8.15.2016

Clean Sweep

Frank Zamboni's
Ice Machine

Tundra Books
(published 1.5.2016) 32 pages 

A True Tale
with A Cherry On Top 

uthor: Monica Kulling
      and Illustrator: Renne Benoit

C haracter: Frank Zamboni

O
 verview from the jacket flap: 

    "In 1940, Frank Zamboni, along with his brother and cousin, opened their own skating rink in California. Their biggest frustration was the time it took the crew to resurface the ice - up to an hour and a half! Skaters grew impatient with the wait. Could Frank turn a ninety-minute job for five men into a ten-minute task for only one?
     Working in the shed behind his ice rink, Frank drew designs and built models of machines he hoped would do the job. Frank worked on his invention for nine years, making each model better than the one before. Finally, in 1949, Frank tested the Model A and it did exactly what he wanted it to - it gave ice a smooth finish in a fraction of the time. The Zamboni ice resurfacer had arrived, and ice rinks haven't been the same since."
     
T antalizing taste: 

   "Frank labored in a workshop behind Iceland. Sometimes folks stopped to ask what he was doing. When Frank told them, they often offered advice, such as 'It can't be done,' or 'Sounds crazy to me.'
    So Frank dug in his heels and tried harder.
     But the Second World War came along and put a stop to Frank's work.
     When the war ended, Frank was able to buy military parts, like an engine and axles, cheaply. He built his ice-resurfacing machine on the chassis, or base frame, of a Jeep...
     Over the years, Frank would build many models, each one an improvement on the last...
     In 1951, Sonja Henie, Norway's figure-skating superstar, bought two Zamboni ice-resurfacing machines. Henie had won gold medals three times in a row at the Olympics. Now she was making movies and performing ice shows.
     Frank painted Henie's machines fire-engine red."

and something more: The last page of CLEAN SWEEP features fun facts about the Zamboni machine, including ...  
     "The machine can remove up to 60 cubic feet of ice in one pass. That's enough shavings to make 3,661 snow cones.
     In 1960, it appeared for the first time at the Olympic Winter Games.
     In 2001, a Zamboni machine, with a top speed of nine miles an hour, was driven across Canada, from St. John's, Newfoundland, to Victoria, British Columbia, a trip that took four months.
     Zamboni machines are on every continent except Antarctica."

Fearless Flyer

Ruth Law and 
Her Flying Machine

Calkins Creek
(published 3.1.2016) 40 pages 

A True Tale
with A Cherry On Top 

uthor: Heather Lang
      and Illustrator: Raul Colon

C haracter: Ruth Law

O
 verview from the jacket flap: 

    "Before 1916, no pilot had attempted to fly from Chicago to New York City in one day. 
     No pilot would think of making the trip with an old flying machine and an out-of-date engine.
     And if the pilot was a woman? 
     Impossible!
     So the experts said.
     But they didn't know Ruth Law.
     On a windy November morning, she revved her plane's engine and took off on that impossible cross-county flight.
     What Ruth Law did next amazed America."

T antalizing taste: 

   "Slowly she gained altitude.
    As quickly as the wind had gusted, it vanished. Would she have enough gasoline?
    Ruth held onto the left and right levers at all times. One wrong move would send her tumbling from the sky.Holding the right lever with her knees, she turned the knobs on the map box, strapped to her leg. 
    I had a tremendous feeling of freedom, of exhilaration, of power. I was steering my own course by a little six-inch map." 

and something more: The Author's Note of Fearless Flyer explains that "Ruth never let barriers set by society hold her back...When Orville Wright refused to teach her to fly, she found another instructor. Ruth took flying seriously... Ruth believed the key to her success was her mechanical knowledge. She spent many hours learning her plane - the engine, the nuts and bolts, the wires. She whittled struts and grinded valves until her hands blistered."  
     The book begins with this quote:  "When I was a little girl, I used to dream of flying, not with terror ... but with wonder and delight. I would be a swallow flying south, or an eagle swooping down from the clouds, and then, all of a sudden, I'd wake up, just a little girl ready to cry because she had no wings." And then she gained her wings, by persevering to become a pilot!

8.08.2016

Ira's Shakespeare Dream

Lee & Low Books
(published 8.15.2015)
40 pages

A True Tale
with A Cherry OTop 

A uthor: Glenda Armand
and Illustrator: Floyd Cooper

C haracter: Ira Aldridge
                 

verview from book flap:

"For as long as he could remember, Ira Aldridge dreamed of performing the famous plays of William Shakespeare. Ira spent every chance he got at the theater, memorizing the actors' lines and movements. He knew he could be a great Shakespearean actor if only given the chance. But in the early 1800s in New York City, options for black actor were mostly limited to musical numbers.

Determined to pursue his dream, Ira set off to England, the land of Shakespeare. He soon encountered the same roadblocks and discrimination he faced back home...[but] through hard work and perseverance... the young man with a dream became one of the most celebrated Shakespearean actors in the world. 

Ira's Shakespeare Dream is a captivating tribute to the life of Ira Aldridge, and to the enduring magic of Shakespeare's works to inspire people of all backgrounds."

T antalizing taste:

     "Even as Ira's dream was coming true, he never forgot about his people back home and the nightmare off slavery. Sometimes, at the close of a performance, Ira came out of character and sat on the edge of the stage.
     He preached to the audience about the injustice of slavery. He told them that, although he was born free, he had once come close to being sold into slavery. Audiences were moved as Ira recounted for them the cruelties had had witnessed."  

and something more:  Last weekend at the SCBWI conference in Los Angeles, I enjoyed meeting Glenda Armand, the author of Ira's Shakespeare Dream. She "is passionate about sharing accounts of little-known African American trailblazers. Her hope is that these stories will inspire new generations of young dreamers to persevere despite any obstacles they may face."  
     The book's Afterword explains that "perhaps the greatest honor" Ira received is shown on "a bronze plaque inscribed with his name at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, at Stratford-upon-Avon, England, the birthplace of William Shakespeare. Ira Frederick Aldridge is the only African American among the thirty-three actors to have received this recognition."

7.24.2016

Dorothea's Eyes

Dorothea Lange
Photographs the Truth

Calkins Creek
(published 3.1.2016)
40 pages

A True Tale
with A Cherry OTop 

A uthor: Barb Rosenstock
and Illustrator: Gerard DuBois

C character: Dorothea Lange
                 
O verview from the jacket flap:

"From the time she was a little girl, Dorothea Lange saw the world with her eyes and her heart. Before she ever owned a camera, she knew she was born to be a photographer. It didn't matter that polio made it difficult for her to walk. It didn't matter that girls weren't supposed to be photographers.
     To take her pictures, Dorothea deliberately blended into the background. She used her phtogorsaphs to tell the stories of the people the world ignored - the homeless, the jobless, the poor.
    In this powerful and inspiring book, Barb Rosenstock and Gerard DuBois reveal the story of Dorothea's remarkable life and illuminate how her photographs continue to tell the world the truth."

T antalizing taste:

   "Dorothea leaves her comfortable life and takes her camera on the road. She scans dirt lanes, peers down back paths, and squints up broken stops. Fathers stoop in fields, working for pennies. Mothers nurse sick children, lying thirsty in makeshift tents. Whole families live in jalopies - blown out by the dust storms wracking the land. 
     Dorothea limps [from childhood polio] toward these hungry strangers. 
     Her heart knows all about people the world ignores."

and something more: I was interested to learn from the back matter of Dorothea's Eyes that Dorothea Lange's "photographs influenced John Steinbeck's novel The Grapes of Wrath and Lange is listed in The 100 Most Influential Women of All Time by Deborah Felder. Despite decades of ill health from ulcers and post-polo syndrome, Dorothea Lange continued photographing faces - from strangers on five continents to her adored grandchildren - until the end of her life."  And as a San Francisco Museum of Modern Art docent, I am pleased that I can now share more about Dorothea Lange with students who visit the museum and see the photos by Dorothea Lange.

6.27.2016

Cloth Lullaby

The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois

Abrams Books for Young Readers
(published 3.1.2016)
40 pages

A True Tale
with A Cherry OTop 

A uthor: Amy Novesky
and Illustrator: Isabelle Arsenault

C haracters: Louise Bourgeois
                 

O verview from Abrams Books for Young Readers website:

"Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010) was a world-renowned modern artist noted for her sculptures made of wood, steel, stone, and cast rubber Her most famous spider sculpture, Maman, stands more than 30 feet high.

Just as spiders spin and repair their webs, Louise's own mother was a weaver of tapestries. Louise spent her childhood in France as an apprentice to her mother before she became a tapestry artist herself. She worked with fabric through her career, and this biographical picture book shows how Bourgeois's childhood experiences weaving with her loving, nurturing mother provided the inspiration for her most famous works. With a beautifully nuanced and poetic story, this book stunningly captures the relationship between mother and daughter and illuminates how memories are woven into us all.".

T antalizing taste:

"Louise kept diaries of her days. And in a cloth tent pitched in the garden, she and her siblings would stay till the dark surprised them, the light from the house, and the sound of a a Verdi opera, far away through the trees.

Sometimes, they'd spend the night, and Louise would study the web of stars, imagine her place in the universe, and weep, then fall asleep to the rhythmic rock and murmur of river water.

The river provided flowers and fruit, a lullaby, and a livelihood.

Louise's family restored tapestries - art woven from wool - and the wool loved the tannin-rich water, which cleansed and strengthened it, and allowed it to soak up color."

and something more:  I feel so fortunate to have read, early on, a draft of Amy's amazing book in which she wove together her poetic evocative words. Amy shared with me what inspired her to write this book:  "The inspiration for this book came from a 2004 New York Times article about Louise Bourgeois’s cloth work. I immediately fell in love with her fabric odes, whose colorful graphic and tactile shapes resonated with me, and, I thought would with young readers. But I didn’t find my way into the story until years later when I discovered a monograph of her cloth work at the Sausalito Library. While the book was 12 years in the making (!), I wrote the story in a week."

I heartily concur with the New York Times review: "Novesky's writing is alert to young readers' voracious appetite for the aliveness of language. The story is strewn with beautiful, pleasantly challenging words ('indigo,' 'fragments,' trousseau'), words that have earned the right to make themselves at home in a child's imagination ... Cloth Lullaby is one of the loveliest picture books I've encountered - a tender homage to an extraordinary woman."

5.23.2016

You Can Fly

The Tuskegee Airmen

Atheneum Books for Young Readers
(published 5.3.2016)
96 pages
Ages 9 - 12

A True Tale
with A Cherry On Top

A uthor: Carole Boston Weatherford
      and Illustrator: Jeffery Boston Weatherford

C haracters: The Tuskegee Airmen
                

O verview from the jacket flap:

    "I WANT YOU! says the poster of Uncle Sam. But if you're a young black man in 1940, he doesn't want you in the cockpit of a warplane. Yet you are determined not to let that stop your dream of flying.
     So when you hear about a civilian pilot training program at Tuskegee Institute, you leap at the chance. Soon you are learning engineering and mechanics, how to communicate in code, how to read a map. At last the day you have longed for is here: You are flying!
     From training days in Alabama to combat on the front lines in Europe, this is the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, the pioneering African-American pilots of World War II. In vibrant second-person poems that allow readers to fly too, award-winning author Carole Boston Weatherford teams up for the first time with her son, artist Jeffery Boston Weatherford, to tell the story of these men who triumphed in the skies and over the color barrier."

T antalizing taste:

No Hero's Welcome


No use candy-coating the truth:
Gasoline and sugar were rationed
during the war, and metal was reserved
for the defense industry,
but racism was never in short supply.
There was plenty of prejudice to go around
and you don't have to look far to find it
even after you get home.

You pass through South Carolina;
you see places that bar blacks
serving German prisoners of war.
You get wind of the Freeman Field Mutiny:
Pilots from the 477th Bombardment Group,
who never got to see combat before war's end,
got arrested in Indiana for storming 
into the all-white officers' club.

Your fight is by no means finished." 

and something more:  I was honored to be asked by Carole Boston Weatherford to feature her compelling book, YOU CAN FLY, on my blog as part of her blog book tour. She shared interesting information about the book:

"I had not heard of the Tuskegee Airmen until I was in my mid-twenties. I was in awe. Thirty years later I decided to write about these American heroes. I am still amazed by the barriers that they overcame and the battles that they won.

I wanted the verse novel to unfold like a newsreel or a graphic novel. Dramatic scratchboard illustrations by my son Jeffery Weatherford create that effect, evoking the World War II era.

The Tuskegee Airmen—pilots and ground crew—are truly American heroes, deserving wider recognition. I hope that You Can Fly helps achieve that."

Carole's "10 Things I Learned About the Tuskegee Airmen":

* Before the Tuskegee Experiment began, there were only 130 licensed African American pilots in the U.S.

* After a plane ride with Tuskegee flight instructor Chief Anderson, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt said, “You can fly.” She swayed her husband, President Franklin Roosevelt to authorize the Tuskegee Experiment, giving African Americans a shot at becoming combat pilots.

* Pioneering entertainer Lena Horne made numerous trips—at her own expense—to perform for troops at Tuskegee Army Air Field.

* The Tuskegee Airmen got the name Red Tails when their ground crew painted the tail of the P-47 red. The Nazis called them Black Birdmen/Schwarze Vogelmenshen.

* On July 21, 1943, the Tuskegee Airmen flew 13 missions in one day.

* Of their 205 missions, the Tuskegee Airmen flew 200 without losing a bomber.

* In 1,500 combat missions, Tuskegee Airmen blasted 262 German planes, 950 vehicles and one enemy destroyer.

* Of nearly 1,000 Tuskegee pilots, half went overseas and fewer than 10 were captured or killed.

* Tuskegee Airman Lee Archer Jr., an ace pilot, shot down four enemy planes.

* The Tuskegee Airmen were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal by President George Bush in 2007.

Carole also shared her book trailer and teacher resources. 

And kudos to Reka Simonsen, Executive Editor at Atheneum Books for Young Readers for this terrific book and thank you for giving me a copy.

4.18.2016

Jazz Day

The Making of a
Famous Photograph

Candlewick Press
(published 3.8.2016) 66 pages

A True Tale
with A Cherry On Top

A uthor: Roxane Orgill
      and Illustrator: Francis Vallejo

C haracters: Jazz musicians & photographer Art Kane
                

O verview from the jacket flap:

    "In 1958, Esquire magazine was planning a special issue focused on American jazz. Art Kane, a graphic designer in New York City, pitched a crazy idea: gather a many jazz musicians as were willing and photograph the group. Kane got the assignment - but he didn't own a professional camera, he didn't know how many musicians would show up, and he wanted to shoot the photograph in front of a Harlem brownstone. Would his idea work?

      Kane pulled it off, and in Jazz Day, Roxane Orgill takes us inside the frame of his famous photograph, Harlem 1958, with a collection of poems that re-creates that serendipitous day. She captures the musicians' mischief and quirks, their pleasure in seeing each other, and the vivacious atmosphere of a Harlem block full of kids on a hot summer's day. Francis Vallejo's vibrant paintings are reminiscent of a rich period in jazz history and do justice to the larger-that-life quality of the musicians of the era."

T antalizing taste:

 Names
William "Count" Basie, pianist

"Nobody calls me Bill
Except my wife
I'm the Count
Ol' Base
Or Holy Main
As in main stem
The buck stops here
Guys in the band
They give you a name
To fit your personality
Or your playing
Same thing
Dizzy
Fump
Stuff
Hawk
Hot Lips
Red
Pee Wee
Pres
Short for President
Of the Tenor Saxophone
Who's Lester Young
Got his name
From Eleanora
Known as Billie Holiday
Except to Pres
Who calls her Lady Day
He calls lots of people Lady
Even me"

and something more:  I love hearing about the background of a story and I believe certain stories do indeed tell their authors how they should be told. In the Author's Note in Jazz Day, Roxane Orgill explains that the "verses about the musicians are based on fact ... I've known of Art Kane's photograph for about as long as I've been listening to jazz, which I got to know as a sideline to my job as a classical music critic... I wanted to tell the story of how the photo got made and of some of the people who happened to be in it. What I didn't expect was that I'd begin writing poems. I write prose, not poetry But this story demanded a sense of freedom, an intensity, and a conciseness that prose could not provide."Yes! Prose poetry is perfect for this story.