Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Stretch to the Sun

Stretch to the Sun: From a Tiny Sprout to the Tallest Tree on Earth 
by Carrie A. Pearson
illustrated by Susan Swan
Charlesbridge, 2018
Grades K-4

The reviewer received a copy of the book from the publisher.

Upon opening this gorgeous science picture book, readers are transported into the Redwood Forest. The narrative writing style reads like poetry as the author describes the sights and sounds of the forest.

Pop! A tiny tree,
no bigger than a pinky finger,
sprouts from the stump of the fallen tree.
The sprout needs light, it stretches toward the sun.

Lush illustrations depict the trees and animals found in the Redwood Forest. Swan uses hand painted papers, found objects and Adobe Photoshop to create detailed, textured illustrations that reflect the richness of the forest canopy.

Stretch to the Sun is both a tribute to redwoods and a call to action to protect the trees and their habitat. Don't miss the back matter containing more detailed information about conservation efforts.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Bonnie and Clyde: the Making of a Legend by Karen Blumenthal

Bonnie and Clyde: the Making of a Legend
Karen Blumenthal
Viking. 2018

Outlaws have fascinated me since high school. Whether it was Jesse James, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Dillinger, Pretty Boyd Floyd, or Bonne & Clyde, learning how they could rob and evade capture made for a rousing read. So I was thrilled when Blumenthal’s latest came across my desk. A top-notch writer of nonfiction, I knew this book was going to be great. And, it was.

“Stories change. Sometimes they change in the retelling. Sometimes they change because the world around us changes. And sometimes they change because other storytellers use them for their own purposes. So it has been with Bonnie and Clyde.”

Using primary and secondary sources, books, newspaper articles, and police interviews, Blumenthal sifts through facts, rumors, and legends to make this narrative nonfiction an exciting read.

Bonnie Parker and Clyde Chestnut Barrow were born in 1910, and came of age during the Great Depression. There was very little money, food, or job opportunities. Clyde and Bonnie met in January, 1930. He is arrested a month later and is sent to prison for burglary and car thieft. Once Clyde is paroled in February, 1932, he and Bonnie meet up and their life of crime begins. Not much was known about the duo until April 1, 1933, when police raid a garage apartment where Bonnie, Clyde and others are staying. Bonnie & Clyde and the others got away, (leaving a constable dead and another lawman dying), but the treasures left behind included a roll of undeveloped film. The images from the camera showed the pair as well-dressed, handsome, and living the high life.  Once the picture went public, ““their whole image was one of glamour,” recalled Jim Wright, a longtime Texas congressman who was a kid living in the region at the time.””  The pair came across as good looking, rich and happy. Even if you didn’t approve of what they were doing, you couldn’t help but envied them just a little bit.  

The book is loaded with black & white photos, many from the film found that April day in 1933, and historical documents. Side bars give more information, particularly more details on the individuals who were killed by the Barrow gang. Each chapter heading states the town/state, date and alternates stanzas from two poems Bonnie wrote, “The Story of Bonnie and Clyde” and “The Story of Suicide Sal.

Back matter includes an author’s note, important dates, source notes, a very detailed bibliography, a note about what happened to other people connected to Bonnie & Clyde, including their family, and an index. Also included in full is the ballad, The Story of Bonnie and Clyde, penned by Bonnie that ran in the Dallas newspaper, the Daily Times Herald the day after their violent death, May, 1934.  

Romanticized or vilified, criticized or admired, Bonne and Clyde remain legendary - no longer for who they were, but for who we want them to be.”

This well-researched tale of love, crime, and murder will captivate readers of nonfiction. 

Click here to visit the FBI's page on Bonnie & Clyde. 

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

Friday, September 21, 2018

A few short reviews on some new titles…

Astronaut/Aquanaut: How Space Science and Sea Science Interact
By Jennifer Swanson
National Geographic Kids. 2018

Swanson takes readers on an amazing adventure to show the similarities between outer space and our oceans. The book explains the training one needs for both environments. In addition to the engaging narrative, there are sidebars with tips on the different expertise needed for each location and some fun, hands-on science experiments that augment the text.  Color photos are plentiful, enhancing the text. Back matter includes a glossary and index.

“Astronauts and Aquanauts share the same passion – to set off on a quest to learn more and to better ourselves.” Fabien Cousteau 

Plantopedia: a Celebration of Nature’s Greatest Show-Offs
By Adrienne Barman
Wide Eyed Editions, an imprint of The Quarto Group. 2018

This visual encyclopedia celebrates the plants that grow here on Earth. The author states, “Without plants, people wouldn’t exist - they provide us with food, and the materials we need to make things like plastic, clothes, and houses. They even clean the air, giving us the oxygen we need to breathe. Sadly, many plants are under threat from farming, road building, pollution, and climate change.”

The book is divided into fifty short chapters with headings like: The air fresheners; The big eaters; The prickly; The healers; and The imposters, to name a few. Being a visual learner, this book hits a high note with me. The illustrations, created digitally, are colorful with a comical tone. Each plant is well-captioned and includes a brief explanation on the characteristic that puts it in that category. In the chapter on ‘The Giants’, we learn that the “Kapok tree can grow to 200 feet tall – the height of a 20 story building, and, that the Oregon Maple leaves can be as big as 12 inches – the length of a ruler.”

Back matter includes an appendix of leaf shapes, glossary, and index.

The Girl with a Mind for Math: the story of Raye Montague
Written by Julia Finley Mosca; Illustrated by Daniel Rieley
Innovation Press. 2018

Told in verse, this picture book biography tells the story of Raye Montague (1935-), an African American engineer who designed the first ship by computer. Another hidden figure, Montague was a brilliant mathematician who, for many years, did not receive credit for her many accomplishments.

“Life should’ve been swell,/yet that wasn’t the case./Her boss treated her poorly/because of her race./ MANY people, like him,/tried to make her feel small./Raye just held her head high,/and she OUTWORKED them all.

Back matter includes an author’s note with more information on the life and accomplishments of Raye Montague, bibliography of articles, books, videos/film, and websites. In the acknowledgment, Mosca shares that she interviewed Montague and many of the photos came from Montague’s personal collection.  

To write this post, the books were borrowed from my local public library.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Lobos: a Wolf Family Returns to the Wild By Brenda Peterson

Lobos: a Wolf Family Returns to the Wild
By Brenda Peterson: Photography by Annie Marie Musselman
Little Big Good Books: an imprint of sasquatch books. 2018

The publisher sent me a copy of this book to review

In this informational nonfiction title, readers learn how a family of Mexican gray wolves, lobos, are taken from a sanctuary and reintroduced to their native territory.

Once plentiful, the gray wolf lived in the area of Arizona, New Mexico, and Mexico. Hunted to near extinction, scientists are working to bring them back. The story in this book follows wolves born at the Wolf Haven International located in western Washington State. Readers will learn about the wolves character and behavior as the pups go from newborns to adult, as well as the challenges faced when reintroducing an endangered species  back into their wild habitat.

Petersen’s narrative is direct and works very well with Musselman’s full-page, color photographs. Visually appealing, the photos are a perfect complement to the text.

Back matter includes more information on the Mexican Gray Wolf, a map of their range, wolf facts, a timeline, and a listing of YouTube videos to discover more about wolves.

A recommended addition to library collections.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Trash Vortex: How Plastic Pollution is choking the World’s Oceans By Danielle Smith-Llera

Trash Vortex: How Plastic Pollution is choking the World’s Oceans
By Danielle Smith-Llera
Capstone. 2018

The publisher sent me a copy of this book to review.
Can a photograph change the world? That is the hope in Capstone’s Captured Science History series. Each title examines how a single moment captured on film can influence society and change the course of history.  In Trash Vortex, Smith-Llera traces the events that has made the dangers of plastic pollution in our ocean a call to action.

On August 8, 1997, while Captain Charles Moore was sailing across the on the Pacific Ocean, he saw something unexpected. “Here and there, odd bits and flakes speckled the ocean’s surface. He was disturbed because the objects were plastic. He said it looked as if “a giant salt shaker has sprinkled bits of plastic onto the surface of the ocean.”   When Moore returned to the Pacific in 1999, he used fine-meshed nets and skimmed the ocean’s surface. In addition to finding plankton, the tiny organisms many marine animals eat, Moore discovered that there was not one net that was free of plastic. 

Smith-Llera provides a history of plastics and how our dependency on this synthetic material has grown since the 1930’s when it was used for home insulation, threads for nylon stockings and toothbrush bristles. Throughout the narrative the disastrous environmental impact throughout the world is well explained and the reasons behind laws that were past to regulate water pollution, including the Clean Water Act of 1972. 

“Plastic becomes a link in the gyre’s food chain. Moore once found a 2.5 inch (6.4-cm) fish with 84 plastic pieces inside its belly.” 

Color photos give a powerful visual to what is being explained in the text.

Back matter includes a timeline on the history of plastic, glossary, source notes, selected bibliography, titles for additional reading, glossary and index. Because this series supports the curriculum, there are critical thinking questions added.

Include these other books on plastic pollution: All thatTrash by Meghan McCarthy, Plastic Ahoy by Patricia Newman, Trash Revolution by Erica Fyvie, and Tracking Trash by Loree Griffin Burns. Introduce this book to students who love Flush by Carl Hiaasen,