Category: Nonfiction

Plants Can’t Sit Still by Rebecca E. Hirsch

Plants Can't Sit Still by Rebecca Hirsch

Plants Can’t Sit Still by Rebecca E. Hirsch, illustrated by Mia Posada (InfoSoup)

Plants can’t walk or run or even fly, but they don’t stay still either! This jaunty picture book captures the many ways that plants manage to move, even though they are rooted to the ground. They squirm out of the soil. They turn towards the sun. They creep underground and spring up in new places. They can climb walls and even eat bugs. Some fold shut at night while others open only in the moonlight. Then there are the seeds that use all sorts of tricks to move to new places to grow. That’s where they start to move all over again.

As a person with a native garden that overtakes the entire front of house this time of year, I am very aware of plants being able to move! I love the dynamic quality of this book as well as the surprise factor where children will wonder about how plants in their lives are moving since they don’t appear to be doing much at all. Hirsch selects plants that children will experience in their normal lives: milkweed, strawberries, tulips, morning glories, and maple trees. She uses simple language to explain how the plants move and grow, making this a science book that preschoolers will enjoy. Those looking for more detail can turn to a section in the back of the book.

Posada’s illustrations beautifully enhance this picture book and its fresh look at plants. The illustrations are done with cut paper collage and watercolor. They fill the pages with bursts of color, zings of green and plenty of earthiness too. The colors are perfectly chosen to evoke the real nature of the plants like the changing colors of the maple leaves and the burst of fuzz from a dandelion.

A great new book on plants and the surprising ways they move, this is a fascinating read. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

Cloth Lullaby by Amy Novesky

Cloth Lullaby by Amy Novesky

Cloth Lullaby: The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois by Amy Novesky, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault (InfoSoup)

Louise grew up alongside a river that wove through her life. Her mother restored tapestries and from age 12, Louise helped too by drawing in the missing bottom edges of tapestries. At her mother’s side, Louise learned about weaving and patterns. Louise eventually went to school in Paris and studied mathematics and cosmography at university. While at college, her mother died and Louise turned to art to express her feelings. She created enormous spiders out of metal and stone, naming them “Maman.” She took the fabrics of her life and cut them apart, working to put them back together in new ways. It was a tribute to her mother and her childhood expressed in art.

Novesky’s picture book biography keeps the magic of Bourgeois’ childhood intact. The book ends with an image of the artist and one of her spiders as well as a quote that speaks to her never having lost touch with the magic of her childhood. That quality weaves throughout the book where both the river and the restoration work create moments of inspiration and amazement. There is such beauty in the quiet work of restoration as well as the knitting activities of spiders. Readers will immediately understand the connection of wool and web in her art.

Arsenault’s illustrations are alight with that same magic and inspiration. In one image of Louise’s mother, there is a certain spider-ness there, subtle but also clear as she works with her black wool. All of the illustrations in the book celebrate pattern and weaving. There is a limited palette of reds, blues and grays that evoke the richness of tapestries and the excitement of art.

A top pick for picture book biographies, this book pays homage to a female artist that many may not know. Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from library copy.

Circle by Jeannie Baker

Circle by Jeannie Baker

Circle by Jeannie Baker (InfoSoup)

As a young boy in a wheelchair dreams of flying, a godwit takes off from the beach. The bird embarks on a journey from Australia or New Zealand to the Arctic and then back again, performing the longest unbroken migration in the world. The reader gets to see the long and arduous flight with only one stop to eat along the way. The godwit reaches the Arctic where he attracts a mate and has chicks, but not all of them survive the predators. The chick who survives is left behind by his parents to make the journey separately as the godwit returns to the air to fly back south.

The bulk of the book is on the remarkable godwit and his story of grit and resilience on his journty. Framing that story though is the story of a boy and his recovery, allowing the bird to speak to the importance of endurance and spirit as anyone is facing difficulty. The text is poetic and lush, containing evocative phrasing like “they follow an ancient, invisible pathway” and “One chick hides, crouched and still, disappearing into the colors of the land.”

Baker’s art is simply awe-inspiring. Using collages, she creates entire worlds on the page. The tundra in the Arctic has individual blades of grass that fade into mosses and lichen while the godwit tries to defend his nest against a fox. Other pages capture landmarks like the Great Barrier Reef. There are northern mountain ranges, large cities and southern beaches. The illustrations are incredible.

A noteworthy picture book, this book is filled with information on a remarkable animal accompanied by exceptional illustrations. Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

Miss Mary Reporting by Sue Macy

Miss Mary Reporting by Sue Macy

Miss Mary Reporting: The True Story of Sportswriter Mary Garber by Sue Macy, illustrated by C. F. Payne (InfoSoup)

Mary Garber was one of the first female sports journalists in the United States. At a time when women were not newspaper reporters, Mary was a sports reporter. Her big break came during World War II when the men were sent to war. After the war, Mary was moved to a news desk but then a year later permanent came back to sports. She was there to witness Jackie Robinson join the Brooklyn Dodgers. Mary herself was barred from the press box and forced to sit with the coaches’ wives rather than the other reporters until her editor complained. Locker rooms were also a challenge. Mary continued writing about sports for more than 50 years, retiring in 2002. Along the way she garnered awards and honors and a reputation for being fair and unbiased.

Macy captures the story of this groundbreaking woman beautifully. The tone is playful and humble with Garber’s quotes often given credit and thanks to others rather than taking praise for herself. At the same time, one understands the courage it took for Mary to continue doing this job in such a male-dominated field. This story is inspirational in the best possible way.

Payne’s illustrations add to the playful feel of the title and the humor. Mary is shown as very petite, dwarfed by those around her. Yet she is clearly the center of attention on the page, her face lit from within by her big eyes and large glasses. Her short hair and can-do attitude mark her uniquely on the page as well.

A great picture book biography to share with children who enjoy sports or writing. Appropriate for ages 7-9.

Reviewed from copy received from Simon & Schuster.

 

 

I Am Pan! by Mordicai Gerstein

I Am Pan by Mordicai Gerstein

I Am Pan! by Mordicai Gerstein (InfoSoup)

From the minute he is born, Pan is filled with mischief. Born with his goat horns and hoofed feet, he is immediately silly and even gets the grumpy Zeus to smile. As Pan grows, he becomes bored with life on Olympus and gets into so much trouble that the Gods ask him to return to Arcadia where he was born. While there, he invents panic, falls in love with the moon, and helps battle the monster Typhon. He also falls in love and marries Echo and discovers his love of music and the pan pipes. Story after story shows the power of merriment, music and mischievousness.

Gerstein embraces the spirit of Pan on the page by telling the tales with a zany spirit and a wild feel. There is not attempt to contain Pan here, just a feeling of being along on a very rambunctious ride. This suits the subject beautifully, giving space to the large personality of Pan. The graphic novel format also works very nicely with retelling Greek myths, keeping them brief and showing rather than telling a lot of the action.

The illustrations of this picture book/graphic novel are done in loud colors with lots of action and movement. Pan almost flies off the page in some sections, particularly when creating panic personally. The illustrations match the subject, offering a loud and cheery look at this wild God.

I am hoping this is not the only Greek God book that Gerstein does, since this book works so well and offers a very approachable and funny look at Pan. Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from copy received from Roaring Brook Press.

 

Elizabeth Started All the Trouble by Doreen Rappaport

Elizabeth Started All the Trouble by Doreen Rappaport

Elizabeth Started All the Trouble by Doreen Rappaport, illustrated by Matt Faulkner (InfoSoup)

This nonfiction picture book looks at all of the women critical to the suffrage movement in the United States. From Abigail Adam’s plea in 1776 for her husband to “remember the ladies” to Sojourner Truth’s attendance at a meeting to remind the white women of the  movement that African-American women deserved the vote too, this book looks at the many voices of the movement with a particular focus on Elizabeth Cady Stanton who started the called on women in the mid-1800’s to fight for the right to vote. It is a dynamic book that will remind young readers that the right of women to vote in our country only happened in 1920.

Rappaport captures the tremendous tenacity that it took for women to fight actively for the right to vote for nearly 75 years. Moving in a vibrant way from one historical figure to another, Rappaport highlights not just those who were suffragists but also women who broke female stereotypes by becoming doctors and starting schools where women learned the same subjects men did. This global look at the movement demonstrates the number of ways it took to get changes made that would allow women to voice their own opinions through elections.

The illustrations have a humorous quality to them with near-caricatures of each of the women. There is a feel of a political cartoon to them which is particularly appealing given the subject matter. Their bright colors also help show the passion of the women and their drive to make change.

A great addition to public libraries, this book offers a neat package showing the full history for women’s right to vote. Appropriate for ages 7-10.

Reviewed from library copy.

Their Great Gift by John Coy

Their Great Gift by John Coy

Their Great Gift: Courage, Sacrifice and Hope in a New Land by John Coy, photographs by Wing Young Huie

This picture book is filled with gorgeous photographs of diverse people who live in the United States. The book speaks about the way that families came to our country. It talks of the dreams that they had and how difficult it was to make the journey and learn a different language. It is about the hard work that it takes to be an immigrant, the mistakes that are made, the way money is sent back home. At it’s heart this is a book about determination, grit and resilience, qualities that make our country great and that exemplify the immigrants who add so much.

Coy’s words are simple and yet very powerful. He states each fact in a way that makes it easy to understand but also in a tone that rings with truth. His focus is on humanizing immigrants, showing that they are just like all of us who may have been born here, no matter how they worship, dress or what language they speak. Don’t miss the final pages of the book where the author and the illustrator speak to the ways both their families arrived here.

The photographs in this book are what make it so lovely. Done in a mix of black and white and color, the photographs capture people of various backgrounds and cultures. There are children, adults and the elderly and each page opens to reveal faces that form a tapestry of diversity on the page.

A very timely and important picture book, this book will open discussions for elementary-aged children about the larger topic of immigration in a way they can understand. Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from library copy.