Dec 9, 2020

FROM HERE TO THERE: a Journey of Ten Thousand Years

I've been immersed in fiction picture books while narrowing down Round One Cybils finalists among two hundred nominees. It's exciting to take a break from that category to share the news of an upcoming nonfiction picture book release. It's written by the amazing Vivian Kirkfield. I'm an avid fan of her nonfiction picture books, and I'll get to this newest title in a moment.  

First, though, I want to sing the praises of the author herself, someone who always goes the extra mile. Vivian's website is loaded with amazing content, including her blog about wonderful authors, celebrations of "book birthdays" by other creators, and information about her own extensive catalog. She offers school visits (virtual, for now, but still lively and loaded with learning), provides supplemental materials about her books, and has a tab to access critique services for aspiring writers. She volunteers enormous amounts of time via social media giveaways of mentorships and other coaching. Read more about her HERE

January, 2021

The important thing for readers to know about Vivian is her ability to take deep dives into nonfiction content and then share her discoveries with irresistible storytelling skill. FROM HERE TO THERE: Inventions that Change the Way the World Moves is an impressive example of that, times ten. As her introduction explains, until mobility inventions developed, the only way to get from one place to another was to walk, run, be carried, or swim. As soon as animals were domesticated, the "be carried" idea caught on. 
In this excellent compilation, nine significant methods of more recent transportation developments are explored, with the "tenth" multiplier being the supplemental content at the end of the book. 

Opening endpapers launch readers eight thousand years into the past, when Inuit people developed canoes and kayaks. A select timeline begins there and takes giant steps forward, a few thousand years at a time, through skis, sailboats, riverboats, chariots, and even kites, wheelbarrows, and parachutes. The timeline reveals the eras in which evidence of such innovations were confirmed.

Kirkfield's full text takes a deeper dive into specific contributors to modern transportation. After reading nine detailed and delicious chapters, extensive back matter invites further exploration. Kids are challenged to consider creating their own inventions, with resources provided for further support in their efforts. An index makes this book a useful reference tool, including a selected bibliography providing chapter-by-chapter resources for each profile. Some diagrams and technical drawings from the original development of various devices are provided. Also included are source notes for quotations and excerpts embedded in the body of the text for each chapter. 

I'm making a point of these supplemental materials to stress the foundational strength of this book with its appealing and intriguing storytelling: accuracy and fact reliability. As we are guiding young readers through a world in which statements and stories "ring true" or may even seem too amazing to be true, it is important that they learn to take a closer look at those stories. Some may be constructed from questionable cloth (or thin air). This book serves as an outstanding example of ways that facts can be sorted from fiction, how questions can be answered with confidence. 

Now, to the chapters themselves. 

Each profile is placed in chronological sequence from the early 1700s to present day, and relates the story of the inventor(s) of these comparatively recent transportation inventions. Each reveals personality quirks, personal needs, inspiring moments, partnerships, struggles and setbacks. Each chapter can be read as an intact story, in any order. Each also integrates related content in useful sidebar text, an efficient and interesting way to provide societal context, impact, connections, and other details without disrupting the flow of very entertaining stories. The overall effect makes these contributions from the past feel relevant and important to present day life.

Chapter One begins with manned hot air balloon flight (1700s), moving on to the bicycle (originally the "running machine"!), the steam locomotive, gasoline-powered automobiles, interstate bus company services, liquid fuel-propelled rockets, folding wheelchairs, industrial robots, and computer-generated ship designs. In each case, the inventions are ones we take for granted (if we bother to think of them at all) but the stories of their inventors reveal how innovative and truly unprecedented these ideas were in their times. Each offers examples of persistence, cooperation, and visionary drive. There is variety and diversity among the inventors, and in every case their personalities will resonate with and inspire readers.

The final endpapers provide a select timeline of transportation inventions from the past two centuries, ending with the driverless automobile. I grew up in Ohio not far from the home of Orville and Wilbur Wright. Other than some fun field trips, I can't say that inventors of various forms of transportation ever intrigued me. Now, though, the remarkable characters profiled in each chapter of this book filled me with curiosity about the untold stories behind those pictured inventions on the timeline. I suspect many young readers will have similar reactions and they may dive into their own deep research about those untold stories. 

Why am I featuring a nonfiction "chapter book" in a picture book blog? Because it is, in reality, a sort of anthology of separate picture books, with the illustrations carrying important elements of the individual profiles. I was provided an advance PDF file of this forthcoming book, so the images throughout were in black and white. Even so, the art illustrations by Gilbert Ford suited this work beautifully. His retro-style and action-packed scenes enhanced both the history and the propulsive quality of each invention. In some places the images revealed the drama or emotional content of the related text. In many instances the images take on more technical detail to clarify and support understanding of science or mechanical elements within the profiles. 

This book is a prime example of ways that literary content can be used for STEM education and too-often neglected social studies. I urge you to get your hands on this book as soon as you can. (It's available for advance orders now, HERE). 
While you are waiting to read it, you can learn more about Vivian by reading her other books, which I love, including posts about two of them HERE and HERE.

Writer for children—reader forever…that’s Vivian Kirkfield in five words. Her bucket list contains many more than five words – but she’s already checked off skydiving, parasailing, banana-boat riding, and visiting critique buddies all around the world. When she isn’t looking for ways to fall from the sky or sink under the water, she can be found writing picture books in the picturesque village of Bedford, NH. A retired kindergarten teacher with a masters in Early Childhood Education, Vivian inspires budding writers during classroom visits and shares insights with aspiring authors at conferences and on her blog, Picture Books Help Kids Soar where she hosts the #50PreciousWords International Writing Contest and the #50PreciousWordsforKids Challenge. She is the author of many picture books including Sweet Dreams, Sarah, a 2020 Notable Social Studies Trade Book Selection, Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe; and the upcoming From Here to There: Inventions That Changed the Way the World Moves, already a Junior Library Guild Selection that launches from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on January 19, 2021. You can connect with her on FacebookTwitterPinterestInstagramLinkedin, or just about any place people with picture books are found.

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  1. I am speechless, Sandy...and that doesn't happen very often as people who know me will tell you. What a fantastic post...I'm thrilled you loved the book! And I LOVE that you feel children will be inspired by it to pursue their own creative paths...because I think, in the end, that's why we are all writing for kids.
    A huge thank you for this exceptional review!

  2. I so appreciate that you commented, Vivian, and that you crate books that inspire young reds, but also other folks trying to create such appealing and informative content.

    1. It's my honor to create stories for young people that I hope will inspire them...and if it informs and engages adults...all the bester!!!

  3. It's on my library queue. I can't wait to read it. And yes, Vivian is fantastic.

    1. Thanks so much for stopping by, David! And yay for it being in your library queue. If you'd like a color PDF so that you can read it and review it on Goodreads before the actual book comes out, just DM or email me.

    2. David, that's a very generous offer, and I believe you'll love it as much as I do.

  4. What a great review of a wonderful book! Congratulations, Vivian! You can do it all--picture book biographies, counting books, and now non-fiction, too! I'm excited to see what comes next.

  5. I agree, Deborah. You will love this book, I assure you!

  6. I am so looking forward to reading this book! Thanks fir sharing it on the blog, Sandy and congratulations Vivian on what looks like another masterpiece of writing!

    1. Thanks, Doreen, for reading about here and adding your voice. I am eager to read what others have to say about it after they/you have a chance to explore it for yourself. It is bright and appealing in every way, lighting up readers' minds to figure out/adapt/invent "better ways" to navigate the world.


Picture books are as versatile and diverse as the readers who enjoy them. Join me to explore the wacky, wonderful, challenging and changing world of picture books.