Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Friday, December 29, 2023

Best Nonfiction of 2023

 There were many excellent nonfiction books published for children and teens in 2023. 
The following titles are some of the books that rose to the top.

The 21: The True Story of the Youth Who Sued the U.S. Government Over Climate Change
by Elizabeth Rusch

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

by Sy Montgomery and Matt Patterson

by Sneed B. Collard III and Howard Gray

Coretta's Journey: The Life and Times of Coretta Scott King
by Alice Faye Duncan and R. Gregory Christie

by Dan Santat

Loud and Proud: The Life of Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm
by Lesa Cline-Ransome and Kaylani Juanita

Whale Fall: Exploring an Ocean-Floor Ecosystem
by Melissa Stewart and Rob Dunlavey

Friday, December 15, 2023

Hidden Systems

Hidden Systems: Water, Electricity, the Internet, and the Secrets Behind the Systems We Use Every Day
by Dan Nott
RH Graphic, 2023
Grades 4 and up

From the moment I picked up Hidden Systems, I was hooked. This science graphic novel takes a deep dive into the systems in our daily lives that we don't typically think about. Have you ever wondered how electricity travels to your home or how the internet works? Did you ever think about where tap water originates? 

Dan Nott blends comic illustrations, maps, diagrams, and expository text to break down complex systems and explain them to middle grade and young adult readers in a clear and linear manner. The panels in the graphic novel effectively show change over time. Maps and diagrams are included in cutaways and insets. The book introduces scientific terms and concepts by chunking information into smaller bites and illustrating the concepts to aid comprehension.

View sample pages from Hidden Systems on Dan Nott's site. Hidden Systems would make the perfect gift book for curious readers in your life.

Friday, December 8, 2023

A Review of Three Picture Book Biographies

As the year is coming to a close, we have more books than weeks left to post reviews. To keep the momentum of posting new titles, Cathy and I thought we would offer a combined post of some delightful and engaging recently published picture book biographies. One of the attractions of picture book biographies is a great introduction to the life of someone who changed the world. We look at it as whetting a persons appetite just enough that they want to know more.

We will go alphabetically by author.

Traveling Shoes: The Story of Willye White, US Olympian and Long Jump Champion
Alice Faye Duncan; Illustrated by Keith Mallett
Calkins Creek. An Imprint of Astra Books for Young Readers. 2023

Born in 1939, Willye White was born to black parents but she “was an oddball baby with green eyes and reddish hair. My body was a lump of dark blue veins and light-bright cocoa skin.” At three days old, her parents ran away and left Willye to be raised by her maternal grandparents. In 1950, at age ten, Willye was running on the high school track team. At age 16, in 1956, Willye qualifies for the Olympic women’s track team in the long jump. Told in poetry and prose, Duncan incorporates quotes by Willye at the beginning of each chapter. Mallett’s digital illustrations complement the narrative. The author weaves the turmoil and uncertainty of the Civil Rights Movement into Willye’s life. Included is a brief biography of Willye’s life, a timeline, author’s note, and bibliography round out this excellent title.

Beautiful Noise: The Music of John Cage
by Lisa Rogers; Illustrated by Il Sung Na
a.s.b. anne schwartz books 2023

John Cage believed the sounds that surrounded him every day were music. 

“a garbage truck screeching/feet skipping/pigeons scattering/tires whispering/cats hissing/children giggling/balls bouncing/dog tags clinking/taxis vrooming…” The narrative is posed to readers as “What If’s.” “What if people stormed out of these concerts and said your music wasn’t music   but you still believed it was? Answer: “Then you’d be like John Cage.” The illustrations by Il Sung Na are a bit abstract and perfectly complement this inspiring and unusual composer. Added backmatter include an author and illustrator’s note, quotation sources, and a selected bibliography. The endpapers are amazing.

Shining Star: Vera Rubin Discovers Dark Matter
by Suzanne Slade. Pictures by Susan Reagan
Calkins Creek. An Imprint of Astra Books for Young Readers. 2023

Vera Rubin loved the stars. At night, she would study how the “twinkles of light slid across the sky. She memorized the names of constellations. Sometimes, she stayed up all night considering colossal, cosmic questions: Why did starts travel along curved paths? How did people tell time by watching stars move? Why did different stars appear in different seasons?”

Dr. Rubin’s work was important to the scientific community. She also worked hard to encourage women to study science and helped them obtain equal opportunities. Included is an author’s note, a brief description of Dr. Rubin’s Dark Matter Discovery, a timeline, additional reading, and lack & white photos of Dr. Rubin. Quotes by Dr. Rubin are placed in italics on every double page spread. The illustrations by Reagan, created with hand-painted watercolor washes and ink lines that are combined and enhanced digitally in Photoshop, reflect back the words and life of this very important female scientist.

Each book would be an excellent read aloud for all ages.

Monday, December 4, 2023

Coretta's Journey

Coretta's Journey: The Life and Times of Coretta Scott King
by Alice Faye Duncan
illustrated by R. Gregory Christie
Calkins Creek, 2023
Grades 3 and up

Coretta's Journey eloquently blends poetry and prose to tell the life story of civil rights activist, Coretta Scott King. This powerful picture book biography is organized chronologically and includes dates to help readers place the events in history. Duncan incorporates quotes into the narrative and poems as she describes the life and accomplishments of the fearless and steady civil rights leader, mother and wife.

Christie's mixed media watercolor illustrations evoke a range of emotions from joy and wonder to determination and grief. Rich back matter includes photographs, a timeline and author's note. Coretta's Journey is a recommended purchase for upper elementary and middle grade readers. Look for the title to appear on awards lists in the coming months!

Friday, December 1, 2023

Tee Time On The Moon by David A. Kelly

Tee Time On The Moon: How Astronaut Alan Shepard Played Lunar Golf

David A. Kelly; Illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham

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

The Apollo 14 took off for the moon in 1971. Alan Shepard, Stuart Roosa and Edgar Mitchell were all on board. What Roosa and Mitchell didn’t know is that Shepard had a secret. He had brought something special with him…in a sock.

This fun informational picture book tells the story of how, after doing their work as astronauts - conducting scientific experiments, collecting soil samples, and taking measurements. Just before they head back into the lunar module for the planned rendezvous with Apollo 14, “Shepard snapped the head onto the scoop handle to create a makeshift MOON CLUB! Alan Shepard planned to play golf on the moon.”

In the first half of the book, Kelly shares facts about the space mission, the landing and Mitchell and Shepard’s scientific goals. The second half explores how Shepard, who loved golf, wanted to see just how far a golf ball would travel on the moon. 

Paired with Kelly’s fun narrative are Fotheringham’s full page, digital art that truly enhance the story. 

This fun story about space travel will delight many fans who dream of space travel.

Included is a selected bibliography and an overview of the Apollo missions that went to the moon, some facts about Commander Shepard, and brief explanations on a few topics related to the Apollo 14 mission.