Monday, October 30, 2023
Friday, October 27, 2023
By Candy Dahl; Illustrated by Maithili Joshi
little bee books. 2023
Tiny Jumper tells the story of Georgia Ann Thompson. Nicknamed Tiny because of her small statute - she never reached five feet in height. This Tiny Jumper had courage, huge courage, and determination who followed her dreams of becoming the first woman to use a parachute.
Born on April 8, 1893, Georgia Ann Thompson was only three pounds at birth and nicknamed, Tiny. Growing up before child labor laws, Tiny found her self working in cotton mills to help her family financially. Every day, after working in a noisy, dusty factory, Tiny, “would climb to a treetop to get away from everything and imagine rising UP…far away from fields and mills.”
Tiny was determined and in 1907, after seeing a man float down to earth using a silk parachute, knew being an aeronaut was her life calling.
“When I saw that balloon go up, and I gawked at it as it ascended into the heavens, I knew I’d never be the same.”
In 1908, Tiny began touring with Charles Broadwick, he legally adopted her, “so it would be deemed proper for her to travel with him.” She made her first jump from a hot-air balloon. By age twenty, Tiny was the first woman to parachute from an airplane (1913), and, in 1914, created the rip cord after her parachute line became tangled in the plane’s tail while demonstrating for the United States Amy Air-Corps.
Though she broke arms, shoulders, ankles, and feet, Tiny never gave up until she was forced to retire at age twenty-nine because of her ankles.
Included is an author’s note with some photos of Tiny Broadwick, and a selected bibliography. Placed in a darker colored text block throughout the book are quotes from Broadwick, though there are no source notes to show where the author got those quotes.
This is a very exciting informational picture book about an extraordinary woman. The full page illustrations by Joshi complement the text.
Monday, October 23, 2023
:01 First Second, an imprint of Roaring Book Press. 2023
Food is a focal point in this memoir told in graphic format about Thien Pham and his family’s journey from Vietnam to America. Each culinary memory brings Thien one step closer to fitting in.
The book begins with Thien as an adult, sitting at his desk ready to begin his story by asking himself what is his first memory. We turn the page and we see a boat full of people, refugees, fleeing Vietnam. Thien is five. He recalls being hungry and thirsty until a ship stops and sells them food. Mmmm! Watermelon. But, soon after, pirates attack the ship. Thien’s mother tells him to hold on tight to her. “Don’t let go.” After the brutal attack ends, Thien remembers eating a rice ball his mother had saved in her pocket. “I can still taste that rice ball…the saltiness of the fish…the sweetness of the rice.”
After a stay in a refugee camp, the family finds a sponsor who brings them to sunny San Jose, California where the family works hard in their pursuit of the American Dream.
Each chapter, eight in all, show Thien navigating American culture as he grows. In the last chapter, chapter 8: Rice and Fish, Thien is an adult. He teaches art in a college and is distressed by the news. “-Let’s send them back where they came from! Build the Wall! Build the Wall! Build the Wall! Build the Wall! When he expresses his sorrow at the hateful rhetoric, his friends and colleagues say that the only way to change the hate is to become a US citizen and vote. The book closes with the naturalization ceremony where Thien and many others from around the world are graced with a special message from President Barak Obama.
“Remember, that in America, no dream is impossible. Like the millions of immigrants who have come before you, you have the opportunity to enrich this country through your contributions to civic society. You can help write the next great chapter in our American story. Together, we can keep the beacon that is America burning bright for all the world to see.”
Afterwards, Thien registers to vote!
The last part of Family Style is drawn in black and white, has Thien answering questions fans asked about the making of the book.
Middle and high school students will appreciate the underlying message of accepting people based on who they are inside, especially with today’s current events. “Just find good people. It doesn’t matter where they come from or where they are. Just find people who will go out of their way to make you happy and who you’d do the same for.”
Friday, October 20, 2023
Monday, October 16, 2023
by Janice N. Harrington
illustrated by Theodore Taylor III
Calkins Creek, 2023
Rooting for Plants introduces young readers to Charles S. Parker, black botanist who spent his life studying plants and sharing his love of botany with others. Using a narrative writing style, Harrington describes Parker's early life growing up in Spokane, Washington and his harrowing experience serving in World War I in this picture book biography.
The book captures Parker's passion for identifying, collecting, and growing herbs and plants and his lifelong quest to learn and teach others about botany. Parker shared his knowledge of plants with black students as a professor at Howard University in the 1930s and 40s.
Bold digital artwork depicts Parker in the field collecting specimens. Taylor captures the textures and colors of nature in illustrations of plants, herbs and fungi, at times using frames to show snapshots of the specimens.
Readers who are inspired to learn more about Parker or the field of botany should be sure to read the extensive back matter including a glossary of science terms, brief bios of other black botanists, a timeline, and bibliography of selected sources.
Friday, October 13, 2023
Creative Editions. 2023
“An Arctic tern can fly as many as 50,000 miles in its annual migration.”
In his first book, Musso does an excellent job bringing readers along as they follow the migratory path of a female Arctic Tern as she travels from Weddell Sea, Antarctica to the Arctic Coast, Alaska and back to Weddell Sea, Antarctica.
Readers will be swept along with the simple language, no more than one or two lines per spread, yet each sentence conveys so much of what is reflected in Musso’s woodcuts that are based on his field drawings while exploring remote regions on foot with only his backpack and a sketchbook. The pictures are gorgeous and reflect perfectly the beauty of the natural world.
“She passes giants as they feed.” The pictures shows many Arctic Terns circling in the clear blue sky, diving for fish, while hungry whales are waiting for one of the terns to drop a fish in their mouths.
In the corner of each spread, Musso places an image of the Earth and uses a broken while line to mark the path the Arctic Tern is taking. He marks the month, number of miles traveled, and where the Tern is on her journey.
After traveling 25,000 miles brings the female and mate to their nesting site on the Arctic Coast, Alaska. Four weeks later, in August, Parents and one baby being their journey back to Weddell Sea, Antarctica.
Included is more details about the Arctic Tern (Sterna paradisaea) and identifies animals the tern saw along the way.
Pair this book with Polar : Wildlife At The Ends of the Earth by L. E. Carmichael.
Tuesday, October 10, 2023
by Melissa Stewart
illustrated by Jessica Lanan
Alfred A. Knopf, 2023
Thank You, Moon hits shelves today. This science nonfiction picture book from Melissa Stewart and Jessica Lanan highlights the relationship between the moon and the behavior of nocturnal animals. Stewart employs a parallel structure as the lyrical, narrative shows readers how animals respond to the moon. Expository paragraphs provide scientific details about the animals and their habitats. Gorgeous watercolor and pencil illustrations depict plants and animals in the moon's light.
We had the opportunity to interview Melissa Stewart about Thank, You Moon and writing nonfiction for children.
Author Interview with Melissa Stewart
The Nonfiction Detectives: How do you find topics to write about?
Melissa Stewart: I write about science because I’m fascinated by the natural world. I’m constantly encountering things that make me ask questions. And to satisfy my curiosity, I want to know more, more, more. Learning more gets me so excited that I’m dying to share my new knowledge with other people. That’s what fuels my writing.
For me, ideas are everywhere. They come from books and articles I read, conversations with other people, places I visit, and experiences I have. The hard part isn’t getting ideas. It’s remembering them when it’s time to start working on a new book.
That’s why I have an Idea Board in my office, hanging right above my desk. Anytime I have an idea, I write it on a scrap of paper and tack it up there. Some of those ideas lead nowhere, but others turn into books.
Young writers can keep a list of their own on the last page of their writer’s notebook. I call this an Idea Incubator.
The Nonfiction Detectives: What led you to write Thank You, Moon and the topic of how animals depend on the Moon?
Melissa Stewart: My editor, Katherine Harrison, gets all the credit. In February 2020, she tagged me on Twitter, alerting me to a conversation about how animals respond to the Moon’s cycle, and asked “Is this something you’d potentially be interested in writing? I just can’t get enough of the moon these days, and I feel like you could bring something special to it.” She also included a beautiful, eerie, mysterious image of the Moon partially obscured by clouds. It was an irresistible invitation.
Not only was it a fascinating topic that had never been written about in a children’s book before, I immediately knew how I’d end the book. I could draw inspiration from a special moment I’d shared with my nieces, Caroline and Claire, about 15 years ago.
As I discuss in this video, when Caroline was in kindergarten and Claire was in second grade, I did an author visit at their school in Maine. They wanted to ride to school with me rather than take the bus, and on the way, I spotted the Moon.
“Oh, look, there’s the Moon,” I said, pointing out the passenger-side window.
Claire, who was on that side of the car, could easily see it. “Oh yeah. Cool,” she replied.
But Caroline couldn’t see it. She squirmed wildly in her car seat. “Where? Where?” she yelled. As her frustration grew, she exclaimed, “I’ve never seen the Moon in the day in my whole long life!”
So I pulled the car over, and we all got out to admire that lovely, surprising daytime Moon. I’ll never forget Caroline’s joy and astonishment in that moment. She was discovering something new and exciting about how nature works.
Even as an adult, spotting the Moon in the day is still a special treat. It feels a tiny bit magical because you aren’t expecting it. I wanted to capture that emotion at the end of the book, and it felt simpatico with the image Katherine had sent me.
The Nonfiction Detectives: How did you decide on which animals to highlight in Thank You, Moon?
I also looked for ways to pair the animals by survival strategies to create a compare and contrast text structure. Some animals depend on the Moon to find food. Others rely on it to stay safe or reproduce or travel from place to place.
The Nonfiction Detectives: What was your writing process for Thank You, Moon? Did you write the main text first and then add the more detailed secondary text?
Melissa Stewart: When I write expository literature, I begin by looking for a hook--a unique lens that will spark the reader’s curiosity and encourage them to think about the topic in a new way.
When a book has a strong hook, it’s often built right into the title, so brainstorming titles is one way to discover the great hook. It can really help to toss around ideas with a friend, so one Saturday, I asked my husband to help me think of possible titles while we cleaned the house. The ideas could be good or bad, silly or serious, anything at all. Any unique way of thinking about “our closest companion in space.” I liked the sound of that phrase, so I wrote it down to get us started.
A few hours later, the dust bunnies were gone, the bathroom sparkled, and we’d filled a notebook page with ideas. The next day, I typed them into a computer file along with all the adjectives I could think of to describe the Moon photo Katherine had sent me. My goal was to create a manuscript that evoked that image.
It didn’t take long for the title Thank You, Moon and the lens of gratitude to rise to the top. After all, life on Earth—including us—couldn’t exist without the Moon to regulate Earth’s seasons.
I also thought it would be possible to use the phrase repetitively to craft the kind of lyrical voice I wanted for the book.
Once I had a hook and I knew the text structure, I could start to write. I wrote the lyrical main text and more detailed secondary text in tandem, moving those large chunks around until I had an order that flowed well and represented the diversity of creatures, habitats, and geographical regions that would appeal to a broad, global audience.
The Nonfiction Detectives: Some writers say they write a certain number of words every day. What is your writing routine?
Melissa Stewart: I don’t have daily word goals, but I do try to set aside the first few hours of my workday for writing rough drafts or complex revisions. I’m a morning person, so that’s when my brain is at its best.
I do most of my writing in a spare bedroom in my house. My husband leaves for work at 5:45 a.m., so that’s when I start to write.
When I get stuck, I stop to take a shower. Something about the steam and running water frees my mind, and I usually solve the problem. After lunch, I switch my focus to researching, planning school visits, and taking care of business tasks. I stop working at 4:30 p.m., so I can start making dinner.
The Nonfiction Detectives: What is your research process? Do you use your local library to find information?
Melissa Stewart: I get information in four ways—reading books, articles, and scientific papers; using the internet (carefully), firsthand observations in nature, and interviewing experts. I do use the library and interlibrary loan to get books. I also am a heavy user of the library’s databases, which I can access online.
The Nonfiction Detectives: How do you keep track of all the information you collect as you do research?
Melissa Stewart: There are some fancy computer programs that many people use, but I find it’s simpler to just dump everything into a computer file, which is easy to search. I organize everything by source, so I know where to look if I need to clarify my notes or go back for additional information. It helps that I have a very good memory. I can often picture where I found specific information without having to look it up.
Here’s a list of 20 titles I’m particularly excited about. You’ll probably notice a science slant because that’s my personal area of interest:
Accountable: The True Story of a Racist Social Media Account and the Teenagers Whose Lives It Changed by Dashka Slater
The Book of Turtles Sy Montgomery and Matt Patterson
Butt or Face? A Hilarious Animal Guessing Game Book for Kids by Kari Lavelle
The Deep!: Wild Life at the Ocean’s Darkest Depths by Lindsey Leigh
The Fire of Stars: The Life and Brilliance of the Woman Who Discovered What Stars Are Made Of by Kirsten Larson, illustrated by Katherine Roy
The Girl Who Heard the Music: How One Pianist and 85,000 Bottles and Cans Brought New Hope to an Island by Marni Fogelson, Mahani Teave, illustrated by Marta Álvarez Miguéns
Glitter Everywhere! Where It Came From, Where It’s Found, & Where It’s Going by Chris Barton, illustrated by Chaaya Prabhat
Great Carrier Reef by Jessica Stremer, illustrated by Gordy Wright
The Green Piano: How Little Me Found Music by Roberta Flack and Tonya Bolden,
illustrated by Hayden Goodman
How Do You Spell Unfair? MacNolia Cox and the National Spelling Bee by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Frank Morrison
Impossible Escape: A True Story of Survival and Heroism in Nazi Europe by
Jumper: A Day in the Life of a Backyard Jumping Spider by Jessica Lanan
Making More: How Life Begins by Katherine Roy
The Monkey Trial: John Scopes and the Battle Over Teaching Evolution by Anita Sanchez
Mysterious Glowing Mammals: An Unexpected Discovery Sparks a Scientific Investigation by Maria Parrott-Ryan
Nature Is a Sculptor: Weathering and Erosion by Heather Ferranti Kinser
Rise to the Sky: How the World’s Tallest Trees Grow Up by Rebecca E. Hirsch, illustrated by Mia Posada
Sisters in Science: Marie Curie, Bronia Dluska, and the Atomic Power of Sisterhood by Linda Elovitz Marshall, illustrated by Anna and Elena Balbusso
Superpod: Saving the Endangered Orcas of the Pacific Northwest by Nora Nickum
To Boldly Go: How Nichelle Nichols and Star Trek Helped Advance Civil Rights by Angela Dalton, illustrated by Lauren Semmer
One book that I’m dying to read is The Mona Lisa Vanishes: A Legendary Painter, a Shocking Heist, and the Birth of a Global Celebrity by Nicolas Day. I’ve heard so many good things about it.
It’s worth mentioning that I first heard about many of these books right here on the Nonfiction Detectives blog. Thank you for creating such a valuable resource for teachers, librarians, parents, and nonfiction creators like me.