Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Monday, January 29, 2018

Best Nonfiction Books of 2017

Louise's favorite titles from 2017!

In past years Cathy and I have worked together to create our list of favorite nonfiction books, but not this year. Because Cathy is serving on a book award committee, she has been unable to publicly review or write about books throughout 2017. I worked solo on this list and made my selections based on books I have read over the past year. Reviews are linked in the list below. 

I am thrilled to announce that Cathy will return to blogging and reviewing for The Nonfiction Detectives in March. Yeah!

by Dashka Slater
Farrar Straus Giroux

by Sy Montgomery
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

University of Minnesota Press

Grand Canyon by Jason Chin
Roaring Brook Press

edited by Cell Jensen
Algonquin Books of Chappel Hill

by Doug Wechsier

by Sandra Uwiringlyimana and Abigail Pesta
Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins

Roaring Brook Press

by Elizabeth Rusch
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

by Loree Griffin
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Candlewick Press

by Dean Robbins
Alfred A. Knopf

by Jeanne Walker Harvey
Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt

by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan
Roaring Brook Press

by Sue Macy
National Geographic

Muddy: The Story of Blues Legend Muddy Waters
by Michael Mahin

by Greg Pizzoli

by Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm
Blue Sky Press/Scholastic

by Carole Boston
Candlewick Press

by Deborah Heiligman
Godwin Books/Henry Holt

by Jeanette Winter
Beach Lane Books/Simon & Schuster

Jack Gantos

Thanks, everyone. 
I am looking forward to 2018!

Friday, January 26, 2018

Muddy by Michael Mahin

Muddy: The Story of Blue Legend Muddy Waters
by Michael Mahin; Illustrated by Evan Turk
Atheneum Books. 2017
ISBN: 9781481443494
A must-read for all ages

Note: While Cathy is on sabbatical, Louise is responsible for this blog. Happily, it’s not too much longer before Cathy returns…March, 2018.

Mahin has composed a spectacular picture book biography of one of the greatest blues musicians of all times: Muddy Waters. 

McKinley Morganfield was never good at doing what he was told.” He loved playing in the mud. After his mother died he went to live with his Grandma Della. She tried to keep him clean, but "finally just started calling him Muddy." 

Muddy grew up in one of the poorest regions in the United States. Western Mississippi was heavily segregated, so when he was older Muddy joined the great migration, a time when many African Americans moved north to major cities to escape the violence and racism of the south. Muddy, with his guitar in hand, moved to Chicago.

Muddy’s courage, some would say stubbornness, never let him sway from playing the music that was inside him. Delta blues. This music was "deep-feeling, gutbucket, gut-aching music full of life and love and trouble and pride. It made people stand up and raise their hands and stomp their feet and laugh and cry and come alive.” 

It took awhile to get a record of his music produced, but Leonard Chess of Chess Records gave Muddy a chance. And, once it happened, within twenty-four hours all three thousand copies were sold out! "Leonard printed more. A lot more"

Mahin’s narrative is coupled with Turk’s glorious illustrations, rendered in watercolor, oil pastel, china marker, printing ink, and newspaper collage, The colors are a mixture of bright and dark. They seem to vibrate across the pages. They are really beautiful. Breathtaking. (Click here to see some of the fabulous interior spreads)

This book is a perfect introduction to Muddy Waters. Despite all his accolades - six Grammy Awards, a member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and a recipient of the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, it was Muddy Waters The Beatles wanted to meet when they made their first visit to American in 1964. How cool is that?

Back matter includes an author's note, bibliography, and suggested compilations to hear Muddy's music. The books' only drawback is the exclusion of any dates to set Muddy's life into any historical context.

One of Muddy's first recordings was, "I Can't Be Satisfied." Go here to listen to this song. Muddy and another great blues musician, Johnny Winter, rock the stage.

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

Monday, January 22, 2018

Impact by Elizabeth Rusch

Impact! Asteroids and the Science of Saving the World
Scientists in the Field series
by Elizabeth Rusch; Photos by Karin Anderson
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2017
ISBN: 9780544671591
Grades 4 and up

Note: Cathy is still on Sabbatical and will return March 2018. Until her return, Louise is managing the blog. 

Approximately sixty-five million years ago, a massive asteroid, “roughly six miles wide, smashed into Earth, sending iridium around the globe and the dinosaurs to their death.” Is it possible another asteroid is headed towards Earth and could end life as we know it? 

In this latest entry in the very popular Scientists in the Field series, award-winner nonfiction writer, Elizabeth Rusch investigates the probability of an asteroid colliding with Earth and what can be done to prevent it by interviewing scientists who study them.

Meteorite hunters are individuals who travel around the globe to areas where meteors have fallen to collect these important space rocks before they start to break down. Studying the actual fragments from an asteroid helps scientists get a more accurate picture of the meteor’s composition and where it might have come from. David Kring, a senior scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, Texas has spent more than a decade studying an area in Arizona named, Meteor Crater. This “550 foot crater, 2.3 miles around, is believed to have been blasted out by an asteroid impact roughly fifty thousand years ago.” 

There are also scientists, and amateurs, who spend their evenings scanning the night skies, looking for moving objects that could be potential asteroids. The key is discovering whether its orbit is on a collision course with Earth. With this knowledge, scientists are making plans to destroy any asteroid on that trajectory. 

As with all books in this series, the writing is engaging and loaded with side bars giving more information on topics discussed within the text. Each page is illustrated with well-captioned, color photographs by Karin Anderson that mirror the text. Back matter includes a bibliography, glossary, source notes, and index.

What I liked is the What You Can Do! section that encourages readers to get involved in discovering, tracking, spotting an asteroid as a flash in the sky, tips for collecting meteorite fragments, and also helping NASA come up with ideas on how to search and destroy (or Deflect) an asteroid.

For science lovers of all grades, because of the chapter on how dinosaurs became extinct would make this book an easy sell to those who love anything about dinosaurs.

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

Thursday, January 18, 2018

How To Be An Elephant by Katherine Roy

How To Be An Elephant: Growing up in the African Wild
Written and illustrated by Katherine Roy
David Macaulay Studio: An imprint of Roaring Brook Press. 2017
ISBN: 9781626721784
Grades 1 thru 12

Note: While Cathy is on Sabbatical, Louise is responsible for all the blog's content.  Cathy will return March, 2018.

“They are born wearing wrinkles. They are friendly, but also fierce. They talk in deafening rumbles, and move around on soundless feet. Their noses have fingers, and they wave hello with their ears. They are wild, majestic, unmistakably marvelous, and – in many ways – so much like us.”

Roy has crafted a beautiful tribute to elephants, specifically those who live in Africa. Every aspect of an elephant’s development, from newborn to mature adult, is explained in language understandable to the youngest readers in this colorful nonfiction picture book.

Roy’s research included traveling to central Kenya in 2014 and spending several days with elephant experts in the field and took part on a 10-day safari through parks and reserves.

The text is complemented by Roy’s watercolor illustrations and detailed diagrams.

Back matter includes a heartfelt author’s note, selected resources, scientific articles, further reading, and resources of books, films, and websites. 

Click here to visit the author's web page and see a behind-the-scenes film.

An excellent resources for all ages. 

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