Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Happy New Year 2021 One Little Word Nonfiction

Never has it been more apparent than revealed during the events of January 6, 2021 in the capital city of the United States of America how important nonfiction books are to our readers. In my experience students crave information.  They want to know facts which inform, challenge, and perhaps, shift their thinking.  Three notable nonfiction authors, Cynthia Levinson, Melissa Stewart, and Jennifer Swanson, talk about the appeal of nonfiction with readers in a Publishers Weekly article titled Soapbox: "Hey, Grownups! Kids Really Do Like Nonfiction" , January 7, 2021.

As in a first post on January 5, 2021 and a soon-to-be-published follow-up post highlighting 2020 fiction picture books, there are numerous 2020 nonfiction books not previously considered here.  For each title selected for this post, there will be a link to the publisher's, author's, and illustrator's websites (or social media accounts).  Other pertinent and helpful resources may be included.  There will be a short summary and an initial passage from the narrative.  As in prior posts, one little word will be given for each title.  They are listed in order of release date.


Hard Work, But It's Worth It: The Life of Jimmy Carter (Balzar + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, January 28, 2020) written by Bethany Hegedus with illustrations by Kyung Eun Han

During the Great Depression, times were tough.  But farm life has always been tough.  There was work from sunup to sunset, no matter the time of year.  From the very start, James Earl Carter, Jr.---Jimmy---and hard work were fast friends.

At five years old Jimmy Carter was selling boiled peanuts from the farm on the streets of Plains, Georgia.  He learned the value of working hard, but he also learned hard work benefited some more than others.  People of color were not afforded the same benefits as he was. 

Jimmy Carter, living in the South, was no stranger to having African Americans in his life.  His best friend, Alonzo Davis was a Black child.  By the time the boys were fourteen, laws at the time, severed the relationship.  Jimmy Carter knew he had to make changes.  His upbringing and his Good Mental Habits guided him in all his future endeavors.  They still do.

You will learn more than you thought you knew about this man.  Each portion of his life supplied to readers builds as a tribute to the man we see today.  The highly detailed digital illustrations created in Corel Painter enhance our understanding of the narrative.  There is an author's note, a three-page timeline, a bibliography of books and online resources including websites and videos.


Packs: Strength In Numbers (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, January 28, 2020) written and illustrated by Hannah Salyer 




and pods.

In a beautifully illustrated presentation, readers learn how living beings function better together.  We are given the names of their groups through the voice of one of their numbers.  Information is supplied as to how the animals perform an array of tasks together benefiting their existence.  The word together connects the different creatures while their variety gives our planet its needed diversity.  

There are words from the author illustrator at the close of the book.  The animals are further identified by their common name at the conclusion.  Further reading is listed.


The True Story of Zippy Chippy: The Little Horse That Couldn't (North|South, February 25, 2020) written by Artie Bennett with illustrations by Dave Szalay 

There is an additional interior image to be seen at Simon & Schuster.  There are author interviews at Maria Marshall's site and Good Reads With Ronna.  There is a teacher's guide generated by Marcie Colleen. 

ZIPPY CHIPPY was a racehorse, descended from legends that ran like the wind.
He was destined for glory---and would follow in their
The only problem was, when Zippy ran . . .

Running was not exactly at what Zippy excelled.  He was known to not leave the starting gate.  He was known to stop in the middle of the race.  He was known to enjoy walking rather than running. 

Sentence by conversational sentence with an undercurrent of humor (heightened by the artwork), we learn about the horse who liked racing, but never won a race.  In fact, there is only one horse in the history of horse racing who topped his record.  Despite his losses, Zippy Chippy became a fan favorite.  You won't believe what he did before his last race.  At the close of the book is a two-page author's note and a bibliography.


Bringing Back The Wolves: How A Predator Restored An Ecosystem (Kids Can Press, March 3, 2020) written by Jude Isabella with illustrations by Kim Smith

There are multiple interior images at the illustrator's website.  A teacher's guide can be downloaded at the publisher's website under the tab---Resources.

A city park, a beach, a forest, or a desert. What do they have in common?
They are full of living things that interact with one another and their environment.
Take, for instance, a city park. It may be full of soil, trees, grasses, shrubs, flowers, insects, gray squirrels, birds and people.  And each has a relationship with the other.  They are part of 
an ecosystem, a web of connections between the living and non-living.

In a fascinating narrative of seventeen sections after the introduction, readers find themselves educated, intricate layer by intricate layer.  The absence of wolves contributed to an imbalance in multiple populations of animals and plants.  Sometimes entire species disappeared.

Within each of the sections, there are extra explanatory paragraphs, labeled diagrams and captioned illustrations.  Without being overwhelmed with the extent of the information, you find yourself intrigued as if you are a partner in piecing clues together to solve a mystery.  The digital illustrations fashioned in Photoshop transport you to Yellowstone National Park.  There is a glossary, resources, websites and books, and an index.  Please take a moment to read the Acknowledgments.


The Voice that Won the Vote: How One Woman's Words Made History (Sleeping Bear Press, March 15, 2020) written by Elisa Boxer with illustrations by Vivien Mildenberger

In addition to the interviews and articles listed at Elisa Boxer's website, there are articles at Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations, Kathy Temean's Writing and Illustrating and Laura Renauld's site.  Julie Danielson interviews Vivien Mildenberger for Chapter 16.org

A vote is a voice:
This is what I believe in.
This is what I stand for.
This is what matters to me.
This is who I am.
This is who I choose to lead
my town, my state, my country.

The year is 1920.  Women don't have the right to vote.  Before women can legally gain the right to vote thirty-six states need to vote yes.  Thirty-five have already voted yes.  Tennessee can become the thirty-sixth state if Harry Burn votes yes.  In the first round he voted no.  Those wishing to deny women the right to vote know they can count on Harry Burn.

What they do not know is Febb Burn, Harry's mother, a college-educated woman, a teacher, has written him a letter.  Her thoughts expressed in the letter make all the difference.  An engaging narrative with compelling and animated illustrations informs, building suspense until Harry Burn votes.  It continues with the election to determine if he will serve as a legislator in Tennessee again.  At the conclusion of the book on two pages is further information and a timeline.  You'll want to read the dedication page.


All the Birds in the World (Peter Pauper Press, April 1, 2020) written and illustrated by David Opie

There are five double-page interior pictures at the publisher's website.  Here is a link to a storytime with David Opie reading his book aloud.  David Opie is interviewed by Elizabeth Dulemba. David Opie has written a post at the Nerdy Book Club about this book.

All birds have feathers.
All birds have wings.
All birds have beaks.

But birds come in many colors.
There are gray birds, brown ones,
black, gold, and white.
Some birds have red wings,
or a blazing orange body,
or a ruby red throat.
They seem to be painted
with more colors
than you can see.

"But what about me?"
asked Kiwi.

In a series of newsy, illuminating, two-page spreads readers are introduced to and reminded of the vast array of birds on our planet.  Their shapes and sizes, the length of their legs, their nests, their eggs, feet, and beaks are displayed and compared.  We learn about those that fly, swim and dive, and are most active at night.  The sounds birds make are disclosed.

During these explorations and revelations, Kiwi keeps asking questions until the narrative addresses them specifically.  Even with all the kiwi's differences, it is still a bird.  The full-color marvelous illustrations in fluctuating perspectives strength the text.  There is an author's note at the close of the book.  Many of the illustrations are recreated at the conclusion with the birds identified.  There is a final further explanation about kiwis.



Obsessive About Octopuses (Flying Eye Books, April 7, 2021) written and illustrated by Owen Davey

There are additional illustrations to see at Penguin Random House.

Octopuses belong to the "cephalopod" family, which includes squid, cuttlefish and nautiluses.  Cephalopods are closely related to molluscs such as slugs and snails. They have soft bodies with little to no skeletons, large heads and muscular limbs, known as either arms or tentacles.

Fifteen chapters outline from generalities to distinctive, a collection of astonishing facts.  We are engaged in a world under the sea through carefully chosen information and stunning signature images.  Physical characteristic, basic body parts, how they travel, their colors and camouflage, defense tactics, and how they hunt and eat are supplied to readers. Examples are given about their cleverness and intelligence.

We are shown the largest and smallest in comparison to a human as well as sixteen octopuses to scale. Readers will be amazed at their reproduction and hatchlings.  Several pages are dedicated to those who stand out above the others.  Mythology and conservation are covered.  There is a table of contents and an index. 

Obsessive About Octopuses Flying Eye Books from Persistent Peril on Vimeo.


Truth And Honor: The President Ford Story (Sleeping Bear Press, July 15, 2020) written by Lindsey McDivitt with illustrations by Matt Faulkner

There are multiple resources at Lindsey McDivitt's website including three author videos and five illustrator videos about this book.  At Kathleen Temean's Writing and Illustrating you can learn more about the process of writing this title.

President Gerald R. Ford sat down at his new desk in the Oval Office and rolled up his sleeves, ready for work.  He'd never planned to be president, but Ford was just the leader America needed.  He would help mend what was broken---the trust between the people and their government.

The book begins with a 16-day-old Gerald escaping with his mother from a violent husband and father.  With his mother and grandparents, he moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Before he was too old to remember his mother remarried. Gerald Ford was the only father he ever knew.

Year by year we are told how those around him from his family to his community influenced and built the values which guided his life.  Events and incidents are chronicled, then the values learned by Ford are reinforced through separate statements.  There is the inclusion of references to landmarks in Michigan

(But the Fords found joy all around them.  Joy as deep and vast as the Great Lakes ringing their state.)

and quotations by President Ford.  Realistic, animated and historically authentic gorgeous illustrations complement and elevate the text.


Lions & Cheetahs & Rhinos Oh My!: Animal Artwork by Children in Sub-Saharan Africa (Sleeping Bear Press, August 1, 2020) by John Platt and Moira Rose Donohue

Here is a link to the How to Draw a Lion website.  This book is featured with author commentary at Kathleen Temean's Writing and Illustrating. This title is highlighted in an event on Facebook with the two authors. (It was fun to see other authors in the Zoom call.)

Do you like
wild animals?

Would you like to paint one?

How about a lion?

You should start by drawing one.  Look closely.  But don't get too close!
The lion is a ferocious hunter.  At night, it can see eight times better than you can.  Oh my! Perhaps you should start with a gentler African animal, like a . . .

Through the stunning artwork of students participating in the How to Draw a Lion program started by John Platt, we meet ten marvelous creatures that reside in Africa.  The text joins one image to the next with the words

like a . . .

Interesting information, individual items, are cleverly woven into the narrative.  Zebra stripes are as specific as fingerprints.  Hippos leave the water at night to snack on grass.  Giraffes sleep in five-minute increments while standing.  At the close of the book is a page dedicated to showing you how to draw a lion.  On the back of the dust jacket and book case, the young artists are shown holding their artwork.


Over and Under the Rainforest (Chronicle Books, August 11, 2020) written by Kate Messner with art by Christopher Silas Neal

There are multiple interior images to view at the publisher's website.

Into the rainforest we hike, through slivers of sunlight and dripping-wet leaves.

With a single sentence we find ourselves transported to the rainforest.  A child is hiking with Tito through the expanse of flora and fauna.  Beautiful imagery in words acquaint us with the animals seen by the duo. Breathtaking illustrations in shifting perspectives created with mixed media draw us further into the narrative.

As the day turns to dusk and then dark, we are keenly aware of the changes in the sensory experience.  At the close of the book is an author's note and paragraphs about each of the animals on four plus pages.  There is a list of books and websites for further reading.  A list of sources is the final entry.



A Thousand Glass Flowers: Marietta Barovier and the Invention of the Rosetta Bead (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, August 18, 2020) written and illustrated by Evan Turk

There are numerous interior illustrations at the publisher's website.  Evan Turk is a guest for Book Q&As with Deborah Kalb.  Author, reviewer, and blogger Julie Danielson features this title at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.

Marietta loved to watch the sun.  It was like a glowing 
ball of glass that rose each morning to give light and
color to the world.
She lived with her family on the island of Murano, as all
the glassmakers did, cut off from the main city of Venice.

Even as a little girl Marietta knew women were not welcome in the art of glassblowing, but her father realized her interest and allowed her to venture into the glass workshop with the furnace.  He assisted her in learning to make beads.  Still, she was not asked to go with her father to Venice to work with a patron, until one day . . .

This visit enlarged Marietta's vision of what she could do with glass.  Over the years her skills increased, even though she still received criticism from those who felt this was not a trade for women.  One day, all her growth as a glassblower and the art she remembered from her past, fused to form a Rosetta bead. A highly informative and interesting two pages at the end of the book contain an author's note and a portion about the art. 


Sharuko El Arqueologo Peruano/Peruvian Archaeologist Julio C. Tello (Children's Book Press, an imprint of Lee & Low Books Inc., August 18, 2020) written by Monica Brown with illustrations by Elisa Chavarri

There are several interior illustrations, a teacher's guide, and the book trailer at the publisher's website.

Esta es la historia de Julio C. Tello, uno de los arqueologos mas importantes de todas las Americas.  Nacio en el Peru el 11 de abril de 1880, bajo la sombra de los Andes, en la escarpada zona montanosa a las afueras de su capital, Lima.

This is the story of Julio C. Tello, one of the most important archaeologists in all the Americas.  He was born in Peru on April 11, 1880, in the rugged highlands just outside the capital city of Lima, in the shadow of the Andes mountains.

During his youth Julio was always searching and discovering fragments of Indigenous life in ancient Peru.  He loved to unearth the past.  Woven into his life story is the history of Indigenous Peruvians.  He believed the world should know the truth about his country's past people.

Told in both Spanish and English, this narrative depicts a man determined to excel at any endeavor, working hard to honor the past as he preserves it for the future for all people to see.  On the final two pages in both languages are an afterword, illustrator's note and author's sources.


Hans Christian Andersen: The Journey Of His Life (North|South, September 1, 2020) written by Heinz Janisch with illustrations by Maja Kastelic

There are more interior illustrations at Simon & SchusterElizabeth Dulemba has a lengthy post with artist Maja Kastelic with extensive artwork.  At School Library Journal A Fuse #8 Production by Elizabeth Bird, you'll enjoy Thoughts (and Videos) of Hans Christian Andersen: The Journey of His Life

"Are you old?"
"Darling, you mustn't ask the gentleman such a question!"
"You must forgive my daughter.  She's only a child."
"I like children who ask questions," said the man with a friendly smile.
"I'm always pleased to meet inquisitive children."
He turned toward the girl, who was wearing a crisp blue dress.

"You wanted to know if I'm old.  Well, yes.
I'm as young as the boy that I once was
and can still feel inside me.  And I'm as old
as the man who is sitting opposite you."

As magical as his fairy tales, this portrayal told during a carriage ride reveals the specifics of Hans Christian Andersen's life through the stories he tells the little girl and her mother.  We are able to see how Hans used threads from his childhood and other life events to stitch them together into the tapestry of his tales.  Every page turn is another fabulous disclosure.

The eloquent writing and luminous illustrations are exquisitely presented.  Readers find themselves through the voice of Hans Christian Andersen completely mesmerized.  There is a two-page author's note.


LAST: The Story of a White Rhino (Tiny Owl, September 1, 2020) written and illustrated by Nicola Davies

This title is highlighted at Let's Talk Picture Books.  Nicola Davies speaks about the book and her artistic process.

I am the last.

I've looked and looked,
but I've never found
another like me.

Told in the voice of the rhino, this is a deeply moving narrative.  The rhino begins in the zoo where he currently resides.  He takes us back to the death of his mother and being removed from the only home he has ever known.  He relates the sensory perceptions of his home versus the zoo.  

He tells us he is not the only one that is the last.  The story takes a positive turn when the rhino is in a box again. He is home.  There is another rhino.  During his narrative, the artwork of Nicola Davies tells another story, the story of how this rhino finds himself back in the 

old place

The final page of the book relates the true story on which this book is based.  


The Teachers March!: How Selma's Teachers Changed History (Calkins Creek, an imprint of Boyd Mills & Kane, September 29, 2020) written by Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace with illustrations by Charly Palmer

There is an interior illustration, an educator's guide, and the book trailer at the publisher's website.  At Penguin Random House there are other images.  The Classroom Bookshelf, School Library Journal features this book. There is a Q & A with Rich and Sandra Neil Wallace, Authors of The Teachers March at School Library Journal.  This book is discussed at Picture Book Builders and at Vivian Kirkfield's website.

Reverend F. D. Reese taught science at R. B. Hudson High School, but his favorite subject was freedom.  He believed that everyone was a first-class citizen, just like the Constitution stated.  To be treated as less than equal, that just wasn't right.

Page turn by page turn as Reverend Reese works for equal right, voting rights, for African Americans in Selma, Alabama, you can feel the tension increasing.  The stakes for the African Americans were high.  Unfair laws, ridiculous testing, and dangerous law enforcement employees made it impossible for them to vote. 

Reverend Reese believed if teachers marched, they could generate change.  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke to them.  With a plan in place those teachers did march.  Their march inspired other marches.  This book written with meticulous care enhanced with poignant artwork is riveting and informative from beginning to end.  I can't imagine teaching United States history at multiple levels without using this title.  There is an author's note, an illustrator's note, an extensive timeline, selected bibliography of interviews, books, film and audio, magazine, newspapers, and journal articles, in-person visits' list, additional book resources, and picture credits.


SWISH!: The slam-dunking, alley-ooping, high-flying Harlem Globetrotters (Little, Brown And Company, November 10, 2020) written by Suzanne Slade with illustrations by Don Tate

At the Nerdy Book Club, both Suzanne Slade and Don Tate talk about this book before the book trailer reveal. 

thump-thumping basketballs
up and down Chicago's South Side
in alleys, driveways, and parking lots.
Raw talent and determination in worn-out sneakers
practicing nonstop layups,
all-net free throws,
and sky-high jump shots.

If you've ever seen the Harlem Globetrotters play, you never forget the feeling of watching sheer artistry displayed.  You remember the admiration building inside you as those athletes thought and moved masterfully.  With words recreating the rhythm of moments on and off a court, heightened by action-packed, emotionally and realistically expressive illustrations, readers follow the growth of this team.

The opening and closing endpapers supply on one side photographs and a timeline, on the opposite side, beginning in 1922 and concluding in 2016.  The photographs, different on each set of endpapers, are numbered and identified. There is a page at the end titled More About The Trotters.  There is an Artist's Note and Selected Sources And Credits


Building Zaha: The Story of Architect Zaha Hadid (Orchard Books Scholastic Inc., December 1, 2020) written and illustrated by Victoria Tentler-Krylov (Instagram)

Zaha Hadid was a 
thinker and an observer and never
remained still.  As a young girl, 
she loved to explore the mosques
and palaces around Baghdad,
where sunlight streamed
through windows, forming
shadows that shifted
and rippled like water.

Particular events experienced by and choices made by Zaha Hadid are depicted, forming a complete and exciting picture of this extraordinary woman. She was fascinated with the blend of nature and human construction.  She defied what was normal and defined what was possible. 

Within the narrative, quotes about Zaha Hadid and by her make the representation here more intimate and authentic.  Lively, lovely illustrations mirror the person and her accomplishments.  This striking debut as both author and illustrator by Victoria Tentler-Krylov concludes with an author's note, a selected timeline and selected bibliography.

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