"Tales of India," Mars, & Madam C.J. Walker Bio | May 2018 Nonfiction Xpress Reviews

Seven nonfiction titles for young historians, scientists, and entrepreneurs.

Briden, Linda E. Know Me. illus. by Daria Pekh. 38p. Tellwell. Apr. 2017. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9781773026954; pap. $8.99. ISBN 9781773026947.

K-Gr 3 –Briden explores understanding and empathy by helping readers to recognize the differences that exist among people and emphasizing that others should not be judged by their appearances. Following a young, nameless girl in a hooded sweatshirt, readers are invited to share their own stories through the questions raised in the text. Engaging in young peoples’ desire to be heard, questions about what scares the girl and how her brain works are posed without answers. This invites readers to fill in the blanks with their own thoughts and experiences. The language is sparse and straightforward, with short sentences and minimal text per page (“I have hopes and dreams just like you. But mine might be different”). The accompanying illustrations by Pekh use muted shades with pops of color for effect. The vibrant colors at the end suggest the girl’s desire to open up to others. VERDICT Use this thought-provoking picture book with children as a conversation starter. Also consider for teachers and school counselors or psychologists.–Kathryn Justus, Renbrook School, West Hartford, CT

Bundles, A’Lelia. All About Madam C.J. Walker. illus. by Kristen Halvorsen. 128p. (All About). bibliog. chron. further reading. index. glossary. Blue River. Jan. 2018. pap. $5.99. ISBN 9781681570938.

Gr 3-5 –In the tradition of the popular “Who Was?” books, this series concisely tells the stories of influential historical figures in straightforward language, with simple black-and-white illustrations and relatively large, easy-to-read text. This installment, written by the subject’s great-granddaughter, tells the ultimate rags-to-riches story of Sarah Breedlove Walker, better known as Madam C.J. Walker. When she was born in 1867, her family still lived and worked on the Louisiana plantation where they had recently been enslaved. Bundles makes the important distinction that “although they now were free American citizens, they saw little difference in their daily lives.” As a child, Sarah worked in the fields and had no opportunity for education. She was an orphan by the age of seven, married at 14, and a widowed mother at 20. While working as a washerwoman, Walker was determined to learn to read and write. Meanwhile, she was experimenting with ways to care for her damaged hair. In 1906, she introduced her own product under her married name, Madam C.J. Walker, and became a successful entrepreneur immediately. As her profits grew, she became a philanthropist and an activist, speaking out against racism and encouraging other women to follow in her footsteps. Though some readers may be uninterested in passages concerning financial figures, the book as a whole is appealing. VERDICT Purchase where biographies are popular.–Magdalena Teske, West Chicago Public Library District

Carson, Mary Kay. Mission to Mars. 32p. index. photos. Sterling. Feb. 2018. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781454923510.

Gr 3-6 –Are you ready for a human mission to rugged Mars? Regardless of the Red Planet’s lack of oceans, forests, or signs of life, scientists interpret photographic evidence to theorize that there must have been water on this planet a billion years ago. Carson based this title on the expertise of Michael Shara, a professor of astronomy and curator in the department of astrophysics at the American Museum of Natural History. Carson presents an easy-to-follow and alluring narrative that will appeal to upper elementary school students. This informational book follows a logical sequence that shows how scientists have used telescopes and space probes to take photographs and measurements, and landers and rovers to gather rock samples to uncover the mysteries of Mars. The text is well organized and complemented by large high-quality photographs from NASA. Back matter includes an index, a questionnaire game, and a note about Shara’s credentials. VERDICT An instructive and captivating book to complement upper elementary school science curricula and for children who like to learn about planets.–Kathia Ibacache, Simi Valley Public Library, CA

Garland, Michael. A Season of Flowers. illus. by Michael Garland. 40p. Tilbury House. Feb. 2018. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9780884486237.

PreS-Gr 2 –This book takes readers on a journey through the seasons exploring the blossoming of flowers. Garland pairs the short rhyming text with beautiful and eye-catching illustrations created by a digital collage technique he developed. (“Snowdrop and Crocus. We are the earliest flowers of spring. Robins devour the bugs that we bring.”) Each page shows a seasonal flower(s) in full bloom and the wildlife that’s attracted to its fragrance and color. The text could easily supplement units on seasons and plants for younger readers, or serve as an early introduction to life science. Librarians and parents alike will reach for this title as spring and summer come around. Back matter contains more detailed information about each bud mentioned and a summary of the life of a flower. VERDICT A solid purchase for collections in need of a fresh option for season-themed storytimes.–Meghan Oppelt, Whitehall School District, WI

Simmons, Larry Jr. Flying Above Expectations. illus. by Sehreen Shahzad. 36p. Melanin Origins. Feb. 2018. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781626768574; pap. $8.99. ISBN 9781626768567.

PreS-Gr 2 –Written in a conversational tone, the narrative opens on a teacher emphasizing the importance of dreaming big to a classroom filled with kids before seguing into the life of C. Alfred “Chief” Anderson, a groundbreaker in aviation history. The text presents the many obstacles and triumphs Anderson experienced, from earning his pilot’s license to befriending Booker T. Washington. However, without the mention of specific dates and locations, younger children will need to be presented with some background information before reading. Simmons focuses heavily on Anderson’s resilience and work ethic, using his determination as a template from which readers can model moral characteristics. To achieve this, the author writes in different colored fonts: a black text follows the life of Anderson while a red one offers motivational advice (“Learn from your failures and focus on working towards your goals every day.”). Digital artwork is rendered in a cheery cartoon style, though kids looking for detailed aircrafts will be disappointed. Also of note, in one scene the phrase “God is Good” is written on a blackboard. Though very light on specifics, the framing of Anderson, along with Booker T. Washington and Benjamin Davis Jr., as planters of “a seed that would grow into the Tuskegee Airmen” is a valuable concept for the intended age group. VERDICT Large biography/history collections with an interest in character education may want to consider as an additional purchase.–Samantha Lumetta, Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County

Smith, Dan. Around the World in 50 Ways. illus. by Frances Castle. 164p. Lonely Planet. Feb. 2018. pap. $15.99. ISBN 9781786577566.

Gr 4-6 –Readers become explorers and decide where to go in this choose-your-own-adventure travel book. On each spread, readers can select where to jet off to next by choosing from various real-life transportation options (air, ship, train, bike, camel) or by dabbling in some time travel. The journeys are random, based on the decisions readers make. The bold cartoon illustrations (often featuring fellow traveler, Zak) are inviting, and the accompanying text provides snippets of information about each location. The text is in all capitals, which creates a sense of intense energy, and there are plenty of exclamation points to show (or generate) excitement. The slim amount of information about the cities visited (“Paris!,” “Dhaka!,” “Kyoto!,” “Kolkata!”) may prompt readers to wonder what else there is to learn, and the lack of back matter is a disappointment. The book could be used in discussions on the merits of choices. VERDICT Consider for readers with wanderlust.–Helen Foster James, University of California at San Diego

Tales of India: Folktales from Bengal, Punjab, and Tamil Nadu. illus. by Svabhu Kohli & Viplov Singh. 176p. bibliog. websites. Chronicle. Feb. 2018. Tr $22.95. ISBN 9781452165912.

Gr 5 Up –Among the characters found in these 16 folktales are a clever rat that prides himself on his bargaining ability, a prince who returns to life, a shape-shifting tiger who tricks a Brâhman’s daughter into marrying him, and a ghost who impersonates a Brâhman living with his wife. The tales are broken up into categories: “Animal Tales,” “Outwitting and Outwitted,” and “Life and Death.” Each spans four to 16 pages, with footnotes providing longer explanations of words and phrases. The folktales from Bengal always end with a series of lines that, according to a footnote, have been traditionally said by orthodox Bengali storytellers at the tale’s end. This allows readers to see the connection to the original oral tradition and to the culture sharing it. While there is no artwork to break up the text, each story begins with a full-page vibrant illustration that succinctly captures the essence of the tale. VERDICT Recommended for robust folktale collections, as well as libraries looking specifically for tales from India.–Marissa Lieberman, East Orange Public Library, NJ

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