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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: NonFiction, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 1,848
1. Silver Like Dust

Silver Like Dust. Kimi Cunningham Grant. 2012. Pegasus. 288 pages. [Source: Library]

Silver Like Dust focuses on the relationship of a grandmother and granddaughter. The author--the granddaughter--wants to strengthen her relationship with her grandmother. At the start, she feels like she barely knows her. She knows a few things, perhaps, but not in a real-enough way. For example, she knows that her grandmother spent world war 2 in an internment camp. She knows that that is where her grandparents met, and also where her uncle was born. But her grandmother has never talked about the past, about the war, about her growing-up years. In fact, her grandmother has always been a private, quiet person. So she focuses her attention and begins to do things intentionally. She sets out to get to know her grandmother, she sets out to get the story, the real story. The book isn't just telling readers about the grandmother's experiences in the 1940s. The book is telling readers about the process, the journey, to getting to the story. That was unique, I thought. Not every nonfiction book lets readers in behind the scenes. I also thought it kept the book personal. This is very much family history, taking an interest in your family, in the past, of making sense of it all.

I found it an interesting read.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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2. Top Secret Files of History: Spies, Secret Missions, & Hidden Facts from World War II by Stephanie Bearce

World War II is like an iceberg - the parts of it that we read about in history books or even learn in the classroom are really just the tip of the iceberg.  Below the surface, hidden from sight, are all kinds of secrets, deceptions and subterfuge that helped win the war.  So, what are some of them?

Well, Stpehanie Bearce has culled some of the more interesting aspects of wartime secrets and put them together in this small, but very interesting book.  Young readers will learn not only how one became a spy for England, training in the grand estates around the country requisitioned for that purpose, but they will read about the Ghost Army that fought the war with rubber trucks, tanks, planes and weapons.  Rubber?  That's right.  And that's not all they did.

Kids will how read about how an Australian journalist turned spy called The White Mouse became a bane of Nazi existence because of her ability to give them the slip while working with the French resistance.   Or how one man, Christopher Hutton, invented the silk map, making life so much easier for Allied pilots and parachutists, because their maps were now so lightweight and indestructible.  Hutton went on to invent other useful things for soldiers, including a special Monopoly game that could be sent to POWs and contained escape equipment.

There is lots of interesting information about secret missions, like, exactly what Julia Child was cooking up during the war.  Or the secret city that really didn't exist but did exist, and designed to fool the Japanese.  And readers will learn all about Rat Bombs, Bat Bombs and Doodlebugs.

But my personal favorite was the section on Code Talkers.  I've always liked codes and ciphers, especially the Enigma (one of these days I am hoping to post instructions for making a simplified Enigma out of a Pringles container).   And I, like many of you, have heard of the Navajo Code Talkers, but never really understood how the coding worked.  Bearce gives a short history about this special group of men, and how they devised their code, and includes a simplified dictionary for solving her Code Talker's Challenge.

In fact, in each of the five sections that the book is divided into there are corresponding projects that kids can do or things they can make, such as a simple spy obstacle course or a fingerprint kit, or even a book safe.

Scattered throughout each chapter are sidebars of even more interesting information or facts that will intrigue readers, such as how Ian Fleming came up with the name Jame Bond for his famous agent 007.  And at the back, you will find Bibliography and a list of websites where readers can get additional information on all the topics covered.

Spies, Secret Missions & Hidden Facts from World War II is sure to please budding history buffs and anyone else who just likes a secret.

This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was sent to me by the publisher

A 5 copy giveaway of Spies, Secret Missions & Hidden Facts from World War II is going on over at Goodreads until October 28, 2014, so head on over there if this sounds like a book you would like to own.

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3. Mr. Ferris and His Wheel - a review

Davis, Kathryn Gibbs. 2014. Mr. Ferris and his Wheel. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Illustrated by Gilbert Ford.

Though written in a fully illustrated, engaging and narrative nonfiction style, Mr. Ferris and his Wheel is nevertheless, a well-sourced and researched picture book for older readers.

The story of the 1863, Chicago World's Fair debut of the world's first Ferris wheel (or Monster Wheel, as Mr. Ferris originally named it),  is told in a flowing and entertaining style,
     George arrived in Chicago and made his case to the construction chief of the fair.
     The chief stared at George's drawings.  No one had ever created a fair attraction that huge and complicated.  The chief told George that his structure was "so flimsy it would collapse."
     George had heard enough.  He rolled up his drawings and said, "You are an architect, sir. I am an engineer."
     George knew something the chief did not.  His invention would be delicate-looking and strong.  It would be both stronger and lighter than the Eiffel Tower because it would be built with an amazing new metal—steel.
and

it contains sidebars that impart more technical information that might otherwise interrupt the flow of the story,
George was a steel expert, and his structure would be made of a steel alloy.  Alloys combine a super-strong mix of a hard metal with two or more chemical elements.
George Ferris' determination is a story in itself, but it is the engineering genius of his wheel that steals the show.  A "must-have" for any school or public library.

Some facts about the original "Ferris" wheel:
  • 834' in circumference
  • 265' above the ground
  • 3,000 electric lightbulbs (this itself was a marvel in 1893!)
  • forty velvet seats per car
Ferris wheel at the Chicago World's Fair c1893.
 Rights Advisory: No known restrictions on publication.
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division[/caption]

STEM Friday

It's STEM Friday! (STEM is Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)
See all of today's STEM-related posts at the STEM Friday blog.


Site Meter Copyright © 2014 L Taylor All Rights Reserved.

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4. Environmental Book Club

How does a cookbook fit in with my interest in environmental books that provide an immersion in some kind of natural  experience? Pam McElroy, one of the editors of The Green Teen Cookbook, Recipes for all Seasons Written by Teens, for Teens, (Laurane Marchive is the other) writes that "When it comes to food, going green" is, in great part, about shopping seasonally and buying locally. That's a lifestyle, a daily experience. McElroy also says, "Our eating habits form such an important part of our daily lives that questions of what we eat are transformed into questions of who we are. We don't say, 'I eat a vegetarian diet.' We say, 'I am a vegetarian.'"

This cookbook actually includes essays. In my experience, you have to be a bit of a foodie to read essays on cooking, and I don't know how many teenagers have that much of a commitment yet. But I very much like that editors McElroy and Marchive respect their potential readers enough to include them. They also do some neat things with taking the same recipe and changing it according to the seasons and the availability of fresh ingredients.

The recipes here include basics like French toast and tuna salad, swing into your more veggie type things (fried tofu with peanut dipping sauce), and take a shot at what some of us think of as more demanding fare (risotto with arugula pesto). The Green Teen Cookbook is a classy work that takes its subject seriously while also recognizing that people need to know how to cook regular food.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher.

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5. Historical Accuracy in Illustration: Shifting Standards or Stubborn Certainties?

There’s been a lot of talk about accuracy in children’s nonfiction recently (which is just a fancy way of saying that there’s been a lot of talk on this particular blog).  Everything from invented dialogue to series that are nonfiction-ish.  One element we haven’t discussed in any way, shape, or form though is the notion of accuracy in illustration.  And not just in nonfiction works but historical fiction as well.

My thoughts on the matter only traipsed in this direction because of author Mara Rockliff, as it happens.  Recently she wrote me the following query:

“One thing I wonder is why invented dialogue is so often the thing that bothers people most, while other issues don’t seem to come up. For instance, how do you feel about illustrations? It always seems to me that a historical picture book can never be strictly nonfiction, because no matter what the writer does, the illustrations will be fictional. I’ve got a couple of historical picture books on the way this winter. One has very fanciful, cartoony illustrations and the other has meticulously researched illustrations–but both are made up. If an illustrator says, ‘Well, this is the TYPE of thing Ben Franklin wore (but there’s no way to know what he wore on this particular day), and these are the gestures he MIGHT have made and the facial expressions he MIGHT have worn, and here is what his visitors MIGHT have looked like, and this is MORE OR LESS what they might have been doing at that moment, or possibly they never did anything like this at all, and this is a typical style for houses at that time…’ does that seem different to you from a writer saying similar things about invented dialogue?”

It is, you have to admit, an excellent point.  Can illustration ever really and truly be factual, just shy of simply copying a photograph? Should we hold historical fiction and historical nonfiction to different standards from one another?  She goes on to say in relation to made up text vs. made up art:

I’ve been struggling to formulate my thoughts on this, but I have a vague feeling that
(1) historical picture books should not invent IMPORTANT details (the main events of the story, for instance–what someone would say if asked to summarize the book), no matter how they’re categorized or what’s explained in the author’s note
and
(2) there should be clues to what’s made up in the story itself, both in the text and the art. Like, if the illustration style is cartoony and the dialogue is humorously anachronistic (“Your majesty, those colonists think they can beat your redcoats! Ha ha ha ha ha.”), an adult reader at least would assume the dialogue had been made up. I think.

There’s lots of time to chew on the notion of art in children’s nonfiction and historical fiction.  Mara poses an excellent question about made up dialogue vs. illustrations.  Why should one bother a person more than another?  I think it comes down to the reality of a situation.  Illustration is, by its very definition, going to be made up.  The author might do more research than anyone else but you can never say for certain if an eyebrow was up at one moment or a person held a letter in that particular way another.  So all illustration is supposition.  Dialogue, however, when using quotation marks, is saying that a person definitely said one thing or another.  If a books says, “This person may have said this or that” then they’re in the clear but when they use quotation marks without any caveats then they are saying a person definitely said one thing or another.  Ex: “Put that peashooter down or I’ll kill you”, said Albert Einstein.  When you read that you assume he actually said it.  And, for whatever reason, that seems far worse than simply drawing him in one position or another.  I think people will always assume that an illustration is coming out of the head of an artist, but wordsmiths are held to a different standard.

Now obviously even when we “know” that someone said something we can almost never “know” if they said that exact thing.  But that’s where honesty comes in.  Books that say right from the start that they don’t know one thing or another are being honest.  Books that just lead you to assume that something happened the way they say it did are being dishonest.

Screen Shot 2014 10 14 at 9.49.14 PM Historical Accuracy in Illustration: Shifting Standards or Stubborn Certainties?Here in the library we always put “nonfictiony” books with fake elements in the picture book or fiction section.  It’s a bummer but we don’t have much of a choice.  I mean, compare a book like THE BOY WHO LOVED MATH which never ever includes any fake dialogue and makes a big deal about the fact that the illustration of the boy’s nanny is based on nothing because the artist couldn’t find a photograph of her (now THAT is honesty!) to a book which makes up fake people saying fake things for absolutely no good reason whatsoever.  I really love books like HE HAS SHOT THE PRESIDENT that don’t rely on fiction to make the nonfiction parts good.  Still, as long as there’s a caveat or explanation somewhere in there I’ll not raise any objections.  But what about the art in HE HAS SHOT THE PRESIDENT?  Why am I okay with illustrations that are suppositions and not text?

Naturally I decided that this had to be a Children’s Literary Salon at NYPL.  So as of right now we’ve a Lit Salon for March planned on this topic with Mara here as well as her HMH editor, Brian Floca, and Sophie Blackall.  Let it never be said I go halfsies on these things.  I’ll post a link to the event information a little closer to the date, no worries.

So what do you think?  Is it ridiculous to your mind to distinguish between “reality” in art vs. text? Or could we go even further in the matter?

share save 171 16 Historical Accuracy in Illustration: Shifting Standards or Stubborn Certainties?

11 Comments on Historical Accuracy in Illustration: Shifting Standards or Stubborn Certainties?, last added: 10/15/2014
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6. Yell and Shout Cry and Pout by Peggy Kruger Tietz, Ph.D.

yell

Yell and Shout Cry and Pout by Peggy Kruger Tietz, Ph.D. is a helpful resource to identify emotions: for children, for parents, for teachers, and for a multitude of others. Anger, fear, shame, sadness, happiness, love, disgust, and surprise are featured in this short book that is tall on content.

This book has an excellent style that is repeated as the reader delves into each emotion. The emotion is bold text and is followed by a description of what purpose that emotion serves. Example: “Anger tells us when we’ve been mistreated so we can defend ourselves.” Then a short fictional story is told and the emotion the character is feeling is stated. The book then goes on to say how those feelings might make you feel, how we might react, and finally explains some things that could happen to cause you to feel that emotion. Illustrations by Rebecca Layton appear throughout the text so the reader can visualize what emotion is being discussed. The final page is a Note to Adults that includes interesting facts about emotions.

The back cover blurb states: “When children can identify their feelings they gain self-awareness, become better communicators and are able to ask for the help they need.” I truly believe this book will go a long way in helping children and those around them better understand these emotions.

Highly recommended.

Rating: :) :) :) :) :)

Title: Yell and Shout, Cry and Pout: A Kid’s Guide to Feelings
Author: Peggy Kruger Tietz
Publisher: Peggy Kruger Tietz
Pages: 40
Genre: Nonfiction/Psychoeducational
Format: Paperback/Kindle

Purchase at AMAZONPeggy Kruger Tietz

Dr. Peggy Kruger Tietz is a licensed psychologist and maintains a private practice in Austin, Texas.  She sees a wide range of children with normal developmental problems as well as children who have experienced trauma.  Her Ph.D is in developmental psychology from Bryn Mawr College.  Before entering private practice Dr. Tietz treated children in multiple settings, such as family service agencies and foster care.  Dr. Tietz, trained at the Family Institute of Philadelphia, and then taught there.   She specializes in seeing children individually, as well as, with their families.   She has advanced training in Play Therapy as well as being a certified practitioner of EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, for children and adults).   She has conducted workshops on parenting, sibling relationships, and emotional literacy.

Her latest book is the nonfiction/psychoeducational book, Yell and Shout, Cry and Pout: A Kid’s Guide to Feelings.

For More Information

I received a free copy of this book from the author. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.

Yell and Shout banner


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7. The Art of Raúl Colón


“When Leontyne performed at the Metropolitan Opera House in 1955, she blew open the door that Marian left ajar. Six years later, Leontyne landed
her first lead role with the Met. …”

(Click to enlarge spread)


 

Since I’ve got a review of Raúl Colón’s Draw! (Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster, September 2014) over at BookPage, I thought I’d follow up with some illustrations from the book today. The review is here, and the art is below.

But, while we’re on the subject of Colón, I’ve also got some illustrations from two other books he has illustrated this year — Juan Felipe Herrera’s Portraits of Hispanic American Heroes, which was published in August by Dial, and Carole Boston Weatherford’s Leontyne Price: Voice of a Century, coming this December from Knopf. (Pictured above is an illustration from Weatherford’s book.)

Enjoy the art …

Art from Draw!


 



(Click either image to see spread in its entirety)


 


(Click to enlarge)


 


(Click to enlarge)


 



(Click either image to see spread in its entirety)


 



 

Art from Juan Felipe Herrera’s
Portraits of Hispanic American Heroes


 


Julia de Burgos
(Click to enlarge)


 


César Estrada Chávez
(Click to enlarge)


 


Roberto Clemente
(Click to enlarge)


 


Sonia Sotomayor
(Click to enlarge)


 



 

Art from Carole Boston Weatherford’s
Leontyne Price: Voice of a Century


 


“Until the college president heard her solo and convinced her to study voice instead. Leontyne changed course. Led by song, she cracked the door that Marian had opened years earlier. And before long, Leontyne went to Juilliard. There, she found her teacher, Florence Page Kimball, and her calling.”
(Click to enlarge spread)


 


“Yes, the world-famous Miss Price could be all mink and pearls when she wanted to, rolling her r’s like an Italian contessa, wearing Viennese hats
and silk dresses from Rome.”

(Click to enlarge spread)


 



 

* * * * * * *

DRAW! Copyright © 2014 by Raúl Colón. Spreads used by permission of the publisher, Simon & Schuster, New York.

PORTRAITS OF HISPANIC AMERICAN HEROES. Copyright © 2014 by Julian Felipe Herrera. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Raúl Colón. Spreads used by permission of the publisher, Dial Books for Young Readers, New York.

LEONTYNE PRICE: VOICE OF A CENTURY. Copyright © 2014 by Carole Boston Weatherford. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Raúl Colón. Spreads used by permission of the publisher, Alfred A. Knopf, New York.

1 Comments on The Art of Raúl Colón, last added: 10/14/2014
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8. Don’t Even Think About It

Don’t Even Think About It: Why our brains are wired to ignore climate change by George Marshall is pretty darn depressing. Oh he tries to offer hope at the end but it is paltry compared to what comes before. And what is it that comes before? Page after page of psychology and human behavior detailing why this climate change thing is so hard for us to get together and do something about.

The problem is not just one thing, it’s a big prickly ball of things that is going to need to be attacked from all angles at once and not one thing at a time. Where to start? First, there is a disconnect between scientists and the public and the way they talk to us about climate change. They use words that mean something completely different to us. They say, we are almost certain that climate change is happening and that it is caused by humans. What they mean is they are sure but they can’t say that because in science-speak you can never ever be 100% certain about anything. So what we hear is there is room for doubt. If the scientists aren’t certain then they could be wrong. The scientists beat us over the head with statistics and numbers and logic. We say, wow last winter was so cold I wouldn’t mind if it were a few degrees warmer. They give us facts. We want compelling stories to engage our emotions and prompt us to care and they can’t be about drowning polar bears because, sad as it is, a drowning polar bear is too distant for me to really care about it. I need a story about how climate change is going to affect me personally, and not in 30 or 40 years, that’s a long time away, but five years, next year, now.

Also, climate change needs to be placed into a wider context. It has been boxed away as an environmental issue which makes it easy for people to dismiss. Climate change is not an environmental issue. It is about values, politics and lifestyle. It is about food and water and jobs. It’s about safety and security.

We are busy looking around for someone to blame. We want to blame the oil companies and the politicians while we fill up the gas tanks on our SUVs and fly to the Virgin Islands for a mid-winter getaway. We have convinced ourselves that we are doing everything we can, I’ve changed all my lightbulbs to LED, I recycle, I take my own reusable bags to the grocery store, someone else has to do something. When we are all at fault. Us, our parents, our grandparents, our great-grandparents. But to play the blame game will get us nowhere. We will all need to make sacrifices much more drastic than buying an electric car. We’ve gone about “fixing” the problem from the wrong end. Instead of attacking it at the source and limiting coal and oil extraction and use, we go at it from the tail which is like trying to put out a forest fire with a bottle of water.

We are attached to the status quo and will keep doing what we’ve been doing unless given a compelling reason to do something else. And if, or when, things to start to change, everyone needs to be affected just as much as everyone else. Humans are great at detecting inequities and if you are only allowed to drive your one car two days a week but I get to drive mine four, well that’s just not fair.

I could go on and on, this is a substantial little book. In the end Marshall suggests that all the things that keep us from recognizing climate change as a threat can also help up solve the problems climate change will bring us. It will not be simple to change the frames through which we view the problem, but it isn’t completely impossible. He offers numerous ideas of what needs to be done and how we can each contribute to changing the conversation.

Climate change is happening right now. It is going to continue to happen. Things will probably get bad. Really bad. Not tomorrow and probably not next year, but sooner than you think. So what are we going to do about it?


Filed under: Books, Nonfiction, Reviews, Science Tagged: climate change

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9. #WeNeedDiverseBooks -- recommending books from a wide range of perspectives (ages 4-14)

#WeNeedDiverseBooksEarlier this year, several authors banded together to put out the cry: #WeNeedDiverseBooks. What started as a call for action quickly turned viral, drawing the support of librarians, teachers, booksellers and authors nationwide. This past weekend's KidLitCon, with its focus on diversity and speaking out, prompted me to share this presentation below.

Our community in Berkeley is incredibly diverse, and I constantly try to seek out books that represent a wide range of perspectives. I want my students to be able to see themselves in books, and I want them to be able to see into others' worlds.

Although the vast majority of children's books still represent the dominant white perspective, there are many books that share diverse points of view. Our responsibility, as parents and librarians, is to seek out and celebrate books that represent a wide range of perspectives. Below is my start at that -- a celebration of diverse books for children ages 4-14. Most are new, but some are also favorites that librarians in my district have recommended.


Please let me know if there are other new diverse titles we should recommend to kids, and I will update this presentation in a few weeks. I have read many, but not all of the books in this presentation. All come with a recommendation from a fellow book-lover that I respect.

Here are a few more titles that folks have already suggested that I include:



If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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10. Josephine; The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker

by Patricia Hruby Powell, pictures by Christian Robinson. Chronicle books, 2014. Review copy. This adorable 8" x 10" full color hardback book is a treasure trove of inspiration and information on the glorious life of Josephine Baker. Baker was born in a hard scrabble life in East St. Louis in 1906. Growing up with poverty, discrimination, race riots, and a family that loved ragtime music and

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11. Environmental Book Club

I've said before that my idea of an environmental book is one that immerses readers in some kind of natural experience. I'm not sure that Lifetime, by Lola M. Schaefer with illustrations by Christopher Silas Neal,  really does that. As the Kirkus reviewer said of it, "Is this book about the natural world? Counting? Statistics? Solving math word problems?" But the natural world is in there.

I can't say I know a lot about math. But what seems to be going on in Lifetime is an introduction to the concept of counting as well as the recognition that counting things is part of life. This isn't a traditional counting book, as in "1 papery egg sac," "2 caribou," "3 alpacas." It's just about counting. You can count the number of antlers a caribou will grow and shed in a lifetime. (10) You can count the number of beads a rattlesnake will add to its rattle. (40)

There are all kinds of animals out there, and you can count things related to them.

Hmm. Maybe there is an immersive experience here, one in which we take a human created activity and apply it to the natural world that animals live in.

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12. Gathering Moss

Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses by Robin Wall Kimmerer took some time to get through for such a slim book. It’s not that the reading was all that difficult, most of the chapters are the perfect length for reading before bed or during lunch. Nor was is over science-y and dry. It was actually a really interesting book. For instance, did you know there are as many as 22,000 different kinds of mosses and that they inhabit every ecosystem on earth? What took me so long to get through the book were some interruptions with books on deadlines, but also a bit of disappointment.

Like I said, Gathering Moss is really good. But I had read Kimmerer’s second book, Braiding Sweetgrass earlier this year and absolutely loved it for its combination of memoir and plant science. I expected Gathering Moss would be the same. In some ways it is, there are a few personal stories about her daughters and her neighbor and stories about field study for her own research and working with her students, but the focus here is definitely on the mosses. Nearly every chapter is devoted to one particular kind of moss, how and where it grows, how it reproduces, that sort of thing. It took me a little bit to get over my initial disappointment, but once I did and no longer had other bookish distractions, I fell pleasantly into the book.

I always thought moss was pretty neat, but now I will never look at it the same way again. And the thing with moss is, you really do have to look. It is such a tiny plant, it requires that you pay attention and get up close and personal with it, preferably with a magnifying glass or microscope. And when you really look, it does amazing things. Moss can lose up to 98% of its moisture and still survive, reviving when it gets wet again. And if you live in a city, you have probably helped pollinate moss and not even known it.

The moss species Bryum agenteum is most commonly found in sidewalk cracks. When we scuffle over the cracks, moss spores stick to the bottom of our shoes and is deposited in other sidewalk cracks, pollinating other colonies and spreading to uninhabited cracks to begin new ones. Moss is also very sensitive to air pollution so you can tell how clean your city’s air is by how much moss you see on trees.

Moss also helps grow and sustain forests. Moss is like a sponge and it shares its water with tall trees and sprouting tree seeds. Moss also shelters insects and these insects in turn become food for birds and salamanders and toads which then become food right up the food chain. Moss also supports fungal growth in the soil, important for good soil health which is important for other plant life as well.

Mosses are tiny, overlooked powerhouses. Without mosses, this world would look a lot different. Come next spring when the moss brightens the bark of the trees in my garden, I will be stopping to look up close. And I will be getting down on my hands and knees to look at the patches of moss growing beneath the apple trees in my front yard. Over the years as the grass beneath the trees has disappeared I have noticed the patches of moss have increased in size and number. It has always delighted me to see these patches getting bigger but I have never bent down to really look at them. Now I will. It is time to get to know the moss in my garden.


Filed under: Books, Nonfiction, Science, Science by Women

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13. What makes you You? A Royal Society Young People’s Book Prize shortlistee

royalsocietyprizebuttonEach year the Royal Society awards a prize to the best book that communicates science to young people with the aim of inspiring young people to read about science. In the run up to the announcement of the winner of The Royal Society Young People’s Book Prize in the middle of November, I’ll be reviewing the books which have made the shortlist, and trying out science experiments and investigating the world with M and J in ways which stem from the books in question.

7277405-MFirst up is What makes you YOU? by Gill Arbuthnott , illustrated by Marc Mones.

Have you ever thought how your genes could get you out of prison?

Or what the consequences might be if a company owned and could make money out of one of your own genes?

How would you know if you were a clone?

Why might knowing something about junk DNA be important if you’re running an exclusive restaurant with slightly dodgy practices?

Answers to these and many other intriguing questions are to be found in this accessible introduction to genetics, pitched at the 9-11 crowd. Arbuthnott does a great job of showing how relevant a knowledge of genetics is, whether in helping us to understand issues in the news (e.g. ‘Cancer gene test ‘would save lives’‘) or understanding why we are partly but not entirely like our parents. What makes you YOU? covers key scientists in the past history of genetics and crucial stages in its development as a science, including the race to discover what DNA looked like, the Human Genome Project, and Dolly the Sheep.

wmyyinside

Arbuthnott portrays the excitement and potential in genetic research very well, leaving young readers feeling that this is far from a dry science; there are many ethical issues which make the discussion of the facts seem more relevant and real to young readers. Whilst on the whole I felt the author did a good job of balancing concerns with opportunities, I was sorry that in the discussion about genetically modified plants no mention was made of businesses ability to control supply to food stock, by creating plants which don’t reproduce, leaving farmers dependent on buying new seed from the business.

A timeline of discoveries, a very helpful list of resources for further study, a glossary and an index all make this a really useful book. Importantly, not only does the book contain interesting and exciting information, it also looks attractive and engaging. Lots of full bleed brightly coloured pages, and the use of cartoony characters make the book immediately approachable and funny – a world away from a dry dull school textbook.

What makes you YOU? provides a clear and enjoyable introduction to understanding DNA and many of the issues surrounding genetic research, perfect not only for learning about this branch of science, but also for generating discussion.

Extracting DNA is what the kids wanted to try after sharing What makes you YOU?. In the interest of scientific exploration we tried two different techniques to see which one we found easier and which gave the best results.

Method 1: Extracting your own DNA

What you’ll need:

dna1

  • A tablespoon
  • Salt
  • A measuring jug
  • Water
  • Washing-up liquid
  • A small bowl
  • A teaspoon
  • A small clean cup
  • A tall and narrow jar (or a test tube)
  • Clingfilm or a stopper/lid
  • A stirrer eg a plastic straw
  • Rubbing alcohol (surgical spirit – in the UK you can buy this easily in a chemists such as Boots)
  • dna4

  • 1. Dissolve 1 tablespoon of salt in 250ml of water to create a salt solution.
  • 2. Dilute the washing-up liquid by mixing 1 tbsp of washing-up liquid with 3 tbsp of water in your small bowl. We’ll call this the soap solution.
  • 3. Swish 1 teaspoon of tap water around in your mouth vigorously for at least 30 seconds. Spit this into the small cup. We’ll call this spit water.
  • 4. Put 1/4 teaspoon of your salt solution into your tall jar/test tube.
  • 5. Pour your spit water from the cub into the tall tar/test tube.
  • 6. Add 1/4 teaspoon of your soap solution to the test tube.
  • 7. Cover the top of your tall jar/test tube either with clingfilm/a stopper/a lid and gently turn the jar almost upside down several times to mix everything together. Avoid making any bubbles.
  • 8. Take the covering off the jar and dribble 1 teaspoon of surgical spirit down the side of the tall jar/test tube. Watch for the surgical spirit forming a layer on top of the spitwater/salt solution/soap solution mix.
  • 9. You should now see a white stringy layer forming between the two layers – this is your DNA (and a few proteins, but mostly it’s your DNA)
  • 10. You can use the stirrer to pull out the white goop to get a closer look at your DNA.
  • dna5.jpg

    We learned this method for extracting DNA from Exploratopia by Pat Murphy, Ellen Macaulay and the staff of the Exploratorium. Unfortunately it’s out of print now, but it is definitely worth tracking down a copy if you are interested in doing experiments at home.

    Method 2: Extracting strawberry DNA

    This second method is detailed in What makes you YOU? and involves strawberries, fresh pineapple, warm water and ice as well as washing-up liquid and salt. It also calls for methylated spirits but we swapped this for surgical spirit, as that’s what we had to hand.

    dna2

    This method is a little more involved than the first method but is a all round sensory experience: There are lots of strong smells (from crushed strawberries and puréed pineapple, as well as the surgical spirit), colours make it visually very appealing (perhaps this is why methylated spirits are called for in the original recipe as the purple of the meths adds another dimension) and there is also lots to feel, from the strange sensation of squishing the strawberries by hand, through to the different temperatures of the warm water in which the DNA-extracting-mix gently cooks followed by the ice water in which it cools down.

    squishingstrawbs

    strawberrydnaprocess

    strawberrydnaresult

    Look! Strawberry DNA!

    strawberrydnagoop

    Both methods were fun to try. We liked the first method because the result was seeing globs of our very own DNA, but the second method was a much more stimulating process, appealing to all the senses. Indeed this DNA extraction recipe alone makes it worthwhile seeking out a copy of What makes you YOU?.

    Whilst extracting DNA we listened to:

  • GENEticS, a rap by Oort Kuiper
  • The DNA song

  • The Galaxy DNA song By Eric Idle and John Du Prez (a re-worked Monty Python song)

  • Other activities which might go well with reading What makes you YOU? include:

  • Checking out this list of children’s books I previously compiled on genetics and DNA – with something for everyone no matter what their age.
  • Listening to an interview with Gill Arbuthnott
  • Watching this animation which helps explain how Mendel’s pea plants helped us understand genetics
  • What do you and your family look for in science books to really hook you in? Do share some examples of science books which you’ve especially enjoyed over the years.

    Disclosure: I received a free review copy of What makes you YOU? from the Royal Society.

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    14. Review of Tiny Creatures

    davies tiny creatures Review of Tiny CreaturesTiny Creatures:
    The World of Microbes

    by Nicola Davies; 
illus. by Emily Sutton
    Primary    Candlewick    40 pp.
    8/14    978-0-7636-7315-4    $15.99

    Davies introduces a likely brand-new — and immediately intriguing — concept to young readers: that there are vast quantities of living things (microbes) that are smaller than the eye can see. She does it not with dull lists of Latin terms and classification charts but instead through creative, easy-to-relate-to analogies, and itchy-but-cool facts about the microbes that live on and in us (“Right now there are more microbes living on your skin than there are people on Earth, and there are ten or even a hundred times as many as that in your stomach”). An emphasis on scale, particularly size and quantity, helps children grasp the abstract concepts (a several-page sequence illustrating the rapid multiplication of E. coli is very effective). The tone is light and inquisitive yet also scientifically precise, covering topics such as the shape and variety of microbes, their function, and reproduction. The role of microbes in human illness is touched upon (“it takes only a few of the wrong kind of microbes — the kind we call germs — to get into your body to make you sick”), but balanced with discussion of the helpful things microbes do. Sutton’s colorful, friendly illustrations, which render micro-organisms’ shapes accurately (if stylized) somewhat, add depth to the presentation.

    From the September/October 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

    share save 171 16 Review of Tiny Creatures

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    15. A bookish microcosm of Russia

    My family often wonders about my propensity to jump from one seemingly unrelated topic to another, often within seconds.  What they usually don't realize is that in my mind, the topics are connected; I've merely forgotten to fill them in on the links.

    With that in mind, I offer you three new books on Russia that in my mind, are dramatically different and yet completely complementary.  A young adult nonfiction book, a young adult fantasy, and a children's picture book a microcosm of Russia in history, magic and dance.

    I recently had the pleasure of reviewing Candace Fleming's, The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of the Imperial Russia (Random House Audio, 2014).  My review and an audio excerpt are linked here.

    You can read my review or any number of stellar reviews, but I will sum up  by saying that whether you listen to the audio book or read the print copy, The Family Romanov is a fully immersive experience into the final years of tsarist Russia - the time, the place, and  the tragically doomed family.

    I was happily mulling over this excellent book when I immediately received an opportunity to  review Egg & Spoon by Gregory Maguire (Brilliance Audio, 2014).  I had received a galley copy of Egg & Spoon in the spring.  I thought it looked intriguing, but hadn't had time to read it.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that it is a folklore fantasy that takes place - of all places - in tsarist Russia.  I couldn't believe my good fortune.  The book was enhanced by my recent reading of The Family Romanov.  With the history of modern tsarist Russia fresh in my mind, the location and historical setting was vivid, leaving me more time to ponder the story's underpinning of Russian folklore, of which I was mostly ignorant.  I knew little of the witch, Baba Yaga and her peculiar house that walks on chicken legs, and I knew nothing of the magical Russian firebird.

    My reviews are linked here and here.  Again, you can read my review or any other, but I will sum up by saying that Egg & Spoon is grand and magical - a metaphoric epic for readers from twelve to adult.

    I was so happy to have read these excellent books in tandem and was recommending them at every turn, when I happened to hear an interview with Misty Copeland on the radio speaking about her experience dancing in the Russian ballet, The Firebird. What a coincidence, I thought - the firebird flies again in my milieu. A greater coincidence ocurred at work when I received my new copy of Misty Copeland's, Firebird. (Putnam, 2014)  Reading Egg & Spoon gave me an historical context for The Firebird ballet, and Misty Copeland tied it all together - a modern and immediate manifestation of history's struggles and stories - all rising like the mystical firebird.

    So there you have it, my serendipitous encounter with Russian history, folklore and culture.  As our two countries struggle with our relationship, may we always remember that there is more to a country than its leaders and politicians.  There is always us, the common people. And as Egg & Spoon and Firebird will show you, there is always hope.



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    16. Boing Boing, Polygon, The Escapist, and N3rdabl3 on Attack! Boss! Cheat Code!

    Attack Boss Cheat Code - May 2014

    Boy, has there been a lot of coverage of Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! A Gamer’s Alphabet these past few days. It’s all been great to see, and you can see for yourself at Boing Boing

    My 11-year-old daughter, an ardent gamer, was familiar with more of the words in Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! (e.g., griefer, instance, mod, sandbox, unlockable) than I was, but we both appreciated Joey Spiotto’s cute and colorful illustrations that accompanied the terms.

    and Polygon

    Here’s a new book, gorgeously illustrated, that takes a lighthearted look at the lexicon of game culture. Ostensibly aimed at kids


    The Escapist

    Hoping to give parents, children and curious would-be gamers alike a new tool to learn about gaming and its wider culture, author Chris Barton wrote Attack! Boss! Cheat Code!: A Gamer’s Alphabet. Due to release later this month, it combines common gaming terms and lingo with colorful illustrations by artist Joey Spiotto to create an introductory book that people of all stripes can learn from and enjoy.

    and N3rdabl3:

    It’s an adorable take on ABC’s and will likely be a must-have inclusion to the library of any gamer’s new-spawn.

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    17. Mind Change

    Hi Everyone! I’m at Shiny New Books today. Here’s a taste:

    With Mind Change: How Digital Technologies Are Leaving Their Mark on Our Brains, Susan Greenfield has provided us with an even-keeled examination of the intersection of digital technology and neuroscience. She explores various ways in which digital technology is affecting our brains, identities and culture and the possible consequences. Human brains are naturally plastic, everything we think and do changes them; this is a known and uncontested fact. There is no reason to believe that digital technology will not also change our brains and ultimately, who we are. Isn’t it a good idea to assess the potential risks and benefits of technology before we are so deep in it that it is too late to go back?

    Intrigued? Read the rest here. And be sure to check out the rest of the Autumn issue while you are there!


    Filed under: Books, Nonfiction, Reviews, Science, Technology

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    18. Sniffer Dogs (2014)

    Sniffer Dogs: How Dogs (And Their Noses) Save The World. Nancy F. Castaldo. 2014. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 160 pages. [Source: Review copy]

    Sniffer Dogs was a great read. It is packed with information. I learned so much by reading it. For example, did you know that there are specially trained dogs who can alert diabetics (type 1) if their blood sugar is too high or too low?! While I knew that there were dogs involved in search and rescue, I did not know that there were also dogs especially trained to search out bones. The book is very reader-friendly; I loved all the photographs. I loved the personal stories about the men and women who work with and train dogs to do very special tasks.

    I would definitely recommend this one to readers of all ages who love dogs. It would also make a great choice for those readers who enjoy compelling nonfiction. This book is about dogs who make a difference, and also about the special bond between dogs and their trainers/owners.

    © 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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    19. Call for Nonfiction: Passing Through Publications

    We are seeking nonfiction submissions about "the road less traveled," however interpreted, for an inaugural issue which will go live in late 2014.

    Your piece should be anything related to travel, travelers, wanderlust…a homage to a city or a town… a piece featuring a home, whether attached to the ground or carried on your back… places out of the way and unexpected, the road less traveled but perhaps more loved, and definitely more intriguing.

    Submissions should range between 250-1000 words, with a preference for 500 words. Art and photo submissions also welcome. 

    Please embed and attach your submissions to emails directly sent to Jessica, the Editor:

    jericahahnAThotmailDOTcom (Change AT to @ and DOT to . )

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    20. Author/Photographer Interview – Cat Urbigkit

    About three years ago I saw Cat’s photos popping up regularly in my friend Terri Farley’s Facebook feed (Terri is a fabulous advocate for wild horses and a children’s author). I quickly friended Cat and look forward daily to her … Continue reading

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    21. on the road with Stephen Fried

    At the Pennsylvania Library Association Convention on Monday, Stephen Fried and I talked, with considerable conviction and some debate, about nonfiction and its various permutations. We talked about research—why and how we do it, why we love it, how we wouldn't exist without our libraries and primary sources. As always, Stephen was impressive—his deep need to know, his great defense of nonfiction, his glorious insistence on getting to the root of the matter. To read the document through. To hold the thing in one's hand. To locate, for each fact, a context.

    But perhaps it was the drive to and from Lancaster that I treasured most—the winding way through farm country, the roadside attractions of Bird-in-Hand, the horses on the roads before us, and the talk, the always talk, about what we do and what we yearn to do, the students we've taught, the questions about what yet lies ahead.

    A long-time friend. Treasured.

    Thank you, Karl and PaLA, for inviting us.

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    22. Review of Ivan

    applegate ivan Review of IvanIvan:
    The Remarkable True Story
    of the Shopping Mall Gorilla

    by Katherine Applegate; 
illus. by G. Brian Karas
    Primary, Intermediate    Clarion    40 pp.
    10/14    978-0-544-25230-1    $17.99    g

    Applegate introduces young readers to the true story that inspired her Newbery Medal–winning novel The One and Only Ivan (rev. 1/12). “In leafy calm, / in gentle arms, / a gorilla’s life began.” In poetic prose she describes Ivan’s early life in Africa, his dramatic capture by poachers, his confusing time on display as a domesticated shopping-mall gorilla in Tacoma, Washington, and his transition to the Atlanta Zoo, where his life “began / again.” Aptly, the insightful and precise text never anthropomorphizes Ivan, nor do Karas’s mixed-media images — at once straightforward and provocative — done in his warm and unaffected style. The spareness of both text and pictures invites readers to find their own meaning in the moving story. An appended spread of additional information “About Ivan” adds useful context, though it never mentions Applegate’s other Ivan book. That’s fine, as younger readers will likely come to this one first, and it gives them plenty to grow on, both as a read-aloud and as a compelling true story.

    From the September/October 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

    share save 171 16 Review of Ivan

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    23. Writing Competition: The Great Plains Emerging Writer Prize

    The Great Plains Emerging Writer Prize, sponsored the Great Plains Writers’ Conference at South Dakota State University, is given annually to a writer of the Great Plains region who has not yet published a book, but whose work and career shows exceptional promise. The winner will receive a $1000 honorarium and a featured reading at the conference in Brookings, SD in March, 2015, as well as land travel and lodging.

    Submissions open October 1, 2014. Postmark deadline December 1, 2014. All genres open; include a maximum of 15 pages of poetry or hybrid-genre work, or a maximum of 20 pages of fiction, nonfiction, drama, or screenplay. Work submitted may be previously published, but must be stripped of all information identifying the author or the venue. Judging will be blind. Entry fee $15. 

    The Great Plains region is broadly defined as reaching from western Minnesota to eastern Montana and from the Canadian border to central Oklahoma. We consider writers to be “of” this region if they have resided here more than three years or have a demonstrable historical link to the region (e.g., you grew up here and moved away). Please state your relationship to the region in your cover letter.

    For full guidelines visit our website.

    Submit electronically here.

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    24. Perfectly Miserable: Review Haiku

    WOW I could not stand
    a single part of this memoir
    or this woman.

    Perfectly Miserable: Guilt, God, and Real Estate in a Small Town by Sarah Payne Stuart. Riverhead, 2014, 320 pages.

    0 Comments on Perfectly Miserable: Review Haiku as of 10/3/2014 8:37:00 AM
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    25. Call for Submissions: The Jet Fuel Review

    The Jet Fuel Review is now accepting submissions for our 8th issue. We are an online journal welcoming submissions of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and art. No previously published works are accepted. Simultaneous submissions are permitted. 

    The Deadline for submissions is October 15, 2014. 

    Fiction: 3,000 words or less
    Nonfiction: 3,000 worlds or less
    Poetry: 3-5 poems
    Art: up to 5 pieces
     


    More information concerning the submission process can be found at our website.


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