April 28, 2017

Shaped by war

The Complete Persepolis
by Marjane Satrapi

A coming-of-age memoir, Persepolis details Satrapi’s childhood in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution, her teenage years alone in Vienna, and her return to Tehran as a young adult. Satrapi’s black-and-white illustrations suit her stark story, capturing all her fear, anger, and confusion.

A story for anyone wanting to understand war, revolution, and the effects on those who experience it.

April 24, 2017

The trials of Susanna Moodie

Susanna Moodie: Roughing It in the Bush
a graphic novel by Carol Shields & Patrick Crowe
illustrated by Selena Goulding

Susanna Moodie’s Roughing it in the Bush; or, Life in Canada  is required reading for students studying Canadian literature. Her book is often disliked due to her snobbery and her almost constant bemoaning of her fate in the backwoods of Canada.

This graphic novel biography of Susanna Moodie does much to dispel the negative image of her in light of the realities that she faced as a wholly unprepared pioneer. She and her husband had no experience in homesteading, farming, or cookery, and depended heavily on others to survive their first years. Seeing her difficulties writ large in Selena Goulding’s emphatic illustrations evoke reader sympathy and understanding, as does the use of Moodie’s actual words.

Some liberties were taken in the telling of her story, as Patrick Crowe explains in his author’s note, yet it helps in clarifying the events that occurred, making it much more palatable for young readers.

One of the best graphic novels I have read. 

April 21, 2017

NYC's famous hawk

Pale Male: Citizen Hawk of New York City
by Janet Schulman
illustrated by Meilo So

Schulman learned about Pale Male during a 1995 bird walk in Central Park. Subsequent visits allowed her to catch glimpses of Pale Male's chicks. Her experience and her reading of Marie Winn's book was the inspiration for Citizen Hawk

Schulman's version, suitable for ages 8 and up, is told with clarity and affection, enlivened by So's spirited watercolours. It's an excellent addition to the Pale Male library.

April 19, 2017

The story of Pale Male

The Tale of Pale Male: A True Story
by Jeanette Winter

Ideal for four to six-year-olds, this tale of Pale Male the red-tailed hawk, takes place several years after the events told in Marie Winn's adult book, Red-Tails in Love

Winter's brief story recounts the hawk family's activities and what happened when their nest was removed. Her illustrations, done in pale pinks, lavenders, greens, and blues, emphasize the fanciful nature of the tale and slyly pokes fun at the evil humans responsible for the nest's destruction. 

A happy ending will delight her young audience.

April 17, 2017

Fifth Avenue hawks

Red-Tails in Love
by Marie Winn

Hidden in the middle of New York's Central Park, there's an area of wilderness known as the Ramble. Birdwatchers often gather there to look out for migratory birds like gulls, woodpeckers, sparrows, and warblers. As many as 190 species of birds live or hunt in Central Park, including the stars of Marie Winn's book. Her protagonists, a red-tailed hawk dubbed Pale Male and his mate, built their nest on the twelfth floor of a Fifth Avenue apartment house. Located across from park, it was an ideal place to raise a family.

In between Winn's telling of the hawks' courtship, mating, and rearing of chicks, are stories of other bird families, and the company of birdwatchers who kept track of them. Taking place over six years, this is a tale of life and loss that will resonate with many readers, birdwatchers or not.

Very entertaining.

April 14, 2017

Save seeds!

The Story of Seeds: From Mendel's Garden to Your Plate, and How There's More of Less to Eat Around the World
by Nancy F. Castaldo

When seeds disappear, they’re gone for good. This spells trouble for our food supply. Out of thousands of plants species, only about 150 are grown for sale, while half our calories come from just three: rice, wheat, and maize. This lack of diversity makes plants vulnerable to disease, climate change, and habitat loss.

Fortunately, there are people all over the world who are trying to protect seeds. You will meet many of them in this book, including a heroic group of Russian scientists who saved important seeds during World War II. Even though they were starving, not one of them ate any seeds. Many of them died.

The perils of GMO seeds are discussed as well, and it has nothing to do with whether they’re safe to eat. As farmers in India have discovered, GMO seeds are very expensive, often require more fertilizers and pesticides, and result in lower yields. This leaves farmers so heavily in debt that they’re often driven to suicide.

A sobering book, it will open your eyes to the importance of plant diversity and why this crisis cannot be ignored.  A call to action, Castaldo’s book should be on every student’s reading list.

Highly recommended.

April 12, 2017

The journey of seeds

The Journey of Seeds
by Soo-bok Choi
illustrated by Wal-goong Jang

Choi’s simple story shows how seeds make their way to fertile ground. Lovely illustrations and imaginative end questions make for a quietly absorbing book.

A good companion to A Seed is Sleepy.

April 10, 2017

A seed is amazing

A Seed Is Sleepy
by Dianna Hutts Aston
illustrated by Sylvia Long

A seed is sleepy and secretive until, with just enough sunlight and water, it awakens into a plant.

Poetic text and wonderful illustrations make this book a perfect bedtime or anytime book.

April 7, 2017

Atomic bomb survivor

Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor's Story
by Caren Stelson

On August 9, 1945, the Japanese city of Nagasaki was devastated by an atomic bomb.  Six-year-old Sachiko Yasui was playing near her house, within 0.6 miles of the hypocenter. Miraculously, she survived, as did most of the rest of her family – father, mother, uncle, sister Misa, and brothers Aki and Ichiro. Two-year-old Toshi was killed. Within weeks, radiation sickness had claimed the lives of her uncle and brothers. In the years that followed, cancer would strike Sachiko’s remaining family, including herself. Sachiko became the sole survivor.

For five decades after the bombing, Sachiko couldn’t speak about her experiences. The trauma she endured and continues to endure would be unbearable for many people. Yet her story is so important to the promotion of peace and nuclear disarmament.

Sensitive, heart-rending, and unforgettable.

April 5, 2017

International spy thriller

Bomb: The Race to Build--and Steal--the World's Most Dangerous Weapon
by Steve Sheinkin

From the moment nuclear fission was discovered, a three-way race was underway to invent and deploy an atomic bomb. In the United States, scientists worked feverishly to create the weapon while Soviet spies tried to steal the blueprints. And to prevent the Germans from attempting the same, Norwegian resistance fighters infiltrated and attacked the German's heavy-water plant.

Filled with genius, daring, and covert activities, Sheinkin's suspense-filled novel begs to be read in one sitting. A thrill ride from start to finish, it will leave you breathless.

Highly recommended.

April 3, 2017

The secret project

The Secret Project
by Jonah Winter and Jeanette Winter

Dark, shadowy figures work on a secret project in a remote desert laboratory. Meanwhile, the people in the nearby town continue doing their everyday activities. They are clueless about the gadget until it is tested. The ominous countdown culminates in a red-orange mushroom cloud that grows and grows until the pages turn black.

An author's note puts the events into historical context.

You wouldn't think that a picture book about the atomic bomb would be suitable for children, but the Winters have succeeded in making the subject palatable. The spare prose and simple illustrations work together to instill a tone of suspense and curiosity leading to its unsettling conclusion. Children will find it frightening, yet fascinating, and will want to know more.

A very powerful and effective book.