Archive for ‘Non-Fiction’

January 16, 2015

One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia

meandmiranda

Happy New Year!! Hope you all had a wonderful, relaxing holiday break.

I am ecstatic and overjoyed to bring you today’s book review! I first read this beautiful manuscript back in 2012, when Miranda and I were in the same 12×12 critique group. (haven’t heard of 12×12, click the link and find out more about this awesome picture book community. registration for 2015 is currently taking place.) If you ever have the opportunity to listen to Miranda speak/teach .. GO! She is an entertaining speaker and chockful of information. You will be seeing a lot more books with her name as she has FOUR more picture books coming out in the next two years! Now onto the review.

 

One Plastic BagTitle: One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia

Author: Miranda Paul (interview)
Illustrator: Elizabeth Zunon
Publisher: Millbrook Press (February 1, 2015)
Book Type: Non-Fiction
Ages: 4-8
Themes: Africa, Environment, Activism

Excerpt:

Isatou shakes sand off her papers. Another plastic bag floats by, and she tucks her things inside.

The torn bag is useless now. She drops it to the dirt, as everyone does. There’s nowhere else to put it.

Synopsis (from One Plastic Bag website):

Inspiring story of five women who creatively dealt with their village’s plastic trash problem. Despite limited resources and ridicule, Isatou and her friends persevered for more than a decade, eventually realizing economic empowerment through their recycled plastic purse project. The book also includes bonus information such as a Wolof language glossary, timeline of actual events, and photos of the women of Njau.

Activities:

Visit the One Plastic Bag teacher’s resource section for tons of activities and information.

Gambia Facts Worksheet, Dangers of Plastic & What You Can Do resource guide, Downloadable Word Search, Bookmark

The coolest was the video demonstration on how to recycle plastic bags into a purse!

Why I Like This Book:

A wonderful book that shows how one single ordinary person, Isatou Cessay, made a difference. The reason I say ordinary is because initially Isatou had the same views as everyone else, which was that plastic bags are good for carrying things and when they break just  throw them on the ground. But when the plastic bag pollution became a problem for the villagers – goats eating plastic bags and dying, mosquitoes nesting in the pooling water – it was Isatou who did something about it. Together with the help of other women from the village they found a way to recycle the piles of plastic bags into purses they could sell in the nearby city. An empowering message for all young readers, that they too can make a difference.

The book is an engaging read as the Gambian world springs to life by awakening the readers senses via the sounds of the Wolof language “Ndanka”,  smells of Gambian food “bubbling peanut stew” and the sights of village daily life. The illustrations are collages of colored paper, paint, and even plastic bags. Checkout the interview at Seven Impossible Things for more sneak peeks into Ms. Zunon’s artistry.

If you would like to learn more about Gambia, this book, or the purses check out the One Plastic Bag website. I had the opportunity to see one of these purses at a writing retreat this summer. It was quite amazing.

purses

This review is part of Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book series. Visit her site to see the other books recommended.

Disclosure: I received a digital review copy of this book from the author. This review nevertheless reflects my own and honest opinion about the book.

September 22, 2014

Industrial Revolution for Kids: The People and Technology That Changed the World

Industrial-Revolution-for-Kids

Title: Industrial Revolution for Kids: The People and Technology That Change the World

Author: Cheryl Mullenback (interview by the Mixed Files … of Middle-Grade Authors)
Publisher: Chicago Review Press, 2014
Book Type: Non-Fiction
Ages: 8-12

Synopsis (from Chicago Review Press website):

This blend of authoritative historic overview and human interest stories recounts one of the most important eras in American history. This educational activity book introduces young readers to the Industrial Revolution through the people, places, and inventions of the time, from the incredibly wealthy Rockefellers and Carnegies and the dingy and dangerous factories of the day to the creation of new forms of transportation and communication. By recounting this fascinating period in American history through the eyes of everyday workers, kids, sports figures, and social activists whose names never appeared in history books—including Hannah Montague, who revolutionized the clothing industry with her highly popular detachable collars and cuffs and Clementine Lamadrid, who either helped save starving New Yorkers or scammed the public into contributing to her one-cent coffee stands—this book helps tell the human stories of the Industrial Revolution. Twenty-one engaging and fun cross-curricular activities bring the times and technologies to life and allow for readers to make an assembly line sandwich, analyze the interchangeable parts of a common household fixture, weave a placemat, tell a story through photographs, and much more. Additional resources featured include books to read, places to visit, and websites to explore.

 

Why I Like This Book:

This is wonderful book that can be used to supplement a curriculum on the Industrial Revolution. It is jam-packed with basic historical information and photographs. Personally, I really liked the short articles offset in blue boxes. These are the little tidbits or personal stories that you won’t find in most textbooks, that make this era come to life. For example, did you know factory girls would sometimes leave notes in the garments they made in hope of finding a husband. Or how about Owney, the railway mail dog who rode the train across the US making sure the mail pouches were safely delivered to the post office. The book also comes with activities tied into the various section themes such as making an assembly line sandwich or designing a tenement space. With so much information this isn’t a book to speed through all at once, but rather read, process, and explore one chapter at a time.

If you liked this book be on the lookout for the next book by this author The Great Depression for Kids coming out in 2015.

Disclosure: I received my copy of this book from the publisher Chicago Review Press. This review nevertheless reflects my own and honest opinion about the book.

September 8, 2014

Seeds of Change

seeds-of-changeTitle: Seeds of Change

Author: Jen Cullerton Johnson
Illustrator: Sonia Lynn Sadler
Publisher: Lee and Low Books, 2011
Book Type: Non-Fiction
Ages: 6 and up
Themes: Environment, Activism, Multi-cultural

Opening Lines

“Come,” Wangari’s mother  called. She beckoned her young daughter over to a tall tree with a wide, smooth trunk and a crown of green, oval leaves.

Synopsis (from Lee & Low Books):

As a young girl in Kenya, Wangari was taught to respect nature. She grew up loving the land, plants, and animals that surrounded her—from the giant mugumo trees her people, the Kikuyu, revered to the tiny tadpoles that swam in the river.

Although most Kenyan girls were not educated, Wangari, curious and hardworking, was allowed to go to school. There, her mind sprouted like a seed. She excelled at science and went on to study in the United States. After returning home, Wangari blazed a trail across Kenya, using her knowledge and compassion to promote the rights of her countrywomen and to help save the land, one tree at a time.

Seeds of Change: Planting a Path to Peace brings to life the empowering story of Wangari Maathai, the first African woman, and environmentalist, to win a Nobel Peace Prize. Engaging narrative and vibrant images paint a robust portrait of this inspiring champion of the land and of women’s rights.

Activities:

Resource Page on the Lee & Low website containing activities, lesson plans, discussion guides for elementary and middle-school students.

Resource sheet from Reading is Fundamental (RIF), contains a scratch art activity, a simple recipe for maize and bean stew, and discussion questions.

Green Belt Movement website – initiative started by Wangari

National Geographic for kids website with facts and pictures of Kenya

Other picture books on Wangari Maathai: Mama MitiPlanting the Trees of Kenya, and Wangari’s Trees of Peace

Why I Like This Book:

A rich, colorful book that engages the audience at multiple levels. The author brings Nobel prize winner,
Wangari Maathai, to life in an accessible way for young readers. The book opens with the importance of the
mugumo tree to Wangari’s people. The reader gains an appreciation of the interconnection between plants,
animals, and humans. During the early years we also see Wangari’s desire to learn at a time
when it was not common for girls to attend schools. It is these two threads which intersect in Wangari’s later
years that lead her to become a champion for Kenya’s environment and women’s education.

I found this book to be empowering because it showed how just a single person with sheer determination
and passion can indeed make a difference in the world. Also that it all started with something so simple,
planting one tree at a time.

Lovers of lyrical language will enjoy the numerous plant metaphors.

Wangari listened as still as a tree, but her mind swirled with curiosity like the currents in the stream.

The rich, saturated colors done in scratchboard art and oil, bring to life the beauty of the African landscape
and native clothing.

seedsofchange_tree

This book is best suited for elementary readers and can be used in conjunction with classroom discussions
about Kenya, environmentalism, or activism.

Come back tomorrow to find out how this book inspired one elementary school to become a platform of
change, when I interview the author Jen Cullerton Johnson.

October 25, 2013

People

peopleTitle: People
Author & Illustrator: Peter Spier

Publisher: Doubleday, 1980
Book Type: Non-Fiction
Ages: 4-8
Themes: Diversity, Population, Individuality

Excerpt:

“People around our world wear different clothes — or none at all.

All of us want to look our best. Still, what is considered beautiful or handsome in one place is considered ugly, and even ridiculous, elsewhere.”

Synopsis:

Celebration of people everywhere around the world, reminding us that we are all unique, different from one another – each deserving respect.

Activities:

There are many, many activities, classroom plans available on-line. I have listed just a few here.

Why I Like This Book:

I loved that my 7 year old poured over the pages of this book for over half an hour, looking at the myriad of detailed illustrations, and most importantly learning about the world’s people. Mr. Spier goes through all sorts of physical and cultural attributes – appearances, clothing, homes, jobs, food, religion – while constantly reminding the reader that what may appear strange to one culture is completely normal to another. As we become a tighter global community, the importance of books like this will continue to grow. This is a must have book for every classroom.

This review is part of Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book series. Visit her site to see the other books recommended.

May 9, 2013

On a Beam of Light

On a Beam of LightTitle: On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein
Author: Jennifer Berne
Illustrator: Vladimir Radunsky
Publisher: Chronicle Books, 2013
Book Type: Non-Fiction
Ages: 6-9
Themes: Physicists

Opening Lines:

Over 100 years ago, as the stars swirled in the sky, as the Earth circled the sun, as the March winds blew through a little town by a river, a baby boy was born. His parents named him Albert.

Synopsis (from Chronicle website):

A boy rides a bicycle down a dusty road. But in his mind, he envisions himself traveling at a speed beyond imagining, on a beam of light. This brilliant mind will one day offer up some of the most revolutionary ideas ever conceived. From a boy endlessly fascinated by the wonders around him, Albert Einstein ultimately grows into a man of genius recognized the world over for profoundly illuminating our understanding of the universe.

Jennifer Berne and Vladimir Radunsky invite the reader to travel along with Einstein on a journey full of curiosity, laughter, and scientific discovery. Parents and children alike will appreciate this moving story of the powerful difference imagination can make in any life.

Activities:

Young Kids:

Discovery Station – Compass and magnet games. Good for preschoolers – 2nd grade.
The Why Files – Einstein’s theories are presented in a simple and straightforward manner. The site includes articles about the speed of light, gravity, black holes, and space-time. Recommended for 4-6th grade students.

For Teens & Adults:

Einstein: Image & Impact – Explores Einstein’s life through historical accounts, photographs and sound clips by the American Institute of Physics.
Einstein Archives Online – Comprehensive information about Einstein’s life. Digitized manuscripts.

Why I Like This Book:

When I first heard of this book, I was like I HAVE to read it. I mean it’s about Einstein!!  Then I was like wait it’s about Einstein … there is so much to cover and a lot of it is theoretical physics. How in the world is the author going to discuss that in a picture book, it seemed like a very daunting task to me. But I had faith since this book was written by one of my favorite authors Jennifer Berne (Manfish, Calvin Can’t Fly). Ms. Berne DELIVERED on writing a book that is informative and captivating and sure to engage scientists young and old.

Kids will be engaged from the beginning when they learn Einstein didn’t talk until he was three, or that he loved to asks questions all the time much to the chagrin of his teachers. Kids will learn that Einstein was always wondering about the world around him, whether it be about a beam of light or how sugar melts in tea. It was this inquisitiveness that propelled Einstein to keep learning and questioning and eventually discovering some of nature’s secrets.

The illustrations are quirky and whimsical, appropriate for describing Einstein and his eccentricities. I particularly enjoyed the spread discussing atoms where the illustrator use “dots” to color in the pictures instead of a solid color. See illustrations from the book at Chronicle’s website.

The endpages contain additional information on Einstein’s theories, personality, and pacifism.

This book can be used in elementary science classrooms.

Check-out these other great reviews.

This review is part of Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book series. Visit her site to see the other books recommended.

Disclosure: I received my copy of this book from the publisher Chronicle Books. This review nevertheless reflects my own and honest opinion about the book.

I have a special treat this time. I have an extra copy of this book that I will be giving away. Leave a comment by May 16th 9pm PST for a chance to win.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,026 other followers

%d bloggers like this: