Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birute Galdikas by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks
Released June 11, 2013.
Explore three of the greatest primatologists of the 20th century in this graphic novel. The book begins with the story of Jane Goodall and how she was recruited by the famous anthropologist Lous Leakey to research chimpanzees. It shows how she first learned to quietly watch the chimpanzees and be accepted by them as well as her own personal life as she lived in the jungle. When Dian Fossey is then recruited by Leakey, the story turns to her life and her very different personality as she researched gorillas using similar techniques to Goodall. The last woman recruited was Galdikas and she studied orangutans and had her own adventures as her research progressed. Told with humor but also immense respect, the stories of these three pioneering women show the importance of female scientists and the unique paths you can take to reaching your dreams.
Ottaviani writes in the voices of the three women, beautifully capturing their individuality through their words. The three are profoundly unique yet also amazingly similar in their bravery, dedication and resilience. I particularly enjoyed the scenes where the three of them were together and the ending which demonstrated how different they were from one another. It takes a lot of skill to write three women’s voices with such clarity that they are distinct and special.
The art by Wicks has a wonderful simplicity and also a playfulness that makes the book welcoming and light hearted. This is nonfiction that reluctant readers and young biologists alike will enjoy. The graphic format is compelling and given the nature of the research makes the entire experience more tangible for young readers.
A great graphic novel, this is a stellar pick for school libraries and public libraries that will have children learning about scientific history without even realizing it! Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from copy received from First Second.
Bink & Gollie: Best Friends Forever by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee, illustrated by Tony Fucile
Bink and Gollie return in their third book of escapades as best friends. The first of the three stories in this book has Gollie wondering if she might have royal blood while Bink is much more interested in pancakes. The second has Bink worrying about being short and buying the incredibly complex Stretch-o-matic that requires “excessive assembly.” The third story has the girls wondering what collection they should start to get a record in Flicker’s Arcana of the Extraordinary.
In all of these stories, we get to see Bink and Gollie as pure individuals. It’s a relief as always to return to a storybook world where girls are not bedecked in glitter, ruffles and pink. These are two girls who read as real and tangible and completely unique. I also enjoy the way that the friendship between the two girls always has space enough for them to be themselves and not try to even mimic one another. As always the stories are clever with great endings and completely readable by young readers. The illustrations continue to have the same freshness as the stories and characters, with wonderful humor embedded in them.
Fans of Bink & Gollie will be clamoring for the third book and thanks to the unique characters and easy reading format, these books belong in every library. Appropriate for ages 5-7.
Reviewed from library copy.
Stolen Magic by Stephanie Burgis
This third in the Kat, Incorrigible series continues the magical story of Kat who continues to romp through the social rules of the Regency-era with reckless abandon. In this book, she is attending the wedding of her sister Angeline or at least she hopes that it will turn out that way. But someone seems to be trying to kill her, cutting the axle of their carriage. She has spotted someone lingering in the shadows, watching her, but has yet to figure out what she has done to anger them. Kat is due to be initiated into the Order of the Guardians finally but that is delayed when it is discovered that their collection of spare portals has been stolen. Then there is the woman who looks disturbingly like Kat’s dead mother who is also attending the wedding and the fact that Kat’s brother Charles has chosen a very bad time to finally wake up and become responsible. It all makes for another delight of a novel in this charming series.
Burgis has created a heroine in Kat who is dynamic, ignores the social niceties of the day, and manages to get into all sorts of trouble, both magical and normal. Through it all, she finds herself in incredible scrapes and adventures, that are great fun to go along on. The writing is light handed, clear and makes for a rollicking read that is easy to read greedily and almost impossible to read slowly.
I see that this is said to be the conclusion of the series, though I admit that I hope for more about Kat. I want to see what happens when she actually enters the Guardians, what happens to the hint of romance in the air, and what scrapes she gets into next.
A grand ending to a great trilogy, this series is perfect to hand to both fans of fantasy and fans of historical fiction since it is a wonderful sweet concoction of both genres. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from copy received from Atheneum.
Renegade Magic by Stephanie Burgis
Somehow I lost track of this wonderful magical series, so I’m a little late in reading the last two books. This is the second in the series, following Kat, Incorrigible. Kat’s oldest sister is wed at the beginning of this book, but not before her wedding is disrupted by the angry mother of another sister’s suitor. Once again Kat’s feud with Lady Fotherington has caused catastrophe. When Kat confronts Lady Fotherington about what she has done, she goes too far and loses her right to learn how to use her Guardian magic. Soon after the wedding, the suitor has reluctantly left and the family heads to Bath to escape the scandal for a time. Little do they know, but they are heading directly into a huge magical situation where Kat will be unable to avoid the Guardians.
Burgis weaves actual history into her story of Bath which adds a fine solid foundation to a story that is frothy with fun and sparkling with magic. Perhaps the best part of this book is the frumpery and finery of the upper class, making sure they are seen in the proper way and fretting about the smallest things. Through it all, Kat is a fierce heroine, determined to regain her right to learn Guardian magic and do what is best for her family.
A strong second book in a delight of a series, this book has a strong ending that sets readers up nicely for the final book in the series. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from copy received from Atheneum Books for Young Readers.
Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant’s Tale by Duncan Tonatiuh
Released May 7, 2013.
Papa Rabbit had traveled north to find work when the rains didn’t come one year. Finally, after two years, he was returning home to his family. A party was planned with food and music, but Papa Rabbit didn’t come back. When the other rabbits went to sleep, Pancho Rabbit set out to find his father. He took with him his father’s favorite meal of mole, rice and beans, tortillas, and a jug of aguamiel. As he traveled, Pancho met a coyote, who offered to help him reach his father. The coyote demanded payment of the mole up front, then taking Pancho to the train tracks where they jumped a train. As the journey continued, the coyote demanded food after each part of the journey until Pancho was out of food. Then Pancho himself was the only food for the coyote to demand. This allegorical tale of migrant workers coming to the United States is a powerful look at the dangers they face and the love that drives them.
Tonatiuh writes with a strength here, each word seemingly chosen for its impact and power. The importance of this sort of story for young children cannot be ignored. This book carefully dresses the horrors of the story in folktales, but the purpose is still clear. Those folktale devices are particularly effective in a story such as this, allowing the reader to see the dangers but not be overwhelmed by them. The use of the different pieces of food as payment is particularly clever as is the character of the coyote being that animal.
The illustrations convey the folktale structure as well. Done in a flattened style, they have strong lines and shapes. Tonatiuh makes clever use of textures like jean material, tires, fur and textured paper. This added touch ensures that readers recognize the modern nature of the tale.
This book belongs in every library since it deals with a current issue that affects many in our communities directly. Teachers will find this book especially useful when discussion immigration as well. Appropriate for ages 6-9.
Reviewed from copy received from Abrams.
On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne, illustrated by Vladimir Radunsky
The author of Manfish: A Story of Jacques Cousteau (my review) returns with this picture book biography of Einstein. It follows the story of Einstein from birth through his series of amazing discoveries about the universe. The book begins with pages where Einstein as a small child does not speak until he is inspired to ask questions thanks to a compass which is given to him. Einstein is also inspired by picturing his bicycle riding on beams of light, racing through space. So he began to study science and numbers and after graduating from college wanted to be a teacher. Instead, he found a job working in a government office where he had extra time to think. That time to think turned into incredible discoveries about science and the nature of the universe until scientists and professors were seeking Einstein out to come and work with them. The end of the book celebrates Einstein’s eccentricities as well as the discoveries that he made. This is an inspiring look at a scientist who broke all the rules and decoded the universe.
Berne’s writing truly celebrates this amazing thinker. The pacing is brisk, but the tone allows readers to linger and think if they wish to. When she focuses on his odder behaviors, they are seen through a lens of what they meant for his genius rather than just being peculiar. And who wouldn’t want to not wear socks and have ice cream too!
Radunsky’s illustrations are done on textured paper that adds a soft yellow glow to the entire book, something wonderful to have in a book that speaks about rays of light. His drawings are rough and have a wonderful sense of playfulness.
A great read about a great man, this picture book biography should be welcomed by young scientists as well as in science classrooms. Appropriate for ages 6-9.
Reviewed from library copy.
The 13-Story Treehouse by Andy Griffiths, illustrated by Terry Denton
Andy and Terry live together in an amazing 13-story tree house. It has a bowling alley, a secret laboratory, swinging vines, a see-through swimming pool and even a man-eating shark tank. Unfortunately, all of these fun things around them are distracting them from finishing the book that is due in to the publisher! They have barely started and it needs to be finished quickly. But what are you supposed to do when there are flying cats, giant bananas, an evil sea monster, gangs of rampaging monkeys, and burp-filled bubblegum bubbles around you? You will just have to read the book to find out how Andy and Terry managed to finish their book in time.
Wildly funny and perfect for children who enjoy books like Diary of a Wimpy Kid. The author and illustrator worked together beautifully, creating a hilarious world that is a pleasure to visit. The book has illustrations throughout, black and white line drawings that add to the silliness of the story. Do not read this one looking for logic, just enjoy the giggles!
A great pick for reluctant readers who will appreciate the silly storyline and funny illustrations that effectively break up the text. Get this into the hands of your Wimpy Kid fans! Appropriate for ages 6-10.
Reviewed from copy received from Feiwel and Friends.
LookUp! Henrietta Leavitt, Pioneering Woman Astronomer by Robert Burleigh, illustrated by Raul Colon
Henrietta had loved the stars ever since she was a little girl and spent hours gazing at them. When she studied astronomy, she was one of the only women in her class. After graduating, she worked at an observatory though she almost never got to look through the telescope. Instead the women were there to do the calculations, to work and not think. But Henrietta continued to study and to think, she was especially interested in a group of stars that seemed to dim and glow. She discovered some new blinking stars that no one had ever found before. As she studied, she found a pattern in the dimming and brightening of these stars: the blink time allowed her to measure the true brightness of any blinking star in the sky. Her discovery led to a deeper understanding of the vastness of the universe and her life demonstrated that women are thinkers and scientists.
Burleigh’s writing is almost poetic here. He speaks of the connection Henrietta felt to the stars: “Sometimes she felt the stars were trying to speak, to tell her what they knew.” He writes with deep amazement at the vastness of the universe and also speaks of Leavitt’s discoveries in thrilled tones, giving her credit for the hard work and patience it took to find the patterns in the stars. The book ends with several pages that outline her discoveries, names of other female astronomers, and also have a glossary and bibliography.
Colon’s illustrations are simply gorgeous. Done in watercolors and pencil, the illustrations are luminous, glowing with the light of the stars and with the light of the heroine herself. Textured with swirling lines, the illustrations have a great depth to them as well.
This picture book biography invites children to follow their own passions and get involved in science as well. Appropriate for ages 6-9.
Reviewed from library copy.
Destiny, Rewritten by Kathryn Fitzmaurice
From even before she was born, it had been decided that Emily’s destiny was to be a poet. Named after Emily Dickinson when her mother was inspired at a bookstore, Emily’s entire 11-year life has been documented in the margins of a first edition copy of Dickinson’s poems. When Emily discovers that her mother wrote her father’s name in the margin of one of the poems, she rushes to read the book but a mishap sends it off to be donated to Goodwill. This begins a search of several used book stores for the book and it quickly becomes apparent that destinies will not be rushed and that there is no way to force them. But along the way, new friends are made, great books to read are found, and destiny is eventually changed.
Fitzmaurice writes with a wonderful mix of light tone and richness. She carefully builds her story, creating additional storylines that serve as different strings in the story that are tied together by the end. Another source of the richness is the way she describes things in the story. Chapter 4 begins with “So I headed down the hall that Saturday morning with a hopeful feeling that came only on days I was opening a new box of Cheerios…” This is such a universal image and universal feeling. The Cheerios play into more of the story along with the prizes in their box.
Emily is an engaging character who struggles with learning patience and the frustration of being so close to the truth and then unable to grasp it. She comes off as a multidimensional person, again thanks to the richness of the world that Fitzmaurice paints for the reader. The secondary characters are also well drawn and solidly written. It is a pleasure to also see poems by Dickinson and her life tied so closely to the lives of modern-day children and families.
Fresh and joyful, this is a novel where storylines click into place like a puzzle. It will delight children who enjoy reading. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from copy received from HarperCollins.
The Beatles Were Fab (And They Were Funny) by Kathleen Krull and Paul Brewer, illustrated by Stacy Innerst
This is a picture book biography of The Beatles that captures their humor and the way that they used it in their music and lifestyle. The book begins with the formation of the band and the fun they had naming themselves. The book talks about their use of silliness and jokes to keep their spirits up as they struggled to make it, looking for a record deal. When success came, it came quickly and with success came fame and fans. Then there was the Beatlesmania craze that swept the United States, nothing like it had been seen before or since. Krull includes some small details like American fans throwing jellybeans on stage because the band said they liked jellybabies, but jellybabies are soft where jellybeans are certainly not. She then has a section on each Beatle and some of the interesting responses they gave during interviews. This is a merry and fast-moving look at one of the greatest bands of all time.
Krull injects her nonfiction work with humor and zest. She tells specific stories that offer insight into the Beatles nature. It is a treat to hear their own words but it is also wonderful to read about moments in history that are revealing about their character. Krull and Brewer skillfully end the book before drug use became an issue for the band. Instead they focus on the early Beatles and their humor rather than the complexity of the later Beatles music and attitudes.
Innerst’s illustrations are just as humorous and playful as the stories that Krull and Brewer tell. The characters have a feel of bobble-heads and a strong modern vibe. He
she uses bright colors that match the energy of the text. I have to say, I am particularly partial to Ringo’s nose in the illustrations.
This strong picture book biography is not made for research, but instead fans of the Beatles can share part of their story with children and everyone is sure to end up humming some of the songs. Appropriate for ages 6-9.
Reviewed from library copy.