Saturday, May 14, 2011


I don't have any new book comments to post just now (my reading has been rather slow, lately) but in the meantime, anyone who's attending ALA this June should consider attending this event:


Sunday, June 26 from 8:00 am to 10:00 am in room 243 above Hall D of the Ernest N. Memorial Convention Center in New Orleans. The details provided here all come from a press release via Kelly Milner Halls.

Ten award-winning nonfiction writers -- April Pulley Sayre, Kelly Milner Halls, Deborah Heiligman, Loree Griffins Burns, Carla Killough McClafferty, Christine Taylor-Butler, Shirley Duke, Darcy Pattison, Carla Mooney and Anastasia Suen -- will booktalk their latest factual explorations, complete with programming suggestions to help bring those pages to life.

Featured titles include:
Rah, Rah, Radishes by April Pulley Sayre
In Search of Sasquatch by Kelly Milner Halls
Charles and Emma by Deborah Heligman
The Hive Detectives by Loree Griffin Burns
The Many Faces of George Washington by Carla Killough McClafferty
Magnets by Christine Taylor-Butler
You Can’t Wear These Genes by Shirley Duke
Prairie Storms by Darcy Pattison
Explorers of the New World by Carla Mooney
Read and Write Sports by Anastasia Suen

According to the press release, attendees will "...leave their two hour session with new books to add to your collections and instructive activity handouts specially to engage young readers." I'm most excited about hearing Deborah Heligman, and would love to see what kind of activities will be presented to go along with Charles and Emma, the 2010 winner of the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction.

The Many Faces of George Washington, which combines an exploration of history, science and art, is a new one that looks really interesting. Targeted to a middle-school aged audience, it has been favorably reviewed by Kirkus and School Library Journal. In Search of Sasquatch, which comes out in October, looks intriguing as well.


Anastasia Suen is the award-winning author of 128 books for children and adults, a literacy blogger, and a children's literature consultant for several publishers. She has taught kindergarten to college, including Southern Methodist University and University of North Texas. Suen lives in Plano, Texas. Website:

April Pulley Sayre is an award-winning children’s book author of over 55 natural history books. Her read-aloud nonfiction books, known for their lyricism and scientific precision, have been translated into French, Dutch, Japanese, and Korean. Originally from Greenville, SC, she now lives in Indiana. Website:

Christine Taylor-Butler is the award-winning author of more than sixty books for children. A graduate of MIT, she frequently conducts lectures and workshops to promote literacy for children. In 2009, she received the George B. Morgan ’20 award for her work on MIT’s Educational Council. Christine lives in Kansas City, Missouri. Website:

Carla Mooney is an award-winning author of more than 25 books for children and teens, in a variety of topics. She enjoys speaking to children and adults about books and the writing process. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Carla lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Website:

Carla Killough McClafferty is an award-winning author who says she writes “Biography Plus” books. She writes in such a way that brings her subjects to life, plus she adds valuable, unique information that goes beyond the usual biographical material. Carla lives in North Little Rock, AR. Website:

Darcy Pattison, Arkansas author of picture books, novels and how-to-write books has been published in eight languages. She studied for her master’s degree at Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS. She returns to the wide, open skies of our heartland’s prairies in her first nonfiction picture book, Prairie Storms. She follows this with another nature book next year, Desert Baths. Originally from New Mexico, she lives in North Little Rock, AR. Visit

Deborah Heiligman is the author of Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith, a National Book Award finalist, Printz Honor, LA Times Book Prize finalist, and the winner of the first YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Award. She has written 27 other books, including the "National Geographic Celebrate Holidays Around the World" series. She is working on her first novel. A Pennsylvanian most of her life, she now lives in New York City. Please visit

Kelly Milner Halls specializes in well researched, quirky nonfiction for young readers, including her best known books Albino Animals and Tales of the Cryptids, both YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers. She travels all over the nation speaking at schools, libraries and conferences. She makes her home in Spokane, Washington with one dog, two daughters, too many cats and a 4-foot rock iguana named Gigantor. She also assists YA author, Chris Crutcher. Website:

Loree Griffin Burns has a passion for science and discovery, which she channels into creating fascinating books of non-fiction for young people. Her work has garnered several honors, including ALA Notable designations, an SB&F Prize, an IRA Children’s Book Award and a Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Award. Loree lives with her husband and three children in Massachusetts. Website:

Shirley Duke writes for children from the preschool age to young adult. She also writes teacher guides for educators. A former science teacher, she uses her background in biology and education in her books to explain complex science in a way kids can understand. She blogs about books and easy science lessons at SimplyScience, and is a guest blogger for NOVA’s web program, “The Secret Life of Scientists.” She lives with her husband in the Jemez Mountains of New Mexico and in Garland, Texas. Visit her at and

Monday, May 2, 2011

Amelia Lost

Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart
by Candace Fleming

published by Schwartz & Wade
118 pages

Publisher's description:

From the acclaimed author of The Great and Only Barnum—as well as The Lincolns, Our Eleanor, and Ben Franklin's Almanac—comes the thrilling story of America's most celebrated flyer, Amelia Earhart. In alternating chapters, Fleming deftly moves readers back and forth between Amelia's life (from childhood up until her last flight) and the exhaustive search for her and her missing plane. With incredible photos, maps, and handwritten notes from Amelia herself—plus informative sidebars tackling everything from the history of flight to what Amelia liked to eat while flying (tomato soup)—this unique nonfiction title is tailor-made for middle graders.

My comments:

The description above gets a couple of things wrong. Earhart drank tomato juice when flying, and while it may be intended for a middle grade audience, I think many older readers could pick up Amelia Lost without worrying that it is too young.

After a brief preface on the difficulty of separating fact from fiction (in which she dispells legends like Earhart's claim to have been unimpressed by an airplane at a 1908 fair), Fleming delves into Amelia's 1937 disappearance. Dual narratives cut back and forth between the 17-day search for Earhart's plane and her life story. Fleming has made a great effort to unravel the truth of Earhart's life and disappearance from the myths.

More pages are devoted to Earhart's professional life, but Fleming also depicts her youth, including the troubled home life caused by her father's drinking. Her adult personal life also gets adequate coverage, perhaps thanks to the fact that her manager, George Putnam, eventually became her husband.

Fleming doesn't portray Earhart as the only or even best female pilot of the time. She learned to fly from Neta Snook, and Louise Thaden beat her in the 1929 Women's Air Derby -- a race from California to Ohio. Earhart benefited from better publicity thanks to Putnam, and (as noted by Fleming) her disappearance guaranteed her legendary status. Fleming admires Earhart for what she was and is: an inspiration to women who dream of accomplishing more than is expected of them, and who wish to live life on their own terms.

Earhart's 1937 autobiography was fittingly titled The Fun Of It -- she seemed to delight in setting records and constantly pushing the boundaries of what she (or any pilot) was capable of. Before her last flight, told Putnam that if she must go, "I'd like best to go in my plane." The desperate messages later received from radio enthusiasts as far away as Florida indicate that in the end, she may have changed her mind.

There are many great photographs and newspaper clippings, courtesy of Purdue University and the George Palmer Putnam collection. I would describe the three maps that are included as "servicable" rather than "incredible." The most amazing illustration may be from Betty Klenck's notebook. Next to a page of doodles is a transcription of what may be Earhart's final calls for help (page 81). The design features a 1930s font and very cool 30s-inspired lettering from cover to cover. I also really like the many text boxes and sidebars that cover everything from a failed romance in Earhart's youth to her friendship with Eleanor Roosevelt.

For the most part, I didn't find any unnecssary definitions (one of my pet peeves) embedded in the text. A notable exception appears in "The Way It Works," a text box on page 3 that defines GPS and transmitted (it means "sent"). I was worried that this text box was an indicator of facile writing to come, but was pleasantly surprised when it turned out to be a fluke.

A bibliography, source notes, picture credits and index are appended. Of these sections, the bibliography is the most useful. It includes archival collections; books by Earhart, Putnam and Earhart's sister, Muriel; documentaries; and recent scholarly works. There's also a separate section for websites.