A STEM theme ran through my nonfiction picture book January reads: biographies of two scientists, Kate Sessions and Albert Einstein, as well as two bird books covering parrots and godwits.
Parrots over Puerto Rico by Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbure, collages by Susan L. Roth
Roth and Trumbure chronicle the demise of the Puerto Rican parrot along with the island’s history.From flocks of thousands covering the skies to only twenty-four parrots in 1967, people swung into action in 1968 to save their unique birds with the Puerto Rican Parrot Recovery Program. The book tracks the ups and downs of the program making it clear how slow and difficult bird recovery programs are. The distinctive blue flight feathers of the Puerto Rican parrot are easy to spot in the gorgeous and intricate collages even as they become rarer as the years pass and will leave children longing for a chance to see this brilliant birds in person. The ALA Youth Media Awards agree that this book is awesome, granting it the 2013 Sibert Medal for most distinguished informational book for children.
The Long, Long Journey: The Godwit’s Amazing Migration by Sandra Markle, illustrations by Mia Posada
Four months after they are born, godwits fly non-stop from Alaska to New Zealand (7270 miles!). Sandra Markle tracks a young female godwit from birth to her arrival in New Zealand. Four months of preparation culminate in an eight-day journey. For heightened appreciation of this amazing feat, challenge kids to flap their arms as long as they can before beginning this book!
The Tree Lady: The True Story of How One Tree-loving Woman Changed a City Forever by H. Joseph Hopkins, illustrated by Jill McElmurry.
Tree Lady is a delightful biography of Kate Sessions, the lady who brought trees to San Diego. Long thought a city destined to a barren desertscape, with her deep knowledge and love of trees she introduced numerous drought-resistant varieties to the city, in particular Balboa Park. The refrain “But Kate did” is repeated on almost each page of the book as Hopkins stresses how Kate viewed the world differently and was thus able to achieve much that others thought impossible breaking barriers for women, cities and trees. An inspirational biography for any child, but especially budding scientists.
On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne, pictures by Vladimir Radunsky.
Berne’s work is not so much a biography as insight into the way Albert Einstein’s mind worked accompanied by anecdotes from his life. Radunsky’s illustrations are perfect companions to the experimental nature of Einstein’s thinking. A good book for parents as well as children as it can remind us of the importance of daydreaming in a child’s life.