* A Junior Library Guild Selection
Before I read this fascinating nonfiction picture book about the history of the first Ferris Wheel, I had no idea of the backstory; the competition to find and build a structure for the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair that would be taller than the Eiffel Tower, the lack of financial support for its construction, the grueling work on the foundation in the dead of winter, the tight timeline in which to complete it, and the lack of faith professionals and the public had in the project. I’m thankful to Kathryn Gibbs Davis for opening my eyes to innovator, George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr.
“George had an idea, an idea for a structure that would dazzle and move, not just stand still like the Eiffel Tower.”
What wonderful feats of engineering and willpower enabled Ferris to prove all the naysayers wrong! Over 1.5 million naysayers to be precise, the amount of people who rode on the wheel at 50 cents apiece in the “nineteen weeks” that it was in operation. And they said it couldn’t be done. Not only did Ferris change the public’s mind, but he changed history by building out of steel, what is now a staple of amusement park rides.
“George knew something the chief did not. His invention would be delicate-looking and strong. It would be both stronger and lighter than the Eiffel Tower because it would be built with an amazing new metal — steel.”
On almost every spread, Davis has managed to weave in assorted facts about the wheel’s invention in a way that will keep youngsters as engaged and enthralled as I was. The story itself flows easily and the artwork is simply lovely to look at. Ford‘s fabulous jewel-toned illustrations of 19th century Chicago took me back in time to an era in the industrial age when even electricity in homes was not yet commonplace. But as the sun set each evening, Ferris’s wheel, with is 3,000 electric light bulbs, lit up the night sky and was visible “as far away as forty miles.” I was happy to learn that after the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, in 1894 “the next Ferris wheel appeared in California on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean.”
How sad I was to discover in the back matter (where sources are quoted, and a bibliography along with helpful websites are provided) that a New York Times obituary says Ferris passed away on November 23, 1896 while still in his thirties. I can just imagine all the other innovative contributions he could have made to society had he lived longer. As it is, the enduring popularity of his ride is a testament to Ferris’s genius, and Davis has done a terrific job conveying that in a most readable, enjoyable way.
– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel
Click here for a link to a reading guide.
WIN A COPY!
Leave a comment below about your favorite carnival ride then follow us on Facebook for a chance to win a copy of this must-have picture book. No entries after 11:59p.m. PST on February 11, 2015. One lucky winner will be randomly selected on Thursday Feb. 12, 2015. If you do not leave a comment you will forfeit your chance to win.
MIX IT UP! FUN FOR EVERYONE
Good Reads With Ronna recently interviewed notable Parisian artist and author Hervé Tullet via email before his upcoming trip to Los Angeles. Tullet, the creative force behind the best-selling Press Here, and his latest, Mix It Up!, will be at both MOCA & LACMA this weekend conducting mural workshops for children using his books as inspiration. Both books are published by Chronicle Books, cost $15.99 each, and are recommended for ages 3-5.
Mix It Up! is an interactive board book of the coolest kind. It’s the type of book children will reach for frequently, and each time engage with it in a new and exciting way. Picking up where Press Here left off – although each book stands on its own – Mix It Up! requires no battery or password. In fact it’s better than any app because youngsters get to hold the book in their hands and take a journey through color under Tullet’s expert tutelage. Note: Insert fab French accent here, “Tap that gray spot. Just a little, to see what happens.”
Written in the second person, Mix It Up! invites kids to place their hands on the page, close their eyes, and count to five then MIX IT UP! They can tap, rub, smudge and smoosh to their hearts’ content without getting a drop of paint on them. I couldn’t wait to turn each page to see what Tullet had in store. This book got me away from the computer and onto my feet, moving, tilting and turning pages to and fro, but really, it’s okay to read it seated as well! The best part is finding out what happens when various colors come together on the page. Tullet’s text will make each youngster interacting with Mix It Up! feel satisfied, successful and ready to smoosh some colors on their own. – Ronna Mandel
Good Reads With Ronna: At what age would you recommend parents begin introducing art to their children to look at? To engage in?
Hervé Tullet: Babies don’t know anything, which is why I think they know everything. With their eyes they experience everything as new and interpret everything without any prior experience. This is imagination. They are the artists, our real artists, that’s why I think that museums are the perfect place to feed them with colors and shapes and sensations without any restrictions (except maybe at feeding time!)
GRWR: Were you stirred and moved by art as young as age three – five like the age of the kids your books are geared to?
TULLET: It was a different time, and people didn’t raise children the way they do now. During my childhood, I learned a lot from being alone, from being bored, from not knowing. When I was a teenager, books and museum became my way out, my breath, my salvation
GRWR: Your new book is just so kid-friendly. Why do you think no one has thought of your brilliant idea for a book like Mix It Up! sooner?
TULLET: On the one hand, hand I think that ideas are in the air and everybody can catch them. That’s what happens when you find one; it looks like it came out of the blue. On the other hand, I think that it is a long process of maturation and that I spent lot of time on, nearly obsessed, to find, to think, to search, go on thinking again, erase, cut and at last find the ideas.
Press Here and Mix it Up! are the result of this long process, the high point of 20 years of exploration and work.
GRWR: By having kids get down on their hands and knees with some color and a paintbrush (at your workshops), while you’re out there motivating them, what are the things you’d like to achieve?
TULLET: I’m motivated by having a great time all together and making great memories. And maybe, from this experience, it will create a desire to have another one, or it will be a seed that will flourish later on, out of the blue. Or, maybe not exactly out of the blue.
GRWR: What do kids say to you after they’ve worked on the enormous mural?
TULLET: A look, a smile, a word, a hand shake, a kiss, a sign, a thank you. All these are so deep, so sincere, so true, to me that I accept all of them as true gifts.
Here’s some advice Tullet offers attendees to this weekend’s artsy workshops: “… one thing, please listen to my prompts very carefully. That’s it! That’s all what you have to do! Except the babies of course, they’re going to do whatever they’re going to do!”
Don’t miss Tullet’s L.A. appearances this weekend at MOCA & LACMA on Saturday, 10/11 and Sunday, 10/12. Head to L.A. Parent to get more details by clicking here. In that article, you can also read Tullet’s reply to my question: Is there anything you’d like to say to the families of L.A. and Southern California who will be attending your events? I’m sure you’ll get a kick out of his warm and welcoming response.
To purchase Press Here and Mix It Up! head to your local independent bookseller.
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Find Magic & Mystery in Twelve Dancing Unicorns
written by Alissa Heyman and illustrated by Justin Gerard
Blog Tour & Giveaway
A little girl’s good intentions enable her to accomplish what grown men could not in
Twelve Dancing Unicorns, by Alissa Heyman with illustrations by Justin Gerard, (Sterling Children’s Books 2014, $14.95, Ages 4-7).
Cover of Twelve Dancing Unicorns. Reprinted with permission from Twelve Dancing Unicorns © 2014 by Alissa Heyman, Sterling Children’s Books, an imprint of Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. Illustrations by Justin Gerard.
Those of you familiar with The Twelve Dancing Princesses by the brothers Grimm, will enjoy this enchanting adaptation of the popular fairy tale. For those of you who haven’t read Grimm’s fairy tales, Twelve Dancing Unicorns, a stunning new picture book, easily stands on its own.
Despite being guarded by his finest men, the king finds his twelve prized unicorns mysteriously break free of their golden chains each night unseen by the watchmen. People come from all over the land to see the unicorns, but one young girl has grown particularly fond of the smallest one. She sees the creatures are unhappy being cooped up, and wants to help them.
When the king offers to grant a wish to anyone who can solve the mystery of the broken chains, the girl is the first to step up. Laughed at by the townspeople, and chided by the king for being too young to handle such a task, the girl remains undaunted. With the help of her mother, who gives her an invisibility cloak, and the bright moonlit sky, the girl discovers the unicorns’ secret, and has quite an adventure in the process.
Interior Artwork Reprinted with permission from Twelve Dancing Unicorns © 2014 by Alissa Heyman, Sterling Children’s Books, an imprint of Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. Illustrations by Justin Gerard.
I was reminded of Jan Brett’s illustrations, as I got lost in Gerard’s ability to capture otherworldly beauty in his work. His use of page and picture boarders provides a classic fairy tale feel to a modern book. I found Heyman’s lyrical story book style of writing very appealing; her words capturing the wonder and glory of the mystical world of unicorns.
Twelve Dancing Unicorns: a must read, must keep, and must pass down from generation to generation picture book.
– Reviewed by MaryAnne Locher
Blog Tour & Giveaway:
Follow the Twelve Dancing Unicorns blog tour tomorrow on ‘lil Burghers by clicking here.
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Read on to learn about a cool new Grosset & Dunlap contest along with a Good Reads With Ronna giveaway!
Let’s celebrate Women’s History Month together!
Who Is Jane Goodall? by Roberta Edwards with illustrations by John O’Brien, Grosset & Dunlap
When I was growing up the biographies for kids were awful. They looked like they had been on our local library’s shelves for decades, in other words, as old as the famous people they were about! Plus, they weren’t engaging, and there’s nothing worse than a boring biography (insert yawn here). Had they pulled me in the way the Grosset & Dunlap Who Was…? biography series for young readers does, who knows, I might have become an historian. That’s also why the contest Grosset & Dunlap is running is not-to-be-missed!
CONTEST: WHO WAS…? 100th Book Contest! (Scroll down for the GRWR giveaway, too!)
Who Was Harriet Tubman? by Yona Zeldis McDonough with illustrations by Nancy Harrison, Grosset & Dunlap
Grosset & Dunlap’s Who Was…? series, with over 50 titles featuring famous thinkers, politicians, and history-makers published to date, is particularly interesting. This past summer I reviewed Who Is Bob Dylan? by Jim O’Connor and learned a lot of things I didn’t know about the musician and song writer. (Click here to read the review.) A recent fave is Who Was Christopher Columbus? by Bonnie Bader. The eclectic biography collection includes everyone from George Washington to Walt Disney to Dolly Parton. With their quirky cover art, interior illustrations, and novel-like prose, the books make learning about important figures exciting and accessible for middle-grade readers, both in the classroom and at home. The success of the series has inspired the spin-offs What Was…? and Quien Fue…?, for Spanish language readers. And now having Common Core Curriculum in 45 states makes these nonfiction books all the more relevant. Click here to learn more about the What Was…? series.
Who Was Frida Kahlo? by Sarah Fabiny with illustrations by Jerry Hoare, Grosset & Dunlap
WHAT: Penguin Young Readers recently announced that the subject of their 100th Who Was…? biography (to be published in Summer 2015) will be chosen by their readers! How cool that kids can have a hand in helping to select who will be written about. Perhaps they’d like to see a biography written about former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor or author Louisa May Alcott? Think hard. Will it be Diana, Princess of Wales or maybe scientist and two-time Nobel Prize winner Marie Curie? They can choose from Mother Teresa, Margaret Thatcher or Catherine The Great. There are so many deserving individuals and these are just the women. Kids can also choose an important male, but since we’re celebrating Women’s History Month, I just picked female candidates. Believe it or not, they can even cast a vote for a teacher, an athlete, a rockstar, a movie star or their very own mom or dad. Click here to find out more.
WHEN: From March 1 – June 1, 2014, readers will be able to cast their vote for the figure of their choice. Voting will take place at bookstores, libraries, schools, book fairs, and online at www.whowasbookseries.com. The winning subject will be announced on July 1, 2014.
Good Reads With Ronna Giveaway
Who Was Eleanor Roosevelt? by Gare Thompson with illustrations by Nancy Harrison, Grosset & Dunlap
In conjunction with Grosset & Dunlap’s 100th Who Was…? book contest, we’re happy to offer our readers a Women’s History Month giveaway (for US only, through the end of March) – 1 prize pack of 3 women’s history titles. The winner will receive a copy of Who Was Frida Kahlo?, Who Was Eleanor Roosevelt? and Who is Jane Goodall? To be eligible to win, you must first LIKE us on Facebook or FOLLOW us on Twitter. Doing both gives you an extra entry. Click here to enter via email and give us your address. Remember to also write Who Was…? in the subject. This giveaway will run through March 31, 2014. One winner will be chosen on April 1, 2014 by Random.org and notified via email. Good luck!
We reviewed Because Amelia Smiled ($16.99, Candlewick, ages 3-7) by David Ezra Stein several months ago and are now excited to be able to give away a copy of the book to two Good Reads With Ronna readers. Are you smiling yet?
In Because Amelia Smiled, Stein effortlessly takes readers on a world tour all because a little girl, Amelia, wore an infectious smile while skipping down the street. For details how to enter and for entire contest rules, please click here or scroll down all the way to the bottom of this page for partial info. The contest ends midnight on April 16, 2013 so don’t wait to enter and good luck!
As Stein says in his jacket flap, “The story of Amelia is bigger than anything that can fit in a book. It’s the story of how we are connected.” I could not agree more. Perhaps you are as fascinated by the idea of six degrees of separation as I am and if so, you will love sharing this picture book with your children.
You may know Stein from his Caldecott Honor–winning Interrupting Chicken.
Stein’s art flows from page to page, person to person, country to country just the way today’s technological tapestry has brought us all together seamlessly. So, rather than tell the entire story, I suggest you read Because Amelia Smiled
to learn what caused Amelia to grin in the first place and then find out how many people are positively affected by Amelia’s smile, including you! For more of our review, please click here
HOW TO ENTER:
- Beginning Monday, April 8 we’re offering two readers the chance to win a copy of Because Amelia Smiled by David Ezra Stein. Simply LIKE us on Facebook and also send us your name and contact info in an email to Ronna.L.Mandel@gmail.com by midnight Tuesday, April 16, 2013 and you’ll be entered to win a copy of this picture book. Remember to write SMILE in the subject line.
- The giveaway opportunity ends at midnight on Tuesday, April 16, 2013 and two winners will be randomly chosen on Wednesday, April 17, 2013. For an additional entry please follow us on Twitter @goodreadsronna too! If you don’t provide an email where you can be contacted your chance to win is forfeited.