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.

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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: 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.

Book review: Come with Me, by Holly M. McGhee, illustrated by Pascal Lemaître

McGhee, Holly M. Come With Me. Illustrated by Pascal Lemaître. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2017. $17.99. ISBN 9781524739058. UNP. Ages 4-10. P8 Q8

A young girl is frightened by the daily news. She is disheartened by the hatred and violence she sees taking place all over the world. After divulging her fears to her parents, they give her, and readers, a set of simple tools to make the world a better place. Come With Me is a lesson on the often overlooked perceptiveness of young children. It reiterates the importance of teaching peace and acceptance by example. Parenting is the main focus of this book, but it empowers all adults to take a more thoughtful approach to certain behaviors. It also emphasizes the importance of mindfulness in children and that “your part matters, too” in terms of impact on the world as a whole. While the call to action of this book may be a tad simplistic, it is a good start to a necessary conversation.

Verdict: This book is a successful conversation starter for parents and teachers who are willing to take on certain discussions in the classroom. I highly recommend it.

October 2017 review by Lillian Curanzy.

Book review: Bulldozer Helps Out, by Candace Fleming, illustrated by Eric Rohmann

Fleming, Candace. Bulldozer Helps Out. Illustrated by Eric Rohmann. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2017. $17.99. ISBN 9781481458948. UNP. Ages 4-7. P8 Q8

Bulldozer wants to help, but is smaller and younger than all the other construction equipment at the worksite. After being told that he isn’t strong enough to be helpful, Bulldozer finds an important job that he is perfectly suited for. This truck tale is traditional in its use of action words (lifting, stirring, scooping..) and sound effects; but the ending of this story about anthropomorphic construction equipment questions conventional understandings of strength and what it means to be tough. The book is illustrated by Caldecott Award winning artist Eric Rohmann in his easily recognizable block print style with full page artwork and bold black lines.

Verdict: This book will be a popular addition to public libraries and is a great read-aloud book for the classroom. Books about trucks and heavy equipment are well-liked by young children and this book’s take on traditionally male-associated values gives it a modern edge. I highly recommend it.

October 2017 review by Lillian Curanzy.

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.

Book review: The Antlered Ship, by Dashka Slater, illustrated by the Fan Brothers, Terry and Eric Fan

Slater, Dashka. The Antlered Ship. Illustrated by the Fan Brothers, Terry Fan and Eric Fan. Beach Lane Books, 2017. $17.99. ISBN 9781481451604. Unpaged. Ages 4-7. P8Q9

A philosophical young fox joins three hungry deer and a flock of pigeons on a boat with an antlered figurehead, battling storms and pirates on an epic voyage to reach a land of succulent grasses and sweet trees.  Along the way, the animals learn to cooperate in the difficult tasks of sailing a ship. Digitally colored, delicate graphite and ballpoint pen drawings perfectly illustrate this story of derring-do and soul searching, bracketed by maps of the imaginary world on the end papers.

Verdict: I truly enjoyed the adventure story and the realistic portrayal of the animals, even though they were acting in what would usually be human roles.  For instance, to avoid eating his shipmates, the fox cooked everyone a meal.  Highly recommended for preschool, elementary, and public library collections. 

October 2017 review by Jane Cothron.