Review: Our House Is on Fire: Greta Thunberg’s Call to Save the Planet by Jeanette Winter

Our House Is on Fire Greta Thunberg’s Call to Save the Planet by Jeanette Winter

Our House Is on Fire: Greta Thunberg’s Call to Save the Planet by Jeanette Winter (9781534467781)

Greta was a quiet girl living in Stockholm until she learned about climate change. Once she heard a little bit about it at school, she started reading and watching films to learn even more. Greta soon realized that the world was in serious danger of fires, floods, droughts and catastrophic environmental change. She was sad and depressed for a long time, then she decided to go on strike from her school to protest the lack of action on climate. She protested outside the Parliament building every Friday, at first alone and then with other students. Soon children around the world were joining the protests. The quiet girl from Stockholm has become one of the leading young voices for climate change in the world.

Winter makes this book not only about Greta but also about climate change itself. As Greta finds her passion for working on climate, readers learn alongside her about the dangers that climate change brings to the world. As with all of her nonfiction picture book, Winter distills the story of Greta into something digestible by small children. Her pages are full of illustrations with words that explain but never become narrative or overwhelming. Her illustrations are bold and fresh, depicting climate disasters in images on the wall, the dangers to wildlife in Greta’s thoughts, and also the resilience and determination it took for Greta to continue to protest when no one seemed to be listening.

A timely and strong biography about one of the most important people working in climate today. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy provided by Simon & Schuster.

Review: Amazons, Abolitionists, and Activists by Mikki Kendall and A. D’Amico 

Amazons, Abolitionists, and Activists by Mikki Kendall and A. D’Amico 

Amazons, Abolitionists, and Activists: A Graphic HIstory of Women’s Fight for Their Rights by Mikki Kendall and A. D’Amico (9780399581793)

Take a trip back through women’s history to discover queens, warriors, suffragettes, and much more! This graphic novel is set in the future and has a computer instructor who takes a group of girls back in time to understand the basis of women’s rights around the world. The book starts by looking deep into human history with the Assyrians, Mesopotamians, Eqyptians, Greeks and much more. The book then shows how the rise of the patriarchy eclipsed early women’s rights and replaced it with much more like what we see still today. The book moves forward in time, taking female rulers and warriors from around the world. There is also an exploration of civil rights as well as LGBTQ rights in the book that increases the representation of diverse experiences even farther. 

Kendall’s writing could have simply become a lengthy list of women from history, but she weaves a deeper narrative throughout. It also helps that she includes history as far back as she does. The supportive nature of those early societies is likely to surprise modern readers. Kendall works with intentionality to offer as diverse a cross-section of women as she can. They come from all over the world and represent many different countries, continents and races. Even more impressive is the way that Kendall is frank about the shortcomings of many of the women, acknowledging openly their open racism or unwillingness to challenge the status quo for others besides themselves. 

The art is great. The number of portraits in the book is daunting in its scope. Those women who are familiar visually are recognizable immediately. The additional information on each woman also offers vibrant images of their lives. The more tragic events are documented in more subtle tones, offering a visual cue that something dire has happened. 

A stellar graphic piece of nonfiction. Appropriate for ages 12-15.

Reviewed from library copy.

Best Poetry Books 2019

Climbing Shadows by Shannon Bramer

Climbing Shadows: Poems for Children by Shannon Bramer, illustrated by Cindy Derby

One of the most original and surprising books of poetry for children, this one is worth exploring.

How to Read a Book by Kwame Alexander

How to Read a Book by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Melissa Sweet

An incredible work of poetry and art, this one should win awards.

I Remember Poems and Pictures of Heritage compiled by Lee Bennett Hopkins

I Remember: Poems and Pictures of Heritage compiled by Lee Bennett Hopkins 

The poems and illustrations in this book are very impressive. As they play through the authors’ memories of their childhoods and the variety of emotions those memories evoke, the reader gets the pleasure of visiting each author’s experience.

Predator and Prey by Susannah Buhrman-Deever

Predator and Prey by Susannah Buhrman-Deever, illustrated by Bert Kitchen

A very successful mix of poetry and science, this one is sure to be preyed upon by hungry readers in classrooms and activities.

Rain by Anders Holmer

Rain by Anders Holmer 

The haiku poems range from solemn to merry, some carrying serious weight and others lighter. They mirror the weather, some with lightning and dark clouds while others fill with pink petals and friendship.

Snowman - Cold = Puddle Spring Equations by Laura Purdie Salas

Snowman – Cold = Puddle: Spring Equations by Laura Purdie Salas, illustrated by Micha Archer

A winning mix of poetry and science, this is a book that captures the wonder of spring.

Trees by Verlie Hutchens

Trees by Verlie Hutchens, illustrated by Jing Jing Tsong

A total of fourteen trees are highlighted here in free verse, each one embracing the unique nature of that tree with clarity and brevity.

Best Nonfiction 2019

Amazons, Abolitionists, and Activists by Mikki Kendall and A. D’Amico 

Amazons, Abolitionists, and Activists: A Graphic HIstory of Women’s Fight for Their Rights by Mikki Kendall and A. D’Amico

A stellar graphic piece of nonfiction.

Brave Face by Shaun David Hutchinson

Brave Face by Shaun David Hutchinson

Brave, fierce and incandescent.

The End of Something Wonderful by Stephanie V.W. Lucianovic

The End of Something Wonderful: A Practical Guide to a Backyard Funeral by Stephanie V.W. Lucianovic, illustrated by George Ermos

Funny and frank, this funeral guide is just what we all need.

Free Lunch by Rex Ogle

Free Lunch by Rex Ogle

Profoundly honest and full of heart, this book is one that all teachers and librarians need to read to understand the children they serve.

Hummingbird by Nicola Davies

Hummingbird by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Jane Ray

A beautiful nonfiction picture book about an amazing tiny bird.

The Important Thing about Margaret Wise Brown by Mac Barnett

The Important Thing about Margaret Wise Brown by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Sarah Jacoby

His writing is a study in how to have a strong voice in a children’s book, a narrative point of view, and yet also avoid being didactic at all, insisting that young readers think for themselves.

It Feels Good to Be Yourself A Book about Gender Identity by Theresa Thorn

It Feels Good to Be Yourself: A Book about Gender Identity by Theresa Thorn, illustrated by Noah Grigni

With a diverse cast of children, this picture book deftly explains gender identity.

Moth An Evolution Story by Isabel Thomas

Moth: An Evolution Story by Isabel Thomas, illustrated by Daniel Egneus

Beautifully written and illustrated, this is a very special nonfiction picture book.

Muslim Girls Rise by Saira Mir

Muslim Girls Rise by Saira Mir, illustrated by Aaliya Jaleel

A must-purchase for all public libraries.

Nine Months Before a Baby Is Born by Miranda Paul

Nine Months: Before a Baby Is Born by Miranda Paul, illustrated by Jason Chin

A great book for children who are expecting a new baby in their family, this book is a lovely mix of science and love.

Not My Idea A Book about Whiteness by Anastasia Higginbotham

Not My Idea: A Book about Whiteness by Anastasia Higginbotham

The book has just enough history to clarify that this is a long-standing problem and is systemic. Yet it is not willing to rest there, calling for action, clarity around the subject and a responsibility to step up.

Ordinary Hazards by Nikki Grimes

Ordinary Hazards by Nikki Grimes

Grimes writes a searing verse memoir of her years growing up with a mother suffering from alcoholism and schizophrenia.

A Place to Land by Barry Wittenstein

A Place to Land by Barry Wittenstein, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney

Superb both in writing and illustration, this is one for every library.

planting stories the life of librarian and storyteller pura belpre by anika aldamuy denise

Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpre by Anika Aldamuy Denise, illustrated by Paola Escobar

The deep impact and life of librarian Pura Belpre is shown in this picture book biography.

The Secret Kingdom by Barb Rosenstock

The Secret Kingdom: Nek Chand, a Changing India, and a Hidden World of Art by Barb Rosenstock, illustrated by Claire A. Nivola   

A look at an outsider artist who created a world all his own.

Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson

Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson

Brilliant, courageous and heart breaking, this book is one that belongs in every library.

This Place 150 Years Retold

This Place: 150 Years Retold 

One of the top graphic novels of the year, this may be Canadian focused, but it speaks to everyone in all nations.

this promise of change by jo ann allen boyce and debbie levy

This Promise of Change: One Girl’s Story in the Fight for School Equality by Jo Ann Allen Boyce and Debbie Levy

Beautifully written, this heartbreaking and dramatic story of courage in the face of hatred belongs in every library.

The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander

The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Two amazing book creators come together in this nonfiction picture book celebrating the resilience, talents and perseverance of African-Americans throughout history.

Review: Muslim Girls Rise by Saira Mir

Muslim Girls Rise by Saira Mir

Muslim Girls Rise by Saira Mir, illustrated by Aaliya Jaleel (9781534418882)

The introduction to this book tells of the impact that Muslim woman have had throughout history. Inside the book, the focus is on modern Muslim women who are currently making their own impact on the world. Each woman or girl is given a two-page spread with an illustration on one full page and then a quote and biography on the other. There are women you will have heard of like Malala Yousafzai, Ibtihaj Muhammad, and Ilhan Omar. Others may be new to you and include authors, chefs, activists, athletes and more.

Written in a matter-of-fact tone, this book allows readers to turn pages and discover more and more incredible Muslim women and girls. Each one displays their own unique skills and lifestyle, each dresses in their own way, and all have made a difference in our world, whether large or small. The book shows again and again that being Muslim is diverse and inclusive.

The art by Jaleel is done in an approachable and light way. Still, each of them women is recognizable as themselves, as you can see from the cover image. The larger format of the portraits of each woman in the book is very impactful.

A must-purchase for all public libraries. Appropriate for ages 7-10.

Reviewed from copy provided by Salaam Reads.

 

YALSA Nonfiction Award 2020 Finalists

Young Adult Library Services Association

YALSA has announced the 2020 finalists for the Nonfiction Award which “honors the best nonfiction book published for young adults (ages 12-18) during a Nov. 1 – Oct. 31 publishing year.” Here are the finalists:

Free Lunch The Great Nijinsky: God of Dance

Free Lunch by Rex Ogle

The Great Nijinsky: God of Dance by Lynn Curlee

A Light in the Darkness: Janusz Korczak, His Orphans, and the Holocaust A Thousand Sisters: The Heroic Airwomen of the Soviet Union in World War II

A Light in the Darkness: Janusz Korczak, His Orphans, and the Holocaust by Albert Marrin

A Thousand Sisters: The Heroic Airwomen of the Soviet Union in World War II by Elizabeth Wein

Torpedoed: The True Story of the World War II Sinking of "The Children's Ship"

Torpedoed: The True Story of the World War II Sinking of “The Children’s Ship” by Deborah Heiligman

Review: I Remember: Poems and Pictures of Heritage compiled by Lee Bennett Hopkins

I Remember Poems and Pictures of Heritage compiled by Lee Bennett Hopkins

I Remember: Poems and Pictures of Heritage compiled by Lee Bennett Hopkins (9781620143117)

This wonderful collection of poems and illustrations speak directly to the poets’ cultural heritage. Each poem looks deeply at family and identity, whether it is being asked where you come from or meeting a family member for the first time. Some of the poems show the fear of being African-American in America, the oversimplification of race when filling out forms, the way food can bring people together, and the joy of summer nights. The illustrations paired with each of the poems highlight the wide variety of cultures and heritages in the texts. The result is a rainbow of skin tones and colors, weaving together to create a book that reflects the vastness of our country.

The poems and illustrations in this book are very impressive. As they play through the authors’ memories of their childhoods and the variety of emotions those memories evoke, the reader gets the pleasure of visiting each author’s experience. Poetry always gives a more concentrated look, a deep feel for the author, and that is certainly the case here. The illustrations are wonderful, each self-contained and presented almost as a treasure to discover along this journey.

A great compilation of art and poetry that celebrates diversity and inclusion. Appropriate for ages 7-10.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Lee & Low Books.

Review: Just Like Beverly by Vicki Conrad

Just Like Beverly by Vicki Conrad

Just Like Beverly: A Biography of Beverly Cleary by Vicki Conrad, illustrated by David Hohn (9781632172228)

Growing up in Yamhill, Oregon, Beverly spent her days on the family farm with animals for friends. She only had two books growing up, so she made up her own stories instead. When her mother got a children’s library created in Yamhill, Beverly finally had access to more stories. After moving to Portland, Beverly started school, determined to learn to read in class. Numbers were easy for her, but reading was hard. It didn’t help when she had to stay out of school for weeks due to smallpox. It wasn’t until the following year that she got a teacher who put in extra effort with Beverly to help her learn to read. Soon she was writing too and eventually became a librarian. When Beverly heard children asking for stories about kids like them, she was inspired to try her hand at writing children’s books!

Conrad has created an engaging biography where readers can see Cleary’s inspiration from her own childhood reflected in her books for children. The difficulty that Cleary had learning to read is shown in great detail, echoing the immense effort it took to learn. It is inspirational for children who may be having difficulty learning to read to see someone who eventually became one of the most famous children’s authors of all time having the same problems.

The art by Hohn is bright and friendly. The use of period clothing really helps place the book in the past visually and keeps the bright-eyed Beverly from feeling too modern. It also shows the great sense of humor that Cleary had throughout her life.

An inspiring story of triumph and achievement. Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

Review: The Book Rescuer by Sue Macy

The Book Rescuer by Sue Macy

The Book Rescuer: How a Mensch from Massachusetts Saved Yiddish Literature for Generations to Come by Sue Macy, illustrated by Stacy Innerst (9781481472203)

Aaron Lansky’s grandmother came to America from Eastern Europe. She brought with her precious books in Yiddish, which her brother threw into the sea along with her other possessions as a sign they must break with the past. Aaron grew up firmly American in Massachusetts. When he went to college he began to study Jewish scholars and had to learn to read Yiddish to be able to read what he needed to. But Yiddish books and the language were in serious trouble in the 1960s after the impact of World War II. Aaron found himself rescuing Yiddish books from destruction. He filled his apartment with books and asked the leaders of Jewish organizations across the country to help save the books. But they believed that Yiddish was no longer worth saving. So Aaron created his own space in an old factory building that he named the Yiddish Book Center. As word spread, he continued to save books from destruction and meet with people who handed their beloved books over to him. The Center continues its work to this day, having saved Yiddish books from destruction for decades.

Macy writes with a wonderful tone in this nonfiction picture book. She shares the importance of what Lansky accomplished with his work but also has a playful approach that works particularly well. The insertion of Yiddish words in the text adds to this effect. The story of Aaron Lansky’s work is one of finding a personal passion and getting swept up in it. It is a story of hard work, resilience and determination in the face of even those who should care not finding your work valuable at first.

The illustrations by Innerst move from playful in depicting things like running in pajamas at night to save books to dramatic when looking back at the Holocaust. They are done in acrylic and gouache with textures added digitally. The images suit the subject well with a feel of modern design combined with connections to the past.

A fascinating biography of a little-known man who saved a written history of his people. Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from copy provided by Simon & Schuster.