Respect: Aretha Franklin, The Queen of Soul by Carole Boston Weatherford

Respect Aretha Franklin The Queen of Soul by Carole Boston Weatherford

Respect: Aretha Franklin, The Queen of Soul by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Frank Morrison (9781534452282)

Told in a similar format to her signature song R-E-S-P-E-C-T, each double-page spread explores another important word in Franklin’s life. The book begins with her family’s move to Detroit and Aretha being raised in the middle of gospel and church. She is incredibly gifted musically, cutting her first gospel record at age 14. She becomes an R&B superstar, rising to the tops of the charts. She supports the civil rights movement with her voice, offering free concerts. She is there to sing President Obama into office. The book ends with plenty of RESPECT for all she has accomplished.

Weatherford’s clever use of single words, spelled out like the song, really forms a strong structure for this picture book. She keeps the book tightly focused and her words to a minimum, allowing the pace of Franklin’s own life and fame to propel the book forward.

The illustrations are gorgeous, the paintings singing with pinks and golds. Morrison uses interesting perspectives in his images, allowing Aretha to be the center of each, showing her changing style and the beauty of her powerful voice.

A fitting tribute for a queen. Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

Girl on a Motorcycle by Amy Novesky

Girl on a Motorcycle by Amy Novesky

Girl on a Motorcycle by Amy Novesky, illustrated by Julie Morstad (9780593116296)

It is 1973 in Paris, and the girl decides that she wants to wander and travel. One day she gets on a motorcycle and starts out, carrying everything she needs with her. Listening to the road before her, she sets out to ride around the world. From Paris, she flies to Montreal in Canada, riding across the country. She camps at night, swims under the Northern Lights, and heads to Alaska. From there, she flies to Tokyo then to Bombay. Sometimes her bike breaks down, but the road keeps calling. She goes through Afghanistan, Turkey, then Europe. Then she returns home to Paris, different from when she left.

This is the true story of Ann-France Dautheville, who was the first woman to ride a motorcycle around the world alone. For ten years, she traveled the world, including the four months that she made this journey told in the book. Novesky was inspired by a single photograph she saw, creating a picture book that celebrates the bravery and spirit of this woman. Using a unique approach of calling her “the girl,” the book invites readers to see themselves in Dautheville’s place, exploring on her own. Throughout the book, there is a merry sense of adventure, acknowledgement of the dangers, and a deep appreciation for life on the road.

Morstad’s art captures that same delight in the journey. From the items packed in her bags to the amazing landscapes she journeyed through, the art follows her travels. There are dark nights under Canadian’s trees, red flower days in India, sapphire rivers, and calming Buddhas. Told in vibrant yet simple illustrations, readers get a true sense of the scope of her ride.

A great book that exemplifies girl power, jump on this ride! Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Viking Books for Young Readers.

Dark Was the Night by Gary Golio

Dark Was the Night by Gary Golio

Dark Was the Night by Gary Golio, illustrated by E. B. Lewis (9781524738884)

This nonfiction picture book is about the life and music career of Blind Willie Johnson. The book begins with the fact that Willie Johnson’s music was sent into space on Voyager I in 1977. The year then turns to Johnson’s birth in 1897. Johnson was a musician from a young age when he could still see, losing his sight around age eight. Music continued for him in church choir and changing gospel songs to the blues. Grown up, Johnson traveled Texas by train, performing on the street corner and in churches. Eventually, a man from a record label heard him and his first record sold thousands of copies. Time passed and one of those songs launched into the darkness of space.

Golio keeps his text tight and brief, giving young readers plenty of opportunity to witness the remarkable gift of music that took a man from being a blind child to making a record that made history. Written in the second person speaking directly to Johnson, the book has the feel of a gift laid before him as well as being a reminder to young people of what hard work and skill can create in your life.

Lewis’ illustrations are remarkable. Done in watercolor they are filled with light, yellows glowing, stars shining, and hope emerging on each page. There are several great images of Johnson in the book, playing is guitar in each.

Make sure to listen to “Dark Was the Night” while reading this with children. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Nancy Paulsen Books.

Jumbo: The Making of the Boeing 747 by Chris Gall

Jumbo The Making of the Boeing 747 by Chris Gall

Jumbo: The Making of the Boeing 747 by Chris Gall (9781250155801)

The first Boeing 747 was built in 1968, though it did have one problem, it couldn’t fly! It was called a jumbo jet because it was so big. The plane had to use the same principles as other airplanes, a critical combination of lift, thrust and drag. Just to be built, a new factory had to be created that was large enough to house the process and the jumbo jet. The building is still the largest by volume in the world. New ways of driving the big plane, new giant-sized landing gear, and new safety measures had to be designed and practiced. A few months after the first plane came off of the assembly line to delighted crowds, the plane was ready for its first test flight. Get ready for a dramatic take off!

Gall delights in the size and scope of the jumbo jet as well as the incredible feat it was for Boeing to have it finished in only 28 months, building the plane and the factory at the same time. Readers are introduced to the concepts behind airplane flight and design, shown concepts for what the airplane could have looked like inside, and given information on the earliest flying machines. The scientific details are shared with clearly and as part of the overall story. Additional fun facts, a glossary and sources are offered at the end of the book.

The illustrations by Gall have a marvelous vintage vibe that places the book firmly in the 1960’s. They are clearly modern as well with detailed images of the plane, cutaways to show the interior, and detailed images of scientific concepts.

This nonfiction picture book soars! Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from egalley provided by Roaring Brook Press.

Claude by Emma Bland Smith

Claude by Emma Bland Smith

Claude: The True Story of a White Alligator by Emma Bland Smith, illustrated by Jennifer M. Potter (9781632172693)

Claude hatched out of an egg in a Louisiana swamp with his siblings. Unlike them though, he was white rather than green. His different color made him easy prey for predators in the swamp and his siblings also were uneasy around him. The owner of the alligator farm gave the little alligator to a special zoo in Florida. At that zoo, he was safe but all alone. He lived that way for 13 years until a museum in California wanted him to come and live with them. They had another alligator name Bonnie, but Bonnie did not get along with Claude and bit him in the foot. Afterwards, Claude had to have surgery to remove one of his toes and took weeks to recover. When he returned, he was alone again in his pen except for the snapping turtles, and then something wonderful happened.

This nonfiction picture book tells the story of the beloved white alligator who charmed museum-goers in San Francisco at the California Academy of Sciences. The focus of the book is on Claude’s well-being and the care he received throughout his life to keep him safe. The need for him to have contact with other animals is also a feature as zookeepers struggle to provide that full life for him. Written in frank and simple language, this book nicely balances the amount of text per page, making it a book that can be shared aloud with preschoolers.

Potter’s illustrations offer a cartoon-like look at Claude and his life. Some pages like Bonnie eying up Claude before attacking him are menacing, while others are filled with a gentle joy as Claude finds animals he can live with. Claude pops on the page as a white creature, showing just how special and unique he was.

A friendly look at an interesting animal who found a home that was safe and supportive. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Little Bigfoot.

Love Your Body by Jessica Sanders

Love Your Body by Jessica Sanders

Love Your Body by Jessica Sanders, illustrated by Carol Rossetti (9780711252424)

With a clear focus on self-acceptance and body positivity, this nonfiction picture book celebrates all girls and young women. The book is filled with images of girls of all sizes, races, religions and abilities. Readers are told to start loving their bodies now, not waiting. Bodies are more than just there to be admired: they are strong and active no matter their size or shape. The book encourages readers to make a list of what they appreciate about their body, offering help and ideas. The book then recommends that if that did not help it might be a good idea to seek help from an adult or organization. Self care is also emphasized along with dressing your body the way it feels best to you. Self-love is a process, and this book shows a clear way forward.

Sanders’ text is clear and fierce. She demands that readers take action, not see themselves as objects, and deeply understand that no matter our size, race or ability that our bodies are ours to treasure and celebrate. The focus on self kindness and self care is an important one, nicely moving readers away from perfectionism towards habits that will serve them well for their entire lives.

The illustrations are tremendous. I particularly love the groups of girls and young women gathered together in their underwear and fully clothed. It’s a visual sisterhood, a commitment to loving ourselves and one another. The girls throughout the book are diverse and active. I particularly appreciate that it is often the larger girls as well as those of different abilities who are doing the activities.

Fierce, kind and compassionate, this book insists that all girls are valued. Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Frances Lincoln.

If You Want a Friend in Washington by Erin McGill

If You Want a Friend in Washington by Erin McGill

If You Want a Friend in Washington by Erin McGill (9780593122693)

Based on the famous quote from President Truman, this nonfiction picture book explores the many different pets that presidents have had over the years. The book begins with dogs and cats, though some cats were of the more exotic type like tiger cubs! Horses were also popular, but barnyard pets didn’t stop there with some presidents having goats, sheep, roosters and cows, including Miss Wayne who grazed on the White House lawn and had her milk stolen. The pets just kept getting larger though with bear cubs, elephants, hippos, a wallaby and alligators! Some presidents had birds, though Jackson’s parrot swore a lot. Some had quite small pets like guinea pigs or even silkworms. Almost all presidents had some sort of pet, though Jackson found his friendly mice waiting for him while he faced impeachment.

Fast-paced and funny, this picture book is a wry look at presidential pets. The book first groups types of pets together then offers interesting anecdotes about a few of the pets in that grouping. Readers get the tales of Lincoln’s, FDR’s, George H.W. Bush’s, Obama’s and Truman’s dogs, for example. The stories throughout the book celebrate the president’s connection to these animals and how they found solace in their time together.

The art is marvelously silly, using cut paper drawings against pops of color or line drawings on white backgrounds. The spread of all of the dogs alone is an impressive two pages of quite small pooches, each labeled with their name. The illustrations have a peppy merriness to them that invites readers in and sets a jolly tone.

Humorous and historical, this glimpse of president’s best friend is a treat. Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Schwartz & Wade.

Cubs in the Tub by Candace Fleming

Cubs in the Tub by Candace Fleming

Cubs in the Tub: The True Story of the Bronx Zoo’s First Woman Zookeeper by Candace Fleming, illustrated by Julie Downing (9780823443185)

Fred and Helen wanted a baby and planned for one, but never got one. So when Fred, a zookeeper, brought home a tiny lion cub, Helen’s supplies came in very handy. She had bottles to let him slurp, blankets to wrap him warm, supplies to wash him, and a crib for him to sleep in. But when the lion was two months old, he got sent to a zoo in another city. Helen packed up the baby items and spent lonely days with no baby to care for until the three tiger cubs arrived. With feedings every three hours, the cubs grew quickly and soon were causing mischief. Finally, they returned to the zoo at three months old, but this time Helen would not be left behind. Soon Helen found herself an empty storehouse that she turned into a nursery for baby animals, becoming the first woman zookeeper!

Fleming tells a wistful and factual story here, allowing the more remarkable elements to be wondered at by readers. It is amazing that Helen was not only willing to take in these little creatures but also very skilled at it. Many of us can care for human children, but ones with sharp teeth and claws would be daunting. Fleming simply appreciates the dedication, skill and tenacity of this woman, shining a spotlight on someone who was inventing it all as she went along.

Downing’s illustrations are soaked in the time period of the 1940’s by showing cars, fashion and home decor. The book wisely uses panels to show the different moments of caring for the animals, distress at their leaving, and planning to create something new. The panels break up the text for young readers and also give a jaunty comic vibe.

An engaging look at a remarkable woman with a knack for caring for little wild creatures. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Holiday House.

 

A Bowl Full of Peace by Caren Stelson

A Bowl Full of Peace by Caren Stelson

A Bowl Full of Peace by Caren Stelson, illustrated by Akira Kusaka (9781541521483)

Grandmother’s bowl is precious for their family. Sachiko and family live in Nagasaki. At dinner, grandmother’s bowl is brought out and filled with food, Everyone bows their heads, pressing their hands together and says “itadakimasu.” Soon war comes to Nagasaki with its noises and the lack of food and other supplies. As the war continues and intensifies, the food in grandmother’s bowl changes too, becoming less and less. The family survives air raids, until one gets through. One of Sachiko’s siblings is killed in the blast. Her family leaves Nagasaki on foot, until they reach a hospital. Her brothers are very ill and both die from radiation from the bomb, other members of her family die too. Ice chips are all that help the survivors quench the burning. Two years later, Sachiko and her family return to Nagasaki and in the rubble of their home find grandmother’s bowl, unbroken and not even chipped. Going forward, ice chips are placed in the bowl on the anniversary of the bombing, watched as they melt away.

This picture book version of the award-winning book for older children, Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor’s Journey, allows the story of Sachiko to be shared with elementary-aged children. Stelson manages to pare the story down, writing in poetic lines that capture the horror of war and atomic bombing as well as the wonder of finding anything still intact afterwards. The symbolic nature of the bowl and the ice chips is incredibly moving and repeats in the book so that readers deeply understand the loss and work that must be done.

Kusaka’s illustrations are beautifully spare. She has created touching moments that show the family around their table with the bowl at the center. When the bomb hits, the pages turn from a red burst to blackness. It’s a powerful use of image without words.

A book about war with a strong focus on peace. Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Carolrhoda Books.