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

New nonfiction for Back to School

So the kids have been back to school for a minute. My Corona Kids are back in the library in full force – where were you all Summer, my friends? – and roaming the nonfiction stacks in search of stuff that interests them. I love this time of year, because this is the time where kids come in looking for nonfiction that relates to things they may be starting to learn about, or come across in school; whether other kids are talking about things they pick up on, they’ve seen something either in the halls or the library, or just noticed on TV. They’re in a learning frame of mind, and want nonfiction that sparks their brains. I’ve got some good picks here to share.

National Geographic Kids Dinosaur Atlas, by National Geographic, (Sept. 2022, National Geographic Kids), $24.99, ISBN: 9781426372797

Ages 7-10

This is a no-fail, no-brainer purchase: it’s NatGeo Kids and it’s dinosaurs. Both are easily the rock stars of my nonfiction collection. The Dinosaur Atlas is everything my kids (my own and my Corona Kids) love: full-color artists’ renderings of dinosaurs (now with feathers!), vibrant color photos of fossils and fossil sites, and readable maps to highlight where featured dinosaurs lived. Organized into periods of time: Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous, the “Preshistoric Planet” section is further organized into habitats, dinosaurs, and life in each era. “Finding Fossils” organizes dinosaur-centric areas of the world and further breaks down into spotlights on locations and the dinosaurs who roamed them. Fast facts, paleontologist profiles, and dino timelines run throughout the book; phonetic spelling helps reader pronounce each name. Back matter includes a Dino Dictionary, glossary, and further reading resources. This oversized reference is magic for dinosaur collections and is an essential purchase.

 

Can’t Get Enough Space Stuff: Fun Facts, Awesome Info, Cool Games, Silly Jokes, and More!, by National Geographic Kids, (Aug. 2022, National Geographic Kids), $14.99, ISBN: 9781426372803

Ages 7-10

Nat Geo Kids’s Can’t Get Enough series has a new home run: Can’t Get Enough Space Stuff is loaded with photos, facts, games, and jokes about space. Great for trivia and STEM/STEAM groups: quiz your kids on astronaut facts or print out pictures of clocks to illustrate how long a day is on other planets; Try It Out! spreads help guide you and your readers through outer space crafts like a scale model of the solar system. Keep one in reference for yourself and put one in circulation. The Can’t Get Enough books are fun, loaded with facts, and just great purchases.

 

5,000 Awesome Facts About Animals, by National Geographic, (Sept. 2022, National Geographic Kids), $19.99, ISBN: 9781426372612

Ages 8-12

These facts books are a staple in my collection. My readers love fast, fun facts, accompanied by the gorgeous photos of adorable animals. This is an animal fan’s dream; a trivia fan’s delight, and a program backbone: Animal Jeopardy! Animal Question of the Day! Help, I need some extra facts for a report I’m writing on [insert animal here]! One of my Corona Kids was in last week and asked for “books with fun facts about animals”; books like this are tailor-made for those kids. Each section has a fun title to bring related facts together: “24 Burly Facts About Animal Tough Guys”; “100 Pup-ular Facts About Dogs”; “15 Facts About Animal Mascots to Cheer For”. Facts are fun and informative: Socks, the Clinton’s Presidential cat, was the first presidential pet to have a website, and the Obama’s dog, Bo, had  his own trading card. Ostriches flutter their wings to create a breeze to cool themselves down. A group of mountain gorillas is called a troop. You can have endless fun with this book, and your readers will love it.

 

The Power of Architecture: 25 Modern Buildings from Around the World, by Annette Roeder/Illustrated by Pamela Baron (Sept. 2022, Prestel Junior), $19.95, ISBN: 9783791375144

Ages 8-12

I love finding a good architecture book for middle grade. Recent picture book biographies like Maya Lin’s picture book biography, Maya Lin: Architect of Light and Lines, and Andrea Beaty’s Questioneers picture and chapter books have led to an interest in how buildings look. Plus, you know… LEGOs. The Power of Architecture showcases 25 modern buildings from all over the world: buildings like the TWA Flight Center at New York’s JFK Airport (I can confirm, it’s a beautiful building) and the Elbe Philharmonic Hall in Hamburg Germany; the scrap metal lily pads of Dandaji Regional Market in Niger, Africa, and the sustainable, environmentally beneficial Tree House in Singapore. Beautiful illustrations give each building center stage and factual, interesting text describes the buildings and what inspired their architects. Thought-provoking questions and suggestions to inspire young architects and designers run throughout the book. The beginning spread shows each building’s location on a world map and a timeline lays out each building’s construction and a biography on each architect. Prestel Junior’s books bring together art and nonfiction in the best of ways and have quickly become stars in my collection. A good purchase if you have budding builders. Put this out during your LEGO challenges and see who it inspires.

The Power of Architecture: 25 Modern Buildings from Around the World was originally published earlier this year in Germany.

 

 

Sleuth & Solve: Science: 20+ Mind-Twisting Mysteries, by Ana Gallo/Illustrated by Victor Escandell, (Oct. 2022, Chronicle Kids), $18.99, ISBN: 9781797214559

Ages 8-12

The latest Sleuth & Solve book from Ana Gallo and Victor Escandell is all about the “why”: what are the scientific causes to these 21 mysteries? Mysteries are classified by subject, with a key to the symbols used in the book. Each mystery has a difficulty grade from Easy to Difficult, and if you were interested in making this a STEM challenge (ahem!), each mystery has a point value. Mysteries are presented across every spread, with a flap disguising the solution: NO CHEATING! Mysteries include a little girl who swears she’s too sick to go to school – but what will her doctor say? Another mystery ponders whether a group of researchers will be able to set out on their journey to the polar ice caps; what does a flock of cranes have to do with this decision? The principles behind each experiment are revealed in the back matter. If you have a strong science experiment/science fair collection, this is a good one to consider.

Posted in History, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Tween Reads, Uncategorized

Big nonfiction roundup!

I have been curating a pile of nonfiction over the last several weeks, ready to do a back to school post, but all these other great books started coming out, too… so, before this pile crushes me, let’s do this!

North America: A Fold-Out History, by Sarah Albee/Illlustrated by William Exley, (Oct. 2019, What on Earth Books), $19.99, ISBN: 978-1999967925

Ages 8-14

That What on Earth Books fold-out are so much fun! This time, we’ve got a fold-out graphic timeline of Canada, the United States, Mexico, and the Caribbean islands, going from 11,000 BCE to 2017. It’s fully illustrated and offers a wealth of history on early indigenous peoples, including the Olmecs, Maya, Taino, and Aztec. European invasions are covered – first the Vikings; later, Columbus and the conquistadors – and American history covers much of the book’s second half. History is captured with dates and a brief blurb about standout moments, and callout boxes call attention to larger happenings, like the spreading out of humans across the land, and how European conflicts played out in North America. Back matter includes facts; glossary; source notes, and an index.

Not one for circulation – it’ll sustain damage quickly – but it’s a good reference tool and darn fun to have at home. My little guy loves these books.

Source: Bounce Marketing UK

 

Migration: Incredible Animal Journeys, by Mike Unwin/Illustrated by Jenni Desmond, (Aug. 2019, Bloomsbury USA), $18.99, ISBN: 9781547600977

Ages 9-13

Originally published in the UK, Migration profiles 20 different migrating animals, including the humpback whale; emperor penguin; ruby-throated hummingbird; blue wildebeest, and green turtle. Each spread contains acrylic, watercolor, ink, pencil and crayon illustrations of these animals, captured in the progress of their journeys. Some artwork gives an incredible breadth of scale, like the spread dedicated to the Christmas Island red crabs, which form a “river of crabs” as they march to the sea. Others, like the humpback whale, are a more personal journey shared between a mother and her calf. Each spread provides a migration story, which reads like an I Survived novel: crossing rivers; digging through snow for food; flying for miles to reach their destination; marching across an icy landscape. Each spread also offers a quick animal fact. Back matter includes a migration map and notes on making the world safer for migrating animals.

Animals of all shapes and sizes make epic journeys across our planet, through harsh weather, avoiding hungry predators, in their efforts to survive. Travel around the globe with some of the world’s most incredible animals and discover their unique migration stories. A nice addition to your nonfiction collections, especially if your books on migration are spare.

Mike Unwin is a UK Travel Writer of the Year, and Jenni Desmond is a winner of the New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book, The Polar Bear. Migration: Incredible Animal Journeys has a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly.

 

National Geographic Kids Student World Atlas (Fifth Edition), (July 2019, National Geographic Kids), $12.99, ISBN: 978-1426334795

Ages 8-12

This latest edition of this handy-dandy student reference has a wealth of facts, figures, and maps at your fingertips. There are over 100 maps, 70 incredible color photos, 50 charts and graphs with the latest data on climate change, the human footprint on our world, and most populous urban areas. Back matter includes an updated flags of the world section; a list of important websites on world resources, religions, languages, and quality of life; a glossary, thematic and place-name indexes, and more. If your budget allows for you to order two of these, do it: I like to keep one on hand at reference and put one into circulation. Along with the NatGeo Kids Almanac, you can’t go wrong with having these available for homework help.

 

1000 Facts About Ancient Egypt, by Nancy Honovich (February 2019, National Geographic Kids), $14.99, ISBN: 978-1426332739

Ages 8-12

The 1000 Facts series from NatGeo Kids is almost as popular as the digest-sized Weird/Gross/Silly Facts books in my library. These are the books that prove that kids LOVE nonfiction! There are fast, bite-sized facts all about Ancient Egypt in this book: facts about the Egyptian gods and goddesses; facts about the Nile River; about making mummies and about the most famous mummy of them all, Tutankhamun; facts about inventions and temples; facts about hieroglyphics. There’s so much here, presented in compulsively readable, memorable chunks and illustrated with photos of artifacts. Back matter includes a glossary, a look at a tomb excavation, a timeline of Ancient Egyptian civilization, an index, and further resources. Have history fans? Is Ancient Egypt on the schools’ report list this year? Get this book on your shelf.

 

Walk This Underground World, by Kate Baker/Illustrated by Sam Brewster, (Oct. 2019, Big Picture Press), $19.95, ISBN: 978-1536208566

Ages 5-8

Lift the Flap fun! Readers can wander through underground worlds, from Montreal’s famous underground city to the ancient, underground tombs of Ancient Egypt. Wander the hidden natural world and see prairie dog dens, ant cities, and naked mole rat burrows. See Australian fortune hunters and Poland’s salt-rock mines; the bustling London Underground and the sleek underground train stations in Tokyo. There are 12 spreads with over 80 flaps to discover, making this a great gift book for the kiddos in your life. Definitely not going to last in circulation, but you could score a few copies for a program on underground ecosystems or travel.

That’s all for now – I have to get this copy of Walk This World back into my son’s room before he notices it’s gone!

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

NatGeo Kids sends kids back to school ready for everything!

I am an unabashed fan of NatGeo for my nonfiction sections. They have books on EVERYTHING, and the kids love it. They also make every single thing they cover amazing, hilarious, or both, which makes my life a lot easier when I have kids trudging into my children’s room, moaning that they have to read more nonfiction. Excuse me, do you see the GIANT WATER FAUCET on the cover of this book? Guess what? Nonfiction. Suddenly, they’re a lot more amenable to what I have to offer.

Let’s start with the backpack essential: The Weird But True Planner ($12.99, ISBN: 978-1426327933). The Weird But True books come in second only to the NatGeo Kids joke books when it comes to demand in my children’s room. It’s got the planner essentials: it’s spiral bound and sturdy, so kids can use it and it will hold up. It’s got paper that won’t tear when you turn a page. You know that paper; it’s usually the one that flies away and has the details of your homework on it. The space is smartly laid out, with NatGeo’s trademark gorgeous photos sharing space with planning and goal pages that help your kids keep it together during the school year. And because it’s NatGeo, it’s got the fun, weird holidays, crazy facts, pages for scribbling areas where you need homework help, little writing prompts, and an overall fun vibe that demands you embrace your weirdness. I have a copy that I desperately want to keep for my own library notes, programs, and scheduling the lives of my weird family; now, the key is making sure the kids don’t take mine off my desk at work OR at home.

Let’s be clear: this is not a library book; it’s a book meant to be written in, used, and yeah, even a little abused. But it IS an essential buy.

Next up is the NatGeo Kids 2018 Almanac ($14.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-2772-8). Updated for 2018, this is another go-to for my library kids. There are 12 sections – up from last year’s 10 – and cover current events, life science, engineering and technology, space and earth, and more. The fun and games section is still here, and the overall fun spirit of discovery runs through the book. A spread in life science tells readers “18 Fantastic Facts About Fungi”, with facts about cheese mold, to mushrooms, to athlete’s foot (it’s just a photo of a bare foot). Feel bad for the Ugly Food, but rejoice in reading how being ugly doesn’t mean being garbage – make banana bread with those brown bananas (that’s when they’re the best), or make a smoothie using that bruised peach. A companion page on the time it takes different types of trash to decompose is a powerful call to action for recycling and re-purposing our trash. Homework help tips, quizzes, jokes, fun facts, and breathtaking photos make this Almanac a keeper.
Atlases are always handy to have around, especially with increased importance on understanding global affairs and cultures. The United States Atlas (Fifth Edition, $12.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-2831-2) gives readers a literal lay of the land, with political and physical maps by territory: Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, Southwest, and West. There are maps and statistics for each state within the territories; economy symbols to illustrate local economies like crops and industries. Photos and infographics round out each state’s profile. The atlas also includes U.S. territories, a glossary, postal abbreviations, and additional web resources.
The Ultimate Space Atlas ($12.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-2802-2) is a handy guide to what’s “up there”: phases of the moon, seasonal constellation maps for each hemisphere, what’s new in space exploration. “Digital Traveler” boxes help readers expand their learning by using going online. There are fun facts, amazing photos, diagrams, and Space Travel Attractions to visit… you know, from here. Earth. There’s a section with some fun activities at the end, and a glossary and index complete this handy astronomy desk reference. Both atlases will be helfpul during the school year, so load up your bookshelves if you’re in a library, or consider these when you’re buying school supplies.
CHOMP!: Fierce Facts About the Bite Force, Crushing Jaws, and Mighty Teeth of Earth’s Champion Chewers ($12.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-2839-8) has been on my shelves since this summer, and I see it wandering around the tables at the library (meaning, the kids are reading it while they’re in the library during the day) pretty regularly. Written by “Extreme Animal Explorer” Brady Barr, CHOMP! has a lot of pictures of a lot of big, mean teeth. The first page has a hippo, jaws open wide, greeting readers, and those choppers are intimidating! Barr organizes his chompers into four groups: the grippers, slicers, crushers, and gulpers; bite force and preferred menu for each animal profiled appear on each page. Barr jumps in with his own entertaining anecdotes, Brady’s Bite Stories, that will make kids squeal and cringe all at once; I’m thinking of reading the one about Barr squeezing a live otter out of a gator the next time I have a class visit. I like to be memorable. Further resources, a glossary and an index, make this a good companion guide for animal reports and fun reading for animal fans.
Last but never least, What Would Happen? Serious Answers to Silly Questions ($14.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-2770-4) looks at the logic and science behind some wild, weird questions. Starting with questions like, “What if you ate nothing but ice cream?” (short answer: DON’T) and working their way up to “What if you could wield The Force?” (You may call me Lady Vader), questions are organized into areas covering humans, space, nature, time, technology, natural wonders, worst-case scenarios, and just plain surreal. Each question is examined by giving readers a background on the deeper question (ice cream tastes great, but without protein and fiber, you’re in for some problems); primary repercussions (those problems could include going to the bathroom, no matter how much you love butter pecan); side effects (you’ll get weak and possibly develop scurvy from lack of Vitamin C); and finally, could it happen (unless you’re putting chunks of chicken or tofu, plus some broccoli and tomato on that ice cream, probably not)? This is going to move right along with my Weird Facts books. Heck, I may just turn this one into a program – write your own What Would Happen? and let’s swap; research it and find out the answer. But I’m totally developing The Force.
Go forth and fill up backpacks, and have a great school year!
Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate

Mapping My Day brings back the lost art of mapmaking

Mapping My Day, by Julie Dillemuth/Illustrated by Laura Wood, (March 2017, Magination Press), $15.95, ISBN: 978-1-4338-2333-6

Recommended for readers 5-10

Flora is a girl who loves making maps. From sun-up to sundown, Flora maps her day and invites readers to see how she does it! Starting with an early morning wake-up thanks to the sun streaming through her bedroom window, Flora explains and illustrates terms like cardinal directions, map scales, landmarks, even seating plans.

I remember when I was a kid and learning about maps in Social Studies. That whole one inch = 1 mile thing made me want to bang my head against the desk in frustration. If I’d had a book like Mapping My Day to start me off, things would have gone a lot easier with those issues of Scholastic News. The book brings readers right into Flora’s circle. It’s like having a friend show you her journal, where she writes out how she watches her grandmother’s show poodles train on their obstacle course, or map out her school playground, or how she manages to beat her brother to the bathroom in the morning.

There are no frustrating measurements, no rulers necessary. It’s a great invitation to start mapping out our world – something that may be seen by some as a dying art in this age of GPS, but is a critically important skill to have. We should all know how to lay out a space; what our cardinal directions are and how to find them, and the importance of landmarks when you’re finding your way. For librarians and teachers, this is a lesson or a program in a book: the activities at the end of the book are even available for download so you can get a head start on planning. A note to parents, caregivers, and professionals explains the importance of mapping, diagramming, and understanding spatial relations, and includes ideas for incorporating them into kids’ play.

The art is friendly and fun. Flora is a biracial child from a multiethnic family. The family eats at the table together and enjoys time with extended family members. Spreads move between Flora’s story – driving in a car with family, eating at the table with family, playing at school – and Flora’s maps, which have a hand-drawn/handwritten appearance. Key words appear bolded.

Julie Dillemuth was mystified by maps until she figured out how to read them and make them, and it was a particularly difficult map that inspired her to become a spatial cognition geographer. She lives with her family and writes children’s books in Santa Barbara, California, where the west coast faces south. Visit her at her website: http://juliedillemuth.com.

One lucky winner will receive a copy of MAPPING MY DAY (U.S. addresses). Enter this giveaway for your chance!

https://goo.gl/forms/yiZyHr8CNDC7iVWg1

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

The Map to Everywhere – a new fantasy series for middle graders begins here

map to everywhereThe Map to Everywhere, by Carrie Ryan & John Parke Davis (2014, Little Brown Books for Young Readers), $17, ISBN: 9780316240772

Recommended for ages 10-13

Fin is the perfect thief – any memory of him fades from everyone he meets. But one day, he gets a letter – someone knows him – and offers him a mission that will help him find his mother. He finds his way to the magical Pirate Stream, a waterway that connects every world in creation, where he encounters Marrill, a schoolgirl from Arizona, who’s just trying to get home, a young pirate captain, and a wizard, all searching for the pieces of a Map to Everywhere – the only problem is, an evil wizard and his crew are in search of the same Map, so he can end the world.

We’ve got the makings of a big pirate adventure with this series: two promising young heroes, a wizard and a captain that will almost certainly see more development as the series proceeds, and a world-ending Big Bad. Both Fin and Marrill have their own motivations, which give us some interesting subplots and leave us in a good place for future adventures.

I admit that I struggled with the book, overall. There was something that didn’t hook me right away, a sense of needing something more. About halfway through, I was finally on board and engaged. I don’t think middle grade adventure and fantasy lovers will have this issue at all, though. With strong male and female characters, a sharp sense of humor and exciting storytelling, this will be a good summer reading choice.

Carrie Ryan is best known for her YA post-apocalyptic series, beginning with The Forest of Hands and Teeth; she’s writing this series with her husband, first-time novelist John Parke Davis. You can find activity sheets and extras on the Map to Everywhere site, which also features links to the first eight chapters via Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and Google Play.

Posted in Adventure, Fiction, Tween Reads

Book Review: The Mapmaker and the Ghost, by Sarvenaz Tash (Walker Books for Young Readers, 2012)

Recommended for ages 9-12

Goldenrod Moram wants to be an explorer and mapmaker like her hero, Meriweather Lewis (of Lewis & Clark fame). When she decides to spend her summer making a map of the forest behind her home, she stumbles into an adventure that has been over a hundred years in the making. Before her summer vacation is over, she will find herself in trouble with a local group of troublemakers, The Gross-Out Gang, and she will meet a strange old lady with an interesting family connection. She will also meet her idol face to ghostly face!

The Mapmaker and the Ghost gives readers a new heroine in Goldenrod Moram. She’s smart and gutsy, like many ‘tweenage characters these days, but she is not on the hunt for treasure – she just wants to make maps like her idol, Meriweather Lewis. And how often do you hear Lewis and Clark coming up as a literary and historical idol? Readers get a look at an important figure in American history and learn a little more about who he is.

 
Some of the characters are predictable. The Gross-Out Gang, for instance, is made up of kids who come from a multitude of mixed backgrounds: the rich parents who have no time for their children; the divorced father in a deep depression who cannot focus on his daughter; and the kid who’s been bounced around from foster home to foster home are all here. The ending is predictably light, but it gives the reader hope that every situation, when you use your brains and bring understanding and honesty to the situation, can work out for the best.
 
This is Ms. Tash’s first book. Her website offers information about the book and a link to her blog.