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The Salmon Bears

2057 The Salmon Bears: Giants of the Great Bear Rainforest
by Ian McAllister and Nicholas Read
Photographs by Ian McAllister
Orca Book Publishers, 2010
96 pages

This good book from a Canadian independent press follows grizzlies, black bears, and spirit bears (an all-white mutation of black bears) through four seasons in British Columbia's Great Bear Rainforest. Highlights include full-page color photographs, many pull-out facts about the big mammals, and a strong case for preserving a remarkable stretch of wilderness. Source notes and a longer list for further reading would have been helpful for kids (fourth graders and older) who want to learn more.

While the focus is on the animals and their environment (rather than on the humans working to preserve them), The Salmon Bears will appeal to fans of Houghton Mifflin's Scientists in the Field books, not to mention National Geographic's Face to Face with Animals series. The creative team was also responsible for The Sea Wolves—Living Wild in the Great Bear Rainforest.

Salmon Bears was nominated for a Cybil award in the middle grade/young adult nonfiction category. Readers can preview the book at

Why I Love Riding Around in the Car

Six words: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.

The formerly Harry Potter-averse 11 year old and I are loving the audio version of the first book in J.K. Rowling's famous series. Loving it! I know, I know, we're so late to the Jim Dale fan club. The English actor is the narrator for all the H.P. audiobooks, and has a different voice for each character. We're listening to a 7-CD set that I borrowed from the local library. 8 hours and 17 minutes of entertainment for free. Er, well, except for the gas.

The reasons that the kiddo wanted nothing to do with Harry Potter before this are known only to him, but I suspect that competitive talk among classmates in the past had something to do with it. ("I first read Harry Potter in PreK! All by myself!") We're over that now.

And we're taking the long way home.

More World War I Books for Kids

Author Russell Freedman mentions a number of WWI books for children in the bibliography of his excellent new book for young adults, The War to End All Wars. These include the following:


The Harlem Hellfighters: When Pride Met Courage, by Walter Dean Myers and Bill Miles (Amistad Press/HarperCollins, 2005)

Eyewitness World War I, by Simon Adams (DK Publishing, 2007)

Causes and Consequences of World War I, by Stewart Ross (Raintree Steck-Vaughn, 1998)


Lord of the Nutcracker Men, by Iain Lawrence (Delacorte, 2001)

Private Peaceful, by Michael Mopurgo (Scholastic, 2004)


War and the Pity of War, edited by Neil Philip (Clarion Books, 1998)


The Willmette (Illinois) Public  Library offers a good reading list of WWI books for kids, also.

"Terrible Trenches," a WWI exhibit at London's Imperial War Museum continues through October 31st. Terrible Trenches is also the title of an upcoming book in the UK's "Horrible Histories" series for children. ("It's history with the nasty bits left in!") The prolific Terry Deary is the author. (See this interview with Deary, at the Guardian.)

You'll find additional posts on nonfiction books for children at the blog Write About Now, the host of Nonfiction Monday today.

"Humanity is mad!"

9780547026862 "On the Western Front alone, more than a half million men lost their lives in 1916. Second Lieutenant Alfred Joubaire, serving with the French 124th Regiment at Verdun, made the following entry in his diary on May 23, 1916: 'Humanity is mad! It must be mad to do what it is doing. What a massacre. What scenes of horror and carnage! I cannot find words to translate my impressions. Hell cannot be so terrible. Men are mad!'

That was the last entry in Alfred Joubaire's diary. That day, or possibly the next, his life was ended by a German shell. He was twenty-one."

from The War to End All Wars: World War I, by Russell Freedman, Clarion Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010. 192 pages.

Freedman's first-rate, must-read history of the First World War is a nominee in the Cybils' middle grade/young adult nonfiction category. Recommended ages: 12 and older.


Describing the silent-film star's hardscrabble early years, the following is an excerpt from Sir Charlie Chaplin, the Funniest Man in the World, by Sid Fleischman (Greenwillow/HarperCollins, 2010). This is the point in which Chaplin follows his brother's footsteps into acting.

"If Charlie had heard of Faust, who made a pact with the devil to exchange his soul for recaptured youth and other yearnings, the Cockney would have been glad to make the trade. All he yearned for was a change in luck and maybe a kidney pie. The change arrived, anyway, and haggle free."

Sir Charlie Chaplin, the Funniest Man in the World is for ages 9 and up, according to the publisher.

Writing at the publisher's blog, Under the Green Willow, librarian Susan Erickson said, "Sometimes I think [Sid Flesichman] wrote as much for his own enjoyment as for his young readers; his great skill as an author allowed him to do both." For this not-so-young reader, the curlicued writing style distracted me so much from the story that I stopped halfway through.

Sir Charlie Chaplin, the Funniest Man in the World was nominated for a Cybil award in the middle grade/young adult nonfiction category.

Can You Name the Artist?


1. This person was a member of the Future Teachers of America in high school.

2. This person once worked as a keypunch operator at a phone company.

3. This person's apartment was "furnished with Victorian fru fru," according to a former companion.

Need another clue?

4. Someone who knew this person said that this person "paved the way for people like Joan Jett, Patti Smith, Fiona Apple, Pink, and Lady Gaga..."

Did you guess Janis Joplin? Yeah, that's right. Author Ann Angel covers both the mundane and the sensational in a new young-adult biography, Janis Joplin: Rise Up Singing. Given Joplin's struggles with drugs and alcohol and eventual death from an overdose at twenty-seven—all of which Angel talks about (how could she not?)—-Janis is obviously no role model, but her journey from Port Arthur, Texas, misfit to rock-and-roll icon certainly gives young readers both plenty to think about and a window onto the sixties. Musically inclined kids especially will eat this quick read right up.

9780810983496_s2 Janis Joplin: Rise Up Singing has been nominated for a Cybils award in the middle grade/young adult nonfiction category. The introduction by Joplin's band mate Sam Andrew is one of the best essays about an artist I've read in eons.

Angel, Ann. Janis Joplin: Rise Up Singing. Amulet Books. 2010.

Project Seahorse (Scientists in the Field Series)

9780547207131 Last year The Frog Scientist, by Pamela S. Turner, won the Cybils award for best middle grade/young adult nonfiction. One of the author's new books is Project Seahorse, another topnotch offering in Houghton Mifflin's Scientists in the Field series. This one concerns the world's first seahorse conservation group and a damaged reef in the Philippines. Turner deftly represents a number of the participants in a cooperative project, including the group's biologist founders, young Filipino scientists working on the effort, and the family of a local fisher, who makes his living from the sea.

Turner writes,

"[The village of] Handumon's problems aren't unique. Many coral reefs around the world face similar threats. How can reefs be protected, along with the livelihood of people like Digoy [the fisher]? Finding solutions to this thorny problem is a main goal of Project Seahorse."

The hallmarks of the series are all here: high-interest subject matter, large color photos, and portraits of scientists at work now. While children will learn plenty about seahorses, Turner also gives more resources at the end of the book for additional reading and for helping these beautiful, delicate animals.

Project Seahorse, a great independent-reading choice for fifth graders on up (younger for read-alouds), is a 2010 Cybils nominee in the middle grade/young adult nonfiction category.

Turner, Pamela S. Project Seahorse. Photographs by Scott Tuason. Houghton Mifflin, 2010.

Hot Off the Presses: New Nonfiction for Older Kids & Teens

Don't miss Colleen Mondor's excellent list of nonfiction books that haven't yet been nominated for the Middle Grade/Young Adult Nonfiction category of the Cybils. You'll find 10 great suggestions for new nonfiction for older-kid readers. The subjects of these books include Cleopatra, Civil War spies, and an underwater science station.

For even more nonfiction ideas for this age group, look at all the books that have been nominated!

From the Archives: Creating Picture Books

Since picture book talk is still in the air (see Oz and Ends, Maria Tatar, Monica Edinger, A Fuse #8, BookMoot, MotherReader, the Darien (CT) Library, Free-Range Kids, Deborah Heiligman, and Nine Kinds of Pie) after Julie Bosman's picture-book article in last Friday's New York Times, this seemed like a good time to re-run Perry Nodelman's comments about picture books. Here is a Chicken Spaghetti post from September 2008.


In a discussion on the Child_Lit listserv, Perry Nodelman had some fascinating things to say about picture book texts. I asked for and received permission to reprint his remarks, which are helpful for both writers and readers (grown-up readers, that is).

Nodelman is the co-author of The Pleasures of Children's Literature, and the author of Words About Pictures: The Narrative Art of Children's Books and The Hidden Adult: Defining Children's Literature, among other works. He has penned a number of books for children, including Ghost Hunters: The Proof That Ghosts Exist (written with Carol Matas).

During Child_Lit's wide-ranging exchange on verse novels, the conversation turned to picture-book texts. Horn Book editor Roger Sutton pointed out that they "use page breaks for dramatic effect," and asked, "Does this make them different from standard prose narrative in some structural way?" Nodelman responded,

A picture book text is indeed something like a poem, I think—like a 
sonnet or a villanelle, maybe, because the constrictions of the form 
are so firm and so complicated. There are very few words—usually 300 
to 600 or so?—to tell a story in. They have to be spread out fairly 
evenly throughout the book—you don't usually have 500 words on one 
page and then one each on the rest of the pages. Because the text
appears on a number of different pages, it has to be divided into a 
fairly exact number of sections, the number dependent upon the 
mechanics of the printing process, which means that the large sheets 
that go through the presses have to be divided into even numbers, so 
there tends to be the exact same number of pages in picture books: 24 
or 32 are the most usual. There's usually a half-title, a title page, 
a publishing info page, etc., so that the story itself occupies about 
ten double-paged spreads. Typically, each one of those spreads 
contains one discreet section of the text—or possibly two sections, 
one for each page, dependent upon the shape of the story. Each of 
these sections must be discrete and separate enough to stand at least 
momentarily on its own  (as readers stop to look at the picture). But 
also, each must be incomplete enough to drive a reader onwards—create 
the suspense that makes someone want to turn the page to find out what 
happens next. Furthermore, each must be illustratable—describe 
something, an action or a person, that a reader might want to see or 
gain pleasure or information from seeing. And each must be separately 
visualizable, so that the pictures don’t all look exactly alike. Like 
sonnets, picture book texts represent the fulfillment of complex 
requirements, but work best when they seem simple to read and make the 
fulfillment seems effortless.

But—and here’s the key thing that, I suspect, most distinguishes
picture books texts from poetry despite their constraints and 
intricacies--while each section of the text must be visualizable, they 
must not obviously convey visual info themselves. If they did, they'd 
render the pictures that are going to accompany them pointless.  So 
the writer needs to leave space for visuals which are nevertheless 
going to be a necessary part of the story. And, since in conventional 
publishing practice illustrators and writers don’t usually work 
together, it’s the text itself that must convey to the illustrator 
what the illustrations need to show.

So the text has to suggest to someone prepared to receive it in that 
way what kind of picture might need to go with it. Poems maybe do 
that often, too—but the minds prepared to receive poems that way 
belong to anyone prepared to read and enjoy them as poetry. That may 
be a special attitude to language, maybe even requiring some special 
learned response skills—but those are different from the specific 
technical skills that allow an illustrator to imagine what 
illustration a text might be calling for. And a text demands that 
completing only from an illustrator—who does it for those who will 
then enjoy the book as a visual/verbal combination already completed. 
But on its own, a picture book text is not completely anything yet, 
any more than a playscript is complete before its performance.

I'd say, then, that a picture book text is more like a playscript than 
like a poem.  Like a poem, a good text is deceptively simple, but 
complex, intricate, exact and exacting. But unlike a poem, it's not 
complete without its accompanying pictures. It's an incomplete part 
of a collaboration. With the pictures there to shape how it gets 
read, though, a picture book text that makes best use of the 
constraints of the form often does have the shaped rhythms and 
patterns of a poem—and often does repay the kind of attention readers 
give when they think of a text as being poetry.

Picture Books on the Wane?

If the New York Times says so, it must be true. Um, yeah, right. Sure.

This is the article that is heating up Twitter right now.

"Picture Books No Longer a Staple for Children," by Julie Bosman. NYT, October 7, 2010 (online edition).

As librarian Elizabeth Burns (@LizB) points out, wouldn't it be great to see library stats on picture books? There are many factors at work here, among them the money (for publishers) being in YA right now, plus also, as Junie B. Jones would say, the economy.