#Nonfiction Monday: An Artist and An Architect

Let’s explore some of the fantastic nonfiction children’s books that have been nominated for 2018 Cybils awards.

So many wonderful biographies were nominated this year. Because we only have a limited time to talk about them, I’m going to pair books about two women who have produced public art that has changed lives.

In alphabetical order by the subject’s last name, first we have the picture book Ruth Asawa:  A Sculpting Life by Joan Schoettler and illustrated by Tracie Van Wagoner.

Ruth Asawa’s story could have been made into at least two books. She started out life as Aiko Asawa from Southern California. She was given the Americanized first name Ruth when she went to school. A short time later World War II started, and she and her family were taken to one of the Japanese internment camps. While inside, Ruth studied art and spent her free time creating. If the author had chosen, this could have been an entire story of its own.

But there was more to Ruth. Once she was released, she used her experiences to create astonishing looped-wire sculptures and later on, public fountains. She became a renowned sculptor.

You can see some of her amazing sculptures in this video.

The tone of both the text and the illustrations are appropriately more subdued than some of the other biographies on the nomination list (for example, last week’s post). The brightest illustrations are the first spread, when Ruth was Aiko on the farm where she grew up and the last spread showing the beautiful Garden of Remembrance Ruth designed to honor the Japanese-Americans who were interred during the war.

Black and white photographs of Asana and her work are included in the back matter.

Ruth Asawa:  A Sculpting Life will captivate readers interested in history and those who enjoy art. It is a perfect choice for women’s history month, too. Pick up a copy and be inspired today.

Activity Suggestion:

Fold an origami butterfly (Instructions — and links to more patterns– in this previous post)

Age Range: 6 – 9 years
Publisher: Pelican Publishing Company, Inc. (August 30, 2018)
ISBN-10: 9781455623976
ISBN-13: 978-1455623976
ASIN: 1455623970

Moving on in time, we have the middle grade title Maya Lin: Thinking With Her Hands by Susan Goldman Rubin.

Not everyone knows, but the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D. C. was designed by a young student of Chinese descent. The architect Maya Lin has gone on to shape many more breathtaking buildings and outdoor spaces.

Abundant color photographs reveal Lin’s story and her projects, like a gorgeous two-page spread of the Storm King Wavefield covered with snow (see). The images give the book a vibrant, modern feel. They also make you want to go visit all the places she’s created.

Of note: Susan Goldman Rubin shows Maya Lin’s talent didn’t arise from thin air.

“…her aunt had been an architect and architectural historian in Beijing. She had come to the United States to study architecture, but she was not admitted because she was a woman. However, within a year she wound up on the faculty.”

Do you know a budding architect or artist? Get Maya Lin: Thinking With Her Hands into their hands right now!

Activity Suggestion:

Check out an informational video about Maya Lin and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial at Khan Academy (especially appropriate since today is Veterans Day).

Publisher: Chronicle Books (November 7, 2017)
ISBN-10: 1452108374
ISBN-13: 978-1452108377

Disclosure: The books were provided by our local libraries. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

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Looking for more children’s nonfiction books? Try the Nonfiction Monday blog.

#Nonfiction Monday Two Picture Books About Pioneering Women Athletes

Let’s explore some of the fantastic nonfiction children’s books that have been nominated for 2018 Cybils awards.

In alphabetical order, today we have two picture book biographies about pioneering women athletes. Unfortunately, their stories are remarkably similar. They were both told they couldn’t participate in their sport of choice because of their gender, and they went ahead and took part anyway.

First up to bat is Anybody’s Game: Kathryn Johnston, the First Girl to Play Little League Baseball by Heather Lang and illustrated by Cecilia Puglesi.

Kathryn Johnston loved baseball and she wanted to play for a Little League team. The only problem was it was 1950 and girls were not allowed. Kathryn cut her hair and and tried out for the team anyway, saying her name was “Tubby” Johnston. She made the team!

At first Heather Lang uses creative nonfiction techniques to create dialogue, but later she lets the facts carry the story, which flows better. The back matter contains very cool black and white photographs of Kathryn at bat in her Little League uniform. Lang also includes a timeline of “Women and Girls in Baseball,” as well as more information about the events that occurred in the years after Kathryn played.

Anybody’s Game will play to young athletes, but it is inspirational for anyone who is brave enough to dream big.

Age Range: 5 – 7 years
Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company (March 1, 2018)
ISBN-10: 0807503797
ISBN-13: 978-0807503799

Not far behind is Girl Running:  Bobbi Gibb and The Boston Marathon by Annette Bay Pimentel and illustrated by Micha Archer.

Bobbi Gibb was a long distance runner. She lived near the route for the Boston Marathon, so decided to enter officially. The year was 1966, however, and women weren’t allowed to run (sound familiar?)  She knew she could do it, so she decided to run the course during the race anyway. Although Bobbi Gibb proved women could finish the race, ahead of many men, it would be several years before women were allowed to run officially.

Pimental includes many specifics that make the story personal, like the fact that stores do not carry running shoes for women so Bobbi has to by men’s shoes.

The oil and collage illustrations by Micha Archer are vibrant. Young readers are likely to turn back to them after finishing the book to examine all the incredible layers of details, from the graphic running across the bottom of the pages that shows the elevation and mile markers through the race, to the names of women runners hidden in a hillside slope.

Girl Running just might leave young readers breathless.

Age Range: 5 – 8 years
Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books (February 6, 2018)
ISBN-10: 1101996684
ISBN-13: 978-1101996683

Disclosure: These books were provided by our local library. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

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Looking for more children’s nonfiction books? Try the Nonfiction Monday blog.

@Cybils #Kidlit Biography: Before She Was Harriet

Let’s explore some of the fantastic nonfiction children’s books that have been nominated for 2018 Cybils awards.


Today’s picture book biography Before She Was Harriet is from the award-winning husband and wife team of Lesa Cline-Ransome and Coretta Scott King Illustrator, James E. Ransome.

One thing that sets this book apart is it is organized in reverse chronological order. The reader learns about Harriet Tubman in her later years first. The text reveals each of her earlier accomplishments layer by layer until we discover the young girl she once was. It is such a fresh approach and works really well.

Lesa Cline-Ransome’s text is lyrical and spare. It matches her husband’s absolutely gorgeous illustrations perfectly. They are a wonderful combination.

The book is sure to inspire kids to want to learn more about Harriet Tubman. Yet sadly, there is no back matter in the book for them to do so. No timeline, no glossary, no author notes, no suggestions of places for kids to find out more.

Still, Before She Was Harriet is a stand out that is attracting a lot of attention. In fact, I have to take my copy back to the library because someone else has already requested it. You should try to get your hands on a copy today.

Age Range: 4 – 8 years
Publisher: Holiday House (November 7, 2017)
ISBN-10: 0823420477
ISBN-13: 978-0823420476

Alabama Spitfire: The Story of Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird

This week To Kill a Mockingbird won The Great American Read contest.


That makes it a perfect time for young children to learn about the author and how the book came about by reading Alabama Spitfire: The Story of Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird by Bethany Hegedus and illustrated by Erin McGuire.

In spite of the overwhelming success of her novel, Harper Lee (full name Nelle Harper Lee) avoided doing interviews and rarely talked about herself. Regardless, author Bethany Hegedus was able to piece together details of Lee’s early life in Monroeville, Alabama and her later experiences writing the novel in New York City. I don’t want to give away all the details, but her relationship with a certain boy who she meets in her home town and then encounters again later in life is fascinating.

McGuire’s digital illustrations look like paintings. They capture the times and the tone of the book seamlessly.

It is important for children to realize that authors of books are real people because it helps them understand they might be able to become authors, too. Alabama Spitfire not only gives readers a glimpse into an author’s life, but also shows how she used details of her life to write a novel. It is a must read for those who love the novel, aspiring writers, and history buffs alike.

Related:

You can listen to what is touted as Lee’s only recorded interview on YouTube (from 1964). She discusses how she did not expect the popularity of the book.

This book was nominated for 2018 Cybils awards in the Elementary and Middle Grade Nonfiction category.

Age Range: 4 – 8 years
Publisher: Balzer + Bray (January 23, 2018)
ISBN-10: 0062456709
ISBN-13: 978-0062456700

Disclosure: The book was provided by our local library. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

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Looking for more children’s nonfiction books? Try the Nonfiction Monday blog.