Book review: The Boo-Boos That Changed the World: A True Story about an Accidental Invention (Really!), by Barry Wittenstein, illustrated by Chris Hsu

Wittenstein, Barry. The Boo-Boos That Changed the World: A True Story about an Accidental Invention (Really!). Illustrated by Chris Hsu. Charlesbridge, 2018. Unpaged. $16.99. ISBN 978-1580897457. Ages 5 and up. P9 Q8

The invention of the Band-Aid might not sound like a thrilling read, but this is actually an interesting story based on the true facts about the inventor, Earle Dickson, and how he came to invent, adjust and then mass produce something we have all used. Even adults will learn a fact or two, and there is a little humor in the author continually saying “The End” when the story evolves and continues. The end of the book has an interesting author’s note on the invention, and he also included a time line not only about the inventor’s life, but also other medical inventions created at the same 1920-1930 period.

VERDICT: This was interesting, and I learned a lot about something I have used my whole life. Everyone knows what Band-Aids are, but most of us don’t think about how they came to be. I think many ages will find the story interesting and the illustrations delightful.

January 2020 review by Lynne Wright.

Book review: Last Laughs: Prehistoric Epitaphs, by J. Patrick Lewis and Jane Yolen, illustrated by Jeffrey Stewart Timmins

Lewis, J. Patrick, and Jane Yolen. Last Laughs: Prehistoric Epitaphs. Illus. Jeffrey Stewart Timmins. Charlesbridge, 2017. 32 pgs. $16.99. ISBN: 978-1-58089-706-8. Gr. 2+. P8 Q8

The demise of dinosaurs, some not very well known, are included in chronological order in this book of witty and laughable tributes to those long gone. Each epitaph gives clues to how each dinosaur died. The authors have also included some very basic facts, in italics on each dinosaur. The illustrations are brightly colored and are very humorous and fit the epitaphs well. Some of the poetry is rhyming and others just have a lot of word play.

Verdict: This introduces the dark humor of the epitaphs to young readers in much the same format as the authors’ earlier volume, Last Laughs: Animal Epitaphs. I loved everything about the book and I can’t wait to share it with my middle school age students. It will eventually be placed in an elementary school library.

June 2018 review by Carol Bernardi.

Book review: Write to Me: Letters from Japanese American Children to the Librarian They Left Behind, by Cynthia Grady, illustrated by Amiko Hirao

Grady, Cynthia. Write to Me: Letters from Japanese American Children to the Librarian They Left Behind. Illus. by Amiko Hirao. Charlesbridge, 2018. $16.99. unp. ISBN 978-1-580-89-688-7. Ages 7-10. P4Q7

When Japanese-American children are sent to prison camps during World War II, the librarian of some children went to the train carrying them from their homes and gave them books and postcards they could use to write her. Clara Breed continued her relationship with 30 of these children interned at Poston (AZ)  during the war, sending them more books and postcards as well as art supplies and even visiting them. The librarian at San Diego County Library also wrote articles of protest about their treatment and called for justice. Endpapers provide photographs of the children, and colored-pencil drawings illustrate the narrative. Endnotes give information about the treatment of the Japanese immigrants to the U.S. and Breed’s later life.

Verdict: The narrative soft-pedals the horrific conditions at the camp in the hot desert and racist treatment by white people toward the law-abiding Japanese. The illustrations have a flat affect with no sense of tragedy. The book is an introduction to young readers about a travesty of U.S. history during the 20th century when innocent people were imprisoned because of their heritage, but adults might be more interested in the book than children.

April/May 2018 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Hatching Chicks in Room 6, by Caroline Arnold

Arnold, Caroline. Hatching Chicks in Room 6. Charlesbridge, 2017. Unpaged. $16.99. ISBN:9781580897358. Gr. PreK-2.  P5 Q9

Disclaimer: I am a chicken addict, so my enthusiastic endorsement of this book is probably that of a raging poultrygeist.  There are a lot of picture books that feature chickens these days, but few that are as informational as this book on hatching chicks.  Having taught basic embryology to PK-5th graders, I know there’s a need for a book that is engaging and clearly explains incubation.  While this book doesn’t go into the stages of embryology, the photos and text do a great job of showing the process of hatching eggs in a classroom.  Text sidebars are “eggs” that give more detailed information; it’s evident in how user-friendly this book is that the author worked closely with a classroom educator. Contains FAQ, definitions, list of online and book resources.

March 2018 review by Liz Fox.

Book review: Windows, by Julia Denos, illustrated by E.B. Goodale

Denos, Julia. Windows. Illus. by E.B. Goodale. Candlewick, 2017. $15.99. unp. ISBN 978-0-7636-9035-9. Ages 3-7. P9Q9

In her debut picture book, illustrator Goodale uses ink, watercolor, letterpress, and digital collage to lovingly celebrate neighborhoods of Somerville (MA) through view into lighted windows as the autumn day fades into dark. A child in a red hoodie walks a little white dog as the minimal text muses on the sights before the mother waves to the child and then curls up with the child to read a story.

Verdict: Although the promo material refers to the child as male, the androgynous appearance of the child and lack of gender pronouns does not specify, making the book accessible to both boys and girls, and a child walking a dog is unusual—and delightful—in a picture book. The quiet thoughtful look at the child’s neighborhood encourages imagination about one’s surroundings. A comforting read-aloud or good-night book about discovery.

December 2017 review by Nel Ward

Book review: Nina: Jazz Legend and Civil-Rights Activist Nina Simone, by Alice Brière-Haquet, illustrated by Bruno Liance, translated by Julie Cormier

Brière-Haquet, Alice. Nina: Jazz Legend and Civil-Rights Activist Nina Simone. Illus. by Bruno Liance. Trans. By Julie Cormier. Charlesbridge, 2017. $16.99. unp. ISBN 978-1-58089-827-0. Ages 4-8. P7Q8

This picture book biography of noted black singer, composer, and activist comes from the subject singing her daughter stories of her youth when she first saw a piano with black keys smaller than the white ones, an illustration for the discrimination she suffered throughout most of the 20th century. Nina did not agree that “black people were nothing but half notes on a huge ivory keyboard.” In an early activist move, she refused to play at a concert when she was 12 years old until her mother could stay in the front seat to watch her. In the mid-1940s, blacks were expected to sit in the back.

Verdict: Powerful, soft black and white illustrations of this French import include a double-page spread in which the white people sit and black people must stand behind them. A lovely book with a strong message of equality.

December 2017 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Bertha Takes a Drive: How the Benz Automobile Changed the World, by Jan Adkins

Adkins, Jan. Bertha Takes a Drive: How the Benz Automobile Changed the World. Charlebridge, 2017. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-58089-696-2. Age 6-9. P8Q7

Most young people don’t know that the history of the automobile started in the last part of the 19th century. Behind the luxury Mercedes Benz auto is the Benz Motorwagen, developed in 1888,  when German law prohibited driving the motorized vehicles. An independent woman, the wife of the vehicle’s inventor sneaked out of the house early in one morning with her two oldest children and drove the Motorwagen 60 miles to visit her mother’s home. Colored digital illustrations follow the three of them on their adventure from a variety of perspectives, many of them viewing the journey from heights. Bertha Benz proves to be knowledgeable and competent as she uses a hairpin to clean out the fuel line, uses a garter to wrap a wire, and even invent brake linings from leather. Bonuses are the diagram of the automobile she drove, a detailed explanation of how the internal combustion engine operates, a colorful timeline for “Automobile Evolution,” and a map of their journey.

Verdict: The adventure is well paced and accurate, but the end note could provide more information about the Benz’s lives and less about the struggle to be accurate about the information. The details of the artwork provide much to look at, and the book adds to young readers’ understanding of history.

December 2017 review by Nel Ward.