Review of Hey, Kiddo, by Jarrett J. Krosoczka

July 15th, 2020

Hey, Kiddo

How I Lost My Mother, Found my Father, and Dealt with Family Addiction

by Jarrett J. Krosoczka

Graphix (Scholastic), 2018. 312 pages.
Starred Review
Review written June 26, 2018, from an Advance Reader Copy.
2018 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#5 Longer Children’s Nonfiction

Here’s a graphic novel memoir by a bestselling graphic novelist, so it’s sure to be popular. This one, though, isn’t sweetness and light, and the issues addressed go a lot deeper than friends and cliques. We do have a happy ending – Jarrett Krosoczka has achieved success with his art. The book is marketed for 12 and up, so it’s for a somewhat older audience than those who love Lunch Lady.

Jarrett tells about his life. His mother was a heroin addict, and he didn’t know his father. His mother’s parents raised him, and they had their own quirks, being older than his friends’ parents.

Jarrett explains his family history. His grandparents had five kids, and he wasn’t a whole lot younger than his youngest aunt. He lived with his mother the first years of his life, but she couldn’t stay off heroin and out of trouble, so eventually he was permanently with his grandparents.

This book takes Jarrett through elementary school and high school, all the way up to applying to art school for college. He credits the teachers and friends who helped him along the way, as well as offering many tributes to his grandparents, without hiding their prickliness and quirks. His persistence, despite coming from an unconventional family, ended up paying off, and notes at the back bring us to the present.

This book speaks from the heart about a kid growing up in a family with challenges, but a lot of love. He learned to grapple with that, push boundaries, uncover truth, and above all use his art to throw light on shadows.

scholastic.com/graphix

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/hey_kiddo.html

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 sent by the publisher.

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.

What did you think of this book?

Mathematical Colors and Codes, Episode Four — Color Codes with Nondecimal Bases

July 14th, 2020

Episode Four of Mathematical Colors and Codes, my Virtual Program Series for the library is up!

Episode Four now takes the Nondecimal Base systems we talked about in Episode Three and uses them to make

This video, like all the others has a downloadable coloring page. This one has a chart for choosing your own colors and making your own coded messages with nondecimal bases.

Here’s this week’s video:

Here are links to the entire Mathematical Colors and Codes series:

Episode One, Prime Factorization
Episode Two, Prime Factorization Codes
Episode Three, Nondecimal Bases
Episode Four, Color Codes with Nondecimal Bases

Review of In My Garden, by Charlotte Zolotow, illustrated by Philip Stead

July 10th, 2020

In My Garden

by Charlotte Zolotow
illustrated by Philip Stead

Neal Porter Books (Holiday House), 2020. Text first published in 1960. 40 pages.
Review written April 21, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review

Here’s a perfect storytime book about changing seasons, beginning with Spring. The text is simple but lyrical, and I found myself reading it out loud, even though I was at home by myself. When the library starts doing story times again, I’m going to find a time to use this book.

The idea is simple. For each season, the girl speaking tells us what she loves best in her garden, and what she loves most to do.

The fun part, though, is that every time after she says what she loves best, she tells about other things she loves in that season.

Here’s one example:

In the fall what I love most to do is rake leaves.

Of course there are other things I like to do in the fall – buy new sweaters and skirts and pencil boxes for school, and pick the ripe golden pears from my tree.

But what I love most to do in the fall is rake leaves and jump in the big crackly golden piles of them.

Of course the natural thing to do after reading this book is talk about what you love best about the season you’re in.

charlottezolotow.com
philipstead.com
HolidayHouse.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/in_my_garden.html

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 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?

Mathematical Colors and Codes, Episode Three – Nondecimal Bases

July 7th, 2020

Episode Three of Mathematical Colors and Codes, my Virtual Program Series for the library is up!

Episode Three is the longest episode. (They do get shorter!) I talk about various bases and look at them together with prime factorization color charts. I’m hoping it gives kids a feel for how other bases work.

This video, like all the others has a downloadable coloring page. [Right now this is the incorrect link. I’ll fix it with the correct one tonight.] This one will let you see for yourself how prime factorization patterns change in other bases, as well as giving you a feel for how counting works in other bases.

Here’s this week’s video:

Here are links to the entire Mathematical Colors and Codes series:

Episode One, Prime Factorization
Episode Two, Prime Factorization Codes
Episode Three, Nondecimal Bases
Episode Four, Color Codes with Nondecimal Bases

Review of A Game of Birds and Wolves, by Simon Parkin

July 6th, 2020

A Game of Birds and Wolves

The Ingenious Young Women Whose Secret Board Game Helped Win World War II

by Simon Parkin

Little, Brown and Company, 2020. 310 pages.
Review written April 23, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review

A Game of Birds and Wolves is the story of how Great Britain used an elaborate war game to strategize and win the war against the U-boats during World War II.

I hadn’t realized how important the Battle of the Atlantic was. Britain came perilously close to starving. During World War II, 2,603 merchant ships and 175 naval vessels escorting merchant convoys were sunk. More than 30,000 merchant seamen and more than 6,000 Royal Navy sailors died in the Atlantic, mostly because of attacks from U-boats.

The subtitle is a little bit misleading. This book is mostly about the man, Gilbert Roberts, who developed the giant board game and taught it to British naval officers. But his staff, the people running the game, were indeed women, officers in the Wrens, the branch of the British navy for women.

I’ve been reading a lot of children’s nonfiction, so I did get impatient with the extreme level of detail in this book. We hear about the establishment of the Wrens, about specific ships getting sunk in the Atlantic, about the glamorous lives on shore of U-boat commanders, and how Gilbert Roberts had been rejected by the navy. It seemed like the first half of the book was establishing the many, many different characters and the situations for both the Germans and the British.

But the tension does heighten as the WATU – the Western Approaches Tactical Unit – begins deducing the strategies that U-boats were using and developing ways to combat it. At the same time, we read about an admiral asking for more U-boats and finally getting them. It all builds to a dramatic battle where one of the Wrens charting the position of the ships in a giant sea battle is aware that her fiancé is in the thick of things.

As a gamer, it made sense to me that playing strategy games helps admirals devise effective strategies in real-life scenarios. They developed a 6-day course and captains coming in from time at sea would go through the course. They simulated visibility at sea by putting the captains behind a canvas screen and plotting the positions of small models of ships on the linoleum floor. They used green chalk for the U-boats, which couldn’t be seen from an angle. They made a dramatic simulation before computers could be used to do it.

The Wrens on staff were responsible for moving the models and marking the courses of the ships and U-boats involved. I enjoyed the scene where they had a young Wren play a scenario against a high ranking naval officer. She was experienced with the game and soundly defeated him.

It all gives an interesting side of World War II that I’d never heard about before.

simonparkin.com
littlebrown.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/game_of_birds_and_wolves.html

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 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?

Review of Harbor Me, by Jacqueline Woodson

July 5th, 2020

Harbor Me

by Jacqueline Woodson

Nancy Paulsen Books (Penguin), 2018. 176 pages.
Starred Review
Review written August 30, 2018, from a book sent by the publisher
2018 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#9 Contemporary Children’s Fiction

It’s unfortunate when you read as many children’s books as you can, all put out in the same year, when some of the books lose some of their impact because you’ve read a similar story already. Harbor Me reminds me of Between the Lines by Nikki Grimes. In both cases, you’ve got a group of kids from tough backgrounds coming to care about each other as they open up and share their stories. In Just Like Jackie, something similar happens. I’m a little tired of hearing about teachers pulling this off, because I’m starting to be skeptical – but at the same time, personal stories do have a powerful effect.

In the case of Harbor Me, it’s a group of six 5th and 6th graders in the same class. Every week, they get to meet for one hour in a room without a teacher and say whatever they want. They learn each other’s stories.

It begins with Esteban, whose father was taken away and put in a detention center. Esteban was born in America, but now his mother is afraid she’ll be taken, too.

And Haley, our narrator, who’s thinking back over the year, has a dad who was in prison. She’s lived with her uncle as long as she can remember.

This book isn’t poetry, but Jacqueline Woodson has a poet’s facility with language. This may also explain why my favorite parts of the book were Esteban’s father’s poems, which he wrote in the detention center and sent to his son, who translated them into English.

The book feels a little short – I’d like to know more about more of the kids’ stories – but it’s also refreshing to read a book for 5th graders that’s less than 200 pages long. This book is about kids on the margins, and it is short enough that kids on the margins themselves might not be intimidated by it.

The day I read this, I also reviewed Jacqueline Woodson’s new picture book, The Day It Begins — which is also about making friends by sharing your stories. We are all different, but we all have things in common. When we hear stories, we can find those things in common. The picture book tells about that, and the novel fleshes it out.

Yes. Let’s share stories. And then we’ll have people to harbor us when times are hard.

jacquelinewoodson.com
penguin.com/middle-grade

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/harbor_me.html

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 sent by the publisher

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.

What did you think of this book?

Review of Strong Voices, introductions by Tonya Bolden, illustrated by Eric Velasquez

July 4th, 2020

Strong Voices

Fifteen American Speeches Worth Knowing

Introductions by Tonya Bolden
illustrated by Eric Velasquez
foreword by Cokie Roberts

Harper, 2020. 128 pages.
Review written April 9, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review

This is a book of great American speeches, so it is by its very nature inspiring. I was familiar with more than half of them, but I’m happy to have made a new acquaintance with the rest, and this is a fine collection covering the scope of the history of our nation and the important issues we’ve faced.

Tonya Bolden has written a detailed introduction to each piece and the speaker, and the speeches are spread out nicely on the pages, beginning with a spread that includes a painting of the speaker. The attractive format of the book appropriately showcases the words.

The speeches chosen place an emphasis on rights and freedoms, but also on inspirational challenges. It begins with Patrick Henry’s “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” in 1775, and finishes with Hillary Rodham Clinton’s “Women’s Rights Are Human Rights” in 1995.

In between, of course we’ve got Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “The Only Thing We Have to Fear Is Fear Itself,” and Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream,” but we’ve also got a speech in 1805 by the Native American Red Jacket, “We Never Quarrel About Religion,” Lou Gehrig’s “Farewell to Baseball,” and Fannie Lou Hamer’s “I Question America.”

There’s a Timeline at the back. At first I liked how it places all the speeches on the line with historical events marked as well, going from the Boston Tea Party in 1773 to Hillary Rodham Clinton’s speech in 1995. I also liked that it has a series of shaded dots next to the line for long time periods – various wars, as well as the Jim Crow laws. But then I noticed that the spacing between things on the timeline isn’t proportional at all. World War I, from 1914-1918, takes up five shaded dots, for example, but World War II, 1939-1945, takes up thirteen shaded dots. But the Vietnam War, 1955-1975, takes up 93 shaded dots. So it’s mainly to lay out the events and speeches in order, and they’re spaced out to read clearly, but not so much to reflect how long different things lasted. So the timeline makes it look like the speeches were spaced out evenly throughout American history, but actually six of the fifteen happened after 1950.

Reading this book made me want to stand with these Americans and continue working for freedom and justice! I hope it will inspire children and teens the same way.

tonyaboldenbooks.com
ericvelasquez.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/strong_voices.html

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 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?

Review of The Vanishing Stair, by Maureen Johnson

July 3rd, 2020

The Vanishing Stair

by Maureen Johnson

Katherine Tegen Books (HarperCollins), 2019. 373 pages.
Review written March 5, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review

The Vanishing Stair is the second book in the Truly Devious trilogy. Yes, you need to read the books in order, because this is a mystery series, and clues are revealed along the way.

Stevie Bell was invited to Ellingham Academy to work on a decades-old mystery about the kidnapping of the wife and daughter of Albert Ellingham, the founder of the academy. In the first book, though, a present-day student dies, and another one disappears.

This book begins with Stevie back with her parents because of the death at Ellingham Academy. But, no surprise to the reader, she quickly gets back to the school, and more of the old and new mysteries unfold. In fact, this volume has Stevie making a major breakthrough about the old case – but we also have another death.

Fortunately, this time I’m reading with the book that comes next checked out and ready to go! I read the first book much too long ago, but anyone who starts the series now will not have the same problem. Check all three books out – you’re in for a well-crafted mystery, with many different layers. On top of that, the characters are quirky, interesting, and fun to spend time with.

Stevie does make a breakthrough in the old case in this book, but there’s still a lot to find out. These books finish at a satisfying place, but still make you eager to find out more.

maureenjohnsonbooks.com
epicreads.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Teens/vanishing_stair.html

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 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?

Mathematical Colors and Codes, Episode Two: Prime Factorization Codes

July 2nd, 2020

Episode Two of my Mathematical Virtual Program Series is up!

In Episode Two, I talk more about prime factorization and ways to show it with colors. Then I show how you can use that idea to make a prime factorization code.

This video has a downloadable coloring page to help you make your own prime factorization code.

Here’s this week’s video:

Here are links to the entire Mathematical Colors and Codes series:

Episode One, Prime Factorization
Episode Two, Prime Factorization Codes
Episode Three, Nondecimal Bases
Episode Four, Color Codes with Nondecimal Bases

Closing Session with Natalie Portman at ALA Virtual Conference

June 26th, 2020

The Closing Session of ALA Virtual Conference 2020 featured Natalie Portman, who has a new picture book coming out called Natalie Portman’s Fables, being interviewed by librarian Betsy Bird.

[Betsy made a funny slip when she was listing Natalie’s credentials and called her an “Archivist” when she meant to say “Activist.” Only a librarian! Natalie said that would be cool!]

The main idea of the book, which includes three stories, is to rewrite beloved stories with more female characters.

She noticed when she had a daughter after having a son that people had given her boy baby “classics” that all seemed to feature male characters. Then they gave her girl baby books with feminist slants — but does a toddler really need to be told she’ll encounter obstacles?

She would change the pronouns in the stories she reads to have more female characters — and decided to write a book that does that. It’s not going to be all females, but just more a reflection of what the world is actually like.

They discussed the old saying that girls will read books about boys, but boys won’t read books about girls. Natalie said that girls are taught from a very young age to get inside boys’ heads and understand what they’re thinking. Boys also need to learn to think about a girl’s perspective.

The practice of empathy starts in children’s books.

Toddlers will empathize with any creature. We should encourage that.

She chose three tales with animal characters that she could fit into a message appropriate for modern times.