Thursday, October 31, 2019

The Poison Eaters

The Poison Eaters by Gail JarrowThe Poison Eaters: Fighting Danger and Fraud in Our Food and Drugs
by Gail Jarrow
Calkins Creek, 2019
Grades 6 and up

Gail Jarrow is the master of blending science, history and government policy into a fascinating nonfiction read for tweens and teens. Her past books have covered topics such as typhoid fever, the bubonic plague and pellagra. In The Poison Eaters, Jarrow paints a vivid picture of what life was like for ordinary Americans before the government passed food safety laws and established the Food and Drug Administration. Can you imagine a time when corporations put lead, cocaine, arsenic and morphine in our food and health products? The book places the spotlight on the mavericks and mud rakers, such as Harvey Wiley, who stood up to big businesses and the government to protect the health and safety of our citizens. Readers will learn about how the Food and Drug Administration was formed and which presidents supported and opposed regulating the food industry. In addition to food safety, the book examines beauty products, medications and home remedies from the turn of the 20th century to present day.

This text is written in an intriguing, narrative style accompanied by many primary sources including advertisements, photographs and newspaper articles. The book gets its title from a controversial study that was performed on healthy, male subjects who were served a daily dose of boric acid in their meals. Wiley used the study to prove that boric acid was not safe for human consumption; and the subjects of the study became known as "The Poison Eaters." As with Jarrow's other books, the story unfolds chronologically and ends with the present day allowing readers to make comparisons between past and present. Don't skip over the back matter, which includes a lengthy bibliography, source notes, timeline, and an author's note. I'm intrigued to find out what topic Jarrow will tackle next!

Other books by Gail Jarrow:
Fatal Fever
Bubonic Panic
Red Madness

Monday, October 28, 2019

Dancing Hands: How Teresa Carreño Played the Piano for President Lincoln By Margarita Engle

Dancing Hands: How Teresa Carreño Played the Piano for President Lincoln
By Margarita Engle; Illustrated by Rafael López
Atheneum Books for Young Readers. 2019

Teresa Carreño (1853-1917) was a musical prodigy. Born into a musical family in Venzuela, Teresa was composing her own music by age six. When war broke out in her country in 1862, the family relocated to the United States. “By the time the ship arrived in New York, Teresa felt lost. She was homesick. How could she ever play happy songs again in this unfamiliar country where she did not know a single friend?” How? She played music.

Traveling with per Papá, Teresa grew so famous that when she was ten years old she received an invitation to play at the White House for the Lincoln family, “she could hardly believe her eyes.”  There, despite a piano badly out of tune, Teresa brought a moment of happiness to a family still reeling from the death of their child. (Lincoln’s son, William, “Willie” Wallace died February 20, 1862)

Partnering with Engle’s rich narrative are beautiful illustrations by López. Rendered in mixed media (acrylic on wood board, using sticks and other tools to paint; watercolor; construction paper; pen; and ink: and then assembled digitally, Lopez’s art is colorful and perfectly accompanies the text.

Back matter only includes a note by the author.

This vibrant, richly told picture book biography would be a perfect classroom read aloud for all ages. Especially in high school.

Teachers, informational picture books are the perfect vehicle for opening up conversations with students.

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

Thursday, October 24, 2019

How To Be A Coder: Learn to THINK like a coder with fun activities, then CODE in Scratch 3.0 online! by Kiki Prottsman

How To Be A Coder: Learn to THINK like a coder with fun activities, then CODE in Scratch 3.0 online!
by Kiki Prottsman
DK. Penguin Random House. 2019

Interested in coding? How to be a coder incorporates facts and craft activities to help students learn how to think and act like a coder. Fun activities are interspersed with sidebars and chapters with more information on some famous coders, such as Ada Lovelace, Alan Turing, and Katherine Johnson. 

“Coders have all kinds of talents. One thing that most coders share, however, is a love of problem-solving.” The seven characters of a coder include:
  1. Coders think ahead.
  2. Coders break things down.
  3. Coders are imaginative.
  4. Coders are careful.
  5. Coders solve mysteries.
  6. Coders are persistent.
  7. Coders don’t give up.

The book design is very similar to other DK titles. Short text mixed with photographs and graphics keep readers interested in turning the page. 

Back matter includes an answer key to suggested activities, a bit more information on the history of the computer, and a glossary. 

A great addition to any library where people have an interest in learning more about how to code.

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

Monday, October 21, 2019

We Are The Change: Words of Inspiration From Civil Rights Leaders

We Are The Change: Words of Inspiration From Civil Rights Leaders
Chronicle Books. 2019
All ages.

To honor the American Civil Liberties Union’s work to guard the rights of all Americans under the law, sixteen acclaimed and award winning children’s book artists have illustrated the words of fifteen past and present civil rights leaders and activists.

Explore this illustrious book highlighting some of the most influential figures in the historical fight for equality and justice.” by Harry Belafonte. 

Activists include: Queen Lili’uokalani, Frederick Douglass, John Lewis, Maya Angelou, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Eleanor Roosevelt, Gwendolyn Brooks, Sonia Sotomayor, Dolores Huerta, W. E. B. Du Bois, E. B. White, Khalil Gibran, Nina Simone, Helen Keller, and Barack Obama.  

Illustrators are: Emily Hughes, Lisa Congdon, Dan Santat, Sean Qualls, Brian Pinkney, Molly Idle, Juana Medina, John Parra, Raúl the Third, Greg Pizzoli, Selina Aiko, Melissa Sweet, Innosanto Nagara, Sahara Strickland, Alina Chau, and Christopher Silas Neal.

Each quote includes a brief explanation by the artist on why that particular activities inspired them. 

Very moving is the quote by John Lewis, illustrated by Dan Santat. Four individuals, both black and white, are standing in a voting booth (see cover).  Lewis’ quote says: “We may not have chosen the time, but the time has chosen us.” 

Social activist, Harry Belafonte gives a stirring introduction that “ties the work of the featured leaders to the ideals of the Constitution, and encourages future leaders to learn from those who have gone before.”

We Are The Change both visually stunning and inspirational. 

To write this review, the publisher sent me a copy.

Friday, October 18, 2019

The Brave Cyclist: the True Story of a Holocaust Hero by Amalia Hoffman

The Brave Cyclist: the True Story of a Holocaust Hero
by Amalia Hoffman; Illustrated by Chiara Fedele
Capstone Editions. 2019
Grades 4 and up

In Hoffman’s picture book biography, she tells the true story of the brave Italian cyclist, Gino Giovanni Bartali (1914-2000). A sickly child, Bartali would go on to win the Tour de France in 1938. Not a supporter of Il Duce (Benito Mussolini), Bartali was asked to use his cycling skills by transporting photographs and fake identification cards to save Jews who lived in Italy during World War II.

The powerful narrative is greatly enhanced by Italian artist, Chiara Fedele’s expressive illustrations. 

Back matter includes an author’s note, selected bibliography and source notes.

This inspiring story of courage shows that one person really can make a difference. Bartali’s legend lives on in Italy. Among other recognition, in 2009, an annual cycling journey was established in Italy, called cycle pelegrinaggio. The journey retraces part of Bartali’s smuggling route between Florence and Assisi. 

To write this review, I received a copy of the book from the publisher.

Monday, October 14, 2019

If Elephants Disappeared

42642069. sx318 If Elephants Disappeared   
by Lily Williams
Roaring Brook Press, 2019
Grades 1-5

This cause & effect picture book explores what would happen if elephants were extinct. Set in the Congo Basin Forest, readers will learn about the "complex ecosystem" and how important elephant dung is to the health and biodiversity of the forest. An eye-opening, two-page infographic illustrates how the elephant population is declining due to poaching.  Cartoon-style illustrations will help readers relate to the story while the use of somber colors sets a serious tone.

Williams' successfully takes a complex topic of biodiversity and breaks it down in a clear manner that young children will understand. The book ends with a call to action encouraging readers to speak up to save the elephants and our environment. Back matter includes a glossary, author's note, bibliography and suggested resources. Pair If Elephants Disappeared with No Monkeys, No Chocolate by Melissa Stewart.

Visit the publisher's site to preview pages from the book.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

You Are Eating Plastic Every Day: What’s In Our Food? By Danielle Smith-Llera

You Are Eating Plastic Every Day: What’s In Our Food?
By Danielle Smith-Llera
Capstone Press. 2019
Grades 5 and up

You Are Eating Plastic Every Day is a chilling chronicle of how plastic has entered the food chain and our bodies, along with some practical tips on how to get involved and work to be part of the solution.

“People, even vegetarians, consume microscopic pieces of plastic every day. What does it mean for people’s health? And what can you do about it?”

The book is divided into five short, but information packed chapters: Plastic on the Move; Tiny Hazards; Eat Up; Plastic Be Gone; and Precious Plastic. Each chapter contains factual information, side bars and graphs with more details, color, well-captioned photographs that emphasis what is being discussed in the text.

Back matter includes ways to get involved, glossary, additional resources, source notes, selected bibliography, and index.

A chilling reminder of just how interconnected and fragile our planet is and that every decision we make, especially when it comes to our purchases, does have alarming consequences, not only for humans, but all life on the planet. 

Pair this with another book on the same topic by Smith-Llera, Trash Vortex, and Tracking Trash by Loree Griffin Burns, a title in the Scientists in the field series.

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

Monday, October 7, 2019


Monstrous: The Lore, Gore, and Science Behind Your Favorite Monsters 
by Carlyn Beccia
Caroldrhoda Books, 2019
Grades 4-8

Fans of monsters and legends will devour this high-interest, survey book. Beccia, author of They Lost Their Heads, provides readers with the science and history behind famous monster stories. The book covers a variety of monsters including vampires, kraken, werewolves and Bigfoot. Beccia's conversational style and humor blended with science makes this a fun and relatable book for middle grade readers. At times Beccia speaks directly to the reader.

"Some people use fear to control the behavior of others. For example, I could convince you that a zombie apocalypse is coming and that you must read this book to survive. Then I would make tons of money, buy a castle in Spain, and live alone with my one-eyed cat and piles of Spam while you would fear every stranger as a possible zombie contaminate." (p. 7)

Pick up a copy of Monstrous to share with friends and family on Halloween. It's the perfect blend of horror, folklore, literature, science, and history combined with humorous illustrations and a healthy dose of wit and whimsy.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

New Nonfiction- October 2019

Here are the titles that hit shelves this month.

Spies: The Secret Showdown Between America and Russia 
by Marc Favreau

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North America: A Fold-Out Graphic History 
by Sarah Albee and William Exley

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The Book Rescuer: How a Mensch from Massachusetts Saved Yiddish Literature for Generations to Come
by Sue Macy and Stacy Innerst

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I See Sea Food: Sea Creatures That Look Like Food
by Jenna Grodzicki

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Eek, You Reek!: Poems About Animals That Stink, Stank, Stunk
By Jane Yolen, Heidi Stemple and Eugenia Nobati

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The Great Shark Rescue: Saving the Whale Sharks
by Sandra Markle

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Nature’s Ninjas: Animals with Spectacular Skills
by Rebecca L. Johnson

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Hi, I’m Norman: The Story of American Illustrator Norman Rockwell
by Robert Burleigh and Wendell Minor

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Ona Judge Outwits the Washingtons
by Gwendolyn Hooks and Simone Agoussoye

Fighting for the Forest
by P. O'Connell Pearson

No Map, Great Trip: A Young Writer's Road to Page One
by Paul Fleischman

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Ours to Share: Coexisting in a Crowded World
by Kari Jones

Torpedoed: The True Story of the World War II Sinking of "The Children's Ship"
by Deborah Heiligman

Counting the Stars: The Story of Katherine Johnson NASA Mathematician
by Lesa Cline-Ransome and Raúl Colón

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Infinite Hope: A Black Artist’s Journey from World War II to Peace
by Ashley Bryan

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The Poison Eaters: Fighting Danger and Fraud in Our Food and Drugs
by Gail Jarrow

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Gross as a Snot Otter: Discovering the World's Most Disgusting Animals
by Jess Keating and David DeGrand

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Ordinary Hazards: A Memoir

by Nikki Grimes

Accused! by Larry Dane Brimner
Accused!: The Trials of the Scottsboro Boys
by Larry Dane Brimner