Tiffany F. Watson
Including the reading of trade books as part of the curriculum can arouse interest and enhance understanding. The books reviewed here allow students to explore important literary concepts and use a variety of comprehension skills to think critically about STEM-related topics.
Beaver and Otter Get Along . . . Sort of: A Story of Grit and Patience Between Neighbors. Sneed B. Collard III. Illus. by Meg Sodano. (2021). Sourcebooks eXplore.
This engaging picture book story opens with Beaver building a dam in a stream to create a pond that is the perfect place to build a lodge. When otters arrive at the pond, Beaver sees them as a nuisance, damaging his dam and creating lots of noisy, splashing chaos in the thriving pond ecosystem. As the year goes on, Beaver’s and Otter’s families grow, and while they never become the best of friends, they learn to accept one another and coexist in their shared community. Realistic illustrations allow readers to explore ancillary information about plants and animals in a beaver pond ecosystem. Back matter includes facts about the adaptations and behaviors of beavers and river otters and their commensal relationship in pond ecosystems. Additionally, there are specific teaching points outlined for literacy, social-emotional learning, and STEAM activities. (PreK-Gr 2)
Bird Show. Susan Stockdale. (2021). Peachtree.
This story of feather fashion features exquisite portraits of eighteen birds and a descriptive rhyming text. “All of us dress / in our own special way, / and put on a fashion show every day!” Readers will learn about the variety of colors, shapes, and patterns of the feathers of birds from around the world. Susan Stockdale’s vibrant acrylic paintings provide detailed visuals of each bird’s plumage, while the minimal text on each page lends itself well to reading the book aloud in early grades and offers an opportunity to study vocabulary in addition to the obvious relation to studies about bird species. Back matter includes thumbnails of each bird in the book along with its common name, a descriptive note, and its native range and a quiz inviting readers to look back through the book to find the birds that display the colors and patterns shown. (PreK-Gr 2)
Blue Floats Away. Travis Jonker. Illus. by Grant Snider. (2021). Abrams.
Through the personification of an iceberg, Travis Jonker introduces young readers to the water cycle. In the story, Blue, a young iceberg, is unexpectedly separated from his parents and undergoes significant changes. Floating in the ocean, Blue makes friends with sharks and sailboats, and he finds their company comforting. As the weather gets warmer, Blue gets smaller and smaller, evaporates, condenses, and sees the world from a cloud’s perspective, discovering airplanes and birds along his journey. As the weather gets cooler, Blue takes on a new form, snow. In this precipitation stage of the water cycle, he finds his parents once again. Grant Snider’s colorful, child-pleasing illustrations, created with cut paper, colored pencil, and white ink, help readers to understand both character development and the water cycle. The story ends with a visual representation of the water cycle featuring Blue in each of his states of matter. A discussion of the effects of climate change on polar ice can be started through the use of the author’s note, which includes information on what we can do to help. (PreK-Gr 2)
Bots and Bods: How Robots and Humans Work, From the Inside Out. John Andrews. (2021). Andrews McMeel.
Writing in a conversational tone, John Andrews compares human bodies to robots. The detailed comparison begins with the features of the human body and moves on to its functions. In addition to the engaging, relatable narrative, the book includes diagrams; “Fantastic Facts,” “Think About This . . .,” and “Try This . . .” text boxes to inspire critical thinking; and interest-catching captioned illustrations. Organized in four chapters, “Body Basics,” “Get Moving,” “Seeing and Sensing,” and “Thinking and Feeling,” the book provides information on how the structure and function of the human body relates to that of various types of robots, like buddy robots, robot cars, and space probes. Appropriate headings within the chapters and an index guide readers in finding information related to specific topics. Overall, this book provides an out-of-the-box look at the human body with a powerful, natural connection to technology. (Gr 3 Up)
Dr. Fauci: How A Boy from Brooklyn Became America’s Doctor. Kate Messner. Illus.by Alexandra Bye. (2021). Simon & Schuster.
This picture book biography tells the inspiring life story of Dr. Anthony Fauci (b. 1940), a curious boy from Brooklyn who became a doctor specializing in infectious diseases and gained recognition as “America’s Doctor” during the Covid-19 pandemic. Kate Messner’s succinct style of storytelling paired with Alexandra Bye’s cartoonlike, digitally-rendered illustrations make this book a good read-aloud choice on a timely topic. The book offers a valuable message for young people, which is repeated throughout the book when Fauci faces specific challenges in life: “Don’t get discouraged. Think about it carefully. Try to work it out.” This message also connects student thinking to the scientific method, which is reflected in the portion of the story recounting Fauci’s studies of COVID-19, and how overcoming challenges may lead to success in both scientific research and life. Back matter includes a timeline, recommendations for further reading, facts on the purpose of vaccines and how they work, and “Dr. Fauci’s Five Tips for Future Scientists.” (PreK Up)
Except Antarctica! Todd Sturgell. (2021). Sourcebooks eXplore.
A turtle’s “We’ll see about that!” response on the title page to the statement “Turtles are found on every continent . . . EXCEPT ANTARCTICA!” introduces this engaging picture book in which the narrator’s attempt to provide factual information about where animals are found in the world goes awry as the turtle invites various animals known by scientists not to inhabit Antarctica (owl, dung beetle, snake, mouse, bee, and frog) to join him on a trek to the frozen continent, despite the narrator’s insistence they will not like it. When they arrive at the coldest continent, the animals realize it is not a suitable habitat for them, and they begin a return journey home. But wait! Where’s that emperor penguin going? Back matter includes a double-page spread with four interesting factoids about each animal in the story, information on some other animals found on every continent except Antarctica, four factoids about the emperor penguin found only on Antarctica with a note on other animals of Antarctica, information on the continent of Antarctica, notes on the effects of climate change on Antarctica and the world, and a glossary. Reading aloud Except Antarctica! may lead to a lively discussion that encourages students to do further research on the continent and environmental issues. (PreK-Gr 2)
How to Talk to a Tiger...and Other Animals: How Critters Communicate in the Wild. Jason Bittel. Illus. by Kelsey Buzzell. (2021). Magic Cat.
Jason Bittel shares a plethora of information on animals from some most young people will be familiar with, like dogs and bees, to less well-known animals, like jackdaws and tarsiers. Some of the animals are large animals (elephants and tigers) and others small (ants and spiders). Keeping the focus on communication, the book is organized into four sections by senses: sight, sound, taste and smell, and electrosensory and touch. For example, in the sight section, readers discover behaviors of different animals related to protection and dominance or submission, including how they communicate using their eyes. The format of the book with its interest catching headings; text boxes of concise explanations and rich vocabulary; Kelsey Buzzell’s colorful digitally-rendered illustrations; a table of contents; and an index makes it a good addition to text sets for students researching behaviors of animals. (Gr 3 Up)
Mars Is: Stark Slopes, Silvery Snow, and Startling Surprises. Suzanne Slade. (2021). Peachtree.
In this exploration of the planet Mars, Suzanne Slade shares spectacular photographs of HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment), an incredible camera which has been transmitting Mars photos to Earth since March 2006. She connects photos and scientific facts with relatable comparisons and explanations. The beautifully crafted book pairs a series of close-up photos of Mars with two sets of text. The first is printed in various colors in large, bold fonts and reads like poetry. The second includes blocks of text in small, black italics with details about each of the photos. In addition to direct links to space science standards in the STEM curriculum, this book is also relatable to Earth science through the discussion of landforms and to physical science through a discussion of states of matter. Back matter provides additional information and photos on NASA’s launching of the mission to Mars in August 2005 and the HiRISE camera, a “More about Mars” section, and a timeline of the exploration of Mars. (PreK Up)
Space Explorers: 25 Extraordinary Stories of Space Exploration and Adventure. Libby Jackson. Illus. by Léonard Dupond. (2021). Beyond Words.
A resource for teaching space in middle school and beyond, this anthology shares twenty-five engaging true stories of people, events, and discoveries from the beginning of space travel to present-day explorations. The book opens with the Soviet Union’s spacecraft Sputnik’s 96-minute orbiting of Earth in 1957 and the story of Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin—the first space traveler—who made one orbit of the Earth on the Vostok 1 mission on April 12, 1961. Additional stories present the important contributions to space exploration of others including Katherine Johnson, a “human computer” at NASA; Chris Hadfield on the International Space Station; and Burt Rutan’s SpaceShipOne. The book concludes with “Going to Mars,” a story that has yet to be written—the story of when astronauts first travel to Mars. The book includes a brief glossary to assist readers with vocabulary found in the stories. These engaging stories of space explorers could lead readers to further research on space exploration. (Gr 6 Up)
I Like Space . . . What Jobs Are There? (That’s a Job?). Steve Martin. Illus. by Tom Wooley. (2021). Kane Miller.
In an interesting infographic-like format, Steve Martin presents a day in the life of twenty-five individuals in space-related jobs. The introduction engages readers by telling them about the team of people needed to send an astronaut into space before Martin and Wooley describe each team member’s job through a step-by-step, numbered account of what a day might look like for each position. Within the description of duties, text bubbles share what the person does, as well as insight into why or how they do it. The best and worst parts of all twenty-five jobs are also presented in text boxes. The book includes a set of graphics to help students identify which space job might best suite them based on their skills, qualities, goals, and interests. I Like Space . . . What Jobs Are There?, part of the That’s a Job? series, would be a good resource for beginning a cross-curricular project on space-related occupations. (Gr 3-5)
Tiffany F. Watson is an Assistant Professor in the Elementary & Special Education Program at University of North Georgia.
Nancy Brashear and Carolyn Angus
Poetry is for everyone. Here are some recently published books for sharing: traditional nursery rhymes in ear-pleasing and eye-catching picture book format, collections of poetry written in various poetic forms that tell stories and convey information on a variety of topic of interest, and anthologies that celebrate the work of individual poets.
Aquí era el paraíso=Here Was Paradise: Selección de poemas de Humberto Ak'abal=Selected Poems of Humberto Ak'abal. Humberto Ak’abal. Patricia Aldana (Ed.). Trans. by Hugh Hazelton. Illus. by Amelia Lau Carling. (2021). Groundwood.
Aquí era el paraiso=Here Was Paradise introduces the poetry of Humberto Ak’abal (1952-2019), who is recognized as one of the greatest Indigenous poets of the Americas. In the introduction, Patricia Aldana, who selected the poems in this beautifully-designed anthology, explains why Ak’abal chose to write his poems in K’iche’, the native Mayan language of Guatemala, then translated them into Spanish, and, later, into English. Although Ak’abal wrote for an adult audience, the topics and simplicity of his poems make them suitable for young people, too. The poems are presented in Spanish and English on facing pages. For example, “La Lluvia / Ayer encontré a una nube llorando.” “The Rain / yesterday I came across a weeping cloud.” Amelia Lau Carling's watercolor-and-pencil illustrations that introduce thematic portions of the book (such as childhood, animals, family members, nature, seasons, spirits, and the plight of indigenous people) are especially inviting. Back matter includes additional information about the poet, illustrator, translator, and editor. (Gr 6 Up)
The Book of Not Entirely Useful Advice. A. F. Harrold. Illus. by Mini Grey. (2021). Bloomsbury.
A. F. Harrold presents young readers with a book of silly poems accompanied by Mini Grey’s vibrant illustrations with their own visual humor. Harrold sets the tone for the book as he confesses up front that the offered advice “will not only make you happy, not only keep you safe, but also—most importantly—stop you from getting eaten by tigers.” The book’s hodge-podge of advice is divided into four equally nonsensical sections relating to food, ducks, and dessert (“But, watch out for crocodiles in your porridge / and watch out for tigers under your toast”); to animals, giants, and the natural world (“Don’t kiss / anything with a hiss”); to school life, onions, and general-knowledge-type stuff (“Always keep an onion handy / They’re great for self defense”); and to the human condition, drama, and miscellaneous other subjects that didn’t fit elsewhere (“The merits are debatable / of a castle that’s inflatable”). Back matter includes notes for readers wishing to continue their adventure in advice with directions for creating a “Advice-A-Tron 216” game and an “Index of Advice, Examples, Morals, and Useful Lessons.” (Gr 3 Up)
Carry On: Poetry by Young Immigrants. Simon Boulerice (Ed.). Trans. by Susan Ouriou. Illus. by Rogé. (2021). Owlkids.
In this collection of poems and portraits of young immigrants participating in a creative writing workshop at a Quebec high school, teens write about their feelings of sadness and uncertainty on leaving behind family, friends, and a familiar way of life and share their hopes for the future as they make a foreign place their new home. Lines from the poems give voice to personal statements, but also express the universality of the immigration experience. “Immigration is heartache / But a lucky break too” (Dowoo Kim, South Korea). “What waits for us in this place? / What path will my life take?” (Dimitri Dogot (Moldova). “I have gained the future / I have lost the past” (Hernan Farina Forster, Uruguay). Back matter includes an editor’s note and an illustrator’s note. (Gr 6 Up)
Dear Treefrog. Joyce Sidman. Illus. by Diana Sudyka. (2021). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Set against a background of Diana Sudyka’s lush, brightly colored double-page paintings, Joyce Sidman’s free form poems filled with observations and introspection on verso pages are matched with factoids about treefrogs on recto pages. In summer, a shy, young girl in a new home makes a quiet discovery. “I See You / suddenly / among the tangled green / a tiny dollop of / frog / where before / there was only leaf / . . . / Are you new here too?” After she introduces a new friend, a young boy, to Treefrog, he also is fascinated by the tiny creature. As the story progresses, Treefrog disappears during the winter, and then in the final poem, spring arrives. “We See You / suddenly / a tiny dollop of / frog / where before / there was only leaf / . . . / Dear Treefrog / did you miss us too?” Back matter features a “More About Treefrogs and How to Welcome Them” page. (PreK-Gr 2)
Delicious!: Poems Celebrating Street Food Around the World. Julie Larios. Illus. by Julie Paschkis. (2021). Beach Lane.
“Cajun? Lebanese? Cuban? Thai? / So many choices! What should I try?” Julie Larios’ first poem, “Carts in the Park,” in which a girl ponders the diversity of foods available in New York City, is the perfect introduction to this collection of short (four to six lines) rhyming and free verse poems about street foods from around the world. In “Market Breakfast,” a young boy enjoys champurrado, a hot milk drink, and cinnamon churros in Oaxaca, Mexico; in “Train Station,” passengers purchase cups of saffron tea to quickly drink up in Mumbai, India; and in “Dance Class,” a young girl selects a special treat of deep-fried scorpions on a stick after her dance class in Beijing, China. Julie Paschkis adds watercolor paintings showing people enjoying street foods and colorful thematic borders to the fourteen poems. A double-page “International Menu of Sweets and Treats” provides additional information. (PreK- Gr 2)
Everything Comes Next: Collected and New Poems. Naomi Shihab Nye. Illus. by Rafael Lopéz. (2021). Greenwillow.
Beginning with an introduction by poet and author Edward Hirsch and a foreword by Palestinian-American Naomi Shihab Nye, the United States’ Young People’s Poet Laureate (2019-2021), this collection of Nye’s old and new poems and short prose affirms her belief that people matter and that caring for each other’s sorrows, sufferings, and celebrations promotes hope. The poems are organized into three sections: “The Holy Land of Childhood,” with insights and observations of children, “The Holy Land That Isn’t” describing the human consequences of war including poems about the displacement of Nye’s family, and “People Are the Only Holy Land” dealing with the lives of people and their stories. Beautiful black and-white illustrations by Rafael López focus attention on the relationships between people and things. Back matter includes Nye’s “Slim Thoughts” about the nature of writing; “Notes on Poems,” which provides the context for some of the poems; and biographical notes on Nye and Hirsch. (Gr 6 Up)
Girls and Boys Come Out to Play. Mother Goose. Illus. by Tracey Campbell Pearson. (2021). Margaret Ferguson.
“Girls and boys come out to play, / The moon doth shine as bright as day.” Tracey Campbell Pearson turns the classic nursery rhyme “Girls and Boys Come Out to Play” into a delightful picture book in which Mother Goose invites young children to join her on a lively nighttime adventure in the neighborhood before she returns them to their homes for bedtime. “Good night. Sweet dreams.” With repeated readings, young children will enjoy searching the richly-detailed mixed media illustrations for the host of nursery rhyme characters from the eight Mother Goose poems on the endpapers: “Hey Diddle, Diddle,” “Ring Around the Rosy,” Humpty Dumpty,” “Little Boy Blue,” “Jack and Jill,” “Rub-a-Dub-Dub,” “Old King Cole,” and “Wee Willie Winkie.” (PreK- Gr 2)
The Last Straw: Kids vs. Plastic. Susan Hood. Illus. by Christiane Engel. (2021). Harper.
Susan Hood pairs seventeen poems with text boxes and quotes to introduce how child activists from around the world have come up with creative ways to deal with the ever-growing plastic problem. The first poem, “Fantastic Plastic,” which addresses the importance of plastic, ends with the quatrain “Is plastic a blessing? / Or is it a curse? / It makes our lives better. / BUT could they get worse.” A text box adds a key question: “How do we use—and reuse—the plastic we need, refuse the plastic we don’t, and avoid abusing the Earth?” The final poems, “Stand Up, Speak Up” and “Join the Crew,” should inspire readers to reconsider their thinking about plastic and act to bring about change to save our planet. Back matter includes an author’s note, timeline, infographics on alternatives to plastic items and the top ten ocean polluters, sources, notes on poetry formats, and further reading (books and websites). (PreK Up)
Legacy: Women Poets of the Harlem Renaissance. Nikki Grimes. (2021). Bloomsbury.
In Legacy, Nikki Grimes follows up her celebration of poets of the Harlem Renaissance in One Last Word (2017) by pairing original poems, written in the Golden Shovel format, with poems that introduce readers to the works of not-well-known women poets of the era (Mae V. Cowdery, Alice Dunbar-Nelson, Gwendolyn Bennett, and twelve others) organized into three parts: “Heritage,” “Earth Mother,” and “Taking Notice.” As Grimes explains in a note on poetic form in the front matter, the writer of a Golden Shovel takes a short poem in its entirety, or a line from the poem, and creates a new poem with lines ending with these words. Each set of poems in Legcy is paired with a stunning full-color illustration by a contemporary Black woman artist. Back matter includes biographies and selected works of the poets whose voices are heard in the book, artist biographies, sources, and an index. (Gr 6- Adult)
Niños: Poems for the Lost Children of Chile. María José Ferrada. Trans. by Lawrence Schimel. Illus. by María José Valdez. (2021). Eerdmans.
In Niños, María José Ferrada pays homage to “the lost children of Chile,” the thirty-four children under the age of fourteen among the thousands of people who were executed or “disappeared” during the seventeen-year military dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet, which began in 1973. Ferrada’s short poems, translated from Spanish and each titled with a child’s name, imagine childhood experiences and connections to the natural world they might have enjoyed had they not been innocent victims of political violence. Each poem appears against the background of an emotive mixed media illustration created in soft colors by María José Valdez. Back matter includes a list of the children and their ages at the time of their “disappearance” and the final poem, “Pablo,” with a note about Pablo Athansiu, who was included on the list until he was found alive in 2013. (Gr 6 Up)
What Are Little Girls Made Of? Jeanne Willis. Illus. by Isabelle Follath. (2021). Nosy Crow.
What are little girls made of? “Sun and rain and heart and brain— / that’s what girls are made of.” In this collection of feminist retellings of seventeen classic nursery rhymes, the girl kissed by Georgie Porgie sends him on his way with “Don’t kiss me unless I say,” and after Humpty Dumpty’s great fall from a wall, his shell is mended and his tears dried by a female doctor. Isabelle Follath’s playful mixed-media illustrations pair perfectly with Jeanne Willis’s witty portrayals of independent girls doing what they want to do. The final rhyme, “Girls and Boys, Come Out to Play,” ends with an empowering message for all children as both boys and girls choose their own activities. (PreK-Gr 2)
Nancy Brashear is Professor Emeritus of English from Azusa Pacific University in Azusa, California. Carolyn Angus is former Director of the George G. Stone Center for Children’s Books, Claremont Graduate University, in Claremont, California.
Osha Lynette Smith
As a teacher, I am passionate about providing my students opportunities to learn about persons who have done great things but are less well-known. I call them “Unsung Heroes.” These persons of color and diverse ethnicities and gender identities who have contributed to society in powerful ways are represented in the inspiring recently published books in this column.
Classified: The Secret Career of Mary Golda Ross, Cherokee Aerospace Engineer. Traci Sorell. Illus. by Natasha Donovan. (2021). Millbrook.
Traci Sorell tells the life story of Mary Golda Ross (1908-2008) noting the presence of Cherokee values in each step of Mary’s journey. In the early 1900s girls were not expected to love math and science, but Mary excelled in these subjects. She went on to attend the teachers college her grandfather, the Chief of the Cherokee Nation, helped found. During World War II, Mary became a mathematician for the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation, but she faced challenges. Wanting to design and build aircraft and spacecraft, Mary became Lockheed’s first female engineer and blazed the path for other women to join the field. Throughout her career, Mary modeled the Cherokee values of working in cooperation with others, staying humble regarding one’s accomplishments, and ensuring equal education and opportunities for everyone. Back matter includes a timeline, an author’s note, information on Cherokee values, source notes, and a bibliography. (Gr 3-5)
Claudette Colvin (She Persisted). Lesa Cline-Ransome. Illus. by Gillian Flint. (2021). Philomel.
Many people attribute the start of the Civil Rights movement to Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat on a bus to a white woman, but Black fifteen-year-old Claudette Colvin (b. 1939) was actually the first to take a stand for her rights in this way. Lesa Cline-Ransome tells Claudette’s story in an engaging easy-to read text. She tells of Claudette’s childhood when she and her sister were sent to live with their aunt and uncle in the small town of Pine Level, Alabama, and the education she received, both in school and in church. Claudette was inquisitive and constantly asked questions. Learning that God created everyone equal, Claudette questioned, “Why aren’t Black people treated as equals?” When her sister, Delphine, became sick with polio and died, she asked, “Why Delphine?” These critical questions spurred Claudette to stand up for her rights, an action that contributed to the desegregation of the Montgomery city buses in 1956. Also included is an introduction by Chelsea Clinton and a list of ways readers can make a difference. (PreK Up)
Dennis Brutus: Poet and Political Activist (Discovering History’s Heroes). Craig Ellenport. (2021). Aladdin.
Craig Ellenport introduces middle-grade readers to Dennis Brutus (1924-2009), who was born in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). Growing up in South Africa, Dennis was affected by the inequities of apartheid. His mixed-race parents were classified as “colored,” and the family was subjected to segregation and discrimination. During his life, Dennis Brutus was banned from teaching and was not permitted to publish his poetry in South Africa. He was also shot and imprisoned. Upon his release from Robben Island Prison after serving eighteen months of hard labor, he promised Nelson Mandela that he would do everything possible to put an end to apartheid. Ultimately, he was exiled from South Africa and went to London where he continued his anti-apartheid activism. Coming to the U.S. in 1970, he taught at various universities, published his poetry, and continued his political activism before permanently returning to South Africa in 2002. Readers will find Dennis Brutus’s life story fascinating and inspiring. Back matter includes a glossary, endnotes, and a bibliography (Gr 3-5)
The Fearless Flights of Hazel Ying Lee. Julie Leung. Illus. by Julie Kwon. (2021). Little, Brown.
Hazel Ying Lee (1912-1944), who was fearless and strived to be the first and the fastest as a young girl, knew she wanted to become a pilot after taking her first airplane ride. She earned her pilot’s license, but no one wanted to hire a Chinese American woman. During World War II, Hazel signed up for a new program, the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), and became the first Chinese American woman to fly for the U.S. military. Since women were not permitted to fight, the WASPs tested and ferried planes to bases. Julie Leung allows the reader to feel Hazel’s conflict as she describes how, when in the air, no one judge her as not an American. Julie Kwon’s illustrations are boldly colored and expressive. Hazel, who died in a plane crash in 1944, did not receive military honors and was not permitted to be buried in a white’s-only cemetery. Her family fought against this ruling and won. The author’s note provides additional information on this brave and determined woman. (PreK Up)
Grace Banker and Her Hello Girls Answer the Call: The Heroic Story of WW I Telephone Operators. Claudia Friddell. Illus. by Elizabeth Baddeley. (2021). Calkins Creek.
Claudia Friddell’s biography of Grace Banker (1892-1960) honors Grace and her brave World War I team of telephone operators, known as the Hello Girls. Women were not permitted to serve in the army—nor could they vote—but twenty-five-year-old Grace became the Chief Operator of the U.S. Signal Corps. Friddell chronicles the dangers and discomforts the women faced crossing the Atlantic on the Celtic and in the Paris headquarters of the American Expeditionary Force. The reader sees Grace as a hard and dedicated worker yet she was the life of the party and a prankster. “Our office is most primitive. Three switchboards, not another stick of furniture . . . I wouldn’t exchange this bare office for any other. I love it here.” Grace received the Distinguished Service Medal in 1919, “for exceptionally meritorious and distinguished services.” Friddell includes photos, a detailed timeline, notes, and a bibliography. (Gr 3-5)
June Almeida, Virus Detective!: The Woman Who Discovered the First Human Coronavirus. Suzanne Slade. Illus. by Elisa Paganelli. (2021). Sleeping Bear.
In this engaging and well-designed picture book biography, Suzanne Slade describes how, at the age of thirty-four, June Almeida (1930-2007) discovered the first human coronavirus. June’s interest in science and desire to help sick people began at a young age, but she was not able to attend college. Nevertheless, she was determined to pursue her interests in science and began working in a hospital lab. Later, June worked at a lab in Canada where she used a powerful electron microscope that magnified things 25,000 times and allowed her to clearly distinguish viruses from cells. In 1964, she worked in a London lab using a technique called negative staining and discovered a mystery virus that, because it looked like a crown, was given the name coronavirus. After returning to Canada, she continued studying other disease-causing viruses. Back matter includes a “More About June” section with photographs, an illustrated timeline of virologist June Almeida’s life and work, and a bibliography. (PreK Up)
The Leaf Detective: How Margaret Lowman Uncovered Secrets in the Rainforest. Heather Lang. Illus. by Jana Christy. (2021). Calkins Creek.
“We are part of our ecosystem, not outside it.” This epigraph is the perfect opening to this biography of Margaret “Canopy Meg” Lowman (b. 1953). Heather Lang’s lyrical text is rich in figurative language as she talks about the accomplishments of this intriguing scientist, who “stuck like sap to her passion” As a young girl, Meg was a “leaf detective.” In college, she faced sexism as the only woman in her science classes, but persevered and became the first graduate student at Sydney University to study the tropical rainforests of Australia. The text is peppered with quotes, and related information is presented in leaf-shaped text boxes. Jana Christy’s vibrant, richly detailed digital illustrations show the reader Meg’s exploration of the secret world of the rainforest canopy and how she has educated people about rainforests and the need to adopt sustainable practices for conserving them. Back matter includes an author’s note with photographs; a “Rainforest Magic” double-page spread showing the layers of the rainforest—forest floor, understory, canopy, and emergent layer—and their inhabitants; books, videos, and websites; and source notes. (PreK Up)
Saving American Beach: The Biography of African American Environmentalist MaVynee Betsch. Heidi Tyline King. Illus. by Ekua Holmes. (2021). Putnam.
Heidi Tyline King presents the life story of MaVynne Betsch (1935-2005), an African American environmentalist and activist, in an engaging writing style. Abraham Lincoln Lewis, MaVynee’s grandfather, purchased the beach front he named American Beach because he wanted all people to be able to use it, unlike the segregated beaches and other such areas in Florida. Returning home after a career as a world-famous opera singer, MaVynee restored the neglected beach, cleaning it up and planting trees and flowers. Later she fought against development of the beach for condominiums and led the petitioning of President George W. Bush to sign a law protecting American Beach forever. Ekua Holmes’ vibrant mixed-media illustrations beautifully capture the essence of MaVynee Betsch and American Beach. In an author’s note, Heidi Tyline King leaves the reader with a powerful message, “. . . you too, will experience sadness in your life, often by something that is not your own doing. Will it destroy you, or will you use it for good, like the Beach Lady?” Back matter includes individual notes from Heidi Tyline King and Ekua Holmes. (PreK Up)
Susan La Flesche Picotte: Pioneering Doctor (Discovering History’s Heroes). Diane Bailey. (2021). Aladdin.
Susan La Flesche Picotte (1865-1915) was the first Native American woman to earn a medical degree. Deeply affected by watching an old woman die on her Omaha Reservation while waiting for a doctor who never showed up and angered by this injustice, she was determined to become a doctor. Susan persisted in her desire to make changes to help her people. In 1910, she went to Washington, D.C. to speak to government officials about issues the Omaha Tribe was facing. Susan was tiny and spoke her powerful words softly. “We are not stones—we are not driftwood. We have feelings, thoughts, hopes. We have suffered enough from your experiments.” Her words made a difference in getting government officials to change their policies related to the Omaha Tribe. She returned to the reservation in Nebraska to provide care for anyone who needed medical support. Diane Bailey engages the reader with this heartfelt, inspiring life story of a Native American women that shows how injustice can be fought with education and determination. Back matter includes a glossary, endnotes, and bibliography. (Gr 3-5)
Who Is Neil deGrasse Tyson? Pam Pollack & Meg Belviso. Illus. by Manuel Gutierrez. (2021). Penguin Workshop.
On June 30, 1973, an African American fourteen-year-old boy from the Bronx watched a total eclipse of the sun while on board the ocean liner SS Canberra, a floating laboratory full of scientists sharing their knowledge. This boy was Neil deGrasse Tyson (b. 1958), who was on this ship because he had won a scholarship from The Explorers Club, a New York City club dedicated to science. Neil had a front row seat! He was also a participant in their experiments and shared in discussions with the scientists and astronauts, Neil Armstrong and Scott Carpenter. Tyson, who has been interested in all things related to the universe since visiting the Hayden Planetarium in New York City when he was nine, is now the director of the planetarium. Pam Pollack and Meg Belviso weave in information on interest-catching topics such as NASA, Star Wars, Carl Sagan, and climate change as they share the life story of astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson in this engaging book in the Who Was? biography series for young readers. Back matter includes a timeline of Neil’s accomplishments as well as a timeline of the world and a bibliography. (Gr 3 Up)
Osha Lynette Smith serves as Contributing Faculty in the Richard W. Riley College of Education and Leadership for Walden University.
These reviews are submitted by members of the International Literacy Association's Children's Literature and Reading Special Interest Group (CL/R SIG).