Review of Blips on a Screen, by Kate Hannigan, illustrated by Zachariah OHora

Blips on a Screen

How Ralph Baer Invented TV Video Gaming and Launched a Worldwide Obsession

written by Kate Hannigan
illustrated by Zachariah OHora

Alfred A. Knopf, 2022. 44 pages.
Review written June 8, 2022, from a library book.
Starred Review

Here’s a picture book biography of the guy who invented the first video game. I think of creating video games as something for people who are good with computers, but Ralph Baer came at it from the perspective of someone skilled in electronics and understanding how televisions work. And of course that makes sense, because video games came along before home computers.

Rolf Baer was born in Germany, but his family fled from Hitler and the Nazis in 1938 a few weeks before the border closed. In America, he changed his name to Ralph.

Ralph was always interested in inventing. He worked in radio repair and used his radio skills during World War II. From there, it was a natural next step to work on televisions. He worked for military electronics, but couldn’t get over the idea of figuring out how to play games on a TV.

The book tells about the process he went through, which included getting a patent, so his company was able to license his new invention when the boom took off. But before that happened, he got plenty of rejection for his idea. But after the Odyssey finally came out in 1972, it began a new obsession with video games.

The book makes the process understandable and accessible to kids. I always love Zachariah OHora’s illustrations, and his cartoons give a simplified picture of the essentials of this story.

This book tells about an inventor who created something important to kids and it also talks about the process of getting an invention produced — in a fascinating and informative picture book.

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Review of The Tide Pool Waits, by Candace Fleming, pictures by Amy Hevron

The Tide Pool Waits

by Candace Fleming
pictures by Amy Hevron

Neal Porter Books (Holiday House), 2022. 40 pages.
Review written May 27, 2022, from a library book
Starred Review

The Tide Pool Waits is a beautifully simple picture book about a complex scientific topic. I learned things I didn’t know about tide pools, and it was presented in a way that even small children can understand.

The main text is simple. We meet many different kind of creatures in the tide pool. After each one is presented, we see the words, “They wait.”

Here’s the last group:

There are others, too.
Under rocks.
In the tangle of floating, fanning seaweed.
Beneath the sand and between patches of sponge.

They all wait.

And wait.

And wait.

But then the waves crash! They wait for just the right time to sweep over the shore.

They surge over barnacles, mussels, and snails,
stir the tangle of seaweed,
shake the crevice-cracked rocks,
rise higher and higher and higher until . . .

the pool is part
of the sea once more.

The tide has come.
The wait is over.

Then the book looks at those same creatures we already met, and we see that they do different things now that the tide has come in. Sea anemones bloom, barnacles open their shells and eat, various animals hunt, and some return to the open sea.

There’s a flurry of activity until the tide goes out again.

At the back of the book, there’s “An Illustrated Guide to This Tide Pool.” We learn more about the specific animals featured and their place in the tide pool and how their behavior changes when the tide is in or out. There’s even an illustration on the last page showing which creatures live in which zone of the tide pool — where different zones get different amounts of water.

So the main text is simple language, suitable for storytime. But the back matter fills out the information for curious older readers like me. The illustration style is bold and simple — and does make the different creatures easy to distinguish.

A marvelous beginning science picture book.

HolidayHouse.com

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Review Pura’s Cuentos, Annette Bay Pimentel, illustrated by Magaly Morales

Pura’s Cuentos

How Pura Belpré Reshaped Libraries with Her Stories

by Annette Bay Pimentel
illustrated by Magaly Morales

Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2021. 36 pages.
Review written April 16, 2022, from a library book
Starred Review

Here’s a lovely and lively picture book biography about the librarian who helped start a trend of bilingual storytimes, and whom the award for children’s books by Latinx creators is named after.

The book begins with Pura’s childhood in Puerto Rico and how much she loved her abuela’s stories. Then she came to New York and became a librarian, but she didn’t find the stories from her childhood on the library shelves. All the same, she enjoyed telling stories.

Oh, Pura can tell a story! She hisses . . . murmurs . . . roars. Children lean forward. They giggle . . . shiver . . . sigh.

She is allowed to tell only stories that have been printed in a book. That’s the rule. So she always tells stranger’s stories.

But Pura knows that not all the stories worth telling are in books. She wants to make children giggle at silly Señor Gallo and cry over Pérez the mouse. She wants to tell Abuela’s stories!

Pura decides: She will break the rule.

The book tells how Pura got permission to shake things up by demonstrating her storytelling skills. And after that step, she began telling stories in Spanish as well as English, to bring in more of the neighborhood children.

As the years went by, she got children more and more involved, even making puppets to tell the stories. Eventually, she collected stories from her childhood in published books.

The Author’s Note at the back gives more information about Pura Belpré’s illustrious career. For me, it’s nice to know about the person honored forever after by the award. For kids, this is an enchanting picture book biography about how everyone’s stories are important.

annettebaypimentel.com
abramsyoungreaders.com

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Review of Tu Youyou’s Discovery, by Songju Ma Daemicke, illustrated by Lin

Tu Youyou’s Discovery

Finding a Cure for Malaria

by Songju Ma Daemicke
illustrated by Lin

Albert Whitman & Company, 2021. 32 pages.
Review written November 29, 2021, from a library book
Starred Review

Tu Youyou’s Discovery is a picture book that tells the story of how a Chinese lady born in 1930 studied Chinese Traditional Medicine in her modern research lab, and through much hard work discovered a cure for malaria. In 2015, she received the Nobel Prize in Medicine, becoming the first Chinese woman to win a Nobel Prize of any kind.

The story of her life and work is simply told in understandable terms. It tells about her research and stories in traditional medicine of an herbal remedy that sounded promising – but how it didn’t work in her many lab trials.

I like this part, told over four pages with simple illustrations:

Still, the experiments kept failing – more than one hundred with no success.

Some male researchers began to question Youyou’s leadership and doubt the direction of her research. Western countries with advanced technologies hadn’t found a cure. Was using herbal medicine to cure malaria an impossible goal?

But Youyou was stubborn. Her faith in traditional Chinese medicine was unshakable. She kept working and testing.

Then something incredible happened.

After 190 unsuccessful experiments, the test result of sample 191 stunned the team. The qinghao extract prepared at a temperature of only 94 degrees Fahrenheit had killed the parasites completely!

The note at the back tells us that this new therapy saved 6.8 million lives between 2001 and 2015. At the back, there’s also a section “Tu Youyou and the Scientific Method” listing the steps of the Scientific Method and how they were used by Tu Youyou’s team.

A lovely story of a remarkable female scientist.

songjumadaemicke.com
albertwhitman.com

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Review of Africa, Amazing Africa, by Atinuke, illustrated by Mouni Feddag

Africa, Amazing Africa

Country by Country

by Atinuke
illustrated by Mouni Feddag

Candlewick Press, 2021. First published in the United Kingdom in 2019. 78 pages.
Review written April 26, 2022, from a library book
Starred Review

This wonderful oversized picture book tells the reader all about Africa. The information is arranged by region, and every single African country gets a page with colorful pictures and information about what makes that country special. The details are given with a clear fondness for the continent, and the introductory page for each region includes ways to say “Welcome!” in the many languages spoken there.

I was hoping that reading this book would make me a better Worldle player. (In Worldle, you see the outline of a country and try to guess the name. Hints tell you which direction the answer is in and how far away from your guess.) I’m not sure I remembered all the information I read, but it gave me appreciation for the wide-ranging variety of climates and landscapes and cities and people found in Africa. If I still had school-age kids, this would be a fun book to leave out for them to browse at will.

Here is a bit from the Introduction. You can get a taste of how enthusiastic the author is about Africa.

Writing this book has been an adventure. I wanted to write it so that I could share the things I find exciting about Africa. But while I was working on it, I found out a zillion more really exciting things.

Did you know that the first human beings to walk this earth were African? They went on to populate the whole planet. So we are all from Africa originally!

Did you know that Africa is gigantic? It is as big as Europe, the United States, Mexico, India, and Japan all put together! . . .

Africa is changing all the time: new countries are being created or swallowed up, old traditions are being lost and new ones developing. This book can only give an idea of what Africa is like in the moment that I am writing. So enjoy this book for what it is: a tiny glimpse into this wonderful continent.

I could not squeeze everything that I know and love about Africa into this book. There is room to say only two or three things about each country. But I hope this book will make you want to find out more about the most amazing continent on the planet!

I learned so much reading this book about modern Africa!

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Review of Galloping Gertie, by Amanda Abler, illustrated by Levi Hastings

Galloping Gertie

The True Story of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge Collapse

by Amanda Abler
illustrated by Levi Hastings

Little Bigfoot (Sasquatch Books), 2021. 48 pages.
Review written February 19, 2022, from a library book
Starred Review

Galloping Gertie tells the story of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge that collapsed in 1940 only four months after it opened.

To keep the book from being too somber, it gives us the point of view of a boy named Dale Wirsing. He could see the bridge from his house and walked across it once with his parents. The windy day of the bridge’s collapse was Dale’s birthday. As a kid, he thought it was an incredibly exciting event to watch the bridge twist in the wind and eventually blow apart.

The book gives plenty more background, both in the text itself and in the back matter.

A local engineer, Clark Eldridge, had designed the bridge to be lightweight and flexible . . . perhaps a little too flexible.

When the wind blew, the center span bounced up and down. The men who built the bridge nicknamed her “Galloping Gertie.” People said they could see the cars ahead of them disappear and reappear as they drove across her. Others claimed it was like riding a roller coaster!

We are presented with the drama of the day of collapse, and how the few people on the bridge before it shut down did make it to safety (but alas! not the dog). The bridge designer, being local, had driven across the bridge early that morning and actually watched its destruction.

I knew about the bridge because of an exhibit on bridges at the St. Louis Science Center – where our family used to go frequently with my kids. It had a video running of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapse and claimed the reason was due to resonance — so I was interested in the discussion at the back that said experts now believe the collapse was due to aeroelastic flutter. I also enjoyed the terms to search for on YouTube and I again watched the bridge collapse.

This subject could be very grim, but this author and illustrator make it dramatic, compelling, and fascinating.

LeviHastings.com
sasquatchbooks.com

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Review of Punching Bag, by Rex Ogle

Punching Bag

by Rex Ogle

Norton Young Readers, 2021. 207 pages.
Review written January 6, 2022, from a library book
Starred Review

In Punching Bag, Rex Ogle continues to tell about his life. Free Lunch</em> told about the difficulty of being poor when he was in middle school. In Punching Bag, he’s in high school and his family is no longer desperately poor, but he gets frequently beaten by both his mother and his stepfather.

The book is framed with a story about coming home from a summer away when he was seven years old. His mother tells him a baby sister was born while he was gone. But she died. She tells Rex that it’s his fault because he left.

Then we flash to high school. When things get rough, Rex imagines his sister watching him, helping him cope.

Meanwhile, he’s got his actual little brother with him, to help, to entertain, and to try to protect. Rex doesn’t want to turn to violence like his mother and Sam do, but sometimes it all wells up inside him.

There’s lots of humor in this terribly sad book. His style gives us a taste of how surreal the situation must have been for a teen and how trapped he must have felt. The book is powerful, but painful. I’m so glad I read it.

Let me pass along the Author’s Note at the front of the book:

This is a true story. This is my story. It happened to me.

And as painful as it was for me to write, it may be equally or more painful for you to read – especially if you’ve lived through something similar.

If you’re not ready to read this, then don’t. Please, go enjoy some sunshine, watch a funny movie, or buy yourself an ice cream. This book will be waiting for you when you are ready.

But know this: I lived this, I survived. You survived your past too, or you wouldn’t be here reading this. We are both alive. We may have a few more scars than we’d like – inside or out – but we made it through. No matter how dark the past, or even the present, the sun will always come up tomorrow. There is hope.

This story (and that ice cream) are waiting . . . whenever you’re ready.

nortonyoungreaders.com

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Review of Sharice’s Big Voice, by Sharice Davids, with Nancy K. Mays, illustrated by Joshua Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley

Sharice’s Big Voice

A Native Kid Becomes a Congresswoman

by Sharice Davids
with Nancy K. Mays
illustrations by Joshua Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley

Harper (HarperCollins), 2021. 40 pages.
Review written July 10, 2021, from a library book

Sharice’s Big Voice is a standard picture book biography, but it did convince me that Sharice Davids is a remarkable woman and that kids will be inspired to hear her story.

Sharice tells her own story and tells us that from the start, she liked to talk. I especially like a small story about how she got an upset classmate to return to the classroom by listening to him, and how she made friends that way.

Then she talks about how she’s part of the Ho-Chunk Nation, who call themselves People of the Big Voice. “(Which obviously fits me well!)”

She tells the story of the example of her single mother and her own interest in martial arts. She worked hard and became a lawyer, even though she didn’t know any other Native people who were lawyers. Then after working to help people on a reservation, she decided to run for U. S. Congress – and became one of the first Native American women in Congress.

Here are the lessons she pulls from her story:

Be open to challenges.
Work hard and you’ll learn a lot.
Listen to people. (But not the doubters!)
Use your big voice to fight for your beliefs.

And always remember:
You deserve to be seen – and heard.

It’s exciting that kids can read a picture book of someone alive today who’s young and already making a difference, despite odds against her.

joshuamangeshig.com
harpercollinschildrens.com

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Review of We Wait for the Sun, by Dovey Johnson Roundtree and Katie McCabe, pictures by Raissa Figueroa

We Wait for the Sun

The Story of Young Dovey Johnson Roundtree and Her Grandmother’s Enduring Love

by Dovey Johnson Roundtree and Katie McCabe
pictures by Raissa Figueroa

Roaring Brook Press, 2021. 36 pages.
Review written April 7, 2021, from a library book
Starred Review
2022 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book

We Wait for the Sun is not a traditional picture book biography, but it is a lovely picture book story about a little girl going berry-picking with her grandmother and friends before the sun comes up. The illustrations catch the dawning light so beautifully. The text gives you the feeling of fresh, sweet, juicy berries in your mouth.

But then the wonderful part, in both text and illustrations, is when the sun comes up. Grandma stops everything and watches the sun rise with Dovey Mae.

Again and again, Grandma reaches low or stands tiptoe to pluck berries. And then, suddenly, in the middle of her rush, she stops.

“Look, Dovey Mae,” she whispers. “Over yonder.”

Slowly, slowly, the horizon pinkens.

“Here she comes!” Grandma whispers. She draws me to her, and together we watch the pink turn to red, the red to gold.

Then, all at once, as if at my grandmother’s command, the orange ball that is the sun shows its face.

It rises up over the edge of the world, and as it does, Grandma rises, too, and stands, just looking, her face shining in the light.

It’s a beautiful story of community, family, and sweetness. Then at the back in a four-page author’s note, we learn about Dovey Johnson Roundtree and the remarkable life she lived, breaking boundaries in the military, law, and the ministry. This story came from the autobiography she wrote with the help of Katie McCabe before she died.

It’s a lovely story for children that comes from a remarkable woman who spent her life shining like the sun.

rizzyfig.com
mackids.com

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Review of Opening the Road, by Keila V. Dawson, illustrated by Alleanna Harris

Opening the Road

Victor Hugo Green and His Green Book

by Keila V. Dawson
illustrated by Alleanna Harris

Beaming Books, Minneapolis, 2021. 40 pages.
Review written April 7, 2021, from a library book
Starred Review

Opening the Road is a picture book that explains in simple and understandable language how Victor Hugo Green saw injustice and inconvenience and turned it into an opportunity.

First, in several spreads the book lays out the situation:

Black motorists were told:
No food . . .
No vacancy . . .
No bathroom . . .
for Black people.

White American travelers could stop at any roadside restaurant, hotel, or restroom.

But Black Americans had to pack cold food, blankets, and pillows for sleeping in the car . . . and a make-do toilet.

Then it tells how Victor saw a Kosher Food Guide put out by a Jewish newspaper and wondered if he could make a book with similar information for Black Americans.

So Victor asked his friends and neighbors in Harlem where they safely dined, shopped, and played in the city. Victor worked as a mail carrier. Along his postal route, Victor asked folks about places that were welcoming to Black people too.

It tells how The Negro Motorist Green Book took off and expanded so Black travelers took it with them to safely travel the country. I like the detail that black female entrepreneurs rented out rooms in their homes in cities with no hotels willing to rent to Black people. The discrimination turned into an opportunity.

A lovely and interesting picture book about a pertinent and inspiring bit of history.

beamingbooks.com

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Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but 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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