Book Review: Eighty Days by Matthew Goodman

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eight daysEighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s History-Making Race Around the World

Written by Matthew Goodman 
Published by Ballantine Books on February 19th 2013
Genre/Topics: Nonfiction, Travel, Journalism
480 pages

Three Word Review: Adventure, Exploration, Fun

Imagine that it is 1889, and your only transportation was by steamship or railroad. Two women, Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland, embarked on a travel journey around the world to hopefully beat Jules Verne‘s fiction story Around the World in Eighty Days. Both women were journalists who constantly fought through gender barriers to write stories beyond social  etiquette and fashion. Nellie Bly was a reporter at the World newspaper who left New York City on November 14, 1889, travelling east by steamship. Bly suggested this news story, but it took a year before her editor believed it would promote the magazine and put it into action. Elizabeth Bisland was a reporter at  The Cosmopolitan magazine that wanted to challenge the World and sent her traveling west by train. The race had begun, but Bly didn’t even realize it was a race until she was in Asia, and someone stated she was going to lose. Both women were different and their travels reflect. Bly carried only one luggage that she could easily carry, whereas Bisland took several. Along their journeys they encountered numerous troubles and discoveries while proving that women indeed can travel without an escort. Throughout the book, the reader also learns brief information about transportation and journalism. Will they beat Jules Verne’s story of travelling the world in eighty days and who will win the race?

I thought Eighty Days was a fun adventure about a subject in American history. In today’s society we can easily travel almost anywhere in the world in a few days. I think it would be quite an experience to travel without modern transportation and technology, yes even without cell phones. It would be a thrill to receive the news simply by a postcard or telegram. (I researched and telegrams still exist.)

Book Review: Awesome Photicular Safari Book

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safariSafari: A Photicular Book 
Created by Dan Kainen
Written by Carol Kaufmann 
Published by Workman Publishing Company on September 25, 2012
Genre/Topics: Nonfiction, Safari, Photicular
Ages: Everyone!!!

Have you ever wished your book pages could come to life or be able to walk into the book? Safari almost feels as though you are visiting the safari and learning about different animals. This book is so awesome that you may not want to share it with others. Safari is a photicular or lenticular book where the image pages move when turned. Basically, image frames are sliced into strips to create one image that is slightly blurry. However, when the page turns it comes alive into a film-like motion. There is a brief introduction about the safari then you see eight African animals come alive. The book is also unique because when you turn each page you read it length-wise, so the entire top page provides information and the bottom page features the animal’s movement. You experience a gorilla eating, an elephant flapping its ears, a cheetah running, and more African animals. Just because this book contains moving pictures does NOT mean it can only be enjoyed by children. In fact, Safari was shelved in the nonfiction section at my library. Since the pages and images are complex I would watch young children to ensure they handle the book carefully. Safari is truly an awesome and unique book that you’ll keep turning the pages! 

Book Review: The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

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devil in the white cityThe Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America

Written by Erik Larson 
Read by Scott Brick
Published  October 17, 2002 by Vintage 
Audio Format: Published October 17, 2002 by Random House Audio 
Genre/Subject: Nonfiction, History, Crime, Chicago’s World Fair
464 pages, 15 hours

Three Word Review: Creepy, Intriguing, Informative

I’ll start by providing a warning that The Devil in the White City is not a children’s book. Erik Larson writes basically two ‘books’ into one book. Larson states right from the beginning that the book is not fiction and any quotations are from research sources. The magic is that it’s a nonfiction history book that reads like fiction. The first ‘book’ is about the formation of the World’s Columbian Exposition or better known as the Chicago’s World Fair. The second ‘book’ is about a serial killer’s actions during the same time as the fair in Chicago. The focus switches between two men: Daniel Hudson Burnham an architect whose ideas helped create the fair and Henry H. Holmes a young doctor and murderer. The Chicago’s World Fair at first didn’t seem possible with the grand ideas and buildings that needed to be built. Individuals knew it had to be better than Paris’ recent exposition and a design grander than the Eiffel Tower. The Chicago’s World Fair brought new items and ideas that fascinated individuals. One trip into the fair wasn’t enough to experience it all. At the same time, Holmes charms individuals, mainly young women, to do whatever he pleases.

This isn’t a book that I would normally pick up, instead it was read for my book club. Personally, I enjoyed learning more about the Chicago’s World Fair and the history during this time period than the murders planned by Holmes. Don’t let the murders scare you away, because it really never goes into details. Instead, the book examines his relationships and how he charmed anyone. If you enjoy history, architecture,  and a brief look into the mind of a serial killer than you may enjoy this unique nonfiction book.

Book Review: Pizza

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Pizza: How to Make and Bake More than 50 Delicious Homemade Pizzas

Written by Carla Bardi 
Published by Readers Digest on May 12, 2011 
Genre/Topics: Nonfiction, Cookbook, Pizza 
Ages: This is not exactly a ‘children’s’ recipe book, but it’s easy to understand and children can help with adult supervision. 
128 pages 


I don’t often examine the new nonfiction books in my library, but this book caught my eye. Why? Well, it was exactly shaped (round) like a pizza so it really stood out. The book provides a brief history of pizza making and how it became so popular. It gives recipes for basic, whole wheat, and gluten-free dough. I made the basic dough. I really enjoyed this book, because at each step there were photos. After you’ve made your dough the next step is to decide which pizza to make. I made a margherita pizza with simple mozzarella and fresh basil. Each pizza is presented in two pages: one page directions and the other page an entire photo of the completed pizza. Mine didn’t exactly look like the photo, but it was still tasty.




Book Review: Pop! The Invention of Bubble Gum

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Pop! The Invention of Bubble Gum 

Written and Illustrated by Meghan McCarthy 
Published April 5, 2011 by Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books 
Genre/Topics: Nonfiction, Invention, Biography, Food
Ages: 6+, 40 pages 

Pop! The Invention of Bubble Gum is the interesting story about how Dubble Bubble chewing gum was invented. It was made in small candy factory in Philadelphia in the 1920s by a man named Walter Diemer.  Walter was an accountant, but became curious about a laboratory next to his office. The company was trying to make a new kind of chewing gum. Walter experimented with different mixtures until finally bubbles formed. He added some flavor and began to chew it. Walter blew large bubbles from the mixture. However, the next day the mixture was as hard as a rock and wouldn’t blow a bubble. So, Walter continued to find the correct ingredients and finally had what he wanted. He added pink coloring, since that was the only color available. Batches were sent to  local stores and Walter Diemer gave gum blowing lessons. He never got rich from his invention, but he didn’t care because he enjoyed making people happy as they blew bubble gum. The book provides additional information about Walter Diemer, gum facts, and the history of gum.

Fun Gum Facts: 

  • If you swallow your gum, it won’t stay in your stomach for seven years.
  • Dubble Bubble was included in ration kits for American soldiers serving in World War II.
  • The largest bubble recorded is set by Susan Montgomery Williams for twenty-three inches in diameter.
  • During World War II, some kids kept their Dubble Bubble “alive” in glasses of water at night. Some even managed to continue chewing one piece for as long as a month!
  • Chewing sugarless gum can prevent tooth decay.
  • Chewing gum on an airplane will prevent your ears from popping.

Book Review: Polar the Titanic Bear

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Polar: The Titanic Bear

Written by Daisy Corning Stone Spedden 
Introduction by  Leighton H. Coleman III
Illustrated by Laurie McGaw 
Published September 1, 1994 by Madison Books
Ages: 7+, 64 pages 
Genre/Topics: Nonfiction, Titanic, Scrapbook, Photos

Polar: The Titanic Bear is a fascinating true story told from the bear’s perspective. The story was written by the boy’s mother, Daisy Corning Stone Spedden. The story along with family photographs was  discovered in the attic by Leighton H. Coleman III who is a distant cousin to Daisy. She presented the story to her son, Douglas or “Master” as he’s called in the story, on Christmas in 1913. The bear was manufactured in Germany and shipped to F.A.O. Schwartz in New York City.  The boy quickly fell in love with the bear and named him “Polar”. The Spedden family was very wealthy and traveled around the world. Master took Polar everywhere with him. A few places they traveled to were Paris, Panama, Bermuda, and Northern Africa. Master kept Polar near when he was sick with the measles. He even included Polar during tea parties with friends. Finally, they were going to return to America on the Titanic. Master held Polar close in the lifeboat. As everyone was being rescued out of small lifeboats and onto the Carpathia, Polar was almost forgotten until sailors noticed the bear. The entire family safely made it across the Atlantic Ocean.

I enjoyed Polar: The Titanic Bear as it provided a snapshot into the privileged Edwardian-American society. The book is a little long for a read aloud, but it includes many family photographs, postcards, and other mementoes. I think adults will also enjoy this unique book. Sadly, Douglas died only three years after surviving the Titanic disaster. He was only nine years old in one of the first recorded car accidents in the state of Maine. Nobody is certain what happened to Polar the bear. The Speddens continued to travel, but had no more children. The Titanic adventure doesn’t begin until about the middle of the book.

Douglas with his parents, Polar is at his feet.
Douglas and his mother on the beach in Bermuda.
Douglas and his father in the hotel garden.

Related Articles:

Book Review: Pig on the Titanic

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Pig on the Titanic: A True Story 

Written by Gary Crew
Illustrated by Bruce Whatley 
Published March 1, 2005 by Harper Collins Publishers
Genre/Topics: Nonfiction, Titanic 
Ages: 7+, 32 pages 


This is a cute book from the perspective of a musical box-shaped like a pig named Maxixe. Maxixe’s owner was Miss Edith Rosenbaum who was a fashion buyer abroad the Titanic. Her mother bought the musical box as a good luck charm and to brighten her mood with music. The pig played the maxixe which was a popular dance during that time period. Miss Edith took Maxixe everywhere on the Titanic. When the Titanic hit the iceberg she held the pig close. She wasn’t going to get into a lifeboat until a sailor mistook her pig in a bundle for a baby and threw it into a lifeboat. Miss Edith jumped into the lifeboat. Maxixe helped brighten the children’s spirit in the lifeboat as they wound up the tail and listened to music.









Edith and her pig, Maxixe.







Book Review: The Librarian of Basra

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The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq 

Written & Illustrated by Jeanette Winter 
Published January 1, 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Ages: 7+, 32 pages 
Genre/Topics: Nonfiction, Library, Multicultural, Save Books 

Alia Muhammad Baker is the librarian of Basra, a city in Iraq. Her library is a meeting place to discuss books, but also to discuss war. Alia worries that fire from the war will destroy the books, which are very precious to her. She asks the governor for permission to move the books to a safe place, but he refuses. Alia decides to protect the books herself and secretly brings books home every night. Finally, war reaches Basra. Alia asks her friend, Alia Muhammad, who owns a restaurant next to the library to help save the books. They quickly remove the books from the library and hide them in the restaurant. Only nine days later, a fire burns the library to the ground. They move the thousands of books to her house and friends’ houses to protect  the books from harm.

The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq is a true story about a brave women in Iraq. War is a sensitive issue and I thought this book demonstrated that a community can work together to save precious books. The text is straightforward and doesn’t become too graphic  when discussing war. It’s a good book to start a discussion about war with children. The pictures are vibrant and beautiful.

Celebrate National Library Week!

April 8-14, 2012

Book Review: My Librarian is a Camel

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My Librarian is a Camel: How Books Are Brought to Children Around the World 

Written by Margriet Ruurs
Published August 1, 2005 by Boyds Mills Press
Genre/Topics: Nonfiction, World Issues, Library 
Ages: 8+, 32 pages 

Margriet Ruurs wondered how books were brought to children around the world, so she researched different mobile libraries throughout the world. She contacted librarians who shared their information, stories, and pictures about various mobile libraries. Ruurs explores how books reach readers in Australia, Azerbaijan, Canada, England, Finland, Indonesia, Kenya, Mongolia, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Thailand, and Zimbabwe. The methods varied greatly from a bookmobile in Australia to a wheelbarrow at the beach in England to book boat in Finland to a library camel in Kenya to even an elephant library in Thailand! My Librarian is a Camel: How Books Are Brought to Children Around the World  presents each country in alphabetical order on two pages. Each country includes detailed information about the book program, photographs, map, and the country’s flag.

Celebrate National Library Week!

April 8-14, 2012

Book Review: An Orange in January

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An Orange in January

Written by Dianna Hutts Aston 
Illustrated by Julie Maren 
Published: 2007 by Dial, 32 pages 
Ages: 4-6
Topics: Nonfiction, agriculture

Have you ever wondered where the delightful citrus fruit came from when it’s winter? Some individuals may have delicious fruit year round, but many rely on the crops from the country and world. An Orange in January describes how a delicious orange arrived at your store and into your hand. The book begins from the start with an orange blossom, bee pollination, nourishment from sunshine and rain, being picked into baskets, loaded onto trucks, delivered to a grocery store, and finally when a young child picks the perfect orange. The child packs the orange for lunch and shares orange segments with friends in the January snow. I thought An Orange in January was a delightful book that informs readers about how oranges grow and where they come from with vivid colors. It will make you want to eat a juicy orange.

Everything You Wanted to Know About Oranges

Citrus 101 from Sunkist

Orange Nutrition & Benefits

Science & Wonder of Snow

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The Story of Snow: The Science of Winter’s Wonder 

by Mark Cassino with Jon Nelson

Nonfiction, Science

Ages 8 & up, 36 pages

This is a wonderful book for all ages to understand in clear language about how exactly snow forms. It’s a process that occurs at a miniature  scale, so our eyes don’t witness the wonder. The Story of Snow: The Science of Winter’s Wonder provides snow crystal photographs, diagrams about the steps to become a snow crystal, and how to catch your own snowflakes in the correct conditions. The book clearly explains the snow formation process without being too confusing. After learning about the science of snow, I wished that it was cold and snowy to catch snowflakes. Sadly, I had no snow. This book is a great addition to an earlier book review about Wilson Bentley who learned how to photograph snow in the 1880s in the book Snowflake Bentley. The Story of Snow: The Science of Winter’s Wonder was recognized by the National Science Teacher’s Association in 2010.

Would you like to catch your own snow crystals? Here are some steps to help you see beautiful snow crystals. I haven’t personally tried this, but let me know if your results are successful.

– Dark & stiff cardboard or foam
– Magnifying glass 
1. Put the cardboard of foam outside for at least 10 minutes before trying to catch snow. The board must stay cold and dry. 
2. Hold the board by one edge so that it is flat. Position yourself so that only a few snowflakes fall on the board. 
3. Examine smaller bits of snow to see individual snow crystals. Use the magnifying glass. 
4. Keep trying and make sure the board remains cold. 


The True Story of the Snowflake Man

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Snowflake Bentley

by Jacqueline Briggs Martin, illustrated by Mary Azarian

Ages 8 & up, 32 pages


Snowflake Bentley tells the true story of Wilson Bentley who was a boy fascinated with snow. Wilson Bentley was born in 1865, in Vermont, where snow is as common as dirt. His happiest days were snow days. He could give his mother flowers and hold butterflies in his hand, but he couldn’t share snowflakes. When other children played in the snow, Wilson studied moisture and snow crystals. He discovered that the snow crystals had six branches and were masterpieces of design since no flake was ever the same. He wanted to share snowflakes’ beauty with others and drew pictures, but they often melted before he could finish the drawing. Wilson drew a hundred snow crystals for three winters until he learned about a camera with a microscope. His parents believed it was somewhat foolish to desire taking photos of snowflakes, but they eventually bought the expensive camera that took imagines on glass negatives and magnified 3,600 times its actual size. At first, there were many failures and Wilson wasn’t able to take a successful snowflake photo. However, he experimented with the light and finally produced a snowflake photo. Wilson could now share snow’s wonder with his snowflake photos. Colleges bought his photographs and artists used the photos for inspiration. Wilson Bentley was an expert at snow and was known as the Snowflake Man. When he was sixty-six years old, his photographs were published in a book. Sadly, he died less than a month after the book was published. A monument now stands in Wilson Bentley’s home town: Jericho, Vermont.

Of all the forms of water, the tiny six-pointed crystals of ice called snow, that form in such quantities within the clouds during storms are incomparable the most beautiful and varied.

–Wilson Bentley

Snowflake Bentley won the Caldecott Medal in 1999. I really enjoyed this book, because it was written somewhat in two sections. There was a general story line of Wilson Bentley’s life growing up and his love for snowflakes, but there was also detailed information on the side with dates, education background, and the snowflake photography process. This book is a wonderful introduction to the science of snowflakes.

Snow Crystals 

by W.A. Bentley and W.J. Humphreys

Snowflake Photography

All Ages, 226 pages

Snow Crystals contains over 2,000 snowflake photographs that Wilson Bentley took. In 1931, the American Meteorologist Society gathered Bentley’s snowflake photographs and produced this book. The brief introduction describes scientific information about snow formation and the different shapes. The photographs are presented against a black background, so they really stand out. I showed this book to students and they were amazed, which I’m sure is exactly how you’ll feel after looking at these photographs.

The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving

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Thank You, Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving

by Laurie Halse Anderson

illustrated by Matt Faulkner

Ages 8 & up, 40 pages


Did you know that celebrating Thanksgiving almost didn’t happen? This book is about Sarah Hale who was a very determined woman who promoted Thanksgiving as a national holiday. She wrote numerous letters to three presidents before President Lincoln finally declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863. The book highlights the Civil War, slavery, and the lifestyle during the nineteenth century. I suggest this book for older ages who understand historic events, but many benefit from the information. The back of the book includes additional information about the time period, Sarah Hale, and Thanksgiving traditions.

Background Information about Sarah Hale:

Sarah was editor for The Ladies’ Magazine, wrote the poem “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and additional children’s stories, raised five children, made hats for profit when her husband died, and never hesitated to write about issues that concerned her. As editor, a few famous authors she published were Charles Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Harriet Beecher Stowe. She never considered herself a woman’s rights advocate, but she did believe in education for women and safe working conditions. She was against slavery.

Additional Thanksgiving Facts:

– In 1939, the National Retail Dry Goods Association wanted Thanksgiving to be moved to the third Thursday to lengthen holiday shopping. It was a disaster, since some individuals celebrated both days. In 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt declared Thanksgiving to always be on the fourth Thursday.
-Sarah Hale chose the date based upon President George Washington who declared the last Thursday in November to be a “Day of Thanksgiving and prayer”. 
– The first football game played on Thanksgiving occurred in the 1870s. 
-In 1924, the first Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade took place by store employees. (Another post will feature this event.)  

Book Review: Thunder Dog

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Thunder Dog: A Blind Man, His Guide Dog, and the Triumph of Trust at Ground Zero

by Michael Hingson and Susy Flory

Nonfiction, 256 pages

Thunder Dog is a book about a blind man’s relationship with his guide dog, Roselle, and how they escaped together from the Twin Towers. Michael Hingson was born blind and throughout the entire book you learn how this never stopped him , but pushed him forward. Forward is also the first command that a guide dog learns. Hingson calmly travels down the hundreds of stairs with his faithful dog at all times. Thunder Dog provides descriptions from events on September 11th, but I wouldn’t say it’s the only focus. The book goes back and forth from Hingson growing up in a sighted world to the long journey down the stairs. He discusses the relationship with his guide dogs, discrimination he encountered, resources that helped him, and his constant determination. If you’re searching for a book that’s only focused on 9/11 with detailed descriptions then this is the wrong book. (Previous review: 102 Minutes is a better choice.) However, if you’re looking for a book with heart that focuses on one individual during a moment of hope then this is your book.

Here are some Guide Dog Wisdom from the book:

What I learned from Roselle on 9/11

1. There’s a time to work and a time to play. Know the difference. When the harness goes on, it’s time to work. Work hard; others are depending on you.
2. Focus in and use all of your senses. Learn to tell the difference between a harmless thunderstorm and a true emergency. Don’t let your sight get in the way of your vision.
3. Sometimes the way is hard, but if you work together, someone will pass along a water bottle just when you need it.
4. Always, but always, kiss firefighters.
5. Ignore distractions. There’s more to life than playing fetch or chasing tennis balls.
6. Listen carefully to those who are wiser and more experienced than you. They’ll help you find the way.
7. Don’t stop until work is over. Sometimes being a hero is just doing your job.
8. The dust cloud won’t last forever. Keep going and look for the way out. It will come.
9. Shake off the dust and move on. Remember the first guide dog command? “Forward.”
10. When work is over, play hard with your friends.

Michael Hingson (Thunder Dog, page 173)