Posted in Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Teen, Tween Reads, Young Adult/New Adult

The LEGO Engineer will take your builds to new heights

The LEGO Engineer, by Jeff Friesen, (Nov. 2022, No Starch Press), $24.99, ISBN: 9781718502505

Ages 10+

I am always looking for good LEGO books for my library. We have a weekly LEGO build that the kids love, and I like to make sure I have books around that will inspire them. Jeff Friesen is always a good purchase for me: I’ve got The LEGO Castle Book and LEGO Space Projects and they are chock full of block-spiration. Friesen’s newest, The LEGO Engineer, is another win; this time, taking on some of the most incredible engineering feats ever created, including cable-stayed bridges and a LEGO South Beach, in all its colorful glory. There are over 30 models, all beautifully photographed by Friesen, and include step-by-step illustrated instructions and a wealth of engineering know-how to make your builds as realistic as can be. It’s a beautiful coffee table book for LEGO enthusiasts and it’s a challenging book of ideas for LEGO fans and future engineers. An excellent choice for collections where LEGO books are popular.

Want to see more of Jeff Friesen’s work? Follow his Instagram page. Want more LEGO learning? Visit LEGO’s education page for free lesson plans.

Posted in Non-Fiction, picture books, Women's History

Dressing Up the Stars: A picture book biography with style

Dressing Up the Stars: The Story of Movie Costume Designer Edith Head, by Jeanne Walker Harvey/Illustrated by Diana Toledano , (Sept. 2022, Beach Lane Books), $18.99, ISBN: 9781534451056

Ages 4-8

Famed costume designer Edith Head may be a new name to many younger readers, but Harvey and Toledano’s story about the little girl who grew up dressing up her pets for tea parties and creating dollhouse furniture from scraps will appeal to readers with a creative bent. The story follows Head from her childhood in a Nevada mining town to her move to Los Angeles, where she lost herself in the magic of movies; from her beginnings as a sketch artist who didn’t know how to draw, to her rise as the definitive Hollywood costume designer, Dressing Up the Stars focuses on Head’s resolute determination to create her own movie magic. Back matter includes an author’s note on Edith Head’s life and career. Mixed media artwork creates a variety of textures, and colorful illustration stands out against the pale backgrounds, much like Edith Head, who famously dressed in grays, whites, and blacks so that “the movie stars could imagine themselves in their roles”. A very good addition to picture book biography collections. If you have maker programming at your library or in your classroom, Dressing Up the Stars is an especially essential purchase for your collection.

Download a free Dressing Up the Stars activity kit from Jeanne Walker Harvey’s website. Encyclopedia Britannica has an entry on Edith Head, and online magazine supplement The Cut has an article featuring 30 of Edith Head’s designs that you may be interested in sharing with readers.

Jeanne Walker Harvey has had many jobs, ranging from working as a roller coaster ride operator to an attorney for high-tech companies to a writer of magazine articles to a teacher of Language Arts and writing workshops at a public middle school. She has also been a longtime docent at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. She is the author of several books for young readers, including the picture book biographies Dressing up the Stars: The Story of Movie Costume Designer Edith Head, Ablaze with Color: A Story of Painter Alma Thomas, Maya Lin: Artist-Architect of Light and Lines and My Hands Sing the BluesRomare Bearden’s Childhood Journey. Jeanne studied literature and psychology at Stanford University. She lives in Northern California. Visit her online at www.jeanneharvey.com.

Twitter: @JeanneWHarvey

Pinterest: @JeanneWalkerHarvey

Check out the many resources here at Jeanne Walker Harvey’s website!

 

Diana Toledano is the illustrator of picture books including One Snowy Day by Diana Murray and the Polly Diamond series by Alice Kuipers. She grew up in Spain and now lives in Sacramento with her husband and their young daughter. Learn more at Diana-Toledano.com.

Instagram: @dianatoledano

Facebook: Diana Toledano

Pinterest: Diana Toledano

Posted in History, Middle School, Non-Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads

Seen and Unseen captures the Japanese American Incarceration

Seen and Unseen: What Dorothea Lange, Toyo Miyatake, and Ansel Adams’s Photographs Reveal About the Japanese American Incarceration, by Elizabeth Partridge/Illustrated by Lauren Tamaki, (Oct. 2022, Chronicle Books), $21.99, ISBN: 9781452165103

Ages 10-14

The 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor guaranteed America’s involvement in World War II, but it also sparked a wave of anti-Asian sentiment that resulted in Japanese families – included American-born citizens – sent to internment camps across the country. Three photographers – Dorothea Lange, Toyo Miyatake, and Ansel Adams  – captured the lives of the incarcerated families, now revisited in Seen and Unseen. Partridge, award-winning author and Dorothea Lange’s goddaughter joins forces with illustrator Lauren Tamaki to create a unique nonfiction story of these interrupted lives, with Tamaki’s artwork woven in with black and white photographs and quotes from those who were there. Each photographer approached the project with their own goals: Lange was critical of the U.S. policy that imprisoned the Japanese; she intended to show the incarceration in all of its brutality. Miyatake was a Japanese-born photographer interned in one of the camps; he smuggled in photography equipment to show the public what really went on in the camps. Adams hoped to concentrate on the resilience of the imprisoned. All three accomplished their initiatives, leaving a body of work that shows future generations that fear and mistrust can divide a nation. Photographs, illustrations, and primary sources, plus generous back matter and notes make this an excellent, necessary purchase for elementary and middle school nonfiction collections.

Seen and Unseen has starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, and Kirkus.

Posted in Graphic Novels, History, Non-Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads, Young Adult/New Adult

Graphic Novel Biographies: Nat Love and Bluma & Felix Goldberg

Best Shot in the West: The Thrilling Adventures of Nat Love – The Legendary Cowboy!, by Patricia C. McKissack and Frederick L. McKissack, Jr./Illustrated by Randy Duburke, (Aug. 2022, Chronicle Books), $9.99, ISBN: 9781797212517

Ages 10-13

Originally published in 2012, this graphic novel biography of Nat Love, also known as Deadwood Dick, one of the most famous African-American cowboys in the Old West. Based on Love’s 1907 autobiography, The Life and Adventures of Nat Love, Better Known in the Cattle Country as “Deadwood Dick,” Best Shot in the West‘s adaptation by children’s literature greats Patricia and Frederick McKissack is told in Love’s voice, from his 1854 birth into slavery in Tennessee; his leaving home to find work as a cowpoke and his adventures across the country, and his decision to marry and work as a railroad porter in his later years. The McKissacks created a faithful adaptation that appeals to a younger readership, and Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award Winner Randy Duburke’s painted work brings Love’s work to life, with gray wash over color to add a sepia-toned aging to the artwork. A good purchase for libraries with robust graphic novel biographies and historical U.S. collections. Pair with books like Black Heroes of the Wild West and Bad News for Outlaws for a display on the Wild West your readers didn’t learn about!

 

 

We Survived the Holocaust: The Bluma and Felix Goldberg Story, by Frank W. Baker/Illustrated by Tim E. Ogline, (Sept. 2022, Imagine & Wonder), $19.99, ISBN: 9781637610206

Ages 14-18

In 2000, Holocaust survivor Felix Goldberg handed media literacy educator Frank W. Baker a copy of the speech he’d just delivered to a South Carolina synagogue and asked him to “do something with this”. Baker worked with the Goldberg’s children and illustrator Tim E. Ogline to bring Felix’s and Bluma’s stories to the world. Rendered in stark black and white, their stories unfold: Felix’s and Bluma’s early lives in Poland parallel the growing wave of hate and rage running through Germany; the antisemitic propaganda that dehumanized and turned a nation against a people; the explosion of violence that began the Holocaust. Felix and Bluma experienced untold horrors across concentration camps and death marches, losing family members but finding one another in a displaced persons camp, and arriving in America to begin a life together. It is an moving and powerful story, and a strong book to put on shelves next to Maus. Back matter includes a timeline of events; a glossary; recommended resources for further reading, and an index. You can find a Readers Guide at the Stories of Survival website.

 

Posted in Middle School, Non-Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads, Young Adult/New Adult

New LEGO Mindstorms books from No Starch Press!

If you have tinkerers or a robotics league in your community, you may already be familiar with No Starch Press and their solid LEGO Mindstorms catalog. I’m a No Starch fan and regularly buy their computing books for both my kids and adult collections, but their Mindstorms books really are worthy of their own shout-out. I’ve used them in my own library when I had a robotics league, and they were a tremendous help to me and my team as we navigated getting the machines built and running. There are two new Mindstorms books coming out that are worth a look for your shelves.

Getting Started with LEGO® MINDSTORMS: Learn the Basics of Building and Programming Robots, by Barbara Bratzel & Rob Torok, (Oct. 2022, No Starch Press), $19.99, ISBN: 9781718502420

Ages 12+

Anyone embarking on LEGO Mindstorms robotics will find Getting Started with LEGO Mindstorms an essential reference to have on hand. Written with a friendly, easy-to-follow voice, the book provides information you and your readers will need to build your first robot, work with the Mindstorms app, and troubleshoot and refine your robots as you go. The book covers sensors, remote control, sound, light, and movement. Are you new to programming? The book introduces readers to Word Blocks, a visual programming language based on Scratch and is very user-friendly. If you’ve never delved into robotics, DON’T PANIC: this is a supremely intuitive guide that’s meant to foster an interest in programming, building, and working with LEGO Mindstorms robots. You and your readers are safe in Barbara Bratzel’s and Rob Torok’s capable hands.

 

Mastering LEGO® MINDSTORMS: Build Better Robots with Python and Word Blocks, by Barbara Bratzel & Rob Torok, (Oct. 2022, No Starch Press), $19.99, ISBN: 9781718503144

Ages 12+

You want your readers to expand their expertise on LEGO Mindstorms. Mastering LEGO Mindstorms will get them there. Moving up from basic Word Blocks programming, Mastering LEGO Mindstorms expands robotics builders’ skills by introducing Python language programming, letting users write text-based code. There’s still how-tos on designing and building, with expanded programming techniques to encourage the casual builder to grow their schools and move toward more sophisticated robotics engineering. There are chapters on gears and mechanisms, moving gyro sensors, and games and “Ultimate Challenges” to test your engineers’ mettle. Photos are incredibly helpful and the informative text is as supportive as it is educational. Bratzel is an elementary school STEM educator and Torok is a secondary STEM educator; both are Mindstorms educators who explain robotics in a way that respects the reader while challenging them.

Getting Started with LEGO® MINDSTORMS and Mastering LEGO® MINDSTORMS are excellent additions to your STEM/STEAM collections. If you have robotics leagues or maker labs in your community, they are essential. 

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

New nonfiction for Back to School

So the kids have been back to school for a minute. My Corona Kids are back in the library in full force – where were you all Summer, my friends? – and roaming the nonfiction stacks in search of stuff that interests them. I love this time of year, because this is the time where kids come in looking for nonfiction that relates to things they may be starting to learn about, or come across in school; whether other kids are talking about things they pick up on, they’ve seen something either in the halls or the library, or just noticed on TV. They’re in a learning frame of mind, and want nonfiction that sparks their brains. I’ve got some good picks here to share.

National Geographic Kids Dinosaur Atlas, by National Geographic, (Sept. 2022, National Geographic Kids), $24.99, ISBN: 9781426372797

Ages 7-10

This is a no-fail, no-brainer purchase: it’s NatGeo Kids and it’s dinosaurs. Both are easily the rock stars of my nonfiction collection. The Dinosaur Atlas is everything my kids (my own and my Corona Kids) love: full-color artists’ renderings of dinosaurs (now with feathers!), vibrant color photos of fossils and fossil sites, and readable maps to highlight where featured dinosaurs lived. Organized into periods of time: Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous, the “Preshistoric Planet” section is further organized into habitats, dinosaurs, and life in each era. “Finding Fossils” organizes dinosaur-centric areas of the world and further breaks down into spotlights on locations and the dinosaurs who roamed them. Fast facts, paleontologist profiles, and dino timelines run throughout the book; phonetic spelling helps reader pronounce each name. Back matter includes a Dino Dictionary, glossary, and further reading resources. This oversized reference is magic for dinosaur collections and is an essential purchase.

 

Can’t Get Enough Space Stuff: Fun Facts, Awesome Info, Cool Games, Silly Jokes, and More!, by National Geographic Kids, (Aug. 2022, National Geographic Kids), $14.99, ISBN: 9781426372803

Ages 7-10

Nat Geo Kids’s Can’t Get Enough series has a new home run: Can’t Get Enough Space Stuff is loaded with photos, facts, games, and jokes about space. Great for trivia and STEM/STEAM groups: quiz your kids on astronaut facts or print out pictures of clocks to illustrate how long a day is on other planets; Try It Out! spreads help guide you and your readers through outer space crafts like a scale model of the solar system. Keep one in reference for yourself and put one in circulation. The Can’t Get Enough books are fun, loaded with facts, and just great purchases.

 

5,000 Awesome Facts About Animals, by National Geographic, (Sept. 2022, National Geographic Kids), $19.99, ISBN: 9781426372612

Ages 8-12

These facts books are a staple in my collection. My readers love fast, fun facts, accompanied by the gorgeous photos of adorable animals. This is an animal fan’s dream; a trivia fan’s delight, and a program backbone: Animal Jeopardy! Animal Question of the Day! Help, I need some extra facts for a report I’m writing on [insert animal here]! One of my Corona Kids was in last week and asked for “books with fun facts about animals”; books like this are tailor-made for those kids. Each section has a fun title to bring related facts together: “24 Burly Facts About Animal Tough Guys”; “100 Pup-ular Facts About Dogs”; “15 Facts About Animal Mascots to Cheer For”. Facts are fun and informative: Socks, the Clinton’s Presidential cat, was the first presidential pet to have a website, and the Obama’s dog, Bo, had  his own trading card. Ostriches flutter their wings to create a breeze to cool themselves down. A group of mountain gorillas is called a troop. You can have endless fun with this book, and your readers will love it.

 

The Power of Architecture: 25 Modern Buildings from Around the World, by Annette Roeder/Illustrated by Pamela Baron (Sept. 2022, Prestel Junior), $19.95, ISBN: 9783791375144

Ages 8-12

I love finding a good architecture book for middle grade. Recent picture book biographies like Maya Lin’s picture book biography, Maya Lin: Architect of Light and Lines, and Andrea Beaty’s Questioneers picture and chapter books have led to an interest in how buildings look. Plus, you know… LEGOs. The Power of Architecture showcases 25 modern buildings from all over the world: buildings like the TWA Flight Center at New York’s JFK Airport (I can confirm, it’s a beautiful building) and the Elbe Philharmonic Hall in Hamburg Germany; the scrap metal lily pads of Dandaji Regional Market in Niger, Africa, and the sustainable, environmentally beneficial Tree House in Singapore. Beautiful illustrations give each building center stage and factual, interesting text describes the buildings and what inspired their architects. Thought-provoking questions and suggestions to inspire young architects and designers run throughout the book. The beginning spread shows each building’s location on a world map and a timeline lays out each building’s construction and a biography on each architect. Prestel Junior’s books bring together art and nonfiction in the best of ways and have quickly become stars in my collection. A good purchase if you have budding builders. Put this out during your LEGO challenges and see who it inspires.

The Power of Architecture: 25 Modern Buildings from Around the World was originally published earlier this year in Germany.

 

 

Sleuth & Solve: Science: 20+ Mind-Twisting Mysteries, by Ana Gallo/Illustrated by Victor Escandell, (Oct. 2022, Chronicle Kids), $18.99, ISBN: 9781797214559

Ages 8-12

The latest Sleuth & Solve book from Ana Gallo and Victor Escandell is all about the “why”: what are the scientific causes to these 21 mysteries? Mysteries are classified by subject, with a key to the symbols used in the book. Each mystery has a difficulty grade from Easy to Difficult, and if you were interested in making this a STEM challenge (ahem!), each mystery has a point value. Mysteries are presented across every spread, with a flap disguising the solution: NO CHEATING! Mysteries include a little girl who swears she’s too sick to go to school – but what will her doctor say? Another mystery ponders whether a group of researchers will be able to set out on their journey to the polar ice caps; what does a flock of cranes have to do with this decision? The principles behind each experiment are revealed in the back matter. If you have a strong science experiment/science fair collection, this is a good one to consider.

Posted in Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Middle School, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Tween Reads

Underwear can kill you and other Fake News!

Killer Underwear Invasion: How to Spot Fake News, Disinformation & Conspiracy Theories, by Elise Gravel, (Sept. 2022, Chronicle Books), $14.99, ISBN: 9781797214917

Ages 8-12

Beneath the giggles – and there are many – lies a smart and frank discussion about fake news and disinformation. Elise Gravel breaks it down for middle graders in this graphic novel treatise on responsibly consuming media, with hilarious yet sobering examples. Gravel places fake news in an historical context by starting with a town crier announcing that “an evil magician has turned the king into a goat” and uses examples of politicians, puppy-pinching, and medicinal shampoo consumption to illustrate concepts like clickbait, conspiracy theories, and viral news stories. Her trademark colorful blob creatures lead readers through laugh-out-loud scenarios presenting readers with the whys, hows, and consequences of fake news. Gravel provides straightforward guidelines for readers to follow: thinking critically; checking sources and how to find reliable sources; separating fact from opinion, and more. An excellent introduction to being a smart media observer for middle graders and middle schoolers. A first purchase.

Get a free downloadable teacher’s guide on Chronicle’s Killer Underwear book detail page, and visit Elise Gravel’s webpage for free downloadables – her latest on Peer Review is a perfect accompaniment to Killer Underwear – and blog entries.

Posted in geek culture, Non-Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

A little bit of Comic Con on your bookshelf… See You at San Diego

See You at San Diego : An Oral History of Comic-Con, Fandom, and the Triumph of Geek Culture, by Mathew Klickstein, (Sept. 2022, Fantagraphics), $39.99, ISBN: 9781683966517

Ages 14+

A definitive history of San Diego Comic-Con, See You at San Diego is a personal chronicle of fandom, as members of the convention and fandom community provide their own stories of the rise of Con. From a group of like-minded science fiction and fantasy fans grew a definitive event in comic book culture and fandom history. Here, creators and fan mainstays talk about their teen years, hanging out with Ray Bradbury, making ‘zines, and finding a space to hold a proper comic book convention. Over 400 black and white and color photos throughout show fans and creators, ticket stubs and programs, and featured geek culture luminaries include Neil Gaiman, Kevin Smith, Frank Miller, and the Russo Brothers. A great slice of comic book culture history for collections where you have pop culture readers. Younger readers may not gravitate to this one, but stock this for your teens and young adults if they’re comic book and pop culture fans. With New York Comic Con coming up, this is a good book to have on display; booktalk how San Diego started it all.  Also great to display with works from featured creators.

Visit Matthew Klickstein’s website for more about his books and articles.

Posted in Non-Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Political Memoir: Radical: My Year with a Socialist Senator

Radical: My Year with a Socialist Senator, by Sofia Warren, (June 2022, Top Shelf Productions), $24.99, ISBN: 9781603095129

Ages 14+

New York State senator Julia Salazar first found herself on Brooklyn cartoonist Sofia Warren’s radar in 2018 when the then 27-year-old was a Democratic Socialist running for state senate. Her grassroots campaign inspired and motivated followers, including Sofia Warren. When Salazar won the election, Sofia Warren asked the newly minted state senator if she could chronicle the first year of her tenure; Salazar accepted, and Radical was born. Radical chronicles what happens after the balloons and confetti have been cleaned up and it’s time to get to work. Salazar, whose main focus was affordable housing, had a team of community organizers going up against wealthy landlords and entrenched ways of doing things: the twenty-something Socialist and her followers had their work cut out for them. Sofia Warren spent a year traveling with and speaking to Salazar and her team in order to create an honest portrait of a state senator’s first year in office: traveling to and from Albany; meetings, meetings, meetings; angry public meetings, staff disagreements, gaining and losing ground, all on the way to create legislation. The beginning of the story reads similar to an Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez memoir; something the author is aware of, and Radical will appeal to AOC followers and anyone interested in the inner workings of grassroots politics. Excellent for high school and college courses.

Posted in Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Middle School, Non-Fiction, Tween Reads

Graphic Novels Bonanza Begins with Button Pusher!

Button Pusher, by Tyler Page, (Apr. 2022, First Second), $14.99, ISBN: 9781250758330

Ages 10-14

What did I do on vacation? I read books and played tabletop games! Starting off my graphic novel bonanza is Button Pusher, Eisner-nominated cartoonist Tyler Page’s memoir of living with ADHD. Tyler begins as a rambunctious 8-year-old who can be the class clown or lose track of a lesson as the teacher is speaking. He cuts up a school bus seat but doesn’t really know why he did it, when asked. His teachers think he just likes to be a troublemaker, but that isn’t it, and his mother takes him to the doctor to find out what’s going on, leading to his ADHD – attention deficit hyperactivity disorder – diagnosis. While the memoir centers on Page’s ADHD, and how he moves toward functioning with (and without) medication and treatment, the story also revolves around his school and home life, including the troubled relationship between his parents and his father’s own undiagnosed neurodivergence. The story is incredibly readable and offers sensitive portrayals of Tyler Page and his mother, who works toward understanding and helping her son while in a difficult marriage. Page also touches on male adolescent anxiety, particularly Tyler’s body image issues when he realizes that the medication is contributing to weight gain. Back matter includes an author’s note, samples of Page’s childhood art, and his working process. An informative and outstanding introduction for middle graders to understanding ADHD.

Button Pusher has starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist.