Monday, March 30, 2015

Fatal Fever ~ Book Give-Away & Author Interview

Last Monday I introduced Gail Jarrow's newest book, Fatal Fever (Calkins Creek, 2015). Since then, I've had a chance to sit down and talk with Gail about writing Fatal Fever. And you still have a chance to win a copy ~ just leave a comment.

Sally: What inspired you to write about Typhoid fever?

Gail: When I was researching Red Madness (about Pellagra), I read a lot of public health bulletins. I kept seeing mentions of typhoid fever - which was happening at the same time. I'd heard about Typhoid Mary, but didn't know much about her, so I decided to investigate. Then, as I began doing the research I discovered links between the people tracking down Mary and my town of Ithaca, NY, which also suffered an outbreak of typhoid fever. Learning about the people - Mary and the scientists tracking her - gave me a connection to this story.

Sally: This book is packed with information. Talk about your research.

Gail: Because residents in Ithaca - and students at Cornell University - contracted typhoid fever, I found a lot of interesting information in Cornell's rare manuscript collection. There were some student scrapbooks from 1903 filled with news articles, and letters. Then, when I looked at George Soper's book (Soper was a sanitary engineer) I noticed that there were photos of the village just a couple miles from my house. I didn't visit the island that Mary was confined to - it's closed to the public - but I could gain a lot of information from photos. When you go back to those places (in aerial photos), they don't look like they did 100 years ago.

Sally: Mary was quarantined for the remainder of her life. Can you talk about individual rights within the context of a community's right to protect the health of its citizens?

Gail: These issues have not gone away, especially when you have no cure for a disease that can kill so many people. We got a sense of this with Ebola. If people get Ebola, they can die. So the question is: do you isolate people who are sick? And do you quarantine people who have been exposed? Back during the typhoid epidemic people were just beginning to understand that some people could be carriers of a disease but not show symptoms. The medical community erred on the side of caution. Today, we have a rise in tuberculosis, with antibiotic-resistant strains. So we're facing similar questions: do you want someone serving food or working with you who could pass on tuberculosis?
Mary was isolated because she refused to comply with medical directives and kept cooking and serving food. Today, state and federal governments have the authority to isolate people with tuberculosis who refuse to take their medications.

Sally: This is your second book on disease. What's next?

Gail: I'm working on my last book in what I call my "deadly diseases" trilogy. It's about bubonic plague. Interestingly, all three books take place at the turn of the century - in the very first years of 1900 - right after they discovered germ theory but hadn't yet discovered antibiotics.

Sally: Thank you for sharing your insights with us. You can check out Gail's website here.

Book Giveaway Rules: leave a comment. also - please send me an email to sueheaven[at]gmail[dot]com so I can contact you if I draw your name. (If I can't contact you, I can't send you a book!) Giveaway ends on Friday is only for US addresses.

Today we're joining the roundup over at the Nonfiction Monday blog where you'll find even more book reviews. It's also Marvelous Middle Grade Monday and we're hanging out with other MMGM bloggers over at Shannon Messenger's blog. Hop over to see what other people are reading. 

Friday, March 27, 2015

You Nest Here With Me

You Nest Here With Me
by Jane Yolen & Heidi Stemple; illus. by Melissa Sweet
32 pages; ages 4-8
Boyds Mills Press, 2015

theme: bedtime, family, home, nature

Pigeons nest on concrete ledges,
Catbirds nest in greening hedges,
Tiny wrens, in shoreline sedges.
You nest here with me.

From grackles to eagles, plovers to killdeer, Yolen and Stemple describe different places that birds nest in spot-on rhyme. They end each stanza: "You nest here with me". Combine that with Sweet's gorgeous illustrations and you've got a book that you'll want to read every night.

What I like LOVE about this book: let me count the ways:
  • The birds ~ such a diversity of species and nest types
  • Introduction of new words: tor
  • Diversity of habitat
  • Unlovely birds ~ cowbirds, for example
  • Repetition ~ You nest here with me
  • A feeling of safety 
  • Spot-on illustrations
  • Texture~ you can almost feel the twigs
  • Vibrant color
  • Collage
  • Back matter! (everyone knows I love back matter)

Beyond the book activities: Build a bird nest. Go outside and gather materials that you think a bird might use in making a nest. You might find twigs,dead grass, fur or feathers, mosses, lichens, pine needles, and mud. Now try constructing a nest. How does it compare to the real thing? Find out by...

... going outside on a nest hunt. Take your journal and a camera along, because you might want to take some photos of how birds have built their nests - and jot notes about what you discover. This time of year you're likely to find old nests, unless you live where birds have already started their spring construction projects. Take a good look at where the nests are placed. Will they be well-hidden when leaves cover the trees? How high are they from the ground? And are the birds using all natural materials? Or have they incorporated bits of man-made stuff?

Help your backyard and neighborhood birds out. Give them some nesting materials - but choose things that are natural and degrade (not plastic or foil). Drape bits of string, thread, yarn, or natural fiber fabric over trees and shrubs. Or loosely fill a suet cage with strips of newspaper, broom bristles, mop strings and other natural things that could be used for a nest. Then hang it where birds will find it.

Today's review is part of the STEM Friday roundup. Drop by STEM Friday blog for more science books and resources. We're also joining 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 BooksReview copy from the publisher.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Fatal Fever: Tracking Down Typhoid Mary & Book Give-Away

Book Giveaway - see end of post

Fatal Fever ~ Tracking Down Typhoid Mary
by Gail Jarrow
192 pages; ages 10 & up
Calkins Creek, 2015

I love a good mystery - especially when it's true. And this is a mystery. A medical mystery. It involves villains (germs) and disease detectives, victims and suspects.

I love how it begins:

Early on a damp March morning in 1907, Mary Mallon answered the knock at the servant's entrance of a New York brownstone house. She took one look at the visitors and lunged at them with her sharp fork. As they flinched, she ran toward the kitchen.
 Mary hides in a closet. What she doesn't know is that inside of her there are billions of deadly microorganisms hiding, too. They are typhoid bacteria.

What we learn about Mary is that she is, by some fluke of nature, a typhoid carrier. She's never had symptoms of the disease, and so can't believe that she carries the germs inside her.

We meet the detectives: doctors, scientists, and public health officials trying to stop the spread of this deadly disease. "In 1900," writes Jarrow, "it struck nearly 400,000 Americans, and more than 35,000 died." It ranked with influenza, tuberculosis, and pneumonia up there in the top five fatal infectious diseases.

At the turn of the last century, nobody understood how typhoid was spread or where it came from. But they did know that it could be passed from one person to the next. College students died. Parents died. Entire families got sick. People were scared. How could they control the spread of this disease? One solution: quarantine sick people. Isolate them so they don't contaminate others. But how do you do that when they run and hide? And is it possible to keep these people out of your community?

Another solution: find out how the disease is spread and address environmental issues such as sewage and water.

And another solution: try to create immunity before the disease takes hold.

One of the tales Jarrow tells is about a wealthy family in Oyster Bay. Here's Radio Lab's take on the event.

Except in cases of disaster, we rarely see typhoid. On the other hand, we do have a new highly infectious disease spreading rampantly from person to person: Ebola. Reading Jarrow's book you see connections between the 1900 typhoid epidemic and our current need for better public health control of Ebola - not to mention the flu, SARS, measles, and other diseases.

You can find out more about Jarrow and her books at her website. She seems to be working up a series on "deadly diseases".... And check out another review of this book over at Abby the Librarian.

 Today we're joining the roundup over at the Nonfiction Monday blog where you'll find even more book reviews.
It's also Marvelous Middle Grade Monday and we're hanging out with other MMGM bloggers over at Shannon Messenger's blog. Hop over to see what other people are reading.  

Book Giveaway This is such a great book that I want to pass on my nearly-new copy ~ so leave a comment and I'll choose a winner sometime next week.  Review copy provided by publisher.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Two Titles for the Rainy Season

Some days it rains, some days it snows... but we're definitely headed towards the rainy season here in the northeast. So I figure we need a couple of books to get us on our way.

theme: weather, clouds, nature 

Clouds: a compare & contrast book
by Katharine Hall
32 pages; ages 4-8
Arbordale, 2015

opening:  "Some clouds are big and fluffy; others are thin and wispy."

This book is filled with photos of clouds - perfect for browsing, and comparing different kinds of clouds. The language is simple enough that young readers can peruse it themselves. At the back are two hands-on experiments about precipitation, a cloud-matching game, and a handy guide to predicting the weather from the clouds.

Pitter and Patter
by Martha Sullivan; illus. by Cathy Morrison
32 pages; ages 4-10
Dawn publications, 2015

opening: "Pitter and Patter dropped from a cool, gray cloud one day."

Pitter lands on an oak leaf, drips into the stream below, and is on a water cycle adventure that carries him through a valley, wetland, and finally into the ocean. Along the way he meets fox and deer, dragonfly and trout. Patter lands in a meadow and percolates into the soil. His journey is different from Pitters, but eventually they both meet when they are evaporated back into the sky. There's plenty of back matter explaining states of matter, water cycle, and water sheds, plus hands-on activities.

What I like about these books: they're a fun way to introduce a complex topic ~ the water cycle. I always love books with back matter, especially when it includes hands-on activities with easy-to-get materials, which both books do.

Beyond the book activities: there are tons of things to do besides pulling on your boots and splashing through puddles.

Cloud Watching ~ Take a camera outside and look for different kinds of clouds. Sometimes we'll have nice, fluffy clouds in the morning, and then some that look like fish scales in the afternoon. Try to get photos of different kinds of clouds so you can make a "cloud finder" chart - or draw pictures of different kinds of clouds. Have a cloud-watching contest to see who finds the most humorous or weirdest shape in the clouds.

Play a game of Drip, Drip Drop ~ Exactly like duck, duck, goose, but with drips and drops.

What floats in a puddle? After a rainstorm, gather things from nature - stones, pine cones, twigs, etc - and guess which ones will float in a puddle. Then test them out.

Cloud Painting - with a "bath poof" or a loofah.

How big is a Raindrop? Collect raindrops and measure them ~ directions here.

Today's review is part of the STEM Friday roundup. Drop by STEM Friday blog for more science books and resources. We're also joining 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 BooksReview copies from the publishers.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Rory's Promise ~ historical fiction

Rory's Promise (Hidden Histories)
by Michaela MacColl & Rosemary Nichols
288 pages; ages 9-12
Calkins Creek, 2014

Rory's Promise kicks off a new series for Calkins Creek: the Hidden Histories. And what a fun way to start - with a tale from the Orphan Trains, but set in the wild west.

Twelve-year old Rory Fitzpatrick has been caring for her sister Violet ever since their parents died. They live at the Sisters of Charity Foundling orphanage in New York City, where Rory's been making herself indispensable helping with the younger kids.

When the nuns send Violet to an adoptive family in the Arizona territory, Rory finagles a way to go along. It involve a crazy ride on top of a carriage and stowing away aboard the train, where she meets other orphans bound for families in the plains states.

Rory's read the Wild West stories, so she knows what to expect... until they arrive in the mining town where the adoptive families are waiting. Nothing she's read has prepared Rory for a dirt-street town with no street lights and humble abodes that are just a step up from the tenements of New York. Then there's the racial conflict: the nuns want to place the children in good Catholic homes, but the only Catholics in the town are Mexicans who work in the mines. The wealthy white families demand that these children be placed with families that "look like them".

How Rory keeps her sister safe, and negotiates for safe passage of most of the children makes for an adventure tale worth reading more than once.

Today is Marvelous Middle Grade Monday and we're hanging out with other MMGM bloggers over at Shannon Messenger's blog. Hop over to see what other people are reading.  Review copy provided by publisher.

Friday, March 13, 2015

You Call That Brave?

You Call That Brave?
by Lorenz Pauli; illus by Kathrin Scharer
32 pages, ages 4-8
NorthSouth Books, 2014

theme: friendship, courage

The book opens with a mouse, a snail, a frog and a sparrow sitting at the edge of a pond...
"The mouse was there because she didn't know where else to go. The snail was there because the mouse was there. The frog just happened to have hopped in that direction... and the sparrow wanted to know what the others were doing there."

They decide to have a competition to see who is the bravest. One by one they each pick a feat that to them is fearsome, but to one of the others it's nothing special. Like swimming across the pond - "You call that being brave?" asks frog. "That's just having fun!"

What I like about this book: When each critter accomplishes his feat, the others acknowledge his achievement. Bravo! I also like how one thing might seem scary to one animal, but it's fun to another. After frog and mouse and snail do strange, albeit courageous things, it's sparrows turn. He hems and haws and struts about a bit.... (I don't want to spoil it for you) and in the end they all clap for his act. I also love the illustrations. Each animal is drawn with such distinctive personality. The only thing that bothered me was referring to snail as having antennae. Maybe they meant the eye stalks - perhaps something got lost in translation? (originally published in Switzerland in 2006)

Beyond the book: It takes courage to try something new - like jumping off the diving board the first time, or learning how to ski, or standing up in front of a class to say something. What are some things that you found scary the first time you tried them?

Make a Bravery Badge to give yourself an extra bit of courage. Directions here.

Look for examples of Bravery in real life. Recently a policeman rescued people from a burning apartment, and there's an elder who continues to feed homeless people even when he's threatened with arrest. Maybe you know someone in your town who rescues abandoned dogs, or goes to town council meetings to speak on behalf of protecting the environment from development.

Find quotes about bravery. Remember in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, when Neville challenges Hermione and Ron and Harry for the dangerous thing they are going to do? Dumbledore recognizes the courage that took: "It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends." You can find more quotes about courage here.

Movie night: pop up some popcorn and pour some drinks and pop on a video about people acting bravely. My favorite is the one about that spirited red-head from Scotland, Brave. This one has layers of bravery - right to the core of facing the results of your own actions.

Today is PPBF (perfect picture book Friday) over at  Susanna Leonard Hill's site. She keeps an ever-growing list of Perfect Picture BooksReview copy from the publisher.

Monday, March 9, 2015

The Night Gardener

The Night Gardener
by Jonathan Auxier
384 pages; ages 10 & up
Amulet Books (Abrams), 2014

I found a novel hiding at the bottom of my book basket! Imagine that! And it's a perfect time to read it, as the book begins.....

"The calendar said early march, but the smell in the air sail late October. A crisp sun shone over Cedar Hallow, melting the final bits of ice from the bare trees."

OK ... maybe in some places the sun is melting the final bits of ice... but not here in the northeast where we're still buried beneath feet of sedimentary snow layers.

The book opens with Molly and her brother Kip, abandoned Irish siblings on their way to the Windsor estate where a job awaits. But when they ask for directions, people spit in the dirt and warn them to avoid the "sour woods".

They should turn around.

But they don't, and they eventually make it to the estate which once was gorgeous but now has an unkempt house invaded by a huge tree, and gardens that need a lot of care. And a cranky mistress who warns Molly that "This house is no place for you."

Why is the house always filled with leaves? Who is the dark stranger who walks the halls at night? Why is the mistress getting thinner and sicker, despite Molly's good cooking? And what's with the tree?

There's magic, but dark and uncomfortable - in the manner of Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes. Molly - and the others in the household, are seduced by the magic. But magic requires payment, and this magic sucks the life from your soul.

This is the sort of book you want to read with the lights on, and a hot cup of cocoa. Unless you delight in spooky books, in which case turn out the lights and read by the flickering light of candles. Just, whatever you do, don't open the locked closet door....

Today is Marvelous Middle Grade Monday - on any other Monday when I review middle grade books we'd be hanging out with other MMGM bloggers over at Shannon Messenger's blog. But not today.... MMGM resumes next week. Review copy provided by publisher.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Sounds of Spring!

I know that spring doesn't officially arrive until the 21st. Heck! We're still buried up to our (check appropriate box:   __knees,  __ belts, __ neck) in snow... but I can't stand it anymore. So I'm pushing spring. Now. Today. Because any week now, you'll begin to hear the sounds of ice breaking up.

Crinkle, Crackle, CRACK: It's Spring
by Marion Dane Bauer; illus. by John Shelley
32 pages; ages 4-8
Holiday House, 2015

theme: seasons, friendship

"Have you ever awakened on a late winter night to a peculiar noise? Something like rap, bap, tap, and then crunch, scrunch, followed by crinkle, crackle, crack?"

Over the course of the story, a pajama-clad boy heads off with a bear to find spring. They're joined by other animals: rabbit, squirrel, beaver.... and eventually, deep in the woods, discover the secret of spring (I won't spoil it for you).

What I like about this book: The language is playful and fun. Lots of end-of-winter noises that you might hear around your house: creaks, snaps, raps and taps, crackle-crack, slaps and whacks. I also like how the boy and bear walk "hand in paw, paw in hand", and the most excellent description of the end of winter: mud, rotten snow, and trees shivering in the dark.

Beyond the book: What does the end of winter look like / sound like around your house?
Go on a night walk, like boy and bear. Look at the stars, listen to night noises, sniff the night air.
How does the snow melt in your yard? Measure snow depth and keep track of daily temperatures. Graph the shrinking snow piles. Where does it puddle when it melts? Where does it run off in tiny rivulets?
Take photos of one particular place every day for the next six weeks. What happens?
Map the changing season. If you like to draw treasure maps, maybe you can find the X that marks the spot where spring comes first to your yard. Note where snow melts fastest, where the sunny spots and shady spots are, and where the squirrels and crows tend to hang out.

Today is PPBF (perfect picture book Friday) over at  Susanna Leonard Hill's site. She keeps an ever-growing list of Perfect Picture BooksReview copy from the publisher.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Ben Franklin's Big Splash ~ A mostly true story

Ben Franklin's Big Splash ~ the mostly true story of his first invention
by Barb Rosenstock; illus. by S.D. Schindler
32 pages; ages 8 and up
Calkins Creek (Boyds Mills Press), 2014

Is this book nonfiction? Is it historical fiction? Does it really matter?

This much is true: Ben Franklin taught himself to swim. Around the age of eleven, he made the first pair of swim fins and tried them out in the Charles River. He even wrote about his invention in a letter to a fellow scientist many years later.

But he never wrote about how he made the fins or the process by which he developed them. That is the part that author Barb Rosenstock imagines.... and she does so with humor and such wonderful language that you will be drawn into this book immediately upon opening it.

"Before the world knew the famous Doctor Benjamin Franklin, his neighbors knew him as Ben, the sturdy, saucy, smelly son of a soap-maker..."  Ben was the kid who would sneak away from work to swim in the river. As Rosenstock puts it:
He STOOD on his hands...
He SLIPPED like an otter
and SLOSHED like a turtle-
Don't you just love the language she uses to describe this skinny kid playing around in the water? While he's swimming, he wonders why he can't swim like a fish.

So he observes the fish. He notices they have fins, where he has hands.... and perhaps that's where he gets his idea for swim fins - wooden paddles that he uses to swim through the water. Like any other scientist, Ben experiences failure, goes back to the drawing board, and tries something different. Question-Research- Hypothesize - Test - Analyze- Conclude - Repeat.... these are the foundations of the scientific method, and Rosenstock shows Franklin going through them all.

Did it happen exactly the way she wrote it? Probably not. That's why she ends with a lengthy author's note telling what is known and what she imagined. At the end there's a timeline of Franklin's life and lists of resources.

Whether it's a "true story" or not, this book offers a glimpse into an unusual childhood invention of a famous inventor. And it does so through fun, imaginative language. With the story focusing on Swim Fins, there's a preponderance of S-words on the page. They are fun to s-s-say...

More to the point, this is a guide for any kid who wants to do science. If Ben could do research, design and test prototypes, collect and analyze data, then anyone reading this book can do the same. You don't need to be stuck in a lab to make discoveries... you can swim in a river.

Today we're joining the roundup over at the Nonfiction Monday blog where you'll find even more book reviews.  Review copy from publisher.