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

Voices of the Second World War connects generations

Voices From the Second World War: Stories of War as Told to Children of Today, by Candlewick Press, (March 2018, Candlewick Press), $24.99, ISBN: 9780763694920

Recommended for readers 10+

As generations grow farther and farther from World War 2, we live in danger of losing the stories of those who lived through the conflict. Voices From the Second World War collects the stories of veterans and citizens alike into one volume, but what sets this book apart from other first-person anecdotes and memories is the bridge that Voices builds: the stories are told to children from this generation; family members and students alike. Originally published in Britain, Voices began as an initiative by the British Children’s newspaper, First News, where they published these collected accounts. There are accounts from military men and women, including the Enola Gay’s navigator, telling the story of how he dropped the bomb on Hiroshima; and there are stories from civilians who endured the conflict, like the 8-year-old boy who survived that bombing, lost his mother and baby sister, and saw his father and surviving sisters die from radiation poisoning. There are stories from concentration camp survivors and German citizens who lived in fear of the Russian troops coming in after the Allied forces left. Vintage photos run throughout the book, and an index and glossary make this a necessary reference for history readers and collections.

 

 

 

 

 

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

Colorama sparks color memory

Colorama: From Fuschia to Midnight Blue, by Cruschiform, (March 2018, Prestel), $24.95, ISBN: 978-3-7913-7328-7

Recommended for readers 10+

You know how a color can evoke a memory, or a feeling? Maybe the color red evokes the memory of reading Little Red Riding Hood as a child; maybe yellow brings back the time you had a favorite pair of rain boots. Colorama: From Fuschia to Midnight Blue works on that idea; memory through shades of color. There are 133 different colors in here, varying monochromatic shades of whites, reds, oranges, yellows, greens, blues, violets, browns, blacks, and grays. Each spread includes an illustration of a color; a description of a color memory, and a full-page swatch of the color. You won’t believe how many shades you’ll find in here; it provides minds with a color palette to draw from, whether through color or through words, and it’s loaded with memory prompts for art and writing ideas. There’s something new to learn with each turn of the page: Milk owes its color to milk proteins and globs of fatty matter; shrimp and flamingoes both owe their coloring to the pigment astaxanthin, and the kiwi fruit is named after the kiwi bird, because the hairy fruit resembles Australia’s national bird’s plumage. There’s an incredible amount of information to be found in this beautiful volume!

(source: Cruschiform website, where pictures are featured from the French text)

This is a multi-purpose reference book that works for upper middle grade, middle school, and high school students that also works as a gift book for a budding artist. Appendixes include a color palette in order of presentation in the book and a thematic index that lays out colors by themes including mammals, birds, clothes and fabrics.

Posted in Middle School, Non-Fiction, Tween Reads, Women's History, Young Adult/New Adult

House of Dreams looks at a classic author’s life

House of Dreams: The Life of L.M. Montgomery, by Liz Rosenberg/Illustrated by Julie Morstad, (June 2018, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9780763660574

Recommended for readers 10+

This illustrated biography of Maud Montgomery, the author of the Anne of Green Gables series, is a must-have for middle school and up biography readers. Her mother died when she was a toddler; her father left her in the care of her grandparents, and Maud grew up wanting more: passionate love and affection; education; a career as an author. She dealt with anxiety and depression throughout her life, and married for security rather than love. Drawing on correspondence and her unpublished journals, Liz Rosenberg draws a picture of a woman who led an often difficult life and who struggled against her circumstances to create one of the most memorable literary characters of all time.

It’s not always an easy read. Reading about Maud’s struggle against greedy publishers and her own gold-digging son can be rage-inducing, as is her fight to continue her education against the grandfather who refused to help her. Her callous uncle left Maud and her widowed grandmother to live in horrible conditions, waiting for his own mother to die so he could inherit her home, left to him by his father. But we also read about Maud’s devotion to her Prince Edward Island home, her lifelong love of writing, and her success at being able to sustain an income by writing.

L.M. Montgomery was a complex, conflicted woman and her struggles with mental health and financial independence make her more real, more three-dimensional, to readers who will understand and be inspired.

Posted in Non-Fiction, picture books

Activists, Musicians: Biographies

If you’re looking for some biographies on musicians who worked to change the world, here’s a starter list.

 

Muddy: The Story of Blues Legend Muddy Waters, by Michael Mahin/Illustrated by Evan Turk, (Sept. 2017, Athenum), $17.99, ISNB:  978-1481443494  It’s a good thing Muddy Waters wasn’t good at doing what he was told. Everyone from his grandma to record producers said no one wanted to hear the blues, but Muddy just kept playing, from family picnics to smoky juke joints, until he finally got to Chicago, and recorded his music.

Mahalia Jackson: Walking With Kings and Queens, by Nina Nolan/Illustrated by John Holyfield, (2015, Amistad/HarperCollins),$17.99, ISBN: 978-0-06-087944-0  Mahalia Jackson had a voice that could make you stop whatever you were doing in listen. Walking with Kings and Queens tells her story, from her New Orleans childhood to her performance at the March on Washington.

When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop, by Laban Carrick Hill/Illustrated by Theodore Taylor III, (Aug. 2013, Roaring Brook Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781596435407  In 1973, music changed forever when Clive Campbell – you may know him as DJ Kook Herc – created a new way of playing music to make the beats last longer, letting you dance longer. It caught on. Kids started breakdancing rather than fighting; a culture arose that influences music, style, and language to this day.

 

Nina: Jazz Legend and Civil-Rights Activist Nina Simone, by Alice Brière-Haquet/Illustrated by Bruno Liance, (Dec. 2017, Charlesbridge), $16.99, ISBN: 9781580898270  Singer and activist Nina Simone grew up listening to music made by “important men in powdered wigs from past centuries” and faced down systemic racism to shine as a classical, jazz, blues, folk, R&B, gospel, and pop vocalist and activist.

Listen – How Pete Seeger Got America Singing, by Leda Schubert/Illustrated by Raúl Colón, (June 2017, Roaring Brook Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781626722507  Folk artist Pete Seeger led by example, be it through song or through activism. He said that participation would save the human race, and encouraged it through actions: he supported unions, protested war, and marched for civil rights, and he was vocal about environmentalism.

When Paul Met Artie: The Story of Simon & Garfunkel, by G. Neri/Illustrated by David Litchfield,
(March 2018, Candlewick), $17.99, ISBN: 9780763681746  The story of music duo Simon & Garfunkel, told in verse, takes the artists from their childhood in Queens, New York, through their mutual love of music and discovery of ’60s social change, and through their early musical career.

 

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

Books to inspire your young scientists!

This is an incredible year for children’s books! There’s something for everyone available or coming soon, with wonderful artwork and text that draws readers right in. This time around, I’m looking at some fun science books for readers – and caregivers will like them, too.

Izzy Gizmo, by Pip Jones/Illustrated by Sara Ogilve,
(March 2018, Peachtree Publishers), $16.95, ISBN: 978-1-68263-021-1
Recommended for readers 4-7

 

Izzy Gizmo is a curious little girl of color who loves to invent, tweak, and discover. Her inventions don’t always work, but she discovers that she has to put her frustrations aside when she rescues a crow with a broken wing. He wants her to help him fly again, and he’s willing to stick with her through trial and error, until she can get it right. I love the bright colors and chaotic art in this story; it lets readers know that creativity is often messy and wild; the story assures readers that mistakes are just opportunities to filter out what isn’t working and concentrate on what will work; and I love the story of endurance and perseverance. Izzy’s grandfather and her crow friend have faith in Izzy; she just has to find her faith in herself. The gray and white endpapers feature different gears and mechanical parts, letting readers know they’re going to put on their engineering hats to help Izzy out, and the art – a mix of pencil, ink, oil pastel, monoprint, and digital technique – create a busy background that provides a glimpse into the mind of a scientist. Originally published in the UK in 2011, Izzy’s just arrived here in the U.S. and her rhyming story would be a great addition to collections where Andrea Beaty’s Iggy Peck, Architect, Rosie Revere, Engineer, and Ada Twist, Scientist are popular.

 

Scientist, Scientist, Who Do You See?, by Chris Ferrie,
(Apr. 2018, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $17.99, ISBN: 9781492656180
Recommended for readers 3-6

 

Set to the cadence of the classic, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, scientist and dad Chris Ferrie introduces little readers to some of history’s greatest minds with Scientist, Scientist, Who Do You See? There is a strong mix of disciplines and diversity represented here, with Einstein sharing space with Grace Hopper, Ahmed Zewail, George Washington Carver, Katherine Johnson, and more. It’s noted as a “scientific parody”, and it certainly is a fun book that will make everyone smile, but kids are introduced to names and ideas, and that’s just great. Starting off with the question, “Einstein, Einstein, Who Do You See?” and the response, “I see Marie Curie in her laboratory”, the story goes on, introducing scientists and their accomplishments, in the soothing rhyme style we’ve grown up hearing and enjoying. Chris Ferrie has given us Baby Science board books and a fun take on Goodnight, Moon with Goodnight, Lab; let’s hope he keeps finding new, fun ways to make science lovers out of our kids.

 

One Day a Dot: The Story of You, the Universe, and Everything, by Ian Lendler/Illustrated by Shelli Paroline & Braden Lamb,
(Apr. 2018, First Second Books), $17.99, ISBN: 9781626722446
Recommended for readers 7-10

This one’s one of my standout favorites. Author Ian Lendler and illustrators Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb drill down the history of everything to one humble dot. From one dot’s excited burst of joy comes the Big Bang, bringing new dots together to form planets and, eventually, life. The dots are animated, dancing, playing, even running away from other dots that want to eat them! The artwork is bright with a retro feel and uses the dot theme as a focal point through the story, gently leading readers on a trip through time and space. It’s a simplified look at the formation of the universe, but works nicely for younger readers. Give this one to kids who like Stacy McAnulty’s Earth: My First 4.5 Billion Years, and Dominic Walliman’s Professor Astro Cat books, published by Nobrow.

 

Iqbal and His Ingenious Idea: How a Science Project Helps One Family and the Planet, by Elizabeth Suneby/Illustrated by Rebecca Green,
(May 2018, Kids Can Press), $19.99, ISBN: 9781771387200
Recommended for readers 7-10

The latest from Kids Can Press’ Citizen Kid imprint, Iqbal and His Ingenious Idea is a fictional story about a Bangladeshi boy named Iqbal, who comes with a clean, solar-powered cookstove for his science fair project. He sees his mother force to cook the family’s meals indoors during monsoon season, but the family has no stove: she cooks over an open fire, which produces smoke that makes breathing difficult, especially for his mother and baby sister. He learns about solar energy cooking, wins first place in the science fair, and introduces a sustainable and healthier way for families to prepare meals. The artwork illustrates everyday life in Bangladesh and communicates the closeness Iqbal shares with his family and his hard work to create a science fair project that accomplishes the dual purpose of getting him a good grade and helping his family. The story shows readers that kids can make a difference, and that healthier living doesn’t depend on expensive gadgets – a little research, and you can make the world a better place with tools right in front of you. The book includes more information on cookstoves, a glossary, and instructions for making a DIY solar cooker. Great for class projects and science fair ideas!

Audrey the Inventor, by Rachel Valentine/Illustrated by Katie Weymouth,
(May 2018), words & pictures, $17.95, ISBN: 9781910277584
Recommended for readers 4-7

Audrey could hang out with Izzy (first book) and Andrea Beaty’s gang. A wild-haired, redheaded little girl who uses measuring tape for ribbons, Audrey is a curious kid who wants to be an inventor – but she doesn’t know what to invent! She sets off on a host of different ideas, some involving her poor cat, Happy Cat, all of which end up in the “rework” pile. She’s ready to throw in the towel, but decides to give it one last try after getting some encouragement. Little touches, like featuring a graph paper background and visualizing Audrey’s thought process and her doodles, invite kids to share their own ways of working out ideas. The collage, watercolor, and pen artwork comes together to create a busy story about a busy mind. A fun add to creative collections.

These books offer a great way to introduce the scientific method, even for younger grades. Little Bins for Little Hands has a good article, with tips on using the scientific method – and including links to experiments – for preschoolers.

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

The Boo-Boos That Changed the World: An accidental invention!

Kids love Band-Aids, right? My kids have all come to me, asking for a fistful of Band-Aids for some nearly invisible wound. I remember covering my own teddy bears with Band-Aids when I played with my doctor kit. Working around books and paper as much as I do, I can tell you that there have been days where I’m walking around with two or three of the suckers on various fingers, especially when I’m doing program prep and put literal blood, sweat, and tears into a project I’m working on for the kids. Whether they’re the original plain, or decorated with Transformers, Band-Aids are a great example of an invention that fills a need and became so much more – so how did this happen?

The Boo-Boos That Changed the World: A True Story About an Accidental Invention (Really!),
by Barry Wittenstein/Illustrated by Chris Hsu,
(Feb. 2018, Charlesbridge), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-58089-745-7

Recommended for readers 6-10

In the 1920s, a cotton buyer for Johnson & Johnson named Earle Dickson married Josephine, settled in New Brunswick, New Jersey, and started their lives together. But Josephine was a bit accident-prone; she’d cut herself while cooking, bumped and bruised herself going about her daily business, you get the drift. (C’mon, though: who hasn’t grated knuckles, fingernails, and the occasional fingertip on those savage cheese graters?) Poor Josephine was going through dishrags at an astonishing rate, and Earle, being the loving husband he was, started looking for solutions. He took a long piece of adhesive tape and stuck sterile gauze to them every few inches: voila! The Band-Aid prototype was born! The bandages evolved for easier and quicker application and were made easier to apply and reached worldwide usage, going overseas during World War II to the soldiers fighting in Europe, even as kids were testing their limits with scratches and cuts at home. The End. (Really.)

I enjoy a good nonfiction book I can give to younger readers; I’ve had big success with everyday inventions like hot chocolate and earmuffs, thanks to Easy Readers on the topics, and Boo-Boos is a great addition to younger nonfiction collections. Big enough to spotlight the mixed media and Photoshop artwork, all of which is sepia-toned to give a real vintage-y feel to this story. I love the Band-Aid endpapers that bring you in and escort you out of the story, and the sweet love story at the heart of this invention story is just adorable. I love the kid-like narration, which starts and stops with each major moment: “The End. Actually, no, wait…” It’s like listening to my own 5 year-old, or any of my library kiddos, describing a movie, big happening at school, or family event. There’s an author’s note, Earle Dickson time line, a timeline of medical inventions from the 1920s and 1930s, and a list of further resources for anyone who wants to learn more.

The Boo-Boos That Changed the World is good reading, and just good fun. Hand out some Band-Aids (licensed characters, please, we’re not cruel) at a storytime, or raffle off a box of them for a great reader report! There’s a downloadable curriculum guide on the way, and you can listen to a Charlesbridge podcast interview with author Barry Wittenstein right here. The book has a starred review from Kirkus.

Giveaway!

Want a shot at your own copy of Boo-Boos? Enter this Rafflecopter giveaway! (US addresses only, please.)
Author Barry Wittenstein has always been involved with writing, from contributing to his high school and college newspapers, to writing and performing poetry on stage in San Francisco, songwriting, sports writing, and now picture books. He has worked at CBS Records, CBS News, and was a web editor and writer for Major League Baseball. He is now an elementary-school substitute teacher and children’s author.

Barry particularly likes nonfiction, and profiling mostly unknown people and events whose stories have never been told in children’s literature. He is the author of Waiting for Pumpsie and The Boo-Boos That Changed the World. He lives in New York City. To learn more, visit his website: https://onedogwoof.com/ or on Twitter: @bwittbooks

 

 

Praise for THE BOO-BOOS THAT CHANGED THE WORLD

★”Appealingly designed and illustrated, an engaging, fun story about the inspiration and inventor of that essential staple of home first aid.” — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

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

Black History Month: Heroes of Black History – Spotlight on Barack Obama

Heroes of Black History: Biographies of Four Great Americans, (Dec. 2017, Time for Kids), $9.99, ISBN: 978-1-68330-776-1

Recommended for readers 8-12

This Time for Kids collection highlights the life stories of four great African-Americans: Harriet Tubman, who led slaves to freedom; Jackie Robinson, the groundbreaking athlete and first African-American baseball player to play for the major leagues; Rosa Parks, the civil rights pioneer who refused to give up her seat on the bus; and Barack Obama, the first African-American President of the United States.

With photos and artwork, fast facts and timelines throughout the book, this is a great book to have on hand in homes, classrooms and libraries for help with homework and reports and is essential reading for everyone. Civil Rights activist and NPR correspondent Charlayne Hunter-Gault’s introduction discusses how Black history provided her with the “invisible armor”  she needed to meet life’s challenges.

Spotlight On: Barack Obama

As part of the Heroes of Black History Book Tour, I’m spotlighting Barack Obama’s biography. The 40-page spotlight on our 44th President’s life is loaded with photos and a timeline, and covers his life from his birth in Hawaii to his 2017 farewell speech as he left office. The profile covers his relationship with his mother and grandmother; his mother’s remarriage and their subsequent move to Jakarta, Indonesia, and his return to Hawaii to live with his parents at the age of 10. We read about his marriage to Michelle Obama and births of his daughters, Malia and Sasha, and the story of his political rise from Senator to the White House. I was happy to read about the 2004 Democratic National Convention; the convention where Obama’s moving speech made Americans sit up and take notice – I still remember a coworker at the time coming to work the next day and telling me, “That man is going to be our next President.”

An appendix includes 19 additional Heroes profiles, from W.E.B. DuBois to John Lewis, a glossary and full index to round out this great reference. You can find a free curriculum guide and downloadable Fast Facts sheets on each icon.