Free Library of Philadelphia

Explore
Home > What We're Reading: Book Reviews
Book Reviews - Want to know what our librarians and staff are reading? Browse through a variety of book reviews added to our catalog from a variety of genres. Subscribe
There Are 43 Reviews | Showing 1 to 10
Dot. Book Cover
Dot. by Zuckerberg, Randi, author.
Reviewed by Debra E (Mar 31, 2014)
Meet Dot! She's a girl that knows how to use digital tools! She can tap, swipe, text, and share. She tires of all of this indoor activity; she finds that she can be just as interactive outdoors with her friends. This book is a good story that parents can use to show a child that there is still fun to be had outside of the digital world.
 
Tags:  4 Stars (liked it), Children's
 
Ophelia and the marvelous boy Book Cover
Ophelia and the marvelous boy by Foxlee, Karen
Reviewed by Jen M (Jan 8, 2014)
A lovely fairy tale type story that sucks you right in. Although the story was predictable, it had a nice flow. The descriptions were incredible and the whole book came to life in my head as I read.
 
 
One gorilla : a counting book Book Cover
One gorilla : a counting book by Browne, Anthony, 1946-
Reviewed by Joel N (Mar 28, 2013)
With beautiful paintings of monkeys and apes, this simple picture book is a great way to practice counting and numbers at the same time children are learning to appreciate the beauty and intelligence of our ape cousins!
 
Tags:  4 Stars (liked it), Children's
 
Fifty cents and a dream Book Cover
Fifty cents and a dream by Asim, Jabari, 1962-
Reviewed by Mary M (Feb 26, 2013)
Booker T. Washington was born captive slave on April 5, 1856 and he died as free man on November 14, 1915. The end of the Civil War in 1865 gave all subjugated slaves the precious gift of freedom. At this point, Booker’s family moved to West Virginia to enjoy the independence of a youthful life.

During this transition period, the teenager Booker learns how to read the words of the newspapers. He was fascinated with the knowledge that he could acquired just for reading the books. From this first moment, the freed slave showed his inclination to continue a higher education. He knew that this landscape of freedom will bring him more challenges than opportunities.

“With fifty cents and a dream in his soul,” Booker walked 500 hundred miles from his home to the Hampton Institute of Virginia. He worked very hard, as janitor, to pay for his education at this important school. He enjoyed learning a lot, but also he admired his teachers for sharing their knowledge with the rest of the students.

As a son of slave, Booker was able to overcome all the obstacles to obtain his goal in life. At the end, all the hard work paid off the sacrifices that he made to reach his dream: being part of the Hampton Institute, as an excellent student. His social condition was not a barrier to dream big. This is a great inspirational story of work commitment and action plan that should be learned and followed!
 
Tags:  5 Stars (LOVED it), Children's
 
Our children can soar : a celebration of Rosa, Barack, and the pioneers of change Book Cover
Our children can soar : a celebration of Rosa, Barack, and the pioneers of change by Cook, Michelle.
Reviewed by Mary M (Feb 21, 2013)
What a beautiful picture book! The remarkable paintings of “Our Children Can Soar” bring life special moments in the history of the African American Community. The twelve stories reflect on the hard work of past leaders, which brought to the community, their unique contribution to a greater vision: recognition of cultural pride. The history events, presented in this book, assemble the need to look up into the past in order to move toward a better future. With a few words, every picture speaks by itself highlighting, to the readers, the need to build a better world for the common good of the younger generation. Dream big is the message of this story!
 
Tags:  5 Stars (LOVED it), Children's
 
A sweet smell of roses Book Cover
A sweet smell of roses by Johnson, Angela, 1961-
Reviewed by Mary M (Feb 14, 2013)
Freedom and equality of rights for everyone was the message of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the pacific march of August 28, 1963. In this historical moment, Dr. King shared with the followers his famous speech “I have a dream” on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

“A Sweet Smell of Roses,” written by Angela Johnson recollects that historical event as an important civic milestone for the African American community. In this narrative, the writer portraits Dr. King as a compelling leader with a vision that challenged the status quo of the American society: as a colored man, Dr. King’s dream was to bring everyone together as a nation.

Johnson uses simple and powerful words to transmit to the younger audience the importance of sharing not only a mutual goal but also the need of compromising toward a common vision. This storytelling is crafted with symbolism that reinforces the idea of “hope” as a natural community builder. Visualizing people’s dream can generate a positive energy for a better future.

The illustrator, Eric Velasquez uses mainly a tri color palette of ivory, white and black tones to extend the meaning of the drawings. He adds the red color, with a delicate touch, to symbolize that the individual’s rights in the United State are guaranteed by the American Constitution.
 
Tags:  5 Stars (LOVED it), Children's
 
Martín de Porres : the rose in the desert Book Cover
Martín de Porres : the rose in the desert by Schmidt, Gary D.
Reviewed by Mary M (Feb 5, 2013)
Evoking the colonial period of the seventeenth century in Lima, Peru, the author Gary D. Schmidt brings to the young reader the story of the slave Martín -who as a young fellow- discovered his holy grace and spiritual wisdom to cure people’s body and heart. The miracles that he performed during his live among all people made him gain the title of “doctor apprentice” in the catholic congregation.

Martín spent his childhood in the poor sector of Lima. The “barrios” was an area designated to the low social working class: the slaves and the mestizos were found in this border. This indigent neighborhood was built on the Rimac River shoreline under the lack of basic living conditions for the community. Here he lived with his mother Anna Velázquez, a freed slave, and his sister Juana. At the age of eight, Martín met his father Don Juan de Porres -a royal Spaniard- for the first time. After the family reunion, Don Porres decided to take his children to Ecuador -where he was assigned to work- to give them a basic formal education for the future.

Back in Lima and at the age of fifteen, Martín entered to the Monastery of the Holy Rosary as the sweeper of the cobblestone. Father Juan de Lorenzana, the Dominican Provincial of Peru, told the young Martín that his aspirations to serve God as a priest would never be fulfill because of his slave condition. Martín accepted his destiny and he suit his life with acts of love and compassion to other human beings. Most of the time, the juvenile mulatto was seen carrying his broom and surrounded with animals.

During many years Martín was following his heart and healing the sickness of the people with his holy hands. At the age of nineteen and against all social status, the mulatto took his vows as a priest and he devoted his life, completely, to the service of the poor. He lived a short life dying at the age of forty-five. After many years of his dead Martín was canonized by Pope John XXIII in 1962 as the first saint of mix raced.

The Pura Belpré 2013 award winner illustrator, David Díaz uses -in this picture book- a combination of warm colors that add a touch of personality and a texture to the story. Both humans and animals are drawn with love and empathy. The thirty-two pages of this book are crafted to make the reader feel the humble heart of Saint Martín de Porres. This story is beautifully written and the drawings extend the meaning of the narrative.
 
Tags:  5 Stars (LOVED it), Children's
 
Talking with Mother Earth : poems Book Cover
Talking with Mother Earth : poems by Argueta, Jorge.
Reviewed by Mary M (Nov 15, 2012)
Pictograph paintings that resembles the symbols and the cultural traditions of the Nahuatl indigenous culture from El Salvador are found in the bilingual English/ Spanish children’s book: “Talking with Mother Earth: Poems/ Hablando con Madre Tierra: Poemas.” In the story, Telt, a Pipil Nahua Indian, search for self-acceptance among the other inter-cultural groups that shape the Salvadoran culture. Jorge Argueta, Telt’s Castilian name, is very proud of his Nahuatl culture and all the traditions that he inherited from his ancestors. In seventeenth beautiful poems, the writer expresses his devotion to Mother Earth - the fire, the wind, the air and the water- and all the beautiful things that nature has to offer to the humankind. As Telt tries to fit into a group, he finds himself being segregated by other people because of his Indian identity. The writer highlights, in the poems, the importance of being “different “as a positive characteristic in the inter-cultural relations inside the community. The important message of the book is that Argueta wants to develop a sense of “culture awareness” among all members of the society. Lucía Angela Pérez translates the writer’s emotion into vibrant delightful pictures that complements the message of the poems.
 
Tags:  5 Stars (LOVED it), Children's
 
Be quiet, Mike! Book Cover
Be quiet, Mike! by Patricelli, Leslie.
Reviewed by Debra E (Nov 13, 2012)
Mike, a monkey, makes much noise while doing his favorite activity: drumming! Everyone including his family tells him to be quiet. Yet, he wants to keep drumming. He especially yearns to keep drumming after seeing and wanting a new "full-size jamming drum set". But he has a problem: he has no money to buy it. Children will love how he gets a drum set and his family's approval by the story's end. Be Quiet, Mike! is a good story for parents, caregivers, and storytellers to use while teaching children that they can solve problems for themselves.
 
Tags:  4 Stars (liked it), Children's
 
Barnum's Bones : how Barnum Brown Discovered the Most Famous Dinosaur in the World Book Cover
Barnum's Bones : how Barnum Brown Discovered the Most Famous Dinosaur in the World by Fern, Tracey E
Reviewed by Teresa G (Nov 8, 2012)
What a wonderful book! Author Tracey Fern has created a delightful account of Barnum Brown and his discovery of the most famous dinosaur of all--Tyrannosarus rex. Barnum comes alive in the pages as his childhood fascination with the odd fossils found on his father's Kansas farm leads him to become a dinosaur hunter for the Museum of Natural History in New York City. Beautifully written, Barnum's Bones evokes the hard work of dinosaur hunting and the excitement of the find. Telling the story with language that is elegant and descriptive, Tracey Fern keeps the reader wanting to turn each page to find out "what happened next" in Barnum's life. EXCELLENT!