Book review: Who Says Women Can’t be Computer Programmers?: The Story of Ada Lovelace, by Tanya Lee Stone, illustrated by Marjorie Priceman

Stone, Tanya Lee. Who Says Women Can’t be Computer Programmers?: The Story of Ada Lovelace. Illustrated by Marjorie Priceman. Henry Holt and Company, 2018. $18.99. ISBN 9781627792998. Unpaged. Ages 6-9. P6Q7

Ada Lovelace, daughter of Lord Byron, grew up in England with her mother, who wanted to protect her daughter from developing an overactive imagination like her badly behaved father. Her mother had Ada study math, French and music at home to keep her mind steady, and groomed her for a good marriage. As she grew older, she met the mathematician Charles Babbage, who invented the Difference Engine. Ada worked on the machine with Babbage, and realized that it could do more than basic mathematical calculations; she published a paper describing its potential not only to process numbers, but to create pictures and music. As a result, Ada is thought of as the first computer programmer, and the first to understand what such machines could do. The illustrations (gouache and india ink) are colorful and flowing, and I love that numbers, musical symbols, and other kinds of marks are incorporated in them.

VERDICT: This book will be a good addition to both public and school libraries, and will be useful for teachers talking about women in math and science.

September 2018 review by Carol Schramm.


Book review: Fossil by Fossil: Comparing Dinosaur Bones, by Sara Levine, illustrated by T.S. Spookytooth

Levine, Sara. Fossil by Fossil: Comparing Dinosaur Bones. Illustrated by T.S. Spookytooth. Millbrook Press, 2018. $24.79. ISBN 9781467794893. Unpaged. Ages 5-10. P8Q7

This fun book provides a comparison between dinosaur and human skeletons, showing the similarities and differences as a group of children (including some girls in hijab) are walking through a natural history museum. Then come the What If questions like, “What if you had rows of chunky triangle- shaped bones along your back? What kind of dinosaur would you be?” The illustrations show kids with these specific “additions” to their bodies and then name the dinosaurs they resemble. There is a lot of information about dinosaur skeletons (and human too), a couple of pull-out pages, a glossary, pronunciation guide, and suggestions for further reading and research.

VERDICT: Kids with any interest in dinosaurs will enjoy this book.

September 2018 review by Carol Schramm.

Book review: So Tall Within: Sojourner Truth’s Long Walk toward Freedom, by Gary D. Schmidt, illustrated by Daniel Minter

Schmidt, Gary D. So Tall Within: Sojourner Truth’s Long Walk toward Freedom. Illustrated by Daniel Minter. “Advance reader’s edition.” Roaring Brook Press, on sale 9/25/2018. Unpaged. Includes bibliography. $18.99. ISBN 9781250298355. Ages 6-9. P7Q9

“In Slavery Time, when Hope was a seed waiting to be planted”

Events in the life of Sojourner Truth—first called Isabella—are framed by full-page illustrations and a line of poetry.  The frame pages feature brilliantly colored inserts framed by patterns in somber shades that remind me of quilt blocks.  The pages of the biography are unbordered on white pages with a block of text.

Many children’s books state or imply that slavery in the United States occurred primarily in the Southern States. This gorgeously illustrated picture book biography of Sojourner Truth points out that she was born into slavery in the state of New York.  The description of her life—having ten or twelve sisters and brothers, but not knowing them because they had been sold; being made to work both day and night; being made to marry and have children; being promised freedom and then denied it—make clear to young readers the importance of freedom, and, as the biography also makes clear, Isabella’s courage in claiming her own freedom and the freedom of her children.

Verdict:  This beautiful picture book biography includes information I had not previously known about Sojourner Truth’s life.  Both the biographical note and illustrator’s note add context to the work and the full page of bibliographic references, many for adult readers, points the way for further research.  Highly recommended for elementary, middle school and public library collections.

September 2018 review by Jane Cothron.

Book review: About Fish: A Guide for Children, by Cathryn Sill, illustrated by John Sill

Sill, Cathryn. About Fish: A Guide for Children. Illustrated by John Sill. (About … for Children series.) Peachtree, 2017. $7.95. ISBN 9781561459889. Unp. Ages 3-6 . P7 Q8

About Fish: A Guide for Children is a member of the About Series by wife/husband team Cathryn and John Sill. This is a reprint of the original, first published in 2002. Like the rest of the books in this series, accurate, full-color illustrations are accompanied by limited text. Most of the text is devoted to describing the diversity found among the world’s fish species. The common name of each fish depicted in the illustrations is provided on the opposite page. Additionally, there is an afterword that includes much more detail about the fish found in each plate. There is also a glossary and further reading. I recommend this introductory guide for classroom use.

Verdict: This visual guide with limited text is a very general introduction to the wide variety of fish found on the planet. It will be a useful resource in Pre-K and Kindergarten classes.

September 2018 review by Lillian Curanzy.

Book review: The Golden Thread: A Song for Pete Seeger, by Colin Meloy, illustrated by Nikki McClure

Meloy, Colin. The Golden Thread: A Song for Pete Seeger. Illustrated by Nikki McClure. Balzer+Bray, 2018. 18.99. ISBN 9780062368256. Unpaged. Ages 4-8. P6Q8

Want to take a musical trip through American History? This non fiction picture book starring Pete Seeger is for you! The Golden Thread weaves the story of Seeger who was born into a traveling musical family. Pete Seeger went on to use lyrics and music across the country as a means of declaring environmental social justice. Pete Seeger stood up for the rights of factory workers, farmers, and miners. His message was not welcomed by all, and after a trial Seeger was blacklisted. However, this does not stop him and he continued to be an American activist the rest of his life. The book tells the story in lyrical verse, and each page features bold pictures that help tell the story. Not to be missed: the gold thread on each page tells a story in and of itself. The final pages of the book feature a timeline of Pete Seeger’s life, and a Recommended Listening page with titles of his songs.

VERDICT: A great book featuring key moments in American History. This book belongs in classrooms, libraries and home collections as well.

May 2018 review by Denyse Marsh.

[Editor’s note: Colin Moloy, lead singer for the Portland, Oregon based folk group, the Decemberists has written a prose song in honor of legendary folk musician, Pete Seeger.  The book combines a solid biography of Seeger’s life from his childhood in a family of traveling musicians, his work playing banjo for labor unions, a stint in the Army, the McCarthy anti-Communist hearings and resulting blacklist, and his work in social activism and environmentalism with Nikki McClure’s intricately cut black paper designs.  This is a worthy introduction for young readers and includes a bibliography of works (many for adult audiences) for further exploration.]

Book review: The Truth about Hippos, by Maxwell Eaton III

Eaton, Maxwell. The Truth About Hippos. Roaring Brook Press, 2018. $15.99. ISBN 9781626726673. Unpaged. Ages 5-9. P8Q8

This  fun non-fiction book full of facts about hippos will have you laughing! Each page contains interesting facts embedded in cartoon hippo pictures. Be sure to read the captions which contain funny conversations among the hippos and some friends. In the book readers learn about both the common hippo and the pygmy hippo. The last two pages are set up as a “Hippo File” which summarize the facts, and suggest books for further research.

VERDICT: This book would be a great addition to a school library as it is perfect for an animal report, but also a good book to have at home as it reads like a picture book.

May 2018 review by Denyse Marsh.

Book review: Bee: A Peek-Through Picture Book, text by Patricia Hegarty, illustrated by Britta Teckentrup

Hegarty, Patricia. Bee: A Peek-Through Picture Book. illus. Britta Teckentrup. Doubleday Press, 2016. unp. $14.99. ISBN: 978-1-5247-1526-7. Gr. K+. P8 Q8

A bee flies through the flowers collecting and redepositing pollen as it goes. The bee disappears as there are so many flowers that one bee cannot do it alone. The bee arrives at the hive with the message and bees then fly to the flowers, to help finish the job. The simple rhyming text takes the reader through the process of how bees help pollinate our earth. This peek-through book lets the reader see behind and ahead to where the bee is going. The illustrations are of flowers in both the wild and a garden setting.

Verdict: A wonderful book to use in teaching about bees and the process of pollination. The bee is one of our world’s most important species in nature.

July 2018 review by Carol Bernardi.