Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday - Bill The Boy Wonder

Author: Marc Tyler Nobleman
Illustrated:  Ty Templeton
Publisher: Charlesbridge (July 1, 2012)
Source: A copy for review
Independent Reading Level: Ages 9 to 12
Read Aloud: Ages 8 to 11
Nonfiction * Biographical

Description from Charlesbridge:
This is the true story of how Batman began.

Every Batman story is marked with the words "Batman created by Bob Kane." But that isn't the whole truth. A struggling writer named Bill Finger was involved from the beginning. Bill helped invent Batman, from concept to costume to character. He dreamed up Batman's haunting origins and his colorful nemeses. Despite his brilliance, Bill worked in obscurity. It was only after his death that fans went to bat for Bill, calling for acknowledgment that he was co-creator of Batman. Based on original research, Bill the Boy Wonder is the first-ever book about the unsung man behind the Dark Knight.

My thoughts on the book:
I honestly have to admit that as a child I never realized that there was such a powerful comic book connection for Batman.  Seriously, all I knew were the Batman TV show reruns. When the first Batman movies came out and then the Dark Knight movies, it was so different from what I expected.  It was then that I discovered the extensive comic book past.  Yet, even with that knowledge, I had never explored much of who or what was behind Batman.   Of course I figured that someone had to have created Batman and all of the characters connected with the story but I truly didn't give it much thought.

However, Marc Tyler Nobleman's  BILL THE BOY WONDER has provided me with much of the creative history behind the character of Batman and the mystery that shrouds who actually created it. Nobleman's story about Bill Finger, the "Secret Co-Creator of Batman", does a thorough job in helping young readers learn about Bob Kane, Bill Finger, and others who had a hand in creating Batman.   The endnotes/author notes are filled with tons of details and is a must read for both teachers and persistent readers. Nobleman has to work to fill in some of the details about Bill Finger and his life and career.  Yet, he does this by drawing heavily on his research and willingness to be tenacious in finding out about the life of Bill Finger.   

This book will appeal to a wide audience - the children and adults who are fascinated with Batman will be one group who is attracted to this picture book for older children.  Those who like biographies with a bit of mystery will enjoy it as well.  Ty Templeton's illustrations strongly support the text and make the story pop.  I would highly recommend the book to all readers ages 9 and up regardless of background knowledge about Batman.  This book would be great for a classroom or school library. 

Official Book Trailer:


Video from TED:

For More Information about Marc Tyler Nobleman:  Blog | Facebook | Twitter

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Book Review: A Black Hole is Not a Hole

Author: Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano
Illustrator: Michael Carroll
Publisher: Charlesbridge Publishing (February 1, 2012)
Source: Personal Copy
Audience: Ages 9 and up
Nonfiction * Astronomy * Science * Informational Text

Description from Publisher:

Get ready to S-T-R-E-T-C-H your mind!
What is a black hole? Where do they come from? How were they discovered? Can we visit one? Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano takes readers on a ride through the galaxies (ours, and others), answering these questions and many more about the phenomenon known as a black hole.

In lively and often humorous text, the book starts off with a thorough explanation of gravity and the role it plays in the formation of black holes. Paintings by Michael Carroll, coupled with real telescopic images, help readers visualize the facts and ideas presented in the text, such as how light bends, and what a supernova looks like.

A Black Hole Is NOT a Hole is an excellent introduction to an extremely complex scientific concept. Back matter includes a timeline which sums up important findings discussed throughout, while the glossary and index provide a quick point of reference for readers. Children and adults alike will learn a ton of spacey facts in this far-out book that’s sure to excite even the youngest of astrophiles. 

This book is good for your brain because:
Informational text, science, astronomy, photographs, diagrams

My thoughts on the book:
I am on the journey to help teachers understand that good Middle Grade nonfiction does not have to be a random 150 pages long.  If that was the true criteria for a good informational text, then these teachers and their classrooms will be missing out on many amazing books.  A Black Hole is Not a Hole is 74 pages including all the resource pages.  Clearly half the length of the arbitrary page limit set by some teachers.  Yet, I was amazed with both the readability of the text and the information provided for children.

Writers of informational text for children have a challenge. Too much dry techno-babble will turn off most children, except for those who may be highly interested in the subject.  Too little information and teachers won't view it as valuable for learning or as a source for a report.  DeCristofano does a remarkable job providing solid information about the phenomenon of black holes.  With the use of humor, scientific research, and practical analogies, DeCristofano provides basic information for students.  Carroll's illustrations work to provide the visual understanding and compliment DeCristofano's text.

At the end of the book, DeCristofano provides readers with a timeline, glossary, resources, websites, and most importantly an author's note.  She reminds readers that even reliable work can become outdated and that websites should be read with care for reliability. 

Though I tend to like my science in the form of fiction with minimal techno-babble and lots of character development, I will concede that if DeCristofano had been writing nonfiction when I was a child I may have developed other thoughts about science texts.  Teachers and librarians will find this a great resource for their students and a welcome addition to their libraries. 

Check out this interview with author, Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano, on Kirkus:

You can find more information about the author here: