Archive for the ‘Children’s Nonfiction Review’ Category

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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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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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 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.

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Review of Bass Reeves, Tales of the Talented Tenth, No. 1, by Joel Christian Gill

Friday, December 1st, 2017

Tales of the Talented Tenth, No. 1
The True Story of Bass Reeves,
The Most Successful Lawman in the Old West!

Black History in Action
True Adventures of Amazing African Americans

words and pictures by Joel Christian Gill

Fulcrum Publishing, Golden, CO, 2014. 126 pages.
Starred Review

Tales of the Talented Tenth is a series of graphic novels about actual African Americans who did amazing things. The first in the series tells the true story of Bass Reeves, who was a sheriff in the old west and whose feats sound like a tall tale. I see this is a 2014 book, but it’s new to our library, and looks like a wonderful series.

The story’s told creatively, using flashbacks from when Bass learned to shoot when he was a child and a slave, paralleling a tight spot he got into later when chasing outlaws. The panels are varied, colorful and striking. This is an exciting story, and will catch anyone’s interest.

It’s a rip-roaring yarn, told with suspense and flair – and all the more amazing because it’s true.

fulcrum-education.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 The Skydiving Beavers: A True Tale, by Susan Wood, illustrated by Gÿsbert van Frankenhuyzen

Sunday, November 19th, 2017

The Skydiving Beavers

A True Tale

by Susan Wood
illustrated by Gÿsbert van Frankenhuyzen

Sleeping Bear Press, 2017. 32 pages.

How’s that for a catchy title? I had to find out about the skydiving beavers!

This nonfiction picture book tells about an effort in 1948 to move beavers from a lake where people had settled to Idaho back country wilderness.

The place where they wanted to relocate the beavers was so wild, it didn’t have any roads or railroads. So how to get the beavers there? Horses or mules wouldn’t be too happy to transport angry beavers, and that would take a long time.

A man named Elmo Heter, who worked for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, came up with a plan. They had plenty of parachutes leftover from World War II, and they decided to use them to transport the beavers.

Elmo designed a box that would automatically open when it landed. But he had to test it to make sure. He caught a beaver and named him Geronimo. He used Geronimo to test his design over and over to make sure it worked. I thought this was funny:

After a while, it seemed Geronimo was growing to like all the skydiving. Each time he touched down and the box sprang open, he’d scurry out . . . then crawl right back in for another go.

Eventually, they used the parachutes and self-opening boxes to transport seventy-six live beavers into the Chamberlain Basin region.

A note at the back gives more details, but also explains that today we try to find ways to live with beavers, because beaver communities are great for the environment. The note tells about a successful such effort in Martinez, California. There’s also a list of surprising facts about beavers.

So even though it will probably never happen again, it was fun to read the true story of the skydiving beavers!

susanwoodbooks.com
hazelridgefarm.com
sleepingbearpress.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 Her Right Foot, by Dave Eggers, art by Shawn Harris

Tuesday, October 31st, 2017

Her Right Foot

by Dave Eggers
art by Shawn Harris

Chronicle Books, 2017. 108 pages.
Starred Review

Dave Eggers has another brilliant children’s nonfiction book about a great American landmark. Like This Bridge Will Not Be Gray, this book has many pages, but not a lot of words on each page. The tone is conversational, but a lot of facts are presented. In both books, the author is not afraid to ask questions.

And this book has a take on the Statue of Liberty that I’d never heard before. In fact, I googled pictures of the statue to make sure he was telling the truth! (He is!)

It’s actually rather difficult to find pictures that show Lady Liberty’s right foot, but Dave Eggers is correct – the statue is walking! Or, as Dave Eggers puts it, “She is going somewhere! She is on the move!”

He goes on about this at some length:

But she is moving. She weighs 450,000 pounds and wears a size 879 shoe, and she is moving. How can we all have missed this? Or even if we saw this, and noticed this, how is it that we have seen and noticed a 450,000-pound human on her way somewhere and said, Eh. Just another 150-foot woman walking off a 150-foot pedestal?

Then he speculates where she might be going.

But especially nice is the idea he presents at the end of this speculation.

If the Statue of Liberty is a symbol of freedom, if the Statue of Liberty has welcomed millions of immigrants to the United States, then how can she stand still?

Liberty and freedom from oppression are not things you get or grant by standing around like some kind of statue. No! These are things that require action. Courage. An unwillingness to rest.

He connects her depiction as moving with the fact that she is still welcoming immigrants today. “It never ends. It cannot end.”

After all, as we’ve learned in this book, the Statue of Liberty is an immigrant herself. She is on the move to meet the immigrants as they arrive.

This book about the Statue of Liberty makes readers look at her with new eyes.

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 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 World Is Not a Rectangle, by Jeanette Winter

Thursday, October 19th, 2017

The World Is Not a Rectangle

A Portrait of Architect Zaha Hadid

by Jeanette Winter

Beach Lane Books (Simon & Schuster), 2017. 56 pages.
Starred Review

This is a simple but brilliant picture book biography about Zaha Hadid, an architect I’d never heard of, who was an Arab and a woman and who designed buildings located all over the world.

Zaha was born in Iraq in 1950. The book simply shows how she got inspiration from nature.

When she grew up, she ventured away from her country and studied in London. She submitted designs in many competitions. When she was finally selected, the city commission refused to build it.

But Zaha continued, and the pictures show buildings she designed located all over the world – the pictures place them alongside the landscapes and natural objects that inspired them.

Zaha died in 2016, but her designs are still being built. End notes tell where each featured building is located.

Jeanette Winter doesn’t waste words, but she tells the story of a woman who added beauty to the world. And she tells it in a way I won’t soon forget.

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.

What did you think of this book?