March 22, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

The latest from authors Gail Jarrow, Peter Sis, and Patrick Dillon | Grade 5 & Up Nonfiction Reviews

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redstarAlbee, Sarah. Bugged!: How Insects Changed History. illus. by Robert Leighton. 176p. further reading. glossary. index. maps. notes. photos. reprods. websites. Walker. Apr. 2014. lib. ed. $22.89. ISBN 9780802734235; pap. $16.99. ISBN 9780802734228.

Gr 5-8 –The shock value alone makes this worth the cover price, but once kids are pulled in, they will learn more than they bargained for about the impact of insects on human history. Insects have determined the outcomes of wars and the paths of human migrations; they have brought plagues, provided strong fabrics, and sweetened our tea. Chapters are divided topically, beginning with the basics of insect life cycles, moving on to human hygiene and beneficial insects, and then covering “bad news bugs,” before tackling history from the “earliest epidemics” to current concerns in the relationship between humans and insects. This is history for those with a strong constitution, who aren’t bothered by phrases such as “cockroach brain tissue,” “crawling with maggots,” and “bursting buboes” or by the idea of receiving 9,000 insect bites in a minute. With a green-and-purple design, reminiscent of a beetle, and black-and-white photos and cartoon illustrations, this is an attractive package full of hand-washing inducing facts. Overall, this title is astonishing, disgusting, revolting, and ultimately fascinating, making it perfect for emerging entomologists, budding historians, reluctant readers, and gross-out junkies alike.–Heather Acerro, Rochester Public Library, MN

redstarBausum, Ann. Stubby the War Dog: The True Story of World War I’s Bravest Dog. 64p. bibliog. chron. index. photos. reprods. National Geographic. May 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781426314865; lib. ed. $26.90. ISBN 9781426314872.

Gr 4-7 –Stubby, a terrier of unknown origin, found his way to the training grounds in New Haven, CT, as recruits were preparing to ship off to battle in Europe at the height of World War I. Dogs have had a special place beside their human companions throughout history, and Stubby is no different. He attached himself to J. Robert Conroy, one of the recruits, and they became an inseparable team for the rest of Stubby’s life. Smuggled aboard a naval ship with the young soldiers, the dog lived the life of any soldier: sleeping in trenches, dodging bullets in the heat of battle, and ferreting out enemy combatants when he could. Sargent Stubby’s heartwarming and inspiring story touched many lives, from fellow soldiers needing comfort to local villagers who made special clothing for him and many a skeptical officer in between. Bausum manages to weave in the general details of the last few years of World War I, providing some historical context and adding a bit of suspense and drama. Stubby’s fame only grew after the war ended and the two friends came home and traveled the country, marching in parades and posing for pictures. While many details are lost to history, newspaper clippings, a scrapbook kept by Conroy, and mentions in interviews provide enough information to piece together a moving, thoughtful dog story. Period photographs of the war front in general and a few of Stubby specifically, sprinkled throughout this relatively short narrative, make this a choice offering for dog lovers and history buffs alike.–Jody Kopple, Shady Hill School, Cambridge, MA

redstarDillon, Patrick. The Story of Buildings. illus. by Stephen Biesty. 96p. chron. diag. illus. index. maps. Candlewick. 2014. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780763669904. LC 2013943096.

Gr 5 Up –“Every building has a story to tell.” Beginning with the Egyptian pyramid of Djoser and progressing through the Greeks and Romans, the Renaissance, and on to modern skyscrapers and Paris’s Pompidou Center, Dillon ties advances in architecture and building to specific cultural and economic conditions. In some cases, he credits the genius of individuals, such as Palladio. Each chapter begins with a historical overview and is followed by a description and illustration of a representative building. Clear explanations of basic building concepts (cantilevers, arches and domes, reinforced concrete) are balanced with discussions of more abstract principles such as symmetry, geometry, and pattern. But the volume is truly set apart by Biesty’s elaborate, meticulously detailed, and clearly labeled drawings (some stretching across two large-format pages plus two half-page fold-outs). Widely known for his 1992 Incredible Cross Sections, Biesty here adds a kaleidoscopic yet tightly integrated visual dimension that will transfix readers. The section on London’s Crystal Palace, designed by gardener Joseph Paxton and built for the Great Exhibition of 1851, is fascinating, outlining the modular design and rapid construction from 300,000 sheets of glass and 1,000 iron columns. Sections detailing Beijing’s Forbidden City, Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, the Taj Mahal, and other buildings from outside the European tradition are worked deftly into the narrative.–Bob Hassett, Luther Jackson Middle School, Falls Church, VA

redstarJarrow, Gail. Red Madness: How a Medical Mystery Changed What We Eat. 192p. bibliog. chron. further reading. glossary. index. notes. photos. reprods. websites. Boyds Mills Press/Calkins Creek. Apr. 2014. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781590787328. LC 2013953464.

Gr 6 Up –This haunting insight into a little known epidemic from the early 20th century provides statistics, firsthand accounts, pictures, and an easy-to-follow narrative of the pellagra outbreak in the United States. The book details the baffling uprise of pellagra, a life-threatening disease characterized by weakness, rash, and insanity; the medical investigation that ensued; and the eventual changes that were made in America’s diet to combat both this sickness and other maladies caused by nutritional deficiencies. This title is descriptive and well researched, with a striking bold-red color scheme. Though the images are graphic and potentially disturbing, they are not sensationalized, and enhance the narrative. This is an excellent addition to nonfiction collections in school and public libraries. [Ed note: See author Q&A, p. 16.]–Tammy Turner, Centennial High School, Frisco, TX

redstarMulder, Michelle. Every Last Drop: Bringing Clean Water Home. 48p. (Orca Footprints Series). chart. further reading. index. photos. reprods. websites. Orca. Apr. 2014. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781459802230. LC 2013951377.

Gr 4-6 –Mulder’s latest addition to her solid repertoire of environmentally conscious books addresses the crises (pollution, shortages, etc.) of the global water supply. Her conversational style keeps the material from being too clinical or gloom-and-doom, without ever seeming superficial. Ideal for reports, the book is packed with great information on everything from the way civilizations have collected and used water throughout history, sobering assessments of the present and future availability of clean water, and intriguing solutions already employed, such as fog catchers, or that are still in their experimental stages. Worthwhile factoids, sidebars, and interesting photographs accompanied by instructive captions add to the abundance of meaningful material. Mulder is honest about the emergency unfolding around this precious resource, and though the situation is fairly dire, she empowers her readers by offering feasible suggestions that individuals can use to improve things. And like raindrops falling into a collection barrel, each and every single conscientious action adds up. An excellent resource on the topic.–Alyson Low, Fayetteville Public Library, AR

 redstarSís, Peter. The Pilot and the Little Prince: The Life of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. illus. by Peter Sís. 48p. chron. maps. Farrar/Frances Foster. May 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780374380694. LC 2013027732.

Gr 4 Up –As in his works about other restless souls who charted their courses by the stars and pondered big questions (Columbus, Galileo, Darwin), Sís’s picture-book biography of the famous French aviator and author comprises multiple layers. Trim but informative sentences ground the pages where text appears (“When he was four years old, his father died unexpectedly. The boy wondered, Where did he go?”). Sensitive readers will follow that question into the heart of the story that encompasses Saint-Exupéry’s childhood, passion for flying, experiences with military and commercial planes, multiple crashes, risk-taking temperament, friendships, marriage, and publications. Dates, places, events, and exploits swirl around smaller images framed cleverly with bubbles, sequential panels, maps, or airplanes. The emotional content comes through the changing colors and compositions of Sís’s exquisite double spreads. Many are wordless, as when the pilot stands at the edge of the vast turquoise ocean; above the horizon, twinkling yellow stars form the curls and eyes of the title character of The Little Prince. Sís is as adept at drama (the red paint bleeding from the sky as the Germans bomb France) as he is at subtle humor (an aerial view of Manhattan portrays the city as an alligator-shaped landmass emerging from a sewer). Slyly inserted referents, from an elephant inside a “hat” to a Méliès moon, add meaning. Sís’s handling of the aviator’s last flight and disappearance strikes just the right notes of mystery, majesty, and quiet wonder that connect the life and longings of Saint-Exupéry to those of his young, fictional friend. Brilliant bookmaking.–Wendy Lukehart, District of Columbia Public Library

The following titles are reviewed in this month's print issue:

Aguilar, David A. Alien Worlds: Your Guide to Extraterrestrial Life. illus. by David A. Aguilar. 80p. diag. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. National Geographic. 2013. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781426311109.

Ansh, Tamar. Let My Children Cook!: The Passover Cookbook for Kids. 96p. illus. Judaica. 2014. pap. $9.95. ISBN 9781607631422.

Boon, Kevin Alexander. Kurt Vonnegut. ISBN 9781627121552. LC 2010024618.

Reiff, Raychel Haugrud. Sandra Cisneros. ISBN 9781627121514. LC 2010042466.

ea vol: 144p. (Today’s Writers and Their Works Series). bibliog. chron. ebook available. further reading. index. notes. photos. reprods. websites. Cavendish. 2013. lib. ed. $42.79.

Bragg, Georgia. How They Choked: Failures, Flops, and Flaws of the Awfully Famous. illus. by Kevin O’Malley. 192p. Walker. May 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780802734884; lib. ed. $18.89. ISBN 9780802734891.

Chew, Elizabeth V. Thomas Jefferson: A Day at Monticello. illus. by Mark Elliott. 56p. Abrams. 2014. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781419705410. LC 2012010023.

Cooper, Michael L. Fighting Fire!: Ten of the Deadliest Fires in American History and How We Fought Them. 144p. bibliog. further reading. glossary. index. maps. notes. photos. reprods. websites. Holt. 2014. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780805097146.

DAS, Amrita. Hope Is a Girl Selling Fruit. tr. from Hindi by Gita Wolf & Susheela Varadarajan. illus. by Amrita Das. 28p. Tara Bks. Apr. 2014. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9789383145027.

Earl, Esther & others. This Star Won’t Go Out: The Life and Words of Esther Grace Earl. 448p. Dutton. 2014. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780525426363. LC 2013035838.

Elton, Sarah. Starting from Scratch: What You Should Know About Food and Cooking. illus. by Jeff Kulak. 96p. appendix. chart. further reading. index. Owlkids. 2014. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781926973968. LC 2013949442.

Farrell, Mary Cronk. Pure Grit: How American World War II Nurses Survived Battle and Prison Camp in the Pacific. 160p. bibliog. chron. glossary. index. maps. notes. photos. reprods. websites. Abrams. 2014. RTE $24.95. ISBN 9781419710285. LC 2013017134.

Forbes, Scott. How to Make a Planet: A Step-by-Step Guide to Building the Earth. illus. by Jean Camden. 64p. chart. glossary. index. Kids Can. 2014. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781894786881.

Ganter, Chris. Graffiti School: A Student Guide with Teacher’s Manual. 176p. chron. diag. further reading. glossary. illus. index. photos. websites. Thames & Hudson. 2013. pap. $24.95. ISBN 9780500290972. LC 2012956283.

Goldsmith, Connie. Bombs Over Bikini: The World’s First Nuclear Disaster. 88p. bibliog. diag. further reading. glossary. illus. index. maps. notes. photos. reprods. websites. Twenty-First Century. Apr. 2014. lib. ed. $34.60. ISBN 9781467716123; ebk. $25.95. ISBN 9781467725453. LC 2013017576.

Gould, Francesca. Why Fish Fart: Gross but True Things You’ll Wish You Didn’t Know. illus. by JP Coovert. 144p. Putnam. Jun. 2014. pap. $8.99. ISBN 9780399165986. LC 2013025517.

Handler, Daniel. Girls Standing on Lawns. illus. by Maira Kalman. 64p. photos. Museum of Modern Art. May 2014. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9780870709081.

Hussain, Saima S. The Arab World Thought of It: Inventions, Innovations, and Amazing Facts. 48p. (We Thought of It Series). chron. further reading. index. maps. notes. photos. reprods. Annick. 2013. lib. ed. $21.95. ISBN 9781554514779; pap. $11.95. ISBN 9781554514762.

Jackson, Tom, ed. Physics: An Illustrated History of the Foundations of Science. 144p. (Ponderables Series). bibliog. chron. illus. index. Shelter Harbor Press. 2013. Tr $24.95. ISBN 9780985323066.

Jones, Jen. Planning Perfect Parties: The Girls’ Guide to Fun, Fresh, Unforgettable Events. 128p. photos. websites. Capstone. Apr. 2014. pap. $14.95. ISBN 9781623700638.

Jökulsson, Illugi. Messi. ISBN 97807892 11644. LC 2013045843.

––––. Ronaldo. ISBN 9780789211668. LC 2013045842.

––––. Zlatan. ISBN 9780789211699. LC 2013045841.

ea vol: (World Soccer Legends Series). 64p. diag. further reading. glossary. maps. photos. reprods. websites. Abbeville. 2014. Tr $12.95.

Larimore, Walt & Amaryllis Sánchez Wohlever. The Ultimate Girls’ Body Book: Not-So-Silly Questions About Your Body. 272p. Zonderkidz. 2013. pap. $7.99. ISBN 9780310739814. LC 2013027953.

McCain, Gillian & Legs McNeil, eds. Dear Nobody: The True Diary of Mary Rose. illus. by Mary Rose. 336p. Sourcebooks Fire. Apr. 2014. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9781402287589.

Mitchell, Don. The Freedom Summer Murders. 256p. bibliog. index. maps. notes. photos. reprods. Scholastic. Apr. 2014. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780545477253; ebk. $18.99. ISBN 9780545633932.

Nagara, Innosanto. A Is for Activist. illus. by Innosanto Nagara. 28p. Seven Stories. 2013. Board $9.99. ISBN 9781609805395. LC 2013012787.

Newman, Patricia. Plastic Ahoy!: Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. photos by Annie Crawley. 48p. bibliog. further reading. glossary. illus. index. maps. notes. photos. websites. Millbrook. Apr. 2014. RTE $30.60. ISBN 9781467712835; ebk. $22.95. ISBN 9781467725415. LC 2013017773.

Osmundson, Linda L. How the West Was Drawn: Women’s Art. 32p. (How the West Was Drawn Series). notes. photos. reprods. Pelican. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781455618781. LC 2013031683.

Pietromarchi, Sophie Benini. The Color Book. tr. from Italian by Guido Lagomarsino. illus. by Sophie Benini Pietromarchi. 144p. photos. Tara Bks. Apr. 2014. Tr $21.95. ISBN 9789383145010.

Rau, Dana Meachen. Crafting with Duct Tape. ISBN 9781624311475; ISBN 9781624312793. LC 2013009516.

––––. Crafting with Recyclables. ISBN 9781624311468; ISBN 9781624312786. LC 2013009785.

––––. Creating Winter Crafts. ISBN 9781624311505; ISBN 9781624312823. LC 2013010315.

ea vol: illus. by Kathleen Petelinsek. 32p. (How-To Library Series). ebook available. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Cherry Lake. 2013. lib. ed. $28.50. pap. $14.21.

Rogers, Simon. Information Graphics: Animal Kingdom. illus. by Nicholas Blechman. 80p. diag. Candlewick/Big Picture. Apr. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780763671228. LC 2013944025.

Sylvester, Kevin. Showtime: Meet the People Behind the Scenes. 88p. diag. illus. photos. reprods. Annick. 2013. Tr $21.95. ISBN 9781554514878; pap. $12.95. ISBN 9781554514861.

This article was published in School Library Journal's April 2014 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.