Book review: Bee: A Peek-Through Picture Book, text by Patricia Hegarty, illustrated by Britta Teckentrup

Hegarty, Patricia. Bee: A Peek-Through Picture Book. illus. Britta Teckentrup. Doubleday Press, 2016. unp. $14.99. ISBN: 978-1-5247-1526-7. Gr. K+. P8 Q8

A bee flies through the flowers collecting and redepositing pollen as it goes. The bee disappears as there are so many flowers that one bee cannot do it alone. The bee arrives at the hive with the message and bees then fly to the flowers, to help finish the job. The simple rhyming text takes the reader through the process of how bees help pollinate our earth. This peek-through book lets the reader see behind and ahead to where the bee is going. The illustrations are of flowers in both the wild and a garden setting.

Verdict: A wonderful book to use in teaching about bees and the process of pollination. The bee is one of our world’s most important species in nature.

July 2018 review by Carol Bernardi.

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Book review: How Sweet the Sound: The Story of ‘Amazing Grace’

Weatherford, Carole Boston. How Sweet the Sound: The Story of ‘Amazing Grace.’ Illus. by Frank Morrison. Atheneum, 2018. $17.99. unp. ISBN 978-1-4814-7206-7. Ages 7-10. P5Q7

Rhyming couplets follow the story of the famous hymn from John Newton’s youth when he thanks God for his life after a violent storm at sea. After Newton’s mother died when he is seven years old, he went to sea with his father at the age of 11, and later served on slaving ships. Although the book claims that he “is reborn” after the near sinking of the Greyhound in 1748, Newton continued working on slavers for another seven years and didn’t renounce slavery for another 40 years. Weatherford addresses President Obama’s singing of “Amazing Grace” with the congregation at the funeral of a church-shooting victim, and endnotes give other times when the hymn was sung, including by the Cherokees on the Trail of Tears when they are forced from their land in the South.

Verdict: The oil paintings are magnificent, but the close-ups of Newton’s face don’t ring true, starting from the first one which makes him look much older than his 23 years. The narrative also attempts to make his conversion against slavery much quicker than reality.

April/May 2018 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Grandma Gatewood Hikes the Appalachian Trail, by Jennifer Thermes

Thermes, Jennifer. Grandma Gatewood Hikes the Appalachian Trail. Abrams. 2018. 48p. ISBN 978-1-4197-2839-6. Ages 6-9. P8Q9

In 1955, 67-year-old Emma Gatewood told her children she was going for a walk and hiked the Appalachian Trail developed during the 1920s and 1930s so that people could walk the 2,190 miles from Georgia to Maine. Having learned about the “walk” from a National Geographic magazine she read in a doctor’s office, she carried a blanket, rain coat, and plastic shower curtain, otherwise taking only what she wore. On the way she wore out four pairs of Converse sneakers. The author treats her life of domestic abuse lightly as she raised 11 children, instead emphasizing her grit and joy in her accomplishments during her later life. The friendliness of strangers helped the amazing woman as she demonstrated that success comes from putting one foot ahead of the other. Narrative and watercolor/colored pencil illustrations show the beautiful skies of day and night, the hurricane, and the rivers she forded on her journey, and intermittent double-spread hand-drawn maps show her progress.

Verdict: The cartoon-style illustrations give a feeling of movement and adventure, and the story of Grandma’s walk seems almost surreal. Reading about her is a true delight, especially the back material that tells about her taking the trip again—when she was 76 years old. She also walked the 2,000 miles of the Oregon trail, starting at Independence, Missouri. This would be a great book to share with classes.

April/May 2018 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Brave Jane Austen: Reader, Writer, Author, Rebel, by Lisa Pliscou, illustrated by Jen Corace

Pliscou, Lisa. Brave Jane Austen: Reader, Writer, Author, Rebel. Illus. by Jen Corace. Christy Ottaviano/Holt, 2018. $17.99. unp. ISBN 978-1-62779-643-9. Ages 7-9. P5Q5

The 200th anniversary of a noted author has produced a number of biographies for children, and this one covers the usual ground about her life and her hardships in becoming a published author in a time when women were overlooked.

Verdict: Illustrations of acrylic, gouache, ink, and pencil fit the historical period with the high-waisted Empire dresses, but the flat images of characters have round faces with round pink circles on their cheeks, much like ragdolls. The lack of excitement in Austen’s life does not lend itself to wide readership among children. Libraries can keep their copies of Ordinary, Extraordinary Jane Austen (Deborah Hopkinson and Qin Leng).

April/May 2018 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: The Brilliant Deep: Rebuilding the World’s Coral Reefs, by Kate Messner, illustrated by Matthew Forsythe

Messner, Kate. The Brilliant Deep: Rebuilding the World’s Coral Reefs. Illus. by Matthew Forsythe. Chronicle, 2018. $17.99. unp. ISBN 978-1-4521-3350-8. Ages 5-8. P9Q9

“It starts with one.” Those are the first and last words in this biography of Ken Nedimyer and the story of how he brought back coral reefs by transplanting staghorn corals grown in his personal live rock farm. Messner explains how one coral gamete can begin a colony in a time that humans are rapidly destroying the coral reefs around the world. Forsythe’s bold grainy block illustrations highlight Nedimyer’s accomplishments in an underwater community in reviving part of a disappearing environment.

Verdict: The details of the narrative, such as comparing the glue used to attach the corals to “the size of a Hershey Kiss,” create a vivid feel for his work. The message, “it starts with one,” can encourage all young readers that they are not helpless.

April/May 2018 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Crescent Moons and Pointed Minarets: A Muslim Book of Shapes, by Hena Khan, illustrated by Merdokht Amini

Khan, Hena. Crescent Moons and Pointed Minarets: A Muslim Book of Shapes. Illus. by Merdokht Amini. Chronicle Books, 2018. $17.99. unp. ISBN 978-1-4521-5541-8. Ages 6-8. P8Q10

Four-line poems on each two-page spread include one shape, such as cone and cube, that go from simple to more advanced; one word from the Islam religion, for example, wudu (ritual handwashing) and salaam (the greeting of “peace”); and depictions of Islamic art, architecture, and culture in a different country. An author’s note explains the importance of shapes and geometry in Islamic art and architecture because Islam prevents depictions of living things. The glossary of Islamic terms gives a pronunciation guide.

Verdict: This beautiful book, calling for close examination over and over, is an excellent companion for the author’s and illustrator’s Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns (2012), which featured a Western Muslim family.

April/May 2018 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: A Lady Has the Floor: Belva Lockwood Speaks Out for Women’s Rights, by Kate Hannigan, illustrated by Alison Jay

Hannigan, Kate. A Lady Has the Floor: Belva Lockwood Speaks Out for Women’s Rights. Illus. by Alison Jay. Calkins Creek, 2018. $17.95. unp. ISBN 978-1-62979-453-2. Ages 9-12. P5Q7

As one of the first female lawyers in the U.S. and the first to present to the Supreme Court, Lockwood ran for president in 1884 and 1888 when women weren’t even allowed to vote. Her life was filled with fighting against the status quo for women, for example protesting her teacher’s salary that was half that of a man’s wages and her struggle to take “men’s courses” of math, science, and politics” in college. She even had to demand her graduation diploma from the U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant after her law school refused to give diplomas to women. Endnotes include a timeline not only of Lockwood’s life but also important events in women’s rights up to 2016.

Verdict: The artwork, oil paint with crackle varnish, makes the individuals look like antique dolls, and the narrative may not be exciting to younger readers. For larger collections.

April/May 2018 review by Nel Ward.