Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday:

This week I stopped by one of my favorite bookstores and picked up a few books I have been eager to read. Each of these books feature individuals who were creative and took risks in their own ways. And each of these books present information about people, and of inventions and history that many children and even teachers may not know about. Don't miss the great author notes in each of these books. So if you are looking for some new picture biographies, you will want to add each one of these to your collection. 

Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson's Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions
by Chris Barton; Illustrated by Don Tate
Charlesbridge (May 3, 2016)
Nonfiction * Biography * Science & Technology
Audience: Ages 7 to 10
Indiebound | WorldCat

About the book
A cool idea with a big splash

You know the Super Soaker. It’s one of top twenty toys of all time. And it was invented entirely by accident. Trying to create a new cooling system for refrigerators and air conditioners, impressive inventor Lonnie Johnson instead created the mechanics for the iconic toy.

A love for rockets, robots, inventions, and a mind for creativity began early in Lonnie Johnson’s life. Growing up in a house full of brothers and sisters, persistence and a passion for problem solving became the cornerstone for a career as an engineer and his work with NASA. But it is his invention of the Super Soaker water gun that has made his most memorable splash with kids and adults.

Quick thoughts on the book:

Chris Barton is in his element when writing picture book biographies and his newest biography of Lonnie Johnson is a fascinating and informative read.

I love that it focuses on an inventor who not only has a fascinating story but also one who happens to be African American. When working with students in urban schools, I particularly enjoy being able to share stories to inspire students who don't always see themselves well represented in certain careers. 

And beyond all of the good science and engineering that Lonnie Johnson developed, he created something super fun, the SUPER-SOAKER.

Anything But Ordinary Addie: The True-Story of Adelaide Herrmann, Queen of Magic
by Mara Rockliff; Illustrated by Iacopo Bruno
Candlewick (April 12, 2016)
Nonfiction * Biography * Performing Arts
Audience: Ages 6 to 9
Indiebound | Worldcat

About the book:
Some girls are perfectly happy never doing anything out of the ordinary. But Addie was anything but ordinary. She longed for thrills and excitement! At a time when a young lady appearing onstage was considered most unusual, Addie defied convention and became a dancer. And when she married the world-famous magician Herrmann the Great, she knew she had to be part of his show. Addie wanted to shock and dazzle! She would do anything to draw the crowds, even agree to be shot out of a cannon. But when Herrmann the Great died, Addie couldn’t disappoint her loyal fans — the show had to go on. What could she do? She would perform the show all by herself! From the creators of Mesmerized, this rollicking romp tells the true story of one fearless magician’s rise to glory, featuring exquisitely lavish illustrations by Iacopo Bruno. Extensive back matter, including instructions for performing one of Addie’s original tricks, makes this a dazzling celebration of one of the first female conjurers in show business. 

Thoughts on the book:

As I was reading about Addie Hermann, I was wondering why I had never heard of her before. Mara Rockliff's new picture book biography focuses on the lesser known life of entertainer and magician, Addie Hermann. Addie and her husband Alexander created "astonished, shocked, and dazzled" audiences. 

Addie was an entertainer and after her husband's death, a magician, in order to keep his act alive.

Addie's memoir was nearly lost but thanks to Margaret Steele and Mara Rockliff we have a chance to learn about this amazing woman.

The Secret Subway
by Shana Corey; Illustrated by Red Nose Studio
Schwartz & Wade (March 8, 2016)
Nonfiction | History | United States
Audience: Ages 7 to 10
Indiebound | Worldcat

About the book
New York City in the 1860s was a mess: crowded, disgusting, filled with garbage. You see, way back in 1860, there were no subways, just cobblestone streets. That is, until Alfred Ely Beach had the idea for a fan-powered train that would travel underground. On February 26, 1870, after fifty-eight days of drilling and painting and plastering, Beach unveiled his masterpiece—and throngs of visitors took turns swooshing down the track. 
The Secret Subway will wow readers, just as Beach’s underground train wowed riders over a century ago.

Quick thoughts on the book:

The New York subway system is confusing to me. I spent a week in New York a few months ago and wondered how anyone got around in what I saw as a confusing maze. However for New Yorker's, the subway system is an essential part of daily life and transportation. 

Shana Corey shares the story of Alfred Ely Beach's attempt to create the first underground train in New York. Beach had to create away around legal channels to build his rail and train. 

Unfortunately for Beach, politics caught up to him and others created the underground system that led to the current system. I would have loved to have been in the group of people who were there the day Beach revealed his magical subway station.

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