Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Monday, November 25, 2019


42642163Torpedoed: The True Story of the World War II Sinking of "The Children's Ship" 
by Deborah Heiligman
Henry Holt and Company, 2019
Grades 5 and up

The reviewer received a copy of the book from the publisher.

On Sept. 12, 1940 the SS City of Benares (the children's ship) set sail from Liverpool, England en route to Canada with 406 people on board. The ship carried nearly ninety children who were fleeing the bombings in England. Deborah Heiligman offers readers a thoroughly researched and detailed account of the excitement and anxiety felt by the young passengers as they left their families behind in England. The excitement quickly turned to panic and horror on Sept. 17th when a German U-boat torpedoed the ship forcing passengers to board life boats in the middle of the cold Atlantic waters.

Heiligman's research included interviews with survivors and extensive library and museum work. This captivating war story is a true nail-biter right up until the end.  Back matter includes a lengthy bibliography, end notes, and an "After the Voyage" section which gives information about what happened to survivors after the story ends. Pair Torpedoed with the historical fiction novel,  Lifeboat 12 by Susan Hood. Torpedoed is a highly recommended purchase for middle grade history buffs and for anyone who enjoys survival stories.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Born To Fly: The First Women’s Air Race Across America Steve Sheinkin

Born To Fly: The First Women’s Air Race Across America
Steve Sheinkin; Illustrated by Bijou Karman
Roaring Brook Press. 2019
Grades 5 up

In his usual flair for mixing facts with primary sources (including lots of quotes), Sheinkin once again has written a nonfiction book that is hard to put down. 

In 1929, just twenty-six years after the Wright Brothers invented the first airplane and nine years since women won the right to vote, a group of trailblazing female pilots joined the first air race across America: the Women’s Air Derby. The race began in Santa Monica, and criss-crossed the U.S. to end in Cleveland, Ohio. Twenty women had dreams of being the winner, but only one would grab the coveted title. 

Women pilots, all white, who take center stage throughout the book include Florence “Pancho” Barnes, Marvel Crosson, Amelia Earhart, Ruth Elder, Ruth Nichols, Louise Thaden, Bobbi Trout, and Elinor Smith. We learn of their first steps to becoming a pilot in the days when planes were made of wood and the sport of flying was considered deadly.

The race itself was daring. Most of the planes were two-seaters with open cockpits, making them exposed to all the elements. Pilots only had paper road maps for navigation. The women pilots enjoyed a sense of camaraderie even as they suspected their planes were being sabotaged. (Marvel Crosson, a strong contender to win, was the only pilot who died during the race. Many suspected the cause of carbon monoxide poisoning). Just who didn’t want these women to succeed? 

Each page of this suspenseful narrative will find readers on the edge of their seats (I know I was) wondering who will win the race, who will survive, and how these daring women, who refused to stay in the kitchen, opened up so many possibilities for equality for those of us who came behind them. 

Historic photos, along with Karman’s black & white sketches, are visually appealing. Unfortunately, not all the photos and sketches are captioned. 

Back matter includes source notes, works cited, and index. Sheinkin offers a lot of detail about the pilots. It would have been helpful if Sheinkin included mini biographies of each pilot highlighted in the text. 

In the last chapter Sheinkin poses this question: “So why is Amelia Earhart the one name everyone knows? She deserves the love, but so does Louise Thaden, Marvel Crosson, Pancho Barns, Elinor Smith, and so many more. Why is Amelia Earhart the one who kids dress up for Halloween?” Sure. She made two history-making Atlantic flights and had a husband, G.P. Putnam who was a marketing genius. “But the biggest factor in Earhart’s lasting fame is her mysterious disappearance.” 

“Another face-paced history” by award winning author, Sheinkin. Click here to watch the book trailer. 

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

Monday, November 18, 2019

New Nonfiction- November 2019

Check out these titles which hit shelves in November.

Mario and the Hole in the Sky: How a Chemist Saved Our Planet
 by Elizabeth Rusch and Teresa Martinez


Activist: A Story of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Shooting
by Lauren Elizabeth Hogg, Anthony Zuiker, and Don Hudson


Becoming RBQ: Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Journey to Justice
by Debbie Levy and Whitney Gardner


Buzzing with Questions: The Inquisitive Mind of Charles Henry Turner
by Janice N. Harrington and Theodore Taylor III

Feed Your Mind: A Story of August Wilson

Feed Your Mind: A Story of August Wilson
by Jen Bryant and Cannaday Chapman

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Bugs in Danger: Our Vanishing Bees, Butterflies and Beetles
by Mark Kurlansky and Jia Liu

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What the Eagle Sees: Indigenous Stories of Rebellion and Renewal
by Eldon Yellowhorn and Kathy Lowinger

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Spies, Lies, and Disguise: The Daring Tricks and Deeds That Won World War II
by Jennifer Swanson and Kevin O'Malley

Science Comics: Skyscrapers: The Heights of Engineering

Science Comics: Skyscrapers: The Heights of Engineering
by John Kerschbaum

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Little Legends: Exceptional Men in Black History
by Vashti Harrison

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Little People, BIG DREAMS series

Little People, BIG DREAMS
A series published by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

For all ages

These picture book biographies are terrific introductions to people, both men and women, who made a difference. The emphasis of the series is to show that though some people grow up to do incredible things, they all started out as children with a dream.

The titles I read were about the Russian dancer, Rudolf Nureyev, one of the greatest dancers in the world, British mystery writer, Agatha Christie, creator of the characters Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot, and Italian educator, Maria Montessori, whose legacy continues today in Montessori schools around the world.

“Quirky illustrations” perfectly partner with the simple, yet rich text.
The books are written and illustrated by different authors/artists.

Though lacking a bibliography or further reading, each book does contain extra facts about the subject at the end.  

A great way to introduce interesting people, from scientists, dancers, and designers to artists to
students of all ages.

To write these reviews, I borrowed the books from my local public library.

Go here to see all the titles in the series. 

Monday, November 11, 2019

Follow Your Stuff: Who Makes It, Where Does It Come From, How Does It Get To You? By Kevin Sylvester and Michael Hlinka

Follow Your Stuff: Who Makes It, Where Does It Come From, How Does It Get To You?
By Kevin Sylvester and Michael Hlinka
annick press. 2019
Grades 5 and up

In simple language and lots of graphics, Follow Your Stuff  wants readers to know the "chain of connections" between the item we purchase and how that item was manufactured. They hope, armed with this knowledge, consumers will think before they purchase.

Would you still buy that new smartphone if you knew that one of the ingredients, coltan, is often dug by hand in The Democratic Republic of Congo? And, that since the mining industry is not well regulated, coltan might be extracted from national parks, forests, and animal sanctuaries? That the sale of coltan may purchase weapons that are used in The Democratic Republic of Congo’s decade’s long war?

The book follows the chain of connection with a t-shirt, medicines, books, high tech computers and smart phones, and glasses. The author’s explain that each stage of the before and after of the production of everything is connected to millions of people around the globe.  

For example, you may say you’ve made a cake from scratch, but in reality, “Someone else grew the wheat. Someone else harvested the sugarcane, and other people turned that into the sugar you used. Same thing for the flour, the milk, the icing, the food coloring, the chocolate, the candles, the…you get the idea.”

As the author's lay it all out, what readers will understand is that the deeper you look, the more you realize that almost EVERYONE who does a job is somehow related to that shirt.”

Cartoon-like graphics are throughout, as are sidebars with more information.Speech bubbles throughout pose questions to make us think a little deeper about where our goods come from and how they are made.

When sharing this book with students, emphasize how interconnected we all are here on Earth. The question that is important for all of us to ask, “Do I really need that new sweater, iPhone or computer game?” By understanding our inter-connectivity to the people in that global chain of connections who make the product may help young consumers when making their next purchase.

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