Archive for the ‘Children’s Nonfiction Review’ Category

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.

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Review of Bessie Stringfield, Tales of the Talented Tenth, volume 2, by Joel Christian Gill

Saturday, May 12th, 2018

Tales of the Talented Tenth, Volume 2

Bessie Stringfield

The amazing true story of the woman who became The Motorcycle Queen of Miami!

by Joel Christian Gill

Fulcrum Publishing, Golden, Colorado, 2016. 122 pages.
Starred Review
Review written in 2017.

I think that nonfiction in graphic novel form (okay, necessarily fictionalized a bit) is one of the best things that could happen to education. Joel Christian Gill has started a series about remarkable African Americans, telling their amazing stories in comic book form.

I’d never heard of Bessie Stringfield, but she was the sole woman in the U. S. Army’s civilian motorcycle courier unit during World War II, and the first black woman inducted into the American Motorcycle Hall of Fame and the Harley Davidson Hall of Fame.

The book begins with her childhood. After her family moved to America from Jamaica, her mother died and her father just abandoned her in their hotel room. The book tells about her unusual upbringing after that and how she grew a passion for motorcycles and traveling.

She traveled across the United States eight times, and ended up doing lots of traveling in the Jim Crow South. (I like the way the author pictures bigoted people in this series as giant crows. It’s disturbing, as it should be.) She had run-ins with people who wanted to harm her, but was always able to outrun them on her motorcycle.

The story of her varied exploits is a quick but very entertaining read. And you’ll learn about someone who deserves to be remembered, the Motorcycle Queen of Miami, Bessie Stringfield.

joelchristiangill.wordpress.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 Brave Red, Smart Frog, by Emily Jenkins

Tuesday, May 1st, 2018

Brave Red, Smart Frog

A New Book of Old Tales

by Emily Jenkins
illustrated by Rohan Daniel Eason

Candlewick Press, 2017. 94 pages.
Starred Review

I have always loved fairy tales. My grandma owned several of the various-colored fairy tale books by Andrew Lang, and I remember sitting in her big comfy chair and reading them when I was quite young.

This is a 2017 book, but our library purchased it in 2018. When my hold came in, I saw the copyright and was going to turn it right back in – I’m reading for the Newbery, and I don’t have time for anything else. However, intrigued by the title and the look of the book, I opened to a random page. The tone and spirit of the tales captivated me quickly. I brought them home, figuring that reading one little story each day wouldn’t hurt anything.

And I really did get it read that way (which is surprising right there). At the end I cheated a little and read two stories in one night.

These are mostly Grimm tales, and I’m very familiar with all of them – but I love these fresh retellings. I like the new names she gives to characters, the explanations of their motivations, and that frozen and cold forest that shows up in almost all the tales. There’s even a place where a character in one story shows up in another! (Hint: There’s a huntsman in both “Snow White” and “Red Riding Hood.”)

Here’s an example paragraph right at the start that gives you the friendly and refreshing tone used throughout the book:

On one side of this frozen forest stood a castle. In it lived a queen who was unhappy. She was a warm person, a bright person. Her husband was chilly and dull. It had been a mistake to marry him. When their first and only daughter was born, the king named the baby Snow White. The queen would have preferred a name like Tulip or Sunshine.

An Author’s Note at the back gives her philosophy of retelling these stories. She wasn’t trying to be accurate to originals or entirely reinvent the tales.

What I’m doing instead is telling these stories largely faithfully, but without adhering to versions made famous by Charles Perrault, the Brothers Grimm, and others. I wrote them simply as I myself want to tell them, using the storytelling techniques I have at my disposal. After all, before people began writing them down, these tales were passed down orally. They changed a bit with each new teller. I wrote to bring out what’s most meaningful to me in the stories, and in that way I believe I am part of a tradition that goes back to the earliest tellers of these tales.

The result is delightful. These would be fun to read aloud at bedtime to a child or after lunch to a classroom.

Now, some kisses break enchantments.

And other kisses begin them.

You’re going to find both kinds of kisses in these tales.

candlewick.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 A Hundred Billion Trillion Stars, by Seth Fishman

Monday, April 23rd, 2018

A Hundred Billion Trillion Stars

by Seth Fishman
illustrated by Isabel Greenberg

Greenwillow Books, 2017. 36 pages.
Starred Review

Here’s a picture book for kids about the enormous numbers in our world.

For example, there are about seven billion five hundred million (7,500,000,000) people on earth – and they weigh about the same amount as the approximately ten quadrillion (10,000,000,000,000,000) ants on earth!

There are about three hundred seventy billion billion gallons of water on earth, and about three trillion trees. In the course of an average lifetime, you might eat up to 70 pounds of bugs.

That’s the kind of statistics this book is full of. There’s a nice touch that when a big number is given in numeral form, you’ll also see it written out in words. (Our minds glaze over all those zeros.)

One truly mind-boggling part is toward the back, where it says:

By the time you’re done reading this book, almost every single number in it will have changed, getting bigger or smaller right before your eyes.

Even the number of stars.

At the very back is an Author’s Note with a nice explanation of how we can figure out these numbers without trying to count to a hundred billion trillion, which is impossible. There’s a nice explanation of estimates:

These numbers are sort-of-definitely-ALMOST true. Let me explain. Some of these numbers change so quickly that to give you an exact number would be impossible. For instance, we don’t really know if the full weight of all the ants on earth equals the full weight of humans. But we can estimate that there are 3.5 million ants per acre in the Amazon rain forest. With some serious snooping, fact-checking, and extrapolating we can estimate a very large number of ants on earth, one that means the combined weight of all these ants should be near the combined weight of all humans, or maybe dogs, or mice. And yes, you might eat some of those ants. you might eat many different types of bugs – though of course I don’t know exactly how many, or whether you’ll do it on purpose. Maybe a fly will zip into your mouth as you bike, or you’ll swallow a spider while you snore at night. But it will be near 70 pounds’ worth over the course of your life (about the total weight of a golden retriever).

Estimates can help you imagine sizes and compare one big fact to another. That is why this book is called A Hundred Billion Trillion Stars, and not One Hundred Nineteen Sextillion Fifty-Seven Quintillion Seven Hundred Thirty-Seven Quadrillion One Hundred Eighty-Three Trillion Four Hundred Sixty-Two Billion Three Hundred Seven Million Four Hundred Ninety-One Thousand Six Hundred Nine Stars. We can get very near the correct number on many things, near enough for us to understand how big they are – especially in comparison to the world around us.

Here’s a lovely way to play with the concept of great big numbers all around us.

sethasfishman.com
isabelnecessary.com
harpercollinschildrens.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 Which One Doesn’t Belong, by Christopher Danielson

Thursday, April 5th, 2018

Which One Doesn’t Belong?

A Shapes Book

by Christopher Danielson

Stenhouse Publishers, 2016. 36 pages.
Starred Review
Mathical Award Winner

I’m reading and reviewing this book during my Newbery year even though it was written in 2016 and isn’t eligible – because it makes my mathematical heart sing!

The idea comes from the old Sesame Street song – “One of these things is not like the other” – except on these pages, all four shapes can be the correct answer!

The book starts with an example and explains why you might have chosen any of the four shapes. (There’s also an emphasis that there’s not just one reason to choose any given shape.)

Here’s the explanation that follows the first example:

On every page of this book, you can choose any shape and say that it doesn’t belong.

The important thing is to have a reason why.

How is your shape different from the others?

What if you had picked a different shape?

While the question is the same on every page, some pages are more challenging than others.

You may need to put the book down to think and come back later.

So when you’re ready, turn the page and decide which one doesn’t belong.

It’s interesting to me that no answers are given – not even on the website. I didn’t figure out a good answer for every shape – I guess I need to keep thinking!

At the back of the book, the author says this:

I made this book to spark conversations, thinking, and wonder.

I hope you will see similarities and differences in unexpected places.

I hope this is a book you will leave open, think about, and return to. I hope you will share it with others.

I hope you will send me your own sets of shapes to challenge me to say which one doesn’t belong.

Find me at talkingmathwithyourkids.com

Sparking conversations! Encouraging critical thinking! Wow!

As a former math teacher, one of my favorite things about this book is the way it teaches there is not only one right answer. And that there might be different reasons for any given answer.

As far as I’m concerned, the Mathical Book Prize was well-deserved. I’m not sure when I’ve been more excited about a math book for kids.

On the website, a parent talks about discussing the book with a four-year-old – and yet the puzzles aren’t boring for an adult with a master’s in math. How often can you say that about a book?

talkingmathwithyourkids.com
stenhouse.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 ABCs from Space, by Adam Voiland

Friday, March 23rd, 2018

ABCs from Space

A Discovered Alphabet

by Adam Voiland

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2017. 40 pages.

The author of this book is a science writer for a website called NASA Earth Observatory. He found the shapes of all the letters of the alphabet – in satellite images of the earth!

Some of the images look more like the letters than others. This would be an excellent book for a child who already knows their letters, but might be more difficult for one just learning the shapes.

But there’s more fun at the end. He gives details at the back of where and when each picture was taken and what type of image was used, whether Natural-color or false-color. A map shows the locations on earth that are covered. There are FAQs about the images and about the science (weather and geology, especially) at the back.

Mostly, I couldn’t stop looking at this book because it’s gorgeous and amazing. We have a beautiful planet!

adamvoiland.com
earthexplorer.usgs.gov
earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/FalseColor/
science.nasa.gov/ems
earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/ColorImage/
simonandschuster.com/kids

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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 Quest for Z, by Greg Pizzoli

Monday, March 12th, 2018

The Quest for Z

The True Story of Explorer Percy Fawcett and a Lost City in the Amazon

by Greg Pizzoli

Viking (Penguin Young Readers Group), 2017. 44 pages.

This is a really interesting story about an explorer I’d never heard of – Percy Fawcett – who searched for a lost city in the Amazon, and never returned.

But he had an interesting, successful, and adventurous life before his final expedition.

Right from the start, he was ready to be an explorer:

He was born in 1867 in Devon, England. His father was a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, and his older brother was a mountain climber and author of adventure novels. Adventure ran in the Fawcett family blood.

He served in the military before he got to devote full time to exploring, but that’s what he went on to do. The book tells about his preparation and training, as well the legends of an ancient city deep in the Amazon rain forest.

When British explorer Percy Fawcett heard these legends, he called the mythical city “Z.” Maybe he chose this name because the lost city seemed to be the most remote place in the world, the final stop, like the last letter of the alphabet. He made finding Z his life’s work.

There’s a map listing the expeditions he made between 1906 and 1924. (Though it’s rather hard to read – the colors of the routes look very much alike.) The book tells about some of his many adventures with giant snakes and hostile natives. I like the story where they stopped an attack by singing a medley of British songs together, accompanied by accordion. They made friends with that group of natives.

The majority of his expeditions were for surveying – to map some of the most dangerous areas of the Amazon rain forest. But he always listened for rumors of the lost city deep in the jungle.

When he finally set off to find the city, the Royal Geographic Society wouldn’t fund his expedition – so he got newspapers to do it. On his journey, he wrote about every step of the trip and sent out “runners” to bring the story to the newspapers as it happened.

But after a month on the trail, the stories stopped, and Percy Fawcett was never seen again.

There’s an interesting section of the book on the aftermath of the expedition.

In the nearly one hundred years since Percy, Jack, and Raleigh went missing, treasure hunters, fame-seekers, and even movie stars have gone into the jungle to find out what happened to Percy Fawcett. None have been successful.

It’s estimated that as many as one hundred people have disappeared or died in the hunt for Percy Fawcett and the blank spot on the globe that he called Z.

This is a fun book. The pictures are cartoon-like, but include some helpful diagrams and drawings. They fill the pages, so that they aren’t too heavy on text, and kids won’t find the story too intimidating.

It’s a fascinating story of a man who is relatively unknown now, but was a famous celebrity in his day – though unfortunately more famous for his failure than for his many successes.

gregpizzoli.com
penguin.com/children

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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 Elephant Keeper, by Margriet Ruurs, illustrated by Pedro Covo

Sunday, March 4th, 2018

The Elephant Keeper

Caring for Orphaned Elephants in Zambia

by Margriet Ruurs
illustrated by Pedro Covo

Kids Can Press, 2017. 48 pages.

This fascinating true story is presented in picture book format, even though there’s a lot more text than what is usual in a picture book, so this is for upper elementary school children.

The author features an African boy named Aaron who found a baby elephant swimming in a hotel swimming pool. No other elephants were around, so his mother was probably a victim of poachers. The elephant needed to go to an elephant orphanage. Aaron was good with animals – and ended up working at the elephant orphanage himself and helping with the baby’s recovery.

The way the story is presented isn’t strictly true, as we learn from the notes in the back – Aaron wasn’t actually the one who found the elephant (named Zambezi) in the pool, but he was involved in Zambezi’s care and ended up working in an elephant orphanage.

But the story does a lovely job highlighting the plight of elephants whose families are killed by poachers. Every several pages, there’s a spread apart from the story with photos of elephants and background facts. These are inserted at a point where the reader finds them very interesting.

So this is a lovely book for teaching kids about elephants and how humans are trying to save them from extinction. As well as the story of how a life was changed and a boy’s love for animals turned into a career saving them. Notes at the back tell kids how they can adopt an elephant or help in other ways.

gamerangersinternational.org
kidscanpress.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.

What did you think of this book?