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From Comic-Book Burning to Dinosaur Searching | Nonfiction Notes, December 2013

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Who knew to what extent some adults and the U.S. Government went to correlate comic books to crime and to try to regulate (and ban) them during the years 1948 to 1955? Find out in Bad For You one of the books highlighted in this month’s ‘Nonfiction Notes.’

Book of Animal RecordsCarwardine, Mark. Natural History Museum Book of Animal Records. (Firefly Books, 2013; Gr 5 Up).
Combining two topics of perennial interest—animals and record breakers—this book is sure to catch the attention of students. It’s packed with information and up-close color photos of “awe-inspiring and intriguing” creatures, while highlighting some spectacular feats. The book is organized by major animal groups (mammals, birds, reptiles, etc.) and further subdivided within these sections. Under each, categories explore such topics as the “largest,” “smallest,” “longest living,” “most dangerous,” and characteristics unique to that species with a paragraph or two of text. For example, under “Marsupial Mammals” is the “highest jump,” and under “Snakes,” the “longest fangs.” It’s a good resource for comparative studies and information on threatened species; as the author notes, many of the “record breaking animals” are now on endangered lists.

Colson, Rob. Bone Collection: Animals. (Scholastic. Gr 3 -9). illus. by Sandra Doyle, Elizabeth Gravy, and Steve Kirk.
Bone Collection opens with an introduction to vertebrates, followed by a closer look at a few dozen individual creatures from the “fearsome” Nile crocodile to the “mighty” lion. For each animal a double-page, labeled drawing of its skeleton is provided along with a few paragraphs of information, and generally, several photographs of the animal in its natural habitat. Interspersed among these pages are illustrated overview spreads on “Amphibians,” “Fish,” “Flying Birds,” “Marsupials,” etc., that note the number of species in the group, habitat range, modes of movement, and other facts. Also included is a spread on the human skeleton, some “Amazing Skeleton Facts,” “Bone Names,” and a glossary.  This title will have many curricular uses and is sure to delight browsers.

Forbes, Scott. How to be a Dinosaur Hunter: Your Globe-Trotting, Time-Traveling Guide. (Lonely Planet, Gr 5 Up). illus. by James Gulliver Hancock.
Directly addressing readers, this guide challenges them to “assemble the world’s greatest collection of dinosaur fossils,” taking them through the preparations for a field study then back in time to the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous periods. Each spread focuses on one topic with bites of information and colorful cartoon labeled illustrations. Background on prehistoric creatures, early dinosaur hunters, fossil-rich areas around the world, and much more, is provided. The book spotlights facts, poses questions, and highlights some of the latest theories. Watch this one fly off the shelf.

Hartland, Jessie. How the Meteorite Got to the Museum. (Blue Apple, 2013; K-Gr 3). illus. by author.
Hartland, author of How the Dinosaur Got to the Museum (2011) and How the Sphinx Got to the Museum (2010, both Blue Apple) here tells the story of a meteorite that came crashing down on the front end of a Chevy Malibu in Peekskill, NY, on October 9, 1992. While the incident was first reported to the police as an act of vandalism, the authorities soon realized that the smoking-hot rock lying by the car—and the cause of considerable damage to the vehicle—was the result of an encounter with space debris. The author/illustrator relates the facts through a cumulative rhyme and colorful illustrations featuring broad brushstrokes and loads of humor. In addition to learning about how an item makes it into a museum and all the hands it must go through (in this case, from geologist to curator of meteorites), readers will be bedazzled by the author’s incredibly rich use of language.

Pyle, Kevin C. and Scott Cunningham. Bad for You: Exposing the Campaign Against Fun. A Graphic Investigation. (Holt, 2013; Gr 8 Up). illus. by Kevin C. Pyle.
Who knew to what extent that some adults and the U.S. Government went to correlate comic books to crime and tried to regulate (and ban) them during the years 1948 to 1955? During this period, comic-book burning occurred across the nation. One person behind it was Dr. Frederic Wertham, a psychiatrist who claimed that “…as long as the crime comic books industry exists in its present form there are no secure homes.” Pyle and Cunningham discuss the scientific method (which Wertham never used) and cite other, tangential studies on comic books that turn Wertham’s theories upside down. Societal fears about the effects of Harry Potter, games, technology, and play are considered in the same manner. A variety of black-and-white illustrations, including graphic panels, maps, and charts are utilized. Classroom uses for this title abound. Teens, particularly fans of the graphic format, will glom onto this fascinating book, which will give them one more reason not to trust the “establishment.”

Roberts, Cokie. Founding Mothers: Remembering the Ladies. (HarperCollins/Harper; Gr 3-7). illus. by Diane Goode.
While recent publications have done a much better job noting the contributions of women and minorities to our nation compared to those in the past, some readers may have wondered like Roberts about “the mothers, wives, sisters, daughters, and female friends of the men who…fought in the revolution, created the Constitution, and formed our first government.” Drawing on letters, diaries, early accounts, and artifacts, the author profiles 10 women—some may be familiar to readers, but not all—who moved their families from place to place as the British approached, worked farms and households, traveled with their husbands to military camps, and wrote plays and poems, including a number in protest against British rule. Two spreads “Women Writers” and “Women Warriors” provide information on a number of other women. Also included is an illustrated time line. Of particular note is Diane Goode’s fluid watercolor art which adds details about dress, and other period items, and a touch of humor.

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Daryl Grabarek About Daryl Grabarek

Daryl Grabarek is the editor of School Library Journal's monthly enewsletter, Curriculum Connections, and its online column Touch and Go. Before coming to SLJ, she held librarian positions in private, school, public, and college libraries. Her dream is to manage a collection on a remote island in the South Pacific.