Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Thursday, August 29, 2019

How To Love a Country Poems by Richard Blanco

How To Love a Country
Poems by Richard Blanco
Beacon Press. 2019
Grades 8 and up

From time to time, I like to recognize books that are often found in the adult collection in my public library. I love how accessible Blanco’s poems are to even those intimated by poetry (That’s me). The poem that really stood out for me was, Let’s Remake America Great. It had me thinking, but, so did every poem in this slim tome.

This new collection looks at incidents that highlight our nation’s hostility throughout history. He writes about the Pulse nightclub massacre, an unexpected encounter he had while visiting Cuba, lynching in Alabama, the Navajo Indian forced exile in 1868, a young Chinese woman in detention on Angel Island in 1938, the incarceration of a gifted writer, and a very moving poem about the joy for gay and lesbians to finally be allowed to marry.

The book jacket states, “seeking answers, Blanco digs deep into the very marrow of our nation through poems that interrogate our past and present, grieve our injustices, and note our flaws, but also remember to celebrate our ideals and cling to our hopes.”  

In these poems, Blanco asks readers to look beyond our differences and see those differences as our strength. Our diversity is what makes our country great. e pluribus unum (out of many, one)

Share these poems with students, friends, and family. They will definitely spark some honest conversations about America and how each one of us has the potential to change the world.

I borrowed a copy of this book from my local public library to write this review.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Save the Crash Test Dummies Written by Jennifer Swanson

Save the Crash Test Dummies 
Written by Jennifer Swanson; Illustrated by Temika Grooms
Peachtree. 2019
Grades 3-8
Coming out in October, 2019

The cars we drive today have a lot of safety features, such as bumpers, seat belts, and air bags. Just how did we come up with them? This entertaining informational book traces the failures (a cowcatcher that scooped up humans) and successes (seat belts) of the auto safety inventions that have been developed throughout history and how crash-test dummies made it all possible.

The writing is entertaining, a mixture of history and science. The narrative is peppered with black & white photographs, diagrams, and little side bars with more detailed information. 

I found it interesting that before 1949, scientists used cadavers to obtain crash data. “While it might seem a little gruesome, cadavers provided valuable information to car manufacturers.” As technology improved after World War II, scientists then invented the first crash-test dummy, anthropomorphic test devices (ATD). The new model had a more fully formed body that helped provide the data needed for new safety features. 

The book explores the newer technology like the rearview camera, perfect for when you are backing up and how scientists are working hard to perfect self-driving cars. All in the hopes of reducing or eliminating traffic accidents.

Back matter includes notes, photo credits, and index.

A fun read. Perfect for students interested in cars.

I used an Advanced Readers Copy of this book sent to me by the publisher to write this review.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Imogen: the mother of three boys by Amy Novesky

Imogen: the mother of three boys
by Amy Novesky; Illustrated by Lisa Congdon
Cameron & Company. 2019
ISBN: 9781937359324
Ages 5 up

Imogen Cunningham (1883-1976) is considered one of the finest photographers of the twentieth century. Born in Portland, Oregon, Imogen was named after a princess in a Shakespeare play, Cymbeline, but she didn’t expect life to be smooth and easy and beautiful.

Novesky’s picture book biography offers readers a glimpse into the life of Cunningham, who at 18 decided she wanted to be a photographer. She went to college where she studied chemistry and botany. (Chemistry was useful to know when developing your own photos). She read poetry. She was the only one in her family to graduate from a university.”

Imogen opened a shop in Seattle, made a name for herself as a portrait photographer, then married an etcher. In her author’s note, Novesky explains that women at the turn of the twentieth century were not expected to have a career. Their primary role was to focus on children and the home. “Imogen focused on her children and her home.” Called, "the mother of modernism and three boys, she photographed her three sons, and every afternoon, while they napped, Imogen photographed her flowers.  

Embellishing this enchanting book are drawings of Cunningham's photos by Lisa Congdon.

The only back matter is an author’s note and one photo taken by Cunningham. A self-portrait that includes her three sons. 

To learn more about Imogen Cunningham, click here.

I borrowed this book from my local public library to write this review.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Top 18 Nonfiction Book Bloggers

We are proud to share The Nonfiction Detectives blog has been named one of the top nonfiction blogs by Talk + Tell. See the entire list here.

Monday, August 12, 2019

The Magnificent Migration: on Safari with Africa’s last great herds by Sy Montgomery

The Magnificent Migration: on Safari with Africa’s last great herds
by Sy Montgomery; with photos by Roger and Logan Wood
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2019

The mystery and wonder of migration, from the wildebeest to the monarch butterfly, is at the heart of Montgomery’s latest science book. Traveling in Africa with Dr. Richard Despard Estes, the world’s top expert on wildebeests, Montgomery witnesses the greatest land migration on Earth: the wildebeest crossing of the Serengeti. 

Balancing details of the wildebeests trek across the Serengeti, alternating chapters illuminate how human interference has negatively impacted other species that depend on migration for survival. (like the arctic tern, Christmas island red crabs, and monarch butterflies). 

Montgomery emphasizes the wonder and beauty of the Serengeti ecosystem with the inevitable warning that humans, a recent species to Earth, holds the fate of this beautiful landscape, as we do everywhere on Earth, in our hands. Her powerful narrative reminds readers of just how interconnected every living thing is to life on Earth. Destroying one ecosystem, in this case the Serengeti, can mean the death of a species which, in turn, will impact another and another. For the Monarch butterfly, genetically engineered crops made to withstand applications of an herbicide, Roundup, has allowed farmers to wipe out virtually every single milkweed plant on their land which, in turn, threatens  the existence of the Monarch.

The book is loaded with beautiful color photographs by father and son team, Roger and Logan Wood, that perfectly highlight what is being discussed in the text. 

Back matter includes an epilogue, selected bibliography, ways to get involved to save the Serengeti, and index.

After reading The Magnificent Migration, there is no question, hands down, that Sy Montgomery is able to take any topic and make it a page-turner. She is one of my favorite writers of nonfiction. 

I borrowed a copy of this book from my local library to write this review.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

New Nonfiction- August 2019

Check out these new titles that hit shelves in this month.

Heroism Begins With Her 
by Winifred Conkling and Julia Kuo

by Lori Alexander and Vivien Mildenberger

Summer Green to Autumn Gold: Uncovering Leaves' Hidden Colors
by Mia Posada

Rise!: From Caged Bird to Poet of the People, Maya Angelou
by Bethany Hegedus and Tonya Engel

At Home with the Beaver: The Story of a Keystone Species
by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent

Manhattan: Mapping the Story of an Island
by Jennifer Thermes

Maker Comics: Create a Costume
by Sara Myer

Bringing Down a President: The Watergate Scandal
by Andrea Balis, Elizabeth Levy and Tim Foley

Troublemaker for Justice: The Story of Barnard Rustin, 
the Man Behind the March on Washington
by Jacqueline Houtman, Walter Naegle, and Michael G. Long

Todos Iguales/ All Equal
by Christy Hale

The Very Short, Entirely True History of Unicorns
by Sarah Laskow

The Secret Life of the Skunk
by Laurence Pringle and Kate Garchinsky

Billie Jean!: How Tennis Star Billie Jean King Changed Women's Sports
by Mara Rockliff and Elizabeth Baddeley

Saving the Tasmanian Devil
by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent

NaNoWriMo Presents: Brave the Page: A Young Writer's Guide to Telling Epic Stories
by Rebecca Stern and Grant Faulkner
Introduction by Jason Reynolds

Monday, August 5, 2019

Birth of the Cool by Kathleen Cornell Berman

Birth of the Cool: how jazz great Miles Davis found his sound
by Kathleen Cornell Berman; Illustrated by Keith Henry Brown
Page Street Kids. 2019
All ages

Sixty years ago, on August 17, 1959, Miles Davis' ground breaking jazz album, Kind of Blue was released. Deemed the most influential album of all time. I am listening to it right now as I write this review. It truly is amazing. Have you ever listened to it? If not, stop reading, find it, and listen. Can you feel how different the sound is? 

Okay. Now read the review.

Berman and Brown introduce readers to jazz great Miles Davis in this stunning poetic tribute. 

Miles Davis (1926-1991) grew up in St. Louis. As a child, he would sit as close to the radio as he could get. 
Louis Armstrong’s 
soaring trumpet, 
Duke Ellington’s 
sensational big band
dazzle Miles imagination.”

Miles listened to the sounds around him. Whether he was visiting his grandpa in Arkansas or hearing the melodies drift up from the river boats playing up and down the Mississippi River, it was all music to him. The struggle was taking all those sounds and making music of his own.

“He practices long tones
over and over and over.
Struggles to erase brassy notes
and create that round
sound he loves.” 

Each poems is surrounded by Brown’s vibrant art done in pen, ink, and watercolor. The large double-page illustrations reflect visually what is being explained in the poem. 

Miles did face racism. A gifted musician, his playing would stand out yet all the prizes went to white kids.
“Miles burns with humiliation.
Anger fuels his passion
to move forward,
to play harder,
to be undeniably
better than everyone else.
He blows those feelings 
into something beautiful.”

His big break came when he played at the Newport Jazz Festival. 
The audience goes wild,
stands on their feet,
electrified and satisfied
with the unforgettable
Miles Davis trumpet sound…”

Quotes by Davis are placed in a different font throughout the book. 

Back matter includes a note from trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, an author’s note, illustrator’s note, selected discography, and bibliography. A timeline of dates would have been helpful in giving a context as to when Miles Davis lived. 

Share this book with all ages, especially high school students who might not be familiar with Miles Davis' work. (it’s possible!) 

The author’s encourage readers to listen like Miles. “Get lost in the rhythms of environments and see the birth of the cool” as Miles found his voice and changed jazz forever.

I borrowed this book (and the CD of Kind of Blue) from my local public library to write this review.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

The Lost Forest by Phyllis Root;

The Lost Forest
by Phyllis Root; Illustrations by Betsy Brown
University of Minnesota Press. 2019
All ages

Resembling a well-loved journal, brown with age, Root and Brown tell the story of a 144 acre old growth forest that stayed hidden from 1882 to 1958. Seventy-six years. 

In 1785 the Continental Congress passed a law to survey all the land in the new nation. Native people had lived and hunted, harvested and fished on the land for thousands of years. The land took care of them, and they took care of the land. But the government of the United States wanted their land, wanted that land to own and sell.” 

Josiah R. King, with his three-man crew, were hired in 1882 to survey three townships in Minnesota. Working in Township 150. Range 27. Section 34 on a cold November day, King marked Coddington Lake about a half a mile farther north than it really was. Were they in a hurry to get home?  

“There is no Pine Timber in the township.” As forests were destroyed all around, along with animals, bugs, insects, orchids and birds that nested in the trees, for seventy-six years no one ventured into Township 150. Range 27. Section 34. 

Those red and white pine trees just grew taller and taller. Happily, now that 114 acres of forest is part of a National Forest. Hopefully, protected forever.

Root expertly weaves into the narrative a lesson in history and environmental science. Brown’s lush illustrations, in hues of brown and greens, are beautiful. 

Back matter includes information on what an old growth forest is, where to see one in Minnesota, and a list of some species one might find in Lost Forty. An explanation on how land is measured, a glossary of surveyor words, and what a surveyor wears rounds out this interesting informational title.

The Lost Forest is a reminder to all that the natural world is more important left alone than paved into a parking lot. 

Plenty to love in this book.

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