“A stunning achievement,” wrote Kirkus in its review of the spectacular and utterly refreshing behind-the-scenes look at the creation of a landmark 20th-century American work in Ballet for Martha: Making Appalachian Spring. It took a team—two authors, an illustrator and an editor—to communicate so perfectly “the excitement and drama of the creative process” presented here.
Chiru, small, sheep-like animals in Tibet, have a unique plight—they cannot be shorn to use their luxurious wool, but must be slaughtered instead. In this arresting picture book, The Chiru of High Tibet, Jacqueline Briggs Martin and illustrator Linda Wingerter handle this delicate topic with much care. Their lyrical text and ethereal illustrations chronicle the work of conservationist George Schaller, the first of several men whose heroism saved the species from poaching. Here, Martin talks about the bravery at the heart of this story.
Sy Montgomery has written many award-winning books for readers of all ages, including the international bestselling memoir, The Good Good Pig (2006). With photographer Nic Bishop, she’s contributed to the Scientists in the Field series, garnering two Sibert Honor recognitions, for The Tarantula Scientist (2004) and Quest for the Tree Kangaroo (2006). Their most recent collaboration recounts the dramatic, often-heartbreaking efforts to save New Zealand’s tame, flightless, oversized parrots—the kakapo. Here, Montgomery discusses their book Kakapo Rescue.
Sept. 15, 1963—Birmingham Sunday—was a terrible day in American history, when six young African-Americans died, four in the bombing of their church and two in its aftermath. Larry Dane Brimner sharply re-creates the city’s dry-as-tinder atmosphere leading up to the murderous event, in which segregationists had become such a violently irreconcilable force that the city had been redubbed “Bombingham.” From Jim Crow laws to the bigotry of police commissioner Bull Connor, the author carefully delineates the important elements of the picture, throwing particular light on Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, “who believed a minister’s job didn’t end with a Sunday sermon,” as the author writes in the book. “Shuttlesworth’s deep religiosity allowed him to put himself at great personal risk in an effort to bring about racial equality,” says Brimner, “to face down the Ku Klux Klan with such zeal that many thought he was almost demented.”
“Mark Twain was a project I’ve considered for years,” says Barbara Kerley. “I remember being fascinated with him in college and ever since then hoping I could tell a story about him in a way that kids would find accessible.” When she discovered that Twain’s 13-year-old daughter Susy Clemens had written a biography of her father, she was intrigued; she knew from raising her own daughter that 13-year-olds “just tell it like they see it.” In this large-format picture book, Susy has a chance to “set the record straight” about her famous father. The narration is filled with quotes from Twain; miniature inserts of Susy’s biography, spelling errors intact (“He is as much a Pholosopher as any thing I think,” writes Susy), provide a glimpse of Twain as both parent and author.
From this Caldecott Honor–winning duo (Song of the Water Boatman, 2005) comes another breathtaking picture book eight years in the making in large part due to its 4.6 billion-year-old subject—Earth and its hardiest creatures. Asked how a discussion of beetle wings with her biologist sister led to this brilliant evolutionary timeline of Earth’s survivors, ranging from 3.8 billion-year-old bacteria to mere 100,000-year-old humans, Joyce Sidman says that “the Big Question that led to the book was: Why do some organisms thrive while others die out?” Beckie Prange’s arresting hand-watercolored
“A teenager who defies family and king, runs away from home, joins a revolution, fights courageously and helps found a nation. I’m always looking for a good story, and this one was hard to resist,” says Newbery Medalist Russell Freedman. The fiery young nobleman played a role in the author’s recent Give Me Liberty (2000) and Washington at Valley Forge (2008) before Freedman gave him star billing. His research uncovered a wealth of primary materials, which, he says, “allow[ed] Lafayette and his friends to speak for themselves. I wanted to delve more deeply and devote an entire book to this genuinely idealistic young French/American hero who played a critical role in America’s Revolutionary War.”