I wrote a book!

Remember the book A Wonderful Year by Nick Bruel?  Me neither.  It was the first book I reviewed on this blog on February 20, 2015, and I don’t think I’ve looked at it since.

Three days later I posted a review for The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, a book I still book talk many times a year and count among my favorite books of all times.

That’s the way it goes with reading.  Some books are just more memorable than others.

So when I realized that I’ve published almost 1,400 reviews, I decided it was time to do some weeding.  In a week or so, I’m going to take down the reviews from 2015 and 2016.  In preparation for this,  I’ve gone through all the books I’ve written about and picked out the ones I feel have stood the test of time.

I’ve compiled them into a book called Hit the Books: The Best of Kids Book A Day, 2015-2018.  There are about 150 books included; each entry has the summary I wrote on my blog and why it was included on the list.  They’re divided into eight sections: picture books, early readers, early chapter books, middle grade fiction, graphic novels, poetry, biography, and nonfiction.

I also put together ten lists of “Read-Alikes” from the books I’ve reviewed on the blog.  So if you have a fan of Diary of A Wimpy Kid or Raina Telgemeier, you can get some ideas for other books they might want to try.

Let me know if you find this book helpful.  Who knows, I may put together a second edition in another year or two!

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

Her Fearless Run by Kim Chaffee, illustrated by Ellen Rooney

Published by Page Street Kids

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Summary:  Growing up in the 1950’s, Kathrine Switzer loved to run at a time when girls weren’t encouraged to pursue athletics.  At Lynchburg College, she was recruited for the men’s track team. When she transferred to Syracuse University, she was no longer allowed to compete, but she still worked out with the men.  Their coach had run the Boston Marathon many times, and Kathrine decided she wanted to try it. Registering as “K. V. Switzer”, she became the first officially registered woman to complete the race (Bobbi Gibb entered as a “bandit”, running the Boston Marathon in 1966).  When asked by reporters why she had done it, she replied simply, “I like to run. Women deserve to run too.” Includes an author’s note, a note about women and the Boston Marathon, and a bibliography. 40 pages; grades K-5.

Pros:  It’s a compelling sports story, and Kathrine comes across as down-to-earth and someone who young readers will relate to.  

Cons:  Bobbi Gibb is mentioned in the women and the Boston Marathon note as someone who completed the marathon “after hiding in the bushes and slipping into the race”, which discounts her achievement as somewhat sneaky.  This is misleading…read a more complete account of her story in last year’s Girl Running.

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

 

Daring Dozen: The Twelve Who Walked on the Moon by Suzanne Slade, illustrated by Alan Marks, with an afterword by Alan Bean, fourth man on the moon

Published by Charlesbridge

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Summary:  Everyone knows the names Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, the first men to walk on the moon, but maybe not Gene Cernan and Jack Schmitt, the last men to do so.  In between were eight more who traveled to the moon between 1969 and 1972. This book has a few pages about each of the Apollo missions, 8 through 17, the astronauts who traveled on them, and what they accomplished on each trip.  The back matter includes an afterword by astronaut Alan Bean; a timeline to the moon from 1958-1972; additional information about the space vehicles used; and a page on each mission with photos, facts, and a summary paragraph.  48 pages; grades K-5.

Pros:  A fascinating look at the men who were well-known in their time, but tend to be forgotten today.  The author reminds readers of the courage it took, and the danger that accompanied all the missions.  She ends the timeline with the present, stating that lunar missions are currently being planned, and that kids may some day walk on the moon.

Cons:  There’s not much background given on the Apollo missions; page 1 begins with Apollo 11’s lunar module approaching the moon.

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

 

 

Gloria Takes a Stand: How Gloria Steinem Listened, Wrote, and Changed the World by Jessica M. Rinker, illustrated by Daria Peoples-Riley

Published by Bloomsbury Children’s Books

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Summary:  From the time she was a young girl, Gloria Steinem enjoyed learning more about the world around her.  After graduating from Smith College, she became a journalist, but grew frustrated when she was assigned articles about celebrities and scandals.  In 1971, she and Dorothy Pitman Hughes started Ms. magazine, the first magazine owned and written by women, that allowed her to write the kinds of articles she wanted.  She also became known as a speaker during a time that women were advocating for equal rights. Although girls today grow up in a much different world from the one Gloria experienced, she continues to work for equal rights for all.  Includes author’s and illustrator’s notes, a timeline of U.S. women’s history, and a bibliography. 48 pages; grades 2-5.

Pros:  An interesting look at a woman who has worked for equal rights for more than half a century.  The Ms. magazine covers on the endpapers are a fun way to see some of the other women who have been influential in this area.

Cons:  The text was somewhat rambling; I think the story could have been told in 32-40 pages.

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

 

Smile: How Young Charlie Chaplin Taught the World to Laugh (And Cry) by Gary Golio, illustrated by Ed Young

Published by Candlewick

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Summary: Charlie Chaplin’s life is chronicled from his impoverished childhood in London up to his creation of his iconic Little Tramp character in the early days of his movie career.  In spare text, Golio tells how the young Charlie enjoyed his mother’s stories and sometimes earned a few pennies singing and dancing in the city streets. An illness forced his mother and her two young sons into the poorhouse.  When they got out, Charlie was able to help his family when he joined a theater troupe at the age of nine. His stage career continued into adulthood, when he was spotted by Hollywood filmmaker Mack Sennett. Charlie made a movie with Sennett…it was funny, but the director wanted something even funnier.  Rummaging through the prop room, the actor found baggy pants, a small topcoat, and a bowler hat, and the Little Tramp was born. Includes an afterword, additional facts about Chaplin, and resources for further information. 48 pages; grades 2-6.

Pros:  Caldecott Medalist Ed Young has created intriguing collage illustrations that complement the brief, poetic narrative of Charlie Chaplin’s life.  Readers will enjoy the flip animation of the Little Tramp that appears in the lower right corners of the pages.

Cons:  Kids may not know who Charlie Chaplin is.

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

Secret Engineer: How Emily Roebling Built the Brooklyn Bridge by Rachel Dougherty

Published by Roaring Brook Press

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Summary:  Unlike many girls of her time, Emily Warren enjoyed studying math and science.  When she married Washington Roebling, she insisted on joining him on his travels through Europe as he sought ideas to build a bridge from Brooklyn to Manhattan.  Construction began in 1870, with caissons being sunk into the river bottom. Many workers got sick with “caisson fever” from working inside the hot, damp structure, and Washington was afflicted in 1872.  Unable to return to work, he began to rely on Emily to communicate his ideas to the construction workers at the bridge. Eventually, Emily taught herself bridge engineering and began to feel confident enough to add her own ideas.  A week before the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge in 1883, Emily assuaged people’s concerns about its stability by taking the first trip across in an open carriage. Crowds on both sides of the river celebrated the opening on May 24, “never even knowing about the contributions of an insistent woman named Emily Roebling.”  Includes additional information about Emily, a glossary, and a list of additional resources. Photos of the Brooklyn Bridge appear on the endpapers. 40 pages; grades 2-5.

Pros: An inspiring story of a little-known woman who educated herself to be able to play a key role in one of the great engineering feats of her day.

Cons:  I was curious about caisson fever and Washington’s fate, but there was no information about that.

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

The Crayon Man: The True Story of the Invention of Crayola Crayons by Natascha Biebow, illustrated by Steven Salerno

Published by HMH Books for Young Readers

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Summary:  Consider the humble crayon.  Seems like it has always been with us, but prior to the 20th century, kids were limited to dull slate pencils.  Along came Edwin Binney, an inventor who loved color. Working with his cousin, C. Harold Smith, he created gray slate pencils, white chalk, and black crayons.  But colored crayons eluded him.  At his secret lab in Pennsylvania, he melted paraffin wax, ground rocks and minerals into powders, and mixed in clay to thicken the substance.  One evening in 1903, Edwin announced that he had successfully made colored crayons. His wife Alice combined the French words craie (stick of chalk) and ola (oily…an oily stick of chalk?  hmmm) to come up with the now ubiquitous Crayola brand.  Fortuitously, crayons were created around the same time that cheap paper became available, and the rest is colorful history.  Includes two pages of photos showing how Crayola crayons are made today (at the Binney-Smith factory in Easton, PA, where I did an internship while attending Lafayette College many moons ago); more information on Edwin Binney; and a bibliography of primary and secondary sources.  48 pages; grades 1-4.

Pros:  Kids will be fascinated to learn how their crayons were invented.  The illustrations of workers covered in color after laboring over pigments all day are fun, and Edwin Binney’s perseverance is a good lesson in not giving up.

Cons:  The origin of the “Burnt Sienna” color name is not revealed.

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

Image result for crayon man This also appears if you do a Google Images search for “Crayon Man”