Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday - July 18, 2012

As part of the Non-Fiction Picture Book Challenge 2012 (Twitter: #nfpb2012), my goal is to read and review as many of the new non-fiction picture books that are released this year.  Wednesdays will be my primary day to post the reviews.

Here is a review of an upcoming release:

The Boston Tea Party
Author: Russell Freedman
Illustrator: Peter Malone
Publisher: Holiday House (August 1, 2012)
Audience: Grades 2nd to 5th
Source: Personal Copy
NonFiction * American History * Picture Book

Description from Publisher's Page:
More than any other event the Boston Tea Party of 1773 has come to stand for the determination of American colonists to control their own destinies. From the arrival of the ships full of controversial taxed tea in Boston Harbor through the explosive protest meetings at the Old South Church to the defiant act of dumping 226 chests of fine tea into the harbor on December 16, Freedman captures this exciting story in vivid prose. In lush, intricately detailed watercolor paintings, Peter Malone artfully depicts the colonial era and the charged atmosphere of Boston during these pivotal developments that ushered in the Revolutionary War. Source notes, a bibliography, a time line, an afterward, a note about tea, a historical map, and an index are included in this opulently designed volume.

My thoughts on the book:
Most of us that live in the United States, and especially those growing up in New England, grow up with some knowledge of the Boston Tea Party.   However, I realized just how little I recalled about this event in history as I read through Freedman's picture book The Boston Tea Party

Freedman begins with a two page introduction that provides the reader with the basic information needed to understand what will unfold on the following pages.

Freedman's text is straight-forward.  Though you know you are reading a picture book and a story, there is still a strong sense that you are reading history.  As I read through the book, I never felt that Freedman had moved into a fictionalized account of this important event.  Instead, I sensed he was working to provide young readers with the same quality of historical information, as an author might for an adult audience.

Peter Malone's paintings provide a visual story for readers and allows them a sense of what Boston would have looked like during that period of history. 

At the end, Freedman includes some author's notes, a bibliography, and a timeline which are helpful resources for students looking for additional information or for a teacher interested in sharing more facts with his or his students. 

Freedman's The Boston Tea Party would be a solid resource in a classroom or school library.  Look for this book at your local indie bookstore or school and/or public library.  Though the book is slated to be released on August 1, 2012, it is available through some booksellers at this point. 

I encourage those of you who have been participating in the NonFiction Picture Book Challenge to add a link to your recent reviews. Thanks for participating.

Book Review: Basketball Belles

Author: Sue Macy
Illustrator: Matt Collins
Publisher: Holiday House (February 2011)
Audience: Ages 7 to 11
Source: F & G from ALA MidWinter 
Non-fiction * Women's History * Sports

Description from GoodReads:
This dynamic picture book about the birth of women's basketball will keep young readers riveted. Raised on a cattle ranch, Agnes Morley was sent to Stanford University to learn to be a lady. Yet in no time she exchanged her breeches and spurs for bloomers and a basketball; and in April 1896 she made history. In a heart—pounding game against the University of California at Berkeley, Agnes led her team to victory in the first-ever intercollegiate women's basketball game, earning national attention and putting women's basketball on the map.

Let me start off by saying, I am not a sports fan - especially not a basketball fan - but this book won me over.  Well, I'm still not a basketball fan but I am happy to be a cheerleader for Basketball Belles: How Two Teams And One Scrappy Player Put Women's Hoops On The Map.  While at ALA Midwinter, I managed to come away with a stack of F & G's (Folded & Gathered - think Advanced Reader's Copy but for picture books) from various publishers.  As I read them, I made stacks - the "well it is okay" stack, the "I definitely can use this" stack, and the "Wow! Oh Wow!" stack. There were only about 2 or 3 in the "Wow! Oh Wow!" stack and Basketball Belles was one of them. 

With Matt Collins amazing illustrations, I was immediately whisked back into the late 1890's.  Macy's story of Agnes Morley who was sent to Stanford in an attempt to make her "more of a lady" captured for me what it must have been like for a woman in that time period.  Having spent four years in the Amherst/Northampton area and surrounded by the rich history of women's colleges (Smith, Mt. Holyoke) it was exciting for me to read about this other piece of women's history.  By focusing on the April 4, 1896 historic game between Stanford and Berkley, Macy is able to delve deeply into what that experience must have been like for not only the players but for the spectators as well.  

Admittedly, despite Macy's well written text and powerful words, I had to read this story through several times because for the first one or two read throughs I was so caught up in Collin's illustrations.  Initially, I was just trying to imagine what it would be like to wear the kinds of clothes they had to wear in those days.  The long sleeve tunics and bloomers not to mention the shoes.  His attention to details fully enhances the text and captures the reader.

Skip the italicized part if you don't want to be spoiled (well we all know how the game was played after all in 1896), but this ending text very much sums up the book beautifully:

"Victory is ours!  We laugh and hug one another, beside
ourselves with joy.  We even give a cheer for the other team,
and they for us.  What a sight we all are!  Our hair is messy.
Our bloomers are torn.  Our faces are streaked with sweat.
This might not be what my mother had in mind when she sent
me to Stanford to become a lady. But I think that a lady can be 
tough and strong as well as refind and polite.  She can even
play basketball." - Sue Macy, Basketball Belles

As I mentioned earlier, this is a "Wow! Oh, Wow!" book for me.  I bought a copy for me, for a friend, for the school library, and keep shouting about it to anyone who will listen.  I hope that this book earns the recognition that it deserves.