April 20, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Gila Monsters, Sea Turtles, and Cheetahs | Grades 5 and Up Nonfiction Review

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redstarAtkinson, Rick. D-Day. 224p. bibliog. chron. glossary. index. maps. notes. photos. reprods. Holt. May 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781627791113; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9781627791120.

Gr 9 Up –This fine adaptation of Atkinson’s adult The Guns at Last Light is a readable, and even suspenseful, account of the final preparations for and successful execution of the D-Day invasion. The author gives readers a comprehensive overview of the operation, using primary-source excerpts to personalize the action, from the planning of the highest commanders, to the bravery shown by individual men who went ashore on June 6, 1944. He describes the stages of the invasion, including the transport of troops, air support and airborne operations, and ground operations conducted under withering German resistance. The author separates the five Allied landing forces into individual chapters, which allows for plenty of detail and continuity of narrative about their missions, and the varying amounts of German defenses and resistance they encountered. Although a brief epilogue summarizes the remainder of the war in Western Europe and Germany’s defeat, the book focuses on the invasion and the bravery and sacrifices of the men who fought. The text is supplemented by solid area and battle maps, captioned period photos, and an informative appendix with accessible data about equipment and weapons, medical care, troops and their battle gear, and general statistics about the war. This book matches the quality of Earle Rice Jr.’s Normandy (Chelsea House, 2002) but is intended for a slightly older readership, making it an excellent choice for high school World War II buffs and report writers.–Mary Mueller, Rolla Public Schools, MO

redstarCarson, Mary Kay. Park Scientists: Gila Monsters, Geysers, and Grizzly Bears in America’s Own Backyard. photos by Tom Uhlman. 80p. bibliog. chart. diag. glossary. index. maps. notes. websites. (Scientists in the Field). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. May 2014. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780547792682.

Gr 4-8 –This entry in this popular series focuses on the study of selected plants, animals, and geologic formations in three of our most famous national parks, which are akin to “natural laboratories and living museums.” It all begins in Yellowstone National Park, where hydrothermal activity and its effects are astutely explained. Next, the history, current status, and study of the famous park grizzly bears are carefully detailed. Exploration and examination of giant saguaro cacti and the elusive Gila monster are the focus in the section on Saguaro National Park, which includes a description of “BioBlitz” through which everyday citizens and students can assist in park research programs through 2016. The Great Smoky Mountains is home to more than 30 species of salamanders, and they, plus the equally fascinating fireflies of the region, are targeted in the final chapters. Pertinent, attention-grabbing, full-color photographs and captions, maps, infrared images, and diagrams accompany the fascinating, informative text in each section. Featured experts provide primary-source information for each topic covered. The introductory map of all national parks is missing two in Colorado, but that is a quibble. Overall, this is a well-written, unique, carefully organized treat for nature lovers and investigators.–Diane P. Tuccillo, Poudre River Public Library District, CO

redstarMcCully, Emily Arnold. Ida M. Tarbell: The Woman Who Challenged Big Business—and Won! 288p. bibliog. index. notes. photos. reprods. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Jul. 2014. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780547290928. LC 2012039650.

Gr 7 Up –McCully expertly brings to life the story of a unique and determined woman in this well-written and thoroughly researched biography, filled with numerous and pertinent photographs. She places Tarbell’s story into historical context, detailing how the country was just discovering the hidden wealth of oil and all the opportunities that came with it and how certain individuals were making shrewd business deals to guarantee large incomes. All of the corruption and secret machinations affected many citizens. Tarbell went where no one had gone before, becoming an investigative reporter for a top magazine. Though women were little respected at the time, she dove right into a man’s world, exposing the somewhat shady side of John D. Rockefeller, head of the powerful Standard Oil Trust. As Tarbell’s articles stirred public emotions, she grew more and more famous for her outspokenness and perseverance. Readers will not only get a feel for Tarbell, but they’ll also get a sense of the changing world she inhabited.–Carol Hirsche, Provo City Library, UT

redstarMontgomery, Sy. Chasing Cheetahs: The Race to Save Africa’s Cat. photos by Nic Bishop. 80p. bibliog. further reading. index. maps. notes. photos. websites. (Scientists in the Field). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2014. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780547815497.

Gr 6-8 –Cheetahs, the smallest of the big cats, are superbly adapted to their habitat and to running down their prey with blinding bursts of speed. Here Montgomery focuses her scientific attention and literary craft on the work of the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) and its efforts to save the cheetah from threatened extinction. Quartered in Namibia, CCF director Laurie Marker and her team analyze scat, measure trees where cheetahs congregate, collect DNA to follow genetic lines, breed cheetahs for ultimate release in the wild, and rescue these animals from captivity when possible. Another major thrust is educating farmers, herders, and future farmers/herders (children) in how to coexist with a large predator that often prefers wild meat to domestic animals. To this concern, CCF breeds large Kangal guard dogs and sells them (at low cost) to herdsmen. Montogomery’s lucid prose flows smoothly, and Bishop’s elegant color photos bring it all into crystal focus. Interspersed with the narrative are information pages on specific topics, such as “Secrets of DNA” and “Taking the Measure of a Tree.” Similar in scope to this team’s excellent The Tapir Scientist (2013) and Kakapo Rescue (both Houghton, 2010), this is a readable, informative, and elegant book on an equally elegant feline.–Patricia Manning, formerly at Eastchester Public Library, NY

redstarPRINS, Marcel & Peter Henk Steenhuis. Hidden Like Anne Frank: 14 True Stories of Survival. tr. from Dutch by Laura Watkinson. 240p. glossary. maps. photos. reprods. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine Bks. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780545543620; ebk. $16.99. ISBN 9780545543637.

Gr 7 Up –While Anne Frank may have been the most famous of those who went into hiding during World War II, there were hundreds of others who did just about anything they could to escape the Nazis. Though most did not survive, this compilation of 14 stories describes those who did live to tell their tale. Inspired by his mother’s account of hiding when she was just six years old, Prins interviewed other survivors. The tales are all horrifying and harrowing in their own ways yet are marked by an unvarnished tone that conveys an immediacy that sweeps readers into the narrative, making this tragic episode of history real and dramatic. One survivor had as many as 42 different addresses, while another describes hiding under floorboards for hours while German officers walked overhead. The threat of exposure by collaborators was ever present, and the trauma didn’t end after the war, as most lost many family members or had their homes given away and all traces of their former lives were gone. Photographs of the contributors, both now and then, as well as a glossary are included. An accompanying website with excerpts, maps, animations, and other material is quite engaging and worth perusing. This moving and powerful title is an important addition to any history collection.–Jody Kopple, Shady Hill School, Cambridge, MA

redstarRUBIN, Susan Goldman. Everybody Paints!: The Lives and Art of the Wyeth Family. 112p. bibliog. index. photos. reprods. Chronicle. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780811869843. LC 2013006595.

Gr 7 Up– Reminiscent of the Duchamps of France, the Wyeths are a family of painters: three generations, in fact, of artists. Here, the author gives a chronological account of how the Wyeth men came to be painters and of how their lives intersected. This “first family of American art” began with Newel Convers (N.C.), Massachusetts-born in 1882, oil painter and noted illustrator for both major magazines and a series of children’s classics such as Treasure Island. His son Andrew (1917–2009), whose initial artistic success came at the young age of 20, originally used watercolors to create scenes of Maine life, then switched to tempera to paint works such as his poignant “Christina’s World.” Andrew’s son Jamie, the only one of the three still alive, uses combined media to create his portraits of dogs, friends, and neighbors. The text is clear, concise, and very complete for such a slim volume. While the family’s existence in the Pennsylvania countryside and the sea coast of Maine often seems idyllic, Rubin does not shy away from recounting family eccentricities, disagreements, and problems. The women in the three artists’ lives are shown to be important influences in the men’s work, but all of them remain in the background. This well-told biography is beautifully illustrated with color reproductions of all three artists’ works and a few black-and-white family photos. While Robert D. San Souci used N.C.’s illustrations to accompany his picture-book text in N.C. Wyeth’s Pilgrims (Chronicle, 1991), and Richard Meryman’s First Impressions: Andrew Wyeth (Abrams, 1991) is recommended for teenagers, Rubin’s is the first title to combine the lives of all three artists in a work geared to a middle school audience. An ideal introduction to the Wyeths.–Nancy Menaldi-Scanlan, formerly at LaSalle Academy, Providence, RI

redstarRubin, Susan Goldman. Freedom Summer: The 1964 Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi. 128p. appendix. bibliog. chron. ebook available. index. maps. notes. photos. reprods. websites. Holiday House. May 2014. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9780823429202. LC 2013020208.

Gr 9 Up –Fifty years after the Freedom Summer murders, this meticulously researched, compellingly told account covers an incredible moment in history. Mickey Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, and James Chaney were three young civil rights workers who decided to work for the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) to confront bigotry in Mississippi and register African Americans to vote. They left for Meridian, accompanied by student volunteers from across the United States, (where only 6.4 percent of eligible African American voters were registered.) Schwerner, Goodman, and Chaney were killed by Klansmen after being arrested. Their deaths deepened the conviction of the others and served to engender incredible strides in the forward momentum of the civil rights movement. This work gives a real sense of the time and place, the issues and the opposing sides, and the impact on the nation. Including myriad period photos and drawings, facsimiles of reports and records, meticulous source notes, an extensive bibliography, picture credits, and an extensive index, this title is the epitome of excellent historical reporting, with the human element never forgotten.–Ann Welton, Grant Elementary School, Tacoma, WA

redstarSWINBURNE, Stephen. Sea Turtle Scientist. 80p. bibliog. further reading. glossary. illus. index. maps. notes. photos. websites. (Scientists in the Field). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2014. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780547367552. LC 2012034045.

Gr 5-8 –Another nifty entry in an impressively reliable series, this work follows the field work and the research of Dr. Kimberly Stewart, the “turtle lady” of the Caribbean island of St. Kitts. Her subjects are mainly the largest marine turtles of all, leatherbacks, though her drive for conservation includes all Caribbean species. Swinburne’s engaging text engages readers in Stewart’s efforts to record “turtle data,” to compare and evaluate the discoveries she makes, and to encourage inhabitants of St. Kitts to help her in her drive to preserve this species. Stewart educates them in finding sources of protein other than turtle meat and eggs and assists them on new paths to economic independence without relying on turtle products. Accompanying the narrative are data boxes on such divergent topics as “A Brief History of St. Kitts,” “Modern Sea Turtle Threats,” and “How Sea Glass Saves Turtles,” plus a detailed list of items stocked in her Turtle Watching Toolkit. Swinburne’s excellent color photos (many full page) enrich his informative text and give readers a clear vision of a scientist hard at work recording the lives of her elusive subjects and trying to instill a sense of ecological conservancy in a community that has heretofore regarded turtles as a boost to their menu or their personal income. Pair this with Kathryn Lasky’s excellent Interrupted Journey (Candlewick, 2001) and Swinburne’s own Turtle Tide: The Ways of Sea Turtles (Boyds Mills, 2005) for a balanced look at species swimming in dangerous waters. This refreshing journey with a dedicated woman hard at work in her chosen field will resonate with readers. Inspiring.–Patricia Manning, formerly at Eastchester Public Library, NY

Graphic novels are now reviewed in every issue.
Where applicable, they appear at the bottom of the grade level section.

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

Alexander, Heather. A Child’s Introduction to Art: The World’s Greatest Paintings and Sculptures. illus. by Meredith Hamilton. 95p. chron. index. reprods. Black Dog & Leventhal. May 2014. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781579129569.

Diamond, Jared. The Third Chimpanzee: For Young People. adapted by Rebecca Stefoff. 352p. chart. ebook available. glossary. illus. index. maps. notes. photos. reprods. Seven Stories. 2014. Tr $22.95. ISBN 9781609805227.

Higgins, Nadia. Logan Lerman: The Perks of Being of an Action Star. notes. ISBN 9781467714457; ISBN 9781467723770; ISBN 9781467725019. LC 2013025883.

Schwartz, Heather E. Rebel Wilson: From Stand-Up Laughs to Box-Office Smash. ISBN 9781467714433; ISBN 9781467723794; ISBN 9781467725033. LC 2013022646.

ea vol: 32p. further reading. index. photos. websites. (Pop Culture Bios). Lerner. 2014. lib. ed. $26.60. pap. $7.95. ebk. $19.95.

Hoena, Blake & Paul Sereno. Everything Dinosaurs: Chomp of Tons of Earthshaking Facts and Fun! ISBN 9781426314964; ISBN 9781426314971.

Hoena, Blake & Adrienne Mayer. Everything Mythology: Begin Your Quest for Facts, Photos, and Fun Fit for Gods and Goddesses. ISBN 9781426314988; ISBN 9781426314995.

ea vol: 64p. (National Geographic Kids). bibliog. diag. further reading. glossary. illus. index. maps. notes. photos. reprods. websites. National Geographic for Kids. 2014. pap. $12.99. lib. ed. $21.90.

Hollihan, Kerrie Logan. Reporting Under Fire: 16 Daring War Correspondents and Photojournalists. 240p. bibliog. notes. photos. reprods. Chicago Review. Jun. 2014. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781613747100.

Kallen, Stuart A. The War in Afghanistan. ISBN 9781601526328. LC 2013028193.

Marcovitz, Hal. The Arab Spring Uprisings. ISBN 9781601526304. LC 2013034897.

ea vol: 96p. (Understanding World History). chron. further reading. index. maps. notes. photos. reprods. websites. ReferencePoint. 2014. lib. ed. $28.95.

King, Bart. The Big Book of Superheroes. illus. by Greg Paprocki. 288p. appendix. bibliog. chron. Gibbs Smith. 2014. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781423633976. LC 2013027903.

Kostyal, K. M. George Washington’s Rules to Live By: A Good Manners Guide from the Father of Our Country. illus. by Fred Harper. 128p. bibliog. index. websites. National Geographic. 2014. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9781426315008; RTE $25.90. ISBN 9781426315015.

Ludwig, Trudy. Gifts from the Enemy. illus. by Craig Orback. 32p. glossary. White Cloud. 2014. Tr $17. ISBN 9781935952978.

Mattern, Joanne. So, You Want to Work in Sports?: The Ultimate Guide to Exploring the Sports Industry. 224p. (Be What You Want). chart. filmog. further reading. glossary. illus. notes. websites. Atria Publishing Group/Beyond Words. 2014. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781582704494; pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781582704487; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9781442495135.

Mercer, Bobby. Junk Drawer Physics: 50 Awesome Experiments That Don’t Cost a Thing. 208p. appendix. glossary. photos. Chicago Review. Jun. 2014. pap. $14.95. ISBN 9781613749203.

Murphy, Claire Rudolf. My Country, ‘Tis of Thee: How One Song Reveals the History of Civil Rights. illus. by Bryan Collier. 48p. bibliog. further reading. notes. score. websites. Holt. Jun. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780805082265.

O’Reilly, Bill. The Last Days of Jesus: His Life and Times. illus. by William Low. 320p. bibliog. chron. further reading. glossary. index. maps. reprods. websites. Holt. 2014. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780805098778.

Pastan, Amy, ed. The Smithsonian Book of Air & Space Trivia. 240p. photos. reprods. Smithsonian. 2014. pap. $12.95. ISBN 9781588344618.

Rasmussen, R. Kent. World War I for Kids: A History with 21 Activities. 192p. bibliog. chart. chron. diag. glossary. index. notes. photos. reprods. websites. Chicago Review. 2014. pap. $17.95. ISBN 9781613745564.

Shuter, Jane. Shakespeare and the Theater. 64p. $35. ISBN 9781432996307; $9.99. ISBN 9781432996345. LC 2013018047.

Shuter, Paul. William Shakespeare: A Man for All Times. 80p. notes. $36.50. ISBN 9781432996291; $10.99. ISBN 9781432996338. LC 2013018038.

ea vol: (Shakespeare Alive). chart. chron. diag. further reading. glossary. index. maps. photos. reprods. websites. Heinemann-Raintree. 2014. lib. ed. pap.

Subramanian, Mathangi. Bullying: The Ultimate Teen Guide. 232p. (It Happened to Me). further reading. glossary. index. notes. photos. Rowman & Littlefield. 2014. Tr $45. ISBN 9780810890541; ebk. $44.99. ISBN 9780810890558.

Tatarsky, Daniel. Cool Science Tricks: 50 Fantastic Feats for Kids of All Ages. 112p. illus. Portico. Jun. 2014. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9781907554698.


Graphic Novels

Brown, Box. Andre the Giant. illus. by Box Brown. 240p. bibliog. ebook available. glossary. notes. First Second. May 2014. pap. $17.99. ISBN 9781596438514.

Mizuki, Shigeru. Showa: A History of Japan, 1926–1939. tr. from Japanese by Zack Davisson. illus. by Shigeru Mizuki. 560p. chron. notes. Drawn & Quarterly. 2013. pap. $24.95. ISBN 9781770461352.

QUINN, Jason. Gandhi: My Life Is My Message. illus. by Sachin Nagar. 212p. (Campfire Heroes). bibliog. chron. notes. websites. Campfire. 2014. pap. $16.99. ISBN 9789380741222.

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



  1. Cheetahs are such a beautiful animal and it’s frightening to think they might disappear one day. Educating kids about them with books such as ” Chasing Cheetahs: The Race to Save Africa’s Cat” will hopefully inspire some young people to grow up and work in conservation for cheetahs and other endangered species.