Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Monday, July 15, 2019

The Crayon Man

The Crayon Man: The True Story of the Invention of Crayola Crayons  
by Natascha Biebow
illustrated by Steven Salerno
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019
Grades K-6

The Crayon Man is a high interest, picture book biography that details the invention of Crayola Crayons by Edwin Binney. Using both expository and narrative writing styles, Biebow transports readers to the turn of the 19th century when children wrote with chalk. After inventing a black wax crayon, Binney was encouraged by his wife, Alice, to create a crayon that was colorful, non-toxic and was designed not to crumble.

Children with an interest in science will be keen on the pages showing how Binney experimented with different minerals to make a variety of pigments for the new colorful crayons. The bold illustrations capture the excitement of experimenting and invention while also giving readers a glimpse into life in the early 1900s. Biebow highlights the partnership between Edwin and Alice as they worked together to create Crayola Crayons. Harold Smith, Edwin's cousin and business partner, also gets credit for marketing and selling the crayons. The back matter is quite impressive and includes a list of primary sources, a page containing more information about Edwin Binney and a two-page spread using photos and captions to show the process of making crayons.

The Crayon Man is a recommended purchase for public libraries, school libraries and elementary classrooms. It would make an excellent read aloud in a STEM program or class.

Just Like Beverly: a biography of Beverly Cleary by Vicki Conrad

Just  Like Beverly: a biography of Beverly Cleary
by Vicki Conrad; Illustrated by David Hohn
little bigfoot. 2019
Grades 3 up

A enchanting picture book biography that tells the story of beloved author, Beverly Cleary, a struggling reader who grew to be a popular children’s book author.

Beverly Bunn was born April 12, 1916 in McMinnville, Oregon. She grew up on a farm in Yamhill, Oregon. “She had no siblings and there were no other children nearby, so her playmates were farm animals. She fed baby birds, climbed trees, and followed horses around the fields.” Learning to read was a challenge for young Beverly, but once she learned how she fell in love with books. She loved books so much that she became a Librarian!

Beverly dreamed of writing stories for children. Her first book was a funny story about a boy and his dog riding the street car. Do you know the title? Henry Huggins and his dog, Ribsy.

Back matter includes a lengthy author’s note, and a timeline of Cleary’s life.

As of this writing, Cleary is still alive at 103 years young!


A perfect introduction for fans of all Beverly Cleary’s books. 

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Two books on the Stonewall Riots


Stonewall: A building. An uprising. A revolution
Written by Rob Sanders; Illustrated by Jamey Christoph
Random House. 2019
Grades 4 up

In this informational picture book, Sanders tells the story of the powerful uprising of what would become the LGTQ+ movement. 

The Stonewall Inn narrates how it went from a horse stable in 1840, to a restaurant called Bonne's Stone Wall in 1930. The Village became a creative center for New York City. "Leading up to the 1960's, our neighborhood welcomed gays and lesbians - men who loved men, and women who loved women. We were a home for people who were told they didn't fit in or belong."

The book is a celebration of the Stonewall Riots and the changes to laws that allow, "two men who love each other, or two women who love each other, can marry."

Back matter includes a history of the Stonewall Inn, and an interview with Martin Boyce, a Stonewall uprising Participant and LGBTQ+ Activiist.

Christoph's full-page color illustrations perfectly reflect the text.

The Stonewall Riots: Coming Out in the Streets
by Gayle E. Pitman
Abrams Books for Young Readers. 2019
Grades 6 and up

Pitman traces the history of the LGBTQ+ movement in America and the event that would propel gay politics into mainstream media. The Stonewall Riot happened on June 28, 1969 at the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar, in Greenwich Village, New York City. 

Pitman, a professor of psychology and women and gender studies at Sacramento City College, is meticulous in her research. She expertly weaves into the narrative the unjust discrimination against homosexuals and how everything came to a head that fateful night. As a way to humiliate gays and lesbians, police would routinely raid gay bars. The names of those arrested would be placed in the local newspaper insuring the victims would face further humiliation in their communities. 

The book includes sidebars with added information and black & white photos. 

Back matter includes a timeline, source notes, a bibliography, and index. 

The perspective in which Pitman explains events leading up to the Stonewall Riots makes this book an important addition to libraries, yet be aware there are a few minor flaws. There is a lack of captions on photos, and sometimes those photos are placed before they are discussed in the text, thus causing some confusion. Another major blunder is on the inside jacket flap; the date listed for the riots is June 28, 1968. Oops! 

It’s the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riot. This book will offer another perspective of the history of the LGBTQ+ movement. 

I borrowed copies of these books from my local public library to write this review.

Monday, July 8, 2019

New Nonfiction- July 2019

Check out these titles with July publication dates.


Reaching for the Moon: The Autobiography of NASA Mathematician Katherine Johnson
by Katherine Johnson

Look Again: Secrets of Animal Camouflage
by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page

From an Idea to Google: How Innovation at Google Changed the World
by Lowey Bundy Sichol and C.S. Jennings

Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic (A Young Adult Adaptation)
by Sam Quinones

Dinosaurs: By the Numbers
by Steve Jenkins

Deadly Aim: The Civil War Story of Michigan's Anishinaabe Sharpshooters
by Sally M. Walker

A Dream of Flight: Alberto Santos-Dumont's Race Around the Eiffel Tower
by Jeff Polivka and Rob Polivka

An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States for Young People
by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, adapted by Debbie Reese and Jean Mendoza


Monday, July 1, 2019

Epic Athletes: Alex Morgan

Epic Athletes: Alex Morgan  
by Dan Wetzel
illustrations by Cory Thomas
Henry Holt and Company, 2019
Grades 3-7

The US women's national soccer team has been dominating the World Cup in in France this month. A new series of sports nonfiction has been released just in time for kids who want to learn more about the life of soccer player, Alex Morgan.

The Epic Athletes series combines exciting narrative with comic book-style illustrations. Readers will discover how Morgan became interested in playing soccer and what her middle school and high school years were like on the field and at home. Dan Wetzel also uses quotes and Tweets from Morgan to enhance the story. Morgan went on to play soccer for UCal Berkley before earning a spot on the national team. There are many examples of Morgan overcoming injury and adversity. The book also describes Morgan's involvement in the movement demanding equal pay for female athletes. Wetzel succeeds at keeping the play-by-play soccer game parts of the book interesting and exciting. Epic Athletes: Alex Morgan will appeal to many middle grade readers including soccer fans and readers who enjoy inspirational stories.

Visit the publisher's site to read a passage from the book.

Be sure to check out other books in the Epic Athletes series including Stephen Curry, Serena Williams and Tom Brady.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Fish Everywhere Britta Techentrup


Fish Everywhere
Britta Techentrup
Big Picture Press, an imprint of Candlewick Press. 2019
Preschool to Grade 2

I love the artwork of German artist, Britta Techentrup. Her books, with their colorful illustrations created digitally, are really intriguing.

Fish Everywhere is an informational picture book that will take readers underwater where fish live. After a general introduction explaining what is a fish and just how long they have lived on earth (100 million years), we are taken on quite the adventure to explore the different fish habitats. The book ends on how important fish are to people, both for food and as a pet, and the environmental impact fishing and our pollution is having on their survival.

No back matter.

This book is a nice introduction to fish for the curious.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Degas: Painter of Ballerinas

Degas: Painter of Ballerinas 
by Susan Goldman Rubin
illustrations provided by the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2019
Grades 2-12

Susan Goldman Rubin has written biographies of many artists including Diego Rivera, Andy Warhol, Maya Lin, Georgia O'Keefe and the Wyeth family. Her latest biography children captures the life and essence of Edgar Degas in just sixty-pages.

Rubin uses quotes from Degas and his paintings, sketches and sculptures to present a complete portrait of the artist. While other impressionist artists turned their attention to nature and landscapes, Degas spent his time at the Paris Opera where he painted and sketched young ballerinas (also known as petits rats). Degas lost his eyesight in his later years and gave up sketching and painting for sculpting.

Degas: Painter of Ballerinas is the perfect book to introduce children to the artist. It also provides insight in the artist and techniques for readers who may be familiar with his work. The artwork, which is placed thoughtfully throughout the book, is a strength and will help children understand more about Degas' style and medium. The book is a recommended purchase for libraries and art classes.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Birds of a Feather: Bowerbirds and Me Susan L. Roth


Birds of a Feather: Bowerbirds and Me
Susan L. Roth
Neal Porter Books. Holiday House. 2019
Preschool thru adult

Artist extraordinaire, Susan L. Roth (Parrots Over Puerto Rico), so cleverly shows us how an artist and a bird, the bowerbird, found in Australia and New Guinea have something in common.

Just how are Roth and the bowerbird similar?
They both love to collect all sorts of materials they find in their surroundings to create collages.

Told with a simple and engaging narrative, it’s Roth’s signature collage illustrations that moves the story forward.

Back matter includes facts about bowerbirds, how both Roth and bowerbirds are similar in their creation of collages and how they differ, and bibliography.

A stunning informational picture book that rises to the top. I love how, once again, we see just how important art is to our lives.