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Showing posts from December, 2014

Children's Fashion of the Russian Empire by Alexander Vasiliev, 223 pp, RL 4

Children's Fashion of the Russian Empire by Alexander Vasiliev is a fascinating pictorial look that spans fifty years, beginning in 1860 and ending in the 1910s. In the Author's Note, Vasiliev explains that, in the 1850s, photographic cartes de visites - photographs glued onto small pieces of card - became popular and prolific among the "gentry, the urban bourgeoisie and the petty bourgeoisie." These photographs illuminate a time when clothing, which was always handmade and specific to children (basically, not adult clothes in kid sizes) was the norm and the styles changed every few years. And, not only do these photographs show the clothing of the time, in many photographs the toys and pets of the children can be seen.



Each decade is prefaced with a page of historical information that is fascinating. Who knew that in the 1860s, boys' and girls' clothing had only minor differences? Vasiliev refers to the influences from other countries, mostly France, as well …

Blue on Blue by Dianne White and Beth Krommes

Blue on Blue is a poetic meditation on nature and the weather written by Dianne Whiteand illustrated by Caldecott winner Beth Krommes that is an absolute joy to read. Having read picture books out for more than twenty years professionally and parentally, I have come to have very high standards for rhyming picture books. My year as an assistant to a literary agent cemented my belief that most people think that writing a picture book is easy, and that writing a rhyming picture book is even easier. Based on the hundreds of queries I read, along with all the published picture books, writing a GOOD picture book, especially a GOOD rhyming picture book is anything but easy. However, it is writers like White who fool every other wannabe-kid's-book author into thinking this is an easy endeavor. Blue on Blue is effortlessly fluid and simply beautiful. Blue on Blue also feels a bit like a nursery rhyme, which makes sense after reading White's about page on her website where she points to…

Human Body: Information Graphics by Peter Grundy

Infographics: Human Body by data journalist Simon Rogers and graphic artist Peter Grundy is the second book in a great new series from the fantastic folks at Big Picture Press. Infographics: Animal Kingdom came out earlier this year and is seeing a lot of action in my school library. Rogers has a way with collecting information that is out of the ordinary while covering familiar ground at the same time and Grundy's graphics are as eye-catching as they are easy to read.


The senses, reproduction, the heart, the brain, digestion, the skeleton, and the "human factory," are the focus of the seven chapters in the book, each of which begin with an overview of the subject. Once inside the chapters, facts detailing the functions and form of featured body parts are presented alongside interesting tidbits like the average number of babies born in America on each day of the week and a two-page spread called "the human hotel" in which various parasites are shown on or in the…

Saturn Could Sail and Other Fun Facts by Laura Lyn DiSiena and Hannah Eliot, illustrated by Pete Oswald and Aaron Spurgeon

Saturn Could Sail and Other Fun Facts by Laura Lyn DiSiena and Hannah Eliot, illustrated by Pete Oswald and Aaron Spurgeon, is part of a fantastic, fact filled series of non-fiction picture books published by Simon & Schuster called "Did You Know?" Oswald and Spurgeon, who worked on the movie Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, are the perfect illustrators for this kind of non-fiction book filled with facts you will want to share.
Saturn Could Sail and Other Fun Facts imparts important facts like the make-up of a comet, the fact that Pluto is no longer considered a planet and the fact that Voyager 1 has traveled all the way to the edge of our solar system. At the same time, the authors also share interesting tidbits like the length of seasons on other planets (one season can last for 7 years on Saturn!) and that most planets have rings but they cannot be seen from Earth and that Saturn could float if it was set adrift in an enormous body of water.
I couldn't find any …

Nightmares! by Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller, illustrated by Karl Kwasny, 355 pp, RL 4

Full disclosure here:  I have been a fan of Jason Segel's since watching the television show Freaks & Geeks ages ago. Having grown up with the Muppets, I was further impressed by Segel when I heard an interview in which he spoke passionately and thoughtfully about co-writing and acting in the Muppets revival movie. This, along with the fact that Segel had the good sense to team up with established kid's and YA book author Kirsten Miller left me opened minded (but with reservations) about reading his new middle grade novel, the first in a trilogy, Nightmares!, with illustrations by Karl Kwasny. And, while I had my reservations, even when I had a review copy in my hands, it was Renee Dale's review of the audio book (which she leads off with a fantastic description of the amiable kind of multi-talent Segel possesses), read by Segel, that prompted me to purchase the audio and give it a go. 
Charlie Laird's waking life is almost, but not quite, as horrible as the nightma…

Galápagos George by Jean Craighead George, paintings by Wendell Minor

Happily for us, Jean Craighead George, who died in 2012 at the age of 92, worked right up to the end of her long, well travelled life. George, a naturalist who was known for imbuing her books with science and nature and illustrated many of her own books, worked often with artist Wendell Minor, who wrote this wonderful tribute to her. Galápagos George is their final collaboration. 
Galápagos George is the story of the famous Lonesome George, a giant tortoise who was the last of his species and lived to be 100 year old. George goes all the way back to the beginning to tell his story, about one million years ago in South America with Giantess George. Her life changes when a storm sweeps all kinds of living things into the sea, including George, who survives precisely because she is a turtle and can change her body fat into food and water. Giantess George, along with several relatives and many other kinds of animals, wash up on a new island (now names San Cristóbal - a map in the end paper…

Creature Features: 25 Animals Explain Why They Look the Way They Do by Steve Jenkins & Robin Page,

Steve Jenkins and Robin Page have a talent for presenting the animal world in endlessly interesting ways for readers young and old, as they prove once again with Creature Features: 25 Animals Explain Why They Look the Way They Do. Jenkins's colorful collage-style illustrations get up close and personal with the sometimes strange faces of animals from all over the world in this new book, which has a great premise that makes this non-fiction book read like a picture book.

Each page features an animal, the text always starting with something like, "Dear mandrill, Why is your nose so colorful?" The animals's replies are short and to the point and written in the animals's own voices. The mandrill answers his question with, "My bright read and blue nose tells other mandrills that I'm a full-grown male monkey, so they'd better not mess with me. My rear end is pretty colorful, too, but I'd rather not talk about it."

Jenkins and Page include a wide ran…

Tiny Creatures: The World of Microbes by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Emily Sutton,

Tiny Creatures: The World of Microbes is the newest book from zoologist and children's book author extraordinaire, Nicola Davies. As always, Davies is paired with a wonderful illustrator, this time Emily Sutton, who brings wonderful detail and engaging colors to this look at the smallest of living things. Tiny Creatures: The World of Microbesis sure to start conversations the minute you turn the last page.
Davies begins her book by presenting wonderful examples of just how small microbes are by using things both large and small that will be familiar to young readers and listeners whales and ants. From there, she goes on to make comparisons that will further help readers understand that which they cannot see with their own eyes.


Davies tells readers that a single teaspoon of soil can have "as many as a billion microbes. That's about the same as the number of people in the whole of India." Once their massive numbers are established, Davies goes onto to share where microb…

Malala: A Brave Girl from Pakistan / Iqbal: A Brave Boy from Pakistan, by Jeanette Winter

Becoming an elementary school librarian has changed the way that I read and think about children's books. Instead of reading to or imagining my own children reading the books I review, I now also think about my students and how they will receive and understand a book. Also, as a librarian, I can encourage (or insist) students read a book that they probably would never pick up on their own. With all these things in mind, I think that Jeanette Winter's newest work of narrative non-fiction, Malala: A Brave Girl from Pakistan / Iqbal: A Brave Boy from Pakistan is a superlative book, both for the lives that are illuminated and the way in which Winter presents them, in text and illustration. The book itself flips to tell the stories of these two remarkable children, which are presented back-to-back as two separate tales. The center page is a moving illustration showing Malala and Iqbal on opposite pages, standing atop mountain peaks and reaching out to each other. Iqbal, who died fr…