Category Archives: Ages 9-12

Little Leaders, Bold Women in Black History












Little Leaders, Bold Women in Black History
by Vashti Harrison
Little, Brown and Company, 2018

Little Leaders celebrates 40 well-known and little-known women who changed history in little or big ways.  From currently popular women, like Oprah Winfrey, to little-known women like Alma Woodsey Thomas.  Like other collections of women  who made a difference, I’m amazed at the variety and caliber of careers, especially those in history where women having careers wasn’t allowed.  From medical researchers, to physicians, to spies, to astronauts, engineers, filmmakers and more.  For many of these women, they made their mark against all odds, just quietly going about their work. An inspiring and eye-opening collection for girls and boys from all backgrounds.

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Write Your Own Haiku for Kids

Write Your Own Haiku for Kids
by Patricia Donegan
Tuttle Publishing, 2017

Filled with haiku, this book introduces the seven keys to writing haiku and, step by step, helps readers identify into words the five senses of their haiku moment.  New writers can review their haiku with a checklist.  The book also covers other forms of haiku, including visual forms and seasonal haiku.  Haibun (stories in haiku), haiga (haiku with drawings) and Renga (linked poetry) are also included, along with activities that can be done with haiku, like making a small book from one sheet of paper.  The book offers readers an immersion into haiku and its many forms, generously sprinkling haiku and writing prompts to assist in learning.  Many haiku are written by other children, to encourage children to plunge into the new poetry form.

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Martin Rising, Requiem for a King 












Martin Rising: Requiem for a King 
Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney
Scholastic Press, 2018

A collection of brilliant “docu-poems” summarizing Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s(MLK) birth, life and family, and time up to the weeks and months before his death. The time before his death includes his birthday January 15 through April 4, 1968. The story includes the sanitation worker’s strike in Memphis and its challenges, MLK’s last sermon and his last night. It also includes the half-mast flags, funeral and mourning of a community who had lost their leader. Author Andrea Davis weaves in MLK quotes on love into a valentine poem ending with,

“…folks in Memphis
are down on their knees
proposing to Equality:
Be mine!”

The book introduces readers to acronyms like GOD: Gift of Desperation, their motivation for the strike, and COME: Community on the Move for Equality. She uses Henny Penny, a chicken of “The Sky is Falling” fame, as narrator to illuminate, punctuate and foretell events in the story.

In loose, vibrant colors, Brian Pinkney’s illustrations show the emotions of the events, both emotions displayed and emotions held in by the African-American community during their struggles. A brilliant piece of work on all accounts.

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The Book of Chocolate, The Amazing Story of the World’s Favorite Candy












The Book of Chocolate, The Amazing Story of the World’s Favorite Candy
by HP Newquist
Viking, 2017

This book is a chocolate lover’s delight for both adults and children!

The history of chocolate begins in ancient times with the cocoa bean and goes up until 2015’s top selling chocolates.  Everything about chocolate you ever wondered is in this book.  I completed it’s 147 pages in a weekend.  As a history buff, I loved the stories of how chocolate started as, basically, cottage industries in the United States.  How the families battled to make their own unique chocolates successful, how the second world war influenced the industry and helped bring peace to the world.

The book contains fun factoids, like, “Research has found that countries where people eat a lot of chocolate also produce a lot of Nobel Prize winners”, with Switzerland at the top with 26 pounds of chocolate per person and 32 Nobel Prize winners per 10 million people.  The book includes old advertisements, old photos, and geography lessons, too.  Maps show that 71.2% of cocoa beans grow in Africa.  Wonderfully written, easy to read and you better have a box of chocolates on hand!

Read more reviews and purchase on Amazon.  Great gift book!

The Pomegranate Witch












The Pomegranate Witch
by Denise Doyen, illustrated by Eliza Wheeler
Chronicle Books, 2017

This haunting tale of the Pomegranate Witch will be appreciated by adults as well as titillating for children.  Written in ‘dense’ rhyme, each word contributes to the story’s ambiance and action.

On the edge of town stood the spooky pomegranate tree where kids scared themselves with made-up tales, daring each other to grab the trees treasure.  Finally, five brave adventurers take on the task. Surprising them, the Pomegranate Witch challenges them to a duel, the next day, at noon.  While their second plan of attack, plan B, is in progress, their youngest member sneaks in a back gate and steals a treasure.  They won!  Then Kindly Lady, whose sister is the witch, or so she says…, invites them over for Halloween cheer.  The perfect tale for a late night scare.

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Zoo Scientists to the Rescue

Zoo Scientists to the Rescue
by Patricia Newman, photographs by Annie Crawley
Millbrook Press, 2018

Written in kid-friendly terms, this book provides a fascinating, in-depth look at how zoo scientists are helping orangutans, black-footed ferrets and black rhinos, three animals on the Critically Endangered list.

Meredith Bastian studied orangutans in the field for several years, observing behaviors from the moment they woke, until they laid down to sleep. Her data has helped orangutans in both the wild and in zoos. She later worked at the Philadelphia Zo to integrate conservation into its operation.

Jeff Baughman helps manage the revival of the almost extinct black-footed ferret. In 1981 130 ferrets were discovered and Jeff is instrumental in expanding the population and returning it to the wild.

Rachel Santymire studied black rhinos in Africa to learn how to help them in zoos and in the field.  Rachel specializes in studying ‘poop’, which provides invaluable information about their lives.

The book also provides zoo history, conservation, and career information about zoo scientists.  The photos are outstanding and draw in both young and adult readers.

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Sea Otter Heroes, The Predators that Saved an Ecosystem


Sea Otter Heroes, The Predators that Saved an Ecosystem
by Patricia Newman
Millbrook Press, 2017
Sibert Informational Honor Award for Non-Fiction

Why is the Elkhorn Slough, an estuary, where freshwater mixes with ocean water, contain abundant meadows of seagrass, whereas nearly every other estuary on the Pacific coast does not?  This book tells the story of a scientist who wondered why and studied the phenomenon until he knew.

With generous photos, charts, graphs, and ‘clues’, author Patricia Newman keeps readers curious and turning the pages, while she discusses each hypothesis the scientist made and discarded during his research. In clear, age-appropriate language, Newman invites readers to do their own thinking.  She shows them how much it works to reach the “aha” moment and how much more meticulous work it takes to prove a hypothesis.  The book discusses how the findings are applied to other environments.  It also includes a section that invites readers to rethink their relationship with wildlife.   Sea Otter Heroes is an excellent introduction to science, scientific method, and environmental studies.  The science was performed off Monterey Bay, California.

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Out of Wonder, Poems Celebrating Poets












Out of Wonder, Poems Celebrating Poets

By Kwame Alexander with Chris Colderley and Marjory Wentworth.
Illustrated by Ekua Holmes
Candlewick Press, 2017

It’s a delight to read each poem celebrating a poet and written in that poet’s ‘style’.  This poem collection is packed with freshness, with so many layers going on at once.  Poets celebrated include Robert Frost, e.e. cummings, Nikki Giovanni, and Langston Hughes, twenty in all.

Using bright, bold colors and shapes, Ekua, a fine artist, uses mixed-media collages to explore the poem’s message in visual form. Each poems’ illustration is uniquely and masterfully done.  This is a treat for poetry lovers and an interesting way to introduce poets to young readers.

The book includes an afterword with a few paragraphs on each poet celebrated and on the three poets who created this collection.  Good energy exudes from between the covers.  A book worth picking up.

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Are You an Echo?










Are You an Echo?  The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko
by David Jacobson
Chin Music Press, 2016

Are You an Echo? is a treasure.  The beautifully illustrated cover and the textured and heavy-stocked pages, make a strong presentation of Japan’s beloved children’s poet.  The book includes Misuzu’s brief biography and presents 25 poems.  Fifteen poems are presented in English and Japanese on beautifully illustrated two-page spreads.

Misuzu’s poems give voice to cocoons, fish and snow.  Written with such innocence, they are the words of a four-year-old.  Of course, they are translated from Japanese, but they have a unique flavor different from children’s poetry in America.

Unlike most girls of the early 1900’s who stopped going to school after the sixth grade, Misuzu went to school until she was seventeen.  She was raised in her mother’s bookstore and she had a hard time telling the difference between real life and what she read.  Everything was alive and had its own feelings.  Always a thoughtful child, she was sensitive to everything around her and questioned everything. Unfortunately, extreme hardships entered into Misuzu’s life and she took her life at the age of 25.  This fact is included gently in the brief biography.

A delight to the imagination, this is a book to savor, study, and enjoy again and again.

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Freedom Over Me, Eleven Slaves, their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life












Freedom Over Me, Eleven Slaves, their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life

By Ashley Bryan
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2016
Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book & Newbery honor award

Freedom Over Me jumps into the lives of eleven slaves, their thoughts, feelings, dreams.  The eleven selected were from Mary Fairchild’s estate listing of her property, including their names, sex, and worth.

The story opens with Mary selling off her estate and returning home to England after her husband died.  Each slave is given a story, a voice to be heard.  While the stories are fiction, they are composites of true stories of real slaves.  Written in open verse, we learn of what they currently do, their past when they were ripped from their villages, their future, all with the same dream of freedom.  At this point in the story they wait, helplessly, knowing they will be sold, and likely separated.

Loose, color-filled illustrations bring life to the people, show the love they had and the pains they survived.  An insightful, heart-felt book that gives a deep look into the lives of those enslaved.

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