Kids E-Book Nonfiction

"A Girl Called Genghis Khan: How Maria Toorpakai Wazir Pretended to Be a Boy, Defied the Taliban, and Became a World Famous Squash Player," by Michelle Lord; illustrated by Shehzil Malik

Meet Maria Toorpakai Wazir, a Pakistani girl who loved sports and longed for the freedom that boys in her culture enjoyed. She joined a squash club to pursue her dream, and was taunted, teased, and beaten - but still continued playing. Then, when Maria received an award from the President of Pakistan for outstanding achievement, the Taliban threatened her squash club, her family, and her life. Although forced to quit the team, she refused to give up. Maria kept practicing the game in her bedroom every day for three years! Her hard work and perseverance in the face of overwhelming obstacles will inspire all children. Ages 5-9

- Summary

"Queen of Physics: How Wu Chien Shiung Helped Unlock the Secrets of the Atom,"

by Teresa Robeson; illustrated by Rebecca Huang

Robeson details the life of Wu Chien Shiung, a female physicist of the mid-20th century who completed important, often unrecognized work in beta decay. Fortunate to have parents who started a girls' school in China, Wu was educated like her brothers, attended university, and led student protests to "resist Japanese invaders" just before WWII. After moving to the U.S., she investigates parity and beta decay in California and New York, often facing prejudice, and is passed over for the Nobel Prize as her male colleagues receive accolades. All the while, she perseveres, remembering her Baba's words: "Just put your head down and/ keep walking forward." Huang's stylized illustrations feature chalkboards full of equations and backdrops with swirling nuclear symbols. A list of Wu's "firsts" (first woman instructor at Princeton, for example) and a glossary of nuclear terms close this bittersweet biography of a brilliant woman. Ages 5-9

- Publishers Weekly

"Our House Is on Fire: Greta Thunberg's Call to Save the Planet," by Jeanette Winter

Greta Thunberg, the teen climate activist from Stockholm, made international headlines throughout this year. This picture book valorizes the quiet girl who began to speak out once she learned about climate change. Readers learn about Greta's awakening, including the early days of her climate strike, and her growing impact on climate conversation. The narrative invites the kind of action required to avert the worst effects of climate change. Therein lies the book's innate - and interesting - contradiction. The simple text addresses children much younger than Thunberg, who was 15 when she came to prominence. The visuals are rousing and inspiring, featuring pictures of young kids carrying signs. It sets up an expectation that everyone should do something to help mitigate climate change. This may be a lofty expectation, but it's better than expecting too little. However, the statement that "there might not be a world to live in when she grows up" is likely to inspire panic among children. At the same time, her oversimplified assertion that Thunberg was eventually asked to speak to "very important people" at the UN climate talks and at the World Economic Forum undermines the book's premise that everyone is important in this fight. The simple, vivid illustrations keep the focus on Thunberg and soften the clumsiness in the text. The memorable images can help children imagine their own activism into being. Ages 3-7

- School Library Journal

"You Are My Friend: The Story of Mister Rogers and His Neighborhood," by Aimee Reid; illustrated by Matt Phelan

A quietly moving picture book biography about the origin story of Mister Rogers. In straightforward language, Reid lays out the facts of Fred "Freddie" Rogers's childhood - bouts of sickness that forced him to remain inside for weeks on end, loneliness that laid the foundation for an expansive imagination, bullying, and a close relationship with his grandfather, who showed love and unconditional support and gifted young Freddie with the words that would shape his own philosophy: that he "was special and that, just by being himself, [he] made the day special, too." Phelan's soft pencil work and washes of watercolor give the artwork an appropriately nostalgic feel, while bright pops of green and red - Fred's iconic cardigans -draw the eye and underscore the unique power of Mister Rogers to inspire an almost instantaneous bond with his viewers. Young readers who may not be familiar with Mister Rogers' Neighborhood but who've likely enjoyed its successors, especially Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, will learn about the man behind the creation of the original Neighborhood of Make-Believe and his path from shy boy to the visionary who revolutionized educational television for children. Back matter, including a brief biography, notes from Reid and Phelan, and a selected bibliography will help students understand the emotional impact Fred Rogers had - and continues to have - on generations of children. Ages 5-8

- School Library Journal