Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Friday, April 29, 2022

Mightier Than the Sword by Rochelle Melander

Mightier Than the Sword: Rebels, Reformers & Revolutionaries Who Changed the World

Through Writing

by Rochelle Melander; Illustrated by Melina Ontiveros

Beaming Books, an imprint of 1517 Media. 2021.

From speechmakers, scientists, explorers, to authors, poets, and activities, these brief summaries highlight the lives of these diverse men and women who changed history by using their pens. 

Each entry is four pages in length and gives a brief summary of the individual’s life and their contribution to society. Readers will be engaged with the activities and prompts that are included with each entry. Along with the activities, other individuals who have some connection to the time, place, or writing formare added in a side text. 

For example, under Maria Merian, naturalist and scientific illustrator (1647-1717), Carl Linnaeus is mentioned for his reliance on Merian’s insect discoveries. For the activity, it encourages readers to keep a research or field journal, with Marie Curie mentioned for her practice of keeping a lab notebook. Highlighting the text are comic style illustrations by Ontiveros. 

The text is readable with just enough information to spark readers curiosity.

Mightier Than the Sword was this year’s 2021 Cybil’s Middle Grade Non-Fiction winner.

Monday, April 25, 2022

How To Build a Human by Pamela S. Turner

How To Build a Human : in Seven Evolutionary Steps 
by Pamela S. Turner; Art. by John Gurche 
Charlesbridge. 2022 

Award-winning science writer, Pamela S. Turner, has written a remarkable must-read for everyone on the planet with How To Build a Human. Using her talent of making science easily understood, Turner tells the epic story of human evolution in seven big steps that led to Homo sapiens. 

In 133 pages, she explains “How, when, and why did we: 
1. stand up, 
2. discover pointy objects, 
3. get big heads, 
4. take a hike,
5. invent barbecue, 
6. start talking (and never shut up), and 
7. become storytellers?” 
and answers the question, “How did we evolve into a species that builds cities, makes war, and transmits thoughts from one brain to another using little black marks on paper?” 

This is a remarkable book made even better with the haunting portraits by John Gurche, one of the most respected paleo-artists in the field. Not only do we read the story of evolution, but Gurche’s art gives an important visual element that makes this book rock. 

Included is an author’s notes, (one of the best I’ve ever read), glossary, time line, a more complete list of the Hominin Family, recommended books and websites, source notes, an extensive bibliography, and index. 

A remarkable storyteller, thank you, Pamela S. Turner, for taking the time to write such a remarkable book on evolution. 

I am hoping, How to Build a Human wins the 2022 Robert F. Sibert Award.

Click here to visit the How To Build. a Human page on the Charlesbridge website. There, you can download an educator’s guide, watch Pamela Turner introduce this book, and be able to send her questions. 

Friday, April 22, 2022

Three New Science Books for Elementary students

To excite elementary age students with some fun science, try these three new titles.

Planting a Garden in Room 6: From Seed to Salad

Written and photographed by Caroline Arnold

Charlesbridge. 2022

Another addition in Arnold’s Life Cycles in Room 6 series, has this kindergarten class planting a garden. In beautiful, colored photos we follow this special teacher as she shares her love of science with her students.

This year, Kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Best, has brought some lettuce, kale, radish, spinach, carrots, and pea sees for student to plant in their classroom garden. Readers follow students as they discover each plant has it own kind of seed, preparing the soil to watching the seeds emerge. As they learn about helpful insects, weeding, and garden care the best part comes at harvest time when they can all enjoy the fruits of their labor with a yummy salad. 

The book includes garden vocabulary, garden questions, online sources and suggestions for further reading. *The fun part is learning that the chickens pictures in this book are the ones hatched in Arnold’s book, Hatching Chicks in Room 6. I wish I had a Mrs. Best as my Kindergarten teacher.

Visit the author's website for more information on her books. 

Little Killers: The Ferocious Lives of Puny Predators 

by Sneed B. Colard III

Millbrook Press, an imprint of Lerner Publishing Group, Inc. 2022

From fatal flatworms to swarming spiders, science writer, Sneed Collard III, shines a light on the fascinating life of these voracious killers. Loaded with facts and beautiful color photographs, this book will certainly grab the attention of curious readers. Text boxes throughout highlight more details explained in the text. 

Included is an author’s note, glossary, source notes, bibliography, and suggestions for further reading. A  very hands-on book, this is a great addition to books on insects.

Click here to watch Sneed introduce this book. 

The Adventures of Dr. Sloth: Rebecca Cliffe and Her Quest to Protect Sloths

Written and photographed by Suzi Eszterhas

Millbrook Press, an imprint of Lerner Publishing Group, Inc. 2022

This is both a biography of Dr. Rebecca, “Becky,” Cliffe, a leading expert on sloths, and information about sloths. Eszterhas does an excellent job grabbing readers attention from page one. Spending ten years photographing sloths in the jungles of Costa Rica, Panama, Guyana, and Brazil, we learn how sloth scientists, like Becky, are helping to keep sloths safe as more humans encroach into their habitats. 

Each color photo is well-captioned, and side texts offer more information highlighted in the text. 

Included are suggestions on how students can help sloths, glossary, and books and websites for further reading.

An excellent addition to your science collections.

Click here to learn more about the Sloth Conservation Foundation.

Monday, April 18, 2022

Where Have All the Birds Gone? by Rebecca E. Hirsch

Where Have All the Birds Gone?
by Rebecca E. Hirsch
Twenty-First Century Books, an imprint of Lerner Publishing Group, Inc. 2022.

Birds are essential to a healthy planet. They help pollinate flowers, eat pesky insects that may damage crops, some even thrive on roadkill. Birds wake us up in the morning with their songs, and we spend countless hours with binoculars watching them, both in the field or at our home bird feeders. Yet, despite our love of birds, they are disappearing at an alarming rate. According to Rebecca E. Hirsch, “Since 1970, nearly 30 percent of all birds in the United States and Canada have vanished.” 

In Where Have All the Birds Gone?, biologist turned science writer, Hirsch writes an excellent account of what is causing such a drastic decline and ways communities can protect these essential workers. From bird strikes on windows, light pollution, pesticides, the household kitty-cat to vanishing habitats, the nine chapters cover specific issues that have caused the greatest damage to birds and the people who have worked to find a solution. Well-captioned color photos visually support the text. Text boxes also add a deeper explanation of something being mentioned within the narrative.

The book includes an Author’s Note, glossary, source notes, selected bibliography, further information, and an index. 

An excellent addition to all library collections, Where Have All the Birds Gone? is a must read for everyone.

For more information about Hirsch, go here

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

New Nonfiction- April 2022


The Woman Who Split the Atom: The Life of Lise Meitner
by Marissa Moss
Abrams Books for Young Readers

The Tide Pool Waits
by Candace Fleming
illustrated by Amy Hevron
Neal Porter Books

by Suzi Eszterhas
Millbrook Press

Sky Wolf's Call: The Gift of Indigenous Knowledge
by Eldon Yellowhorn and Kathy Lowinger
Annick Press

Parks for the People: How Frederick Law Olmsted Designed America
by Elizabeth Partridge
illustrated by Becca Stadtlander
Viking Books for Young Readers

The Race of the Century: The Battle to Break the Four Minute Mile
by Neal Bascomb
Scholastic Focus

Sensational Senses: Amazing Ways Animals Perceive the World
 by Rebecca E. Hirsch
Millbrook Press

How to be a Difficult Bitch
by Halley Bondy, et al.
Zest Books

The Wolves of Yellowstone: A Rewilding Story
by Catherine Barr
illustrated by Jenni Desmond

by Pamela S. Turner
art by John Gurche

Ready for Launch: An Astronaut's Lessons for Success on Earth
 by Scott Kelly
Penguin Teen

Blast Off!: How Mary Sherman Morgan Fueled America Into Space
by Suzanne Slade
illustrated by Sally Wern Comport
Calkins Creek

The Secret Life of the Sea Otter
by Laurence Pringle
illustrated by Kate Garchinsky
Boyds Mill Press

The Snowy Owl Scientist 
by Mark Wilson
Clarion Books

The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna and the Race to Understand Our Genetic Code
Adapted for Young Readers
by Walter Isaacson with Sarah Durand
Simon & Schuster

Monday, April 11, 2022

Attention Hijacked by Erica B. Marcus


Attention Hijacked: Using Mindfulness to Reclaim Your Brain from Tech

by Erica B. Marcus

Zest Books, an imprint of Lerner Publishing Group, Inc. 2022

Have you ever spend an entire day binging on the latest streaming series? Found yourself spending hours scrolling through social media posts? Walked into a library and notice the students hanging out were staring at their smartphones instead of talking or reading books? The struggle is finding a balance with our digital usage.

In, Attention Hijacked, Marcus, who has taught mindfulness for over 15 years, offers readers, both teens and adults, a roadmap for deciding how technology influences their lives. Marcus states that taking control of her digital use, “was the beginning of a long process of really waking up to how my technology use was impacting me.”

Marcus does not advocate we stop using technology altogether. Instead, she uses mindfulness to help kids find a healthy balance with technology use. Peppered throughout the text are examples from individuals, mostly her students, who use technology in a positive way (think YouTube) to learn how to do something, like landing a kickflip on a skateboard. The text is very nonjudgemental as Moran encourages readers to take a close examination of their tech habits to see if there is a way to balance the positive aspects of technology amidst the endless distractions it offers. 

What Marcus does well is place the mindful practices into the bigger picture of why we are so addicted to technology. (Chapter 2: How Tech Companies Hijack Our Attention) With all the mental stimulation one receives from scrolling, Marcus offers exercises to encourage readers to slow down and enjoy the simple pleasures of daily activities.  

Marcus’ approach is nonjudgemental and supportive. A perfect book to hand to anyone, from parents, librarians, teachers, students, who are searching for a healthier tech habit or would like to use some of these practices in a program.

To learn more about Erica B. Marcus and her mindfulness approach, click here. 

Monday, April 4, 2022

Call Me Miss Hamilton by Carole Boston Weatherford

Call Me Miss Hamilton: One Woman’s Case of Equality and Respect
by Carole Weatherford Boston; Illustrations by Jeffery Boston Weatherford
Millbrook Press, an imprint of Lerner Group, Inc. 2022.

In her latest picture book biography, award-winning author, Carole Boston Weatherford writes of Miss Mary Hamilton, a civil rights activist during the 1960’s. Her sparse text is compelling and together, with Jeffery Boston Weatherford’s scratchboard illustrations, makes this a powerful book.

Everyone deserves respect. To be addressed as Miss, Mrs, or Mr. 

Mary Hamilton was taught respect by her parents, by the nuns in her catholic school, and college. Yet, even in states that outlawed segregation, where African Americans were barred from many places, whites addressed African Americans “out of their names.” Grown men were called “boy;” grown women called “girl” or “auntie.” 

Mary believed that by addressing someone by proper titles showed courtesy and respect.  

In 1960’s Mary joined the Freedom Riders. She was jailed many times. In Alabama, she was held in contempt of court for five days for refusing to answer when a white prosecutor called her Mary instead of Miss Hamilton. In 1964, Mary took her case to the United States Supreme Court and won. “The highest court in the land ruled in Mary’s favor, deciding everyone in court deserved respect.

Call Me Miss Hamilton includes an author’s note, timeline, and suggestions for further reading.

Click here to read an interview with Carole Boston Weatherford and Jeffery Boston Weatherford. 

A must have for all libraries, school and public. 

Another contender for ALSC/ALA awards.