Archive for the ‘Nonfiction Picture Books’ category

Sneak Preview of a Fabulous Book!

July 11, 2019

ella and marilynI had the opportunity to read Vivian Kirkfield’s upcoming nonfiction book, Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe. With a lyrical quality to her writing, Vivian Kirkfield has written a beautiful story of friendship between two iconic personalities, Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe. They were different in many ways, but they both had the same hopes and dreams. The author piques curiosity by giving readers a bit of background information about each woman. Ella Fitzgerald wanted to share her music with the world, and Marilyn Monroe hoped to become a great actress. How did these two women forge a life-long friendship? When Marilyn was offered a role in a musical, the first thing she did was to buy her idol’s records to listen to and study. Those records were Ella Fitzgerald’s. Marilyn’s performance in the movie was hailed by critics. This gave Marilyn a voice in her career and future projects. She immediately bought a ticket to Ella Fitzgerald’s next concert and remained afterward to thank Ella for her inspiration. A special bond formed between the two women. During that time, Ella wanted her voice to be heard by everyone, but because of racial discrimination, Ella was not allowed to perform in certain places. Marilyn stepped in to help. She made a bargain with a very popular nightclub owner promising to bring reporters to promote his club if he would hire Ella Fitzgerald to sing. It worked! After lengthy preparations, Ella Fitzgerald was finally able to share her music and voice with the world. Vivian Kirkfields’s talent for telling an inspiring story can be felt with every page turn, and Alleanna Harris’ captivating illustrations harken back to the Golden Age of Hollywood. I highly recommend adding this book to your collection.

Coming this January!

 

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Historical Nonfiction Picture Books of Interest

January 7, 2016

During the holiday break, I stopped at the local library to browse. I found three nonfiction picture books that piqued my interest. These are perfect additions to school libraries.

Aaron and Alexander written and illustrated by Don Brown, Roaring Book Press, 2015

Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton were born a year apart. Don Brown, the author and illustrator, compares the similarities in their lives. Both men were orphaned at an early age. Aaron was taken in by his wealthy uncle. Alexander was taken in by a merchant. Both were bright young men who went to college. Both displayed courage as they fought in the Revolutionary War. Both became lawyers who sometimes worked together. Both became politicians, and that was where their likenesses ended. Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton had very different political views. Aaron politely approached people to ask them for their support. Alexander wrote articles and pamphlets that were insulting. The two became political enemies. Through a series of events, Aaron and Alexander continued to butt heads. When Alexander called Aaron “despicable,” Aaron wanted an apology, but none came. Aaron challenged Alexander to a duel. This duel was the demise of both men. Alexander Hamilton lost his life, and Aaron Burr lost his political career.

This book provides information about two important men in the history of our country, but it’s also a cautionary tale. These were two accomplished men, who had much to offer, but because of differences of opinion and more importantly, what one might call foolish pride, their lives were destroyed. It’s something to think about.

Mesmerized: How Ben Franklin Solved a Mystery that Baffled All of France written by Mara Rockliff and illustrated by Iacopo Bruno, Candlewick Press, 2015.

I’ve always been fascinated by Benjamin Franklin. Among other things, Franklin was a statesman, inventor, scientist, and humorist. He was brilliant. In Mesmerized, Mara Rockliff chooses to explore Ben’s approach to science and other new ideas of the time. Ben is sent to France to convince King Louis the Sixteenth and Marie Antoinette to send much-needed money and soldiers to America to help with the Revolutionary War. While there, Ben hears about the remarkable Dr. Mesmer who claims to have discovered a new force that can do many amazing things – even control thoughts. The French people are enthralled with the thought that their ills can be cured with the wave of Dr. Mesmer’s wand instead of going to a doctor. The king needs someone to help explain this new phenomenon.  Ben Franklin puts on his scientist hat and utilizes his scientific method, which is still used today. He observes, forms a hypothesis, tests the hypothesis, observes the results, and draws conclusions. Ben proves Dr. Mesmer’s force was not what he claimed it to be, and discredits him. The king is happy and provides America with the support requested by Ben. Iacopo Bruno’s over-the-top illustrations are colorful and cleverly executed. Combined with the end pages, you’ll be mesmerized by this book.

W Is for Webster: Noah Webster and His American Dictionary written by Tracey Fern and illustrated by Boris Kulikov, Farrar Straus Giroux, 2015

From his youth on, Noah Webster loved words – big words. Noah’s father knew he would never make a good farmer so he agreed to send Noah to college. Noah enjoyed school and studied hard. When the Revolutionary War began, he volunteered to be a soldier without much success. Eventually, Noah became a school teacher. Noah detested the British textbooks being used in the schools. He thought the newly independent America should have its own language. He was the one to do it. He started with a speller in which he included everyday words and simplified the spelling of other words. The speller was a success, but Noah saw a need for a dictionary with words unique to America. This was not as easy to accomplish as he had thought. He started by writing a small dictionary which was not well-received. Then he set to work on a big dictionary. He collected words, traced their origins, and wrote the definitions. Year after year Noah worked on his dictionary. He sold his expensive house and moved into a small cottage in order to provide for his wife and eight children while he continued to work on his dictionary. He spent years researching and traveling to libraries in America and Europe. He was passionate about bringing his work to completion. Twenty-five years after he began his project, An American Dictionary of the English Language, was complete. The time was right for his project. Congress made it its standard reference book. Revised editions of the dictionary are still used today. Readers will enjoy Boris Kulikov’s imaginative and whimsical illustrations that include words, letters, and comical facial expressions.

Each book includes author notes with additional information, sources, and a bibliography. These are worth checking out!

The Tree Lady

June 5, 2014

The warm weather is finally here. It’s enjoyable to feel the warmth of the sun, but sometimes the shade of a tree is as equally enjoyable. Trees are important to our environment for many reasons. One woman was well-aware of this. The Tree Lady written by H. Joseph Hopkins and illustrated by Jill McElmurry tells the story of Kate Sessions, a tree-loving woman who changed the landscape of San Diego.

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The story begins in the 1860s – a time when girls were supposed to be learning how to run a household. Kate was different. She loved the outdoors. In school, Kate was interested in anything to do with science. In particular, Kate loved trees. She was fascinated by how tall they grew, how their branches stretched outward, and how they provided homes for animals. Kate graduated from college with a degree in science and accepted a teaching job in San Diego – a dry, desert town. The first thing Kate noticed was the lack of trees. After two years of teaching, Kate decided to become a gardener. Her mission was to find a variety of trees that would withstand the sunshine and dry soil of San Diego. Soon trees from Kate’s nursery were planted along streets, around schools, in parks, and in people’s yards. When it was announced the Panama-California Exposition was going to be held in City Park in San Diego, Kate felt the park needed more trees – thousands more! With the help of friends and volunteers, there were tree-planting parties. By the time the exposition opened, there were millions of trees and plants growing in what is now called Balboa Park. Thanks to Kate Sessions and her passion for trees and plants, San Diego is the beautiful city it is today.

Hopkins pays a lovely tribute to Kate Sessions, and the charming illustrations by Jill McElmurry add to the allure of the book. This non-fiction picture book is a wonderful treat to share with children. It shows what can be accomplished when you believe in yourself and have a passion for something.

Now You See It, Now You Don’t

May 15, 2014

It’s that time of year when I begin to inventory the books in the library. Some days it takes me longer than others – especially when I discover an interesting book I had forgotten was on our shelves. That’s when inventory stops, and I take a little break to enjoy what I’ve missed. Where in the Wild? is one of those books. It’s a perfect read for anyone at anytime.

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This book is written by David M. Schwartz and Yael Schy and the amazing photographs are by Dwight Kuhn. Schwartz and Schy, who are husband and wife, teamed together to craft a book about camouflaged creatures. Various forms of poetry pose a challenge for readers as they try to discover what creatures are hidden in Kuhn’s pictures. On a separate page, additional information about that animal is included. What makes this book so appealing, besides the clever poems and fascinating facts, are Kuhn’s captivating photographs of the camouflaged creatures. After carefully searching for the hidden creature, the reader can lift the gatefold to reveal its whereabouts. I found this award-winning book  delightful, and I think young readers will, too!

If you like this book, there are two companion books by the same team:

Where Else in the Wild?

What in the Wild?

 

Feet, Tails, and Fun

May 8, 2014

Laura Hullbert came up with a clever idea to capture the interest of young children. Who Has These Feet? and Who Has This Tail? are two nonfiction picture books written by Laura and illustrated by Erik Brooks. The text is uncomplicated, and the pictures are colorful and inviting. In each book the reader sees a pair of feet or a tail with the question: Who has these feet? or Who has this tail? Enthusiasm abounds as children try to guess the answers. A page turn reveals the owner of the feet or tail and a simple fact about the animal. A gatefold is included at the end of each book, which provides another look at the animals and prompts more discussion.

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These books are perfect picks for school or home.

 


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