Topping the piles of books on our desks this month are volumes marking the 50th anniversary of the arrival of the Fab Four on American soil, titles to feature in your Black History Month displays, and a few choice selections on animals (and their plumage).
Athans, Sandra K. Secrets of the Sky Caves: Danger and Discovery on Nepal’s Mustang Cliffs. (Millbrook. Gr 4-8). It’s a mystery how people were able to carve a “vast complex” of multilevel caves connected by tunnels and shafts high into the cliffs of the Himalayas. The caves, which “flourished with people and activity” more than 500 years ago, are in a remote area of Tibet. Athans, author of Tales from the Top of the World: Climbing Mount Everest with Pete Athans (21st Century Press, 2012), here reports on the discoveries made by a team of scientists and scholars that explored the site, located in the former kingdom of Mustang, from 2007 to 2013. Their discoveries included human remains, a mural, statue fragments, and written materials including a manuscript believed to date to the mid-1300s. Color photos detail the area and the onsite work.
FitzSimmons, David. Curious Critters, Volume Two. (Wild Iris Publishing. Gr 2-5). Adopting a first-person voice, the author presents a gallery of creatures speaking (and singing) about their physical features, habits and habitats, and unique abilities. (Says the Gold-Green Sweat Bee: “I should warn you, however: don’t try to brush me off or accidentally squish me. Back there, on my busy end, I have a sweat bee stinger. It doesn’t hurt a lot, but I guarantee, you won’t bee happy!) It’s FitzSimmons’s photos, however, that will have youngsters enthralled. Oversize double-page spreads, featuring close-up images of an assortment of birds, insects, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals, are so close that individual hairs and scales can be viewed in sharp detail. End pages provide additional facts.
Kanefield, Teri. The Girl from the Tar Paper School: Barbara Rose Johns and the Advent of the Civil Rights Movement. (Abrams; Gr 4-7). By 1950, in segregated Farmville, Virginia, the principal of Moton High and parents had heard excuse after excuse and experienced endless delays in their efforts to get the all-white school board to build a new school for the town’s African American students. Makeshift classrooms, built to house the overflow student body, leaked when it rained and were cold and smoky in the winter. Fed up with the “bureaucratic runaround,” 15-year-old Barbara Rose Johns stepped forward and with some of her classmates organized a strike to draw attention to their “substandard school.” Their actions went beyond the community: their case, which was “championed by the NAACP, went all the way to the Supreme Court.”
Manning, Mick and Brita Granström. The Beatles. (Frances Lincoln. Gr 5 Up). This chronological history of the “cheeky lads from Liverpool” begins in 1948 when a harmonica-playing John Lennon boards a bus to visit a cousin and so impresses the bus driver that the man hands him a higher-quality instrument at the end of the boy’s overnight trip. Each spread represents a stop on the Beatle time line covering the early years of the group members, their boyhood bands and initial introductions, the formative Hamburg gigs, Beatlemania, the endless touring, and the band’s eventual breakup. Dominating the pages is fluid watercolor art in bright colors that conveys as clearly as the text, the charisma, talent, and energy of this group that took the world by storm. Lengthy paragraphs introduce each spread with a bit of band history while captions offer anecdotes and detail the inspiration for many of Beatles’ popular songs and innovative recordings. Humorous dialog bubbles and the cheerful art keep the mood light. A final chapter, “New Beginnings,” follows the lives of the band members after 1970, and the death of John Lennon and George Harrison.
Powell, Patricia Hruby. Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker. Illus. by Christian Robinson. (Chronicle Books; Gr 4-7). Vibrant acrylic-on-paper illustrations and a blank verse text chronicle the life of this world-famous performer, born at the turn of the 20th century. At an early age, Baker was dancing and playing music on the streets of St. Louis with a local group known as The Jones Family; within a few years the girl was on the road with a vaudeville troupe. Her comedic style soon wowed audiences, but it wasn’t until she visited Paris, France (still a teen) with the La Revue Nègre that she found her home and became the phenomenon we remember today. Powell’s ebullient verse, peppered with quotes by the dancer, offers readers a glimpse into the flash and charm that made Baker so popular with audiences. Bold, flat swatches of color lead readers’ eyes to images of this force of energy and rhythm that “erupted into the/Roaring Twenties-/a VOLCANO.”
Sandler, Martin W. How the Beatles Changed the World. (Walker Books; Gr 5-9). In this detailed history, the author documents the cultural revolution ignited by the landing of these four “mop-tops” on American soil 50 years ago this month. He begins his narrative with the February 9, 1964 performance by the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show, viewed by 73 million people, and mania that ensued. From there, the author circles back to discuss how the members of the group met, their years together as a band, their breakup in 1970, and later careers as individual performers. He covers the “British Invasion” that followed the Fab Four’s first visit to America, and the influence it had on music and American culture from songwriting and recording to hair and clothing styles. Abundant black-and-white photos illustrate the book.
Stewart, Melissa. Feathers Not Just for Flying. Illus. by Sarah S. Brannen. (Charlesbridge, K-Gr 4). “Birds and feathers go together, like trees and leaves, like stars and sky,” notes the author in this introduction to the many functions and remarkable versatility of feathers. Reminiscent of a scrapbook, the book’s pages features pictures of 16 creatures from the Blue Jay to the Northern Cardinal and Peacock to the Rosy-faced lovebird. Also included is information on the ways in which their plumes protect them (as camouflage, as sunblock, as a distraction) and how they they use their feathers (to fly, to glide, to spot prey, to dig). Each spread includes a line of large-print text, and a paragraph or two of more detailed information that appears tacked, taped, or stapled onto the page. Charming watercolor illustrations, many full-page, enhance the text. In addition, small, inset spot-art illustrations compare the feathers’ uses and purposes to objects in our lives; for example, on the page “Feathers can help birds float like a life jacket…,” is an image of a young girl in a kayak.
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