Posted in Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction, picture books, Preschool Reads, Tween Reads

Space… The Final Frontier…

…these are the voyages of the starship Bibliomaniac. My continuing mission: to bring you the coolest books about space, while butchering a beloved TV show’s intro. This post has a books that should appeal to fiction and non-fiction lovers alike. Because it’s SPACE! Planets! Stars! Rocket ships!

So whaddaya say? Join me! After all…

Stardust Explores the Solar System (Stardust Science), by Bailey and Douglas Harris, (Apr. 2018, StoryBook Genius Publishing), $10.95, ISBN: 9781941434918

Ages 5-9

Stardust Science is a kids’ nonfiction series from a small-press publisher that I’ve just been turned onto. Bailey and Douglas Harris are a daughter-father team who write some pretty fun books starring a girl who loves science and is named named Stardust. Stardust Explores the Solar System is the second Stardust book, and here, Stardust takes readers on a tour of our solar system and its formation, and a trip to each planet. Spreads have a brief, informative paragraph and artwork placing Stardust on each planet, whether she’s driving an exploration craft across Venus or freezing atop Uranus. Extra fun facts focus on the possibility of extraterrestrial life, the Kuiper belt and dwarf planets, and the asteroid belt. Stardust Explores the Solar System was a successful 2017 Kickstarter (which is where I found the internal artwork for this post), and there’s a current Kickstarter for the next book, Stardust Explores Earth’s Wonders. You can pick up copies of My Name is Stardust and Stardust Explores the Solar System from the Stardust Science webpage.

It’s a fun book, co-written by a 12-year old Neil DeGrasse Tyson fan, so how can you go wrong? It’s a nice additional book to big collections, and a sweet way to empower your younger readers. My 6-year-old loves this one and says he’s ready to write his own book.


The Universe Ate My Homework, by David Zeltser/Illustrated by Ayesha L. Rubio, (Aug. 2018, Carolrhoda Books), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1512417982

Ages 6-8

Abby’s a little girl who has homework to do, but UGH. She’d rather be stargazing with her dog, Cosmo, or talking to her physicist dad. He’s been thinking about universes, and how to make a baby universe, which gets Abby thinking. She sneaks into her dad’s study and works on making her own black holeout of the dreaded homework! It takes a lot of squeezing and a lot of energy, but Abby and Cosmo have done it! But what happens when a black hole’s gravity kicks in? HELP!

This is an absolute fun way to explain the science of black holes to kiddos. What better way to get rid of your homework than by turning it into an actual science experiment? Kids will be squeezing the daylights out of their looseleaf for weeks to come, waiting for their own wee Big Bang. The artwork is too much fun, with something to see in every spread: the John Coltrane album and record player in the family living room; Dad’s study is loaded with things to see, including a framed picture of Marie Curie, family photo, Abby’s family drawing, and a postcard depicting a scene from  Georges Méliès’s 1902 A Trip to the Moon. The mini galaxy Abby creates unfolds for readers, starting first with swirls and stars, then with planets. It’s a fun book that makes for a great storytime, and a teacher’s note to Abby (you didn’t forget about the homework, did you?) at the story’s end will leave kids and adults alike laughing out loud. An author’s note gives a little more information about black holes and baby universes. Add this one to your collections and get your little ones contemplating astrophysics!

Apollo 8: The Mission That Changed Everything, by Martin W. Sandler, (Oct. 2018, Candlewick), $24.99, ISBN: 978-0-7636-9489-0

Ages 10+

It was 1968, and the U.S. was about to make a huge gamble. America was deep into the Cold War with the USSR, and the country was fraying at the seams after the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy; it was a country where the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War caused violent clashes. We needed something to unite us. Russia had already launched the first man-made satellite to orbit Earth, Sputnik I – in 1957, but now, they were getting ready to go to the moon. America was determined to get there first. But first, we had to get into space.

Apollo 8: The Mission That Changed Everything is a brilliantly written chronicle of NASA’s mission to put a craft into orbit around the earth. Loaded with black and white and color archival photos and written by one of the most well-known names in children’s and young adult nonfiction, this is a must-have for your middle grade and middle school collections. With the 50th anniversary celebration of the Apollo 8 mission falling in December of this year, this is going to be an in-demand title in classrooms and libraries. Martin W. Sandler is an award-winning writer – a two-time Pulitzer nominee, five-time Emmy winner, and Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor winner – who makes nonfiction read as compulsively as solid fiction; There are extensive source notes and a bibliography for further reading and research.

Earthrise: Apollo 8 and the Photo That Changed the World, by James Gladstone/Illustrated by Christy Lundy, (Oct. 2018, OwlKids Books), $16.95, ISBN: 9781771473163
Ages 4-8
This is the year for Apollo 8 books! Earthrise is a gorgeous picture book that tells that story of Earthrise, the history-making photo of Earth, taken from lunar orbit, taken by astronaut Bill Anders. The story shows readers how this single photo took us from a planet full of conflict to a global community – if only for a moment. We see the story from shifting perspectives: the crowds gathered in anticipation, the men in Mission Control, and an African-American family, with a little girl who dreams of being an astronaut one day.
The text is just beautiful. James Gladstone creates a mood of wonder as he writes lines like, “Now the craft was coasting on a human dream, speeding the crew off to another world”, and “The astronauts saw the whole turning Earth – no countries, no borders – floating in the vastness of space”. Back matter includes a piece on how the Earthrise photo changed the world, and an invitation to readers to share what Earthrise means to them. It’s the perfect program in a book! Show the original Apollo 8 launch broadcast, this NASA Apollo 8 documentary, and/or the broadcast Apollo 8 Christmas Eve message and ask kids to talk about what seeing the Earthrise makes them feel, 50 years later. Paired with Christy Lundy’s vintage-inspired artwork, Earthrise is a necessity in your nonfiction collections. Earthrise has a starred review from Kirkus.
To the Moon and Back, by Buzz Aldrin with Marianne J. Dyson/Paper engineering by Bruce Foster, (Oct. 2018, National Geographic), $32, ISBN: 978-1-4263-3249-4
Ages 6+
How much fun is a pop-up book about SPACE? With ROCKETS?! Buzz Aldrin, Marianne J. Dyson, and Bruce Foster take readers on a trip through “humanity’s greatest adventure”. Learn Buzz Aldrin’s nickname on the mission; read about the launch and landing; souvenirs left on the lunar surface, and the astronauts’ return, all accompanied by amazing paper engineering: pop-up rockets, fold-out lunar landings, and side flaps that offer even greater information – and a few laughs. If you’re getting this for a library or classroom collection, put it in reference; it will get beaten up pretty quickly. The book also comes with a paper Apollo 11 lunar module kids can engineer on their own. (We haven’t built that one yet.) Want to make a space fan happy? Put this on your holiday and special occasion shopping lists. Read more about the 1969 Moon Landing on NatGeo’s webpage.
Whew! Okay, that’s all I’ve got for now, go forth and explore!

Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction, Non-Fiction, picture books

Sewing the Rainbow: The Story of a Flag and a Movement

Sewing the Rainbow: The Story of Gilbert Baker and the Rainbow Flag, by Gayle E. Pitman/Illustrated by Holly Clifton-Brown, (May 2018, Magination Press), $16.95, ISBN: 9781433829024

Ages 5-8

Artist and gay rights activist Gilbert Baker started out as a little boy in Kansas who “was full of color and sparkle and glitter”; a little boy who would draw gowns and costumes alongside his clothing store proprietor grandmother. But his father would destroy his drawings and push Gilbert toward more “manly” pursuits: slingshots, erector sets, and sports. Being drafted at the age of 18 made Gilbert more miserable as he suffered hazing from his fellow soldiers for refusing to carry a gun, but being arriving in San Francisco finally brought the sparkle back to Baker’s life. He taught himself to sew and began designing dresses, costumes, and banners for activists and entertainers. And then came his friend Harvey Milk, who asked him for Baker’s greatest undertaking: create a flag to unite the gay rights, or LGBT, movement.

The story of the rainbow flag is just as much Gilbert Baker’s story as it is the LGBTQ+ movement’s story. Dr. Gayle Pitman tells the story of a sensitive boy who loved art and grew up to unite the world. Holly Clifton-Brown’s colorful illustrations give us an apple-cheeked, sweet-faced boy who just wants to create; her artwork goes wonderfully hand-in-hand with Dr. Pitman’s prose to engender empathy in reader. I love and adore Dr. Pitman’s observation that our generation, and future generations, will see the flag and know that it’s okay to be your colorful, sparkly, glittery self.”

Back matter goes into more detail about Gilbert Baker and the rainbow flag (which, chosen by Baker, is in part inspired by a Bible quote: Genesis 9:13). This story pairs nicely with Rob Sanders and Steven Salerno’s book, Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag, which has a nice little cameo by a grown-up Gilbert. Sewing the Rainbow is a must-add to your biography collections.

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

Great crossover YA: You and I Eat the Same brings the world to the table

You and I Eat the Same, edited by Chris Ying & René Redzepi, (Oct. 2018, Artisan Books), $19.95, ISBN: 9781579658403

Ages 13+

MAD, the Danish word for food, is a cultural symposium founded by chef René Redzepi and editor of the food magazine, Lucky Peach, Chris Ying. You and I Eat the Same is the first in a series of MAD Dispatches the two plan to release, with essays on how food brings different cultures together and how we can work on making food better – better for the environment, better for the people who farm and curate it, better for all of us, because we consume it.

There are 19 essays in this first volume, each running anywhere from 2-12 pages, on such topics as sesame seeds, flatbreads and how every culture wraps their meat in some kind of one, and, my favorite, “Coffee Saves Lives”. Ask any of my coworkers, family, or friends, and they will heartily agree.

Each essay looks at culture and food’s role in those cultures. The writing is light and instantly readable, bringing diversity into our homes and our lives. Tienlon Ho’s “One Seed Rules Them All” says of sesame seeds that “a dish can feel of one place, while being from another”; really, the sesame seed can bring about world peace: “Humans have a remarkable ability to agree on hummus’s deliciousness while disagreeing about everything else.” Redzepi’s “If It Does Well Here, It Belongs Well Here” exhorts that “the day we can’t travel and move and learn from each other is the day we all turn into crazy nationalists” – a very timely statement. Did you know that there’s a Mennonite community in Mexico? Read Michael Snyder’s “Mennonite Cheese is Mexican Cheese” and learn the history of this colony’s move. “People Will Eat Anything” is an alphabetical rundown of culinary delights, from abalone and confused flour beetle to zebra.

There are gorgeous, full-color photos throughout, and the writing praises culinary and cultural diversity in the best ways: breaking bread together is great, but growing it and helping others do it is even better. As Redzepi says in his foreword that, “If we can share a meal, maybe we can share a conversation, too.”

I’d love to get this into my YA collection; I think teens will appreciate this message. We live in Queens, a community where we can travel the world by going outside and visiting a food truck, a dim sum house, and a mozzarepa vendor all within a 10-block radius. I’m looking forward to more MAD Dispatches and would love to see one of their symposiums. In the meantime, though, I’ll content myself with videos on their website.

You and I Eat the Same is a great add to any collection, any foodie fan’s bookshelf, and is a smart YA crossover bet.

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

When you absolutely need to know Absolutely Everything…

Absolutely Everything! A History of Earth, Dinosaurs, Rulers, Robots and Other Things Too Numerous to Mention, by Christopher Lloyd/Illustrated by Andy Forshaw (Oct. 2018, What On Earth Books), $21.99, ISBN: 9781999802837

Ages 10-14

Absolutely Everything is the history of the world, organized into 15 chapters with catchy names like, “Nothing to Something” to describe the Big Bang and formation of the universe; “Meanwhile, in Asia”; “Medieval Misery”, and “To Be Continued”, which takes readers from 1945 to the present. Each chapter and era starts off with a two-page timeline of the time period covered, and is color coded along the page side, so readers can go directly to a desired time period with ease. The text is illustrated with color renderings and photos of animals, galaxies, people, and places.

The text never speaks over kids’ heads or down to them; it’s engaging, smart, and taps into the cool factor of nonfiction by inviting readers to join the author on a journey. Christopher Lloyd uses inclusive, inviting language, whether he’s inviting readers go on an imaginary dive to check out Paleozoic creatures or asking them to imagine our brains as mind-reading technology that helps decode other languages. He makes learning a cooperative activity, and he does it by letting the reader guide his or her own experience. Back matter includes further reading, a glossary, and an index.

Absolutely Everything! is a nice desktop reference for students, and is a good jumping off point for nonfiction readers to find something they like and seek out more. If you have Christopher Lloyd’s Wallbooks, get them up and displayed – those fold-out timelines are great! The What on Earth? activity zone offers free downloadable teacher guides.

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

1968: A year of revolution, through the eyes of YA authors

1968: Today’s Authors Explore a Year of Rebellion, Revolution, and Change, edited by Marc Aronson & Susan Campbell Bartoletti, (Sept. 2018, Candlewick), $18.99, ISBN: 9780763689933

Ages 12+

1968 was an intense year: we lost Dr. Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy to assassins’ bullets; the Vietnam war raged overseas while protests raged here in the States; Olympic athletes raised their hands in protest and military police marched on the Plaza de las Tres Culturas in Mexico City, killing students and civilians during a protest. Fifty years later, where are we? You may be surprised. Fourteen authors share their memories and discuss pivotal events in 1968 in this anthology. David Lubar (Campfire Weenies and Nathan Abercrombie, Accidental Zombie series) discusses stand-up comedy in 1968, while Lenore Look (Alvin Ho and Ruby Lu series) researches  the Chinese Cultural Revolution of 1968 and the lasting impact on China’s citizens. National Book Award longlist nominee Elizabeth Patridge (Boots on the Ground) unites the anthologies with a running “Nightly News” prose poem that gives readers the stark cost of war: month by month tallies of American combat deaths, Vietnamese enemy combat deaths, and Vietnamese civilian deaths.

Each and every piece in 1968 is oustanding; it’s nonfiction that reads like fiction, bringing readers back to that contentious year. Black and white photos throughout capture moments like the Olympic Black Power salute and choppers over Vietnam. There are small moments and sweeping movements, but each observation helps draw important parallels between where we were and where we are; how much we have changed, and how much we have, sadly, remained the same.

The contributor list is an all-star cast of middle grade and YA writers: Jennifer Anthony, Marc Aronson, Susan Campbell Bartoletti, Loree Griffin Burns, Paul Fleischman, Omar Figueras, Laban Carrick Hill, Mark Kurlansky, Lenore Look, David Lubar, Kate MacMillan, Kekla Magoon, Jim Murphy, and Elizabeth Partridge. Publisher Candlewick offers a sample chapter on their website, and I’d love to see a reader’s/educator’s guide written, too. 1968 is an essential add to YA collections, and I’d love to see this on summer reading (and school year reading) lists. This needs to be added to curriculum, DOE.

1968: Today’s Authors Explore a Year of Rebellion, Revolution, and Change has a starred review from Kirkus.


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

Don’t read on an empty stomach: NatGeo Kids Food Fight

Food Fight! A Mouthwatering History of WHO Ate WHAT and WHY Through the Ages, by Tanya Steel, (Sept. 2018, National Geographic Kids), $19.99, ISBN: 9781426331626

Ages 10-14

Did you know that the Visigoths demanded 3,000 pounds of pepper as a gift when they conquered the Western Roman Empire in the 5th Century AD? Or that some medieval bakers whitened their flour with ground bones or chalk? Those are just a few of the wild food facts readers will pick up when they pick up Food Fight! by former Bon Appétit and Food & Wine editor Tanya Steel. Food Fight! is a history of food, combined with some fantastic (and frightful) facts, and recipes. The book covers food fads and eating habits from 14 different moments in history, from the prehistoric era through the 1960s, and there’s a special chapter imagining a future life (and food) on Mars! There are fun Popcorn Quizzes (you can’t have a plain pop quiz in a book about food) throughout, and amazing and hilarious photos, plus quotes from kid chefs who’ve made and enjoyed the 30 recipes you’ll find here. The book kicks off with safety tips, and a food timeline, recipe index, bibliography, and further reading and resources rounds everything out.

Kids in my library are big nonfiction fans, and Food Fight! offers history, fun, and kid-friendly recipes all in one volume. It’s a fun add to collections, and a good gift for budding chefs and food historians. (Psst… introduce older tweens and teens to Alton Brown’s excellent Food Network show, Good Eats, for more food history and cooking tips.) It’s a big plus that author Tanya Steel is a major name in the food journalism, so she knows how to write about food and food history, and she makes it accessible to younger readers. Plus, she originated the White House’s Healthy Lunchtime Challenge & Kids’ State Dinner, hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama, which brought recipes created by young chefs from each state to the White House. Kids are invited to make and upload photos of their Food Fight dishes – check out the Instagram tag #natgeofoodfight, and check out the Food Fight webpage for more info.

Posted in Non-Fiction, Teen

The Ultimate Survival Guide to Being a Girl – it ain’t easy out there

The Ultimate Survival Guide to Being a Girl, by Christina De Witte, with Chrostin, (Aug. 2018, Running Press), $14.99, ISBN: 978-0-7624-9043-1

Ages 13+

Being a teen is tough these days! Social media, body image, school, work… teens are under pressure. Webcomic author and illustrator, Christina De Witte, whose comic Chrostin follows the amusing day-to-day adventures of a young milennial, is here to help with advice on tattoos, sex and relationships, periods, mental and physical health, and more. Black and white illustrations starring Chrostin flow throughout the book.

The book may first present as a guide to puberty for tweens, but this is all for teen girls. Read Chrostin and you’ll quickly see that this is a comic for millennials, not up-and-coming kids. The author is only 20, putting her at a good age to offer advice; the book’s conversational tone and laid back language make this an easy read that readers can pick up at any point. The book is divided into 10 chapters, on issues including Internet safety, diversity, society, love, food, and fashion. She emphasizes healthy eating and endorses a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle, including some quick and tasty recipes that come together cheaply and quickly; she also shares beauty and fashion hacks for a student’s salary.

The Ultimate Survival Guide to Being a Girl is a good reference to have on your shelves for teens. Want to learn a little more about Chrostin? BuzzFeed has a fun Chrostin article from 2016, and you can follow her on Instagram.