Book review: Wonderful Winter: All Kinds of Winter Facts and Fun, by Bruce Goldstone

Goldstone, Bruce. Wonderful Winter: All Kinds of Winter Facts and Fun. Henry Holt and Co., 2016. Unpaged. $17.99. ISBN 9780805099812. Ages 4-8. P7Q6

This book is full of interesting information, challenging and useful vocabulary and beautiful winter photographs.  There are spreads about the sights, sounds, tactile sensations, shapes, tastes, and emotions associated with winter and a lot of interesting information about how icicles form, how animals survive cold temperatures, about hibernation, etc. The last pages give ideas for winter related activities. While I enjoyed the book, I think that the information is unevenly presented- some spreads have simple objects and easy tasks (like “What do you see that is shaped like a triangle?”), and other spreads have lots of detailed information, like an explanation of why snow looks white on the ground. So, it’s not easy to say what age level would get the most out of this book.

VERDICT: While this book wouldn’t work well as a read-aloud, I can see parents checking it out and using parts of it with the little ones, and the more complicated sections with older kids.

February 2018 review by Carol Schramm.


Book review: If You Were the Moon, by Laura Purdie Salas, illustrated by Jaime Kim

Salas, Laura Purdie. If You Were the Moon. Illus. Jaime Kim. Millbrook Press, 2017. unp. $19.99. ISBN: 978-1-4677-8009-4. Gr. 1+. P8 Q9

A young girl, going to sleep looks at the moon and says, “I wish I could do exactly nothing, just like you.” The moon answers the young girl with rhyming text, explaining all the jobs it does. Corner brackets on each page include facts about the moon. The vivid, rich illustrations, done in acrylic paints and then enhanced with digital techniques, will appeal to all who read this book.

Verdict: WOW!!!!! If you are planning a unit on the moon this book could be used as an introdution.

January 2018 review by Carol Bernardi.

Book review: Revolutionary Rogues: John André and Benedict Arnold, by Selene Castrovilla, illustrated by John O’Brien

Castrovilla, Selene. Revolutionary Rogues: John André and Benedict Arnold. Illus. by John O’Brien. Calkins Creek, 2017. $17.95. unp. ISBN 978-1-62979-341-2. Ages 7-10. P7Q7

Benedict Arnold is a familiar term used for traitor, but André is much lesser known. Together, however, the two of them—one a British spy and the other an American hero—almost stopped George Washington which would have changed the course of history. Their failure led both of them into ruin and Washington to victory at West Point and the leader of the new United States of America. Arnold is an example of how a person who feels denied of recognition can turn on his country to find fame in another way.

Verdict: Most children’s books about the Revolutionary War are about heroes who won America from the British; this one gives a perspective of those on the other side. Fine-lined pen and ink covered with watercolors are striking for scenes, but the humans have a wooden feel that distracts from the illustrations. Yet the comparison of the two men in their personal drives and professional careers is well delineated with elements of drama in their adventures. Included are an afterword, timelines, an extensive bibliography and key places to visit. A companion to Castrovilla’s Revolutionary Friends about George Washington and Lafayette.

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.

Book review: How the Cookie Crumbled: The True (and Not-So-True) Stories of the Invention of the Chocolate Chip Cookie, by Gilbert Ford

Ford, Gilbert. How the Cookie Crumbled: The True (and Not-So-True) Stories of the Invention of the Chocolate Chip Cookie. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2017. $17.99. ISBN 9781481450676. Unpaged. Ages 4-10. P7 Q8

Have you ever wondered how the chocolate chip cookie was created? In 1930, at the beginning of the Great Depression, Ruth Wakefield and her husband, Kenneth, opened a restaurant, naming it the Toll House Inn. There are three versions of how Ruth created the chocolate chip cookie. The cookie was a success and Nestle Chocolate requested the recipe from Ruth. The author’s note at the end of the book provides more information about the chocolate chip cookie and the chocolate chip cookie recipe. This book is informative and interesting. I didn’t know the history of the chocolate chip cookie and the author’s format of including history along with speculation, made it intriguing.

Verdict: This book will appeal to children and adults alike, a great addition to any library. I love the ending, “And that is how the cookie crumbled!”

December 2017 review by Tami Harris

Book review: Many: The Diversity of Life on Earth, by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Emily Sutton

Davies, Nicola. Many: The Diversity of Life on Earth. Illustrated by Emily Sutton. Candlewick Press, 2017. Unpaged. $15.99. ISBN 9780763694838. Ages 5-8. P8Q8

This book is a follow up to Tiny Creatures, The World of Microbes by Davies and Sutton. It is an accessible and engaging beginning science book that talks about the diversity of life on earth in clear, simple language that is appropriate for young readers. The author and artist help readers see the huge variety of creatures, as well as the interdependence between various living things. Other areas of focus are patterns in nature, conservation, and extinction of species. The watercolor illustrations have a folk art feeling to them and are very colorful and fun to look at.

VERDICT: I think this book will be a good addition to the children’s collection at my library, and I expect it to be popular with parents of young children.

December 2017 review by Carol Schramm.