Monday, March 27, 2017


The texture of the cover, both the raised, smooth drops of rain and the glossy, “wet” title itself are indicative of the beautiful representation of rain within.  As Granddad says, “…the very best things are always worth waiting for.”  Throughout the first half, it seems Granddad is just postponing having to get wet, but as the waters rise…and rise, and he relents that the rain has stopped so it is time to go, we learn that he was perhaps waiting for something more as it was “time for an adventure at last.”  The adventure of delivering a letter is reminiscent of a Dr. Seuss-esqu escapade.  In other words, that escalated quickly.  Like the main character, you’ll be hoping it rains again tomorrow too.  I’m excited to check out Sam Usher’s “Snow” soon too.  Though, after our mid-March blizzard, I’ve had just about enough of that and I’m ready for Spring!

Title: Rain
Author: Sam Usher
Published 2016 by Templar Books

ISBN: 978-0-7636-9296-4

This copy was received from the publisher for purposes of review.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Ellen's 2017 Elementary Nonfiction Shortlist

Here is the CYBILS Elementary Nonfiction Panel Shortlist and the following were my personal shortlisted titles.  Some made it.  Some didn't.  Those that made it include: Giant Squid and Plants Can't Sit Still.  Giant Squid was our overall winner it won a shiny Sibert honor too!  

To The Stars!

Giant Squid   
Prairie Dog Song
Charles Darwin's Around the World Adventure

Plants Can't Sit Still
The Hole Story of the Doughnut

Friday, March 10, 2017

The Inventors of Lego Toys

By virtue of the word Lego in the title, this is already destined to be a hit with young readers and builders.  I find that students have an increased interest in the origin story of their favorite toys and games.  Creativity and inventiveness are being encouraged in new and different ways in schools.  Engineering (and reverse engineering) are being encouraged through physical building with materials like legos, k’nex, magnetic blocks, and cardboard as well as electronic building with coding through resources like Tynker, Osmo, Lego EV3 software, and 3D printing.  Students naturally have interest in where certain ideas, especially lasting ones like the Lego Brick design began and “The Inventors of Lego Toys” by Erin Hagar fills that void.

As I’ve stated once or seventeen times before, the inclusion of a map is always a plus for me and there is one that shows Northern Europe, and specifically Denmark where the town of Billund (home of Lego) is located.  In an age of the plasticization of everything when a return to more natural materials is beginning to take a turn with wooden toys, the story of Ole Kirk’s transition from wooden toys to plastic molded toys was a bit cutting edge.  Fortunately, because Lego bricks last and hold their value to collectors, you won’t be likely to find them in a landfill.  Towards the end of the book, there is a note about the Lego company working on creating their bricks out of a new material in an effort to reduce their carbon footprint.  It will be interesting to see how Lego’s evolve over time.  Kirk’s re-use of yo-yo halves to make wheels for a truck demonstrates his aptitude for problem solving.  The inclusion of both blue prints and illustrations of the size of the factory growing over the years after fires destroyed each in turn shows readers how the company grew over the years from a small operation to a larger (but still modest) one.

The book is organized in chronological fashion and follows the story of the Lego Company from the one man carpenter/toy factory all the way to the global enterprise it is today.  The story highlights set backs and arguments about the direction of the company as well as information about other toys on the scene at various times along the way.

A personal reflection.  I received this book from the publisher to read and review.  And I did read it.  Right away.  But I had to borrow a library copy to review it.  Fourth and Fifth grade students at my school had just begun their informational writing pieces and a teacher emailed me, inquiring if I had a book about the inventors of lego.  Off the shelves before it even got on one!!  When I left for winter break, the student was still using the book to get information for his writing piece, so I requested a copy to write this review.  I asked him what he thought of it and he indicated it had the information he needed and that he was enjoying reading it as well.  

Hagar and Garrison did a great job putting together a story with a rich and lengthy history.  The end of the book includes a glossary and index.  There is a page with other books to “Read More About Inventors,” but an inclusion of a bibliography to indicate where they got their information would be great for kids wanting to read more about these inventors.

Title: The Inventors of Lego Toys
Author: Erin Hagar
Illustrator: Paige Garrison
Published 2016 by Duopress
ISBN: 9781938093531

This copy was received from the publisher for purpose of review (and borrowed from the public library too!)

Thursday, March 9, 2017

All the Dirt: A History of Getting Clean

Truth is stranger than fiction.  And the facts of the history of how people have achieved cleanliness seems strange, and yet, each of the ideas presented show the evolution of societies.  For example, when Paris decided to provide public urinals to prevent people from just going on the sidewalk, a German doctor decided an outdoor shower was a good idea too.  It didn’t catch on.

Full disclosure, I make deodorant.  Like, in my kitchen, by hand.  And I am one of the “small but vocal movement of people…taking a new approach to clean” mentioned on page 90.  So this book was a page turner for me.  I am friends with several soap crafters and the history of soap, cleanliness, oils, etc. is personally fascinating to me.  “All the Dirt” presents a balanced approach to cleanliness and customs around the world and throughout history.  As a school library media specialist interested in media literacy, the advent of advertising and the soap opera chapter also speaks to why certain cultures are more concerned with cleanliness than others.  Namely because they were targeted by convincing advertising tactics.  As in the past, there is disagreement over which approaches to cleanliness are “right” or “healthy”.  One thing that is definitely good for you is a good read, like “All the Dirt: A History of Getting Clean.”

Title: All the Dirt: A History of Getting Clean
Author: Katherine Ashenburg
Illustrator: Capucine Mazille
Published 2016 by Annick Press
ISBN: 978-1-55451-790-9

This copy was received from the publisher for purpose of review.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Will’s Words: How William Shakespeare Changed the Way You Talk

Will’s Words combines history and the history of words and expressions originated by Shakespeare that have seeped into our “household words”.  The history of London in Shakespeare’s time, including the globe, actor, and audience tendencies reside on the left hand side of each spread.  Each of these text sections includes 1-3 phrases or references and on the right hand side, the explanation is given of their origins from plays written by Shakespeare.  Jane Sutcliffe embeds each word or phrase into the story to highlight their usage and the elaborates about the definition of each.  John Shelley’s depiction of the crowded Globe Theater full of audience members waiting “with bated breath” shows the mass of people shoulder to shoulder to take in the great Shakespeare’s latest play.  His cross sectioned illustrations showing the inner workings of the theater from top to bottom helps the reader understand how “special effects” were achieved in the 1600’s.  

Recently, after visiting a holiday shop at school, my daughter gave me a clue (that I did not ask for) about the gift she chose for me.  “It’s fashionable,” she said.  Do you want to know who coined that term?  None other than Shakespeare himself.

Will’s Words is not “too much of a good thing,” but it certainly is a good thing.  “Hurry” to check it out and read to your “heart’s content!”

Title: Will’s Words: How William Shakespeare Changed the Way You Talk
Author: Jane Sutcliffe
Illustrator: John Shelley
Published 2016 by Charlesbridge
ISBN: 978-1-58089-638-2

This copy was received from the publisher for purpose of review.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Wild Animals of the North

The size of this book alone will be a huge draw to young readers eager to gobble up animal facts.  Dieter Braun’s illustrations are captivating and the way animals are grouped is helpful for kids to learn the animal’s habitats.  I like that there was an index included to reference back to the individual animals but it is in page order instead of being in alphabetical order by the animal’s names.  The lack of a bibliography or other sources is disappointing.  I’m excited that this looks to be the start of a series (or at least a pair of books) with Wild Animals of the South being advertised coming soon.  

Title: Wild Animals of the North
Author and Illustrator: Dieter Braun
Published 2016 by Flying Eye Books
ISBN: 978-1-909263-96-3

This copy was received from the publisher for review.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Ada’s Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay

What an awesome story!!  Truly, out of trash comes treasure.  In a town built on trash, literally on a landfill, ingenuity springs to craft the types of instruments that the residents cannot afford.  This is the type of book that gives a great deal of information but still leaves me wanting more (in the best possible way).  The author included information about a number of videos and websites to find more information that I intend to include here and check out as well.  The illustrations by Sally Wern Comport have trash collaged throughout, specifically sheet music and faraway places, as if foreshadowing what is to come for the orchestra and Ada.  The primary sources offer a teachable moment about how to incorporate interviews with the subject of research when the story is current.  

Title: Ada’s Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay
Author: Susan Hood
Illustrator: Sally Wern Comport
Published 2016 by Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3095-1

This copy was borrowed from the public library for purpose of review.
*Better late than never, a copy was received from the publisher!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Preaching to the Chickens

While I was updating nominated titles in the CYBILS database, I came across this title and instantly knew who it was about.  I had JUST listened to the Reverend John Lewis, Congressman from Georgia, speak about the March graphic novel trilogy at the SLJ Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C. and he spoke about his chickens.  And preaching to them.  So, when I read the title, I realized this must be about John Lewis.  And it was.  A friend of mine is a US Congressman and had posted a selfie (you can’t make this stuff up) of himself with John Lewis in July when Democratic representatives stayed at the Capitol to call for a vote on legislation and, as a result, had their own sit in.  

That was the first time I heard of John Lewis and began to do some research, then I heard him speak, and then this book comes across my lap.  I’d venture to say this is the year of John Lewis, though I’m sure others would argue it’s not his first, just for me.  

*Further update - March: Book 3 won loads of awards.  Totally a good year for John Lewis!

All that to say that author, Jabari Asim, and illustrator, E.B. Lewis, bring the story of John Lewis’ childhood, and his chickens, and the lessons this experience instilled in him to life in beautiful fashion.  Through caring for his chickens, he learned to speak up for those who couldn’t speak for themselves.  He continues to do so to this day.

Title: Preaching to the Chickens
Author: Jabari Asim
Illustrator: E.B. Lewis
Published 2016 by Nancy Paulsen Books
ISBN: 978-0-399-16856-7

This copy was borrowed from the public library for purpose of review.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Princess Cora and the Crocodile

My 3 year old son has a penchant for nonfiction, specifically dinosaurs.  He enjoys picture books and loves sitting on my lap to read together.  But he doesn't have much patience for longer stories.  And Princess Cora and the Crocodile is just that.  It is illustrated (fantastically by Brian Floca, need I say more?!?) but it is a chapter book and 74 pages long.  So I had been planning on this particular book being something I would read with my 7 year old daughter.  And yet.  My son spied it on my bedside table the first night I brought it home and asked to read it.  I shall never deny such a request, so we did.  He made it halfway through before tiring.  He IS 3.  But he asked if we could finish it the next night.  Perfectly reasonable.  He (and I) LOVE Princess Cora and the Crocodile.  Belly laughs throughout.  He continues to ask to read it again (and again, I will always comply) and refer to the characters and their antics.  I love that this story of empowerment and finding your voice features fun as well.  I love that Cora's mother and father and nanny learned to really look at her (for goodness sake, they confused a crocodile for her all because of a dress and a mop for a wig) and see their expectations from her perspective.  And I love that Cora was able to explore and wander and build and discover.  And three baths a day is just excessive for anyone.  Next time I step on a cow pie, I hope to declare like Princess Cora, "I'm having an adventure." Find a copy of Princess Cora and the Crocodile to begin your adventure.

This particular quote speaks to me as a school librarian.  Freedom to read is essential for our youngest reader to discover their passions and learn about topics of their own choosing.  Don't pigeonhole kids with expectations that are beneath them.  Let them rise to the challenge.

"From now on, I want to choose my own books.  I want to read about sharks and tigers and fairies." ~Princess Cora from Princess Cora and the Crocodile by Laura Amy Schlitz

Likewise, my dino loving son doesn't JUST love dinosaurs.  He has diverse interests.  Like princesses and crocodiles.  And so much more.

Title: Princess Cora and the Crocodile
Author: Laura Amy Schlitz
Illustrator: Brian Floca
Published 2017 by Candlewick Press
ISBN: 978-0-7636-4822-0

This copy was received from the publisher for review.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Giant Squid Finalist Blurb

The following is the blurb that was submitted for Giant Squid as a finalist for CYBILS.

From the delay of the title page to Eric Rohmann’s murky deep sea illustrations, Giant Squid is a mystery just like the creature represented in its pages.  Candace Fleming’s choice of poetic text and the squirming, writhing layout of each line keeps the reader swaying as if being rocked by the ocean’s tides.  More forceful spreads when the giant squid captures its prey are accompanied by thick, powerful paragraphs.  A more traditionally labelled diagram following the story will help young readers identify each part of a giant squid and the author’s note goes into further detail about what we do and do not yet know about the giant squid.  I love the font choice of each back matter header.  The inclusion of an extensive bibliography as well as other books about giant squid will keep young scientists busy.  The acknowledgements indicate collaboration  with experts in the field and the section “Searching for Giant Squid Online” includes websites, but more intriguing, some of the first ever captured video footage of giant squid by Dr. Edith Widder.  Just as the giant squid has eluded predators and scientists, the squid portrayed on the pages by Eric Rohmann escapes us as well in a cloud of ink and a vanishing tentacle.  Fortunately, readers will love to seize this book and not let go, learning more about this creature hidden from view and yet, brought to life on these pages by Fleming and Rohmann.

{This blurb was written shortly before they were due, sometime over the holidays.  Today is 1/23 and the ALA Youth Media Awards were announced this morning.  Giant Squid won the honor for the Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award for the most distinguished informational books for children.}

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Fearless Flyer: Ruth Law and Her Flying Machine

Raul Colon never fails to disappoint with gorgeous texture in his illustrations.  Illustrating Fearless Flyer gave him numerous opportunities to craft fluffy clouds and he does so with lines throughout.  His medium is listed on the verso as Prismacolor pencil on Canson paper and lithograph crayons.  The results are lovely!  

The story of Ruth Law reminds me of Meghan McCarthy’s “Daredevil: The Daring Life of Betty Skelton”.  Both women were pioneers.  Ruth Law started out as a daredevil, but wanted to be taken more seriously as a pilot.  She did what many thought she could not.  Heather Lang includes direct quotes from Ruth Law on almost every page in a different scripted and quoted font.  Each of these quotes is cited in the source notes in addition to a full bibliography.

As Ruth said herself, “What those men can do a woman can do.  I can do.”

Photographs in the section “More About Ruth Law” show just how bundled one has to be to be flying with no cockpit.  Heather Lang does a masterful job of weaving the story of her flight together and highlighting both the accomplishment and the struggle.

Title: Fearless Flyer: Ruth Law and Her Flying Machine
Author: Heather Lang
Illustrator: Raul Colon
Published 2016 by Calkins Creek
ISBN: 978-1-62091-650-6

This copy was received from the publisher for review.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Every Day Birds

Dylan Metrano’s cut paper illustrations create the illusion of stained glass windows.  Each page highlights one bird and one statement about each.  The end of the book has space to tell more information about each of the birds included in the book.  The opening and closing of the book ties in the “Every Day” statement from the title to indicated that while we may observe these birds every day and they might seem more or less mundane at times, we are also learning more about their behavior every day as well and enjoying the beauty they add to the landscape and environment every day.  

Title: Every Day Birds
Author: Amy Ludwig VanDerwater
Illustrator: Dylan Metrano
Published 2016 by Orchard Books
ISBN: 978-0-545-69980-8

This copy was received from the publisher for review.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Miss Mary Reporting: The True Story of Sportswriter Mary Garber

Sue Macy includes extensive sources with quotes directly from both Mary, and her sister, Neely.  Mary’s story seems to be one of a person who knew what she wanted out of life right from the start.  She enjoyed watching sports with her father, wanted to understand what was happening, and even made her own newspaper to send to her grandparents instead of a letter.  Her determination is an inspiration and her dedication is a tribute.  She not only worked in a man’s world, with a press badge that indicated no women or children were allowed in the press box (which I still find curious - was it the content of conversations that it made it an off limits area?!), but she worked there for a loooong time, retiring only when her eyesight was failing a good 17 years after she technically retired.  C.F. Payne’s illustrations are a perfect blend of action shots, spreads that show a wide expanse and illustrations zoomed in, like the one highlighting her press box badge.  Each seems just right.  Beyond being an inspiring figure, Miss Mary also exemplified kindness in a cruel world.  As a youth sports coach myself, I can attest to the fact that athletes will rise to the occasion.  If good things are said about a child, especially published in a newspaper, they will believe them.  They will meet that expectation and be a better person for it.  I’m glad the world had a Miss Mary, and a Sue Macy to write her story.

Title: Miss Mary Reporting: The True Story of Sportswriter Mary Garber
Author: Sue Macy
Illustrator: C. F. Payne
Published 2016 by Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
ISBN: 978-1-4814-0120-3

This copy was received from the publisher for review.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Some Writer: The Story of E.B. White

“All beginnings are wonderful.” - E.B. White

Melissa Sweet mixes her mixed media style with photographs of E.B. White throughout his life and excerpts from his writing and letters with a special, personal connection to her neighbor, White’s granddaughter, Martha.  Sweet’s attention to detail in her illustration style makes each of her books special and unique.  Some Writer’s realia based artwork includes bits of barn, vintage office supplies, and even real eggs.  I happen to be revisiting this to review on New Year’s Eve and a number of quotes from E.B. White’s life strike me on this day when we turn a new page to a new year.

In chapter one, an anecdote is shared about E.B. White’s first (and last) run in with speaking on a stage in front of a crowd.  It struck me as rather similar to Dr. Seuss’ vow after embarrassment to never again speak publicly and yet, each had a voice that reached millions in his own way.  It makes one wonder about the ability of great writers to convey in words that which they might never wish to speak aloud.  

Incorporating the story of White’s life, along with his own writings and recollections, as well as sketches and notes helps the story to flow and for the reader to enjoy the ride as if in E.B. White’s own home made boat, a scow named Flounder.

Being an elementary teacher, I sometimes encounter adults who speak down to children and a passage struck me as just right when reflecting on why this bothers me so much.

“Anyone who writes down to children is simply wasting his time.  You have to write up, not down.  Children are demanding.  They are the most attentive, curious, eager, observant, sensitive, quick, and generally congenial readers on earth…Children are game for anything.  I throw them hard words and they backhand them over the net.” - E.B. White

E.B. White got that children were people who deserved great stories.  He respected their ability to understand all the nuances and foreshadowing.  Just as I’ve now read “Some Writer” or at least “some” passages of it over and over looking for “The Right Word”, young (and old) readers can read Charlotte’s Web and other of White’s writings again and again and enjoy them each time.

Title: Some Writer: The Story of E.B. White 
Author: Melissa Sweet
Published 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 
ISBN: 978-0-544-31959-2

This copy was received from the publisher for purpose of review.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Six Dots: A Story of Young Louis Braille

First, I love that this story is told in first person.  Having already written another biography of Louis Braille, Jen Bryant was intimately familiar with the details of his story but in this picture book, her goal was to convey how Louis Braille felt and I think she does so masterfully.  Towards the beginning of the story, when he is playing with his father’s sharp tools and hurts his eye, you can feel the mischief, the knowing that he felt he was big enough to do what he was doing.  It doesn’t end well there, but fortunately that was not the end of Louis’ story.  Really, it was just the beginning in many ways.  Louis has an opportunity to attend a school for the blind where there are books for the blind and he is so motivated to be an excellent student in order to have the privilege to read them with his fingers but when he finally gets to do so, he realizes they are sub par.  Then a military code is developed, but Louis and the students decide it still doesn’t do everything they need when it comes to reading books.  Louis, still a teenager, develops an impressive code of raised dots and the rest is history.  Boris Kulikov shows how bright the possibilities are in the beginning of the story but how starkly dark they become after Braille’s accident and then conversely, they smile on Louis’ face and brightening of the illustrations show that once again his life is filled with the art of the possible.  Likewise, this story highlights a child inventor and young man who accomplished quite a lot in his short life; a model that any child can aspire to think big thoughts, even when you are still small.

{Like several previous blog posts, this one was written a while ago.  As I am loading it onto the blog, it is January 23rd and it will post on January 27th.  Today was a big day!  The ALA Youth Media Awards were announced this morning and Six Dots won a Schneider Family Book Award for being a book for children ages 0 to 10 that embodies artistic expression of the disability experience.}

Title: Six Dots: A Story of Young Louis Braille
Author: Jen Bryant
Illustrator: Boris Kulikov
Published 2016 by Alfred A. Knopf
ISBN: 978-0-449-81337-9

This copy was borrowed from the public library for purpose of review.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Tree In the Courtyard: Looking Through Anne Frank’s Window

The story of Anne Frank can be difficult to distill for young children by Gottesfeld and McCarty do just that, telling the story of the tree in the courtyard and the many saplings that have been grown all around the world. McCarty used brown ink on watercolor paper which creates sepia toned illustrations, fitting for this glimpse into the past.  While I was familiar with Anne Frank’s diary and story, I never realized the story of her tree and its long life bearing witness to war and then peace and the message its saplings send into the world now.  I enjoyed this slice of history.

Title: The Tree In the Courtyard: Looking Through Anne Frank’s Window
Author: Jeff Gottesfeld
Illustrator: Peter McCarty
Published 2016 by Alfred A. Knopf
ISBN: 978-0-385-75397-5

This copy was borrowed from the public library for purpose of review.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Secret Subway

On the back jacket flap describing the author, Shana Corey, “…when she came across a passing mention of Albert Ely Beach’s underground train, she wanted to know more.”  This is how I feel, often, when reading nonfiction nominees for the CYBILS award.  Shana Corey does a great job of fleshing out the story in picture book format.  I always want to learn more, but moreover, after reading this book, I think something along these lines, “This is SO cool!”.  Red Nose Studios does a vivid job of bringing the story to life in their own unique way.  Looking at the details included in each illustration, I cannot fathom the amount of work needed to create each scene.  To sum up, Beach thought of the first way to move people underground, but to get permission to do it, he had to indicate he was really moving mail.  The near forgotten tunnel was found when the city was tunneling to build the subway.  

Title: The Secret Subway
Author: Shana Corey
Illustrator: Red Nose Studio
Published 2016 by Schwartz and Wade Books
ISBN: 978-0-375-8701-2

This copy was borrowed from the public library for purpose of review.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Their Great Gift: Courage, Sacrifice, and Hope in a New Land

What a great and timely story to highlight the fact that, unless we are of Native American descent, we are all either immigrants or descendants of immigrants in this country.  The photographs highlight a variety of different arrival stories and the text is easy to read to or with anyone at any age.  The team of John and Wing work well on the basketball court and the book page alike.

Title: Their Great Gift: Courage, Sacrifice, and Hope in a New Land
Author: John Coy
Photographer: Wing Young Huie
Published 2016 by Carolrhoda Books
ISBN: 978-1-4677-8054-4

This book was borrowed from the public library to review.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Dorothea’s Eyes

The design of the dust jacket to look like the perforated edge of 35 mm film stuck out to me during this reading as I prepare to review.  Just wanted to mention.  It looks neato.  The illustration style by Gerard DuBois tends to look like wooden carved characters, it is very unique and set against plain white or just there sketched backgrounds emphasize that Dorothea saw the people during hard times.  She saw their faces and she helped us feel their emotions.  The inclusion of Dorothea’s photographs at the end of the book will help some readers identify her work, either for the first time or with a spark of recognition.  A selected bibliography and quotation sources are both included as well as a detailed timeline.

Title: Dorothea’s Eyes
Author: Barb Rosenstock
Illustrator: Gerard DuBois
Published 2016 by Calkins Creek
ISBN: 978-1-62979-208-8

This copy was received from the publisher for review.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Toad

I love a nonfiction book with humor embedded.  As such, The Toad reminds me of “I Fly” and “I’m Trying to Love Spiders” for all the best reasons.  The incorporation of cartoon style illustrations and speech bubbles give voice to the main character who cracks jokes about fun facts like warts/beauty spots, skin eating, and food choice based on what happens to walk by (not an ice cream cone, sadly).  Block letters highlight the main idea of each page spread.  Unfortunately, no bibliography is included to indicate the sources of the fun facts included in “The Toad.”

Title: The Toad
Author: Elise Gravel
Published 2016 by Tundra Books
ISBN: 978-1-77049-667-5

This copy was received from the publisher for purpose of review.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Coyote Moon

Coyote Moon’s illustrations are both accurate and jarring.  So much building of homes and communities has taken away the coyote’s more natural habitat.  As a suburbanite myself, I respect any wildlife whom I encounter and moreover, I respect that they were likely there first.  With that said, I find the illustrations fascinating with their power lines and white picket fences among the coyote’s hunt.  The poetic text accompanies the wolf’s hunt beautifully.  Personally, I think the inclusion of where coyote’s live in North America would be helpful.  There are coyote facts which go into greater detail about certain topics and books and websites listed for further reading, but not as a bibliography.

Title: Coyote Moon
Author: Maria Gianferrari
Illustrator: Bagram Ibatoulline 
Published 2016 by Roaring Brook Press
ISBN: 978-1-62672041-1

This copy was received from the publisher for purpose of review.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Tortuga Squad: Kids Saving Sea Turtles in Costa Rica

Beginning with a map, or point of reference, is always helpful and Tortuga Squad does just that, indicating where both Costa Rica, and more specifically the town of Parismina are located.  Also for point of reference, the cover of the book shows a baby turtle in a child’s hand showing just how small turtles are when first hatched.  The candid style of photography shows how the Tortuga Squad operates similar to a documentary.  The squad keeps turtles safe from poachers and dogs and educates people about safer fishing net options with TED’s (turtle excluder devices) like escape hatches for sea turtles.  This is one story shining a light on how kids can make a difference with small scale activism.  When children read this story, they are inspired to do the same and can share their own stories of efforts to help protect wild animals at World Association of Kids and Animals.

Title: Tortuga Squad: Kids Saving Sea Turtles in Costa Rica
Author: Cathleen Burnham
Published 2016 by Crickhollow Books
ISBN: 978-1-933987-24-8

This copy was received from the publisher for purpose of review.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

You Should Meet: Women Who Launched the Computer Age

I love this story, but even more, I love the research component involved in bringing this story to the public.  Based on a picture of ENIAC with women, another woman, Kathy Kleiman, wondered who they were.  And when she didn’t believe the answer, she dug deeper to make a discovery.  I am interested to watch the documentary, which can be found here: I think it might go into the deeper detail I crave.  My daughter loved this book and it prompted good discussion about how men and women were treated differently (and in some cases still are) in the 1940’s. 

Title: You Should Meet: Women Who Launched the Computer Age
Author: Laurie Calkhoven
Illustrator: Alyssa Petersen
Published 2016 by Simon Spotlight
ISBN: 9781481470476

This copy was received from the publisher for purpose of review.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Tooth by Tooth: Comparing Fangs, Tusks, and Chompers

As the mother of a child who has now been visited by the tooth fairy twice, I can definitely relate to all things teeth at the moment.  I think kids will get a kick out of the illustrations by T.S. Spookytooth.  And the note that the narwhal tooth (did not even know it was a tooth prior to this reading) is still a bit of a mystery to scientists helps kids to understand there are still unsolved mysteries (in fact, there are lots of them) in our natural world.  There are books listed for further reading, but they are not listed as a bibliography, one of the few downsides to this awesome and fun read about teeth.  

Title: Tooth by Tooth: Comparing Fangs, Tusks, and Chompers
Author: Sara Levine
Illustrator: T.S. Spookytooth
Published 2016 by Hillbrook Press
ISBN: 978-1-4677-5215-2

This copy was borrowed from the public library for purpose of review.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Floodwaters and Flames: The 1913 Disaster in Dayton, Ohio

Much like “The Hole Story of the Doughnut,” Lois Miner Huey shares her spark of inspiration for penning this story of the Dayton Flood.  In an Author’s Note, she indicates she noticed high water marks on the brick wall of a New York Factory Building recording historic floods and that one bore the year “1913.”  Having seen something similar, I could make a personal connection as a reader.  In a restaurant in Manayunk, there are high water marks for a number storms that hit the Philadelphia area over the years.

The photographs selected for inclusion are remarkable.  One that strikes me, is of survivors of the flood tightrope walking (or at least, trying to…) telegraph wires high above the ground and the swelling water.

The map including photos noting the location of the people featured through the story was helpful to understand where the disaster hit hardest.  The story reminds me of one where there are multiple different people’s perspectives that converge as one.  The writing is masterfully done and a bibliography and source notes, as well as a timeline, are helpful to readers wanting to learn more,

Title: Floodwaters and Flames: The 1913 Disaster in Dayton, Ohio
Author: Lois Miner Huey
Published 2016 by Millbrook Press
ISBN: 9781467794329

This copy was borrowed from the public library for purpose of review.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Masters of Disguise: Amazing Animal Tricksters

Masters of Disguise takes animal adaptation to a new level.  By introducing readers to the scientists (and the science) behind each of the stories, I can imagine children putting themselves in the scientist’s shoes, making an observation and following it up with documentation, video or audio recording to test if their inkling of why an animal does what it does was in reality the reason.  The fascinating thing about each of these stories is that the scientists even found the creatures at all.  Some of them blend in so well with their surroundings that discovery itself seems improbable.  Akin to the movie Jerry Maguire’s “You had me at hello,” Rebecca L. Johnson “had me at coat of many ant corpses”.  Joseph’s technicolor dream color coat couldn’t possibly compare to the assassin bug’s ant corpse coat.  Talk about a hook for a reader!!  

Want to see what an Assassin Bug looks like wearing a “backpack of ant corpses?”  Check out the books, websites, and videos included in the back of the book, like this one:

I love that scientists working on multiple continents are included and that both female and male scientists are involved in the projects represented on the pages of “Masters of Disguise.”  

Here is another video included in the backmatter, this one with Phil Torres explaining his research of the puppet building spider.

This book is well researched with source notes, photo acknowledgements, and a selected bibliography.  

Title: Masters of Disguise: Amazing Animal Tricksters
Author: Rebecca L. Johnson
Published 2016 by Millbrook Press
ISBN: 978-1-5124-0087-8

This book was borrowed from the public library for purpose of review.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Step Right Up: How Doc and Jim Key Taught the World About Kindness

This book is well sourced and includes an extensive Afterword.  This story of Doc and Jim Key is absolutely incredible!  The fact that William (Doc) Key received an education at all as an enslaved boy at the time is incredible in and of itself, but a detail in the afterword may have also pointed to the reason beyond the kindness of his owners; that William (Doc) was likely biologically a cousin to his owners.  When the Civil War ended and Doc set out on his own, he displayed quite the entrepreneurial spirit in marketing and selling his liniment, which became his first claim to success.  The Beautiful Jim Key would be his second.  The story is told to outline the highlights and the afterword goes into even greater detail.  Doc and Jim Key’s “act” brought attention to the capacity of animals to learn when treated kindly and humanely.  

Title: Step Right Up: How Doc and Jim Key Taught the World About Kindness
Author: Donna Janell Bowman
Illustrator: Daniel Minter
Published 2016 by Lee & Low Books Inc.
ISBN: 9781620141489

This copy was borrowed from the public library for purpose of review.