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: eniacprogrammers.org 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.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Happy New Year...and CYBILS day!

Today's the day!  Tune in to the CYBILS website for announcements of finalist lists today!

Follow @cybils on twitter too!