Review of Blips on a Screen, by Kate Hannigan, illustrated by Zachariah OHora

Blips on a Screen

How Ralph Baer Invented TV Video Gaming and Launched a Worldwide Obsession

written by Kate Hannigan
illustrated by Zachariah OHora

Alfred A. Knopf, 2022. 44 pages.
Review written June 8, 2022, from a library book.
Starred Review

Here’s a picture book biography of the guy who invented the first video game. I think of creating video games as something for people who are good with computers, but Ralph Baer came at it from the perspective of someone skilled in electronics and understanding how televisions work. And of course that makes sense, because video games came along before home computers.

Rolf Baer was born in Germany, but his family fled from Hitler and the Nazis in 1938 a few weeks before the border closed. In America, he changed his name to Ralph.

Ralph was always interested in inventing. He worked in radio repair and used his radio skills during World War II. From there, it was a natural next step to work on televisions. He worked for military electronics, but couldn’t get over the idea of figuring out how to play games on a TV.

The book tells about the process he went through, which included getting a patent, so his company was able to license his new invention when the boom took off. But before that happened, he got plenty of rejection for his idea. But after the Odyssey finally came out in 1972, it began a new obsession with video games.

The book makes the process understandable and accessible to kids. I always love Zachariah OHora’s illustrations, and his cartoons give a simplified picture of the essentials of this story.

This book tells about an inventor who created something important to kids and it also talks about the process of getting an invention produced — in a fascinating and informative picture book.

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Review of The Heavenly Man, by Brother Yun with Paul Hattaway

The Heavenly Man

The Remarkable True Story of Chinese Christian Brother Yun

by Brother Yun
with Paul Hattaway

Kregel Publications, 2020. First published in the United Kingdom in 2002. 338 pages.
Review written May 28, 2022, from a library book
Starred Review

This book is the amazing true story of the life of Brother Yun, a pastor in the Chinese house church movement. The story of Brother Yun’s faith is full of miracles from start to finish. His family first accepted Christ when Yun was a child, after his mother received a vision and then his father was miraculously healed of cancer.

Brother Yun devoted his life to Christ when he was still young. One of the early miracles he experienced was when he prayed earnestly for a Bible, and one was then brought to him. The entire book testifies over and over to the great power of God.

After Brother Yun became a pastor, he was imprisoned in China three times. Each time, he was tortured horribly. At one point in prison, he followed the Holy Spirit’s guidance and miraculously went without food or water for 74 days.

And despite all the torture, all the difficulties, his passion for Jesus, commitment to tell about him, and determination not to betray his brothers and sisters all shine through. During his third time in prison, he experienced a miracle like Peter’s as the doors of the prison were standing open and he walked right past the guards to escape, with his broken legs cured as he walked away.

Brother Yun’s story is told in his own voice, with interludes from his wife, telling how things were for his family when he was imprisoned. Both attest to miracle after miracle and God’s faithful care.

After the escape from prison, Brother Yun miraculously made his way to the West. He still preaches to those who haven’t heard, especially as part of the “Back to Jerusalem” movement, which plans to send millions of missionaries from China.

I was amazed that Chinese Christians don’t want people in the West to pray that their persecution will stop. Here’s one place where Brother Yun talks about this:

Don’t pray for persecution to stop! We shouldn’t pray for a lighter load to carry, but a stronger back to endure! Then the world will see that God is with us, empowering us to live in a way that reflects his love and power.

This is true freedom!

This book is riveting reading. As a western Christian reading it, of course I’m struck by how different my life is from Brother Yun’s. It’s a story of God’s power and the Lord’s amazing faithfulness. And amazing stories of how God is changing lives today.

The one thing I didn’t like was that, because this was originally published in 2002, that’s when the story ends. I am completely sure that Brother Yun did not stop following God twenty years ago, and I would like to know what happened next.

asiaharvest.org

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Review of In Search of Safety, by Susan Kuklin

In Search of Safety

Voices of Refugees

written and photographed by Susan Kuklin

Candlewick Press, 2020. 246 pages.
Review written July 5, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review

Like the author’s book Beyond Magenta, which featured the stories of transgender teens, this book takes an in-depth look at individual refugees stories, with photographs. This paragraph at the front of the book explains it well:

Refugees are people who are forced to leave their country because they are being persecuted. From 1980 to 2018, the number of refugees resettled in the United States each year was between 50,000 and 100,000 people. In 2019, that number dropped to 30,000 people, and in 2020 it dropped again to 18,000. Many of them are from Southeast Asia, the former Soviet Union, Bosnia, the Middle East, and Africa. Some have resettled in the Midwest because housing there is reasonably priced and jobs are relatively plentiful. The five refugees featured in In Search of Safety are from Afghanistan, Myanmar, South Sudan, Iraq, and Burundi. One refugee had been a translator for the U. S. military. Another recently escaped the horrors of captivity by fundamentalist militants. And three spent years in refugee camps, growing up in countries other than their homeland. They all survived wars. They all were carefully screened by several security organizations, such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the United States State Department, and the United States Department of Homeland Security. They have all been resettled in the state of Nebraska, where they have been warmly welcomed. This book tells their stories

Some of the stories here are indeed horrific. But hearing detailed stories puts a face on a desperate situation and helps the reader understand that refugees are by no means just looking for a hand-out.

The five stories are told with multiple chapters each, with many photographs, and in the refugees own words. The group that sponsored them to come to Nebraska, Lutheran Family Services, is also featured, and we see what good work they do.

These stories will tear at your heart, but also make you rejoice that people in need were welcomed to a new home.

candlewick.com

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Source: This review is based on a 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 Pura’s Cuentos, Annette Bay Pimentel, illustrated by Magaly Morales

Pura’s Cuentos

How Pura Belpré Reshaped Libraries with Her Stories

by Annette Bay Pimentel
illustrated by Magaly Morales

Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2021. 36 pages.
Review written April 16, 2022, from a library book
Starred Review

Here’s a lovely and lively picture book biography about the librarian who helped start a trend of bilingual storytimes, and whom the award for children’s books by Latinx creators is named after.

The book begins with Pura’s childhood in Puerto Rico and how much she loved her abuela’s stories. Then she came to New York and became a librarian, but she didn’t find the stories from her childhood on the library shelves. All the same, she enjoyed telling stories.

Oh, Pura can tell a story! She hisses . . . murmurs . . . roars. Children lean forward. They giggle . . . shiver . . . sigh.

She is allowed to tell only stories that have been printed in a book. That’s the rule. So she always tells stranger’s stories.

But Pura knows that not all the stories worth telling are in books. She wants to make children giggle at silly Señor Gallo and cry over Pérez the mouse. She wants to tell Abuela’s stories!

Pura decides: She will break the rule.

The book tells how Pura got permission to shake things up by demonstrating her storytelling skills. And after that step, she began telling stories in Spanish as well as English, to bring in more of the neighborhood children.

As the years went by, she got children more and more involved, even making puppets to tell the stories. Eventually, she collected stories from her childhood in published books.

The Author’s Note at the back gives more information about Pura Belpré’s illustrious career. For me, it’s nice to know about the person honored forever after by the award. For kids, this is an enchanting picture book biography about how everyone’s stories are important.

annettebaypimentel.com
abramsyoungreaders.com

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Review of Tu Youyou’s Discovery, by Songju Ma Daemicke, illustrated by Lin

Tu Youyou’s Discovery

Finding a Cure for Malaria

by Songju Ma Daemicke
illustrated by Lin

Albert Whitman & Company, 2021. 32 pages.
Review written November 29, 2021, from a library book
Starred Review

Tu Youyou’s Discovery is a picture book that tells the story of how a Chinese lady born in 1930 studied Chinese Traditional Medicine in her modern research lab, and through much hard work discovered a cure for malaria. In 2015, she received the Nobel Prize in Medicine, becoming the first Chinese woman to win a Nobel Prize of any kind.

The story of her life and work is simply told in understandable terms. It tells about her research and stories in traditional medicine of an herbal remedy that sounded promising – but how it didn’t work in her many lab trials.

I like this part, told over four pages with simple illustrations:

Still, the experiments kept failing – more than one hundred with no success.

Some male researchers began to question Youyou’s leadership and doubt the direction of her research. Western countries with advanced technologies hadn’t found a cure. Was using herbal medicine to cure malaria an impossible goal?

But Youyou was stubborn. Her faith in traditional Chinese medicine was unshakable. She kept working and testing.

Then something incredible happened.

After 190 unsuccessful experiments, the test result of sample 191 stunned the team. The qinghao extract prepared at a temperature of only 94 degrees Fahrenheit had killed the parasites completely!

The note at the back tells us that this new therapy saved 6.8 million lives between 2001 and 2015. At the back, there’s also a section “Tu Youyou and the Scientific Method” listing the steps of the Scientific Method and how they were used by Tu Youyou’s team.

A lovely story of a remarkable female scientist.

songjumadaemicke.com
albertwhitman.com

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Review of Punching Bag, by Rex Ogle

Punching Bag

by Rex Ogle

Norton Young Readers, 2021. 207 pages.
Review written January 6, 2022, from a library book
Starred Review

In Punching Bag, Rex Ogle continues to tell about his life. Free Lunch</em> told about the difficulty of being poor when he was in middle school. In Punching Bag, he’s in high school and his family is no longer desperately poor, but he gets frequently beaten by both his mother and his stepfather.

The book is framed with a story about coming home from a summer away when he was seven years old. His mother tells him a baby sister was born while he was gone. But she died. She tells Rex that it’s his fault because he left.

Then we flash to high school. When things get rough, Rex imagines his sister watching him, helping him cope.

Meanwhile, he’s got his actual little brother with him, to help, to entertain, and to try to protect. Rex doesn’t want to turn to violence like his mother and Sam do, but sometimes it all wells up inside him.

There’s lots of humor in this terribly sad book. His style gives us a taste of how surreal the situation must have been for a teen and how trapped he must have felt. The book is powerful, but painful. I’m so glad I read it.

Let me pass along the Author’s Note at the front of the book:

This is a true story. This is my story. It happened to me.

And as painful as it was for me to write, it may be equally or more painful for you to read – especially if you’ve lived through something similar.

If you’re not ready to read this, then don’t. Please, go enjoy some sunshine, watch a funny movie, or buy yourself an ice cream. This book will be waiting for you when you are ready.

But know this: I lived this, I survived. You survived your past too, or you wouldn’t be here reading this. We are both alive. We may have a few more scars than we’d like – inside or out – but we made it through. No matter how dark the past, or even the present, the sun will always come up tomorrow. There is hope.

This story (and that ice cream) are waiting . . . whenever you’re ready.

nortonyoungreaders.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 Sharice’s Big Voice, by Sharice Davids, with Nancy K. Mays, illustrated by Joshua Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley

Sharice’s Big Voice

A Native Kid Becomes a Congresswoman

by Sharice Davids
with Nancy K. Mays
illustrations by Joshua Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley

Harper (HarperCollins), 2021. 40 pages.
Review written July 10, 2021, from a library book

Sharice’s Big Voice is a standard picture book biography, but it did convince me that Sharice Davids is a remarkable woman and that kids will be inspired to hear her story.

Sharice tells her own story and tells us that from the start, she liked to talk. I especially like a small story about how she got an upset classmate to return to the classroom by listening to him, and how she made friends that way.

Then she talks about how she’s part of the Ho-Chunk Nation, who call themselves People of the Big Voice. “(Which obviously fits me well!)”

She tells the story of the example of her single mother and her own interest in martial arts. She worked hard and became a lawyer, even though she didn’t know any other Native people who were lawyers. Then after working to help people on a reservation, she decided to run for U. S. Congress – and became one of the first Native American women in Congress.

Here are the lessons she pulls from her story:

Be open to challenges.
Work hard and you’ll learn a lot.
Listen to people. (But not the doubters!)
Use your big voice to fight for your beliefs.

And always remember:
You deserve to be seen – and heard.

It’s exciting that kids can read a picture book of someone alive today who’s young and already making a difference, despite odds against her.

joshuamangeshig.com
harpercollinschildrens.com

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Review of We Wait for the Sun, by Dovey Johnson Roundtree and Katie McCabe, pictures by Raissa Figueroa

We Wait for the Sun

The Story of Young Dovey Johnson Roundtree and Her Grandmother’s Enduring Love

by Dovey Johnson Roundtree and Katie McCabe
pictures by Raissa Figueroa

Roaring Brook Press, 2021. 36 pages.
Review written April 7, 2021, from a library book
Starred Review
2022 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book

We Wait for the Sun is not a traditional picture book biography, but it is a lovely picture book story about a little girl going berry-picking with her grandmother and friends before the sun comes up. The illustrations catch the dawning light so beautifully. The text gives you the feeling of fresh, sweet, juicy berries in your mouth.

But then the wonderful part, in both text and illustrations, is when the sun comes up. Grandma stops everything and watches the sun rise with Dovey Mae.

Again and again, Grandma reaches low or stands tiptoe to pluck berries. And then, suddenly, in the middle of her rush, she stops.

“Look, Dovey Mae,” she whispers. “Over yonder.”

Slowly, slowly, the horizon pinkens.

“Here she comes!” Grandma whispers. She draws me to her, and together we watch the pink turn to red, the red to gold.

Then, all at once, as if at my grandmother’s command, the orange ball that is the sun shows its face.

It rises up over the edge of the world, and as it does, Grandma rises, too, and stands, just looking, her face shining in the light.

It’s a beautiful story of community, family, and sweetness. Then at the back in a four-page author’s note, we learn about Dovey Johnson Roundtree and the remarkable life she lived, breaking boundaries in the military, law, and the ministry. This story came from the autobiography she wrote with the help of Katie McCabe before she died.

It’s a lovely story for children that comes from a remarkable woman who spent her life shining like the sun.

rizzyfig.com
mackids.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 Fly, Girl, Fly! by Nancy Roe Pimm, illustrated by Alexandra Bye

Fly, Girl, Fly!

Shaesta Waiz Soars Around the World

by Nancy Roe Pimm
illustrated by Alexandra Bye

Beaming Books, Minneapolis, 2020. 44 pages.
Review written November 14, 2020, from a library book

This picture book biography tells the story of Shaesta Waiz, who was born in Afghanistan and came to America as a refugee with her family when she was a little girl. As a child, she had a lot of fears, including a fear of riding in an airplane. But after overcoming that fear on a trip to see her cousin in Florida, Shaesta decided to become a pilot.

Shaesta went on to fly solo around the world. But she made her trip distinctive by making many stops along the way to speak to girls about all that they can grow up to accomplish, including a stop in her native Afghanistan.

Shaesta decided she would not just fly all the way around the world. She’d also meet with young people everywhere. She’d get them excited about careers in science, technology, engineering, and math to chase down dreams of their own!

Shaesta ended up being the first woman from Afghanistan and the youngest woman in history to fly a single-engine aircraft around the world.

This is a fascinating and inspiring story about someone I wouldn’t have heard of otherwise. It’s great to read about a refugee girl who followed her dreams and did something big.

beamingbooks.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 The Incredible Yet True Adventures of Alexander von Humboldt, by Volker Mehnert, illustrated by Claudia Lieb

The Incredible yet True Adventures of Alexander von Humboldt

The Greatest Inventor-Naturalist-Scientist-Explorer Who Ever Lived

by Volker Mehnert
illustrated by Claudia Lieb
translated by Becky L. Crook

The Experiment, New York, 2019. First published in Germany in 2018. 112 pages.
Review written April 30, 2020, from a library book

The format of this book seems odd, since the trim size is large like a picture book, but the print is small and at a higher level of understanding, so this is a book for upper elementary and middle school kids, but it looks like a picture book at first glance. When I realized it is the translation of a German book, that made more sense, as they probably have some different conventions. I think it might find more of an audience if it were the size of a chapter book, but I did appreciate the large paintings illustrating the travels of this explorer.

I was also surprised that I hadn’t heard of Alexander von Humboldt, when I’m told that he was a huge celebrity in the 19th century. The title claims he was the greatest Inventor-Naturalist-Scientist-Explorer who ever lived. Was he the only Inventor-Naturalist-Scientist-Explorer?

But the story of his life is indeed fascinating. Most of his fame came through one expedition through South America – but that one expedition lasted years. He was so full of curiosity, he’d keep on changing plans to see the next amazing thing. When he got near volcanoes, for example, he felt compelled to climb them and even go inside the crater where possible. He climbed most of the way up what were then thought to be the tallest mountains in the world without any modern climbing equipment.

Why haven’t I heard of this explorer before? He studied geology, botany, ocean currents, mining operations, and so much more. His lectures in Paris and Berlin after his travels attracted crowds and his books were bestsellers. I suspect part of the reason is that he was Prussian, and the books he wrote were written in German. So I’m glad this book got translated so I could read his story.

theexperimentpublishing.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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