Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction

A touching tribute to the fallen and those who stand guard: Twenty-One Steps

Twenty-One Steps: Guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, by Jeff Gottesfeld/Illustrated by Matt Tavares, (March 2021, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536201482

Ages 7-10

Told in the quiet, poetic voice of the Unknown Soldier, Twenty-One Steps is the story of the Unknown Soldier and of the soldiers who guard the Tomb through sun and rain. It is the most difficult post to earn, and the highest privilege for those who do. Every bit of each soldier’s appearance, every step they take, is in service to the Unknown Soldier. Jeff Gottesfeld and Matt Tavares create a moving tribute to the soldiers who have paid the ultimate price, and those who guard them in this flawless work. An afterword about Arlington National Cemetery concludes the book. The first soldier, a World War I veteran, was interred in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier 100 years ago this coming November; make sure to have this in your collections.

Twenty-One Steps has starred reviews from The Horn Book and Kirkus.

Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction, picture books

Codebreaker Elizebeth Friedman gets a book and a giveaway for Women’s History Month!

Code Breaker, Spy Hunter: How Elizebeth Friedman Changed the Course of Two World Wars, by Laurie Wallmark/Illustrated by Brooke Smart, (March 2021, Abrams), $18.99, ISBN: 9781419739637

Ages 7-9

This picture book biography on code breaker Elizebeth Friedman is a great way to kick off Women’s History Month!  Beginning with her early years as a Shakespeare-loving student and working for an eccentric millionaire, she meets fellow code aficionado and scientist, William Friedman. The two marry, and their expertise in codes and ciphers led to their groundbreaking work in cryptology during World War I. Friedman traveled two worlds, raising her family away from the city and answering the government’s call for help, whether it was to break smuggler’s codes during Prohibition or ferreting out Nazi spies and Japanese spies during World War II. The FBI took credit for the work she and her team did, and she was sworn to secrecy. Her secrets were declassified 35 years after her death in 2015. Laurie Wallmark, a STEM/STEAM biographer for women in STEM, has written several books I’ve brought to my Girls Who Code sessions, including Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code (2017) and Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine (2015). She has a great way of factual storytelling that show each of her heroines breaking barriers while juggling the weight of societal expectations. Ms. Wallmark does Elizebeth Friedman a great justice and brings her story to a new generation of girls.

Brooke Smart’s watercolor and gouache paintings sprinkle Friedman quotes throughout and have humorous moments, including a page where a line of coded language wraps itself around an angry group of Nazis as Friedman gazes off sagely on the companion page; one spread has Friedman leading a team of young men through ticker tapes, curling all over the page, likely pointing out how to break codes. She combines the realistic with the imaginative, encouraging readers to let their minds go where coding takes them. Back matter includes an explanation on codes and ciphers, cryptography, and a crack the code exercise, along with a bibliography and timeline of Friedman’s life. An excellent biography on a ’til-now virtually unknown figure in history.

Check out the Code Breaker, Spy Hunter book page on author Laurie Wallmark’s webpage where you’ll find a trailer, cool activity sheets, and more!

 

Award-winning author Laurie Wallmark has written picture-book biographies of women in STEM fields ranging from computer science to mathematics, astronomy to code breaking. Her books have earned multiple starred reviews, been chosen as Junior Library Guild Selections, and received awards such as Outstanding Science Trade Book, Cook Prize Honor, and Parents’; Choice Gold Medal. She is a former software engineer and computer science professor. She lives in Ringoes, New Jersey. You can find her at lauriewallmark.com.

On Twitter: @lauriewallmark

Facebook: @lauriewallmarkauthor

Instagram: @lauriewallmark

 

Brooke Smart loves telling stories through her illustrations, especially stories about brave women from history. She has always loved to read, and growing up she could be found nightly falling asleep with a book on her chest. Illustrating books as a professional artist is a lifelong dream come true. She is living the busy, tired, happy, wonderful dream in Salt Lake City, Utah, with her husband, their three kids, and their naughty cat named Sunshine. Learn more about her at brooke-smart.com.

Instagram: @bookesmartillustration

 

 

One lucky winner will receive a copy of Code Breaker, Spy Hunter courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers (U.S. addresses). Enter this Rafflecopter giveaway!

Posted in Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction

Fill a Bucket with smiles and kind words

Growing Up with a Bucket Full of Happiness: Three Rules for a Happier Life (10th Anniversary Edition), by Carol McCloud/Illustrated by Penny Weber, (Aug. 2020, Bucket Fillosophy), $9.95, ISBN: 9780996099998

Ages 7-12

When my older kids were in elementary school, their schoolwide book club read a book called Have You Filled a Bucket Today?, and they came home talking about filling buckets and being bucket fillers. When I went into the school, there were bucket-filling pictures hanging up outside the classrooms, and I thought, “Wow, this is really something”. Flash forward 10 years, and I’ve finally read the 10th Anniversary copy of the book in the bucket filler series, this one for intermediate and middle grade readers, Growing Up with a Bucket Full of Happiness. It’s a series of rules for living kindly, and there are three: Be a Bucket Filler, Don’t Dip, and Use Your Lid. The premise is smart: we all have buckets in which we carry our good thoughts and happy feelings, and when we fill other people’s buckets through kind words and good deeds, we fill our own buckets. People who hurt others and are disrespectful are bucket dippers – they take from your bucket and in doing so, take from their own buckets. If you are about to react to someone hurting your feelings, they suggest using a lid to remind you that you can control how you react to someone, but you can’t control their actions. The book is straightforward, with tips and encouraging ways to live kindly, ending with a pledge and journaling/discussion questions. Colorful artwork throughout features illustrations of kids and adults being kind – or unkind – to one another to emphasize the text. It’s something to keep in mind and on your shelves for kids to discover, and to talk about if you have a book group reading nonfiction. We’ve seen enough rampant unkindness over the last few years that maybe it’s time to concentrate on being bucket fillers again. The Bucket Fillers website has free activities to download, including crafts and activities, to help.

Posted in Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction

Little Kid, Big City: a kids’ guide to New York!

Little Kid, Big City: New York, by Beth Beckman/Illustrated by Holly Maher, (Feb. 2021, Quirk Books), $19.99, ISBN: 9781683692447

Ages 7-12

A travel book for kids that includes tips and tricks for navigating New York City, Little Kid, Big City: New York is set up like a choose-your-own-adventure book – just like New York! Most of the action is concentrated in Manhattan, but there are highlights in the outer boroughs, like Rockaway Beach and the Unisphere in my ‘hood, Queens; Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, Coney Island in Brooklyn, and so much more! There are great little inside secrets to New York, too: what makes our bagels taste so good? The water! The pizza? Foldable! Underground art galleries? Check the subways! Read the book straight through, or follow the prompts that give you a choice to wander all over the city. Colorful illustrations capture the buzz of New York by day, and the rhyming text lets little readers enjoy a story about New York City! The book is a spin-off of the Little Kid Big City website, which also has a wealth of information perfect for families traveling to New York, London, Amsterdam, and Washington, DC, and the Instagram account, which has gorgeous photos, guides, and reels.

Let the kids plan the next adventure when we can travel again – many of these sites are still closed at the moment – and you can’t go wrong. Until then, download a free Travel from Home Activity Kit. Back matter includes an “Adventure Index” that provides more in-depth detail about each of the sites visited in the book, and there’s a fold-out map of New York and the boroughs to hang up. Bundle this with Nadja Spiegelman and Sergio García Sánchez’s graphic novel, Lost in NYC, for a full New York experience.

 

Posted in Non-Fiction, picture books

So You Want to Be an Owl? Here’s a crash course!

So You Want to Be an Owl?: Everything There is to Know About Owls!, by Jane Porter/Illustrated by Maddie Frost, (Jan. 2021, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536215212

Ages 5-9

Picture book nonfiction at its most fun! Professor Olaf Owl is here to show you, new Owl recruit, how to be an owl, as concerned as he is about your lack of feathers, inability to fly, and lack of more than one set off eyelids. Can you cut it as a member of Team Owl? So You Want to Be an Owl? is loaded with facts about owls, with bold, mixed media artwork that readers will love. Organized into nine lessons, readers will learn about an owl’s feathers (not waterproof!), how they camouflage, hunt and eat, and the different sounds they make: it’s not just “Hoot”! Professor Owl is a fun, slightly snarky, guide through the book, adding amusing commentary and despairing over whether a human student could possibly match up to the superior owl. It’s fun, it’s funny, and the artwork is bright and cheery. Absolutely fun, and begging to be matched up with one of my favorite owl crafts from my Harry Potter program; this owl treat bag craft is adorable, too! Pair with some of my favorite owl stories, like This is Owl by Libby Walden and Divya Srinivasan’s Owl books, for a fun owl storytime.

Posted in Non-Fiction, picture books

Award winner: All the Way to the Top!

All the Way to the Top: How One Girl’s Fight for American with Disabilities Changed Everything, by Annette Bay Pimentel/Illustrated by Nabi H. Ali, (March 2020, Sourcebooks Explore), $17.99, ISBN: 9781492688976

Ages 4-8

A Schneider Family Book Award Honoree, All the Way to the Top is activist Jennifer Keelan’s story. Diagnosed with cerebral palsy as a child, Jennifer used a wheelchair to get around, but found that “buses, museums, libraries, and even schools that were accessible to my able-bodied peers were not accessible to me because there were no wheelchair ramps”. Becoming an activist at age 6, Jennifer found her voice when her family brought her to strategy meetings and protests for the right to access and to push for the Americans for Disabilities Act (ADA). Most of All the Way to the Top takes place in Jennifer’s early childhood, leading up to her history-making moment in 1990, when, at the age of 9, she took part in the Capitol Crawl, where protestors left their wheelchairs and mobility aids aside and crawled up the Capitol steps to demonstrate the need for accessible architecture. All the Way to the Top is a powerful story about a major moment in history, and illustrates how important it is that children are invited to discussions about policies that affect them. Back matter includes information about activism, the access, the life before and after the ADA, timeline for both the Disability Rights Movement and Jennifer Keelan-Chaffin’s life, and a bibliography. Nabi Ali’s illustrations show expressive, diverse groups of people assembling to discuss and advocate for themselves and others. Jennifer and her younger sister, who attended protests with her, stand out in crowd scenes, with the sisters rendered in full color and the crowd in various monochromatic shades.

Britannica Kids has an entry on the ADA for students, and readers can learn more about Jennifer Keelan-Chaffins at her website. Publisher Sourcebooks has a free, downloadable Educator’s Guide available, and the book detail page has an interview with author Annette Bay Pimentel and more.

Posted in Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction, Tween Reads, Uncategorized

Last-second stocking stuffers!

I know, the clock is ticking down, and you need stocking stuffers. I’ve got stocking stuffers. Read on.

Show-How Guides: Friendship Bracelets, by Keith Zoo, (Aug. 2020, Odd Dot Books), $5.99, ISBN: 9781250249968

Ages 6-11

Remember friendship bracelets? Wow, I made so many of those back in the ’80s. Well, they’re back! Odd Dot’s Show How Guides are a series of quick and easy, step-by-step books that walk readers through the steps in making different crafts, like hair braiding, making slime and sand, hand-lettering, and making paper airplanes. Odd Dot was kind enough to send me a copy of Friendship Bracelets, which I loved. Two-color illustrations include friendly shapes that talk to the readers; materials needed for each craft are up front, as is a short table of contents. These guides are all about the essentials: the basics needed to get started on your journey. You can always look for more complex stuff when you’re ready to move on. These books are no pressure. There are 10 types of friendship bracelets included here: macramé, zipper, twist, wrap, butterfly, box, fishtail, diagonal, chevron, and braid, and each bracelet has an illustrated, numbered, step-by-step series to complete the bracelet. It’s a great gift idea, especially if you want to pick up some materials (embroidery floss, a tape measure, pair of scissors, and a binder clip or tape) to put together a little starter kit.

Perfect stocking stuffer, and for me? Perfect make and take craft idea to put together for my library kids. Enjoy!

 

 

Brain Candy 2: Seriously Sweet Facts to Satisfy Your Curiosity, by National Geographic Kids, (Oct. 2020, National Geographic Kids), $8.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-3886-1

Ages 7-12

More facts, more photos, more fun! Brain Candy 2 is the second Brain Candy book from NatGeo Kids. It’s digest-sized, fits nicely into schoolbags and Mom’s purse, and is chock-full of the coolest facts about just about everything and anything. Misleading animals names, sneaky animal predators, and wacky whale behaviors are just a few of the facts readers will find in here. Facts go from the giggle-worthy: birds, octopuses, and sloths don’t pass gas – to the spooky: visitors to a German castle report hearing the armor of the knights who once protected it. NatGeo always maintains a respectful sense of conservation and preservation, too, including facts about how much plastic has been pulled from our planet’s waters (hint: A LOT). Always informative, always fun, these digest-sized books are great gift ideas, are worth their weight in gold for my circulation, and are almost impossible to sneak out of my Kiddo’s room so I can review them.

Bundle this with some actual holiday sweets and call it a stocking stuffer. Ta-Da!

 

 

Nerdlet (A Little Book of Nerdy Stuff): Animals, by T.J. Resler, (Sept. 2020, National Geographic Kids), $9.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-38724

Ages 8-12

I’m going to take a moment to bask in the fact that being called a Nerd is having its moment. Okay, I’m done. NatGeo Kids’s Nerdlet is a little book made for “animal nerds”: kids who can’t get enough of reading cool facts about animals. Digest-sized like Brain Candy and Brain Candy 2, Nerdlet has all of the NatGeo-famous gorgeous color photos, with slightly denser text for a more middle-grader reader. Fun Facts and Nerd Alerts – callout boxes with bizarre and brainy facts – run throughout. Nerds of Note introduce readers to animal researchers and professionals. Discover an island of cats on Taiwan, follow a flow chart to discover what type of fox you’d be, and learn to tell the different types of spotted cats apart. Nerdlet has it all and then some. Perfect for animal fans! Buy a little plush or some animal toys (Kiddo has so many of those animal tubes laying around his room) and you’ve saved Christmas.

Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction, picture books

Black Lives, Black History

The Big Day, by Terry Lee Caruthers/Illustrated by Robert Casilla, (Oct. 2020, Star Bright Books), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-59572-913-2

Ages 5-8

This celebration of suffrage and Black women voters is a fictionalized story of Agnes Sadler, the first Black woman to legally vote in Knoxville, Tennessee, in 1919. Agnes, called Big Mama here, wakes her daughter Tansy up and urges her to get moving; today is a “big day”, after all. Tansy and Big Mama dress in their finest, get on the bus, and head to the polls; it’s voting day and women have the vote! A lovely tribute to Black women’s suffrage, Agnes and the other women voters proudly wear sashes; the Black women belong to the “Colored Women’s Political League”, and the white women wear “Votes for Women” sashes. The artwork is colorful, soft, and carries a beautiful, historic feel to it. Endpapers are made up of newspaper articles about women’s suffrage, and back matter provides more information about Agnes Sadler, women’s suffrage and Black women’s role in suffrage, and sources for further reading. A great introduction to Black women’s history, and a good picture book biography on a little-known figure in Black suffrage.

For more information about African American Women and the suffrage movement, visit the Suffragist Memorial, the Black Women’s Suffrage Digital Collection, and National Geographic.

A Voice Named Aretha, by Katheryn Russell-Brown/Illustrated by Laura Freeman, (Jan. 2020, Bloomsbury Kids USA), $17.99, ISBN: 9781681198507

Ages 5-8

All hail the Queen of Soul! This picture book biography on Aretha Franklin starts from her beginnings, singing in her father’s church choir through her singing for President Barack Obama (and bringing him to tears). Covering Aretha’s social justice work, Katheryn Russell-Brown notes that Aretha refused to perform for “whites only” audiences and her work with civil rights groups and philanthropy. Laura Freeman’s artwork brings Aretha Franklin to life with rich colors and passionate renderings; Aretha’s head thrown back as she sings and plays the piano at 12; clasping her hands to her chest as she belts out a song in the choir, and Barack Obama wiping a tear away as he listens to a lushly garbed Franklin sing onstage. Endpapers are a feast of vinyl and gold records on a deep purple background. Back matter provides more information about Aretha Franklin’s life and music and some of her hit songs. A must-have in your picture book biography section, this is an excellent introduction to a music and civil rights icon.

A Voice Named Aretha has starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal.

 

William Still and His Freedom Stories: The Father of the Underground Railroad, by Don Tate, $18.99, ISBN: 978-1-56145-935-3

Ages 5-8

Written in free verse, Don Tate’s biography of William Still, abolitionist, member of the Underground Railroad, and archivist of stories that reunited families, is simply incredible. Born to former slaves living in New Jersey, William Still grew up with a desire to learn and a desire for justice. He moved to Philadelphia and worked with the Anti-Slavery Society, where he took on greater roles, ultimately becoming part of the Underground Railroad. When he reunited his long-lost brother with his family, Still began keeping extensive notes on the people he spoke with, leading to more reunions. The verse is concise but packs emotional punches, like this moment where he meets his brother, Peter: “The man was middle-aged. / Stooped back. Furrowed brow. / Threadbare clothes. / His name was Peter. / He was looking for his mother, his family.” Endpapers include excerpts from Still’s observations. Digital illustrations are emotional and expressive. Another must-have picture book biography. Publisher Peachtree has an excerpt, teacher’s guide, and poster on their website.

William Still and His Freedom Stories: The Father of the Underground Railroad has starred reviews from School Library Journal, Booklist, and Publisher’s Weekly.

 

 

Mary Seacole: Bound for the Battlefield, by Susan Goldman Rubin/Illustrated by Richie Pope, (Oct. 2020, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9780763679941

Ages 8-11

This intermediate picture book biography on Crimean War figure Mary Seacole, born in Kingston, Jamaica, begins with her childhood in Kingston, watching her healer mother care for soldiers with herbal remedies and hoping to be like her one day, through her own healing work with soldiers during the Crimean War and cholera patients in Panama. The book deep dives into the racism she encountered as a biracial woman, including a run-in with Florence Nightingale, who scoffed at her remedies and cures and refused her services. Drawn from Mary Seacole’s own writing, this biography is comprehensive for younger readers, with richly colorful and evocative illustrations. Back matter includes sources notes and a bibliography. An important biography for younger readers.

 

Northbound: A Train Ride Out of Segregation, by Michael S. Bandy & Eric Stein/Illustrated by James E. Ransome, (Oct. 2020, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9780763696504

Ages 6-8

Inspired by author Michael S. Bandy’s memories of taking the train as a child of color during segregation, Northbound tells the story of a boy of color and a white boy becoming friends on a train ride from Alabama to Cincinnati, amid the shifting segregation seating on the train. Young Michael boards the train and goes to the “colored only” section, but when the train leaves Atlanta, the signs come down and he’s free to roam the train. He meets Bobby Ray, a boy his own age and from his own town, and the two become instant friends. Once the train approaches Chattanooga, though, the signs go back up and the new friends are separated. A heart-rending story of separation and segregation, Northbound ends with a spark of hope. The story explains segregation in its most basic terms to children, and encourages discussion about how the story – and our past – parallels with our present. James A. Ransome’s watercolor and collage artwork creates splendid scenery as the train speeds along and the two boys become friends over the course of a train ride; moments of racism, as when the conductor leads Michael out of the “whites only” car when the train approaches Chattanooga, are emotional; the “whites only” harsh white sign stands out like an ugly scar across a lovely painting. An author’s note explains the Interstate Commerce Act and how segregation played into it.

Northbound: A Train Ride Out of Segregation has starred reviews from Kirkus and Publishers Weekly.

Posted in Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction

Creepy, Kooky, Oogie: Weird But True Halloween!

Weird But True! Halloween: 300 Facts to Scare You Silly, by Julie Beer & Michelle Harris, (Sept. 2020, NatGeo Kids), $8.99, ISBN: 978-1426338281

Ages 7-12

These books are the backbone of my nonfiction section. These little Weird But True! books MOVE; kids love the wild facts that NatGeo writers keep unearthing, and the incredible photos throughout are creepy, freaky, and downright cute. What facts await us in this volume? There are some good ones: a theme park in St. Louis, Missouri, held a “Coffin Challenge” where contestants lay in a coffin for 30 hours to win a prize; there are gummy tarantulas the size of a kid’s hand; there are more Halloween emojis than there are U.S. states. There’s a Halloween theme running through, with Halloween-themed facts, eerie facts, and overall Fall facts. These don’t even require a handselling in my library – I just put it on the shelf and watch the kids surge. The NatGeo Kids digests are essential for pleasurable, nonfiction, reading.

 

Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction

Books from Quarantine: Tag Your Dreams!

Tag Your Dreams: Poems of Play and Persistence, by Jacqueline Jules/Illustrated by Iris Deppe, (Apr. 2020, Albert Whitman & Company), $17.99, ISBN: 9780807567265

Ages 7-10

I’m getting that TBR under control a little more every day! Tag Your Dreams is a book of poetry about sports and play for kids, but it’s more than that. These are poems about endurance, self-esteem, community, and reaching goals. It’s about a girl reaching out to a new friend by reciting a rhyme that her Guatemalan grandmother taught her (“Clapping  Hands”); it’s about a girl, swimming gracefully, mermaid-like, as she remembers being bullied for her weight earlier that day (“Mermaid Manatee”); a father and son cruising through a park on matching scooters (“Kick Scooters”), and a playground where “Spanish jumps just as high as English” as the kids skip rope and sing together. A multicultural group of adults and kids come together on these pages to play, to laugh, and to inspire readers. Jacqueline Jules, award-winning author of the Zapato Power and Sofia Martinez book series, created 31 poems about the power of play and the power of persistence to motivate readers: motivate them to play, motivate them to embrace themselves, and work as part of a team while striving to be their best. Iris Deppe’s colorful artwork shows children and grown-ups together in various stages of play: clapping hands underneath a tree, reaching for a ball in the outfield, or walking a trail with grandparents. A nice addition to poetry collections, with positive messages that we need more than ever these days.

Jacqueline Jules’s author webpage has information about her books and plenty of free, downloadable activities connected to her books.