Samurai Rising: the Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune

Samurai RisingSamurai Rising: the Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune

by Pamela S. Turner; illustrated by Gareth Hinds

256 pages; ages 12 & up

Charlesbridge, 2016

Minamoto Yoshitsune had little going for him. As a fatherless child he was exiled to a monastery, had no money, had few friends and no allies, and had no martial arts training. But he was smart and determined, and he had a dream.

At the age of fifteen, Yoshitsune escaped from exile, joined his half-brother, and led an uprising against the most powerful samurai in Japan.

Pamela Turner spins a tale of courage, battles, cunning, and improvisation in a story that sounds like the adventures of King Arthur or Harry Potter. Except this story is true, and accompanied by maps of battles that really took place. It is also a story about shifting loyalties, political allegiance, love, and family. There are warrior monks, archers, and much clashing of swords. There is victory and defeat.

Not only is it page-turning nonfiction, it is a perfect book to read this political season. If I gave out stars, this would get a galaxy’s worth.

Head over to Sally’s Bookshelf for an interview with the author. And head over to Pam’s website to learn more about Yoshitsune’s World at Pam’s website. Click on “Enter Yoshitsune’s World” and you’ll find videos, photos, and more.

Nonfiction Monday

It’s Nonfiction Monday!

Copyright © 2016 Sue Heavenrich All Rights Reserved. Site Meter

You Can Fly

The Tuskegee Airmenfly book

Atheneum Books for Young Readers
5.3.2016 * 96 pages
Ages 9 – 12

A True Tale with A Cherry On Top
Author: Carole Boston Weatherford
and Illustrator: Jeffery Boston Weatherford

Characters: The Tuskegee Airmen

Overview from the jacket flap:

“… From training days in Alabama to combat on the front lines in Europe, this is the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, the pioneering African-American pilots of World War II. In vibrant second-person poems that allow readers to fly too, award-winning author Carole Boston Weatherford teams up for the first time with her son, artist Jeffery Boston Weatherford, to tell the story of these men who triumphed in the skies and over the color barrier.”

For a Tantalizing Taste and Something More, visit the blog of kidlit author, Jeanne Walker Harvey*** True Tales & A Cherry On Top  ***  to learn more about this book.


Who Was, Where Is and What Is–Four Cool Nonfiction Books for Boys

Kids everywhere like the Who Was…biographies. I can tell because we can never keep them on our shelves here at the library. And there are good reasons behind that–the books are interesting, informative and make good quick reads. Plus the writers really know how to move the stories along and keep a reader hooked until the last page. Today the Iron Guy will tell you about a Who Was.. biography and three other books published by the same company. And what stories they tell!! Epic lives and epic struggles. Building magnificent structures under impossible conditions. Conquest, assassination, deadly diseases, endurance, heroism and dictatorship–all here in these terrific books!

The first is Who Was Julius Caesar? by Nico Medina and it starts off with a terrific story. When he was twenty-five, Julius Caesar, sailing from Rome to Crete, was captured by pirates, who intended to hold him for ransom. Did he he cry out in fear? Plead for his freedom? No, he laughed in their faces and told them he was worth more than twice the ransom they asked! Furthermore, he wasn’t afraid of what they’d do to him; he thought about what he would do to them when he got free–and he did!

To read more, go to:



Ada’s Violin: the story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay by Susan Hood


Ada’s Violin:  the story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay by Susan Hood. Illustrated by Sally Wern Comport. Unpgd. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, May, 2016. 9781481430951. (Review from finished copy courtesy of publisher.)

Ada’s Violin is a 2016 favorite of mine and hopefully of yours. I reviewed it over at Proseandkahn. You need this story in your life and on your shelf.

Art Camp

Art Camp: 52 Art Projects for Kids to Explore
by Susan Schwake (Author)

Booktalk: The BIG Picture

Art Camp is the second book of art instruction from Susan’s new Kids Art Series. This book is an easy-to-use collection of self-guided lessons for kids to pull out again and again to expand their skill sets and gain confidence in making art. The beautiful full-color photographs illustrate the projects in this easy-to-explore guide. Step-by-step simple art adventures are inspired by artists and the natural world in this full-color instructional book.

#kidlit Writing Lesson: the small details

The front matter (the pages before the main text of a book) explains the author’s approach:


Art Camp is a collection of of fifty-two projects made from simple materials.

The benefits are clearly stated:

They are open ended projects that promote creativity and confidence in art making.

The audience for the book is defined:

The projects can be done with little or no supervision for most elementary school aged children.

Take a peek inside with this book trailer.

Nonfiction Monday

It’s Nonfiction Monday!

Copyright © 2016 Anastasia Suen All Rights Reserved.

Bird & Diz by Gary Golio


Bird & Diz by Gary Golio. Illustrated by Ed Young. unpgd. Candlewick Press, February, 2015. 9780763666606. (Review from purchased copy)

I haven’t had this much fun with a read aloud since I “read” aloud, Chris Raschka’s Charlie Parker Played Be Bop lo, ten or so years ago. I found an audio book produced by Live Oak Media, which told the story so much better than I, leaving me free to observe the magic a great book weaves on an audience. Perhaps it’s bad form to open the review of one book with a reference to another. It is probably no coincidence that the subject matter lent itself so nicely to spectacular picture book more than two decades apart. Such was the magic of Birdman and Dizzy.

Be bop on over to Proseandkahn for the full review.




by Jenny Fretland VanVoorst (Author)

Booktalk: The BIG Picture

Explore the physics behind the trampoline, a popular backyard toy, in three short chapters for early fluent readers.

#kidlit Writing Lesson: the small details

The first page of chapter one introduces the topic with two questions on the left (reverso) page:


Do you like to jump on a trampoline? Did you know that jumping tests the laws of physics?

The bolded word, physics, is defined on the right (recto) page:

Physics is the science of matter and how it moves. There are physics laws by which all things work.

This nonfiction book for early fluent readers introduces one new idea at a time.

Nonfiction Monday

It’s Nonfiction Monday!

Copyright © 2016 Anastasia Suen All Rights Reserved.

Animal Planet’s Animal Atlas

Over at Wrapped in Foil blog today we are featuring Animal Planet’s new book, Animal Atlas, with text by James Buckley, Jr. and maps by Aaron Meshon. It arrives on shelves on May 17.


Animal Planet Animal Atlas travels through the world of animals in an orderly fashion, with chapters representing the seven continents plus the oceans. Each section begins with a map of the featured continent and descriptions of the biomes that occur there, such as rainforest, desert, and tundra. In the following pages are covered with big, bright photographs of different kinds of animals living in each biome, from a type of antelope known as an addax to zebras.  Short descriptions of the animals are included in color-coded sidebars. Finally, children will want to look for the Reach Out. Act. Respond or ROAR sidebars highlighting conservation and animal rescue efforts in that region.

What’s great about this big book is that it is a resource children are likely to return to again and again. Young children may use it to learn the names of animals. Older children will start to see emergent patterns, such as the animals found in northern areas or taigas are more likely to be white at least part of the year. The bottom line is that Animal Atlas is sure to please young animal lovers everywhere!

If you are looking for more, try the Animal Bites series, reviewed here earlier by Jeff.