The Day-Glo Brothers by Chris Barton

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Barton, Chris.  The Day-Glo Brothers.  Charlesbridge, 2009.  $18.95, 44 pages.

Link to Author’s Website: http://www.chrisbarton.info/

Links to Interviews with Author:

  • cynthialeitichsmith.blogspot.com/2009/07/author-interview-chris-barton-on-day.html

Links to Reviews Available Online:

Reader’s Annotation: What started out as an experiment to enhance a magic trick soon became America’s brightest new thing!

Summary:

Bob and Joe Switzer never set out to create new colors.  Joe enjoyed magic.  Bob wanted to be a doctor.  But after an accident that left him with seizures and unable to be a doctor, Bob found himself recovering in the basement of his parents’ home.  Joe soon recruited him to help with a magic trick that used ultraviolet lamps and fluorescence.  Soon the brothers were experimenting using chemicals from local universities and their mother’s kitchen mixer.  Their glow in the dark paints were a hit with theater costumers, on posters, in toy displays, and even with psychics to fake out gullible customers.  The brothers continued to experiment and soon developed a paint that glowed in daylight and in ultraviolet light.  Day-Glo was born and quickly put to use during World War II.  After the war, Day-Glo also made its way into commercial products like toys, magazine covers, detergent boxes and even into cultural pieces like Andy Warhol’s paintings.  The Switzer brother had brightened up almost every aspect of American life.

Evaluation:

This nonfiction text was an original story that showcases two creative brothers who invent something without even setting out to do so.  The narrative style of this book is easily followed and enjoyable to read.  Based on first hand interviews with people who knew the Switzer brothers, it includes charming and entertaining details about their experiments (and a glowing angel food cake), their initial successes (with a decapitated Balinese dancer), and their triumphs (with the multitude of ways Day-Glo was used in World War II that helped America win the war).  The language of the text is not weighed down by many technical terms, but rather remains conversational in the telling of a story. The illustrations are retro, calling back to the 1950’s and 60’s and early educational cartoons.  They start out initially in gray scale, but more colors and brighter colors are utilized with each success of the brothers.  The author’s conclusion was also quite touching, acknowledging that one brother wanted to save lives, and one brother wanted to wow audiences, and through their Day-Glo, both were able to achieve these things.

Rating Scale:

  • Popularity: 3
  • Quality: 3

Genre and Subgenre: nonfiction, science, history

Appeal Factors: illustrations, use of color, science, experiments, history

Readalike Titles or Authors:

    • The Boy who Invented TV by Kathleen Krull
    • Pop! The Invention of Bubble Gum by Meghan McCarthy

Awards Won and Book Lists:

  • Siebert Award honor book

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Balinese dancer illusion
  • Experimenting with every day items
  • Billboard on fire

Book Discussion Questions or Ideas:

  • Why does the author imply that Day-Glo has saved lives?
  • How are colors used in this book?
  • What does the author say about problem solving and invention?

Why I Chose This:

I chose this because of the unique subject matter of Day-Glo paint.  The brothers’ story was unfamiliar to me and to many others.  I was also drawn in by the retro illustrations and the clever use of color.

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Parrots over Puerto Rico by Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore

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Roth, Susan & Trumbore, Cindy.  Parrots over Puerto Rico.  Lee & Low, 2013.  $19.95, 48 pages.

Link to Author’s Website:

Links to Interviews with Author:

Links to Reviews Available Online:

Reader’s Annotation:
“Iguaca, igauca,” call the beautiful green and blue parrots of Puerto Rico.  This is their survival story.

Summary:

The story of the blue and green beauties of Puerto Rico starts even before the Tainos arrived and gave the parrots their name after their call.  As the Spaniards, African slaves, Boricuans came to Puerto Rico to make their homes, the parrots continued to thrive.  But then came invasive species like the black rats and honeybees that started to eat the parrots eggs and swarm their nests.  Next, forests were cut down, and the parrots lost their homes.  Finally, in 1968 the US and Puerto Rican governments worked together to establish a conservation effort which included placement in an aviary, a breeding program, and even a training program to teach the parrots how to avoid hawks.  Slowly, the Puerto Rican parrots have been reintroduced into the wild.  An afterword about the parrots and the recovery program as well as importsnt dates and the author’s sources follows the narratuve,

Evaluation:

Susan Roth and Cindy Trumbore’s telling of the Puerto Rican parrot is a familiar endangered species story.  The beauty of their story is in the language they use and the amazing collages that adorn each page.  The narrative has a lyrical style, incorporating the rhythmic iguaca, iguaca of the parrots call.  Iguaga is actually the parrot’s name.  The parrot’s story is compelling because of all the challenges they have faced.  The conservation effort is also compelling because of how far scientists have gone to bring back these beautiful creatures (imagine training the parrots using protective leather jackets!).  The physical formatting of the book also sets it apart from others, in the calendar style orientation of each page, so that one hold the book on its side to see the full spread of the pages.  This orientation is especially effective with the fabric and paper collages of parrots soaring, or scientists climbing trees, or  the waterfall flowing.

Rating Scale:

  • Popularity:1 – Would sit on shelves unread; 2 – May see the light of day as an assigned reading; 3 – Interesting to readers, may need marketing; 4 – Very appealing read, ; 5 – Need multiple copies, because it would always be checked out!
  • Quality: 1 – How was this book ever published?; 2 – Poor literary quality; 3 – Average literary quality, nothing stands out as exceptional; 4 – Overall high quality literary quality, with certain areas of exceptional literary quality; 5 – Well-crafted of the highest literary quality
  • Popularity: 3
  • Quality: 4

Genre and Subgenre:  nonfiction, didactic

Appeal Factors:  fabric and paper collages, page formatting, endangered animals, Puerto Rico, conservation efforts

Readalike Titles or Authors:

  • Alex the Parrot by Stephanie Spinner
  • Mama Built a Little Nest by Steve Jenkins
  • Parrots by Ruth Bjorklund

Awards Won and Book Lists:

  • 2014 Robert F. Siebert Informational Book Medal
  • 2014 Notable Children’s Book

Booktalking Ideas:

  • History of nation and parrot population
  • Invasive species and deforestation
  • Conservation efforts with the training

Book Discussion Questions or Ideas:

  • Why do people want to save the Puerto Rican parrot?
  • How can you help raise awareness  about the parrots’ plight?
  • What is the most amazing part of the parrots’ story?

Why I Chose This:

This title was appealing to me because of the gorgeous pictures that accompanied each page.  The fabric and paper collages were absolutely stunning!  The detail and the fun and playful positioning of the parrots were captivating.  I also enjoyed the different formatting of the book.

Can We Save the Tiger? by Martin Jenkins

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Jenkins, Martin.  Can We Save the Tiger? Candlewick Press, 2011.  $16.99, 56 pages.

Link to Author’s Website:  http://www.lovereading4kids.co.uk/author/3057/Martin-Jenkins.html

Links to Reviews Available Online:

Reader’s Annotation:  What we can do to prevent the mighty tiger from going the way of the dodo, the great auk, and the marsupial wolf.

Summary:

Starting with an explanation of what it is to be extinct, Martin Jenkin’s tells the story of what it means to be endangered and how it can lead to extinction.  He uses specific animals to illustrate different points, such as how the tiger is endangered because of the threat they may pose to humans or that they require more land that is rapidly shrinking.  He uses the partula snail to describe the problems with introducing invasive species, the vulture to explain the effect that human decisions and choices have on their surrounding eco-systems, and the success and challenges of protecting endangered species such as the American bison and the kakapos.  Interspersed throughout the narrative are pictures of the endangered animals accompanied by facts and statistics about them.  He challenges readers that although the task may seem daunting, it is a worthy cause to fight for these amazing creatures before it is too late.

Evaluation:

This nonfiction piece is an enlightening text on the plight of endangered animals.  Written in narrative, Jenkins explains different reasons why animals become endangered and anchors each reason to an endangered animal.  He uses “we” to include himself and the reader as the agents of change, as those called to action to do something for the endangered animals.  His treatment of the subject is not to vilify human actions, but instead to educate about how every human action has a consequence on the animal world that shares the same space.  The language used is accessible for readers, as terms are explained, and Jenkins keeps a more conversational tone than didactic.  He also uses different sized fonts to emphasize his points. The illustrations vary between strategically placed simple black and white pencil drawings and more elaborate oil paintings of the animals.  The endangered species are highlighted because of the fact that the illustrations are only of animals, not their habitats  or other scenes.

Rating Scale:

  • Popularity:1 – Would sit on shelves unread; 2 – May see the light of day as an assigned reading; 3 – Interesting to readers, may need marketing; 4 – Very appealing read, ; 5 – Need multiple copies, because it would always be checked out!
  • Quality: 1 – How was this book ever published?; 2 – Poor literary quality; 3 – Average literary quality, nothing stands out as exceptional; 4 – Overall high quality literary quality, with certain areas of exceptional literary quality; 5 – Well-crafted of the highest literary quality
  • Popularity: 3
  • Quality: 3

Genre and Subgenre: nonfiction, didactic

Appeal Factors:  endangered animals, illustrations, narrative style

Readalike Titles or Authors:

  • Let’s Save the Animals by Frances Barry
  • Almost Gone by Steve Jenkins
  • Saving Birds: Heroes around the World by Pete Salmansohn

Awards Won and Book Lists:

  • 2012 Notable Children’s Books
  • 2011 Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor, Nonfiction

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Extinct animals
  • How the vulture has been poisoned
  • Comeback story of the American bison

Book Discussion Questions or Ideas:

  • What are ways that you can raise awareness about endangered animals?
  • What things can you do to help save endangered animals?
  • Pick an organization from the list of resources at the end to contact.  What information could you ask for?

Why I Chose This:

I chose this book because it was a nonfiction picture book. I enjoyed the way it gave facts about endangered animals in a narrative format.  The pictures were also beautiful and the simple facts about the animals were as striking as the illustrations themselves.

Bomb: The Race to Build – and Steal – the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin

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Sheinkin, Steve.  Bomb: The Race to Build – and Steal –  the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon

Link to Author’s Website:  http://www.stevesheinkin.com/index.html

Links to Interviews with Author:

Links to Reviews Available Online:

Reader’s Annotation:

The true story of cutting edge technology, espionage, military commandos, ruthless dictators, and the world’s most dangerous weapon.

Summary:

Written as a spy-thriller, Bomb opens with the moments before Harry Gold is caught in his own home with evidence that he has been involved in the spy game for 17 years.  What enfolds is the enthralling story of how the atomic bomb came to be.  From the minds and labs of scientists, to the spies who sought their secrets, to the commandos sent to destroy enemy progress in the nuclear arms race, and all the political environment that created and supported these tumultuous times.  Key figures in the story include Robert Oppenheimer, Albert Einstein, Otto Hahn, Lise Meitner, Eugene Wigner, Leo Szilard, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Knut Haukelid, Leslie Groves, Enrico Fermi, Jens Poulsson, Robert Serber, Harry Truman, Dorothy McKibben, Richard Feynman, Moe Berg, and Paul Tibbets.

Evaluation:

This is the kind of nonfiction that would engage younger readers (any readers for that matter).  The narrative style of this book read more like a spy novel or Cold War thriller than dry nonfiction texts that turn readers off of nonfiction.  Facts were told in narrative stories about the characters, anecdotes that were linked together to create the overall picture of the duplicitous race to perfect the atom bomb.  The sub and parallel plots make this read slightly more complex.  Each part of the book was set up to look like a case file, complete with black and white photographs of key people with type written text “paper clipped” to them.  The language used was contemporary and accessible for readers.  The pacing of the book was fast enough to keep readers engaged and the writing suspenseful enough to keep readers turning the page to find out more.  Thematically, readers are encouraged to consider the state of affairs and implications of technology and weapons and the climate (like ours today) where they may come from and be used in.

Rating Scale:

  • Popularity:1 – Would sit on shelves unread; 2 – May see the light of day as an assigned reading; 3 – Interesting to readers, may need marketing; 4 – Very appealing read, ; 5 – Need multiple copies, because it would always be checked out!
  • Quality: 1 – How was this book ever published?; 2 – Poor literary quality; 3 – Average literary quality, nothing stands out as exceptional; 4 – Overall high quality literary quality, with certain areas of exceptional literary quality; 5 – Well-crafted of the highest literary quality
  • Popularity: 4
  • Quality: 4

Genre and Subgenre:  non-fiction, history, popular history, narrative history

Appeal Factors:  war, weapons, espionage

Readalike Titles or Authors:

  • 109 East Palace: Robert Oppenheimer and the Secret City of Los Alamos by Jennet Conant
  • American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer by Kai Bird
  • The Ultimate Weapon: The Race to Develop the Atomic Bomb by Edward T. Sullivan

Awards Won and Book Lists:

  • Newbery Honor Book
  • National Book Awards – Finalist
  • Robert F. Sibert Award
  • YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction

Booktalking Ideas:

  • The scene of the “chain reaction” success of splitting the atom
  • The Norwegian raid on the Vemork plant
  • When Lona Cohen was almost caught on the train by the FBI agents

Book Discussion Questions or Ideas:

  • Why does the story end the same way it began?
  • Do you think that the Americans who spied for the Soviet Union gave legitimate responses as to why they spied?
  • What elements of the way the story was told or the way the book was written or organized made it seem more like a spy thriller than a nonfiction text?

Why I Chose This:

The title of this book was what hooked me into choosing it for this database.  It received high praise for being different from other nonfiction texts, even from adult readers.  Besides the race for technology to create the atom bomb, the element of “stealing” and spying to get the technology sounded interesting to me.  I was also interested in learning more about this topic.