Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Monday, March 25, 2024

Cactus Queen: Minerva Hoyt Establishes Joshua Tree National Park Written by Lori Alexander

Cactus Queen: Minerva Hoyt Establishes Joshua Tree National Park
Written by Lori Alexander; Pictures by Jenn Ely
Calkins Creek, an Imprint of Astra Books for Young Readers. 2024

Just how Minerva Hoyt convinced a nation, and a United States President to care about the Mojave Desert, located in southeastern California and southwestern Nevada is the basis of this charming picture book biography. 

In 1897, Minerva and her husband, Dr. Albert Hoyt lived in Pasadena, California.  "When Minerva needed a break from the buzzing city, she took trips. First by horse and wagon. Later by automobile. Her favorite place was the Mojave Desert." It was like no other place she ever visited. But, as the 1920's brought more cars, roads, and lots more people to the area, the desert oasis quickly was destroyed. People took plants, dug up the Joshua trees hoping they would survive in their backyard gardens. Just how could she make people love the desert as much as she did? How could she convince them the Mojave Desert was a place that needed to be preserved, to become a national park? 

Minerva created a desert display, complete with cactus, Joshua Trees, and wildlife (she had taxidermists as friends). Seeing the strange and beautiful landscape at the 1928 International Flower Show, people feel in love. On August 10, 1936, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a law that created the Joshua Tree National Monument. In 1994, President Bill Clinton gave the area more protection by signing the California Desert Protection Act. It expanded the area and established the Joshua Tree National Park. 

Peppered throughout in darker and a larger front are quotes from Minerva Hoyt. The book's illustrations by Jenn Ely are mostly done in acrylic gouache, with some smaller bits of colored pencil and collage. They are lively, engaging, and really colorful. 

Backmatter includes more information on Minerva Hoyt, wildlife in Joshua Tree National Park, an author's note, tips for environmental activists, and a selected bibliography.

An important story that highlights the importance of protecting our natural wonders. 

Monday, March 18, 2024

One of a Kind: The Life of Sydney Taylor by Richard Michelson

One of a Kind: The Life of Sydney Taylor
by Richard Michelson; Illustrated by Sarah Green
Calkins Creek, an Imprint of Astra Books for Young Readers. 2024

In, One of a Kind, Michelson recounts the life of children's book author, Sydney Taylor, whose book, All-Of-A-Kind Family was one of the first stories about a poor Jewish family growing up in New York City. 

Born Susan Brenner on October 30, 1904, Taylor always had a curious mind. Growing up poor, Taylor was one of five sisters, and one younger brother, living in New York City. Her parents were from Germany but moved to the United States after facing antisemitism. Though she loved celebrating the Jewish holidays, her parents encouraged her to learn American customs. "so you shouldn't feel like foreigners in your own country."

As she grew, Sarah grew frustrated with the discrimination against women. At age fourteen, tired of the expectation that women needed to be quiet and well-behaved, Sarah changes her name to Sydney. "A boy's name; then people will pay attention to what I write."

It isn't until she has her own daughter, she begins telling her own stories. "She enjoyed reading about families different from her own, but Syd believed that children also deserved to have stories about families that look and sound like theirs do." 

Sydney writes down her stories. "Maybe she can show other children that all people - whether their family have been in America for generations or recent arrivals - share the most important things:  love of friends and family and a desire to be treated fairly." Unfortunately, the American publishers didn't agree.

Her success came in 1950, when her husband sent her story, All-of-a-Kind Family, to a publishing company's contest (Wilcox + Follett Publishers). She won first prize! 

A happy ending, indeed.

Included is an afterword on Sydney Taylor, her husband Ralph, their daughter Jo Taylor Marshall, an author's note, bibliography of the author's sources.

Though the book is based on truth, Michelson does admit that much of the dialogue is invented.

A great introduction to an important author. 

Monday, March 11, 2024

Home by Isabelle Simler

Isabelle Simler; translated by Vineet Lal
Eerdmans Books for Young Readers. 2024

French author, Isabelle Simler,  using poetry introduces young readers on a journey to discover the amazing homes of animals that live around the world.

"I've been to some truly amazing homes.
To explore these unique places, I've had 
to bend, and shrink, and squeeze, and 
let myself be transformed in weird and 
wonderful ways. 

I've curled up in a hazel leaf, 
and disappeared under a stone, and bathed 
in a few drops of dew...

I've woken up as an ant. And a bird. 
Even  a sea snail.
And, I've imagined life in these homes,
all so very different from my own."

Simler explores twenty-seven different homes, sharing the ingenious ways each creature constructs their wondrous dwelling.

Take the European fan worm (Savella spallanzanii)
"I slide into my home like a telescope
and fan out my long feathery lashes."
This "worm-with-a-plume" lives in the ocean on the rocky seabed.

Or the hummingbird, (Trochilidae) who lives in a small, featherweight house hidden under a leaf. 

Accompanying each entry are Simler's beautiful, lush colorful illustrations that showcase the wonders of each individual animal.  Breathtaking.

Included are brief summaries of the twenty-seven animals included in the book, glossary, and recommended resources for more information. 

A truly awe-inspiring book to share with all ages, especially older listeners where you can highlight art, words, nature, and encourage their creativity.

Monday, March 4, 2024

Hawk Mother Returns: A Story of Interspecies Adoption by Kara Hagedorn and Marlo Garnsworthy

Hawk Mother Returns: A Story of Interspecies Adoption 
Kara Hagedorn and Marlo Garnsworothy
Web of Life Children's Books. 2024

Zoologist, Kara Hagedorn (Hawk Mother: The Story of a Red-Tailed Hawk Who Hatched Chickens) shares another story of cross-species adoption, in this stunning nonfiction title.

"One spring morning, my phone rings. Someone has cut down a tree with a nest containing two red-tailed hawk eggs. "Will Sunshine adopt them?" as the wildlife rehabilitator?" 

And so begins the story of how Sunshine, a red-tailed hawk who has been unable to fly since being shot many years ago, once again becomes a surrogate mother. Told in first person, Hagedorn shares every step in the raising of the chicks. From Sunshine feeding the newly hatched chicks, Bella and Romeo, to teaching them how to hunt. 

Beautiful, color photos that show the process of Sunshine raising these two chicks, which turn out to be Red-Shouldered Hawks, is very exciting. Over several weeks the chicks grow until one day, Kara decides it is time for them to leave the safety of the aviary. 

"I decide today is the day for them to leave. I take Sunshine out of her aviary so she can watch. Then, heart beating, I open the aviary door."

Included is an author's note explaining who Kara is and how she came to adopt Sunshine, more information about hawks, and a glossary. 

An important  book to share when explaining the importance of how to be mindful of nature, and the growth cycle of raptors.