Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Elvis Is King by Jonah Winter

Elvis Is King
Written by Jonah Winter; Illustrations by Red Nose Studio
schwartz & wade books. 2019
Grades 2 and up

Winter celebrates the life of Elvis Presley in this entertaining picture book biography. Born in Tupelo, Mississippi, January 8, 1935, Elvis was the most famous performing musician in history. (He died August 16, 1977)

The illustrations, done by Red Nose Studio (AKA Chris Sickels) are 3-D and give the whole book a cinematic feel. Winter has presented Presley’s life in short vignettes and combined with the illustrations give readers the feeling of looking through the Presley family photo album. 

Back matter includes a lengthy author’s note.

Instead of popping in a movie to sooth restless children, try sharing this story of the shy boy who became the King of Rock ’n’ Roll. Afterwards, listen to some of his music. 

“I ain’t nothing but a hound dog…”

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

Monday, March 25, 2019

Yogi Blog Tour and Giveaway

Yogi: The Life, Loves and Language of Baseball Legend Yogi Berra
by Barb Rosenstock
illustrated by Terry Widener
Calkins Creek, 2019
Grades K-5

Today we are taking part in the Yogi blog tour! We are also giving away one copy of Yogi thanks to the generosity of Calkins Creek. To enter the giveaway, complete the form at the bottom the post.

Rosenstock, known for her many picture book biographies, once again offers readers an engaging narrative in Yogi about the life of Yogi Berra, “the greatest catcher who ever lived.” 

Yogi Berra, whose real nice was Lorenzo Pietro (Lawrence Peter) Berra was born on May 12, 1925 in a primarily Italian neighborhood in St. Louis, MO.  Called Lawdie, this “short, big-nosed, funny-looking kid - one of the neighborhood boys who went piazza! - crazy - for baseball!” After World War II in 1946, Yogi was signed on to the New York Yankees. At first people made fun of Yogi because he was short (only 5’8”), had a big nose, talked funny (I want to thank everyone who made this day necessary”), and really wasn't that great of a catcher. ("We made too many mistakes"-Yogi Berra.) At the Yankees spring training that first year, a retired catcher worked with him. “After months of practice, Yogi took charge, shifting fielders, calming pitchers, keeping umpires on their toes. When he left the New York Yankees in 1963, Yogi had earned a World Series ring for each finger, more than any other player in history!

Quotes of Yogi's are placed throughout the book. Widener’s colorful, cartoon-like illustrations, rendered in acrylic on Bristol paper, capture the mood and excitement of Yogi’s time playing for the minor and eventually major league baseball teams. Supporting the text is an author's' note, stats for Yogi, a bibliography, and source notes.

A loving tribute to one of America’s greatest ball players. 

Don't miss the other stops on the Yogi Blog Tour.
Monday, 3/18                     Mile High Reading
Tuesday, 3/19                     Book Q&A’s with Deborah Kalb
Wednesday, 3/20                Mrs. Knott’s Book Nook
Thursday, 3/21                   Behind the Scenes @BMP
Friday, 3/22                        Anatomy of Nonfiction
Wednesday, 3/27                KidLit Frenzy
Thursday, 3/28                   Celebrate Picture Books
Friday, 3/29                        Unleashing Readers

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Just Like Rube Goldberg: the Incredible True Story of the Man Behind the Machines Written by Sarah Aronson

Just Like Rube Goldberg: the Incredible True Story of the Man Behind the Machines
Written by Sarah Aronson; Illustrated by Robert Neubecker
Beach Lane Books. 2019
All ages

“Question: How do you become a successful, award-winning artist and famous inventor without ever inventing anything at all?” 

In this charming picture book biography, Aronson celebrates the creative genius of Rube Goldberg (1883-1970). An American cartoonist, Rube was best known for his cartoons that depicted complicated gadgets that performed simple tasks under the pen name of Professor Lucifer Gorgonzola Butts. Things like: How Do You Put Holes in Doughnuts?” or “How Do You Cut Your Own Hair?” By his death at age eighty-seven in 1970, Rube had created more than 50,000 cartoons. 

Neubecker’s full-page illustrations, rendered in number-two pencil and ink and then on a Macintosh computer add much energy to the narrative. He really did capture Goldberg’s style, especially when drawing his inventions. The end papers have reproductions from some of Rube’s cartoons. My favorite is: The Only Sanitary Way to Lick a Postage Stamp. 

The book does include an author’s note and source materials. 

The perfect book to share with students of all ages, especially middle and high school as an example of using one’s imagination to think outside the box. In her author’s note, Aronson states, “Rube’s work continues to inspire classrooms, cartoonists, and artists around the world to think outside the lines.” 

Goldberg wrote, “You have to have courage to be a creator.”

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

Monday, March 18, 2019

Dreaming in Code

Dreaming in Code: Ada Byron Lovelace, Computer Pioneer 
by Emily Arnold McCully
Candlewick Press, 2019
Grades 6-12

Dreaming in Code is an in-depth look at the life and work of Ada Byron Lovelace, the first computer programmer. McCully lays out the biography into four sections and traces Lovelace's early life through her work with high level science, mathematics and programming. Part One describes Lovelace's early years as the daughter of the poet Lord Byron. Ada's parents separated when she was young, and she was raised by her strict mother who made sure Ada was highly educated.

Part Two describes Ada's teen years and her battle with measles that left her bed-ridden for two years. In Part Three, Ada meets inventor and mathematician, Charles Babbage. She also tours a factory where she sees a Jacquard loom, which gives her the idea of using punch cards to create loops for computing. Part Four focuses on Lovelace's marriage and children.  In Part Five, Lovelace writes about her idea of loops that can be used to program computers. She applies her computer theories and ideas to Babbage's Analytical Engine.

Primary documents including letters, a page from a lesson book, and drawings of Babbage's Difference Engine are effectively placed throughout the story. McCully's thorough research enables the author to paint a complex picture of a brilliant and conflicted woman who made a huge impact on computer programming. Lovelace was referenced by Alan Turing in his work as a code breaker, and her work has influences the debate about artificial intelligence. Back matter includes source notes, a lengthy bibliography, and a glossary. Dreaming in Code is a recommended purchase for middle school and high school biography collections.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Rocket To The Moon by Don Brown

Rocket To The Moon: Big Ideas that Changed the World series
By Don Brown
Amulet. 2019
Grades 3 and up
A new graphic novel series, Big Ideas That Changed the World celebrates the “hard-won succession of ideas that ultimately changed the world.”

In Rocket To The Moon, Brown focuses on the people and inventions that would eventually lead to the landing of Apollo 11 on the moon in 1969.

Brown uses Rodman Law, (January 21, 1885-October 14, 1919), a real daredevil, to this well-researched, nonfiction title told in comic format.

Though the Chinese invented gunpowder in the first century, it was not until the fifteenth century that the English and French began using rockets as weapons and fireworks. The rockets the British launched at Fort McHenry during the War of 1812, inspired Francis Scott Key to write the Star-Spangled Banner. “And the rocket’s red glare…”

“Then the ideas dried up, and nothing much happened with rockets until the beginning of the twentieth century, when three honest-to-goodness rocket scientists showed up: Russian Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, American Robert Goddard, and Romanian Hermann Oberth.”

What inspired all three? The book by French novelist Jules Verne, From the Earth to the Moon and a Trip Around It. Published in 1865, the science fiction tale was all about traveling through outer space. This book would change the lives of all three men.

Brown incorporates lots of fascinating details, such as how the astronauts went to the bathroom in space. In his author's note, he explains that the development of the rocket and its usage was mostly in the hands of white men. Katherine Johnson, a mathematician working for NASA, is mentioned. Brown also acknowledges that today NASA is made up of a diverse group of people.  

Back matter includes a timeline, source notes for the quotes used throughout the story, an extensive bibliography of books, magazines, television, movie and website resources. An author’s note, brief bio of Rodman Law (his sister was Ruth Law, the famous record-setting flyer), and index.

This is a fascinating, well done addition to books on the race to the moon.

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

Monday, March 11, 2019


Barbara Bash is an extraordinary artist and a good writer, which you will discover when sharing these four books with students. Sponsored by the Sierra Club, in Tree Tales, Bash highlights the interconnectivity of trees for all life on our planet.

Ancient Ones: the World of the Old-Growth Douglas Fir
Sierra Club Books. 1994
Takes readers to an old-growth forest in the Pacific Northwest. We discover that the spotted salamanders, golden banana slugs, along with the red tree voles and flying squirrels, make their homes in giant Douglas firs.

Desert Giant: the World of the Saguaro Cactus
Little, Brown, and Company. 1989 
We travel to the American southwest where the Saguaro Cactus grows. "It's armlike branches can reach fifty feet into the air." Though one might think these giant cactus are devoid of life, appearances can be deceptive. "In fact, this tree of the desert is alive with activity. Gila woodpeckers and miniature elf owls make this their home."

In The Heart of the Village: the World of the Indian Banyan Tree
Sierra Club Books. 1996
To the people in India, the banyan tree is sacred. “It is home to their gods. For many generations, they have protected the tree and nourished its spirits with their offerings.” The tree provides food, shelter, and a communal resting place in a small village in India.

Tree of Life: the World of the African Baobab 
Little, Brown, and Company. 1989
When the rains come twice a year, the baobab tree comes to life, and the yellow-collared lovebird, the orange-bellied parrot, lilac-breasted roller, and yellow-billed hornbill, and others, make their homes in the tree where they raise their young.

The text for each book is written out in calligraphy by Bash and placed against the double-page spreads of her delicious watercolor illustrations in vibrant colors that reflect each environment explained in the narrative. Readers will learn about the variety of birds, insects, and animals, and humans that depend on these trees.

These books offer readers a better understanding of how important trees are to all creatures. The perfect informational book to display with Redwoods by Jason Chin and fiction titles: Ida B. and her plans to Maximize Fun and Avoid Disaster, and (Possibly) Save the World by Katherine Hannigan, Operation Redwood by S. Terrill French, and The Truth As Told by Mason Buttle by Leslie Connor. 

To write this review I borrowed the books from my local public library.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Like a Lizard

Like a Lizard
by April Pulley Sayre
illustrated by Stephanie Laberis
Boyds Mill Press, 2019
Grades PreK-2

Dedicated to "all the lizards and all the librarians," April Pulley Sayre's latest nonfiction poetry picture book introduces very young readers to a variety of unique lizards. Each page poses a question to the reader using active verbs.

Can you...

Swoop like a lizard?
Scoop like a lizard?
Dip your dewlap like a lizard?

Bold, digital illustrations depict lizards eating, swimming, dashing, and lunging. Illustrations are labeled to indicate the type of lizards. The colorful illustrations, poetic writing style and intriguing lizards make this an exciting nonfiction read aloud to share during preschool storyline. Children who want to learn more about each lizard should turn to the back matter for a list of lizards featured in the book along with the location, length and a description.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Karl's New Beak

Karl's New Beak: 3-D Printing Builds a Bird a Better Life
by Lela Nargi
illustrated by Harriet Popham
Capstone, 2019
Grades K-6

Karl's New Beak tells the story of an Abyssinian ground hornbill living in the Smithsonian Zoo. Karl has difficulty catching food, which made him unable to find a mate. What female hornbill would be attracted to a male that can't feed his family? With the aid of a ground hornbill skeleton and a 3-D printer, the zoo's veterinarian designed and built a new lower beak for Karl.

The nonfiction narrative's conversational tone and descriptive language make this an enjoyable read for kids and adults. Karl's New Beak is an excellent example of the problem and solution structure for classrooms studying nonfiction text structures.

The bright, engaging artwork combines photographs and illustrations on a background of blueprint paper. Back matter includes additional facts about ground hornbills and a glossary. Capstone also offers a related video that can be downloaded using the 4D app. Karl's New Beak is an inspirational story that will inspire young readers to look for solutions to problems in their every day lives.