Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

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

Monday, May 29, 2023

Holding Her Own: the Exceptional Life of Jackie Ormes. Words by Traci N. Todd; Pictures by Shannon Wright

Holding Her Own: the Exceptional Life of Jackie Ormes 

Words by Traci N. Todd; Pictures by Shannon Wright

Orchard Books. An Imprint of Scholastic Inc. 2023

“This story begins — as many stories do — with a blank page, an empty space waiting to be filled…”

And, so begins this captivating picture book biography on the life of Jackie Ormes, the first Black cartoonist to be syndicated in the United States.

The illustrations, created digitally, resemble a collage that are placed alongside the colorful double-page spreads of the comic characters created by Ormes. 

Jackie Ormes (named Zelda) was born in 1911 outside Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 1945, Ormes created the comic, Patty-jo’ n’ Ginger. It was Ormes platform to comment on Black life, the war and its aftermath, and the fight for social justice. Patty-Jo’ n’ Ginger would run until 1956.

Included is an author’s note, a note from the artist, and a selected bibliography.

This powerful biography, for all ages, especially high schoolers, is a reminder that readers can use their voices to speak out about injustices and use their talents to bring about positive change. 

Click here to see a short video by Todd and Wright promoting this book. 

Friday, May 26, 2023

Chef Edna: Queen of Southern Cooking, Edna Lewis

Chef Edna: Queen of Southern Cooking, Edna Lewis
by Melvina Noel
illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera
Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2023

This gorgeous picture book biography traces the life of Edna Lewis from a child living in Freetown, Virginia to chef and restaurant owner in the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Edna learned to cook and bake from her mother using fresh ingredients from their farm. After moving to New York City to earn money to support her siblings, Edna made an impression on friends and guests with her Southern style cooking. Soon she opened her own restaurant featuring her family recipes.

The stunning realistic-style illustrations capture the emotions of the story. This lovely story about a woman with a talent and a passion for cooking draws attention to a chef and restaurateur that many children will not know. Stories about little known people can be interesting and aspiring for young readers. The back matter is not to be missed because it includes Edna's biscuit recipe. 

Add this picture book to your classroom or library's biography collection. Pair it with Born Hungry or Alice Waters and the Trip to Delicious for a program or lesson on cooking with fresh food.

Monday, May 22, 2023

How the Sea Came To Be and All The Creatures In It. Written by Jennifer Berne


How the Sea Came To Be and All the Creatures In It
Written by Jennifer Berne; Illustrated by Amanda Hall
Eerdmans Books for Young Readers. 2023

This delightful informational picture book takes readers on a visually appealing journey that explains the evolution of our oceans over 4.5 billions years.

Each double-page spread includes Hall’s spectacular illustrations that are paired beautifully with Berne’s captivating verse. 
Billions and billions of years long ago,
when the Earth was young and new,
the world was so hot, rock melted and boiled,
and fiery, wild winds blew.”

Included is a note from the author and illustrator, a look at ocean creatures over time that also includes a brief explanation of each creature, key terms and concepts, and resources.

“Oh, so long, long ago,
    in the far distant past,
        the first life came to be
               in the sea.”

This engrossing journey will whet readers appetite for more facts about how Earth began and all the creatures inhabiting it.

Friday, May 19, 2023

Mr. Lincoln Sits for His Portrait by Leonard S. Marcus

Mr. Lincoln Sits for His Portrait: the Story of a Photograph That Became an American Icon

Leonard S. Marcus

Farrar Straus Giroux. An Imprint of MacMillan Publishing Group, LLC. 2023

History fans, and those who are curious about Abraham Lincoln, will devour this slim volume on what led to our 16th President having his image captured on film. Award-winning author, Marcus, masterfully explains what led to Lincoln reflects on the life of one of our greatest presidents, and the aftermath of his assassination, , 

On February 9, 1864, Abraham Lincoln went to the photographic studio of well-known photographter, Matthew Brady and had six portraits taken by Brady’s assistant, Anthony Berger. One of those pictures, the image of Lincoln reading to his son, Tad, would depict Lincoln’s father side. That image, after his assassination, would offer people a reminder of the extraordinary power of Lincoln’s words. 

Peppered throughout the narrative are historical photos of Lincoln and individuals of importance for that time. 

Award-winning author, Marcus, masterfully explains events in Lincoln’s life that led up to that photo session. Intertwined in the narrative is a portrait of Lincoln, a man with little schooling who would become our 16th president at a time when our nation was divided slavery.           

Included is an afterward, a Lincoln timeline, 1865 to Present, bibliography, source notes for the quotes placed throughout the book, and index.

Like all books by Leonard Marcus, this one is powerful, engaging, and a perfect tome for history lovers of all ages.

Monday, May 15, 2023

Wind: Discovering Air in Motion by Olga Fadeeva


Wind: Discovering Air in Motion
By Olga Fadeeva. Translated by Lena Traer
Eerdmans Books for Young Readers. 2023

Russian author, Fadeeva, explains in easy to understand language, eighteen facts about the Wind. Each fact is posed as a question on double-page spreads illustrated by the author. The illustrations reflect what is being explained. 

For example, the question “What Is Wind?”  Answer: “Wind is the horizontal movement of air over the surface of the Earth.” The illustration, created with acrylic, collage, and digital media, shows a grandfather and granddaughter standing by the Ocean. Their hair is horizontal and the wind bends the trees and a red balloon, untethered from its owner, is also flying past. 

Another fact: “How has the wind affected history?” Answer: “The fifteenth century saw the rise of the full-rigged ship, which had three masts and multiple sails. Traveling longer distances would have been impossible without such improvements. This marked the beginning of the Age of Exploration.” The illustration shows a young girl holding a replica of the ship with five sales. 

This informational picture book will be enjoyable to read by all ages, especially on a windy day.

Monday, May 8, 2023

To Boldly Go: How Nichelle Nichols and Star Trek Helped Advance Civil Rights Written by Angela Dalton: Illustrations by Lauren Semmer

To Boldly Go: How Nichelle Nichols and Star Trek Helped Advance Civil Rights

Written by Angela Dalton: Illustrations by Lauren Semmer

Harper. An Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. 2023

Many people, myself included, loved Star Trek for showing the possibility that their could be peace and acceptance throughout the universe if we only would embrace one another as equals.  For Angela Dalton, TV night - the best night- meant a glass of sweet, syrupy red Kool-Aid and the show, Star Trek. Watching the crew of the starship Enterprise “boldly go where no man has gone before”, exploring strange new worlds was very entertaining, however, for Davis, seeing Lieutenant Uhura “brought them pride that someone who looked like us standing as an equal to make the future better for everyone.”

To Boldly Go is an empowering tribute to Nichelle Nichols, who played Star Trek’s communication officer, Lieutenant Uhura. Though her character showed her unlimited opportunities, in real life Nichols was faced with racist attitude that, for some reason, white people think they are better than Black people. As popular as she was playing Lieutenant Uhura, Dalton highlights the many instances where Nichols lost her self confidence. “It seemed neither she nor her character would ever be seen as important or equal.”

It was after a chance meeting with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that changed her plans of quitting Star Trek. Dr. King said, “you have opened a door that must not be allowed to close. Don’t you see that you’re not just a role model for Black Children? You’re important for people who don’t look like us. For the first time, the world sees us as we should be seen, as equals, as intelligent people.”

Dalton explains in the summary, Beyond Star Trek, Nichols was asked by NASA to help them make a positive connection with women and minority astronaut candidates. Nichols said she would, but threatened to file a class-action law suit if, in a years time, “I still see a [white], all-male astronaut corps.”

This powerful picture book biography traces thelife of Nichelle Nichols, as well as, emphasizing how influential her character, Lieutenant Uhura was in encouraging equality and the interest in space exploration. Highlighting the narrative is the bold art of Lauren Semmer. The marriage of words and art really bring this story to life.

Included throughout are direct quotes from Nichelle Nichols. She

Nichelle came up with the name “Uhura” which is a Swahili word for “Freedom”. To Nichols, it meant strong, independent, equal.   

Friday, May 5, 2023

New Nonfiction: May 2023



Men of the 65th
by Talia Aikens Nuńez
Zest Books

    The Van Buren Sisters vs. The Pants Police
by J.F. Fox and Anna Kwan
Kids Can Press


The Women Who Built Hollywood
by Susan Goldman Rubin
Astra Books for Young Readers

Indigenous Ingenuity 
by Deidre Havrelock and Edward Kay
Christy Ottaviano Books

Jackie Ormes Draws the Future
by Liz Montague
Random House Studio

Muzoon: A Syrian Refugee Speaks Out
by Muzoon Almellehan
with Wendy Pearlman
Random House

Mary's Idea
by Chris Raschka
Greenwillow Books

Spare Parts (Young Readers' Edition):
The True Story of Four Undocumented Teenagers, One Ugly Robot, and an Impossible Dream

by Joshua Davis and Reyna Grande

I Have Something To Tell You (for Young Adults): A Memoir
by Chasten Buttigieg
Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Her Eyes on the Stars: Maria Mitchell, Astronomer
by Laurie Wallmark
illustrated by Liz Wong
Creston Books


Polar: Wildlife at the Ends of the Earth
by L.E. Carmichael and Byron Eggenschwiler
Kids Can Press

We Are Branches
by Joyce Sidman
illustrated by Beth Krommes
Clarion Books

A Shell Is Cozy
by Dianna Hutts Aston
illustrated by Sylvia Long
Chronicle Books

Glaciers Are Alive
by Debbie S. Miller
illustrated by Jon Van Zyle

Not a Monster
by Claudia Guadalupe Martinez
illustrated by Laura Gonzalez

Science Comics: Electricity
by Andy Hirsch
First Second

They Are Here: How Invasive Species Are Spoiling Our Ecosystems
by Roland Smith

Evolution Under Pressure: How We Change Nature and How Nature Changes Us
by Yolanda Ridge
illustrated by Dane Thibeault
Annick Press

Current Events and Social Issues

Breaking News: Why Media Matters
by Raina Delisle
illustrated by Julie McLaughlin
Orca Books

Monday, May 1, 2023

Never Give Up: Dr. Kati Karikó and the Race for the Future of Vaccines. Debbie Dadey; Illustrated by Julianna Oakley

Never Give Up: Dr. Kati Karikó and the Race for the Future of Vaccines.
Debbie Dadey; Illustrated by Julianna Oakley

Millbrook Press. An Imprint of Lerner Publishing Group, Inc. 2023

Debbie Dadey, well-known for her series, The Bailey School Kids, hits the mark in her first picture book biography. An engaging and exciting read, readers will learn about Dr. Kati Karikó, whose research into using mRNAs for a vaccine, led her to create the vaccine that saved millions of lives from COVID-19.

Born in Hungary in 1955, Katie was a curious student who was never daunted by what she did not know. Learning inspired her and science was her passion. After earning her PhD, kathie became curious about mRNA, or messenger ribonucleric acid. “mRNA provides the instructions to make proteins - such as germ attacking antibodies - to keep us healthy.” 

Not supported by her peers, Kati still persists until 2005, along with Dr. Drew Weissman, the two publish a study that opened the door for mRNA to be used in vaccines. When COVID-19 started spreading all over the world in 2020, it was her and Weissman’s work with mRNA that got the job of making the vaccine quicker. 

Oakley’s illustrations, created with pencil, Procreate, and Photoshop, lend themselves to the picture book biography format. Colorful, the pictures reflect what is being discussed in the text. Quotes from Dr. Karikó and her colleagues are placed in a darker font throughout the book.

Includes a timeline, a short description on steps to making a vaccine, a helpful explanation of stages all vaccines in the United States must go through before they are given to the public, an author’s note, glossary, source notes and titles for further studying.

A nice addition to the growing picture biographies of a determined woman who persists despite the lack of support from peers.

Friday, April 28, 2023

Total Garbage: A Messy Dive Into Trash, Waste, and Our World by Rebecca Donnelly

Total Garbage: A Messy Dive Into Trash, Waste, and Our World
Rebecca Donnelly; Illustrated by John Hendrix
Henry Holt and Company. 2023

We have reviewed other titles that deal with the ever growing problem of trash, but in Total Garbage, writer Donnelly goes one step further by challenging how the phrase, “Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle” has given us a false sense of hope. Donnelly looks at how much trash we make and how it damages our world, and affects all of us. 

What readers will find compelling, was in the author’s note. Donnelly admits that with her busy life, she is also part of the problem. She didn’t write Total Garbage as a template as to how to live a life trash-free. Instead, she offers facts that will help readers make choices. Donnelly delves deeply into what is trash, where does it go after we toss it into our trash bins, what does recycle really mean, the affects of our trash on our planet, and how shoppers are lured into thinking they are creating less waste by purchasing items that claim that their packaging is recyclable. Donnelly also differentiates between saving the wilderness versus environmental action regarding neighborhoods near pollution sources. Wilderness is a place you visit, whereas pollution sources are where people live. “For people who live near pollution sources, environmentalism is a very personal commitment with immediate consequences in everyday life and in their own communities.”

Ideas that resonated with me?:

  • During World War 2, it was patriotic to save and reuse until 1955. Now, it is considered patriotic to buy more stuff to keep all the manufacturing plants, created during WW2, operational. 
  • That recycling has serious environmental issues. 
  • The problems with landfills.
  • That buying anything that is single use, even if it says it is made from recyclable materials, is still trash.
  • That for many, reducing waste and purchasing is a financial burden they are unable to take on. Products that are marketed as green often cost more, making it almost impossible for many to purchase them.

Total Garbage would be a terrific title to use in a science unit with middle to high school students. An activity that sounds eye-opening is to build an image of yourself by taking a good look at what you throw away. 

Included is a Trash Timeline: The Good and the Gross in the History of Waste Management, selected resources, and index. 

The engaging narrative, packed with lots of easily understood information on waste and its impact on our world, is highly recommended, especially for Earth Day.