February 25, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Inside the Worlds of Edward Hopper, Ashley Bryan, and Melba Liston | Nonfiction Preschool to Grade 4

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redstarBryan, Ashley. Ashley Bryan’s Puppets: Making Something from Everything. photos by Ken Hannon. 80p. S. & S./Atheneum. Jul. 2014. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781442487291.

Gr 4 Up –Award-winning author and illustrator Bryan has combined his love of art and poetry in this captivating and beautifully designed book. True to the subtitle, Bryan explores puppets made from found objects, including the beach glass, old bottles, weathered wood, and pieces of fishing net, that he has collected on the beaches near his home on Little Cranberry Island, ME. Where others see debris, Bryan sees a treasure of stories. Using paint, glue, and string, he crafts the characters of folklore and weaves his poetry around them. Threads of African folktales are infused with the spirit of these puppets. In two-page spreads, photographer Hannon provides both full-page and close-ups of each of the more than 30 puppets created by Bryan. The puppets are about two feet tall, and they are dressed in the colors and shapes of the natural “found treasures.” Bryan deftly uses these objects to create characters that speak in well-crafted, first-person narrative poems. String becomes the spider web woven by Anansi the trickster; wishbones become the moustache of Natambu, Man of Destiny; and sea glass, shells, and starfish embellish Lubangi, Born of Water. Traditional African themes abound as the characters introduce themselves through their poems, and readers are invited into the world of puppets and poetry. Bryan has truly created a book for all to treasure.–Carole Phillips, Greenacres Elementary School, Scarsdale, NY

redstarDavies, Nicola. Tiny Creatures: The World of Microbes. illus. by Emily Sutton. 40p. Candlewick. Aug. 2014. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9780763673154. LC 2013953401.

Gr 2-4 –A pleasant, picture book–style look at a rather icky topic: microbes, the teeny tiny critters that live on us and in us and everywhere around us, with an impact that belies their minute size. Davies’s writing is straightforward but not dry; in fact, she puts the scale and numbers of microbes into fascinating contexts. For instance, to make the millions of microbes on an ant’s antenna visible, the antenna would have to be enlarged to the size of a whale. Sutton’s folk-art illustrations are rendered in earthy tones on creamy paper and feature two smiling kiddos and a winsome cat, making for a warm visual presentation (who’d have thought a paramecium could be pretty?). This really is an enjoyable beginner’s look at these miniscule organisms and the effect they can have on everything from our bodies to the soil to the clouds in the sky.–Alyson Low, Fayetteville Public Library, AR

redstarHendrix, John. Shooting at the Stars: The Christmas Truce of 1914. illus. by John Hendrix. 40p. bibliog. glossary. index. Abrams. Oct. 2014. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781419711756. LC 2013029535.

Gr 3-5 –A two-page explanation of the Christmas Day truce of 1914 precedes the fictionalized account of this unusual occasion. In a letter to his mother, a young English soldier describes the events of that unique day when, at the invitation of a German officer, the English Doughboys left their trenches and met their enemies in No Man’s Land. The young man describes how they helped one another bury the dead; traded personal items such as hats, buttons, and buckles; shared their rations, and played football (soccer) with a biscuit tin. The day ends with the soldiers returning to their respective trenches. An angry English major soon appears on the scene, accusing his troops of being traitors. The book’s title comes from the narrator’s knowledge that his side will soon be ordered to fire on their new friends, but he figures that they will be shooting upward at the stars, rather than across at the Germans. The illustrations, in graphite, fluid acrylic washes, and gouache in dark blues, greens, oranges, and yellows are a perfect fit for the narrative. Most of the text appears in a typical serif font, but parts appear as a hand-printed letter. The title concludes with a well-written author’s note. Few titles at this level convey the futility of World War I as well as this one does. A first choice.–Eldon Younce, Anthony Public Library, KS

redstarJudge, Lita. Born in the Wild: Baby Mammals and Their Parents. illus. by Lita Judge. 48p. bibliog. glossary. notes. websites. Roaring Brook. Oct. 2014. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781596439252.

K-Gr 2 –This charming picture book presents more than 20 baby animals and their parents. Each spread begins with a simple statement, such as “The baby needs to move,” “The baby needs protection,” or “The baby is part of a family,” followed by another spread that indicates how different animals accomplish this task (for instance, “The baby is hungry” is paired with descriptions of grizzly cubs nursing and wolf pups consuming meat regurgitated by adult wolves). The simple and clear language will keep readers engaged and their interest piqued. Rendered in pencil and watercolor, the illustrations depict these animals so tenderly that readers may forget that these are wild creatures. Back matter includes a short paragraph about each animal and a compilation of excellent websites that feature some captivating photographs of mammals. This title will surely be popular in the library as a beginning research tool, but some may find it quite appropriate as bedtime reading, too.–Martha Rico, El Paso ISD, TX

redstarLatham, Irene. Dear Wandering Wildebeest: And Other Poems from the Water Hole. illus. by Anna Wadham. 32p. ebook available. further reading. glossary. websites. Millbrook. Sept. 2014. lib. ed. $17.95. ISBN 9781467712323. LC 2013030195.

Gr 2-5 –This will be a much-sought-after book for teaching reading and inquiry skills. Each animal (which include the wildebeest, impala, meerkat, black mamba, puff adder, and more) features a poem on the left side of the spread and an informational text box on the right. Latham’s knowledge of these creatures enhances both the well-crafted poems and the informational texts, the two working in tandem. In “Dust Bath at Dusk,” Latham explains how elephants’ “skin/is powdered/in a red-grit shower…” while the text box reads “As this dirt coating on their hides dries, it forms a crusty layer that protects them from damaging sun and irritating insects.” There are many interesting facts to be gleaned, such as a step-by-step description of the uses of elephant dung before a dung beetle lays its eggs within it. The book is not only edifying but also funny. For instance, a poem about a symbiotic relationship between the oxpecker and its host begins, “Ticks got you dancing in an ear-flapping way?/Try our Basic Tick Removal Plan Today!” Charming illustrations in dusty colors convey the habitat of the African grasslands while portraying the passing of a day. A strong choice.–Teresa Pfeifer, The Springfield Renaissance School, Springfield, MA

redstarRosenstock, Barb. Ben Franklin’s Big Splash: The Mostly True Story of His First Invention. illus. by S. D. Schindler. 32p. bibliog. chron. notes. Calkins Creek. Sept. 2014. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781620914465.

K-Gr 3 –Before he was an inventor, before he was a statesman, before he was a printer, Franklin was a young son of a soapmaker with big ideas and a penchant for swimming in the Charles River of Boston. This made him a bit of an odd duck at the time, as many people of the 18th century believed swimming could make them sick. With this “mostly true story,” Rosenstock shares how even as a boy, Franklin possessed a powerful curiosity and a can-do attitude that led him to create swim paddles for his feet and hands that would help him move faster and better, much like the fish he observed in the river. The alliterative, sibilant text is a rollicking read to share aloud with young students (“where he slid off his stinky shoes, stripped off his sweaty stockings, squirmed out of his sticky shirt, shed his steamy breeches, and splashed in”). There is plenty of emphasis on words and phrases that are highlighted by colorful and distinct typefaces, some sliding down the page or shaped like a watery wave. The watercolor and ink artwork conveys joy and motion, with young Ben splashing into the water, gleefully trying out his fins. An extensive bibliography, source notes for quotations, and a time line of Franklin’s life add to the veracity and strength of this story. This is a fun introduction to one of the nation’s founding fathers and a solid addition to collections needing a different perspective on this American icon.–Jody Kopple, Shady Hill School, Cambridge, MA

redstarRoy, Katherine. Neighborhood Sharks: Hunting with the Great Whites of California’s Farallon Islands. illus. by Katherine Roy. 48p. bibliog. further reading. maps. websites. Roaring Brook/David Macaulay Studio. Sept. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781596438743.

Gr 2-4 –In preparation for this well-researched book on great white sharks, Roy joined scientists in the Farallon Islands to study the animals near San Francisco. Though shark lovers of all ages will enjoy poring over the intense, vivid images, there’s a lot of information that older students will particularly appreciate. Readers will learn about many aspects of great whites—their anatomy, how they hunt, and their place in the ecosystem, as well as how scientists study them. The action-packed illustrations, rendered in watercolor and pencil with some digital work, are both accurate and captivating. Pair this one with Gail Gibbons’s Sharks (Holiday House, 1992) or Seymour Simon’s Incredible Sharks (Chronicle, 2003). Additional information in the form of films, books, and online resources are appended, including a link to a live webcam of the Farallon Islands. An excellent introduction.–Martha Rico, El Paso ISD, TX

redstarRussell-Brown, Katheryn. Little Melba and Her Big Trombone. illus. by Frank Morrison. 40p. bibliog. Lee & Low. Jul. 2014. RTE $18.95. ISBN 9781600608988. LC 2013033662.

Gr 2-5 –Music lovers will enjoy this picture-book biography of Melba Liston (1926–99), child prodigy and virtuoso trombonist who collaborated with most 20th century jazz greats. An excellent match of breezy text and dynamic illustrations tells an exhilarating story. Always in tune with music, seven-year-old Melba chose her first instrument from Joe’s Music Truck. Self-taught and determined, she survived the gender-based taunts of high school boys while playing in Alma Hightower’s after-school music club (using her horn to “turn all those hurt feelings into soulful music”) and racial discrimination while touring with Billie Holiday’s band. In the end, Liston “[made] her trombone sing” for audiences around the world and was named a Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts. Russell-Brown’s text engages the senses (“[Melba] especially loved Fats Waller, with his growly voice and booming piano”), while Morrison’s distinctive illustrations, stretched out like a slide trombone, draw the eye across each spread to the page turn. Back matter includes a detailed afterword with two photographs and a bibliography of books, articles, interviews, radio broadcasts, and websites, including a Jazz Café, where students can view Liston performing with Dizzy Gillespie’s band. Pair this book with Jonah Winter’s Dizzy (Scholastic, 2006) and Marilyn Nelson’s Sweethearts of Rhythm (Dial, 2009) to explore more fully the jazz culture of the time. A celebration of the talent and success of a little-known African American female musician, this title will enrich library collections.–Toby Rajput, National Louis University, Skokie, IL

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

Applegate, Katherine. Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla. illus. by G. Brian Karas. 40p. Clarion. Oct. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780544252301.

Bang, Molly Penny Chisholm. Buried Sunlight: How Fossil Fuels Have Changed the Earth. illus. by Molly Bang. 48p. chron. notes. Blue Sky Pr. Sept. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780545577854.

Buckley, James. Dolphin Dive. ISBN 9780545636322.

Tuchman, Gail. Planets. ISBN 9780545572705.

ea vol: 32p. (Discover More). glossary. index. photos. websites. Scholastic. 2014. pap. $3.99.

Burleigh, Robert. Edward Hopper Paints His World. illus. by Wendell Minor. 40p. chron. illus. notes. Holt. Aug. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780805087529.

Cleary, Brian P. A Bat Cannot Bat, a Stair Cannot Stare: More About Homonyms and Homophones. illus. by Martin Goneau. 32p. (Words Are CATegorical). notes. Millbrook. Oct. 2014. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9780761390329. LC 2013030878.

Duke, Kate. In the Rainforest. illus. by Kate Duke. 40p. HarperCollins/Harper. Sept. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780060282592; pap. $5.99. ISBN 9780064451970.

Frank, John. Lend a Hand: Poems About Giving. illus. by London Ladd. 32p. Lee & Low. Jul. 2014. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781600609701. LC 2013032587.

Fuhr, Ute & Raoul Sautai. Sharks. tr. from French by Penelope Stanley-Baker. illus. by Ute Fuhr & Raoul Sautai. 32p. (My First Discoveries). Moonlight. 2014. spiral $12.99. ISBN 9781851034284.

Godkin, Celia. Skydiver: Saving the Fastest Bird in the World. illus. by Celia Godkin. 32p. websites. Pajama Pr. Aug. 2014. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781927485613.

Green, Rod. Giant Vehicles. illus. by Stephen Biesty. 16p. Candlewick. Aug. 2014. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9780763674045. LC 2013953451.

Harris, Robie H. What’s So Yummy?: All About Eating Well and Feeling Good. illus. by Nadine Bernard Westcott. 32p. Candlewick. Sept. 2014. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9780763636326. LC 2013955674.

Herthel, Jessica & Jazz Jennings. I Am Jazz. illus. by Shelagh McNicholas. 32p. Dial. Aug. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780803741072.

Holland, Loretta. Fall Leaves. illus. by Elly MacKay. 32p. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Sept. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780544106642.

Johnson, Rebecca L. When Lunch Fights Back: Wickedly Clever Animal Defenses. 48p. bibliog. ebook available. further reading. index. notes. photos. websites. Millbrook. Sept. 2014. lib. ed. $26.60. ISBN 9781467721097. LC 2013046646.

Karas, G. Brian. As an Oak Tree Grows. illus. by G. Brian Karas. 32p. Penguin/Nancy Paulsen Bks. Sept. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780399252334.

Kulling, Monica. When Emily Carr Met Woo. illus. by Dean Griffiths. 32p. photos. Pajama Pr. Aug. 2014. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781927485408.

Kutner, Laura & Suzanne Slade. The Soda Bottle School: A True Story of Recycling, Teamwork, and One Crazy Idea. illus. by Aileen Darragh. 32p. notes. photos. Tilbury House. 2014. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9780884483717. LC 2013040075.

McDonough, Yona Zeldis. Little Author in the Big Woods: A Biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder. illus. by Jennifer Thermes. 144p. further reading. glossary. Henry Holt/Christy Ottaviano Bks. Sept. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780805095425; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9781627792790.

Meister, Cari. Doctors. ISBN 97816203 10748. LC 2012044148.

––––. Librarians. ISBN 9781620310762. LC 2012044151.

––––. Mail Carriers. ISBN 9781620310779. LC 2012044152.

ea vol: 24p. (Community Helpers). bibliog. ebook available. further reading. glossary. index. photos. Bullfrog. Aug. 2014. lib. ed. $25.65.

Patent, Dorothy Hinshaw. Super Sniffers: Dog Detectives on the Job. 48p. further reading. index. photos. websites. Bloomsbury. Sept. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780802736185. LC 2014011041.

Rundgren, Helen. The World’s Best Noses, Ears, and Eyes. illus. by Ingela P. Arrhenius. 32p. Holiday House. Sept. 2014. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9780823431618.

Winter, Jeanette. Mr. Cornell’s Dream Boxes. illus. by Jeanette Winter. 40p. S. & S./Beach Lane. Aug. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781442499003; ebk. ISBN 9781442499027.

Winter, Jonah. Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio. illus. by James E. Ransome. 48p. notes. S. & S./Atheneum. Sept. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781416940807; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9781481402798.

Yasuda, Anita. Explore Natural Resources!: With 25 Great Projects. illus. by Jennifer Keller. 96p. chart. diag. further reading. glossary. index. websites. Nomad. 2014. Tr $13.95. ISBN 9781619302235.

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

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