Robbins, Dean. Margaret and the Moon: How Margaret Hamilton Saved the First Lunar Landing. Illus. by Lucy Knisley. Knopf, 2017. $17.99. unp. ISBN 978-0-399-55185-7. Ages 6-9. P7Q8
Millions of people know the name of Neil Armstrong, the first man who walked on the moon in 1969, but far fewer know the name of the women who made his walk possible. Without her software, the Apollo mission could not have landed. Robbins begins the picture book biography with her love of solving problems and follows her career in science after her father’s encouragement. In the 1950s and 1960s, she experimented with writing code to predict weather and track airplanes before she worked for NASA, developing the steps on flying to the moon. Cartoonish ink illustrations colored in Adobe Photoshop accompany the minimal text that explains a complicated process in a simple fashion. Particularly delightful are the signature huge glasses that Hamilton wears. End papers include black and white photographs of the subject, including the almost six-foot tall stack of her documents of code for the project.
Verdict: The illustrations are inviting, but the text is set in all caps in a font simulating hand printing, making it harder to read. Yet the humor and information in the book make it a must read for young people that fills in missing information about the space program a half century ago, especially in its encouragement for girls to pursue careers in science.
May/June 2017 review by Nel Ward.
Farndon, John. Quacks & Con Artists: The Dubious History of Doctors. Illustrated by Venitia Dean. (The Sickening History of Medicine series) Hungry Tomato, 2016. $19.20. ISBN 9781512415605. 32 pages. Includes glossary and index. Ages 8-14. P4 Q7
The book explores the informative and fascinating history of the medical profession that led the way for the modern medical practices. It gives the reader an appreciation for the current medical practices. With the current developments in research, who knows what will be possible in the future. Illustrations provide a good visual to the text without being too graphic for a young reader. It was interesting, and for a child interested in the medical field would be enjoyable.
Verdict: The book is written well, but its audience may be limited to those already interested in the medical field and/or history.
May 2017 review by Deborah Gwynn.
Don, Lari. The secret of the kelpie. Illustrated by Philip Longson. Picture Kelpies/Floris Books, 2016. Unpaged. $17.95. ISBN 9781782502531. Ages 5-8. P8Q8
In this retelling of a traditional Scottish folk tale, Lari Don gives us the story of brothers and sisters who find a beautiful stray horse and are captured by the kelpie, a fairy shapeshifter, bent on drowning them in the loch. Only the quick thinking of Flora, the youngest sister, saves them from the fairy’s intended evildoing. Longson’s beautiful, haunted illustrations bring the story to life and his transformation of the kelpie from beautiful and majestic to monstrous is perfect.
Verdict: The story and illustrations pair beautifully to convey a traditional haunted and haunting tale. Highly recommended for elementary and public library collections.
November 2016 review by Jane Cothron.
Hatkoff, Craig, Hatkoff, Juliana, Hatkoff, Isabella. Cecil’s Pride : The True Story of a Lion King. Photographs by Brent Stapelkamp. Scholastic Press, 2016. unp. $17.99. ISBN: 978-1-338-03445-5. Gr. 2+. P8 Q8
The world was horrified when they discovered that Cecil the lion had been killed. Guides lured him out of a national park in Africa, he was then shot by a dentist from the United States. The world was shocked as pictures were flashed across the screen of the dentist and his trophy. It was the dark mane of Cecil which made it so easy to identify this magnificent lion. This book uses color photographs to tell the story of Cecil and his family. Cecil’s pride included another male lion, his brother, Jericho, who was part of the family unit. After Cecil was killed, Jericho took over as the leader, or King of the pride.
Verdict: Any school which is studying preservation of endangered animals should have this book included as part of their unit. The book’s theme is on conservation of animals, their protection and how no matter what we do it doesn’t always work.
November 2016 review by Carol Bernardi.
[Editor’s note: The story of Cecil’s Pride centers on the photographs taken by Brent Stapelkamp, photographer and lion researcher with the Oxford University Wildlife Conservation Research Unit that has tracked Cecil and his pride for nine years. This photographic essay focuses on the life of a lion and the family relationships within the pride.]
Swaby, Rachel. Trailblazers: 33 Women in Science Who Changed the World. Delacorte, 2016. $15.99. 195p. ISBN 978-0-399-55396-7. Ages 10-14. P6Q8
Women, largely overlooked, from Russia, Italy, France, Britain, Austria, Germany, and the United States have improved life through their discoveries during the past two centuries. The author divides these vignettes, almost entirely about the women’s scientific work, into chapters on Technology and Invention, Earth and Stars, Health and Medicine, and Biology.
Verdict: Accessible writing and interesting information make the reading inviting, and Swaby has added a baker’s dozen of women scientists in her excellent introductions to each chapter. Detailed bibliographies will invite further exploration into each subject.
January 2017 review by Nel Ward.
[Editor’s note: This appears to be a companion edition to Rachel Swaby’s 2015 Broadway Books title, Headstrong: 52 women who changed science– and the world.]
Mandana, Kavitha. A Pair of Twins. Illus. Nayantara Surendranath. Karadi Tales, 2014. $11.95. 32p. 9788181903020. Ages 7-9. P9Q9
In this feminist book from India, two females—a girl and an elephant—change tradition when Sundari is permitted to be the chief mahout, elephant trainer, who leads Lakshmi in the Dussehra procession celebrating the Hindu festival after her father, the old bull Drona, becomes too ill to perform this service for the king. Despite protests from a male elder, the queen helps Sundari become the first female mahout. Stunningly patterned artwork incorporating Indian designs enhances the narration with its folk story style that includes information about royal life, Hindu culture, gender roles, and elephant care. Highly recommended for all!
April 2016 review by Nel Ward.
Verditti, Robert. Attack of the alien horde. (Miles Taylor and the Golden Cape series, #1) Illustrated by Dusty Higgins. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2015. 299 pgs. ISBN:978-1-4814-0542-3. Gr. 5+. P7 Q9
I have always loved the character, Superman, which I read in comics first and then saw in the movies. This book has a superhero, Gilded, the man with the golden cape. He has helped Earth for a long time but he dies from injuries that he sustains from a fight with the Gaarls, a race that thrives on the disgusting, green snooty slime that they hurl through their noses. Miles Taylor is a witness to the fight and to Gilded’s death. Gilded gives him the golden cape and the task of protecting Earth and its inhabitants. The problem is figuring out how he does anything because Gilded dies before any instructions are given. Taylor has to learn how to navigate his school life with his secret life as Gilded. This is something that any 12 year-old boy would find difficult so he asks Henry, a boy who was in detention with him reading a Gilded comic book, to help him. The book is wonderful and has comic style, black and white illustrations, which draw the reader further into the story.
January 2016 review by Carol Bernardi.