Archive for the ‘Children’s Nonfiction Review’ Category

Review of Can an Aardvark Bark? by Melissa Stewart, illustrated by Steve Jenkins

Tuesday, August 14th, 2018

Can an Aardvark Bark?

by Melissa Stewart
illustrated by Steve Jenkins

Beach Lane Books (Simon & Schuster), 2017. 32 pages.
Starred Review

I don’t need to keep on raving about Steve Jenkins’ ultra-realistic cut paper illustrations. In this book they’re paired with a text that invites young readers to wonder and to learn.

This book is in question-and-answer format, and all the questions are about animal sounds. The title question answers, “No, but it can grunt.” There’s also a paragraph on that page about when an aardvark might grunt. When we turn the page, we find out “Lots of other animals grunt too.” There are pictures and short explanations of the grunting that comes from river otters, Hamadryas baboons, white-tailed deer, and oyster toadfish.

The same format is used with six more types of animal noises: barking, squealing, whining, growling, bellowing, and laughing. All the questions asked rhyme (“Can a giraffe laugh?”), and one animal can actually make the rhyming sound! (A porcupine can whine. Who knew?)

The animals are not your typical animals seen in every animal book – and the pictures of them are varied and attention grabbing. I like the picture of the ostrich growling, across the page from other growlers like a platypus, a king cobra, and a coastal giant salamander.

This book has too much detail for preschool storytime, but it has exactly enough detail for a bright precocious preschooler who eats up information. This will carry easily through early elementary school students who will be fascinated enough to learn to read even the longer words.

This engaging format with striking illustrations and surprising animal facts puts a whole new spin on animal sounds. A brilliant early science book.

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Malala: Activist for Girls’ Education, by Raphaël Frier, illustrated by Aurélia Fronty

Tuesday, August 7th, 2018

Malala

Activist for Girls’ Education

by Raphaël Frier
illustrated by Aurélia Fronty

Charlesbridge, 2017. 45 pages.
Starred Review

This is a picture book biography of Malala. Her story is told simply, in a way that children can understand.

Malala was born in 1997 in Pakistan, the daughter of a teacher who had founded a school for girls. As the Taliban rose to power, Malala became an activist for girls’ education, even though she was still a child.

When she was eleven, she spoke against the Taliban trying to take away her education, in a speech covered by newspapers and television. After the Taliban did close down schools for girls, Malala was offered a chance to write a blog for the BBC about girls and education.

When she was still thirteen:

Malala is elected speaker of the child assembly associated with the Khpal Kor Foundation, which promotes the rights of children. In this leadership role, she begins as a children’s rights activist.

She wins the first-ever National Youth Peace Prize in Pakistan, and starts an educational foundation. But the Taliban does not like her work. Assassins come onto her school bus and shoot her three times. (This page is rendered symbolically with silhouetted figures in guns, but a bright light (like an explosion) coming off Malala. The faces of the girls are peaceful.)

Malala is flown to England, where she recovers. And then she begins a fresh wave of activism. Now she’s working for girls all over the world.

On Malala’s sixteenth birthday, July 12, 2013, hundreds of people from around the world hear her speak at the United Nations in New York City. Malala wears a shawl that belonged to Benazir Bhutto, a Pakistani prime minister who was assassinated.

The book includes quotations from that speech and tells us that the next year, at seventeen, Malala was the youngest person ever to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

This book is packed with facts, but they are presented in a way children can understand. The illustrations are lovely, and tend toward symbolic depictions of ideas. There are 10 pages of back matter with photos and more information.

malala.org
charlesbridge.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of I Am Jazz, by Jessica Herthel & Jazz Jennings, pictures by Shelagh McNicolas

Tuesday, July 24th, 2018

I Am Jazz

by Jessica Herthel & Jazz Jennings

pictures by Shelagh McNicholas

Dial Books for Young Readers, 2014. 32 pages.
Review written in 2017

I Am Jazz is a simple picture book about the experience of one transgender girl.

Her experience is presented simply, in child-friendly language. She talks about her best friends, Samantha and Casey, and the things all three of them love to do.

But I’m not exactly like Samantha and Casey.

I have a girl brain but a boy body.
This is called transgender.

I was born this way!

She tells us that at first her family was confused, they’d call her a boy despite her insistence that she was a girl.

Then one amazing day, everything changed. Mom and Dad took me to meet a new doctor who asked me lots and lots of questions. Afterward, the doctor spoke to my parents and I heard the word “transgender” for the very first time.

That night at bedtime, my parents both hugged me and said, “We understand now. Be who you are. We love you no matter what.”

This made me smile and smile and smile.

This book was published in 2014, but our library has only recently purchased it. Better late than never! It’s in the nonfiction section – in juvenile biography under “Jennings” – so no child is going to accidentally stumble across it in the picture books. That’s a bit of a shame, because it’s a simple explanation of what it’s like to be transgender – but at least we won’t have parents complaining that they don’t want their child exposed to this. To find this book, you will have to look for it.

I do recommend looking for it! A lovely book to explain to children what life is like for the transgender classmates they may end up encountering. Or, for that matter, to understand what they themselves may be going through. Stories go a long way to counteract bullying. This book tells a true story in a positive way.

transkidspurplerainbow.org
penguin.com/youngreaders

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Octopus Escapes Again! by Laurie Ellen Angus

Tuesday, July 17th, 2018

Octopus Escapes Again!

by Laurie Ellen Angus

Dawn Publications, 2016. 32 pages.
Starred Review

This beginning science book is so simple, our library system is shelving it with picture books – but it’s also full of facts.

Facts about the common octopus are indeed presented as a story – the story of an octopus spending her day looking for food – and meanwhile escaping the predators who want to eat her.

Along the way, we learn what sort of creatures an octopus likes to eat, but especially the clever ways an octopus escapes being eaten.

The illustrations are gorgeous, and with a wide amount of variety. Done with cut paper, there’s a nice realistic effect.

I already knew that an octopus is clever. This one escapes by squeezing into an empty shell, by using its ink to confuse an attacker, by speeding away with a blast of water through its siphon, by releasing an arm, and by quickly changing color to camouflage itself.

The story is simple enough to read to preschoolers, but there is a paragraph of facts about each escape technique. At the end of the book there are five pages of back matter, complete with ideas for enrichment activities.

A fantastic choice for beginning science lessons.

dawnpub.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of The Hole Story of the Doughnut, by Pat Miller, illustrated by Vincent X. Kirsch

Wednesday, July 11th, 2018

The Hole Story of the Doughnut

by Pat Miller
illustrated by Vincent X. Kirsch

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017. 36 pages.

Can you imagine a time before doughnuts? I didn’t realize that the world knows who invented them – a ship’s captain named Hanson Crockett Gregory.

But before he was a ship’s captain, he was a sixteen-year-old helping the ship’s cook. They’d fry cakes in lard for the crew’s breakfast – and the cakes were always raw in the middle and heavy with grease. The sailors called them “Sinkers,” because they sat so heavily in the stomach.

Hanson got an idea to help them cook better – and cut holes in the center of each circle of dough with a pepper shaker. Now they cooked perfectly, all the way through.

So that’s about how simple the story is, but the author and illustrator do embellish the tale. They tell about the rest of Captain Gregory’s life and some alternate legends that developed.

There are notes at the back giving more details, enough to convince me that it’s true – We should be thanking Captain Hanson Gregory every time we eat a delicious, well-cooked doughnut.

This light-hearted picture book is especially suited to interest kids. They’ll get a taste of very practical biography.

patmillerbooks.com
vincentxkirsch.com
hmhco.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of The Nantucket Sea Monster, by Darcy Pattison, illustrated by Peter Willis

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2018

The Nantucket Sea Monster

A Fake News Story

by Darcy Pattison
illustrated by Peter Willis

Mims House, Little Rock, AR, 2017. 32 pages.

What a timely idea! This book tells the story of an actual hoax carried out in 1937 that was reported as news.

For the 1937 Macy’s Thanksgiving parade, Tony Sarg, who created the puppets for the parade, created a giant sea monster puppet. Later, when a group was discussing publicity, they decided to stage a sea monster sighting. They submerged the puppet offshore from Nantucket.

Lots of people were in on the publicity stunt, including the newspapers. Plenty of people were fooled. The eyewitnesses declared, “It wasn’t a whale.” Later, giant footprints were found on the shore.

Finally, the news broke that Tony Sarg had caught the sea monster. He brought it up on shore, and they saw it was a giant balloon. All was revealed. Both Nantucket and the Macy’s parade got lots of publicity.

I like the way the book ends with a spread titled “A Free Press and the Fake News.”

However, when the press is free to print what it likes, sometimes it will print things that are false. Some laws make sure the press doesn’t write slander. Slander means you write a lie about someone. Otherwise, newspapers can print what they like….

From the beginning of the United States, free press has printed both truth and lies. When things are working right, there’s more truth than lies. Sometimes, though, like in the story of the Nantucket sea monster, editors will deliberately print something false. At the time, the editor said the articles were fine because 1) no one was hurt, and 2) Macy’s company didn’t commercialize the event. However, they freely admit that the publicity for Nantucket Island was worth thousands of dollars.

Was the publicity right or wrong?

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Kate Warne, Pinkerton Detective, by Marissa Moss, illustrated by April Chu

Thursday, June 28th, 2018

Kate Warne, Pinkerton Detective

by Marissa Moss
illustrated by April Chu

Creston Books, 2017. 52 pages.
Starred Review

Oops! I didn’t look at the copyright date before I read this book. It’s new in the library, but it’s not eligible for the 2019 Newbery Medal, so I probably wouldn’t have read it if I’d noticed. As it is, I can’t even resist taking the time to review it, I enjoyed it so much.

This book tells about the first case of the first female detective of the Pinkerton agency.

Kate answered an ad to be a detective and was given an opportunity to prove herself.

The story is told dramatically. Kate posed as someone whose husband was in jail in order to win the confidence of the wife of a thief – to get the evidence to prove he actually was a thief. It’s all done in the form of a picture book story, with clear and dramatic illustrations.

The author’s note at the back adds more details about some of Kate’s other cases and her eventual role being in charge of more female agents.

I was entertained as I read this story, wanting to know what would happen next. But I also learned about a woman who put herself forward and then rose to the challenge.

marissamoss.com
aprilchu.com
crestonbooks.co

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of What’s Your Favorite Color? by Eric Carle and Friends

Wednesday, June 13th, 2018

What’s Your Favorite Color?

by Eric Carle and Friends

Godwin Books (Henry Holt and Company), 2017. 36 pages.

This is another book in support of the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, like What’s Your Favorite Animal?. Here again, a set of distinguished illustrators are asked a simple question – and they all answer in their own unique way.

This time the question is “What’s your favorite color?”

Some artists give long and thoughtful answers, like Rafael López:

The color I choose will surprise you because it dares to be different. No matter what others may say, artists know that gray is magic. It gets along with all the other colors and knows how to make them sparkle. Gray is smart and UNIQUE!

Like the clever octopus, my good friend gray knows how to change colors to communicate. It comes in many different shades – from warm to really cool! In some parts of the world, this flexible color even changes its spelling to grey.

When things get noisy and mixed up, gray is like a calm, deep breath.

Other artists, like Mike Curato, are short and sweet:

My favorite color is Mint because I love mint chocolate chip ice cream.

Or Lauren Castillo:

I love the way the snow magically paints the world white.

Or Frann Preston-Gannon:

I love flaming orange. It is the color of the tiger burning bright as it creeps through the grasses of the jungle.

This isn’t a book for preschool storytime, but it is a book for thoughtful reading over and over again. It’s for looking at things differently. It’s for thinking about your own favorite color. And it’s for enjoying the glorious paintings.

I’m not sure why they chose the order they did of the illustrators, except the obvious choice of putting Eric Carle first. The colors aren’t in the order of the rainbow, and a few colors are almost the same. (For example, Melissa Sweet chooses Maine Morning Gray.) At the back, there’s a bit about each illustrator, and the names are in a colored font. I find myself wishing they had used each illustrator’s favorite color for their name, but they didn’t.

All the same, this is a lovely book. It would be perfect for sharing with a budding artist to get them thinking about and seeing colors with fresh eyes.

What do I mean by seeing colors with fresh eyes? Well, Philip C. Stead’s page is a fine example (though the illustration is what makes it perfect):

A green frog is green
and sometimes socks are green –
just like yarn.
An alligator is green
unless it hides underwater
and then it’s
two white eyes.
Green grass is green
and apples can be green.
A tree is green
except when it’s yellow
red
or nothing at all.
You know what?
A green elephant is green
when it wants to be
and that’s why today
my favorite color
is green.

carlemuseum.org
mackids.com

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of The Man Who Loved Libraries, by Andrew Larsen, pictures by Katty Maurey

Saturday, June 2nd, 2018

The Man Who Loved Libraries

The Story of Andrew Carnegie

by Andrew Larsen
pictures by Katty Maurey

Owlkids Books, 2017. 32 pages.

This is a picture book biography of Andrew Carnegie. It tells the basics of his life, that he was born into poverty in Scotland, but his family emigrated to America. He worked as a child in a cotton mill, then as a messenger boy.

A wealthy businessman opened the doors of his private library to young workers on Sunday afternoons, and that was how Andrew Carnegie got his education. He then was able to become a telegraph operator and worked his way up in the Pennsylvania Railroad Company.

Here’s how the book explains Andrew’s wealth:

Andrew believed railroads were the key to the future. His first investment was with the Woodruff Sleeping Car Company. He went on to buy shares in companies producing oil and iron and steel, as well as those building the rails and bridges that were weaving their way across America. When they made money, he made money.

By the time he was thirty-five, Andrew Carnegie’s investments had made him a rich man. He had more money than he could ever need. So what did he do?

He gave it away.

Andrew Carnegie never forgot the kindness of Colonel Anderson. He never forgot the light and warmth of the colonel’s library or how he loved to borrow the books that filled its shelves. He never forgot the joy he felt in learning.

Andrew Carnegie used his own money to build public libraries so others could have the same opportunity.

He built his first public library in the small Scottish village where he was born. But he didn’t stop there.

It goes on to tell about the many public libraries he built – more than 2,500, all over the world.

A note at the back gives more details. It also mentions that his relationship with his own workers – and their unions – was “complicated.” But the focus is on his amazing philanthropic efforts and the work still being done today by the Carnegie Corporation that he set up.

owlkidsbooks.com

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Creekfinding, by Jacqueline Briggs Martin, illustrations by Claudia McGehee

Monday, May 28th, 2018

Creekfinding

A True Story

by Jacqueline Briggs Martin
illustrations by Claudia McGehee

University of Minnesota Press, 2017. 40 pages.
Starred Review

This picture book tells the true story of restoring a lost creek.

How can a creek be lost? Years before, a farmer had used a bulldozer to fill the creek with dirt, so he could turn the prairie into a cornfield – growing corn where the creek used to be.

A man named Mike Osterholm bought the farm and planned to restore the prairie. Then a neighbor told Mike that he used to catch brook trout at that very spot. Mike set to work to restore the creek.

The book shows the many steps this took. He started with old photographs to mark out where the creek had been. Then he used a bulldozer and an excavator to dig a path for the creek.

Mike said the water remembered.
It seeped in from the sides,
raced down the riffles and runs,
burbled into holes, filled the creek.

But a creek isn’t just water.
It’s plants, rocks, bugs, fish, and birds.

The book goes on to explain how they got each of those ingredients into the restored creek.

It took years to restore the creek, but now:

If you went to the creek with Mike,
you’d see water.

But a creek isn’t just water.
You’d see brook trout and sculpin.
You’d hear the outdoor orchestra –
herons, snipe,
bluebirds, yellowthroat warblers;
frogs, returned home;
and insects –
thousands, and thousands,
and thousands of insects.

Now a new generation can catch trout on Brook Creek – and a new host of creatures has a home.

The art in this book is amazing and evocative of the prairie. The illustrator’s note at the back is poetic:

One hot July afternoon, I visited Prairie Song Farm, home to Brook Creek, to gather images and impressions for this book’s illustrations. As I waded into the deep greenness, all sorts of creatures – winged, scaled, feathered and furred – bustled in the grasses and along the water banks. I wanted to re-create the textures and colors I saw, so readers could “walk” alongside Brook Creek as they learned about its restoration. I made the ripply, sturdy lines of earth, water, and sky in scratchboard and painted the prairie greens, creek blues, and everything in between with watercolors and dyes.

Because of the simple language and picture book format, young children can enjoy this book. But older children will get even more out of the story and learn many things about creatures, creeks, and prairies.

upress.umn.edu

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?