Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Monday, May 30, 2022

The Secret Life of the Sea Otter by Laurence Pringle

The Secret Life of the Sea Otter
Book five in the Secret Life series
Written by Laurence Pringle;
Illustrated by Kate Garchinsky.
Boyds Mill Press. An imprint of Astra Books for Young Readers. 2022

This new title, book five, in their Secret Life series follows the life of a female sea otter. Using their Latin name, Enhydra lutris, readers will follow Lutris as she goes about her life. From sleeping, finding food to giving birth and caring for her young, Pringle is a master at weaving a visual narrative with scientific facts. 

After a nap and a grooming, our sea otter is hungry. “She dives down, down, down into the secret watery world of the kelp forest, where these plants hold fast to the sea floor. Kelp is a habitat of many creatures. Fish, squid, octopuses, crabs, snails, clams, mussels, sea stars, and sea urchins live there. Since Lutris is a predator, she has favorite animals to eat (prey).”

Copied from actual photographs, Garchinsky's digital illustrations created in Procreate fill every inch of the page. Lush and full of color, readers will be fascinated by these amazing creatures.

Additional information about Sea Otters, a glossary, and bibliography rounds out this enjoyable informational picture book.

Monday, May 23, 2022

Born Hungry by Alex Prud’homme

                                                                                                                                                   Born Hungry:  Julia Child Becomes “the French Chef”.

Written by Alex Prud’homme; Illustrated by Sarah Green.  
Calkins Creek. An imprint of Astra Books for Young Readers. 2022

This picture book biography of famous chef, Julia Child, is written by her grandnephew. His grandfather was the twin brother of Julia’s husband, Paul Child. 

The book offers an uplifting tone with the message that practice is how we master any skill.  “No one is born a great cook, one learns by doing.” 

The book follows the six feet, two inches tall Julia McWilliams as she was born hungry for adventures. During World War Two, she does have many adventures, but it was after meeting Paul Child that her interest in cooking incredibly yummy foods began.

The books colorful illustrations, done digitally by Green, are delicious and historically accurate. Included is an author’s note, an extensive bibliography of books, tv shows, podcasts, websites and more on Julia Child. The book even includes a bonus recipe for Oeufs Brouill├ęs (Scrambled Eggs)!

Today, more Americans than ever consider themselves “foodies,” and Julia Child is one of the major reasons why. She was a revolutionary who taught America to cook with a smile.”

WARNING: Don’t read this book on an empty stomach.

Friday, May 20, 2022

The Woman Who Split the Atom Written and Illustrated by Marissa Moss

The Woman Who Split the Atom: the Life of Lise Meitner
Written and illustrated by Marissa Moss
Abrams Books for Young Readers. 2022

The Woman Who Split the Atom is the fascinating story of Lise Meitner, a Jewish female physicist working in a male dominated field, and who struggles to be recognized and honored for her ground-breaking work throughout her career. If that were not enough to make a riveting narrative, toss into the mix the rise of anti-Semitism in Hitler’s Germany. This page-turner biography propels readers into Meitner’s life making the book difficult to put down. 

Lise Meitner was born in Vienna, Austria in 1878. She was the first woman to enroll at the University of Vienna in physics and the second woman in the world to earn a PhD in physics in 1906. With little job opportunities for women, but with a passion to work in her field, Meitner moves to Berlin and becomes an unpaid lab assistant at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute (KWI). A young chemist, Dr. Otto Hahn, was eager in collaborating with Meitner after reading her one published article on radioactivity. The two would work together until 1945, when Hahn wins the Noble Prize for the discovery of nuclear fission, something that Meitner herself had discovered. The two break ties when Hahn refuses to acknowledge that it was Meitner who made the discovery. 

After her discovery of nuclear fission, Moss weaves into Meitner’s story the race to build the atomic bomb. Like Einstein, Meitner, a pacifist was horrified to be associated with such a weapon of mass destruction, refused to participate. 

Meitner’s story is captivating from page one as readers are drawn into the many frustrations that prevented her from receiving the recognition she deserved. Not only was she ignored by her male colleagues, she was nominated for the Noble Prize in Chemistry and Physics fourteen times, yet, never wins. With the rise of anti-Semitism during WW2 in Germany, Meitner will barely escape Berlin. 

Graphic panels open every chapter, which will be a draw for graphic novel fans. Also included is an afterward, author’s note, timeline of Meitner’s life and achievements, glossary of select terms in physics, profiles of scientists mentioned throughout the book, source notes, bibliography, and index.

Click here to watch a short video on Meitner's life.

Thursday, May 19, 2022

New Nonfiction- May 2022


Yes We Will: Asian Americans Who Shaped This Country
by Kelly Yang
Dial Books

The Astronomer Who Questioned Everything: The Story of Maria Mitchell
by Laura Alary and Ellen Rooney
Kids Can Press

The Deadliest Fires Then and Now
by Deborah Hopkinson

The Wonders We Seek: Thirty Incredible Muslims Who Helped Shape the World
by Saadia Faruqi and Aneesa Mumtaz
illustrated by Saffa Khan
Quill Tree Books

Time to Shine: Celebrating the World's Iridescent Animals
by Karen Jameson
pictures by Dave Murray
Groundwood Books

The Stonewall Riots: Making a Stand for LGBTQ Rights
History Comics series
by Archie Bongiovanni and A. Andrews
First Second

The National Parks: Preserving America's Wild Places
History Comics series
by Falynn Koch
First Second

Save the People! Halting Human Extinction
by Stacy McAnulty
art by Nicole Miles
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Honeybee Rescue: A Backyard Drama
by Loree Griffin Burns
photographs by Ellen Harasimowicz
Charlesbridge Publishing

The Whale Who Swam Through Time: A 200-Year Journey in the Arctic
by Alex Boersma and Nick Pyenson
illustrated by Alex Boersma
Roaring Brook Press

Celia Planted a Garden: The Story of Celia Thaxter and Her Island Garden
by Phyllis Root and Gary D. Schmidt
illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Candlewick Press

How to Make a Mountain in Just 9 Simple Steps and Only 100 Million Years!
by Amy Huntington
illustrated by Nancy Lemon
Chronicle Kids

Unequal: A Story of America
by Michael Eric Dyson and Marc Favreau
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Devotion: An Epic Story of Heroism and Friendship
Adapted for Young Readers
by Adam Makos
Delacorte Press

How to Money: Your Ultimate Visual Guide to the Basics of Finance
by Jean Chatzky and Kathryn Tuggle 
illustrated by Nina Cosford
Roaring Brook Press

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Drawing Lab for Mixed-Media Artists by Carla Sonheim

Drawing Lab for Mixed-Media Artists: 52 Creative Exercises to Make Drawing Fun
by Carla Sonheim
Quarry Books, an imprint of The Quarto Group. 2019

I have kept a sketchbook to record my thoughts in words and drawings since 2016. I love the daily practice, yet sometimes I need motivation to know what to draw. In March of 2022, I signed up for a daily practice series called, Sketchbook Revival hosted by artist, Karen Abend. Each day you receive an email with two, 45-50 minute workshops led by an artist. The purpose of Sketchbook Revival is to inspire, energize, and revive your sketchbook habit with inspiration, tips, and techniques to support a creative practice. 

Why do I bring this up? One of the presenters was Carla Sonheim, an artist, who was so very inspirational I just had to request one her books from my local public library.  Drawing Lab for Mixed-Media Artists is a year’s worth of “assignments, projects, ideas, and techniques” that will inspire ways to bring art into your life. 

The book is divided up into seven Units of inspiration with a wide variety of mixed-media activities. Each Unit contains 7 or 8 Labs with clear instructions on that particular activity. For example, Unit 4 : Inspired by Famous Artists,  bases each exercises on six artists (Leonardo da Vinci, Pablo Picasso Joan Mir├│, Paul Klee, Amedeo Modigliani, and Dr. Seuss. Each Lab is an opportunity for artists to discover their own unique style by studying these masters by doing blind contour drawing, tracing the Masters to drawing with your non-dominate hand. Pencils, crayons, collage, watercolors are just a few of the tools used.

This book, and others in the Quarry Lab series, are a refreshing source of ideas for creating art with all ages. You could base a year-long teen art program using the ideas from this book.

And, don’t we all need a little bit of inspiration to spark our creativity from time to time? Especially, as we await warmer temperatures, at least here in the Northeast.

Friday, May 13, 2022

Nellie VS. Elizabeth by Kate Hannigan

Nellie VS. Elizabeth: Two daredevil journalists’ breakneck race around the world

Written by Kate Hannigan; Illustrated by Rebeca Gibbon

Calkins Creek. 2022

Jules Verne’s classic tale of adventure, Around the World in 80 Days, was published in the U.S. in 1873 (in France in 1872). Over the years, the novel has inspired numerous attempts to imitate Phileas Fogg’s trip around the world and beat his record. By far, the most famous is the subject of Hannigan’s informational picture book: Nellie VS. Elizabeth.

The tale recounts the race between two female journalists, Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland who, in 1889, took off in different directions to try and circumnavigate the world in less than 80 days. Who would win? Both women were contemporaries, arriving in NYC in 1887.  Both women were journalists and knew first-hand the challenges of working in a male-dominated field. 

Would it be Nellie? By far, the most popular of the two, Nellie was “one of the most daring stunt reporters of her time.” Nellie wrote for the New York World, a daily newspaper. Her book, Ten Days in a Mad-House caused a sensation and prompted mental health reforms.

Or, Elizabeth? A quiet person, Elizabeth wrote reviews and essays for the monthly magazine, Cosmopolitan

The brief text is spirited and will keep readers on the edge of their seats. Gibbon’s vibrant illustrations, done in acrylic inks & colored pencil on acid-free cartridge paper, add movement and suspense to the adventure.

My only frustration is that the text was a bit too brief to allow for trip details. A map showing their route would also have been helpful. Included is an author’s note, bibliography, and a timeline listing other women investigative journalists.

A rousing tale of two women who pushed boundaries. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Interview with the Authors of In Harm's Way

In Harm's Way: The Sinking of the USS Indianapolis and the Story of Its Survivors
A Young Readers' Adaptation
by Doug Stanton and Michael J. Tougias
Henry Holt and Co, 2022
Grades 6-12

Authors Michael J. Tougias and Doug Stanton describe the sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis in 1945 in the young readers' adaption of In Harm's Way. Hundreds of U.S. sailors struggled to survive in the Pacific Ocean for four days and nights in this tragic and harrowing story of survival. The book is part of Macmillan's True Rescue narrative nonfiction series.

We had the honor of interviewing Doug and Michael about the young readers' adaption of In Harm's Way.

NF Detectives: Why did you feel this particular tragic story was important to adapt for a younger audience?

Michael: I had heard about this story but only in a general way, so I was fascinated to find out there was so much I didn't know.  Young readers need to see the futility of war and the "fog" of war, but more importantly young readers would find the stories of how the survivors endured inspiring.  The sinking of the Indianapolis gives the reader a microcosm of how WWII in the Pacific was conducted.  I wanted to tell the story not just to share what happened, but do so in an exciting way to ignited the curiosity of a young reader to want to read more non-fiction.

Doug: For a long time I received emails from teachers and students who were teaching In Harm’s Way in high school history, civics, and English classes, and it was clear that the message of the book was also appealing to Young Readers. Now they have the story adapted especially for them, and it’s fabulous. Thanks to Michael Tougias, the book reads with all the complexity and insight of the original but geared especially to a new audience. 

NF Detectives: Tell us about your process. How did you collaborate to adapt the story for young readers?

Michael: Doug had done a remarkable job with the research so I had everything I needed at my fingertips.  The adult book was lengthy so the first course of action was to identify areas that could be removed and get Doug's approval.  My next step was to get to work making the story as fast paced as possible, and reducing some of the background information.  Every now and then I'd shoot Doug a question.  When I had completed the first draft I submitted it to Doug and the editor.  The editor pointed out some areas that needed further explanation and other areas that could be cut. I then made the rewrite, and then Doug added his suggestions and comments along with final comments from the editor, and I now had what I needed to write the final version.

NF Detectives: How did you find the balance to not overwhelm young readers of the horrors and helplessness of the crew as it fought to survive?

Michael: In general if an incident happened several times, such as brutal shark attacks, we only needed to explain what happened once.  We tried to balance the helpless feeling of many of the survivors with other survivors who vowed they would fight on until they were either rescued or they died.  It was important to show that some of the men were unsure if they would make it out alive, but that they would use their last breath to continue to battle.

NF Detectives: Can you tell us more about the USS Indianapolis Survivors Fund Scholarship program that was founded by Doug?

Doug: What I discovered while reporting the book was that many of the survivors' families, particularly children and grandchildren, had never spoken with the survivor about their experience, which had so totally changed the course of their lives. Survivors will tell you that since their rescue, they’ve had very few bad days since then. I wondered why this was so, and answering it was the heartbeat of In Harm’s Way. Whatever knowledge the survivors had gained, like so many other veterans, like so many people who’ve suffered a trauma, I thought would be of interest to next generations.

I designed the scholarship program so that the grandchild of the survivor would interview their grandfather and write a 300 word essay and publish this in their local newspaper. This was, one generation would talk to another, and pass along the oral history, the story, for more to understand. My thinking was that the story of the USS Indianapolis would have to be carried on by future generations, and I called this building the group’s legacy. For the same reason, I suggested to the survivors that they collect their oral histories and publish them, and provide some seed money for the project, which is how they ended up self-publishing a book. There are so many stories extant in this story and in other WWII actions and it’s important that as many as possible are heard. 

Thank you to Michael and Doug for taking the time to answer our questions about In Harm's Way. 

Friday, May 6, 2022

Greta Thunberg by Tracey Turner

Greta Thunberg
First Names series
by Tracey Turner; Illustrations by Tom Knight
Abrams Books for Young Readers. 2022

First Names is a new nonfiction biography series from Abrams. The series highlights individuals throughout history, and today, whose actions have made a difference. 

In, Greta Thunberg, we learn how Swedish activist, Greta Thunberg, uses her white privilege to raise awareness around the world to the dangers of not doing anything to address the catastrophic impact of climate change. 

The book begins in 2011, when eight-year-old Greta learns how societies inaction to curb our dependence on fossil fuels was destroying our planet. However, it wasn’t just watching a movie in class that highlighted that “terrible things were happening to the planet because of climate change, pollutions, and plastic waste.” What clicked for Greta was that despite all they had just learned in class, her teacher was going on a trip to New York for a wedding! “How could they talk about flying around the world when they must know that aircraft pollution was making the planet’s problems even worse!”

The comic-style illustrations, complete with word bubbles, breaks up the text and keeps readers engaged. Highly researched, this series in not just a biography, but a passionately told story of the life and action that made this person notable. 

The book also includes a timeline, glossary, source notes, bibliography, and index.

Greta’s message is pretty clear. Her call to action (stop eating meat and dairy, and stop our dependence on fossil fuels) is essential to ensuring our children and grandchildren will have a world to live in when they are 20, 30, and 40 years old. 

To see other titles in the series, click here.

To watch Greta’s TedTalk, click here. 

Post written by Louise

Monday, May 2, 2022

How To Be A Difficult Bitch by Halley Bondy and more

How To Be A Difficult Bitch: Claim Your Power, Ditch the Haters, and Feel Good Doing It.                                              

by Halley Bondy. Mary C. Fernandez. Sharon Lynn Pruitt-Young. Zara Hanawalt; Illustrated by T. L. Luke.                                                                                                                                                  Zest Books, an imprint of Lerner Publishing Group, Inc. 2022

When I first saw the cover of this book, I wasn’t sure what to expect. But, after reading it, I sure wish I had this book when I was in school or even once I became an adult. It is a self-help book about empowerment. The word ‘Bitch’ can have a negative connotation, but in this book, it is all about figuring out “who you are and be that person unapologetically.” 

Think Greta Thunberg, Michelle Obama, Malala Yousafzai, Oprah, Jessica U. Meir, Taylor Swift, Amanda Gorman, Julie Rikelman, Alicia Garza, and many others. 

The book encourages readers to speak their mind with respect to others. Speaking your mind and asking for what you need can be done without being rude or disrespectful to others. 

How To Be A Difficult Bitch is divided into ten chapters that shares wisdom on different topics.

Each topic includes a hypothetical scenario that explores the complexity of each situation. From internet safety, body image to choosing extracurricular passions, the author’s encourage ‘Empowerment: “The process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights. There is nothing more fundamental to being a Difficult Bitch than this”.

The Difficult Bitch Commandments include, “Stand Up for Yourselves,” “Embrace Diversity,” “Be Imperfect,” “Break Boundaries for a Better World,” “Stand Up for Others,” “Learn from Mistakes,” and “Own Up.” 

Engaging text and thoughtful advice makes this book a must have for all teen collections. 

It includes an introduction, brief interviews with the authors, further reading, and index.

Click here to find more information about this book.