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Check out what the experts are saying!



 “In the aftermath of disastrous 1966 Arno River floods in Florence, a group of visiting students—international but many from Florida State University—voluntarily joined in relief efforts by slogging through the dangerous muck to rescue books from the national library. Lee’s scenes of tumultuous waves washing down city streets amply convey a sense of the widespread devastation to go with Greenwald’s vivid descriptions of the wreckage: “Mud, mud, mud. / Slimy, sticky, stinky mud. / Everywhere. / Everything covered in mud.” The volunteers’ dedication comes through clearly, too (“Arms and legs plunged into gooeyness. / Noses burned with every chemical breath. / Faces almost touched the mud. / Searching.”), as they form human chains to carry volumes to safety and hang them up to dry. Their effort was just part of a much larger one, but as the author notes in her more-detailed afterword, some of these “Mud Angels” came back 50 years later and were still treated like “rock stars.” A true episode worth commemorating.



The Mud Angels: How Students Saved the City of Florence by Karen M. Greenwald, illustrated by Olga Lee


Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review): 5


What did you like about the book?

An uplifting story about visiting students pitching in with local residents to clean up and clear out the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale in Florence after the flooding of the Arno River in 1966. Waves washed through the city, but even when the waters receded they left a hazardous mess of debris and mud throughout the area. Without needing to speak the same languages, the visiting students came together to help retrieve and dry out the books and save part of Florence’s history. Beautiful illustrations show the city, both in its splendor and in its filth, and its people as they cycle through joy to despair and finally, hope.

Anything you didn’t like about it? Not at all


To whom would you recommend this book?

Children ages 6-12, especially

if they are in need of inspiration or uplifting stories.


Who should buy this book?

Elementary schools and public libraries.


Where would you shelve it?

Non-Fiction picture books


Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes!

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                                                  “The 2022 Kansas Notable Books list recognizes 15 books written

               by Kansans or about Kansas,” said Ray Walling, Acting State Librarian. "Readers can be

               transported back in time to the 1887 election in Argonia or to the epic battle of twin

               sisters enabled with superpowers facing a sinister force. This year’s titles include

               something for everyone..."

Each year, the Kansas Notable Books list features 15 books, published during the previous calendar year, which are about or set in Kansas, or written by a Kansas author. This year’s

selection committee includes representatives of public, university, and school libraries,

teachers, academics, and writers. 

Kansas Notable Books authors will be awarded their medals at the Kansas Book Festival on September 24 at Washburn University. 

Kansas Notable Books is a project of the Kansas Center for the Book, a program at the State Library of Kansas which is the state affiliate of the Library of Congress Center for the Book. 

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Factually accurate and accessibly told.

Our verdict: GET IT

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VERDICT: An engaging work of narrative nonfiction that has clear applications

in classrooms and school libraries. Recommended for elementary collections

“Ed wants to know if boys can bake cakes, too, or if baking is only for girls. His grandmother Dora tells him the story of Susanna Salter, a woman who defied the gender norms of her era and became the U.S.’s first female mayor when she was elected in Argonia, Kansas in 1887. The book ends with a surprising twist. Students will appreciate the straightforward language and engaging images. The colorful illustrations are appealing enough to intrigue curious readers. Historical details in the images support comprehension of the narrative and anchor students in an unfamiliar place and time. Teachers will appreciate the author’s message and theme. There is also a clear application with social studies and history standards. The book is based on solid historical research and the research method is discussed in the back matter; librarians even get a mention! The back matter also includes images of and more information about Salter.”

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A children’s librarian reviews twenty of the best children's books about women who have improved our world with creativity, tenacity, and problem-solving skills. Use these books at home, in the classroom, or read aloud in any setting. Click HERE.

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