Quote of the Month

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

Monday, January 16, 2023

Happy New Year 2023 One Little Word Nonfiction Part I

Since the beginning of 2023, we have had a few hours of sun at the end of one day.  In those hours we were treated to cotton candy pink clouds stretching across the western sky.  That night, we could see stars and a moon barely waning from its fullness.  It was the world's way of reminding us that nothing stays the same and what is sometimes hidden is always there.  There are wonders to be discovered every single day.  Due to the creativeness, research, and perseverance of authors, illustrators and publishers, we are presented with new information about people, places, events and living beings (past and present) and things about which we knew nothing or little.  Each new year brings us readers a wealth of titles enlarging our knowledge, beliefs, and commitments.  These books ask us to be our best selves.  The following titles are those not previously discussed here, but they, in my opinion, are wonderful nonetheless.

For each title selected, there is a link to the publisher's, author's, and illustrator's websites (or social media accounts).  Other relevant and useful resources may be included.  There is a brief summary for each book and a passage from the narrative.  As in prior posts, one little word is assigned to each title.  Books are listed in release date order.  Please enjoy this list, fellow readers.


Big As A Giant Snail: Discovering the World's Most Gigantic Animals (The World of Weird Animals) (Alfred A. Knopf, January 18, 2022) written by Jess Keating with illustrations by David DeGrand

At the publisher's website, you can view interior images.  The previous titles in the series are Pink Is For Blobfish: Discovering the World's Perfect Pink Animals, What Makes a Monster?: Discovering the World's Scariest Creatures, Cute As An Axolotl: Discovering the World's Most Adorable Animals, and Gross As A Snot Otter: Discovering the World's Most Disgusting AnimalsJess Keating has additional resources for the books in this series at her website.

A NOTE FOR READERS: This book is full of giants, but it's not easy to capture their true size without some help.  The banana below is six inches long, and we'll tell you each animal's size in number of bananas.  In this way, you can figure out the scale of every animal in the book!  These measurements are approximate, but very fun.

The size of these seventeen creatures will have you gasping and alternating between wanting to see them in real life or heading for the proverbial hills to avoid them.  As in the previous titles, the page on the left is dedicated to a picture of the animal with their name.  This time their length in bananas is also given.  

Jess Keating supplies readers with a conversational factual introduction about each creature using puns and alliteration.  She follows this with specific and notable characteristics.  On the far right we read about their name, species name, size, diet, habitat, predators and threats.

Did you know blue whales have ventral pleats so their throats can expand like balloons? They can shovel in their weight in water.  Can you believe some moose are taller than the height of the ceiling in our homes?  The atlas moth has a wingspan of two bananas or close to nine and one half inches!  Did you know red kangaroos in Australia use their own spit to cool their body temperature?

At the close of the book are pages comparing the seventeen animals on a banana scale, and three animals are shown with other scales.  There is a page and one-half glossary.  Along with the photographs of the animals, the artwork of David DeGrand is pure comedy.


Sanctuary: Kip Tiernan and Rosie's Place, the Nation's First Shelter for Women (Candlewick Press, March 1, 2022) written by Christine McDonnell with illustrations by Victoria Tentler-Krylov

At both the author and illustrator websites, you can view interior illustrations.  At the publisher's website, there is a teacher's guide.  At Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, Julie Danielson features the illustrator and her art for this book.  In the concluding pages is more information about Kip Tiernan with headings of A Rebel and an Outsider, The Great Depression, Hobo Symbols, Causes of Homelessness and Kip Tiernan Memorial and source notes.

KIP stood on tiptoe to stir the big pot of soup on Granny's stove.  Already men were lining up by the back door, collard turned up and shoulders hunched against the cold.

Kip grew up with her grandmother.  It was the Great Depression of the 1930s.  Kip's grandmother always gave food and clothing to those that needed it more than the children in her own home.

In her early forties, Kip took those lessons learned from her grandmother and began the work that would define her life.  She started at Warwick House in Boston.  It was there that she discovered homeless women would dress as men to get services.

Kip increased her knowledge of offering compassionate care by studying how Saint Joseph's House in New York City worked.  From there she began to beg and bargain with city officials in Boston to rent her a building.  They finally agreed.  In 1974, on Easter Sunday, Rosie's Place, the first shelter for women opened.  Kip did not stop with Rosie's Place but continued to champion for health care, housing, and food for the homeless and poor.

The watercolor and digital media pictures by Victoria Tentler-Krylov supply readers with a true sense of history and how Kip Tiernan found her place in it.  The color palette choices reflect the moods in each scene, dreary versus joy and a mix of both.  Careful readers will notice the difference on the opening and closing endpapers.


BandoolaThe Great Elephant Rescue (Flying Eye Books, March 1, 2022) written and illustrated by William Grill

At both the publisher and author illustrator's websites, you can view multiple images.  You can read an excerpt at Penguin Random House.  At the close of the book is a pictorial and text glossary, an appendix and further reading as well as an author's note.

Myanmar is a country in South-east Asia, nestled between India, Bangladesh, China, Laos and Thailand.  The country is famous for its vast forests, which provide important habitats for wildlife.  Sadly, today many of these forests are being cut down by humans to make way for farms or to use the wood to make buildings, paper or furniture.  This is called deforestation.

In a recent span of twenty years, 1990 to 2010, Myanmar lost 20% of its forests.  The country still has about 50% of its area covered in forests.  There is a wide range of plant and animal life.  Asian elephants reside there and are valuable to many aspects of life in Myanmar.  They are essential to the economy of harvesting wood.

This story of Bandoola, one of the most famous of working elephants, will remain in your memory always.  Bandoola was born in Myanmar the same year, 1897, that James Howard Williams was born in England.  Their paths crossed when Williams started working for the Bombay Burma(h) Trading Corporation in 1920.  Williams became responsible for 70 elephants and their oozies, riders.  This included Bandoola and his oozie, Po Toke.

Within the eighty-three pages of this book, we are educated on elephant camps at this time, pages are dedicated to the elephants themselves, the nature of their work, their riders, and how the lumber was moved.  We learn of the more compassionate training devised by Po Toke and Williams and the elephant hospital that was established.  When World War II broke out, life for Williams, the riders and elephants changed drastically.

Their efforts shifted to building bridges, enlarging routes, and carrying provisions.  When the Japanese threatened everything they knew and had built, Williams could not abandon those responsible. What they were able to accomplish, to save the lives of the elephants and their humans, is nothing short of a marvel, an unbelievable marvel led by Bandoola.  More than 100 miles, 119 kilometers, they traversed through jungle and up and down mountains nearly 5,000 feet (1,500 meters) high.  This is edge-of-your-seat reading.

The illustrations of William Grill, in what appear to be colored pencils, are lush in the panoramic views and intricate in the details.  The limited color palette is displayed on the front and back of the book case.  This choice of hues lends itself beautifully to the narrative, its time and place.


Washed Ashore: Making Art from Ocean Plastic (Millbrook Press, March 1, 2022) written and illustrated (photographs) by Kelly Crull

At the publisher's website, you can download teaching materials and view some interior illustrations. Kelly Crull is interviewed about this title at The Lerner Blog.  It is well worth the read!  Here is the link to the organizational website, Washed Ashore.  The book trailer and Kelly Crull's unboxing video are on his website.  At the close of the book is a scavenger hunt, pages showing how the sculptures were created, a page with text and graphics explaining Where Do Plastic Bottles Go?, a glossary, and two pages of print and online resources.

The ocean is home to all kinds of wonderful creatures.  Slimy sea slugs. Prickly puffer fish. Glittery grunions.  Flashlight fish that glow in the dark.  Octopuses that change color if they get scared or grumpy. Dolphins that play tag.  Whales that sing so loud they'll rattle your bones.

Unfortunately, we humans, while enjoying the oceans, have no idea how much of our trash finds its way to these waters.  One woman, Angela Haseltine Pozzi realized someone needed to start picking up all the trash washing ashore in her town of Bandon, Oregon.  She, friends, and volunteers started picking up trash on their beaches and nearby beaches.  From this trash, they formed enormous sculptures of animals who rely on the ocean and are harmed by trash. In 2010, they started Washed Ashore.

This book highlights thirteen of those animal sculptures in photographs.  Two pages are used for each one.  On the left is information about the creature.  On the right, in a designated spot, are hints for cutting down on pollution.  Along the bottom of the pages are seven pieces of plastic for you to find in the sculpture.

The photography of Kelly Crull is bright and appealing with equally bright backgrounds to highlight each animal.  On the opening endpapers is a close-up picture of gathered trash.  On the closing endpapers is a map of the world made from trash.


Blips On A Screen: How Ralph Baer Invented TV Video Gaming and Launched a Worldwide Obsession (Alfred A. Knopf, May 3, 2022) written by Kate Hannigan with illustrations by Zachariah Ohora

At Zachariah Ohora's website, you can view multiple interior images.  At the publisher's website, you can see the opening and closing endpapers in addition to interior illustrations.  Kate Hannigan is interviewed about this book at Into Indie GamesAt the end of the book are several pages of questions and answers, a page dedicated to Ralph and inventors, a two-page timeline, and a page of resources.

Rudolf "Rolf" Baer loved games.
Money and food had grown scare everywhere
after the Great Depression began in 1929.

He and his family fled Germany in 1938 to New York City to escape the horrors inflicted on Jewish people.  As a young adult, Ralph found work and used his love of inventing to improve the function of the machines at his job.  From there, he learned how to repair radios and became a one-man business in the city.

After using his radio skills as a soldier overseas during World War II, Ralph switched his interest to television.  He tried to get others to believe television could be made more fun.  He set this aside for fifteen years until he had an idea in place.  He documented this idea and got right to work making it a reality.

He and a friend played the 

first two-person TV video game contest in history on May 15, 1967.  It was only a line on the screen which could be short or long and move left or right, but what a beginning it was!  Before long there were three blips on the screen for three players.  By January 1968, Ralph applied for his first gaming patent.  The road was not always easy, but Ralph knew a good thing when he had it.  That first game, The Odyssey was a hit! (On a personal note, Ralph . . . thank you for inventing the game Simon.)

Created using acrylic paint on BFK Rives printmaking paper, the illustrations by Zachariah Ohora are engaging and animated bringing readers right into Ralph's world.  You cannot help but stop at each page turn to notice the details.  We are given a book case different from the dust jacket.  Is it the housing for early television sets or the Brown Box?


Growing An Artist: The Story of A Landscaper And His Son (A Paula Wiseman Book, Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, May 10, 2022) written and illustrated by John Parra (his first debut as both author and illustrator)

Readers will be inspired by the author's note at the close of the book to the left of a final image of an outdoor family meal.  John Parra has many illustrations from the book at his website.  The publisher has the dust jacket and book case for viewing on their site along with several interior illustrations.  John Parra wrote a guest post about this book at Betsy Bird's A Fuse #8 Production, School Library Journal.

"Are you ready, mijo?" Papi asks.  He smiles as I carry an armful of tools and supplies.
"Have a good day!" Mami calls.
Soon we rumble off into the cool morning air.  Today is a BIG day.  Today is the first time I get to help my papi at his work.  He is a landscape contractor.

In a blend of dialogue and narrative, we follow the son (John Parra) as he works along with his father and co-worker, Javier.  At the first house he learns the fine art of mowing and bush shaping and trimming.  He is saddened, though, when a classmate does not return his greeting.

At lunch father and son talk about the art of landscaping and how hard but satisfying the work is, even when some people make you feel invisible.  Papi praises John's sketches in his notebook.

They make a stop at a nursery, deliver a rose bush to a rose bush collector, and drive to empty their yard waste.  At the close of the day, they visit a couple who need major landscaping.  Later that evening father and son work on the design together.  Weeks later, the accepted plan is completed.  This encourages the son to use his talent to tell the stories of people like his Papi.

John Para's artwork, rendered in acrylic paints on illustration board, brings us into the time and place of the story with excellence.  Readers will pause to notice the tiny details, the honeybee outside his father's truck, the bluebird in every setting, and the warmth of familial touches.  There is a true appreciation for nature in these images.


A Parliament of Owls (Sleeping Bear Press, July 15, 2022) written by Devin Scillian with illustrations by Sam Caldwell

At Sam Caldwell's website, you can view multiple interior illustrations.  This book is featured at Kathleen Temean's Writing and Illustrating with author commentary on the book's evolution.

A parliament of owls was the first to arrive.
They perched in a tree up high.

in next,
heads nearly
the sky.

In this celebration of animal gatherings, thirty-six creatures are featured.  They come in all sizes.  They live in the air, land, and in the ocean.  

Their group names, surprisingly enough, sometimes mirror their personalities and physical traits.  Who knew there was such a thing as a 

prickle of porcupines
caravan of camels, or
a raft of otters?

It seems fitting that parrots together are called a pandemonium.

As the rhyming, alliterative phrases describe the groups moving toward a destination, so does our narrator.  She has a definite purpose for sending out the invitation.  She eventually realizes, as do we readers, something spectacular has formed.

Readers will stop at every single and double-page image to study the portraits of the animals fashioned by Sam Caldwell.  The animals' antics, postures, and expressions will have readers laughing out loud. (It's not every day you see a zebra doing a handstand ((hoofstand).   The cheerful, vibrant colors invite readers into the story.


H Is For Harlem (Christy Ottaviano Books, Little, Brown And Company, July 19, 2022) written by Dinah Johnson with illustrations by April Harrison

Dinah Johnson speaks about this book on a separate page at the Little, Brown And Company website.  At the publisher's main entry, a video titled A Conversation On Place With Dinah Johnson, April Harrison and Christy Ottaviano.  At the beginning of the book is a full-page author's note.  It is as inspiring as the book.


In New York, it might be fun to ride the A train, the longest subway line in the city.  Get off at the 125th Street station, in the heart of Harlem, and you can walk right over to the world-famous Apollo Theater.

Letter by letter we explore places, people, and institutions that make Harlem the vibrant community of historical and cultural significance then, now, and in the future.  From A to Z our respect and admiration grows to new heights through the conversational, factual explanations and stunning images which literally come to life before our eyes.  We come to know Harlem on a personal level.

After Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination, three friends met to discuss how to honor this great man.  After that meeting, Arthur Mitchell and Karel Shook founded the Dance Theatre of Harlem.  Did you know there is an organization called Impact Farm?  This organization, in different places in Harlem, teaches young people about

urban farming, nutrition, and sustainability.

The work of notable photographers, James VanDerZee and Austin Hansen, can be viewed at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.  If you are craving something good to eat, try one of these two restaurants, the Red Rooster restaurant or Sylvia's. Author illustrator Bryan Collier is noted under the letter U for his book on Harlem titled Uptown.  No matter how many times this title is read, you finish the reading cheering for the accomplishments of this community and those who reside there.

The illustrations for this book were done in mixed media/collage, acrylic, and artist pens on illustration board by April Harrison and photographed by Eli Warren.  The depicted people appear to have stopped amid a moment.  Their placement near buildings in Harlem adds to the realism.  The illustration on the book case, taken from an interior visual, will leave readers gasping.

Book Chat with the Illustrator: April Harrison on H IS FOR HARLEM from LB School on Vimeo.


Keepunumuk: Weeachumun's Thanksgiving Story (Charlesbridge, August 2, 2022) written by Danielle Greendeer, Anthony Perry, and Alexis Bunten with illustrations by Garry Meeches Sr.

At the publisher's website, there are many resources to download.  There and at Penguin Random House, you can view interior images.  Danielle Greendeer and this title are featured in the Cape Cod Times.  At the close of the book are discussions titled About The Wampanoag Tribes, The Wampanoag Storytelling Tradition, Wampanoag Harvest Feasts and Try A Wampanoag Tradition Of Giving Thanks, Make A Wampanoag Recipe and Meet Maple And Quill.

This is the tale of the harvest feast shared by the 
newcomers and the Wampanoag people in 1621.

In this introduction, we learn about these First People.  Next to this is a glossary of Wopanaak words and concepts used in this narrative.  The book starts with present day children and their elder.  She tells them the story of Keepunumuk.  It is a story of Weeachumun and Beans and Squash, the Three Sisters.  Weeachumun sees the newcomers arrive and asks Fox to watch them.

The newcomers do not understand what needs to be done with seeds found in an abandoned wetu, home.  The seeds cry to be left alone, but the newcomers do not know how to listen.  Fox and the First People watch the newcomers struggle to survive.  It is a long winter.

When the season shifts, Fox tells Weeachumun what he has seen.  The Three Sisters and other animals discuss what to do.  They decide to help. The seasons move to autumn and the corn, beans, and squash have flourished under the guidance of the First People.  The newcomers hold a feast, a first giving of thanks.  For the First People today, it is a day of mourning because everything changed.

This is artist Garry Meeches Sr. first picture book.  Done in acrylic, his choice of colors for his images is earth tones.  Each of his visuals are worthy of framing, telling a story without words.


Goodnight, Butterfly (Scholastic Press, August 2, 2022) written and illustrated by Ross Burach

At the publisher's website, you can view interior visuals. 

What is all that noise?
It woke me up.

Just eating

This companion title to The Very Impatient Caterpillar and The Little Butterfly That Could is every bit as hilarious.  Readers are so engaged with the banter between Butterfly and Porcupine, they will not realize they are learning.  Nocturnal is carefully explained in the dialog through Butterfly's never-ending stream of questions and Porcupine's patient replies.

But . . . now that Butterfly is awake, there is no going back to sleep.  Questions roll around in his mind and burst from his mouth.  Porcupine finally tells Butterfly his favorite thing about night is the quiet, so Butterfly tries again to rest.  Now it is too quiet, scary quiet.  After more discourse, Butterfly declares he wants to be nocturnal, best buds with Porcupine.

In an attempt to be able to finish his breakfast, Porcupine recommends calming thoughts.  Butterfly gives it a try.  Does it work too well?  Poor Porcupine.

The artwork rendered

with pencil, crayon, acrylic paint, and digital coloring

brings readers into the center of this comedy.  Bold colors and lines and exaggerated features, especially the eyes, welcome readers to enjoy the fun. The different endpapers offer readers a hint of the beginning and a new ending for butterfly.  Careful readers will see hints of the twist at the conclusion in many of the illustrations.


Pizza! A Slice of History (Viking, August 9, 2022) written and illustrated by Greg Pizzoli

At the publisher's website, you can view the clever endpapers featuring pizza ingredients.  

This is pizza.

And this is pizza. (french bread pizza)

And so is this. (mini bagel pizza)

It looks like a rat is going to be our guide.  We learn about a pizzeria and a pizzaiolo.  We are astonished at the number of pizza slices eaten in the United States every second.  For a moment we pause to try to answer the number of slices we have eaten.

We follow common thoughts on the origin of pizza.  Several are wrong, but finally we settle on Italy and the use of tomatoes.  It seems to have started with a man named Raffaele Esposito who lived in Naples, Italy.  Visiting royalty asked for some of this famous pizza.

Esposito made three different kinds of pizza.  The one the queen favored is still called by her name, Margherita.  When Italians immigrated to the United States, guess what food they brought with them?  We are told about famous pizzerias and the rise in popularity of pizza after World War II.  Then (as if you are not craving pizza like crazy), we learn how pizza ingredients change in different cultures.

The illustrations in this book were made by printing with

four spot colors: sweet tomato red, fresh-basil green, greasy-cheese yellow, and charred -crust black.  

Readers will stop at page turns to study the tiny details.  Some of them are certain to bring on the giggles.  Others are brilliantly clever.


Footprints Across The Planet (Reycraft Books, August 11, 2022) written by Jennifer Swanson with photographs by others noted in credits.  The photographs were selected by the art director at the publishing house.

At the publisher's website, you can view interior pictures.  This book is featured at The Children's Book Review, Kathleen Temean's Writing and Illustrating, and Lydia Lukidis's site with author interviews and commentary.  At A Fuse #8 Production, School Library Journal, Jennifer Swanson chats with Betsy Bird.  At the close of the book are eight special paragraphs supplying readers with further information about the form footprints can take.

Footprints come in all shapes and sizes,
colors and species.

For each statement, for each page turn, readers are greeted with a collage of photographs elevating the sentences and widening our knowledge and imaginations.  We see the shapes of animal feet and the depth of impressions made . . . or not.  The differences in the types of prints are disclosed,

 toes, hooves, paws, claws, or talons.

Some footprints are nearly camouflaged and others are so familiar we forget to take note of them.  We then shift our focus to the diversity of impressions and what they represent.  Where do they lead us today and where have they been in the past? How long do they last?

Some footprints in a more abstract mode of thinking stand for those who have altered our world for the better.  Some are still doing it today.  Jennifer Swanson closes her narrative with a final question.  This title asks us to ponder the definitions of footprints by stretching our minds. It reminds us that every living being leaves something wherever and whenever they go.

If the front of the jacket and case fail to grab your attention, perhaps the photograph on the back of retreating bears, paws raised will.  The opening and closing endpapers show a variety of prints left in sand, echoes of who and what were there.  The artistry in the chosen photographs provide emotional and factual impact.

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