Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday - Louisa May's Battle

Author: Kathleen Krull
Illustrator: Carlyn Beccia
Publisher: Walker Childrens
Source: Personal Copy
Audience: Grades 3rd to 5th
Nonfiction * Women's History * American History * Famous Authors

Description on GoodReads:
Louisa May Alcott is best known for penning Little Women, but few are aware of the experience that influenced her writing most-her time as a nurse during the Civil War. Caring for soldiers' wounds and writing letters home for them inspired a new realism in her work. When her own letters home were published as Hospital Sketches, she had her first success as a writer. The acclaim for her new writing style inspired her to use this approach in Little Women, which was one of the first novels to be set during the Civil War. It was the book that made her dreams come true, and a story she could never have written without the time she spent healing others in service of her country

My thoughts on the book:
One of my favorite authors when I was in 5th grade was Louisa May Alcott.  I read and loved Little Women, Little Men, Jo's Boys, and Eight Cousins.  However, I never really bothered to look into who Louisa May Alcott was or what influenced her as a woman and writer.  Recently, I read the biographical picture book Louisa: The Life of Louisa May Alcott by Yona Zeldis McDonough (Henry Holt, and Co., 2009) I found the book fascinating and the historical information interesting.

In Louisa May's Battle: How the Civil War Led to Little Women, Kathleen Krull focuses on Alcott's experiences as a nurse during the Civil War and how it influenced her as a person and also as a writer. Krull brings to life Alcott's experience from the train ride to the her travels on a ship to her experience tending soldiers.  Unfortunately, Alcott wasn't immune from the illnesses facing the men and boys she was caring for.  Several weeks in, she became ill with Typhoid fever.  Alcott was never quite the same after her illness, but when she was well enough to consider work again, she began revisiting her writing with more success than she had before.

The combination of Krull's text accompanied by Beccia's paintings make this book a success for me.  Krull provides additional sources at the end as well as some additional information of Women in Medicine.  This is a great addition for any classroom or school library, and a wonderful book to celebrate Women's History Month.  

Don't forget to link up your nonfiction reviews:

Book Review - Ribbit Rabbit

Author:  Candace Ryan
Illustrator: Mike Lowery
Publisher: Walker & Company (February 1, 2011)
Audience: 3 to 6 year olds
Source: Review Copy

Description from GoodReads:
Frog and Bunny are best friends. RIBBIT, RABBIT! They do everything together, like fight monsters (ZIP IT, ZAP IT!). And even though they get in fights sometimes-YIP IT, YAP IT!-they always make up in the end.

Ribbit, Rabbit features an effortlessly clever text that, in less than 150 words, captures the ups and downs of young friendships. Combined with adorably hip and fresh illustrations and an irresistible package, Ribbit, Rabbit is the perfect choice for the youngest of readers.

 I first encountered Candace Ryan at a book signing for Oliver Jeffers.  At that time, I learned about her upcoming book Animal House.  When it was finally released, I had a chance to check it out.  It was fun and made me giggle.  (To read my review of Animal House, click here. )  And it has been a big hit among the students at my school.  Of course, I was interested in checking out her next book.  Ribbit, Rabbit was recently released by Walker & Company and it was fun to actually see the finished product on a shelf at my local indie bookstore.  

This is a story of friendship including both the ups and downs.  Frog and Bunny are friends, best friends.  They do everything together but sometimes they don't see eye to eye and they fight - over the little things and the big things.  Over the course of their disagreement, they learn an important lesson.  

Ryan operates on a level of creative thoughts that when paired with the right illustrator produces a wonderful book.  Ribbit, Rabbit is very different from Animal House.  It is nice to see such different books from the same author.  Ryan's ability with word play and concepts is delightful.  This will be a fun book to share with young children.  They will enjoy the silly rhyming words and the way the two play and even fight.  The little robot that travels through the pages of the book brings the story together and when one friend ends up with the body of the robot and the other the key, it takes a little alone time to finally discover what is most important.  
Lowery's simple illustrations in muted tones compliment Ryan's text and will entertain young children.  

If you are looking for a read aloud for toddlers and preschoolers, you might want to check out Ribbit, Rabbit by Candace Ryan. 

For more information about Candace Ryan and her books, check out her blog here.  

You can follow Candace on Twitter:!/CandaceRyan and she is on Facebook here.

Book Review - Poop Happened!

Author:  Sarah Albee
Illustrator: Robert Leighton
Publisher: Walker Books for Young Readers (May 11, 2010)
Reading Level: 5th grade and up
Source: Review Copy
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Description from GoodReads:

History finally comes out of the water-closet in this exploration of how people’s need to relieve themselves shaped human development from ancient times to the present. Throughout time, the most successful civilizations were the ones who realized that everyone poops, and they had better figure out how to get rid of it! From the world’s first flushing toilet invented by ancient Minoan plumbers to castle moats in the middle ages that used more than just water to repel enemies, Sarah Albee traces human civilization using one revolting yet fascinating theme.

A blend of historical photos and humorous illustrations bring the answers to these questions and more to life, plus extra-gross sidebar information adds to the potty humor. This is bathroom reading kids, teachers, librarians, and parents won’t be able to put down!

I am not sure I ever realized how interesting reading about human excrement could be.  Most teachers and parents truly discourage "potty talk" in children.  Author Sarah Albee even acknowledges this in her preface, and yet as she mentions, toilet talk is funny.  There are reasons, both as a child and an adult, that we laugh at those jokes.  In her book Poop Happened! A History of the World From The Bottom Up, the reader gets history mixed with trivia and fun facts.  The book moves from the past (Ancient Greece) to the present day which allows the reader to develop a sense of what each culture has or has not done with the ever present human waste by-product.  Woven through out the pages are trivia facts pointing at practices and customs in history.  Did you know that "the Romans had a goddess of sewers named Venus Cloacina"? Or that before dumping out your chamber pot from an upper story window it was only polite to yell out "Look out below"? 

Throughout Poop Happened!, Albee deals candidly with the regular practices of both the rich and poor.  Hygiene practices were far from what they were today and the increased exposure of human excrement caused frequent illnesses.  I found myself thinking several times that I was glad I didn't live 4 or 5 hundred years ago or well, even 100 years ago.  Thank you Alexander Cummings for inventing the flush toilet that we have today.  However, for all the fun and lightheartedness of the tone of the book, Albee reminds readers that we need to think about how we presently dispose of waste and the impact things such as diapers or dumping waste in waterways impact lives today.

When I read Poop Happened!  I thought about the audience for this book.  Boys and some girls would love it, especially your favorite kid who adores trivia facts and odd bits of information.  The photographs, artwork, and illustrations add appeal to the book.  However, I would recommend it to upper grade readers, with solid reading skills, (4th or 5th graders) all the way through high school.  Whether you choose to read only one or two chapters at a time or to finish the book in one sitting, this is a book that works to engage its readers.  I would certainly recommend it to a students and teachers alike. 

For more information about Sarah Albee, check out her website 

She can be found on twitter: @sarahalbee