Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Non-Fiction Covers Varied Topics

        Visit Alyson Beecher on Wednesdays for Non-Fiction Picture Books at Kidlit Frenzy.  From Alyson and others, you will discover terrific nonfiction picture books!
         It's sometimes a surprise to me that a picture book can be so filled with information! Here is a story to inspire, a story that tells the tale of El Ballet Folklórico de México and its creator, Amalia Hernández. Duncan Donatiuh's folk art keeps certain rules as in this post from the School Library Journal: "When we talk about Tonatiuh’s art it’s important to understand why he’s chosen the style that he has. In interviews the artist has discussed how his art is heavily influenced by ancient Mexican styles. As he said in an interview on the blog Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, “My artwork is very much inspired by Pre-Columbian art, especially by Mixtec codices from the 14th century. That is why my art is very geometric, my characters are always in profile, and their ears look a bit like the number three. My intention is to celebrate that ancient art and keep it alive.” Heads of participants are always shown from the side. This is combined with the decision to digitally insert real hair, of a variety of shades and hues and colors, onto the heads of the characters." This is also mixed media work, but this time because of the dancing, the bright colors in the skirts of most of the women's dresses stand out so beautifully, you can imagine the twirling. 
         The story begins with Ami (what Amalia was called) believing she would probably become a teacher like her grandmother or mother. On vacation, she spied some dancers performing in a town square and fell in love. Her father consented to private dance lessons, and the story turns to Ami studying ballet with two superb teachers. Next, she discovered modern dance and studied again with a master teacher, began to create some of the dances for performance. The journey continues on and on with Ami creating, observing, learning. El Ballet Folklórico de México company is her creation. In one part of her life, she noticed there were differences in the folk dances in different parts of the country, thus this new path of traveling all over Mexico to observe and learn, to create performances based on these. It isn't the only way Ami and her company created, but it was the beginning. The astounding history of this dance group is told briefly, includes being known all over the world. They've won many awards and often those of us who have seen Latino dance performances will be seeing one of the creations of Amalia Hernández.  Tonatiuh has added a detailed author's note, a glossary explaining the numerous Mexican names and phrases and a bibliography. One nice surprise hidden by my library copy cover is a double-page spread with cover and back of dancers dancing across a world map with famous buildings like the Eiffel Tower in the background. It's lovely and exciting to see!
               In this new book, Jess Keating offers the research about sixteen animals, all capable of causing injury or death through the defenses they have evolved in order to survive. These include all kinds, from scorpions to bats, from frogs to honey badgers, all photographed, each one fascinating. Each double-page spread has a different color background with an introductory paragraph, a splash of added information and a factual column with the scientific name, diet, locale, etc. Jess’s wording in each part is clever, enticing readers to read on, like “Don’t play dress-up with the Assassin Bug,” which refers to an action for defense by this same bug. Another example is a title on the Portuguese Man-of-War page. This creature has the ability to raise a “sail” and float away from enemies, so one title is “Hey, Sailor!”

        David DeGrand adds his talents in illustration through humorous cartoons that reflect the text. The book is fascinating and attractive, showing the danger of these creatures, but also the sometimes-helpful role they play in their ecosystems. One added surprise is that there is a seventeenth “monster” added, with the same format. It is a human, demonstrating well that humans pose dangers to themselves and other life, too. At the back is a fun page discussing some of the traits noticed that famous monsters also have. There is also a page that questions why one might be fearful of certain creatures, and when those are answered, perhaps you may be less so. Also, there is a helpful glossary.


  1. Can't wait to read both of these!

  2. There were great enjoyable and informative books!

    1. Well, you can see I agree, Earl. It's surprising how much history is omitted in school that would be exciting to learn about for everyone!

  3. Loved loved these books! I think it's so wonderful to find a book that makes you gasp and immediately show everyone around you what you are reading and that is what Jess Keating's books do for me!


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