Wednesday, April 17, 2019

NF Picture Books Capture History

Visit Alyson Beecher on Wednesdays for Non-Fiction Picture Books at Kidlit Frenzy.  Thanks to her hosting and sharing and those who add their posts, you can discover and celebrate terrific nonfiction picture books!  I always learn from these books, am happy that they are more and more available today for children, for everyone!

            I'm offering a giveaway for another nf picture book here. This time, it's non-fiction poetry!

            Thanks, Candlewick Press, for these two fabulous books!

          When I started reading this book, I remembered watching a few 'shorts' from Charlie Chaplin on a television show a long time ago, thought they were fun, knew he was an entertainer long before my time, and my grandparents loved him. They thought it was amazing to see the 'moving pictures'. 
          There is much more to Charlie's story than his stardom as "The Tramp". Thanks to Gary Golio for telling the highlights of it in this book and to Ed Young for giving Gary's words Charlie's creative soul in fabulous multi-media pictures. This collaboration ends in a book to adore. Here's a sample from the start:

          Charlie, very young, lived in a nice house with plenty to eat, but that was before his father left and his mother's voice quit. No longer able to make a living, Charlie, his mother, and older brother Sydney, all lived in one room. His mother became ill, and off to the poorhouse they went. Charlie spent much of his young life begging, but he had an added talent, his mother had taught him songs,  read stories and acted them out, too. He learned to dance and sing for pennies! The book states, "Outside a pub/Where a sad face and two happy feet/Earned him enough/For a toasted tea cake with jam./Ahhh. . ."  Charlie's other parts on stage and his keen observations began to show him what actors do to entertain, make people laugh and cry, with words and movement! 

        Along the way, Charlie was discovered by Mack Sennet and whisked off to Hollywood. He made a movie and it wasn't funny enough according to Sennet. He had to be funnier! Sitting in the dressing room, he found "the makings of a tramp". You'll need to read the whole story to discover the connections and what he did next, what he did to "create a tramp".  
       The back matter contains an Afterword and a page of source notes. The front and back endpapers are delightful, filled with cutouts that show the pieces of Charlie's life. 

       I was an adult when I first had the pleasure of visiting New York City's Central Park, and what a wonderful thing it is. I visited there with students on a marvelous adventure. We stayed near the park so we "played" there every evening after full days of touring elsewhere. Like most New Yorkers, and visitors from elsewhere, I imagine each finds a respite there as we did, to walk and run among the green beauty that is the park, envisioned by Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux so long ago.

an illustration of the Ramble, a wild garden for everybody, some fun added on the boat in the lower right

        Ashley Benham Yazdani has both written this fabulous story and given us realistic illustrations with a touch of whimsy so we can be inspired by Olmstead and Vaux's vision, and smile at the oasis they created. It began with growing New York City with a piece of  land de-forested and full of swamps and boulders. The few villages within this swampland were forced to abandon their places, but no one knew what to do next. Vaux, the city's architect, knew that something had to be done quickly, or streets and buildings would take this land, too. A contest was held, Vaux asked Olmstead to help him create a design entry and they won!
         Yazdani takes the story from the tension of entering the contest (they nearly missed the deadline) to the actual creation of the park, the clearing and moving of boulders, the change of the earth itself, and then the planting, the design, with trees and plants and benches, with bridges and arches, ponds and a children's area. There were 840 acres to be filled for the public. 
         There is a page that shares others who worked to design parts to be added to the park, like Emma Stebbins who created the fountain at the Bethesda Terrace that (from the text) was "her masterpiece Angel of the Water in the spirit of love and healing--possibly with her partner in mind." And there is an amazing page showing only the arches and bridges in the park, thirty-four in all.
         The backmatter holds added information about these amazing designers, first landscape architects.  Also added is information about certain decisions at the beginning and through its history, an author's note, acknowledgments, and a bibliography. This is Ashley Benham Yazdani's debut picture book and I enjoyed reading and seeing the story of Central Park very much.
One small illustration of Yazdani's whimsy in her illustrations;
hats off when explosions occur to break up the boulders. 


  1. I really want to read the Central Park one - libraries don't have it yet. It's been on my radar for awhile. Looks really interesting, thanks for the pictures!

    1. It is interesting, and covers quite a lot of the creating plus some history after. Thanks, Michele!

  2. Thanks for sharing your experience on Smile: How Young Charlie Chaplin Taught the World to Laugh (and Cry). I am waiting on hold for it at my library. I had not previously heard of A Green Place to Be, so I put that one on hold too. Thanks for the suggestions. They both look amazing. I cannot wait to read them!

    1. Glad you'll see the Chaplin book soon and now will look for A Green Place to Be. I loved both of them! Thanks!


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