Review: Thurgood by Jonah Winter

Thurgood by Jonah Winter

Thurgood by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Bryan Collier (9781524765347)

From the time he was a small boy, Thurgood Marshall was destined to be a lawyer. He even convinced his parents to have his name legally changed from Thoroughgood to Thurgood at age six. Thurgood faced racism growing up in Baltimore in the 1920’s. He had to attend the overcrowded Colored High School which had no library, gym or cafeteria. His father worked at jobs where he served wealthy white customers, including at a country club that did not allow black people to be members. His father also taught him to debate and argue ideas. When he attended Lincoln University, Thurgood was loud, funny and a great arguer. He went to law school at Howard University where he learned to fight for civil rights in court. His first major legal fight was to force his top pick law school to accept black students. Again and again, Thurgood fought to create laws that focused on equality for all.

A picture book biography that tells the story of the youth and upbringing and early legal cases of the first African American on the Supreme Court, this book really celebrates how he became a weapon for civil rights. Winter makes sure to keep the inherent racism in the society at the forefront, pointing out moments in Thurgood’s life when he was targeted and almost killed. The resilience and determination on display throughout his life is inspiring.

Collier’s art is done in a mix of watercolor and collage. Using patterns and textures, Collier builds entire worlds from paper, from a ruined movie theater to haunting segregated schools. The illustrations are powerful and add much to this story of racism and fighting back.

Strong and compelling, this biography belongs in every library. Appropriate for ages 7-10.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Schwartz & Wade Books.

 

 

Review: Back to School by Maya Ajmera

Back to School by Maya Ajmera.jpg

Back to School by Maya Ajmera and John D. Ivanko (9781580898379)

Filled with incredible photographs, this nonfiction picture book explores the different ways that children attend school throughout the world. Some children are homeschooled, others are taught at night, still others study in crowded classrooms. Children take different transportation to school from buses to camels to boats. Some children wear uniforms to school while others wear regular clothes. In all schools though, you learn math and reading. You understand the world better; you make friends.

The text of this book is simple and straight-forward, making it just right for even the youngest children heading to school. Each photograph adds to the larger story of going to school by explaining what is happening in each vivid image and what country the children are from. The photographs are stunning, filled with children from across the globe and offering real glimpses into their lives at school.

Just right for starting a new school year, this is a smile-filled joyous look at learning. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Charlesbridge.

Review: The Spacesuit by Alison Donald

The Spacesuit How a Seamstress Helped Put Man on the Moon by Alison Donald

The Spacesuit: How a Seamstress Helped Put Man on the Moon by Alison Donald, illustrated by Ariel Landy (9781848864245)

A fascinating glimpse at a woman behind the success of the first moon landing. Eleanor Foraker loved to sew even as a young girl. As an adult, she worked for Playtex, sewing clothing for children and women. When a contest opened to design a spacesuit to go to the moon, Ellie entered it at the last minute. Ellie worked tirelessly with a team of seamstresses and engineers, trying to make a spacesuit that was softer and more comfortable than previous designs. The design was made of 21 layers of fabrics, and they used huge sewing machines to get that much fabric under the needle. The precision sewing meant that they had to be within 1/64 of an inch to be successful. The suit was sent off to Texas with a major problem with a broken zipper that they got a chance to fix. In the end, Ellie’s design won the day and made it to the moon.

This nonfiction picture book tells the very interesting story of how the spacesuits for the moon landing were invented and designed. The interplay of engineers and seamstresses where everyone’s ideas were valid is an important piece. The focus on comfort as well as functionality made their suit the winner as well as a willingness to work very hard to get it finished in time.

The art in the book pays homage to sewing by incorporating pins, images that look sewn on, and even a timeline made of thread. The illustrations are bright with throwbacks to the 1960’s too. The combination is bright and hopeful.

Based on the true story, this picture book is “sew” good. Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Migration: Incredible Animal Journeys by Mike Unwin

Migration Incredible Animal Journeys by Mike Unwin

Migration: Incredible Animal Journeys by Mike Unwin, illustrated by Jenni Desmond (9781547600977)

Explore the many animals who migrate each year from all over the world in this nonfiction picture book. The book focuses on each animal’s amazing journey and provides a wide look at migration in general, the various types of animals who migrate, and the specific story of each animal. The animals include birds like the emperor penguin, the Arctic tern, the swallow, and the ruby-throated hummingbird. It also tells the story of mammals like the whales, elephants and caribou. Then there are surprising stories of migrations of crabs, dragonflies, and bats.

The text of the book offers real details of the animal’s lives and their migrations. The book ends with a map of all of the different migration paths shared in the book, nicely covering much of the globe with their travels. The information provided is fascinating and just enough to discover whether you want to learn more about that animal or not.

The illustrations are done in full-page color where the animals take center stage against their various habitats. From the Christmas crabs filling the street with their red color to the beauty of a mother whale and her calf to the woods filled with monarch wings, each of them are unique and just as interesting to explore as the text.

A fascinating and scientific look at migration and the creatures who do it year after year. Appropriate for ages 7-10.

Reviewed from ARC provided by Bloomsbury.

Review: Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe

Gender Queer A Memoir by Maia Kobabe

Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe (9781549304002)

This memoir is done in a comic or graphic format. It’s the autobiography of Maia, who uses the pronouns e/em/eir. It tells the story of eir childhood growing up being assigned as a female gender at birth. From loving snakes to peeing outside to taking off eir shirt to go swimming along with the boys, Maia never conformed to gender stereotypes. Eir parents didn’t either, but Maia’s need to not be identified as female ran far deeper. Growing older, Maia had crushes on both boys and girls, and wondered if e was bisexual. Still, Maia had to continue to explore what dating, crushes, love, and sex meant to em until e realized what it meant to be nonbinary and asexual.

Kobabe shares so deeply in eir memoir. It is such a personal journey, filled with moments of deep connection and joy, the agony of pap smears, the constant questioning of identity, and then ending with incredible hope. This memoir was at first written to help eir family understand em, and it will work that way for those wanting to understand being gender nonbinary. It also aids in understanding asexuality and how that impacts relationships. Sex is handled with a refreshing frankness on the pages.

Kobabe’s art is very effective. E does full-page pieces that feature family members and other parts that read as fluid story telling in a more traditional way. These different approaches blend together into a dynamic format that invites readers into Kobabe’s life.

Vital and important, this memoir is tender and impactful. Appropriate for ages 16-adult.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

Review: Hector: A Boy, a Protest, and the Photograph That Changed Apartheid by Adrienne Wright

Hector A Boy a Protest and the Photograph That Changed Apartheid by Adrienne Wright

Hector: A Boy, a Protest, and the Photograph That Changed Apartheid by Adrienne Wright (9781624146916)

In South Africa on June 16, 1976, Hector Pieterson was killed in what was supposed to be a peaceful student protest. The photograph of him being carried from the scene helped lead to the end of apartheid. The book is told from three perspectives: Hector’s, his older sister, and the photographer who took the image. A new law had gone into effect that all South Africans had to have half of their subjects taught in Afrikaans, the language of the white ruling class. The book shows Hector trying to remember to count in Afrikaans at home. On the fateful day, Hector gets ready for school but when he gets there, the students aren’t attending school but are protesting instead. He gets caught in the protest and then a bullet is fired. After the crowds disperse, Hector is on the ground.

Done in a graphic novel style, this nonfiction book is based on interviews with Hector’s family to see what sort of boy he was. The book shows his playful side and the tough choices his family made to have their children in school. The book also shows touches of what life was like during apartheid with separate entrances for black and white and oppressive laws. The art is done in sandy tones and deftly shows the dominance of apartheid in everyday life.

An important book that speaks to one boy and the way his death helped transform a country. Appropriate for ages 8-12.

Reviewed from library copy. 

Review: Even More Lesser Spotted Animals by Martin Brown

Even More Lesser Spotted Animals by Martin Brown

Even More Lesser Spotted Animals by Martin Brown (9781338349610)

Released July 30, 2019. 

Brown returns with another look at wildlife that never get featured in children’s book about animals. Each of these animals is fascinating and Brown offers really interesting facts and tidbits about each of them. The book includes a kangaroo that lives in trees and can jump down over 60 feet without getting hurt. It also has beaked whales with peculiar teeth that hunt fish and squid. There are giant colorful squirrels from India, a killer marten from Afghanistan who can hunt deer, and a Chinese deer with fangs who can leap into trees. Page after page has an unusual animal that demonstrate that we are still learning about wildlife on Earth and that there are more animals than tigers, lions and giraffes to discover.

As with his first book, it is Martin’s writing that makes this such a pleasure to read. I find it impossible to read this book without sharing the information and humor with those around me. The facts shared are interesting and told with plenty of attitude and aside comments that make it great fun to keep learning. Each animal has data points too, such as size, what they eat, where they live, and status. Size in particular is done very nicely, using comparisons like dogs, cats and humans. Brown’s art gives each of the animals rather googly eyes and they often seem to be looking directly at the reader. They are shown in their habitat and often in motion. Other details are called out in images as well and are embedded in the text.

Smart, funny and sure to teach you something new. Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from ARC provided by David Fickling Books.

Review: A Dream of Flight by Rob Polivka

A Dream of Flight by Rob Polivka

A Dream of Flight by Rob Polivka and Jef Polivka (9780374306618)

Released on July 30, 2019.

Alberto Santos-Dumont lived in Brazil long before airplanes were invented. Fascinated by machines starting at a young age, Santos came to Paris in 1892. He took a ride with a balloon maker high above the city where they floated in the clouds. Inspired, Santos began to design his own balloon, but he wanted it to move through the air like a ship rather than just floating. He designed one airship after another, learning to follow his own instincts, create structural stability, and built a weight system. Each time he flew, something went wrong, but Santos was not deterred. He just designed a new airship and tried again. A prize of 100,000 francs was announced for the first person who could pilot an airship from the club around the Eiffel Tower and back in less than 30 minutes. Now Santos had a challenge and a prize to win!

Polivka tells the story of Santos with a sprightly tone that is just right for the subject. They share enough details about Paris at the time to firmly anchor the biography in a place and time. The information about the airships is shared with a tone of wonder and also a nod toward the dangers of what Santos was attempting. The art has a vintage feel that works well. It depicts Santos’ little automobile, the view from the balloon over Paris, and the various models of Santos’ airships.

A clever look at flying before airplanes, this picture book biography soars. Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 

Review: Beastly Puzzles by Rachel Poliquin

Beastly Puzzles by Rachel Poliquin

Beastly Puzzles by Rachel Poliquin, illustrated by Byron Eggenschwiler (9781771389136)

So many guessing game books about animals are for very young children, but this one will challenge those in elementary school as well. Taking cues from historical descriptions of animals that were based on known animal elements, this book is devilishly difficult even with the extra hint provided. One might expect the animals to be unusual, but they are well-known animals like ostriches, polar bears, frogs, and kangaroos! Open the gate fold and discover how that animal can be described as made from all sorts of bits and pieces.

Poliquin’s description of each animal in terms of their elements is profoundly and delightfully confusing. A kangaroo for example is described as made up of enormous feet, an extra leg (for going slow), boxing gloves, rabbit ears, a peanut, a secret compartment, and a springboard! A large part of the joy of the book is being entirely befuddled by the clues and then learning how they all fit together. It’s not frustrating at all to be confused, but part of the fun.

The art has a great vintage vibe to it that suits the old-fashioned descriptions of the animals. It is modernized by the use of bright colors and a vibrant image of each of the animals on the reveal page. Cleverly designed with gate folds that add to the suspense too.

Fun and frustrating at the same time, much to everyone’s delight. Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from library copy.