Posted in Middle Grade, Non-fiction

Be an Absolute Expert with NatGeo Kids

NatGeo Kids rolled out a new series of books. The Absolute Expert series helps kids become experts on a favorite, high-interest topic: current topics are Dolphins, Dinosaurs, Volcanoes, and Soccer. Experts in the field act as guides, leading readers through the info-packed books. Stunning photos, facts, and activities make each volume a great reference for science and STEM collections, and great desk references for kids who just can’t get enough of their favorite topics.

Absolute Expert: Volcanoes, by Lela Nargi and Arianna Soldati, (Aug. 2018, National Geographic Kids), $14.99, ISBN: 9781426331428

Ages 8-12

Volcanologist Arianna Soldati guides readers through a solid volume on volcanoes. Kids learn about ocean volcanoes, volcanoes in space, and deadliest eruptions (psst… Vesuvius isn’t #1!) The book explains plate tectonics and features a world map noting explosive volcanoes, and gives readers a heads-up on staying safe during a volcanic eruption, including an evacuation plan strategy exercise. Four “Get in the Flow!” sections provide activities that will take kids deeper; from building and cataloging a rock collection to creating a volcanic (soda) eruption of one’s own. Resources for further reading and an index finish up this book.

I buy all the volcano/natural disaster books I can get my hands on, because the schools here do a science unit on natural disasters, and the kids raid our libraries, usually heading for the volcano books first. I remember my first year as a librarian, hosting a class trip, and having the teacher ask me where those books were. I pointed out the shelf, and the kids swarmed me. TWO SHELVES. EMPTY. Since then, I don’t play games with my natural disaster books, and neither should you.

The writing is geared for middle grade to early middle school, with scientific terms that may send kids to the dictionaries (and good for that!) for new terms, while photos and illustrations provide a look at volcanoes in various stages of being, from quiet to very, very active. If seeing lightning hit a volcano spewing lava doesn’t inspire an awesome respect for nature, I don’t know what will.

NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day in 2013, similar to the one found in Absolute Expert: Volcanoes

 

Absolute Expert: Dinosaurs, by Steve Brusatte and Lela Nargi, (Aug. 2018, National Geographic Kids), $14.99, ISBN: 9781426331404

Ages 8-12

Paleontologist Steve Brusatte combines forces with author Lela Nargi to make dino EXPERTS out of readers. My favorite section? The little callout box that tries to unravel the mystery of T-Rex’s itty bitty arms. Turns out, they were incredibly strong, and have to have served some purpose, but what? We still don’t know, but there will be countless memes to entertain us until we do. There are details on some of the biggest and smallest dinosaurs; a dinosaur family tree that shows how dinosaurs evolved as history marched on, and a nice section dedicated to feathered dinosaurs, including the evolution of dinosaur feathers, with a picture of a fossilized archaeopteryx feather! Photos of fossils and dino digs make this a perfect volume for budding archaeologists, and beautiful illustrations help readers put faces to those bones they see in the museums. (Jurassic Park does a pretty good job of that, too, but the dinos are usually trying to eat people; this is much less threatening.) A world map spread points out where dino evidence has been found, worldwide, and four “Dig In” sections teach kids about dino tracking, offer quizzes, and invite kids to make their own dinosaur teeth and paleontologist field kits.

Do I even need to say this book is a given in your collections? It’s NatGeo, and it’s dinosaurs. Put this NatGeo dino page on your reference resources list of links: there are videos, activities, and games, and there’s a YouTube video playlist of nothing but dinosaurs! That is a program all by itself!

 

Absolute Expert: Dolphins, by Jennifer Swanson and Justine Jackson-Ricketts, (May 2018, National Geographic Kids), $14.99, ISBN: 9781426330100

Ages 8-12

Marine biologist Justine Jackson-Ricketts serves as the guide in this volume, taking readers deeper into the world of dolphins. A world map spread shows kids the waters where dolphins tend to spend their time. There are tips on becoming a dolphin trainer, what to do if one encounters a stranded animal, and important life lessons dolphins have to impart (“Thanks for the all the fish” is not one of them). As Justine Jackson-Ricketts’ research involves ecology, there’s substantial information on preservation and conservation of our waters and of our dolphins; the authors also shed some light onto the captivity debate. Four “Dolphin Deep Dive” sections help kids design a dolphin study, offers suggestions on how to move and like a dolphin, tests kids’ ability to find dolphin figures in everyday objects, and organize a beach clean-up. Resources for further reading and an index are included.

There are wonderful pictures of dolphins and orcas in here, sure to please animal fans and make some new ones. There are great call-out facts here – perfect for adding to projects and classroom/library displays, too! There’s good scientific writing that challenges readers, and some information on the National Geographic Pristine Seas Initiative; National Geographic’s commitment to explore and help save the last wild places in the ocean. This is a good site to keep in your reference links: there are videos taken on the Initiative’s expeditions, mission descriptions, and updated news events as they unfold. Conservation projects and ocean research projects can get a nice boost from this site.

 

Absolute Expert: Soccer, by Eric Zweig and Mark Geiger, (May 2018, National Geographic Kids), $14.99, ISBN: 9781426330087

Ages 8-12

Professional soccer referee Mark Geiger is here to talk soccer with author Eric Zweig. Conversation goes into supporting one’s team and the different ways fans around the world show their love, including the now-famous vuvuzela; soccer jargon and the 17 Laws of the Game. There are maps of the field and the positions’ places on the field, an explanation of the penalty cards, and a history of “the beautiful game”. A Soccer Around the World section celebrates the diversity of the game and its fans, and since this is a book on sports, there are World Cup numbers, results by nation, and a US map of MLS teams, for us Americans just getting on the soccer bandwagon. Facts and stats throughout give readers some extra street cred knowledge, and four “Get in the Game” activities encourage kids to make up their own game and offer quizzes. There are great photos and illustrations of soccer players and equipment through history, and there are callout biographies on major players throughout. The text is easily readable by middle grade and middle schoolers; this is a volume that soccer fans are going to love.

Check out the National Geographic World Cup 2018 website for vintage photos, World Cup facts, and articles on the science of sport. This 2014 National Geographic blog post, Why the World Cup is About More Than Soccer, puts into words how the sport brings people together, worldwide.

NatGeo, keeping it real for my nonfiction section.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Intermediate, Realistic Fiction

Series fiction gift ideas!

There are some nifty things about series fiction: there are usually a few published throughout a calendar year, and they’re usually reasonably inexpensive, so you can scoop up a few as a nice gift. Here are a few I’ve enjoyed lately.

Anna Hibiscus

Welcome Home, Anna Hibiscus!, by Atinuke/Illustrated by Lauren Tobia, (Kane Miller), $5.99, ISBN: 978-1-61067-678-6
Go Well, Anna Hibiscus!, by Atinuke/Illustrated by Lauren Tobia, (Kane Miller), $5.99, ISBN: 978-1-61067-679-3
Love From Anna Hibiscus!, by Atinuke/Illustrated by Lauren Tobia, (Kane Miller), $5.99, ISBN: 978-1-61067-680-9
You’re Amazing, Anna Hibiscus!, by Atinuke/Illustrated by Lauren Tobia, (Kane Miller), $5.99, ISBN: 978-1-61067-681-6
Good for readers 6-8

This series is wonderful. While it is a running series, you won’t be lost if you don’t read in numerical order. I came in on books 4-8 and have the first four on request from another library; I was captivated by this slice of life series about a young girl who lives with her paternal, extended family, in Africa. The book celebrates African culture and community, family, and empathy. In Welcome Home, Anna Hibiscus, Anna has returned to beautiful Africa after vacationing with her maternal grandmother in Canada. She’s thrilled to be home, gains a new pet, and eases back into daily life. Go Well, Anna Hibiscus! sees Anna and her family returning to her grandparents’ village, where life is slower; there’s no running water or electricity, and kids don’t go to school. Anna learns how to make new friends and learns from them even as she teaches. In Love from Anna Hibiscus!, Anna’s grandfather discovers that an old friend of his has passed away, leaving a young grandson, Sunny Belafonte, on his own. The boy is starving and steals in order to eat; Grandfather and Anna know they must intervene. You’re Amazing, Anna Hibiscus! is the strongest book in this very strong series: Grandfather is becoming more and more tired. Anna is left to work through the grief that that comes with a death in the family. The books paint a beautiful picture of everyday family life and the compassion Anna and her family have for others. Anna and her family are African but for her mother, who is Anglo-Canadian; something that is communicated through illustration. The black and white illustrations throughout show a loving family and scenes of African life: Anna teaching village children to write the alphabet using sticks and the ground; Grandmother weaves a basket; the kids ride an uncomfortably crowded bus to Grandfather’s village. Originally published between 2012-2016 by Walker Books, the series is now available from American publisher Kane Miller. Give this set to kids and broaden their horizons.

 

Animal Planet Adventures

Dolphin Rescue, by Catherine Nichols, (Feb. 2017, Liberty Street), $14.95, ISBN: 978-1-61893-169-6
Farm Friends Escape!, by Catherine Nichols, (Feb. 2017, Liberty Street), $14.95, ISBN: 978-1-61893-416-1
Puppy Rescue Riddle, by Catherine Nichols, (Sept. 2017, Liberty Street), $14.95, ISBN: 978-1-68330-008-3
Zoo Camp Puzzle, by Gail Herman, (Sept. 2017, Liberty Street), $14.95, ISBN: 978-1-68330-009-0
Good for readers 6-10

Simultaneously available in hardcover or $5.99 paperback, this Animal Planet fiction series debuted earlier this year and blends fiction and nonfiction. I enjoyed the first two books, Dolphin Rescue and Farm Friends Escape!, earlier this year; I just read the next two, Puppy Rescue Riddle and Zoo Camp Puzzle, and can honestly say I get a kick out of this series. It’s a true series in that each book is its own separate adventure; there’s no crossover with other characters or locations, so every book stands alone and makes it easy to dive in and enjoy whatever appeals to readers. Don’t like farm animals much? No worries, just read another book. There’s a major plot running through each book and a mystery subplot that the characters must work together to solve: with Puppy Rescue Riddle, a group of friends volunteer at an animal shelter and have to find a puppy who’s gotten lost in a house; Zoo Camp Puzzle stars twin siblings, temporarily living with and being homeschooled by their father at a zoo while he works on a book. The twins notice that animals are going into hiding, and work to get to the bottom of the mystery. Zoo Camp Puzzle has fun word searches and puzzles throughout (which will necessitate a “Do Not Write in This Book” label on my library copy). Each book also has a cute flip book feature – flip the pages, and see dolphins swim, ducks waddle, puppies run, and zoo animals shuffle along.  The illustrations are in color, and full-color nonfiction sections throughout each book provide information on veterinarians, how animals react to changes in weather patterns, and more. The set is available in both hardcover and paperback. Great set for young animal fans.

 

Ella and Owen

Ella and Owen: The Cave of AAAAAH! Doom!, by Jaden Kent/Illustrated by Iryna Bodnaruk, (March 2017, little bee books), $5.99, ISBN: 978-1-4998-0368-6
Ella and Owen: Attack of the Stinky Fish Monster!, by Jaden Kent/Illustrated by Iryna Bodnaruk, (March 2017, little bee books), $5.99, ISBN: 978-1-4998-0369-3
Ella and Owen: Attack of the Knights vs. Dragons, by Jaden Kent/Illustrated by Iryna Bodnaruk, (May 2017, little bee books), $5.99, ISBN: 978-1-4998-0372-3

Dragon siblings Ella and Owen are forever bickering. Owen is bookish and likes staying home, reading; Ella is adventurous and always ready to push the envelope. In The Cave of AAAAAH! Doom!, the two search for a cure for Owen’s cold, only to go up against an ogre and evil vegetable wizard. In Attack of the Stinky Fish Monster!, the siblings want to surprise their mom with a cake made of delicious stinky fish, so off they go. They end up turned into newts by a wizard named Ken, bargain with a pixie, and find a stinky fish monster: a very large, very grumpy, stinky fish monster. Knights vs. Dragons goes a little deeper as the dragons find a group of knights who hate dragons because they’ve followed a culture of hating dragons for years: fathers, grandfathers, and great-grandfathers have always hated dragons; that’s just the way it is, right? When the knights encounter a group of trolls who hate knights for the same reason – and are a lot bigger, stronger, and scarier than the knights are – Ella and Owen have a chance to teach the knights a valuable lesson about acceptance. This is a fun series – there are four in print at the moment – that kids who love dragons and silly fantasy will enjoy. There are black and white illustrations throughout, but, sadly, no recipe for stinky fish cake.

Unicorn Princesses

Unicorn Princesses: Sunbeam’s Shine, by Emily Bliss/Illustrated by Sydney Hanson, (Aug. 2017, Bloomsbury USA), $5.99, ISBN: 978-1681193267
Unicorn Princesses: Flash’s Dash, by Emily Bliss/Illustrated by Sydney Hanson, (Aug. 2017, Bloomsbury USA), $5.99, ISBN: 978-1681193304
Unicorn Princesses: Bloom’s Ball, by Emily Bliss/Illustrated by Sydney Hanson, (Dec. 2017, Bloomsbury USA), $5.99, ISBN: 978-1681193342
Unicorn Princesses: Prism’s Paint, by Emily Bliss/Illustrated by Sydney Hanson, (Dec. 2017, Bloomsbury USA), $5.99, ISBN: 978-168119338

This series is a no-brainer for fantasy fans who love their unicorns and My Little Pony books. A human girl named Cressida is convinced that unicorns are real, happens upon the Rainbow Realm where unicorns live, and befriends them, receiving a magical key to re-enter their realm whenever she wants to visit. She helps the unicorns out with each visit. In Sunbeam’s Shine, a wizard’s mistake costs Princess Sunbeam her magic yellow sapphire, which causes her to lose her powers. The key to regaining them is to enlist the help of a human who believes in unicorns! In Flash’s Dash, the big Thunder Dash race is coming up, and Princess Flash lets non-unicorns compete for the first time. Cressida’s invited to take part, but the bumbling wizard (who’s also a lizard) casts a spell that covers the track in sticky goo. Bloom’s Ball has Princess Bloom trusting the wizard-lizard with a spell to deliver her special birthday ball invitation by mail, but an errant word brings on an army of quails who wreck the party, leaving Cressida to help salvage the day. In Prism’s Paint, that wizard – seriously, why is he even allowed to practice magic at this point? – changes Princess Prism’s power from turning objects different colors to removing color altogether. Cressida’s got to help find the rainbow to restore Prism’s power. The series is adorable, wacky, and full of good-hearted dilemmas, with black and white illustrations throughout. Bloom’s Ball and Prism’s Paint are due out on 12/26, making them good Kwanzaa gifts, or hold onto them for Little Christmas in January. There are two more books forthcoming in 2018. Trust me, someone you know loves unicorns. I have one little girl at my library waiting desperately for these next two books to come out. Want to mix it up a little? Consider some My Little Pony books, or anything in the Rainbow Fairies series by Daisy Meadows.

Happy reading and happy holiday shopping!

 

 

 

Posted in Animal Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Non-Fiction, Realistic Fiction

#AnimalPlanetAdventures mix fiction and fact for maximum fun!

Animal Planet has great nonfiction for kids. I particularly love their Animal Bites series, which looks at animals from different habitats, and offers a rich mix of beautiful photos and easy-to-read facts. For those beginning readers who want to feel part of an animal adventure, Liberty Street – Animal Planet’s publisher, a division of Time Inc. Books – introduced Animal Planet Adventures chapter books earlier this year. I read the first two adventures, Dolphin Rescue and Farm Friends Escape!

Animal Planet Adventures: Dolphin Rescue, by Catherine Nichols, (Feb. 2017, Liberty Street), $5.95, ISBN: 978-1-61893-417-8

Dolphin Rescue introduces us to siblings Maddie and Atticus, who live off the coast of Maine with their single dad and volunteer at the local aquarium. While trying to solve a rash of trash dumping incidents happening throughout their town, they notice a pod of dolphins in the nearby cove, looking very distressed. They’ll need to use their knowledge of animals, plus their problem-solving skills to help the pod out.

 

Animal Planet Adventures: Farm Friends Escape!, by Catherine Nichols, (Feb. 2017, Liberty Street), $5.95, ISBN: 978-1-61893-416-1

In Farm Friends Escape!, we meet cousins Luke and Sarah, who spend every summer at their grandparents’ farm. This year, their grandparents put them in charge of running the farm’s petting zoo. They’re thrilled, even if they don’t always agree on how to get things up and running. A mysterious kid lingers around the farm, though; and while they’re trying to figure him out, they discover that somehow, the animals have all gotten loose! The cousins need to track down each of the petting zoo escapees, relying on their animal knowledge and deduction skills – and they need to figure out how they got loose in the first place.

Animal Planet Adventures is a great way to reach readers who may struggle with nonfiction, but love a good story. There’s a little bit of mystery in each storyline, so your series fiction fans who love books like Ron Roy’s A to Z Mysteries, Capital Mysteries, and Calendar Mysteries will gobble these up. Books are in full color – both story illustration and nonfiction sections – and feature the beautiful photography that we already love in Animal Planet books. Nonfiction sections are spread evenly throughout the book, so it flows with the overall narrative of the story, often fleshing out information contained in the plotline. I don’t know if future books (there are two more adventures – Puppy Rescue Riddle and Zoo Camp Puddle – releasing in September) will introduce more new characters or if we’ll meet Mattie, Atticus, Luke, and Sarah again, but the character pair-ups are fun and appeal to both boys and girls. I’ve just ordered a set of Adventures for my library, because series fiction and animal nonfiction is aces around here. Display with your series mystery fiction and your animal nonfiction – it all works!

Posted in Early Reader, Non-Fiction

Follow a penguin chick’s daily adventures One Day on Our Blue Planet… in the Anarctic

antarctic_1One Day On Our Blue Planet… In the Antarctic, by Ella Bailey (April 2016, Nobrow), $16.95, ISBN: 9781909263673
Recommended for ages 3-7
Join an Adélie penguin chick as she gets breakfast from her mother and heads out into the giant world on her own! We see her jump into the water and swim, searching for food, encountering whales and seals, and making sure to avoid becoming someone else’s dinner! Along the way, readers learn about how penguins like our little Adélie friend will travel for years before returning to solid land, how penguin bodies develop to keep warm, what they eat, and meet other types of penguins and sea animals.
Adorable, child-friendly, cartoony illustrations introduce us to all sorts of sea life, including a warty squid porpoise, Antarctic krill, leopard seal, and humpback whale. This is a fun introduction to the Antarctic for young audiences, with an animal kids already love: Penguins! Books like this help turn kids on to nonfiction – pair it with some Salina Yoon for a great penguin storytime, or have a nature read-aloud by pairing with the first book in the series, One Day On Our Blue Planet… In the Savannah.
penguins

Ella Bailey is an illustrator and writer. You can see more of her illustrations at Ohh Deer, and you can see some more art from One Day On Our Blue Planet… In the Antarctic right here.

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