Review of It’s a Numbers Game! Baseball, by James Buckley, Jr.

It’s a Numbers Game!

Baseball

by James Buckley, Jr.

National Geographic Kids, 2021. 128 pages.
Review written January 6, 2022, from my own copy, purchased for the Mathical awards.
Starred Review
2022 Mathical Honor Book, Grades 6-8

Math and baseball! It’s a natural pairing, and this book explores all the connections, inviting readers in with plenty of action shots on every page.

Did you know that Major League Baseball teams now hire mathematicians? There’s a spread titled “Averages Your Grandparents Know” about Pitching stats of ERA, WPCT, and WHIP. Then comes a spread called “Averages Your Grandparents (Probably) Don’t Know,” and I was a little chagrined that I fit a reader’s grandparents. But that second spread had some interesting information:

There are a lot of stats you can calculate on your own. But for some of these stats, it’s as if you need an advanced math degree to understand them! In fact, many MLB teams now employ professional mathematicians. Every MLB team has a special department that does nothing but crunch numbers. Called sports analytics, these calculations and stats are changing how players are selected and sometimes even how the game is played.

On another page I learned about a new tool used since 2015:

In recent seasons, MLB started using a new way of tracking and measuring home runs. Cameras track every movement of the ball, and computers quickly calculate information using a system called Statcast. As players and coaches study the Statcast data, they develop new ways to go after the long ball.

With statcast, they can find and report the launch angle, the speed, and the actual distance a home run ball will travel. For pitchers, they now have a much more accurate measure of the speed of a pitch and can even tell you the spin rate.

That’s some of the interesting information found in this book packed with information about baseball and every kind of statistic you can imagine. My older brother was a big Angels fan and very interested in the statistics, so I thought I would know most of what’s in this book, but it turned out to be only the part your grandparents would know!

The book does say a little bit about women’s softball, about Little League, and about baseball in other countries, but this is mostly a book about Major League Baseball. I do like, though, that each chapter has something for the reader to try. It’s usually related to statistics, but also pertaining to what the chapter discussed. Kids will learn to keep score and to read a box score, for example.

This book is packed with the numbers of baseball, including stats and records, and even numbers on jerseys that have been retired. It’s all done in an inviting format, with colors and pictures and charts. The text is in small chunks, and each page is visually interesting. I was much more engaged than I had expected to be, since I haven’t watched baseball in years.

This book will intrigue both kids who love sports and kids who love numbers, and perhaps help build overlap between those groups!

natgeokids.com

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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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Review of Fallout, by Steve Sheinkin, read by Roy Samuelson

Fallout

Spies, Superbombs, and the Ultimate Cold War Showdown

by Steve Sheinkin
read by Roy Samuelson

Listening Library, 2021. 8 hours
Review written 2/22/22 from a library eaudiobook
Starred Review
2022 Young Adult Excellence in Nonfiction Award Finalist

Fallout is a nonfiction book about the Cold War, leading up to the Cuban Missile Crisis. Steve Sheinkin takes a storyteller’s approach, telling you the stories of key figures, including many I’d never heard of before. Among others, these included a U2 pilot who got shot down over Russia, a Russian spy who tried to establish a network in New York City beginning soon after World War II, a paper boy who found a nickel that had been hollowed out to hold microfilm, and a Russian chief of staff of a submarine fleet who ordered a submarine captain and first officer not to launch a nuclear torpedo — after the world thought hostilities were ended, but the sub hadn’t heard about it.

The book is gripping and engaging and full of facts from witnesses. Although it takes place before I was born, I remember the climate when nuclear war seemed highly likely, even doing a drop and cover drill at my desk as a child, and being told by my parents that you could never trust the Russians.

Steve Sheinkin begins right after World War II and the development of bombs whose destructive force is hard to even imagine. He progresses through the space race and the rise of Castro and the development of the U2 program to fly over the Soviet Union. We hear about Khruschev’s ruthless rise to power as well as John F. Kennedy’s.

The one catch to this amazing audiobook is that my timing wasn’t good. I listened to it as Putin was threatening to invade Ukraine. Learning how several lucky coincidences saved us from World War III during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and learning that all-out nuclear war would mean the end of human life on earth as we know it — all made it disturbing to have Russia threatening war again, even in a different part of the world.

stevesheinkin.com
listeninglibrary.com

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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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Review of Molly and the Mathematical Mysteries, by Eugenia Cheng, illustrated by Aleksandra Artymowska

Molly and the Mathematical Mysteries

Ten Interactive Adventures in Mathematical Wonderland

by Eugenia Cheng
illustrated by Aleksandra Artymowska

Big Picture Press (Candlewick), 2021. First published in 2020 in the United Kingdom. 30 pages.
Review written January 4, 2022, from my own copy
Starred Review
2022 Mathical Book Prize Honor Book, Grades 3-5

Oh, this book is delightful! It’s a lift-the-flap adventure that demonstrates intriguing mathematical oddities. I know – that doesn’t sound amazing and inviting, but this book is both of those things.

A girl named Molly gets a series of mysterious notes. We get to lift flaps and read these notes. The notes tell her what to do to get past that page. The first note, for example, tells her to open her window and turn her room inside out – at least in her imagination. Flaps open the window. Then on the next page, we’ve got an inside-out world, explaining the mathematical concept of inverses.

Some of the pages have puzzles in the flaps. An impossible staircase Molly can only escape by lifting the flaps. A maze Molly can only traverse if you lift the correct flaps. Figuring out which flaps can be folded into a cube. Weaving strips so that pink squares are hidden. Turning paper dials to reveal the correct answer. Each page has something different to figure out or uncover, and it leads you through the book along with Molly.

And the mathematical concepts are fun ones. This book helps kids think about dimensions, tiling, self-similarity, symmetry, combinations, fractals, and more. After completing Molly’s adventure, five colorful pages give the reader more mathematical information.

I had a lot of fun going through this book – and I’m an adult who already knows all the concepts. I would love to watch a kid go through it. Of course, the one drawback is that with all the flaps, this is not a good choice for a library collection. But I think a kid who had it at home would find themselves returning to it again and again.

Note: Even though this is presented as a story about Molly and is thus technically Fiction, the focus is on the mathematical concepts, so I think it fits better with Children’s Nonfiction, which is where I’ll file it.

eugeniacheng.com
candlewick.com

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Review of The Wedding Portrait, by Innosanto Nagara

The Wedding Portrait

The Story of a Photograph and Why Sometimes We Break the Rules

by Innosanto Nagara

Triangle Square, 2017. 36 pages.
Review written August 5, 2020, from a library book

The Wedding Portrait is a picture book about activism for kids. It’s all framed by the author’s wedding portrait, which was clipped from a newspaper and features armed guards beyond the happy couple.

The author explains things in a way a child can understand:

We usually follow the rules. But sometimes, when you see something wrong – more wrong than breaking the rules, and by breaking the rules you could stop it – you may decide that you should break the rules.

Then he talks about various people in history who have broken rules to stand up for what’s right. He covers Claudette Colvin and Rosa Parks fighting segregation; Indian people making salt in defiance of the British empire; the U’wa people in Colombia standing up against oil drilling on their land; a boycott by farm workers of tomatoes; and other forms of Civil Disobedience.

Eventually, he comes to himself and his wife, who met at a protest and decided to get married at a protest against nuclear weapons.

The author defines terms along the way and provides a wide variety of examples. It’s all framed with that wedding portrait, and there’s an epilogue following up by talking about different ways of taking action.

In current times, children may have a lot of questions about protests, and this book beautifully explains why people sometimes think it’s right to break the rules.

I do like the inclusion of this paragraph in the middle of the book:

Now. I’ll bet all this is giving you some ideas, isn’t it? Do you think some of the things that you do when you’re not following the rules should be considered civil disobedience? Do you think hiding under the bed to avoid taking a bath is a kind of sit-in? Is refusing to eat your dinner a kind of boycott?

Maybe. (Maybe not.)

As you can see, this book gives you lots to talk about.

AisforActivist.com
sevenstories.com

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Review of Classified, by Traci Sorell, illustrations by Natasha Donovan

Classified

The Secret Career of Mary Golda Ross, Cherokee Aerospace Engineer

by Traci Sorell
illustrations by Natasha Donovan

Millbrook Press, 2021. 32 pages.
Review written January 5, 2022, from a library book
Starred Review
2022 Mathical Book Prize Honor Book, Grades 3-5
2022 American Indian Youth Literature Award Honor Book, Picture Books

I’m so happy about a recent burst of picture book biographies of distinguished women mathematicians and engineers! They would have inspired me as a child, and they inspire me as an adult.

This book tells the story of Mary Golda Ross, a member of the Cherokee nation, who excelled in math, even though she was surrounded by boys in her classes. The book portrays her as always learning. She became a teacher after graduating from college, but during World War II got a job working on fighter jets for Lockheed Aircraft Corporation. That job led her to take engineering classes at a local university to become Lockheed’s first female engineer. After the war, she worked in a classified group developing space travel and satellites.

I like the way Cherokee values are introduced at the beginning and throughout the text we’re told how she demonstrated them: “gaining skills in all areas of life, working cooperatively with others, remaining humble when others recognize your talents, and helping ensure equal education and opportunity for all.”

A whole spread at the end is devoted to Mary’s work helping others not have to face the barriers she did:

Although her work was classified, Mary still had much to share. She never stopped recruiting American Indians and young women to study math and science and helping support them to become engineers.

Mary’s work and her legacy of service have helped many others become trailblazers, too.

I learned in the timeline at the back that she helped found the Los Angeles section of the Society of Women Engineers and later a scholarship was established in her name.

A lovely book about a remarkable woman I’m glad to now know about.

tracisorell.com
natashadonovan.com

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Review of Buzzing with Questions, by Janice N. Harrington, illustrated by Theodore Taylor III

Buzzing with Questions

The Inquisitive Mind of Charles Henry Turner

by Janice N. Harrington
illustrated by Theodore Taylor III

Calkins Creek (Highlights), 2019. 48 pages.
Review written August 27, 2020, from a library book

Buzzing with Questions is a picture book biography about African American scientist Charles Henry Turner, who was born in 1867 in Ohio, when it was unusual for an African American to be a scientist. I like the way the author portrays him from boyhood as a kid with lots of questions.

Charles Henry Turner asked so many questions that his teacher urged him to “go and find out.”

And Charles did.

What I really thought was wonderful about this biography was that it described the creative experiments Charles did with insects. He put spiders in different environments to see if their web construction changed. For multiple times, he knocked down a spider’s web made in one place, and eventually the spider gave up and moved, thus showing that it could learn and adapt.

He performed many experiments to find how ants find their way back to their nests. He showed that bees have a sense of time by putting out jam for them at breakfast, lunch, and dinner – but then changing it to only breakfast. Then he did more experiments to determine that bees can see color. He taught cockroaches to find their way through a maze, and later watched caterpillars find their way in a vertical maze.

I like the way this book talks about a scientist who worked hard to answer questions by doing experiments – and tells kids enough about the experiments to capture their imagination. Science is about finding out – and Charles Henry Turner’s life illustrates doing exactly that.

janiceharrington.com
theodore3.com
calkinscreekbooks.com

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Review of Wait, Rest, Pause: Dormancy in Nature, by Marcie Flinchum Atkins

Wait, Rest, Pause

Dormancy in Nature

by Marcie Flinchum Atkins

Millbrook Press, 2019. 32 pages.
Starred Review
Review written October 22, 2019, from a library book

Here’s a children’s picture book about science simple enough to use in Preschool Storytime – yet it taught me some things.

The book looks at six creatures that go dormant for some amount of time. Each one gets two spreads, the first about what happens when they are dormant, and the second about what happens when they are active again. The language is simple and repetitive between creatures, and the spreads are filled with big, beautiful pictures.

Here’s an example:

If you were a dormant ladybug, you would…
fatten up,
pile up,
stiffen up.

You would swarm into a ladybug pile, sharing warmth together.

You would pause.

In spring you…
wiggle awake,
feast,
flit away.

The dormant creatures featured include trees, ladybugs, Arctic ground squirrels, chickadees (dormant for a few hours on cold winter nights), alligators, and earthworms (dormant when it’s too dry).

Here’s how the book finishes off:

If you were dormant, you would be…
silent,
still,
waiting,
just waiting,
until…

maybe the spring,
maybe the warmth,
maybe the rain
helps you…
stir,
burst,
appear!

This is a simple and clear science presentation for very young learners. There are more details at the back, including different types of dormancy.

marcieatkins.com
lernerbooks.com

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Review of Dr. Seuss’s Horse Museum, illustrated by Andrew Joyner

Dr. Seuss’s Horse Museum

illustrated by Andrew Joyner

Random House, 2019. 77 pages.
Starred Review
Review written September 13, 2019, from a library book.

This fascinating picture book look at Art is based on manuscript notes and sketches found in Dr. Seuss’s files. I haven’t been completely impressed with some of the other things dug out of his collections after his death – but this book is a delightful way to get kids thinking about Art.

Here’s how the book begins:

ART.
What’s it all about?

This is what ART is about…
ART is when an artist looks at something…
… like a horse, for instance…
… and they see something in that horse that excites them…
so they do something about it.
They tell you about it…
… in any one of a number of ways.

Artists have been excited by horses for as long as there have been artists. But what an artist tells us about horses and how they tell us is different for every artist.

What an artist sees in a horse depends on many different things – their background, likes and dislikes, you name it.

So come with me…

Let’s look at how different artists have seen horses. Maybe we can find some new ways of looking at them ourselves?

The pages that follow incorporate 35 different pieces of art that include horses. They talk about what the artist may have seen in a horse to express it that way. The book goes through different time periods and styles of art as well – all looking at horses.

The result is brilliant – lots and lots of artwork, all expressing horses, and all looking completely different.

There is extensive back matter, with more information about each piece of art and details about Dr. Seuss and his relationship with art (He was self-taught.) and the manuscript and sketches for this book and how they went from there to completion.

Future artists should read this book.

Seussville.com
rhcbooks.com

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