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

Andrew Carnegie, The Man Who Loved Libraries

The Man Who Loved Libraries: The Story of Andrew Carnegie, by Andrew Larsen/Illustrated by Katty Maurey, (Aug. 2017, OwlKids Books), $16.95, ISBN: 9781771472678

Recommended for readers 8-10

Andrew Carnegie started out in life in Scotland, the son of a weaver. He and his family came to the United States, where he went to work; first, in a cotton mill, then as a messenger boy. He knew the key to success was in learning, and took advantage of the opportunities afforded by a local businessman, who made his private library collection available. As he became wealthier, he considered it his duty to help others help themselves: he built libraries. He built a library in the Scottish village where he was born, and went on to build over 2500 public libraries worldwide.

Andrew Larsen gives readers a concise biography of a premier industrialist and philanthropist, with a strong emphasis on the power of education and philanthropy. Award-winning illustrator Katty Maurey creates beautiful artwork to accompany Larsen’s text, framing her subjects with buildings and storefronts, and creating depth with her full-page art to show us a young Carnegie, standing on a library ladder as he explores Colonel Anderson’s private collection, and an older Carnegie in front of a map of the Americas (and Greenland), basket of yellow flags on one arm, surrounded by books and his dog as he maps out his library plans.

Andrew Larsen is an award-winning children’s author. Find more about his books and link to his blog by visiting his author website.

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Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction, Non-Fiction, Women's History

The Girl Who Ran: The Story of Bobbi Gibb

The Girl Who Ran: Bobbi Gibb, The First Woman to Run the Boston Marathon, by Frances Poletti & Kristina Yee/Illustrated by Susanna Chapman, (June 2017, Compendium), $16.99, ISBN:  978-1-943200-47-4

Recommended for readers 5-12

Believe it or not, there was a time not too long ago when women weren’t allowed to run marathons. The Boston Athletic Association, in fact, said women were “incapable” of running 26.2 miles. (But we can carry and give birth to children. That makes sense.) Bobbi Gibb set out to prove them wrong in 1966 – told you it wasn’t that long ago – and The Girl Who Ran, by Frances Poletti and Kristina Yee, tells her story in beautiful inks, prose, and poetry.

Starting with Bobbi’s childhood, we learn how she loved to run, as kids do. But one day, all of her friends stopped, and she kept going. Her father took her to see the Boston Marathon when she was older, and she was determined to do it. Susanna Chapman’s art is incredible, creating swirling tornadoes of negative words each time Bobbi is told why she can’t run: “girls can’t run marathons”, “what a strange idea”, “what if you injure yourself?”, and “rules are there for a reason”. Each time, Bobbi physically pushes those words away and endures; she trains where her parents can’t see her, running cross-country; she dresses in baggy clothes to hide her gender, and joins the Marathon, where she finds an outpouring of support for her fellow runners. When she reveals herself, the support reaches a crescendo, illustrated with vibrant reds and oranges. Wellesley girls support her with cheers and signs, and as she nears her last steps, the book opens into a gatefold to welcome Bobbi to the finishing line. After the race, Bobbi wonders what else could be proven wrong? And that, my friends, is the question we still need to ask.

Photos of Bobbi Gibb, with a brief biography and illustrated timeline of the Boston Marathon complete this gorgeous book. I’m always on the lookout for biographies that go beyond the usual names on our shelves; this is certainly one I want my Queensboro Kids to see. This fits in with the Build a Better World summer reading theme, too: ask your kids what else can be proven wrong as they look around their world today; and how did Bobbi Gibb contribute to building a better world in 1966 and beyond? Bring up Title IX, a federal law passed in 1972 which prevents gender discrimination in education programs and activities, and led the way to girls competing in school sports. Did Bobbi Gibb contribute to this landmark decision?

There’s a Bobbi Gibb website, and ESPN has a good article discussing Bobbi Gibb’s place in history and a statue that’s underway commemorating her historic run. The Girl Who Ran received a starred review from Kirkus and is an Amelia Bloomer Project nominee. It’s a strong addition to biographical, sports, and feminist collections.

Posted in Early Reader, History, Non-Fiction, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Cheer Up, Ben Franklin! There’s a party coming soon!

ben-franklinCheer Up, Ben Franklin!, by Misti Kenison, (July 2017, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $9.99, ISBN: 9781492652472

Recommended for ages 0-3

Poor Ben Franklin is sad! No one has time to fly kites with him today. George Washington’s rallying his troops, Betsy Ross is sewing a flag, Sam Adams is throwing a tea party in Boston, and Alexander Hamilton is too busy counting money. What’s a Founding Father to do? Ben’s friends are sure to pull through in the end, with a signing of the Declaration and a big fireworks party to cheer him up in this fun, adorable book by Misti Kenison.

This is the cutest book for budding historians (and the adults who love them: one of my best friends is an historian who wrote her thesis on Franklin, and she loves this book). It’s great for toddlers who understand what a drag it is when no one can play with them, and the artwork is adorable. Ape this book up in storytime! Ben’s giant, mournful eyes will get sympathy from anyone, and the big fireworks party at the end is a great way to celebrate with an Independence Day storytime. Thanks to Ms. Kenison for, to paraphrase Abigail Adams, remembering the ladies! Including Betsy Ross and Abigail Adams is important, to illustrate to readers that women were indeed a big part of founding the United States of America.

A timeline at the end of the book goes from 1773, when Sam Adams organized the Boston Tea Party, through 1801, when Jefferson became President. Each historical figure mentioned in the book is briefly profiled here, too. A must-add to libraries, schools, and personal collections, and also a perfect gift for the Hamilton fans in your life.

Misti Kenison is a web/graphic designer and author/illustrator of the Tiny Traveler series. Visit Misti at her Tiny Traveler site to learn more about her books, and download some fun printables!

Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction, Non-Fiction

Black History Month: The Youngest Marcher, by Cynthia Levinson

youngest-marcherThe Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist, by Cynthia Levinson/illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton, (Jan. 2017, Atheneum Books for Young Readers), $17.99, ISBN: 9781481400701

Recommended for ages 5-10

In May 1963, children in Birmingham, Alabama, trained in peaceful, civil disobedience, marched to protest segregation. Nine year-old Audrey Faye Hendricks was the youngest marcher, fully invested in civil rights and aware that she would likely go to jail. She spent a week in juvenile hall with flimsy blankets and no toothbrush, but she persevered and made history. Nonfiction author Cynthia Levinson tells the story of the youngest marcher, with illustrations by Vanessa Brantley Newton, here for younger audiences, assuring children that no one is too small, too young, to make a difference in the world.

I’ve been handing this book to kids coming in, looking for African-American biographies for their Black History Month reports for just this reason. I want children to see that they are important. They count. At a time when many feel marginalized, books like The Youngest Marcher, with its powerful words and images, offer representation and affirmation. Children have a voice, and with support and encouragement, they can use them and be heard.

Cynthia Levinson’s author website offers links to further resources, including curriculum guides and videos. Illustrator Vanessa Brantley-Newton was spotlighted by the WeNeedDiverseBooks initiative, for which she also created original artwork. For more information about the 1963 Birmingham Children’s Crusade, visit Biography.com or the Zinn Education Project, offering information about the award-winning documentary, Mighty Times.

 

Posted in Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Tween Reads, Women's History

Life in Motion: Misty Copeland’s inspiring autobiography, edited for young readers

misty-copelandLife in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina (Young Reader Edition), by Misty Copeland, (Dec. 2016, Aladdin), $17.99, ISBN: 978148147979

Recommended for ages 8-12

Misty Copeland is amazing. The first African-American principal dancer for American Ballet Theatre didn’t start ballet until her early teens and has faced poverty, racism, criticism, and injury to do what she loves. In this young readers edition of her autobiography, she tells readers about the trials and triumphs she’s lived, the hard work she’s put in, and the sacrifices she’s made to get where she is in the dance world. We read about the custody battle between her mother and ballet teacher when she was 15; the rampant racism she’s endured, and she holds up to the light the eating issues that run rampant in the ballet community. We also read about amazing achievements, like her dancing on tour with Prince and her joy at meeting the dancers that inspired her the way she inspires a new generation of children.

Misty does not shy away from diversity here: she embraces it, giving us the names of the African-American dancers that went before her. She also doesn’t hide the fact that she’s taken some heat for being “too mainstream”; that bringing ballet to the masses is looked down upon – thankfully, that’s something she disagrees with. Ballet and dance, the arts, are for all – if she can inspire another kid to put on a pair of toe shoes, or sign up for hip hop classes because it’s something they love, she’s done right. Copeland is all about embracing your passion. Her confidence and gratitude come through in equal measure, and she dispenses advice for living and building one’s self-esteem throughout the book. Embrace your strengths and never give up – these are the lessons that kids will come away with after spending some time with Misty Copeland.

There are photos in the finished book (I’ve got an egalley), and more on her home page. You can also find her on the American Ballet Theatre page, which also has a section on education and training for readers interested in learning more. Display and booktalk this with Copeland’s picture book (illustrated by Christopher Myers), Firebird.

This book is a must-add to biography collections. Booktalk and display this if, like me, you’ve got kids that need to see someone smashing stereotypes and making it to the top of her (or his) game. If you have dancers in your home or your life, give this book to them and let them watch this ABC Sunday Spotlight from 2014.

Posted in Early Reader, Graphic Novels, Intermediate, Non-Fiction, Non-Fiction, Non-Fiction

A touching portrait of a Canadian strongman: The Great Antonio

antonio_1The Great Antonio, by Elise Gravel (Oct. 2016, TOON Books), $12.95, ISBN: 978-1-943145-08-9

Recommended for ages 6-8

Antonio Barichievich was a bear of a man: he weighed as much as a horse, once wrestled a bear, pulled passenger buses full of people, and could eat 25 roast chickens and a dozen donuts in one sitting. He was also a beloved figure: an immigrant from Eastern Europe who loved his adopted country of Canada and its people. He was a wrestler and a strongman; he was a kind and gentle soul who twirled kids around on his gigantic braids, who lived simply, and could often be found in his neighborhood donut shop.

Even if you’re not familiar with The Great Antonio – I wasn’t, before this – this is a sweet tribute to a beloved public figure. The book is accessible to anyone, because it’s a story about a larger-than-life person who did larger-than-life things. Add bright and bold illustration to a story about a man that some people thought of in Paul Bunyan-type terms, even joking that he may have been from another planet – and you have a modern tall tale for a new audience.

 

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A note from the author/illustrator at the end of the book explains her interest in Antonio. She “illustrates a little “About Me”, showing readers things she likes, like fart jokes, grumpy unidentified things, and strong and funny girl characters, which assures that I should probably become BFFs with her, because I like those things too, and my kids and the kids in my library know it. This will make life so much easier when I booktalk this book (and try to find more of her illustrated books in the US).

Check out Elsie Gravel’s website for more of her artwork and books. The Great Antonio‘s page on TOON Books will also have a link to an educator’s guide closer to pub date, so keep it bookmarked. The Great Antonio is a Level 2 TOON Book, so it’s appropriate for readers in grades 1-2 (but you can read it to younger – my 4 year old loved seeing Antonio swing kids from his braids and wrestle a bear). If your kids’ school uses Guided Reading, the book is appropriate for levels G-K, and it’s a Lexile BR-240.

As a biography, it’s pretty niche, at least here in the U.S., but as a story about a person who touched lives and made headlines, it’s a great read.  I love the art and the story, so I’ll see how this one does in my collection, especially with some booktalking/storytimes.

Here’s more excerpts from The Great Antonio:

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

Kid Athletes makes sports legends accessible to all!

kid athletesKid Athletes: True Tales of Childhood from Sports Legends, by David Stabler/Illustrated by Doogie Horner, (Nov. 20156, Quirk Books), $13.95, ISBN: 978-1-59474-802-8

Recommended for ages 8-12

The author and illustrator of Kid Presidents are back, this time with 20 true stories from famous athletes’ childhoods. From Babe Ruth to Tiger Woods, there’s a story for everyone here; there’s a great range of sports, spotlights on both male and female athletes, and featuring a multicultural spread of personalities, including Jackie Robinson, Yao Ming, Gabby Douglas, Bruce Lee, and Muhammad Ali. There are some great stories to tell: Babe Ruth grew up in an orphanage after his parents gave him up; soccer player Lionel Messi was teased for being small; Gabby Douglas and Jackie Robinson experienced racism from her own peers. Each profiled athlete provides inspiration for young readers on meeting and conquering challenges in their personal and professional lives. Kids will recognize many of the challenges – racism, poverty, sexism – faced by the athletes and be moved by the humanity behind the legendary personalities.

Doogie Horner’s colorful illustrations throughout the book add to each profile, infusing the biographies with color and personality.

Kid Athletes is a hit, with bite-sized bios on sports figures past and present, that will work for quick reads and quick class assignments. Get this one on your shelves, hopefully right next to your copy of Kid Presidents.