Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday - Who Says Women Can't Be Doctors?

Author: Tanya Lee Stone
Illustrated: Marjorie Priceman
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (February 19, 2013)
Source: Personal Copy
Audience: Ages 5 to 8
Nonfiction * Biography * Women's History * Women Doctors

Description from the Publisher's Website:
In the 1830s, when a brave and curious girl named Elizabeth Blackwell was growing up, women were supposed to be wives and mothers. Some women could be teachers or seamstresses, but career options were few. Certainly no women were doctors.

But Elizabeth refused to accept the common beliefs that women weren’t smart enough to be doctors, or that they were too weak for such hard work. And she would not take no for an answer. Although she faced much opposition, she worked hard and finally—when she graduated from medical school and went on to have a brilliant career—proved her detractors wrong. This inspiring story of the first female doctor shows how one strong-willed woman opened the doors for all the female doctors to come.

My thoughts on this book:
First, I caught a glimpse of Who Says Women Can't Be Doctors? The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell a few months ago at ALA Midwinter.  At that time, I knew it would be a perfect book for both Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday and also for Women's History Month.  This year, the theme of Women's History Month is Women Inspiring Innovation Through Imagination with a focus on women who have contributed to STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) fields.   

Second, Tanya Lee Stone is the author of this book.  I almost feel like I need to say nothing more.  Seriously, Stone is an amazing, amazing author of nonfiction books.  I was recommending nonfiction titles to one of my librarians a few weeks ago, and suddenly I stopped and realized that nearly every title I had recommended was a book written by Stone.  And to top it all off, Tanya Lee Stone writes both picture books and nonfiction for older readers.

I guess I should finally get to my thoughts on Who Says Women Can't Be Doctors?

Stone tells the story of Elizabeth Blackwell who became the first woman doctor in the United States.  Not an easy thing in the mid-1800's.  Blackwell received 28 rejections from medical schools until she received an acceptance letter from Geneva Medical School in upstate New York.  Blackwell graduated from medical school in 1849 at the age of 28.  Though the book ends with Blackwell's graduation from Medical School, the end notes provide further information about the challenges Elizabeth faced.  Those challenges led her, with the assistance of her sister who also became a doctor, to eventually open up the New York Infirmary for Women and Children in 1857.  This was followed by the opening of a Women's Medical College in 1868. 

Though the book focuses more on Blackwell as a child and what factors led her to pursue becoming a doctor, the inclusion of the author's note rounds out the story.  Stone's description of Blackwell's personality and spirit as a child is humorously portrayed through Priceman's illustrations.  What shines through the story is the determination and strength that Blackwell possessed that allowed her to break ground for other women to later become doctors. 

With Blackwell's text and Priceman's spirited illustrations, young readers will find this story very accessible.  If you love looking for nonfiction picture books or nonfiction biographies, then you will want to add Who Says Women Can't Be Doctors? The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell to your personal collection or to a classroom or school library. 

Look for this book at your local bookstore and shop indie when possible.

More about Tanya Lee Stone: website | blog | twitter | facebook |

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Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday - Frog Song

Author: Brenda Z. Guiberson
Illustrator:  Gennady Spirin
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co. (February 5, 2013)
Source: Personal Copy
Audience: Ages 4 to 8
Nonfiction * Frogs * Habitats/Behavior

Description from GoodReads:
Since the time of the dinosaurs, frogs have added their birrups and bellows to the music of the earth. Frogs are astonishing in their variety and crucial to ecosystems. Onomatopoeic text and stunning illustrations introduce young readers to these fascinating and important creatures, from Chile to Nepal to Australia.

My thoughts on the book
The team of Guiberson and Spirin have partnered to create a beautiful book about various frog species.  
"Frogs have a song for trees, bogs, burrows, and logs.  When frogs have enough moisture to keep gooey eggs, squirmy tadpoles, and hoppity adults from drying out, they can sign almost anywhere. CROAK! RIBBIT! BZZZT! PLONK! BRACK! THRUM-RUM!"

Guiberson goes on to talk about 11 different frogs in various countries.  Sometimes the focus is on child-bearing behaviors and other times about how they co-exist in a delicate balance with other creatures.  Regardless of the particular focus on the page, each frog species has a unique song which has meaning and purpose.  Frog Song, in a way, is Guiberson's ballad to the health and survival of frog in a world where the existence of humans has in many places thrown off the delicate balance of the ecosystem.  

Spirin's paintings are stunning and give the impression of almost being so real that if you are still enough you may just see a frog jump off the page.  The end of the book contains additional information on each of the 11 frog species, additional resources, and an author's note about the survival of frogs.  Definitely a book to add to any classroom or school library collection. 

Check out the Macmillan Publisher's page for a preview of the pages. 

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Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday - Timeless Thomas

Author/Illustrator: Gene Barretta
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (July 17, 2012)
Audience: Grades 2nd to 5th
Source: Personal Copy
Nonfiction * Biographical * Inventors

Description from GoodReads:
What do record players, batteries, and movie cameras have in common?
All these devices were created by the man known as The Wizard of Menlo Park: Thomas Edison.

Edison is most famous for inventing the incandescent lightbulb, but at his landmark laboratories in Menlo Park & West Orange, New Jersey, he also developed many other staples of modern technology.  Despite many failures, Edison persevered. And good for that, because it would be very difficult to go through a day without using one of his life-changing inventions. In this enlightening book, Gene Barretta enters the laboratories of one of America’s most important inventors.

My thoughts on this book:
I discovered Gene Barretta's books (Now & Ben: The Modern Inventions of Benjamin Franklin; Neo Leo: The Ageless Ideas of Leonardo da Vinci) a few months ago.  I loved his way of making information about famous inventors/thinkers very accessible and fun for young readers.  When I went in search of more information about Gene Barretta and his books, I discovered that a new book would be out soon.  I have been eagerly anticipating Timeless Thomas: How Thomas Edison Changed Our Lives and it didn't disappoint.

Barretta's latest book focuses on the life and inventions of Thomas Edison.  After a short introduction to Edison, Barretta begins by comparing "Present Day" activities such as recording sound or the photocopier and compares them to "Edison's Lab" and how some of Edison's inventions or ideas were forerunners to what we often take for granted.  There are over 15 examples of how Edison's inventions were instrumental in the development of the many common day items that are essential to us today.  Each of these items are presented in very readable text accompanied by bright, cartoon-like illustrations that add to the enjoyment of the story.

At the end of the book, Barretta provides the reader with short bios for 20 of Edison's Employees.  Additionally, there are some trivia facts and a bibliography that will hopefully encourage readers to learn more about Thomas Edison. Overall, this is an enjoyable look at Thomas Edison that will hopefully inspire children to not only try to succeed with taking risks but also model Edison's philosophy that failure is just as important to learning as getting it right.

I would encourage teachers and librarians to make a set of Barretta's books available in the classroom or school library.  I have a feeling that a lot of children will enjoy checking them out.  Look for Timeless Thomas at your local school or public library, and when purchasing books, consider supporting your local independent bookstore.

For more information on Gene Barretta: website | blog | facebook | twitter

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Book Review - Hold Me Closer, Necromancer

Author: Lish McBride
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co. (October 12, 2010)
Reading Level: Young Adult
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Description from GoodReads:

Sam leads a pretty normal life. He may not have the most exciting job in the world, but he’s doing all right—until a fast food prank brings him to the attention of Douglas, a creepy guy with an intense violent streak.
Turns out Douglas is a necromancer who raises the dead for cash and sees potential in Sam. Then Sam discovers he’s a necromancer too, but with strangely latent powers. And his worst nightmare wants to join forces . . . or else.  
With only a week to figure things out, Sam needs all the help he can get. Luckily he lives in Seattle, which has nearly as many paranormal types as it does coffee places. But even with newfound friends, will Sam be able to save his skin?


My review:

Imagine living your life just thinking you are a regular guy?! Nothing special, maybe a little bit of an underachiever.  This is Sam.  He has dropped out of college, works at a hamburger joint (kind of funny considering he is a vegetarian), hangs out with his best friend from childhood, and concerned that he isn't going anywhere fast.  But then comes Douglas.  Literally overnight, Sam's life changes and so does the lives around him.  Douglas is apparently a necromancer for hire and doesn't like the idea of another necromancer sharing in any potential job opportunities.  It seems that being a necromancer can be quite profitable.  After a serious beating, and a very personal message, Douglas gives Sam a week to become his apprentice or lose his life.  

McBride manages to pull it all together in her debut offering.  Hold Me Closer, Necromancer has all the ingredients of a great book - a well-balance ensemble of characters, humor, a little romance (but not over doing it), and pacing that doesn't drag (I pretty much read this in one sitting and refused to go to bed until I finished it).  Sam is a likable; your every day sort of guy.  His friends are kind of eclectic.  There is Ramon (a childhood friend/like family), Frank (a bit of a dork, but dependable), and Brooke (fiesty & entertaining).  Even secondary characters such as Sam's mother (with her own secrets) and sister, or his neighbor - an on the go, 70-something granny (who has a more active social life than Sam) add rather than detract from the overall story. And well then there is an assortment of paranormal creatures (were-creatures, harbingers, witches, etc.) that Sam discovers on his quest to understand what a necromancer is and how he managed to not know about these unique abilities.  

For fans of Urban Fantasy/Paranormal stories, this will be an easy sell.  In my opinion, it is one of the best books within this category that I have read recently.  True there are some places that require suspending reality (like the immediate attraction between Sam & Brid - a cute shape-shifter- while they are stuck in a cage but then it was hot, & steamy in a fade to black kind of way) which I don't see as an issue.  This is after all a fantasy story.  However, when I finished it, I wanted more.  Sure, this was a complete book - no huge cliff-hanger ending, but readers can easily imagine this story continuing.  I can imagine and hope that this book will continue for at least several more installments.  So please somebody tell me that there will be a book 2 and a book 3?!

For fans that may not be prone to reading a good Urban Fantasy, I suggest giving this book a read through.  Hopefully, it will be a pleasant surprise.  If not, maybe you can have fun identifying all the songs that McBride uses as chapter titles.   

You can find out more about author Lish McBride on her website, click here.  Or you can follow her on twitter: @teamdamanation

Also take a moment to check out the Book Trailer for Hold Me Closer, Necromancer