September 22, 2017

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Nonfiction from Clinton, Tonatiuh, & More | September 2017 Xpress Reviews

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Banfield, Jake. Magic Tricks with Coins, Cards, and Everyday Objects. 120p. chart. glossary. photos. Quarto/QEB. Jul. 2017. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9781682971512.

Gr 4-8–This beginner’s manual on magic tricks uses common place objects. The book is divided into sections on “Card Tricks,” “Coin Tricks,” “Everyday Objects,” and “Mind Reading.” Smart sequencing, along with an exhaustive table of contents, makes any trick easy to find—even without an index. Each section starts with a spread that presents the basics of each type of illusion. For example, “Card Tricks” begins with a presentation of the standard “holds” and manual manipulations that make the schemes possible. Each feat is detailed with clear, instructional text and step-by-step photographs that show each technique from multiple angles. Key terms are in bold and defined in a glossary at the end. The pages are colorful and convey a sense of excitement without being busy or unfocused. Before explicating the individual tricks, Banfield discusses the importance of practicing, developing a style and stage presence, and perfecting specific “trios of tricks” in order to hold an audience’s attention. VERDICT This introduction to magic with everyday items is highly recommended for middle school library collections and will be relished by those embarking on the journey toward mystifying their friends and family.–Kelly Kingrey-Edwards, Blinn Junior College, Brenham, TX

Clinton, Chelsea. She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World. illus. by Alexandra Boiger. 32p. Philomel. May 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781524741723.

K-Gr 3–In this brief but elegant introduction to 13 women who “persisted”—such as Harriet Tubman, Nellie Bly, and Sonia Sotomayor—the author details the many ways that women have refused to take no for an answer. Instead, they rigorously pursued lofty, inspiring, and purposeful aims for the betterment of themselves and others. Readers see that working toward a far-reaching objective is a virtue. Rather than offering a more in-depth history of any single figure, this book explains the meaning of persistence and places it in a positive light. The artwork depicts a museum gallery with students looking at portraits of the 13 women, including one of Hillary Clinton wearing a red pantsuit, though she is not mentioned in the text. After a brief introduction, the format is largely consistent, with a paragraph about each subject’s goal, a quote by her that exemplifies her persistence, and an illustration. As Florence Griffith Joyner said, “When anyone tells me I can’t do anything…I’m just not listening anymore.” VERDICT Use as a read-aloud to promote discussion, raise questions for research, and share related experiences. And since the book is dedicated to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a current connection could be made, too.–Myra Zarnowski, City University of New York

Curham, Siobhan. True Face. 240p. Faber & Faber. Aug. 2017. pap. $11.95. ISBN 9780571313389.

Gr 8 Up–In today’s social media–crazed world, it can be hard to know the real person behind the tweets and the Instagram posts. Curham has written a charming text to inspire readers to “unmask the real you.” Told in a chummy voice, the book encourages teens to figure out who they really are and develop a road map for a happy future. It can be so easy to accept that everyone’s chirpy posts about what a fabulous time they are having or what a carefree existence they lead are a true reflection of their lives. But this is seldom the case. Life is messy, and nothing is ever perfect. This guide reveals to readers different ways to ignore constant external messages and embrace one’s true face. The secret is letting the self shine, whether by bolstering one’s body image or finding love. There are other titles with a similar message, but Curham’s hits all the right notes—neither preachy nor too jokey. As the author says in the introduction, it is time to set aside the “keep calm and carry on” motto and take up “forget the fake and keep it real” as the new mantra. VERDICT U.S. readers are in for a back-to-school treat with this volume that was originally published in the UK. The positive message and cheery tone will make this title an instant hit with teens.–Elaine Baran Black, Georgia Public Library Service, Atlanta

Hanackova, Pavla. Amazing Animal Friendships: Odd Couples in Nature. illus. by Linh Dao. 36p. glossary. index. Book House/Scribblers Bks. Aug. 2017. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9781912006489.

Gr 2-4–Friendship is everywhere in the animal kingdom, though it is often called “symbiosis.” Hanackova describes peculiar duos who form a two-way mutually beneficial friendship. Readers will learn that creatures such as rhinos, zebras, hippos, giraffes, and buffalo rely on the little oxpecker to get rid of irritating insects and lice in their fur. Kids will also discover that hippos can safely transport turtles and herons on their backs and that they use fish as dentists to clean their teeth. Ants make fabulous babysitters to aphid eggs, hermit crabs share their shells with anemones in exchange for protection, bees and plants aid with pollination, shrimp clean the teeth of larger fish, and good fungi help tree roots and plants while receiving nutrients from their green counterparts. The cartoonlike digitally produced illustrations complement a narrative that is not only informational but also light and humorous. Although the author focuses on animals that assist one another, she also refers to more destructive creatures, such as leeches and parasites. VERDICT This adorable volume will be a great addition to any collection where animal books are in high demand.–Kathia Ibacache, Simi Valley Public Library, CA

Herzog, Brad. Murphy’s Ticket: The Goofy Start and Glorious End of the Chicago Cubs Billy Goat Curse. illus. by David Leonard. 32p. Sleeping Bear. Jul. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781585363872.

K-Gr 4–Most baseball and sports fan will know about the history-making win of the Chicago Cubs at the 2016 World Series, but do they know that the “Lovable Losers” were once believed to be cursed? The story of Murphy the Goat and the billy goat’s curse is the stuff of legends in the Second City, but even those familiar with the details will be enthralled by the rollicking rhymes describing the fateful events that brought on the curse. Fans will become believers all over again as they read about season after dreadful season. Told in three alternating rhymed quatrains per page and peppered with North Side jargon, the narration is well executed. This title adds to Herzog’s repertoire of successful sports offerings (2004’s H Is for Home Run: A Baseball Alphabet). Whimsical full-page illustrations inject pain into the team’s woeful times and revelry into their fortunate ones, providing an old-fashioned feeling throughout the tale. VERDICT A grand slam of an ode to the Chicago Cubs. Consider wherever sports and underdog stories are popular.–Brittany Drehobl, Eisenhower Public Library District, Harwood Heights, IL

Hibbert, Clare. Moments in History That Changed the World. 64p. glossary. index. photos. reprods. The British Library. Jun. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780712356701.

Gr 3-5–Bright colors and iconic photos and paintings lead kids through the moments that helped shape history. The book is split into four sections: “Prehistory-Classical,” “Medieval Times,” “Greater Horizons,” and “Birth of the Modern World.” The layout is consistent from chapter to chapter, with variations only in photo placement. Included in each chapter are various facts and a summary of what life was like during each specific period. The volume is designed like a National Geographic work and condenses the historical events quite well. There are full-color picture pages at the beginning of each chapter to help separate each era of history. The paper is of great quality and thickness, and a variety of fonts are used. The text contains several British spellings (but no slang), which may confuse some audiences. VERDICT A decent addition to any library where fact books are a big draw.–Kristin Anderson, Bloomingdale Public Library, IL

Kochanoff, Peggy. Be a Night Detective: Solving the Mysteries of Twilight, Dusk, and Nightfall. illus. by Peggy Kochanoff. 56p. further reading. glossary. websites. Nimbus. Apr. 2017. pap. $14.95. ISBN 9781771084642.

Gr 3-5–Young nature enthusiasts and stargazers will find much to learn in this work that addresses all manner of nighttime mysteries. Each two- to four-page section covers a topic related to nocturnal wildlife and astronomy, beginning with a question (“How do night insects make their noises?”) and ending with a declaration: “Mystery solved!” Though the detailed watercolor artwork may remind some readers of titles with less text, the depth of information will satisfy those seeking a more complex read. Kochanoff encourages readers to take adult-supervised nighttime nature walks to see for themselves all she describes in the book, while also warning them of the possible dangers of interacting with nature. With such a variety of subjects covered, from night-blooming plants to nocturnal animals to phases of the moon, librarians will have a challenge when it comes to deciding where to shelve this volume. Still, it provides readers with a full scope of the unique science one can observe only after nightfall. VERDICT Deftly blending watercolor illustrations with text crammed full of scientific information, Kochanoff proves that illustrated nonfiction has plenty to offer older elementary readers, too.–Katherine Barr, Cameron Village Regional Library, Raleigh, NC

Martin, Claudia. My Little Book of Rocks, Minerals, and Gems. 64p. glossary. index. photos. Quarto/QEB. May 2017. Tr $15.95. ISBN 9781682971475.

Gr 1-4–Martin’s latest title is packed full of information about rocks, minerals, and gems—there is nothing “little” about this book. The work begins by explaining what rocks and minerals are and how they are formed. It covers different types, such as marble, chalk, clay, rubies, and sapphires. Even adults will be surprised at how many different varieties of rocks, minerals, and gems exist. Young readers will be enthralled with the detailed photographs that cover every spread. Each section contains multiple captions and words in boldface to build vocabulary. The vibrant and colorful volume opens up to an extensive table of contents and ends with an elaborate glossary and index. This book would also serve as a great teaching tool for nonfiction text features. VERDICT A worthy addition to any library that serves young geologists.–Jennifer Bludau, La Grange Independent School District, TX

Melvin, Leland. Chasing Space. 240p. diag. photos. HarperCollins/Harper. May 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062665928.

Gr 6 Up–Former astronaut Melvin has the distinction of being the only person to be drafted into the NFL and fly into outer space as an astronaut. This autobiography chronicles his unique and inspirational journey. The narrative opens with Melvin in a somber place after losing his hearing in an underwater astronaut training accident, before doubling back to his childhood in Virginia. Melvin’s readable prose follows his life from his stop off in the NFL, where he was waylaid by an injury before ever playing in a game, through graduate school and all during his time in the International Space Station, to his retirement from NASA. The astronaut proves a likable narrator. He matter-of-factly relates his own experiences with racism as an African American man and gives occasional nods to his Christian faith as a source of strength in difficult times. The scale of Melvin’s achievement is impressive: he completed graduate-level engineering coursework at night while attending Dallas Cowboys training camp, and he never gave up his pursuit of going into space, even after his hearing was damaged. While his crowning achievement—being selected to go into space—is not given the level of detail some space buffs may hope for, it’s balanced by his encounters with significant historical figures, such as Katherine Johnson, and major historical events—the explosion of the space shuttle Columbia. VERDICT An accessible contemporary autobiography that would be a strong choice for any middle school or teen collection.–Bobbi Parry, East Baton Rouge Parish School System, LA

Prottsman, Kiki. My First Coding Book. illus. by Kiki Prottsman. 24p. glossary. index. DK. Jul. 2017. Board $15.99. ISBN 9781465459732.

PreS-Gr 1–Kids are introduced to computer programming language through large text and succinct definitions. The title explores very basic coding processes for young coders so they can learn about finding patterns, repeating loops, and storing data. The book will have kids, as well as parents, using words such as algorithm, flowchart, and variable in a very simple context. The board book format results in an interactive, easy to maneuver volume, filled with lift-the-flap and pull-tab activities. Each spread is organized like a lesson plan—new vocabulary words, definitions, and an interactive game are included. Each game is accompanied by colorful illustrations with clear directions and a quick assessment at the end of each activity. VERDICT A great introduction to the behind-the-scenes world of computer programming for independent or group use. A fine addition to any board book collection.–Christina Pesiri, Michael F. Stokes Elementary School, Island Trees-Levittown, NY

Sherman, Richard M. A Kiss Goodnight. illus. by Floyd Norman. 48p. photos. w/CD. Disney Pr. Aug. 2017. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781484782286.

K-Gr 4–As a child in Marceline, MI, Walt Disney was inspired by the annual Fourth of July fireworks. Throughout his life, while building his company and creating animated movies, he remembered how those fireworks had felt like “the perfect kiss goodnight,” and when he opened Disneyland, he wanted to give every guest that same magical experience. Songwriter Sherman wrote the text, as well as the song on the accompanying CD. Musical notation and lyrics from the song can be found on some pages, though they are not integral to the narrative. The text is brief enough to serve as a read-aloud; however, this title will work best for one-on-one sharing. With a storybook feel, the tale is intentionally vague, and Disney is never referred to by name but rather as “the boy” or “the man.” Illustrated by animator Norman in a style familiar to classic Disney animated films, scenes from Disney’s day-to-day life are rendered in shades of gray, illuminated by pops and flashes of color when fireworks appear. The story is sweet but not as exciting or dazzling as the pyrotechnics that sparked the idea for the book. VERDICT Purchase only where Disneyphiles abound.–Misti Tidman, Mansfield/Richland County Public Library, OH

Thoreau, Henry David. A Year in the Woods. illus. by Giovanni Manna. 32p. Creative Editions. Sept. 2017. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781568463056.

Gr 4-8–Lush watercolors illuminate this child-friendly adaptation of Thoreau’s Walden. Beginning with a preface introducing Thoreau’s experiment opposite a depiction of a wintry moonrise, the book is a lovely pairing of text and image. Spreads of landscapes complement spare text, some of which is in bold for emphasis. The layout depicting Thoreau’s construction of his house invites a subtle comparison to nest building in words and pictures. Wildlife appears in animated-looking presentations. Thoreau’s “best room,” the pine forest, is portrayed in a rich, verdant spread featuring the figure of the man himself. Thoreau is shown cultivating his crops, building his home, and wandering in luscious meadows. Despite the volume’s appeal, there may be confusion for readers who know that the Walden project took two years. (This volume intentionally condenses the experience into one year for the purpose of structure.) Additionally, the autumn season is missing. Readers experience spring, summer, winter, and spring again. VERDICT A quiet, reflective trek through a moment in U.S. literature and history that is notable for its beautiful art. Consider for thoughtful readers.–Deidre Winterhalter, Oak Park Public Library, IL

redstarTonatiuh, Duncan. Danza!: Amalia Hernández and El Ballet Folklórico de México. illus. by Duncan Tonatiuh. 32p. bibliog. glossary. index. Abrams. Aug. 2017. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781419725326.

Gr 3 Up–Amalia “Ami” Hernández (1917–2000) didn’t expect to break with tradition. It was assumed that perhaps she would become a schoolteacher like her mother. But when she saw dancers in a town square while on vacation with her family, she knew what she wanted to be. Her parents nurtured her love of dance, and she benefited from studying under some of the world’s best ballerinas and teachers. Always disciplined in her practice and technique, Hernández became a seasoned dancer and later a teacher and choreographer. She was inspired by the fusion of modern ballet and the traditional dances of her native Mexico. Drawing on her knowledge of indigenous danzas, as well as art, music, and architecture, she established a truly unique concept: el ballet folklórico. Hernández and her fellow dancers gave wildly successful performances throughout Mexico that motivated her to create her own dance company, El Ballet Folklórico de México. Traveling first in Mexico and then around the globe, the company became the face of innovative and artistic modern Mexican dance for the whole world to admire. Tonatiuh’s Mixtec-inspired illustrations capture the movement and vibrancy of El Ballet Folklórico and pay homage to the artistic vision of one of the world’s most beloved dancers. VERDICT Part biography and part homage to the history of Mexican dance, this essential, first-ever children’s biography of Amalia Hernández is a vivid celebration of Mexican culture, art, and life and a timely release in anticipation of the 100th anniversary of Hernández’s birth.–Natalie Romano, Denver Public Library

Wilhelm, Hans. Little Whale in Deep Trouble: A Story Inspired by a True Event. illus. by Hans Wilhelm. 32p. diag. Barron’s. May 2017. Tr $9.99. ISBN 9780764168512.

Gr 3-5–Oscar loves his mama very much, and, like most young children, he doesn’t like to leave her side. The only difference is that Oscar and his mother are humpback whales. Oscar enjoys watching his shadow trail behind his mother’s on the ocean floor. But one day, Oscar sees a group of stingrays and goes off to explore with them. Eventually he realizes that his mama’s shadow is no longer right next to him—and he can’t move his flippers! He is trapped in a discarded fishing net. Wilhelm based Oscar on the true story of a humpback whale that was caught in a net off the coast of Mexico in 2011 and was rescued by a group of divers. Simple prose will appeal to preschoolers, who will identify with Oscar’s insecurity without his mother. Young children will also relate to those first forays without a parent and the comfort of being reunited. Older readers will be interested in the back matter, which includes a description of the real-life event, information about humpback whales, and a diagram of the whale. The illustrations are digitally created and add a lot of expression to Oscar—readers can see all of his worries and his eventual happiness when ultimately everything turns out just fine. VERDICT A tale of environmental awareness for preschoolers.–Susan E. Murray, formerly at Glendale Public Library, AZ

Yoe, Craig. LOL: A Load of Laughs and Jokes for Kids. illus. by Craig Yoe. 288p. S. & S./Little Simon. Aug. 2017. pap. $5.99. ISBN 9781481478182.

K-Gr 3–In this campy collection of silly jokes, Yoe, former creative director for the Muppets, uses wordplay in a question-and-answer format. The chapters cover broad categories, including animals, school, ghouls, and food; there’s also a final section of catchall riddles. While some jokes are groan-inducing, and others may seem familiar (“What did the tree say to the bird?” “Leaf me alone.”), readers will appreciate the light approach to the topic. Black-and-white cartoon drawings interspersed throughout highlight certain one-liners and add to the jovial, almost slapstick comedy (with very few potty jokes). The illustrations have a retro feel that harkens back to an earlier cartoon era, but readers will find the content current and snappy. A few jokes pop up more than once (“What kind of soup do dogs like?” “Chicken poodle!” appears three times), or perhaps this is an Easter egg or a running gag. In any case, the book could be used in a classroom setting as a tool to illustrate homophones, but ultimately kids will have fun just reading the lines to one another. VERDICT A possible purchase for collections where there are fans of classic punny witticisms.–Eva Thaler-Sroussi, Glencoe Public Library, IL

This article was published in School Library Journal's September 2017 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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