Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Monday, October 2, 2023

Sisters In Science: Marie Curie, Bronia Dłuska, and the Atomic Power of Sisterhood by Linda Elovitz Marshall

Sisters In Science: Marie Curie, Bronia Dłuska, and the Atomic Power of Sisterhood
By Linda Elovitz Marshall; Illustrated by Anna and Elena Balbusso
Alfred A. Knopf. 2023

We all are familiar with the accomplishments of Marie Curie. Her discovery of radioactivity brought her, and her husband, Pierre, and fellow researcher, Henri Becquerel, the Nobel Prize for their work. 

Born into a time when women women were not supported to receive higher learning,  Marshall recounts the many ways the two sisters supported each other throughout their lives, both trailblazers in their own right.

Born in Warsaw, Poland, Bronia (1865) and Marie (1867) suffered two major loses, the death of their mother and sister, Zosia. Saddened by their deaths, Bronia and Maria were determined that as adults they would help others. Bronia wanted to be a doctor; Maria a researcher.

So they concocted a plan: “Bronia would start at the Sorbonne (in Paris) immediately, while Maria would work as a tutor to pay for Bronia’s education.. When Bronia finished, they would switch. Maria would start, and Bronia would pay. 
                                    Maria and Bronia made a pact!”

This picture book biography follows the two sisters throughout their lives as they work in their chosen fields, while always lending a helping hand when needed. 

The two sisters made a pact, "honored it, and gave the world better ways to diagnose diseases, better ways to treat illnesses, and one of the world's best examples of the power of SCIENCE - and the power of SISTERS!"

The beautiful illustrations in earthy tones were created using mixed media. Traditional tools (gouache, watercolor, brush, pencil, pen, collage)were combined with digital programs. 

The book includes a timeline, partial list of works consulted, and an author's note.

Friday, September 29, 2023

Bristlecone: The Secret Life of the World’s Oldest Tree by Alexandra Siy

Bristlecone: The Secret Life of the World’s Oldest Tree
Alexandra Siy: Illustrated by Marlo Garnsworthy

Web of Life Children’s Books. 2022.

In the White Mountains of California, behind White Mountain Peak, there lives ancient, twisty trees. The Ancient Bristlecone Pine Trees.

In this informational picture book, Siy (author of, Mosquito Bite, Voyager’s Greatest Hits, and Cars On Mars), explains the life cycle of these ancient trees, one that is thought to be more than 5,000 years old.

By examining their growth rings, these remarkable trees record different environmental conditions. “More moisture makes a wider ring. Drought slows growth so much that a ring may not form at all. Extreme cold damages woods as it grows, making a frost ring. Fire scars form when scorched wood is flooded with a sticky resin.”

The Ancient Bristlecone Pine Tree grows slowly. Fifty years, the tree is almost as tall as a crow. In three hundred years, it will be just three feet tall. 

The text draws readers in and clearly explains how the tree grows, repopulates, and how it survives in one of the harshest environments. 

Paired with the engaging narrative are Garnsworthy’s meticulously researched illustrations. The pictures were created using watercolor, sand textures, and digital oil paint. They definitely bring the text to life. 

Throughout the book some words that will appear in the glossary are in bold type. Im addition to the glossary, there is a note with information about the Bristlecone Pine Trees. 

Monday, September 25, 2023

We Are Starlings: Inside the Mesmerizing Magic of a Murmuration written by Robert Furrow & Donna Jo Napoli; Illustrations by Marc Martin

We Are Starlings: Inside the Mesmerizing Magic of a Murmuration
written by Robert Furrow & Donna Jo Napoli; Illustrations by Marc Martin
Random House Studio. 2023

We Are Starlings: Inside the Mesmerizing Magic of a Murmuration
written by Robert Furrow & Donna Jo Napoli; Illustrations by Marc Martin
Random House Studio, a division of Penguin Random House. 2023

A murmuration is a flock of birds flying all together in one large mass.

A few years ago, before some major housing developments in my community that had a negative impact on wildlife by removing some wide-open spaces, you could watch, in the early mornings, flocks of starlings as they flew in a large mass around the open fields. Called a murmuration of starlings, watching them added a boost to a day that might have been routine. 

In We Are Starlings, authors' Robert Furrow & Donna Jo Napoli give readers an inside look at how Sturnus vulgaris (European Starling) account of what inspires these visitors from Europe to suddenly rise up and swoop and twirl through the sky.

Told from the starlings point of view, the narrative begins with the early morning as each bird is eager to begin their day. They take to the air, meeting up with other starlings. The text, pared with Martin's beautiful artwork, rendered in watercolor, pencil and digital collage, readers see the thousand of starlings coming together.

"We twist through the sky like giant snakes/Or fan out like humongous wings/We loop back over ourselves in figure eights/We dance, and dance, and dance."

The lyrical narrative and beautiful illustrations, together, make this a magnificent informational picture book. An uplifting read before starting the day or at bedtime, to inspire some magical dreams.

Monday, September 18, 2023

Dare to Question: Carrie Chapman Catt’s Voice for the Vote By Jasmine A. Stirling

Dare to Question: Carrie Chapman Catt’s Voice for the Vote

By Jasmine A. Stirling; Illustrated by Udayana Lugo

Union Square Kids, a subsidiary of Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.


"There will never be a true democracy until every adult, without regard to race, sex, color or creed has his or her own voice in the government."     Carrie Chapman Catt: November 1, 1917

Dare to Question is not just a story of how one woman, Carrie Chapman Catt, dedicated over 40-plus years to seeing that women were granted the right to vote. This is also a gripping tale of perseverance and a story of democracy.

Carrie Chapman Catt (1859-1947) was born in Ripon, Wisconsin. From a young age she asked questions. 

Young Carrie asked too many questions.

She wanted to know how many stars were in the sky, if germs had personalities, and how long it would take a snake egg to hatch behind her mama’s oven.”

Young Carrie also wanted to know why only her father left to vote and not her mama.

After putting herself through college (her father didn’t believe girls needed higher education), Carrie went to join the fight for suffrage.  In 1900, Susan B. Anthony, who admired Carrie for asking questions, declared her leader of the Women’s Suffrage Movement.

This informational picture book recounts how Catt’s reinvigorated the suffrage after many defeats. Catt’s felt that to attract more women to the movement, the right to vote should be celebratory, creative, and fun!

“Instead of attracting rebels on the fringe, why couldn’t The Cause appeal to mothers and shopgirls and teachers and ladies who lunch?”

On June 4, 1919, after seventy years of struggle, the United States Congress finally passed the Nineteenth Amendment that granted ALL women the right to vote! Yet, for the amendment to become law, thirty-six states had to agree. The tension builds as readers wonder if Mr. Harry T. Burn, a representative from Mouse Creek, TN, will vote "Nay" or "Aye." The Nineteenth Amendment was adopted in 1920.

Stirling’s narrative, the phrasing that captures the ups and downs of the suffragette movement, is engaging and invigorating. Paired with Lugo’s colorful, historically accurate illustrations that highlight the text, Dare to Question is an important addition to the list of books on the history of women's right to vote. 

The book does include an author’s note and a brief bio of Carrie Chapman Catt, unfortunately, there are no source notes or bibliography for further reading.

Click here to watch a 56 minute video by Iowa PBS on the life of Carrie Chapman Catt.

See some pages of the book by clicking here.

Monday, September 11, 2023

Impossible Escape: A True Story of Survival and Heroism in Nazi Europe by Steve Sheinkin

 Impossible Escape: a True Story of Survival and Heroism in Nazi Europe
Steve Sheinkin
Roaring Brook Press. 2023

Sheinkin continues to pen dramatic nonfiction narratives of little known chapters in history. In 2013, Sheinkin won the Robert F. Sibert award and a Newbery Honor for his book, Bomb: The Race to Build - and Steal - the World's Most Dangerous Weapon. 

In Impossible Escape, Sheinkin tells the story of Rudolf (Rudi) Vrba, a Jewish teen who, after being imprisoned in Auschwitz, does the impossible and escapes.  Rudi's decision to do the impossible was to tell the world the truth of what was happening to millions of Jews during World War II. 

Rudolf (Rudi) Vrba grew up in Czechoslovakia. He was Jewish. Used to the occasional antisemitic comments, but as Hitler rose to power and his assault on Jews grew more violent, Rudi was determined to find a way to Britain so he could join up and fight against Adolf Hitler. In March, 1942, while attempting his plan, Rudi was capture and eventually was sent to Auschwitz. He was seventeen. 

After surviving in Auschwitz for almost two years, Rudi, along with another prisoner, Alfred (Fred) Wetzler, successfully escaped. Two weeks after their escape, Rudi and Fred made it to Slovakia. Once in Žilina, Rudi and Fred "gave the first detailed, eyewitness accounts of the Auschwitz death factory to reach the outside world."

The narrative shifts between Rudi’s experience in the camp and his commitment to finding a way to escape and sharing the historical backstory on events that led to World War II and the Holocaust. Alternating throughout the book is the story of Gerta Sidonovà. Also from Czechoslovakia, Gerta and Rudi knew each other briefly before Rudi's attempt at escaping to Britain. Also Jewish, but with blonde hair, Gerta's wartime experience was relatively safe until later in the war when Hitler forced other countries to transport their Jewish population to the concentration camps. The book concludes with Rudi and Gerta meeting up again after the war and started a new life. 

Included is an epilogue, source notes, a very detailed bibliography and index. It would have been interesting in an author's note to read what led Sheinkin to share Rudi's story. 

This is a difficult book to read as Sheinkin does not skimp on sharing the details of the hatred and cruelty inflicted on prisoners as seen through Rudi’s eyes. A perfect book for school and public libraries. This would work well to augment a class about World War II or to spark a conversation on why people chose hate over love. A must read for Holocaust deniers!

You can go here to watch an episode of PBS's Secrets of the Dead that covered Rudi and Fred's escape. 

Friday, September 8, 2023

The Upside-Down Book of Sloths by Elizabeth Shreeve

The Upside-Down Book of Sloths
By Elizabeth Shreeve; Illustrated by Isabella Grott
Norton Young Readers. 2023

Science writer, Shreeve, explores the origins and diversity of life on Planet Earth in her latest book on Sloths. 

Sloths are fascinating creatures. They are small, lightweight and only inhabit the trees of Central and South America. Being small and lightweight, (the largest sloth is about 32 inches long and weights a maximum of 24 pounds), "enables them to climb, feed, and hang among the upper branches of tropical forests." 

Shreeve does an excellent job comparing our modern tree sloths to their ancient ancestors by highlighting their unique characteristics:
        • Small
        • Huge
        • Tree Huggers
        • Explorers
        • Shy Loners
        • tough herds
        • Leaf-Munchers
        • Ocean Foragers
        • Adorable
        • Weird
        • Slackers?

The easy to understand explanations are paired with more detailed specifics of the different species. Small fact blocks give the range, maximum size, and environmental status. For example, under the heading "Explorers", we learn that "ground sloths once travelled all over the Americas!" It was during a period of warmer weather that a sloth traveled as far north as Alaska! In a text block we learn about Eremotherium, the tallest of all prehistoric ground sloths. Its maximum size was 20 feet tall; 7,000 pounds. More facts explain the Eremotherium lived 4.9million years ago to 11,000 years ago. 

Complementing the text are Grott's illustrations.

Included is a timeline of sloth history and books and websites to learn more a out these shy loners.

Check out another book by Shreeve, Out of the Blue: How Animals Evolved from Prehistoric Seas

Click here to watch Elizabeth Shreeve give a brief talk about this book. 

Monday, September 4, 2023

The Story of the Saxophone

The Story of the Saxophone  
by Lesa Cline-Ransome
illustrated by James E. Ransome
Holiday House, 2023

Lesa Cline-Ransome and James E. Ransome are known for their award winning picture books. Many of their titles are biographies featuring well-known figures such as Harriet Tubman, Venus & Serena Williams, and Louis Armstrong. The Story of the Saxophone is a captivating picture book biography about Adolphe Sax, and a figure not known to most readers. 

As a young boy growing up in Belgium, Sax liked to tinker and build. He also played multiple instruments and made his own instruments. Sax created an instrument that had the high notes of a clarinet and the low notes of a trumpet: le saxophon. The story spans decades and continents as Sax brings his saxophone to Paris where it became a military instrument for the French Army before making its way to Mexico and eventually New Orleans as jazz music was beginning to spread.
 The narrative is inviting and lyrical, making it the perfect book to read aloud. James E. Ransome's illustrations use watercolor and and collage to portray life in the late 1800s in a realistic style with some humor mixed in at times. 

The Story of the Saxophone is a recommended purchase for school libraries, public libraries, and as a gift for children who like to tinker, create, or play music. Readers will admire Adolphe Sax's determination and ingenuity throughout the story. The Ransomes conclude the book by showing how Sax's invention had a profound impact on the world of music, specifically jazz music in the U.S. Don't miss the gorgeous illustrations of sax players on the end papers.

Monday, August 28, 2023

The Bones of Birka: Unraveling the Mystery of a Female Viking Warrior by C. M. Surrisi

The Bones of Birka: Unraveling the Mystery of a Female Viking Warrior
by C. M. Surrisi
Chicago Review Press. 2023

In 1871, Hjalmar Stolpe, visited the island of Björkö, in Lake Mälaren, Sweden. A bug scientist, Stolpe intended to look for insects that were incased in ancient amber. You can imagine Stolpe’s surprise and delight, when he discovered the one thousand years old Viking town of Birka. There, Stolpe unearths several ancient graves, one of which he meticulously numbered Bj 581. 

Grave number Bj 581 revealed the body of what Stolpe interpreted as a high-ranking, male Viking warrior and his impressive weapons and other grave goods.” 

Then, over one hundred years later, Anna Kjellström, an osteologist, someone trained to study the human skeleton and other human & animal anatomy to understand the origin, development and evolution of creatures, made a startling discovery. While examining the bones from grave Bj 581, she would conclude the bone were not male, but…female! A female warrior in the times of the Vikings? 

Surrisi, author of middle-grade novels (The Unofficial Lola Bay Fan Club), takes readers on a fascinating journey explaining what led up to Stolpe’s discovery of Grave Bj 581. Surrisi explores Viking culture, and how, with newer scientific methods to examine historical sites, sparked the furious debate regarding the role of gender identity in ancient and modern times.

Chapter Ten, Face-to-face with a Birka Warrior, offers a balanced discussion on gender politics in archeology and how understanding a society or events of the past can become distorted when we examine them using long held beliefs about sex and gender. 

Included is a glossary, questions for discussion, resources, source notes, and index.

Only 148 pages, this well-researched nonfiction title may not be the type of book you read in one sitting. With so many details about Viking culture and the science of archeology, there is a lot to absorb. Those curious about ancient life, particularly that of Vikings will appreciate it. Text blocks throughout give more detailed explanations of what is mentioned in the text. Black & white photos enhance this fascinating story. 

Click here and visit the author's web page for more resources. 

Friday, August 25, 2023

The Gentle Genius of Trees by Philip Bunting

The Gentle Genius of Trees
Written and illustrated by Philip Bunting
Crown Books for Young Readers. 2023.

For tree lovers everywhere, The Gentle Genius of Trees, is an enlightening romp as to why, "we hairy humans have a pretty special relationship with trees."

As we take a stroll through the pages of this informational picture book, readers are introduced to the life of a tree. We all know that trees provide us with some pretty cool things. (Find out in the book). And, that trees turn carbon dioxide into fresh oxygen. But, there is a whole lot more about trees we don't know. 

The book also contains a powerful life lesson. As forests need harmony so that all creatures and plant live life in harmony, so too must hairy humans. Find people who will support and look out for you, just as trees support birds, insects, and other life in the forest. 

"When things get a bit rough, find the strength and flexibility to stay centered, and hold on." The accompanying illustration show a child holding on to a tree that is being blown sideways by a rough wind.

Australian author and artist, Buntings clever illustrations, done using collage, gouache, and digital painting, have some added humor with very funny speech bubbles, (How do you make an oak tree laugh?  Tell it acorn-y joke) will keep young readers pouring over the pictures to be sure they don't miss a thing. 

A word on the importance of tree conservation is also included. 

Monday, August 21, 2023

New Nonfiction- August 2023


More Than a Dream: The Radical March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom
by Yohuru Williams and Michael G. Long
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Impossible Escape: A True Story of Survival and Heroism in Nazi Germany
by Steve Sheinkin
Roaring Brook Press

Accountable: The True Story of a Racist Social Media Account and the Teenagers Whose Lives It Changed
by Dashka Slater
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Learning to Be Wild: How Animals Achieve Peace, Create Beauty, and Raise Families
Young Reader's Edition
by Carl Safina
Roaring Brook Press

The Twenty-One: The True Story of the Youth Who Sued the US Government Over Climate Change
by Elizabeth Rusch
Greenwillow Books

This Boy: The Early Lives of John Lennon & Paul McCartney
by Ilene Cooper
Viking Books for Young Readers

Writing in Color: Fourteen Authors On the Lessons We've Learned
Edited by Nafiza Azad and Melody Simpson
Margaret K. McElderry Books

Bravey: Chasing Dreams, Befriending Pain, and Other Big Ideas
Adapted for Young Readers
by Alexi Pappas
Delacorte Press

Jerry Changed the Game: How Engineer Jerry Lawson Revolutionized Videos Games Forever
by Don Tate
illustrated by Cherise Harris
Simon & Schuster

Rooting for Plants: The Unstoppable Charles S. Parker, Black Botanist and Collector
by Janice Harrington
illustrated by Theodore Taylor III
Calkins Creek

A Place Called America: A Story of the Land and People
by Jennifer Thermes
Abrams Books

Friday, August 18, 2023

Not A Monster by Claudia Guadalupe Martinez

Not A Monster
Claudia Guadalupe Martinez; illustrated by Laura González
Charlesbridge. 2023

"What is this monstrous creature with feathery gills, long fins, an an intriguing smile?"
It's not a monster! It is the axolotl, a salamander whose only habitat are the canals around Mexico City. The ancient Aztec people called them water monsters.

In this charming informational picture book, readers are introduced to this ancient amphibian that never looses its gills and fins like other salamanders. Though abundant during ancient times, the axolotl began to disappear as the waters of the canal became polluted by people. The abuelos say if the axolotls disappear, "it will be the end of paradise." And, sure enough, after working to clean out all the garbage and plastic bottles, "One day, one of the amigos points. "Huevos de ajolote!" There is a burst of life as the eggs begin to hatch. The axolotls have not disappeared yet." 

The language is playful, integrating Spanish words throughout. The scientific information never overwhelms and is well balanced with the colorful, cartoon-like illustrations, created in traditional media and Photoshop. 

An author's note is included with more details about the axolotl. Did you know they are commonly bred in captivity? That people keep them as pets? They are pretty cute, don't you think?


Monday, August 14, 2023

Glitter Everywhere! : Where It Came From, Where It's Found & Where It's Going by Chris Barton

 Glitter Everywhere! : Where It Came From, Where It's Found & Where It's Going
Chris Barton; Illustrated by Chaya Prabhat
Charlesbridge. 2023

Who doesn't love glitter? When I worked at the public library, it seemed that every child who came into the Youth Services Department, regardless of their age (even those in middle and high school), were wearing the glittery stuff. On the other hand, the library director was not a fan of glitter. She didn't appreciate how those tiny, colorful pieces got everywhere and were impossible to clean up. 

But, come on! That's what glitter is all about, right?

In, Glitter Everywhere, award-winning author, Chris Barton, takes readers on a scientific journey that answers many of our questions about glitter: 
        • How it was invented?     
        • How it is made? 
        • Why does it stick to everything? 
        • Is it bad for the environment?
Accentuating the playful narrative are the cartoon-like illustrations, done digitally, full of happy individuals often covered in glitter, mirror what is being described in the text.

Text blocks that offer more details on what is being discussed are set apart with a slightly smaller font located in the upper right hand area of the page. 

What makes this title stand out is its inclusion of all the features that make a quality nonfiction title. I'm talking about an author's note, source notes and a listing of titles for further reading. Barton claims he studied over 100+ sources on glitter, and it shows in how he does not shy away from addressing what is true and not true surrounding everything relating to glitter.

My director would have loved knowing that there is a global conversation to ban glitter because of its negative effects on the environment. (Think, microplastics!) 
 "Should the solution be NO MORE GLITTER?"
Even new biodegradable glitter, according to scientists, still harm aquatic life. 

What's the solution? You'll have to read, Everywhere Glitter, to form your own opinion.

Highly recommended.

Visit Chris Barton's website for a list of other books he has written. 

Friday, August 11, 2023

Doomed: Sacco, Vanzetti & the End of the American Dream by John Florio and Ouisie Shapiro

Doomed: Sacco, Vanzetti & the End of the American Dream
By John Florio and Ouisie Shapiro
Roaring Brook Press. 2023

The story of Sacco & Vanzetti has been something I've known about since childhood. My maternal grandparents were Italian. They both immigrated to the United States around 1906, around the same time as Sacco & Vanzetti. Though my grandparents never met Sacco & Vanzetti, they knew discrimination first-hand and strongly believed the two men were wrongly accused just because they were Italian.

Nicola Sacco arrived in the United States, the land of dreams, on April 12, 1908. He was sixteen-years-old. On June 19, 1908, twenty-year-old Bartolomero Vanzetti, landed in New York Harbor, also eager to pursue the American dream. 

This fast-paced, action-packed nonfiction narrative gives readers a front row seat in this controversial trial that made headlines around the world. 

The book is engaging, with black & white well-captioned historic photos completing the text. The inclusion of what was happening throughout the world offers a broad perspective on what led up to the negative attitude Americans felt towards Italian immigrants. The authors, Florio and Shapiro, do not shy away from the cruel nature of the death sentence and the horrific practice of death by the electric chair.

In the epilogue, the authors explore why Sacco & Vanzetti did not have fair trial and how, in 1977, Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis issued an apology and declared, "that the trial "was permeated by prejudice against foreigners and hostility toward unorthodox political views.""

Included are source notes, bibliography, and index.

If you do not know the story of Sacco & Vanzetti, then make time to read Doomed. Booktalk it to students who have an interest in history. 

Monday, August 7, 2023

The Queen of Chess : How Judit Polgár Changed the Game by Laurie Wallmark

The Queen of Chess: How Judit Polgár Changed the Game
by Laurie Wallmark; Art by Steve Lewis
Little Bee Books. 2023

Judit Polgár was born on July 23, 1976 in Hungary. From a very young age, she was fascinated by the game of chess. Her parents trained Judit, and her older sisters, Susan and Sofia, to play genius-level chess. Judit excelled. She'd memorize the patterns of pieces in thousands of difficult chess puzzles. 

Can you tell that Judit loved chess. She was a natural, and, a ferocious competitor. 

"By age eight, Judit had won junior tournaments and was beating strong adult players. At age nine, she was ready for a bigger challenge, so the whole family flew to the United States for the girls to compete in the New York Open."

To hone her skills, Judit and her sister, Sofia, played blindfold chess. Blindfold chess is when you don't use a chessboard. You announce your moves aloud and just imagine the position of each piece and calculate its possible moves. 

In this picture book biography, prolific nonfiction writer, Laurie Wallmark brings readers along as she traces this child prodigy who broke barriers and, at age fourteen, became the youngest grandmaster in history. 

The exciting, fast-paced narrative is supported by the artwork of Steve Lewis. The illustrations show a very determined young girl who found such joy in playing chess. Where the adult players are frowning and looking worried, young Judit always has a hidden smile. 

Judit retired from competitive chess in 2014. 

Backmatter includes a timeline and an explanation on the mathematics of chess. The book does not include any source notes or a bibliography for further reading. 

For chess fans everywhere, regardless of their age.

Friday, August 4, 2023

Polar: Wildlife at the Ends of the Earth by L. E. Carmichael

Polar: Wildlife At The Ends of the Earth
Written by L. E. Carmichael; Illustrated by Byron Eggenschwiler
Kids Can Press. 2023

In this large format, informational picture book, nonfiction writer, Carmichael, investigates how animals survive throughout the year in the harsh environments of The Arctic Circle (The North Pole) and Antarctica (The South Pole). Carmichael states, "These two areas contain some of the harshest habitats on this planet." 

Yet, despite being at opposite ends of Earth, these two regions have a lot in common weather-wise. "They are bitterly cold, freeze-dried wildernesses, where the wind can blow harder than hurricanes. They are also the only places on Earth were daylight - and darkness - lasts up to six months."

Using double-page spreads with digitally created illustrations by Eggenschwiler, the author compares the two regions, month-by-month, by looking at a different aspect of how animals survive in these regions. "A Warm Blanket," starts off in March were we learn of the challenge of staying warm for polar animals in both the Arctic and Antarctica. For the Arctic where daylight returns, the arctic fox, to stay warm, has thick fur covering their toe pads. While March in Antartica, the sun sets and for six months there is no sun, only darkness. We see how a seabird, off course and exhausted, must struggle to stay warm while it waits out a storm before "winging back home to the open sea."

Included is comments on climate change and its impact on the polar regions, why polar regions are important to the rest of the world, how to take action to stop climate change. In addition is a list of online resources, a glossary, resources for further reading, and an index.

The book does a good job of comparing and contrasting these fascinating regions.  There is just enough information to peek a child's curiosity. 

Monday, July 31, 2023

The Other Pandemic: An AIDS Memoir by Lynn Curlee

The Other Pandemic: An AIDS Memoir
Lynn Curlee
Charlesbridge Teen. An Imprint of Charlesbridge Publishing. 2023

Award-winning author and illustrator, Lynn Curlee, (2002 Robert. F. Sibert Honor Book for Brooklyn Bridge), steps away from his usual topics that center on great historic structures and architectural icons to pen a very personal memoir reflecting on his experience of being a gay man during the AIDS epidemic. 

To place the memoir in some context that young people will understand, The Other Pandemic draws some comparisons to COVID-19 - how vast numbers of people were infected from a virus that spread like wildfire. Unlike COVID-19, people lived in "sheer terror" of contracted AIDS. Until after 1995, "a diagnosis of AIDS was an automatic death sentence." 

"Imagine that it is 1960, and you are twelve years old. Imagine life with social media. There is no Instagram or TikTok. Imagine life without smartphones or texting. Imagine what it's like growing up with one phone for you entire family, and it sits on a side table in your living room, with no privacy for personal calls. How about no computers at all? There is no gaming or any other fun or useful things you can do on a laptop or tablet. Televison has only three channels, most people still have black and white TV sets, and there are no remotes. You can listen to recorded music only on tinny-sounding radios or by playing vinyl discs on a turntable. There is no "online." If you want to find information about something, you consult an encyclopedia or go to the library. 

Woven into the text is how Curlee's life was shaped by the AIDS epidemic amist the rise of the LGBTQ+ movement. He also shares how he came to work as an artist, author, and illustrator of books for young people. 

Back matter starts with a moving tribute consisting of brief bio's of friends, and Lyn's partner, John Martin, who all died of AIDS (John Martin died at age 46).  Also included is an epilogue, a brief explanation on the origins of AIDS, an author's note, references of music mentioned in the text, source notes, a selected bibliography, and index. 

A powerful, moving, important book.

Friday, July 28, 2023

The Forest Keeper: The True Story of Jadav Payeng

 The Forest Keeper: The True Story of Jadav Payeng
by Rina Singh; Illustrated by Ishita Jain
North South Books. An Imprint of NordSüd Verlag AG. Switzerland. 2023.

"In the northeast of India flows a river so mighty that people who live on its many islands call it a moving ocean." 

The island of Majuli is located in a remote corner of northeast India in the Brahmaputra River. Over time, the river has gouged out much of the landmass. In, The Forest Keeper, we are introduced to a tradesman from Moduli, Jadav Molai Payeng. 

When Jadav was a boy of sixteen, he discovered hundreds of water snakes that had washed up on the sandbar and died under the burning hot sun. Devastated by the loss of the snakes, Jadav had the idea to plant trees on the sandbar. The elders said no trees would grow on a sandbar. The workers at the forest department were not interested in helping. But, they did give him a bag with bamboo seedlings and said, "Go plant them yourself."

And, he did. 

His forest stretches now over 1,359 acres. That is larger than Central Park in New York City. According to the afterward, in 2009, a wildlife photographer accidentally stumbled upon the forest. Jadav is no longer anonymous. There have been articles written about him, and even a film honored his ingenuity. Jadav is called The Forest Man.

The narrative of this simply told informational picture book is accented with the colorful watercolor illustration by Indian artist, Ishita Jain. 

Though the book lacks any listing of additional resources, it is one to inspire readers that one person can change the world.

Click here to watch a 14 minute trailer of The Forest Man documentary.

Monday, July 24, 2023

Breaking News : Why Media Matters by Raina Delisle

Breaking News: Why Media Matters

Book 10 in the Orca Think series

Raina Delisle; Illustrated by Julie McLaughlin

Orca Book Publishers. 2023

As we head into the next presidential election, making sure we can detect facts from fake news is a must. In, Breaking News, Canadian journalist, Raina Delisle, an award-winning writer whose work as been featured in magazines, newspapers, and on the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation), offers a very balanced look at the media industry, its history, its role of keeping the public informed, and the challenges news outlets face with the rise of disinformation (fake news) on social media sites.

The six chapters are: News You Can Use; Media Matters; Making the News; Press Under Pressure; Saving Journalism; Become a News House. 

The narrative is engaging and takes into account the many challenges news outlets face today, and throughout history. In Chapter Four, Press Under Pressure, Delisle states: “News organizations and journalists face lots of challenges today, many of which have been brought on or intensified by the internet and social media.” Delisle explores how, in the early days of the internet, media outlets offered their stories for free. As people became dependent on the free news sites, to save money, they canceled their print subscriptions. Thus, advertisers moved their ads online, to Google and Facebook, making it challenging, or impossible, for many newspapers and magazines to stay in business. 

Competing for readers attention has brought about journalists writing more sensational stories. “If it bleeds, it leads.” 

Delisle does an excellent job of balancing the negative with the positive. For example, though many newspapers and magazines have shuttered newsrooms, leaving many small towns with no local news, there is a growing movement of non-profit news outlets that are fighting fake news by reporting the facts. 

Side bars are throughout giving more details of what is explained in the text.

Included is a glossary, a list of resources, and index.

I personally found the book insightful and gave me tools to better help me tell fact from fake news as I look for news I can believe.