Review of March, Book One, by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell

March
Book One

by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell

Top Shelf Productions, 2013. 123 pages.
Starred Review
2014 Coretta Scott King Honor Book

This is not a graphic novel, it’s a graphic memoir, and all the contents are true. Congressman John Lewis tells about what it was like for him as a young man involved in the Civil Rights Movement. The comic book format combined with the personal remembrances give this book an immediacy that will stick with the reader.

There’s a frame that’s in place on the day of Barack Obama’s inauguration. The congressman is telling two kids visiting his office what it was like when he was their age. And then he tells how he first heard about people speaking up for civil rights, and how he went to nonviolence training, participated in and organized sit-ins, and began the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

This is only Book One. There’s a sort of prologue scene crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge during the March on Washington. We don’t get that far in the story, though we do learn, right at the start, that of all the speakers that day, John Lewis is the only one who’s still around.

This graphic memoir makes history come alive in a dramatic way.

I’m reading it because it’s the last contender I hadn’t read for School Library Journal’s Battle of the Books, which starts next week. I’m not surprised to find some powerful reading here. It fits in well with the other contenders.

topshelfcomix.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.

Review of The Plantagenets, by Dan Jones

The Plantagenets

The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England

by Dan Jones
read by Clive Chafer

Blackstone Audio, 2013. 21 hours on 17 CDs.

Thank you to Liz Burns for recommending this book on her A Chair, a Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy blog. I read her recommendation when I had recently learned that I have a few drops of Plantagenet blood in my veins – one of my distant ancestors was a distant descendant of an illegitimate child of King John, whom Dan Jones describes as the worst of the Plantagenet rulers.

I don’t think I could have read all this history in the print book. As it was, I skipped and listened to other things in between some of the CDs. So I know a whole lot more about British history than I ever did before, but it’s more of a grand overarching view than remembering all the details. And I confess I was far more interested in historical characters that I’d read about in historical novels than anyone else. Especially since I was interrupting my listening, I often got the different Henrys and Edwards confused, and wasn’t always sure exactly which king he was talking about.

I loved the narrator’s voice and British accent at first. However, he used the same “quoting” voice every time he was quoting someone. Not that they should be different – they were mostly quotes from historians or from various kings. But after awhile, it all sounded the same.

Still, I can’t think of a more painless way to get a grand overview of an era of British history (and some of my own ancestors!) than listening to this narrative on the way to and from work. I learned about the many wars, about revolutions and uprisings, about the establishment of laws, and about what was expected of a medieval king. And despite being history, it was never boring.

The blurb on the back says that Dan Jones is working on a new history of the War of the Roses. That’s the era that comes next, and I’m looking forward to finding out more.

BlackstoneAudio.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 audiobook 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.

Review of Knit Your Bit, by Deborah Hopkinson and Steven Guarnaccia

Knit Your Bit

A World War I Story

by Deborah Hopkinson
illustrated by Steven Guarnaccia

G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2013. 32 pages.

Knit Your Bit is a historical fiction picture book. It’s based on the effort made by the American Red Cross during World War I to have people across the country “knit your bit” to provide soldiers in the trenches with warm clothes to get through the winter.

The picture book looks at a boy named Mikey and his sister Ellie. Their father has gone to war. Ellie decides right away to learn to knit for Pop, but Mikey thinks knitting is for girls. However, with the announcement of a Knitting Bee in Central Park and the girls saying that the boys are scared to learn, Mikey and two friends form a Boys’ Knitting Brigade to try to beat the girls.

The historical aspect of this picture book makes it extra interesting. I love the photos on the endpapers from actual World War I knitting groups, and the sheep that President Wilson kept on the White House lawn. An Author’s Note at the end gives more details, including a song that ends like this:

We are knitting for the boys over there;
It’s a sock or a sweater, or even better,
To do your bit and knit a square.

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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.

Review of Becoming Babe Ruth, by Matt Tavares

Becoming Babe Ruth

by Matt Tavares

Candlewick Press, 2013. 40 pages.

Who knew Babe Ruth went to reform school at age 7? Becoming Babe Ruth looks at George Ruth’s childhood and how even he had to work at becoming a great baseball player.

The book focuses on his years at St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys, where he played baseball and learned from Brother Matthias. Years later, when he was famous, he still had a special relationship with the school and helped them raise money to rebuild after a fire. The band from the school got to go on the road with the New York Yankees for the last two weeks of the 1920 baseball season, special guests of Babe Ruth.

This is also a beautiful picture book, with extra large pictures of a larger-than-life baseball player. I like the focus on a boy down on his luck who works hard and makes it big, but still remembers where he came from.

The author says in a note at the end, “Becoming the king of baseball took countless hours of practice and plenty of support and guidance from his school and from his teacher and mentor, Brother Matthias. And even at the height of his fame, he remained eternally grateful to those who helped him become Babe Ruth.”

candlewick.com

I’m posting this review today in honor of Nonfiction Monday, hosted today at Booktalking.

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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.

Review of Revolutionary Friends, by Selene Castrovilla and Drazen Kozjan

Revolutionary Friends

General George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette

by Selene Castrovilla
illustrated by Drazen Kozjan

Calkins Creek (Highlights), Honesdale, Pennsylvania, 2013. 40 pages.
Starred Review

This is what a nonfiction picture book should be. It tells a story, complete with flourishes, such as inserting French words in spots. And it also gets in the facts, particularly in the form of pictures of parchment on many pages, with quotations from Lafayette or Washington, talking about the episode featured on that page.

I didn’t know much about Marquis de Lafayette. I knew he was important during the American Revolution, but didn’t really know why. Now I do. And now I understand his deep friendship with George Washington, which began during the war and extended through the rest of their lives.

The book begins in 1777, when nineteen-year-old Lafayette came to America and introduced himself to General Washington, eager to help. Washington was not so impressed — at first. Other Frenchmen had come but had held themselves above the Americans and not bothered to learn English.

Lafayette was blissfully unaware of Washington’s opinions.

He had adopted the motto cur non — “why not.” Having come this far, why not go further?

Lafayette was anxious to be trained and eager to communicate. He had studied English while on the rough sea.

He adored America. And because Washington represented America, Lafayette idolized him.

Washington approached.

Enchanté!

The commander complimented Lafayette on his noble spirit and the sacrifices he had made. He invited Lafayette to live in his quarters.

Voilà!

To Lafayette, the cementing of their bond was as simple as that.

The book goes on to tell how the Americans were in a tight spot, and Congress wouldn’t trust Lafayette with a command. He finally proved himself in a way they couldn’t ignore, risking his life at the Battle of Brandywine. Washington told the doctor, “Take charge of him as if he were my son, for I love him with the same affection.”

There are several pages of back matter after this ending, the decisive cementing of their friendship. It tells how the friendship continued, gives timelines for both their lives, and even lists places to visit.

The strong point of this book, well supported with the rest, is the accessible story, a story of two men who became friends in a time of war. And changed the world.

SeleneCastrovilla.com
DrazenKozjan.com
calkinscreekbooks.com

This review is posted today in honor of Nonfiction Monday, hosted today at Shelf-Employed.

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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.

Review of Pop! The Invention of Bubble Gum, by Meghan McCarthy

Pop!
The Invention of Bubble Gum

By Meghan McCarthy

A Paula Wiseman Book (Simon & Schuster), 2010. 40 pages.

This nonfiction picture book tells the story of the invention of bubble gum. Walter Diemer, the man who came up with the breakthrough, was actually an accountant in the Fleer candy factory. He started watching a pot for a chemist, and ended up testing out new combinations. He finally found the formula for bubble gum. Pink was the only color he happened to have on hand, so that was the color of the new invention.

This simple story is told with big bright illustrations. It’s true, and it’s about something near and dear to children’s hearts, so this is an excellent choice to get kids interested in nonfiction. Notes at the back tell more about Walter Diemer and facts about gum.

I’m posting this review today in honor of Nonfiction Monday, hosted today at A Mom’s Spare Time.

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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 my own copy, which I got at an ALA conference.

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.

Review of Hoop Genius, by John Coy and Joe Morse

Hoop Genius
How a Desperate Teacher and a Rowdy Gym Class Invented Basketball

by John Coy
illustrations by Joe Morse

Carolrhoda Books, Minneapolis, 2013. 40 pages.
Starred Review

Hoop Genius is a simple picture book about the invention of basketball. The story it tells is pretty much summed up in the subtitle: James Naismith was a desperate teacher who’d taken on a gym class that had already forced two teachers to quit. But the author and illustrator dramatize that story in an exciting way (showing the young men in the class with progressively more injuries, for example). Then they show where Naismith got the idea (from a childhood game) and how he worked out the rules with his class. Then briefly, we’re shown how basketball took off. (James Naismith met his wife when she played in a women’s game he refereed.)

I love the endpapers – with copies of the first draft of the rules of basketball.

The story’s simple, but so interesting! This marvelous presentation of the story of how Basketball began will captivate readers of all ages.

lernerbooks.com

I’m posting this review tonight in honor of Nonfiction Monday, hosted today at Shelf Employed.

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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.

Review of Miss Moore Thought Otherwise, by Jan Pinborough and Debby Atwell

Miss Moore Thought Otherwise

How Anne Carroll Moore Created Libraries for Children

by Jan Pinborough
illustrated by Debby Atwell

Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2013. 40 pages.

This nonfiction picture book tells, in simple, accessible language, about Anne Carroll Moore, one of the first librarians for children.

The title phrase, “Miss Moore thought otherwise,” is used throughout the book. “In the 1870s many people thought a girl should stay inside and do quiet things such as sewing and embroidery.” “People didn’t think reading was very important for children – especially not for girls.” “Back then, an unmarried girl like Annie might keep house for her parents, or perhaps become a teacher or a missionary.” “New York was a big city. Some people thought it was a dangerous place for a young woman to live on her own.” “She saw that many librarians did not let children touch the books, for fear that they would smudge their pages or break their spines. They thought if children were allowed to take books home, they would surely forget to bring them back.” “When Miss Moore turned seventy years old, it was time for her to retire. Some people thought she should sit quietly at home.”

To all of those things, “Miss Moore thought otherwise.”

And besides telling the attitudes Anne Carroll Moore worked against, the book also displays the positive work she did – such as being an instrumental part of planning the Children’s Room in the New York Public Library’s new Central Branch. There are many pages about the bright and beautiful Children’s Room and what children could do there. I like this little tidbit:

One day the king and queen of Belgium visited the New York Public Library. “You must come see the Children’s Room,” Miss Moore told the queen. That day all the children in the library – from the richest to the poorest – shook hands with a king and queen.

(And the picture shows children all lined up to do so, with Miss Moore helping the next in line get ready.)

Notes at the end tell about more trailblazing librarians, give more details, and tell you where you can find out more.

The book text ends with a nice capstone paragraph:

Today libraries across America have thousands of books for children. And thanks to the help of a little girl from Limerick, Maine, who had ideas of her own, any child can choose a book from a library shelf, curl up in a comfortable seat to look through it – and then take it home to read.

missmoorethoughtotherwise.com
janpinborough.com
hmhbooks.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.

This review is posted today in honor of Nonfiction Monday, hosted today at Wrapped in Foil.

Review of Abe Lincoln’s Dream, by Lane Smith

Abe Lincoln’s Dream

by Lane Smith

Roaring Brook Press, New York, 2012. 32 pages.

I like this book. The idea is simple. The execution is complex. The impact will stick with you.

There’s talk of a ghost in the White House. Over the years, different White House dogs won’t go into a certain room. Then one day, a little girl wandering from her tour sees the ghost of Abraham Lincoln. He’s still sad and worried about the union. She leads him to the door.

“Oh no, I never leave the Executive Mansion,” he protested.
“You should,” she said. “A lot has changed since 1865. . .
including the name of the Executive Mansion. We just call it the White House now.”

The ghost did the flying.
The girl answered the questions.
“Are the states united?” he asked. “Did that work out?”
“Yes, that worked out fine.”

“And equality for all?” he asked.
“That’s working out too,” she said.
“It’s getting better all the time.”

And on it goes. It’s a simple story, and the concepts are simplified to something children can easily understand. Lane Smith throws in some corny jokes attributed to Lincoln and some White House trivia. He also includes that marvelous Lane Smith art work, recognizable as his own, but not exactly like anything he’s done before.

One of the things that made me like this book was that it reminded me that when I was in elementary school or junior high, I used to daydream about having Louisa May Alcott come to visit and showing her all that had changed for women since her time. Since Jo wanted to run and play with the boys, I thought she would be so excited to see me wearing pants, and I’d think about all I could show her. This book is like that. Despite all our remaining troubles, I do think Abraham Lincoln would be reassured if a little girl could take him on a tour of what America is today and what Americans have done.

And what a fun way to reflect on that!

lanesmithbooks.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.

Review of When Stravinsky Met Nijinsky, by Lauren Stringer

When Stravinsky Met Nijinsky

Two Artists, Their Ballet, and One Extraordinary Riot

by Lauren Stringer

Harcourt Children’s Books, 2013. 32 pages.
Starred Review

This picture book nonfiction book is extraordinary. It’s a picture book; the language is simple enough for young elementary school students to fully understand. The pictures exquisitely evoke the music and dance of the ballet The Rite of Spring.

I’ve seen a performance of The Rite of Spring years ago in Los Angeles, but I wasn’t prepared for how completely this book brought that performance — which I hadn’t thought about in years — to the forefront of my mind.

I hadn’t remembered that the first time the ballet was performed, it ignited a riot in Paris. That event is the climax of the book, but it gets there in such a delightful way.

First, the book talks about the music and dance that Stravinsky and Nijinsky created by themselves.

Then Stravinsky met Nijinsky
and his music began to change.

His piano pirouetted a puppet,
his tuba leaped a loping bear,
and his trumpet tah-tahed
a twirling ballerina.

And when Nijinsky met Stravinsky,
his dance began to change.

His torso trumpeted a melody,
his arms and legs sang from strings,
and his feet began
to pom-di-di-pom like timpani.

Stravinsky inspired Nijinsky.
Nijinsky inspired Stravinsky.

Together they decided to dream of something different and new.

The book goes on to talk about the creation of The Rite of Spring and the reactions of the musicians and dancers, and, eventually, the crowd in Paris.

I can’t stress enough how wonderful the illustrations are. They aren’t a literal, photographic description of the times. They use styles of the art of the times to symbolically represent what’s going on, while still showing concrete things like dancers in Paris. I love the faces of the people in the music hall and in the streets of Paris. Some are smiling beatifically. Others have their hands over their ears with their faces puckered in disgust.

I also love the picture of Stravinsky and Nijinsky in tuxedo with tails dancing together surrounded by a ring of music with costumed dancers and instruments and music with unusual time signatures. That goes to show I can’t describe it nearly as effectively as one glance at the picture will give you. Across the page, there’s an exuberantly dancing cat and dog.

This is a colorful and exuberant book that tells a good story about art and a true moment in history and the way two friends working together helped both attain greatness.

This review is posted today in honor of Nonfiction Monday, hosted today at Anastasia Suen’s Booktalking.

laurenstringer.com
hmhbooks.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 the 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.