Review of Wild Horse Scientists, by Kay Frydenborg

Wild Horse Scientists

by Kay Frydenborg

Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 2012. 80 pages.

With lots of beautiful pictures, this book talks about scientists who manage herds of wild horses, particularly on Assateague Island in Virginia and Maryland, but also out west, in the Pryor Mountains of Montana.

It’s interesting that the problem the scientists are trying to solve actually sprang from their protected status. Without predators any longer, the numbers of horses in the herd became too large. So the scientists spent years developing a contraceptive vaccine. Then they shoot the horses yearly with a dart to prevent pregnancy. It turned out, though, that when mares gave birth to fewer foals, the mares lived much longer.

The book talks about the process of developing the vaccine and then delivering it via dart rifle. Along the way, it talks about the history of wild horses and interesting facts about them. It follows scientists who have given their lives to studying the horses, as well as the status of the horses today.

And did I mention the photos? There are color photos on every spread. The design of the book is lovely, at times with the color of the page changed to complement the photos on that spread. Because of the local interest in nearby Assateague, we chose this book as part of our Summer Reading Program featured books this year in Fairfax County.

hmhbooks.com
assateaguewildhorses.org

I’m posting this review tonight in honor of Nonfiction Monday, hosted today at Jean Little Library.

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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 Colorful Dreamer, by Marjorie Blain Parker

Colorful Dreamer

The Story of Artist Henri Matisse

by Marjorie Blain Parker
illustrated by Holly Berry

Dial Books for Young Readers, 2012. 32 pages.
Starred Review

Artists make ideal subjects for picture book biographies, and Colorful Dreamer makes the most of the form.

The story of Henri Matisse’s life is simplified, suitable for very young readers. It opens with Henri living in a black-and-white world, but dreaming in color. Here’s an example of a page that shows the fanciful approach the author took (yet conveying the facts):

It certainly wasn’t the life Henri had dreamed about. Law clerks, he discovered, spent long days copying legal documents, word-for-word-for-word. When he couldn’t stand the boredom for another second, Henri amused himself with his peashooter. Soon, he was an excellent shot!

Growing a beard and wearing a top hat didn’t help. Though he looked like a law clerk, Henri couldn’t bear the possibility of such an existence. Just thinking about it tied his stomach in knots. And this time Henri ended up in bed for months — in a hospital.

After Henri discovered painting, the pictures change to wildly colorful pictures, and reflect the different artistic periods of his life, culminating in cut-paper collages.

A page of notes at the back gives older readers avenues to pursue to find out more. The book itself is a wonderful introduction to the artist for young children. A lot of picture book biographies focus on the subject’s childhoold. Since Matisse didn’t discover painting until he was twenty, this author decided to focus on his misfit childhood and his colorful dreams. The illustrator carries out her vision beautifully. This book gives the information but also entertains and inspires.

marjorieblainparker.com
hollyberrydesign.com
penguin.com/youngreaders

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

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/colorful_dreamer.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 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 Stay: The True Story of Ten Dogs, by Michaela Muntean

Stay

The True Story of Ten Dogs

by Michaela Muntean
photographs by K. C. Bailey and Stephen Kazmierski

Scholastic Press, New York, 2012. 40 pages.
Starred Review

Stay is a picture book biography of a circus performer and the ten dogs that changed his life. The pictures are photographs, and the story is told with economy of language, the flair of a performer, and using bright circus colors as backgrounds, making a complete package just right for its subject.

Luciano Anastasini grew up in the circus and performed in the circus from childhood. But one day in Chicago, he fell fifty feet from a high wire and was told his days as an acrobat and trapeze artist were over.

But the circus was Luciano’s home, and he wanted to stay. He sold tickets. He put up posters. He dreamed of the day he’d once again have an act of his own. Slowly, an idea began to take shape in his mind.

In the act he imagined, he would need partners — furry, four-legged partners.

Of course, he could have found dogs through a breeder. Or at a pet store. But if his idea worked, Luciano would be getting a second chance. Perhaps he could give some dogs a second chance, too. So Luciano went looking for the ones no one wanted.

The book introduces each dog like a star, explains why their owners gave up on them, and then how Luciano saw that their apparent flaws were actually their strengths.

While Bowser’s previous owners had seen a sneak and a thief, Luciano saw a clever dog with a good sense of balance. [The accompanying photo shows Bowser balancing on top of a tube rolling another dog inside.]

Cocoa wouldn’t stop digging. As Luciano filled in the holes she made, he thought about why she did it. He suspected she had so much energy, she didn’t know what to do with herself. Digging was her way of staying busy.

Stick was quick on his feet and enjoyed strutting about on his back legs. “Shall we dance?” Luciano would ask him, and they’d waltz around the circus grounds together.

Then the author explains how he combined all these strengths into an act that kept audiences laughing and entertained, how he built the act before audiences and went on to circuses across the country.

The story’s simple. It’s told at a kid’s level, with plenty of action-filled photographs and bright colors. But ultimately, it’s an inspiring story for both kids and adults.

People frequently say to Luciano, “You saved those dogs.” To that, Luciano shrugs and says maybe that’s true, maybe it’s not. What he knows for certain is this: They saved him.

After his accident, they helped him put his life back together, and he is grateful to each and every one of them. Dogs don’t care about yesterday; they don’t worry about tomorrow. They live for now — right now, and Luciano tries to do the same.

“We are lucky, my dogs and me,” he says. “We have a job we love, a job that makes people smile. But most of all, we have each other.”

I read this book because it’s a 2013 Fairfax County Public Library summer reading selection, and now I’m looking forward to booktalking it to kids in the schools to spark their interest in reading this summer. A hard-to-resist choice.

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

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

Review of Helen’s Big World, by Doreen Rappaport and Matt Tavares

Helen’s Big World

The Life of Helen Keller

written by Doreen Rappaport
illustrated by Matt Tavares

Disney Hyperion Books, New York, 2012. 44 pages.
Starred Review

I expected to skim through this book and then turn it back in to the library. I already reviewed an excellent children’s biography of Helen Keller back when I was first starting Sonderbooks. But as soon as I opened the book, I knew this was something special.

Helen’s Big World is for a younger audience than Helen Keller: A Determined Life. It’s a picture book biography, and the pictures are oversize and magnificent.

The format is large and almost square, and each double-page spread features a painting. There is text on each page, but not a daunting amount, and with reasonably large print. Each page features a quotation from Helen Keller herself, talking about her life.

The story is familiar to adults. How Helen was struck blind at a young age, and Annie Sullivan came into her life and taught her and brought metaphorical light into her world. It goes on to show Helen, with Annie, learning about many different things.

I like the page with Annie at the bow of a boat with a wave breaking over it. The text on that page reads:

Annie took Helen
walking in the forest,
jumping in the salty ocean,
tobogganing down snowy hills,
bicycling in tandem,
and sailing in a boat.
And she spelled out each new experience.

The book goes on to tell about Helen’s work as an adult, writing and speaking across the country. The text stays simple, and the pictures show some of the different settings where she spoke and traveled. The book also includes a Manual Language Chart on the back cover.

A lovely first biography.

doreenrappaport.com
matttavares.com
disneyhyperionbooks.com

I’m posting this review today in honor of Nonfiction Monday, hosted today at A Wrung Sponge. Thanks, Andromeda!

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

Review of Barnum’s Bones, by Tracey Fern and Boris Kulikov

Barnum’s Bones

How Barnum Brown Discovered the Most Famous Dinosaur in the World

by Tracey Fern
Pictures by Boris Kulikov

Margaret Ferguson Books (Farrar Straus Giroux), New York, 2012. 36 pages.

Here’s a picture book biography that can’t fail to catch the reader’s interest.

The most difficult thing about this book will be getting the kids to find it. In our system, it’s cataloged as a Biography, where it is shelved by the name of the person it’s about, under “Brown.” But who would ever think of doing a report on Barnum Brown? This isn’t a biography for reports, but a book to fascinate young readers about a man with the awesomely cool job of discovering dinosaur bones. My plan is to put it on display as often as possible, since the big T-Rex skull on the cover won’t fail to find the book its proper audience.

Yes, Barnum Brown is the man who found the first Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton. In fact, according to the Author’s Note at the back, when he began working for the American Museum of Natural History in 1897, “it did not have a single dinosaur specimen. When he died in 1963, the museum had the largest collection of dinosaur bones in the world. Barnum had unearthed most of these himself.”

The book tells about Barnum Brown’s life. Even as a child, he had a knack for finding fossils. It goes on to show his general career of fossil-hunting with exuberant pictures, with special attention and detail devoted to the T. rex skeleton, which he tracked down over a period of years. Barnum’s mentor named it and Barnum called it his favorite child.

This is the sort of book that will inspire young dinosaur lovers. It’s about a scientist who followed his passion and discovered a giant.

Just as his family had wanted, Barnum did something important and unusual: he discovered a sleeping dinosaur and brought it back to life. Sixty-six million years after extinction, T. rex lives on in Barnum’s bones.

I’m posting this review today in honor of Nonfiction Monday, hosted today at Wendie’s Wanderings

traceyfern.com
boriskulikov.com
mackids.com

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

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

Review of My First Day, by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page

My First Day

What Animals Do on Day One

by Steve Jenkins & Robin Page

Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, Boston, 2013. 32 pages.
Starred Review

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Steve Jenkins’ work, having named three of his books Sonderbooks Stand-outs. I love the way he combines amazingly detailed and realistic cut-paper artwork with scientific facts about the world.

My First Day gets extra bonus points for being way too cute. The book features twenty-two specific types of animals — for example, not just a tiger, but a Siberian tiger, not just a turtle, but a leatherback turtle — and tells us what they do on their very first day.

The range is wide. A capybara can swim and dive when it’s just a few hours old. A polar bear cub sleeps in a snow den with its mother until Spring. A blue wildebeest trots along with its mother, because its herd is on the move.

One thing I love about this book is the pacing and pictures and subject matter are all perfect for preschoolers or early elementary school kids. Yet it’s serious nonfiction, and fascinating information that I didn’t even know until I read the book. What a wonderful way to get a child hooked on nonfiction!

Here’s an example set of pages, to give an idea of the gentle pacing:

On my first day, my mother held me close so I wouldn’t drift out to sea.

I dozed on her belly while she floated in the waves.

sea otter

On my first day, I raced to the water.

The beach was a dangerous place, and I was on my own as soon as I hatched.

leatherback turtle

Combined with the gentle text, imagine detailed, realistic, yet adorable illustrations of the baby in question with or without its parent, as appropriate. And to cap it all off, the last baby featured is the polar bear cub, who tells us, on its first day, “I fell asleep.”

For older, inquiring minds, there are end notes that tell a little more about each creature, so you don’t have to end on that cozy, perfect-bedtime-story finish. This book will work for a wide range of ages, but will be especially perfect for getting the youngest listeners hooked on nonfiction.

I’m posting this review today in honor of Nonfiction Monday, hosted today by Pierogies & Gyoza.

hmhbooks.com

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

Review of Martin de Porres: The Rose in the Desert, by Gary D. Schmidt and David Diaz

Martin de Porres

The Rose in the Desert

written by Gary D. Schmidt
illustrated by David Diaz

Clarion Books, 2012. 32 pages.
Starred Review
2013 Pura Belpre Illustrator Award

Picture book biographies are always in danger of going unnoticed. They aren’t really written to help kids do reports; they’re written to appreciate a remarkable life.

This book is all the more lovely in that it tells kids about the life of a saint. Who better to inspire children?

The Author’s Note at the back tells why Martin de Porres was important:

His greatest gift was his ability to ignore the boundaries his world had erected and to reach toward the poor and the ignored. . . . He was beatified in 1837 and canonized in May 1962 — the first black saint in the Americas — when Pope John XXIII named him the patron saint of universal brotherhood. He soon also became the patron saint of interracial relations, social justice, those of mixed race, public education, and animal shelters.

The main text of the book is more poetic, and appropriate for children. The author doesn’t come out and say that Martin did miracles, but he tells what people said about him:

Soon, all the people of the barrios knew who the young cirujano was. When a man was hurt, he was carried to Martin. When a child grew pale, she was brought to Martin. When a slave was whipped, he staggered to Martin. And when the infirmary of the monastery was filled with the poorest, Martin carried his patients to play with the panting dogs in the shade of the wonderful lemon tree.

The paintings that go with the story are worthy of the Belpre Award.

This is a lovely book about an inspiring life.

After thirteen years, every soul in Lima knew who Martin was: Not a mongrel. Not the son of a slave. “He is a rose in the desert,” they said.

hmhbooks.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/martin_de_porres.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 the Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I write the posts for my website and blogs entirely 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.

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

Review of I Have a Dream, by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., with paintings by Kadir Nelson

I Have a Dream

by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
paintings by Kadir Nelson

Schwartz & Wade Books, New York, 2012. Text copyright 1963. 36 pages.
Starred Review
2013 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor

We all know the speech. Kids will have heard of it. What makes this book stunning is the work of Kadir Nelson put alongside the words of the speech.

Included with the book is a CD of the complete original speech given by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on August 28, 1963, from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The full text is also printed in the back of the book.

The bulk of the book consists of the “I have a dream” section of the speech, with a short section of words for each double page spread, and a magnificent painting to go with those words.

More than one painting shows the crowds assembled at the Lincoln Memorial that day, but all are from different angles. When he talks about “the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,” there’s a breathtaking painting of a sunset. When he talks about the hills, mountains, and Rockies from different parts of America, the paintings show those places, gradually ascending in height. And of course we have a picture of little black boys and black girls joining hands with little white boys and white girls.

Now, this one certainly won’t be eligible for a Caldecott Medal, since it’s not a picture book so much as an illustrated speech. (I sincerely hope Kadir Nelson will be eligible for another Coretta Scott King Illlustration Award, though.) *Edited to add: This book did win a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor. Well-deserved!* Is this book even a children’s book?

Well, it’s marketed by a children’s book publisher and illustrated by a children’s book artist. It’s definitely suitable for children in every way — but also suitable for adults. I think I may recommend this as a stellar coffee table book. This is a book for drinking in with your eyes, and looking at over and over. I listened to the speech while following along in the book, and I challenge anyone not to be moved by that. This is a stunning achievement.

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/i_have_a_dream.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 the Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I write the posts for my website and blogs entirely 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.

I’m posting this review tonight in honor of Nonfiction Monday, hosted this week by Abby the Librarian.

Review of Bomb, by Steve Sheinkin

Bomb

The Race to Build — and Steal — the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon

by Steve Sheinkin

Roaring Brook Press, New York, 2012. 266 pages.
Starred Review
2013 Newbery Honor Book
2013 Sibert Award Winner
2013 YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Award Winner

Okay, this is a book that deserves all the acclaim. It’s exciting. It’s important. It’s well-researched. And it’s true. What’s not to like?

Steve Sheinkin takes three threads of history: The Americans’ race to build a bomb in time to make a difference in World War II, the efforts to stop the Germans from developing a bomb first, and the Soviet effort to steal the technology, with repercussions in the arms race that followed. He weaves all those threads together in a gripping page-turner that captures the tension of the time, even though you know how it all turned out.

I was surprised by how much I didn’t know. For example, I’d had no idea a team of Norwegians sabotaged a German heavy water factory and ultimately hampered Germany’s chances of beating the Allies to a bomb. I also wasn’t clear on the different types of atomic bombs and the obstacles in producing them. He made it all seem so simple!

And a whole lot of the book is about the spying and espionage surrounding the bomb. Talk about drama! Steve Sheinkin makes you feel the tension and intrigue, even while sticking to what’s known.

The one thing that bugged me? I fully realize this is incredibly minor, but I also strongly hope that it will be fixed in subsequent printings (and I’m sure this book will have many, many printings). Not once, but twice, someone was quoted talking about their “principle concern.” Eventually, people did have concerns about the principles involved, but in that context they were talking about their “principal concerns.” It bugs me to have an error like that in what seems to be an impeccably researched book. We discussed on Heavy Medal, do we hold Nonfiction books to higher standards? Well, I can assure you that would have bugged me in any book, but, yes, probably a little more in Nonfiction. But I can also inform you that I was too absorbed in the story to jot down the page numbers.

Despite those two annoying spots for nitpickers like me, this is a groundbreaking history book that I recommend for adults, teens, and children alike. You’ll learn something, and you’ll be on the edge of your seat learning it.

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/bomb.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 the Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I write the posts for my website and blogs entirely 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. This week’s Round-Up is hosted at Apples with Many Seeds.