Monday, September 25

Top Nonfiction Books of the Month (Sept 2017)

Listen: How Pete Seeger Got America Singing
Written by Leda Schubert, illustrated by Raúl Colón

My rating: ★★★★

ISBN: 978-1626722507
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Date of publication: June 13, 2017
Age: Grades 1 - 4
Genre: Biography, Nonfiction
Format: ARC from publisher

Themes: Pete Seeger, folk singers, activism, music

There was nobody like Pete Seeger.
Wherever he went, he got people singing.
With his head thrown back
and his Adam’s apple bouncing,
picking his long-necked banjo
or strumming his twelve-string guitar,
Pete sang old songs,
new songs,
new words to old songs,
and songs he made up."

It's simply poetic. So beautifully written. Just by reading it, I felt like there was some banjo folk music playing in the background. Okay, I know that might sound cheesy, but really--the stanzas of writing, the story being told, and the illustrations all make for a sweet tribute. The illustrations, in particular, actually, are perfect for Schubert's style because of its soft lines and velvety texture. Do you see how this all works together to make its own music? Now, don't expect too much detail on Pete's life--the 40 pages of this text are more about his activism and good done in the world. The author is very much a fan, and this fact shines through in every line. If you enjoyed Seeger's music, you'll definitely love this book. If you don't know of Seeger, well...prepare yourself to become a fan.

Oh, also, check out Schubert's website for a curriculum guide and videos and more.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Chomp!: Fierce facts about the BITE FORCE, CRUSHING JAWS, and MIGHTY TEETH of Earth's champion chewers 
Brady Barr

My rating: ★★★★

ISBN: 978-1426328398
Publisher: National Geographic
Date of publication: June 13, 2017
Age: Grades 2 - 5
Genre: Nonfiction
Format: ARC from publisher

Themes: animal facts, teeth, biting, eating habits

"It turns out that there's a lot more to biting than meets the eye. Physical features and the how (and when and why) an animal bites reveals much about the animal itself. Chomp! highlights an array of awesome creatures with a diversity of chomp styles – from shredders and slicers to grippers and gulpers. Then it shows how tooth type, bite force, jaw shape, and food source all come to together to make each an incredible member of the animal bite force!"

Dude, Brady Barr has really put his life's work into this book. His expertise and experience shines through--I particularly enjoyed the little side stories he would tell about his work in the field (yes, he was once charged at by a rampaging hippopotamus). The writing often felt like I was listening to him in a one-on-one conversation--it's companionable and fun to read. His individual animal analyses provide some pretty awesome (and somewhat terrifying) insight into various eating habits. Combine that with the stunning photography and bright spreads that one can count on from National Geographic and you've got yourself a good read. Just be prepared for some pretty gruesome facts here and there.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

What Would Happen?: Serious Answers to Silly Questions 
Crispin Boyer

My rating: ★★★★

ISBN: 978-1426327704
Publisher: National Geographic
Date of publication: July 11, 2017
Age: Grades 3 - 6
Genre: Nonfiction
Format: ARC from publisher

Themes: questions and answers, random facts, curiosities

"Ever wondered what would happen if some cool or crazy things were possible? Like what would happen if: you got sucked into a black hole; dinosaurs still existed; humans could fly; you could communicate with dolphins; or you could dig a hole through to the center of the Earth? Get ready to explore all kinds of scenarios that would or could happen if the world was just a slightly different place. Each scenario is examined with real scientific, historical, and cultural facts in mind. This out-of-the-box book encourages readers to cultivate a better understanding of the world as it is – and as it could be!"

Totally random and yet...totally fascinating. So while I haven't actually wondered about some of the things in this book, all of the questions asked are really thought-provoking and thoroughly researched. Each question (e.g. "What if you grew up in outer space?") has exploratory information, side-angles to get the mind going, and the clincher--could it really happen? While I wish Boyer went a bit more into why he asked these particular questions (like I said, it felt really random), I did learn quite a bit (did you know there's a man in Iran that hasn't bathed in 60 years??) and think kids would really enjoy it.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

The Secret Subway
Written by Shana Corey, illustrated by Red Nose Studio

My rating: ★★★★½

ISBN: 978-0375870712
Publisher: Schwartz & Wade
Date of publication: March 8, 2016
Age: 4 - 8 years
Genre: Nonfiction
Format: library book

Themes: Alfred E. Beach, technology, New York City, subways

"New York City in the 1860s was a mess: crowded, disgusting, filled with garbage. You see, way back in 1860, there were no subways, just cobblestone streets. That is, until Alfred Ely Beach had the idea for a fan-powered train that would travel underground. On February 26, 1870, after fifty-eight days of drilling and painting and plastering, Beach unveiled his masterpiece—and throngs of visitors took turns swooshing down the track."

Now I may be a bit behind the times with this one, but thanks to the Beehive Book Awards, I'm going through some pretty sweet published-last-year nominees-for-this-year so as to get my students excited. Anyway, this here was fascinating; I love a nonfiction book that tells a little-known story—and with such finesse! I particularly enjoyed the way Corey wrapped up the story at the end, with the echo of the past leaving its mark. Topping off this great story is some pretty unique illustrations—miniatures and models to create the scenes of the story. Overall, a really unique story that I'm eager to recommend.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

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