Ten bridges that both changed how we get from here to there and stunned us with their design beauty and engineering cleverness.
Cornille’s book itself has been designed to evoke a bridge: 6 inches by 13 inches, with the long spine to top and the book opened and read after rotating 90 degrees to the right. The bridges have been chosen for a variety of reasons; some are revolutionary in design, others are marvels or curiously elegant or weirdly delicate slabs of concrete. The artwork is composed of artful mechanical drawings—something like David Macaulay with even finer lines—which are not so much simplified as zeroed in on the fundamentals of construction and the way a bridge progresses from one piece of land to another. The bridges’ background stories are quick and captivating: how one bridge nearly killed its engineer from decompression illness as he repeatedly descended into the caissons or how the bridges change the psychological geography of how people relate to land and water. The bridges include the cast-iron bridge over the Severn River, England; the Brooklyn Bridge (inaugurated by a parade of 22 elephants); the Rio-Niterói Bridge in Brazil, which stretches over 8 miles; and Valley of the Giants Tree Top Walk (up in the canopy of eucalyptus trees in Australia), among others.
A work of beauty and a conveyance into human ingenuity.
(Informational picture book. 6 & up)
Wordplay has its day in this extra-usual compilation of lexicographical delights drawn from Dahl’s works.
“ONLY REALLY INTERESTING WORDS are allowed in this dictionary,” writes compiler Rennie, and the contents cleave to that stricture with a wacksey (“splendidly huge”) mix of those conventional but nonetheless gloriumptious locutions (like “aardvark” or “sneeze,” printed in black) and wondercrump original coinages (in blue) with which the master’s prose is laced. Every entry comes with a brief definition and one or more sentences from a specified work quoted to demonstrate usage. Each also includes part of speech, alternate forms, and, very often, either cross references (“Another mushious fruit is the snozzberry”) or a linguistic excursion into grammar, the history of words, real-world cognates, or derivations. One frequently recurring extra feature challenges would-be versifiers to find “Ringbelling Rhymes,” and another offers examples and guidelines for making any writing zippfizz along by “Gobblefunking with Words.” Major characters, creatures, and candies also earn diddly (“individual or distinct”) slots in the alphabet. That the pages are positively festooned with Blake’s color cartoon illustrations, all drawn from the novels, just puts the golden ticket into the Wonka bar.
Snapperwhippers aren’t the only readers who will find this equally delumptious as a dictionary, a source of inspiration, and a way of revisiting a shelf of phizz-whizzing classics.
An overview of America’s involvement in the Vietnam War.
When the French surrendered to Vietminh troops in 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower coined the term “domino theory” and continued the French war to prevent the toppling of countries in Southeast Asia and contain the spread of communism. Only a nonfiction master craftsman can take such complicated history and craft a slim volume so clear, readable, and fascinating without sacrificing significant historical detail and nuance. Freedman covers President Lyndon B. Johnson’s escalation of the war after the Gulf of Tonkin incident (which probably never happened), the growth of the American anti-war movement, the My Lai massacre, the shootings at Kent State, Martin Luther King Jr.’s anti-war speeches, the Watergate scandal, and the unraveling of the Nixon presidency. Early chapters detail Vietnam’s “long road to revolution,” and the volume concludes with its moral lessons, including U.S. Ambassador Peter Peterson’s reflection that “the war could have been averted had we made the effort to understand the politics of the place.” Abundant black-and-white photographs, many of them now-iconic images of the war, round out the volume. Where Steve Sheinkin’s Most Dangerous (2015) offers a majestic feat of historical storytelling, this volume offers masterful concision instead.
Solid history that doesn’t shy away from difficult truths and important moral and political lessons.
(timeline, source notes, glossary, bibliography, picture credits, index)
In the heart of Germany, a student resistance movement called the White Rose took a courageous stand to denounce the Nazis.
“They could have chosen to throw bombs,” but the young members of the White Rose chose to oppose Nazi Germany with printed words. The clandestine student activists, including Hans and Sophie Scholl and Christoph Probst, wrote leaflets decrying Nazi atrocities, urging German citizens to resist the Nazi government, and denouncing the Nazi “dictatorship of evil.” Cranking out thousands of mimeographed leaflets at night in a secret cellar, the students proclaimed to Nazi leaders, “We are your bad conscience,” imperiling their lives. Among the wealth of good Holocaust literature available, Freedman’s volume stands out for its focus and concision, effectively placing the White Rose in its historical context, telling the story of Nazi Germany without losing the focus on the White Rose, and doing so in just over 100 pages. Archival photographs are effectively integrated into the text, and the typeface at times resembles the typewriter’s text on mimeographed leaflets, a nice design choice. The selected bibliography includes volumes for young readers and the superb German-language film Sophie Scholl: The Final Days (2005).
A thorough and accessible introduction to the Holocaust and the students who dared to take a stand against evil.
(source notes, picture credits, index)
Hopkinson’s writing plumbs the depths in relating the undersea exploits of American submariners during World War II.
“The U.S. Navy fought the Pacific Ocean phase of World War II on a liquid chessboard,” according to Adm. Bernard A. Clarey, and while sailors and battleships island-hopped across the Pacific, the “Silent Service” of gallant submariners lurked below the surface, facing what naval historian Theodore Roscoe called “the overwhelming forces of the Unknown.” With an emphasis on first-person accounts—such as that of 15-year-old Martin Matthews, a young white man who lied about his age and joined the Navy just in time to be on the Arizona during the attack on Pearl Harbor—Hopkinson crafts a gripping narrative. It’s supplemented with three types of interspersed text: “briefings” with information about the war (including a section on African-American submariners), “dispatches” offering stories of interest and first-person accounts, and “submarine school,” about submarines and submariners. Numerous dramatic black-and-white photographs offer a parallel visual story. Told chronologically, from Pearl Harbor through the end of the war, with frequent news reports from above the surface, such as engrossing accounts of Bataan and Corregidor, the fascinating volume serves as a solid history of the war in the Pacific. Extensive backmatter includes a glossary, a timeline, facts and statistics about submarines, and links to resources.
Fascinating World War II history for history buffs and browsers alike.
(epilogue, bibliography, source notes)
“They’re laid back. They’re calm. They’re beautiful.”
That’s shark researcher Greg Skomal’s assessment of great whites, the subject of Montgomery’s latest entry in the long-running Scientists in the Field series. Here, she invites her readers to appreciate the glory of these much-feared sharks, first through the work of scientists who use video recordings and tags to identify and then track individual sharks who spend summers off Cape Cod, and then with a diving expedition off Guadalupe, Mexico. This acclaimed nature writer’s particular strength is that she's not afraid to describe scientific drudge work, giving a rounded picture of what being a field scientist is like. She chooses examples carefully and structures her six smoothly written chapters to build to a crescendo of excitement, going from an unproductive day (and some dull but important safety details) to a very satisfying one and then to an up-close encounter with sharks from the vantage point of a shark cage. Informational segments, including some intriguing facts and surprising statistics, separate each chapter. She picks out details that will engage her middle school readers. Ellenbogen’s photographs, both close-up and from the perspective of a spotter plane, bring readers even closer to her experience.
This appreciative introduction to a much-maligned species will thrill readers while it encourages them to see great white sharks in a new way.
(maps, bibliography, Web resources, acknowledgments, index)
In 21 poems, Orgill introduces Art Kane’s iconic 1958 Harlem photograph to young readers, spotlighting many of the 57 jazz musicians pictured.
Orgill’s introduction provides background. Kane, a rising graphic designer, had a big idea—gathering as many jazz musicians as possible, at the tender hour of 10 a.m., for an unpaid photo shoot on 126th Street. The inexperienced Kane borrowed cameras to accomplish his goal. Musicians arrived, socialized, laughed—ignoring Kane. Free verse evokes the scene: “camera guy’s sweeping / jazzmen like bundles / toward number 17 / … / no one listens / musicians / don’t hear / words of instruction / only music.” Some poems riff on appearance—appropriate for this group of fastidious dressers. “How to Make a Porkpie Hat” provides instructions from Lester Young himself, then segues to the saxophonist’s iconic sound, "soft as butter." Others muse on the day’s events, both documented and imagined. The crowning glory: a gatefold reproduction of Kane’s photograph; a key’s provided for the musicians’ identities. Vallejo’s acrylic-and-pastel paintings vividly capture the shoot’s vignettes and the skittish excitement of neighborhood kids. Pulling details from a 1995 documentary film and other resources, Orgill and Vallejo offer a dynamic, multifaceted work that deftly juxtaposes biography with praise poem, information with imagination.
Teachers, librarians, jazz-loving families: take note.
(author’s note, thumbnail bios, note on the photograph’s influence, source notes, bibliography)
A celebration of the life and work of New Yorker writer and children’s-book author E.B. White.
Sweet offers an affectionate tribute to White in a sumptuous volume, focusing especially on his three children’s classics: Stuart Little (1945), Charlotte’s Web (1952), and The Trumpet of the Swan (1970). The whole volume works like a signature Sweet illustration, an inventive and quirky juxtaposition of parts, combining lucid text, gorgeous and intricate watercolor-and-collage illustrations, photographs, excerpts of White’s writings, and ephemera that evoke farm and barn life. Chapters on the children’s books offer fascinating glimpses into the origins of the tales. Not so easy is making William Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style interesting to young readers, but Sweet succeeds brilliantly by employing children’s-book authors Joyce Sidman, Paul Fleischman, and Kate DiCamillo to relate how the guide influenced their own work. This chapter, along with the reproductions of drafts for the opening of Charlotte’s Web and excerpts of White’s own letters and essays woven throughout the text, makes Sweet’s own volume a gem of a guide to writing. Children reading any of White’s books would do well to read Sweet alongside. Like Charlotte, Sweet spins a terrific story.
A masterful biography that will enchant young readers.
(author’s note, afterword, timeline, source notes, bibliography, about the art)
The life of 12th-century samurai Minamoto Yoshitsune unfolds in this compelling and often shocking nonfiction account. The opening warning doesn’t lie: very few people die of natural causes.
Even as a baby, Yoshitsune’s life is tied to war and honor. After Yoshitsune’s father, the leader of the Minamoto samurai, kidnaps the Retired Emperor as payback for favoring rival samurai leader Taira Kiyomori, Yoshitsune is taken from his family to live at the Kurama Temple. (His father is later beheaded.) Although he grows up among monks, his warrior heart leads him to escape and seek out samurai training. Soon, he learns that his half brother Yoritomo is rebelling against the Taira. How can Yoshitsune refuse an opportunity to reunite with his kin, avenge his father’s murder, and conquer Japan? Turner describes how, with skill, brilliance, and mental toughness that borders on insanity, Yoshitsune attacks the Taira in infamous battles, including an audacious over-the-cliff attack on the fortress Ichi-No-Tani. He becomes a war hero to some, a loathsome figure to others, entering the lore with unforgettable consequences, including institutionalizing the ritual suicide known as seppuku and figuring in art from contemporary medieval songs all the way to modern manga. Samurai life isn’t pretty. References to beheadings and seppuku are plentiful and may make some wince. The cast of characters listed becomes a handy guide in keeping up with the Minamotos and Tairas.
A well-researched narrative told with true grit.
(author’s notes, timeline, glossary, chapter notes, bibliography)