This book is an excellent example of how great Jim Murphy is at writing children’s nonfiction. His depiction of the events leading up, during and after the Blizzard of 1888 are fantastically detailed and easy to read and understand. He takes personal accounts, newspaper articles and photographs and makes this storm come alive. Hundreds of people were killed in this storm and many changes came about because of it. The National Weather Service was formed and weather forecasting was removed from the Army’s responsibility. It also became a 24 hour operation instead of taking the Sabbath off. Subways were created in New York and many other cities. Utility lines were placed underground instead of in the air above major cities. And most major cities created an emergency plan to deal with disasters of this sort. I really enjoyed the first-hand accounts and the period photos; I think they made the story come alive.
Really interesting look at the lives of the First Kids. Tells about their schooling, their antics, their social activities and what they thought about living in the White House. There is a lot of really interesting stuff in this book. I think I was most fascinated by the Roosevelt kids both FDR’s and Teddy’s. These kids seem like they actually enjoyed life in the White House.
Diego: Bigger than Life tells the story of Mexican artist Diego Rivera through a series of poems and illustrations. The entirety of his life is illustrated in the poems from birth to death. I loved that the poems conveyed all the emotion and actual situations of each subject. I feel like I learned all about Diego Rivera through these few poems. Everything from his upbringing, to his art to his many wives and mistresses were covered. I really enjoyed the illustrations as well, but I do wish that more of Rivera’s actual art could have been used.
Black Elk’s Vision is the true story of Lakota Medicine Man Black Elk. When he was young he had a vision of six grandfathers offering him the choice between a life of peace and a life of violence. Throughout his life he tried to tell people of his vision and bring it forth. Unfortunately, the White Men or Wha-shi-choos didn’t allow for a life of peace. Black Elk was part of many battles that wiped out the Indians and left them on reservations. He traveled with Wild Bill’s Wild West Show across the country and to Europe but he still didn’t find the peace for his people he sought. The imagery and story of this book suck you in from the very beginning. There are wonderful period photos and illustrations the highlight the story being told. Nelson does a great job of showing the freedom the Indians had and how it was taken away by the White Men. Wonderful book!
Truly fascinating look at the Battle for Vicksburg during the Civil War. Warren takes the lives of three children two in Vicksburg and Grant’s son with the Union Army and shows how the siege affected them. Lots of interesting details about the battle and the siege and lots of photographs and illustrations. The story isn’t just about the three children though; there are details about others who lived in Vicksburg. Lots of great information about this pivotal battle during the Civil War. I also loved all the back end stuff…what happened to the people in the book, details about the War, and lots of references. Well researched and written book.
There is a certain fascination with the dead and how they are treated and this book does a great job of looking at how cultures have buried their dead throughout history. Some are very elaborate like the Chinese and Egyptian and others are more simple. This book looks at a wide variety of tombs from prehistoric Neanderthals to modern day burials. Definitely worth the read.
We think of George Washington as the president on the dollar bill or the quarter; little do we realize that those pictures really do not show the true face of George Washington. This book follows the progress of the creation of three statues of Washington during various phases of his life: as a surveyor, as the General during the Revolutionary War and as President. The book tells us what he was doing during those times and explains the process of recreating his face. There are some really interesting things in this book. I liked knowing more about Washington since I don’t feel like I knew a whole lot about him before the Revolution. I do have to admit that while the process of creating the statues was interesting it got a little long-winded and tedious for me. But the results were fabulous and it is nice to know what Washington really looked like.
Smile is the true story of Raina Telgemeier’s journey through orthodontia. It was not a pleasant or a short journey. It began with an overbite and a fall resulting in the loss of her two front teeth. The journey consisted of false teeth, braces, surgeries, headgear, and four years worth of visits to various dental professionals…all during junior and high school. Poor Raina! Throughout it all Raina is also dealing with boys, pimples, friends, mean girls, and all the other trials and tribulations of high school. She comes through it stronger and happier, but it is not an easy journey.
As someone who has had braces and retainers (thankfully not four years worth) I completely sympathized with Raina. They are an invented torture to make our teeth look perfect. They work but are definitely not pleasant. I winced with her when her braces were being tightened and when all she could eat was mashed potatoes. I think Raina definitely remembers this time of her life perfectly and she really captured it on the pages of Smile. The story and illustrations embody the torture of braces and the agony of middle and high school. I would recommend this to just about anyone.
Russell Freedman really knows how to write nonfiction for kids and he does the story of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass justice in this book. This book takes the story of their lives and shows how they intertwined to lead to a friendship. They only physically met three times, but they ended up having a lot in common. This book shows the common threads of their lives and the differences. It shows that they were not always on the same path to equality and in fact Douglass frequently criticized the pace Lincoln set in regards to the rights and freedoms of Blacks. But they had a lot in common even down to the book that changed the way they looked at things, The Columbian Orator. If I have one quibble with this book, I wish it would have spent more time with Douglass. At times it seemed more like a biography of Lincoln than a shared story of the two men. But it is an excellent glimpse into a turbulent time and the lives of two great men.
From Cover to Cover is an excellent resource for anyone who talks about, reviews or purchases children’s books. It has clear and concise chapters on every type of children’s book: nonfiction, poetry, chapter books, picture books, etc. While the subtitle states this book is about evaluating and review, the majority of the book is on evaluating books. Reviewing doesn’t come in until the final chapter. Not that it is a bad thing. The information in the evaluating chapters is great. Horning goes into the history of the literature, the different parts, what you should look at and how to evaluate it. She even gives examples of excellent books in each genre. Great resource and very helpful.
This is a very brief view of what happened during the Midwest Floods of 1993. This informational picture book is aimed at younger readers so the text is very simplified. There is not a lot of detail so researchers will have to look elsewhere. However, the text is very concise and easy to understand. It gives the big picture of the floods and their aftermath. There is also a very nice glossary and timeline as well as additional resources in the back of the book.
As someone who lived through the floods of 1993 I really wanted more detail, but I am not the target audience for this book. I think this will appeal to kids and lead them to more information.
Terezin: Voices from the Holocaust tells the story of the Terezin concentration camp in the Czech Republic. The story is told through first hand accounts and art work from the people who were imprisoned in the camp. Terezin was a camp the Nazis used to show off to organizations like the Red Cross. They would fix it up and prove that their camps were not bad places. Unfortunately, Terezin was just like all the other concentration camps. Most of the Jews imprisoned there were transported to other camps like Auschwitz and killed. Only about 3000 of the 86000 survived Terezin.
The first hand accounts really make this book powerful. The innocence of the Jews when they are first sent to the Terezin Ghetto, the strength of the Elder Council as it tried to protect its citizens, the heartbreak of the Jews as they lost their battle to survive. Their own words are heartbreaking.
Wonderful book on evolution for elementary age students. This book has clear and concise chapters on everything from DNA to continental drift to fossils to diseases. The illustrations are wonderfully clear and bright and really fit the text. Of course, there is so much covered by the book (basically everything that falls under evolution) that it only skims the surface on each topic. But there are a lot of wonderful tidbits of information in here that I wasn’t aware of. I never thought of the study of diseases and drug-resistant bacterias as evolution but it is. I didn’t realize there were 60 different kinds of honeycreepers in Hawaii and that they all came from finches. There is lots of good info in this book and all of it is a good jumping off place for the study of evolution.
Informational book with great pictures about our phobias. Some phobias seem very logical to me like atomosophobia, the fear of atomic weapons, or taphephobia, the fear of being buried alive. Who would want to be buried alive? But I bet the people with omphalophobia, the fear of belly buttons, or panophobia, the fear of everything, have a hard way to go. Very entertaining.
Butt-kicking, name-taking women. Who doesn’t love that? Great illustration and succinct bios of famous and infamous women of the Wild West. The most refreshing aspect of the book is that beside the standard rough and rowdy girls, Annie Oakley and Calamity Jane, but also the first woman judge in America who campaigned for women’s right to vote and a muckraking reporter who exposed injustices. There are also the stories of Native American and African American women, oft ignored in history. Amazing women who personified the spirit of the American West .
This is a wonderful autobiography/picture book/graphic book of Allen Say. It covers his life from young child until he leave Japan as a teenager. The book is full of Say’s drawings, photographs, cartoons from Say and his sensei Nori Shinpei, and snippets from his life along with text describing what is going on. Say’s young life was filled with more than you can imagine. His father abandons him and basically turns his back on him because he wants to be an artist. His mother sends him to live with his grandmother who really doesn’t want him. So he moves into his own apartment at the age of 12! Then he becomes the apprentice to the famous cartoonist Shinpei. This book really gets you into the life of Say in just a few words. The pictures paint you into his world and show you the loneliness he felt but also the joy in discovering his life’s work. The mix of art is woven through the story and helps tell the tale. It really is a brilliant book about a wonderful artist.
Thomas Jefferson and John Adams: friends, enemies, both? Exactly right. This is a delightful book that explores the relationship between Jefferson and Adams. They started out as the best of friends as they were shaping this country but they had a falling out over the role of the president and became enemies for many years. They then reconnected as older gentlemen and later died on the same day July 4, 1826. I thought it was really interesting that they were enemies during the time they were President/Vice President. And I loved the names they called each other in the book: “vain, suspicious, irritable, stubborn, and wrong” and “weak, confused, uninformed, and ignorant”. They really didn’t pull any punches. The illustrations in this book are fabulous and are really going to appeal to kids. They have a childlike quality that goes along with the text. You feel like you are reading a story not just history.
A beautiful children’s book about the iconic World Heritage site, Angkor Wat. Wonderful pictures of not only the ruins themselves but also of the Cambodian people. The book is one of a series written and photographed by Rickard Sobol, an award winning photographer whose pictures have been in National Geography and Rolling Stone.
Weird History is just that, the strange, the spooky, the off-beat places, people, and facts that we as Americans can lay claim to. There are ghosts, conspiracies, heroes, villains, and the occasional well-preserved corpse. Missouri gets a nod with not just one but two dog stories and maybe the grave of Jesse James, or maybe not. Fun read with great illustrations.
Amelia Lost is definitely a fact based biography on Amelia Earhart, but it reads almost like a novel. It alternates between the story of her life and the last hours of her life when she was supposed to land on Howland Island and never did. Her life story is very interesting and in reading it I found that as a person I don’t really like Amelia Earhart. Is that bad to say? She has always seemed like a larger than life figure and a pioneer for women. And she certainly was. But she was also reckless and always kept her image in mind. She had an affair with a married man (she later married him but still). She didn’t really know how to use her radio when she set off on her around the world flight…could that have caused her problems at the end??? The book doesn’t speculate on what happened to her it just gives us the facts as they are known so you will have to look at other sources for the speculation. I do love how Fleming has pieced together her history and the history of her last hours through all the radio transmissions…which I found fascinating. Who knew you could pick up radio transmissions from the Pacific in Florida? I love all the details Fleming included in the book and the fact that she did keep it straight facts. You are left to form your own opinions. I think the readability of this book will make it a great biography for kids looking for more information on Amelia Earhart. It is certainly not dry or boring and Earhart is always a fascinating mystery of history.