Published by Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers
Summary: From the time he was a boy growing up in Brooklyn, Anthony Fauci always had a curious mind. His family encouraged that, telling him to always gather evidence and keep an open mind when solving a problem. Although he wasn’t the biggest kid in the neighborhood, he learned to be competitive in sports, using speed to make up for what he lacked in stature. In 1966, Anthony became Dr. Fauci when he graduated first in his class from Cornell Medical School. Throughout his career, he studied new diseases like AIDS, West Nile virus, and, of course, COVID-19. Keeping an open mind, working with scientists around the world to gather evidence and look for solutions, Dr. Fauci worked tirelessly on the problem of COVID-19. The book ends on a positive note, with the vaccine rollout; Dr. Fauci is happy to get his vaccine, reunite with family, and get back to work on whatever problem comes along next. Includes additional information on vaccines and their safety; Dr. Fauci’s five tips for future scientists; a timeline of his life; a recommended reading list; and several photos of Anthony Fauci growing up. 48 pages; grades K-3.
Pros: A much-needed picture book biography of Dr. Fauci, along with timely information about vaccine safety. The information is straightforward, emphasizing the importance of hard work and critical thinking in the scientific world.
Cons: Probably appropriate for the age group, but the tone of the book is consistently upbeat, with none of the political controversy around Dr. Fauci touched upon.
Summary: Each page of this alphabet book is a collage of immigration-related words that begin with the featured letter. For instance, A is for ancestors, African dance, Abuelita, ambition, and aspire; the Z page shows zest, a ziti dinner, Zen, a zither, and a sleeping mother and child (“Zzzzzzzzz”). An author’s note tells of her own immigrant experience. 40 pages; grades K-4.
Pros: This would make an excellent introduction to immigration, whether it’s for a preschool class or the start of a third- or fourth-grade social studies unit. The colorful collage illustrations and words will get readers thinking about all the contributions immigrants have made to American culture. Students could make their own collages as an extension activity.
Cons: There’s not much context for the individual words, and younger kids will undoubtedly need some help with understanding some of them.
Summary: Horses first appeared on Earth fifty-six million years ago, and although the earliest ones lived in North America, they eventually died out. They survived in Europe and Asia, though, and their domestication revolutionized societies there. Eventually, horses found their way back to North America in Spanish ships, and became part of life for both European settlers and indigenous people. Horses allowed people to travel faster and work harder, and were a key part of the Industrial Revolution. At the end of the 19th century, though, they began to be replaced by cars, and today are used by humans mostly for sports, fun, and entertainment. Includes an author’s note timeline, and list of sources. 48 pages; grades 2-7.
Pros: Anyone who has enjoyed a Jennifer Thermes book knows that maps are a key part of her illustrations, and this one is no exception. Her maps and diagrams help show horses in local settings as well as how they have traveled around the world. Horse lovers everywhere will enjoy this book and undoubtedly learn a lot from the text and illustrations.
Cons: As with any nonfiction picture book that covers a huge topic and span of time, this one is necessarily a little brief on the details. It’s a good introduction, but kids seeking more information will need to delve into other sources.
Summary: Until the age of 5, Joyce Scott and her twin sister Judy are inseparable. But when Joyce starts kindergarten, Judy, who had “what will come to be known as Down syndrome”, stays home. One day Joyce wakes up and finds that Judy is gone. From that day on, Judy lives in a big gray institution where Joyce only sees her on occasional visits. Joyce finds it harder and harder to leave at the end of each visit until, as an adult, she decides to bring Judy home to live with her and her family. Since Joyce works during the day, she enrolls Judy at the Creative Growth Art Center, an art school for adults with disabilities. For many months, Judy sits and looks at magazines, until one day she creates a small sculpture with twigs, yarn, twine, and paint. From that day on, she works at the studio every day, making unique art from all sorts of colorful materials. After her death, her work becomes renowned and continues to be exhibited all over the world. Includes information on Creative Growth Art Center and Down Syndrome, a timeline of Judith Scott’s life, notes from the author and illustrator, sources, and photographs of Judy and one of her sculptures called “Twins”. 48 pages; grades K-5.
Pros: Judith Scott’s story is so engaging that, even though it’s a bit long for a picture book, it would hold the attention of younger readers, and possibly inspire them to try their own creations. Joyce’s voice passes along the love and appreciation she feels for her sister and Judy’s artistic gifts. And, as always, I would be happy to see Melissa Sweet get some Caldecott recognition, which I wanted so badly for Some Writer! that I feel compelled to still mention it four years later.
Cons: I wish there were more photos of Judy’s work in the book.
Summary: Areli Morales tells her story, beginning with her childhood in Mexico where she lived with Abuela. Every Saturday her parents would call from the United States, and Areli dreamed of the day she could join them there. Her older brother Alex lived with her, but eventually was able to leave, because, unlike Areli, he had been born in the U.S. Finally, when Areli was in kindergarten, she got word that she would be able to join the rest of the family. When Areli arrived, she was thrilled to be with her parents and Alex, but struggled to learn English and fit in at school, where kids sometimes called her “illegal”. As the years passed, things got easier, and a fifth grade field trip to Ellis Island made Areli realize how many other immigrants had come to America just like she had, and helped her to dream of a bright future in America. Includes an author’s note about her DACA status: how she obtained it, what opportunities it opened up for her, and how it has been threatened. 40 pages; grades K-4.
Pros: Areli’s story is told in a way that will engage younger readers but also show older kids the experience of immigrating to the U.S. and what it means to be a DACA recipient. Kids who have had an experience similar to Areli’s will appreciate her story, and those who haven’t will get a child’s perspective on what it’s like.
Cons: I liked Areli’s author’s note, but I would have liked even more information or additional resources about DACA.
Summary: Since turning eight, Victor and his twin sister Linesi have different morning routines: Victor heads to school, but Linesi sets off to spend the day fetching water for the family. When Victor’s teacher talks to the class about inequality, Victor starts to notice how unequal life has become for him and Linesi. He tries teaching her after school, but it’s hard for him to explain math concepts, and Linesi is exhausted at the end of her work day. Finally, Victor presents a plan to his mother and sister, and the next day Victor is the one getting the water while Linesi goes to school. They alternate days for school and work, and before long other kids have noticed and implemented similar plans in their own homes. Includes an author’s note; a list of organizations working on water scarcity and gender inequality in Malawi (where the story takes place); and a glossary of Chichewa words used in the story. 32 pages; grades K-4.
Pros: I’m always happy to see a new Citizen Kid book, and I found this one as inspiring and feel-good as many of its predecessors. Like other books in the series, this one tells a story of a kid who has made a difference for his own family and the larger community. The resources at the end will help readers find more information and think about what they can do to help.
Cons: Many of the Citizen Kid books are about real children, but Victor and Linesi seem to be fictional, although the author says she was inspired by a 13-year-old Malawian boy. I wish the story had stuck closer to the real-life kid.
Summary: On January 19, 2006, a spacecraft called New Horizons blasted off from Earth, traveling toward what was then the planet Pluto. It took ten years to reach that destination, during which time Pluto’s designation changed from planet to dwarf planet. Much of that decade was spent by New Horizons in a shutdown state, hurtling through space on autopilot at a million miles per (Earth) day. In late 2014, scientists “woke” New Horizons again, and in 2015, she began transmitting photos of Pluto that captivated Earthlings and greatly increased understanding of the dwarf planet and its moons. A few years later, on New Year’s Day of 2019, New Horizons reached another object called Arrokoth that had been discovered in the years after her launch. Photos of Arrokoth helped scientists understand more about the early years of the solar system. New Horizons isn’t done yet, as she continues to travel further out in space. Includes a timeline, glossary, and resources for additional research. 40 pages; grades 1-5.
Pros: This charming science book gives New Horizons a quirky personality and uses words like “ginormous”, but also makes the story of scientific discovery engaging and packs a lot of information about space exploration and the solar system into a 40-page picture book.
Cons: I was wishing for more information on how New Horizons transmits photos and information back to Earth, which seems like an impossible task over such a great distance.
Summary: Many of us have heard that Isaac Newton developed the theory of gravitation after watching an apple fall off of a tree. Newton is the star of that story, but what about the tree? Believe it or not, it still stands outside of Woolsthorpe Manor, Isaac’s home in Lincolnshire England, and has been visited by such scientific superstars as Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking. A sliver of it traveled aboard the International Space Station and was released into space. A piece was used on a carriage handcrafted for Queen Elizabeth II. And offspring from its seeds have been planted around the world. It all started with one apple seed, and, the book concludes, you too contain the potential to change the world. Includes additional information about the gravity tree, Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, and Stephen Hawking; a timeline of Newton’s life; and a bibliography. 40 pages; grades K-5.
Pros: 2021 does seem to be the year of the tree: counting trees, wise trees, historical trees, and now a tree that has inspired famous scientists. It’s a fun and fresh way to introduce kids to the works of Newton, Einstein, and Hawking, while using the metaphor of a seed to inspire them to think about their own potential. The back matter makes it a great book for older elementary kids.
Cons: Turns out the apple didn’t hit Newton on the head which takes away a bit of the drama from the story.
Summary: Using two fictional ad campaigns, one for a new bubble gum and one for a recycling service, the author takes readers through the steps of how products and services are marketed and advertised (which, I learned, are not the same thing). From traditional ads to social media, kids will learn the various insidious methods companies use to get their loyalty…and their dollars. There’s a chapter about digital footprints, tracking, and privacy, which at this point seems like kind of a lost cause, but is still good to be aware of. Includes a glossary, bibliography, and index. 64 pages; grades 4-8.
Pros: This would be a great text to use for a media literacy class. The writing and cartoon-style illustrations are engaging, with plenty fascinating facts and information that kids will recognize from their everyday lives.
Cons: While the fiction advertising campaigns worked well to teach about different aspects of marketing, it would have been nice to have some real-world examples as well.
Summary: It started with Ibram X. Kendi’s book Stamped from the Beginning. Then Jason Reynolds did a “remix” for teens: Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, and now there is this version for elementary kids. In keeping with Reynolds’ assertion that Stamped isn’t a history book, Cherry-Paul writes that her book talks about history but is “directly connected to our lives as we live them right this minute.” She suggests using rope as a metaphor when learning about race: a rope can lift climbers, join people together, or be used as a weapon. In 24 chapters she traces the history of racism in America from 1415 to the present. Throughout the narrative there are boxes inviting readers to pause and think more deeply about an idea that’s been introduced and how it relates to them. The final section, “An Antiracist Future” calls kids to lead their generation in learning all they can about the “tree of racism” and to finally be the ones to chop it down. Includes a timeline, glossary, and lists for further reading. 176 pages; grades 3-6.
Pros: Every bit as compelling as Jason Reynolds’ book, written at a level that will be accessible to kids as young as eight or nine. Essential reading for kids, teachers, and parents.
Cons: Similar to my “Con” for the Reynolds book, this felt like a whirlwind tour through history; readers will only get a taste of many different interesting people and events. Hopefully, they’ll be inspired to use the reading lists to learn more.