Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Monday, October 31, 2022

Tree Hole Homes

Tree Hole Homes: Daytime Dens and Nighttime Nooks
by Melissa Stewart
illustrated by Amy Hevron
Random House Studio, 2022
Grades PreK-3

Tree Hole Homes asks young readers to "imagine what it would be like to live in a tree." This scientific picture book uses an inviting and lyrical writing style that carries the story through woods, fields, and rain forests where animals make their homes in tree holes. Readers will learn about the tree hole homes of fishers, tree frogs, barred owls, black bears, little brown bats, and more. Expository paragraphs offer facts and details about the featured animals and their activities both inside and outside the trees.

Bold acrylic, charcoal pencil, and digital illustrations on wood depict animals snoozing, nesting and hiding from prey inside tree holes. Budding scientists will be excited by the additional facts in the back matter about the animals.

Stewart and Hevron have succeeded in crafting a high quality and engaging science book for young readers that is both scientifically accurate and accessible to children in primary grades.  A recommended purchase as a gift book for children who love learning about nature as well as a solid addition to an elementary science classroom or library.

Visit Melissa Stewart's site to learn about how she came up with the idea for the book. There are also extensions including a video visit to the Amy Hevron's studio.

Friday, October 28, 2022


by Nell Cross Beckerman
illustrated by Kale Chock
Orchard Books, 2022
Grades K-5

Readers are invited to explore caves in this stunning science picture book. Beckerman pairs poetry written in the 3rd person with expository text to give readers a glimpse inside the caves. The poetic text employs gorgeous word choice to bring the world of caves to life while the parallel expository text teaches readers about rock formations, stalactites, crystals, cave temperatures, fossils, bats and glowworms. 

Chock's realistic style illustrations use a dark palette and different points of view to give readers a sense of the darkness and wonder found inside caves.

Back matter includes a list of cave rules, fun facts and spelunking equipment. Give Caves as a gift to young readers interested in science and nature or use it as a mentor text for teaching students to write about science topics. 

Visit the author's site to view page spreads from the book.

Monday, October 24, 2022

Numb to This: Memoir of a Mass Shooting by Kindra Neely

Numb To This: Memoir of a Mass Shooting
Kindra Neely
Little, Brown and Company. 2022

Graphic artist, Kindra Neely, is a survivor of the mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon in October 2015. Her memoir, told in graphic novel format, tells the story of the shooting, and her journey to try and heal from this trauma. Making this ordeal extra challenging is the continued steady stream of mass shootings throughout the United States.

Neely was no stranger to the negative influence of guns. Living in Texas, her school had metal detectors, police dogs, and officiers. “There were a lot of guns. Everybody carried in Texas.” After a drive-by shooting a few houses from where she lived, Neely’s mother had enough. She packed then 13-year-old Kindra into the car and they relocated to her mother’s hometown: Roseburg, Oregon. 

Life improved a lot! Kindra felt safe in her new surroundings. She made friends. The calmness of Oregon allowed Kindra to have the space to find herself and figure out exactly what that meant for her future. 

“Gun violence wasn’t something I was accustomed to. It just wasn’t expected.” Not here in Oregon.

Then, on her fourth day attending Umpqua Community College, a gunman opens fire on campus. Nine people killed and eight people injured. Even before she arrived home that awful day, a national newspaper posts a picture of Kindra and a friend hugging. “I felt so violated. People were going to make their own assumptions about the people in the photo without ever knowing how we actually felt or what it was like. The nation was watching us while were were most vulnerable, but it felt like we were entertainment.” 

The trauma of that day never leaves Kindra. Even when she attends art school in Georgia, the events of that day haunt her. She copes, yet suffers panic attacks. With more and more mass shootings happening, and seeing a video posted by the NRA on how to spin school shootings to their advantage, Kindra finally makes up her mind. It was time to tell the story of mass shootings from the point of view of those who were there.

This is a powerful memoir. Neely went from feeling pointless - someone without feelings - to feeling hopeless - to acknowledging there is a loss with something there to believe in.

Included is an author’s note and a list of resources.

Read an Interview with Neely on NPR

Friday, October 21, 2022

Road Trip by Claudia Friddell

 Road Trip: Camping with the Four Vagabonds Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, and John Burroughs
by Claudia Friddell;
Illustrated by Jeremy Holmes
Calkins Creek. An Imprint of Astra Books for Young Readers. 2022.

Four friends, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, and John Burroughs decide to take a road trip, a trip wandering through the Appalachians and the Alleghenies in 1918. A true story, Friddell captures the friendship and excitement of these four very successful men who took time out of their busy lives to relax and have fun.

All four men knew the importance of teamwork, and so together they had a marvelous time hiking, camping, playing games, and just hanging out. They liked it so much, that they continued their summer journeys for several years.

The author includes an afterword with more details about each individual and details about how the idea of road trips would become popular, a selected bibliography, and related children's books on these four men. 

The full-page illustrations were created using cut paper, watercolor, and pastels. The individual pieces of cut paper were hand-rendered, glued, and assembled into the final illustrations. 

Share this very engaging nonfiction picture book with fans of Edison, Ford, Firestone, and Burroughs. Or anyone who craves adventure.

Monday, October 17, 2022

Dazzling' Dolly by Suzanne Spade


Dazzlin' Dolly: the Songwriter, Hit-Singing, Guitar-Picking Dolly Parton
by Suzanne Slade;
illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham
Calkins Creek; An Imprint of Astra Books for Young Readers. 2022

This very inspirational picture book biography opens with a quote from Dolly Parton.

"If you're gonna make a dream come true, you gotta work it. You can't just sit around." 

An extraordinary performer, Dolly Parton has been entertaining audiences for six decades. Not only is her voice distinctive, she is also admired for her kindness and honesty. 

Born with a powerful voice, the young Dolly was always singin'. She sang to the geese who flew overhead, to the bobwhite at night, and when Mama snapped beans, "Dolly pounded a pot with a spoon and belted out her bean-snapping' tune." 

Her perseverance paid off. When she announced at her graduation her dream of going to Nashville and be a star, readers will learn just how much work the young Dolly put into getting that dream realized. "Nothing was going to stop her from run-in' full steam after her dream (in high heels!)"

Slade's charming narrative reads like Dolly herself is speaking. Paired with Fotheringham's double-page art created digitally on a tablet with a stylus, makes for an engaging story.

Included is More about Dolly, a timeline, and a selected bibliography.

A fun, inspiring book to share with others. 

Oh! Be sure to have some Dolly Parton music playing in the background.

Friday, October 14, 2022

Action! by Meghan McCarthy

Action!: How Movies Began
by Meghan McCarthy
A Paula Wiseman Book: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. 2022                                 

In Action!, McCarthy, explains in this fun nonfiction picture book, how we went from taking photos that required a long exposure time to our fast-paced, action-packed movies.

McCarthy’s engaging narrative show the main inventions that would allow movies to be made. We see how each invention built upon itself. From stop-action movies, silent films to movies that incorporate all kinds of sounds that creates an atmospheric experience for movie watchers. Think 3-D movies.

We also learn how movies from the 1920’s still influence filmmakers today. 

For example, in 1917, comedian Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, in his movie, The Rough House, sticks forks into two dinner rolls and makes them dance. Charlie Chaplin does the same thing in his movie, The Gold Rush in 1925. Johnny Depp, in Benny & Joon, 1993, has his own rendition. 

Also placed into perspective was the prejudices towards African Americans during the Twenties when Josephine Baker left America to have more freedom to become a star in Paris. Baker paved the way for other African American actors to be movie stars today. “In 2018, a Marvel movie, The Blank Panther, with a majority black cast was a smash hit!”

The full-page, very colorful spreads in McCarthy’s comic-style illustrations are rendered in acrylic paint. 

An Author’s Note and more in-depth back matter on aspects discussed in throughout the book, and a selected bibliography, is included.

Highly recommended for all ages, especially those who love movies.

Friday, October 7, 2022

New Nonfiction- October 2022


Underground Fire: Hope, Sacrifice, and Courage in the Cherry Mine Disaster
by Sally M. Walker
Candlewick Press

I Could Not Do Otherwise: The Remarkable Life of Dr. Mary Edwards
by Sara Latta
Lerner Publishing

Beware the Burmese Pythons and Other Invasive Animal Species
by Etta Kaner and Phil Nicholls
Kids Can Press

The Lady and the Octopus: How Jeanne Villepreux-Power Invented Aquariums and Revolutionized Marine Biology
by Danna Staaf
Carolrhoda Books

The Girl Who Built an Ocean
by Jess Keating and Michelle Mee Nutter
Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers

Operation Pangolin: Saving the World's Only Scaled Mammal
by Suzi Escterhas
Millbrook Press

Mega-Predators of the Past
by Melissa Stewart and Howard Gray
Peachtree Publishing

Tree Hole Homes: Daytime Dens and Nighttime Nooks
by Melissa Stewart and Amy Hevron
Random House

Going Places: Victor Hugo Green and His Glorious Book
by Tonya Bolden and Eric Velasquez
Quill Tree Books

Curve & Flow: The Elegant Vision of L.A. Architect Paul R. Williams
by Andrea J. Loney and Keith Mallett
Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers

The Universe in You: A Microscopic Journey
by Jason Chin
Neal Porter Books

by Nell Cross and Kalen Chock
Orchard Books

A Walk Through the Rainforest
by Martin Jenkins and Vicky White
Candlewick Press

Ice Cycle: Poems About the Life of Ice
by Maria Gianferrari and Jieting Chen
Millbrook Press

The Search for Sasquatch
by Laura Krantz

Seen and Unseen: What Dorothea Lange, Toyo Miyatake, and Ansel Adams's Photographs Reveal About the Japanese American Incarceration
by Elizabeth Partridge and Lauren Tamaki
Chronicle Books

We the People: Big Ideas That Changed the World
by Don Brown
Amulet Books

Unbreakable: The Spies Who Cracked the Nazis' Secret Code 
by Rebecca E. F. Barone
Henry Holt and Co.

Brothers in Arms: A True World War II Story of Wojtek the Bear and the Soldiers Who Loved Him
by Susan Hood and Jamie Green

Crash from Outer Space
by Candace Fleming
Scholastic Focus

Piece by Piece: How I Built My Life (No Instructions Required)
by David Aquilar and Ferran Aguilar
Amazon Crossing Kids

Monday, October 3, 2022

Infinity: Figuring Out Forever by Sarah C. Campbell

Infinity: Figuring Out Forever
By Sarah C. Campbell; Photographs by Sarah C. Campbell and Richard P. Campbell
Astra Young Readers. An Imprint of Astra Books for Young Readers. 2022

In this informational picture book, husband and wife team, Sarah and Richard Campbell, challenge readers to think deeply about the mathematical concept: “What is infinity?”

Thinking about infinity is tricky. You have already thought of a large number and added one, but that might lead you to make the mistake of thinking infinity is something really, really big. Remember, though, infinity is not something big. Infinity is endlessness.”

Calculus is the branch of mathematics that puts infinity into practical use. NASA scientists use calculus and the idea of infinity when making the calculations to send rockets into space.

The marriage of words and pictures work exceptionally well here as the Campbell’s present the not-so-simple task of defining the concept of infinity. The book includes an author’s note, glossary, further reading(which includes websites and books), and an exercise - The Infinite School and the Surprising Results of Adding with Infinity.

“The next time you find yourself counting stars in the sky, remember that even though the number of stars is finite, your mind has no limits.”

Highly recommended reading aloud for older students.