Archive for the ‘Children’s Nonfiction Review’ Category

Review of I Am Farmer, by Baptiste & Miranda Paul, illustrations by Elizabeth Zunon

Tuesday, June 25th, 2019

I Am Farmer

Growing an Environmental Movement in Cameroon

by Baptiste & Miranda Paul
illustrations by Elizabeth Zunon

Millbrook Press, 2019. 36 pages.
Starred Review
Review written April 20, 2019, from a library book

This picture book biography tells about Farmer Tantoh of Cameroon, who ever since he was a small boy loved the soil and wanted to be a farmer. So much so that he took that as his name in high school and purposely flunked an exam that could have given him an office job.

Later he did go on to college, and to this day he works to bring clean water throughout his country and spreads good farming practices and cooperation.

The book follows Farmer Tantoh from childhood, through his college years when he caught typhoid from contaminated water, through his work today.

Here’s an example from one spread:

One project leads to another and another. Farmer Tantoh founds Save Your Future Association, a nonprofit organization to which people around the world can donate money and supplies. With local and international support, he finds a way to bring clean water to Njirong, a village suffering after a thirty-year conflict.

He begins a water delivery service for blind students. He hires engineers to design stairways, railings, or ramps for villagers with physical disabilities. In places with large populations, communities build reservoirs so that in times of drought, people can get the water they need.

The book is beautifully illustrated with Elizabeth Zunon’s wonderful collage artwork, and there are photographs on the endpapers which bring home that this is a real person. I like the Author’s Note, which tells us, “We traveled to northwest Cameroon in 2017, and we were overwhelmed by the number of villagers – from the very young to the elderly – who were beyond eager to tell or show us how Tantoh’s work had changed their lives.”

This is an inspiring story that I’m so glad to have read about.

baptistepaul.net
mirandapaul.com
lizzunon.com
lernerbooks.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/i_am_farmer.html

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.

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?

Review of The Undefeated, by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Monday, May 27th, 2019

The Undefeated

by Kwame Alexander
illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Versify (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), 2019. 40 pages.
Starred Review
Review written April 16, 2019, from a library book

Kwame Alexander and Kadir Nelson pretty much form my dream team of picture book creators. Kadir Nelson creates lavish, lush paintings of people who are radiant with light. Kadir Nelson writes poetry that sings. In this book they use those powers together to celebrate black Americans through the ages.

Kwame Alexander wrote a poem beginning in 2008, the year his second daughter was born and the year Barack Obama was elected the first African American president of the United States. He explains in the back many reasons he wrote the poem, culminating in this one:

But mostly I wrote a poem to remind Samayah and her friends and her family and all of you, and to remind myself, to never, ever give up, because, as Maya Angelou wrote, “We may encounter many defeats, but we must not be defeated. It may even be necessary to encounter the defeat, so that we can know who we are. So that we can see, oh, that happened, and I rose. I did get knocked down flat in front of the whole world, and I rose.”

Keep rising.

The poem references African American history, and the magnificent portraits that accompany the poem show people in action, some historical figures and some unnamed.

There are lines like this, accompanied by a portrait of Jesse Owens leaping:

This is for the unforgettable.
The swift and sweet ones
who hurdled history
and opened a world of possible.

There are lines like this, accompanied by a large portrait of Martin Luther King Jr.:

This is for the unlimited,
unstoppable ones.
The dreamers
and doers
who swim
across The Big Sea
of our imagination
and show us
the majestic shores
of the promised land:

There are lines like this, accompanied by a portrait of Jack Johnson, the first African American world heavyweight boxing champion:

This is for the unflappable.
The sophisticated ones
who box adversity
and tackle vision.

There are several pages with a whole group of people shown – and in the back you can check a list of historical figures with short bios to find out who they are.

The poem finishes:

This is for the
undefeated.
This is for you.
And you.
And you.
This
is
for
us.

And every portrait is of an African American person – but lifting the dignity of other humans raises us all. Celebrating triumph over obstacles elevates us all. So I believe this book is for me, too.

Magnificent.

kwamealexander.com
kadirnelson.com
hmhco.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/undefeated.html

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.

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?

Review of Aim for the Skies, by Aimée Bissonette, illustrated by Doris Ettlinger

Sunday, April 28th, 2019

Aim for the Skies

Jerrie Mock and Joan Merriam Smith’s Race to Complete Amelia Earhart’s Quest

by Aimée Bissonette
illustrated by Doris Ettlinger

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018. 32 pages.
Review written February 13, 2019, from a library book

This picture book tells about two women who both decided independently to complete Amelia Earhart’s around the world airplane trip. They both set out on their journey in March 1964. They traveled different routes, but the press reported it as a race. Yes, one of them became the first woman to fly solo around the world. But the other became the first person to fly the longest distance alone – using the same route as Amelia, around the equator.

The book gives the background of each woman, what got them interested in becoming a pilot and why they took on such a grand adventure. And then, of course, dramatizes the race around the world.

This is an interesting story of two women who accomplished amazing things – both in honor of Amelia Earhart before them.

aimeebissonette.com
dorisettlinger.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/aim_for_the_skies.html

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.

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?

Review of A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, lyrics by Fred Rogers, illustrations by Luke Flowers

Friday, April 12th, 2019

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

The Poetry of Mister Rogers

lyrics by Fred Rogers
illustrations by Luke Flowers

Quirk Books, 2019. 143 pages.
Review written April 9, 2019, from a library book
Starred Review

They’re all here! The songs that make you think of Mister Rogers, beginning with “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” including songs like “You Can Never Go Down the Drain,” “What Do You Do with the Mad That You Feel?” “Everything Grows Together,” “It’s You I Like,” “Sometimes People Are Good,” “You Are Special,” and finishing with “It’s Such a Good Feeling.”

The only thing wrong with this book? Music is not included. All of this poetry was meant to be sung. And the only tunes I can partially remember are pretty much the songs I listed in the last paragraph. So I wish they had figured out a way to include the tunes. If not in the book, then maybe an accompanying CD?

In fact, not all of the poems here were written by Fred Rogers. Several are listed with the tagline, “Lyrics by Josie Carey, Music by Fred Rogers.” These poems are very much in the same style and are from the show, but unfortunately, we don’t get to see Mr. Rogers’ contribution.

It did dawn on me that “Everything Grows Together” would make a great song to sing at storytimes. It’s one of the few that I can remember the entire tune. So that will be my new little tribute to Mr. Rogers in my storytimes.

The book is packaged with bright pictures for children. But the truth is that the songs are all so affirming and joyful that I read a few songs every day for a nice boost to my spirits as I set out on that day. Sure, some songs like “You Can Never Go Down the Drain” speak to worries I’ve long put behind me. But it doesn’t hurt anyone, young or old, to be reminded that “You Are Special.”

Mr. Rogers packed a whole lot of wisdom into his simple songs. Reading them is a cheering thing to do. I love that they have been collected!

Won’t you be my neighbor?

MisterRogers.org
lukeflowerscreative.com
quirkbooks.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/beautiful_day_in_the_neighborhood.html

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?

Review of Hawk Mother, by Kara Hagedorn

Wednesday, March 27th, 2019

Hawk Mother

The Story of a Red-tailed Hawk Who Hatched Chickens

by Kara Hagedorn

Web of Life Children’s Books, Berkeley, California, 2017. 32 pages.
Review written March 5, 2019, from a library book

This is one of those nonfiction books with big, cute pictures of baby animals – which make it an easy win for booktalking.

The main story is of a rescued red-tailed hawk. She’d been shot and found with a broken wing. She’d never fly again. Kara Hagedorn is a zoologist who works at a wildlife center. She took care of the hawk, named her Sunshine, and bonded with her.

Sunshine made a habit of laying eggs and sitting on them – even though they were infertile and would never hatch. Sunshine would take good care of the eggs – and expect Kara to help her – but Kara had to get rid of the eggs each summer to stop Sunshine waiting forever for them to hatch.

But one year, Kara got two fertilized eggs from a local chicken farmer and placed them in Sunshine’s nest.

Even though in the wild, hawks kill and eat baby chickens, Sunshine adopted these as her own and cared for them until they became fully grown roosters.

Sunshine’s inspiring story shows how we can all overcome challenges and adjust to new situations with the help of others!

This lovely book tells a simple but heart-warming story and is illustrated with large photographs throughout.

sunshinehawk.com
conifercreative.com
weboflifebooks.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/hawk_mother.html

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.

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?

Review of Planting Stories, by Anika Aldamuy Denise

Tuesday, March 19th, 2019

Planting Stories

The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré

by Anika Aldamuy Denise
illustrations by Paola Escobar

Harper, 2019. 36 pages.
Starred Review
Review written February 13, 2019, from a library book

Here’s a picture book biography of Pura Belpré, who has a children’s book award named after her for outstanding works of literature by Latinx authors and illustrators.

In 1921, Pura Belpré was the first Puerto Rican librarian in New York City. She was hired to find books and create programs at the Harlem branch that would appeal to the neighborhood’s growing Spanish-speaking community.

Since Pura didn’t find any stories from Puerto Rico on the library shelves, she told the stories herself. She ended up creating puppets to go with them and authoring several books based on those stories.

This book, with particularly beautiful illustrations, celebrates the difference a librarian made to an entire community, while telling more of the background of her life.

I was glad to discover the story of the person honored by the award. Yes, she was someone who got stories into the minds and hearts of Latinx children.

anikadenise.com
harpercollinschildrens.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/planting_stories.html

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.

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?

Review of The Boo-Boos That Changed the World, by Barry Wittenstein, illustrated by Chris Hsu

Saturday, March 9th, 2019

The Boo-Boos That Changed the World

A True Story about an Accidental Invention (Really!)

by Barry Wittenstein
illustrated by Chris Hsu

Charlesbridge, 2018. 32 pages.
Starred Review
Review written March 5, 2019, from a library book

Here’s a fun picture book that tells about the invention of Band-Aids.

It turns out they were invented by a guy named Earle Dickson who worked for a hospital supply company and whose father was a doctor. But that wasn’t enough. The reason he invented Band-Aids was that he had an accident-prone wife.

When Earle’s wife Josephine cut her fingers, it was hard to wrap the wounds in a way so that she could still use her hands. So Earle thought of attaching a piece of sterile gauze to adhesive tape. Then she could easily tape a strip over her cuts and scrapes.

But that wasn’t the end of the story. They still needed to manufacture the new adhesive bandages and then convince people to buy them.

At first, they sold them in big rolls, and you had to cut off a piece before you could put it on a cut. They were also difficult to manufacture. Even when they got the idea of individually-wrapped bandages, it still took time to catch on.

In fact, it was giving free samples to Boy Scouts and the military fighting overseas during World War II that made Band-Aids a household necessity.

I like the way this picture book looks at the entire process of a relatively simple invention and explains how it was developed in a way that children can understand.

I’m planning to booktalk this book in the elementary schools this summer. It has the hook of being a fun story about something everyone has used, and it also teaches what goes into making an invention popular.

onedogwoof.com
chrishsu.net
charlesbridge.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/boo_boos.html

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.

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?

Review of So Tall Within, by Gary D. Schmidt

Saturday, March 2nd, 2019

So Tall Within

Sojourner Truth’s Long Walk Toward Freedom

by Gary D. Schmidt
illustrated by Daniel Minter

Roaring Brook Press, 2018. 48 pages.
Starred Review
Review written October 2, 2018, from a library book
2018 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#1 Children’s Nonfiction Picture Books

Here’s a picture book biography of Sojourner Truth, focusing on how she spoke up for Freedom.

The words used are poetic and the pictures are full of beautiful resonance.

Many spreads have a panel on the left side beginning with “In Slavery Time…” or “In Freedom Time…” along with an image.

For example, the book begins like this:

In Slavery Time, when Hope was a seed waiting to be planted,

Isabella lived in a cellar where the windows never let the sun in and the floorboards never kept the water out.

The book takes us through her many years in slavery, and then the story of how she got her freedom – and sued her former master because he sold her son out of the state of New York.

But in Slavery Time, Broken Promises were like leaves on a tree.

It tells about how she changed her name and began walking around the country speaking about Freedom and Truth.

In Slavery Time, when Tiredness stood at the doorway,

Sojourner Truth walked all the way to Washington, D. C. There she met Abraham Lincoln, and she told him he was “the best president who has ever taken the seat.”

But the panels change after emancipation.

In Freedom Time, when Hope kindled a fire in the dark and Happiness winked over the horizon,

Soujourner Truth told an audience in Massachusetts, “Children, I have come here like the rest of you, to hear what I have to say.” And what she had to say was plenty.

This book powerfully and poetically portrays a woman who rose from slavery to stand tall and change America.

mackids.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/so_tall_within.html

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?

Review of The Girl Who Drew Butterflies, by Joyce Sidman

Friday, February 15th, 2019

The Girl Who Drew Butterflies

How Maria Merian’s Art Changed Science

by Joyce Sidman

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018. 144 pages.
Starred Review
Review written March 7, 2018, from a book sent by the publisher.
2019 Sibert Medal Winner for best children’s nonfiction book of the year
2018 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#1 Longer Children’s Nonfiction

This book has a prologue, with the heading, “The Girl in the Garden.” Quoting from it will tell you the background of Maria Merian’s life.

A girl kneels in her garden. It is 1660, and she has just turned thirteen: too old for a proper German girl to be crouching in the dirt, according to her mother. She is searching for something she discovered days ago in the chilly spring air. As she combs the emerald bushes, she looks for other telltale signs – eggs no bigger than pinpricks, or leaf edges scalloped by the jaws of an inching worm. . . .

But for years she has gathered flowers for her stepfather’s studio, carried them in, and arranged them for his still-life paintings. She has studied the creatures that ride on their petals: the soft green bodies of caterpillars, the shiny armor of beetles, the delicate wings of moths. She has looked at them closely, sketched and painted them. In learning the skills of an artist, she has learned to look and watch and wonder.

Imagine this girl, forbidden from training as either a scholar or a master artist because she is female. Aware that in nearby villages women have been hanged as witches for something as simple as showing too much interest in “evil vermin.”

Yet she is drawn to these small, mysterious lives. She does not believe the local lore: that “summer birds,” or butterflies, creep out from under the earth. She thinks there is a connection between butterflies, moths, caterpillars, and the rumpled brown cocoon before her, and she is determined to find it.

This is her story.

The biography that follows tells of a woman far ahead of her times. She was both an artist and a scientist. She was an artist because she assisted her father and her husband and learned from them – she wouldn’t have been able to study on her own merits. She was a scientist by virtue of her own patient observations. She learned which caterpillars transformed into which moths or butterflies and which cocoon or chrysalis went with each.

She made her observations known by painting them. She would paint creatures on the same plant where she found them, and she would paint a butterfly with its egg, caterpillar, pupa, and chrysalis in the same picture.

This book is lavishly illustrated with Maria Merian’s own paintings as well as photographs of caterpillars, moths, and butterflies. Quotations from Maria’s writings are included, set off in a box and printed in script. Every spread has something colorful to catch the eye.

The structure of Maria’s biography follows the life cycle of a butterfly, with chapter titles: “Egg,” “Hatching,” “First Instar,” “Second Instar,” “Third Instar,” “Fourth Instar,” “Molting,” “Pupa,” “Eclosing,” “Expanding,” “Flight,” and “Egg” again. Joyce Sidman has written a poem for each chapter, placed next to a photo of a caterpillar or butterfly at that stage.

Maria’s unique combination of observation plus art left a mark that affected scientists after her. After her death, Carl Linnaeus used her book to classify and name more than one hundred insects – names we still use today.

The exquisite paintings and detailed photographs make this a beautiful book worth browsing – even if it weren’t packed with facts about an important scientist, a woman far ahead of her time.

joycesidman.com
hmhco.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/girl_who_drew_butterflies.html

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 book sent by the publisher.

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?

Review of Queen of the Track, by Heather Lang, illustrated by Floyd Cooper

Saturday, January 19th, 2019

Queen of the Track

Alice Coachman, Olympic High-Jump Champion

by Heather Lang
illustrated by Floyd Cooper

Boyds Mills Press, 2016. 40 pages.

This is another picture book biography about a person I never heard of but am very glad to know about.

Alice Coachman was the first African American woman to win an Olympic gold medal. She won in 1948, and had to miss the 1940 and 1944 Olympics, when she was at her peak, because of World War II.

Born in 1922 and very poor, Alice faced many obstacles to living her dreams. Being black and being female were both obstacles to being an athlete.

The print in this book is small and there are lots of words on the pages, so the intended audience is older than the usual picture book crowd. However, it’s in good company with other picture book biographies.

The excellent picture book biographies written today are why I was happy our library created a children’s nonfiction browsing collection. This book isn’t designed for someone writing a report, but for someone wanting to read the true story of an inspiring person.

And she is inspiring. I’m so glad this book exists so I could learn her story.

The note at the back tells us more.

Alice credits her success to the support she received from her family, teachers, coaches, and sometimes people she hardly knew. In an effort to give back and help others, she founded the Alice Coachman Track and Field Foundation, which supports young athletes and helps former Olympic athletes adjust to life after the games.

Many do not know Alice’s story, since her gold medal came in the early days of broadcast television. But it was Alice Coachman who paved the way for future Olympic track stars such as Wilma Rudolph, Evelyn Ashford, and Jackie Joyner-Kersee.

heatherlangbooks.com
boydsmillspress.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/queen_of_the_track.html

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?