Posted in Animal Fiction, Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

The Endangereds: In this A-Team, the “A” stands for “Animals”

The Endangereds, by Philippe Cousteau & Austin Aslan/Illustrated by James Madsen, (Sept. 2020, HarperCollins), $16.99, ISBN: 9780062894168

Ages 10-13

This is a new adventure series that animal adventure fans are going to want to pay attention to. A team of endangered animals from all over the world – an orangutan, a narwhal, and a pangolin – meet at a rehabilitation and research facility called The Ark, and discover they are hyperaware. They can understand humans, and they can understand and communicate with each other. Nukilik, a polar bear, joins the Ark and is solely focused on one thing: going home. But when a mated pair of ferrets leave the Ark to be reintroduced into the wild and go missing, Nukilik joins the team as they launch into action to find their friends and discover an insidious plot to cause pure mayhem. A fun story, colorful characters with strong, standout personalities and solid backstories, and great pacing and dialogue, this is just nonstop action and great reading; there are strong themes of climate change and environmental encroachment that will appeal to younger readers, who will be motivated to think about our impact on the planet and how we can work to make things better for ourselves and the creatures we share this world with.

Philippe Cousteau, grandson of Jacques Cousteau and host of Xploration Awesome Planet, and award-winning author Austin Aslan – who also holds a master’s degree in Tropical Conservation Biology, have a great new series on their hands. I’m looking forward to seeing where the Endangereds go next!

Definite must-add for your animal fiction fans. Display and talk up with Tracey Hecht’s Nocturnals novels, The Lost Rainforest books by Eliot Schrefer, and Katherine Applegate’s The Ending series.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Mother Earth’s Lullaby sings us all to sleep

Mother Earth’s Lullaby: A Song for Endangered Animals, by Terry Pierce/Illustrated by Carol Heyer, (Oct. 2018, Tilbury House), $17.95, ISBN: 9780884485575

Ages 3-6

A gentle rhyme set to painted illustrations of animals parents (including humans), Mother Earth’s Lullaby leads readers through bedtime in nature. Beginning and ending with a human mother and her two children (and cat), reading a bedtime story on the couch, spreads show different animal parents with their babies: panda and cub cuddle in bamboo leaves; a condor lies over its chick; polar bear cubs cuddle on their mother in their den; owlets take refuge in a tree. But for the humans, each group of animals depicted is endangered.

The story doesn’t really focus on endangered animals, per se; it’s up to readers and educators/caregivers to explain that these animals are endangered. The story suggests that even endangered animals feel safe in their dens while they sleep, next to their parents, who care for them and keep them safe. The paintings are realistic and will appeal to readers, and the rhyme, while not always even, makes for sweet bedtime reading. Back matter includes descriptions of each featured animal, a word on endangered animals and how readers can help with recovery efforts. This one is a nice additional purchase for storytime books.

Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction, picture books

Jenni Desmond talks elephants in her latest nonfiction work

The Elephant, by Jenni Desmond, (Nov. 2018, Enchanted Lion Books), $18.95, ISBN: 9781592702640

Ages 5-8

Jenni Desmond’s latest nonfiction book takes a look at one of our world’s largest animals: the elephant. Using a young boy’s exploration as a vehicle, we see him pick a book and be drawn into an elephant’s world through breathtaking, realistic color artwork. Informative facts throughout include the difference species and subspecies of elephants and the fact that they appear light on their feet because they mainly walk on tiptoe; they have sensitive skin and detect a fly landing on a leg or the rumbling of other elephants from as much as six miles away! Elephants can favor a tusk, much like humans have a preferred hand to write with. The author notes factors endangering elephants, including poachers who seek elephants’ ivory tusks.

The collage, paint, and colored pencil artwork is stunning, rendering detailed, realistic elephants on every page, while keeping readers aware that this is a child’s journey; the boy shows up, cartoon-like, in spreads, sporting a red crown and, sometimes, a friend.

This superb volume is a wonderful way to connect reading, imagination, and nonfiction – nonfiction is great for dreamers, too, after all! Jenni Desmond received the 2016 New York Times Best Illustrated award for The Polar Bear. This is her third book on endangered animals, joining The Polar Bear and The Blue Whale (2015). The Elephant has starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus, and Booklist, and is a Publisher’s Weekly Best Book of 2018. Add this one to your wildlife nonfiction collections.

Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction, picture books, Preschool Reads

Nonfiction rundown: October and November

Picture book nonfiction just gets better and better. In October and November, we get two more biographies on people of color that have, until now, been largely overlooked by history. It’s disheartening on one hand, but I choose to be glad that books are coming forward now to liven up our nonfiction shelves and give readers even more role models across all walks of life to learn about and be inspired by. I’ve also got some fun alphabet books and some nature and science. Pull up a chair, brew a warm beverage of your choice, and enjoy!

 

Someday is Now: Clara Luper and the 1958 Oklahoma City Sit-Ins, by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich/Illustrated by Jade Johnson, (Aug. 2018, Seagrass Press), $17.95, ISBN: 9781633224988

Ages 6-9

I missed this one the first time around, but I’m glad I caught it when I went back through my Edelweiss account to check up on my TBR. This picture book biography of civil rights activist Clara Luper (nee Clara Mae Shepard) is a great addition to your picture book biographies. Growing up in segregated Oklahoma, Clara saw her World War I veteran father diminished by the very country he fought for: her brother turned away from a local hospital because it was a whites-only facility; she was educated in a run-down classroom with torn books and a teacher who also served as the principal and janitor; restaurants dictated where Blacks could eat. Everywhere she looked, Clara saw things were “separate and unequal”, a phrase repeated throughout the book in bold, large font to drive home the message. Ms. Luper became a teacher who pushed for change, working with the NAACP Youth Council and participating in lunch counter protests with her students after a trip to non-segregated New York. Back matter includes an encapsulated biography of Ms. Luper.

This is the first picture book biography on Clara Luper: everything else I found online is decades old. Let’s get more civil activist bios into the hands of our kids, so they can see for themselves how many voices led to change. Someday is Now has a starred review from Kirkus.

Author Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich is the co-author of the NAACP Image Award nominated Two Naomis and the forthcoming Naomis Too and is the editor of The Hero Next Door, an anthology from We Need Diverse Books. You can see more of Jade Johnson’s illustration work, including downloadable coloring pages, on her website.

 

Who Will Roar If I Go? (If We’re Gone, Book 1), by Paige Jaeger/Illustrated by Carol Hill Quirk, (June 2018, Boutique of Quality Books), $18.95, ISBN: 9781945448157

Ages 5-7

This rhyming story, the first in a planned series, is a plea to readers from endangered animals suffering from a multitude of human-based maladies, most commonly, the disappearance of their habitats and hunting, be it for trophies or luxury dining. Thirteen animals ask humans for help in their quest for survival; each rhyme provides readers with a little background on the animal and why it needs help. The elephant’s page reads: “I sure am an enormous creature; With ivory tusks my most attractive feature; For these long, tapered tusks that I hold dear; Thousands of friends were lost last year; No one needs my tusks but me; Go make some in a factory”.

Back matter includes a glossary of terms and an animal footprint guessing game. Each animal gets its own spread, including its geographic location and footprint, related to a game in the back matter. The watercolor artwork is realistic and showcases each animal in its natural environment. Who Will Roar If I Go? is a good introduction to endangered animals and the need for conservation and preservation; it’s a good additional add to your picture book nonfiction.

The Who Will Roar webpage offers free, downloadable educator resources.

 

 

P is for Paris, by Paul Thurlby, (Oct. 2018, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $19.99, ISBN: 9781492668152

Ages 5-8

The latest book in Paul Thurlby’s ABC Cities series brings readers on an alphabetical tour of the City of Lights: Paris. Beautiful, bright artwork brings to mind vintage travel posters, and little bites of Parisian history on each page make this a fun addition to your picture books and world sections. Adults will enjoy this one as much as the kids will; references are equally accessible to kids and grownups. From the Abbesses to the Zoo De Vincennes, this is a nice addition to Thurlby’s Cities set. Endpapers provide a map to Paris, with attractions throughout the book numbered for reference. The author provides a concise explanation of the city’s organization into arrondissments. This easily works for both concept sections and geography sections, but don’t mistake this for a beginner’s abecedary; it’s a little more complex and better for Kindergarteners and up.

Check out Paul Thurlby’s webpage for more artwork and information on his other books. Take your armchair travelers on a picture book trip around the world with Thurlby’s books and Miroslav Sasek’s books.

 

Flow, Spin, Grow: Looking for Patterns in Nature, by Patchen Barss/Illustrated by Todd Stewart, (Oct. 2018, OwlKids), $18.95, ISBN: 9781771472876

Ages 5-7

Readers are encouraged to explore patterns in nature in this mindful rhyming book. A diverse group of children play and relax in an open park area in the opening spread. The text playfully crawls around the scene, encouraging kids to “Look, climb, dig, flow. Breathe in deep, around you go. Twirl, whirl, swirl, grow. Explore, find more, join the show.” The text inspires readers to look for patterns everywhere: observe, dig, explore, climb; a tree trunk splits, branches split, and below the ground, roots split and grow; water branches off into smaller bodies of water, and our own lungs have little branches like mini-trees, reaching for air. Nature twirls and whirls, like the galaxies in space or two friends at play; pine cones, storm clouds, and snail shells all swirl. It’s an interesting way to introduce scientific inquiry to burgeoning scientists. An author’s note goes further into the “secret code” hidden in the shapes of things, and suggests additional resources for more reading.

The artwork is the star in this book. Multilayered screen prints and muted colors create a setting where patterns gently emerge, waiting for readers to spot them: triangles on a tree or bush; cracks in the dirt and roots underground reach out. Flow Spin Grow is a good purchase for primary science collections; I also love Joyce Sidman and Beth Krommes’ award-winning Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature, and Jane Brocket’s Spotty, Stripy, Swirly: What Are Patterns?

The Vast Wonder of the World: Biologist Ernest Everett Just, by Mélina Mangal/Illustrated by Luisa Uribe, (Nov. 2018, Lerner Publishing Group), $19.99, ISBN: 9781512483758

Ages 7-9

This bio on biologist Ernest Everett Just is just what your picture book biography section needs. He came of age in the Jim Crow South, paying his way through Dartmouth College while supporting his siblings after his mother’s passing. He “unlocked the mysteries of how the different parts of the cell worked together as new life developed”, and found success as a Howard University professor, embryologist, and cytologist, working in both Europe and the States. The Vast Wonder of the World tells his story, introducing him to a new generation of budding scientists who will be inspired by his determination and success in the face of racism and adversity. The muted pencil and digital artwork, in shades of blue, creates a sense of wonder and beauty, giving readers a real appreciation for Just and his place in science history. An author’s note, a timeline, and source notes complete this solid addition to science biography sections. Display and booktalk – PLEASE – with Gwendolyn Hudson Hooks and Colin Bootman’s Tiny Stitches: The Life of Medical Pioneer Vivien Thomas, and – if you can find it (can we please get this book back in print?) – May Chinn: The Best Medicine, by Ellen Butts and Joyce R. Schwartz, illustrated by Janet Hamlin.

The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) has a good feature story on Dr. Just, with references to further reading, by W. Malcolm Byrnes.

P is for Pterodactyl, by Raj Haldar & Chris Carpenter/Illustrated by Maria Beddia, (Nov. 2018, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $17.99, ISBN: 9781492674313

Ages 6-10

Calling itself “The Worst Alphabet Book Ever”, P is for Pterodactyl is a smirk, wink, and nudge at rebel words in the English language: words that don’t follow the rules. The book uses humor, alliteration, and amusing artwork to get its point across, as with E is for Ewe, which depicts sheep at a wake: “Eileen the ewe was so euphoric with wolves were eaten, she even gave the eulogy” (keep reading the book for more on Eileen); or L is not for Elle, which shows an elevated subway car transporting some elephants across the city of El Paso: “An elephant named Elle rode the el train halfway to El Paso and dined on hearts of palm with her folks”. It’s not a basic concept book for new learners, but it’s sure fun to read it out loud and watch kids laugh and play with language. My 6-year-old cracks up at this one, and it helps when he tries to figure out new words.

P is for Pterodactyl has a starred review from Foreword Reviews.

 

Posted in Intermediate, Middle Grade, Middle School, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction, Tween Reads

BIG Summer Nonfiction Reads Roundup!

From sharks, to space, to stories of survival in the wild, I’ve got books for all sorts of nonfiction tastes! Let’s start with the oogie stuff and go from there.

They Lost Their Heads! What Happened to Washington’s Teeth, Einstein’s Brain, and Other Famous Body Parts, by Carlyn Beccia, (Apr. 2018, Bloomsbury), $18.99, ISBN: 9780802737458

Recommended for readers 10+

If you have readers who loved Georgia Bragg and Kevin O’Malley’s books, How They Croaked: Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous, and How They Choked: Failures, Flops, and Flaws of the Awfully Famous, this is a home run! Learn what happened to the famous body parts of 17 famous folks, and pick up some knowledge about other body parts and how they influenced science medicine. If you’ve ever ever wanted to know what happened to Thomas Edison’s last breath or Van Gogh’s missing ear, this is the place to go. You also learn cool stuff like what rots first after you die (psst… it’s the intestines). Loaded with black and white drawings, funny footnotes, sources, an index, and a bibliography. This one’s a hit for upper elementary readers, all the way through high school. They Lost Their Heads! has a starred review from Booklist.

StarTalk with Neil DeGrasse Tyson (Young Readers Edition), by National Geographic, (March 2018, National Geographic), $17.99, ISBN: 9781426330872

Recommended for readers 10+

I LOVE Neil DeGrasse Tyson and evangelize his StarTalk Radio podcast any chance I get. (Seriously, it’s great stuff.) NatGeo’s Young Readers edition of the StarTalk book is must-booktalk summer reading. Get your Summer Reading budget and buy some astronaut ice cream; while you and the kids feast, read the section on why you can’t get a pulled pork sandwich in space; find out what the Vomit Comet is; and read mini-bios on scientists like Carl Sagan. Not so much with the food? There are also sections on zombies and superheroes. Debate the eternal question: Could the Death Star really blow up a planet? There’s so much to discover in this book that every kid is darn near guaranteed to find something to interest him or her. (Psst… get an extra copy for yourself. You’ll thank me.)

 

Survivors: Extraordinary tales from the Wild and Beyond, by David Long/Illustrated by Kerry Hyndman, (Sept. 2017, Faber & Faber), $19.95, ISBN: 9780571316014

Recommended for readers 9-13

Do you know fans of Lauren Tarshis’ I Survived series? I’ve never been able to keep those books on the shelves, no matter which library I’ve been at. Middle graders go berserk for that series, and they’ll LOVE this oversized, illustrated anthology of true survival tales. There are 23 stories in here; the most famous being explorer Ernest Shackleton, who saved his crew when a 1914 Antarctic expedition put their lives in danger. There’s also the story of Hugh Glass, a “fur trapper and adventurer” who made the critical error of surprising a mother bear and her cubs by the Missouri River in 1823, or Mauro Prosperi, a runner competing in the 1994 Marathon of the Sands through the Sahara Desert, found himself in the middle of a sandstorm. Not crazy enough for your readers? There’s also a Hollywood pilot who crashed INSIDE a Hawaiian volcano in 1992. The stories are fast-paced, beautifully illustrated in color, and are perfect for adventure fans. Best part? All the stories are TRUE.

 

The Ultimate Book of Sharks, by Brian Skerry, Elizabeth Carney, & Sarah Wassner Flynn, (May 2018, National Geographic Kids), $19.99, ISBN: 9781426330711

Recommended for readers 7-13

Kids love sharks. This is a fact. The Ultimate Book of Sharks has all the info and pictures your shark-loving fans crave, just in time for Shark Week, which kicks off on July 22 (get your printables and programs lined up – I’ll do a separate post about Shark Week as it gets closer). The NatGeo folks bust myths about sharks, give us a look at shark anatomy, and – as always – provide loads of information about conservation and preservation, and how we can all help keep sharks, and our waters, safe and clean. This volume is chock full of fast facts and lists, with Up-Close Encounters, where marine wildlife photojournalist and author Brian Skerry shares some of his stories with readers. There’s an index at the end. This volume is an absolute must-add to your science and nature collections.

 

Red Alert! Endangered Animals Around the World, by Catherin Barr/Illustrated by Anne Wilson, (July 2018, Charlesbridge), $17.99, ISBN: 9781580898393

Recommended for readers 7-11

This is such a fun book. Think of a Choose Your Own Adventure about endangered animals, and you’ve got Red Alert! Red Alert! profiles 15 animals on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) list. A beginning note explains the organization’s “Red List”: a list of endangered plants, animals, and fungi, and lists some of the categories mentioned in the book. Colorful endpapers start the fun: the first, a map of the world, with the 15 profiled animals drawn into their world regions; final endpapers highlight a plethora of endangered animals. From here, readers can pick a place to explore: deserts, forests, mountains, grasslands, rivers, or oceans; pick a creature from each of these regions, and go to its page to read further. You can also read the book straight through. Spreads include the animals’ scientific names, facts, endangered category, and factors contributing to the endangerment of the species. A section at the end provides resources for more information on taking conservation action. A solid introduction to environmental action for younger readers.

 

National Geographic Kids Almanac (2019 Edition), (May 2018, National Geographic Kids), $14.99, ISBN: 9781426330131

Recommended for readers 8-13

Another guaranteed must-have from NatGeo Kids, this latest edition of their Kids Almanac shows readers a baby animal “tweet-off” between several zoos and aquariums (it’s from 2017, but who doesn’t want to revisit that simpler, lovelier time?), talks about updates in robotics and technology, dwarf planets, and has a Special Gross Edition of their Just Joking feature. Facts, quizzes, updated maps and stats, and homework help ideas all in one volume? This is one desk reference every kid should have – put one on your shelves, and keep one in your reference area, to be on the safe side.

 

How’s that for a start? Next time a kid comes in, stressed about needing a nonfiction book, consider yourself ready.

Posted in Non-Fiction, Tween Reads

New Year, New Nonfiction!

There’s some great nonfiction coming up in just a few short weeks. From fandoms to crafting, freaky animals to an unusual pen pal, there’s a little something here for everyone.

Outrageous Animal Adaptations: From Big-Eared Bats to Frill-Necked Lizards, by Michael J. Rosen,
(Jan. 2018, Lerner Publishing), $37.32, ISBN: 9781512429992
Good for readers 10-15
Animals with unusual adaptation take center stage here, from the frill-necked lizard that runs across the desert on two legs to a vampire squid, who uses its bioluminescence to startle predators. Outrageous Animal Adaptations is loaded with full-color pictures and facts; each featured animal has callouts on its adaptation, curious facts, and a box with classification information. At only 96 pages, though, the price is steep for my wee budget, so if this isn’t a centrally purchased book for my collection, I have to be honest; I’ll probably see where I can find a more reasonably priced option.
Fandom: Fic Writers, Vidders, Gamers, Artists, and Cosplayers, by Francesca Davis DiPiazza/Illustrated by Shauna Lynn Panczyszyn,
(Jan. 2018, Lerner Publishing), $37.32, ISBN: 9781512450491
Good for readers 12-16
What a time to be a fan! Fandom has gone behemoth; New York Comic-Con is the new San Diego, and people are writing their academic theses on fanfic. I feel like my tweenage self has finally been vindicated; now, if only my Wookiees Need Love, Too t-shirt still fit. Fandom: Fic Writers, Vidders, Gamers, Artists, and Cosplayers is a great, in-depth look at some of the most-loved facets of fandom: fan fiction, cosplay, vidding, gaming, and fan art. There are color photos and input from fans; tips and advice, and a nice history of fandom for newcomers and old guard alike. There’s a strong emphasis on the communities we build as fans, and extra attention paid to the more recent Cosplay is Not Consent movement taking place at fan conventions and meetups. The book looks at the positive aspects of fandom – there’s been a lot of ink spent on the in-fighting and “fake geek girl” foolishness out there – and it’s nice to read an upbeat book about fan communities. The big sticking point here is the price. At over $37 for this book, I can buy two copies of Sam Maggs’ Fangirls Guide to the Galaxy – a great readalike and an awesome book, but I’d love to have both on my shelves, you know? It’s a hard call, because this really is a good book, well-written and well-presented, and readers will definitely be drawn to it. If you’ve got the budget, go for it.
The Craft-a-Day Book: 30 Projects to Make with Recycled Materials, by Kari Cornell/Photos by Jennifer S. Larson,
(Jan. 2018, Lerner Publishing), $39.98, ISBN: 9781512413137
Good for readers and crafters 12-16
Written with an eye toward high school and college students, crafter Kari Cornell talks about finding inspiration and repurposing everything from old tin cans to mismatched socks to create new crafts. She’s big on thrift store shopping and materials swaps with friends, and she’s all about reduce, reuse, and recycle. There are 30 projects, with varying degrees of difficulty and skill, for teens to take on and make their own. Step-by-step instructions help crafters navigate projects. The crafts are fun and I love Kari Cornell’s ideas for inspiration, but there wasn’t a lot of new craft ideas to be found. I’d rather stick with books like Generation T, Sophie Maletsky’s Sticky Fingers duct tape book, and Quirk Books’ craft line of books, all of which have similar projects and… yup, they’re more affordable.
Dear Komodo Dragon, by Nancy Kelly Allen/Illustrated by Laurie Allen Klein,
(Feb. 2018, Arbordale Publishing, $17.95, ISBN: 9781607184492
Good for readers 4-9
A story about a girl with an unlikely pen pal – an honest-to-goodness, real Komodo dragon, gives kids loads of facts and teaches environmental awareness.  A young girl named Les writes to a Komodo dragon who goes by the name Komo (fair enough). She and the dragon learn about one another through fun dialogue; Les wants to know if he breathes fire, Komo is amused and corrects her knowledge with facts. The dialogue is often humorous; very tongue-in-cheek, and we see Les go from a girl dressed like a knight and ready to fight a dragon to someone who understands the threats Komodo dragons live with, be it from other, bigger dragons or from man. The artwork is soft, yet realistic; the letters appear on each spread, over the artwork, almost scrapbook-like in format. Kids will enjoy learning through the dialogue between dragon and human. As with all Arbordale books, there is a For Creative Minds session with additional facts and information. There will be a Spanish translation available.
Maggie: Alaska’s Last Elephant, by Jennifer Keats Curtis/Illustrated by Phyllis Saroff,
(Feb. 2018, Arbordale Publishing), $17.95, ISBN: 9781607184508
Good for readers 5-10
Based on a true story, Maggie: Alaska’s Last Elephant is the story of Maggie, an elephant living at the Alaska Zoo with an older elephant named Annabelle. When Annabelle dies, Maggie is left alone and becomes despondent. Elephants are social animals; with no other elephant to befriend, and living outside of her own habitat, Maggie spends years holding onto a tire. Zookeepers ultimately make the decision to send Maggie to live at the PAWS Sanctuary, where she now lives with a herd of elephants. Maggie’s story is heartbreaking; the realistic artwork beautifully and achingly conveys emotion, from Maggie’s joy with Annabelle to her despondence, clinging to her tire, alone in her pen. This is a strong story about making good decisions and making the decisions that benefit others; putting others first, and living with empathy. The Creative Minds section includes a Q&A with elephant keeper Michelle Harvey, and touches on Maggie’s care at PAWS; the PAWS website has several videos available, including Maggie’s arrival from Alaska in 2000, and Maggie joining the herd of elephants. I’ve become an Arbordale fan since encountering their books at KidLitCon this year; they put out consistently good nonfiction for younger readers and have extra resources available online to extend learning.