The Incredible Life of Balto
By Meghan McCarthy
Published 2011 by Alfred A Knopf
Another non-fiction picture book that caught my eye, this is the story of Balto, one of the dogs who rushed a serum to Nome, Alaska during a diphtheria epidemic in the 1920s. I might be the only twentysomething who doesn't remember seeing the Disney movie based on this story, but that didn't make the book any less appealing to me. This is a book that is sure to catch the attention of many children (they always seem to be fascinated by dogs) and it's a very well-done book as well. The illustrations are simple and work with the text well. Unlike other books on Balto, this explores his life after he became famous as well. There is a very detailed author's note at the end, as well as an extensive bibliography and a list of some suggested activities for furthering the book.
By Donna Jo Napoli, illustrated by Jim Madsen
Published 2011 by Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
This was not really a satisfying book for me. The illustrations are absolutely gorgeous - they perfectly evoke the scenery that they are meant to capture but the text is sometimes difficult to find and lost among these illustrations.It's an intriguing story but this is definitely for a much older audience (I'm thinking grades 3 and up). I didn't really get that this was supposed to be the story of Lewis & Clark (I mean, I knew from reading the cover that this is what it was supposed to be but it doesn't really come across in the book itself). There is an author's note at the end to explain the story but I think this is probably going to fall flat for a lot of kids. I think, aside from the illustrations, its biggest strength is it provides a lot of unique sound words ("flit flit" of the salmons).
Waiting for the Biblioburro
By Monica Brown, illustrated by John Parra
Published 2011 by Tricycle Press
This is a good introduction for children to the differences among lifestyles for kids around the world. Hopefully, this book will make children appreciate their libraries and all the things they have access to that may not be true for other kids in the world. I like that the emphasis is made on the fact that Ana only has one book that belongs to her - this is something that maybe a lot of kids don't realize is true but is a reality for a lot of people. There is an author's note at the end that provides some background information on the inspiration behind the story. The illustrations suit the story well - they have a colorful Latino flair.
What We Wear: Dressing Up Around the World
By Maya Ajmera
Published 2012 by Charlesbridge Publishing
This is a non-fiction picture book about other cultures for a younger crowd than most non-fiction. It provides beautiful photographs from a wide variety of countries and cultures with very simple text to accompany the stunning photos. There is a nice list of suggested activities at the end but this book really fails in that there is no back matter. This book could have been outstanding if only it had included some back matter, explaining the outfits readers have just seen and what each represents. In the end, the only information we're provided with is the name of the country where each outfit can be seen and a map so that we can locate these countries. I really wish the author had included more referential information at the end - it truly would have made this book great.