Books by Marybeth Lorbiecki

THE PRAIRIE THAT NATURE BUILT by Marybeth Lorbiecki
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 1, 2014

"A vivid introduction to a vital habitat. (Informational picture book. 4-9)"
A cumulative rhyme describes the components of a prairie from soil partners, roots and pollinators through plants, grazers and predators to the sky-high lightning that brings revitalizing fire. Read full book review >
JACKIE’S BAT by Marybeth Lorbiecki
CHILDREN'S
Released: Jan. 1, 2006

Joey is the batboy for the 1947 Brooklyn Dodgers, and he is unsure of how to deal with Jackie Robinson. His father says that a white boy shouldn't have to serve a black man. So he doesn't shine Jackie's shoes, and he ignores his requests. As the season progresses, Joey notes the changing reactions of Jackie's teammates, players on the other teams and the fans around the league, both black and white. He comes to admire and cheer Jackie's patience and talent and to respect him as a man. Telling the story from Joey's point of view and the use of the immediate present tense places the focus on Robinson's impact on peoples' hearts and minds. Pinkney's watercolor illustrations also focus on the characters, with backgrounds softly sketched. An afterword and author's note give additional information about Robinson's character and life after baseball. A gentle message about the insidious nature of racism. (Picture book. 6-9)Read full book review >
CHILDREN'S
Released: Dec. 1, 2005

A well-meant but not particularly useful call to eco-action combines brief descriptions of several habitats and common threats to them with references to environmental initiatives undertaken—often by children—in various countries, plus mentions of various forms of waste and pollution. Along with being careless with her facts—no, "sustainable" farming is not a new approach, nor is air "made mostly of two gases: oxygen and carbon dioxide"—the author offers vague, often impractical "Action Tips" and wanders into strange territory near the end with allusions to family planning and the unhealthy detritus of warfare. Cartoon illustrations add more decoration than information. Young activists will draw better information and direction from 50 Simple Things Kids Can Do To Save the Earth (1990), or Lorbiecki's own Earthwise series (1992). (Nonfiction. 8-10)Read full book review >
ANIMALS
Released: Oct. 1, 2004

A cover illustration draws the reader into the historical setting in the Alaskan wilderness of 1880: three men row desperately in an open boat as a dog clings precariously to the prow. That dog is Stickeen, who was part of an expedition headed by John Muir to map Alaska's glaciers. He initially resented the dog's inclusion in the group, but after the harrowing experience of being lost together in a storm, Muir developed great respect and affection for him. This story is based on Muir's own journals from his trip and his other writings and sketches, and the volume's format includes journal pages written in first person. An explanatory note indicates that these journal entries are "not meant to be reproductions of Muir's journals," leaving the reader unclear as to the parameters of fact and fiction. Nonetheless, the story has an engaging main character and striking illustrations that capture the majesty of Alaska's wilderness. An afterword gives more information on Muir and his legacy, and sepia-toned endpapers provide a map of Alaska and sketches of a Tlingit dancer and totem poles. (Nonfiction. 6-10)Read full book review >
LOUISA MAY & MR. THOREAU’S FLUTE by Julie Dunlap
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 1, 2002

The authors embroider historical encounters into a speculative account of the awakening of a writer's gift. In seven-year-old "Louy" Alcott's eyes, fellow Concord resident Henry Thoreau cuts a glamorous figure, a wild-haired young teacher given to taking children on expeditions into the surrounding woods, and to playing haunting melodies on his flute. Escaping as often as she can from her strictly regulated household, Louisa learns ways of seeing the natural world from Mr. Thoreau as she watches him write in his journal, and struggles to reproduce the melodies that run through her head. For her, however, " . . . there was nothing to write about. Only endless tasks and doing your duty . . . Words seemed trapped inside her, like fish under ice." That ice breaks, though, along with the Concord River's ice, when the sight and sound of a spring robin frees her first poem: "Welcome, welcome little stranger. / Fear no harm, and fear no danger . . . " Louisa looks considerably older than seven in Azarian's (The Race of the Birkebeiners, 2001, etc.) hand-colored woodcuts, but the illustrations' folk-art style artfully evokes the era in which the tale is set, and the crisply distinct patterns on clothing, tree trunks, and water create a harmonic interplay of textures. Though this does introduce two of American greatest authors, it's more about writing than particular writers, more about living than particular lives. (foreword, afterword, source note) (Picture book. 7-9)Read full book review >
MY PLACE OF LEAVES IN SARAJEVO by Marybeth Lorbiecki
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 1, 1997

Nadja lives in Sarajevo and writes to her American cousin, Alex, to practice her English. She tells him about her secret hiding place in the top of a tree, and her first letters are happy and carefree. Her letters change dramatically, though, with the arrival of war in the city. She writes of bombs falling, of no water, no electricity, and no heat in winter. She worries that her father will be shot by snipers as he waits in long lines for supplies. Her mother, a doctor, is busier than ever and often away. Alex sends letters and care packages, never knowing if they'll reach Nadja, and the overlapping dates of the correspondence reveal how slowly mail travels. Lorbiecki (Just One Flick of a Finger, p. 826, etc.) attempts to cover much of the conflict in relatively few pages, with references to Hitler and the Ustae, and to the complex religious tensions (Nadja's background is Muslim and Christian), an approach that makes the story, while moving, quite purposeful. Nadja's Slavic syntax is hard to follow at first—and the letter format limits deeper character development—but readers who persevere will grow accustomed to it, and even find it endearing. (b&w illustrations, not seen, glossary) (Fiction. 9-11) Read full book review >
JUST ONE FLICK OF A FINGER by Marybeth Lorbiecki
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 1, 1996

In spare verse that echoes the percussive sound of rap music, the story of a boy and a gun. The narrator (of middle-school age or older) admits that at his school, ``You're a fool if you can't get your hand on a gun,'' and tells a familiar story of a bully, the need to feel in command in an out-of-control environment where there is little parental support. Attempting to threaten his tormentor with his father's gun, the narrator is thwarted by his friend, and both are wounded—a ghastly path to absorbing and rejecting the horror of violence. Diaz's digitally manipulated watercolor-and-acrylic paintings resemble, alternately, stained glass and African sculpture in their monumentality and broad planes of color. Both text and images capture the tension and fear of an urban schoolyard menaced by guns; the implied acceptance of the ease of obtaining a firearm is utterly chilling. While a picture book in format, this could be used very effectively with older children. (Picture book. 6-12) Read full book review >
CHILDREN'S
Released: April 22, 1993

One of three pictorial introductions to environmental problems that present useful project ideas and inspire stories of ``kids in action,'' along with conveying the usual horrors of pollution and destruction. Focusing on global problems, this volume touches on air and water pollution, tree conservation, solid waste problems, and children's activism. The projects aren't detailed; readers are invited to contact organizations for more information. Though the authors are unabashed environmentalists, they encourage letter-writers to research all sides of a question. Topic overviews are in simpler language and larger type than captions and accounts of specific problems. An attractive, well-bound book on recycled, acid-free paper with color photos and cartoonish illustrations featuring a multicultural cast and concluding with an excellent outline for an ``Earthwise Action Plan'' to guide readers in creating their own projects. Not enough information for in-depth reports, but- -like Earthwise at Play (wildlife) and Earthwise at Home (household ecology)—good for stimulating interest while pointing readers to more specific sources. (Nonfiction. 6-9) Read full book review >