Wednesday, March 23, 2016
This picture book is a funny science book about the common housefly. The narrator is a cartoon fly who quizzes a classroom of kids as to their knowledge about flies. Beyond the "ew" factor of maggots, eating garbage etc. this book is a hilarious introduction to a common (but little discussed) insect. The main fly character is full of personality as he extols the virtues of his fellow flies. At the back of the book there's a glossary and bibliography for further information.
Told in rhyme, this picture book explores a girl's day hike into the Grand Canyon. Readers follow her down the trail to the bottom, meeting various animals and experiencing nature along the way. At the book's end, the girl's in her room in the city, peering up at the moon. She has kept the Grand Canyon memories in her heart. There's more information in the back: Author's Note, Glossary and Further Reading links. Ashley Wolff's illustrations, done in linoleum block print, capture the southwest feel of the location. A beautiful exploration of a national treasure.
Tuesday, January 05, 2016
This is a gorgeous picture book about the various states of water: rain, fog, clouds, puddles etc. While the main part of the book is poetic rather than educational, there's informational matter in the back which helps to explain the water cycle. Instead of overly explaining the scientific aspects of water, the text plays with words and the images tell a story of a family (probably in New England) encountering water throughout the days and seasons. Lovely watercolors by Jason Chin. A good introduction to the water cycle for younger elementary ages.
Monday, December 28, 2015
This is a short, but sweet and informative diary of a twelve year old girl, Ann Elizabeth Rector, who was born in 1899 in West Virginia. She grew up as an only child in New York City and in this year-long diary recounts life there: her schooling, friends, family and desire to be an artist. Eventually, Ann Elizabeth does become an artist, initially as a fine artist and in later years as a crafter of toys. Throughout the diary are actual illustrations done by Ann Elizabeth, in addition to historical information and photos of Ann Elizabeth. This is a great book for girls (or boys) who are between 8-12, and interested in art and/or history.
Tuesday, December 22, 2015
This book tells the true story behind Winnie-the-Pooh. Finding Winnie is a story within a story: the reader is learning about Winnie while the mother in the book tells the story to her son. It opens with a soldier heading off to WWI. At a train stop, the soldier sees a bear sitting with a trapper. Being a veterinarian, the young soldier has sympathy for the bear and buys him from the trapper. Winnipeg, or Winnie as she is later called, acts as a mascot for his fellow soldiers while at training camp and travels with them to England. As Winnie gets a bit older and the soldier has to go to the front, he gives her to the London zoo. While there, Winnie befriends a small boy named Christopher, whose father goes onto write about the bear in children's books. This is a true story, but told in a personal and interesting way (the author is the great-granddaughter of the soldier.) Sophie Blackall's illustrations are lovely and muted, giving the book a sweet, vintage quality.
Saturday, January 17, 2015
Star Stuff is a picture book biography of Carl Sagan, astrophysicist and original host of Cosmos, the PBS series about the universe. This biography deals with Carl's early years and development of his fascination with stars and planets. There's numerous illustrations depicting Carl's neighborhood in New York and the night sky that Carl loved to dream about. Several of the illustrations are in wide format or fold out orientation, so that the reader can imagine outer space along with Carl. The end of the book shows Carl on t.v. and assembling a recording for the 1977 Voyager spacecrafts---a recording which is still being carried out into the far reaches of space! This book is a good introduction to astronomers and outer space for kids 5 and older.
"Spic and Span!..." is the biography of Lillian Moller Gilbreth, a woman of many hats: inventor, industrial engineer, author, professor and psychologist. In addition, Lillian was the mother of eleven children! Lillian and her husband Frank were one of the first efficiency experts in the early 1900's. They analyzed worker's movements and made recommendations for their improved performance and safety. Lillian's husband passed away unexpectedly, which left Lillian with the task of providing for her large family by herself. Consequently, she went to work for Macy's analyzing the efficiency of their cash handling process. With limited time to cook for the family, Lillian found herself trying to improve the flow of her own kitchen. This led to a new area of expertise: kitchen design and invention. She invented the electric mixer and pedal-opening trash can, among other things. The clarity of writing and illustration in "Spic and Span!..." lends itself to readers ages 7-12. It's a great introduction to a little-known woman who was a pioneer in the field of industrial engineering (and also part of a series entitled "Great Idea Series" which showcases other obscure inventors).