Pope Francis: First Pope from the Americas

A little behind schedule here – darn that squishable new baby! Here is part of yesterday’s Nonfiction Monday post from A Mom’s Spare Time:

Pope Francis: First Pope from the Americas


I remember when I first realized that TV networks often have ‘specials’ worked up about famous people to be aired in the event of their death, long before that actually happens. While it makes good business sense, I felt gypped somehow.
Somewhat similarly, when there is a new face in the news, you see a scramble to be the first book publisher to come out with a biography. Sometimes astute publishers and authors have had an inkling that an individual’s time was coming – at other times, you can see it came down to grabbing any accessible information and putting it into print in time to beat a deadline.
*To find out what I thought of this one, head over to amomssparetime.blogspot.com.



Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library by Barb Rosenstock

Alice’s review clued me into how much I’d probably love Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library by Barb Rosenstock, so I hied me to my own library and requested a copy. We’ve had the library copy around the house for over two weeks now (I know because we have a two week loan period at this library and I called to renew it and others when they were only a couple of days overdue **ahem**), and I just last night got around the reading it in its entirety. The thing about our Founding Fathers is that–my goodness!–their lives are good for so much book fodder. I love that this particular book focuses on one aspect of Thomas Jefferson’s life–his passion for reading and books–and makes it interesting and accessible to children. (I know it’s accessible to children because my girls–ages nine and eight–devoured it in the van on the way home from the library or shortly thereafter.) The text of the book is interspersed with facts and quotes from Jefferson’s life (mostly the quotes are attributed to him, but a few are from his grandchildren, a slave, and one of his political opponents). The library alluded to in the title is, of course, the Library of Congress–or is it? Actually, Jefferson built several libraries over his lifetime, so it could be one of several discussed and described in this picture book. John O’Brien’s pen, ink, and watercolor illustrations are whimsical and funny and detailed–the perfect accompaniment to this fascinating story of an overarching theme in Jefferson’s life. (I first fell in love with O’Brien’s illustrations in Ben Franklin: His Wit and Wisdom from A to Z by Alan Schroeder.) The only part of this book that rings sort of hollow to me is that in the short author’s note, there’s a section devoted to “Thomas Jefferson, Slaveholder.” There’s only one mention of slavery in this whole picture book–a quote from an enslaved tinsmith at Monticello–so this part of the author’s note seems extraneous to the topic at hand. All in all, I give this one a big Highly Recommended and I’m moving this one near the top of my elementary/middle grade picture book list for the Armchair Cybils. (Calkins Creek, 2013)




64 p. Lerner/ Twenty-first Century Books, November, 2013. 9780761390213. (Borrowed from the public library)

I loved everything about this book from its conversational yet non-judgmental tone to its design. Seven animals are highlighted in short, attractively organized chapters featuring plenty of crisp, full-color photographs, well-placed text boxes and sidebars, an introduction, an epilogue, which explores ways of making cities more eco-friendly, and plentiful back matter. The only thing missing was a glossary which is a minor quibble since the neat vocabulary, such as plasticity and habitat fragmentation, are nicely defined within the text. Still, the teacher in me likes having a glossary of terms set apart for further reading.

Full review may be found at Proseandkahn.

Happy Non-Fiction Monday!


Picture Book Biography: A Splash of Red

A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin by Jen Bryant and illustrated by Melissa Sweet has been landing on a lot of “Best of 2013” lists (New York Library, for example) and for good reason.


First of all, Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet are an experienced team. They worked together on the Caldecott winner, A River of Words:  The Story of William Carlos Williams. Secondly, Horace Pippin’s life is inspirational. He overcame great adversity, including losing the use of his right arm, to go on to produce museum-quality folk art. When you add it all up, this is a picture book biography that should be on your radar.

Want to learn more? Our full review is at Wrapped in Foil.

Other insightful reviews of A Splash of Red by Nonfiction Monday participants can be found at:

Have you also reviewed this title? Please feel free to leave a link in the comments.


Get Into Art Animals: Enjoy Great Art–Then Create Your Own!

Get Into Art Animals: Enjoy Great Art–Then Create Your Own!
by Susie Brooks (Author)

Booktalk: Is spending more time creating art a New Year’s resolution at your house? Meet 12 master artists and then make some art of your own! Create animals in each artist’s style. Learn techniques for chalk pastel, stencil, collage, and more!

Time to Create

Landseers’s work is very detailed, but you can paint furry animals in different ways. Try these!

1 Use a square-ended brush to paint the basic shape–it could be a dog like this, or your own pet or other favorite animal.

2 With a clean brush, add downward streaks in a lighter color.

Nonfiction Monday

It’s Nonfiction Monday!

Copyright © 2013 Anastasia Suen All Rights Reserved. Site Meter

Fly Guy Presents: Space

Fly Guy Presents: Space
written and illustrated by Tedd Arnold
2013 (Scholastic)
Source: Orange County Public LibraryBuzz and his pet Fly Guy have wandered into the realm of nonfiction. The two buddies visit a space museum and find a treasure trove of facts. They start big with a definition of the universe. This leads to a mention of the 8 planets (Pluto, we miss you!) and a quick fact about space probe Voyager 2. An explanation of gravity and how the sun pulls the planets is the next stop on the museum tour. Other subjects explored include smaller objects in space including meteoroids, astronauts, and spacecraft.

Since this is a book for early readers, you are going to get a lot of facts and not much depth. I think this is the right way to go for this age. Another plus is the use of a well known character like Fly Guy to pull more readers into nonfiction. Fly Guy Presents: Space isn’t a book that you would use for a mentor text, but that’s okay. Its purpose in my classroom would be to act as an alternative to the vast majority of fiction books for early readers. Put it in a kid’s reading basket and be prepared to share!

Presidents as Tough Guys

This is the time of year when bloggers post their Favorites of 2013 lists or Best Books for the Holidays lists but the Iron Guy, never afraid to do things differently, is going to do something, well, different. I’m going to recommend a couple of biographies. These would make great reading over the break. As well as doing some fun reading like Unstoppable: No Where to Run, it’s good sometimes to read about real-life people and learn from the great lives they led. Two of the best biographies I’ve read in a long time are To Dare Mighty Things: The Life of Theodore Roosevelt by Doreen Rappaport and Lincoln: A Photobiography by the great Russell Freedman.

syndetics-lcThe first one is brand new; in fact, I got it just a couple of days ago. It’s a terrific story of a remarkable man.

Theodore Roosevelt was, in some ways, one of the toughest guys ever in the White House. He herded cattle for three years in the Dakotas, led the Rough Riders in the charge up San Juan Hill in the Spanish-American War and galloped around Washington DC every morning on horseback. but he didn’t start out that way. Teddy was a sickly child–he “coughed, sneezed, wheezed, had raging fevers, and hardly ate. His asthma was so bad that he had to sleep sitting up in bed or in a big chair.” But he didn’t let that stop him. He lifted weights, climbed mountains and exercised enough to build his body into health. He also read “books about the soldiers at Valley Forge and frontiersmen Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone” saying, “I felt a great admiration for men who were fearless. I had a great desire to be like them.” As a politician and president, he fearlessly took on corrupt police departments, city governments and business monopolies. Not only that, he explored the western wilderness, fell in love with and preserved much of the great outdoor USA as National Parks. TR lived an epic life and this is an epic book. The story is interesting and the illustrations are great. And it’s a Good Quick Read. I finished it in about a half hour, but it has stayed with me. What a guy! What a story! What a book! And it’s a fun read too–just wait until you read about the giant tortoise escapin in his college dorm room!

syndetics-lcThe other book is older (it came out in 1987) but it’s still good. In fact, it’s one of the most remarkable books I’ve read this year. Lincoln: A Photobiography is another epic story about an epic life. Abraham Lincoln was the essential American success story; the poor uneducated boy who became President. He was born in the middle of nowhere to parents “who couldn’t read or write at all.” but decided to educate himself out of poverty. He borrowed books whenever he could and read all the time. He would even “carry a book out to the field with him, so he could read at the end of each plow furrow while the horse was getting its breath.” Eventually he learned law and went into politics. Not only was he physically tough (“his hard physical had given him a tough, lean boy with muscular arms like steel cables”) but he was morally and mentally tough, taking on things that would have crushed many other men. He kept the country going during the Civil War when most everyone wanted to give up, fought tirelessly to end slavery, endured criticism for years (being called once “the original gorilla”) and all this time having to fight against sever depression. But, in the end, he triumphed. He won the war, ended slavery and became the most respected man of his time. Until his tragic end. I need to say it again–What a guy! What a story! And what a book!! Russell Friedman is a powerful writer and really brings this tremendous story to life. I’ve read a lot about Abraham Lincoln but still found myself turning page after page to keep reading this incredible story. And it won the Newbery award for best kids’ book of the year in 1988. Rightly so.

And do you what these two great men had in common? Other facing up to great challenges? Other than leaving their worlds better places? Other than bringing themselves up out of bad childhood situations?





That’s right, guys. One of the ways they brought themselves out bad circumstances was reading books. Roosevelt inspired himself with books about soldiers and frontiersmen. Lincoln read books and educated himself into a better life. READING CHANGES LIVES. Remember that. That’s why I run this blog. Get books into your hands, boys, and who knows what you could accomplish.

Well, thanks for letting onto my soapbox. If you want to read about how reading changes lives, click on the “Being Teddy Roosevelt” tab under this post under this post and see my review of that terrific book. If you’d like to read about another book by Russell Freedman (about Valley Forge!), click on the “Russell Freedman” tab. Same thing if you want to learn about more biographies.

I hope all of you have a great holiday season.

And be sure to write in to us at Boys Rule Boys Read!


How the Meteorite Got to the Museum

How the Meteorite Got to the Museum is the third in a series of picture books by author/illustrator Jessie Hartland about how objects end up on display in museums. In this book, she uses her usual lightly humorous style to reveal how a piece of the Peekskill meteorite ended up on display at the American Museum of Natural History.


In her series, Hartland employs a cumulative story technique borrowed from “The House that Jack Built.” In this book she explains where the meteorite came from, who saw it, and what the owner of the car did when she discovered the damage, etc. Read carefully, however, because although the sequence of previous events repeats in each two-page spread as you would expect, the verbs change a bit, adding interest.

See the full discussion (with a video of the meteorite arriving) at Wrapped in Foil blog


Have you read one of the books in this series? Have you reviewed it? If you’d like to share, be sure to add your link in the comments.

Ladybug at Orchard Avenue

Nonfiction Monday: Ladybug at Orchard Avenue


Ladybug at Orchard Avenue
written by Kathleen W. Zoehfeld; illustrated by Thomas Buchs
2013 (Oceanhouse Media)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

On the leaf of a cherry tree, a ladybug is on the lookout for food. An autumn wind blows the leaf back and forth, forcing her to stick to the leaf with her claws and pads. As the ladybug approaches an aphid, something else sees her as a meal. An ant clamps down on her forewings. Before the ant can get another bite, the ladybug makes her escape down the cherry tree. Having left the ant behind, our heroine must continue looking for food and storing fat for the cold times ahead. Searching for more food on a rose stem, a wren takes a long look at the ladybug before deciding that better tasting food can be found elsewhere. The coloring on the ladybug tells the bird that this is not the menu item she desires. Later, playing dead around a mouse pays off. It also doesn’t hurt when you can ooze a stinky fluid to aid your escape. I wonder how that would work to leave suddenly awkward conversations. Having filled herself for winter, the ladybug lands on a windowsill and seeks a place to stay. Not having a standing reservation, she finds a crack in the window frame and crawls in. Sleep will soon arrive and when spring comes, there won’t be a bill for her stay!

If you are the slightest bit intrigued, check out the rest of the post at NC Teacher Stuff

What the Heart Knows by Joyce Sidman

What the Heart KnowsLynn:  It may seem as if Joyce Sidman has written a new book.  The truth is that she has created a key to our hearts.  Her newest book of poetry, What the Heart Knows:  Chants, Charms & Blessings (Houghton 2013) touched me deeply in so many ways.  I laughed, cried, smiled, nodded, sighed and winced.  These superb poems unlock emotions we all hold close and have held close throughout history.

In the opening Note, Sidman writes that throughout time we have “filled our lives with poetry from morning till night.”  We have chanted, lamented. blessed and cursed what matters most to us.  In the past we may have sung to avert catastrophe in battle or from the weather.  Today we still sing to keep away the many forms of darkness that frighten us, to celebrate love or cope with life’s challenges.  And, being human, we may curse those lost keys or invoke a good night’s sleep.  The book has four sections:  Chants & Charms, Spells & Invocations, Laments & Remembrances and Praise Songs & Blessings.  The poems within are a charming evocative mix of subjects from battered teddy bears to death to the sheer joy of riding a bike.  They come from and speak to every human heart, young or old….

Cindy: It’s rare for Lynn to embrace a poetry book before me, or more tightly. But I’ve had to ease into this collection. I read it in a gulp on the first read and it did not move me. That was not the poet’s fault. It was the reader’s: mine. I think I read it standing, even, the first time. A second read was more leisurely. During the third I  picked through the poems I liked the most. I’ve read it several more times now and appreciate it more each time.  Read the rest of our review at Bookends Blog