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Archive for the ‘Non-Fiction’ Category

Home Front Girl- A Diary of Love, Literature, and Growing up in Wartime America By Joan Wehlen Morrison

Posted by hollybookscoops on February 8, 2013

Home Front Girl

 

I feel like I have a new friend after reading Home Front Girl. Joan Wehlen was so palpable on the pages of this book, that I wish I had in fact met her and could call her my friend. Full of historical snippets and teenage soliloquys, Home Front Girl is the Yin to Anne Frank’s Yang.

One of my favorite parts is something Joan Wrote at age 17:

“Oh you, my generation! –we were a lovely lot! Sharp minds—arguing all the time and brittle bodies and even more brittle laughter—and all the time knowing that we were growing up to die. Because we weren’t fooled, you know. All through those bright-colored years of adolescence we knew we were growing up to disaster. For at least four years—well, three, before it happened, we knew it was coming. Some sort of inner sense of war lay upon us. We were pretty brave—we joked about it the way we joked about love and about the polio epidemic when we were all scared to death of it.”

Joan, more than anyone I’ve ever heard of at this time, felt the world was small- that all were worthy of brotherhood and peace, and saving and that war for anyone and everyone was wrong. This is illustrated in another one of her quotes, “London is Troy tonight. . . . Berlin is Troy too.” I think in this sense Joan is somewhat unusual for her generation, for most youth of her time were not pacifist. (Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong on that.)

I highly recommend Home Front Girl as a primary source for research and insight into the Greatest Generation as so many have called Joan and her peers. Joan’s writings are full of insight and humor and the every day happenings of a teenage girl. Even though Joan had profound insights, she also struggled with the same thing teenage girls struggle with now- school, boys, parents and knowing what to believe in.

Thanks to Susan Signe Morrison, Joan’s daughter for wading through pages and pages of memories to bring her mother’s diary to light and share it with the rest of us. I received a review copy of this book at no cost to me courtesy of Caitlin Eck, publicist for Independent Publishers Group. The opinions are my own.

Posted in Biography, Books for Girls, Books for teaching history, Non-Fiction, Uncategorized, Young Adult | 3 Comments »

What Do Illustrators Do? written and illustrated by Eileen Christelow

Posted by hollybookscoops on April 2, 2012

I have a child who wants to be an illustrator when he grows up. I used to dream of that when I was younger myself. So, when I saw this book at the library I thought it would be the perfect thing for both of us. I really liked it. I loved seeing the whole process. Some of my favorite visits with author/illustrators have been learning about the development of pictures to final products. Creativity is such a variable thing for everyone. The book, in summary is about two different illustrators each illustrating the same story. It shows how an illustrator designs a character, chooses which perspective to illustrate each scene from, and what tools they use to create their illustrations. Each person comes up with a completely different version of the same book.

I highly recommend this for anyone interested in illustration, young or old. It’s full of great pointers and practical advice. Even my five year old could use some of these pointers, even though he’s not the one interested in illustration. He was in tears today over his homework- he had to draw a picture of his favorite television show, which is Wild Kratts. He was very unhappy with his picture. It wasn’t perfect- the hair, in his distraught opinion looked like birthday candles on a cake instead of spikes. I did try to tell him that even professionals make sketches and mess up a lot and start over. He didn’t want to believe me. They could mess up, but he wanted to be perfect. Without practice. Hmm. That would be kind of nice. I’d sign up for that ability any day.

But, since that’s not likely to happen, I decided to take an illustration class this summer from Julie Oleson. I’m a little nervous. I want to be perfect too. Even though I know I’m not and I will never improve if I throw fits and whine about how I’m not as good as I would like to be. I’m taking the plunge. I signed up for the class. There are no refunds. Wish me luck!

Do you have a life-long dream that you’ve thought about pursuing? Maybe you want to be a writer, or an illustrator, or a dancer? Take some lessons, sign up for a class! You’ll never get there if you don’t start down the path no matter how scary it may be.

Posted in Non-Fiction, Picture Books | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

1-2-3 Draw Knights, Castles, and Dragons by Freddie Levin

Posted by hollybookscoops on March 21, 2012

We’ve all seen these step by step guides to drawing. I thought it would be a fun project with my kids for spring break to see how many characters we could master drawing. We’ll see if they go along with my plans. We have some dragon lovers in this household, so hopefully at least that part should be a success. Actually now that I think about it maybe I won’t talk about mastering drawing anything. That whole perfectionism thing can be so inhibiting to creativity. Levin’s instructions are basic and thorough, so artists of all young ages should feel successful, no matter the results!

Posted in Non-Fiction | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

A Few Things on My Summer Reading List…

Posted by hollybookscoops on July 20, 2011

 

It’s been a very busy summer, as I’m sure you all agree. Cari and I spent our first full week of summer vacation at the WIFYR 2011 Writer’s conference (Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers). Boy did we come home changed! Cari took the YA novel class by Emily Wing Smith and I (Holly) took the Picture Book class by Kristyn Crow. I think my inner creator grew three sizes. At least! So, due to opportunities to submit manuscripts and all the entailing writing and revising, things here at Bookscoops have slowed down. I know, you thought they were already slow. It’s probably a little more honest to say they practically came to a standstill. Sorry about that!

I thought that I would make a quick list of some of the books that I have read and enjoyed this summer. I know, I know. How can I have time for reading, if I have no time for blogging? The key to reading even when you’re busy is having a book every place you might have a moment to read. Even with four kids, there is always a moment to read. Like, that 3 minute time slot when everyone is taking forever to buckle their seatbelt… don’t get mad, read! They’ll get the point eventually, and even if they don’t, you’ll get more reading time :) So, without further ado, here is the list:

Hitch by Jeanette Ingold: I actually re-read this book on accident. Apparently, I had no memory of the original first two chapters. Or the cover. But I did, all of a sudden, have one of those Ah Hah! moments, and it all came rushing back. Despite my questionable memory, I did love this book the first time, and the second time. So, since it was worth the re-read to me, it’s definitely worth a look for you. Did you know that during the Great Depression there was a government funded program that paid young men to work? Most of these young men worked on National Parks and agricultural projects. It was amazing. What a concept- provide jobs, and improve our country, all at the same time. I’m a little curious to know why no one has thought of this during our current recession. I have read multiple times in the news about how difficult it is for young people to get jobs these days. Perhaps we are not yet desperate enough to do this kind of back breaking labor.

Miss Spitfire by Sarah Miller: How many of you have ever thought of the Helen Keller story from the teacher’s perspective? I loved this peak into the life of Annie Sullivan. Amazing, and profound. I can’t believe what she rose above to become Helen Keller’s key to life. Annie and her brother spent time sleeping in the corpse room at a sanatorium after their mother dies and their drunk father abandons them to relative who can’t handle their handicaps or Annie’s spunky attitudes. Defnitely a must-read.

Dark Fire and Fire World by Chris D’Lacey: Books 5&6  in his Dragon series. My soon-to-be 5th grader and I have been fighting over these all summer. I steal the book from him after he goes to sleep and he steals it from me in the morning. All the time in between is a free-for-all. When his friends are over or he’s at swimming lessons, it’s my turn. I just finished Fire World last night. Anyone interested in dragons and who likes fantasy will find these books a fun escape from reality. If you are, or have, a voracious reader that needs something new to read, this series will keep you busy for a good amount of time as each one is three inches thick.  Fire World was quite different than I expected, there definitely will be at least one more book to come. It’s been fun tag-teaming the series with my son, I look forward to the next one- actually, we both do!

Picture Books

The Three Little Gators by Helen Ketteman, illustrated by Will Terry: This is a fun remake of the three little pigs, with gators and a big bottom boar. The author and illustrator are the same as the fun fractured tale of the Little Red Hen: Armadilly Chili (loved this one too!)

Ladybug Girl and Bumblebee Boy by David Soman and Jacky Davis: a husband and wife team. I was tipped off to this book by a friend I met at the WIFYR conference (Thanks Christy!). It’s a fun book about compromise and friendship- the text is honestly a little long for my taste, but the pictures are adorable.

Mudkin by Stephen Gammell: A rolicking tale of fun in the mud, imagination… you get the drift. Perfect for my kids who turned our backyard dirt pile into a mud slide. What’s amazing about this is that there are only around 55 words! The rest is all illustration. Sometimes I wish I had more experience with illustration. I would love to be like Stephen Gammell and be able to tell stories through my art as well as my words. Maybe someday…

My Cat, The Silliest Cat in the World by Gilles Bachelet: Take a look at the cover. No, that is not an elephant, it’s a cat. Really. I’m not kidding. Neither is Gilles Bachelet. We loved this book, over and over and over. There’s just something inherently hilarious about a cat that’s an elephant. The twist at the end, was very satisfying. Your kids will love this book!

Fuddles by Frans Vischer: Fuddles is a spoiled, fat house-cat. Fuddles dreams of adventure, but when he experiences the real thing, he’s not so sure he dreamed the right dream anymore.

Blue Chameleon by Emily Gravett: Physical comedy in a picture book! An adorable chameleon changes color and shape as he tries to match the things he encounters. What he really wants is a friend- someone like him. This is another author-illustrator project, with few words, and lots of laughs.

Owls Backyard Animals by Nick Winnick: A fun non-fiction picture book full of fun information about these varied creatures of the night sky.

These aren’t all the books I’ve read- just some of them. I do read adult books too, which I don’t review here- anywhere, actually. Plus lots of books that are still in the que for special features, coming soon. I went to a few great book signings and I’ve gotten some fun review books in the mail. Stay tuned for more fun reads!

Posted in Books for teaching history, Books for teaching Math and Science, Children's Literature, Fantasy, News, Non-Fiction, Picture Books, Uncategorized, Young Adult Fiction | 3 Comments »

The Black Death- Pivotal Moments in History by Diane Zahler

Posted by hollybookscoops on May 23, 2011

I’ve had a strange fascination with the Black Death since I first heard about it in High School. My parents went on a trip to England when I was a Freshman, and in the search for some old family villages, stumbled upon Eyam, Derbyshire, England- a place where the plague decimated the population in the mid 1600s. Our family came from the survivors. I remember reading about plague parties where people wore masks and danced until everyone succumbed. There was a lot of superstition and fruitless efforts to be saved from this ruthless bacteria. So, imagine my surprise at discovering this plague book when I was researching Zahler’s work in preparation for reviewing her novel, A True Princess a few months back. As soon as I heard about it, I knew I wanted to read it.

Besides the sordid subject, (which in and of itself is riveting!) I found myself enveloped in non-fiction, novelic prose that made this book a great read- I don’t like dry history. My biggest frustration was trying to flip between the story and maps and some of the places I wanted to find weren’t on the maps! Despite this minor frustration I found the book very informative and enjoyable. I know that sounds almost sick to say. What is wrong with me? I think studying the plague is almost as infectious as the plague itself. I emailed Ms. Zahler, and it seems she has been fascinated with the topic in much the same way. Did you know the plague is alive and still rears it’s head in the modern world? Luckily, we have antibiotics, and once an outbreak is identified, we can quickly bring it under wraps- with only a few casualties. A small comfort when we know terrorists are interested in biological warfare!

I think that teachers and schools would greatly benefit from incorporating this book into their curriculum. The pictures are engaging- artistic interpretations of the horrible suffering and gruesome realities of the Black Death. Zahler’s book focuses on the first great plague, not the later one that first peaked my interest. However learning about one is very much like learning about the other, as both times it reared it’s ugly head, things were. . . shall we say, pretty ugly? Yes, quite ugly indeed. I also think that those who, like me, have been  bitten by this ‘plague fascination bug’ would find this book a worthwhile investment in history.

Top lessons I learned: Don’t eat Marmots. Try not to get bitten by fleas or rodents. Clean up rodent messes with masks, gloves and disinfectant. The coolest lesson I learned was that if a Mother doesn’t succumb to the plague, her children have a better chance of surviving. So, Moms, take care of yourselves. Your family is counting on you.

Have you been bitten by the plague fascination bug? Do tell . . .

Posted in Books for teaching history, Non-Fiction | 16 Comments »

Book Giveaway for Purple Day: The Day-Glo Brothers: The True Story of Bob and Joe Switzer’s Bright Ideas and Brand-New Colors By Chris Barton, Illustrated by Tony Persiani

Posted by bookscoops on March 23, 2011

Woohoo!!!  The Bookscoop’s sisters managed to pull off two Doublescoops in one month. Our review of The Day-Glo Brothers: The True Story of Bob and Joe Switzer’s Bright Ideas and Brand- New Colors by Chris Barton and illustrated by Tony Persiani is part of our Purple Day challenge to raise public awareness about epilepsy and seizures. One in ten people will have a seizure in their life-time and one in a hundred will have epilepsy. We want people who have epilepsy to not feel so alone and this happens to be a favorite book of Cari’s daughter. If you comment on this post and/or participate in our Purple Day Challenge we will enter your name in a drawing for The Day-Glo Brothers. Please see our Purple Day post for eligibility requirements.

Cari: I love biographies like The Day-Glo Brothers – nonfiction picture books that tell a compelling human story, which doesn’t typically make the history books.

Holly: When I picked it up, the librarian was just putting it on the request shelf for us. She turned around and said, “That book has great pictures!” and I agree. The colors are very illuminating. Tony Persiani does an excellent job.

Cari: The pictures really, really add to what you’re reading. Which is what a picture book is supposed to do, but not all of them actually do. It helps that you are talking about colors that you can only see in the dark with certain lights. So the illustrations are black and white in the beginning with a few select colors. It helps you realize what the world is like before those eye popping colors. I liked the story too, did you?

Holly: Yes. I liked that the Switzer brothers had goals early in life, but their lives didn’t necessarily turn out how they planned them.

Cari: That’s a lot how life is. They weren’t always interested in the same things, either- Joe was an entertainer and Bob wanted to go to medical school.

Holly: And Bob had an accident that resulted in a head injury that left him with seizures & double vision so he wasn’t able to go to medical school anymore. The two brothers experiment while he’s trying to recover in the basement.

Cari: Yes, light would bother him. They started working together out of boredom. I’m very interested in these two because of my daughter’s seizures. I was curious to know how he dealt with seizures the rest of his life or if the seizures eventually stopped. During Bob and Joe’s era people with epilepsy did not talk about it. In fact a neurologist today has been doing research on Franklin Delono Roosevelt and there is a lot of evidence to suggest he had epilepsy. I wondered if he couldn’t complete medical school because of prejudice about seizures.

Holly: Medical school is very intense. Without specific allowances for a disability, it may be impossible to complete medical school due to lack of sleep, which I hear contributes to seizure activity.

Cari: Yes, we have to be very careful to make sure our daughter gets adequate rest. We’ve also had to put in place protocol with the school for the special allowances this sometimes requires. Like for instance, the recent time change that throws our sleep/wake cycle off triggered a seizure in my daughter last year. So this year, we took extra precautions and had to take her to school late a few times.

Holly: I’m glad that you take such good care of her! I liked that this is the author’s first book  and that he was inspired to write it when he heard the Day Glo brothers’ amazing story.

Cari: Despite Bob having a what sounds like seizure disorder, I can’t say that he did have epilepsy although to be diagnosed you have seizures that do not have an underlying problem that can be corrected. Bob still did a lot of great stuff & both brothers had a lot of fun. If you suffer a traumatic head injury you have a 50% chance of developing epilepsy and it can develop years later. It’s so important to protect your head and that is why helmets are critical in prevention of post-traumatic epilepsy

Holly: The book makes it clear at the end that even though they didn’t become what they thought they would as kids, they still achieved their goals and I think that’s a great example.

Cari: Their paints were used in WWII to help pilots land and also to avoid problems with friendly fire. Their paints made it easier to identify the enemy from an ally.

Holly: Yeah, I wonder if there were spies trying to figure out how they made those glowing colors- or was that world wide knowledge by then?

Cair: Who knows?

Holly: So, how did you find out about the book?

Cari: It was a Cybils book we read in my book club. It was one of the ones I liked the most. My daughter also enjoyed reading it. I think she liked knowing that there were lots of cool things you could still do even if you have seizures.

Holly: I remember when ‘neon’ colors were all the rage.

Cari: I do too. Now we know who to thank. Some of them are coming back.

Holly: Yes, I’ve noticed. I’m wishing I’d kept my neon Golden Gate Bridge t-shirt and maybe my neon green striped t-shirt. But, I don’t need the neon spandex. I think we’ll pass on those.

Cari:  You know I bet those brothers didn’t think that they would actually work together. You know a magician and a medical doctor don’t seem like they would go well together.

Holly: I beg to differ. Isn’t that what we expect from medical professionals? Magic?

Cari: Hah! That’s true.

Holly: I think the book is fascinating for kids – even if they can’t read it on their own, the pictures will appeal to them.

In lieu of a trip down memory lane, we thought we’d share some insight into our real personalities…

Cari: Growing up I was more of the idea person and tended to be in trouble more than Holly.

Holly: So far this isn’t any different than our stories.

Cari: How are you different from how we represent you in the stories?

Holly: I don’t let people walk all over me- you especially. I actually do have a back bone and opinions about things. I do tend to work in the background, so that much is true. How about you?

Cari: Well, I was not really a devious child. Yes, I did get in more trouble than Holly and have an overactive imagination. But, I wasn’t generally mean. I think I still come up with lots of good ideas for stuff.

Holly: Yes. You do. Like creating a book blog.

Cari: Thanks!

Holly: As always, I thought you were crazy when you brought up the idea, but did anyone ever tell you that you are convincing?

Cari: I’m known for my powers of persuasion. Speaking of which, isn’t it time we shared that one story?

Holly: Not unless you want to share the other one.

Cari: Blackmail. Did anyone ever tell you that you were good at blackmail?

Holly: Nope! It goes both ways, though. If you want to share my story, I’ll share yours.

Cari: You know, I think some stories are better left untold.

Holly: Now you’re talking!

Cari: You’re not so bad with those persuasion powers yourself. Maybe you should thank me.

Holly: For what?

Cari: For teaching you all my skills, of course!

Holly: I think we’re off track here. Aren’t we supposed to be telling them what we’re really like? I think we’re back to our paper personalities now.

Cari: Oh, yes. I guess it’s time to put out the lights on this doublescoop.

Holly: I think it might glo in the dark.

Cari: Yes, there is still a light on.

Holly: It’s your computer screen. Push the little circle button and it will turn off.

Cari: I’m not stupid.

Holly: I never said you were.

Goodnight!

Posted in Biography, Double Scoops, Non-Fiction | 2 Comments »

Little Black Ant by Janet Halfmann, Illustrated by Kathleen Reitz

Posted by caribookscoops on February 28, 2011

My review of Little Black Ant on Park Street by Janet Halfmann has been in the works. . .um. . . since July 2010. I read the book with oldest daughter, in July and at that time I was pregnant with number 3. With his  arrival, taking care of a very active 2 year old and my oldest starting first grade, I had to drop something in my life. Rather than my children taking the brunt my blogging slowed to a stop.

But I am excited to jump back into blogging with Nonfiction Monday with my review of Little Black Ant, which interestingly enough we had a lot of black ants around our house last summer. Including a few of the winged variety. We loved the illustrations and it was fun to compare the illustrations of lavender and dandelions to the one’s in our backyard. My daughter and I were excited to learn that the winged ants we saw were most likely female ants on their way to start a colony. Reading about ants brought back some memories of my daughter’s failed attempt to keep ants in her jewelry box. Once again Janet Halfmann has proven herself as a wonderful nonfiction writer for kids, with detailed research, balanced with a knack for story telling. Little Black Ant has been added to our favorites list.

Little Black Ant on Park Street is part of the Soundprints Smithsonian’s Backyard Collection. An excellent series for learning about the natural world just out your back door.

Janet Halfmann’s Website

Kathleen Reitz’s Blog

*Review copy provided by Soundprints

Posted in Non-Fiction, Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Bubble Homes and Fish Farts by Fiona Bayrock illustrated by Carolyn Conahan

Posted by hollybookscoops on May 24, 2010

I saw this book on display at the library and it spoke to me. “Take me home, your kids will love me!” I paused for a moment and thought to myself, “Do I really need this book?” I recalled a dinner conversation (or should I say argument?) that we had once while my husband was out of town. It was all about farts and whether or not cows or horses do it (yes, they do) and whether or not lots of other animals do. We finally had to resort to good old internet sources (wikipedia, anyone?) to solve the argument because my two oldest boys were sure that they were each right and that I didn’t know what I was talking about. So, as they finished their dinner, I looked up farting on the internet. To make a long story short, we learned a lot about digestion that night.

Bubbles are very useful! In the animal kingdom they are used for fishing, keeping warm, breathing, sailing, running. . . it’s amazing how many different uses bubbles have. For Herring, FaRTs (Fast Repetitive Ticks) are just another way of communicating.

I enjoyed all the useful information in this book. Bubble Homes and Fish Farts would make a very fun classroom tool. Each page spread is focused on one animal and its use of bubbles so it could easily be read a page or two at a time over the length of a fun science unit. Fiona definitely knows how to write about one of her loves which is “way cool science”. You can find more out about her at www.fionabayrock.com and you can learn more about the great illustrations by Carolyn Conahan at http://www.carolyndigbyconahan.com.

http://www.fionabayrock.com

Posted in Books for Boys, Books for Girls, Books for teaching Math and Science, Non-Fiction, Picture Books, Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

Baby on the Way by William Sears, Martha Sears and Christie Watts Kelley, illustrated by Renee Andriani

Posted by caribookscoops on March 15, 2010

I thought in honor of my sister Holly’s recent bundle of joy and to announce the upcoming arrival of baby #3 for my family I thought I would review Baby on the Way by William Sears, Martha Sears and Christie Watts Kelley. I used this book with my oldest when we were expecting baby #2 and I really liked it. It’s my favorite so far in explaining to children what happens when you get a new sibling. Rather then focus on sibling jealousy, which is often an issue with a new baby, this book focuses on the child being an older brother or sister and what they can do to be part of this experience. From the first page.

When a new baby grows inside your mommy, her isn’t the only thing that is changing and growing. You are growing up – becoming an older brother or sister.

I love telling my children that they are becoming an older brother or sister, my 6 year old just beams. We really like the side boxes entitled What You Can Do and Answers for the Very Curious. The first gives suggestions as to what the new older brother or sister can do such as looking at pictures of when they were a baby, drawing pictures of what the baby might look like and going with mom on some her doctor or midwife visits so they can listen to the heartbeat. The second gives some brief explanations for those children who want more details and it explains things in an age appropriate way.  In addition I think it helps prepare children for the time mom spends away when the baby comes by explaining that it’s hard work so she will need to go to the hospital and you get to go somewhere else or someone will come stay with you.

One of things I appreciate most about this book really helped my first daughter adjust to baby number 2. Of course we did deal with the jealousy issue, but it help to give her an explanation and she felt more involved in the process. I believe it would be a much harder transition for her without this book.

What books have you found helpful to prepare older siblings for a new baby?

This post is part of nonfiction Monday hosted by In Need of Chocolate.

Posted in Non-Fiction | Tagged: , | 5 Comments »

Nic Bishop Butterflies and Moths by Nic Bishop

Posted by caribookscoops on December 7, 2009

We are big fans of Nic Bishop in our house and here at Bookscoops as my sister and I reviewed Nic Bishop Spiders for our Double Scoop in March and I reviewed Nic Bishop Frogs, which is my favorite, the month before. I highly recommend both of those other books. I finally got a copy of Butterflies and Moth meaning we actually purchased this one. My daughter loved the photographs and learning about butterflies. Although I don’t necessarily agree with her about the picture (shown 45 times it’s actual size)  of the newly hatched caterpillar/larvae looking creature – she thought is was adorable. I should have guessed she would think that because after all I did tell her it was a baby caterpillar. To me it’s larvae and it gives me the creeps. That said though it is a lovely book with not only fascinated pictures, but fascinating text to keep the reader engaged.

Another favorite picture is of a caterpillar that resembles a snake. We spent several minutes on that page. I highly recommend this book for anyone looking for a high quality book about such beautiful creatures and butterflies and moths.

This post is part of Nonfiction Monday hosted by Rasco from RIF. Check out some of the other great titles.

Posted in Books for teaching Math and Science, Non-Fiction | Tagged: , | 6 Comments »

 
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