Archive for the ‘Non-fiction’ Category

Week-end Book Review: What’s for Lunch? How Schoolchildren Eat Around the World, by Andrea Curtis and Yvonne Duivenvoorden

Saturday, April 13th, 2013

What's for Lunch? How Schoolchildren Eat Around the World, by Andrea Curtis, photography by Yvonne Duivenvoorden (Red Deer Press, 2012)Reviewed by Charlotte Richardson:

Andrea Curtis, photography by Yvonne Duivenvoorden,
What’s for Lunch? How Schoolchildren Eat Around the World
Red Deer Press, 2012.

Ages: 8+

What’s for Lunch? uses a comparison of school lunches around the world as a jumping off point for a wide-ranging discussion of food issues presented in a poster-like layout. Yvonne Duvenvoorden’s attractive photographs of the lunches will draw children in, as will Sophie Casson’s appealingly goofy illustrations. Children will learn not only about the varieties of foods served in schools globally but also about their presentation…

Read the full review

Week-end Book Review: The Oldest House in the USA by Kat Aragon and Mary Jo Madrid

Sunday, December 16th, 2012

Kat Aragon, illustrated by Mary Jo Madrid,
The Oldest House in the USA/La casa mas antigua de los Estados Unidos
Lectura Books, 2012.

Ages: 6-8

Perhaps the best thing about The Oldest House in the USA, in my admittedly biased opinion, is that the author got it right: the oldest house in the USA is in Santa Fe, New Mexico (not far from where I grew up), and nowhere in New England.

There is a tendency in the United States to propagate the myth of European “discovery” which would suggest that this land was all but uninhabited before the Mayflower arrived in Massachusetts in 1620.  This couldn’t be farther from the truth.  In fact, the oldest house in the USA was already 400 years old by then and had already endured its first serious remodeling project!

It was built, as the angels Teresa and Annie who protect it in Kat Aragon’s charming bilingual picture book, tell us, in 1200 by the original inhabitants of what is now Santa Fe: the ancestral Puebloans.  They lived in the house for more than 200 years before something mysteriously drove them away.  It remained vacant until the Spaniards came in 1598 and has been continuously inhabited ever since.

The angels provide the narrative, and Mary Jo Madrid’s lovely watercolor illustrations help us realize that the house has been many things to many people over its 800 year history.  The Pueblo people were living in the house again, for instance, in 1680 during the Pueblo Revolt when they managed to drive out the Spanish for a brief time.  When the Spaniards came back, however, in 1692 under the leadership of General DeVargas, they recaptured the house and installed the Spanish governor there.  DeVargas gave his name to the street the house sits on, and so it remains to this day.

The Oldest House in the USA offers readers a glimpse of a part of US history that is very different from the one that is usually packaged up for school children, one that is no less rich or interesting.  Most children will see architecture and customs completely unfamiliar to them depicted in the illustrations, which will open their eyes to the many possibilities contained in the history of the Americas when we take the time to look a little more deeply.

Abigail Sawyer
December 2012

Week-end Book Review ~ What We Wear: Dressing Up Around the World by Maya Ajmera, Elise Hofer Derstine, and Cynthia Pon

Sunday, December 2nd, 2012

Maya Ajmera, Elise Hofer Derstine, and Cynthia Pon,
What We Wear: Dressing Up Around the World
A Global Fund for Children Book/Charlesbridge, 2012.

Ages: 4-7

Dressing up means something a little different to everyone, but for children dressing up is always important.  It might mean trying on a parent’s clothes in the back of a closet, putting on a costume for a performance or holiday, painting your face, playing pretend, or wearing a team uniform for a big game.  No matter where, dressing up is special, but the details of dressing up differ considerably depending on the traditions of one’s culture.

Though the outfits vary greatly from place to place, the reasons for dressing up unite us all.  This richly photographed book of smiling children from around the world dressing up in every imaginable way will open windows onto other cultures for children everywhere.  Whether vibrant beads on the head, neck, and shoulders of a Kenyan child or identical navy blue baseball caps on a Japanese team, it is clear that children everywhere delight in dressing up, whatever the occasion.  Captions accompanying the photos suggest the different reasons people wear special clothing and where to find people wearing such garments: folk festivals, cultural events, religious rituals and even school.  A world map highlights the countries the photographed children call home, underscoring the point that dressing up is universal.

Children will recognize the familiar in these pages and will also be delighted to see their counterparts in other countries dressed so differently.  The pictures are likely to inspire a sense of wonder that may lead young children to think about what they share and how they differ from people of other cultures.  The authors also make suggestions for learning more about dressing up all over the world such as going to museums, making masks and costumes on your own, and visiting cultural institutions and festivals.

Expressing one’s self and experiencing one’s culture through clothing is an important part of developing self-identity. This makes What We Wear a perfect book to have on the shelves of a pre-school or primary grade library, inspiring kids to see themselves and children everywhere as part of a global community.

Abigail Sawyer
December 2012

PaperTigers Tenth Anniversary: Top Ten Authentic Historical Picture Books by Sherry York

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012

We are delighted that Sherry York has taken us up on our invitation to our readers to submit a Top Ten list of their choosing for our current series in celebration of our 10th anniversary.  Sherry is a retired librarian and works now as an editorial consultant.  She is also the author of a number of guides for librarians and teachers including Ethnic Book Awards: A Directory of Multicultural Literature for Young Readers and Tips And Other Bright Ideas For Elementary School Libraries , as well as guides to children’s and YA literature by Latino and Native American writers.

My Top Ten Authentic Historical Picture Books by Sherry York

These titles represent ten of my picks of authentic historical picture books.  They all present U.S. history from points of view not often seen in “mainstream” lists.

Thanks for allowing me this opportunity to look through my picture book collection and think critically.

Abuelita’s Secret Matzahs by Sandy Eisenberg Sasso illustrated by Diana Bryer (Clerisy Press, 2005)

Bad News for Outlaws by Vaunda Micheau Nelson illustrated by R. Gregory Christie (Carolrhoda Books, 2009)

Coolies by Yin illustrated by Chris Soenpiet (Philomel, 2001)

Crossing Bok Chitto by Tim Tingle illustrated by Jeanne Rorex Bridges (Cinco Puntos Press, 2006)

Malian’s Song by Marge Bruchac illustrated by William Maughan (University Press of New England, 2006)

A Place Where Sunflowers Grow by Amy Lee-Tai illustrated by Felicia Hoshino (Children’s Book Press, 2006)

Rivka’s First Thanksgiving by Elsa Okon Rael illustrated by Maryann Kovalski (Margaret K. McElderry, 2001)

Squanto’s Journey: The Story of the First Thanksgiving by Joseph Bruchac illustrated by Greg Shed (Harcourt Children’s Books, 2000)

The Storyteller’s Candle/La velita de los cuentos by Lucía González illustrated by Lulu Delacre (Children’s Book Press, 2008)

Tomás and the Library Lady by Pat Mora illustrated by Raúl Colón (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 1997)

Of course there are others that I could easily include. I’m sure your readers will know of others…

..and if you do, and would like to send us your Top Ten list, do email it to me, marjorieATpapertigersdDOTorg.

Also, if you haven’t yet entered our 10th Anniversary Draw, make sure you read this!

Week-end Book Review: Kamakwie by Kathleen Martin

Sunday, August 12th, 2012

Kathleen Martin (author-photographer),
Kamakwie: Finding Peace, Love, and Injustice in Sierra Leone
Red Deer Press, 2011.

Ages: 12+

Kamakwie, Canadian writer Kathleen Martin’s moving memoir in photo essay format, reports on a three-week trip to Sierra Leone that opened her eyes and heart to the suffering of the people there during and since their devastating 1991-2002 civil war. Martin accompanied a four-person volunteer medical team; the project was commissioned by the Canadian International Development Agency and World Hope Canada.  Kamakwie is the name of one of the villages the team served.

Martin’s present-tense account takes us chronologically through her experience.  A young mother herself, she empathizes deeply with mothers whose children have died of starvation or other horrors of war.  A man who lost his arm tells her that anger won’t bring back his limb; she is shocked to learn that the woman who betrayed him still lives in the same village. Martin struggles with how to respond to a deserving kid’s request for school fees, later to find the amount is only $5. She organizes English writing workshops for kids to tell their stories and to write to Canadian children, then quotes liberally from their reports and politely desperate pleas for help. She watches a child dying of starvation, learns about the superstitions that have kept her father from seeking treatment, writes frankly of her own incredulousness when she realizes how little she or even the medical team can actually do to help… and yet, they all do offer both concrete help and precious hope for the future. Martin’s candid photographs add immensely to her powerful stories about these beautiful, remarkably forgiving people.

Early on in her 200-page book, readers may find Martin’s naive reactions a bit exasperating. She veers close to stressing her own responses more than the accounts of individual survivors that bring alive their terrible history. But the double purpose of her book gradually becomes clear: Martin wants her young readers to understand both the desperate circumstances of the Sierra Leone people and also the process by which she has honestly faced painful truths about human behavior and consequently aspires to be of greater help. Her touching and revealing openness offers privileged western young people the opportunity to learn how compassion grows by experiencing it for themselves. Back matter includes an author interview and a link to the book’s website.

Charlotte Richardson
August 2012

Week-end Book Review – Puteri Tioman: The Green Turtle by Rossiti Aishah Rashidi, illustrated by Farrah Ashiela Samsuri

Saturday, June 23rd, 2012

Rossiti Aishah Rashidi, illustrated by Farrah Ashiela Samsuri,
Puteri Tioman: The Green Turtle
RainTree (Malaysia), 2011.

Ages 5-11

Puteri Tioman is a turtle who is swimming back to Tioman Island off the eastern coast of Malaysia, where she was born some twenty-five years earlier, in order to lay her eggs.  This superb picture book focuses on Puteri’s life from conception to her return to the island, as a route to understanding the life-cycle of the turtle and the principally man-made dangers to their survival.

Puteri’s individual story is reassuring for young readers.  It not only allows author Rossiti Aishah Rashidi to present interesting facts such as the consistency of a turtle egg being “soft like leather but tough”, but it also counterbalances the hard-hitting environmental message, such as turtles getting trapped in abandoned fishing nets and drowning, or mistaking plastic bags for jellyfish, a main food source, so that they “die a slow death from choking”.   The matter-of-fact tone is well-suited to the book’s young target audience, and by the time children have assimilated the dangers faced by turtles, it will come as no surprise, but will stimulate plenty of discussion, that the book ends with a question mark hovering over Puteri’s return to Tioman Island.  “Will Tioman Island be safe for her to lay her eggs?”  That discussion is then facilitated by three lists starting with “Did You Know?” facts about turtles and leading to “What Can You Do?” (beginning with the premise that “You do not have to go to the sea to help the turtle”) and “The 3Rs” – “Reduce Reuse Recycle”.

Complimenting Rashidi’s writing are Farrah Ashiela Samsuri’s gorgeously rich watercolour illustrations.  As well as her life-like portrayal of the turtles themselves, from vulnerable hatchling to leathery adult, she convincingly conveys the contrast between clean and polluted seas.  Indeed, the initial impact of Samsuri’s portrayal of the “deep blue sea” around Tioman Island grabs readers’ attention and provides an attractive visual gauge for the turtles’ story.  The use of wavy text where the writing refers to turtles swimming is also effective.

Puteri Tioman has a strong local Malaysian context, making it very significant to children in Malaysia: but its environmental message is also relevant to children all over the world.  Indeed part of the book’s power lies in its potential for helping children realise that their actions on a day-to-day local level wherever they are have an impact on environmental conservation on a global scale.

Marjorie Coughlan
June 2012

Poetry Friday: Taco Anema and his Tales of Water: A Child’s View photographic project

Friday, March 30th, 2012



We have a new interview on the PaperTigers website, with Dutch photographer Taco Anema, the author of a superb book called Tales of Water: A Child’s View/Cuentos del agua: Una visión de un niño.  Taco travelled the world photographing children interacting with water; and he spoke to them about what water means to them – how they use it, their joys and their concerns.   Sponsored by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), Taco visited at least one country in each of continents.  In the interview, Taco has given us some fascinating insight into the project and I urge you to read it.  In the meantime, for this Poetry Friday post, I want to share with you an unexpected aspect of the project:

In the book, as well as quotations from children about water, there are some poems typed over some of the photos. Can you tell us about them?

A little while ago, I read somewhere that an emotion hits the brain a thousand times faster than a word or a line of text. Photography is nothing but emotion, but regularly I find it hard to relate to the people in the picture. Sometimes it’s just not enough to know what they look like and to understand the situation they are in. I would still very much like to know something personal about them. And this is typically where the text comes in.

As mentioned earlier, we were very keen on recording the language children use to put their ideas, feelings and thoughts into words. That reinforces the message. So we talked extensively with them about their own experiences in their daily lives. Nobody had at that point thought of poems and the like.

Many people, teachers, parents, mayors and so on, attended our conversations and most likely – I can’t remember exactly – one of them suggested adding a poem by a well known poet or the lyrics of a local song. A really great idea. So we did. Together with the children we picked the ones they liked the best. The poems were important to the children. They suggested putting them in the book. So we did.

Isn’t that wonderful?  I love that poetry spontaneously became an integral part of the project.

And Taco has kindly given me permission to share some of his stunning photographs with you.  I hope you enjoy looking at them as much as I do, and then feel prompted to seek out the book, which has something in it for everyone, children and adults alike. And I should also point out that the text in the book is bilingual English-Spanish (and one of the reasons for that is mentioned in the interview…).

There is actually a pdf of the whole book on the IUCN website, here

This week’s Poetry Friday is hosted by Heidi at My Juicy Little Universe

Week-end Book Review – Alicia Alonso: Prima Ballerina by Carmen T. Bernier-Grand, illustrated by Raúl Colón

Saturday, February 11th, 2012

Carmen T. Bernier-Grand, illustrated by Raúl Colón,
Alicia Alonso: Prima Ballerina
Marshall Cavendish, 2011.

Ages 10+

Alicia Alonso, the latest in a series of portraits of Latin figures by award-winning author and poet Carmen Bernier-Grand, is written in lyrical free verse, a style that particularly suits the dramatic life of this beloved Cuban dancer.

Alonso’s long career has been marked by many difficulties. Already a highly regarded dancer in Cuba, she and her young fiancé, also a dancer, immigrated to New York in 1937, when Alicia was 15 and pregnant. She resumed ballet as soon as her daughter was born. In a field known to destroy bodies and careers early in life, Alonso continued dancing until she was in her seventies, despite diminishing vision from a detached retina that led eventually to blindness.

Bernier-Grand tells the story in touching word-sketches of key moments in Alonso’s life: selection for the role of Swanilda in Coppélia; romance with Fernando Alonso, her eventual husband; parental disapproval of ballet as a career; separation from her daughter during her U.S. tours; learning Giselle while blind and hospitalized by using her fingers as her feet; ballet shoes stuck to her feet with dried blood; eventual refusal to dance in Cuba while Batista was in power.

“She counts steps, etches the stage in her mind.
Spotlights of different colors warn her
she is too near the orchestra pit.
She moves, a paintbrush on canvas…
She imagines an axis
and pirouettes across her own inner stage.”

Raúl Colón’s stylized pastel illustrations poignantly evoke ballet’s beauty and Alonso’s suffering, despite which she has had one of the longest, most esteemed careers in ballet history. Vision in one eye was partially restored in 1972. Alonso, who founded the Ballet Nacional de Cuba, still choreographs dances at age 92.

Back matter includes a detailed biographical narrative of Alonso’s life; lists of some of the ballets she has danced and choreographed and awards she has won; a glossary; an extensive bibliography of sources and websites; and notes on the text. While the simple story of the ballerina’s life will appeal even to very young children, the reference material is rich enough for an older child to use for a research project. In the process of understanding a woman artist’s life struggles, young readers will also learn much about U.S.-Cuban relations.

Charlotte Richardson
February 2012

Week-end Book Review: All About Japan by Willamarie Moore and Kazumi Wilds

Saturday, January 21st, 2012


Willamarie Moore, illustrated by Kazumi Wilds,
All About Japan: Stories, Songs, Crafts and More
Tuttle Publishing, 2011.

Age: 8-12

All About Japan presents an assorted array of information about Japan.  It’s a good contemporary introduction to the country’s culture, language and lifestyles.  There is a mix of the old (traditional festivals and folktales) and the new (anime and video games).  The book begins with a greeting from two typical Japanese children – a girl, Momoka, the only child of a professor mother and a business man living in the city, and Yuto, a boy with two younger siblings living in the countryside with their parents and grandparents.  The country of Japan is then presented through their eyes in a variety of sections entitled “Everyday Life,” “Holidays and Celebrations,” and “Language and Culture.”  Song, stories, foods and crafts are all presented to inform readers about the country. The illustrations by Kazumi Wilds are colorful and accurate in their portrayals of contemporary Japan.

My only quibble with this book is that it presents a somewhat too uniform picture of a country that I know is less homogeneous than it appears to be on the surface.  I would have liked to have seen mentioned the indigenous people of northern Japan (the Ainu), for example, and some mention also of the huge Korean diaspora (known in Japanese as Zainichi Kankokujin)  that has been present in the country for over a century.  Too often books about Japan pitched towards children neglect to mention these salient details of the country’s makeup.  But this is an error of omission that might see change in future editions.  This book is largely aimed at the North American reader, and it does a good job of presenting Japan in a general but engaging manner.  As well, in the back are listed good resources for further study, many of them easy-to-consult websites.  All About Japan is a highly interactive and fun way for children to learn about the country.

Sally Ito
January 2012

Week-end Book Review/PaperTigers Book of the Month: “One Well” by Rochelle Strauss, illustrated by Rosemary Woods PLUS “Ryan and Jimmy” by Herb Shoveller

Sunday, January 15th, 2012

[As we move into our new theme of Water, this post reprints our review of two titles in Kids Can Press’ superb CitizenKid series; One Well is also our current Book of the Month]

Rochelle Strauss, illustrated by Rosemary Woods,
One Well: The Story of Water on Earth
Kids Can Press, 2007.

Ages 8-12

Herb Shoveller,
Ryan and Jimmy: And the Well in Africa That Brought Them Together
Kids Can Press 2006.

Ages 8-12

There would be no life on this planet without it: every organism on earth needs water to survive. Both One Well and Ryan and Jimmy demonstrate in different ways just how precious a resource water is and how we have a responsibility to look after it and ensure that it is kept safe and clean and indeed available.

One Well uses the symbolism of a well to represent all the water on the earth. Animals come to the well to drink; fish live in the well, we need the well for our own drinking water… but the well is now severely at risk from pollution and over-exploitation. We all have a responsibility to be “Well Aware” and to teach our children to become Well Aware also. This is a good resource to set that in motion. The enormity of the facts and figures given is by no means diminished by the symbolism here; indeed, the notion of the well allows even young children to grasp the notion of just how precious our water is and that we cannot take it for granted. Rosemary Wood’s illustrations which swirl through the text intensify the image of the well but also ensure that the metaphor is not taken too literally.

Meanwhile, Ryan and Jimmy is the truly remarkable story of a six-year-old Canadian boy’s determination to build a well in Africa and the series of life-altering events that followed. He was so horrified to hear at school that there were children in the world who did not have safe drinking-water, that he doggedly set about raising money to build a well in Africa. News of his determination filtered into other people’s lives and the ripple effect of his actions eventually gave rise to the setting up of Ryan’s Well Foundation. A class pen pal scheme brought Ryan into contact with Akana Jimmy. They then met in 2000 when Ryan and his family travelled to Uganda to see for themselves “Ryan’s well” in Jimmy’s village. Then in 2002, Jimmy’s life was dramatically changed when rebels attacked his village and captured him to be a child soldier. Although he managed to escape, his life was now at risk. Eventually, he managed to get to Canada, where he was awarded refugee status and became a member of Ryan’s family. Now, both Ryan and Jimmy are involved in the Foundation and have travelled all over the world, raising awareness about the importance of clean water. To date, 319 wells have been built in Africa, South America and India, bringing clean water to more than 450 000 people.

Full of photographs and pictures of letters and drawings, laid on a background of varying bright, earthy African colors and patterns, the book is visually exciting; the story is even more so. The writing is well paced and serves the facts up straight – if it aims to inspire, it certainly succeeds.

These two books compliment each other well (indeed One Well actually cites Ryan’s Well Foundation) and are invaluable resources both for the introduction of water as a school topic and for follow-up reading at home. One Well gives the facts and figures and reasons why we should be taking care of this precious resource; Ryan and Jimmy provides the inspiration for even young children to recognise that every little bit helps and that they can make a difference.

Marjorie Coughlan
November 2007