Fancy Party Gowns

The Story of Fashion Designer
Ann Cole Lowe

little bee books
(Bonner Publishing)

(pub. 1.17.2017)

40 pages

A True Tale with
A Cherry On Top

A uthor: Deborah Blumenthal
    and illustrator: Laura Freeman

C haracter: Ann Cole Lowe

 verview from the jacket flap: 

     "When Ann Cole Lowe was a little girl, her momma and grandma taught her how to sew. When her momma died suddenly, Ann took over her job sewing party gowns. It wasn't easy, especially when she went to design school and had to work alone, segregated from the rest of the class. But the work she did set her spirit soaring, as evidenced in the clothes she made.
      Today she is best known for designing the dress that Jacqueline Bouvier wore at her fairy-tale wedding to future president John F. Kennedy.  Rarely credited during her lifetime, Ann Cole Lowe was called society's best-kept secret. This beautiful picture book shines the spotlight on a little-known visionary designer who persevered in times of hardship, always doing what she was passionate about: making elegant gowns for the women who loved to wear them."

T antalizing taste: 
     "But when Ann brought the gowns to the mansion in Newport, Rhode Island, where the wedding reception [of JFK and Jackie] would take place, the butler who opened the door told her she'd have to use the back entrance that was meant for workers.
     Ann said that if she had to enter through the back door, the bride and bridesmaids wouldn't be wearing her dresses for the wedding.
     She entered through the front door."
and something more: I noticed that the "For Further Reading" section included many articles but few books that discuss Ann Cole Lowe. Of course, that's not surprising because even during her life, she was "society's best-kept secret" and didn't receive the credit she deserved. As Deborah Blumenthal states in her "Author's Note": "In her later years, Ann continued to design dresses for prominent women. She struggled financially though, and in 1960 was forced to close her salon in New York City... While researchers of Ann's life will find inconsistencies in her biography, what is never in dispute is the extent of her talent."


Sing, Don't Cry

Henry Holt and Company
(pub. 8.22.2017)
40 pages

A True Tale with
A Cherry On Top   

A uthor and illustrator: Angela Dominguez

C haracter: Apolinar Navarrete

 verview from the jacket flap: 

     "Once a year, Abuelo comes from Mexico to visit his family. He brings his guitar, his music - and his memories.
     In this story inspired by the life of Apolinar Navarrete Diaz - author Angela Dominguez's grandfather and a successful mariachi musician - Abuelo and his grandchildren sing through the bad times and the good. Lifting their voices and their spirits, they realize that true happiness comes from singing together.
T antalizing taste: 
     "'Sing, don't cry, even when you are alone in a big city.'
       'Because singing can attract someone to sing with you.'
       'When you are misunderstood, and when people are unkind,
 remember - sing, don't cry, even if it is only in your soul.'
       And always,' Abuelo told us, 'I will be singing with you.'"
and something more:  The Author's Note explains that "Sing, Don't Cry is inspired by the refrain in 'Cielito lindo,' a popular Mexican song."  Angela Dominguez writes that her grandfather "was born in 1916. As a young boy, Apolinar and his family emigrated from the small town of Amealco, Querataro, to Mexico City during the Mexican Revolution. When he lost his leg in a bus accident at the age of nine, he turned to music, learning the guitar...Through it all, he was an extremely optimistic man who loved to share music and life with his loved ones."  The endpapers of the book include some wonderful family photos.


Malala's Magic Pencil

Little Brown Books
for Young Readers


48 pages 

A True Tale with
A Cherry On Top   

A uthor: Malala Yousafzai
      and illustrator: Kerascoet
          (pseudonym of husband-and-wife team,
            Sebastien Cosset and Marie Pommepuy)

C haracter: Malala Yousafzai

 verview from the jacket flap: 

     "When Malala was a child in Pakistan, she wished for a magic pencil. She would use it to ... "draw a lock on her door to keep her brothers out ... stop time so she could sleep an extra hour every morning. ... erase the smell of the trash dump near her home." 
     But as Malala grew, her world changed and so did her wishes. Her right to attend school was threatened - just because she's a girl.  Instead of a magic pencil, Malala now picked up a real one. She wrote alone in her room about the challenges she faced, but people from all over read her words.
     And her wishes started to come true."
T antalizing taste:        
    "My father had always said, 'Malala will live free as a bird.'
     Now I wondered how free I'd truly be.
     That night I thought about families who didn't have enough food. And the girl who couldn't go to school. And even about how when I was older, I would be expected to cook and clean for my brothers, because where I came from, many girls weren't allowed to become what they dreamed of."

and something more: A new year and new beginnings -- so I wanted to begin with a story of hope. I was moved by the courageous story of Malala Yousafzai, the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize at the age of seventeen: "Malala first came to public attention by writing for BBC Urdu about life under the Taliban using the pen name Gul Makai. The Taliban had forbidden girls in her region from going to school Soon, she began to speak publicly about girls' education in her community.  In October 2012, Malala was targeted by the Taliban and attacked as she was returning home from school She miraculously survived.
     Malala and her family now live in Birmingham, England, and she travels the world speaking about the importance of education for all."



The Building of Frank Lloyd Wright's

Roaring Book Press


40 pages

A True Tale with
A Cherry On Top   

A uthors: Marc Harshman
                  & Anna Egan Smucker
      and art: LeUyen Pham

C haracter: Frank Lloyd Wright

 verview from the jacket flap: 

     "In the wooded heart of Pennsylvania a house perches atop a waterfall. The water's tune echoes through its sunlight-dappled rooms and the facade blends effortlessly into the rock and forest behind it. This is Fallingwater, an architectural masterpiece born from the marriage of meticulous research and unbounded imagination, the legacy of the lauded American architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
     This stunning picture book ... guides readers through Wright's process designing Fallingwater, from his initial inspiration to the home's breathtaking culmination. It is an exploration of the creative process; a celebration of potential and the vision required to unlock it. Graceful prose and rich, dynamic illustrations breathe life into the story of Wright and Fallingwater, a man and a home utterly unlike any other."

T antalizing taste:        
"Now concrete wings
and long, flat roofs
step up the hillside.

In the thundering water,
scaffolding spreads its spindly legs.

Like branches extending 
from a tree,
the house stretches out over the falls."

and something more: I was intrigued by the illustration process described in the Artist's Note written by LeUyen Pham: "I have long been an admirer of the architecture of Frank Lloyd wright, but my favorite among his buildings has always been Fallingwater. Of all those he designed, it is the one that best connects the structure to the environment.  
       While visiting, I spent hours going over each of the rooms of the house lingering on the terraces for as long as I was permitted, sketching on site as much as possible, and memorizing details of the exterior where cameras weren't allowed. I also spent days going over architectural drawings piecing together one level to another... 
       Wright was a controversial figure... [R]everence for his art, however, remains intact. It was his amazing sense of design, inspired greatly by his love of Japanese prints, that most influenced how I painted these images. His devotion to simple lines and clean treatment of materials - stone, glass, metal - has kept his buildings alive decades after their construction."


The World Is Not a Rectangle

A Portrait of
Architect Zaha Hadid

Beach Lane Books
(Simon and Schuster)

(pub. 8.22.2017)
56 pages

A True Tale with
A Cherry On Top   

A uthor and illustrator: Jeanette Winter

C haracter: Zaha Hadid

 verview from the jacket flap: 

     "A young girl in Iraq saw the wild beauty of the rivers and marshes and dunes and ancient ruins in her country and dreamed of designing wild and beautiful cities of her own.
     Her name was Zaha Hadid.
     When she grew up, she became one of the most irreverent, controversial, and celebrated architects in the world.
     This is her story."

T antalizing taste: 
     "Zaha's designs don't look like other designs.
      Her buildings swoosh and zoom and flow and fly.
     'The world is not a rectangle.'
     No one wants to build her unusual designs. They say they can't be built, but Zaha knows they can.
     So she enters competition after competition, hoping to win, hoping someone will be brave enough to build them.
     ...  Hadid means iron in Arabic, and Zaha is strong as iron.  She keeps on working - one plan after another.
    'I made a conscious decision not to stop.' 
     Zaha remembers the grasses in the marshes swaying and sees tall buildings dancing like grass...
     Zaha remembers the wind in the dunes and feels it blowing over and around and through her desert building"
and something more: Jeannette Winter's Author's Note explains her inspiration for creating this wonderful book, The World Is Not A Rectangle: "When I first saw photos of Zaha Hadid's architectural designs in 2010, the buildings seemed to fly. My spirit also took flight - to a place in my imagination that only landscape had taken me before. I had to find out more about her." And, of course, I wanted to learn more also after reading her book. This article from The Guardian shows and describes ten of her wildly creative designs that lifted Jeannette Winter's spirit.


Grace Hopper

Queen of Computer Code

Sterling Children's Books

(pub. 5.16.2017)
48 pages

A True Tale with
A Cherry On Top   

A uthor: Laurie Wallmark
      and illustrator: Katy Wu

C haracter: Grace Hopper

 verview from the jacket flap: 

     "Meet Grace Hopper: the woman who revolutionized computer coding.
     An ace inventor, groundbreaker, and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, she coined the term 'computer bug" and developed the program that taught computers to recognize words and not just endless O's and 1's. GRACE HOPPER tells the inspirational story of this brilliant woman who had a passion for science and math and the firm belief that new solutions to problems were not found by those who said 'We've always done it this way.'

T antalizing taste:  "Maybe the problem wasn't in her program. Maybe it was in the computer....Grace and her team searched everywhere for the problem... The engineers were stumped. They had checked everything. What could be causing the problem?
     Then someone saw it - a moth was trapped inside, blocking a switch from working properly.
     One of the engineers borrowed Grace's eyebrow tweezers and removed the dead moth. The computer started up again with no problem....
     Ever since then, because of Grace's sense of humor, computer glitches have been called 'bugs'."  
and something more: I enjoyed learning about Grace Hopper's contribution to computer programing, including the wonderful anecdote about the origin of the term 'computer bug.' The back matter of the book states that "Grace would be especially delighted to know that the Google Doodle created in honor of what would have been her 107th birthday includes the infamous 'computer bug.'" 


Margaret and the Moon

How Margaret Hamilton
Saved the First
Lunar Landing

 Knopf Books for Young Readers
(Random House Kids)

(pub. 5.16.2017)
40 pages

A True Tale with
A Cherry On Top   

A uthor: Dean Robbins
      and illustrator: Lucy Knisley

C haracter: Margaret Hamilton

 verview from the jacket flap: 

     "Margaret Hamilton always had questions,. About bugs. About baseball. About the stars in the sky. She wanted answers, so she sought them out herself.  
     Margaret's curiosity extended from the intricate logic of mathematics to the farthest reaches of the galaxy and eventually led her to NASA. And there, she wrote the code for the computer commands on the Apollo missions.
     A pioneer in her field, Margaret proves that nothing can stop you from finding the answers you seek."

T antalizing taste: 
     "For four days, the spacecraft drew nearer to the moon. The lunar module, named the Eagle, split off to make the landing.
     But within minutes left to go, an astronaut entered a command and the master alarm buzzed.
     The Eagle's computer started preforming too many tasks.  OVERLOAD! OVERLOAD!
     The control room panicked. The moon landing was in danger!
     Everyone looked at Margaret. Had she prepared for this problem?
     Of course!
     Margaret's code made the computer ignore the extra tasks and focus on the landing.
     It brought the Eagle closer to the moon's surface.
     Closer ... Closer ... TOUCH DOWN!"
and something more: I so clearly remember sitting on the floor of my living room watching the landing of the Eagle and the subsequent events. I was fascinated to learn from the Author's Note that "due to an error on the astronauts' checklist, a switch ended up in the wrong position and and a computer overloaded. It looked like the lunar module might have to turn back - and it might even crash! But Margaret's brilliant programming allowed the computer to zero in on its most important tasks: landing the spacecraft safely on the moon."
      I was pleased to learn that in 2003 Margaret "won NASA's Exceptional Space Act Award for her groundbreaking contributions to the United States Space program."  A true inspiration!