Category: Nonfiction

Chef Roy Choi and the Street Food Remix by Jacqueline Briggs Martin

Chef Roy Choi and the Street Food Remix by Jacqueline Briggs Martin

Chef Roy Choi and the Street Food Remix by Jacqueline Briggs Martin and June Jo Lee, illustrated by Man One (9780983661597, Amazon)

Roy Choi was born in Seoul, Korea and moved to Los Angeles with his family when he was two years old. His family owned restaurants and he grew up loving his mother’s cooking. When his family got successful, they moved into the suburbs where Roy didn’t fit in. He eventually found his way to being a chef and worked in prestigious kitchens until he lost his job. When a friend had the idea to open a food truck that served tacos, Roy agreed. Soon his food truck was a huge success. Still, Roy wanted to do more. He decided to open fast food restaurants in neighborhoods that needed them. Roy stayed in the neighborhoods where he felt most at home and where he was needed, and that’s exactly where you will find the very successful chef today.

This is the third book about chefs and food people by Martin. As with the previous two books, she captures the essence of this person with skill. Her prose is shown as poetry on the page and often reads that way too. Her take on things so succinct and focused, she uses only the necessary words to tell the story. Her collaborator, Lee dances poems on the page that have the feel of modern lyrics.

The illustrations are entirely unique. Done with backgrounds of spray-paint on large canvases that were then photographed, there is a wild energy to them. The play of music and food on the page is apparent, the graffiti inspired art ties to the urban setting and the poorer neighborhoods.

Strong and successful, this picture book captures a modern master of food. Appropriate for ages 6-10.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

A New School Year by Sally Derby

A New School Year by Sally Derby

A New School Year: Poem Stories in Six Voices by Sally Derby, illustrated by Mika Song (9781580897303, Amazon)

Six children, ranging in age from kindergarten through fifth grade, tell the stories of their first day of school. Each of them begins with the night before where readers will see that even children who are older worry about school and who their teacher will be. Arriving at school is busy and quick, though some have time to say hello to old teachers or to be the first to arrive and meet the class pet. They meet new teachers, say hello to old friends and make new ones too. Finally, they all head home to tell their families about their day, even if some aren’t home right away.

Derby writes in poems that wonderfully universal to the school experience. She moves this from being about starting kindergarten or starting a new school to a wider subject of returning to school and the fact that everyone feels similarly. Still, in making this a universal story, Derby makes sure to also speak to children of different backgrounds and races, children with different sizes of families and latchkey children.

Song’s illustrations highlight the individual children, moving with them through the day, each both a part of the overall school but also entirely themselves as well. The illustrations are simple and will work well shared with a class.

A great book to start the new school year with poetry. Appropriate for ages 5-9.

Reviewed from library copy.

Marti’s Song for Freedom by Emma Otheguy

Marti's Song for Freedom by Emma Otheguy

Marti’s Song for Freedom by Emma Otheguy, illustrated by Beatriz Vidal (9780892393756, Amazon)

This picture book in both Spanish and English verse tells the story of José Martí. Martí spent his entire life working to end slavery in Cuba after witnessing the brutality first hand. At the time, Spain ruled Cuba and a war of independence started in 1868. Martí wrote against the Spanish government and was jailed and put to hard labor. At 17-years-old he was sent away from Cuba. He continued to fight for Cuba’s independence and settled in New York. He would travel into the Catskill Mountains to see the nature that he missed from Cuba. Martí eventually returned to Cuba and helped fight in the battles against the Spanish, dying on the battlefield before freedom was realized. His words live on: it was his words and songs that helped drive the Cubans to fight for freedom and to continue fighting.

The verse contains excerpts from Martí’s works, allowing readers to read his words directly. The verse from the author and from Martí  work beautifully together, flowing into one river of words that tell the story of Cuban freedom. The afterword and author’s notes add information to the verse, giving more dates and information on the war for freedom in Cuba and on Martí’s life. This picture book biography takes a complex subject and makes it accessible for young readers, demonstrating how a young-person’s passion can ignite a nation.

The illustrations move from Cuba to New York to the Catskills, capturing scenes of daily life, lush greenery, and battles. There is a sense of energy to all of the illustrations, that matches that of the verse as it speaks to the drive that Martí had to speak out for Cuba’s independence.

A great picture book biography that adroitly pairs English and Spanish on the page. Appropriate for ages 7-9.

Reviewed from library copy.

Around the World in a Bathtub by Wade Bradford

Around the World in a Bathtub by Wade Bradford

Around the World in a Bathtub by Wade Bradford, illustrated by Micha Archer (9781580895446, Amazon)

This nonfiction picture book looks at various ways of bathing from around the world. Americans will be familiar with the first way, a bathtub with rubber duckies and a little one refusing to bathe. The book then moves to Japan with washing before entering the square tub to soak. People bathe from oldest to youngest. Turkey is next with bathhouses and scrubbing by attendants then a sauna with mud masks. Indians take baths in the river. Yup’ik families in Alaska sweat in a wooden cabin surrounded by snow. There are many ways and places to bathe around the world, but one thing holds constant across them all: children want to avoid baths!

Bradford uses information on bathing habits with touches of humor to lighten the book. Touches of each language are shown on the page from the names of the baths to the parents saying “yes” and the child saying “no”. The illustrations by Archer are oils and collage that create bright colorful scenes of the various places around the world. In all of them, there is an inviting feel and children escaping too. The images use the same humorous moments to enliven the book.

A bright and interesting look at baths, this is one worth submerging yourself into. Appropriate for ages 3-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Charlesbridge.

 

The Quest for Z by Greg Pizzoli

The Quest for Z by Greg Pizzoli

The Quest for Z: The True Story of Explorer Percy Fawcett and a Lost City in the Amazon by Greg Pizzoli (9780670016532, Amazon)

The author of Tricky Vic returns with another rip-roaring nonfiction picture book. It is the true story of Percy Fawcett, a British explorer who searched for an ancient city hidden in the Amazon rainforest. Fawcett had dreamed his entire life of being an explorer and as an adult took many treks into South America to map the region. They faced many dangers, such as huge snakes and natives with weapons. Many of the men he traveled with perished on the adventures but Fawcett survived. Others thought that the Amazon city was a myth while Fawcett insisted that it existed. If he found it, it would make him one of the most famous explorers of all time and one of the wealthiest too. This book tells his tale as he searched for the lost city.

Pizzoli has a knack for selecting real life stories that most people, adults and children, will not have heard of. This one is a fascinating story of belief and bravery, about a man who left family and country behind in his quest to discover the unknown. Pizzoli tells the story with lots of action and a sense of adventure in his prose. There are moments where Pizzoli allows the action to slow, the wonder of the moment to grow, and the dangers to almost overwhelm. It’s written with skill and knowledge, building to a conclusion that suits the life of Fawcett to a Z.

The book design and illustrations add so much to this nonfiction read. Done in a simple and clever style, just like Pizzoli’s picture books, the images add necessary humor to the book. The design of the book also allows additional information to be added on sidebars. Pizzoli uses his illustrations to also create moments of tension and drama, pausing the action for effect.

Smart, stylish and successful, this nonfiction picture book will take readers on quite an adventure. Appropriate for ages 5-9.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

Shark Lady by Jess Keating

Shark Lady by Jess Keating

Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean’s Most Fearless Scientist by Jess Keating, illustrated by Marta Álvarez Miguéns (9781492642046, Amazon)

Eugenie was a young girl when she first visited an aquarium and fell deeply in love with the creatures there, particularly with the sharks. But it was the 1920’s and girls were expected to become housewives or secretaries not scientists. Still, Eugenie never gave up on her dream and continued to study sharks at the library and join the local aquarium as a member. At the time, people thought that sharks were heartless and frightening killers, but Eugenie set out to prove them all wrong. Eugenie got her degree and earned a place on a scientific vessel to study marine life. That was just the beginning of a career that spanned many decades, led to several books and articles, and proved that women have a place in science.

Keating shows the growth of Eugenie’s scientific aspirations in this nonfiction picture book, moving from her childhood fantasies of swimming with sharks to the lack of support at school and finally to the discoveries that she made as her dreams became reality. The book has a tone of pure curiosity and joy where readers will cheer Eugenie as she overcomes the many obstacles standing in her way.

The illustrations are lighthearted and playful. Aquarium hallways are filled with floating sharks and fish as Eugenie dreams about them. They celebrate the beauty of the ocean and its lifeforms, showing sharks as graceful and amazing rather than dangerous.

A vibrant and celebratory nonfiction picture book that embraces women in STEM wholeheartedly. Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from e-galley received from Edelweiss and Sourcebooks Jabberwocky.

My Daddy Rules the World by Hope Anita Smith

My Daddy Rules the World by Hope Anita Smith

My Daddy Rules the World: Poems about Dads by Hope Anita Smith (9780805091892, Amazon)

Coretta Scott King Award winner Smith returns with a new collection of poetry and illustrations that focuses on fathers. The book shows fathers who make breakfast and chat contrasted with others whose work keeps them far away but still in contact. There are fathers who cut hair, others who dance, others who wrestle or play catch. They teach their children to ride bikes or play instruments or read. Each poem is told in the voice of the child of that father and shows how very different dads can be but that they all love their children completely.

Smith writes poetry that is thoughtful and honed. She makes sure that it is appropriate for the young audience, inviting young readers to explore poetry and see themselves in it. The poems are misleadingly simple, not showing the skill that it takes to write at this level and with such apparent ease.

Smith’s illustrations are diverse and inclusive. With her torn paper illustrations, she makes sure to show families of various races and multiracial families. There is a warmth to the illustrations and a folk-art element that underlines the richness of being a father and in a family.

A strong collection of poems for young people, ideal to share with fathers. Appropriate for ages 7-10.

Reviewed from library copy.