It Began With a Page

How Gyo Fujikawa
Drew the Way

Harper Collins Publishers
(pub. 10.8.2019) 
48 pages

A True Tale with

A Cherry On Top   

A uthor: Kyo Maclear
and illustrator:  Julie Morstad
C haracter: Gyo Fujikawa

     "From the time she was a little girl, Gyo Fujikawa drew pictures.
     Gyo's parents had come to California from Japan looking for a better life, but sometimes Gyo felt invisible. When high school came, Gyo's teachers recognized her gift for creating beautiful art and got behind her. Art became her profession, and now her drawings were in magazines and store window displays.
     Eventually, Gyo was asked to illustrate picture books for children. She envisioned a diverse cast of characters, explaining that she wanted 'an international set of babies...' in the pages of books.
     Had it ever been done before?
     Not yet.
     Her Babies, published in 1963, welcomed children of all colors into the pages of a picture book for the first time, paving the way for publishers, teachers, readers, and future writers to imagine a more inclusive world...

T antalizing taste: 
     "Babies! Chubby-cheeked, squat-legged, bouncy-bottomed babies. Naughty-nice, oh-so-busy, toddle-crawling babies.
      But the publisher said no.

     No to mixing white babies and black babies. It was not done in early 1960s America, a country with laws that separated people by skin color.

     But Gyo would not budge.

     She closed her eyes and remembered all the times she had felt unseen and unwelcome.

     She looked the publisher in the eye and said, 'It shouldn't be that way. Not out there in the streets. Not here on this page. We need to break the rules."

And something more: "A note from the author and illustrator" explains that "Gyo inherited a passion for social justice and labor rights from her poet mother, Yu. For example, she would not work for publishers that didn't pay their artists a fair living wage. She was also one of the fist children's book artists to ask for royalties. She encouraged other artists to do the same. 'Let's not follow the old rules,' she said. 'Let's make new ones.'"


When Sue Found Sue

Sue Henrickson Discovers
Her T. Rex

Abrams Books for Young Readers
(pub. 5.14.2019) 
32  pages

A True Tale with

A Cherry On Top   

A uthor: Toni Buzzeo
     and illustrator: Diana Sudyka
C haracter: Sue Henrickson

     "Sue Hendrickson was born to find things, large or small. As a child, her curiosity led her to find many treasures, from lost coins to a tiny brass perfume bottle. And as she grew, her curiosity grew, too. She became a diver who searched for lost boats and buried treasure and a paleontologist who searched for prehistoric-whale fossils.
     On a dig in South Dakota, Sue discovered something bigger than she had ever imagined: the largest, most complete Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton ever unearthed, a skeleton named Sue in her honor. Full of scientific intuition and true adventure, When Sue Found Sue will inspire young readers to look closely at the world around them and to nurture their curious spirits."
T antalizing taste: 
"During the last weeks
of her fourth summer of digging for duckbills
in the blistering heat,
Sue Hendrickson felt pulled
to a sandstone cliff
far off in the distance.
She couldn't say why then -
and she couldn't say why even now -
but she was called to that cliff.
And on August 12, 1990,
when her team headed into town
to fix a flat tire,
Sue finally followed her curiosity."

And something more: Toni Buzzeo's Author's Note explains that while "many other T. rexes are represented by a few important bones, Sue the T. rex is more than 90 percent complete. She's the largest (thirteen feet tall at the hip and forty-two feet long), most complete, and best-preserved T. rex ever found. What's more, when she was found, her bones were in excellent condition, rather than the fragile state in which many fossilized bones are recovered."


What Miss Mitchell Saw

Beach Lane Books
(Simon & Schuster)
(pub. 9.3.2019) 
40 pages

A True Tale with

A Cherry On Top   

A uthor: Hayley Barrett
     and illustrator: 
             Diana Sudyka
C haracter: Maria Mitchell

     "Every evening, year by year, Miss Mitchell stood on her rooftop with her telescope and swept the sky.
       And then one night she saw something no one had ever seen before..."

T antalizing taste: 
     "She made fast friends with stars that shone as if punched into the black with a whalebone needle.
      She knew the stars by name. POLARIS    RIGEL    SPICA
      She observed planets that glowed as steadily as whale oil lamps.
      She knew the plants by name.  MERCURY    VENUS    SATURN
      She marveled at the celestial phenomena that arched overhead like a whale's sparkling splash. 
      She knew the phenomena by name too. ECLIPSE    AURORA BOREALIS      METEOR "
And something more: In A Note from the Author, Hayley Barrett says "I live in Massachusetts, so I've been able to visit Nantucket, Maria Mitchell's island birthplace. Wild roses still scent the breeze, the dunes are still dappled with gulls, and ... the Mitchell House ... still feels like a  happy home. The house is a museum now... Every August 1, in celebration of Maria Mitchell's birthday, her royal medal [from the king of Denmark for the discovery of a new comet with a telescope] is put on display there for all to admire."
    And a good activity for these nights -- stargazing!


Paper Son

The Inspiring Story of
Tyrus Wong,
Immigrant and Artist

Schwartz & Wade Books
40 pages 

A True Tale with

A Cherry On Top   

A uthor: Julie Leung
      and illustrator: Chris Sasaki
C haracter: Tyrus Wong

     "Before he became Tyrus Wong, he was a nine-year-old boy on a ship who left behind his mother and homeland for an unknown place his father called Gold Mountain.
      Before he was the creative force behind Walt Disney's Bambi, he was a school janitor who worked nights, painting the floors with a mop as though it was his paintbrush. 
      Before he mesmerized animators around the world with his unique style and generous spirit, he was a 'paper son.'"

T antalizing taste: 
     "At last, they arrived at Angel Island.
      His father, who had been in America before, cleared immigration quickly.
      But the boy was held back.

      Scared and alone, Geng Yeo was taken to a wooden house filled with  strangers.
     There, he waited.

     Days turned to weeks.
     This new land was not what he expected.
     The streets were not lined with gold.
     The barracks were crowded and dirty.
     He missed his father very much.

     There was no drawing paper.
     No ink. No paint.
     He watched the sun move slowly across the sky,
     always arching back toward the home he'd left behind." 

And something more: Julie Leung's Author's Note explains that "From 1910 to 1940, over 170,000 Chinese were processed through Angel Island Immigration Station outside San Francisco Bay. An estimated 80 to 90 percent of them were paper sons and daughters, among them Tyrus Wong and his father. From those humble beginnings, Tyrus would go on to graduate from Otis Art Institute with honors. In a time when most Chinese immigrants worked as manual laborers, this was no small feat."  
     From where I live, I can see Angel Island which is now a state recreation park and historical site. It's powerful to think of the history and experiences of the thousands of immigrants who arrived there, "the Ellis Island of the West." And, as we are all self-isolating with the COVID-19 pandemic, I think of this young boy waiting alone in "a house full of strangers." I treasure our ways of being able to connect to each other virtually, and hope we too can help anyone feeling alone.


Queen of Physics

Helped Unlock
the Secrets of the Atom

Sterling Children's Press
(pub. 10.8.2019) 
48 pages

A True Tale with

A Cherry On Top   

A uthor: Teresa Robeson
    and illustrator:  Rebecca Huang
C haracter: Wu Chien Shiung

     "When Wu Chien Shiung was born in China in the early 1900s, girls typically did not attend school. They weren't considered as smart as boys. But her parents thought differently, so they gave her a name meaning 'courageous hero' and encouraged her love of learning and science.
     Wu Chien Shung found her passion in physics, which took her from her small hometown of Liuhe to the National Central University in Nanjing and then all the way to the United States. She became such an exceptional physicist that other scientist asked her for help running experiments. Even then, she didn't always get the jobs she wanted or the credit she deserved ... But she pushed back against the prejudice with dignity..."

T antalizing taste: 
     "Even before Wu Cien Shiung arrived in the world, Baba [her father] had quit his  job as an engineer, and opened a school just for girls.
      Mama wore out her shoes trudging to every house in Liuhe to urge families to educate their daughters.
     So when Chien Shiung was ready, a school was waiting for her.
     Baba was the principal and Mama the techer, teaching little girls to read and write and count.
    Baba and Mama were courageous, too, as they showed their daughter the way."

And something more: Wu Chien Shiung's Story at the back of the book includes a list of her impressive accomplishments and explains the title of the  book: "It is no wonder Newsweek magazine called her the queen of physics (May 20, 1964)."


Dancing Hands

How Teresa Carreno
Played the Piano
For President Lincoln

Atheneum Books for Young Readers
(Simon and Schuster)
(pub. 8.27.2019) 
 40 pages

A True Tale with

A Cherry On Top   

A uthor: Margarita Engle
      and illustrator:  Rafael Lopez
C haracter: Teresa Carreno

     "As a little girl, Teresa Carreno loved to let her hands dance across the beautiful keys of the piano. If she felt sad, music cheered her, and when she was happy, the piano helped her share that joy. Soon she was writing her own songs and performing in grand cathedrals.
     Then a revolution in Venezuela drove her family to flee to the United States. Teresa felt lonely in this unfamiliar place, where few of the people she met spoke Spanish. Worst of all, there was fighting in her new home, too - a Civil War.
     Still, Teresa kept playing, and soon she grew famous as the talented Piano Girl who could play anything from a folk song to a sonata. So famous, in fact, that President Abraham Lincoln wanted her to play at the white House! Yet with the country torn apart by war, could Teresa's music bring comfort to those who needed it most?"

T antalizing taste: 
     "But the piano was poorly tuned, making her music sound ugly. What should she do? Refuse to play?
     She stopped, feeling discouraged, until Mister Lincoln smiled kindly and asked for his favorite song, 'Listen to the Mockingbird.' 
     Teresa knew she could play this lively piece even on an imperfect piano, so her fingers leaped across all the glorious dark and light keys, improvising the way mockingbirds do, the melody changing a she went along. Music swirled, twirled, and soared on wings of sound.
     The president listened quietly to notes that rose, swayed, rippled, and dipped like a bird in a blue sky above a green forest."

And something more: The Historical Note states that "Teresa Carreno became known as a composer and opera singer, as well as one of the best pianists of her era, playing with  such an intense spirit that audience members claimed they could hear the power of tropical nature in her music. She settled in Berlin, but returned to New York during World War I. Her remains, concert gowns, piano, and many of her documents were eventually returned to Venezuela, where she is remembered as La Leona ('The Lioness') of the piano."


Our House is on Fire

Greta Thunberg's Call
to Save the Planet

Beach Lane Books
(Simon & Schuster)
(pub. 9.24.2019) 
40 pages

A True Tale with

A Cherry On Top   

A uthor and illustrator:  Jeanette Winter
C haracter: Greta Thunberg


"Our climate is changing.

Our planet is warming.

Will we do something to stop it before it's too late?

One brave girl is demanding this - and she is inspiring the world."

T antalizing taste: 
     "Greta is a quiet girl who led a quiet life in the city of Stockholm. Her dog Roxy was her friend.
     'All my life I've been invisible...
     ... the invisible girl in the back who doesn't say anything.'

     In school she felt alone.
     Then one day Greta's teacher talked to the class about the climate, about how our planet is getting warmer, about how the polar ice is melting, about how animals' lives are threatened.
    And ours, too.
    That's when Greta's life changed.
    She read for hours and watched film after film about our warming world ...
    Greta became sad thinking about the climate all the time.
    She barely ate or spoke.
    'These pictures are stuck in my mind.'
    The sad days went on for a long time, each day more unhappy than the next.    
    There might not be a world to live in when she grows up.  
    What use is school without a future?
    What can I do, she wondered.

    Greta decided to go on strike from school - for the climate...

     The quiet girl was invited to speak to important people at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. It was necessary to speak.

     'I don't want you to be hopeful.
     I want you to panic.
     I want you to feel the fear I feel every day ...
     I want you to act as if the house was on fire.
     Because it is.'"

And something more: The back matter explains that "Greta Thunberg was fifteen years old when she first skipped school one Friday to strike for climate change in front of the Swedish Parliament building in Stockholm. Her lone call to action on August 20, 2018, sparked a children's movement that led to Friday school strikes in many countries and culminated in a worldwide Friday march on March 15, 2019." 

    The author and illustrator Jeanette Winters writes: "When I heard her speeches, I felt Greta was speaking for me. And I'm eighty years old."