Book review: Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women, by Catherine Thimmesh, illustrated by Melissa Sweet

Thimmesh, Catherine. Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women. Illus. by Melissa Sweet. HMH, 2000, 2018. Updated edition. $17.99. 106p. ISBN 978-1-328-77253-4. Ages 8-12. P8Q9

From the popularity of Ruth Wakefield’s Toll House Cookie recipe in 1930 to Alice Brooks and Bettina Chen’s Roominate, a toy to encourage girls to build and use circuits, these 15 profiles of women innovators describe how they made lives better through their curiosity and creations. The seven additions to the 2000 version include women and girls’ innovations in solar, waste management, cyberbullying prevention, and drought while eight earlier inventor such as windshield wipers and Kevlar are retained.

Verdict: The lively style of illustrations by a Caldecott Honor winner and accessible format have been retained with the advantage of more diversity of subjects in ethnic background and age that reflect fast-growing technology during the 21st century. Recommended for middle-school libraries.

Fall 2018 review by Nel Ward.


Book review: Crossing Niagara: The Death-Defying Tightrope Adventures of the Great Blondin, by Matt Tavares

Tavares, Matt. Crossing Niagara: The Death-Defying Tightrope Adventures of the Great Blondin. (Candlewick Biographies). Candlewick, 2016. $14.99. 33p. ISBN 978-1-5362-0341-7. Ages 6-9+. P9Q8

The following review is for the original larger-format title from 2016: In the summers of 1859 and 1860, Jean François Gravelet, known as the Great Blondin, thrilled huge crowds when he made a one-fourth mile journey across the top of Niagara Falls from the U.S. to Canada—and back—on a three-inch rope. Each time, he added to the challenges, one time carrying a man on his shoulders. When his dangerous feats no longer attracted crowds, he left for other adventures. The author’s large gorgeous watercolors dramatically illustrate Blondin’s careful preparations and complexity of his bravery, and a gatefold provides a look into his tricks, including the use of stilts and a chair. A brief author’s note and list of resources completes the tale.

Verdict: The larger format is more suitable for the sweeping images; stick to that one.

Fall 2018 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Above and Beyond: NASA’s Journey to Tomorrow, by Olugbemisola Rhyday-Perkovich

Rhuday-Perkovich, Olugbemisola. Above and Beyond: NASA’s Journey to Tomorrow. Feiwel and Friends, 2018. $19.99. 153p. ISBN 978-1-250-30846-7. Ages 12+. P8Q8

Based on the documentary of the same name, this book follows NASA since its establishment in 1958 with its accomplishments, challenges, and possibilities in the future. Sidebars provide profiles of people, “fast facts,” information about how equipment such as telescopes work, etc

Verdict: Highly colorful photographs would have benefited from better cutlines to identify the subject, but young readers interested in space travel will be entranced. Libraries may want to purchase this as an accompaniment to the film.

Fall 2018 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Mary Shelley: The Strange True Tale of Frankenstein’s Creator, by Catherine Reef

Reef, Catherine. Mary Shelley: The Strange True Tale of Frankenstein’s Creator. Clarion, 2018. $18.99. 212p. ISBN 978-1-328-74005-2. Ages 10-14.

The daughter of feminist writer Mary Wollstonecraft led an unorthodox life from the time of her widowed father’s remarriage when she was four years old to her death at the age of 53 and her son’s discovery that she had kept what was assumed to be her husband’s heart after his cremation. In between, she ran away from home at 16 with the charismatic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, lost all except one of four children at early ages, and traveled throughout Europe until she returned to England after her husband’s drowning when she was 24. Well educated, Shelley suffered terrible losses but managed to write seven novels. Small black and white vintage illustrations have been added to the text.

Verdict: By omitting the stressful relationship between Mary and her stepmother and attributing childhood issues to her father, Reef has restructured the biographical information and left out part of the impetus for Mary running away. The book is also somewhat slow. A better view of Mary Shelley is Lita Judge’s Mary’s Monster.

Fall 2018 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: When You Grow Up to Vote: How Our Government Works for You, Eleanor Roosevelt with Michelle Markel, illustrated by Grace Lin

Roosevelt, Eleanor with Michelle Markel. When You Grow Up to Vote: How Our Government Works for You. Illus. by Grace Lin. Roaring Brook. 2018. $19.99. 84p. 978-1-62672-879-0. Ages 8-10. P5Q4

Charmingly small watercolors highlight this piece by the former First Lady with the first edition published in 1932. The 14 chapters address different functions of government from city and state functions to the three federal branches. The author has added a timeline of voting rights, beginning in 1860, and an explanation of gerrymandering.

Verdict: The first mistake in the book comes in the introduction by Nancy Ireland, Roosevelt’s granddaughter, when she writes that her grandfather Franklin Delano Roosevelt was inaugurated in 1932. He was elected that year but inaugurated on March 4, 1933. Although some information from 1932 has been updated, misleading omissions include the total number of people in the president’s cabinet and the impact of Emancipation Day on the deadline to pay taxes. This subject has been better covered in other books.

Fall 2018 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Art Making with MoMA: 20 Activities for Kids Inspired by Artists at the Museum of Modern Art, by Elizabeth Margulies and Cari Frisch, illustrated by Julia Rothman

Margulies, Elizabeth and Cari Frisch. Art Making with MoMA: 20 Activities for Kids Inspired by Artists at the Museum of Modern Art. Illus. by Julia Rothman. MoMA, 2018. $24.95. 127p. ISBN 978-1-63345-037-0. Ages 8-13. P10Q10

As these authors demonstrate, “art” is far more than painting: the activities include architecture, mobiles, photography, costumes, sculpture, puppetry, furniture, stop-action filming, and more. Readers are invited to use a wide diversity of objects—found objects, wire, homemade play dough, and items commonly in homes as well as drawing and painting tools. A list of commonly used items for these art objects is supplemented in each of the 20 chapters by specific needs for the desired end result, and the activities are carefully organized with step-by-step numbering. Some projects, such as for surrealism, describe a group approach. Whimsical drawings add humor to the photographs of professional examples, completed projects by young people, and the youthful artists themselves. One of several MoMA books with art projects for young people.

Verdict: The most delightful part of the book—beyond the creative ideas—is that the examples of completed projects look like someone anyone can do. Classroom copies of this title for art classes are a must along with copies in the library for individual exploration.

Fall 2018 review by Nel Ward.

Book reviews: Alexander Hamilton, by Teri Kanefield

Kanefield, Teri. Alexander Hamilton. (The Making of America Series). Abrams, 2018. $7.99. 203p. ISBN 978-1-4197-2943-0. Ages 10-13. P6Q8

From Hamilton’s early life as an orphaned illegitimate child to his untimely end in a duel, he demonstrated great drive and principles that led him to a prominent place in the Revolutionary War and the ensuing formation of a government. Kanefield uses a comparison with Aaron Burr, the man who killed him, to show Hamilton’s belief in a strong central government and a federal bank to stabilize the new country’s economy. Her narration brings such luminaries as Thomas Jefferson to life, complete with many of his flaws. Liberally sprinkled throughout are quotes from Hamilton and the black and white illustrations are copies of those from the 18th and 19th centuries. Parts of his writing are included at the end of the book. Verdict: The popular Broadway hit Hamilton may create interest in the first of this series, and Kane has written a personal view of the subject. She has also done an excellent job presenting the battle between lawmakers’ difference of opinion between an agrarian society with local governments and an urban structure that could be strengthened.

Fall 2018 review by Nel Ward.