Category Archives: non-fiction

Jason Chin’s Grand Canyon

grand canyon coverIt’s summer, time for family vacations. One place that has been on my husband’s bucket list for some time is the Grand Canyon. I would like my daughters to be a touch older so that they can appreciate it a bit more and not balk at the walking involved, but it is definitely something that we plan to do at some point. Before we could possibly attempt that, letting our children explore Jason Chin’s Grand Canyon is an absolute must.

Grand Canyon is one of the most talked about books in the nonfiction picture book genre right now. I got a copy of the book from the library and now I can completely understand why this book has people so excited. Chin takes a fascinating look into the Grand Canyon and the book works as a wonderful research tool for any child in the upper elementary grades. Continue reading →

Learning about the Canadian Indian Residential Schools

There are moments in our collective history that we would rather forget happened, but that we must never forget and never allow to happen again. Whether the extermination of Jews in Europe, the internment of Japanese Americans in the United States, the slave trade that took so many people from Africa, or the Indian Residential School program in Canada.Learning about Canadian Residential Institutions

This last item is one that many of us don’t even know existed, but it was a program that attempted to assimilate native children into Euro-Canadian culture for over a century. Indigenous children were taken from their homes, placed into special residential schools, treated poorly, and forbidden to speak their own native language of Cree. In the last twenty years, former students have pressed for recognition and restitution. There are now two books from Second Story Press that deal with this subject, albeit in very different ways. Continue reading →

Chelsea Clinton’s She Persisted

she-persisted-bookYesterday Chelsea Clinton’s new book, She Persisted, arrived in my mail. I had pre-ordered it because I believe that it is an important item to show our children. Kids need to see people like them achieving their dreams. They need to know that life isn’t going to just hand them what they want, but if they believe in themselves and never give up, they can do great things. It is why I have also ordered a copy of Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls.

I will admit, that when I first read the book, I was less than enamored with it. Clinton has put together 13 very abridged biographies about women from all over the spectrum – civil rights activists, artists, politicians, professionals, and athletes. I wanted something I could sink my teeth into a bit more. But I also tend to immerse myself in full picture book biographies about many of these subjects, so I wanted a viewpoint closer to the intended audience and asked my 10 year old to read it this morning. She actually read it out loud as we were driving to school and somehow hearing it in her voice gave it more power. Continue reading →

Balderdash!

One of the best things that has come out of blogging is being a part of the blogging community of amazing children’s literature reviewers. Learning about new books and getting other takes on how to encourage a love of books in all children is why I do this. Since we don’t live in a city with tons of great book stores and large libraries, there are many times that the only way I know a book exists is through the pages of other people’s blogs.

As long-time readers will know, I try really hard to be a part of the nonfiction picture book challenge hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy every week. This week, Alyson posted about three books she had recently read, but one stood out to me, partially because this week also happens to be Children’s Book Week. The book was Balderdash! John Newbery and the Boisterous Birth of Children’s Books, by Michelle Markel. I happened to be at one of our local libraries that evening for a CBW event and did a happy dance when I found a copy there.

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Balderdash! is a great biography about a man whose name is synonymous with children’s literature. The cover of the book even has such a wonderful illustration by Nancy Carpenter that the book screams out to be read. But even with Newbery being such an important name in children’s literature, I admit that I didn’t know much about him before reading this book. Continue reading →

Usborne Book of the Week – Flags of the World to Color

So in addition to writing this blog because I have a general obsession with children’s books, last year I became an Independent Consultant with Usborne Books & More. I did this because I wanted every book I saw and needed to figure out a way to pay for that, but also, because the company is dedicated to promoting literacy in our children. From time to time I like to write about the books that we cover, but I’m trying something new – focusing on one book each week.

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This week, I would like to highlight the books Flags of the World to Color. I’m really taken by this book because J just finished learning all of her United States capitals and so I figure she is ready to get working on learning all of the countries. Continue reading →

The Shark Lady – The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean’s Most Fearless Scientist

There is a strong movement to encourage young girls to pursue careers in science and technology. While we are pushing our next generation of great thinkers, some picture book authors are putting together absolutely brilliant biographies of women who were ahead of their time and who made great advances in their individual fields. One of the books in this category is The Shark Lady – The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean’s Most Fearless Scientist by Jess Keating and illustrated by Marta Álvarez Miguéns. (June 2017, Sourebooks).

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Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean’s Most Fearless Scientist

From a very young age, Eugenie Clark was fascinated with sharks. She longed to swim with them and see the world through their eyes. She also wanted to show people that they were beautiful. Eugenie read book after book on sharks and filled many notebooks. Continue reading →

Doing Her Bit: A Story About the Woman’s Land Army of America

Most Americans know the story of Rosie the Riveter, the cultural icon representing the American women who went to work in the factories and shipyards during WWII when the men were away. But what about the women who stepped up to the plate during WWI? It wasn’t so much a problem of having all of the men go to war, but rather, the American farm workers were lured away from their farming jobs to earn higher wages working in manufacturing. There weren’t enough men to handle the crops needed to feed Americans and her allies. Well, it turns out that the Rosie of that time were women who trained to work on farms and got food to the public.

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In her book, Doing Her Bit: A Story About the Woman’s Land Army of America, Erin Hagar shows how young women joined the Women’s Agricultural Camp, which would later become the Women’s Land Army of America. The farmerettes, as they were called, were trained in all aspects of farming, but many farmers still didn’t believe that women were strong enough or skilled enough to do the job right.

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The story that Hagar focuses on is Helen Stevens, who was a real farmerette. Stevens was a college student when she signed up, but many women were dressmakers, factory workers, teachers, and housewives.

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The early Women’s Land Army of America girls had to prove that they could do the job and that they deserved the same wages as men. They were early fighters for equal rights and their story of perseverance and determination deserves to be told.

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As with most non-fiction picture books, the Author’s note was incredibly interesting and full of great facts. The inside front and back covers were filled with actual advertisements that were placed encouraging women to join in the land army.

nfpb2017Every Wednesday I try to post a non-fiction picture book as part of the  Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy. There are truly so many amazing nonfiction picture books being published these days, it can be hard to contain myself sometimes. Make sure to check out Kid Lit Frenzy and the linked blogs to find some more fabulous books!

 

Stand Up and Sing!

Folk music has always held a special place in my heart. Summer camp meant singing time honored songs of this genre, and while others were listening to 80s hair bands, I was happily ensconced in American folk. I grew up knowing the words to almost every song by Peter, Paul and Mary, Simon & Garfunkle, Joan Collins, Bob Dylan and Crosby, Stills & Nash. From an early age this style of music touched me deeply and probably helped form some of my pacifist and liberal ideas.

Bloomsbury Children’s Books has just put out an amazing account of the life of Pete Seeger, one of the fathers of the American Folk movement called Stand Up and Sing! Pete Seeger, Folk Music, and the Path to Justice. Covering his life from early childhood to his death in 2014, author Susanna Reich put together a book that might help the next generation think more deeply about the world around them and the music they listen to.

For Seeger, music was in his bones, but he also was a very well read and aware of politics at an early age. He was a child of the Great Depression and had a really difficult time understanding why some people had great wealth and some had nothing. His father took him to parades and marches for working people and he saw how music could unite people.

Reich does a great job of showing how Seeger learned various music styles by traveling and being exposed to a wide variety of cultures and experiences. And just as Pete Seeger influenced a slew of other artists, it was Woody Guthrie who took him under his wing and showed him that “music could fill a room with peace and harmony.”

Pete Seeger used his music to try and make important changes in our world. He dreamed of a world where there were fewer people struggling to get by. He believed strongly in workers’ rights and racial equality, things that were considered “un-American” in his time. In the time of McCarthy, Pete was blacklisted for his beliefs.

An interesting part of the book comes when it talks about Seeger’s friendship with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the fact that it was Seeger who introduced King to the song “We Shall Overcome.”

When I think of American Folk music, I think of the anti-war movement of the 1960s and 70s. Some of my all-time favorite tunes were ones that Seeger wrote but which I heard performed by Peter, Paul & Mary – If I Had a Hammer, Turn! Turn! Turn!, and Where have all the Flowers Gone. These were the songs that ached for peace and lamented a war that took so many lives and accomplished little to nothing.To me, folk music is all about bringing people together and lifting them up. Get the right group of adults together today and you can have a really awesome singing fest of music old and new. Music is a tool to inspire people. Pete Seeger inspired a generation of singers and songwriters along with activists and believers. This book is an awesome tribute to his life and his genius.

Every Wednesday I try to post a non-fiction picture book as part of the  Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy. There are truly so many amazing nonfiction picture books being published these days, it can be hard to contain myself sometimes. Make sure to check out Kid Lit Frenzy and the linked blogs to find some more fabulous books!

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If You Were the Moon

When children are starting to learn about the sun, moon and planets, there are not a ton of books that really engage them. So I was very excited when I was able to get a hold of an advance copy of If You Were the Moon by Laura Purdie Salas and illustrated by Jaime Kim.

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At first glance, this book looks like a simple bedtime story in fiction format. But once you get past the first spread the entire book is filled with fascinating facts about the moon! A little girl looks up at the moon one night and wishes that she could “do exactly nothing, just like you.” moon-1

The moon responds by telling her all of the various things he does.  Each page has a really basic explanation of the moon’s role with supplementary blocks of text in a different font that give the reader detailed facts. moon-phases

So between the text and the outstanding illustrations, a young mind will understand that the moon impacts Earth’s balance,  that while it appears to glow it is really “catching” and “throwing” light from the sun, and that its gravity is what creates the tides in our oceans.moon-tide

The moon also is important to a lot of different animals and cultures. Nocturnal animals use the moon as an alarm clock. Sea turtle hatchlings need the light of the moon to guide them to the ocean. In terms of people, not only has the moon inspired great works of art, but farmers across the globe have used moon phases to guide their seasons and the race to put a man on the moon challenged our space program.

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There are also silly items like the fact that the moon spins like a ballerina making a full turn every 27 days or that it wouldn’t be very good at playing dodgeball because it never gets out of the way of meteorites that crash into it.

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This is a really wonderful book to share with a young child to get them more interested in astronomy and science. It is also still good for an older child to comprehend some of the more confusing aspects of the moon. There really are not a wealth of great books that engage children on this subject, so this is a welcome addition.

nfpb2017Every Wednesday I try to post a non-fiction picture book as part of the  Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy. There are truly so many amazing nonfiction picture books being published these days, it can be hard to contain myself sometimes. Make sure to check out Kid Lit Frenzy and the linked blogs to find some more fabulous books!

Mother to Tigers

Out of heartbreak can come amazing strength.

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Helen Frances Theresa Delaney Martini was an ordinary woman living in New York. When her first baby died and doctors said that she couldn’t have any more children, her heart broke. So did her husband’s. To ease that pain, her husband, Frank, followed his heart and got a job at the Bronx Zoo. Two years later, he brought home an abandoned lion cub and Helen’s life changed forever.

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In Mother to Tigers, George Ella Lyon tells the amazing story of Helen Martini. When her husband brought a lion cub named MacArthur home, he told her to “do for him what you would do for a human baby,” and she did. She fed and cared for the lion cub in her living room. When she helped her husband bring three tigers back to the zoo after nursing them at home, she realized that not only did the cubs still need her attention, but that there would always be zoo babies in need and yet there was nowhere at the zoo to take care of them.

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She begged the zoo to give her a room and on her own she created the first zoo nursery. For a time her work was unpaid and then in August 1944 she became the first woman keeper in the history of the Bronx Zoo. She helped many baby animals survive and her concept of a zoo nursery soon spread. Her work was monumentally important in the lives on many animals and it is about time her achievements were shared.

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nfpb2017I have been encouraged by the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy to post about a nonfiction title each week. While I wouldn’t classify this book as a nonfiction picture book, most of the books that I post on Wednesdays will be. Please check out Kid Lit Frenzy for an amazing resource of nonfiction picture books.