Picture book biographies tackle such interesting subjects! Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea shows how the undersea map weFirst reviewed on Literaritea
Picture book biographies tackle such interesting subjects! Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea shows how the undersea map we take for granted in elementary school these days first came to be.
Marie Tharp, inheriting her map-making father’s love of cartography, wanted to map the ocean’s floor–something that had never been done. Unfortunately, when Tharp was entering the workforce, women weren’t sought after as scientists and some still believed that a woman on board ship was unlucky!
Tharp’s friend Bruce shared the soundings he took, and Tharp worked to place them on a map. Even though Bruce disagreed with Tharp’s hypothesis about the tectonic plates, he helped her persevere through the decades to painstakingly map the Atlantic ocean floor. When her work was complete, her map helped prove the existence of the tectonic plates and their continual activity.
Raúl Colón’s illustrations add a lovely, watery feel to this story told in first person. With one exception, Tharp is depicted looking at her work or off the screen rather than directly at the reader. The reader is therefore drawn to also look at her work rather than directly at her. Burleigh alludes to Tharp’s uphill road against various challenges without making those challenges the driving point of the story. Rather, the reader is fully drawn into Tharp’s passion and story, not into a history or anthropological lesson.
End matter includes a thorough note on “Marie Tharp, Scientist,” a glossary, a bibliography, internet links, and “things to wonder about and do,” ensuring that this is a book that draws the young reader to follow in Marie’s footsteps. Recommended for 2nd-4th grade....more
12-year-old Gracie is narrating this intriguing story in the diary her mother has just given her for her recent birthday.First reviewed on Literaritea
12-year-old Gracie is narrating this intriguing story in the diary her mother has just given her for her recent birthday. Aspiring to give us the setting of her “story,” she begins by describing her town: She lives in Cliffden, Maine; Taco Bell, McDonald’s, and Wendy’s are all there on Rt. 1. Everything sounds like our world until:
It’s not exactly safe to be out: The dragons are on their way south again, from the northern reaches of Wales and Scotland and Ireland, to hibernate in South America.
Dragons? Yes! And Sasquatches, witches, ghosts from the underworld, and a genie. Anderson builds a marvelous alternate world that seems both ahead of, and behind, our own in terms of its history.
Gracie sees several “death omens” right at the start, setting up the central conflict of the story: her family’s desperate attempt to reach the Extraordinary World in order to escape the Cloud that has come to carry one of their own away. With help from Gracie’s grandmother (a witch), the family sets off across country in an old Winnebago with Gracie’s orphaned friend Oliver and one Sasquatch in tow.
Despite seemingly insurmountable odds, time and again, Gracie’s family perseveres in their journey. Will they find the Extraordinary World? Does it really exist? Will they outrun the Cloud who seems to keep pace with them?
This book packs an emotional punch, not least of which because the ending offers a big twist that younger readers may not see coming (this grown-up was fully prepared, but she reads a LOT of these kinds of books). I also found the ending simultaneous hopeful and hopeless.
In the end, the family does indeed find the Extraordinary World but they can’t get to it. In addition, a member of the family does die. It’s “okay” in the sense that they are resigned to it and have made peace with it. But I found this ultimately to be pretty hopeless–as if the meaning in life is just what we can make of it given the luck of the draw we end up with. Sure, family is hugely important in that scenario, and pulling together as a family unit in the face of diversity is a valuable theme. Learning to love and appreciate each other, giving each other the benefit of the doubt, and keeping the family intact even at great cost are marvelous points to ponder. But to leave it at just that seems a bit depressing. Some may argue that the Extraordinary World is a false reality for Gracie’s family and that we shouldn’t be pinning our hopes on a fantasy when we could be putting our energy into strengthening our families. But since the Extraordinary World is NOT a fantasy, it really exists–the family sees it and it has been their hope all along, and it can do nothing to help them, well, that felt a bit hopeless....more
A very fun romp in which a resourceful orphan finds herself helping rescue President Taft's niece, revealing a nefarious plot and its masterminds, andA very fun romp in which a resourceful orphan finds herself helping rescue President Taft's niece, revealing a nefarious plot and its masterminds, and befriending a newsboy in Washington, D. C. Solid characterization, great voice (the prose is quite hilarious at times), and a lovable cat-as-sidekick make this a fun read. There isn't as much depth as some of Larson's other novels.... ...more
This book came out early January and set the bar high for nonfiction picture books. While books about the slavery experieFirst reviewed on Literaritea
This book came out early January and set the bar high for nonfiction picture books. While books about the slavery experience in the U.S. are nothing new, Freedom in Congo Square highlights a unique part of that history. A lengthy foreword by Congo Square historian Freddi Evans and a thorough author’s note at the end explain the historical and artistic significance of this public square in Louisiana for those who are unfamiliar with it. (The two notes are a bit repetitious, but both add extra details and are worth repeating.)
Congo Square was the place for freed African Americans and African American slaves to congregate on Sunday afternoons. Communication, music, dance, a marketplace and fellowship filled the square and drew plenty of people every Sunday afternoon.
Weatherford’s text is simply and rhythmic, in keeping with the musical importance of the square:
Tuesdays, there were cows to feed,/ fields to plow, and rows to seed./ A moment without work was rare./ Five more days to Congo Square.
Beginning with Monday and moving through the week, the text and illustrations look ahead to the coming Sunday. Christie’s illustrations are remarkable. Until Saturday night, the pictures are static, moments of hard work frozen in time. Nearly every character pictured is looking to the right, drawing the reader to keep turning the page just as the text looks ahead to the coming Sunday.
When Sunday comes, people and text burst forth in sudden movement. Characters dance, look every which way, and leap off the page. The spirit of Congo Square comes alive.
In addition to the aforementioned author’s note and foreword, end matter includes a glossary. This is a great title to have on hand for Louisiana state history, African American history, and jazz history. Recommended for K-3rd grade....more
A weak 4 stars, I confess. I found the whole construct of this book a little strange, but it hooked me anyway and I read through to the end.... As hasA weak 4 stars, I confess. I found the whole construct of this book a little strange, but it hooked me anyway and I read through to the end.... As has been said by nearly everyone, Jane Eyre + Goldilocks. Creative and inventive....more
Friends have been telling me to read this book, and it went in one ear and out the other until a friend actually SENT me this book. A fascinating readFriends have been telling me to read this book, and it went in one ear and out the other until a friend actually SENT me this book. A fascinating read all in all, but the first 2/3 are more interesting/compelling than the last. ...more
The philosophical/spiritual part of this is excellent. The book is also supremely practical--a blessing and a curse. As technology (apps, in particulaThe philosophical/spiritual part of this is excellent. The book is also supremely practical--a blessing and a curse. As technology (apps, in particular) changes, parts of the book will be less relevant. Still... definitely worth a read....more
Another imminently practical, how-to book that is a quick read. Some great tips in here for organizing the digital mess we often find ourselves with.Another imminently practical, how-to book that is a quick read. Some great tips in here for organizing the digital mess we often find ourselves with. I don't organize my stuff in quite the same way, but I appreciated the author's emphasis on the HABIT of digital organization/maintenance. It also nudged me into some way overdue computer decluttering/organization!...more
This was a fun read. I would love to see the author's house because she sounds, well, ORGANIZED. I kind of cracked up in parts.
Some random thoughts: 1.This was a fun read. I would love to see the author's house because she sounds, well, ORGANIZED. I kind of cracked up in parts.
Some random thoughts: 1. We don't own enough stuff to organize in some of the fashions she describes. Other ideas are genius (inspired me to put my few sewing patterns into manila envelopes and glue the pattern package to the outside--excellent!)
2. This book was written before the age of apps, mobile devices, etc. I found her recipe organization suggestions intriguing, but I'm betting that most people (perhaps myself) would prefer a more digital approach since there are so many recipes online.
3. An easy read, especially when you need some "oomph" to those New Year's organizing resolutions....more
I don't use all the systems the author uses, but I really appreciated the way she talked the reader through how to make good use of the digital resourI don't use all the systems the author uses, but I really appreciated the way she talked the reader through how to make good use of the digital resources available for home-related stuff. I particularly appreciated the evernote section. This is a supremely practical book, really more of a tutorial. ...more
I really liked this book, but I went into it with extra high hopes. I really, really loved The Great Wall of Lucy Wu and wanted this book to essentialI really liked this book, but I went into it with extra high hopes. I really, really loved The Great Wall of Lucy Wu and wanted this book to essentially be a boy version of that.
It is, and it isn't.
Strengths of the book: Vietnam era without hovering on much political "stuff." Kids today will totally find themselves in the kids in this book. Chinese-American dynamics are well done: you know that it's a factor in the family's experience, but it's not overdone, or even the point of the book. LOVED the development of the son and dad's relationship. Loved the ending: hopeful, but not neat and too happy, happy. Interesting treatment of depression and its effects on the loved ones around the depressed person. Beautiful picture of love from the father--even though he is totally undemonstrative. Classic middle grades themes of: accepting others and learning to understand them/where they're coming from even when they're different from you, starting to separate your identity from that of your parents, struggling with adversity on your own but still with the family safety net, etc. Baseball is the tie that binds in this book--this is not another book about a nerdy kid who loves math or loves to read. It's about a baseball loving kid, a baseball loving culture, and baseball!
Weaknesses: some all-too-common tropes in the book (such as, bully has drunk father and lives in poor community). The gender equality angle sort of comes out of nowhere--the context totally fits, but I still felt like it wasn't what the heart of the story was about. Still musing over it. (But it's well done overall, and both boys and girls will enjoy this angle of the story)....more
And there isn't much hope offered until the very end. The book covers the standard coming-of-awareness type middle schoolThis book is sad. Really sad.
And there isn't much hope offered until the very end. The book covers the standard coming-of-awareness type middle school story but adds in the element of grief over a friend's sudden drowning and the main character's feeling that they didn't end on friendly terms. AGONIZING for a middle schooler who is also at the height of awkwardness.
This book is well written on many levels, handles the extended metaphors of jellyfish and scientific method really nicely, and has good character development. But it's just kind of downer. I'd rather hand a kid Goodbye Stranger or The Penderwicks in Spring for a book that deals with similar age-related issues and even depression...but with more hope, warmth, and humor....more
A great story of perseverance and hard work! In America, we take it for granted that those with disabilities will have some protection under the law:A great story of perseverance and hard work! In America, we take it for granted that those with disabilities will have some protection under the law: handicap parking spots, elevators instead of just stairs, menus in Braille, hearing aids, prosthetics, etc. Life is still extra challenging for many with physical disabilities, but we have made strides as a country to ease some of that.
Not so in many nations around the world. The story of Emmanuel takes place in Ghana where to be born with only one good leg was practically a death sentence. Emmanuel perseveres and ends up helping inspire proactive legislation and care for other disabled Ghanaians (in addition to raising awareness globally!).
This is also the story of a dedicated athlete!...more
Oh, a good collection of poetry is a delight--and even if you stodgy grown-ups disagree, most children I know will heartily concur.
This collection isOh, a good collection of poetry is a delight--and even if you stodgy grown-ups disagree, most children I know will heartily concur.
This collection is a riotous exploration of poems about animals--most titles starting with "The..." and many titles of which are familiar. The poets are even more familiar than some of the titles and are mostly European/American in background (Lewis Carroll, Ogden Nash, etc.). That being said, the artwork in this book keeps the collection from feeling like a relic. Vibrant, intensely colored, exuberant--and all with a vintage feel from when picture books were printed in limited palettes because that was the only option.
My old eyes have a hard time looking at this book for long, but kids do not have that issue and seem mesmerized by the playful (but slightly dark or macabre) interpretations given to some poems. The pictures resonate with that gleeful childlike sense that draws creatures out of proportion and fantastically. (just look over a child's doodles next time and ask them to tell you the story.... it might surprise you!)...more
This is a great example of a "meaty" picture book biography perfect for the span of elementary and middle school grades. There is a lot of subtext andThis is a great example of a "meaty" picture book biography perfect for the span of elementary and middle school grades. There is a lot of subtext and related history that older kids will pick up on, but younger kids will still "get" the story. Some good food for discussion with any age. I think No Crystal Stair: A Documentary Novel of the Life and Work of Lewis Michaux, Harlem Bookseller was a stronger work (same author/subject), but this picture book version is a good introduction to the same family from a lens more targeted to younger kids. It feels a bit incomplete to me, but that may be just because I've already read the longer novel. Artwork is good, but it's not quite what I expected from the cover. (Cover is more defined and vibrant)....more
I do love wordless books, and this one is a gem. Childlike in just the right way with a definite storyline that progresses at just the right pace. TheI do love wordless books, and this one is a gem. Childlike in just the right way with a definite storyline that progresses at just the right pace. The palette is perfect, the use of reflection in the water... all of it is stellar! Young children will enjoy this, but elementary school children will, too--particularly those who can follow the end paper directions for folding their own paper creations. ...more
This is a surefire winner of a read aloud to the preschool and kindergarten crowd. Lively illustrations, onomatopoeia, action words, and a multi-ethniThis is a surefire winner of a read aloud to the preschool and kindergarten crowd. Lively illustrations, onomatopoeia, action words, and a multi-ethnic (and male/female) cast of firefighters keeps the story moving quickly. The ending is a nice touch as the restaurant owners who suffered the fire have "come back" into business....more
An interesting approach to a picture book biography: text is written to sound similar to a jazz song with its cadence, the blues element, and some repAn interesting approach to a picture book biography: text is written to sound similar to a jazz song with its cadence, the blues element, and some repetition. Text has potential, but is not as strong as the art--which is terrific.
Of note/concern for some: a voodoo element is alluded to, but it's for Morton's godmother....more