Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library

Barbara Rosenstock does a great job cramming a ton of information about both Thomas Jefferson and the building and re-building of the Library of Congress into a picture book, making it accessible, entertaining and aesthetically pleasing.  I happen to enjoy books...and libraries quite a lot myself.  I like to think TJ and I would have gotten along well for that reason.  One of history's great contradictions though is his stance on slavery in America and I appreciate that this important part of his story is not glossed over or ignored.  Barbara Rosenstock chose to include an author's note as well as a note specifically about Thomas Jefferson as a slaveholder.  

Otherwise, I think the text is laid out artfully, including the notes displayed on open books.  And speaking of the art, John O'Brien's use of colors highlights the time frame during which Jefferson lived and the pixelated appearance adds a unique quality to each page.

The inclusion of a selected bibliography is helpful to readers looking to learn more and the quotation sources are especially helpful in validating the accuracy of the voice of the text as being authentic.

Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library
ISBN: 978-1-59078-932-2
Published 2013 by Calkins Creek, an imprint of Highlights
I borrowed this copy from my public library to read and review.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Anubis Speaks

Anubis spoke... to me.  Not literally, that would be crazy - right?!?  But this book spoke to me and I believe it has the power to speak to middle grade readers in a way that both informs and entertains.  The common core gets excited about that kind of thing, ya know!  As a school librarian, I am well versed in ALL of Rick Riordan's very popular series, including The Kane Chronicles.  If you haven't had the pleasure, I highly suggest you check them out.  With that said, I think Riordan has opened a door for young readers to engage with mythology (Greek, Roman, Egyptian, I hear Norse is on the way) with new characters.  Once the door is open, they don't want to go back.  Like Pandora's Box - too much?  Instead, they want to learn more and they inhale other myth based books like Apophis wants to inhale Ra (sun eating snake for those out of the loop...or is the loop the snakes that eat themselves - but I'm getting ahead of myself).  

Last year, our category was nonfiction picture book but it has been expanded to include books for middle grade readers.  In order to create a balanced shortlist, I hope we see a balance of traditional nonfiction picture books, more text based informational picture books and books with more text dense heft to Anubis Speaks.  Which is not to say there aren't awesome illustrations.  Because there are.  Antoine Revoy does a smashing job of accompanying the text with detail rich illustrations that keep the reader turning the page.  Wondering what it looks like when Anubis helps tip the scales in your favor as a bloodthirsty croc leers in the background?  Look no further.

Now, here's the tricky part.  I'm reading Anubis Speaks as one of many non-fiction books for elementary and middle grade readers.  Most of the other books have a more nonfiction feel to them which can make this a difficult sell.  Anubis is our narrator but all of the information that he presents is true.  It is either true of ancient Egyptians and their rituals as we understand them.  For example, Egyptians did learn to embalm bodies.  Fact.  Or it may be a true part of their religious rituals.  For example, Ra's priests (real life people) DID write down the monster's (Apophis') names and light them on fire or bury them.  Fact.  And their religious rituals are based on what we now consider Egyptian mythology which belongs in a very nonfiction Dewey Decimal System area: 299.3113.

Likewise, the sources listed are thorough and documented on a page and a half.  The book is complete with a glossary and an index.

Also, this book is fun.  Really fun.  I didn't want to put it down or stop reading fun.  I am looking forward to reading more by Vicki Alvear Shecter.  She has a writer's voice that middle grade readers will relate to.  She is funny and takes care NOT to spare any gory details.  This book will book talk itself right off your shelves and into readers hands.  Check out Anubis Speaks immediately if not a little sooner.

And, for Elizabeth Dulemba's take on the book and an interview with the author,

You may recall that I am also a fan of Elizabeth's work with The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind.  Enjoy!

Follow @valvearshecter and @antoinerevoy on Twitter

Anubis Speaks
ISBN: 978-1-59078-995-7
Published 2013 by Boyds Mills Press
I received this copy from the publisher specifically to review for CYBILS

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

How Big Were Dinosaurs

An interesting question for Lita Judge to ask.  As a member at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, I figured I had a pretty good handle on the size of dinosaurs, generally speaking.  Turns out, that, coupled with my knowledge of the movie Jurassic Park still did not give me the appropriate schema to visualize the size of dinosaurs (both big and small).  But this book, “How Big Were Dinosaurs?” did an excellent job of putting their size (both height and weight) into perspective that would likely also work well for a young child.  This book is well written, incorporating figurative language elements as well as text that bolds the names of the dinosaurs throughout.  The illustrations are humorous but also, technically, accurate.  The ones that surprised me more were how small they were, not how large.  The protoceratops being the size of a baby rhino seemed surprising to me.  The velociraptor was downright shocking to me.  I saw Jurassic Park.  That special effects dinosaur was not the size of a golden retriever.  And yet. 

I know with certainty that this book will have kid-appeal in my library.  In addition to our second grade curricular study of dinosaurs, we have some dinosaur fiends at my school who will snatch this book off the shelf. 

All that said, my only concern is the lack of source material that I would consider highly reliable.  The content needed (size of the dinosaurs) should not be hard to find in plentiful and countless sources.  The fact that Enchanted Learning is one of two websites listed as resources is troubling to me.  I don’t think the information would be unreliable, per se, but I think there are better sources out there from many a reliable organization dedicated to the study of dinosaurs.

How Big Were Dinosaurs
ISBN: 978-1-59643-719-7
Published 2013 by Roaring Brook Press
I borrowed this copy from my public library to read and review.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Pedal It! How Bicycles are Changing the World

Full disclosure, I am a super environmental, earth saving, reducing, reusing, recycling hippie.  So, when a book has an environmental sway or message involved, I will buy into that.  This book combines fabulous, fascinating information about the history of bicycles and current interesting uses for their potential powerhouse of…power.  The health benefits and decreased impact to our planet are all good reasons for everyone to put down this book (when finished reading, of course) and hop on a bike (with a helmet, of course – no “headers” here!). 

Within Chapter One: Who Thought This Up, Anyway, there is a side paragraph highlighting the resurgence of “push bikes” (previously known to me as balance bikes).  A little less than a year, we purchased a balance bike for my daughter and we have seen her body getting accustomed to the feel of a bike without need for training wheels.  Many people have asked us about it and just recently, I saw a window display of balance bikes in an independently owned bicycle shop.  It’s exciting when something “old” is “new” again!

Also from Chapter One, I learned that the term “taking a header” was invented from people falling off of high-wheel bicycles onto their heads.  I am looking forward to reading another CYBILS nonfiction nominee “Fourth Down and Inches: Concussions and Football: Make-or-Break Moment” and made the connection between the “header”. 

Having read Matt Phelan’s Around the World, I had read about Thomas Stevens’ journey (around the world) on a bicycle in 1884.  I was somewhat surprised that this bit of history was not included in the book as it added to the phenomena of bicycles becoming more of a mainstream mode of transportation and recreation.

Mention of the Wright Brothers background as bicycle builders and mechanics reminded me of Matt McElligott’s “Benjamin Franklinstein Meets the Fright Brothers” in which the re-animated Wright Brothers are the proprietors of the “Right Cycle Co.”

Finally, the section highlighting the bicycle’s part in the women’s right movement and change in fashions made me thing of “You Forgot Your Skirt, Amelia Bloomer” by Shana Corey.

Overall, the information is presented in a visually appealing way that keeps the reader interested in the content throughout.  Different facets of the bicycle’s impact on the world we live in and the evolution of its uses throughout history are helpful to build the reader’s knowledge of the bicycle.  The photography and illustration help to build a better understanding of how a bicycle might power the lights of a house or transport a bakery.  I really enjoyed “Pedal It” by Michelle Mulder.

Pedal It!  How Bicycles are Changing the World
ISBN: 978-1-4598-0219-3
Published 2013 by Orca Book Publishers
I borrowed this copy from my public library to read and review.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Courage Has No Color: The True Story of the Triple Nickles, America's First Black Paratroopers

I love when a book such as this is available as an audiobook and that is how I read it.  Then I read it again in the hardcover version.  What an awesome story!  And the photographs – all this history.  I LOVE learning about parts of history that are just surfacing, have been in some way covered up, or brushed under the rug and then come to light in a blaze of glory.  And a blaze is a good way to sum up the story of the Triple Nickles and the part they played as smoke jumpers in Oregon. 

I am NOT a WWII buff, but I do love to learn and over the years, I’ve learned of the internment of our own Japanese citizens out West in the United States as well as the persecution of Italian Americans (after reading Penny from Heaven by Jennifer Holm), but I did not know about the Japanese balloon bombs which sparked forest fires in the American West.

Additionally, this book highlights the many injustices of the times.  Black Americans trained to be soldiers and were only given the opportunity to serve the white soldiers as cooks, mechanics and in other service roles, but they were not given the opportinty to fight.  At the same time, stereotypes were continuing to depict Black Americans in such a way in movies and advertising to indicate that they could not be trusted with decision making in a wartime situation.  Many black soldiers were ready to fight that stereotype and fight the enemy overseas as well. 

If I didn’t already have enough reasons to LOVE Eleanor Roosevelt, this book made clear the part she played in fighting for equal rights for ALL Americans.  And perhaps that she also nudged her husband in the “right” direction too. 

Overall Tanya Lee Stone does a fantastic job of putting together a veritable puzzle of pieces to put together a cohesive story and in a timely fashion before our first person accounts are lost.  Her documentation of sources is impeccable with quotations cited carefully and an extensive bibliography.  After both listening to and looking at the book, you can NOT just listen to the story.  Though it is still certainly impressive, the photographs and imagery is necessary to the full understanding of the story.  For example, when I read about the “balloon bombs” I pictured much smaller party size helium balloons.  I have no idea why I thought these would be effective weapons.  Well, actually, I thought they were not very effective weapons as many did not detonate and those that did very likely did not ignite the intended forest fires.  Regardless, the photographs of inflated balloon bombs gave me a much better understanding of them but I don’t know how so many did go unnoticed.

Courage Has No Color: The True Story of the Triple Nickles, America’s First Black Paratroopers
ISBN: 978-0-7636-5117-6
Published 2013 by Candlewick Press
I borrowed this copy from my public library to read and review.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Eight Dolphins of Katrina: A True Tale of Survival

I really liked this story.  A lot.  When Jackie surfaced and Tim jumped in the water (not to give too much away there…) I cried.  Literally.  I may also be overly emotional.  But I did.  I cried.  This book is really well written by Janet Wyman Coleman.  Really.  And the illustrations are really interesting.  A public librarian friend helped to give voice to my concern over the visual piece.  When you look at the cover art, a photograph of two dolphins (presumably two of the eight), you form an expectation to see more photographs of the dolphins.  You won’t see that in this book.  No, that’s not true.  There is “An Eight Dolphins Scrapbook” that documents the dolphins and the destruction that occurred at their habitat, “The Marine Life Oceanarium”.  But the book’s text itself is not complemented by photographs.  How could it be, really?  During the onset of Hurricane Katrina, no one was stopping to take pictures of the storm brewing, of the dolphins being transported to hotel pools, etc.

And, let me be clear, the illustrations by Yan Nascimbene, are spectacular, but going from a photo cover to illustrated content is a bit jarring.  My public librarian friend stated, “I question the publisher’s decision to put a photograph on the cover.”  I agree and I’m glad she was able to put it in words.  I couldn’t quite explain it myself at the time, but consistency would definitely have helped me as a reader.  I think that kids will be more likely to pick this book up with two dolphins on the cover.  Plain and simple.  But I don’t know that the same kids will stay for the story.  I hope they do.  Because it’s awesome.

Eight Dolphins of Katrina
ISBN: 978-0-547-71923-8
Published 2013 by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
I borrowed this copy from my public library to read and review.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Wild Horse Scientists

Just this past summer, I had a personal experience that really helped me to build schema for this book.  As a result, I devoured this book. 

On a Sunday evening, a friend called who had just arrived at her vacation rental in Ocean City, Maryland.  She was vacationing with her family, her sister’s family, her brother, and her father.  Her brother and father were planning to leave on Tuesday and even with all of those people in the house, there was still an extra room on its own floor.  She was calling to ask if we would like to join them on vacation for the remainder of the week.  As luck would have it, I didn’t have any other plans for the week (that is quite rare for me) so I planned to start packing and be down with two kids in tow on Wednesday.  The next day, she called to ask if we would like to join them on a boat trip called “Assateague Adventures.”  As I felt we were already “crashing” their vacation, I was up for whatever was already on the agenda.  We were along for the ride, literally and figuratively.  And I’m so glad we went.  Unlike my friend’s sister, I had not read “Misty of Chincoteague,” so I wasn’t really familiar with the wild horses of Maryland and Virginia.  Through my experience with my friend’s sister and the tour itself, I learned a lot that helped me understand everything I was reading in “Wild Horse Scientists.”  Basically, there are two methods of population control for wild horses.  Well, there were three, but now there are two. 
1)    On the Virginia side of Assateague Island (which I had mistakenly come away from the tour thinking WAS Chincoteague – it is the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, a “pony swim” takes place where saltwater cowboys drive the ponies across a channel to Chincoteague, Virginia, where the ponies are up for auction.  Some implications of this method are that horses tend to have more foals when their ponies are taken away as opposed to when they are raising their own offspring.
2)    Out West, on the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range in Montana, there used to be “gathers” sponsored by the Bureau of Land Management.  These gathers involved a roundup by cowboys with the assistance of helicopters.  Then once rounded up, some of the horses would be removed for adoption.  These methods were deemed inhumane and a new method was needed for population control as the wild horses have no natural predators in the areas in which they were living.
3)    PZP, the method being adopted out west after being piloted on the Maryland side of Assateague island, involves darting the horses with birth control that mimics injecting the horses with a porcine (pig’s) embryo casing tricking the horse’s system.  The method was deemed to be 95-100% effective.  Mares are tending to live longer not going through the stress of delivering many foals over a lifetime. 

For me, seeing the photographs of the horses was really great because on the day that we visited the island, there were no horses to be seen, which can be expected when dealing with wild animals.  Interestingly to me was seeing the photographs of people in the parking lot and the brazenness of the horse’s there.  For starters, I thought the only way to visit the island was on this sort of guided tour that allowed you to visit for a short time and leave the habitat as undisturbed as possible.  But it seems you can visit the island and even camp there.  I’ll have to look into that the next time we “crash” a vacation in Ocean City, MD.

The question of how the horses got to Assateague Island still remains a bit of a mystery with two answers.  And maybe both are true. 
1)    The horses ended up on the island after a shipwreck.
2)    The horses were released by colonists who would have been taxed on fencing to keep the horses penned in.  By releasing them on an island, they avoided taxation and still kept the horses contained.  The original offshore banking!

Overall, the information was laid out in a very logical way for the reader and connections were made between the two different locations that were most featured: Assateague Island and Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range.  The photographs of the rangers help the readers to imagine the difficulty of the job to let wild animals live undisturbed while also protecting them from their own overpopulation which would result in less food and water for the herd and more struggle for survival.  Kay Frydenborg does a great job of engaging the reader and telling the story of the wild horses and the scientists who have studied them over the years.

Wild Horse Scientists
ISBN: 978-0-547-51831-2
Published 2013 by Houghton Mifflin
I borrowed this copy from my public library to read and review.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

10 Plants that Shook the World

Wondering what the 10 plants are?  

Spoiler alert!  Drumroll...

1) Papyrus
2) Pepper
3) Tea
4) Sugarcane
5) Cotton
6) Cacao
7) Cinchona
8) Rubber
9) Potato
10) Corn 

In reading about each of these world shaking plants, it occurred to me that early civilizations were really onto something.  I am also writing this post on Columbus Day though it won't post until later, and though I'm not at all a fan of his methodology, it makes me think of Chris and all those other explorers of the late 1400's and their shock at early cultures valuing plants or spices in higher regard  But the joke's on the explorers because once you have gold, you use it to get...your hands on those super valuable plants and spices.  Am I right?

Author Gillian Richardson does an awesome job of engaging readers with fun factoids, history, and even present day anecdotes as well as frame of reference for the impact we have on the growing climate for many of these plants and conservation as well.  

Artist, Kim Rosen, has a unique style that lends itself to creating artwork to complement the Richardson's text.

One more spoiler - herbal tea does NOT contain tea.  Who knew?

Reading about wars waged for control of supply and supply routes of many of these natural resources made me think of the present day situation we find ourselves in waging wars or...conflicts to protect what seems to always end up being countries that are situated with vast access to oil.  Coincidence?  I think not.

Likewise, for the first time, Great Britain's land grabs and colonization efforts made sense to me for the first time.  Again, not that I agree with the methods.  At all.  But it made sense.  They needed tropical lands to grow plants in the "right" climate in order to control the supply chain.  The Revolutionary War and the dumping of ALL that tea in the Boston Harbor must have REALLY ticked them off.  Just saying.

And the revelation that potatoes did not originate in Ireland was an eye opener for me.

I do so love to learn and 10 Plants that Shook the World kept me engaged and wanting to read more.  Kudos to Richardson and Rosen!

10 Plants that Shook the World
ISBN: 968-1-55451-445-8
Published 2013 by Annick Press
I borrowed this copy from my public library to read and review.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Tapir Scientist

Sy Montgomery and Nic Bishop are a super team when it comes to collaborating on "Scientists in the Field" type books.  Following in the footsteps of:

  • Kakapo Rescue: Saving the World's Strangest Parrot
  • Saving the Ghost of the Mountain: An Expedition Among Snow Leopards in Mongolia
  • Quest for the Tree Kangaroo: An Expedition to the Cloud Forest of New Guinea
  • The Tapir Scientist: Saving South America's Largest Mammal 
Takes the reader to an exotic destination, The Pantanal.

Quite frankly, just writing out that list of amazing nonfiction titles makes me want to be in on this "Scientists in the Field" writing team. Traveling to New Zealand, Mongolia, New Guinea and now South America for "work" doesn't sound too bad to me.  Having wild animals still roaming from prehistoric times named after you (spoiler alert), also not too shabby.

In Tapir Scientist, Sy Montgomery captures the daily trials and successes of Pati Medici and her tapir team.  Nic Bishop's photography helps the reader to feel as if they are there.  The photographs capture the landscape of the Patanal and the diverse population of wildlife besides the tapirs that are found there.  In addition to learning more (much more than I had known before) about tapirs, I learned how to properly pronounce their name.  I never thought to question my pronunciation before, pronouncing it tuh-peer when in fact, it should be pronounced tay-peer.  Good to know.  I liked reading about the length to which the veterinarians and scientists go to not stress out the animals when they are trying to collect data or radio collar the tapirs.  Interesting too was Gabriel's, the master marksman's, backstory of learning to hunt and not liking the feeling of hunting a creature, so he turned his skill to a good cause of helping to learn more about the animals and hopefully justify further conservation of their land by helping to sedate them from afar by a dart instead of having them caught in traps which can cause higher anxiety.

Tapirs are such interesting looking creatures.  So cool that they have remained unchanged since the Miocene period.  They must be doing something right if evolution hasn't touched them!  Likewise, Sy Montgomery and Nic Bishop have also been doing something right to create such awesome nonfiction reads that take the reader to places they might not otherwise encounter.  Although, evidently we are all welcome to stay at the ranch.  I'm booking my flight there now.  Check it out: Baia das Pedras

The Tapir Scientist
ISBN: 978-0-547-81548-0
Published 2013 by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
I borrowed this copy from my public library to read and review.

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Beatles Were Fab (and They Were Funny)

The Beatles were (and their music still is) fab.  Reading about their instrument choices on page one made me wonder.  What if Paul continued to play the trumpet instead of the guitar?  Could have been a whole different music scene!

Stacy Innerst's illustrations are perfect for this book.  The caricature-esque style of the Fab Four on the cover and the picture of Ed Sullivan capture the moment.  The end papers with jelly beans remind us that jelly beans are harder than "jelly babies" and hurt when thrown.  I love the guitar roller coaster image as well as the speech bubbles to show the joking nature of their interviews.  

Kathleen Krull and Paul Brewer show how Beatlemania got dangerous and ended when the Beatles got to the "Toppermost".  This book is tops too, just like the music of the Beatles.

The Beatles Were Fab (and They Were Funny)
ISBN: 978-0-547-50991-4
Published 2013 by Harcourt Children's Books
I borrowed this copy from my public library to read and review.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

My First Day

So, I had a baby.  And before I had that baby, I visited the library to stock up on books to read while I was (inevitably) feeding that baby and staying up late at night to do so.  One of the books I picked up was “My First Day.”  Thinking it would be a sweet book to read to my sweet baby boy on his “First Day.”  And it was. 

Fast forward three months and I was delighted to see “My First Day” on my Elementary/Middle Grade Nonfiction nominee list for the CYBILS. 

Steve Jenkins and Robin Page bring to life the first days of 22 very interesting animals.  Each animal is labeled with its name and illustrated in Jenkins’ unique and endearing style.  Children (and their parents/teachers/older readers) will learn some fun new facts about little ones in the wild.

Did you know a zebra mother will memorize her young’s pattern of stripes and would be able to find baby among the thousands of zebras in a herd?

In the end matter, there is a paragraph about each animal highlighted throughout the book with information about the size, location, diet, and interesting facts. 

“My First Day” is a great introduction to many different rare animals and their baby behavior.  It makes for a great read aloud or bedtime book for young readers or independent readers.  I can see many young readers searching for more nonfiction books about some of the animals featured in “My First Day.”  Speaking for myself, I’d like to read more about

My First Day
ISBN: 978-0-547-73851-2
Published 2013 by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
I borrowed this copy from my public library to read and review.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Flying Solo: How Ruth Elder Soared into America's Heart

We all know Amelia Earhart as the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean and later went famously missing.  One of our true mysteries. 

But, she wasn’t the first woman to attempt to fly across the Atlantic.  Ruth Elder didn’t let the fact that she was a beauty queen define her entirely.  Though, it didn’t hurt.  Flying Solo: How Ruth Elder Soared into America’s Heart by Julie Cummins and illustrated by Malene R. Laugesen is the story of Ruth’s first flight highlighting that fact that she didn’t make it across the Atlantic.  It also highlighted her ingenuity in staying alive and seeking rescue with the help of a ship, its captain and crew.  Ruth was still lauded upon her arrival in Europe. 

Even more fascinating to me was the cross-country all female plane race which took place in 1929.  Navigation meant following road maps, literally looking down at the roads below to know in which direction to fly.  In the favorite story from the derby, Ruth’s maps flew out of her plane and she landed to get her bearings.  In an instance like this, I wondered: Would a man have stopped to ask for directions? 

I love a good author’s note.  This one starts out: “It’s hard to imagine a time when American women didn’t have the choices or freedoms that we do today.”  On this point, I disagree.  It’s not hard to imagine at all.  I’m glad that women have come such a long way in gaining equal rights, but it was one hurdle after another.  “Flying Solo” tells an important story, putting faces on the fight for women’s rights in America.  The illustrations are well paired to the story.  I especially enjoyed the interspersed newspaper front pages with information about Charles Lindbergh’s solo flight across the Atlantic and Ruth Elder’s crash and rescue in the Atlantic.  The marquee on the title page and framing of the text were reminiscent of the timeframe of the story in the late 1920’s. 

The author’s dedication: To the young women who see the horizon of their dreams and soar toward it – fly, girls, fly!  - J.C.

Flying Solo: How Ruth Elder Soared into America’s Heart
ISBN: 978-1-59643-509-4
Published 2013 by Roaring Brook Press
I borrowed this copy from my public library to read and review.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Miss Moore Thought Otherwise: How Anne Carroll Moore Created Librariesfor Children

I LOVE that Anne Carroll Moore advocated for children of the day and their rights to access the library.  Through her groundbreaking work, libraries more often than not have children's sections with age appropriate materials.  These areas lay the groundwork for young children to become lifelong library patrons with fond memories of what a library has to offer.  I may be partial (being a school librarian) but I really do LOVE this story and the way it is presented from Annie's own childhood up through her ability to travel the country teaching others how to create welcoming spaces for children. 
Perhaps my favorite illustration is the removal of the "SILENCE" sign from above the circulation desk.  It is astonishing to me how many people think libraries still should be silent at all times.  Granted, having quiet space is important, but having space to explore, collaborate, and read aloud is equally important.  The color palette of illustrations is bright and cheerful, as is the idea of children's areas in libraries.  Debby Atwell does a lovely job of incorporating variety in her color scheme.  The backdrop of the marble face of the New York Public Library helps to enhance the bright colors used for clothing and the multicultural facet that including bringing children together from all of New York's diverse neighborhoods and giving those children amazing opportunities to interact with famous authors, illustrators, and dignitaries of the day.
Jan Pinborough is a debut author - amazing!  In this, her first children's book, she incorporates the phrase "Miss Moore thought otherwise (Annie when she was younger)" as a refrain to show how she did things differently than other people of the time.  The title/refrain really ties the ideas of the story together well. 
ISBN: 978-0-547-47105-1
Published 2013 by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
I borrowed this copy from the public library to read and review.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

On a Beam of Light

As the author, Jennifer Berne, states in her author's note, there are hundreds of books written about Albert Einstein and she read more than 50 of them.  In "On a Beam of Light" she presented information about Einstein in such a way that my 4 year old daughter asked to read it twice at bedtime tonight.  That is an achievement in and of itself.  And telling that such a young child was engrossed by his story.  I've seen images of his messy workplace before stating it was the workplace of a genius to justify colleague's desks and those of students, but I hadn't known before that Einstein was a late talker.  Makes sense that he was, perhaps, absorbing the natural world around him.  My daughter asked what the word behaved meant and I tried to explain that the teachers didn't think he was being "good" because he was asking so many questions but that we know questions are good.  And that it's not always good to act the same as everyone else.  Reading the story to her helped me to see and hear it from her perspective.  Hopefully, she will recognize the genius of wondering, thinking, and imagining.

Vladimir Radunsky's illustrations felt playful to me and as I read more of Berne's author's note, that seemed very fitting as Einstein was playful as well.

On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein
ISBN: 978-0-8118-7235-5
Published 2013 by Chronicle Books
I borrowed this copy from my public library to read and review.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin

I first picked up this book when it was published and I immediately placed it within our art curriculum.  As our school is outside of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania, I connected with the fact that Horace Pippin was a native Pennsylvania artist.  Fourth graders in my school district study Pennsylvania artists, like Andy Warhol of Pittsburgh fame.  So, Pippin's hometown of West Chester (even closer) made me think he would be a perfect fit.  

Horace Pippin's story is remarkable in that his art was his passion and one that he returned to, even after a disabling injury.  His characteristic splash of red created a vibrance in works of art that might have had a seemingly dull colorscape.  As a result, the red pops.  

Working together to research and put the story together, Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet do a beautiful job of creating a patchwork quilt feel.  The story is pieced together and the pictures are too.  

A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin
ISBN: 978-0-375-96712-2
Published 2013 by Alfred A. Knopf 
I borrowed this copy from my public library to read and review.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Maker's Strike of 1909

Melissa Sweet sure has been busy!  She illustrated last year's nonfiction picture book CYBILS winner: Mrs. Harkness and the Panda which was one of two nominees last year along with "Balloons Over Broadway" and there are two nominees in the Elementary/Middle Grade Nonfiction category as well: A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin and Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers' Strike of 1909.

Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers' Strike of 1909 is written by Michelle Markel whose book, "The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau" was also nominated in the nonfiction picture book category for a CYBILS award last year.  Michelle and Melissa bring to life the famous garment worker's strike of 1909.  This book reminds me of why I absolutely love reading all of the amazing nonfiction on the shelves for our young readers today.  Brave Girl takes a moment in our country's history when workers as young as 12 stood up for their rights and changed the way business was done in America - for the better!  Photographs from 1909 are powerful, of course, but Melissa Sweet's illustration of young women hunched over sewing machines crowded into a room with overseers yelling to work faster is remarkable.  

The story is also timely when unions and workers are under attack in the media.  As a teacher, I often hear the sentiment, "I support teachers, but not teacher's unions."  Who, exactly, do they think are in teacher's unions?  Likewise, Brave Girl highlights exactly what was being fought for - safe and healthy working conditions.  Like Esperanza Rising and Kira Kira, Brave Girl helps young readers to understand unions in the context of the history.

The text also tells the story but left me with questions.  The kind of questions that would lead me to further reading.  The BEST kinds of questions.  For example, Clara's father could not find work.  Was it because of his immigrant status?  I can make assumptions, but even better would be to turn to one of the resources from the Selected Bibliography.  The section titled "More about the Garment Industry" tells that the Triangle Waist Factory was one that would not negotiate and I can infer from the illustrations that Clara did work there.  I want to know more.  Books that leave the reader wanting more kindle a passion for learning.  Brave Girl does just that.

Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers' Strike of 1909
ISBN: 978-0-06-180442-7
Published 2013 by Balzer + Bray
I borrowed this copy from my library to read and review.