Review of Marie’s Ocean, by Josie James

Marie’s Ocean

Marie Tharp Maps the Mountains Under the Sea

by Josie James

Christy Ottaviano Books (Henry Holt). 48 pages.
Review written April 19, 2021, from a library book
Starred Review

Dramatized in graphic novel format with speech bubbles, this book tells of the life of Marie Tharp and how she overcame prejudice against women and became the first person to map the ocean floor.

First it shows her childhood interest in science and beginning jobs, which were never as challenging as she could handle. But then everything came together when Bruce Hazeen, a graduate student at Columbia asked her to plot sounding data of the ocean floor from many ships going across the Atlantic Ocean, using sonar.

It goes on to show how Marie discovered something in common in the plots from the ships’ data.

And then I noticed something curious. A V shaped cleft ran through each of the profiles I had drawn.

Could there be a crack in the center of the mountains of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge as deep and wide as the Grand Canyon?

It shows how this discovery supported the continental drift theory, which was considered scientific heresy at the time.

Then Bruce was asked to map the locations where transatlantic phone cables had broken due to earthquakes. When Marie plotted the earthquakes – they were all happening along the rift valley she had discovered in the middle of the ocean.

The scientific community was still skeptical of her work. Then Jacques Cousteau towed an underwater camera across the Mid-Atlantic Ocean floor and showed the world that Marie’s rift valley indeed existed.

Thereafter, scientists’ and the public’s opinion of the rift valley and Wegener’s theory of continental drift slowly began to shift. Opinion also began to change regarding women at sea. In 1965, after fifteen years working at my desk, Bruce offered me my first spot as a woman aboard a research vessel.

Marie Tharp continued working, mapping all the world’s oceans.

Heinrich, Bruce, and I continued to collaborate and produced an elaborate painting called the World Ocean Floor panorama in 1977. This glorious map depicts a one-world ocean whose hidden mountains and valleys, created by the immense forces of Earth, erupted off the canvas and dispersed the idea of a flat and featureless seafloor.

By dramatizing her story, this book brings you into the challenges Marie faced as a scientist and how completely she triumphed over them.

mackids.com

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Review of The Rise and Fall of Charles Lindbergh, by Candace Fleming

The Rise and Fall of Charles Lindbergh

by Candace Fleming

Schwartz & Wade Books, 2020. 372 pages.
Review written May 8, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review

The Rise and Fall of Charles Lindbergh is a biography of Charles Lindbergh written for teen readers. As such, there’s a priority on being interesting and readable, but still a level of detail that gives you a complete look at his life.

She groups the book into two parts – the Rise and the Fall. He was only twenty-five years old when he made the transatlantic flight that propelled him into celebrity. He found a wife after that, and their first child was kidnapped, which made him again the focus of the whole nation. We learn all about his background, his upbringing, his ambitions, and his philosophy of life.

By the end of the book, I didn’t like the guy much, because of all I learned in the second half of the book. It tells about how he was duped by Hitler, but also how his own philosophy of life and belief in eugenics set him up to have sympathy with the goals of Nazism. He’d decided that fascism was a better form of government than democracy, because he thought white people with good genes should determine the direction of the country.

Candace Fleming does an excellent job of explaining his beliefs while pointing out problems with them. She shows the seeds of his ideas and how they developed over the course of his life.

She glosses over his life after World War II somewhat – but does mention that he had three other families in Europe, which he kept secret as long as he lived.

The Prologue is a striking way to start the book – at an enormous America First rally, where Lindbergh revved up the crowd. The author doesn’t give the name of the speaker running the rally when this paragraph comes up:

A couple of Firsters stepped assertively toward a reporter. Would the press cover the rally fairly this time? they wanted to know. Or would the newspapers be biased and inaccurate as usual? Many rally-goers believed the media couldn’t be trusted. Their hero, the face of America First and the man they’d come to hear speak tonight, had told them so. “Contemptible,” he’d called the press. “Dishonest parasites.” In a recent speech he’d even told supporters that the press was controlled by “dangerous elements,” men who placed their own interests above America’s. That was why he had to keep holding rallies, he explained. Someone had to tell it like it was. Someone had to speak the impolite truth about the foreigners who threatened the nation. It was time to build walls – “ramparts,” he called them – to hold back the infiltration of “alien blood.” It was time for America to close its borders, isolate itself from the rest of the world, and focus solely on its own interests. It was the only way, he claimed “to preserve our American way of life.”

Candace Fleming did her homework. There is a 6-page bibliography and 30 pages of source notes at the back.

candacefleming.com
GetUnderlined.com

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Review of Cubs in the Tub, by Candace Fleming

Cubs in the Tub

The True Story of the Bronx Zoo’s First Woman Zookeeper

by Candace Fleming
illustrations by Julie Downing

Neal Porter Books, 2020. 48 pages.
Review written August 19, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review

Here’s a completely charming picture book biography, packed full of pictures of baby animals. I dare you to read it without smiling!

Besides the pictures of baby animals, we get the story of Helen Martini, whose husband was a zookeeper for the Bronx Zoo. Helen very much wanted a baby, but they were childless – and then her husband brought home a baby lion whose mother had rejected it. Helen took tender loving and motherly care of the baby, whom she named MacArthur.

After MacArthur was sent to a zoo in another part of the country, there were three tiger cubs that needed care. When they got so big their home couldn’t hold them, Helen had to bring them back to the zoo. But they didn’t like being apart from her, and she didn’t like being apart from them. So she made a nursery at the zoo out of an old storeroom and spent the night with her tiger babies.

When the tigers outgrew even the zoo nursery, it wasn’t long before other animal babies needed care. And Helen got offered a job at a time when all zookeepers had been men.

This inspiring story is told in an entertaining way, with plenty of pictures of baby animals to warm your heart.

HolidayHouse.com

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Review of Alias Anna, by Susan Hood with Greg Dawson

Alias Anna

A True Story of Outwitting the Nazis

by Susan Hood
with Greg Dawson

Harper, 2022. 339 pages.
Review written August 19, 2022, from a library book
Starred Review

The only sad thing about this book telling a true story is that I’m afraid kids looking for a gripping historical novel in verse may not find it in the nonfiction section, but it would give them that reading experience.

This is the true story of Greg Dawson’s mother Zhanna and how she survived the Holocaust. He’s written the story for adults in his book Hiding in the Spotlight: A Musical Prodigy’s Story of Survival, 1941-1946. Susan Hood took the story and put it into poetry and language for children the same age as Zhanna was when World War II began to impact her life.

Zhanna and her younger sister Frina were child prodigy piano performers in Ukraine, already having performed on the radio and concert halls throughout their country before World War II hit.

First Stalin came, causing their family trouble, and then the Germans, causing even more trouble. Zhanna was 13 years old when her family was part of a death march — marched into the countryside, where thousands of Jews were gunned down. But on the march, her father bribed a guard, and Zhanna escaped.

However, her old town wasn’t safe, because she was famous for her performing, and her neighbors knew she was Jewish. She changed her name to Anna and got a new passport with the help of kind strangers. This book tells the saga as Anna and her sister ended up in a troupe performing for the Germans during the war, winding up in Berlin and traveling through the German countryside. They were used to build up the spirits of the German people, but this way of “hiding in the spotlight” saved their lives.

This is a story I might not have believed if it were fiction, as there were definitely coincidences along the way that saved her life.

Because of being poetry, this book reads quickly — but that’s also partly because it’s hard to stop turning pages as Zhanna is surrounded by danger all along the way.

This is one where you’re happy to be told at the beginning that this story is someone’s memories — you’re so glad to know right up front that she survived.

I hope kids who enjoy historical fiction will find this book, because it fits right in with other World War II novels, with maybe a few more coincidences and narrow escapes!

susanhoodbooks.com

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Review of Shaped by Her Hands, by Anna Harber Freeman and Barbara Gonzales

Shaped by Her Hands

Potter Maria Martinez

by Anna Harber Freeman and Barbara Gonzales
illustrated by Aphelandra

Albert Whitman and Company, 2021. 32 pages.
Review written April 14, 2021, from a library book
Starred Review

Shaped by Her Hands is a picture book biography of Maria Povika Martinez, a woman who carried on the tradition of Native American pottery and became famous for perfecting new techniques.

It begins her story as a girl in a pueblo among the Tewa people of San Ildefonso. She learned to make pottery from her aunt.

Aunt Nicolasa was happy to show Maria the centuries-old tradition of san-away. Together, they gathered clay and thanked Mother Earth for sharing with them.

Nicolasa showed Maria how to mix the clay with water and volcanic ash, and how to roll coils between her hands to build the pot’s walls.

As the two of them worked, Nicolasa told Maria about the importance of sharing clay knowledge. She wanted Maria to know how to make pots to store seeds and grains in, so their Tewa traditions would live on.

The book shows Maria growing up and marrying and coming back to the clay. She developed a new technique from an ancient sherd of black pottery an archaeologist showed her. She and her husband, who added decorations, created beautiful black-on-black pottery that was extremely popular.

And throughout her life, she always found it important to share what she knew.

When Julian died in 1943, Maria’s heart and pots felt empty without her husband and partner. But she had spent her whole life sharing clay with her family.

First, her children came to paint the designs.

Later, her grandchildren came to help with the painting and polishing.

They made pots as a family, remembering to thank Mother Earth, and teaching new hands to form, polish, and design.

A lovely and simple book about someone who made beautiful art and passed on the knowledge.

albertwhitman.com

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Review of Grand Theft Horse, by G. Neri, illustrated by Corban Wilkin

Grand Theft Horse

by G. Neri
illustrated by Corban Wilkin

Tu Books (Lee & Low), 2018. 230 pages.
Review written July 30, 2022, from my own copy sent by the publisher
Starred Review

In this nonfiction graphic novel (or should I just say graphic nonfiction?), the author tells the amazing true story of his cousin, Gail Ruffu, who was the first person charged with Grand Theft Horse in California in 150 years.

She was acquitted of those charges, because the horse was her own — or at least she owned 20% of it — but the story is amazing, and that wasn’t the end of her troubles.

The story also sheds light on the problem of drug use and cruelty in the horse racing industry, where thoroughbreds are worked to death and their health and safety isn’t taken into account.

Gail Ruffu wanted to change that. She bought a horse, Urgent Envoy, who she thought was a winner, but could only afford to be a part owner. She thought she had the others on board for a no-drugs, patient approach.

But then they started pressuring her to race the horse before he was ready and even when he was injured. After they took her off the team, Gail learned that Urgent Envoy had a hairline fracture, but they were planning to race him anyway. If he raced, his leg would most likely break completely, and he’d be killed. So she took matters into her own hands and stole her own horse on Christmas Eve, 2004.

But she ended up suffering for that decision. Her main partner in ownership was a lawyer who eventually got her banned from the track. This is the story of her work to vindicate herself and to save the life and health of the horse she loved.

Since it’s a graphic novel, the story doesn’t take long to read — which is a good thing, because it’s compelling and not easy to stop reading.

A story of someone without power standing up to the powerful to help those who can’t speak for themselves.

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Review of Women in Art, by Rachel Ignotofsky

Women in Art

50 Fearless Creatives Who Inspired the World

written and illustrated by Rachel Ignotofsky

Ten Speed Press, 2019. 128 pages.
Review written August 5, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review

I’ve gotten a little tired of collective biographies that tell about a bunch of people and after awhile they all lump together. This one was different and distinctive. It probably helped that I had it checked out while the library was closed during the pandemic, because I found I only wanted to read about one artist per day, since there was so much information packed on each spread. I was in no hurry and didn’t have to worry about having to return the book before I was done.

The stylized illustrations are wonderful, featuring a page that highlights a portrait of the artist opposite the page with the text summary of her life and accomplishments. Both the portrait and the text, though, are surrounded with highlights from her life and images of her work.

There was a huge variety in the types of art these women made. The earliest woman featured combined poetry and painting in ancient China. The book includes more painters and sculptors, but also quilters, graphic designers, filmmakers, architects, fashion designers, photographers, and animators. I’d only heard of a small fraction of them before reading this book.

This wonderful book inspired me and reading it became a delight rather than some sort of educational chore. Here’s a paragraph from the conclusion:

Throughout history, female artists have pushed boundaries, created important works, and inspired the world. Many of these artists had to struggle against sexism, classism, racism, or other obstacles to get their work seen and taken seriously. Now we can include these women in their rightful place in art history and celebrate their contributions. Let us honor their legacy by continuing to create. Build what you see in your wildest dreams! Express yourself by creating something new! Share your ideas with the world! And go out there and make your own masterpiece!

RachelIgnotofskyDesign.com
tenspeed.com

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Review of Guts, by Raina Telgemeier

Guts

by Raina Telgemeier

Graphix (Scholastic), 2019. 218 pages.
Review written 9/19/19 from a library book
Starred Review

Raina Telgemeier does it again! Here’s another autobiographical graphic novel (really a graphic memoir) about when she was in fourth and fifth grade. After catching the stomach flu, she began having trouble with stomach aches when she was worried about anything, and then became excessively afraid of vomiting. The problem fed on itself.

That’s easy to summarize – but seeing it lived out in graphic novel form helps the reader understand and feel for her. There are also some problems with friends and enemies (of course) and small school and family issues. Raina sees a therapist, and I like the way she gets over feeling like that means there’s something wrong with her. She also gets some actually helpful ways to cope with her fears.

Kids are going to love this – the hold list is already long, with both boys and girls on the list. I heard that one child complained there was too much vomiting, so I think a child like Raina herself who doesn’t want to hear about vomit might have trouble with it. But for kids who like gross things, that will be an additional attraction.

scholastic.com/graphix
goRaina.com

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Review of The Boy Who Invented the Popsicle, by Anne Renaud and Milan Pavlovic

The Boy Who Invented the Popsicle

The Cool Science Behind Frank Epperson’s Famous Frozen Treat

by Anne Renaud and Milan Pavlovic

Kids Can Press, 2019. 40 pages.
Starred Review
Review written October 23, 2019, from a library book

This is a picture book biography of Frank Epperson, the inventor of the Popsicle, with a little bit more.

I’m always impressed when children’s nonfiction manages to surprise me. The big surprise in this book is that Frank Epperson invented the Popsicle before household freezers were common. And he first experimented with making them when he was eleven years old, living in San Francisco, during an unusual cold spell.

The book shows that he was an inventor at heart, making a two-handled handcar when he was a kid. He also experimented with making flavored soda water.

The book has experiments you can do at home to go with the text. One is making your own lemon-flavored soda water. (Hmm. Is using baking soda what gave soda its name? The book doesn’t say.)

His first frozen drink on a stick happened when he tried freezing one of these drinks. Later, as an adult, when he saw people eating chocolate-covered ice cream bars, he thought he’d experiment with making more of his frozen drinks on a stick.

But he needed to freeze them at a cooler temperature than water freezes because of the sugar and flavorings included – and an experiment helps the reader understand that. And he needed to freeze them quickly, because he didn’t want the flavorings and water to separate – another experiment helps the reader understand that.

He came out with his frozen treats – which he first called the Ep-sicle – in the early 1920s. This was long before homes were typically stocked with a refrigerator-freezer, so they were mostly sold in stores and at special events.

This book gives an interesting story of ingenuity, experimentation, and implementation. The experiments give it a little something beyond the typical picture book biography.

kidscanpress.com

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Review of Messy Roots, by Laura Gao

Messy Roots

A Graphic Memoir of a Wuhanese American

by Laura Gao

Balzer + Bray, 2022. 272 pages.
Review written July 24, 2022, from a library book

Here’s a graphic memoir immigrant story. It’s getting where I feel like I’ve read a lot of these — the life story of a kid who feels very different from their peers and ends up loving art. I’ve read others, but they always pack a punch. In the hands of an artist, a graphic novel (or memoir) is such a wonderful way to express all the emotional weight of their story.

YuYang Gao moved from Wuhan to Texas when she was 4 years old. She’d been living with her grandparents in China, playing with cousins, and didn’t even recognize her parents when she first arrived.

This book tells about her growing up years, trying to fit in, learning about herself and about her heritage, but also being willing to break new ground. In college, she came out as queer and had some challenges telling her family. She moved to San Francisco, where there was a vibrant Asian community.

Then when the pandemic hit, Americans had finally heard of Wuhan, but not in a good way. San Francisco, that had been so welcoming, had new dangers.

It’s all done with striking, brightly-colored art, with lots of variety in the images and panels. She brings you along on her story with all the confusions but comforts of her background combined with the life she’s building for herself.

lauragao.com
epicreads.com

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