Turk, Evan. A Thousand Glass Flowers. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2020. Unpaged. 978-1-534-41034-3. $17.99. Grades K-2
This nonfiction biography tells the story of Marietta Barovier who came from a family of glassblowers, and her journey to becoming the first woman given permission to open her own furnace in Venice. The story begins with her as a small girl watching her father create glass until he allows her to try, and her passion for glassmaking grows from there. The end of the book contains an author’s note, which really adds to the story as there is not much known of her, because glassblowing was a male dominated industry. Marietta is credited with creating the rosetta bead, which was used as a currency!
THOUGHTS: This is a wonderfully illustrated biography that will introduce readers to Marietta Barovier and the world of glassblowing.
Biography Mary Hyson, Lehigh Valley Regional Charter Academy
Denise, Anika Aldamuy. A Girl Named Rosita: The Story of Rita Moreno, Actor, Singer, Dancer, Trailblazer! Harper, 2020. 978-0-062-87770-3. 40 p. $17.99. Grades K-3.
Rosita Alverio lives between a mountain and a rainforest in Puerto Rico. But soon after turning five, she and her mother board a steamship bound for America and a new life. In order to make ends meet, her mother works as a sweatshop seamstress. It is not a lot of money, but there is enough to spare so Rosita can take dance lessons. With her perfect twirls and her charismatic charm, Rosita quickly becomes a minor celebrity. She dances for the troops, acts on the radio, and even records Spanish versions of hit Hollywood movies. But soon, Rosita’s life changes when she meets with Louis B. Mayer, the head of MGM film studios. Shortly after, she becomes Rita Moreno and goes on to become one of the most famous Latinx stars in the world.
THOUGHTS: Fans of Rita Moreno will love this book as it gives a glimpse into the star’s life before fame. However, even readers who do not know of Moreno will appreciate her journey: a real life rags-to-riches story with a Latinx person at the center of it all. Leo Espinosa’s stunning illustrations make it seem as though Moreno is twirling off the page. This is a must-have for elementary librarians looking to expand their biography section.
921 Rita Moreno Danielle Corrao, Manheim Central SD
Sanchez Vegara, Maria Isabel. Astrid Lindgren. (Little People, Big Dreams). Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2020. 978-0-711-25217-2. $15.99 ea. $912.26 set of 66. Unpaged. Grades K-3.
Astrid Lindgren grew up on a farm in Sweden with her parents and siblings having an idyllic childhood. When she learned to read, however, her world changed and opened up beyond her small farm in Sweden. The book follows Astrid as she grows up and gets married and has children of her own. Karin, Astrid’s daughter, asked for a story about a girl she had named Pippi Longstocking, and Astrid’s career as an author began! At the end of the book, there is a timeline of Astrid Lindgren’s life including pictures from her life, and more information about Astrid’s life.
THOUGHTS: This is a great introductory biography that is a must have for an elementary school collection, especially with the wide range of biographies to pick from in the series.
Biography Mary Hyson, Lehigh Valley Regional Charter Academy
Tanzer, Myles. Music Is My Life: Soundtrack Your Mood with 80 Artists for Every Occasion. Wide Eyed Editions, 2020. 978-0-711-24918-9. $19.97. 111 p. Grades 6-12.
Music is my Life was created to help music lovers find more artists to love. Artists are grouped together within chapters titled Get Pumped Up With, Focus With, Fall in Love to, and more. Each artist is featured in a full page spread with biographical information, song suggestions, and information about how each artist’s music will make the listener feel. Every artist is colorfully illustrated in a way that makes the person or band feel accessible and exciting regardless of age or the style of music they produce. Artists include Ariana Grande, Carole King, Prince, Chance the Rapper, and ABBA.
THOUGHTS: A fresh addition to any school library collection seeking to update their music and biography collections. Music is my Life achieves its purpose and those who read it will feel more connected to music than ever before.
Rappaport, Doreen. Ruth Objects: The Life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Disney-Hyperion, 2020. 978-1-484-74717-9. Unpaged. $18.99. Grades 2-4.
This illustrated biography of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the late Supreme Court Justice, highlights her life and achievements. It details her childhood, her college years, her marriage and family, and her career as a lawyer (and later, a judge). The story is interspersed with some of Ruth’s very own quotations, making the narrative a little more personal. A timeline, bibliography, and additional resources are included in the back of the book. A solid portrait of an influential figure, this biography will inspire girls and boys alike to strive for the things they believe in, even if society tells them these things are unattainable.
THOUGHTS: This is an excellent introduction to the famous Supreme Court justice and a solid addition to any elementary biography collection. It would also make an outstanding starting point for a discussion about women’s rights and/or gender equality. Even older students could learn something from this title; have them read about Ruth’s achievements, then write a dissenting opinion of their own about a court decision with which they disagree. Its potential to both inspire and educate makes this title a worthy addition to most collections.
Howard, Martin. Extraordinary Lives. Kane Miller EDC Publishing, 2020. $5.99 ea. $35.94 set of 6. 128 p. Grades 2-5.
Neil Armstrong. 978-1-684-64073-7.
Anne Frank. 978-1-684-64072-0. Stephen Hawking. 978-1-684-64075-1.
Katherine Johnson. 978-1-684-64074-7. Rosa Parks. 978-1-684-64077-5.
Malala Yousafzai. 978-1-684-64076-8.
This reviewer read Neil Armstrong in the Extraordinary Lives series. This illustrated novel, written for grades 2-5, tells the story of Neil Armstrong from his nomadic childhood through his famous first steps on the moon, and his years after his famous moonwalk until his death in 2012. Includes quotes throughout the text, a Timeline, a Some Things to Think About section, and an Index.
THOUGHTS: This series would be an excellent addition to an elementary library. These kid friendly books will appeal to those who enjoy biographies and may just lure in those reluctant readers as well. Illustrated throughout the story, the text is presented in a very reader friendly manner.
92 BiographyKrista Fitzpatrick-Waldron Mercy Academy
Grimes, Nikki. Kamala Harris Rooted in Justice. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2020. 978-1-534-46267-0. 40 p. $17.99. Grades K-2.
Kamala Harris Rooted in Justice follows Kamala Harris from growing up as a young girl in Oakland until she ran for President of the United States in 2019. The biography of Kamala is backed by the story of a young girl named Eve who is talking with her mom about an incident that happened at school. Eve’s story helps drive the story of Kamala Harris’s life, and you easily can follow Eve’s narrative as it is in a different font compared to Kamala’s. The illustrations show Kamala’s life and mirror the story, as well as showing Eve and her mother throughout the story. The book ends right when Kamala Harris dropped out of the 2020 Presidential race, and does not include her becoming Joe Biden’s Vice President nominee. The illustrations are beautiful and give extra detail to the story as the reader goes through.
THOUGHTS: This is a wonderful addition to an elementary school biography collection that I highly recommend!
Biography Mary Hyson, Lehigh Valley Academy Regional Charter
Boxer, Elisa. The Voice That Won the Vote: How One Woman’s Words Made History. Sleeping Bear Press, 2020. Unpaged. 978-1-534-11049-6. $16.99. Grades 2-5.
This picture book biography tells the lesser known story of an important contributor to women’s suffrage. Since 1848, women had been lobbying for voting rights and finally in 1918, Congress passed the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote. The final step in the process was state ratification and by 1920, it all came down to one last state-Tennessee. State lawmakers there were under pressure to reject the amendment, and one woman decided to do something about it. Febb Burn was a college educated woman from Tennessee, who loved to read and study lawmaking. She knew the vote was close, so she wrote a letter to her son Harry, who was a state lawmaker. She asked him to support the amendment and not to “keep them in doubt.” Although Harry Burn had voted no in the first round, he surprised everyone by breaking the tie with his Aye vote, thus “freeing seventeen million women from political slavery.” By using her own voice, Febb Burn helped women gain the right to vote so their voices could be heard. The back matter contains details about the letter and a timeline of the suffrage movement. The author discusses the similarities between the anti-slavery movement and women’s fight for equality. Mildenberger has created charming illustrations with a folk art quality and includes a photograph of Febb in one of them.
THOUGHTS: Since 2020 was the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, this story is especially relevant. This book could be used in social studies or civics units to spark discussions about the Constitution and civil rights and would be a good read aloud during Women’s History Month. A worthwhile purchase.
324.623 Voting Rights Denise Medwick, Retired, PSLA Member
Suffrage, Voting and Electoral Process 921 Biography
Vegara, Maria Isabel Sanchez. Greta Thunberg. Illustrated by Anke Weckmann. Frances Lincoln Children’s Books 2020. 978-0-711-25645-3. $15.99. Grades 3-6.
Like many environmentally conscious families, Greta Thunberg’s family took care of Earth as best they could. But when Greta learned even more about climate change in a class video, she can’t forget about the destruction and develops selective mutism. Doctors also diagnosed her with Asperger’s syndrome. While to some these diagnoses may have been seen as a curse, they allowed Greta to focus on matters of importance to her like climate change. Greta started at home by convincing her family to make small changes, but she felt that she could do more. By taking a stand publicly with her “School Strike for Climate,” other children learned more about climate change from Greta, and the world soon recognized the name Greta Thunberg.
THOUGHTS: This picture book biography should be included in all elementary (and maybe middle school) collections. Children will be inspired to learn more about those featured throughout the Little People, Big Dreams series.
Biography Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD
Stewart, Alexandra. Everest: The Remarkable Story of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay. Bloomsbury, 2020. 978-1-547-60159-2. 64 p. $21.99. Grades 4-8.
A book about the first two men in history to reach the top of Mount Everest, this illustrated biography presents the lives of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay from birth to their famous expedition and beyond. It relays stories of failed attempts that came before theirs and details their triumphant climb from start to finish. In addition, it gives credit to other important figures who made the climb a success, such as inventors who developed equipment to protect the climbers and those who went ahead to set out food rations (to name a few). Detailed illustrations and an accessible layout that includes many brief captions and small blocks of text make this an engaging read for young learners.
THOUGHTS: Overall, I found this book captivating and very informative. I did, however, feel it was missing a few elements. First of all, it seemed to cover Edmund Hillary’s life more thoroughly than it did Tenzing Norgay’s life, especially following their successful climb. Secondly, I was a little surprised that there were no additional resources, such as a bibliography or further reading section, added to the end of the book. I feel that the book does a nice job of piquing the reader’s interest, but it fails to provide the reader with any direction if he/she wants to learn more about the men or their expedition. Still, this engaging title definitely deserves consideration for any collection serving young readers.
796.522 Mountain ClimbingJulie Ritter, PSLA Member