Archive for the ‘Children’s Nonfiction Review’ Category

Review of Drawn from Nature, by Helen Ahpornsiri

Wednesday, June 24th, 2020

Drawn from Nature

by Helen Ahpornsiri

Big Picture Press (Candlewick), 2018. 60 pages.
Starred Review
Review written April 29, 2018, from a library book
2018 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#5 Children’s Nonfiction Picture Books

I don’t think this book is eligible for either the Newbery or the Caldecott Medal, because the author lives in the United Kingdom – but that’s too bad! The art in this book is incredible! (I’m going to wait to post this review until after the Newbery is announced, just to be careful.)

All of the art in this amazing book is made from actual plants. Here’s how the artist explains it in the back:

Everything you see in these pages – from the gleam in a fox’s eye to the delicate line of a cobweb – is made from a plant.

Flowers and foliage are always changing with the seasons, but here they have been paused in their life cycle, kindled with a new story. Ferns have been transformed into feathers, and the colorful wings of insects are formed from the very flowers they feed on.

Each collage is made from hundreds of leaves and flowers, which are responsibly grown or foraged in the wild and preserved with traditional flower-pressing methods. The plants are then delicately arranged into bold new shapes and forms. They are all brimming with the twists and tangles of the wilderness, all capturing a perfect moment in time.

The text is about nature as it goes through the seasons, beginning with Spring and birds building nests, through Summer in the meadow, through Autumn with falling leaves, and finishing with Winter and hibernation and bare branches. But that’s a very brief summary – besides the incredibly detailed illustrations, the words reveal a knowledge of details of life in the wild that show careful observation.

I could look at these illustrations for hours. They are the sort that prompt me to show everyone in the library. One co-worker said that she has ordered cards from this artist on Etsy. The beauty and detail of her work is simply astonishing.

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 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 House of Dreams, by Liz Rosenberg

Friday, June 12th, 2020

House of Dreams

The Life of L. M. Montgomery

by Liz Rosenberg
illustrated by Julie Morstad

Candlewick Press, 2018. 339 pages.
Starred Review
Reviewed July 7, 2018, from a copy sent from the publisher.
2018 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#4 Longer Children’s Nonfiction

I am an avid L. M. Montgomery fan. I have read all of her published journals. I’ve read all her novels. Usually when I read a biography, I think how much nicer it was to read about these things in L. M. Montgomery’s own words. But I didn’t feel that way about House of Dreams.

In the first place, Liz Rosenberg did a great job of giving us the high points of L. M. Montgomery’s life. She speaks frankly of bipolar disorder and that there was no real treatment for it in her time. When Maud had a long low period, we don’t have to wade through the despairing journal entries, but we get a summary.

I thought I knew the whole story. But this book was the first I heard a crucial fact about Maud’s passionate love affair with Herman Leard – he was publicly courting another woman. It always made me crazy in her journals to read all the reasons why he wasn’t actually suited to her for marriage. I had no idea that she was protecting herself from jealousy. (I did know that she herself was engaged at that time to Edwin Simpson.)

I also knew that her life ended very unhappily and that she was very disappointed in her oldest son Chester. This book puts perspective on that and gives more details than Maud did about what Chester had done. (It’s this part that makes the book more for young adults than for children.) And I did not know that her death was probably a suicide, though I did know that she ended her days feeling despairing.

Her life ended unhappily, but there was so much inspiring about her life. Her persistent work at writing and her eventual success of climbing “the Alpine path” is always an uplifting story to hear. This quiet imaginative girl from Prince Edward Island achieved fame and wealth and a lasting legacy. The illustrations by Julie Morstad are perfect and make the book a treasure. (I’d love to see Julie Morstad illustrate all of L. M. Montgomery’s novels!)

I’m not going to keep all of the books that publishers have sent me to consider for the Newbery – but this one is going right into my collection of books by and about L. M. Montgomery. It’s a lovely book about a fascinating and inspiring life. I do recommend it to all my friends, teen and up, who love the Anne and Emily books.

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 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 Lights! Camera! Alice! by Mara Rockliff, illustrated by Simona Ciraolo

Saturday, May 30th, 2020

Lights! Camera! Alice!

The Thrilling True Adventures of the First Woman Filmmaker

by Mara Rockliff
illustrated by Simona Ciraolo

Chronicle Books, 2018. 56 pages.
Starred Review
2018 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#4 Children’s Nonfiction Picture Books

Who knew? One of the first people to create movies was a woman! This is from the note at the back:

Alice Guy-Blaché (1875-1968) was the first woman in the world to make movies – and one of the very first moviemakers, period. Long before Hollywood turned from silent films to “talkies,” Alice directed the first sound films ever made. She was also one of the first to film made-up stories instead of real events. (Some historians say she was the first, while others credit the Lumière brothers or Georges Méliès.) Between 1896 and 1920, Alice made over seven hundred movies, and her studio, Solax, produced hundreds more. She truly earned the title “Mother of the Movies.”

This picture book biography dramatizes Alice’s life without enormous amount of text and plenty of visuals. She grew up in France and got her start there, but came to America and made movies outside New York City. But the rise of Hollywood and the start of World War I meant her studio went out of business.

Each “episode” of her life has a “title card” like the old-fashioned title cards used in silent movies, and it turns out that each one is the title of a movie Alice made, with titles like “A Terrible Catastrophe,” “The Great Discovery,” “Starting Something,” “Imagination,” and “Her Great Adventure.”

There’s lots of back matter, and I took the time to look up one of Alice’s short films on YouTube. I was quite taken with this amazing woman I’d never heard of before – who changed the world.

mararockliff.com
chroniclekids.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 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 Calling All Minds, by Temple Grandin

Wednesday, May 20th, 2020

Calling All Minds

How to Think and Create Like an Inventor

by Temple Grandin
with Betsy Lerner

Philomel Books, 2018. 228 pages.
Starred Review
Review written September 23, 2018, from a book sent by the publisher
2018 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#3 Longer Children’s Nonfiction

As the blurb on the cover of the book states, Temple Grandin is a “World-Renowned Scientist, Inventor, and Expert on Visual Thinking.” She is also autistic. This book outlines some of the things that fascinated her as a child and led to her becoming a world-renowned inventor.

All along the way in this book, she presents projects for kids to experiment with. And for the most part, we’re not talking about simple craft projects, though there are a few of those. Many things involve sawing lumber or cutting pieces to the right size. I also like the way she suggests tinkering with the creations to get the results you want.

A note to readers and their parents right at the front warns which projects “require the use of sharp objects or power tools.” I think this makes the book all the more fascinating for an inquisitive mind.

I love the way she fills the book with stories of things that made her curious as a child. But I think my favorite part is where she explains about patents and how they work. She’s got many diagrams from patents used in the illustrations. But best of all is that she encourages kids to indulge in this curiosity, too:

My grandfather stimulated my early interest in science and invention. There may even be a genetic link that explains our shared interest. You can look up one of his patents, Patent No. US2383460A, for a magnetic field responsive device. His invention makes the autopilot on airplanes work. A really fun thing to do online is to look up patents. You can easily find any invention; just type in “Google patent” and enter key words for whatever you’re interested in. It’s much easier to search Google than the government patent site, though you can use that, too.

Here’s how she finishes the introductory chapter:

The future holds many crucial challenges such as understanding the impact of climate change, curing diseases, and ending hunger. We need all kinds of minds if we are going to figure out how to adapt. If we lose the ability to make things, we will lose a whole lot more. We need people who can cast iron and chemists who can create new materials that are lighter and stronger than metal. We need new storytellers, filmmakers, musicians, and artists. And we need new technologies to explore the future, including a deeper and more complex understanding of the earth and the ocean and the galaxies.

There is no better way to start than by making things of your own design. All the projects I made when I was young contributed to the inventions I’ve made throughout my life. And they have given my life meaning. I hope these projects and the ones you create will do the same for you.

Encourage the kids in your life to create, to try and try again, to tinker, and to make things with their own hands. This book is going to make some minds take off!

templegrandin.com
penguin.com/middle-grade

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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.

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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Review of Pass Go and Collect $200, by Tanya Lee Stone, illustrated by Steven Salerno

Friday, May 15th, 2020

Pass Go and Collect $200

The Real Story of How Monopoly Was Invented

by Tanya Lee Stone
illustrated by Steven Salerno

Christy Ottaviano Books (Henry Holt and Company), 2018. 36 pages.
Starred Review
Review written July 23, 2018, from a library book
2018 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#3 Children’s Nonfiction Picture Books

Everybody knows that Charles Darrow invented the game of Monopoly during the Great Depression and made lots of money, right? It’s even explained in the rules.

Turns out, that’s not actually the truth – he took credit – and got money – from a woman’s invention!

Okay, he did improve things. He did make his own boards and add a unique look to the game. But the basic idea of “The Landlord’s Game” was invented by a woman named Lizzie Magie – and she even filed some patents to prove it!

This picture book tells the real story and shows the early versions of Lizzie’s game. Parker Brothers Game Company didn’t buy her popular game, but her friends enjoyed the game and made their own changes and put names on the properties based on the cities where they lived.

The most lasting changes happened in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in 1930. Ruth Hoskins, a young Quaker teacher, and her friends renamed most of the properties after Atlantic City streets and neighborhoods. They were inspired by locations such as St. Charles Place, Ventnor Avenue, and Boardwalk. Someone else came up with color sequences and dividing the properties into groups of three. Atlantic City players added hotels to the game as well.

This was the set that Charles Darrow played.

Like many others, Charles Darrow began making his own boards to play the game. He even added some improvements. But it was the Great Depression, and instead of giving away the games he was making, he sold copies to his friends.

He also marketed the game and got sets he’d made stocked in department stores for Christmas. After they heard what a hit he was creating, Parker Brothers was finally willing to purchase the game from him.

To protect anyone from copying it, Parker Brothers needed a patent. Can you guess what happened next? Parker Brothers discovered Lizzie Magie’s patent. George Parker then remembered Lizzie trying to sell him her game years before. After having made an earlier claim that Monopoly was his brainchild, Charles Darrow admitted he had worked from an existing game, but he didn’t know who created it.

They ended up buying Lizzie’s patent for $500 (the equivalent of almost $9,000 today) for the rights to publish the game. And then the company went on to make millions from it.

This is how the main text of the book finishes up, leaving the reader to decide:

Today, we know that without Lizzie Magie, there likely never would have been a game called Monopoly for us to play and love. Her initial idea is the heart of the game. And without Charles Darrow, Monopoly might not have become America’s favorite board game. All the other folks who added their ideas along the way helped make it great, too.

So who wins in this story? What do you think? Did Lizzie Magie make a wrong move? Did Charles Darrow? How would you have played it? In any case, there is no doubt that millions of people all over the world adore Monopoly.

How nice to have a book that sets the record straight!

tanyastone.com
stevensalerno.com
mackids.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 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 Reawakening Our Ancestors’ Lines, gathered and compiled by Angela Hovak Johnston

Monday, May 11th, 2020

Reawakening Our Ancestors’ Lines

Revitalizing Inuit Traditional Tattoing

gathered and compiled by Angela Hovak Johnston
with photography by Cora De Vos

Inhabit Media, Ontario, Canada, 2017. 70 pages.
Review written May 11, 2020, from a library book
2020 American Indian Youth Literature Young Adult Honor
Starred Review

I read this book because it won a 2020 American Indian Youth Literature Award Honor in the Young Adult category, and I’m glad I did.

This book tells the story of the Inuit Tattoo Revitalization Project, an effort begun by Angela Hovak Johnston to revive the traditional tattooing of the Inuit people. Here’s a small part of her explanation in the Introduction:

This eight-year project began with my personal journey to permanently ink myself with the ancient symbols that were worn by my Inuit ancestors. The last known Inuk woman in the Nunavut area with tattoos done the traditional way passed away in 2005; that is when my passion grew. Knowing she was the last inked Inuk woman, I strongly believed tattoos couldn’t become just another part of history that we only read about in books, so I pushed forward with my dream of having tattoos. I knew I had a role to play. It took me years of hard research and finding the right tattoo artist to do these markings on my face. Not giving up, in 2008, I finally had my first facial tattoos. Inuit traditional tattoos, almost lost as a result of missionaries and residential schools, have come back. While tattoos skip three generations in some families, through this project, we thankfully had the pleasure of inking a family of women who carried three generations of new tattoos.

This book documents a part of the project where Angela and her team met for five days in April 2016 at the Kugluktuk Heritage Visitor Centre in Kugluktuk, Nunavut, and gave traditional tattoos to the Inuit women who came.

The photographs by Cora De Vos, an Inuk photographer, make this book exceptional. Each participant gets a spread. On one side the woman explains the significance to her of the tattoos she received along with various pictures of receiving the tattoos or modeling the tattoos. On the opposite side, there’s a portrait of the woman with the finished tattoos, often in traditional Inuit clothing, and always looking beautiful and strong.

Each woman speaks for herself, which makes the text a little bit repetitive, since receiving the tattoos meant similar things to many of the women. But I did appreciate that all were given a voice and a moment to shine. All the women are truly beautiful and this project brings that out in such a lovely way.

The photos are so gorgeous, readers might be tempted to try to get similar tattoos for themselves, so there is an Author’s Note about cultural appropriation at the back – this project is going to focus on giving Inuit women the opportunity to receive the traditional tattoos first.

The book is full of hope and joy about Inuit women reclaiming their history and traditions. You can see their emotion in the photographs and hear the pride in their voices. This is a lovely thing for anyone of any ethnicity to witness, and I’m very glad I discovered this beautiful book.

inhabitmedia.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 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 Faithful Spy, by John Hendrix

Thursday, May 7th, 2020

The Faithful Spy

Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler

by John Hendrix

Amulet Books, 2018. 176 pages.
Starred Review
Review written October 1, 2018, from a book sent by the publisher
2019 YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Award Finalist
2018 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#2 Longer Children’s Nonfiction

This book isn’t quite a graphic novel – but every page is covered with art and the text is arranged on the art. Some pages do have panels and/or speech bubbles, but most just have an arrangement of text. There are many diagrams and some maps, and every spread has some kind of graphic element.

The story is true. This book tells about a German pastor, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and his spiritual journey, which eventually led him to get involved in a conspiracy to assassinate Adolf Hitler.

The book also explains the rise of Hitler in an easy-to-understand way. In fact, I feel like I understand it much better than before. I hadn’t put it all together and understood that he took power completely legally and how he pulled that off.

A really striking part was when Dietrich went to seminary in New York City in 1930 and became close friends with a black man. He did some traveling in the South and was appalled when he saw how Blacks were treated, even by pastors. This part was chilling:

But there was something oddly familiar about what he was seeing. It reminded him of the rhetoric of that young nationalist upstart, Adolf Hitler, and his Nazi party, who had tried to seize control of the government a few years earlier.

It was, of course, nothing to the level of what was happening in the United States.

To think that something like this kind of repulsive segregation could come to his Germany was impossible.

But of course it did come, and Dietrich became part of the “Confessing Church” – the first public religious opposition to Nazi policies of discrimination. He even opened his own rebel seminary, which operated under the radar as long as they could.

Another striking moment in the book was that Dietrich and a friend went to visit Martin Niemöller just minutes after he’d been arrested – and were taken into custody, but released that night. This is striking because Martin Niemöller was the one who wrote:

First they came for the socialists,
and I did not speak out –
because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I did not speak out –
because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I did not speak out –
because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak for me.

Honestly, this book was hard to read in September 2018! It wrestles with how a Christian should act under a corrupt regime. What should they do? How can they simply stand by? Is speaking up enough? What if speaking up brings danger to your loved ones and relatives?

Dietrich had to really wrestle with himself to join the group (composed of some relatives high in the military) who were plotting Hitler’s assassination. They made three attempts – and were very close to success each time. And it feels strange as you’re reading this book to wish that the assassinations had worked!

Dietrich also was a spy. He was supposedly a spy for the Abwehr, but was actually working as a double agent, trying to get some foreign support for the group planning the assassination.

There were times during the war and just before the war when Dietrich had a chance to get out of Germany, including a chance to escape after he’d been arrested and was in prison. But for the sake of his country, which needed people working to do what’s right, and for the sake of his loved ones, who would be sure to suffer if he escaped, Dietrich stayed until the end. He was killed just before the end of the war.

It’s all very dramatic and thought-provoking and laid out in a visual way, making it easier to understand.

Because of the heavy nature of the topic, this is probably more for high school students. But since it’s in such a visual format, some middle school kids will want to read it, too. I highly recommend it for adults as well. I feel much more knowledgeable about World War II and the rise of Hitler than I did before I read it. And I’m thinking hard about what a Christian should do when they see their government pursuing evil policies, infiltrating the church, and making people suffer.

johnhendrix.com
amuletbooks.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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Review of An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States for Young People, by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

Wednesday, April 29th, 2020

An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States

for Young People

by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
adapted by Jean Mendoza and Debbie Reese

Beacon Press, 2019. 270 pages.
Review written April 28, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review
2020 American Indian Youth Literature Awards Young Adult Honor

I read this book because of the Honor it won at this year’s awards, and wow, it was an uncomfortable but eye-opening read. I’ve sometimes read adaptor Debbie Reese’s observations on her American Indians in Children’s Literature blog, and I’ve sometimes thought she was overreacting. But reading an entire book of United States history from the perspective of Native Americans – I hope that it helped me realize how biased my perspective was. It no longer seems like anything she has to say is overreacting.

It was an uncomfortable read. I like the version of history better that talks about the nobility of my “pioneer” ancestors, rather than about squatters who settled on land that didn’t belong to them.

Maybe I didn’t exactly like stories I’ve heard of Indians scalping innocent settlers, but I sure didn’t like to hear that the U. S. government paid hunters for every Indian they killed, and an easy way to prove their kills was to collect scalps. I sure didn’t like hearing that it was common to make souvenirs out of body parts of Native Americans slaughtered.

I recently read a book about the migration of wildebeests in Africa, the greatest land migration of animals on earth – now that the American buffalo herds have been decimated. In this book, I read about the systematic hunting of buffalo in an effort to also wipe out the Indigenous peoples who managed the herds and depended on them for their livelihood. A picture of a man on top of a mountain of buffalo skulls graphically illustrated this loss.

And the whole assumption that Indian lands were a wilderness not being used, available for anyone who wanted them, that assumption was shaken. When reading this book, I learned there was already a network of roads before the Europeans showed up, as well as sophisticated agricultural techniques, land management, and government.

When Europeans arrived on the continent, they often seemed unaware that many conditions that were useful to them were the result of Indigenous peoples’ stewardship of the land. Some early settlers remarked that in many places they could easily have driven carriages between the trees. Others commented about large clearings in the forests, some with well-tended gardens and cornfields. They did not seem to recognize that for thousands of years Native people had been making roads and clearing spaces to make trading, hunting, and agriculture easier. Willfully or not, they depicted the land as empty, devoid of “civilized” peoples – and theirs for the taking.

In the Introduction, we learn about the Doctrine of Discovery that influenced the first Europeans to come to this continent – and continued to influence the government of the United States.

In the late fifteenth century, as European explorers sailed to unfamiliar places, their actions and beliefs were guided by the Doctrine of Discovery – the idea that European nations could claim the foreign lands they “discovered.” The Doctrine of Discovery was laid out in a series of communications from the pope, leader of the Catholic Church, who was extremely influential in European politics at the time. It asserted that indigenous inhabitants lost their natural right to that land as soon as Europeans arrived and claimed it. People whose homelands were “discovered” were considered subjects of the Europeans and were expected to do what the “discoverers” wished. If they resisted, they were to be conquered by European military action. This enabled Columbus to claim the Taino people’s Caribbean home for Spain and to kidnap and enslave the Indigenous peoples. Similarly, the Pilgrims and the Puritans, the first groups from England to settle in what became the United States, believed they had a covenant with God to take the land. The Doctrine of Discovery influenced the policies of the young United States and directly affected the lives and the very existence of Native people. However, history textbooks for young people rarely invite students to question or think critically about that part of the US origin story.

“Free” land, with all its resources, was a magnet that attracted European settlers to the Americas. The word settler is used so frequently that most people do not recognize that it means more than just a person who settles down to live in a new place. Throughout history it has also meant a person who goes to live where, supposedly, no one has lived before. More often than not, “settlers” have gone to live somewhere that is already home to someone else. They are important to a nation – like Britain or Spain – when it plans to set up colonies in an area. Colonization is the process of taking political and economic control of a region, and colonizers are the people or institutions that are part of that process: the military, business interests, people who go there to live, and sometimes representatives of religious institutions. Because of their key role in establishing and populating a colony, settlers may be called colonizers. Settlers who came to what is currently known as North America wanted land for homes, farms, and businesses that they could not have in their home countries. Settlers who used the labor of enslaved Africans wanted limitless land for growing cash crops. Under their nations’ flags, those Europeans fought Native people for control of that land.

The Introduction also explains the meaning of such terms as genocide and white supremacy. Throughout the book, we see where the official policy toward the Indigenous people of America was indeed genocide. We see again and again treaties made with Indians that are officially the law of the land (designated so in the United States Constitution), but then are changed without ever consulting Native Americans.

I’m not sure I’m convincing anyone to read this book. It’s certainly not comfortable reading. But it is eye-opening and got me listening to a perspective that I don’t think I’d ever fully considered before. I’m not proud that this is new information, but I’m glad I finally tackled that new information. I’m putting the adult version of the book on hold, and I’m glad that a young people’s edition exists, as maybe this will encourage teens to consider these things at a much earlier point in their lives than I have.

beacon.org
americanindiansinchildrensliterature.blogspot.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 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 Nothing Stopped Sophie, by Cheryl Bardoe, illustrated by Barbara McClintock

Monday, April 27th, 2020

Nothing Stopped Sophie

The Story of Unshakable Mathematician Sophie Germain

by Cheryl Bardoe
illustrated by Barbara McClintock

Little, Brown and Company, 2018. 36 pages.
Starred Review
Review written June 27, 2018 from a library book.
2018 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#2 Children’s Nonfiction Picture Books

At last! The Boy Who Loved Math was a picture book biography of a mathematician that was hugely popular a few years ago. Now there’s one about a girl who loved math! And Sophie Germain accomplished amazing things.

It’s always interesting to illustrate someone being good at math. This is accomplished with interesting variety in this book. I like the illustration where her parents tried to take away her candles so that she couldn’t stay up late doing math. But later her work involved patterns of vibrations, and those are nicely illustrated.

Another interesting episode is where Professor Joseph-Louis Lagrange goes to visit the brilliant student who has been writing to him and discovers she’s a woman.

With so many women who broke ground in fields that were closed to them, a key part of Sophie’s life was her persistence. That is portrayed beautifully here, from the title to the final page.

Sophie is celebrated today because nothing stopped her. Her fearlessness and perseverance have inspired many people.

Perhaps she will also inspire you.

cherylbardoe.com
barbaramcclintockbooks.com
lbyr.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 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 Fry Bread, written by Kevin Noble Maillard, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal

Friday, April 17th, 2020

Fry Bread

A Native American Family Story

written by Kevin Noble Maillard
illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal

Roaring Brook Press, 2019. 44 pages.
Starred Review
Review written February 11, 2020, from a library book
2020 Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award Winner
2020 American Indian Youth Literature Picture Book Honor

Since this book won the Sibert Award, I’m going to list it on my Children’s Nonfiction page, but this book is really two things – a picture book with simple text and an informational book when you read the detailed eleven-page Author’s Note (with a recipe) at the back.

The picture book part is lovely. These spreads all begin with a caption “Fry Bread Is….” Fry bread is food, shape, sound, color, flavor, time, art, history place, nation, everything, us, and you. The pictures show a loving and joyful intergenerational group of American Indians making fry bread together. They’re a diverse group in appearance and skin tone, and have parents and elders guiding them and telling stories.

The pictures are joyful and evocative. I like the picture on the page “Fry Bread Is Sound” where you can almost hear the dough frying. The words are simple and could work in a story time.

Fry Bread Is Time

On weekdays and holidays
Supper or dinner
Powwows and festivals
Moments together
With family and friends

The Author’s Note brings it all together and explains the background and significance of the carefully-chosen details in the illustrations.

He begins the Author’s Note like this:

The story of fry bread is the story of American Indians: embracing community and culture in the face of opposition. It is commonly believed that the Navajo (Diné) were the first to make fry bread over 150 years ago. The basic ingredients may appear simple – flour, salt, water, and yeast – yet the history behind this community anchor is anything but.

Despite colonial efforts throughout American history to weaken tribal governments, fracture Indigenous communities, and forcibly take ancestral lands, Indian culture has proven resilient. In strange, unfamiliar lands, exiled Natives strived to retain those old traditions and they created new ones, especially for food. Survival meant adapting, and those ancestors, isolated from familiar meats, fruits, and vegetables, got by with what they had. Without the familiar indigenous crop of corn, historic farming practices and dietary traditions drastically changed.

Many tribes trace the origin of modern Indian cooking to this government-caused deprivation. From federal rations of powdered, canned, and other dry, government-issued foods, fry bread was born.

Then the note goes page by page, and along the way we learn that different tribes and different regions have different recipes and different traditions for fry bread.

Fry bread reflects the vast, deep diversity of Indian Country and there is no single way of making this special food. But it brings diverse Indigenous communities together through a shared culinary and cultural experience. That’s the beauty of fry bread.

There’s so much in this picture book. A story to enjoy combined with so much to learn about and celebrate.

kevinmaillard.com
juanamartinezneal.com
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 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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