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