Book review: The World Is Not a Rectangle: A Portrait of Architect Zaha Hadid, by Jeanette Winter

Winter, Jeanette. The World Is Not a Rectangle: A Portrait of Architect Zaha Hadid. Beach Lane Books, 2017. $17.99. ISBN 9781481446693. Unpaged. Ages 4-7. P7Q7

Picture book author and artist Jeanette Winter approaches the life of award winning architect Zaha Hadid by illustrating the scenes of her native Iraq—marshes, desert, ruins—and showing how Hadid used the curves and lines of nature in her building designs.  Beginning with her childhood in Iraq and her architectural studies in London, Winter shows the difficulty of early years as Hadid sets up an office with friends “making drawings and plans.” Her winning designs are not built in England.  Eventually, through determination and hard work, Zaha Hadid makes her visions become reality. Double page spreads show the relationships between nature—swaying marsh grasses, stones in a stream, sand dunes, a sea shell—and the buildings Hadid designed.  Includes a biographical note, author’s note and bibliographic sources.

Verdict: This is a well-executed picture book biography of a woman who changed the field of architecture.  Recommended for school and public library collections.

Note: Both Kirkus and Booklist gave starred reviews to this title.

October 2017 review by Jane Cothron.

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Book review: Sergeant Reckless: The True Story of the Little Horse Who Became a Hero, by Patricia McCormick, illustrated by Iacopo Bruno

McCormick, Patricia. Sergeant Reckless: The True Story of the Little Horse Who Became a Hero. Illustrated by Iacopo Bruno. Balzer + Bray, 2017. $17.99. ISBN 9780062292599. Unpaged. Ages 4-8. P8Q8

A small sorrel mare was the only animal ever to hold a U.S. military rank. She also received two Purple Hearts for injuries sustained in battle. In Korea, a troop of U.S. Marines reluctantly adopted the stray horse to move heavy loads of ammunition and the perpetually hungry horse became the company pet and pack horse.  Named Reckless, the horse would eat scrambled eggs, chocolate, and drink Coke.  On the battlefield, after learning to ignore the explosions, Reckless worked to move heavy artillery shells and on at least one occasion saved the lives of several Marines. After the war, the Marines raised the money to bring Sergeant Reckless to live out her days at California’s Camp Pendleton.  Digitally colored pencil drawings set off the text, which is often arranged as a collage of document, newspaper clippings and advertising.  This picture book biography has the feel of a time capsule or period collage and brings the Korean War to life for a younger generation.

Verdict: Highly recommended for elementary and public library collections.

October 2017 review by Jane Cothron.

Book review: The Music in George’s Head: George Gershwin Creates Rhapsody in Blue, by Suzanne Slade, illustrated by Stacy Innerst

Slade, Suzanne. The Music in George’s Head: George Gershwin Creates Rhapsody in Blue. Illustrated by Stacy Innerst. Calkins Creek, 2016. $ $17.95. ISBN 9781629790992. 48 pages. Ages 9-11. P7 Q8

This picture book biography of George Gershwin shows how George loved music from an early age and how he progressed to a composer. The music started in George’s head and he was able to create the music that he heard. This is an inspiring story for children who have a passion. They can see how George’s passion helped him become famous and live the life he dreamed of.  The illustrations are almost entirely done in blue and gray tones, with broad brushstrokes. This book includes a time line, bibliography and author’s note.

Verdict: Readers will enjoy the different font styles used in the book and the history of George Gershwin. This book is inspiring. I recommend it for all libraries and personal libraries.

June 2017 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: If Sharks Disappeared, by Lily Williams

Williams, Lily. If Sharks Disappeared. Roaring Brook Press, a division of Holtzbrinck Publishing, 2017. ISBN 9781626724136. $17.99. UNP. P5 Q8

The World Wildlife Fund estimates that 150-200 species of plants and animals reach extinction every 24 hours. This extinction rate is about 1000 times higher than what is generally understood as a “natural” rate. Therefore, a book about the disappearance of such important creatures is quite timely. Because humans live on land and breathe air, it is hard to grasp the true impact that the extinction of sharks and other major sea predators would have on our survival. If Sharks Disappeared introduces basic principles like the food chain, evolution, and natural selection to explain the consequences of an unbalanced ecosystem. The young female character and her parents bring the abstract event of shark extinction closer to home, especially when she is shown gazing across an ocean clogged with toxic algae. The illustrations are friendly (the sharks look like they have smiling faces), not too scientific, and successfully present new scientific concepts. A glossary of terms and further information about sharks can be found after the main text of the book.

Verdict: If Sharks Disappeared is a great classroom resource to supplement various important lessons like climate change, cause and effect, evolution, etc.

September 2017 review by Lillian Curanzy.

Book review: Bravo! Poems about Amazing Hispanics, by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Rafael López

Engle, Margarita. Bravo! Poems about Amazing Hispanics. Illustrated by Rafael López. Godwin Books/Henry Holt and Company, 2017. ISBN 9780805098761. Unpaged. $18.99. Ages 8-12. P7Q9.

Engle uses this beautiful book to bring our attention to a number of Hispanic people who lived in geographic regions that are now part of the US. It isn’t about the most famous Hispanics necessarily, but about people who “faced life’s challenges in creative ways.” Some of these figures include the Cuban poet José Martí, the first woman to pilot a powered aircraft, Aída de Acosta, jazz musician Tito Puente, and curandera (folk healer) Juana Briones. The book is organized chronologically by birthdate, with each person described with an illustration and poem in a spread. The poems are in free verse, and tell each inspirational person’s story in simple but evocative language. I really like the illustration style- it reminds me of political posters from an earlier time (in fact, the illustrator created the Nuestra Voz posters that were used in 2008 during the Obama presidential campaign). López is well known for his use of color and texture that reflects his native Mexico. There is an introductory letter, notes about the each of the individuals in the book, and a list of other amazing Latinos.

VERDICT: This book would be an outstanding addition to any public or school library, and could provide excellent material in a middle school or high school Spanish language classroom.

Engle, Margarita. Bravo! Poemas sobre hispanos extraordinarios. Illustrated by Rafael López. Henry Holt and Company/ Godwin Books, 2017. ISBN 9781250113665. Unpaged. $18.99. Ages 8-12. P7Q9.

I read the Spanish version alongside the English version. My Spanish isn’t good enough to comment on the quality of the poetry in Spanish, but it was a fun exercise to work through each poem. I can imagine the two versions being used side by side in Spanish classes or with Spanish speaking ESL students.

September 2017 review by Carol Schramm.

Book review: Growing Up Pedro, by Matt Taveres

Taveres, Matt. Growing Up Pedro: How the Martinez Brothers Made It from the Dominican Republic All the Way to the Major Leagues. Candlewick Press, 2015. $4.99. ISBN 978-0-7636-9311-4. 39 pages. Ages 6-12. P7Q6.

This book is a delightful picture book biography of baseball player Pedro Martinez. Pedro grows up in poverty in the Dominican Republic. The determination and hard work are details that support the biography yet the importance of family and relationships makes this book a home run.

Verdict: this is would make a good addition to an early reader collection.

May 2017 review by Penny McDermott.

Book review: Ocean Puzzles, by Gareth Moore

Moore, Gareth.  Ocean Puzzles. (Brain Game Treasure Hunts). Hungry Tomato, 2017.  $7.99. ISBN 978-1-5124-1177-5. 32 p. Ages 8-12. P7Q8.

These varied puzzles game my brain a workout. The challenge of each puzzle will depend on each reader’s strengths and weaknesses. Some puzzles took me less than 2 minutes while others were closer to 15 minutes. Youngsters will learn perseverance and stamina.  There are hints and solutions to keep you headed in the right direction. The biggest lesson is to read each question through carefully before attempting to solve.  Many readers will enjoy working out the information to find their position and route to navigate through the ocean waters.

Verdict: I intend to add this and other books from this series to my classroom collection. It is a creative and clever book idea.

May 2017 review by Penny McDermott.