6 Nonfiction Picture Books are perfect for Women’s History Month

Books about historical figures are wonderful to read to young and older children at any time, but March is Women’s History Month, so it’s a perfect time to learn about new picture books featuring important famous — and not-so-famous — women from around the world. Each of the six books listed here is powerful in its own right. Each one deserves a special place on a classroom. library, or home bookshelf.

“The A-Z of Wonder Women” by Yvonne Lin is literally an alphabet of women, current and past, some household names and others unknown to most, who have wonder womanhelped create the world we live in. “A” is for Ada Lovelace, who lived in the nineteenth century. She was an English mathematician who “wrote the first punch-card algorithm a century before the modern computer age.” She was the first computer programmer. The alphabet figures continue through Bhutto, the first democratically elected female leader of a Muslim country; J.K. Rowling; Lyda Conley, the first Native American woman to bring a case to the US Supreme Court; Oprah; Ruth Bader Ginsburg; Tina Fey; author Ursula Le Guin; and to Zaha Hadid, an Iraqi-British architect known for her brilliant curved buildings. In addition to the 26 women in the body of the book, there are 22 additional “wonder women” at the end of the book, including Ching Shih, a woman who was the most successful pirate of all time! It’s a fascinating book that kids will love to peruse. (Little, Brown and Company Books for Young Readers)

“Priscilla and the Hollyhocks” by Anne Broyles is based on a true story about a girl, priscilla hollyhocksPriscilla, born into slavery, who was sold as a child to a Cherokee family. One of the few things known about her was that she carried hollyhock seeds with her from home to home. In fact, the Author’s Note at the back says her hollyhocks are now knows as Priscilla’s hollyhocks and have been shared by gardeners since 1839. This picture book would be a great choice for starting a conversation or unit on the “Trail of Tears” or the history of Native Americans in our country. Most people don’t know that the Cherokees did their utmost to assimilate into the Anglo way of life. They farmed, had schools, and even had a newspaper. They also had slaves. In this story, Priscilla was born in Georgia, and her mother was sold when Priscilla was still very young. She happened to meet a visitor, Basil Silkwood, who told her about schools and expressed his sadness about her condition as a slave. Shortly thereafter, she was sold to a Cherokee family and lived with them until their way of life was uprooted because of President Jackson’s order to force the relocation of the Cherokee from their ancestral land. However, during the march, in Jonesboro, Illinois, by pure chance, Priscilla saw Basil Silkwood at a hotel and approached him. He bought Priscilla from her Cherokee owners and he and his wife set her free. She lived with his family, became part of his family, and planted her hollyhocks. And while she never forgot her mother, she was happy and free. (Charlesbridge)

“Wilma’s Way Home: The Live of Wilma Mankiller” by Doreen Rappaport is a picture book for older readers that shares the life of a remarkable woman. This reviewer was not familiar with Wilma Mankiller, but she should be an inspiration to people wilmaeverywhere. She was born to a mother of Dutch Irish descent, Irene, and her mother’s family disapproved when Irene married Native American Charley Mankiller. Irene and Charley and their family did not have much money, and they survived by growing their own food, hunting and fishing. When the government wanted to relocate the Indians from their land to cities, and promised good jobs and better housing, her father was resistant. He remembered what had happened in 1838, when the government forced the Cherokee at gunpoint to leave their land. More than four thousand Cherokees died on that forced march. He was also worried that the separation from the tribe would result in the destruction of their culture and way of life. And while there is too much information in this fact-filled book to summarize, Wilma’s life is remarkable for her determination to help others. In spite of physical problems, in spite of those who didn’t want a woman to be Chief of her tribe, she persevered. Her story is truly inspirational. The illustrations by Linda Kukuk are powerful and bright. The images help to bring this wonderful story to life. (Disney-Hyperion)

“Away with Words: The Daring Story of Isabella Bird” by Lori Mortensen and illustrated away with wordsby Kristy Caldwell is the story of a woman who was the first female member of the Royal Geographic Society in England. She traveled the world at a time when women were expected to stay at home. Isabella began life as a sickly child. But when a doctor suggested that fresh air might help, her father began to take her with him on his trips. She was fascinated by the countryside, the plants, the animals, the crops. She longed to travel to other places that she learned about but was trapped by the fact that young ladies wore dresses, didn’t go to school, and didn’t travel. When another doctor suggested a sea voyage, Isabella sprang to life. She traveled to Nova Scotia and then to America, keeping meticulous notes in her red journal. She wrote about everything she saw, and then wrote a book about it on her return to England, “The Englishwoman in America.” She then made a second voyage to write a second book, but her father’s death made Isabella reconsider her traveling for a bit, but when her health began to decline, she set out again. She continued to travel the rest of her life. This book carefully shows through descriptive text and illuminating illustrations what her life was like — it’s fabulous. At the end are Author’s Note, Timeline of her life, sources for quotes, and a bibliography. (Peachtree)

There are two new releases about Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor that are both worthy of inclusion in any classroom or library. “I Am Sonia Sotomayor” by Brad Meltzer and illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos is part of the “Ordinary People Change the World” series that includes biographies of many famous and inspirational historical figures. i am soniaThe illustrations are quite appealing. As in earlier books in the series, Eliopoulos draws the protagonist with a large head on a small body, and the grown-up head and small body don’t change over the course of the book. The story is told in first person, and Meltzer creates voices that really sound like she’s telling us her story. The narrative is real and invites close attention to detail. We learn that when she was nine, Sotomayor experienced two blows. First, she was diagnosed with diabetes, and then later in the year, her father died. But her mother valued education and worked extra hours to support her family. While the neighborhood they lived in wasn’t great, Sotomayor loved to read. Fiction, nonfiction — she loved learning. She devoured Nancy Drew books and was devastated that because of her diabetes, she wouldn’t be able to be a police officer and solve crimes. She quickly found a new role model in Perry Mason. It’s a wonderful story of her life and how she continued to be inspired by those around her — her mother, teachers, even Perry Mason. In each book in this wonderful series, there’s a message for readers at the end. Sotomayor counsels kids to “… Read. Study. Do right by people. No matter where you are born, there’s no limit to what you can accomplish.” Just like her. (Dial Books for Young Readers)

“Turning Pages: My Life Story” is an autobiography by Sonia Sotomayor, and while the information in the story is very similar to Meltzer’s book, the tone and illustrations are turning pagequite different. The bright colors and creative collage elements help shape the story, as do the photographs on both endpapers. The theme that she uses to tell the story is that her life is like a puzzle. She writes, “At each step in my life, I would put together the answer like pieces to a puzzle.” It’s also about her her love for her family and her love for books. After her mother bought a set of encyclopedias, she was immersed in learning. “Every time I opened a volume, I learned new words and ideas. There were miracles of life taking place in our bodies and outside in the world around us, and I started to think more about my place in it.” All along the way in her life, books taught her important lessons. She writes, “Books were teachers, helping me sort out right from wrong.” And she continues explaining about the importance of books in her life through the end of the book. “Like flagstones on a path, every book I ever read took me the next step I needed to go in school and in life, even if I didn’t know exactly where the trail would lead.” This book is inspiring and beautifully created from the cover, with its illustration of Sotomayor walking up the steps to the Supreme Court Building on steps with book text for risers, to the back cover showing a library and young Sotomayor in a paper folded boat looking ahead to the river that will be her incredible life. (Philomel Books)

Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover books provided by the publishers for review purposes.

8 Picture books run the range of emotions: from grouchy to happy (with some jealousy and rainbows in between)

Wondering how to discuss emotions with your toddler? Need a way to open up a discussion about feelings with an older child? Here are eight superb choices to use at home, in the classroom, in a clinical setting, or anywhere in between to help jump-start a talk about how we feel and what we can do about it. Aside from being useful, many of these are just plain fun to read!

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Two Wonderful Historical Fiction Books for Middle Grade and Young Adult Readers

Two books that should be a part of any middle school or high school nonfiction collection are “The Life of Frederick Douglass” by David F. Walker and “1919: The Year that Changed America” by Martin W. Sandler. The books are very different; one is a graphic narrative with few photographs while the other is a compilation of photographs, text, and timelines, yet both are books about important topics. They are, surprisingly, books that complement each other.

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Children’s chapter book round up: From graphic novels to roadkill – a year in review


Start the new year right — get some of 2018’s (and one 2019 new release) middle grade books for the young reader in your life. There is a wide range of titles that will appeal to many different readers.

Graphic novels are high in interest and many children who aren’t interested in reading text-only chapter books love the illustrations and fast-moving pace of these books. There are several 2018 releases that include graphic novels and books with many illustrations along with text, mimicking the feel of a graphic novel. Continue reading

‘Pets on the Couch’ Explores Animal Psychiatry and the Treatment of Emotional Disorders


“Pets on the Couch: Neurotic Dogs, Compulsive Cats, Anxious Birds, and the New Science of Animal Psychiatry” is written by veterinarian Nicholas Dodman, who also wrote bestsellers, “The Dog Who Loved Too Much” and “The Cat Who Cried for Help.”

Dodman breaks new ground with this book; he details how animals and humans share many of the same emotions and emotional disorders. He writes that animals can be depressed and feel grief and loss. It’s now known that pets can have post-traumatic stress disorder, and Dodman has asserted that this affects dogs who have served in the military in combat zones. Dogs can also have other “human” emotional disorders like anxiety and compulsive disorders.

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‘The Kids’ Picture Show’ Now in Book Format: ‘Animals’ and ‘Vehicles’


“The Kids’ Picture Show” is an educational channel on YouTube for toddlers, preschoolers and even kindergarteners. It shows retro pixelated images of a variety of things sorted by type and with accompanying labels. Now, there are board books with the same pixel-heavy and labeled images: “Vehicles” and “Animals.”

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‘Love Can Be: A Literary Collection About Our Animals’ Is Filled with Beautiful Stories about the Creatures Who Fill our Lives with Beauty

love can be

“Love Can Be” is a touching and creative collection of writing about animals and our connections to them. The contributors include Joyce Carol Oates, Delia Ephron, S. E. Hinton, and Reyna Grande. The stories vary in content from Dean Koontz sharing a story about his much-loved dog Trixie, to Reyna Grande discussing monarch butterflies and comparing their long migration to her life. Both stories share the beauty and mystery of our love for animals.

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‘Beyond the Sixth Extinction: A Post-Apocalyptic Pop-Up’ Is a Fascinating View of What Might Be


“Beyond the Sixth Extinction: A Post-Apocalyptic Pop-Up” created by Shawn Sheehy and illustrated by Jordi Solano is an imaginative and clever peek into what might become of our world in the year 4847, after the sixth global extinction has happened.

This clever pair created new species from old ones — creatures that adapted to the new ecosystem after environmental disasters and world-wide destruction of wildlife. It’s a new world.

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Five Nonfiction Picture Books for Kids of Many Ages — From Monsters and Animals to Historical Figures and the Flight to the Moon

“Vincent Can’t Sleep: Van Gogh Paints the Night Sky” by Barb Rosenstock and Mary Grandpré  shares with young readers the lonely, often tormented life of Vincent Van vincentGogh. Each page begins with “Vincent can’t sleep…” and begins with his childhood when at the age of nine or ten he once walked at night six miles from his home in the Netherlands to Belgium where he was “found with torn clothes and muddy shoes.” The author includes that he was moody, “Excited. Bored. Eager. Lazy. Explosive. Shy. His many-colored moods scare the customers — and he’s forced to go.” This is a wonderful book for encouraging discussion about being different. Van Gogh was different. He’s described as “A sensitive boy. A hidden genius. A brilliant artist.” But according to the Author’s Note, he may have only sold five paintings while he was alive. Questions to discuss can include what makes someone successful? Was Van Gogh successful? Was he crazy? Why are his paintings so revered and so valuable? A beautiful book about a brilliant — and tormented — artist. (Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers)
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‘Fiona the Hippo’ by Richard Cowdrey Is a Picture Book About Not Giving up (and It’s Adorable!)


In “Fiona the Hippo,” a picture book by Richard Cowdrey, readers who didn’t know about the baby hippo who was born six weeks early will get to see how the staff at the Cincinnati Zoo cared for her and helped keep her safe. The story is lovely, and Cowdrey cleverly has Fiona say, “I’ve got this!” for each new accomplishment.

That’s a great catch-phrase for kids. Fiona’s story teaches that all new skills take practice — sometimes lots of practice — but if a child is taught determination and perseverance and says, “I’ve got this!” the chances of success are multiplied tenfold.

Fiona got it, and she was reunited with her parents. Cowdrey’s story of Fiona’s start is a picture book that kids will want to read over and over. They will know when to chime in for Fiona, “I’ve got this!” and one might hope that it becomes the new mantra for a generation.

Learn more at Fiona the Hippo. Watch her adorable video on YouTube.

Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by Big Honcho Media for review purposes.