Book review: Maya Lin: Thinking with Her Hands, by Susan Goldman Rubin

Rubin, Susan Goldman. Maya Lin: Thinking with Her Hands. Chronicle, 2017. $17.99. 99p. ISBN 978-1-4521-0837-7. Ages 10-15. P7Q8

Although Lin was largely known as the architect of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial when she was in college, her work has gone far beyond that one project to such works as a library for the Children’s Defense Fund and the Museum of Chinese in America. Chapters divided into artists’ materials such as granite, water, earth, glass, and celadon (a type of pottery) each concentrate on a specific project and include the reasons and background for her designs. Black and white photos of Lin’s family accompany color images of her designs during and after completion.

Verdict: The book has a stiff feel but still has an inviting layout with large-print text and wide variety of illustrations, and is about an important Chinese-American woman. Also interesting is Lin’s description of how she fought to guarantee that her vision of the Vietnam Memorial was unchanged.

Summer 2017 review by Nel Ward.


Book review: Our Story Begins: Your Favorite Authors and Illustrators Share Fun, Inspiring, an Occasionally Ridiculous Things They Wrote and Drew as Kids, edited by Elissa Brent Weissman

Our Story Begins: Your Favorite Authors and Illustrators Share Fun, Inspiring, an Occasionally Ridiculous Things They Wrote and Drew as Kids. Ed. by Elissa Brent Weissman. Atheneum, 2017. $17.99. 208p. ISBN 978-1-4814-7208-1. Ages 8-12. P4Q9

Twenty-six living authors and illustrators in a mix of ethnic background, age, and gender share their creative childhoods. Each of the entries includes a photograph as a child, memoir, biography, and sample of childhood creative work. Weissman uses the order of beginning creative work from youngest, 7, to oldest, 16. Reflections range from humous to serious and sometimes provide tips on writing.

Verdict: Although aspiring writers and artists may find the book of interest, it may have more appeal in general to adults.

Summer 2017 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Journeys: Young Readers’ Letters to Authors Who Changed Their Lives, edited by Catherine Gourley

Journeys: Young Readers’ Letters to Authors Who Changed Their Lives. Ed. by Catherine Gourley. Candlewick, 2017. $9.99. 226p. ISBN 978-0-7636-9578-1. Ages 10+. P3Q9

Selections from thousands of letters sent to “Letters about Literature” for Grades 4 through 12 sponsored by the 40-year-old Book of the Library of Congress reveals how “hearts are inspired and at times healed by the power of an author’s words.” The 52 entries are divided into three age groups which are each subdivided into Destinations, Realizations, and Returning Home. Each young author shows how reading has made a difference to them in highly poignant and personal ways. The editor has been national director for the program for 25 years.

Verdict: The thoughtful entries will probably be of more interest to adults than youths.

Summer 2017 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: A Dog in the Cave: The Wolves Who Made Us Human, by Kay Frydenborg

Frydenborg, Kay. A Dog in the Cave: The Wolves Who Made Us Human. Houghton, 2017. $18.99. 246p. ISBN 978-0-544-28656-6. Ages 12-15. P7Q9

Biology, paleontology, genetics, anthropology, and social sciences blend in this exploration of how humans and canines have related throughout history to expand the development of both species. The author explodes past myths of the dog’s evolution from wolves and presents new studies of how long dogs have existed—over double the time that previously assumed—through an accessible explanation of radiocarbon. Chapters also include dog psychology, superstitions about wolves, health, and dog breeding.

Verdict: The fascinating information surrounding dogs’ connection to humans makes learning about science enjoyable.

Summer 2017 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Sister Day!, by Lisa Mantchev, illustrated by Sonia Sánchez

Mantchev, Lisa. Sister Day! Illustrated by Sonia Sánchez. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2017. $17.99. ISBN 9781481437950. Ages 3-7. P6 Q7

Lizzie has always admired her older sister and the stories she tells; but as her sister grows older and has more responsibilities, Lizzie begins to feel abandoned. This feeling inspires Lizzie to show her appreciation for her sister in a grand gesture of sisterly love. As siblings grow up it is common for them to pursue different interests and spend more time apart. This book celebrates imagination and storytelling through the special relationship sisters share. The cheerful illustrations have rough lines that add texture. Sometimes they are like a child’s sketches with twirling lines and smudges of color—a style that fits nicely with the storyline.

Verdict: This is book will be popular with sisters, especially those with a large age difference. It has a place in the public library and for personal use.

October 2017 review by Lillian Curanzy.

Book review: The Lost Picnic, by B.B. Cronin

Cronin, B.B. The Lost Picnic. Viking, 2017. $18.99.  ISBN 9781101999226. Ages 4-8. P7 Q8

Grandad and the kids are on their way to the picnic grounds with their basket. They traverse psychedelic landscapes, cross meadows, and navigate through towns and parks. Upon reaching the picnic grounds, they notice the picnic is lost! Now, each elaborately illustrated spread harbors lost picnic items that we must find. The main complaints surrounding this book, and B.B. Cronin’s style in general, is that the pictures are convoluted to a fault. The search is too challenging, especially for young readers. I disagree. To purchase a seek and find book only to locate each sought item immediately seems unsatisfying to me. Young readers will learn persistence and will appreciate the illustrations more for studying them.

Verdict: I would recommend this book, and Cronin’s related publication The Lost House to determined young readers who like a challenge.

October 2017 review by Lillian Curanzy.

Book review: Splat!, by Jon Bergerman

Burgerman, Jon. Splat! Dial Books for Young Readers, 2017. $16.99. ISBN 9780735228764.UNP. Ages 3-7. P8 Q7

Splat! is a spirited play on textural cause and effect. Each page presents a new layer of a one-sided, animated food fight. The illustrations are colorful, creative, and, often, unexpected. Young readers will be delighted. Fans of Burgerman will recognize his characteristic self-referential irreverence.

Verdict: This is a fun book for young children. While it doesn’t offer much in the way of lessons or vocabulary, it is a goofy treat with an emphasis on visuals.

October 2017 review by Lillian Curanzy.