Archive for Nonfiction

What’s Chemistry All About? by Alex Frith

What’s Chemistry All About?School is back in session, and with the emphasis on Common Core it feels like a good time to recommend some non-fiction. I’ve never been particularly gifted in the sciences. Chemistry is one area that I find to be particularly intimidating, but also quite interesting which is what makes What’s Chemistry All About? so great. This book is a very straightforward and engaging overview of what chemistry is, why we study it, and how we use it both on a daily basis as well as in specialized circumstances.

Topics such as the periodic table, phases of matter, atomic structure, and why chocolate makes us happy as well are just some of the various other aspects of chemistry that are presented in this book. Adam Larkum’s illustrations complement and enhance the text, and provide more in depth learning opportunities for readers who benefit from a visual learning style. Experiments that can easily be done at home are interspersed throughout the book providing hands on activities to assist young readers with grasping the material presented.

The casual, accessible tone and engaging illustrations make this very approachable for budding young scientists in grades 4 and up. If you enjoy this book or are looking for information on a different area of science, check out one of the other titles in the series including What’s Science All About, What’s Biology All About, and What’s Physics All About?.

Posted by Staci

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One World, Many Religions: The Ways We Worship by Mary Pope Osborne

One World, Many Religions: The Ways We WorshipOne World, Many Religions: The Ways We Worship, by Mary Pope Osborne (author of the popular Magic Tree House series), is a clear, concise, and thoughtful overview of the world’s major religions for young readers. Covering Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism and Taoism, Osborne tells of each religion’s origin and history, worship practices and beliefs, and holidays and celebrations. This well-designed and attractive book is illustrated with color photographs, many of young people practicing the faiths.

Young readers will be interested in the various stories that led to the evolvement of the most widely practiced religions today, and the way that young people of different religions engage in their faith communities. Reading about each religion side by side encourages the reader to see what unifies the practice of religion around the world, and also what makes each faith unique.

In a world in which worshipers of different faiths are increasingly living side by side, it is important for people of all ages to have knowledge of and a respect for others’ faiths. One World Many Religions is a wonderful place to begin. Recommended for independent readers in grades 4 and up.

Posted by Parry

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Panda Kindergarten by Joanne Ryder

Boys Without NamesLate August or early September marks the beginning of school for most students. With that in mind, I thought it would be especially fun to blog a school book, although Panda Kindergarten isn’t really the type of school that human students attend. It’s a panda school! This kindergarten class is at the Wolong Nature Reserve in China, where the young pandas are protected and taught skills that they might use for future life in the wild.

The photographs that accompany each page are simply adorable. The reader will enjoy learning about the care the pandas receive from birth through their year in kindergarten. The last page offers some interesting Fast Facts about giant pandas. For instance, did you know that a newborn giant panda is about 4 ounces at birth, but will grow to weigh over 200 pounds?

Anyone who likes animals will be sure to delight watching these cuddly little bears as they play and learn!

Posted by: Wendy

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Get Real! A Non-Fiction Video Book Review

This month, Eileen shares a startlingly creative book: Face Book by Chuck Close.

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The Twelve Dancing Princesses retold and illustrated by Jane Ray

The Twelve Dancing PrincessesThe Grimms’ tale The Twelve Dancing Princesses has long been one of my favorite fairy tales. Rebellious princesses. Check. Enchanted gardens. Check. A suitor who is clever and kind. Check. Dancing. Check. The word slipper. Check!

There’s something so appealing about this story featuring twelve beautiful and clever princesses who sneak out every night to travel through an enchanted wood and across a little enchanted lake to a place where they can dance all night and sip and sup on delicacies. The poor King, however, can’t figure out why his beloved daughters are falling asleep at the breakfast table and wearing out their slippers each night. So, he promises the hand of one of his daughters in marriage to the man who can discover their secret. The clever princesses outwit a series of suitors until they finally meet their match in a traveling soldier. In this version, the tale ends with a happily married pair and a kingdom where the princesses are allowed to go dancing whenever they want, and as late as they want!

There are many retellings of this story available, but I particularly like Jane Ray’s illustrations. They are intricate, shimmery, and soft. She portrays twelve sisters with beautiful and interesting faces and hair that ranges from golden to raven. Some wear glasses, some are tall, some have curls – each is distinct. There is also a beautiful white dog among the pages with golden spots, and many other such details to pore over.

I recommend this story to anyone who loves fairy tales. For the child who demands princess stories, this is something that is a little off the beaten path. For this, it’s worth taking the trip over to the 398’s! (That’s the Folk and Fairy tale section – ask a librarian if you need guidance.)

Posted by: Parry

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Life in the Ocean: the Story of Oceanographer Sylvia Earle by Claire A. Nivola

Life in the OceanSylvia Earle, oceanographer, is just about the coolest person I had never heard of before I read this book. Sylvia fell in love, hard, with the ocean as a child when her family moved to Florida. She immediately started investigating the life teeming there, and by the age of sixteen was using diving gear for the first time. She would go on to dive deeper and deeper, encountering life from the tiniest of creatures to the gigantic humpback whale. She even spent two weeks living underwater at a deep sea station fifty feet below, and holds a record for walking on the ocean floor at 1,250 feet under, deeper than anyone ever had before or since. A true lover of the ocean and all its inhabitants, Sylvia has dedicated herself to educating people about the wonders of the ocean. She feels that the best way to get people to care about the oceans and to take action on behalf of their stewardship is to educate them.

With its straightforward and gentle narrative, accompanied by beautifully detailed illustrations, this book inspires wonder at the natural world. The narrative itself focuses on Sylvia’s life of diving and details of the ocean life and landscape she encountered on her dives. An author’s note explains more about why the oceans are in danger, and will hopefully inspire a desire to learn more (a selected bibliography is also included) and to become an advocate for our oceans. Life in the Ocean is a beautiful picture book about an inspiring woman and the incredible oceans that she loves.

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Get Real! A Non-Fiction Video Book Review

This month, in honor of the library’s 100th anniversary, Sarah shares a book about change over the years–A Street Through Time by Steve Noon.

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When Jackie and Hank Met by Cathy Goldberg Fishman

When Jackie and Hank MetI don’t care much for baseball but I’m a sucker for a good story. The odd thing is, baseball seems to be quite a breeding ground for tantalizing tales. I’ve been bamboozled into reading far more than my share of baseball novels because they developed into darn good stories.

When Jackie Met Hank is just such an example. I have to admit that, thanks to the current film, 42, I did have a passing interest when I saw a book about Jackie Robinson. And, it wasn’t too painful to read a picture book about baseball players. I’m glad I dropped my guard. Reading When Jackie Met Hank was time well spent.

Cathy Goldberg Fishman has told her story from a very interesting perspective by stating in the opening sentence that “Jack Roosevelt Robinson and Henry Benjamin Greenberg were born eight years and 1,000 miles apart.” She then proceeds to tell how at various stages of growing up they came –unbeknownst to the other—a little closer and a little closer.

As boys, both men had an aptitude for sports but their lives were more intertwined that they realized. Jackie Robinson was the first Negro player in the major leagues, a role that won him as much reproach as fame. There’s no doubt that Jackie’s rookie year was hard, very hard. What is however, not as well remembered today, is the story of Hank Greenberg, one of the first Jewish professional baseball stars. His road to becoming “Hammerin’ Hank” was almost as rocky as Robinson’s. They knew each other’s pain. Both men were class acts on the field and off. Ms. Fishman tells how Jackie Robinson said as much about Hank Greenberg when he told a New York Times reporter, “Class tells. It sticks out all over Mr. Greenberg.” Jackie Robinson and Hank Green berg were two men, different yet alike in many ways, brought together by sports but held together in friendship and respect by an even greater game, the game of life, a game at which both of them excelled. Posted by: Eileen

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Get Real! A Non-Fiction Video Book Review

This month, Sarah shares Dance by Lorrie Mack, a great introduction to whatever kind of dance you might be interested in!

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Peace by Wendy Anderson Halperin

PeacePeace, by artist Wendy Anderson Halperin is a visual and poetic meditation on the subject of peace. The book is dedicated to our senses, and that dedication sets the tone for the book – peace is real, and it can be sensed with our whole bodies and expressed with our words, actions, and thoughts. There is a very short text which can be read aloud, along with quotes from famous peacemakers spread throughout, and panels of illustrations depicting scenes of peace.

Halperin chooses quotes from people like Mother Teresa, Albert Einstein, Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama, and Anne Frank. I like that many of the quotes focused on the small ways we can work toward peace: “When people talk, listen completely” (Ernest Hemingway); and “Friendship is the only cure for hatred, the only guarantee of peace” (Buddha). The many illustrations, too, while wide in scope (they depict children and nature around the world), also depict small scenes of peace. Some of the images contrast to illustrate the concept. For example, one scene shows a grandmother washing dishes while her granddaughter lounges on the couch. A few pages later, we see the same grandmother washing the dishes with her granddaughter at her side helping her. Another scene depicts an elderly man boarding a bus as everyone continues to read their paper. Later on in the book, we see that a child has risen from his seat and offered it to the man. We also see children reading in tree houses, planting vegetables, sharing meals with their families, and quietly observing a heron.

The book is one to read and look at over and over again. It may spark discussions about kindness, friendship, stewardship of the earth, and about standing against all those things that destroy peace – like anger, apathy, ignorance, and jealousy. I can see this making a soothing bedtime book for all ages, and while it would be difficult to read the book aloud to a classroom (too many small details), it would make a good book for small groups to read and discuss in the classroom.

Posted by: Parry

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