Posted tagged ‘Nonfiction Books’

Radiant Art

May 4, 2017

“Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures.” ~Henry Ward Beecher

I was not familiar with Jean-Michel Basquiat until I read, Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, written and illustrated by Javaka Steptoe, Little, Brown and Company. This book was awarded the 2017 Caldecott Medal, the 2017 Coretta Scott King Award for its illustrations, and the 2017 NAACP Image Award Nomination for Outstanding Literary Work.


From an early age, Jean-Michel knew he wanted to become a famous artist. His mother was a creative spark in his life, exposing him to literature, theater, museums, and the energy of New York City. His father brought home old paper from the office on which Jean-Michel drew for hours. When his mother became ill, Jean-Michel lost an important mentor in his life. More than ever, drawing and painting were his passion. At night, he spray-painted poems and drawings on the walls in the New York City. His pieces brought attention to the city’s diverse population and its social and political issues. Basquiat’s unique style was embraced by art critics and fans, and, at a young age, he achieved his goal of becoming a famous artist.

“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” ~Edgar Degas

What makes this book truly amazing is Javaka Steptoe’s eye-catching illustrations. In the back matter of the book, he provides more information about Jean-Michel Basquiat and adds a poignant author note. Javaka Steptoe was inspired by Basquiat’s work. He saw his graffiti in New York City, read about Basquiat in the newspapers, and went to one of his art shows. In illustrating this book, Steptoe says he used his own interpretations of the artist’s works rather than using copies. The end result is a book filled with vivid illustrations inspired by Basquiat and his unique style. Through his text and art, Javaka Steptoe exposes readers to an extraordinary artist and offers them an opportunity to learn and appreciate artists and their compositions.

“The artist is a receptacle for emotions that come from all over the place: from the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of paper, from a passing shape, from a spider’s web.” ~Pablo Picasso


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.


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?


Take Me Out to the Ball Game!

October 31, 2013

Baseball has never been one of my favorite sports. I once said I’d rather listen to golf being broadcast on the radio than watch a baseball game. Shame on me! It’s time to eat my words.


Fenway Park

Starting with the first game of the World Series, I was glued to the television. My husband was in shock. As he put it, “You haven’t watched this much baseball in your entire life!” This is true, but when it comes to the Boston Red Sox, Fenway Park, The Green Monster, and “Sweet Caroline”, you have to be a fan — especially if you happened to have lived in Massachusetts during your lifetime.

Boston supports their teams — good, bad, or other. One fan has been coming to Sox games since 1953. That’s sixty years!  Loyal fans are everywhere you look, but you may have to look twice because beards, scruffy-looking or not, are the in-thing in Boston these days!


May Way for the Red Sox by Day and by Night



George Washington Fighting a Red Sox Victory by Day and by Night


As a current resident of Wisconsin, I committed a mortal sin last Sunday by choosing to watch the Red Sox game over the Green Bay Packer game! (A Sam Adams and some squeaky cheese curds can do wonders to ease the guilt.) Who knew baseball could make me jump out of my chair, shout at the television, mumble swear words, and make me a crazed woman.

At the end of last night’s game, I was convinced God was a Red Sox fan. I saw Him hovering above Fenway Park, sporting a beard and cheering as only a Boston fan can cheer. It took ninety-five years to win a series at Fenway, and now they’re back!

Boston is Boston Strong, and I am Boston Proud for the city, its people, and its team! Congratulations!

Massachusetts State House


Boston Strong Always

A Red Sox Read for the Young Fans:

No Easy Way: The Story of Ted Williams and the Last .004 Season written by Fred Bowen and illustrated by Chuck Pyle (Dutton, 2010)

A Red Sox Read for the Older Fans:

The Kid:  The Immortal Life of Ted Williams written by Ben Bradlee (Little, Brown and Company, Coming in December 2013)

It’s Apple Month!

October 3, 2013

photo 2 (8)

It’s apple month. Celebrate by sinking your teeth into a juicy apple. I like mine not too sweet and not too tart, but with lots of crunch! Johnny Appleseed had the right idea when he decided to plant apple trees.

photo 1 (10)

Apples have health benefits. They’re fat-free, sodium-free, cholesterol-free, and full of fiber. They promote bone health and weight loss. They lower cholesterol and help prevent certain cancers and heart disease. They’re also good for your teeth. So munch and crunch away!

Are you hungry? Try some of these delicious treats – apple crisp, apple cake, apple pie, applesauce, apple muffins, apple dumplings, apple butter, apple turnovers, apple fritters … Yum! Now I’m hungry!

Apples also lend themselves to art activities. You can make carved apple faces, apple prints, dried apple swags, wreaths, ornaments, and great smelling dried apple potpourri with spices.

Did I say apple? There’s a lot to say about apples.

You’re the apple of my eye.

Don’t upset the apple cart.

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

When the apple is ripe it will fall.

As American as apple pie.

You’re an apple polisher.

One rotten apple spoils the whole bunch.

And don’t forget …

Adam’s apple

The Big Apple

Besides munching a juicy apple, the next best treat is to read books about apples. Share these with your apple-lovin’ friends.

photo (4)

Applesauce Season written by Eden Ross Lipson and illustrated by Mordicai Gerstein

This charming story is about a family who goes to the farmer’s market in the city to buy a variety of apples to make applesauce — a yearly family tradition. When they’re finished, Dad prepares an array of different foods to compliment their homemade applesauce. Try the recipe included in the book and enjoy!

photo (1)

 The Apple Pie Tree written by Zoe Hall and illustrated by Shari Halpern

A brother and sister watch an apple tree change through the seasons. In fall when the apples are ready to be picked, the children fill a basket in order to make a delicious apple pie. Information about how bees help apples grow and a yummy pie recipe make this book a favorite.


Apple Harvest written by Calvin Harris

Written in simple text, this book tells how ripe apples are picked, sorted, and bagged to sell. Suggestions for tasty apple treats and a glossary of words are included. It’s a perfect book for young readers.

photo (3)

Johnny Appleseed A Tall Tale retold and illustrated by Steven Kellogg

Steven Kellogg’s exaggerated illustrations and story make for a fun-filled book about the life of John Chapman, aka Johnny Appleseed, and the history behind planting and growing apple trees.

photo (5)

Apple Fractions written by Jerry Pallotta and illustrated by Rob Bolster

This book provides a mouth-watering way to learn about fractions. Different varieties of apples are used to show how they can be divided into fractional sections. It’s crunchy math fun!

How do you like them apples?


Picture Book Month: Happy Thanksgiving!

November 22, 2012

Wishing everyone a bountiful Thanksgiving!

And don’t forget to thank Sarah Hale, the woman who saved Thanksgiving.

Thank You, Sarah The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving was written by Laurie Halse Anderson and illustrated by Matt Faulkner.

This book is a wonderful nonfiction addition to Thanksgiving stories. Laurie Halse Anderson cleverly tells the story of Sarah Hale, a superhero, who set out to right the wrongs in our society and make Thanksgiving a national holiday. Anderson reveals how Sarah Hale wrote thousands of letters to politicians and presidents, trying to convince them to make Thanksgiving a day everyone in America celebrated together. It took her thirty-eight years, and, finally, President Abraham Lincoln agreed! Anderson’s story and Matt Faulkner’s humorous illustrations beg readers to keep turning the pages. Anderson has also included “A Feast of Facts” at the end of the story which is filled with a bounty of information. This book gives readers a lot to be thankful for!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Unleashing a Monster

April 17, 2012

Without thinking, I unleashed a monster. The living, breathing creature I unexpectedly let loose is my husband, Tom. Usually, he’s a calm, good-humored, loving man. The only thing that can make him lose complete control is the knowledge there’s a chipmunk in our yard.

Just as we were about to sit down to eat breakfast, I mentioned there was a chipmunk outside our kitchen window, and it looked like the critter was making a nest in our rock wall. Wrong thing to say. Before Tom even had a sip of coffee, he bolted out the door. I watched him come around the garage and quietly sneak up on the chipmunk. He was watching – oh so carefully – exactly where that rodent was building his nest.

The chipmunk disappeared. Tom returned to the kitchen, but not for long. When the critter showed itself again, gathering bits of grass to add to the nest, Tom vanished like a puff of smoke. I sat down to eat breakfast by myself while he and the chipmunk played hide-and-seek.

When my husband finally came into the house, he was ranting. “That thing is ruining our grass! It’s going to have babies and they’ll be running around causing …”

“Mass destruction?” was my comment.

“You bet, and I’m going to do something about it.”

I knew for the rest of the day Tom would be stalking, poking, prodding, and searching for the chipmunk. Traps, cages, and gross smelling stuff would be used to deter the critter.

I hung my head in remorse. With a few simple words, I had unleashed the monster inside my husband.

The Chipmunk Hunter is back at it!

Simple books for the overzealous chipmunk hunter and the child within:

Baby Chipmunks by Bobbie Kalman (Crabtree Publishing Company, 2010)

Chipmunks (Animals Underground) by Emily Sebastian (Powerkids Pr, 2011)

Chipmunk’s Hole by Dee Phillips (Bearport Publishing, 2012)

Read Like an Egyptian

February 22, 2011

Anything we can do as parents and educators to get our kids interested in reading is well worth our time.

I’ve mentioned before I’m in the process of purging things from our household. I’ve found books are the hardest to dispose of. I love books! I love to hold them. I love to read them. I love the unique words and emotions authors use to tell their stories. And I love the special memories I have of each book.

My daughter has left many of her books behind – books that are taking up valuable space on our bookshelves. I was pulling them off the shelves, deciding what to do with them, when I came across books from her Egyptian phase.

I remember it well. We were living in Connecticut at the time and took a trip into New York City to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Her favorite galleries were those with Egyptian art. Before leaving, we checked out the Museum Shop. Oh, how those shops pull you in, but it turned out to be a fabulous way to get my daughter interested in nonfiction books. The first book she chose was Mummies Made in Egypt by Aliki.

 When we got home she asked if I had more pictures of Egypt. I lugged out my old art history book from college. She spent hours going through it. Somewhere along the line she picked up Seeker of Knowledge The Man who Deciphered Egyptian Hieroglyphs by James Rumford and Fun with Hieroglyphs by Catharine Roehrig, containing 24 rubber stamps and a hieroglyph guidebook.

On another trip to the museum, she added Egyptian Mummies by Carol Andrews and Egyptian Life by Miriam Stead to her collection. As a teacher, I was thrilled to see her interest soar as she stamped out messages from the hieroglyph stamps and poured over her collection of books.

As I paged through the books in my hand, special memories of my daughter’s youth swept over me. I put the books back up on the shelf and gave up purging for another day.

More books about Egypt:

How the Sphinx Got to the Museum by Jessie Hartland (Blue Apple Books, 2010), Pharaoh’s Boat by David L. Weitzman (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2009), You Wouldn’t Want to Be a Pyramid Builder by Jacqueline Morley and David Salariya (Children’s Press, 2004), You Wouldn’t Want to Be an Egyptian Mummy by David Stewart and David Salariya (Franklin Watts, 2000)

Savvy Kids and Book Covers

September 17, 2010

“There are books of which the backs and covers are by far the best parts.” ─ Charles Dickens

It has been said you can’t judge a book by its cover. “Not so,” claimed one of my library students. He held a book up to my face and stated, “This cover needs to be changed.”

The WISCONSIN volume from the Hello U.S.A. series sported a picture of a former Green Bay Packer, wearing a number four jersey. I’m not one to cave into pressure to remove books with questionable covers or text from the library, but, like a good referee, this young student’s judgment call was right on target.

I had to agree the cover was definitely in need of a new look. With a little creative brainstorming, we came up with an alternative cover.

Jump around for Bucky Badger and Wisconsin!

%d bloggers like this: