Posted in Children's Nonfiction, Graphic Novel, Uncategorized

Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans, by Don Brown

22749725Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans
Don Brown
2015 by HMH Books for Young Readers
ISBN – 9780544157774
Genre – Graphic Novel
Age – Middle School
4.4 Stars

The story of Hurricane Katrina, the massive loss of human lives, pets, property, culture, and faith in our government and leaders is depicted beautifully in this graphic novel. From the simple yet powerful words, to the illustrations that describe a situation more than words ever could, we are taken on a journey that we all hope to never have to take. The illustrations do such a fantastic job of portraying the desperation, horror, and hopelessness that was felt by many. The colors used were very muted and dark. They were almost as dreary and sad as the topic itself. Not only do we get a glimpse at the storm, but the human reaction to the storm, and the very human solutions to aid in survival. It this book doesn’t pull on your feely strings, I’m not sure anything will. Breathtaking.

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Posted in Children's Nonfiction, Uncategorized

Chernobyl’s Wild Kingdom: Life in the Dead Zone, by Rebecca L. Johnson

20791635Chernobyl’s Wild Kingdom: Life in the Dead Zone
Rebecca L. Johnson
2014 by Twenty-First Century Books
ISBN – 9781467711548
Genre – Nonfiction
Age – Elementary School, Middle School
4.5 Stars

After the horrible nuclear disaster at Chernobyl, most of the people were evacuated. Some died, and many other have felt the lasting effects of the radiation exposure caused by the explosion. The effects are not only physical, but mental and emotional as well. What we don’t often hear about is the lingering wildlife in the fallout zone of Chernobyl. Scientists have witnessed thriving wildlife population of many different species, despite the fact that they are “glowing” with radiation. This book answers some interesting questions about how the animals are surviving, and what effects the lethal doses of radiation are having on them as generations pass. Great care was taken to address many curiosities, and the text was complimented fantastically by pictures and diagrams. I liked that the author gave a decent background on what exactly happened at the plant as well as the political and social plunders surrounding the entire situation. Johnson did a wonderful job delving into such a fascinating topic!

Posted in Children's Nonfiction, Uncategorized

“The President Has Been Shot!”: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy, by James L. Swanson

17381972“The President Has Been Shot!”: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy
James L. Swanson
2013 by Scholastic Press
ISBN – 9780545490078
Genre – Nonfiction
Age – Middle School
3.2 Stars

This nonfiction book describes briefly the early life and presidency on John F. Kennedy. It also talks about Lee Harvey Oswald’s tumultuous life before the assassination of JFK. It goes into great detail about the day of the assassination including the hours after he was pronounced dead in which Johnson was sworn into office on Air Force One.

This is a good account of what may have lead up to JFK’s death, but what I found most interesting was the reactions of Jackie Kennedy. The obvious shock and horror that she felt was proved by how she carried herself in the hours and days following the assassination. overall, I thought the book could have used a bit more…oomph? I listened to the audio book, and I found the narrator dry at best. He seemed to make something so interesting feel very blah. I think this book would have been better to read in book format, as I am sure there must be lots of interesting pictures that would help add to the story, and give a feeling of place and setting. For me the audio book fell a bit flat.

Posted in Children's Nonfiction

The Great and Only Barnum: The Tremendous, Stupendous Life of Showman P. T. Barnum, by Candace Fleming

6425996The Great and Only Barnum: The Tremendous, Stupendous Life of Showman P. T. Barnum
Candace Fleming
2009 by Schwartz & Wade
ISBN – 9780375841972
Genre – Nonfiction
Age – Middle School
3.7 Stars

From working at a grocery store to running the most famous circus in the world, this book describes the life and the making of a legend, P.T. Barnum. We learn not only about the business aspects of Mr. Barnum, but the good, the bad, and the ugly of his personal life as well. Fleming does a good job of noting all that made Barnum such a well known man, but she also took care to talk about those aspects that humanized him. He battled with his own vices, and had to work hard to make his family happy, just like the rest of us, but not all of us have the ability to build opulent homes, with elephants in our gardens. Not all of us can buy all the entertainment in the world, but we can all read about someone who did. The evolution of his growing business is as fascinating as his growing notoriety, and those who performed with him. The pictures were a great way to really visualize the over the top world that Barnum created and lived in. I felt like the story was a bit choppy at times, and it read in a way that did not leave me hooked, but all in all it was an interesting read.

Posted in Children's Nonfiction

What if you had Animal Hair!?, by Sandra Markle

17981412What if you had Animal Hair!?
Sandra Markle
llustrated by Howard Mcwillian
2014 by Scholastic Paperbacks
ISBN – 9780545630856
Genre – Nonfiction
Age – Early Elementary
5 Stars

Different animals have different kind of hair, and they all serve a purpose. What if you had Animal Hair!? dedicates each page to a different animal, some are well known, and some a bit more obscure. Each page shows a child with similar hair to animals such as porcupines, lions, zebras, and sloths, and more. A couple different fun facts litter each page. Markle and McWillian make a fantastic team in this series. I have already read What if you had Animal Teeth!? to a 3rd grade class, and they loved it! I have just requested that my new library, which has none of these books, buy the whole series. The illustrations are fantastic, they are funny and bold. The facts are informative and interesting for readers of all ages! I can’t wait to learn about animal feet, which is new, and animal ears, which is coming in 2016. This book is proof that children’s nonfiction can be awesome!

Posted in Children's Nonfiction, Young Adult Nonfiction

They Called Themselves the KKK: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group, by Susan Campbell Bartoletti

7029188They Called Themselves the KKK: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group
Susan Campbell Bartoletti
2010 by HMH Books for Young Readers
ISBN – 9780618440337
Genre – Nonfiction
Age – High School, Middle School
4.2 Stars

I recently learned that the Ku Klux Klan was founded in Tennessee, and since I just moved to Tennessee, I thought it a good idea to learn some history. “They Called themselves the KKK” starts by describing the Civil War and the implications on the social, political, and economical aspects of life in the South. It goes on to talk about the founding and evolution of the group over the last 150 years.

This is a hard history to swallow and it is even still harder to swallow, that some of it is not history. It was interesting and devastating, the pictures added an extra amount of emotion. I really appreciated that at the end of each chapter, there was a personal account of someone who witnessed these horrors. I also appreciated the lack of editing in the primary documents littered throughout the book. Some things may be more difficult to read because of this, but its authenticity is apparent. The saddest part to me about this book is knowing that these behaviors still exist today, so no matter how far we have come, it is not enough. By making ourselves more aware of the history, we can be better equipped to avoid it, hopefully.

Posted in Children's Nonfiction

Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom: My Story of the Selma Voting Rights March, by Lynda Blackmon Lowery, Elspeth Leacock, Susan Buckley

road to freedomTurning 15 on the Road to Freedom: My Story of the Selma Voting Rights March
Lynda Blackmon Lowery, Elspeth Leacock, Susan Buckley
Illustrated by Pj Loughran
2015 by Dial Books
ISBN – 9780803741232
Genre – Nonfiction
Age – Middle School
3 Stars

Lynda Blackmon Lowery had been marching for civil rights for sometime before she became the youngest person to march in the Selma Voting Rights March. She been to jail multiple times and was no stranger to mistreatment of African Americans. She shares her memories of the times before and during the march, and how she was involved in the nonviolent Civil Right Movement. Although this book was inspiring, it just wasn’t amazing to me. It was told in such a casual voice, that it seemed to lack passion. While it is hard to not be moved by the events surrounding the march, this book did not evoke the emotions that I expected. I loved the illustrations, as I thought those did a better job of conveying the gravity of the events than the text did. Overall, a bit disappointing, but still a worthwhile text.

Posted in Children's Nonfiction

Scaly Spotted Feathered Frilled: How do we know what dinosaurs really looked like?, by Catherine Thimmesh

scalyScaly Spotted Feathered Frilled: How do we know what dinosaurs really looked like?
Catherine Thimmesh
2013 by HMH Books for Young Readers
ISBN – 9780547991344
Genre – Nonfiction
Age – Elementary School
4 Stars

So, if we have never seen dinosaurs, how do we know what they look like? How did we come up with the vicious head and body of a T-Rex? This book explores how paleoartists have captured the images of dinosaurs we picture in our heads. We learn about how remains are found, and how they are reconstructed to give us the most accurate images of dinosaurs. We are able to explore how these images have changed over time as we have discovered new bones and fossils. When we find these remains, we can often use them to determine the muscles and the skin on each species. The biggest uncertainty these days in the imagery of dinosaurs is their colors. For the most part, scientist are still speculating what colors they may have been based on their closest relatives, as well as what their main purpose and habits were. This book has a lot of interesting information and great pictures to compliment the text. I especially liked that some pictures show a progression of how we have pictured certain species.

Posted in Children's Nonfiction, Picture Books

Hello, I’m Johnny Cash, by G. Neri

JohnnyHello, I’m Johnny Cash
G. Neri
2014 by Candlewick Press
ISBN – 9780763662455
Genre – Nonfiction
Age – Elementary School
4 Stars

Johnny Cash started out life in extreme poverty, and faced many struggles, but the one thing he has always had was his voice. Music was his passion from a very young age, and music was what led him through his life. This book talks about the many hardships of his childhood, his time in the military, and the growth of his musical career. Each page of text is complimented by realistic and beautiful paintings. They show not only the landscape in which Cash grew up in, but also the incredible emotion in which he poured into his life and his art. I like that each page/chapter is titled by songs. I do appreciate that there was a very small bit of a history lesson in the early chapters as well. The small hints of the depression and poverty may very well lead kids to do more research on their own, which is always a good thing! I wish it would have had a short section on his later life. The ending felt very unnatural, and maybe that is because I know more of the story. It felt a bit too optimistic to me. All in all a great book with fantastic art.

Posted in Children's Nonfiction

Mysterious Patterns: Finding Fractals in Nature, by Sarah C. Campbell

18772053Mysterious Patterns: Finding Fractals in Nature
Sarah C. Campbell
Photographys by Sarah C. Campbell and Richard P. Campbell
2014 by Boyds Mills Press
ISBN – 9781620916278
Genre – Nonfiction
Age – Elementary school
4 Stars

This book explains what fractals are very simply. It shows what they are comprised of (familiar shapes, like cones and spheres,) and gives examples from our every day lives. As the book goes on it shows how these shapes repeating over and over each time smaller, can be found in nature. It uses architecture, flowers, geology, the human body, and more to illustrate the lesson. Campbell is sure to teach us about repeating patterns that do not change in size, and that these are not fractals. She also mention briefly who discovered them and how. I thought it was very useful to have a glossary in the front. There is also a mini lesson on the last page. It teaches the reader how to make their own fractal. I love that it helps kids put what they learned into practice. The photographs are great. They really help describe the text, and some of it is quite beautiful as well.