Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Monday, July 29, 2019

Whoo-Ku Haiku Cover Reveal

We are thrilled to reveal the cover for Whoo-Ku Haiku: A Great Horned Owl Story, an upcoming informational picture book written by Maria Gianferrari and illustrated by Jonathan D. Voss. Look for Whoo-Ku Haiku on shelves in the spring of 2020.

WHOO’s Maria Gianferrari? She’s a self-proclaimed bird nerd with a special fondness for raptors. Her love affair with birds began in 7th grade science class when her teacher, Mr. Lefebvre, initiated a bird count. While walking her rescue dog, Becca, Maria’s always on the look-out for all kinds of birds, and she loves searching winter tree tops for nests in her neighborhood in northern Virginia where she lives with her German-scientist husband and German speaking daughter. This is her first book with GP Putnam’s Sons. She’s also the author of another bird book, Hawk Rising. To learn more about Maria, please visit her website:

In April we had the opportunity to interview Maria for the blog. Read our interview with Maria here. 

Jonathan D. Voss writes and illustrates stories for children. Growing up, he was never far from a pencil or paintbrush, and began working as a portrait artist right out of high school. Jonathan is the author and illustrator of Brave Enough for Two and the illustrator of Sally Walker’s Winnie: The True Story of the Bear Who Inspired Winnie-the-Pooh. Jonathan lives in North Carolina with his wife and two kids. Visit his website at

Thursday, July 25, 2019

All In A Drop: How Antony van Leeuwenhoek discovered an invisible world by Lori Alexander

All In A Drop: How Antony van Leeuwenhoek discovered an invisible world
by Lori Alexander; Illustrated by Viven Mildenberger
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2019
Grades 3 up

In 1632, people were unaware of microbes, those invisible organisms that live in soil, foods we eat, water, oceans, air, even in our bodies. It was Antony van Leeuwenhoek (1632 -1723), a Dutch draper, using a microscope he designed, discovered that unknown living world and presented his findings to the Royal Society in London. 

All In A Drop conveys the life of a simple tradesman who did not got to college, “or speak English or Latin, and how his curiosity changed everyone’s mind.”  

Mildenberger’s cartoon-style illustrations, created using pastel, colored pencil and watercolor, complement the conversational tone of the narrative. Side bars are placed throughout giving more information on specific topics.

Back matter includes an author’s note, a timeline, source notes, bibliography, and index.

A solid introduction to an interesting man whose curious mind made a remarkable discovery.

The author sent me a copy of this book to write this review.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Dinosaurs by the Numbers

Dinosaurs by the Numbers    
by Steve Jenkins
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019
Grades 2-5

Dinosaurs books tend to fly off the shelves in elementary school and public libraries. Now there is a new nonfiction book that is sure to be a hit with dinosaur aficionados between the ages of 5-10. Dinosaurs by the Numbers contains interesting facts about the pre-historic creatures, and the information is presents visually in the form of illustrations, time lines, graphs, charts and maps. Readers will learn about the speed, size, and locations of dinosaurs as they pore over the infographics. Jenkins uses his signature, cut and torn paper collage to create the illustrations. The infographics are cut-paper silhouettes and digital art. The book's small trim is perfect for young children to hold and read on their own. It's sure to be book that readers return to again and again.

Earth by the Numbers by Steve Jenkins is also available this summer. The Solar System by the Numbers and Insects by the Numbers are coming soon!

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.