Archive for the ‘Children’s Nonfiction Review’ Category

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Review of The 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.

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Review of Out of Wonder, by Kwame Alexander

Tuesday, February 20th, 2018

Out of Wonder

Poems Celebrating Poets

by Kwame Alexander
with Chris Colderley and Marjory Wentworth
illustrated by Ekua Holmes

Candlewick Press, 2017. 50 pages.
Starred Review
2018 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award

Here’s a beautiful large-format book of poems celebrating poets. Kwame Alexander and his two co-authors have written poems in three sections. Poems in the first section match the favored style of the celebrated poet. Poems in the second section incorporate the feelings and themes of the celebrated poet’s work. And poems in the third section respond to the celebrated poet with thanks.

It’s all done with large, lovely paintings accompanying the poems, in a book in large format. To hold this book and leaf through it gives you a feeling of grandeur, nicely setting off the importance of these poets.

Kwame Alexander puts it well in the introduction:

A poem is a small but powerful thing. It has the power to reach inside of you, to ignite something in you, and to change you in ways you never imagined. There is a feeling of connection and communion – with the author and the subject – when we read a poem that articulates our deepest feelings. That connection can be a vehicle on the road to creativity and imagination. Poems can inspire us – in our classrooms and in our homes – to write our own journeys, to find our own stories….

Allow me to introduce you to twenty of my favorite poets. Poets who have inspired me and my co-authors with their words and their lives. They can do the same for you. Some of the poets we celebrate in this book lived centuries ago and wrote in languages other than English, while others still walk the streets of San Antonio and New York City today. Chris Colderley, Marjory Wentworth, and I had two requirements for the poets we would celebrate in Out of Wonder: first, they had to be interesting people, and second, we had to be passionately in love with their poetry. Mission accomplished!

I believe that by reading other poets we can discover our own wonder. For me, poems have always been muses. The poems in this book pay tribute to the poets being celebrated by adopting their style, extending their ideas, and offering gratitude to their wisdom and inspiration.

Enjoy the poems. We hope to use them as stepping-stones to wonder, leading you to write, to read the works of the poets celebrated in this book, to seek out more about their lives and their work, or to simply read and explore more poetry. At the very least, maybe you can memorize one or two.

We wonder how you will wonder.

This is one of those books where you need to see for yourself how striking it is. Check it out!

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 Silent Days, Silent Dreams, by Allen Say

Thursday, February 8th, 2018

Silent Days, Silent Dreams

by Allen Say

Arthur A. Levine Books (Scholastic), 2017. 64 pages.
Starred Review

This book is the story of artist James Castle, told from the perspective of his nephew.

James was born deaf and mute. Moving things seemed to frighten him, but he couldn’t even hear himself shriek. He eventually learned to draw, but he never did learn to speak, read, or write.

When James got upset, he’d scream. His father started locking him up in the attic to calm down. Eventually, he spent so much time there, it became his room. He’d draw pictures of the furniture he wanted to have.

For years, he went to the Idaho School for the Deaf and the Blind, along with his sister who had become deaf after having the measles. James didn’t learn to read or write or speak, but he did learn how to sew books together, and he did more and more drawing. Now his drawings included houses with his name on them – but that was the only intelligible word he would write. He did put in symbols that looked like the alphabet, but if they had any meaning to him, he never told anyone else. When James was fifteen, the school told his family that he was “ineducable.”

When he no longer had access to drawing materials, he made his own from soot and spit. He drew on scraps of paper and even made books out of them. He continued to draw, and even made cut-out dolls, furniture, farm animals, and birds out of cardboard.

James Castle’s art went unappreciated for most of his life, until his nephew showed some of his drawings to an art professor. The art professor arranged an exhibit, and later James got to see his work displayed in an art gallery.

Allen Say does a beautiful job of telling about this artist’s life. He does most of the drawings in the style of James Castle and communicates how difficult life must have been for the artist – without any communication. In fact, he lets drawings tell much of the story. The drawings are especially poignant that show Jimmy shrieking when he couldn’t even hear himself, or being taunted by other children.

But the story ends hopefully. When Jim’s sister got him a mobile home to work in, replacing the old chicken coop, his nephew heard him laugh for the first time.

After thirty years in the chicken coop, Uncle Jim finally got his Dream House, as the family called it. He worked in it for fifteen more years, in the same way he had when I was a kid – drawing with soot and spit on scavenged paper. I think he was happy.

scholastic.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 Seeing Things: A Kid’s Guide to Looking at Photographs, by Joel Meyerowitz

Thursday, January 25th, 2018

Seeing Things

A Kid’s Guide to Looking at Photographs

by Joel Meyerowitz

Aperture, 2016. 74 pages.
Starred Review

This is a book about photography – and about becoming a better photographer by learning to see as a photographer does.

The bulk of the book is a series of great photographs, chosen by Joel Meyerowitz, who is a photographer himself. They are mostly not images I would have chosen – they aren’t necessarily pretty pictures – but they are consistently images that make you think and wonder, if you stop to take a second look.

On the accompanying page to each photograph there is some text pointing things out, but also asking questions. The author explains why each one is a great photograph and explores why it captures your attention so effectively.

The earliest photo in this book was taken in 1898 and the latest in 2014. There are a wide variety of subjects and styles. The selection alone is provocative and will get you thinking about what you would choose for a collection of outstanding photographs.

Here’s what the author has to say on the opening page:

I chose the photographs in this book with the hope that the things you discover in them will encourage you to open your eyes and your mind so that you can see the world around you in a new way.

These photographs, of people and animals, of landscapes and life on the street, are full of humor, mystery, and surprise and show that any moment of any ordinary day has the potential to activate your mind with a sudden flash of insight.

That moment of seeing is like waking up.

How lucky we are to be living in an age when making a photograph is available to everyone with a smartphone or a camera. The photographs that follow show the kinds of tools that photographers use, like intuition, timing, point of view, a willingness to wait, and the courage to move closer – tactics that make beauty and meaning, otherwise hidden, visible. All of these things are part of how you naturally see, but you have to be aware of them if you’re really going to see.

What you notice will reflect the way the world speaks to you, and only to you.

You may or may not be able to change the world, but the world can certainly change you.

This book calls itself a kid’s guide to looking at photographs, but anyone of any age who takes pictures will learn from considering the ideas in this book.

aperture.org

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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 One Last Word, by Nikki Grimes

Monday, January 15th, 2018

One Last Word

Wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance

by Nikki Grimes

Bloomsbury, 2017. 120 pages.

This book is a tribute to poets of the Harlem Renaissance, and contains fourteen poems by poets from that time. The poems are illustrated with artwork by Cozbi A. Cabrera, R. Gregory Christie, Pat Cummings, Jan Spivey Gilchrist, Ebony Glenn, Nikki Grimes, E. B. Lewis, Frank Morrison, Christopher Myers, Brian Pinkney, Sean Qualls, James Ransome, Javaka Steptoe, Shadra Strickland, and Elizabeth Zunon.

But the heart of the book is the Golden Shovel poems Nikki Grimes has written in tribute to the Harlem Renaissance poets.

The idea of a Golden Shovel poem is to take a short poem in its entirety, or a line from that poem (called a striking line), and create a new poem, using the words from the original…. Then you would write a new poem, each line ending in one of these words.

Nikki Grimes does this with the poems she’s selected and included. She either uses one line or the entire poem, and uses those words as the ending of the lines of her own poem.

For example, the first poem selected is “Storm Ending,” by Jean Toomer, and the first line of the poem is “Thunder blossoms gorgeously above our heads,” and that first line is printed in bold. Then Nikki Grimes wrote a poem, “Truth” that uses these six words as the last word in each of the six lines.

It’s a lovely way of paying tribute to the original work. This book would be good simply as an anthology. But with Nikki Grimes’ poems playing off the original poems, and the work of this distinguished collection of artists, this book is something much more.

nikkigrimes.com
bloomsbury.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 Grand Canyon, by Jason Chin

Saturday, January 6th, 2018

Grand Canyon

by Jason Chin

A Neal Porter Book (Roaring Brook Press), 2017. 48 pages.
Starred Review
2017 Sonderbooks Stand-out, #4 Children’s Nonfiction

Here’s a stunningly illustrated and meticulously well-presented story of the ecology, geology and history of Grand Canyon.

First, the book explains that there are different ecological communities in different levels of the canyon. Then it also talks about the many different rock layers in the canyon.

Then we’re taken with a father and daughter on a hike through the different layers and different ecological communities. All around the borders, we’ll see drawings of different animals and plants that inhabit that layer.

But the most striking part about each layer is a cut-out window showing a fossil or rock found today – and when you turn the page, you see that thing in its habitat when the fossil was formed.

For example, the girl sees a fossil of a Trilobite in a rock today, then turning the page takes her back in time, under the sea, where Trilobites roamed the sea floor. Later the girl sees fossil footprints, and then in the past, she sees a lizard walking over windswept dunes and leaving those footprints.

It’s an interesting and imaginative way of presenting the material and is striking and easy to understand. There’s a fold-out spread with a panorama of Grand Canyon, and 8 pages of more details at the back of the book.

This is a fact-filled, gorgeously illustrated book that will reward multiple rereadings.

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 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 March, Book Three, by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin

Wednesday, December 27th, 2017

March, Book Three

by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin
art by Nate Powell

Top Shelf Productions, 2016. 246 pages.
Starred Review
2016 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature
2017 Printz Award
2017 Coretta Scott King Author Award
2017 Siebert Medal
2017 YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction
2017 Battle of the Books Winner

I was at the Youth Media Awards in Atlanta, Georgia, on the Monday after Trump’s inauguration, when this book by John Lewis won an unprecedented four awards, and not a single Honor among them. Atlanta is John Lewis’ home district, so he was there, and had participated in the weekend’s Women’s March. Later that day, I went to the YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Award program and heard John Lewis speak. Every speaker mentioned how thrilled they were to be in the room with him. After that, I received a free copy of this book, got it signed, and shook his hand.

And this book continues the telling of his story, in graphic novel form. This volume 3 contains more violence than the earlier volumes. It begins with a bombing of a church in Birmingham on September 15, 1963, and continues through Bloody Sunday on March 7, 1965, when marchers were met with violence at the Edmund Pettis Bridge and John Lewis was hospitalized, and ends with the signing of the 1965 Voting Rights Act into law.

The whole story is framed by looking back from the day of President Obama’s Inauguration – a direct result of the work that was done in the 1960s.

The book is about idealism and about conflict – from both within the movement and outside it. It’s also about nonviolence being met with violence and standing for what you know is right.

An accessible look at history through the eyes of someone who was there, this book is a monumental achievement and deserves all of the many awards it has won.

I’m putting this on my page for Children’s Nonfiction, because it is written for teens (and I don’t have a teen page for nonfiction). But be aware that the level of violence is high – because that’s what these activists faced. They put their lives on the line for what’s right.

topshelfcomix.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?