'Notorious RBG' and Other High-Interest Nonfiction | February 2018 Xpress Reviews

Bilingual books and biographies/memoirs take center stage in this month's web-only reviews.

Bailey, Ella. One Day on Our Blue Planet…in the Rain Forest. illus. by Ella Bailey. 32p. (One Day on Our Blue Planet). Flying Eye. Sept. 2017. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781911171089.

PreS-K –This book takes readers through a day in the rainforest by following a young spider monkey. From the top of the canopy to the dense growth underneath, every page is filled with colorful creatures and foliage, all of which are easily spotted against the lighter hued backgrounds. Birds and mammals are the most prevalent, but there are also a few examples of amphibians, insects, reptiles, and fish. Many of these creatures are labelled on the endpapers, giving interested children a chance to find and identify them. Bailey’s illustration style is in line with the publisher’s aesthetic. Her lovely digital work is full of stylized, shape-based creations, lots of contrast, and splatters and strokes that add texture. VERDICT The friendly animal designs, minimal story, and very basic information make this a good one for all those young explorers and scientists out there.–Rachel Forbes, Oakville Public Library, Ont.

CARMON, Irin & Shana Knizhnik. Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg; Young Readers’ Edition. 64p. Harper. Nov. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062748539.

Gr 5-8 –A tribute to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg that does more than catalog her achievements; it conveys her spirit, one that will leave readers in awe. Widely viewed as a champion for women’s rights, Ginsburg is quick to correct that she battles for “women’s and men’s liberation,” as best illustrated in the case of Stephen Wiesenfeld, who was prevented from collecting his dead wife’s social security due to his gender. Ginsburg accepted the case to argue that equality under the law benefits both sexes, and shrewdly, to set a precedent. Not only are her professional triumphs lauded, and our justice system explained, the authors do an excellent job of rounding out her rich life: wife in an egalitarian marriage, mother, and close friends with her polar opposite on the bench, Justice Scalia. The one misstep is the clumsy handling of the justice’s cancer, introduced as “her struggle.” Young readers may need more clarification. However, the book’s strengths far overshadow this stumble. This version shares the same knockout formatting as the adult edition: a plethora of photographs and images leaving nary a page unadorned, and slim informational inserts, such as “How to be like RBG” and “RBG’s workout,” that lend this serious subject a lighthearted tone. VERDICT Just as Ginsburg’s (sometimes) frilly jabot belies the quiet revolutionary, this lively biography of this esteemed justice whose influence straddles two centuries is to be taken seriously. Highly recommended.–Laura Falli, McNeil High School, Austin, TX

Chen, Karen. Finding the Edge: My Life on the Ice. 216p. glossary. photos. HarperCollins/Harper. Nov. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062822680.

Gr 4 Up –Figure Skater Chen’s memoir chronicles her career from her first time on the ice to winning the U.S. National Championship in 2017. She describes herself as a quiet, shy kid with a perfectionist streak. Chen’s love for skating and dedication to the sport come across clearly. In the prologue, she writes, “Ice skating is the closest I get to flying—it’s the only time I feel weightless and free.” She shares how she overcame nerves and self-doubt at various points in her career and how she came back from a serious injury. Chen was a natural skater, but readers can see how hard she worked to get where she is with the support of her family, her coaches, and her mentor Kristi Yamaguchi, who provides the foreword. The prose is straightforward and full of detail about skating life. The epilogue includes a glossary of figure skating terms and technical rules. However, readers looking for information on Chen’s personal life will not find it here. VERDICT Chen’s fans and young skating enthusiasts will find much to devour about life as a competitive skater, while general memoir readers may not find much of a connection.–Mindy Rhiger, Hennepin County Library, MN

Ferris, Jose Luis. El sabor de las palabras. antologia poetica. illus. by Betania Zacarias. 64p. Anaya. Aug. 2017. pap. $13.99. ISBN 9788469833391.

Gr 3-6 –An exclusive collection of 35 poems written primarily by Spanish poets, dating from Spain’s Golden Age of literature through the 20th century. Most of the poems presented are complete, though some of them are abridged. This anthology cleverly includes youthful subject matters relating to the seasons, a variety of animals, and human and fairy characters that will appeal to elementary school students or independent readers who have discovered the profound meaning and artistic beauty of this literary form. In addition, the book contains a “Vocabulario,” which here works as a glossary, defining in friendly terms important poetic structural devices, such as the use of the hyperbole, metaphor, verse, comparison, personification, rhyme, and rhythm. Readers will delight in the brightly colored illustrations as their modern and childlike quality accompanies the work of renowned poets such as Amado Nervo, Lope de Vega, Federico García Lorca, Pedro Calderón De La Barca, and Gabriela Mistral, among others. This anthology will work perfectly for upper elementary units on Spanish poetry, especially for teachers who are focusing on structural devices used in poems. Finally, the back matter contains brief biographies of the poets included in the anthology. VERDICT A worthy and valuable resource to incorporate in school libraries and poetry collections.–Kathia Ibacache, Simi Valley Public Library, CA

Laínez, René Colato. Telegramas al cielo/Telegrams to Heaven: La infancia de monseñor Óscar Arnulfo Romero/The Childhood of Archbishop Óscar Arnulfo Romero. illus. by Pixote Hunt. 32p. Luna’s Pr. Sept. 2017. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9780964120327. BL

Gr 2-4 –As a child, Óscar Arnulfo Romero dreamed of becoming a priest. He wasn’t sure how to accomplish his goal, as most of his time was spent helping his family and working in the telegraph office inside their home. Romero was fascinated by the simplicity of the telegraph machine and wondered how he could use the power of messages to make his dream of becoming a priest a reality. He began a spiritual journey as he learned to pray and “send telegrams” to God. Throughout his childhood, Romero excelled at poetry and music, which he used as tools to spread his prayers of goodwill to all in his community. His dream of becoming a priest was realized when, at age 13, he attended seminary in San Miguel. He later became the Archbishop of San Salvador. This bilingual book is a story of hope and determination, one that is punctuated by Romero’s service to the poorest and most vulnerable. Contemporary, bright illustrations and a personal note from the author provide readers with a deeper connection to the narrative and will inspire them to fulfill their own dreams. VERDICT A touching introduction to the life and legacy of one of South America’s most beloved religious figures and a strong addition to any juvenile nonfiction collection.–Natalie Romano, Denver Public Library

Yolen, Jane. Once There Was a Story: Tales from Around the World, Perfect for Sharing. illus. by Jane Dyer. 160p. bibliog. Paula Wiseman. Nov. 2017. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781416971726.

PreS-Gr 3 –Beginning with a heartfelt introduction about the magic of reading aloud, this handsome collection includes retellings of well- and lesser-known fairy tales and fables and two brand new stories written by Yolen. Representing 15 countries around the globe, the 30 offerings are divided into sections: “Homey Tales,” such as “The Gingerbread Man” and “The Old Woman and Her Pig”; “Very Best Beastly Tales” includes “The Lion and the Mouse” and “Plip, Plop”; and “Tales of Magic Makers,” which contains “The Golden Goose” and “Brave Marietta.” Specifically designed for a younger audience, the font is large and easily readable, there is plenty of white space, and the language is accessible. The tales are well chosen for their sly humor, memorable characters, and wise lessons. The realistically drawn illustrations are done in gouache and colored pencils and beautifully introduce every entry. The use of additional spot art throughout makes for a visual treat. Readers and listeners will enjoy discovering new details during repeat visits. VERDICT The combination of clever retellings and vibrant artwork makes these old tales fresh and inviting. A recommended purchase for libraries looking to brighten up their folktale collections.–Sara-Jo Lupo Sites, George F. Johnson Memorial Library, Endicott, NY

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