First reviews for BE A CHANGEMAKER


BE A CHANGEMAKER coverI’ve had great feed­back from friends all along (you know who you are–thank you!), but I’ve been anx­ious­ly await­ing that first third-par­ty judge­ment of BE A CHANGEMAKER: HOW TO START SOMETHING THAT MATTERS. The first pro­fes­sion­al reviews feel huge to me, kind of “make or break” moments, where the tone gets set for all that may fol­low for that par­tic­u­lar book. I doubt that’s actu­al­ly true, as most review­ers prob­a­bly pride them­selves on bold­ly stat­ing their own opin­ions no mat­ter what oth­ers before them have said, but it sure feels that way me. If noth­ing else, you can always point back at those first pos­i­tive reviews if sub­se­quent reviews are less than favor­able, right? So, you can imag­ine my huge sigh of relief when that first major pro­fes­sion­al review land­ed in my inbox, and it was­n’t com­plete­ly dreadful!
For me, the first one to come in was from Kirkus, some­what noto­ri­ous for not pan­der­ing to authors’ frag­ile egos. I pre­pared myself for the worst and opened the email. If you’d like to read their full review, click here, but here’s an excerpt:

“Teens look­ing to make a dif­fer­ence will find inspi­ra­tion as well as real-world strate­gies for real­iz­ing their dreams of being the change they want to see in the world.… Inspi­ra­tional as well as prac­ti­cal.
Kirkus ReviewsKirkus header

That one was soon fol­lowed by a sec­ond pos­i­tive review, from Com­pass Book Rat­ings. Their full review can be read here, but here are some quotes from it:

“Thor­ough, com­plete, orga­nized, on-target–pick an adjec­tive, because they all apply in this case.…
A superb ref­er­ence book that should be a sta­ple of libraries, school coun­selors, and any­one who rubs shoul­ders with young people.”
Com­pass Book Ratings

I’m hon­est­ly grate­ful to any­one who takes the time to read and review the book, regard­less of his or her opin­ion of it, but it is extreme­ly encour­ag­ing to have great reviews like this under my belt mov­ing for­ward. Thank you, Kirkus! Thank you, Com­pass Book Ratings!


Facts First! Nonfiction Monday

Pub­lished by Mims House
ISBN-10: 1629440019, ISBN-13: 978–1629440019

Dar­cy Pat­ti­son and Kit­ty Harvill have teamed up again, and I could­n’t be hap­pi­er with the result. You might remem­ber when I reviewed their pre­vi­ous col­lab­o­ra­tion, WISDOM, THE MIDWAY ALBATROSS, here.
Unlike Wis­dom, the main char­ac­ter in ABAYOMI,  THE BRAZILIAN PUMA, is a mam­mal, a feline, not a bird. Unlike Wis­dom, Abay­o­mi lives in South Amer­i­ca, in Brazil, not on an island in the North Pacif­ic Ocean. Unlike Wis­dom, Abay­o­mi is a baby, an orphan, not a wise, old moth­er. Yet their sto­ries have much in common.

Read more

STEM Friday review: WHY IS MILK WHITE?

Why Is Milk White cover

by Alexa Coel­ho & Simon Quellen Field
Chica­go Review Press
Jan­u­ary 1, 2013
288 pages

Did you (or any chil­dren in your life) ever won­der how soap works, why onions make you cry, or how bad it is for you to breathe in hair­spray? 11-year-old Alexa Coel­ho did, so she pulled togeth­er these and almost 200 oth­er ques­tions about her favorite sub­ject, chem­istry, and asked sci­ence writer Simon Quellen Field to write up the answers. This book is the result.
Alexa did a great job of com­ing up with a huge col­lec­tion of spe­cif­ic, rel­e­vant ques­tions that today’s kids (and adults) are sure to be inter­est­ed in, and Simon did an equal­ly great job answer­ing them in clear, easy-to-under­stand expla­na­tions. It’s fun to read straight through or to use as a ref­er­ence when­ev­er you come across some­thing inter­est­ing that you want to know more about. The book also has some nice non­fic­tion fea­tures like a detailed table of con­tents, spe­cial sec­tions with hands-on projects for young chemists (and often an adult helper), and a glos­sary of terms.
Unfor­tu­nate­ly, there are a few things miss­ing here. First, I would real­ly love to see an index in a book like this. It’s near­ly impos­si­ble to find the answer to the tit­u­lar ques­tion, for exam­ple. I only found ref­er­ence to it in a dif­fer­ent ques­tion about why hair con­di­tion­er is white, which, obvi­ous­ly, isn’t in the food sec­tion. Sec­ond, I would have liked to have seen some advice about where to find the ingre­di­ents for some of the projects. Have you pur­chased any muri­at­ic acid late­ly? Final­ly, I wish it had clear­ly stuck to chem­istry ques­tions, or at least acknowl­edged when it was depart­ing from them. Some, such as “Why is the sky blue?”, stray pret­ty far afield into oth­er areas of science.
Still, I think the good­ness here far out­weighs the flaws, and mid­dle-school sci­en­tists all the way through curi­ous adults will learn a lot about sci­ence while enjoy­ing this book.

It’s STEM Fri­day! Check out the STEM Fri­day blog for more STEM book reviews.
(STEM is Science, Tech­nol­o­gy, Engi­neer­ing, and Math­e­mat­ics)

Dis­claimer: I received a review copy from the pub­lish­er in exchange for a fair and hon­est review.

Cybils nonfiction picture book roundup #2

My fel­low judges and I are still hard at work try­ing to final­ize our round one short­list for the Cybils non­fic­tion pic­ture book cat­e­go­ry. It’s a dif­fi­cult task because there are so many great books this year! Here are some reviews of some of my per­son­al favorites (Note: I had many, MANY favorites this year). I enjoyed and would rec­om­mend all of these.

LITTLE DOG LOST : THE TRUE STORY OF A BRAVE DOG NAMED BALTIC by Môni­ca Car­ne­si (Nan­cy Paulsen Books/Penguin)
This is the true sto­ry of a name­less dog seen float­ing on a piece of ice down a riv­er in Poland. Ini­tial attempts to save the dog fail, and he is washed out to sea. For­tu­nate­ly, the crew onboard a research ves­sel sees him and final­ly suc­ceeds in res­cu­ing the dog and nurs­ing him back to health. The sto­ry is told in sim­ple but engag­ing text with delight­ful illus­tra­tions. I think kids and dog lovers of all ages will love this book. I know I did!

NORTH : THE AMAZING STORY OF ARCTIC MIGRATION by Nick Dow­son, illus­trat­ed by Patrick Ben­son (Can­dlewick)
This beau­ti­ful book is firm­ly on my list of all-time favorite non­fic­tion pic­ture books. Rather than talk about why ani­mals migrate south for the win­ter, this book looks at the flip side: why and how they come back from all over the world to live in the Arc­tic the rest of year. It presents a wide vari­ety of ani­mals, includ­ing many dif­fer­ent kinds of land mam­mals, birds, whales, and fish. The art­work is stun­ning, the text is both fac­tu­al and lyri­cal, and the lay­out max­i­mizes the effect on each on every page. This is about as per­fect a nature book as I could imag­ine. High­ly recommended!

This is anoth­er beau­ti­ful book by Can­dlewick. What I enjoyed most about this book is that the love the author has for his sub­ject comes through on every page, in both the text and the illus­tra­tions. Even if you’re not a big base­ball fan (which, admit­ted­ly, I’m not), there is still a lot to love about this book, espe­cial­ly Ted Williams’ admirable per­se­ver­ance and ded­i­ca­tion to his sport. The author’s note explains that Williams wasn’t per­fect, which makes him even more human. There’s also a bib­li­og­ra­phy and, for true base­ball fans, a detailed table of Williams’ career stats.

EGGS 1, 2, 3: WHO WILL THE BABIES BE? by Janet Half­mann, illus­trat­ed by Bet­sy Thomp­son (Blue Apple)
I thought this was one of the stand-out books for younger kids, teach­ing num­ber recog­ni­tion and count­ing as well as intro­duc­ing a vari­ety of dif­fer­ent ani­mals that hatch from eggs and what those eggs look like. The text is appro­pri­ate­ly sim­ple but descrip­tive and inter­est­ing, with the repeat­ed ques­tion, “Who will the babies be?” and a fold-out page pro­vid­ing the answer for each num­ber 1–10. The col­lage art­work gives the pages a rich, three-dimen­sion­al look and adds tons of visu­al inter­est. My only com­plaint with this book is that I don’t think the num­bers match how many eggs the ani­mals might real­ly have (nine frog eggs, for exam­ple), so it’s a bit mis­lead­ing in that regard, but it does such a won­der­ful job of achiev­ing its oth­er goals that I’m will­ing to let that detail slide.

A LEAF CAN BE… by Lau­ra Pur­die Salas, illus­trat­ed by Vio­le­ta Dabi­ja (Millbrook/Lerner)
This is a decep­tive­ly sim­ple, but real­ly quite inge­nious, rhyming poem about all of the dif­fer­ent things a leaf can do or be used for through­out the year. The glow­ing illus­tra­tions pro­vide the per­fect accom­pa­ni­ment as well as an expla­na­tion of each line of the poem, plus there’s a sec­tion at the end of the book with even more details. I think young kids will love this book and it will open their eyes to a whole new appre­ci­a­tion of the nature all around them. Well done!
Dis­claimer: All of these books were obtained from my amaz­ing local pub­lic library system. 

2012 Cybils Nonfiction Picture Book report #1

Phew! Now that I got my revi­sion done and sent in, I can get back to read­ing Cybils nom­i­nees in the non­fic­tion pic­ture book cat­e­go­ry that I am judg­ing. Last year I wrote up longer reviews of only a few of the Cybils nom­i­nees. This year I’m going to try to write many more, but short­er, reviews. Rather than offer com­pre­hen­sive reviews, the goal will be to cap­ture my ini­tial impres­sions and thoughts. So, here comes the first batch!

BALLOONS OVER BROADWAY by Melis­sa Sweet (Houghton Mifflin)
This is a won­der­ful book that should appeal to all kinds of kids, across a wide age range, and with many dif­fer­ent inter­ests. The art­work is stun­ning. The sto­ry of Tony Sarg and the begin­nings of the Macy’s Thanks­giv­ing Day Parade pup­pets is one that need­ed to be told, and this book tells it art­ful­ly, illus­trat­ing the man’s cre­ativ­i­ty as well as hard work and ded­i­ca­tion. Enter­tain­ing, inspir­ing, and educational—all rolled into one beau­ti­ful package.

BROTHERS AT BAT by Audrey Ver­nick (Clar­i­on)
This is the true sto­ry of the Acer­ra fam­i­ly and their 12-mem­ber all-broth­er base­ball team. Base­ball fans espe­cial­ly will love this heart­felt telling of the family’s tra­vails and tri­umphs, both on the field and off, but the expert­ly told fam­i­ly sto­ry offers some­thing for every­one. The text and art work togeth­er beau­ti­ful­ly to bring the his­tor­i­cal peri­od to life.

A PLACE FOR BATS by Melis­sa Stew­art (Peachtree)
Okay, I have to admit that I have a bit of a bat pho­bia. On a ratio­nal lev­el, I know they’re help­ful and I’m glad they’re out there, but I real­ly don’t like hav­ing to think about them. Stew­art does an excel­lent job of rais­ing aware­ness about the impor­tance of bats as well as offer­ing ways peo­ple can help them thrive. The fas­ci­nat­ing illus­tra­tions are real­is­tic and not “cute-ified,” which did make me squirm a lit­tle, but Stewart’s text com­pen­sates by cre­at­ing sym­pa­thy for the crea­tures. Even as an adult read­er, I learned a lot about bats. This book would make a good sci­ence read-aloud for preschool and ear­ly ele­men­tary grades. And maybe those kids won’t devel­op an irra­tional bat pho­bia like mine!

ANNIE AND HELEN by Deb­o­rah Hop­kin­son (Schwartz and Wade)
I love Deb­o­rah Hopkinson’s work, and the sto­ry of Helen Keller and her teacher, Annie Sul­li­van, has always fas­ci­nat­ed me, so I was excit­ed to see this one in the nom­i­na­tion list. It didn’t dis­ap­point. Told spar­ing­ly and through pri­ma­ry sources, it focus­es on the ear­ly rela­tion­ship between the two women and on Sullivan’s strug­gles to break through Keller’s bar­ri­ers. The art adds a beau­ti­ful, his­tor­i­cal feel to the text, and the book ends on a tri­umphant note with Keller’s first writ­ten let­ter home.

BON APPETIT! by Jessie Hart­land (Schwartz and Wade)
This is a deli­cious biog­ra­phy of Julia Child! Although a tad over­whelm­ing and busy at first glance, the art and text quick­ly draw read­ers in and hook them, and read­ing it becomes a reward­ing adven­ture. Hart­land uses ener­gy, humor, and com­pas­sion to fol­low Child’s life sto­ry from child­hood on in a style that mim­ics her per­son­al­i­ty and how she lived her life. Jam-packed with facts and enter­tain­ing details, this longer pic­ture book with fas­ci­nate old­er pic­ture-book readers.

I Facebook Friended an Albatross!

Wis­dom, the Mid­way Albatross
by Dar­cy Pat­ti­son (illus­trat­ed by Kit­ty Harvill)
Mim’s House, Feb­ru­ary 1, 2012
32 pages
Read­ing lev­el: 840L (grades 3–5)
How does a bird in the mid­dle of the Pacif­ic Ocean sur­vive the 2011 Japan­ese tsuna­mi and oth­er dan­gers for over 60 years? No one real­ly knows, but we do know for sure that Wisdom–the old­est known wild bird in the world–has.
This book intro­duces young read­ers to a sin­gle very spe­cial mem­ber of a large­ly unfa­mil­iar species, the Laysan Alba­tross. Through this riv­et­ing sur­vival sto­ry we not only grow to care about Wis­dom her­self, we also learn about the life cycle, habi­tat, and behav­ior of her kind. We see the many dan­gers they face, both nat­ur­al and man-made. We learn how sci­en­tists are care­ful­ly study­ing them. And we cheer for the par­tic­u­lar­ly resilient gooney bird who is even­tu­al­ly dubbed Wisdom.
Pat­ti­son does a great job of incor­po­rat­ing rhythm and rep­e­ti­tion to make this an excel­lent choice for young read­ers and read alouds, and Harvil­l’s art is both beau­ti­ful and detailed, adding to the sto­ry and bring­ing Wis­dom to life on every page. Chil­dren will be quick­ly swept up in the dra­ma and sus­pense of Wis­dom’s tri­als and will keep read­ing (or lis­ten­ing) to find out what hap­pens to her next. Then, they’ll sigh with relief at the hap­py end­ing when Wisdom–somehow–still survives.
The book also includes acknowl­edge­ments, a Facts About Wis­dom sec­tion, The Old­est Bird in the World time­line, a Typ­i­cal Year for a Laysan Alba­tross time­line, a fur­ther read­ing list, and sec­tions about both the author and illus­tra­tor. In addi­tion, there’s a blog with lots of videos, pic­tures, and addi­tion­al resources for stu­dents and teachers.
Yes, after read­ing this, I just had to become Face­book friends with Wis­dom her­self. Click here if you want to be, too!
Make sure to check out the oth­er stops on Wis­dom’s blog tour:

To check out the rest of today’s roundup of sci­ence, tech­nol­o­gy, engi­neer­ing, and math­e­mat­ics books for kids, head on over to this week’s STEM Fri­day host, NC Teacher Stuff!
(Dis­claimer: I received a copy of this book from the pub­lish­er in exchange for my hon­est review. I received no mon­e­tary com­pen­sa­tion. All opin­ions expressed here are mine and mine alone.)

Review: We’ve Got a Job

We’ve Got a Job
by Cyn­thia Levinson
Peachtree Pub­lish­ers, Feb­ru­ary 1, 2012
176 pages
Ages: 10 and up
Oscar Wilde sup­pos­ed­ly said, “Any fool can make his­to­ry, but it takes genius to write it.” While I don’t nec­es­sar­i­ly agree with the first part, the sec­ond part absolute­ly rings true. After all, how do you make a sto­ry com­pelling when every­one already knows how it ends? Cyn­thia Levin­son has proven her genius here, because she accom­plish­es that and so much more in WE’VE GOT A JOB.
By anchor­ing the events sur­round­ing the 1963 Birm­ing­ham Children’s March in the per­son­al nar­ra­tives of four of its direct par­tic­i­pants, Levin­son puts read­ers on the ground in Birm­ing­ham. We may know the final out­come, but we have no idea how we’re ever going to get there, and this day-by-day account of the incre­men­tal progress—and setbacks—will keep read­ers turn­ing the pages to find out what hap­pened next. This is a non­fic­tion book with as much dra­ma and pac­ing as THE HUNGER GAMES. I lit­er­al­ly couldn’t put it down, except for when I became too teary-eyed to con­tin­ue read­ing, which hap­pened often.
There is so much to love about this book, but I think my favorite thing about it is how Levin­son human­izes every­one involved. It’s not as much a move­ment or an event as it is indi­vid­u­als, each with his or her own moti­va­tions, work­ing with or against each oth­er. I loved read­ing that even the revered lead­ers (for both sides of the issue) were hard­ly ever in agree­ment. Every­one involved was tak­ing a chance, a risk, a guess as to what was going to work—or not. They were all fight­ing for what they believed in, each in his or her own unique way. Noth­ing was sim­ple. Noth­ing was clear.
I whole­heart­ed­ly think this book should be in every library, in every class­room, and in every home in Amer­i­ca for its his­to­ry as well as for its mes­sage for the future. Buy it, read it, rec­om­mend it, share it.
The book also includes a table of con­tents, author’s note, time­line, map, acknowl­edge­ments, exten­sive source notes, bib­li­og­ra­phy (rec­om­mend­ed resources), pho­to cred­its, and a detailed index. Levin­son also has addi­tion­al info, les­son plans, dis­cus­sion ques­tions, cur­ricu­lum guides, and more on her web­site.

To check out the rest of today’s roundup of non­fic­tion books for kids, head on over to this week’s Non­fic­tion Mon­day host, Wendie’s Wan­der­ings!
(Dis­claimer: I received an advance read­er copy (ARC) of this book from Peachtree Pub­lish­ers in exchange for my hon­est review, and it was so good I pre-ordered my own pub­lished hard­cov­er. I received no mon­e­tary com­pen­sa­tion. All opin­ions expressed here are mine and mine alone.)

STEM Friday roundup is here!

I’m thrilled to be host­ing STEM Fri­day today! If you reviewed a STEM (Science, Tech­nol­o­gy, Engi­neer­ing, and Math­e­mat­ics) book for kids on your blog today, please leave your link in the com­ments or on Twit­ter (@lauriethompson), and I will add you to the round-up through­out the day. Thanks!

My con­tri­bu­tion to this week’s STEM Fri­day, a review of IN SEARCH OF SASQUATCH by Kel­ly Mil­ner Halls, is post­ed here.

cover1Jeff Barg­er reviews A Leaf Can Be… by Lau­ra Pur­die Salas over at NC Teacher Stuff. Read all about this poet­ry book about leaves here.

cover2On her blog, Sim­ply­Science, Shirley Duke talks about her new book, Gas­es, and shares activities.

Over at Archimedes Note­book, Sue Heav­en­rich reviews Star of the Sea by Janet Half­mann, with some insight on writ­ing from the author herself.

Anas­ta­sia Suen from Book­talk­ing joins the fun with her review of Bones: Dead Peo­ple Do Tell Tales
by Sara L. Latta.

Next week’s STEM Fri­day host will be Rober­ta Gib­son at Wrapped in Foil.

Review: In Search of Sasquatch

In Search of Sasquatch
by Kel­ly Mil­ner Halls
Houghton Mif­flin Books for Chil­dren (Octo­ber 25, 1011)
64 pages, ages 9 and up
When I was a kid, one of my favorite books was BIGFOOT: MAN, MONSTER, OR MYTH? by Car­rie Carmichael (Rain­tree, 1977). I’ve always been an ani­mal lover, and I loved the pos­si­bil­i­ty that there was one (or more?) out there clever enough to remain a mys­tery to us. I lived in rur­al north­ern Wis­con­sin and spent a lot of time in the woods, but, sad­ly, nev­er saw any Sasquatch signs.
When my son told me he thought it’d be cool to be a cryp­to­zo­ol­o­gist (nice!), I knew I had to get him this book. It did­n’t dis­ap­point. He’s read it sev­er­al times cov­er to cov­er, and I’m lov­ing the facts and crit­i­cal think­ing skills he’s demon­strat­ing as a result.
My first thought when I opened the book was how beau­ti­ful it is. The full-bleed for­est spread with the quotes over­lay­ing the trees pulls you right into the world of the sasquatch from the very first page turn (and the final one, as well). The beau­ty con­tin­ues with beau­ti­ful pho­tog­ra­phy, ele­gant illus­tra­tions, and well-done lay­out and design throughout.
Halls com­bines var­i­ous myths and leg­ends with expert opin­ions and eye­wit­ness accounts to weave a clev­er­ly craft­ed and com­pelling case for the exis­tence of sasquatch. She does­n’t come right out and tell us that it does or does­n’t exist, though. In the end, it’s up to the read­er to decide if they’ve been con­vinced or not.
This is a great book to hand to any kid with an inter­est in cryp­tids or oth­er mys­ter­ies, and ani­mal lovers and bud­ding young sci­en­tists will also enjoy it.
FUN FACT: “Accord­ing to experts at the Big­foot Field Researchers Orga­ni­za­tion (BFRO), cred­i­ble wit­ness­es have report­ed see­ing Sasquatch in every state in the Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca except Hawaii, as well as most Cana­di­an provinces.”
There is a ded­i­ca­tion, table of con­tents, addi­tion­al resources, pho­to and illus­tra­tion cred­its, bib­li­og­ra­phy and source notes, glos­sary, and index.
SIDE NOTE: When asked her opin­ion of the book, my daugh­ter answered, “I LOVED how she crammed so many facts into this book, yet still kept it com­plete­ly inter­est­ing!” My answer: “Ahem. <cough> ‘YET STILL?’ Have I told you what I do? FACTS ARE INTERESTING!” I have failed as a parent.

This is my review for STEM Fri­day, which I’m also host­ing this week! See the com­plete roundup here.
Dis­claimer: A copy of this book was checked out from my local library for review. Thanks, King Coun­ty Library System!

Review: Bring On the Birds

Bring On the Birds cover

Bring On the Birds
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Susan Stock­dale
Peachtree Pub­lish­ers (Feb­ru­ary 1, 2011)
32 pages, ages 4 and up

This is one of my favorite books of all the nom­i­na­tions in the Cybils Non­fic­tion Pic­ture Book cat­e­go­ry this year, and I just can’t get over how absolute­ly per­fect it is. The poet­ic text is a sim­ple but ele­gant rhyme with spot on rhythm and meter:

“Swoop­ing birds,
whoop­ing birds,
birds with puffy chests.
Danc­ing birds,
div­ing birds,
birds with fluffy crests.”

The illus­tra­tions are bright, clean, and not only depict the var­i­ous birds, but also place them in their appro­pri­ate habitats.
The 21 birds fea­tured run the gamut from the com­mon robin to the more exot­ic blue-foot­ed boo­by, from the great blue heron to the blue bird-of-par­adise. This book cov­ers an enor­mous diver­si­ty of life, then ends just right with what they all have in common:

“All of them have feathers,
and all are hatched from eggs.”

This is a won­der­ful intro­duc­tion to birds for the youngest read­ers. It could also be used to talk about diver­si­ty, habi­tats, and classification.
At the end of the book, Stock­dale includes a per­fect­ly brief and spot-on para­graph with infor­ma­tion about each bird pro­filed in the book. The book also includes a bibliography.
STEM Friday logo

To check out the rest of today’s roundup of books for kids about top­ics in sci­ence, tech­nol­o­gy, engi­neer­ing, and math­e­mat­ics, head on over to this week’s STEM Fri­day roundup over at Anas­ta­sia Suen’s Book­talk­ing.

(Dis­claimer: I received a copy of this book from my local library. I received no mon­e­tary com­pen­sa­tion for this review. All opin­ions expressed here are mine and mine alone.)