This book has not only an Ohio connection, but a Dayton, Ohio connection, which is one reason I appreciated it so much. Kid here have heard of Paul Laurence Dunbar, are taught about this fellow high schooler of Orville and Wilbur Wright, can visit his home just west of downtown, and can probably even recite some of his poetry. (Most adult readers will be familiar with his line from Sympathy, "I know what the caged bird feels, alas!")
The voice of this book is distinct, reminiscent of a grandmother sharing Dunbar's story. There wouldn’t be a story without the inclusion of some of the poems written by Dunbar, and since his poems couldn’t tell his entire story either, this is a wonderful combination of both.
Primitive black and white illustrations complement and expand the text. While there is no photograph of Paul Laurence Dunbar, the melancholy acrylic and pencil illustrations seem to match the poetry better than photographs could have. Also, graphics on each chapter title page provide hints of what is to come. The book has a nice feel and size and I liked the design and distinctive title.
Supplemental material includes a Chronology, Timeline, Index, Source Notes, and Bibliography. Side Trips on the Research Journey by chapter and acknowledgements round it out. Derby has contacted Dunbar experts for this book's research.
Although the fictional grandma voice seems authentic, it creates a blurry line in terms of what is fiction and what is true, an issue that pops up more and more often with current "creative" nonfiction. An author's notes explains how Derby handled factual debates throughout the telling, which to me were very clear as I read it.
This would be especially appealing to the African American children in our community who finally have an accessible book about Dunbar, and a biography about this local hero which also fits into the 100-page biography requirement (ha!). But I would highly recommend this title to readers from all over, not just Dayton, interested in poetry and dialect as well.
Clarion Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Like the book above, this book also has a Dayton, Ohio connection to the Wright Brothers and the front pages even include a quote from Wilbur Wright.
This book provides an extremely interesting and memorable history of flying automobiles and their designers -in chronological order, as outlined in the table of contents- that left me cheering for their eventual success the entire way (especially during the period before our current road system was as well developed as it has become) because, really, who doesn’t want a flying car? The writing is captivating. The author mentions in his author's note that he tried to convey the enthusiasm of the inventors, and I think he was successful. This was such a joy to read and remained in my mind long after I finished, and I think kids would find it fascinating as well.
Chapters explain the positives and negatives of each design, and what was happening historically for it not to catch on, for example (p. 34) "...the few drivers who could afford an expensive, fashionable ride during the Great Depression wanted the heavy chrome and rich leather of a luxury car, not a three-wheel wingless Whatsit, no matter how sleek it was..." The name of the car being described is listed on the bottom, right hand next to the page number, which makes for easy searching. Quotations are shown in italics.
The cover is an attention-grabber, depicting a flying car on the front. The paper cover is more detailed than the hard cover underneath which shows only the flying car. The back paper cover shows the drawings to a 4D Triangular Framed Auto-Airplane - a really cute design for a flying car.
Based on the author's bibliography note, this may well be a definitive book on the subject. Other supplemental material includes Contents, Author's Note, Glossary, Source Notes by chapter and page, Acknowledgments, Picture Credits, Index, and the author's research process.
This book talks about a time when even cars were a new invention, so combining the idea of flight with driving would seem perfectly reasonable. I think it gives some indication why each failed to catch on, and although new designs for "skycars" are currently underway, and the dream is not dead, the reader has a better understanding of the roadblocks (pardon the pun.) This will be appealing to a wide range of kids.
Susan Goldman Rubin
Abrams Books for Young Readers
How can this hot pink cover not catch your attention? This signature color of fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli runs throughout the book creating a distinctive design element. The visual presentation is gorgeous. Large color photographs with captions showcase her designs, with her quotes enlarged throughout the large print, producing a book so beautiful it’s worthy of the coffee table. The paper cover is finished in entirely pink, while the hard cover works equally well in black and white with a pink title. The inside flaps are striped pink, page borders and accent pages are in hot pink. Pink print is used for captions and by the first letter on a leading paragraph. The back matter is printed on pink paper. You get the idea. No one can miss the color this designer made famous.
It’s packed full of documentation including an epilogue, author's note, lists of places to see her works, her fashion firsts, artworks inspiring to her and that she inspired, bibliography, source notes, image credits, and index. (One error was found when the year 1976 was listed as a dater for attending her daughter's wedding. It should have been 1973. Schiaparelli was dead by 1976.)
I am not sure I've ever read or even seen another book about a fashion designer for children. It's not quite long enough for a biography report (only 56 pages) but will provide plenty of supplemental information. With fashion design a current hot topic with television shows like Project Runway and Fashion Star, this will be very appealing to young wannabe designers who can follow the stubborn and determined girl reach her dream of leaving her mark on the fashion world.
Larry Dane Brimner
The cover of this book is so appealing, so right off the bat kids will be attracted to it and want to pick it up. I like that there is some texture to it and that Hatfield has a glow giving a wizard look. Then, the idea of a rain wizard. Wow! What a fascinating story. Someone really made it rain? But was he a scientist or con man?
The book design is one of the strengths including large, relevant, high-quality photographs that cover a 2-page spread, with large accompanying captions. It has a nice layout - the left side of each chapter is a photograph, right side has the title in large print with the chapter number highlighted in the top right corner. A large print quote or text is inserted inside each chapter. And there is generous white space.
The book is fully documented with For More Information books/films/music/websites, Source Notes by chapter and page number, Index, Picture Credits, and Author's Note(talks about research contradictions). The primary sources are great.
I do wish the author had done more research about the science (consulting experts, etc.) to figure out if he was a con artist or not, perhaps follow up on some clues about the odiferous nature of the process. It is curious that no one else has ever figured out Hatfield's recipe. Unless it was all a complete con. The reader can decide for himself. Or perhaps it would make a good science fair project for some curious student.
Buzz Aldrin with Marianne J. Dyson
National Geographic Kids
With Mars in the news so much, and the very real possibility of going there to live, this book provides excellent descriptions of exactly what needs to be done for that to happen. By the end you realize Buzz Aldrin really is a rocket scientist! It begins with a captivating cover and includes some really fabulous activities that enhance the topic. It is organized as if the reader is starting here on Earth, then traveling and approaching Mars, to the time when a habitat is built. There is an enormous air of authority coming from Buzz Aldrin. Everything is explained in an easy-to-understand manner. The maps of Mars, the colorful illustrations and photos, and the timelines (especially for making Mars green) makes this packed with useful information for the very specific task of making a home on Mars. It seems that every detail of such a mission has been considered and answered.
Supportive features include a Table of Contents, Book and Websites listed for further study, Glossary, Quotation Credits, Photo and Image Credits, Index, and Afterword. The book is chock full of fabulous activities to try (p. 18-19 - activity demonstrates how Earth and Mars circle the sun), timeline of Mars exploration (p. 48-49), map of Mars (p. 50-51), timeline for making Mars green (p. 88-89), and more that a Children's Librarian like me would love for program extensions. In addition, there are many useful additional graphics (p.10-11, solar system illustration shows where Mars is; p.12 - items you won't need on Mars, p. 28-29 - map of canals on Mars). This would be useful as a teacher's guide too, for the science curriculum and STEM. An introduction and conclusion are also included.
This book has an Ohio connection since author Marianne Dyson who grew up in Canton, OH .
The publication timing is unfortunate since we've gotten more information about Mars, such as water being present, since it was published. But more and more information is coming back all the time that will constantly change what we know about Mars. In the meantime, I highly recommend future scientists and astronauts reading this one.
This was a book that, as I was reading, kept thinking how much would appeal to kids. The text is very engaging, the story suspenseful, and the idea of spies, Jesse James, Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War all wrapped up into one is intriguing. The prologue immediately grabs the reader's attention and shows Pinkerton's skills as a spy. Pinkerton’s agency was a precursor to the Secret Service, and his story was very interesting to me as background for what turned into a very successful business that still exists today. It was easy-to-read, included lots of visuals (seeing a picture of Pinkerton with Lincoln together blew my mind!), and followed the story of Pinkerton from his beginning days as a spy and later as an outlaw hunter in chronological order.
Supplemental information includes Source Notes, Index, Contents, and list of The Players which I found myself referring to again and again. They included: The Pinkerson Detective Agency, The Union, The Rogues' Gallery - The Reno Brothers Gang, The James-Younger Gang, The Confederacy, The Baltimore Plotters, and Border Ruffians/Proslavery.
This book should be very appealing to kids. I see it attracting a wide range of readers including those interested in the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln, Spies/Detectives, True Life stories, train robberies, outlaws, and action/adventure stories.