Category: Nonfiction


case for loving

The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage by Selina Alko, illustrations by Sean Qualls and Selina Alko

This nonfiction picture book tells of a history that will surprise modern American children. It is the story of love and one family that was brave enough to stand up to a racist law. Mildred and Richard Loving fell in love in the small town of Central Point, Virginia. They had different colored skin and so they were not allowed to get legally married in Virginia. So they crossed state lines into Washington, DC and got married there. When they returned to Virginia though, they were arrested for violating the state law against interracial marriage. The two moved to Washington DC and raised their children there. Things started to change in the 1960s and the Lovings took their case all the way to the Supreme Court to win the right to marry one another in the state of Virginia.

This book is strikingly beautiful with a rich warmth that flows directly from the story and art. The author and illustrator are a husband wife team who are also interracial. Their passion for this subject shines on the page. Alko explains that subject matter with a vibrancy, offering information on the laws in a way that is suitable for small children. The drama of the arrest is also clearly captured, exposing the ludicrous law to today’s perspective.

The art of the book was done by both Qualls and Alko. Their styles marry into a beautiful richness that fills the pages. They are filled  will playful hearts and flowers that add a lighter note to the images. At the same time they have detailed paintings filled with texture and power at their center. The combination of both has created a stunning beauty of collage and painting.

An important piece of our civil rights history as a nation, this picture book documents one family willing to take up the fight for themselves and others. Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from copy received from Arthur A. Levine Books.

sand swimmers

Sand Swimmers: The Secret Life of Australia’s Desert Wilderness by Narelle Oliver

Set in the ferocious center of Australia, this book looks at one of the harshest climates in the world and the animals that not only survive there but thrive there. The “Dead Heart” of Australia can appear completely uninhabited at first, but this book has us look closer and see what the Aboriginal people have known for thousands of years. The huge salt lake has lizards, shrimp and frogs if you know where to look. The mulga scrublands have tangled timber but that is also shelter for spiders, ants, geckos, and birds. Down deep under the earth, there are even more animals sheltering. Even the oceans of rock and sand have animals living there. Explore an amazing ecosystem along with early explorers of Australia who failed to see the creatures hiding around them.

Oliver takes readers on an amazing journey through various regions of the center of Australia. Even the rocks and sand and plants themselves are wild and different from other parts of the world. Everything seems to combine to make the most uninhabitable ecosystem in the world, but that’s not true if you look deeper. Oliver takes readers deeper into the desert and readers will discover the beauty and life hidden in this desolate landscape.

Oliver’s illustrations combine line drawings of the creatures with smudged drawings of the early explorers. The combination of the crisp line drawings with the more smudged ones is very successful, giving readers a taste of both the animals themselves and the history.

A brilliant look at a fascinating habitat, this book goes far beyond the stereotypical kangaroos and koala bears of Australia. Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from library copy.

seeds of freedom

Seeds of Freedom: The Peaceful Integration of Huntsville, Alabama by Hester Bass, illustrated by E. B. Lewis

Violence was a large part of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s.  However in Huntsville, Alabama something quite different happened, quietly and successfully.  They managed through cooperation, quiet civil disobedience, and courage to stand up for what was right for all members of their community.  There were lunchroom protests where young black people sat at the counters they were not allowed to eat at.  There were marches with signs.  There were arrests, even one of a mother with an infant that gained national news. There were lovely protests like refusing to purchase new clothes for Easter and instead dressing in blue jeans to deny some stores their business. There were balloons with messages of coming together even as a segregationist ran for governor. There were brave children who attended schools where they were the only people of color. Yet it all happened in a community of support and with no violence at all.

Bass emphasizes throughout her book that there were challenges in the society and reasons for protest.  Time and again though just as the reader thinks things will be more rough and confrontational, it abates and progress is made. Her use of details from the other cities in Alabama as well as the national Civil Rights Movement will show children how violent the struggles often were. It is against that backdrop that the progress in Huntsville really shines.

Lewis’s paintings also shine.  He captures the strength and determination of those working for their civil rights.  On each page there is hope from the children reaching to the sky with their balloons to the one black child in the class and his smile.  It all captures both the solemnity of the struggle and the power of achieving change.

Beautifully told and illustrated, this nonfiction picture book offers a compelling story about a community’s willingness to change without violence.  Appropriate for ages 7-10.

Reviewed from library copy.

queens shadow

The Queen’s Shadow by Cybele Young

Released March 1, 2015.

This fascinating and unique nonfiction picture book takes a mystery and turns it into information about how various animals see.  At the Queen’s Ball, several different animals have gathered.  Then there is a flash of lightning and a moment of darkness.  When the lights come back on, the Queen’s shadow has been stolen!  Who stole it and how can they prove it?  One by one, each animal offers testimony to what they witnessed “colored” by the way they are able to see the world.  There are the eyes of the chameleon who can look in two directions at once but only shoot out his tongue when both eyes are focused on the same thing.  The shark excels at seeing contrast more than anything and notices patterns of light and dark. Pit viper sees in heat and cool. Dragonfly offers perspective from compound eyes. It will take each of their ways of seeing the world to solve this mystery. 

Young creates an entirely abstract and amazing world here. There is a strong sense of decorum throughout the book, no animals attacking each other and the human queen unafraid of any of her more predatory guests. She combines information for the mystery about what was witnessed through that specific set of eyes and then shares strictly scientific information in offset text boxes too. The result is a book that keeps you turning pages not only to solve the mystery but to continue seeing the world in such unique ways and learning more.

The illustrations have a feel of vintage illustrations with finely detailed ink drawings washed with color. This style is reworked though when seeing through other animals’ eyes so that with each turn of the page, the art is ever-changing and fascinating.

Peculiar in a delightful way, this nonfiction picture book is one that will appeal to children wanting to “see” more of the natural world.  Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Netgalley and Kids Can Press.

gingerbread for liberty

Gingerbread for Liberty: How a German Baker Helped Win the American Revolution by Mara Rockliff, illustrated by Vincent X. Kirsch

German-born Christopher Ludwick had come to the Colonies as a young man looking for the opportunity to create his own bakery.  He did just that, creating gorgeous gingerbread for his town.  When the Revolutionary War began, he was eager to defend his America in any way he could, so he headed off to join General George Washington.  When he got there, the soldiers were hungry and complaining about the quality of food they were getting.  Ludwick jumped into action, feeing the armies bread from his ovens.  But the dangers weren’t done yet.  The King of England pulled together armies from other countries and sent them into battle.  The soldiers came from Germany and Ludwick offered to see if he could convince them not to fight.  Once again it was food and the promise of having enough to eat that convinced the soldiers to lay down their arms.  Many battles later, the war was won, but Ludwick and General Washington had one final mammoth baking task ahead of them.

Rockliff keeps the tone of this book quite lighthearted even as Ludwick finds himself taking grave risks with his life.  The writing is jolly and merry throughout.  The tone suits this baker whose optimism shines on the page and whose patriotism seemed to know no limits.  His accomplishments exceed what is shown in this picture book.  Make sure to read the Author’s Note at the end of the book to learn more about this amazing patriot and what he did for children and education as well as liberty.

Kirsch’s illustrations are a gingery delight.  Done in the forms of elaborate gingerbread cookies, the characters are shown as flat brown cookies with plenty of icing.  From the brown outlines to the white lines of icing, there is no mistaking what they are meant to be.  They too add a sweet and optimistic feel to this jolly picture book.

An unsung hero of the Revolutionary War and beyond, this picture book celebrates the impact that one man can have in making history.  Appropriate for ages 6-8.

Reviewed from library copy.

“Honoring a Latino writer and illustrator whose children’s books best portray, affirm and celebrate the Latino cultural experience”

WINNER

Viva Frida

Viva Frida by Yuyi Morales

 

HONOR BOOKS

Green Is a Chile Pepper: A Book of Colors Little Roja Riding Hood

Green Is a Chile Pepper illustrated by John Parra, written by Roseanne Greenfield Thong

Little Roja Riding Hood illustrated by Susan Guevara, written by Susan Middleton Elya

Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family's Fight for Desegregation

Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez & Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation illustrated and written by Duncan Tonatiuh

WINNER

The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus

The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet

 

HONOR BOOKS

Brown Girl Dreaming The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, & the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming

Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker Neighborhood Sharks: Hunting with the Great Whites of California's Farallon Islands

Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker by Patricia Hruby Powell, illustrated by Christian Robinson

Neighborhood Sharks: Hunting with the Great Whites of California’s Farallon Islands by Katherine Roy

Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family's Fight for Desegregation

Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez & Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh

Awarded annually to English-language children’s and young adult books of exceptional merit relating to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender experience:

WINNER

This Day in June

This Day in June by Gayle E. Pitman, Ph.D., illustrated by Kristyna Litten

 

HONOR BOOKS

Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out I'll Give You the Sun

Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress

Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress by Christine Baldacchio, illustrated by Isabelle Malenfant

WINNER

Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek

Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek by Maya Van Wagenen

 

FINALISTS

The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia Ida M. Tarbell: The Woman Who Challenged Big Business--and Won!

The Family Romanov: Murder Rebellion and the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming

Ida M. Tarbell: The Woman Who Challenged Big Business—and Won! by Emily Arnold McCully

Laughing at My Nightmare The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights

Laughing at My Nightmare by Shane Burcaw

The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights by Steve Sheinkin

The National Council of Teachers of English have announced the 2015 winner, honor books and recommended books for the Orbis Pictus Award.  The award was created in 1989 to promote and recognize excellence in writing of children’s nonfiction. 

2015 Winner

The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia

The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion & the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming

 

Honor Books

A Home for Mr. Emerson Mr. Ferris and His Wheel

A Home for Mr. Emerson by Barbara Kerley, illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham

Mr. Ferris and His Wheel by Kathryn Gibbs Davis, illustrated by Gilbert Ford

The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family's Fight for Desegregation

The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet

Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez & Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh

20518974

Star Stuff: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos by Stephanie Roth Sisson

 

Recommended Books

18172993 Eye to Eye: How Animals See The World

Chasing Cheetahs: The Race to Save Africa’s Fastest Cats by Sy Montgomery, photographs by Nic Bishop

Eye to Eye: How Animals See the World by Steve Jenkins

The Girl from the Tar Paper School: Barbara Rose Johns and the Advent of the Civil Rights Movement 20388100

The Girl from the Tar Paper School: Barbara Rose Johns and the Advent of the Civil Rights Movement by Teri Kanefield

Little Melba and Her Big Trombone by Katheryn Russell-Brown, illustrated by Frank Morrison

Neighborhood Sharks: Hunting with the Great Whites of California's Farallon Islands The Scraps Book

Neighborhood Sharks: Hunting with the Great Whites of California’s Farallon Islands by Katherine Roy

The Scraps Book: Notes from a Colorful Life by Lois Ehlert

The Streak: How Joe DiMaggio Became America's Hero Strike!: The Farm Workers' Fight for Their Rights

The Streak: How Joe DiMaggio Became America’s Hero by Barb Rosenstock, illustrated by Terry Widener

Strike!: The Farm Worker’s Fight for Their Rights by Larry Dane Brimner

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