Biography, Bugs and Insects, National Womens Month

The Bug Girl: Maria Merian’s Scientific Vision By Sarah Glenn Marsh

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Back of Book:
Maria Sibylla Merian was fascinated with insects. But when Maria was a girl in the mid-1600s, superstitions about bugs prevented most people from taking a close look. People thought bugs were evil—and anyone interested in such creatures was surely evil too. That didn’t stop Maria. Filled with curiosity, she began to study and paint them. She even witnessed silkworms form cocoons and transform into moths—discovering metamorphosis! Painting and drawing as she studied, Maria pushed the boundaries of what girls were expected to do, eventually gaining recognition as one of the first entomologists and scientific illustrators.

My Review: 

Sarah Glenn Marsh has beautifully captured the life and work of Maria Merian. The story follows Maria throughout her life as she collected, and studied many types of insects. Maria knew that her work could make others suspicious of her and worked hard to keep her findings a secret. I was amazed at all the work she accomplished in secret. The illustrations by Filippo Vanzo are lovely especially the end pages that captured the illustrations from Maria Merian. The back of the book shares more information with readers about Maria and her life. I had never heard of Maria Merian and was thrilled to learn so many amazing facts about this scientific pioneer. A fantastic picture book biography for the classroom.
Ages 5 and up
32 Pages

Biography, STEM

Queen of Physics: How Wu Chien Shiung Helped Unlock the Secrets of the Atom By Teresa Robeson

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Back of Book:

When Wu Chien Shiung was born in China 100 years ago, most girls did not attend school; no one considered them as smart as boys. But her parents felt differently. Giving her a name meaning “Courageous Hero,” they encouraged her love of learning and science. This engaging biography follows Wu Chien Shiung as she battles sexism and racism to become what Newsweek magazine called the “Queen of Physics” for her work on beta decay. Along the way, she earned the admiration of famous scientists like Enrico Fermi and Robert Oppenheimer and became the first woman hired as an instructor by Princeton University, the first woman elected President of the American Physical Society, the first scientist to have an asteroid named after her when she was still alive, and many other honors.

My Review:

I received a copy of this picture book from Sterling Book Press in exchange for an honest review. 

This inspirational biography follows the life and work of Wu Chien Shiun who would be labeled Queen of Physics for her groundbreaking research in science. The book begins with Chien Shiung from her childhood in China. China did not promote the education of young girls. So Chien Shiung’s parents created a school for girls so she could learn. Chien Shiung excelled in all academics and continued her education far from home. As she grew, she also became a voice for her people. She led marches and protests against the government. Chien Shiung focused her main work on the study of the mutation of beta decay. Although H\her experiments on beta decay and parity were groundbreaking, her male colleagues win Nobel prizes. 

Wu Chien Shung did not allow racial prejudice or gender bias to affect how she did her research or her job. She bravely broke stereotypes and went on to do amazing things with her career. 

 Debut author Teresa Robeson did an exceptional of showcasing the struggles and highlights of Wu Chien Shiung’s life and career. The illustrations by Rebecca Huang are expressive and detailed. The back of the book has more information about Wu Chien Shiung as well as a glossary of scientific terms and definitions. 

This is a wonderful story that celebrates an unknown woman in STEM and her contributions to the world. 

Ages 5 and up

40 Pages 

Biography, Books and Library, History

The Book Rescuer: How a Mensch from Massachusetts Saved Yiddish Literature By Sue Macy

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Back of Book:
Over the last forty years, Aaron Lansky has jumped into dumpsters, rummaged around musty basements, and crawled through cramped attics. He did all of this in pursuit of a particular kind of treasure, and he’s found plenty. Lansky’s treasure was any book written Yiddish, the language of generations of European Jews. When he started looking for Yiddish books, experts estimated there might be about 70,000 still in existence. Since then, the MacArthur Genius Grant recipient has collected close to 1.5 million books, and he’s finding more every day.
My Review:
I received a copy of this picture book from Simon & Schuster in exchange for an honest review.
Before reading this story I had never heard of Aaron Lansky or his amazing mission to gather as many Yiddish books as he can find and. This story follows Aaron from his childhood loving books to him studying  Yiddish texts. When Aaron realized that stacks of Yiddish books were being thrown away, he went on a quest to create a place where all of these books can be shared and enjoyed. Sue Macy did a beautiful job of capturing Aaron’s real-life journey as he preserved the precious Yiddish literature.  The illustrations by Stacy Innerst are lovely and capture the strength and determination that Aaron had as he traveled and collected books. My favorite illustration is the one near the end of the story that showcases the Yiddish people. It is a breathtaking snapshot of the people who came so long ago. The back of the book has a wonderful afterword written by Aaron Lansky himself. It also has a glossary of Yiddish words and expressions as well as the address for the Yiddish Book Center.
This is a wonderful biography of an unknown hero of the Yiddish language and stories.
Ages 6 and up
48 Pages

Biography, History

A Race Around the World: The True Story of Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland By Caroline Starr Rose

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Back of Book:

In 1889, New York reporter Nellie Bly—inspired by Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days—began a circumnavigation she hoped to complete in less time. Her trip was sponsored by her employer, The World. Just hours after her ship set out across the Atlantic, another New York publication put writer Elizabeth Bisland on a westbound train. Bisland was headed around the world in the opposite direction, thinking she could beat Bly’s time. Only one woman could win the race, but both completed their journeys in record time.

My Review:

I received a copy of this picture book from author Caroline Starr Rose in exchange for an honest review.

I love reading about historical events that changed the course of history. I never realized that Nellie Bly went around the world, let alone that Elizabeth Bisland did it with her. I was instantly captivated by the courage these women had to literally race around the world. Caroline Starr Rose describes the journey in vivid detail and immerses the readers into the experience. The illustrations by Alexandra Bye are absolutely stunning. She captured both women’s journeys with detail and vibrant colors. The back of the book has a note that shares more about Nellie Bly Elizabeth Bisland the incredible journey that they took. 

This is a fantastic book to share during National Women’s Month or any historical lesson. 

Ages 6 and up

32 Pages 

Biography, Space

Always Looking Up: Nancy Grace Roman, Astronomer By Laura Gehl

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My Review:
I received a copy of this picture book from Albert Whitman Publishing in exchange for an honest review.
This is a fascinating nonfiction narrative about the life and work of Nancy Grace Roman. As a child, Nancy Grace loved to look up at the beauty of the night sky. She grew up with a curious mind and a thirst for knowledge. In college, she was told that only men studied science, but that didn’t stop her. She became the chief of astronomy for NASA and came up with a plan with engineers and astronomers to create the Hubble Telescope.
Laura Gehl did an excellent job of writing a well researched, and inspiring picture book about the woman who became the Mother of the Hubble Telescope.
The illustrations by Louise Pigott and Alex Oxton are bright and detailed! They did an excellent job of bringing the night sky to life and showcasing the splendor of the Hubble Telescope.
The back of the book has an  author note that shares more information about the life and career of Nancy Grace. There is also a timeline of every event in Nancy Grace’s life.
This story needs to be in every elementary classroom and is perfect for any space-themed or STEM unit.
Ages 6 and up
48 Pages

Biography, History

Dancing Hands: How Teresa Carreño Played the Piano for President Lincoln By Margarita Engle

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Back of Book:
As a little girl, Teresa Carreño loved to let her hands dance across the beautiful keys of the piano. If she felt sad, music cheered her up, and when she was happy, the piano helped her share that joy. Soon she was writing her own songs and performing in grand cathedrals. Then a revolution in Venezuela forced her family to flee to the United States. Teresa felt lonely in this unfamiliar place, where few of the people she met spoke Spanish. Worst of all, there was fighting in her new home, too—the Civil War.Still, Teresa kept playing, and soon she grew famous as the talented Piano Girl who could play anything from a folk song to a sonata. So famous, in fact, that President Abraham Lincoln wanted her to play at the White House! Yet with the country torn apart by war, could Teresa’s music bring comfort to those who needed it most?
My Review:
I read this stunning historical story in my classroom to celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month. I had never heard about Teresa Carreño and was amazed to learn so much about the young talented pianist who played for President Lincoln.
Margarita Engle’s lyrical text draws readers in and welcomes them to a world where music was a calming force amid uncertainty and war.  The illustrations by  Rafael López are vibrant and absolutely breathtaking. The contrast of light and dark beautifully match the mood of the text.
The historical note in the back of the book shares more about the life and music of Teresa Carreño.

This is an excellent story to share with any Civil War or Presidents Day lesson. It also tied in perfectly with my lessons for National Hispanic  Heritage Month.
Ages 5 and up
40 Pages
Biography, English Language Arts

16 Words: William Carlos Williams and “The Red Wheelbarrow ” By Lisa Rogers

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Back of Book: 

“Look out the window. What do you see? If you are Dr. William Carlos Williams, you see a wheelbarrow. A drizzle of rain. Chickens scratching in the damp earth.” The wheelbarrow belongs to Thaddeus Marshall, a street vendor, who every day goes to work selling vegetables on the streets of Rutherford, New Jersey. That simple action inspires poet and doctor Williams to pick up some of his own tools–a pen and paper–and write his most famous poem.

My Review: 

I received a copy of this picture book from Schwartz & Wade in exchange for an honest review. 

Debut author Lisa Rogers created a lyrical and moving story about poet William Carlos Williams. The story centers around the poem “The Red Wheelbarrow” and why William choose to write it. The book follows the lives, Williams and Mr. Thaddeus Marshall, as they navigate everyday life. The story shows readers the importance of being mindful in the small aspects of life as well as the big things. The illustrations by Chuck Groenink are soft and stunning. They beautifully capture the essence of the story. This is a fantastic story to read with any poetry unit. It is a perfect introduction to having students write their own poem using sixteen words. Lisa Rogers is a talented author and I look forward to reading more books from her in the future. 

Ages 6 and up

40 Pages 

Biography, History

Born to Draw Comics: The Story of Charles Schulz and the Creation of Peanuts By Ginger Wadsworth

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Back of Book:
As a child, Charles split his free time between adventures outdoors with his friends and dog Spike, and daydreams and doodles inspired by the comics he loved to read. He longed to become a professional cartoonist, but saw his dreams deferred by unexpected challenges that laid ahead: military deployment to the European front of World War II, and the heartbreak of a family tragedy back home. Even so, Charles never lost sight of the hopeful joy of his early years and his love for Spike, both of which inspired PEANUTS. The comic strip went on to become the most popular and influential in comics history.
My Review:
I received a copy of this book from author Ginger Wadsworth in exchange for an honest review.
I grew up with a true love of all things Charlie Brown and Snoopy. I was very excited to see a picture book biography about the life of the man who started it all.
Charles was a creative boy who enjoyed drawing, his Kindergarten teacher encouraged his drawings and told him that he would one day be an artist. When he was in seventh grade his parents took him to an exhibit of comic book art. The show made him decide to strive even harder to be a great artist. It would take him many years, and a lot of rejection before he would see his comics in newspapers. Ginger wrote a well-researched story that inspires readers to never give up on their dreams. The illustrations by Craig Orback are done in panels and pay tribute to the Sunday paper. The realistic illustrations of Charles and his family are beautifully drawn and detailed. The back of the book has a photo of Charles Schulz drawing his famous comics along with more information about his life. There is also a note from the illustrator, information about the Peanuts gang, and a list of many places that readers can visit to learn more about Charles Schulz. Ginger and Craig have created a fantastic story that celebrates the man who changed the course of comics forever!
Ages 6 and up
40 Pages

to learn more about other amazing books by Ginger Wadsworth visit her website Here

To learn more about  Craig Orback’s illustrations visit his website Here

Biography, Black History Month

Thurgood By Jonah Winter

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Back of Book:

Thurgood Marshall was a born lawyer–the loudest talker, funniest joke teller, and best arguer from the time he was a kid growing up in Baltimore in the early 1900s. He would go on to become the star of his high school and college debate teams, a stellar law student at Howard University, and, as a lawyer, a one-man weapon against the discriminatory laws against black Americans. After only two years at the NAACP, he was their top lawyer and had earned himself the nickname Mr. Civil Rights. He argued–and won–cases before the Supreme Court, including one of the most important cases in American history: Brown v Board of Education. And he became the first black U.S. Supreme Court Justice in history.

My Review:

I received a copy of this picture book from Schwartz & Wade Publishing in exchange for an honest review.

This is one of my favorite picture book biographies that has been published this year. Thurgood Marshal was a man who did not let anything get in his way. He was determined to be the best in every aspect of his life. His goal as a lawyer was to right as many injustices as he could. His dedication to getting justice for others led him to become the first African American man to serve on the Supreme Court. Jonah Winter has written a well-researched biography about this amazing example of leadership. The text follows Thurgood throughout his life and shows readers several examples of how he made an impact on the world. The illustrations by Bryan Collier are nothing short of stunning. They are rich in texture and color. The back of the book has well-written authors note, as well as real photos of Thurgood. This is the kind of book that needs to be in every classroom. Every child should know who Thurgood Marshal is and he accomplished for the Civil Rights Movement.

Ages 6 and up

40 Pages

Biography, Books and Library

Little Libraries, Big Heroes By Miranda Paul

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Back of Book: 

Todd and his friends love heroes. But in school, Todd doesn’t feel heroic. Reading is hard for him, and he gets scolded for asking too many questions. How will he ever become the kind of hero he admires?

 Featuring stunning illustrations that celebrate the diversity of the Little Free Library movement, here is the story of how its founder, Todd Bol, became a literacy superhero. Thanks to Todd and thousands of volunteers—many of whom are kids—millions of books have been enjoyed around the world.

My Review: I received a copy of this picture book from Clarion Publishing in exchange for an honest review. 

This is an outstanding nonfiction biography that looks at the life and work of Todd Bol. The story begins with Todd’s childhood and allows readers a glimpse into how his love of books and reading began. The text goes on to share with readers how he and Rick Brooks created a way for all people to have access to books. There are now 75,000 free little libraries around the world. I love how author Miranda Paul focuses on how ordinary people can do extraordinary things. She teaches children that a person doesn’t have to be famous to impact the world. 

The illustrations by John Parra are nothing short of spectacular! The colors are vibrant and draw readers into the story. I love that the text changes different colors as well. It allows visual learners to focus on the story. The back of the book has more information about free little libraries as well as more information about the people and events in the book. This is a must-read that celebrates literacy as well as the beauty of giving to others. As a teacher, I cannot wait to share this book with my classroom and maybe create a Free Little Library of our own. 

Ages 5 and up

40 Pages