Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Friday, June 30, 2023

You The Story by Ruta Sepetys

You The Story: A Writer’s Guide to Craft Through Memory
Ruta Sepetys

Viking. 2023

Our lives are stories in motion. 

“Each day, you add to your story, revise it, and view it from a different angle. You erase things. Tear pages out. And sometimes, in hindsight, wish you could put them back.”

So begins this assessable guide on how to write for aspiring writers by YA novelist, Ruta Sepetys (Between Shades of Gray; Out of the Easy; Salt to the Sea; Fountains of Silence; I Must Betray You). Sepetys encourages readers to keep a diary - not a journal - to record your innermost thoughts, wishes, dreams, and everyday interactions that will be fodder for your novels. 


Because, “You are the story.”

Divided into eleven chapters, Sepetys narrative is both instructional while using her own life stories to illustrate aspects of the craft of writing fiction. Chapter titles are: Plot, Character Development, Voice, Perspective, Setting, Dialogue, Research, Revision & Input, and, Courage. 

In her conclusion, Sepetys asks readers to use writing as a vehicle for not only understanding you, but someone else? “What if exploring your memories helps heal something painful by expressing it or transforming it into something better on the page?”

Sepetys is an amazing writer. Her books are powerful and hard to put down. In, You The Story, Sepetys offers hopeful writers a workbook on how to create their own stories. It is a perfect book to use in high school ESL classes or writing groups for teens in public libraries. 

The book includes a list of references of titles important to Sepetys. 

Saturday, June 24, 2023

Contenders: Two Native Baseball Players, One World Series

Contenders: Two Native Baseball Players, One World Series
by Traci Sorell
illustrated by Arigon Starr
Kokila, 2023
Grades 2 and up

This nonfiction picture book highlights two Native baseball players who competed on opposing teams in the 1911 World Series. The narrative begins with a play-by-play of the action with John Meyers (Cahuilla) at bat for the New York Giants and Charles Bender (Ojibwe) pitching for the Philadelphia Athletics in Game One. However, this is not just a sports story about two talented players. It's about the history being made when "the first two citizens of Native Nations" play against each other in a baseball championship. It's also a story about the racism and disrespect Meyers and Bender encountered from the press, other players, managers, and the public during their careers in the Major Leagues.

After the World Series action, the story then turns to the childhood of Charles, who grew up on the White Earth Reservation in northern Minnesota and John who lived on a Cahuilla reservation in Southern California. Both boys showed a talent for playing baseball and followed different paths before becoming professional baseball players. Through the story, readers will learn about how Native children were sent away to boarding schools and forced to assimilate to the culture of Christian white people. Charles met Pop Warner at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania. Warner will be a familiar name to many readers.

Starr's realistic style illustrations are hand-drawn and digital based on archival photos. Frames and borders are effectively placed around illustrations to replicate photographs and baseball cards. Cahuilla and Ojibwe designs are beautifully incorporated into the illustrations throughout the book. Sorell brings the story to a close by pointing out that Native athletes today still face the same challenges with "derogatory chants" and "racist team mascots."

Contenders conveys the excitement of a sports story, the narrative style of a biography, and the difficult truths about the discrimination and mistreatment of Native people in the United States both past and present. It will capture the attention of sports enthusiasts, but it should be shared with a wider audience to educate children about the injustices Native athletes have faced in the past and still face in the U.S. today.

Listen to Traci Sorell and Arigon Starr discuss Contenders in this NPR interview.

Monday, June 19, 2023

The Women Who Built Hollywood by Susan Goldman Rubin

The Women Who Built Hollywood: 12 Trailblazers in Front Of and Behind the Camera
Susan Goldman Rubin

Calkins Creek. An Imprint of Astra Books for Young Readers. 2023

From 1900 until 1920’s, the movie industry was new and possibilities for women to be directors, screen writers, performers, costume designers, stunt performers, and owners of their own companies was wide open. 

Nonfiction writer, Susan Goldman Rubin, traces the careers of 12 influential women who blazed a trail for other female filmmakers: Mary Pickford, Lillian Gish, Frances Marion, Louise Beavers, Fredi Washington, Hattie McDaniel, Marion Wong, Anna My Wong, Dorothy Arzner, Margaret Booth, Clare West, Helen Holmes.

They were among the firsts in their fields and did everything from acting, writing and directing, to performing their own stunts. 

Each entry is a brief biography of each woman that highlights their careers. The writing is interesting and engaging. Accompanying each entry are black & white photos that are well-captioned.

Rubin delves into the challenges the women faced, such as sexism, racism, and prejudice. These 12 trailblazers were not afraid to speak out and have their voices heard. 

Included is an afterword, author’s note, bibliography, source notes, and index. There is also a listing of where to see early Hollywood films. 

A great read for those seeking short biographies or a perfect introduction to some of classic silent movies. For all ages.

Friday, June 16, 2023

Naked: Not Your Average Sex Encyclopedia by Myriam Daguzan Bernier

Naked: Not Your Average Sex Encyclopedia
Myriam Daguzan Bernier; Illustrated by Cécile Gariépy

Orca Book Publishers. 2022 (Originally published in France, 2019)

I was reading through juvenile nonfiction reviews on the SLJ website and this book popped up. Of course, I had to request if from the library. I am so glad I did.


Bernier, a Canadian author studying sexology at Université du Québec à Montréal, has written this very informative book for teens. The book covers 155 body-related terms covering practical information about sexuality specifically for teens. Bernier wrote Naked for the teenager she once was. “I wish the teenager I was had been told that nothing is all black and white. That identities don’t restrict themselves to two closed groups. That sexual orientations are diverse and fluctuating.” 

Each alphabet covers a specific topic. Set up a bit like a dictionary, the word appears in bold type followed by its meaning. For example: 


Application: noun, from Old French application, “act of applying something”

The paragraph that follows offers a more detailed explanation on what it is and how we can use it to our advantage. Some topics will highlight ways to seek help. Also included when applicable highlights other ways to find information the author curated from other sources. 

Bernier’s straightforward, honest explanations are very empowering, even for an elder like me. Naked offers readers answers to questions about sexuality that teens are often too afraid to ask. 

Peppered throughout are vibrant cartoon-like illustrations. 

Bernier’s narrative reinforces to teens that a fulfilling sex life has nothing to do with finding the perfect body. That love is not always all about sex. That knowing yourself, honestly knowing and loving yourself in all your glory is the best tool in having a life full of love.

Included is a list of resources by topic and an index.

Though the cover might steer librarians away, Naked is an essential purchase for today’s teens.

Monday, June 12, 2023

The Green Piano: How Little Me Found Music by Robert Flack with Tonya Bolden

The Green Piano: How Little Me Found Music

by Roberta Flack with Tonya Bolden; Illustrated by Hayden Goodman

Anne Schwartz books. an Imprint of Random House Children’s Books.


In this picture book biography, Roberta Flack, partnered with the amazing Tonya Bolden, shares her journey of how she came to be a five-time Grammy Award winner.

“It all started with a green piano.”

Music was a huge part of Roberta’s life growing up. Her father played the piano and harmonica. Her mother played piano in church. Her parents where so proud of Roberta’s gift that when she was three or four, she played at church. 

“I’d use my elbows on the ebonies

because my fingers were too short.

Mother and Daddy were so tickled by that —

and so proud of me.”

Even though her family was poor, they supported Roberta’s talent by making sure she had piano lessons, and, one day, her very own piano. Rescued from a junk yard, her parents cleaned it, tuned it, and painted it green. 

I practiced for hours and hours. Teaching myself to play songs from the radio.”

This very entertaining story features an author’s note where Roberta gives more details about her musical journey. She explains, “I decided to tell the story about my green piano because I want all the young people who have ever felt marginalized, overwhelmed, bullied, or discriminated against to know they can make their dreams come true.”  

A career highlights timeline is also included.

The narrative and illustrations by Goodman make a perfect harmony.

Another great addition to the growing titles about exceptional women. 

Click here to hear Robert discuss this book on NPR. 

Monday, June 5, 2023

The In-Between: a memoir in verse by Katie Van Heidrich

The In-Between: a memoir in verse
By Katie Van Heidrich

aladdin. An Imprint of Simon & Schuster. 2023

Katie Van Heidrich, the oldest of three, tries to navigate her broken family in this coming-of-age memoir told in verse. 

Middle schooler, Katie, for one semester, is finding life difficult after her parents divorce. Her mother is unable to keep a job, causing them to often go without food. At one point, their financial situation is so dire they must live in an extended-stay motel, all sharing the same room. A good student, Katie struggles with how her peers could view her if they knew by a situation that is not her fault. 

For example, the motel they are forced to live in is out of the school district, so Katie fears if anyone finds out she will not be able to attend her school. 

Yet, throughout, Katie uses her talent for writing to find some normalcy during this time of being in-between.

“This is the way it’s always been,

and though it’s always been

hard to do, we somehow

always figure it out,


knowing we’ve made

ways out of no ways before -“

The book includes some family photos. 

A powerful read for middle school students. 

Friday, June 2, 2023

New Nonfiction- June 2023


Great White Shark
by Claire Saxby

Glow: the Wild Wonders of Bioluminescence
by Jennifer N. R. Smith
Thames & Hudson

Champion Chompers, Super Stinkers and Other Poems by Extraordinary Animals
by Linda Ashman and Aparna Varma
Kids Can Press

How to Spacewalk
by Kathryn D. Sullivan and Michael J. Rosen
MIT Kids Press

A Vaccine Is Like a Memory
by Rajani LaRocca, MD and Kathleen Marcotte
Little Bee Books

Before Colors: Where Pigments and Dyes Come From
by Annette Bay Pimentel and Madison Safer
Abrams Books for Young Readers

Mission: Arctic: A Scientific Adventure to a Changing North Pole
by Katharine Weiss-Tuider and Christian Schneider
Greystone Kids

Glitter Everywhere!
by Chris Barton and Chaaya Prabhat

Over the Rainbow: The Science, Magic, and Meaning of Rainbows
by Rachael Davis and Wenjia Tang
Flying Eye Books

The Deep!: Wild Life at the Ocean's Darkest Depths
by Lindsey Leigh
Penguin Workshop

Ketanji: Justice Jackson's Journey to the U.S. Supreme Court
by Kekla Magoon and Laura Freeman
Quill Tree Books

The Other Pandemic: An AIDS Memoir
by Lynn Curlee
Charlesbridge Teen

Killing the Wittigo
by Suzanne Methot
ECW Press

Unaccompanied: Stories of Brave Teenagers Seeking Asylum
by Tracy White
Street Noise Books