Tag Archives: genre: nonfiction

Primates Review

primatesPrimates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks

First Second, 2013. 978-1596438651

Winner of the 2014 Green Earth Book Award,

Winner of the 2014 Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year

Synopsis: Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas have become some of the biggest names in primatology during the 20th Century. Recruited by Louis Leakey, these women dared to go into the bush during a time when women were not yet taken seriously as scientists, and yet were considered better for field studies than men. Their work has influenced how the world now thinks about primates and about themselves.

Why I picked it up: A library colleague of mine highly recommended it.

Why I finished it: This book is every bit as amazing as I have been told it was. It’s a fun, funny, and inspiring look at how the study of primates has evolved (no pun intended) and even how women were able to make a name for themselves in what was still greatly considered to be a male dominated field. Goodall, Fossey, and Galdikas all had a clear idea of what they wanted to do with their lives, and they found a largely uphill battle to be able to be with the animals for which they felt such a strong passion to understand. I was sitting on the edge of my seat through most of the book, living out these adventures with Goodall, Fossey, and Galdikas and admiring their sheer gumption. It’s one thing to want to study gorillas or chimps or orangutans, but to do out and do the field work, live in the jungle, and truly immerse yourself in the research takes some definite guts. I’m truly in awe. And despite the stories about how awful it sometimes got, it makes me want to go out and do something groundbreaking. Ottaviani does a beautiful job of highlighting the major life events of these three women and the major breakthroughs they experienced that would enable them to present themselves as serious researchers. There is a little bit of fiction inserted into the plot, but I didn’t find that it affected the overall story – I mean, it’s pretty hard to even just fit one scientist’s life into a book, let alone three! Wicks art beautifully depicts each of the women’s lives and really bring to life each species of primate and their natural habitats. I loved that so many of the sequences were based on real photographs of Goodall, Fossey, and Galdikas during the prime years of their research. It’s a truly inspiring read about some truly inspiring women that reminds us that we are never done fighting and that we must never back down from defending something in which we truly believe.

Other related materials: Dignifying Science: Stories About Women Scientists by Jim Ottaviani, Linda Medley, and Donna Barr; Two-Fisted Science: Stories About Scientists by Jim Ottavini, Mark Badger, Donna Barr, Colleen Doran, and Rob Walton; Human Body Theater by Maris Wicks; Girls Who Rocked the World: Heroines from Joan of Arc to Mother Teresa by Michelle Roehm McCann, Amelie Welden, and David Hahn; Girls Who Looked Under Rocks: The Lives of Six Pioneering Naturalists by Jeannine Atkins, illustrated by Paula Conner; Untamed: The Wild Life of Jane Goodall by Anita Silvey; The Watcher: Jane Goodall’s Life with the Chimps by Jeanette Winter; Dian Fossey: Friend to Africa’s Gorillas by Robin S. Doak; Light Shining Through the Mist: A Photobiograhy of Dian Fossey by Tom Matthews; Dian Fossey: Among the Gorillas by Wil Mara; Among the Orangutans: The Birute Galdikas Story by Evelyn Gallardo; Orangutan Odyssey by Birute M.F. Galdikas; Mary Leakey: Archaeologist Who Really Dug Her Work by Mike Venezia; Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science – and the World by Rachel Swaby

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Samurai Rising Review

samurai_risingSamurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune by Pamela S. Turner, illustrations by Gareth Hinds

Charlesbridge, 2016. 978-1580895842

Synopsis: When Yoshitsune was just a baby, his father went to war with a rival samurai family—and lost. His father was killed, his mother captured, and his brothers sent away. Yoshitsune was raised in his enemy’s household until he was sent away to live in a monastery. He grew up skinny and small. Not the warrior type. But he did inherit his family pride and when the time came for the Minamoto to rise up against their enemy once again, Yoshitsune was there. His daring feats, such as storming a fortress by riding on horseback down the side of a cliff and his glorious victory at sea, secured Yoshitsune’s place in history and his story is still being told centuries later. – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: I developed an interest in Asian history in college and I have been fascinated with samurai ever since.

Why I finished it: Exploring Japanese culture has become somewhat of a passion for me since my introduction to anime in college – a friend showed me Samurai X, introducing me into the world of the samurai. Before I picked up this book (and even when I was studying Asian history), I hadn’t come across Yoshistune and the Minamoto/Taira civil war. It stunned me to realize that I knew more about the decline of the samurai class than I did about its origins. The Japanese culture is rife with tradition: its mythology, its religions, its economies, all seem so grand in their scale and in their longevity. The stories and historical accounts from this period survive perhaps because of the fantastic, almost larger-than-life element to them. Yoshistune’s story is inspiring: he was a great commander and strategist who may not have fit the typical western stereotype of ‘hero’, but his brazen and bold decisions helped to establish many of the nuances that we today associate with the samurai. Hinds’ illustrations pay tribute to the painting tradition most closely associated with Asian art. The contrast between sweeping and short brush strokes convey a sense of beauty and danger in any given illustration, a theme that is present throughout the book. It’s a story that engages the reader in the history and gives us insight into the notion that we all have the potential to make our mark on history, if we are bold enough to step up.

Other related materials: Japan in the Days of the Samurai by Virginia Schomp; Life in Ancient Japan by Hazel Richardson; The Most Daring Raid of the Samurai by Stephen Turnbull; The Samurai Sourcebook by Stephen Turnbull; Japanese Mythology A to Z by Jeremy Roberts; Hands-On History! Ancient Japan by Fiona MacDonald; How to Be a Samurai Warrior by Fiona MacDonald; The End of the Shoguns and the Birth of Modern Japan by Mark E. Cunningham and Lawrence J. Zwier; Commodore Perry in the Land of the Shogun by Rhoda Blumberg; Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus; The Samurai’s Tale by Erik C. Haugaard; In The Beginning: Creation Stories from Around the World by Virginia Hamilton, illustrations by Barry Moser

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Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine Review

ada_byron_lovelace_and_the_thinking_machineAda Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine by Laurie Wallmark, illustrated by April Chu

Creston Books, 2015. 978-1939547200

Synopsis: Ada Lovelace, the daughter of the famous romantic poet, Lord Byron, develops her creativity through science and math. When she meets Charles Babbage, the inventor of the first mechanical computer, Ada understands the machine better than anyone else and writes the world’s first computer program in order to demonstrate its capabilities. – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: In addition to Darlene Beck-Jacobson having featured the book on her blog, I’m an avid supporter of books that promote math and science and women in technology.

Why I finished it: The literary world needs more books like this one that promote math and science to a female audience. Both fields have been heavily dominated by men – and for the most part, still are – and it is important to promote the contributions of female mathematicians and scientists because their stories are inspiration for the new generations. Lovelace grew up and lived in an era where women did not often stray beyond the role of wife and mother, and like those before and those who would follow her, she found a way to make a name for herself and to challenge the notions of what it meant to be a woman. She is celebrated as the first programmer, a title I feel she deserves: the algorithms she wrote in the 19th century pre-date the computer, but when her work was applied to the modern ‘thinking machine’, it was nearly perfect. Wallmark’s story may be marketed as a children’s book, but the story she tells can be appreciated by readers of all ages. It’s about perseverance and the power of ideas, a message that transcends age and gender. Chu’s illustrations lovingly capture the Victorian era and the world of numbers that entertained Lovelace. The attention to detail lets the reader linger a moment on the pictures that accompany the text, to more fully appreciate the forward thinking minds that unknowingly created computer programming. It’s an inspiring read that can be read and shared over and over again.

Other related materials: Ada Lovelace: The Computer Wizard of Victorian England by Lucy Lethbridge; Ada Lovelace, Poet of Science: The First Computer Programmer by Diane Stanley, illustrated by Jessie Hartland; Lauren Ipsum: A Story about Computer Science and Other Improbable Things by Carlos Bueno; Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women by Catherine Thimmesh, illustrated by Melissa Sweet; Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts; Hello Ruby: Adventures in Coding by Linda Liukas; If: A Mind-Bending New Way of Looking at Big Ideas and Numbers by David J. Smith, illustrated by Steve Adams; Hedy Lamarr and a Secret Communication System by Trina Robbins, illustrated by Cynthia Martin; Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science – and the World by Rachel Swaby; Girls Who Rocked the World: Heroines from Joan of Arc to Mother Teresa by Michelle Roehm McCann and Amelia Welden, illustrated by David Hahn; Amelia to Zora: Twenty-Six Women who Changed the World by Cynthia Chin-Lee, illustrated by Megan Hasley and Sean Addy; Cool Engineering Activities for Girls by Heather E. Schwartz; Cool Chemistry Activities for Girls by Jodi Wheeler-Toppen, PhD; Cool Physics Activities for Girls by Suzanne Slade

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Happy Veterans Day 2015!

indexHappy Veteran’s Day!

If you see a Veteran or an active service member today (or really, any day), thank them for their service to our country. Freedom was won for us by soldiers, and it is important to remember to thank the brave men and women who have put their lives on the line to ensure that we can still have the freedom we enjoy.

I’ve compiled a short list of children’s books that talk about Veteran’s Day and why it’s important. And if you have an interest in further supporting our troops: uso.org, Wounded Warrior Project, Disabled American Veterans, and Homes for Our Troops are just a few of the charities that help support veterans and active service members.

Their sacrifice is our gain; don’t let what they’ve done be forgotten.

Veteran’s Day by Jacqueline S. Cotton; 978-0516274997

Veterans Day: Valuing the Sacrifice of Veterans by Arlene Worsley; 978-1605969329

Veterans: Heroes in Our Neighborhood by Valerie Pfundstein, illustrated by Aaron Anderson; 978-0578135106

The Poppy Lady: Moina Belle Michael and Her Tribute to Veterans by Barbara Walsh, illustrated by Layne Johnson; 978-1590787540

Remembering Our Heroes: Veterans Day by Kelly Rodgers; 978-1433373633

From A to Z What a Veteran Means to Me! by David Rabb, illustrated by Isha Gupta; 978-0989002622

The Wall by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Ronald Himler; 978-0395629772

America’s White Table by Margot Theis Raven, illustrated by Mike Benny; 978-1585362165

A Tale of Two Heroes by Jody Davids, illustrated by Anita Miller; 978-0578162867

My Two Great Grandfathers: A Story of Remembrance by Dolores H. Lee and James T. Lees

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Happy Guy Fawkes Day 2015!

Remember, Remember!/the fifth of November….

indexHappy Guy Fawkes Day/Bonfire Night, once again!

Since Guy Fawkes Day is about rebelling against the government (among other things) and we have a presidential election coming up this next year, I thought I would put together a list of books about the American government and Democracy. It’s important to be a well-informed citizen, and part of being a well-informed citizen is knowing how the government works and our role in it.

It may not seem like ordinary people have that big of a role in determining what goes on in this country, but that’s not actually true. Taking the time to learn about the issues and going out and voting (if you’re old enough) does impact what issues get addressed and which ones don’t. Don’t ever think that your voice doesn’t count!

The-Power-of-One-Does-a-Single-Vote-Matters1General Books about Government

Forms of Government by Peter Benoit; 978-0531258262

Kids’ Guide to Government books by Ernestine Giesecke

The Everything American Government Book: From the Constitution to Present-Day Elections, All You Need to Understand Our Democratic System by Nick Ragone; 978-1593370558

Americapedia: Taking the Dumb Out of Freedom by Andisheh Nouraee, Daniel Ehrenhaft, and Jodi Lynn Anderson; 978-0802797933

How the U.S. Government Works by Syl Sobel, J.D.; 978-0764147920

How to Build Your Own Country by Valerie Wyatt; illustrated by Fred Rix; 978-1554533107

The Constitution and the Bill of Rights

In Defense of Liberty: The Story of America’s Bill of Rights by Russell Freedman; 978-0823415854

A More Perfect Union: The Story of Our Constitution by Betsy Maestro, illustrated by Guilio Maestro; 978-0688101923

The Bill of Rights: Protecting Our Freedom Then and Now by Syl Sobel, J.D.; 978-0764140211

A Kid’s Guide to America’s Bill of Rights: Curfews, Censorship, and the 100-Pound Giant by Katherine Krull, illustrated by Anna DiVito; 978-0380974979

Constitutional Law for Kids: Discovering the Rights and Privileges Granted by the U.S. Constitution by Ursula Furi-Perry; 978-1627220231

God and Government: The Separation of Church and State by Ann E. Weiss; 978-0395549773

Branches of Government

Our Government: The Three Branches by Shelly Buchanan; 978-1433373657

A Woman in the House (and Senate): How Women Came to the United States Congress, Broke Down Barriers, and Changed the Country by Ilene Cooper, illustrations by Elizabeth Baddeley; 978-1419710360

Our Supreme Court: A History with 14 Activities by Richard Panchyk; 978-1556526077

The U.S. Congress for Kids: Over 200 Years of Lawmaking, Deal-Breaking, and Compromising by Ronald A. Reis; 978-1613749777

Guilty?: Crime, Punishment, and the Changing Face of Justice by Teri Kanefield; 978-0544148963

The Supreme Court and the Judicial Branch by Bryon Giddens-White; 978-1403466082

Checks and Balances: A Look at the Powers of Government by Kathiann M. Kowalski; 978-0761385585

The President, Vice President, and Cabinet: A Look at the Executive Branch by Elaine Landau; 978-0761385639

The Congress: A Look at the Legislative Branch by Robin Nelson and Sandy Donovan; 978-0761385592

Judges and Courts: A Look at the Judicial Branch by Kathiann M. Kowalski; 978-0761385622

The Presidency

When I Grow Up, I Want To Be President: A Young Person’s Guide to Understanding the Presidency of the United States by Linda M. Eccelston; 978-1442165977

So You Want to Be President? by Judith St. George, illustrated by David Small; 978-0399243172

If I Ran for President by Catherine Stier, illustrated by Lynne Avril; 978-0807535448

The New Big Book of U.S. Presidents: Fascinating Facts about Each and Every President, Including an American History Timeline by Todd Davis and Marc Frey; 978-0762448807

Smart About the Presidents written and illustrated by Jon Buller, Susan Schade, Maryann Cocca-Leffler; Dana Regan, and Jill Weber; 978-0448433721

Madam President: The Extraordinary, True (and Evolving) Story of Women in Politics by Catherine Thimmesh, illustrated by Douglas B. Jones; 978-0618971435


The Art of the Possible: An Everyday Guide to Politics by Edward Keenan, illustrated by Julie McLaughlin; 978-1771470681

It’s Your World: Get Informed, Get Inspired & Get Going! by Chelsea Clinton; 978-0399176128

It’s Your World–If You Don’t Like It, Change It: Activism for Teenagers by Mikki Halpin; 978-0689874482

Election!: A Kid’s Guide to Picking Our President by Dan Gutman; 978-1453270660

The Kid’s Guide to Social Action by Barbara A. Lewis; 978-1575420387

Vote (DK Eyewitness Books) by DK Publishing; 978-0756633820

Vote! by Eileen Christelow; 978-0547059730

The Future Is Ours: A Handbook for Student Activists in the 21st Century edited by John W. Bartlett; 978-0805047875

See How They Run: Campaign Dreams, Election Schemes, and the Race to the White House by Susan E. Goodman, illustrated by Elwood Smith; 978-1599908977

How Political Campaigns and Elections Work by Kevin Cunningham; 978-1624036330

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Guys Write for Guys Read Review

guys_write_for_guys_readGuys Write for Guys Read edited by Jon Scieszka

Viking Books for Young Readers, 2005. 9780670060078.

Synopsis: There’s something for everyone in this collection of stories about men and boys being, well, men and boys. Chosen by readers of the Guys Read website, the writers retell stories about their childhoods, how they got into reading, and how they discovered their passions and themselves.

Why I picked it up: My reasoning was twofold: firstly, I love the Guys Read movement and its approach to encouraging literacy; secondly, I wanted to add some more guy-friendly books to my repertoire.

Why I finished it: While this collection is aimed at readers of the male persuasion, as a female reader I was still thoroughly engrossed in the stories and drawings of the contributors. I feel as though the adventures and misadventures recounted are relatable to both genders. True, most of the girls I know never tried to climb up a fire escape with an extension cord, pee on an electric fence (not that we could if we wanted to), or shoot themselves across the neighborhood on a homemade slingshot. But I am willing to bet there were a number of us that bulked ourselves up to get noticed (like David Yoo), crawled over fences we weren’t supposed to, read the sports section of the newspaper, or got their start drawing doodles in the margins of their homework assignments. But I digress: this collection is boys and men doing what they do, and by all accounts, doing it well and having a good time doing it. For older readers, it makes us remember our younger days when we were much more fearless and the consequences seemed less severe. For younger readers, it gives them inspiration to find their passions…and even perhaps in new avenues of mischief. It’s a fun, funny, laugh-out-loud book that has an appeal for guys of all ages that reminds us we are never too old to be young.

Other related materials: Guys Read: Funny Business edited by Jon Scieszka; Guys Read: The Sports Page edited by Jon Scieszka; Guys Read: True Stories edited by Jon Scieszka; Guys Read Thriller edited by Jon Scieszka; Guys Read: Other Worlds by Jon Scieszka; Guys Read: Terrifying Tales edited by Jon Scieszka; Knucklehead: Tall tales and Almost True Stories of Growing Up Scieszka by Jon Scieszka; 13: Thirteen Stories That Capture the Agony and Ecstasy of Being Thirteen edited by James Howe; No Easy Answers: Short Stories About Teenagers Making Tough Choices edited by Donald R. Gallo; On the Fringe edited by Donald R. Gallo; Baseball in April and Other Stories by Gary Soto; Guy Write: What Every Guy Writer Needs to Know by Ralph Fletcher

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Guys Read: True Stories Review

guys_read_5Guys Read: True Stories edited by Jon Scieszka, illustrations by Brian Floca

Waldon Pond Press, 2014. 978-0061963810

Synopsis: Dread going to the dentist? Pondered what you would do if you were shipwrecked on the edge of a desert? Dreamed about going down some of North America’s greatest ‘undiscovered’ rivers? Ever wondered what it would be like to spent the night in the jungle…with tarantulas? Read these ten 100% true, 100% amazing, 100% unbelievable stories and find out!

Why I picked it up: I totally love this series of books and I love the idea behind Guys Read.

Why I finished it: I’m not usually a huge fan of non-fiction, but this collection of stories totally grabbed me right from the beginning. Some of this stuff is pretty out there, and even as I sat reading, I was thinking things like ‘this can’t be real’ and ‘this is so fantastic’ and ‘what am I doing to get out there and explore the world?’ Non-fiction isn’t boring by any stretch of the imagination and this book proves that history and even the everyday adventures we have are totally amazing. My favorite stories were Nathan Hale’s ‘Hugh Glass: Dead Man Crawing’ (an explorer is attacked by a bear and somehow lives to tell about it) and Thanhha Lai’s ‘A Pack of Brothers’ (some stories about growing up with five older brothers in Vietnam). Hale’s comic really grabbed me because it somehow makes the tale taller; I mean, it’s already pretty unbelievable that a man could survive a bear attack in the age of Western Expansion, then crawl to get help even after he’s left for dead. There’s even little commentary from some more modern characters that gives the story a sort of humor that is likely not present in any of the source material. Lai’s stories about her siblings remind me a lot of my own childhood and the different predicaments my brother and I would get ourselves into. The reader can relate to their misadventures with pairs of scissors and the desire to go out with friends over spending time with family. It’s a worthy addition to the Guys Read library, and if you like the books, go check out the site: there’s even more fun that awaits you.

Other related materials: Guys Read: Funny Business edited by Jon Scieszka; Guys Read: Thriller edited by Jon Scieszka; Guys Read: The Sports Pages edited by Jon Scieszka; Guys Read: Other Worlds edited by Jon Scieszka; Guys Read: Terrifying Tales edited by Jon Scieszka; Guys Write for Guys Read edited by Jon Scieszka; Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales books by Nathan Hale; Which Way to the Wild West?: Everything Your Schoolbooks Didn’t Tell You About Westward Expansion by Steve Sheinkin, illustrated by Tim Robinson; King George: What Was His Problem?: The Whole Hilarious Story of the American Revolution by Steve Sheinkin, illustrated by Tim Robinson; Two Miserable Presidents: The Amazing, Terrible, and Totally True Story of the Civil War by Steve Sheinkin, illustrated by Tim Robinson; 13: Thirteen Stories That Capture the Agony and Ecstasy of Being Thirteen edited by James Howe; Read All About It!: Great Read-Aloud Stories, Poems, and Newspaper Pieces for Preteens and Teens edited by Jim Trelease; Guy-Write: What Every Guy Writer Needs to Know by Ralph Fletcher; 642 Things to Write About: Young Writers Edition by 826 Valencia

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