#IHaveTheRightTo, #ShePersisted, & More Buzzworthy Nonfiction | June 2018 Xpress Reviews

This latest batch of online-only nonfiction reviews features powerful women persisting in the face of injustice and inequality.

Casteel, Seth. It’s a Puppy’s Life. 32p. photos. National Geographic. Mar. 2018. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781426330698.

K-Gr 2 –Crisp and bright puppy photographs galore. The book begins with a morning scene (“Wake up, pup!”) and continues through meal time, playtime, and nap time, repeating nap and play times until bed. The text rhymes throughout and refrains periodically with “It’s [ruff] to be a pup!” The refrain may lend a little excitement to baby or toddler storytime with the resultant cacophony of barking, if performed right. Though the text and photos are organized to represent a fun day in the life of a puppy, the use of different breeds, from pugs to terriers, on most of the pages lessens the continuity. Instead, readers’ reactions, if the focus can be maintained, will mostly revolve around the puppies’ cuteness. One page has them in a basket, another has one posed in front of a snowy background, and so on. The end matter consists of “A Note From the Author” and a “Breed Guide.” VERDICT Light fare that most libraries can skip.–Nancy Call, formerly at Santa Cruz Public Libraries, Aptos, CA

Challoner, Jack. Maker Lab: Outdoors; 25 Super Cool Projects. 160p. diag. glossary. index. photos. DK. Mar. 2018. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781465468871.

Gr 4-7 –Have students explore the outdoors by making any or all of the 25 projects that were developed to “build, invent, create, and inspire.” Challoner provides a foreword in which he describes his childhood curiosity and interest in experiments. The projects are divided into four topics: “Nature Watch,” “World of Weather,” “Water Power,” and “Earth and Sky.” Each of the sections has a welcoming opening paragraph, and each of the crafts has a statement about the project followed by a list and photographs of needed supplies, the time it will take to make, and a meter that measures difficulty. The projects are numbered with brief step-by-step directions and clear, color photographs. Arrows and information points are used for clarity. “How it Works” and a “Real-World Science” segments accompany each craft and explain the scientific concept behind the exercise. The engaging projects include making a periscope, rain gauge, water rocket, giant bubbles, and 21 more science investigations. Back matter includes templates, a glossary, and index. It is suggested the projects be done outdoors either at home or at a park. VERDICT A home run for libraries looking for hands-on science projects to be done outdoors.–Helen Foster James, University of California at San Diego

Clinton, Chelsea. She Persisted Around the World: 13 Women Who Changed History. illus. by Alexandra Boiger. 32p. Philomel. Mar. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780525516996.

PreS-Gr 2 –From across time and around the world come 13 profiles of women who wouldn’t take no for an answer. Beginning with 17th-century writer Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz and ending with 21st-century education advocate Malala Yousafzai, each spread introduces a woman who persisted. Many of these individuals faced personal challenges because of their gender, but some inspired broader movements. Viola Desmond’s wish to sit on the main floor of a Canadian movie theater sparked that country’s civil rights movement, and Wangari Maathai’s tree-planting founded an environmental movement. Each woman gets a spread with a paragraph of description of her accomplishment, adorned with a vignette, facing a full-page image with a quotation. These appealing watercolor-and-ink illustrations (edited in Photoshop) depict the women as adults when appropriate, though the cover shows young girls. Each entry includes and highlights the words she persisted. There are no citations for the quotations, presumably from the subjects, and all are in English. There are also no dates, no sources, and no suggestions for further reading, should young readers (or listeners) want to know more. VERDICT An additional purchase for preschool and elementary collections that broadens the perspective of Clinton’s She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World.–Kathleen Isaacs, Children’s Literature Specialist, Pasadena, MD

Clément, Giles. A Big Garden. illus. by Vincent Gravé. 32p. Prestel. Apr. 2018. Tr $24.95. ISBN 9783791373324.

Gr 1-4 –This French import opens in May, then proceeds through the remaining months and seasons of one year. Each spread focuses on a particular month and highlights a specific topic. The verso side offers some interesting facts about plants and animals, gardening work, and philosophical musings about them, while the recto page is a mélange of whimsical illustrations that feature small, comically absurdist details; tiny vignettes appear on text pages, too. Readers are invited to pore over the full-page illustrations to find particular items that are mostly unrelated to the text. Gradually the narratives morph from information about gardens and gardeners’ work (gardeners are consistently referred to only with masculine pronouns) to the concept of gardens encompassing the oceans, the air, and the planet. Readers are cautioned about climate change and the need for humans to be careful stewards of Earth. The lengthy, ponderous writing, set in small type, includes vocabulary that may be unfamiliar to the target audience and isn’t very child appealing. However, youngsters will enjoy examining the charmingly intricate drawings, rendered in a generally muted palette, in search of the tantalizingly well-hidden details. The book’s large size enhances one-on-one or paired investigations of the artwork but may complicate displays and shelving. VERDICT Recommended only for browsers and skimmers.–Carol Goldman, formerly at Queens Library, NY

Kanefield, Teri. Andrew Jackson. 240p. (The Making of America). bibliog. chron. index. notes. photos. reprods. Abrams. Mar. 2018. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781419728402.

Gr 5-8 –Kanefield writes Andrew Jackson’s biography through a constitutional lens: How did Jackson’s view of the Constitution shape his decisions? The author doesn’t shy away from Jackson the slaver or his orchestrating genocide against Native Americans; however, Kanefield presents these truths plainly, neither excusing or vilifying the president. The author also pays attention to Jackson’s reputation as a rabble-rouser and all-around hot head—someone who spurred the first U.S. populist movement. Text insets discuss events and ideas central to understanding the time period such as an explanation of the electoral college and the transformation of the Democratic-Republican party into today’s two major parties. Kanefield clearly states Jackson’s continuing influence. He declared nullification by states unconstitutional, and his humble origins paved the way for future presidents also lacking in pedigree. Most notably, Kanefield argues, Jackson’s presidency marked a transition from the ruling elite to a more egalitarian democracy giving voice to the common white man. VERDICT Consider for collections in need of updated materials on Andrew Jackson. –Laura Falli, McNeil High School, Austin, TX

Karpik, Joanasie. Bowhead Whale. illus. by Sho Uehara. 28p. (Animals Illustrated). Inhabit Media. Feb. 2018. Tr $15.95. ISBN 9781772271621.

Gr 2-4 –A simple, beautifully illustrated addition to the series. This book provides a basic introduction to the physiology, life cycle, diet, habits, and significance of these giant beasts. In short, manageable chapters, Karpik details what makes bowhead whales so magnificent, from their status as the second largest animal on the planet to their ability to break thick arctic sea ice to make breathing holes. Karpik also provides a glimpse of the relationship between the Inuit and bowheads, including some traditional uses of bowhead bones and skin. Uehara’s artwork is suffused with a palette of blues and grays and includes a full-spread diagram of a bowhead skeleton. Though the book is appealing and informative, it is rather slight and will likely have to be supplemented with more information. VERDICT A fine addition to nonfiction chapter book collections.–Katya Schapiro, Brooklyn Public Library

Mosca, Julia Finley. The Doctor with an Eye for Eyes: The Story of Dr. Patricia Bath. illus. by Daniel Rieley. 40p. (Amazing Scientists: Bk. 2). bibliog. chron. further reading. photos. websites. The Innovation Press. Sept. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781943147311.

K-Gr 3 –Dr. Patricia Bath is an ophthalmologist who broke down color and gender barriers. The founder of the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness, she worked to understand disparities in eye healthcare among races and invented a diagnostic laser. Growing up, she attended segregated schools and went on to become one of few female medical students at Howard University. She became a scientist, inventor, and researcher. Through clever verse, Mosca chronicles this remarkable woman’s life. Rieley’s cartoon artwork is bright and friendly. Adults may query the decision to depict a stork delivering Bath as a baby as it somewhat diminishes the factual basis of the story. Nevertheless, this shortcoming is outweighed by the charm. The rhyme scheme throughout works well and is sophisticated enough to maintain appeal for older students. The story is followed by excerpts from an interview with Bath as well as a time line of her life thus far and additional back matter that explains her research in more detail. VERDICT A pleasing addition to elementary school biography collections.–Deidre Winterhalter, Oak Park Public Library, IL

Moulton, Erin, ed. Things We Haven’t Said: Survivors of Sexual Violence Speak Out. 224p. further reading. notes. websites. Zest. Mar. 2018. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781942186342.

Gr 9 Up –In this intense collection, survivors of childhood and adolescent sexual assault pen intimate essays, letters, and poems. The authors offer a range of experiences, some focusing on the assault itself, others on what came after. G. Donald Cribbs uses the act of playing pinball to describe his experiences with flashbacks. Janet Goldblatt Holmes highlights feelings of self-compassion in a letter to her younger self. Stephanie Oakes discusses how adults’ disbelief can be more harmful than the assault itself. Each piece is followed by a brief interview to clarify difficult concepts and reveal the contributors beyond the pages of their stories. Back matter includes a list of hotlines, statistics, a glossary, online resources, and recommended fiction and nonfiction. A number of the essayists have built into their narratives messages of support and hope, keeping in mind readers who may be in need. Depictions of violence are often emotionally raw, but most refrain from being graphic. VERDICT A necessary book on a topic that is often shrouded in silence. All YA collections will want to consider.–Alex Graves, Manchester City Library, NH

redstarProut, Chessy with Jenn Abelson. I Have the Right To: A High School Survivor’s Story of Sexual Assault, Justice, and Hope. 416p. photos. S. & S./Margaret K. McElderry Bks. Mar. 2018. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781534414433.

Gr 8 Up –For Prout, being accepted into the exclusive St. Paul’s School in New Hampshire was meant to be a source of stability; however, by the end of her freshman year, the 15-year-old was in turmoil. In 2014, a senior by the name of Owen Labrie lured and assaulted her as part of a “Senior Salute” ritual at the school. This is Prout’s account, cowritten with journalist Abelson, about her life before and after the rape, including the trial of her assailant and her burgeoning activism around justice for those who have experienced sexual assault. This is an outstanding examination of rape culture, injustice, and privilege. Readers will instantly connect with Prout’s genuineness and her candor as she details her daily life and the ways in which institutions and people fail survivors of sexual assault by resorting to victim shaming and hostility instead of effecting change. Prout’s advocacy will be an inspiration to teens, and the representation of her fiercely supportive family is one that is sorely needed. Black-and-white photos are peppered throughout. VERDICT This outstanding memoir is a must for YA collections.–Elizabeth Kahn, Patrick F. Taylor Science & Technology Academy, Avondale, LA

Ricketts, Amadee. Gentle Hands and Other Sing-Along Songs for Social-Emotional Learning. illus. by Ashley Barron. 32p. Free Spirit. May 2018. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9781631982101.

PreS-Gr 1 –Social and emotional learning is at the core of early childhood development and often works best when integrated into daily activities. This compilation of songs takes topics like anger, making mistakes, and feelings and sets them to the tune of familiar songs/rhymes. “Everybody makes mistakes, makes mistakes, makes mistakes. It’s okay to make mistakes, just keep trying,” is an example of a sweet ditty set to the tune of “London Bridge Is Falling Down” that will not only teach children a lesson but will also easily stick in their heads. Each song is accompanied by colorful and dynamic mixed-media illustrations of children and scenery. The final pages are tips for parents and caregivers on the use of these songs as well as suggestions for extensions of activities that will assist in social and emotional development. These tips give advice to help encourage participation as well as explain why music, song, and repetition are important for young children. VERDICT Recommended for a parent/teacher or professional collection in a public library or as a resource for library staff who plan early childhood programs.–Kristen Todd-Wurm, Middle Country Public Library, NY

Steele, Lisa. Let’s Hatch Chicks!: A Day-By-Day Chick Hatching Guide for Kids. illus. by Lisa Steele. 48p. Quarto/Voyageur. Jan. 2018. Tr $12.99. ISBN 9780760357859.

K-Gr 2 –A straightforward introduction to chickens and how they hatch as seen through the life of Violet, a well-kept gray chicken who lives on a farm in the country. About to become a first-time mother hen, Violet becomes broody and begins preparing a nest for her eggs. Words such as hen, broody, yolk, roost, and many others are presented in bold and defined in the three-page glossary. Simple tips on keeping your own chickens, minding the eggs, and even hatching them in an incubator at home are included. Facts, such as chickens being able to see more colors than humans in order to best find food, are scattered through the book in egg-toned beige boxes. Though the majority of the pen, ink, and watercolor illustrations are realistic, a handful are more playful and cartoonish. For example, chickens deliver eggs to a nest in tiny baskets tucked over their wings, and in another, a chick wears a watch while looking at an incubator. Some of the chick illustrations become repetitive, especially during the day-by-day description of the development in the egg, which confusingly only shows one chick inside an egg while the rest are fully hatched, developed chicks. After her chicks emerge, Violet teaches them for five weeks before leaving them on their own and returning to her “old life” with friends. Violet’s human family is mentioned but not shown. VERDICT A fine supplement to chicken and egg collections but not a first purchase.–Madeline J. Bryant, Los Angeles Public Library

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