Sharuko: El Arqueólogo Peruano Julio C. Tello/Peruvian Archaeologist Julio C. Tello by Monica Brown, illustrated by Elisa Chavarri

Published by Children’s Book Press (Released August 18)

Sharuko: El Arqueólogo Peruano Julio C. Tello / Peruvian ...

Summary:  Born in Peru in 1880, Julio Tello grew up in an indigenous community, speaking Quecha, the language of the Inca Empire.  His adventurous nature earned him the Quecha nickname Sharuko, meaning “brave”.  He and his brother discovered bones, pottery, and even some human skulls as they explored the foothills of the Andes.  At 12, he went to live with his aunt and study in Lima, eventually graduating from medical school.  After getting a degree in anthropology and archaeology from Harvard, he worked as an archaeologist at the Museum of Natural History in Lima.  His archaeological discoveries showed that indigenous cultures had existed in Peru more than 3,000 years ago, refuting the theories that these cultures originated in Mexico or Central America.  He became director of the new Museum of Anthropology, where he was able to share his discoveries with Peruvians, transforming their understanding of their history.  Includes maps; an afterword, illustrator’s note, and list of sources.  40 pages; grades 2-6.

Pros:  Written in both Spanish and English, this story shines a light on Peruvian history and a man who single-handedly helped rewrite it.  The colorful illustrations feature some of the art and artifacts Tello helped discover.

Cons:  Readers will need some background knowledge to appreciate the story; although the format is a picture book, this will probably appeal more to older elementary and even middle school kids.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

Ocean Speaks: How Marie Tharp Revealed the Ocean’s Biggest Secret by Jess Keating, illustrated by Katie Hickey

Published by Tundra Books (Released June 30)

Ocean Speaks: How Marie Tharp Revealed the Ocean's Biggest Secret ...

Ocean Speaks: Marie Tharp and the Map That Moved the Earth by Jess ...

Summary:  Growing up in the 1920’s and 1930’s, Marie Tharp wasn’t encouraged to pursue her interests in science.  During World War II, however, she was able to study geology and got a job in a lab in New York.  When the men came back from war, they were the ones who went out on research ships to study the ocean, while Marie stayed back in the lab.  She began using the data collected from this research to create a map of the ocean.  Her map revealed a rift valley and mountain ranges under the ocean.  When her work was called into question, she did it over again, coming up with the same results.  Eventually, her mapping was accepted by the scientific world, changing the way scientists think about the geology of the earth.  Includes an author’s note, photo, list of questions and answers, and resources for further reading.  34 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  An excellent introduction to the life of a little-known woman scientist that could be used alongside Robert Burleigh’s Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea (2016).  The illustrations complement the text nicely; I particularly like the ones that show Marie sailing on an ocean of ink in a paper boat as she pursues her explorations of the ocean back in the lab.

Cons:  This doesn’t offer as much of the science of continental drift that Tharp helped discover as Burleigh’s book does.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

When Stars Are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed

Published by Dial Books

When Stars Are Scattered: Jamieson, Victoria, Mohamed, Omar ...

When Stars Are Scattered on Apple Books

Summary:  Omar and his younger brother Hassan have spent a good portion of their lives in a refugee camp in Kenya.  Originally from Somalia, they have been refugees since their father was killed and their mother disappeared during the civil war there.  An older woman named Fatuma lives in a nearby tent and acts as a foster mother to the boys.  Every day in camp is pretty much the same.  Omar wishes he could go to school, but feels that he must stay at home with Hassan, who is nonverbal and has seizures.  The book covers many of the years the boys are in the camp, starting when they are young, and continuing as Omar finally decides to go to school, where he is able to stay until he graduates high school; and their excruciating wait for resettlement, which finally ends when they get permission to move to the United States in 2009.  An afterword tells what happened to the two after they moved to the U.S.; there are also authors’ notes by both authors telling how they came to create this book.  264 pages; grades 4-8.

Pros:  This may be my favorite book of the year so far.  I love Victoria Jamieson’s work, and her artwork is as engaging as it was in Roller Girl and All’s Faire in Middle School.  The story is compelling, and readers will experience the boredom of the refugee camp, as well as the seesawing between hope and despair.  Victoria Jamieson has so many fans, and having her name on this book will make this important story accessible to kids who might not otherwise read it.  I’d love to see it considered for the Newbery or other awards.

Cons:  The story is very different from the lighthearted middle-grade fare of Jamieson’s other works.  While there’s nothing in here that’s inappropriate for fourth and fifth graders, kids who pick it up expecting more of the same may need a little guidance.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

111 Trees: How One Village Celebrates the Birth of Every Girl by Rina Singh, illustrated by Marianne Ferrer (CitizenKid series)

Published by Kids Can Press (Released October 6)

111 Trees: How One Village Celebrates the Birth of Every Girl by ...

Summary:  Growing up in India, Sundar Paliwal watched his mother as she spent hours fetching water, cried over her hungry children, and ultimately died of a snakebite when he was still a child.  As an adult, he worked in a marble factory and witnessed the environmental devastation this work caused.  When his oldest daughter died, he planted trees in her memory.  This gave him the idea to plant 111 trees to honor any girl born in his village.  There were celebrations whenever a boy was born, and Sundar believed that girls should be celebrated as well.  After winning an election to be head of the village, Sundar put his many ideas into practice, and today, there is plenty of food and water, and girls go to school with boys until they are 18.  He continues to plant 111 trees any time a girl is born.  Includes five pages of back matter with additional information, photos, and ways kids can help Sundar’s work.  36 pages; grades K-5.

Pros:  I’m a huge fan of the CitizenKid books and review them whenever I can (look for another one coming soon).  Like others in the series, this one profiles a real person who has made a difference in a part of the world American kids may not know much about.  It also empowers kids to see how an ordinary person can do extraordinary things in their community, and gives them ways that kids can contribute.

Cons:  I’d like to see a world map in all the CitizenKid books showing where the story takes place.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

Bright Dreams: The Brilliant Ideas of Nikola Tesla by Tracy Dockray

Published by Capstone Editions (released August 1)

Bright Dreams: The Brilliant Ideas of Nikola Tesla by Tracy ...

Bright Dreams: The Brilliant Ideas of Nikola Tesla by Tracy ...

Summary:  Growing up in the 19th-century Austrian empire, Nikola Tesla was fascinated by electricity and dreamed of studying engineering.  Although his father wanted him to become a priest, Nikola eventually got his way.  He was so focused on his questions about electricity, though, that he flunked out of engineering school.  Tesla eventually emigrated to America, where he worked with both Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse to develop his ideas about AC (alternating current) electricity.  In spite of his brilliance, Nikola lacked the social and business skills to make his inventions a success, and died a poor man at the age of 86.  His life and ideas have experienced a revival in recent years, including the naming of the Tesla car.  Includes a timeline, bibliography, and additional sources of information.  32 pages; grades 2-5.

Pros:  This is a good introduction to Nikola Tesla’s life, and would serve as a good starting point for research for elementary kids.  Plenty of sidebars help explain some of the more technical aspects of Tesla’s work.  

Cons:  Thomas Edison sounds like a pretty terrible person.

If you would like to pre-order this book on Amazon, click here.

Grasping Mysteries: Girls Who Loved Math by Jeannine Atkins

Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers (Released August 4)

Thanks to Atheneum for providing me with a digital copy of this book to review.

Amazon.com: Grasping Mysteries: Girls Who Loved Math ...

Summary:  As she did in Finding Wonders: Three Girls Who Changed Science, Jeannine Atkins has created biographical novels-in-verse about seven women who used math to excel in their chosen careers.  She starts with Caroline Herschel (1750-1948), who helped her brother William (discoverer of the planet Uranus); she eventually received a salary from the king of England for her work and was awarded a gold medal from the Royal Astronomical Society.  Other subjects include nursing trailblazer Florence Nightingale; inventor Hertha Ayrton; undersea mapmaker Marie Tharp; sociologist Edna Lee Paisano; NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson; and astronomer Vera Rubin, the second woman to receive the Royal Astronomical Society’s gold medal (in 1996, a mere 168 years after Caroline Herschel got hers).  Woven into the narratives are messages about the importance of math and of women pursuing math-related careers. Includes additional information and a selected bibliography about each subject.  320 pages; grades 5-8. 

Pros:  A great addition to both poetry and STEM collections, these stories are told with lyrical language and close attention to detail that brings the subjects to life.  The importance of math in a wide variety of fields is emphasized, along with the struggles that each woman had making her voice heard in male-dominated fields.

Cons:  This seems like it might have a limited audience; the stories may be more suitable to a class assignment than something middle school kids would pick up on their own.

If you would like to pre-order this book from the Odyssey Bookshop, click here. 

My Wild Life: Adventures of a Wildlife Photographer by Suzi Eszterhas

Published by Owlkids (Released October 15)

Buy My Wild Life: Adventures of a Wildlife Photographer Book ...

Summary:  Suzi Eszterhas shares how she became a wildlife photographer, beginning with her experiences as a child taking pictures of her cats in her backyard.  Over the years, she has traveled around the globe, often living in a tent and enduring difficult and occasionally dangerous conditions (no showers, lots of insects, airsickness while taking aerial photos, a charging gorilla) to capture the photographs that have appeared in her many books and helped raise awareness for endangered species.  Many of her photographs appear in the text. The final pages answer some of the questions she is most frequently asked. 32 pages; grades 2-5.

Pros:  As a Suzi Eszterhas fan who has promoted her books to kids over the years (most notably Moto and Me), I am delighted to learn that she’ll have this up-close-and-personal look at her life coming out in the fall.  Kids will enjoy reading about her adventurous life and seeing her photos of a wide variety of animals. Clearly, wildlife photography has been a boys’ club for a long time, and Suzi explains how she had to prove she was tough enough to be a part of it–which this book makes very clear she has done successfully.

Cons:  I got this copy off of NetGalley, and it didn’t include all the photos…however, I feel confident they will be excellent and highly appealing to kids.

If you would like to pre-order this book from the Odyssey Bookshop, click here.

Q&A: Wildlife Photographer Suzi Eszterhas | Sierra Club

 

Fight of the Century: Alice Paul Battles Woodrow Wilson for the Vote by Barb Rosenstock, illustrated by Sarah Green

Published by Calkins Creek

Fight of the Century: Alice Paul Battles Woodrow Wilson for the ...

Coming Soon: The Fight Of The Century - sarah.green

Summary:  When Woodrow Wilson was elected president in 1912, Alice Paul decided to convince him that U.S. women should be given the right to vote.  After a parade the day before his inauguration and multiple visits to the White House failed to garner any results, Paul and other suffragists began a silent protest in front of the White House.  She was eventually arrested and spent seven months in jail, where she staged a hunger strike. Finally, in early 1918, Wilson agreed to support an amendment for women’s suffrage, and the rest is history as the Nineteenth Amendment granting women the right to vote became law on August 26, 1920.  Includes additional information about Alice Paul and Woodrow Wilson; a timeline of women’s suffrage in the U.S.; photos; and a lengthy bibliography. 40 pages; grades 2-5.

Pros:  Using the format of a prize fight with Paul and Wilson as the two worthy opponents adds an element of fun to this story, but doesn’t take away from the informational value.  The extensive back matter makes it a great research resource.

Cons:  Readers with no background knowledge may find the format a bit confusing.

If you would like to buy this book from the Odyssey Bookshop, click here.

 

All the Way to the Top: How One Girl’s Fight for Americans with Disabilities Changed Everything by Annette Bay Pimentel, pictures by Nabi H. Ali, foreword by Jennifer Keelan-Chaffins

Published by Sourcebooks

All the Way to the Top: How One Girl's Fight for Americans with ...

All the Way to the Top: How One Girl's Fight for Americans with ...

Summary:  From the time she was a young girl, Jennifer Keelan-Chaffins realized her cerebral palsy kept her from doing everything her sister could–and she was determined to change that.  She and her family became activists, joining protests for disability rights all over America. Upon hearing that members of Congress didn’t want to pass the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), they decided to go to Washington, D.C. to join the protest there.  When Jennifer saw some of the adults sliding from their wheelchairs to crawl up the steps to the Capitol building, she wanted to join them. Photos of her climb were shown around the world and helped get the ADA into the news, and finally, passed by Congress. Includes two pages with additional information about disabilities, accessibility, and activism; a page on life before and after the ADA; a timeline of the Disability Rights Movement; the photo of Jennifer; and a bibliography.  32 pages; grades K-4.

Pros:  This excellent resource tells Jennifer’s story in a way that’s accessible to all readers.  Her determination and activism from such a young age may inspire others to get involved in causes they feel passionate about.  If they do, the back matter will give them a good start.

Cons:  It seemed like a photo and biography of the adult Jennifer belonged on the back flap with the author and illustration information.

If you would like to buy this book from the Odyssey Bookshop, click here.

 

 

Joni: The Lyrical Life of Joni Mitchell by Selina Alko

Published by HarperCollins

Image result for joni the lyrical life of joni mitchell

Summary:  “Joni Mitchell painted with words” begins this story of iconic singer Joni Mitchell.  Growing up in Canada, Joni loved art and music, often feeling a bit alienated from her parents who were “cautious and fixed in their ways”.  After surviving polio at age 10 (the same epidemic that sickened Neil Young), Joni began to pursue music in earnest, buying her first guitar in high school.  Moving from Toronto to New York to California, Joni found inspiration wherever she went: the clouds from her window on an airplane to write “Both Sides Now” and the view from her NYC apartment for “Chelsea Morning”.  Missing Woodstock to perform on TV prompted her to write “Woodstock”, and the aforementioned Neil Young’s song about staying young forever inspired “The Circle Game”. “I sing my sorrow, and I paint my joy,” Joni said, and this quote is illustrated by a collage of her albums spanning 1968 to 2007.  Includes an author’s note, discography, and bibliography. 48 pages; grades 1-5.

I looked at this book from both sides now, and:

Pros:  Any Joni Mitchell fan will appreciate this lyrical story of her life.  The illustrations are a gorgeous mix of painting and collage that perfectly capture Joni’s spirit and her music.  I particularly liked the one of her performing to an audience of Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, James Taylor, Judy Collins, Arlo Guthrie, and Pete Seeger.

Cons:  There are probably few 21st century kids who know who Joni Mitchell is.  

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.