In this well-organized, easy-to-digest nonfiction book for teen girls, Reber employs her training as a life coach as well as her extensive work with teen girls to lay out an eight-step plan for readers to achieve whatever it is they want to tackle in life. The steps include defining the goal, defending against obstacles, developing support systems, determining what success looks like, doing the work, dealing with setbacks, and delivering the goods. Each step has numerous examples, pullouts, journal exercises, and more, and every chapter ends with a summary to reinforce the main points. Reber manages to do all of that while maintaining a charisma and relatability that puts readers at ease while at the same time empowering them, and the tone is never the least bit condescending nor overwhelming.
I loved this book and plan to refer back to it for my own to-do list management. In fact, my one and only quibble with this book is that it is targeted solely at teen girls, because I think EVERYONE over the age of 10 should read this book! I think we could all learn a thing or two from it that would make us more successful and make our lives that much easier. That said, Reber is perfectly in touch with the teen girl audience, and while the core content is highly applicable to any reader, the voice and viewpoint will surely be directly relevant and relatable to many teenage girls. This book would make a great eighth grade or high school graduation present, and it’s a super helpful read for anyone who wants to be more productive (don’t we all?). Far from being didactic, DOABLE instills a sense of confidence and excitement. Reber is a fantastic coach AND a cheerleader, all rolled into one. Highly recommended!
An ironic yet informative alphabet that defines the most important gaming terms that everyone needs to know, Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! A Gamer’s Alphabet is the ultimate crossover gift for our age, a book that can actually bring together video game-obsessed kids and their often perplexed parents.
If you can decipher the following sentence, you don’t need this book: “This open beta game is in third-person but first-person is unlockable if you know the cheat code or install your own mod, but either way, for the best attack on the boss on this level, try to grab that power-up!”
— See more at: http://powkidsbooks.com/attack-boss-cheat-code-a-gamers-alphabet/#sthash.sLnYcu9z.dpuf
Okay, I know I’m showing my geeky gamer girl side, but I love, love, love this book, and I think today’s young (and not-so-young) readers will, too!
It’s an alphabet book, of course, which means the information is organized by letter. Within that constraint, Barton somehow manages to work in a whole bunch of key concepts necessary to understanding video games. Some are expected, such as “boss.” Others are more surprising, like “instance.” In either case, readers will love seeing the terms they’re more familiar with from the games they love playing, as well as the terms they’re less familiar with but may have run across in conversations with friends. I’ve played a fair amount of video games in my lifetime, and I was still very pleasantly surprised to learn a few new terms myself!
The artwork is bright and fun and helps illustrate the concepts well. The illustrator tips a nostalgic hat to older games that more grownup readers will appreciate, while at the same time referencing enough current faves to delight younger gamers.
Check this one out, and then come back on Wednesday for my interview with the author, Chris Barton!
(Disclaimer: The review copy was won by the blogger as part of a promotional giveaway.)
THE SCRAPS BOOK: NOTES FROM A COLORFUL LIFE
written and illustrated by Lois Ehlert
published by Beach Lane Books/Simon & Schuster, March 2014
There have been several picture-book autobiographies of children’s book authors and illustrators over the past few years. Sadly, most have left me feeling just a little underwhelmed. While I personally enjoyed them, I felt like they were aimed more at their long-time adult fans than at contemporary child readers. While I, as an adult, was able to appreciate the rich context and interesting personal histories, I wondered if children would be able to relate to the stories and find directly relevant meaning within the pages. So, although I myself am a fan of Lois Ehlert, I’ll admit I was a bit skeptical when I picked up THE SCRAPS BOOK. Boy was I in for a delightful surprise!
Despite the high page count, there is nothing in this book that feels the least bit self-indulgent. Every page seems lovingly designed to encourage and instruct young artists. (And aren’t we all artists when we’re young? Perhaps with this book, more of us will remain so.) Throughout, Ehlert generously shares her inspirations, her processes, her notes and journals, even her messes and mistakes, giving readers insights into her books as well as her life as an artist.
I think this is truly a book people of all ages can enjoy, and the world is definitely a better place for having THE SCRAPS BOOK in it.
(Disclaimer: Review copy was checked out from my local library.)
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.
I have a confession to make. Normally I read every book before I post about it here, but–just this once–I was going to cheat. As much as I’ve been dying to read PURE GRIT by Mary Cronk Farrell, my to-do list is huge right now: writing new books (I’m currently working on EIGHT separate manuscripts and/or proposals!), promoting BE A CHANGEMAKER, volunteer projects (SCBWI Western Washington conference anyone? There are still a few spaces!), critiques (three full-length novels await!), family, pets, home… and let’s not forget, TAXES! To top it off, I was still recovering from the flu when I came down with this most recent cold. I’m months behind on a few things, with many other deadlines looming dead ahead. So, I sat down planning to just skim it for the time being, write the post, and come back later when I had time to settle in, read it in more detail, and take it all in.
KNIT YOUR BIT is a fictionalized account of the real “Knit-In” event at Central Park in 1918. Despite being fiction, it was heavily researched to get the historical details right, and readers can learn a lot about the time, World War I, and the people who lived then.
Please help me welcome back Deborah!
LT: Hi, Deborah. It’s great to have you back. I love KNIT YOUR BIT and how it melds a fictional story with a nonfiction event. How did you first become interested in writing about this topic? Where did the seed of the story come from?
DH: The seed of this story actually dates back some years, to my first professional job. After graduate school I stumbled into a career in fundraising, which I have pursued ever since, in addition to being a writer. My first position was Staff Writer for the American Red Cross in Honolulu. DH: As part of a history celebration, I wrote some articles for the organization’s newsletter and stumbled upon one of firemen knitting in World War I. I loved that image. As a writer interested in history, I collect books on a wide variety of topics. At some point, thinking about the upcoming anniversary of WWI, I remembered that photo and began reading about the history of knitting. Eventually, in Anne L. Macdonald’s NO IDLE HANDS, THE SOCIAL HISTORY OF AMERICAN KNITTING, I found a reference to the 1918 Central Park Knitting Bee, and that’s where the story began. LT: What kind of reader do you think this book will appeal to? DH: I think that my editor, Shauna Rossano, and the illustrator, Steven Guanaccia, have done wonders to make this story appealing to young readers. I hope people who love crafts and knitting will be interested. I know that I often sign copies of my picture book, SWEET CLARA AND THE FREEDOM QUILT, which are being given as gifts to adults. I hope folks will give KNIT YOUR BIT to friends (women and men, as well as boys and girls) who knit. LT: What was your research process like for this book?
DH: Like many of my picture books, KNIT YOUR BIT is historical fiction inspired by real people or events, and includes an author’s note about knitting for soldiers during World War I.
DH: The New York Times published an article on the knitting bee back in 1918, and some of the details of the prizes awarded are pulled directly from that piece. I also researched and got permission for the historic photos on the endpapers, which include one of sheep grazing during World War I on the White House lawn. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to track down permissions for the Makiki fire station photograph, but I have added to my Pinterest Board for KNIT YOUR BIT: http://pinterest.com/DAhopkinson/knit-your-bit-a-world-war-i-story/
LT: What was your favorite part of the book to research and/or write? What was the hardest part of the research and/or writing for you? How did you deal with that?
DH: I actually love doing research of any kind. The hardest part is not having enough time, or not being able to travel to do research on-site. For KNIT YOUR BIT, the fact that I couldn’t actually find any first-person accounts of children who participated in the knitting bee meant that I felt the story, although based on real events, needed to be historical fiction to be appealing to readers. I always tell kids that when authors put words in character’s mouths the story becomes fiction. LT: How have your research and writing processes evolved over the course of your career?
DH: I think my processes have improved over the years. I’m writing a nonfiction book now on World War II, and I’m being careful to cite each source meticulously as I go along. DH: This is something I learned the hard way, especially with longer nonfiction. The vetting and research process for my 2012 book, TITANIC, VOICES FROM THE DISASTER (a YALSA Nonfiction Award finalist) was incredibly detailed and time-consuming, because of the wealth of information and the sheer complexity of the story. So even though it might be tedious, I have learned to take my time and carefully track information and sources. It definitely saves time later!
LT: I think every book teaches us something new, about the world, about ourselves, or about the craft of writing. What have you learned as a result of writing this book?
DH: I tend to write for older readers, especially since both my kids are now in their twenties. I like to do author visits and talk with first and second graders and imagine how the book will sound if I’m sharing it with them. That was especially helpful in paring down this story to be as kid-friendly as possible. LT: Besides promoting your new book, what are you working on now? DH: Right now, I’m finishing the proofreading for my fall middle grade novel, THE GREAT TROUBLE, A MYSTERY OF LONDON, THE BLUE DEATH, AND A BOY CALLED EEL. I’m very excited about it because 2013 is the bicentennial of the birth of Dr. John Snow, whose work in the 1854 cholera epidemic changed medical history. With the recent outbreaks of cholera in Haiti, this topic is especially relevant today. LT: Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about?
DH: I have several knitter friends who helped with this book, including Robin Smith, who knits hats for premature babies with her second graders.
DH: I, on the other hand, am an extremely poor knitter and I’m not very good at hats – or socks. I knit scarves for relaxation only, and only dare give my handiwork to people who don’t knit at all. I am lucky enough to live near Portland, Oregon, where there are many wonderful yarn stores and enthusiastic knitters.
DH: I’m also delighted that the tradition of knitting for soldiers continues today. I hope that KNIT YOUR BIT inspires readers to learn a new skill or share one with others. LT: Thanks so much for sharing with us, Deborah. And best of luck with KNIT YOUR BIT!
Wisdom, the Midway Albatross by Darcy Pattison (illustrated by Kitty Harvill)
Mim’s House, February 1, 2012
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.)
A few weeks ago I posted this review of Cynthia Levinson’s amazing middle-grade nonfiction book, WE’VE GOT A JOB. Now, I’m thrilled to welcome Cynthia herself here to talk about it! LT: Hi Cynthia! One of the first things I noticed about WE’VE GOT A JOB was how thoroughly researched it is. What was the hardest part of the research and/or writing for you?
CL: The hardest part, one which historians and researchers on many matters face, was figuring out what to do about contradictory information. One person remembered that the events of the Children’s March in Birmingham, Alabama started on one day; another was sure it was a different day. One person knew that Dr. King spoke to him at the church; others said King was elsewhere. A third person was definite that she was arrested for picketing on a particular day when other sources indicated that no arrests occurred that day. LT: How did you deal with that?
CL: I don’t at all blame my respondents! The events I was asking them about took place nearly 50 years ago at a time when they were both young and frightened. Determining the facts required so much effort that I wrote an entire Author’s Note about it. LT: How complete was the book when you sent it out?
CL: Because this was my first book, I went overboard what I submitted to my agent! At the same time, because this was a work of nonfiction, which, unlike fiction, doesn’t need to be complete, I submitted a proposal, rather than a full manuscript. But, what a proposal!
CL: It consisted of five complete draft chapters, a narrative outline with almost half a page of text for each unwritten chapter, a four-page bibliography, many pages of footnotes, sources and costs of photographs, and, probably, a partridge in a pear tree. I’ve since learned that this much prep is not necessary. But, I wasn’t sorry that I had done so much work in advance of submission. The outline was solid enough that it structured the final book, even after many textual edits. And, the proposal sold the book—eventually. LT: What else have you learned as a result of writing this book?
CL: As a seasoned writer for quality nonfiction children’s magazines, I was used to doing mammoth amounts of research that never make it into the final product, organizing reams of material, writing succinctly, etc. What turned out to be new with this book is the human element.
CL: Not that I hadn’t written about people before. I had—William Kamkwamba, for instance, who brought electricity to his village in Malawi; Martina Zurschmiede, the youngest member of the Swiss Lace Making Association; Nathan Wolfe, who is searching for and trying to prevent the next pandemic. But, with short pieces of 500–800 words, you’re looking at the facts of what people are doing. With a book, I discovered that I also needed to delve into people’s motivations, into the passions or fears that propel them to do what they do.
CL: Ferreting out these factors entailed asking probing, intimate questions. “How did your mother beat you?” “Why did you lie to your parents?” Invariably, I learned, when my respondents lowered their voices, when they whispered to me, even though we were the only ones talking, they were reaching deep inside themselves. LT: What surprised you the most during the process?
CL: Because I had never written a nonfiction book for children before—or, any book—the entire process surprised me. The time that I was most taken aback occurred when one of my interviewees, James, questioned me! He wanted to know why I was interested in writing this book, what I would do with the information he shared, would I pay him. These are perfectly reasonable and understandable questions. But, I thought I was the question-asker! LT: I’ve always said that I will know I’ve made it when I receive one letter from one child saying that something I wrote made a positive difference in his or her life. How do you define success?
CL: I love this definition, Laurie. I hope this happens to me—because, like you, I hope it happens to a child who reads our work. My definition of success is very particular to this book.
CL: When people who have even passing knowledge of the civil rights movement hear “Birmingham,” they generally and immediately think of the church bombing in which four girls were murdered. I hope that We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March will change their perception. I would like for readers to associate “Birmingham” not just with the tragedy of victimized children but also with children who took a stand, changing America with their determination and fortitude. LT: And I’m sure they will! It’s impossible to read WE’VE GOT A JOB and not be touched both by what those children went through and what they accomplished. Thank you for writing such an important, powerful book, Cynthia, and thanks so much for sharing this behind-the-scenes view of it with me!
Today’s Nonfiction Monday Round-up is being hosted at The Children’s War.
We’ve Got a Job
by Cynthia Levinson
Peachtree Publishers, February 1, 2012
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.)
Still trying to come up with some resolutions for the new year? Or would you prefer having one or two that are more pleasure than pain? Well, in the spirit of
…I’ve got just the thing for you!
Read more nonfiction for kids!
There are two challenges out there right now to help you do just that… and share the fruits of your labor with like-minded peeps around the world.
First,Kid Lit Frenzy and The Nonfiction Detecetives have teamed up to offer the The Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge 2012. Their goal is to encourage everyone to read more nonfiction picture books this year. All you have to do is set a goal for yourself (like reading one nonfiction picture book each week or each month). You can visit both the Kid Lit Frenzy and The Nonfiction Detecetives blogs throughout the year for nonfiction reviews and giveaways, tweet about the challenge using the hashtag #nfpb2012, and add the Non-Fiction Picture Book badge to your web site.
Second, Ms. Houghton’s Class challenges us to read the Sibert Medal winners and honorees here. This has been on my to-do list for awhile, so thank you Ms. Houghton for giving me that extra push. I’m in! She has the complete list in her post, OR you can find the official list of past winners here and current winners here. New winners for 2012 will be announced 1/23/2012 (search for #alayma on Twitter). You can also keep track of this challenge on Twitter by searching for #nerdibert.
I’m doing both, along with my other New Year’s Resolutions, which are to read more adult nonfiction and keep better track of all of these books in a reading log. I hope you’ll join me!
UPDATE: I made a Google docs spreadsheet with all the info for the Sibert books. Feel free to download it from here and use it to track your progress!