New Reviews from CLJ Oct. 29, 2012


A Picture Book of John and Abigail Adams/ by David A. Adler and Michael S. Adler.

PRI, grades 1-3 rating: 5. Library binding.

Born in 1735, John Adams loves the outdoors and plans to be a farmer, but after receiving a Harvard education he becomes a teacher and then a lawyer in Massachusetts colony. He meets the humorous and spirited Abigail Smith, and they marry just as conflict between the British Parliament and the American colonies begins to escalate. Adams serves as representative to two Continental Congresses, our nation’s first vice president and second president, as well as our first ambassador to Great Britain. Abigail plays an important supportive role as her husband’s “fellow Laborer” during the American Revolution and throughout their 50-year marriage. A Picture Book of John and Abigail Adams is part of the “Picture Book Biographies” series by David A. Adler; this title is co-authored with his son, Michael S. Adler.

A Picture Book of John and Abigail Adams is a marvelously written and illustrated introduction to one of our country’s great founding fathers and an important period in American history. Soft full-page watercolor illustrations by Ronald Himler capture pivotal events in Adams’s life: lake swimming as a carefree boy, courting his future wife, practicing law with integrity, raising his children, and ultimately succeeding George Washington as U.S. President. Strong and independent Abigail is admirably portrayed as her husband’s “most trusted counselor and best friend.”  Intriguing details boost the appeal of their story for young readers, such as the first couple’s initial disinterest in each other, the responsibilities of their children at home and abroad (son John Quincy would later become the sixth president), and Adams’ political rivalry/friendship with Thomas Jefferson. Helpful endpapers include a brief timeline, source notes, a selected bibliography, and recommended websites, along with some interesting additional facts presented by the authors.

Recommended for grades 1-3, this would be an excellent choice for a classroom, school library, or home reading, with just the right amount of text and information to challenge, educate, and entertain.

Nina Ditmar

Ben Franklin: His Wit and Wisdom from A-Z/ Alan Schroeder.

PRI, grades 2-4 , rating: 5. Hardcover.

With only two years of formal schooling, Ben Franklin was knowledgeable about many subjects including ship navigation, invented useful products such as bifocals, thought the turkey should be our national bird, and helped create the first fire company in Philadelphia. These and many more facts about one of our most beloved founding fathers are the basis of Alan Schroeder’s Ben Franklin: His Wit and Wisdom from A-Z. Biographical and historical details are presented alphabetically and embellished with illustrations, cartoons, and some of Franklin’s wise and timeless sayings.Ben Franklin: His Wit and Wisdom from A-Z is cleverly constructed and offers much to absorb.

By including both well- and little-known information, author Alan Schroeder has created a non-fiction picture book with appeal for readers of all ages. Each letter of the alphabet receives a busy, full page. From “armonica” to “zeal” there are new words and facts to learn. Cartoonist John O’Brien’s detailed color and ink drawings are a delight. Parents reading this book with their children will find themselves surprised and intrigued by new bits of information. Young readers will enjoy the whimsical artwork and some of the more unusual facts, but may need help and encouragement to read through and understand some of the longer descriptions. This book would be a wonderful addition to a classroom or school library.

Nina Ditmar


Catch the Wind, Harness the Sun/ by Michael J. Caduto.

INT, Grades 2-6, rating: 5. Paperback.

Catch the Wind, Harness the Sun is a collection of 22 environmentally themed activities of varying complexity for kids. The projects are organized into five sections: “Heating Up”, “Chilling Out”, “Harness the Sun”, “Catch the Wind”, and “Crank Up the Power”. Each section offers relevant background information about energy, instructions for several experiments, photographs, cartoons, safety hints, stories, games, and questions for the reader. The focus is on renewable resources, conservation, and awareness of global energy issues.

Suggested for children ages 8-13 (back cover), Catch the Wind, Harness the Sun offers activities and topics that range from very simple to more involved. This is a wonderful book to put in the hands of children, its 200+ pages literally jam-packed with all sorts of things to grab the imagination and challenge the mind. Bursting with colorful diagrams, photos, and graphics, this is one science book that will truly appeal to young readers. By emphasizing sustainable energy, author Michael J. Caduto educates, motivates, and empowers kids to make a difference in their environment. Some projects require adult supervision and more elaborate planning and equipment; others can easily be tackled with household items. There is a helpful index of resources.

Nina Ditmar


Abraham Lincoln & Frederick Douglass: The Story Behind An American Friendship / by Russell Freedman.

INT, grades 4-7, rating: 4. Hardcover.

In Abraham Lincoln & Frederick Douglass: The Story Behind an American Friendship, Russell Freedman describes the trials and hardships that Frederick Douglass encounters as a slave. Frederick Douglass escapes slavery and then fights for the end of slavery and for equal rights. There are similarities between Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. Both are poor and self-educated. They also work hard for their beliefs. Lincoln becomes the 16th President, and Douglass is an abolitionist spokesman. Abraham Lincoln is also fighting against slavery; however, he has to think of the nation’s health before he can make any changes. He is trying to make the Emancipation Proclamation an amendment to the Constitution. His fear is that if it isn’t changed in the Constitution, his successor can re-instill the slavery laws. Unfortunately, the South doesn’t share his beliefs and thus begins the Civil War. Douglass believes that the war can help end slavery, but Lincoln worries about the country’s survival. When Frederick Douglass visits President Lincoln, he doesn’t think he’ll be permitted to see him. However, Lincoln listens attentively to Douglass and hopes that they can end slavery and promote equality. A friendship develops from their three meetings and the horrible circumstances of the times. They have great respect for each other.

This book is well-written and informative. Many people know who Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass were, but may not be aware of their relationship and common goals. This book details their extraordinary friendship, and shows how they fought for the same cause while having to be careful in the ways they handled it. There were obstacles for both–people’s beliefs and the Civil War, but the two men depended on each other to find ways to carry out the anti-slavery plans.

Trina Chase




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