Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Monday, November 27, 2023

The Book of Turtles by Sy Montgomery & Matt Patterson

The Book of Turtles
Sy Montgomery & Matt Patterson
Clarion Books. An Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

“Sometime around 240 million years ago — about the time of the first dinosaurs, and 9 million years before the first crocodile — the shell invented the turtle.”

Award-winner science writer, Montgomery, mastery at engaging readers is on display here. Her mixing scientific facts with portraits of some of the world’s most famous turtles. Readers also learn “Extreme Turtle” facts: Which turtle is the largest, smallest, fastest, flattest, longest necks, most colorful, stinkiest and longest life span. 

Did you know turtles have many talents? Myrtle, a 90-year-old wood turtle learned how to navigate a maze just as quickly as laboratory rats. A surprising fact is that Eastern box turtles can scale a chain-link fence. 

Paired with the narrative are Matt Patterson’s photo-like illustrations. Rendered in acrylic paint, the name of each turtle is included in italics.

Like all wildlife, turtles are in sharp decline. Montgomery suggests ways we can help turtles survive. Best tip: if you see a turtle in the road, carefully pick it up and move it out of harms way.

To learn more about this charming book, watch Sy and Matt in this video

Friday, November 24, 2023

Nonfiction News- November 2023


As we enter awards season, several nonfiction titles have already been recognized for their literary merit.

The graphic novel memoir, A First Time for Everything by Dan Santat, won the National Book Award for Young People's Literature.

Border Crossings by Sneed Collard III received the Orbis Pictus Award at the NCTE Conference last weekend. Visit the Orbis Pictus site to the full list of honor books and recommended titles.

The National Science Teaching Association (NSTA) recently released their list of Outstanding Science Trade Books.

The list includes many excellent nonfiction texts from 2023.

Monday, November 20, 2023

Womats Are Pretty Weird: a [not so] serious guide by Abi Cushman

Wombats Are Pretty Weird: a [not so] serious guide

Abi Cushman

Greenwillow Books. An Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.


This informational picture books on wombats is quite charming. Cushman combines scientific facts with anthropomorphized illustrations. 

Readers will learn that Wombats are marsupials and only live in Australia. (Marsupial is a type of mammal that generally carries its young in a pouch.) There are three species: Southern Hairy-Nosed Wombat, Northern Hairy-Nosed Wombat, and the Bare-Nosed Wombat.

Some cool facts about wombats are : 

They have backward-facing pouches that helps keep the dirt out when the mom is digging. 

Their butts are armored with a layer of cartilage to protect themselves from predators when they run into their burrows.

Wombats are the only animal that has cube-shaped poop! 

The full-color artwork, drawn in pencil and colored digitally, bring a perfect balance to narrative. Even if you are not that interested in wombats, it is a great book to share. Readers will appreciate the dry humor of the snake who adds some comic relief to this playful, full-of-facts nonfiction title. 

Included are some more specific facts of the three species of wombats, suggestions for further reading, and a glossary (“What’s a gloss-ar-ree?” asked our friend, snake) 

Click here to visit the author's website for some fun downloadable activities related to this book, and other titles by Cushman.

Friday, November 17, 2023

Beulah Has a Hunch!: Inside the Colorful Mind of Master Inventor Beulah Louise Henry by Katie Mazeika

Beulah Has a Hunch! Inside the Colorful Mind of Master Inventor Beulah Louise Henry
Katie Mazeika
Beach Lane Books. An Imprint of Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing Division.

It certainly is refreshing to have so many books that highlight the accomplishments of women. In, Beulah Has a Hunch, readers will learn of Beulah Louise Henry, a young woman who defied the conventions of her time. Without formal education, at the time of her death, Beulah held the record for the most mechanical patents granted to a woman. Remarkable!

Whenever she spotted a problem, her mind would fixate,” working until she found a solution. But it was hard to be an inventor at a time when women were not taught science or math. Beulah was supposed to grow up and be a proper lady, not an inventor. Yet, her determination was evident.

Despite the lack of support in the male-dominated world, Beulah’s first patent was for an interchangeable fabric covered parasol. It was such a success that Beulah was able to purchase two manufacturers of her own. With her hunches, Beulah invented everything from toys, ice cream makers to factory machinery. 

By her fortieth birthday she held more patents than any other woman in history.” 

Beulah was able to see in her mind fully formed all her hunches, products, and inventions. She attributed this gift to having hyperphantasia, an ability to picture things in extreme detail, and synesthesia, her “color-hearing” as Beulah described it. 

Included in this delightful informational biography, an author’s note with more information onn Beulah Louise Henry, pictures of a few of her inventions, a few historic photos of Beulah, and source notes. 

A great book to share with students of all ages.

Monday, November 13, 2023

New Nonfiction- November 2023


Attacked: Pearl Harbor and the Day War Came to America
by Marc Favreau
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Why Do Elephants Have Big Ears?
by Steven Jenkins and Robin Page
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Rising Above: The Wataru "Wat" Misaka Story
by Hayley Diep
illustrated by Naomi Giddings
Triumph Books

The Bone Wars: The True Story of an Epic Battle to Find Dinosaur Fossils
by Jane Kurtz
illustrated by Alexander Vidal
Beach Lane Books

Coyote's Wild Home 
by Lily Kingsolver and Barbara Kingsolver
painted by Paul Mirocha

Be Thankful for Water: How Water Sustains Our Planet
by Harriet Ziefert
illustrated by Brian Fitzgerald
Little Comet

Stone Age Beasts
by Ben Lerwill
illustrated by Grahame Baker-Smith
Candlewick Press

Above the Trenches: A WWI Flying Ace Tale
by Nathan Hale
Amulet Books

Friday, November 10, 2023

Masked Hero: How Wu Lien-teh Invented the Mask that Ended an Epidemic by Dr. Shan Woo Liu and Kaili Liu Gormley

Masked Hero: How Wu Lien-teh invented the Mask That Ended an Epidemic

Dr. Shan Woo Liu and Kaili Liu Gromley; Illustrated by Lisa Wee

MIT Kids Press, an imprint of Candlewick Press. 2023

This informational picture book biography takes place more than a hundred years before the COVID-19 pandemic. It is the story of Dr. Wu Lien-teh who is known for his expertise in germs and promoting masks to prevent the spread of diseases. 

Born March 10, 1879, in Penang, Malaya, Lien-teh wanted to grow up and become a doctor. At age seventeen, in 1896, he wins a scholarship that allows him to study at Cambridge University in England. After graduating in 1903, Lien-teh returned to his hometown of Penang, Malaya. Hoping to secure a job, he was met with discrimmination. “When he applied for a job, the authorities turned him away, saying it was open only to British citizens of European descent.” Still, that didn’t stop him. Lien-teh continued to study and later, moved to China to help lead a new medical college. 

In 1910, when a terrible disease swept into the Northeast area of China, the Chinese authorities requested Dr Lien-teh traveled to the city of Harbin to help. When Dr. Lien-teh discovered the disease was spread by bacterial germs when people coughed, “he had to think of a way to stop these germs — and fast.”

Using layers of gauze and cotton, Dr. Lien-teh created a thick mask that covered the entire face. Yes. There were those who refused to wear the mask, but those who did not, even doctors, became sick. With the support of the community, wearing a mask proved successful. As was the quarantining the city. No traveling in or out. Deaths dwindled and soon, by March of 1911, the plague was over. Dr. Lien-teh’s mask had stopped the disease from spreading in fewer than four months.

Because of his work in establishing hospitals and colleges throughout China that embraced medical advances, “…Lien-teh would be nominated for a Nobel Prize in 1935, the first person of Chinese descent to earn that honor.” 

Wee’s digitally created illustrations are colorful and complement the text.

An uplifting story that, hopefully, will spread the word that the decision to wear a mask is a positive decision, one that shows ones support for your community. 

The book is written by Wu Lien-teh’s great-granddaughter, Dr. Shan Woo Liu, and her daughter, Kaili Liu Gormley. 

Included is a timeline, a note from Dr. Shan Woo Liu, and a selected bibliography. 

Monday, November 6, 2023

Shipwrecked! Diving for Hidden Time Capsules on the Ocean Floor by Martin W. Sandler

Shipwrecked! Diving for Hidden Time Capsules on the Ocean Floor

Martin W. Sandler

Astra Young Readers. An Imprint of Astra Books for Young Readers


Do you have students who are fascinated with the ancient world? Curious about what secrets still lie on the ocean floor? If so, then hand them, Shipwrecked! 

In, Shipwrecked!, Sandler explores seven of the world’s most incredible shipwrecks: Antikythera, Cape Gelidonya, Shinan, The Mary Rose, São José de Africa, The Hunley, The Erbus and The Terror? The writing is concise and gives lots of detail on how the initial discovery was made, and the effort needed to recover and record the artifacts found on the ocean floor. Each discovery, the first one, Antikythera, in 1900, would, interestingly, further the field of marine archeology.  Each exploration would find scientists inventing better tools to make the extraction of the artifacts more efficient, and safer.

There are color photos throughout that show some of the artifacts discovered, and text blocks set off in a wash of light blue that offers more indepth explanations on topics or individuals mentioned within the text. As an example, Scuba Diving mentions Jacques Cousteau and Emile Gagnan, the developers of the Aqualung. 

The final chapter, “For Further Exploration”, lists a few more ancient shipwrecks that have been recovered. 

Included are source notes, selected bibliography, and index. 

Since the focus of this book is on how the shipwrecks were discovered and the skills needed to recover them, round out your display with books on Jacques Cousteau, Pliny, Homer and his tale, in any edition, The Odyssey, the rush to find the Northwest Passage, an atlas of the ancient world, and other titles that can help fill in on the ancient world.


Friday, November 3, 2023

83 Days in Mariupol: a War Diary by Don Brown

83 Days in Mariupol: a War Diary

Don Brown

Clarion Books. Imprints of HarperCollins Publishers. 2023

As the war in Ukraine continues, In this powerful story told in graphic novel format, Brown recounts the suffering, senseless destruction of the 83 days Russia bombed the city of Mariupol that began on February 24, 2022. 

On display is Brown’s ability to convey the events as it happened while incorporating the pain and suffering, the agony, the anger and frustration, and skillfully balances it with the pride and patriotism of a people wondering if their country will survive. 

The city of Mariupol is important to Russia. It sits on the Sea of Azov and is Ukraine’s major shipping port that allows the export of its profitable farm products. For Russia, to capture Mariupol, it means crippling Ukraine’s economy while creating a “land bridge” that would connect Russia forces in the occupied territory of Crimea.”

As he has done in previous books that highlight major incidents that have had a lasting impact on our global landscape, Brown incorporates voices from people who actually were there.

In the prologue, Brown puts into historical context a concise explanation of the centuries old conflict between Russia and Ukraine and what led up to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022. 

Included is an afterward, source notes, and several pages of a selected bibliography.

Readers will have a deeper understanding of the patriotism, and grit of the Ukrainian people against long odds. This war will have a lasting impact on Ukraine, as well as, the global landscape.

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

The Bees of Notre Dame by Meghan P. Browne; Illustrated by E. B. Goodale

The Bees of Notre Dame
By Meghan P. Browne; Illustrated by E. B. Goodale

Random House Studio. 


In this delightful, informational pictures book with bright and captivating illustrations, readers are transported to the city of Paris. There we experience the romantic city and the life of the honeybee, as they go about their business gathering pollen from the flowers and trees in the city, laying eggs and making honey.

Until one day, everything changes.  

Readers will be fascinated to know that atop the great Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, beekeepers, like Sibyle Moulin, tends honeybee hives. When, in 2019, an electrical fire started on the roof of the cathedral, the citizens of Paris were begging to know if the bee colonies survived. For days, the world waited for news. Then, “On Good Friday, a drone flew above the charred church and captured images showing the hive boxes upright and untouched by the flames. Disaster and despair turned to relief and hope.”  

Goodale’s illustrations, rendered in monoprint, oil paint, gouache, collage, and colored pencils are colorful and pair perfectly with Browne’s enchanting text. 

Included is an author’s note and recommended reading. 

For bee lovers of all ages, The Bees of Notre Dame is a perfect story to read a story time or to students of all grades. It is a tale of hope.

P.S. I love the map of Notre Dame de Paris on the endpapers.