly engaging narrative nonfiction book. Motum's Curiosity has quite the personality.

Back matter mentions previous Mars rovers, a timeline of Mars missions, and a glossary. 

Going hand-in-hand with space exploration

The Far Side of the Moon: the Story of Apollo 11’s Third Man 
Written by Alex Irvine; Illustrated by Ben Bishop
Tilbury House Publishers. 2017
ISBN: 9780884484523

In this biography told in comic format, tells the story of Michael Collins, the third astronaut onboard the Apollo 11 mission. Collins was the person who stayed with the ship, orbiting around the dark side of the moon, while Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong made the historic walk on the moon, July 20, 1969.

The book briefly introduces Collins beginnings, but stays focused on his NASA training, his spacewalk while on the Gemini 10 mission, to his final trip to space aboard Apollo 11. Though other astronauts has orbited the moon (Apollo 8, 9, 10), Michael Collins was the first astronaut to orbit the moon alone.

Drawing on Collin’s autobiography, the book never shies away from explaining the personal sacrifices Collins made to train for this historic mission and the disappointment he felt when not chosen to walk on the moon. Readers learn of the incredible skill Collin’s had since he was responsible for piloting the space craft, and pulled off docking The Eagle with the space capsule (The Columbia) in a maneuver never done before.   

Did Collins return to space after Apollo 11? No! He wanted to spend more time with his family. Eventually, Collins became the director of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. 

Using a limited pallet of black, white, and purple, Bishop’s illustrations are excellent and really bring the story of the third man from Apollo 11.

Be sure to share both titles with children and families. These two books, and an older title, The Mighty Mars Rovers: the Incredible Adventures of Spirit and Opportunity  by Elizabeth Rusch, are perfect for readers who can’t get enough information about space and astronauts.

To write these reviews, I borrowed the books from my local public library.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Crash: The Great Depression and the Fall and Rise of America

Crash: The Great Depression and the Fall and Rise of America 
by Marc Favreau
Little, Brown and Company, 2018
Grades 6-12

The reviewer received an advanced copy of the book from the publisher.

In his debut book for children and teens, Marc Favreau takes readers on a somber journey through the Great Depression. Crash is captivating from the first line as Favreau describes the free wheeling lifestyle of the roaring twenties that abruptly ended on Black Monday when the stock market plunged on Oct. 29, 1929.

"America did not see it coming."

The narrative includes first hand accounts of what it was like to live during the Great Depression. Diary entires, letters, posters, telegrams and black & white photographs (including several by Dorothea Lange) help paint a picture of a desperate time when people lost their jobs, their homes and could not feed their families.

One of the books many strengths is providing information about the government, society and the economy in the 1920s and 1930s to readers who may have limited background knowledge while also keeping the story new and interesting for readers who may have knowledge of the topic.  The text covers an array of events and subjects including the banking industry, rise of labor unions, FDR's presidency and the New Deal, women's rights, the Dust Bowl, voting rights, the work of the NAACP,  the Great Migration, the government's anti-immigration policies, and World War II.

Each chapter focuses on a specific topic or time period and describes how everyday Americans were impacted by the stock market crash and how the government and businesses tried to pull the country out of despair. In addition to well-know figures such as Herbert Hoover, FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt, the book introduces readers to lesser-known yet influential people such as Francis Perkins (Secretary of Labor and first woman in the cabinet) and Walter White (president of the NAACP and undercover investigator).

Back matter is extensive and includes a bibliography, several pages of source notes, a timeline, and glossary. The roller coaster ride of historical events, parallels to modern day America and Favreau's engaging writing style make this an interesting book to read aloud or to read as a companion to a fiction book about the Great Depression (Out of the Dust, Esperanza Rising, or Bud, Not Buddy). Crash is one of the best long-form nonfiction books I've read this year and is a recommended purchase for public libraries and middle school and high school libraries and classrooms.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

As seen at ALA Annual Part Two

Part Two

Africville by Shauntay Grant
Groundwood Books
Release Date: September 1

Algeria is Beautiful Like America by Olivia Burton
Lion Forge
Release Date: April 24

Big, Bold, Adventurous Life of Lavinia Warren by Elizabeth Raum
Chicago Review Press
Release Date: September 4

Cyrus Field's Big Dream: the daring effort to lay the first transatlantic telegraph cable 
by Mary Morton Cowan
Calkins Creek
Release Date: September 11

Earthrise: Apollo 8 and the Photo that Changed the World by James Gladstone
Owlkids Books
Release Date: October 15

How to Talk to Children About Art by Francoise Barbe-Gall
Chicago Review Press
Release Date: June 1

Japanese Cooking with Manga: The Gourmand Gohan Cookbooks - 
59 easy recipes your friends will love
by Alexis Aldeguer
Tuttle Publishing
Release Date: May 29

Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop: the Sanitation Strike of 1968
by Alice Faye Duncan
Calkins Creek
Release Date: September 11

Ski Soldier: A World War II Biography by Louise Borden
Calkins Creek
Release Date: September 11

Speaking Our Truth: a Journey of Reconciliation by Monique Gray Smith
Orca Books 
Release Date: September 19, 2017

Monday, July 2, 2018

As Seen at ALA Annual (Part 1)

Part One

We are back from the 2018 American Library Association Annual Conference. This year we traveled to New Orleans where we sampled lots of amazing food including pastries at Le Croissant d'Or on Ursulines Street. While we were at the conference, we both spent time looking for interesting nonfiction titles for kids. Here are some 2018 nonfiction books that caught our attention in the exhibits and at publisher preview events. Thanks to all of the publishers who took time to talk about upcoming titles, provided us with review copies and invited us to book previews.

Cathy and Louise

Bonnie and Clyde: The Making of a Legend
by Karen Blumenthal
Viking Children's Books
Release Date: August 1

Harriet Tubman: Conductor on the Underground Railroad
by Ann Petry
 Harper Collins
Release Date: September 4

Sea Creatures 
by Seymour Simon
Harper Collins
Release Date: June 26

Everything & Everywhere
by Marc Martin
 Chronicle Books
Release Date: October 9

Lights! Camera! Alice!
by Mara Rockliff
Chronicle Books
Release Date: September 4

Never Too Young!: 50 Unstoppable Kids Who Made a Difference 
by Aileen Weintraub
Sterling Children's Books
Release Date: September 4

Heroes of Dunkirk 
by Lisa L. Owens
Release Date: August 1

Pandemic: How Climate, the Environment, and Superbugs Increase the Risk 
by Connie Goldsmith 
Twenty-First Century Books
Release Date: August 1

Eavesdropping on Elephants
by Patricia Newman 
Millbrook Press
Release Date: August 1

The Great Rhino Rescue
by Sandra Markle
Millbrook Press
Release Date: August 1

The Vast Wonder of the World: Biologist Ernest Everett Just
by Melina Mangal 
Millbrook Press
Release Date: November 1

 Thirty Minutes Over Oregon
by Marc Tyler Nobleman
Clarion Books
Release Date: October 9

The Orca Scientists 
by Kim Perez Valice 
HMH Books for Young Readers
Release Date: July 24

Girls Think of Everything
by Catherine Thimmesh 
HMH Books for Young Readers
Release date: October 9
New edition with updated content!

Backyard Bears
by Amy Cherrix 
HMH Books for Young Readers
Release Date: October 23

 The Strange True Tale of Frankensteins's Creator Mary Shelley
by Catherine Reef
Clarion Books
Release Date: September 18

The Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refugees
by Don Brown 
HMH Books for Young Readers
Release Date: September 18

Unpunished Murder: Massacre at Colfax and the Quest for Justice
by Lawrence Goldstone 
Scholastic Focus (new imprint)
Release Date: August 28

The Grand Escape
by Neal Bascomb
Scholastic Focus (new imprint)
Release Date: September 25

by Larry Dane Brimmer 
Calkins Creek
Release Date: October 9

Spooked!: How Radio Sparked the 1938 Invasion of America
by Gail Jarrow
Calkins Creek
Release Date: August 7 

So Tall Within: Sojourner Truth's Long Walk to Freedom 
by Gary D. Schmidt
Roaring Brook Press
Release Date: September 25

Spring After Spring: How Rachel Carson Inspired the Environmental  Movement
by Stephanie Roth Sisson
Roaring Brook Press
Release Date: August 14

Attucks!: Oscar Robertson and the Basketball Team That Awakened a City
by Phillip House
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Release Date: October 23

Undocumented: A Worker's Fight
by Duncan Tonatiuh
Abrams ComicArts
Release Date: August 7

Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes and Stinkers: Celebrating Animal Underdogs
by Melissa Stewart
Peachtree Publishers
Release Date: September 1

Bold & Brave: Ten Heroes Who Won Women the Right to Vote
by Kirsten Gillibrand
Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
Release Date: November 13

Check back on Thursday for Part Two of our #alaac18 nonfiction sightings!

Thursday, June 28, 2018

A Glorious Freedom by Lisa Congdon

A Glorious Freedom: Older Women Leading Extraordinary Lives
by Lisa Congdon
Chronicle Books. 2017
ISBN: 9781452156200

It is really hard to be over 55 in our youth oriented society. Adjectives used to describe older people, mostly women, include outdated, irrelevant, unimportant. You become invisible. When reading children & teen fiction, more and more, or maybe I’m just noticing it more, older women are portrayed as silly, bothersome, out-of-touch, creepy, and often described as ugly because of gray hair and/or wrinkles.

In, A Glorious Freedom. Lisa Congdon celebrates women over the age of 40. “You might ask, Why make this book? Why are the lives of older women worth celebrating?” Because, getting older is liberating. One becomes less self-centered, more aware of the needs of those around you. You are more hardworking, determined, creative, willing to take risks. 

The book is a combination of profiles of well-known women, along with brief essays and question & answers with current women who found a more fulfilling path to their lives upon turning 40.

The profiles include writers, scientists, activists, both living and deceased who did not let age or gender discrimination stop them from doing what they were passionate about. Described as late bloomers, these women began their careers after turning 40. Included are: Beatrice Wood, Vera Wang, Louise Bourgeois, Sensei Keiko Fukuda, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Minnie Pwerle, Julia Child, Mary Delany, Sister Madonna Buder, Carmen Herrera, Helen Gurley Brown, Angela Morely, Eva Zeisel, Anna Arnold Hedgeman, Grandma Moses, Katherine Johnson, and Marguerite Duras. 

In the introduction, Congdon explains that the idea for this book came after she posted an essay on her blog about how getting older changed her life in a positive way. Receiving an overwhelming response, she asked followers who considered themselves late bloomers to submit essays about the process of aging, their relationship to aging, the struggles, the triumphs.”  She was astounded by the response.

Congdon is an illustrator and fine artist. Her black & white portraits accompanies each profile. Quotes from famous women (We turn not older with years, but newer every day. Emily Dickinson) in bold, hand drawn letters and her playful, colorful signature style art is scattered throughout the book. 

There is a bibliography, credits for quotes as back matter. 

A Glorious Freedom is a wonderful celebration of women and aging. It helps redefine what it means to grow older. When shared with students from middle school up, or given to parents with children in that age range, is a hopeful reminder that women get better with time. Growing older is natural and we can make it whatever we want it to look like. 

Watch a brief book promo by clicking here

Go here to see interior shots of the book.

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