"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Friday, February 16, 2024

Three Nonfiction Children's Book Reviews, including the Cybils Award Winner

Jumper: A Day in the Life of a Backyard Jumping Spider by Jessica Lanan
Roaring Brook Press, New York. 2023

Imagine the life of a jumper spider in your own backyard. Imagine it from the spider's point of view, too. That is what Jumper is all about. Imagine sensing sounds and sight through vibrations. Picture what this small spider must have to do to avoid predators (birds and larger insects) and what she has to do to become a predator herself. The illustrations are so dynamic, one really feels the movements the spider makes to live in our gardens.
The framing story, told mainly in the ink, watercolor, and gouache illustrations, centers on a visit to a community garden by a child with braids and tan skin. What makes this particularly appealing is that the child’s pictured actions­—climbing, jumping, listening, looking, and finding food—mirror the spider’s. Most spectacular is the magnified close-up of the spider catching her prey, a fly (Kirkus Reviews)

Four pages of back matter provide more factual information about spider's anatomy and their life cycle. the book also provides a glossary, helpful hints for identifying spiders, author's notes, and further reading suggestions.

This book is perfect for the very young children in our lives who are interested in their world and how everything works.  And it was the 2023 winner of children's nonfiction for the Cybils Award.

Glitter Everywhere!: Where It Came From, Where It's Found, and Where Its' Going
by Chris Barton, illustrated by Chaaya Prabhat
Charlesbridge, Waterton, MA. 2023.

This gem of a nonfiction children's book starts with this fun opening: "Glitter is lots of things. Tiny. Clingy. Colorful. Loved. Not loved. And believe me, we're going to talk about all of that. But glitter is something else, too."

(I love it when books start with a hook. A hook that makes me want to turn the page. What else is glitter, I wonder.)

This cute children's book not only gives the history of glitter. (Who even thought about the history of glitter? Not me.) It also defines terms, like iridescence, which is what makes glitter so mesmerizing. In the early 1900 flecks of mica were used on Christmas cards, making them sparkle I suppose like holiday candles. At the time glitter was called flitter. The book even tells us where the terms glitter and flitter originated. During WWII, the war effort needed mica, so no more flitter for a while. Someone is German thought ground up glass was a good alternative, but, um, one had to way too careful around it. Egads! Then Henry F. Ruschmann decided scraps of plastic sparkled in the light. He renamed these as slivers. He used it for cards and for jewelry. Later another rival company named their product Glitterex. So I guess we've all just shortened its original name to glitter.

The last half of the books talks about the ubiquitous nature of glitter and how it has contributed to the microplastic problems we have in our oceans. Should there be no more glitter? Because of this thought, new inventions have played around and discovered biodegradable glitters made from plants and even bugs (though that sounds like the possibility of creating new problems.

The book ends with this quote: "Our human ingenuity is as remarkable -- and persistent! -- as any glitter we can imagine."

For the record, I am a glitter-hater. Please don't send me a Christmas card with glitter on it! 😉

Ice Cream Man: How Augustus Jackson Made a Sweet Treat Better by Glenda Armand and Kim Freeman, illustrated by Keith Mallot
Crown Books for Young Readers, New York. 2023

Augustus Jackson was an African American businessman who is known as the father of ice cream. Jackson was born in 1808 to free Black parents in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania  but they were poor. Even as a child Jackson was interested in cooking and food preparation. His mother told him if he worked hard maybe someday he could make food for the President of the United States. At age twelve he took that dream and became a kitchen helper at the White House. By the age of seventeen, he was elevated to cook, so he did make food for the president. While working in the White House he learned to make a cold custard-like dessert known as ice cream. It was a time-consuming process. All the rich and famous people who visited the White House loved this dessert. Jackson had a new dream -- he would ake ice cream for everyone. 

Back in Philadelphia Jackson opened an ice parlor. It was a very popular place. Other people tried opening their own ice cream parlors but no one could make the ice cream as frosty, smooth and sweet as he could, so Jackson got the idea to sell his ice cream to these other shops. But the process for making this cold dessert was so slow and tedious. How could he speed up the process? One day in 1832 he tried an experiment. He added rock salt to the ice. As he twisted the canister back and forth he noticed that the ice cream was made in about half the time. Now he was able to make ice cream and keep it cold longer. He was even able to send his concoction to New York City by train and it didn't melt.

Jackson accomplished his two goals and I would add, he also made a bunch of people smile along the way.

As a side note, not covered in this children's book, I looked up Augustus Jackson on the internet, curious to learn more about the father of ice cream. He died at age 43 in 1852. His daughter attempted to carry on in his footsteps but since Jackson did not patent his process, other ice cream makers took over his techniques and well, you know that it was a success for everyone.

Ice Cream Man shines a light on a little-known visionary and this inspiring picture-book biography includes an afterword, a list of sources, and an easy-to-follow recipe so readers can make their own delicious ice cream!


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