Summary: The first two pages in the book show the questions asked of each person: What is your name? How old are you? Where do you live? What makes you happy? People from all over the world from ages 1 to 100 are pictured with the answers to the questions. The last several pages give additional information about artist JR and his Inside Out Project that inspired this book. 216 pages; ages 1-100.
Pros: A fascinating look at how people appear at different ages and what makes them happy. Any child or adult will enjoy poring over this book and finding out more about the Inside Out Project.
Cons: The people all seemed so interesting, and there was only a little information about each one.
Summary: International children’s advocate Warren Binford was shocked by his 2019 visit to the Clint Border Patrol Station in Texas where he found over 350 children locked in a warehouse, a loading dock, and overcrowded cells. After Donald Trump and Mike Pence refused to acknowledge the truth about Clint, Warren and his colleagues went on social media to ask artists, writers, faith leaders, and anyone else to help these children tell their stories. Project Amplify has resulted in songs, plays, billboards, works of art, and now this book, which is a collection of the children’s stories in their own words. Illustrated by 17 Latinx artists, the text is in both English and Spanish, and lets the kids tell why they left their countries for the U.S. and the deplorable conditions they experienced once they got here. Includes a foreword by Michael Garcia Bochenek of Human Rights Watch and several pages about Project Amplify and the book, including thumbnail portraits of each artist and questions to ask children about the text. 96 pages; ages 8 and up.
Pros: An incredibly powerful book, made more so by the amazing illustrations (some realistic and some more fantastic), and the back matter.
Cons: It’s hard to recommend an age group for this book. While I think there are plenty of elementary kids who would learn a lot from it, it should definitely be read with some adult guidance.
Summary: Gino Bartali gained fame in Europe when he won the Tour de France in 1938. So when Archbishop Elia Dalla Costa recruited him to help Jewish families escape the Nazis, Gino was ready. He began cycling all over Italy, delivering fake identity papers to families in hiding. He also used his fame by visiting train stations and distracting autograph-seeking soldiers while families destined for concentration camps were quickly rerouted onto other trains. Forced into the Italian militia, he became a spy who helped rescue English P.O.W.’s. After the war, he went on to win another Tour de France, but never talked about the more than 800 lives he had saved, stating that “Some medals are pinned to your soul, not your jacket.” Includes a timeline, a letter from Bartali’s granddaughter Lisa, an author’s note, and a list of sources. 40 pages; grades 2-5.
Pros: Another gripping story of a modest World War II hero that would pair nicely with Peter Sis’ Nicky and Vera. The illustrations, which look like vintage posters, add a lot to the story.
Cons: There was very little information on Gino Bartali’s life before or after World War II. Also no photos, so here’s one.
Summary: On November 24, 1971, a man named Dan Cooper boarded a flight from Portland, Oregon to Seattle. Six hours later, that man parachuted out of the back of the plane with $200,000 strapped to him. No trace of him has ever been found, and only a small portion of the money has been recovered ($5,800 was discovered by a 10-year-old boy in 1980 when he was camping with his family in the woods of Washington). The details of what happened that day are retold here with brief text, illustrations, and primary documents such as Cooper’s boarding pass and the transcript from the plane alerting the authorities about the hijacking. Includes half a dozen photos and a list of sources. 104 pages; grades 3-7.
Pros: It’s hard to imagine a kid unimaginative enough not to be intrigued by this mystery (and gobsmacked that in 1971 you could walk into an airport with a bomb, buy a ticket for $20, and saunter onto a plane unchecked). The graphic format is appealing, but it’s also well-written nonfiction, with theories put forth and then carefully debunked, primary documents, and an impressive list of sources. Look for book 2, Jailbreak at Alcatraz, coming in early September.
Cons: The font, designed to look like it was made with a typewriter that needs a new ribbon, feels authentic but is not necessarily the easiest for kids to read.
Summary: “All across this great big world/jobs are getting done/by many hands in many lands./It takes much more than one.” An architect designs a building, but other workers build it. Likewise for engineers, scientists, authors and illustrators: their ideas are just the beginning, and it is up to thousands of other workers to make the dream a reality. “So when you see a bicycle, a playground, house, or shoe, remember all the someones who helped make a dream come true.” 48 pages; ages 4-8.
Pros: The rhyming text and beautiful illustrations show a diverse group of workers who provide the hands-on skills necessary to plan and execute someone’s vision. This would make a great book for Labor Day to celebrate all kinds of workers.
Cons: Seems like the creative minds are generally valued more than the hands-on builders. (I guess that’s why Lisa Wheeler wrote this book).
Summary: These two books arrived in the library for me from interlibrary loan land on the same day. Walking Toward Peace is the story of Mildred Lisette Norman, who had a vision of walking across the U.S. advocating for peace in the aftermath of World War II. She changed her name to Peace Pilgrim, and from 1953 until her death in 1981, walked through all 50 states, handing out flyers and talking to people about ending war and living in peace. Remarkably, she never carried any money with her, relying on her knowledge of outdoor living and, to a great extent, the kindness of people she encountered on the road.
Peace draws on Baptiste and Miranda Paul’s experiences growing up in war-torn Mozambique. With simple rhyming text (“Peace is pronouncing your friend’s name correctly/Peace means we talk to each other directly”) and pictures of kids and animals living harmoniously, the book offers concrete actions for fostering peace. The authors’ note explains how war affects not only humans, but animals and the natural world as well. Both books are 40 pages and recommended for ages 4-8.
Pros: I’ve heard about Peace Pilgrim for years, so I was happy to learn about this new book. Her story is sure to intrigue both children and adults, and is a moving testimony to following your own path in life (literally, in her case). Peace would make a great follow-up book to read, with its emphasis on how peace is important to animals as well as humans, something that will resonate with a lot of kids. I loved the simple actions described, and the illustrations, especially the beautiful tree on the endpapers, with the word “peace” written in different languages on its leaves.
Cons: It seems like an ironic bummer that Peace Pilgrim was killed in an accident while riding in a car at the age of 72, and did not live to see the end of the Cold War.
Summary: When the crates containing the pieces of the Statue of Liberty arrived in New York, there was one problem: the pedestal for the statue was only half-built, and there didn’t seem to be much interest in raising the $100,000 needed to complete it. Then Joseph Pulitzer, an immigrant himself and owner of the New York World newspaper, wrote in his paper, “Let us not wait for the millionaires to give money. [The Statue of Liberty] is a gift of the whole people of France to the whole people of America.” The “whole people of America”, including many children, rose to the occasion, sending the pennies and dollars that they could afford to build the pedestal. By August, the full amount had been raised from 120,000 donors, and on October 28, 1886, about a million people came to New York to celebrate the new statue. Includes a timeline, additional facts about the Statue of Liberty, a bibliography of books and websites, and two pages of photos and a map. 40 pages; grades K-4.
Pros: Excellent nonfiction, with just the right balance of engaging and informative, and the perfect amount of back matter–love all those photos!
Cons: It was a little anti-climactic to learn in the back matter that the original $100,000 price tag eventually jumped to $320,000 when construction began. Fortunately, additional donors and Congress footed the bill.
Summary: Twelve children from around the world are profiled, each one having started an initiative to help the planet. Each two-page spread shows kids at work, with a brief paragraph describing the young person and their activity. Captions in the illustrations give additional information. The last few pages offer ten things kids can do to help save the planet; ten things they can do to make their voices heard; and a list of seven websites with additional information. 32 pages; grades 1-5.
Pros: Readers will be inspired by these kid activists who have already done amazing things to help make the world a better place. There’s a lot to see in each illustration, and the information is brief enough for the younger grades.
Cons: In the back matter, the author states that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change “found that the world is already 34 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than two hundred years ago.” Was a decimal point left out?
Summary: You can hug a pug, a bug, or a slug (ewww!), but don’t hug Doug. It’s just not his thing. The only hug he likes is a NOT squeezy one from his mom at bedtime. Don’t worry, Doug likes you, and he likes lots of other things, too: his rock collection, his sock collection, drawing with his chalk collection. And he’s really good with high-fives. Turns out Doug’s not the only one, so when considering a hug, be sure to ask first. 32 pages; ages 3-7.
Pros: This lighthearted book about consent touches on quite a few topics: why not everyone likes hugs, the importance of asking before hugging, and that rejecting a hug isn’t the same as rejecting a person. There’s plenty of humor in both the text and illustrations, and Doug is a good-natured guide.
Cons: I’ve definitely made some of the mistakes described by Doug.
Summary: Nicholas Winton was a young man living in England when Germany invaded Czechoslovakia in 1938, and a friend asked him to come to Prague to help. England was accepting refugees under the age of 17 if they had families to take them in. Nicky set up an office in Prague and began collecting names and photos of children. One of those children was Vera, a 10-year-old girl whose Czech parents wanted to send her to England. A few months later, Nicky returned to London to recruit families to take the children. He eventually got almost 700 children (including Vera) on eight trains out of Czechoslovakia. A ninth train with 250 children never made it out after the borders were closed, and only two children on that train survived the war. After the war, Vera returned home, but her entire family had perished, so she moved permanently to England. Nicky never told anyone what he had done until his wife discovered his lists in 1989 and arranged a TV reunion with many of the people he rescued. Nicky never thought of himself as a hero. “I only saw what needed to be done.” Includes a long author’s note with additional information and a photo of a young Nicholas Winton. 64 pages; grades 2-6.
Pros: Peter Sis uses spare, understated text and folk art-style illustrations to tell this amazing story of a quiet hero and the girl whose life he saved (among many others). Keep a Kleenex handy as you read this compelling story which is sure to engage readers well into middle school and may be considered for a few awards next year. And while you have the tissues out, watch this YouTube clip of Nicholas and Vera’s 1988 reunion on British television.