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Children's Book Reviews

The Truth, the Whole Truth <BR>& Nothing But the Truth

The Truth, the Whole Truth
& Nothing But the Truth

Kate Marley

Need an interesting book for a book review? Looking for unique ideas for the science fair? Have to read a biography for social studies? Well, you're in luck, because there are some great new non-fiction books out now, and the ones listed below are only the tip of the iceberg.


Arches to Zigzags by Michael J. Crosbie. c2000, Abrams.
A very interesting book featuring an architectural alphabet with clear pictures of each feature and a small verse. A longer explanation of each is in the back as well as the location of all the interesting buildings. The excellent photography was by Steve and Kit Rosenthal.

Bats! Strange and Wonderful by Laurence Pringle. c2000, Boyds Mills Press.
The author does a great job presenting these misunderstood creatures in a truthful, positive light. Frank talk about bat facts such as repulsive faces or diets help to minimize bat hysteria. Detailed illustrations are by Meryl Henderson.

Sacred Places by Philemon Sturges. c2000, Putnam.
Each page is filled with intricate cut paper work of religious structures by Giles Laroche; a few short sentences suffice to convey the power and awe of such sacred places as the Ganges, Jerusalem, or the Kaaba. South America, Australia and Africa receive short shrift, but otherwise it's a fairly balanced overview of the world's religions.

Farewell Symphony by Anna Haarwell Celenza. c2000, Charlesbridge.
This is an amusing but touching story about the truth behind Haydn's famous Farewell Symphony - back then, musicians were beholden to a patron, and Haydn's patron kept him and his orchestra working one summer for far too long. Anxious to see their families after months of separation, Haydn came up with a clever, musical plan to convince the prince to let them go home. Colorful drawings by JoAnn E. Kitchel and an enclosed CD are a bonus.

Farewell Symphony by Florence Parry Heide. c2000, Candlewick Press.
Simultaniously funny and somber, this is a book about all sorts of stuff that kids find scary -such as stepping on something squishy in your bare feet, telling a lie, or "being with your parents in an art museum and thinking you're never going to see the exit sign". The manic artwork by Jules Feiffer is the perfect blend of horror balanced with humor.


Aunt Clara Brown by Linda Lowery. c1999, Carolrhoda Books.
It was the subtitle "Official Pioneer" that caught my eye - I wasn't aware that pioneers could be unofficial!? This touching story about a slave who bought her freedom and went to the gold fields to look for a long lost daughter and made her fortune instead is a great little biography about the value of tenacity, generosity and love. Pictures are by Janice Lee Porter.

Amazing Life of Benjamin Franklin by James Cross Giblin. c 2000, Scholastic.
This is an excellent biography for early chapter readers about one of the most famous men in early America. Beautiful illustrations by Michael Dooling help to capture the triumphs and sorrows of this dedicated man, such as his successful inventions, his efforts for a new nation, as well as his wife's lonely death and a nearly lifetime estrangement from his son over political differences.

Mary on Horseback by Rosemary Wells. c 1998, Puffin.
After World War I, Mary Breckinridge took her nurse's training to an neglected, unprofitable place - the Appalaichain Mountains. These three short stories show how, like Clara Brown, one ordinary righteous, hard working person can make a big difference in the lives of ordinary people, and reap rewards far greater than mere money. Subdued black and white illustrations by Peter McCarty somehow seem to fit in with the quiet, understated story.

Feathered Dinosaurs by Christopher Sloan. c2000, National Geographic.
A fascinating book about the link between dinosaurs and birds, which gains more weight as more evidence is found. Naturally, the pictures and graphics are stunning. Nature lovers will adore this.

Vision of Beauty by Kathryn Lasky. c2000, Candlewick Press.
As a black woman living in the early 1900's, Sarah Breedlove Walker didn't have many opportunities to better herself. But she turned one simple wish...not to lose her hair...into one of the biggest businesses and success stories of her time. This book will be a great example for youngsters of hard work and perseverence against the odds.

Forging Freedom by Hudson Talbott. c2000, Putnam.
Here's another uplifting true story about WWII, this time with a Dutch hero. Jaap Penraat starts out by forging papers for his Jewish friends, and ends up with an elaborate scheme to smuggle groups over the border. His efforts eventually save over four hundred lives.


Quotations for Kids. compiled and edited by J. A. Senn c1999, Millbrook Press.
This excellent collection of quotes are taken from books (mostly children's), and proverbs. Even though older kids will definitly use it more, I believe the younger set will enjoy it also. Steve Pica's cartoony illustrations give this compilation a little zing.

Songs of Myself. edited by Diane Scharper. c1998, Woodholme. "Episodes from the edge of adulthood" is the subtitle for this compilation of engrossing essays written by students in Baltimore. Subjects covered include high school, family, religion and illness, and concentrate on the wrenching transition from teen to adult.

Teen Angst? Naaah... by Ned Vizzini. c2000, Free Spirit Publishing.
My teen loved this book. I loved this book. It's a rough autobiography about one boy's life in (mostly) high school in New York City. Filled with sharp observations, wry humor and wicked insights, this is great reading, for sharing, for everyone.


How to Behave So Your Children Will, Too! by Sal Severe. c2000, Viking.
This is a great approach by a school psychologist - he focuses on the parents' behavior to model positive behavior from the children and for the parents to stay in control. Written in a colloquial style and filled with examples from his twenty years of work with parents and their kids, this was a very thought provoking book.

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