Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Just a Second

Just a Second by Steve Jenkins

I found many of these time based factoids hard to believe.  For example:
  • A pygmy shrew's heart beats 14 times (in ONE second)
  • A black mamba slithers 24 feet (in ONE second)
When I asked my husband his guesstimation, he just made me frustrated by ridiculously over estimating.

Now, onto the notably slow creatures covering what I thought to be a lot of ground in a short time.

  • A three-toed sloth hauls itself about ten feet (in ONE minute)
  • A giant tortoise lumbers about 15 feet (in ONE minute)
And, my favorite eco-aware items:
  • Around the world, 59,000 barrels of oil are used (almost 15,000 of them in the United States) (in ONE minute)
  • People use the equivalent of 200 billion sheets of letter size paper (in ONE day)
  • Bamboo can grow 36 inches (in ONE day)
  • Human development destroys an area of forest equal in size to 550,000 football fields (in ONE week)
  • People around the world produce enough trash to fill a square pit more than one mile on a side and 1,200 feet deep (in ONE month)
  • Global warming causes a sea level rise of about 1/8 of an inch (in ONE year)
Fabulous representation of time and distance.

Just a Second
ISBN: 978-0-618-70896-3
Published 2012 by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
I borrowed this copy from the public library to read and review.

The Beetle Book

The Beetle Book by Steve Jenkins

Double confession day, I have also not read (cover to cover)  a Steve Jenkins book, and just like Nic Bishop, he is a name, he is known, he is renowned.  I am ashamed.  But no more!

The Beetle Book details be-tails, ahem, beetles, from small to quite large, colorful to camoflauged, and very, very numerous.  "Line up every kind of plant and animal on Earth...and one of every four will be a beetle."  From Beetle overview to "Beetle bits" and the specialties of each beetle grouped by different characteristics such as "Chemical warfare" and "Battling Beetles", anyone looking for information on beetles has found a treasure trove of info with detailed illustrations by Steve Jenkins.  Since some beetles needed to be enlarged to showcase certain details, each is shown in true size in a silhouette along the bottom of the page.

The Beetle Book
ISBN: 978-0-547-68084-2
Published 2012 by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
I borrowed this copy from the public library to read and review it.


Snakes by Nic Bishop

I'm about to make a confession.  Are you ready?  I enjoy Nic Bishop (that's not the confession).  I think he's an incredible photographer, artist, and informational writer.  I've looked at many of his books.  I've purchased many of his books for our school library.  He's a name.  He's known.  He's renowned.  Here's the confession part.  I don't think (there I am protecting myself from perjury) that I've ever read a Nic Bishop book cover to cover.  Every word.  Beginning to end.  Now, in the wonderful world of nonfiction, you often don't need to read in a sequential order to garner information, but nonetheless, I'm embarrassed.

With all that said, CYBILS, it's a good thing you picked me, because I have been doing just that.  Reading nonfiction picture books cover to cover and loving every second (oh, wait...there's a book for that) of it.

Anyway, back to snakes.  These are not snakes on a plane.  At all.  These are not snakes in the wild (as I discovered when I read the author's note) but snakes in Nic Bishop's "snake room."  Don't you have one of those in your house?  Because of the nature of snakes: as Nic states, they "...are shy, nervous, and fast.  They do not always want to stay in one place while you take their picture.  And if a snake does not want to do something, it always gets its way."  So, he photographed them in captivity, learning at the same time how to care for them and their needs.  I also learned that Nic B. uses photoshop (or some other form of computer editing) to get the shot he wants.  Just a little tid bit.  Good to know.  Also, given the picture he doctored, he's VERY good at it.  The most remarkable photo (which was not photoshopped) was the one of an African egg eating snake egg.  You may never look at an egg the same way.  The snake's throat has special spines to crack the egg, making it possible to "slurp" the contents and spit out the empty eggshell.  That's certainly one way to get your protein.

Prior to reading this book, I was no snake expert.  I'm not the kind of girl who is afraid of snakes, per se, but I've also never been around a truly scary snake outside of an enclosed, controlled habitat.  All that to say, here are some of my favorite (new to me) fun facts:

  • Egg eating etiquette
  • Snakes can ripple muscles in their underbelly to glide forward without wriggling (while I'm sure I've seen this at some point in time, it didn't occur to me how it was happening).
  • Brumation: long, deep rest
  • Many snakes only eat 8 big meals a year

ISBN: 978-0-545-20638-9
Published 2012 by Scholastic Nonfiction
I borrowed this copy from the public library to read and review it.
I plan to add this book to our school library collection.
It will join:

Ocean Sunlight: How Tiny Plants Feed the Seas

Ocean Sunlight: How Tiny Plants Feed the Seas
By Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm

This highly informative text is beautifully illustrated throughout.  Typically, I find that scientific processes such as photosynthesis are best represented with photographic diagrams, but Molly Bang does a great job of representing these types of processes.  This story answers a question I didn’t even realize that I had or should have had.  And one that I’m sure will interest students as well: “…where are the ocean’s green plants?:  For students using “What Smaller Than a Pygmy Shrew” in their science classes will relate to this discussion of they teeny tiny plants, phytoplankton, that you need a microscope to see.  These ideas are somewhat difficult to wrap your brain around, but the illustrations do just what they are needed to do.  They illustrate the points being expressed in each piece of text.  The probing questions throughout make me think of students saying, but wait…what about…[insert seemingly unlikely, but completely probable scenario here]?  As a result, I think students will especially enjoy the way the text moves logically from point A to point B.  The poetic text weaves from one idea to the next and the notes following the main body of text of the book explain each point in turn with more scientific detail.  This book is the third installment in a series with “My Light” and “Living Sunlight”, both of which would work well with lessons about the power we get from our sun.  Penny Chisholm seems to be the information piece of this project, where Molly Bang brings it to life with text that young students can understand and illustrations that bring each idea to life with context.  The bright colors offset the time spent in the deep, deep, deep, deep ocean.  Kudos on a job well done bringing a tricky scientific concept to life for elementary and middle school students (and teachers).

Ocean Sunlight: How Tiny Plants Feed the Seas
ISBN: 978-0-545-27322—0
Published 2012 by The Blue Sky Press
I borrowed this copy from the public library to read and review it.

A Leaf Can Be

A Leaf Can Be... by Laura Purdie Salas
Illustrations by Violeta Dabija

I am a big fan of Laura Purdie Salas’ poetry and “A Leaf Can Be” is no exception.  We have several of Laura Purdie Salas’ books of more traditional poetry collections in our library, including “And Then There Were Eight,” “Always Got My Feet,” "Do Buses Eat Kids?," "Flashy, Clashy, and Oh So Splashy," and the one the students in my school are surely most familiar with; "Tiny Dreams Sprouting Tall: Poems About the United States" (we use several of these in regular rotation on our morning show, PRTV).  I recently visited Laura Purdie Salas’ website to see if she had any new books of poetry out and found to my delight that she did.  I requested “A Leaf Can Be”  from our public library before it was posted to the CYBILS Nonfiction Picture Books Nominee list (love to be ahead of the game!).  Though I am happy it is included in our list, I was also surprised it wasn’t, by contrast, a part of the poetry list.  I have since found out that collections of poems are included in the poetry category, whereas a picture books told in poetry that also happens to be nonfiction, does fall into the NFPB category.  Genre often blurs the lines when it comes to award selection like this, but any way you slice it, I’m honored to be able to share my thoughts on “A Leaf Can Be” with all of you.

Violeta Dabija’s illustrations help to…illustrate the definitions given for what a leaf can be.  For example, “water ladle” is accompanied by a picture of an upturned leaf collecting water and a sheep drinking out of it.  “Rain stopper” shows a pair of foxes (I think) underneath of a tree protected from rain.  The text and illustrations lend themselves to introduce a unit of science, either on leaves themselves, the changing seasons, camoflauge, and more.  In the section at the end, “More About Leaves,” each of the definitions is further explained with specific examples.  Further, the Glossary defines several words for inquiring minds and a bibliography with further reading is included as well.  I enjoy this opportunity for students to view poetry as a form of reflection on scientific observation and to do so beautifully as well.

A Leaf Can Be...
ISBN: 978-0-7613-6203-6
Published: 2012 by Millbrook Press

I borrowed this copy from the public library to read and review it.
I plan to add this book to our school library collection.

Baby Flo: Florence Mills Lights Up the Stage

Baby Flo: Florence Mills Lights Up the Stage
By Alan Schroeder

The author’s note that precedes the opening text of the book on the verso piqued my interest.  Alan Schroeder indicates that for historical accuracy, Baby Flo’s debut was not in a butcher shop as portrayed in the book, but in a less savory establishment.  Hmm.  Also, the change of her last name at age four is well documented.  Schroeder writes, “Her parents presumably did not think that a black woman could make it in show business with the last name of Winfrey.”  Little did they know.

While I didn’t find myself a huge fan of the cover design and cover art (and I do generally judge a book by its cover) I was pleasantly surprised once I opened the book and perused the interior illustrations.  Looking at the faces of her parents as they realized what a talent they had on their hands, and knowing the stories of young talent in our country during current times, I wonder about their motives.  But at the same time, with a bleak future and a child just jumping at the chance to perform, I hope that they did what was right both for their daughter and their family.

The story starts out much as a tall tale might, except for that it is a true tale.  Baby Florence Mills worked her way from Goat Alley to Bijou Theatre and as she grew older, to New York and even London.  I enjoyed reading the story of Florence Mills’ early years, but appreciated the author’s note with photographs of Florence even more.  Tragically, film footage or audio recordings have not surfaced of Florence Mills remarkable performances as part of the Harlem Renaissance.

Baby Flo 
ISBN: 978-1-60060-410-2
Published 2012 by Lee and Low Books

I received a galley copy of Baby Flo from a publisher's preview event during KidLitCon.

I, Galileo

I, Galileo by Bonnie Christensen 

The first thing that caught my eye about I, Galileo was on the cover.  The title itself is spelled out in glittery, sparkly stars above the head of Galielo glimpsing the heavens through his telescope.  The endpapers include a map showing different cities in Italy that are included in the story.  An illustration of the Universe of Aristotle and Ptolemy shows what was believed to be true in 1564; that Earth was at the center of the universe followed by each of the planets out to Saturn (which does bring up the point that in 1564, Pluto was also NOT a planet…so perhaps they were on to something there) with the sun at the outer edges of the universe.  That would be mighty chilly, folks.

I, Galileo begins with Galileo near the end of his life, blind and imprisoned, on “house arrest.”  From there, Galileo tells us of his own childhood when he was the center of his parent’s universe.  His father was a musical theorist whose views challenged tradition.  His father insisted that, “A person must be allowed to ask questions and seek answers in search of truth.”  Galileo reminds me of Steve Jobs (I know this is a bit of a stretch) in that he went on to great success after not finishing a traditional education.  Galileo challenged many of Aristotle’s teachings and even proved them, but people would not agree and he became quite unpopular.  Galileo went on to Padua to continue his teaching and explorations of new ideas.  The illustrations with inset of some of Galileo’s inventions like a compass and sketches of his early telescope help the reader understand how these inventions helped the people of the time in a revolutionary way.  Through use of the telescope, Galileo was able to observe the night sky in a way no one ever had before.  Though Copernicus had proposed a sun centered universe 50 years before Galileo’s birth, he hadn’t been able to prove it.  Galileo lectured that he could prove it.  But he knew what the consequences could be for even talking about such ideas.  Imprisonment and death.  Galileo turned to reversing his telescope and created a microscope, studying much smaller objects.  Seven years later, Galileo’s friend became Pope and granted him the freedom to discuss the theory of a sun-centered universe as an idea, but not the truth.  He went on to publish a book discussing both theories on the earth’s placement in the universe, but the Pope’s advisor’s persuaded him that he was portrayed as a fool in the book.  As a result, Galileo was imprisoned for the remainder of his days and his writings were banned.  On the page with this information, there is a circular picture with Galileo in the center standing trial in Rome with a light  (the sun) shining down from the ceiling.  This page seems so symbolic with the shape of the main illustration, the sun shining, Galileo’s centrist position, and the surrounding color, like a dark night sky with broad brush strokes.  And so, the story ends as it began with Galileo as an old man in his garden under the open sky.  At the end of the book, a Chronology is included as well as an outline of Galielo’s Experiments, Inventions, Improvements, Astornomic Discoveries, a Glossary, Bibliography, and Websites to find more information.

Bonnie Christensen does an excellent job of bringing I, Galileo to life.  Her illustrations complement the text and the times it represents.

I, Galileo

ISBN: 978-0-375-86753-8
Published 2012 by Alfred A. Knopf

I borrowed this copy from my public library to read and review it.

Those Rebels, John and Tom

Those Rebels, John and Tom by Barbara Kerley
Illustrations by Edwin Fotheringham 

I had the opportunity to hear Barbara Kerley speak as a part of a panel at School Library Journal’s Leadership Summit 2012 in Philadelphia this past weekend.  She spoke passionately about the use of nonfiction picture books in this brave new world with the Common Core being implemented.  We often see nonfiction picture book biographies of individual historic figures, but rarely do we see a view comparing and contrasting our forefathers such as this one does.  As the text and illustrations demonstrate, John Addams and Thomas Jefferson were very different from the start, with their upbringing, demeanor, physicality and hobbies.  But both were patriots, with very similar goals in mind for the future of the colonies.  When John described the progress of forming a new government, he used the expression, “slow as snails.”  Not much has changed in our government’s proceedings, but in a democracy where each voice is heard, such is life.  While Thomas Jefferson was a strong writer, John Addams could compel delegates to see reason with his verbal arguments in favor of the document Tom had crafted, The Declaration of Independence.  The Author’s Note continues the conversation to show the ongoing friendship between Thomas Jefferson and John Addams including their contrasting views over slavery and differences over the size and power of government and the presidency.  Remarkably, both men died just a few hours apart on July 4th, fifty years after the Declaration was signed.  A facsimilie of the Declaration is included opposite the Author’s Note with each of the signers represented.  The source of each quotation is documented on the final page. 

Edwim Fotheringham’s illustrations in primary colors are bold throughout, and accentuate the differences between characters, the differences between England, King George, and the colonies.  One of my favorite illustrations shows John Addams being startled out of his bed as the Redcoats march below his window in an exercise.  There are also small details that may otherwise go unnoticed.  When Tom is arriving in Philadelphia, only Nay’s are being heard from Independence Hall.  As Tom and John start to reach their own agreement, the Yea’s and Nay’s are balancing out and as each man finds his strength, the Yay’s are resounding in Congress.  Barbara Kerley expressed on the panel at the SLJ Summit that she wanted students to have an example of a functional congress.  Mission accomplished!

Those Rebels, John and Tom
ISBN: 978-0-545-22268-6
Published: 2012 by Scholastic Press

I borrowed this copy from the public library to read and review it.
Review copy borrowed from the library prior to SLJ Summit where I heard Barbara Kerley speak and received a copy of the book, "Those Rebels, John and Tom."
I plan to add this book to our school library collection.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Camping Trip That Changed America

Author, Illustrator pair Barb Rosenstock and Mordicai Gerstein are NOT from Philadelphia, lest you think I have some bias towards authors and illustrators from the Philadelphia area.

Have you ever visited Muir Woods? I have had the honor and pleasure of taking in those breathtaking, endless, and protected trees. I can only imagine having done so when they were surrounded entirely by wilderness as Theodore Roosevelt and John Muir himself did in this account.

During this time of global warming and a search for sustainable fuel sources, it is almost comical to think of a time when "Most people, even his [Theodore Roosevelt's] own experts, thought America had so much wilderness it couldn't ever be used up!". Clearly they hadn't heard of "The Lorax."

I am happy that John Muir was "The Lorax" of his time, speaking for the trees and spectacular open spaces. How lucky we are today that such visionaries came before us who sought to protect natural spaces for the rest of us to enjoy. And thank goodness for presidents such as Teddy Roosevelt who were open minded to ideas that preserved the greater good. Not only open, but willing to personally explore the grandeur of all our country had (and as a result now HAS) to offer.

In this account of "The Camping Trip That Changed America" when John Muir guided Theodore Roosevelt through the Yosemite wilderness to "see those trees for himself.". Gerstein's illustrations offer such versatility with facial profiles so expressive you can see the confusion on Roosevelt's face, the irritation on Muir's and the pure joy of both. I'm a big fan of books that you need to turn to show an illustration in profile (think Tops and Bottoms) and this book offers the perfect opportunity as both men stop on horseback in the Mariposa Grove among giant sequoias. The landscapes of Half Dome and El Capitan are gorgeous.

The author's note explains what is fact and what is fill in the blank fiction.

The Camping Trip that Changed America is the kind of book that can open minds to the way things could have been, the way they are and the way they can be in the future. Which path will our students choose for the future of our country?

The Camping Trip that Changed America
ISBN: 978-0-8037-3710-5
Published 2012 by Dial Books for Young Readers
I borrowed this copy from my public library to read and review it.
I plan to add this book to our school library collection.

Paiute Princess

Paiute Princess: The Story of Sarah Winnemucca is a tale I hadn't heard before. Which instantly made it one I would read to the end. Interwoven in the tale of her life were excerpts from her speaking engagements delineated in italics. Most of us have heard of Pocohontas and Sacagawea, but never Sarah Winnemucca, Thocmetony. Her grandfather, Chief Truckee, made peaceful contact with white men early on during the gold rush years in Nevada. An explorer he encountered, John Charles Fremont, gave "Captain Truckee" a "rag friend". This was what Chief Truckee called the piece of paper that he showed other white men written by Fremont to explain to others that Truckee was a friend. Sarah's grandfather understood the power of the written word to communicate powerful ideas. This one piece of paper changed the course for the Paiute people and Sarah Winnemucca in particular. Her grandfather valued her education and recognized her talent for understanding other languages, including English and Spanish. He encouraged her to learn and embrace white culture. Which she did. But she also recognized the value of retaining her own people's culture and tradition during a time when they were being "civilized" by settlers. She recognized the injustices of the reservation system. She wrote letters to government officials, newspapers, and the army. She had a speaking tour that lasted four years, explaining the plight of her people to sold out crowds across the country. Her written word, her spoken word, the power of her communication on behalf of her people was more than her grandfather could ever have predicted.

Deborah Kogan Ray (who lives outside Philadelphia...are you even surprised at this point?) did a masterful job of bringing this story to life both in words and pictures. The color palette matches that of the western landscape of the time. The depiction of the girls being buried beneath sage brush to hide from settlers was stark and unsettling in a most meaningful way. Following a book like "Little Dog Lost," the text seemed dense, but for a topic so new to many, that also seems necessary.

Paiute Princes: The Story of Sarah Winnemucca
ISBN: 978-0-374-39897-2
Published 2012 by Francis Foster Books
I borrowed this copy from my public library to read and review it.
I plan to add this book to our school library collection.

Little Dog Lost

It is refreshing in the world of nonfiction picture books to find one that would make a great read aloud and lesson introduction for our youngest readers. Little Dog Lost: The True Story of a Brave Dog Named Baltic is just that. With highly selective and predictable (in a good way) text, follows the story of Baltic as he is first spotted on an ice floe in the river and travels along where he is finally rescued by the crew of a ship. The final page has more detailed information of Baltic's rescue. The end papers include a map illustration of Baltic's journey and rescue. The illustrations throughout are inviting and sweet. Author and illustrator Monica Carnesi is currently local to Philadelphia. I'm seeing a pattern here...

Little Dog Lost
ISBN: 978-0-399-25666-0
Published 2012 by Nancy Paulsen Books
I borrowed this copy from my public library to read and review it.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Electric Ben

Electric Ben is one of those books that jolts you out of what you think you know about historic figure, Benjamin Franklin.  The illustrations throughout keep the reader moving forward and hoping to learn more lesser known factoids about Franklin.  The information is presented in a logical, chronological order beginning with Ben's birth and ending with his death and the ideals he lived until his last days and that lived on beyond his time.

Some fun factoids that jumped out at me:

  • That the quote from Ben's sister, Jane, stating, "All was harmony" could have possibly been describing life with 14 siblings in the 1700's.  Quote and reference found on the page titled, "Ben's Beginnings."
  • The description of a "horn book" under the heading "School Days".  This has little to do with Franklin and more to do with the times during which he went to school.  I found it fascinating and illuminating nonetheless.  And I thought it was just the name of a children's book publisher.
  • That Ben became a vegetarian in the caption of the main illustration on the page titled, "Apprentice, Printer, Publisher, and Runaway."  "He became a vegetarian, saving money to buy his own books."  A man ahead of his time, in more ways than one.
  • Silence Dogood's (i.e. Benjamin Franklin's) stance on women's right to education.
  • That New York was smaller than Boston and Philadelphia and had (at the time) not one bookstore or newspaper.  How many Starbucks can you find on a city block these days in NYC?
  • That Ben arrived in Philadelphia with $1.  Now, you might be thinking that Ben must have certainly amassed a small fortune in patents alone, but later, it is stated that he never patented or made " from any of his inventions.  He felt it was his civic duty to share anything that improved the common good of the people."
  • He did however make his fortune from the publishing of "Poor Richard's Almanac" which is now available as a free ebook, having been scanned by the good people of Google.  I wonder what Ben would have thought of these ebooks...
  • Being that the Keith House is located in Graeme Park (literally) right down the road from my home, I found it fascinating that PA Governor William Keith agreed to advance Ben the money to purchase a printing press in London, but never delivered on the deal.
  • And his finest contribution (am I biased?) was certainly the Library Company of Philadelphia, America's first library.
  • Interesting that Ben said he would "speak ill of no man whatever" but goes on to write critical, sarcastic letters in regards to Keimer and wrote biting gossip under the name "Alice Addertongue".
  • Of the 13 virtues he wrote of Humility was one he never mastered.  Probably because he was...AWESOME!
  • "Franklin was a firm believer in the power of the people in the community working together for a common good."
    • He convinced people to elect to pay a small tax to clean streets and light the lamps and to ask the assembly to pave streets.
  • He was the founder of the:
    • First Library
    • First Hospital
    • Schools for Native Americans and African Americans
    • Police Force
    • Volunteer Fire Brigade, first full time firefighting force
    • Postmaster of Philadelphia and then North America (which also makes me wonder what he would have thought of email)
  • His inventions include:
    • Streetlights
    • Swim Fins
    • Franklin Stove
    • Scientific Method
    • Lightning Rod
    • Odomoeter
    • Library Chair with Ladder
    • Chair with a Writing Arm
    • Four sided streetlamp
    • Armonica
    • Bifocals
    • Long arm pole to reach objects on a high shelf

So, now you know I love Ben Franklin.  What about the book, right?  Well, I love the book too.  These CYBILS are going to be tough to decide!  Robert Byrd (who happens to be local to Philadelphia) does a great job highlighting information about Ben Franklin and including apt, but bright illustrations.  He describes his process and documents his sources well.  Check it out!

Electric Ben
ISBN: 978-0-8037-3749-5
Published 2012 by Dial Books for Young Readers
I borrowed this copy from my public library to read and review it.
I plan to add this book to our school library collection.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

I Have a Dream

Kadir Nelson.  MLK.  That about sums it up.

If you don't know what I mean...incredible.

I was most surprised to read that this is the only picture book version of Dr. King's speech in print.  When I first saw "I Have a Dream," I thought to myself, well this has been done before.  Then I read that, and thought...wait, hasn't it.  Nope.  Crazy, right?  This book takes on a greater importance as a result in my mind.  

So, let me start over.  

"I Have a Dream" is the ONLY picture book version of Dr. King's speech in print.  The complete speech is printed in the back of the book.  Surprised myself again to realize I had never read or heard the ENTIRE speech.  Once again, I thought I had, but upon perusing and then very closely reading the entire speech, I realize I've heard some of the most famous snatches, near the end of this iconic speech.

Back to the book though.  Kadir Nelson is an amazing artist.  His book illustrations generally feel larger than life and this book's illustrations are no different.  Last year, we did a study of his work inclusive of Henry's Freedom Box, Moses, Testing the Ice, All God's Critters, A Nation's Hope, Coretta Scott, Abe's Honest Words, We Are the Ship, Thunder Rose, and his most recent masterpiece: Heart and Soul.  Looking over his website and all the books listed there, I realize our library has some catching up to do to have a complete Kadir Nelson collection.  His skill is incredible, but I feel like he does faces really well and the cover of this book demonstrates that above.  The emotion etched in each line of MLK's face, the determination, the grit, the passion.  It's all there.

There are many faces throughout this book.  Faces of adults gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial, faces of children, faces of MLK's children, faces facing each other.  Beautiful, hopeful faces.

My favorite illustrations are of the landscapes patched together.

"And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.  Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.  Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.  Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!  Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.  But not only that: Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.  Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.  Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi."

Stunning to see our country's diverse landscapes next to each other as people from each area should stand together.

During our publisher preview at Random House, this was emphasized as an App.  This book is being developed into an app.  So, after having experienced many of Kadir Nelson's illustrations, I can't quite imagine this book as an app, on a screen.  Except...for this interesting tidbit.  They are matching the text and illustrations with the words, spoken by Dr. King.  That should be pretty awesome.  To say it mildly.

Kadir Nelson...golden touch.  The question is not if this book will win awards (though I can't say that it will certainly win a CYBILS) but how many.

I Have a Dream
ISBN: 978-0-375-85887-1
Published 2012 by Schwartz and Wade Books
I received a galley copy of this book from the KidLitCon publisher preview at Random House to read and review it.
I plan to add this book to our school library collection

Friday, October 5, 2012

Minette's Feast

Minette's Feast by Susanna Reich tells the tale of Julia Child's discovery of a love of cooking and her journey to share that love with the world through the eyes of her cat, Minette.  Throughout the story, Minette turns her nose up at Julia's French cuisine, preferring mice and birds instead.

I love Minette's full name: Minette Mimosa McWilliams Child

I enjoy the illustration that accompanies the words: "They nibbled croissants in cafes where cats curled on chairs."  It is a picture of Julia and Paul leaned in close, foreheads touching lovingly sharing a meal and gazing lovingly in each other's eyes.  "You are the butter to my bread," Paul told Julia.

The alliteration is fitting and lyrical: croissants, cafes, cats, curled; baguettes, bistros, birds.

In one illustration, movement and the hustle and bustle of a kitchen is portrayed with four Julias at each task and alliteration once again accompanies a fitting picture.  "She baked and blanched, blended and boiled, drained and dried, dusted and fried.  She floured and flipped, pitted and plucked, rinsed and roasted, sizzled and skimmed.  And when she wasn't trimming, toasting, or topping, she was washing, whipping, and whisking."  LOVE IT

Minette Mimosa McWilliams Child was a very lucky cat, perhaps the luckiest cat in all of Paris."

I think Amy Bates' illustrations complement Susanna Reich's text seamlessly.  I found myself searching each picture for details to open up the story more.  And...there was always a mouse for Minette.

The Afterword was a necessary inclusion for me as the story itself is lovely, and made me want to learn more about Julia.  I haven't seen the recent movie "Julie and Julia"...or is it "Julia and Julie"?  Either way, I feel I have a lot to learn.  Especially after reading the Afterword.

Did you know:

  • Julia Child was too tall to join the Women's Army Corp or the Navy WAVES?
  • She worked for the Office of Strategic Service (think CIA before CIA)?
  • As part of the Office of Strategic Service she was posted to Ceylong (Sri Lanka) and then China?
  • Julia's husband Paul continued with the US Foreign Services and that's how they found themselves in Paris?
Suffice it to say, I did not, and the Afterword and the above information made the subject of Julia Child suddenly seem MUCH more interesting to me.  I grew up in a home without cable, so PBS got a good bit of playtime and I recall Julia Child.  No, I recall Julia Child's voice.  But I would have never guessed she was SUCH an interesting person beyond her love of cooking and food.  I'm glad that Susanna Reich and Amy Bates teamed to make such a lovely picture book and I think the idea to tell her story from Minette's point of view was both clever and unique.  Well done!  Although I am not a cat lover, I do love this book.

Minette's Feast
ISBN: 978-1-4197-0177-1
Published 2012 by Abrams Books for Young Readers
I borrowed this copy from my public library to read and review it.
I plan to add this book to our school library collection.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

Is stunning, in my opinion. The writing is lyrical and the illustrations capture my interest. But let's begin at the beginning, shall we. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, written by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer and illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon, is the story of author William Kamkwamba and his family and community struggles with drought and famine in Malawi. As a result, Kwamkamba finds himself unable to attend school but instead turning to the library for answers to some burning questions like how an engine of a car works. A natural engineer, he happens upon information and pictures of windmills and sets out to harness the wind himself. The remarkable illustrated tale is followed by further information about William Kamkwambe's journey, including a TED talk in Tanzania. Included in information about the author is a link to more information about The Moving Windmills Project, something I plan to learn more about.

Full disclosure: I have traveled to Tanzania, Africa and I am a sucker for stories such as this. While I was there, we met with groups establishing schools and seeking sustainable sources of funding. We naive Americans kept suggesting grants to apply for, but the Africans knew (from experience) that grants don't last forever. This story of a young boy (William was just 14 when he successfully built a windmill that created electricity) researching and acting to create a sustainable source of energy for his family and community is something I won't soon tire of hearing about.

Reference to native words are inter-woven with the English text. My favorite new word for crazy is "misala".  I think I will use it often...probably to describe myself.

Some writing that will stay with me:
"A crowd gathered below and gazed at this strange machine that now leaned and wobbled like a clumsy giraffe."

And now, the illustrations. Oh, the illustrations. Just as I'm a sucker for a story of Africa, I am also a sucker for mixed media and collage elements. Elizabeth Zunon's art was created using oil paint and cut paper. I enjoy the textures of cut paper atop oil. In each instance of the windmill, I feel as if I can touch the blades and feel their texture. The scaffold of the windmill is layered as it would be and the birds that occasionally dot the sky are beautifully patterned. On the very first page, William is walking to hoe the fields on a crest above the village but while reflecting on the story, I see him as larger than life, having BIG ideas for the future of this small village. As the blazing sun and lack of rainwater patch the ground, the look below ground at the plants trying to reach the surface is telling and the texture of the ground looks as if it would crumble. The droplets of water in William's imagination look so cool and refreshing by contrast. Once the windmill is up, the gusts of wind reflected on the front and back cover as well make me think of the patterns of sarongs that women may wear. The way the breezes wrap around everything is instantly cooling and the final illustration makes me smile, contented.

I hope that you, like I, can find solace in reading and enjoying The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. Perhaps it will inspire you to harness some wind yourself.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Young Readers Edition
ISBN: 978-0-8037-3511-8
Published 2012 by Dial
I borrowed this copy from my public library to read and review it.
I plan to add this book to our school library collection.


This past weekend, I attended Kidlitosphere's Kid Lit Con in New York City, organized by Betsy Bird and Monica Edinger. The weekend prior, I attended the National Book Festival in Washington, DC. And somewhere just prior to that, I found out I was selected as a first round panelist for the Nonfiction Picture Book Category for a book award called the CYBILS. So, I'd like to tell you much more about Kid Lit Con and National Book Fest, but for the time being I'm going to explain why this blog will be flooded with nonfiction picture book reviews...or booktalks. Either way you look at it, you're about to see a LOT of nonfiction picture books. Also, if you'd like to nominate a book to add to my madness, you can do so here. So, get ready for a wild reading ride!