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The man who loved libraraies book cover
Toronto, Ontario: OwlKids Books, 2017

Andrew Carnegie’s rags to riches story is quintessentially American, no doubt.  The Man Who Loved Libraries focuses, of course, on the role libraries played in Carnegie’s education, life, and legacy.

The story opens with the Carnegie family struggling to make ends meet in Scotland – Andrew’s father was a weaver and the new factory-made fabrics were taking a toll on his business.  Then moves through the family’s immigration to the United States when Andrew was 12, when he started his career as a bobbin boy in a textile mill.

Andrew, who began his formal education at age 8, was hungry to learn, but was not able to attend school after the Carnegies arrived in Pittsburgh when he was 12.  Knowing his education was important, he turned to reading to continue learning.  There was no money for books, and no public library, but there was a Colonel Anderson who opened his private library on Saturdays and lent books.

Andrew moved on to better and better jobs, and using what he’d learned from all that reading, landed a job at the Pennsylvania Railroad. Once there, he started saving money, learned the railroad business, invested in steel, and the rest is history.

After earning his fortune, Carnegie didn’t forget where he got the education that helped him get ahead – Colonel Anderson’s library.  Consequently, he reasoned that the best way to give back was to help establish public libraries – more than 2,500 of them by the time he was done, in cities and towns around the world.  The first one was in the Scottish town where he was born.

This title is a crisp and concise biography with clean illustrations depicting stages of Carnegie’s life.  The endnotes briefly touch on his violent conflicts with employees that tried to unionize. There are photographs there, also ,resting information.  It’s a good addition to an elementary biography collection.

Dewey:  338.7 Interest Level:  K-3

Reviews and Awards: Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, Junior Library Guild selection.

Older readers might like: Andrew Carnegie and the Steel Industry (Great Entrepreneurs In U.S. History) by Rajczak Nelson, Kristen

Fiction Pairing: Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Rabenstein


New York: Viking Penguin Young Readers Group, an Imprint of Penguin Random House, 2017

The Quest for Z is a skillfully written account of the life of Percy Fawcett, an English explorer who had a reputation for being unstoppable.  He thrived in the jungle and lead many successful expeditions, before his disappearance became one of the most enduring mysteries of the Amazon.  Although it is a short account of his life, this book gets to the heart of an explorer’s need to explore, even in mortal danger.

The Lost City of Z was the goal on Fawcett’s last expedition, and had become something of an obsession for the explorer.  He wanted to travel light, so he brought only his oldest son Jack and Jack’s friend, Raleigh.  They set out in 1925 with two local guides, horses, mules, and dogs, and with a plan to send letters back to inform newspapers of their real-time progress (as real as it could get in 1925).  Their last message back was carried out by the two guides about a month into the journey.

The illustrations in The Quest for Z are charming with a School House Rock feel to them, despite the story being a bit gruesome at times.  The color pallet changes to effectively reflect the dramatic parts in the story, indicating when things get serious.  The back pages include an author’s note, a photograph of Fawcett, information about some who have searched for Fawcett, a glossary, and a list of selected sources. Side bars give interesting details about the Amazon, other famous explorers, mosquitoes and the Royal Geographic Society.

This is a good addition to any elementary collection.  When being used in the classroom, a discussion about exploration, discovery, and colonialism would be valuable.

Dewey: 910.92 Interest Level: Grades 1-4

Reviews and Awards:  Booklist, Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, Horn Book Guide, Horn Book Magazine, Kirkus Reviews starred, Publishers Weekly, School Library Connection starred, School Library Journal.

Older readers might like:  Sir Walter Raleigh and the Quest for El Dorado by Marc Aronson.

High school students might likeThe Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann.

Fiction Pairing:  The Shaman’s Apprentice: A Tale of the Amazon Rain Forest by Lynne Cherry.

On the Web: That was History YouTube channel – The Lost City of Z: Percy Fawcett Strange Unsolved Mystery at

Film: The Lost City of Z (2016).  Director: James Gray.  Written by James Grant, adapted from the book by David Grann.  Rated PG-13.

Los Angeles: Getty Publications, 2018.

Those of us who are unfamiliar with Maria Sibylla Merian are in for a treat with this new title from Pomeroy (author and ancient historian) and Kathirithamby (entomologist) about Merian’s life and work.  It is part biography, part botany and entomology manual with a healthy dash of history, and part work of art. Mostly, it is just beautiful.

Merian was born in Germany in 1647, and had the great luck to be born into a household of artists. At a time when girls where not educated outside the home, she learned her craft in the family's busy art studio at home from her step-father, step-brothers, and their students who attended.  Later, at age 13, Merian combined her talent and her curiosity about the natural world, and we still are enjoying the benefits of the results.  Her highly prized work is still exhibited in museum and collections throughout the world, and has been used by scientists for centuries.

The reproductions of Merian’s work are rich and vibrant, while the interesting notes about what makes them important now and in Merian’s time give students context.  The text is clear and well-written, but it is the visual elements of this book that really pack the punch. Also included in this title are portraits of Merian’s very large family; images of her surroundings at the time; quotes from Merian and samples of her handwriting (which are decipherable only by some scholars now); and maps and other primary sources.  Also included are an epilogue, glossary, bibliography, and index.

While the text in some parts is a bit dense, students who are into bugs, nature, and art will love this title.  It is one of those rare books that could be equally at home in the biography, art, or natural sciences sections of an elementary, middle, or high school library.

Dewey: 620 Interest Level:  Grades 3-12

Reviews and Awards:  None yet.

Younger readers might like: Butterflies and Moths: Explore Nature with Fun Facts and Activities by John Feltwell.

Older readers might like: A Butterfly Journey: Maria Sibylla Merian, Artist and Scientist by Boris Friedwald.

Fiction pairing: The Evolution of Calpernia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly.

On the Web:  This site from the Lannoo and Koninklijke Bibliotheek Den Haag sells a new special edition of Merian’s Metamorphosis in sectorum Surinamensium 1704. Visit it for the short videos explaining the book and explore some addition information about Merian herself.  Be sure to click on Google’s translate button to get the English version.

Video:  What Bugged Maria Sibylla Merian?  Find out at on the My Girl Heroes YouTube Channel.

Merian even has a Google Doodle:

New York: Henry Holt & Company, 2017

John Deere was having a streak of very bad luck. He was a skilled, hard-working blacksmith, but due to bad economic times in Vermont, his customers couldn’t pay.  And then there were two forge fires that destroyed his business. What to do?  Go west!  John headed to Illinois where he found farmers were struggling with plowing the sticky prairie soil they called Gumbo. It stuck to the iron plows they were using. Rather than see his customers head back to east, John created, through some trial and error, a better plow.  As a result, the Midwest became America's bread basket.

With warm illustrations in the folk-art style, John Deere, That’s Who! tells an inspiring story of success through skill, knowledge, and tenacity. The text is clear, and works well with the lovely illustrations.  This story will speak to students interested in tinkering and farming, and all those kids who know that distinctive John Deere green.  School libraries located in rural, farming communities might want to invest in more than one copy.

Dewey:  338.7 Interest Level: K-3

Reviews and Awards:  Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, School Library Journal.

Middle grades might like:  Insane Inventors by Stephanie Bearce (Illus. Eliza Bolli).

Older readers might like: Kids Inventing! A Handbook for Young Inventors by Susan Casey.

Fiction pairing: Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

On the Web: Past Leaders of John Deere Co – short biography at

A list of more of John Deere’s Inventions can be found at:

Chapel Hill, North Carolina: Algonquin Young Readers, 2018

Conkling, Winigred.  Votes for Women: American Suffragists and the Battle for the Ballot. Chapel Hill, North Carolina: Algonquin Young Readers, 2018.

Just in time for Women’s History Month in March comes Votes for Women, a history of suffrage in the United States, told from the points of view of the women who led the 78-year struggle resulting in the 19th Amendment. Conkling tells the stories of the likes of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Lucy Strong, Sojourner Truth, and Victoria Woodhull, among others, in a more complete context than some other titles on women’s suffrage. Conkling writes about them as real people dealing with the pressures of family life and contemporary social norms while working for their cause among the competing priorities of temperance and emancipation.

Students might be shocked to learn that in the mid-19th century, women living in the land of the free were not legally entitled to own property.  The could not keep their own wages, vote for their government representation or laws, or conduct their own business. Even public speaking was off-limits until suffragists broke the mold.

Conkling skillfully introduces the players, seamlessly plugging them into the narrative and changing points of view as they enter the stage. There are detailed captions with photographs of key players throughout this book. Examples of political cartoons, posters, lithographs, and more are included throughout. Resources at the end include a list of Key Primary Sources, a timeline, books as sources and additional reading, websites, and extensive notes.  This is a must-have for middle school and high school collections, and is suitable for research and reports.  Conkling has produced the sort of top-notch nonfiction that students and teachers alike will want to read.

Dewey: 976 Interest Level: Grades 7-12

Reviews and Awards:

Kirkus Reviews starred, Publishers Weekly starred, School Library Journal.

Younger readers might like: The Taxing Case of the Cows: A True Story About Suffrage by Iris Van Rynback,  (illus. Emily Arnold McCully).

Middle grade readers might like: Suffrage Sisters: The Fight for Liberty by Margaret R. Mead, (Illus.) Siri Weber Feeney. (Reader’s theater format).

Fiction paring: The Cure for Dreaming by Cat Winters

On the Web:  

When American Feminists Were Pilloried for Daring to Wear Boomers.  Atlas Obsura at

Library of Congress Primary Source Set:  Women’s Suffrage.  Primary sources, LOC-style at

National Constitution Center – Clear explanations and debate on the origins and effects of the Constitution and its Amendments.  Find it at

The American History Museum website has images of artifacts from the fight for women’s suffrage at

Brighton, UK: Franklin Watts, an imprint of Scholastic, 2018

Finally! A book for elementary students with a scientific reason not to pick your nose, with lots of other snotty facts and information. MacDonald lays out the story about mucus, colds, allergies, and all things stuffy-nosed into large print paragraphs.  She packs even more information into dialogue boxes, side bars, and labeled illustrations.  Funny captions (What does snot say about you?) keep the pages turning and the mucus flowing.

Fans of gross stuff will love the “Disgusting Data” boxes sprinkled with “Fascinating Facts” and dialogue boxes from a diverse group of doctors throughout.  Some of the double-page spreads seem a bit too cluttered, but those who like a very full look will be satisfied with all the different elements to look at on a page.

The Science of Snot and Phlegm is one of the Series of the Body set, which includes The Science of Acne and Warts: The Itchy Truth About Skin; The Science of Poop and Farts: The Smelly Truth About Digestion; and The Science of Scabs and Pus: The Sticky Truth About Blood. This set might be a good humorous addition to an elementary school collection with a solid collection of human body books.  It could also be a good option for those hard-to-find books with subject matter that advanced younger readers will find interesting. Includes a Glossary and an Index.

Dewey: 612.2                                  Interest Level: Grades 3-6

Reviews and Awards:  None.

Younger readers might like: Boy Were We Wrong About the Human Body by Kathleen V. Kudlinski (illus. Debbie Tilley).

Middle school readers might like: Understanding the Brain (Amazing Human Body series) from Enslow Publishing.

Older students might like: Human Movement: How the Body Walks, Runs, Jumps, and Kicks by Carla Mooney (illus. Samuel Carbaugh).

Fiction pairing: Frankenstein: Retold from the Mary Shelley Original by Deanna McFadden (Illus. Jamel Akib).

On the Web:  World Book Student – The Human Body.

New York: NorthSouth Books, Inc., 2017

The illustrations are the star in the sweet biography picture book of Frida Kahlo – they are vibrant, clean, and reminiscent of Kahlo’s color pallet. Except maybe the spider monkeys. Those guys are a little bit half-monkey-half-man creepy.

Some biographies move from life event to life event, highlighting things that happened either to the subject or because of him/her. This one flows through Kahlo’s life, revealing character traits by using similar traits in Kahlo’s pets. Frida has long, dark hair, and is playful, like her cat. We learn that there is an accident, an illness, and a marriage, but the story is really about the things in Frida’s life that she loved: her home, her heritage, her pets, her art, and her family.

The author’s note is quite long and has details about the artist for those who are interested in learning more.  There are lots of biographies available about Frida Kahlo, but this one is a lovely take on her life through her love for her pets. It would make a good supplemental addition to an elementary biography section.  Bonus: this title is available in Spanish!

Dewey:  759.973 Interest Level: K-3

Reviews and Awards:  Booklist, Kurkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal.

Middle grade students might like: Frida Kahlo: The Artist in the Blue House by Magdalena Holzhey

Older Readers might like: Frida Kahlo’s Wardrobe by Claire Wilcox

Fiction Pairing: Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood by F. Isabel Campoy and Teresa Howell.  Illustrated by Rafeal Lopez

Apex, NC: Persnickety Press, 2017

It is always exciting to find a book with an Idaho connection!  This one is full of interesting facts about the life of a bald eagle, conservation resources, and links to educational materials that don't disappoint. (Warning: the Eagle Cam Live Feed is a bit addictive.)

Beauty and the Beak is the story of one particular Alaskan bald eagle who had her beak shot off by a poacher. She was found by a police officer and taken to a wildlife center, where she met one of our authors, Janie Veltkamp. Veltkamp, a raptor biologist, runs Birds of Prey Northwest, a raptor center in North Idaho near Lake Coeur d'Alene.  She took the injured eagle, by then named Beauty, home to Idaho, and made a plan for her healing and recovery.  Soon she put together a team that would work to print and fit Beauty with a prosthetic beak.

This is a moving story that incoprorates the conservation success story of the bald eagle, the challenges that all raptors face in our world, and Beauty's happy ending. There are clear, daramatic photographs of bald eagles at various stages of development from eaglet to adult, and then of Beauty being fitted with her new beak.

The back matter in Beauty and the Beak is almost better than the story, although the text becomes more dense and complex. Teachers and librarians using this for classwork, and students using it for research will find the text full of useful informtion. Use of more graphic representation (like a diagram of the anatomy of an eagle, or a map representing the population density of eagles in North America, for instance) might have made this book even better.

The Education Guide and other teacher resources that come with this title are quite good and give students and educators alike lots of options for finding more information. There is even an .stl file to 3-D print Beauty's beak available. Be sure to download the QR Code reader to use the codes in the back of the book. Birds of Prey Northwest visits schools, libraries, and other groups (including library conferences) with their captivating program featuring live birds of prey.  Nothing raises goosebumps like making eye contact with an eagle!

This title is a must-have, especially for Idaho elementary and middle school libraries, particularly when paired with the other educational resources that go with it.

Dewey: 598.9 Interest Level: Grades 3-6

Reviews and Awards:  Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal

Younger readers might like: Bald Eagle by Gordon Morrison

Older Raders might like: Silent Spring by Rachel Carson

Fiction Pairing: My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George or The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly.

On the Web:

Birds of Prey Northwest in North Idaho is Beauty's home.  Visit this site for information on bringing birds of prey to your school.

The World Center for Birds of Prey is located in the Treasure Valley.  This website has an Exploring Raptors section like "find a raptor," and help identifying raptors by their silouette, along with the characteristics that make a bird a raptor. There is also information about programming available through the Peregrine Fund.

Intermountain Bird Observatory at Boise State University holds bird banding events for many species of birds.

Bird Cams from Audubon and the Decorah Eagle Cam are so fun to watch!

New York: Viking, 2016

In a time when American women had few choices and little control of  their futures, Elizabeth Jane "Pink" Cochran, better known as Nellie Bly, made things happen. She is an excellent example of grit, tenacity and courage, even for modern students. Nellie made a name for herself as a so-called "stunt reporter," going undercover to get the real story.  Not considered a great writer at the time, she was a gifted interviewer with a talent for telling a personal story to get to the heart of a matter. Her best reporting exposed curruption, abuse, and neglect, and told the stories of those unable to tell their own. Her gender may have made it difficultto get a serious reporting job in New York, but once she managed to get the job, it proved to be a real asset.  No one suspected the small, pretty, young woman of being a serious undercover reporter. She was a pioneer of investigative journalism.

Noyes titled her book Ten Days a Madwoman, referring to Nellie's first big undercover job at the infamous insane asylum for women on Blackwell's Island in New York. The first half of the book focuses on Nellie's efforts to get into the asylum, her experience there, and her reporting afterward. The second half is about some of her adventures during the rest of her life, including her trip around the world in 72 days (quite a feat in 1889!).

Blue pages in the book take us to flashbacks, asides, and interesting information about Nellie and her times, like how she adopted Nellie Bly as her pen name. The blue pages add depth and color to the book, already rich with illustrations, photographs, engravings and newspaper images. Throughout the book we encounter history-makers of the time like Jules Vern, Susan B. Anthony, Emma Goldman, and Joseph Pulitzer. With extensive source notes, a bibliography including further reading and websites, picture credits, and a detailed index, Ten Days a Madwoman would be an excellent addition to any middle school or high school nonfiction collection.

Dewey: 070.92 Interest Level: Grade 6 and up

Reviews and Awards: Booklist, Horn Book Guide, Horn Book Magazine, Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal starred, Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA).

Younger readers might like: The Daring Nellie Bly: America's Star Reporter by Bonnie Christensen.

Middle grade readers might like: Bylines: A Photobiography of Nellie Bly by Sue Macy.

On the web:

Nellie Bly: The Pioneer Woman Journalist - A Resource Website at  Find some actual articles that Nellie wrote, a photo gallery, links to additional websites and more.

Video: American Experience: Around the World in 72 Days DVD from PBS.  Available at

New York: Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2017

Anna Merz, a wildlife conservationist, thought she was retiring to Kenya - she half right. When she arrived in Kenya, it was to discover that poachers were killing rhinos for their horns and set about establishing a preserve for the endgangered animals. One day Anna found a small calf whose mother wasn't caring for it, and knew it would not survive without help.  So she took the calf home, and named it Samia.  This is their sweet story.

Rhino in the House is thoughtful and fun, and author/illustrator Daniel Kirk manages to make a baby rhino adorable, but still realistic.  That doesn't seem easy. Throughout, this book is a stright-forward, yet simply and gently told account of an extraordinary friendship. The charming illustrations show Anna reading to Samia in bed, Samia eating a hat and trampling the garden, and the two of them enjoying walks together.  Kids will laugh at the antics, and those who care for pets at home may relate to the effort it would take to care for a rhino and teach it how to survive.

While the illustrations themselves are just lovely, there's more. The photographs in the Author's Note section include wonderful scenes from the author's trip to Kenya, Anna's home there, and a gem of a photo of Anna and Samia. Also included are maps, and a bibliography.  Rhino in the House would make a fine addition to any elementary school collection and would be appreciated by independent readers and story-time participants, alike.

Dewey: 599.66 Interest Level: PreK-3

Reviews and Awards:  Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly Annex, School Library Journal.

Upper elementary students might like: Animal Scientist and Activist Jane Goodall by Douglas Hustad.

Middle school students might like: Amazon Adventure: How Tiny Fish are Saving the World's Largest Rainforest(Scientists in the Field) by Sy Montgomery. Photographs by Keith Ellenbogen.

Young adults might like: Rhino at the Brink of Extinction by Anna Merz.

On the Web:

Want to really amp up the cute factor?  Here is a video of  a two-week old rhino born in 2016 in a German zoo at

LEWA Wildlife Conservancy: A Unesco World heritge Site since 2013. Learn more about the rhinos and other wildlife that live at LEWA.

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