Archive for the ‘Children’s Nonfiction Review’ Category

Review of Frederick Douglass: The Lion Who Wrote History, by Walter Dean Myers

Friday, December 14th, 2018

Frederick Douglass

The Lion Who Wrote History

by Walter Dean Myers
illustrated by Floyd Cooper

Harper, 2017. 36 pages.
Starred Review

This is a picture book biography of Frederick Douglass. It highlights his decisions to learn to read and later to escape slavery. I like this paragraph.

Frederick listened carefully to the Auld children. They spoke clearly and directly, and he knew that it was because they had also read the words they used. He felt that reading could make a difference in how a person lived.

Years later, abolitionists had Frederick speak at their meetings, and crowds were impressed. This fits with what Trevor Noah says in his book Born a Crime about how the way you speak strongly influences how people relate to you. Frederick Douglass didn’t sound like a slave, in his speech or in his writings. That challenged people’s assumptions.

Walter Dean Myers makes the point that Frederick Douglass gained so much influence, his voice became a lion’s roar.

The careful and wise decisions made by Frederick Douglass – to learn to read, to escape from slavery, to speak out for justice for all Americans, and to aid the Union Army – had helped to write American history.

walterdeanmyers.net
harpercollinschildrens.com

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Source: This review is based on a book I received at an ALA conference and had signed by the author.

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 Animal Ark, photographs by Joel Santore, words by Kwame Alexander

Sunday, December 9th, 2018

Animal Ark

Celebrating our Wild World in Poetry and Pictures

photographs by Joel Sartore
words by Kwame Alexander
with Mary Rand Hess and Deanna Nikaido

National Geographic, 2017. 40 pages.
Starred Review

At the back of this book, the photographer tells us:

At its heart, the Photo Ark was born out of necessity.

I have been sent around the world by National Geographic magazine for more than 20 years to take photographs of people, places, and animals. There have been assignments to capture images of the fiercest predators, the shyest sea creatures, the most beautiful birds, and so many more. Several years ago, I started to see that people weren’t paying much attention to the fate of all the other species we share this planet with. Without action, and soon, I worried that many animals could go extinct.

The Photo Ark is my answer to this. By introducing the entire world to thousands of photographs of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, and even insects, I hope we can get everyone following, liking, texting, tweeting, and even talking about this wondrous world of ours.

In the Photo Ark, every creature is equal. I use simple black and white backgrounds, which make all animals appear to be the same size, no matter how large or small they might be in the wild. Each photo also shows you the amazing detail of a creature’s scales, skin, or feathers; their eyes, antennae, or legs – each creature with its own kind of stunning beauty. A slippery minnow in the Photo Ark appears as big as a shark, and a tiny tiger beetle as impressive as a mighty tiger.

I want people around the world to look these animals in the eye, and then fall in love with creatures as dazzling as a pheasant or as odd as an octopus. And once we love something, won’t we do anything to save it?

The highlight of this book is Joel Sartore’s stunning photographs of 32 of these creatures. But they’ve been paired with Kwame Alexander’s poetry to make a powerful picture book and bring these animals to young readers. The poet chose haiku as the form to create a potent message and create instant connection with the reader.

I can’t emphasize enough how striking these images are against their black and white backgrounds. Of course, I got to hear Kwame Alexander perform some of these poems with the images flashed up on a screen. Unforgettable!

This is a book you need to experience for yourself.

KwameAlexander.com
nationalgeographic.com
ngchildrensbooks.org
nationalgeographic.org/projects/photo-ark/

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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 book I received at an ALA conference and had signed by the author.

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 Are You an Echo? by Misuzu Kaneko

Wednesday, December 5th, 2018

Are You an Echo?

The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko

Poems by Misuzu Kaneko
Illustrated by Toshikado Hajiri
Narrative by David Jacobson
with translations and editorial contributions by Sally Ito and Michiko Tsuboi

Chin Music Press, Seattle, 2016. 64 pages.
Starred Review

As soon as you touch this book, you know it’s something special. You can feel the high-quality paper, which seems appropriate for a book of Japanese poems.

This is a book of poetry from Japan’s most-loved children’s poet, but it’s also a biography and the story of uncovering Misuzu’s story.

The book begins with Setsuo Yazaki, who read one of Misuzu’s poems and wanted to find out more about her. He was the one who uncovered her diaries and made public her life story, as well as many more unpublished poems. She is now widely read by children in Japan. Along with telling this story, on each spread one of her poems is given.

Then the book tells Misuzu’s life story, still accompanied by her poems. Her story is a tragic one. She was given “a disease that caused her great pain” by her “bad, unfaithful husband.” She was married for four years, but after she left, her husband was going to take their child away. The book lingers on her last night with her child, then tells us:

Misuzu wrote a letter that night asking her husband to give Fusae to her mother.
She was weak from the illness and determined not to let her husband take their child.
So she decided to end her life. She was only twenty-six years old.

On the opposite page, we’ve got Misuzu’s poem, “Cocoon and Grave” comparing a person to a silkworm. Like the silkworm becoming a butterfly, “the good person will grow wings, become an angel and fly away.”

The narrative part goes on to talk about how Misuzu’s poems were rediscovered after her death and went on to have special significance after the tsunami in 2011.

The book finishes with a collection of 15 more poems by Misuzu, with the original Japanese shown as well.

Despite Misuzu Kaneko’s tragic life story, this lovely book expresses hope, and shows the beauty of looking at the world with eyes of kindness and empathy.

How can you help but like someone with this philosophy?

TO LIKE IT ALL

I want to like everything –

onions, tomatoes, fish –
I want to like them all,

everything in the meals
my mother makes.

I want to like everyone –

doctors, crows –
all of them, too.

Everything and everyone in the world
God has made.

www.chinmusicpress.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 Fancy Party Gowns, by Deborah Blumenthal

Saturday, December 1st, 2018

Fancy Party Gowns

The Story of Fashion Designer Ann Cole Lowe

by Deborah Blumenthal
illustrated by Laura Freeman

Little Bee Books (Bonnier Publishing), New York, 2017. 36 pages.
Starred Review

I’m not terribly interested in fashion design, so I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this picture book biography of fashion designer Ann Lowe, the first African American woman to become a designer of couture clothing.

The illustrations are colorful and striking. The pictures of Ann Lowe’s famous gowns, such as Jacqueline Kennedy’s wedding dress, are beautiful.

But I love the spin the author puts on her life. The story isn’t bogged down with details, though important ones are given. But we get key phrases that give us Ann Lowe’s spirit:

Ann also knew that doing what you love could set your spirit soaring.

Ann thought about what she could do, not what she couldn’t change.

When Ann saw obstacles, she thought about what she could do, not what she couldn’t change.

The author dramatized a major setback with just a few key details, telling about making Jacqueline Kennedy’s dress:

Ann bought fifty yards of the finest ivory silk taffeta and the trimmings to go with it. For months, she cut and sewed. The gown had a wide bouffant skirt with pleated bands and tiny wax flowers.

Ann also made all the dresses for the wedding party.

Then just ten days before the wedding, Ann opened the door to her workroom.

“NO!” she cried.

A pipe had burst. Water gushed everywhere, flooding everything!

Ten of the sixteen gowns were destroyed.

Ann thought about what she could do, not what she couldn’t change.

She bought more fabric and trim, and hired others to help. She lost money instead of earning it.

In just eight days and eight nights, Ann and her team remade all the dresses.

That wedding was also where Ann was told to use the back entrance to deliver the dresses – but she stood her ground and said those dresses wouldn’t be in the wedding unless she was allowed to enter through the front door.

This is a lovely book about overcoming obstacles and doing what makes your heart soar. If you are interested in fashion design, all the better!

deborahblumenthal.com
www.LFreemanArt.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 Goodnight, Numbers, by Danica McKellar

Wednesday, November 28th, 2018

Goodnight, Numbers

by Danica McKellar
illustrated by Alicia Padrón

Crown Books for Young Readers, 2017. 28 pages.
Starred Review

Yes! This is the very best sort of counting book – with multiple things to count on each page.

For example, on the page for Four, the text says,

4
FOUR
Goodnight, four paws.
Goodnight, kitty cat.
Goodnight, four froggies
on the bathroom mat.

In the picture we do see four paws on the kitty cat, but also four stripes on its tail. We see four froggies on the bathroom mat, and we also see four rubber duckies in the room.

There are four shampoo bottles on the side of the tub, four toy turtles, four rolled-up towels, four stripes on the towel the dad is holding, four dots on the stool, and four bubbles in a framed picture (with framed spaces for ten things – this is consistent on each page).

Mind you, the rhyming text is simply nice, not stellar. But it’s not glaringly bad, either, which is an accomplishment with rhyming text!

The pictures are soft and sweet – and so many things to count! Another example on the Five page is the Mom has a necklace with five daisies, and each daisy has five petals.

The back of the book has a note to the parent/grandparent/caregiver reading the book. It points out the educational value, in case they missed it, and gives more ideas for bringing numbers into children’s lives.

This book would pair well with the bedtimemath.org website and app. They recommend doing math problems with your child at bedtime, as well as bedtime stories. This book is both!

This is a great way to talk about numbers and counting in a cozy and friendly way. It’s never too early to show your children that math is all around them.

McKellarMath.com
randomhousekids.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 Hello World, by Jonathan Litton

Friday, November 23rd, 2018

Hello World

A Celebration of Languages and Curiosities

by Jonathan Litton
illustrated by L’Atelier Cartographik

360 Degrees, Wilton, CT, 2016. 16 pages.

Wow! I’m not sure how long this book will hold up in the library, but it would be a wonderful book to own. Mainly, this book consists of how to say Hello in many, many languages all over the world.

The method used is large maps of the continents, with speech bubbles showing how to say “Hello” in different languages, pinpointed by location. The words are printed on flaps. When you lift the flap, you get a phonetic pronunciation and the number of speakers of that language in that country. Other language facts are listed throughout the book.

The pages are made of sturdy cardboard, so it’s made to take some tough usage – but, well, lift-the-flap books in the library are generally doomed to suffer from overenthusiastic usage. Once enough flaps are ripped off, this book won’t be as useful. (Reserve it quickly, while our library’s copies are still new!) But this would be a book worth owning and poring over.

I can imagine a child who enjoys highly detailed illustrations getting a lot of joy out of this book – at least as much joy as finding Waldo! And if you could then take that child to where some other languages are spoken, they would have an excited appreciation of being able to say Hello.

This is a lovely idea, and it’s carried out beautifully. May the flaps endure through many, many check-outs!

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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 Inside Your Insides, by Claire Eamer

Monday, November 19th, 2018

Inside Your Insides

A Guide to the Microbes That Call You Home

written by Claire Eamer
illustrated by Marie-Ève Tremblay

Kids Can Press, 2016. 36 pages.

Here’s an easy-to-understand guide all about the microbes that live in your microbiome.

I was impressed, because the terminology and the knowledge is different than when I was a kid. The book talks about good bacteria and bad bacteria – but also talks about several other kinds of microbes, including archaea, viruses, fungi, protists, and mites.

The book is illustrated with large cartoons, and has many “Did You Know?” spots on the sides, as well as silly jokes punning on “cell” or “germ.” It’s clearly written and informative, and I was somewhat embarrassed by how much I learned.

The final page has some applications. It’s no longer a simple “Wash your hands,” or “Cover your mouth when you cough.”

If you want to attract lots of different microbes to your microbiome – and generally, you do – here are a few steps you can take. Play outside. Explore the natural world. Keep pets. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables. All of these activities will add variety to your microbiome and help it stay balanced and healthy….

Scientists are looking at ways to encourage the growth of microbes that are good for us. They even hope to find ways to cure diseases by restoring healthy microbiomes in people. But it’s complicated. Everyone has a different microbiome, and the difference is big between people who live in very different parts of the world or live different kinds of lives. Besides, not all microbes are friendly. It isn’t easy to figure out which ones will live together well and which won’t.

Still, researchers are working on some interesting ways to improve your microbiome or fix it if something has gone wrong. How about a cream that nourishes the helpful bacteria on your skin? Or foods that nourish the good bacteria in your gut and encourage new microbes to settle there?

An informative and interesting look at the tiny creatures that call you home.

www.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 The Book Itch, by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

Saturday, November 10th, 2018

The Book Itch

Freedom, Truth & Harlem’s Greatest Bookstore

by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson
illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

Carolrhoda Books, Minneapolis, 2015. 36 pages.
Starred Review
2016 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book

This picture book biography tells the same story the same creators told in the novel No Crystal Stair, but I found myself warming more to the picture book.

Mind you, it was nice to have all the background from the novel (which was very close to being nonfiction) about the life of the author’s great-uncle, Lewis Michaux, who owned the National Memorial African Bookstore in Harlem.

The picture book is told from the perspective of Lewis’s son with the same name. It communicates the spirit of the man, his pithy wisdom, and the supreme importance he placed on books and on black people knowing their history.

I love his sayings on the endpapers (as well as in the text). Things like, “This house is packed with all the facts about all the blacks all over the world,” and “Books will help him clear the weeds and plant the seeds so he’ll succeed,” and “Words. That’s why people need our bookstore.”

This picture book starts later than No Crystal Stair did, not telling about Lewis Michaux’s entire life, but looking at a time when the bookstore was at its height and his son met people like Muhammed Ali and Malcolm X there.

Here’s what it says about starting the bookstore:

Dad opened his store in Harlem Square way before I was born. Mom says he started out with five books. Five books and a mission. She says he had something in his heart he believed in so much that he’d do just about anything to make it happen.

Dad says he got the book itch and needed to scratch it.

lernerbooks.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 Keith Haring: The Boy Who Just Kept Drawing, by Kay A. Haring

Saturday, November 3rd, 2018

Keith Haring

The Boy Who Just Kept Drawing

by Kay A. Haring
illustrated by Robert Neubecker

Dial Books for Young Readers, 2017. 40 pages.
Starred Review

This picture book is a biography of artist Keith Haring written by his sister. She writes a note at the back:

I wrote this story to answer the question I’m always asked, “What was Keith like as a kid?” The answer is, “HE WAS ALWAYS DRAWING!”

She gets that across in the book, with the words “he just kept drawing” showing up as a refrain on most spreads.

The artist does a great job capturing the spirit of Keith Haring’s work. His unsophisticated but intricate lines are something that naturally appeal to children, and keeping that spirit works wonderfully in a picture book.

The book begins:

When he was little, his father taught him how to draw dogs and fish and funny things. His dad would draw a line. Then Keith would draw one. Soon, the whole page would be full.

From that time on, Keith never stopped drawing.

The story gives us some highlights of his short life. He’d even do murals with children. He’d draw in chalk on black spaces in subway stations.

At the end of the book, she gives Keith’s answers to these questions:

“WHY do you draw all the time?
WHY do you give your artwork away?
WHY do you draw on buildings, on people, on clothing, on furniture, on subway walls, on cars, on skateboards, on walls that belong to no one, and on things to be thrown away?
WHY do you draw on EVERYTHING??”

Keith stopped drawing, just for a moment, and answered.
“I draw all the time because there are many spaces to fill. I give my drawings away to help make the world a better place. I draw everywhere because EVERYONE needs art!!”

kayharing.com
www.neubeckerbooks.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 Penguin Day, by Nic Bishop

Tuesday, October 30th, 2018

Penguin Day

A Family Story

by Nic Bishop

Scholastic Press, 2017. 32 pages.
Starred Review

Nic Bishop’s stunning photographs make this book stand-out. It’s a simple picture book about the life of a baby rockhopper penguin – but the illustrations are clear photographs taken in the wild.

The language is simple. Here’s how it starts.

Morning has come and baby penguin is hungry. Baby penguin is too little to get breakfast, so mama penguin will go hunting.

Papa penguin will stay behind to keep an eye on the little one.

We see mama penguin’s hunting trip, and we see baby wander off but get protected from a hungry skua by papa penguin.

Clear, beautiful photographs illustrate the whole journey.

The short note at the back says:

The author spent three weeks photographing rockhopper penguins for this book. Severe gales and freezing temperatures often made things difficult for him but never daunted the penguins. Every day they ventured into stormy seas and climbed home over tall cliffs, meeting each challenge with feisty determination. More than one chick and its parents were photographed to make this book.

A fantastic introduction to nonfiction for littlest listeners and readers. This book would work well in a storytime, as well as for a young child beginning to be interested in the natural world, as well as for an older child who likes penguins.

nicbishop.com
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.

What did you think of this book?