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Hail to the Chief

Hail to the Chief

posted by:
October 24, 2012 - 7:55am

Presidential PetsThe President's Stuck in the BathtubPresidential politics are in full swing as Election Day approaches and two new books for kids offer a lighter look at the men who have been elected to this highest office. Julia Moberg researched the non-human First Family members in Presidential Pets: The Weird, Wacky, Little, Big, Scary, Strange Animals That Have Lived in the White House. While many had the usual cats and dogs, the White House also became home to goats, mice, bears, zebras, hyenas, and many more. Calvin Coolidge owned a raccoon named Rebecca who dined on shrimp, while Andrew Jackson’s parrot was known to use less than savory language. Each entry opens with a humorous rhyming poem that describes an event with the pet. Sidebars, such as "Presidential Stats" and "Tell Me More", offer basic information and share trivia about the president and his animal. This unique blend of humor, trivia, vibrant graphics, and children’s love of animals brings to life the presidents and the history of each man’s time in office.

  

Susan Katz uses humor in The President’s Stuck in the Bathtub: Poems about the Presidents and focuses on some of the lesser known anecdotes about our presidents. The forty-three poems are diverse in format and include concrete, free verse, and rhyming. Each poem is accompanied by a footnote outlining more specifics, and Robert Neubecker’s digital caricature illustrations are full of interesting details which highlight the stories. While trivial in nature, these funny facts are just right to pique young readers' interests. Further information is provided in the appended list of presidents which includes nicknames, a major accomplishment, and a famous quote. From William Taft’s extrication from a bathtub to John Quincy Adams skinny dipping in the Potomac, all of these stories serve to highlight the human nature of each of our presidents, and makes them more relatable to readers of all ages.

Maureen

 
 

Silent Killer

Breathing RoomInvincible MicrobeTuberculosis has been called the greatest serial killer of all time, and remains a crisis in many countries. Two new books for children tackle this scourge and shed light on the incredible pain suffered by its victims and the horrors of treatment.

 

In 1940, thirteen year old Evelyn (“Evvy") Hoffmeister is sent to Loon Lake Sanatorium, a treatment facility for tuberculosis patients in Breathing Room by Marsha Hayles. Evvy is frightened by her new surroundings and must learn to adapt to the harsh rules – no talking, no visitors, strict bed rest. Evvy soon finds her place and makes friends with the other girls in her ward. Hayles provides a fascinating glimpse into the medical technology of the day, such as the pneumothorax which blew air into the chest, or thoracoplasty, the surgical removal of a rib which would supposedly allow a lung to collapse and heal. Period photographs add depth to the story and an author’s note provides additional information. Evvy’s voice captures the resentment, fear, determination, and hope of a young patient fighting an insidious disease with no real cure.

 

Evvy could very well be one of the young ladies pictured in the dramatic cover photograph of Jim Murphy’s Invincible Microbe: Tuberculosis and the Never Ending Search for a Cure. This is an impeccably researched narrative nonfiction title complete with photographs, prints, and source notes. Murphy starts with the history of this deadly germ and offers evidence of tuberculosis in a 500,000 year old fossilized skull. Murphy also details the many ineffectual treatments in ancient Egypt and Greece before following the course of the dread disease through Europe and America. Finally, readers learn of the social history and impact of tuberculosis. Examples include chapters describing the warped nineteenth-century romantic view of the disease, and the difficulties encountered by African-Americans and immigrants in their search for treatment. The research, photographs, notes and easy narrative flow make this biography of a disease a fascinating read.

Maureen

 
 

Celebrate Roald Dahl Day

The BFGJoin in the celebration of the life and work of Roald Dahl, the renowned author whose books have delighted children and adults alike for over 50 years.

 

Roald Dahl Day takes place on September 13 every year, but this year is even more special because 2012 marks the 30th anniversary of the publication of The BFG. In this novel, an orphan named Sophie is taken from her bed by a giant who takes her to Giant Country. The giant doesn’t want to harm Sophie because, as he explains, he is the world’s only friendly giant. He is the BFG—the Big Friendly Giant. Unlike other giants who eat “human beans,” the BFG collects good dreams to give to children. Sophie and the BFG band together to save humans from the other giants.

 

To learn more about Dahl’s extraordinary life, try Michael Rosen’s new children’s biography Fantastic Mr. Dahl. This book tells the story of how a boy from a Wales grew up to write beloved children’s books like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, and Matilda. Rosen, who declares himself Dahl’s biggest fan, tells Dahl’s extraordinary life story with affection and humor.

 

If you would like to celebrate Roald Dahl Day tomorrow, read your favorite Roald Dahl book, or try one of the fun activities here!

Beth

 
 

Flying High into Olympic History

Touch the SkyQueen of the TrackTwo new titles share the story of Alice Coachman, the first African-American woman to win Olympic gold. Touch the Sky: Alice Coachman, Olympic High Jumper is written by Ann Malaspina and illustrated by Pura Belpré Illustrator Award winner Eric Velasquez. Alice’s story is told in free-verse poetry and vibrant oil paintings created from photographs. Queen of the Track: Alice Coachman, Olympic High-Jump Champion by Heather Lang offers more detailed descriptions of Alice’s childhood and is complemented by the sepia-tone oil illustrations of Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award winner Floyd Cooper.

 

Alice grew up in segregated Albany, Georgia in the 1930s. She was the daughter of a poor cotton farmer and loved running and playing basketball. She created her own high jump with a crossbar made of branches and rags.  Despite her father’s warnings that her tomboyish behavior wasn’t ladylike, Alice grew faster and stronger and was soon a star high school athlete. She was recruited by the Tuskegee Institute to join the Tigerettes as a high jumper where she achieved great success as an athlete and student.

 

Though she was at her best in 1944, the Olympics were cancelled because of World War II. Alice wasn’t discouraged, and continued training for the next four years. In 1948, the United States’ women’s track team was medal-less when the high jump, the last event of the day, started. Despite the pressure, Alice faced the challenge head on and not only won the gold, but also set a new Olypmic record.

   

Archival photographs, authors’ notes, and added information at the end of both of these books allow the reader to further investigate this remarkable life story. As the summer Olympics return to London for the first time since Coachman’s victory, these titles are especially timely and inspirational.

Maureen

 
 

Count Me In

Count Me In

posted by:
August 1, 2012 - 8:11am

Help Me Learn Numbers 0-20Let's Count to 100!How Many Jelly Beans?Teaching children about numbers is fun for the whole family with these three playful and interactive counting books that will appeal to kids and caretakers alike!

 

Jean Marzollo created Help Me Learn Numbers 0-20 based on the Common Core State Standards used in many public schools. She says that the purpose of the book is to help children begin to learn about math at an early age and to help prepare them to succeed in Kindergarten. The eye-catching illustrations and rhyming text make it an engaging way for kids to learn. Help Me Learn Numbers 0-20 will be an asset for parents helping their children master these basic skills.  It is the first book in Marzollo’s Help Me Learn series, which now includes Help Me Learn Addition and Help Me Learn Subtraction.

 

Let’s Count to 100! by Masayuke Sebe is another charming counting book with great kid and parent appeal. Each page-spread has 100 items and includes challenges for kids to interact with the items in the illustrations.  The placement and colors of animals on the page lend themselves to counting by ones or by tens.

 

In Andrea Menotti’s fun, oversized picture book How Many Jelly Beans?, two siblings debate how many jelly beans they want. On every page-spread, the numbers multiply, ending with the siblings asking for 1 million jelly beans! How Many Jelly Beans? is a fun starting point for kids to begin to visualize large numbers. The black and white illustrations of the siblings make the colorful jelly beans pop off the page. This book will definitely grab kids’ attention.

Beth

 
 

British Invasion

One DirectionOne Direction: What Makes You BeautifulDare to Dream: Life as One DirectionIf you have a tween in your life, chances are you’ve heard of the hot new band One Direction. A trio of new titles looks at this band and chronicles its amazing success. Superstars: One Direction; One Direction: What Makes You Beautiful by Mary Boone; and Dare to Dream: Life as One Direction, written by the band members, all offer the inside scoop behind the five young men who formed a boy band following rejection as solo acts on the X Factor in England.

 

Niall, Zayn, Liam, Harry, and Louis have taken the United States by storm, and ardent superfans will devour every juicy detail. Answers to such questions as why Zayn got each of his four tattoos, and what vegetable the guys received in the mail from an adoring fan will be inhaled by young music listeners. Most importantly, these boy band phenoms address what's next for One Direction, both personally and professionally.

 

In addition to facts and trivia about each member, each title includes plenty of photographs from concerts and their personal lives. “Directioners” will love reading about the guys’ dreams and private lives and will be able to discover a little bit more about the boys behind the band. Their debut album, Up All Night stunningly debuted at Number 1 on the Billboard charts. The CD, and a concert DVD with the same title, are also available at the library for your listening and viewing pleasure. You can see what all the fuss is about!

Maureen

 
 

A World Without the Super Soaker®?

What Color is my World?There’s more to former NBA star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar than just basketball. In What Color is My World?: the Lost History of African-American Inventors, he and co-author Raymond Obstfeld tackle the book's subject and make it interesting for kids!

 

Twin siblings Ella and Herbie are less than thrilled about their new fixer-upper of a house.  Eccentric handyman Mr. R.E. Mital comes to work on the house and slowly shares with the two the potential of their new home. He also uses different things in the house as a starting point to share contributions made by African-American inventors. Turning on a light bulb prompts a discussion about Lewis Latimer, while working in the kitchen brings up George Crum and his marvelous invention of the potato chip.

 

Flaps show lifelike portraits of individuals like Dr. Mark Dean, a vice-president at IBM, Dr. Charles Drew, who developed the concept of blood banks, and of great importance to children everywhere, nuclear engineer Lonnie Johnson, inventor of the Super Soaker® squirt gun! Ella’s notes appear inside the flaps, while several spreads provide detailed profiles of other inventors and graphic novel-style passages. This surprising and informative exploration of unfamiliar inventors is also fun thanks in part to the realistic banter between the siblings.

 

This is a fun easy read that can be read cover to cover, but the book's layout also makes it an ideal choice for skipping around and reading about those of most interest – like Alfred Cralle, inventor of the indispensable ice cream scoop! A list of books, websites, and videos is included at the end for those who want to keep on learning. And like Ella and Herbie, the reader uncovers a surprise discovery about Mr. Mital’s real identity.

Maureen

 
 

A First Look at Nature’s Heroes

Life in the OceanRachel Carson and Her Book that Changed the WorldFor the BirdsThree of the most famous naturalists of the past one hundred years get their due in introductory, illustrated biographies for young readers. Each extraordinary life shares a common thread--following a strong interest in the natural world as a child and developing it into a career that changed the way Americans interact with their environment.

 

In Life in the Ocean: the Story of Oceanographer Sylvia Earle, the sea and all of its hidden plants and animals are brilliantly portrayed by author and illustrator Claire Nivola. From the New Jersey farm she lived on until age twelve, to the seaside in Florida where she spent her adolescence, these surroundings shaped Sylvia Earle’s life and her curiosity about the natural world. Diving into the depths and encountering whales and amazing bioluminescent fishes, her ongoing exploration of the ocean and fight to keep it clean and preserve its treasures has made Earle a pioneer for female marine biologists.

 

Rachel Carson is well-known worldwide for her seminal critique of pesticides and the chemical industry, Silent Spring, as well as other important works. Rachel Carson and her Book that Changed the World is a good introduction to her life and accomplishments. Showing an early interest in nature throughout her childhood, she found her niche after taking a biology course in college.  Laurie Lawlor covers both Carson’s triumphs and difficulties in this tightly-written biography.

 

Though known in his neighborhood for his unusual habits as a child, Roger Tory Peterson is now noticed for what he noticed--the incredible world of birds. His curiosity and lifelong passion to educate the masses and conserve the habitats our feathered friends is the subject of For the Birds: the Life of Roger Tory Peterson. Peterson, best known for his many field guides to bird identification and behavior, is described vividly by Peggy Thomas, and the illustrations by Laura Jacques are striking. Of particular note is a double-page spread of a flicker just taking flight.

 

Budding environmentalists can learn about three of the most famous names in natural science with these timely picture book biographies.

Todd

 
 

The Bee's Knees

UnBEElievablesThe Honeybee ManBackyard beekeeping continues to rise in popularity and two recent children’s titles spotlight these buzzy critters and their importance to our world.  In UnBEElievables by Douglas Florian, this award-winning poet of the natural world offers 14 lively poems.  The subjects of his verses range from bee anatomy, to the different types of bees, to the collapse of bee colonies in recent years.  He uses his trademark wordplay and puns, but also manages to sneak some information into the poems as well.  A paragraph offering further explanation follows each verse and the illustrations bring the words to life. Working in gouache, colored pencils, and collage on paper bags, Florian captures the essence of the world of bees. This is a fun and visually appealing book that comes complete with a BEEbliography.

     

In her children’s debut, Lela Nargi shares the story of Fred from Brooklyn in The Honeybee Man. Every morning, Fred climbs to his rooftop and greets his beloved bees, “Good morning, my bees, my darlings!" His honeybees travel across Brooklyn searching for flowers all day and return with nectar to store in their wax rooms.  At the right time, Fred makes honey which the entire neighborhood enjoys. This beautifully written story accompanied by Kyrsten Brooker's collage-style illustrations offers an inside look at the life of a sweet beekeeper and the honey-making process.  An afterword of "amazing facts" explains more about apiarists, bees' life cycles, and more.  Even the endpapers provide a learning opportunity with labeled diagrams of bees and beekeeping materials. This is an unusual glimpse of beekeeping in an urban setting inspired by two neighbors in Nargi’s New York community.  

Maureen

 
 

The Darkest Dark

A Black Hole is Not a HoleMost people consider the science of the sun, moon, planets, stars and the surrounding universe interesting, but often overwhelming. A Black Hole Is NOT a Hole, written especially for middle graders, turns out to be an excellent introduction to deep space concepts for people of all ages.

 

Big scientific concepts such as matter, mind-boggling distance (light-years!), and perhaps the biggest of them all, gravity, are given ample, clear explanations. The existence of black holes has been difficult to prove since their discovery, and what could become too much astrophysics is distilled as simply as possible. That Einstein never fully accepted the concept of black holes in his lifetime shows how far science has come in recent decades. Artist depictions and telescopic images fill the book with pictures that do their best to make the unimaginable come to life. Facts are engaging and well-explained. For example, the outer limit of a black hole is called the Event Horizon; from this point, no matter can escape the pull within. And our own galaxy has black holes, the largest of which makes up the center of the Milky Way, found in the constellation Sagittarius!

 

An extremely useful glossary and websites to further explore round out this brilliant informational book that will open the eyes of readers who will learn how a black hole is not quite a hole, or at least not a hole in the way that we on Earth know them. And as the author often states, science is a moving target, and each day researchers are learning more about the darkest dark of our universe.

Todd