Bragg, Georgia. How They Choked: Failures, Flops, and Flaws of the Awfully Famous. New York, NY: Walker Books for Young Readers, 2014. 978-0-8027-3489-1 (library). 200 pages. $17.99. Grades 5-8.
Failures and mistakes can make for engaging reading, beginning with Bragg’s opening warning of “Nobody’s Perfect; Get Used to It.” What follows are fourteen tales of the famous (Marco Polo to Amelia Earhart) and infamous (Benedict Arnold to General Custer) which covers both familiar names (Isaac Newton, Thomas Edison) and unfamiliar names (Anne Boleyn, Bruce Ismay) for middle school readers. The wry writing has a snarky, humorous style which may seen persuasive as much to prove the authors point as to entertain the reader. Each picked-on person gets the “human side of history” treatment by describing their background and motivations which often lead to their mistakes and disasters, or luck and successes. There is a moral to each story for connection and growth that furthers the goal of learning from past mistakes. The clever illustrations by Kevin O’Malley are a perfect match, and the follow up facts pages, plus further reading and surfing, provide a solid start to exploring these fascinating flawed lives. This title compliments the You Wouldn’t Want to series by Franklin Watts and Bragg’s own How They Croaked for some historical fun.
920; Biography Dustin Brackbill State College Area School District
Rubin, Susan Goldman. Everybody Paints: The Lives and Art of the Wyeth Family. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books, 2014. 978-0-8118-6984-3. 105 pages. $16.99. Grades 5+.
Enter a museum exhibit of the Wyeth family with this gorgeous biography covering three generations of artists. This keepsake book has a lush, warm colored design and layout to compliment the engaging text and many pieces of Wyeth artwork on display. The story covers the lives of breakout illustrator N.C., dedicated painter Andrew, and exploring portrait artist Jamie, but there is much more to them than just a simple label or single piece of artwork. We learn about the wrinkles and curves in each artist’s life and the rest of the family’s role in their development. The motivations and honest insights into their work make this a fascinating text for aspiring artists and art historians alike. Susan Goldman Rubin has created an accessible and enjoyable masterpiece, which feels like a trip to the Brandywine Art Museum that hosts much of the family’s collection.
Dewey 759 or 920; Art Biography Dustin Brackbill State College Area School District
Having spent many afternoons wandering the galleries of Brandywine, this story was an instant attraction for me. Rubin conveys the Wyeths’ travels and work in a manner that brings it to life for middle aged readers and older. Each piece of famous art has a story behind it, and I was delighted to learn several new examples. I will look at Jamie’s Portrait of Pig, Andrew’s famous Christina’s World, and N.C.’s Treasure Island and Robin Hood illustrations with a new appreciation. This family biography is accessible for newcomers as well as long time devotees to the Wyeth galleries.
Science Slam; Green World, Clean World (series). New York: Bearport Publishing, 2104. 24 p. Gr. 3-6.
Lawrence, Ellen. Dirty Air. 978-1-62724-103-8.
Lawrence, Ellen. Poisoned Rivers & Lakes. 978-1627241052.
Covering the very contemporary hot topic of pollution, these titles explain the processes contaminating and destroying our natural enivoronment as well as the health effects, acid Rain, possible solutions to improve the situation and specific suggestions of what the reader can do. Text includes photos, captions, bolded vocabulary, a Science Lab for hands on explorations, a glossary, index, and additional resources for further investigation.
628.4; Pollution, Environmental Protection Robin Bartley, Davis Elementary
Hall, Brianna. Freedom from Slavery: Causes and Effects of the Emancipation Proclamation. North Mankato: Capstone, 2014. 978-1-4765-3930-0. 32 p. Gr. 4-6.
The contents of this book include: Slavery, Emancipation, AND its Effects. Some of the features I liked most about this text were the Fast Facts boxes throughout, the definitions and vocab listed on both the relevant page and in the glossary, the causes were numbered and spelled out, and it included a critical thinking guide and further resources. The appealing layout featured photos, graphs, documents, maps, as well as quotes a nice combination which will hold a student’s attention.
973.71; Slavery, Emancipation Robin Bartley, Davis Elementary
What every child need to know about Cancer. Snyder, R. Bradley and Engelsgjerd, Marc. New York: Need to Know Publishing, Inc. 2014. 978-1-940705-01-9. 22 p. $8.95. Grades 3+
A simple board book can sometimes say just what is needed to say. This book is it. Nothing scary, nothing scientific, just words and photos…..words that explain photos that show. Non-fiction but non-threatening. I wish this book had come a few months earlier. I purchased it from Amazon as a memorial for a former student who just passed away at 15 with leukemia. Her siblings are still in my school and earlier this spring there were some problems with other students misunderstanding the situation. This would have been a very good book to use in class.
Lourie Stewart Dunbar Township Elementary
Wallace, Rich. Babe Conquers the World: The Legendary Life of Babe Didrikson Zaharias. 978-1590789810. Honesdale, PA: Calkins Creek, 2014. $16.95. 272p. Grade 4+.
Husband and wife team Rich and Sandra Neil Wallace have written a fabulous, photo-packed book about one of my childhood heroes, athlete Babe Didrikson Zaharias. Babe was an athletic wonder at a time when several national groups and movements were afoot to ban girls competing in sports at all ages and levels. As the authors state, “Babe wasn’t a feminist and she wasn’t considered feminine. Babe wanted to be the world’s greatest athlete. Her unstoppable drive changed sports for women.” I enjoyed this breezy book containing fun stories I remember reading about Babe as a girl. Each page contains quote “call outs,” photos, news clippings and other features that make this book a quick and fun read. As the authors chronical Babe’s rise from home town phenom to world class athlete and Olympian, even the chapter titles are clever: “Babe vs. the Boys,” “Babe vs. the Girls,” “Babe vs. the World,” etc. At the end the book contains a timeline, FAQs, and further reading. Highly recommended for your sports, history, and biography fans.
Biography Kathie Jackson, Plymouth Meeting Friends School