Friday, December 8, 2017

Revolutionary Rogues

Revolutionary Rogues: John Andre and Benedict Arnold
by Selene Castrovilla; illus. by John O'Brien
48 pages; 9-11 years
Calkins Creek, 2017

Major John Andre was bright and well educated. He served in the British army and, in 1779 was put in charge of secret intelligence.

Major General Benedict Arnold was one of America's finest soldiers - even George Washington agreed. But reward and recognition passed him by, and after being shot in the leg at Saratoga, he knew he would not gain glory on the battlefield.

What drew these two men into collusion? Was it Arnold's wife, a British sympathizer? Was it that both men wanted to see an end to this war?

Author Selene Castrovilla takes readers through a fast-paced espionage adventure, highlighting the similarities and differences in these two Revolutionary rogues. The tragedy: that they brought about their own tragic ends. A great read for any young historian. Back matter includes timelines for each soldier and, for those who like to dive deeply into history, a list of places to visit in New York and London.

 Review copy provided by publisher.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Teddy Roosevelt

Teedie: the Story of Young Teddy Roosevelt
by Don Brown
32 pages; ages 4-7
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017 (reprinted)

themes: nonfiction, biography, presidents

Ten-year-old Teedie played with his sisters and brother in their fine house on Twentieth Street.

He loved being at home, but he also loved summers in the country when he and the other kids climbed trees, built wigwams, and hunted frogs (unsuccessfully). 

What I like about this book: President Teddy Roosevelt is one of my heroes, so I'm always keeping my eyes peeled for a fun book about his childhood. This one fits the bill. Author Dan Brown shows Teddy (called Teedie by his family) as a youngster plagued by asthma -  in the mid 1800s they didn't have inhalers - and so was tutored at home. He was insatiably curious, collecting skulls and sketching birds. He spent hours lifting weights and rowing to build up his body, and loved riding horses and hunting.

As an adult he did amazing things to make our country a better place to live. "America will not be a good place for any of us to live in if it is not a reasonably good place for all of us to live in," he said. So he fought big business, established national parks and wildlife preserves, built the Panama Canal, and won a Nobel Peace Prize. 

Beyond the Book:
Take a virtual tour of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park in the Badlands of North Dakota. Here's the NPS video.

Play a game of Tic-Track-Toe. Roosevelt was a hunter, so playing this game requires animal track tiles - you can download a template here. And you can visit this website for more National Park activities.

Biographical information (and short video) about TR over at the Ducksters.

Today is PPBF (perfect picture book Friday), an event in which bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's site. She keeps an ever-growing list of Perfect Picture Books. Review copy provided by publisher.

Friday, November 17, 2017

The Journey that Saved Curious George

The Journey that Saved Curious George
by Louise Borden; illus. by Allan Drummond
96 pages; ages 7 - 10
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016 (reprinted)

Eight-year-old Hans A. Reyerback loved to visit the zoo. He would imitate the sounds of animals, and loved to draw the animals. After serving in the German Army (WWI) he traveled to Brazil where he wore a broad hat and watched monkeys along the Amazon.

Margaret Waldstein loved art and studied photography. When Hitler came to power, life changed in Germany so she eventually traveled to Brazil. She was seeking new work and adventure and had heard that an old family friend (Hans) was living in Rio.

They teamed up as artists, eventually married, and traveled to Paris. They planned to visit for 2 weeks; they stayed for 4 years. In 1939 they began working on a story about a very curious monkey. That year war broke out. Paper was scarce and typesetters had joined the army. And war was marching closer! They had to flee Paris on bicycles, sleeping in barns, and narrowly escaping the bombing.

As refugees, waiting for visas, they were questioned by officials: what were the papers they were carrying? Were they spies? No, just writers.... Four months later they arrived in New York City and after another year they published the first book of many about Curious George.

What I like about this book: Adventure! Danger! Escape from Nazis! and Curious George! It's got history and mystery and biography all rolled into one exciting story. 

Review copy provided by publisher.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Two Wild Adventures, mostly true

themes: adventure, history

The Wildest Race Ever
by Meghan McCarthy
48 pages; ages 4-8
Simon & Schuster, 2016

The first Olympic marathon held in America happened on august 30, 1904, in Saint Louis, Missouri. It was part of the World's Fair exhibition.

Thirty-two runners started that day, representing the US, South Africa, Cuba, France, Greece, and Newfoundland (now part of Canada). The first American Indian to run in Olympic Games was there, from the Seneca Nation. It was hot, and the cars carrying judges, doctors, and reporters stirred up so much dust that racers had a hard time breathing!

What I like about this book: Meghan McCarty tells stories about individual runners - like the guy who stole peaches from a car, and the runner who was chased a mile off course by an angry dog. It's a true story, so there's a couple of pages of back matter - and you know how much I like back matter!

A Voyage in the Clouds
by Matther Olshan; illus. by Sophie Blackall
40 pages; ages 4-8
Farrar Straus Giroux, 2016

This book is subtitled: the (Mostly) true story of the first international flight by balloon in 1785. It tells the story of Dr. John Jeffries, an Englishman, and his pilot, Jean-Pierre Blanchard, a Frenchman, to be the first to fly from one country to another.

There's only one problem: they can't stand each other!
Okay, there are a lot of problems. They lose tools. They lose altitude. They lose their tempers.

What I like about this book: It's FUN! I like the dialog balloons that reveal their bickering. I like that they had to pee over the side to lighten the balloon so they wouldn't crash land. And I really like the notes in the back matter that clarify what's fact in this very imaginative story.

Beyond the Books: 

What would it be like to balloon across the English Channel? Here's a tale about two guys who recreated the trip of Jeffries and Blanchard.

Build a "hot air" balloon using helium party balloons, a plastic grocery bag, and a paper cup. Put two balloons into the plastic bag. Tie a ribbon from each handle of the plastic bag and attach the paper cup. Fill it up with pennies and send it on a journey around the house.

Run - or walk - a marathon. A marathon is a bit over 26 miles. Elite runners can finish in just over two hours; walkers take 8 hours or longer. Why not do your own marathon, but a couple miles a day? Plot out a two-mile loop (if you walk a mile to school, that's perfect). Then draw a race course on a sheet of paper and mark it off into 26 squares. Each day, color in a square for each mile you run or walk. When you finish your marathon, give yourself a gold medal.

Today is PPBF (perfect picture book Friday), an event in which bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's site. She keeps an ever-growing list of Perfect Picture Books. Review copies from publishers.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Mountain Chef

Mountain Chef: How one man lost his groceries...
by Annette Bay Pimentel; illus. by Rich Lo
40 pages; ages 6-9
Charlesbridge, 2016

themes: Exploration! Adventure! Food!

Tie Sing was a frontier baby, born high in the mountains in Virginia City, Nevada.

America was a tough place to be Chinese when Tie Sing was growing up. Chinese workers were paid less than white workers, and many people with Chinese names ended up cooking in restaurants or working in laundries. But Tie Sing had BIG dreams. He got a job  cooking for mapmakers as they explored and mapped the Sierras. And he got a reputation as the best trail cook around.

So when a party of Congressmen and others who interested in creating a National Park Service hired him as their trail cook, Tie Sing wanted to fix them meals that would make them remember the beauty of the peaks. No s'mores for this crew; it was English plum pudding with brandy sauce, eggs for breakfast, box lunches, and sourdough starter in the saddle bags for dinner loaves.

What I like about this book: I love camping and hiking, and the National Parks! I enjoyed Annette Pimentel's depiction of Tie Sing - he really worked hard to plan menus and pack ingredients. I like that she shows a typical day in the life of a trail chef. And that she includes the obstacles Tie Sing has to overcome - like when a mule wanders away with the food and he has to improvise a simple (yet elegant) meal. The words and illustrations take us on the journey with Tie Sing.

I also like the back matter - and there is plenty: information about immigration, how Tie Sing kept his food from going bad, and short biographies of the people who went on the expedition. End papers feature maps of the journey.

Beyond the Book:
Make some granola for your next camping trip; it also makes a good "carry along" breakfast for when you're traveling.

Learn more about our National Parks - and if you have the chance to visit one, do it.

Take a virtual hike up Sing Peak - here is a map, and wonderful photos of what you would see if you were hiking there. During a rest break - while you catch your breath - read up on the history of Tie Sing and the adventurous Mather Party.

Today is PPBF (perfect picture book Friday), an event in which bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's site. She keeps an ever-growing list of Perfect Picture Books. Review copy from the publisher.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Hurrah for Heroines!

The Book of Heroines: Tales of History's Gutsiest Gals
by Stephanie Warren Drimmer
176 pages; ages 8-12
National Geographic Children's Books, 2017

This book is chock-full of Leading Ladies, Daring Dames, Gritty Girls, Peace Heroines, Legendary Ladies, and a few outstanding non-human heroines. These strong girls don't wear capes or have superpowers. But they do share seven qualities, writes Stephanie Drimmer.

How to Identify a Heroine:
  1. Heroines step up when help is needed.
  2. They are brave. They do the right thing no matter how scared they are.
  3. They're confident, even when folks say "you can't do that." 
  4. They put others first.
  5. Heroines do the right thing.
  6. They face risk - which means they act even when doing so means they might be called names, or face danger.
  7. And when the going get tough, they don't quit.
So who are these real-life heroines Drimmer profiles? One is Eleanor Roosevelt who became the First Lady when F.D.R. was elected President in 1932. She held press conferences and wrote a column about her opinions on social and political issues. She used her position to give a  voice to people who didn't have one: women, children, African Americans, and the poor. She challenged stereotypes.

One section highlights women who led nations: Golda Meir, Angela Merkel, Margaret Thatcher, Cleopatra. Another introduces athletes. Within the pages are stories of code breakers, warriors, journalists, business leaders, pilots, and explorers. There are profiles of courageous peace-makers, like Malala Yousafzai and Rigoberta Menchu Tum. And there are scientists and inventors.

These women pushed against barriers, saved lives, and discovered new worlds. They're the sort of heroes you'd like any child to meet. Review copy from publisher.