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

Odder will melt your heart

Odder, by Katherine Applegate/Illustrated by Charles Santoso, (Sept. 2022, Feiwel & Friends), $16.99, ISBN: 9781250147424

Ages 8-12

Newbery Medalist Katherine Applegate does it again. Odder is the “Queen of Play”: a curious young otter who loves to play in the water and wander where she really shouldn’t. While splashing in the water with her best friend, Kairi, they have a run-in with a hungry great white shark, and Odder is injured. Rescued by the same humans that saved her as an otter pup, the story takes an introspective turn as Odder confronts truths about herself and life in the ocean. Inspired by the true story of a Monterey Bay Aquarium program that rescues otters, Applegate creates movement and emotion through her verse: “…there is time for a bit of deep diving / wave chasing / tail spinning / smooth gliding / bubble blowing / FUN”; “She doesn’t just swim to the bottom, / she dive-bombs. / She doesn’t just somersault / she triple-doughnuts. / She doesn’t just ride the waves, / she makes them”. Applegate makes strong points about conservation and throughout the story and in her author’s note, which provides background on her inspiration for Odder. Charles Santoso’s black and white illustrations guarantee that you’ll need to stock your nonfiction section with more books on otters; kids will fall in love with gentle story. A glossary helps readers with new vocabulary. Visit Katherine Applegate’s author website for more about her books and educator resources.

Education.com has some otter-related coloring sheets and worksheets for a book club or STEM extension activity.

Odder has starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Over and Under the Waves explores the ocean

Over and Under the Waves, by Kate Messner/Illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal, (Sept. 2022, Chronicle Kids), $18.99, ISBN: 9781797203478

Ages 4-7

Kate Messner and Christopher Silas Neal’s latest Over and Under story explores the ocean ecosystem. Narrated in the first person by a child while out rowing with their family, we encounter sea lions sunning on the rocks, birds soaring overhead, and a mother and baby otter cuddling among the kelp. A glimpse below the water reveals an entirely different, bustling world: shimmering fish and bristly urchins; lurking eels and drifting jellies, and a giant surprise! There’s a sense of wonder in Messner’s storytelling, beautifully translated by Neal, who creates spread after spread of mixed media realistic ocean life. The family is present only to help place the reader in the story; nature takes center stage, with the human characters occasionally appearing from the side of the spread, or from far above to provide perspective. Endpapers show sea stars, fish, and shells in white silhouette across a field of deep blue. An author’s note describes Messner’s inspiration for the tale, and an “About the Animals” section provides a brief informational paragraph on each animal in the story. Recommended books and websites direct readers to further reading. A thoughtful meditation on the ocean, and an excellent addition to both this series and STEM/STEAM and nature collections.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Bloom: Let the jellyfish lead you!

Bloom, by Julia Seal, (March 2022, Sunbird Books), $12.99, ISBN: 9781978833586

Ages 4-8

Inspired by true events and climate change, Bloom is the story of climate change and activism from a jellyfish’s point of view. Luna, a young jellyfish, returns from travel and discovers a very different seascape from the one she left: her friends are missing from their reef, and the area is warmer, and there is litter everywhere! Even her friend Hermit’s “new shell” is made of debris! One little jellyfish may not be able to garner a lot of notice, but an entire bloom of jellyfish will sure get notice!

Julia Seal tells the story of a plucky, determined jellyfish while calling attention to the very real problems of pollution and climate change. Her art is cheerful and colorful, wish soft lighting and around her sea life, particularly the jellyfish. The upbeat artwork highlights how marine life can often confuse pollution for part of their environment: the turtle thinks a plastic bag is strangely flavored food; Luna mistakes pollution for fish and fellow jellies. Luna and her jellyfish friend band together to make their statement, even spelling out “Save Our Oceans” off the shore of a beach, where humans can see it. It reinforces strength in numbers and positive activism. (Just make sure to tell kids that if they see jellyfish massing in real life, it’s probably not a great idea to go near them!)

Great for the Oceans of Possibilities Summer Reading theme, and great for discovery/STEM clubs and your climate change collections. Talk to kids about the problems with plastics and our oceans. NatGeo Kids has an excellent webpage that lists numbers and posts photos. Kids can learn more about jellyfish at this NatGeo Kids’ webpage, too. Visit publisher Sunbird Books’s Bloom book detail page and download free activity sheets.

Posted in Uncategorized

This is a Kobee Manatee Virtual Book Tour Stop!

The fourth Kobe Manatee adventure takes Kobee and friends, Tess the Seahorse and Pablo the Hermit Crab, to Belize on a mission to help Kobee’s cousin clean up plastic pollution so she can open up her new underwater bistro. As the friends are on their way, they see for themselves what plastic pollution looks like, as they help rescue a turtle with a plastic bag wrapped around her, and see the effects of climate change around them. As they dodge some scary marine life and discover the amazing Great Blue Hole off the coast of Belize, what started as a quick trip to help out a family member turns into a big adventure with lots to learn!

Kobee Manatee: Climate Change and The Great Blue Hole Hazard, by Robert Scott Thayer/Illustrated by Lauren Gallegos
(Sept. 2021, Thompson Mill Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9780997123999
Ages 4-8
There have been a spate of children’s books confronting climate change and pollution, particularly focused on single-use plastic, lately, and with good reason. It’s killing our planet and suffocating our oceans. Kobee Manatee and his friends are the latest group to confront the plastic menace; artwork shows plastic ever-present in the details – a discarded water cooler bottle here, plastic bags and straws there – and a subplot directly involves a bag that wraps around a poor turtle. The story is about exploration and friendship, too, as Kobee and friends are heading toward Belize to help his cousin open her underwater cafe. The story includes fun facts on every page, and story details provide further insight into sea life, like a Portuguese Man of War – not a jellyfish! – and how underwater life is affected by climate change. Colorful illustrations are kid-friendly, and the underwater world is vibrant and beautiful, hopefully inspiring readers to fight to cut down on plastic use and pollution.

Follow Kobee’s author, Robert Scott Thayer, on Twitter and Instagram (where you’ll also discover a giveaway!)!

Follow Illustrator Lauren Gallegos on Twitter and Instagram! See more of Lauren Gallegos’s artwork at her website.

BOOK DETAILS

Kobee Manatee® Climate Change and The Great Blue Hole Hazard

ISBN: 9780997123999 (Hardcover)

ISBN: 9780997123951 (eBook)

32 Pages and 4th Installment in the Award-Winning Kobee Manatee® Children’s Educational Picture Book Series

Publish Date: September 28, 2021

Publisher: Thompson Mill Press

Where to Buy: https://www.amazon.com/Kobee-Manatee-Climate-Change-Hazard/dp/0997123990/ref=sr_1_2?crid=NLRPRF5R2OZP&dchild=1&keywords=kobee+manatee&qid=1631112443&sprefix=Kobee+Manatee%2Caps%2C170&sr=8-2

Price: $17.99 Hardcover

Visit other stops on the Kobee Blog Tour!

Posted in Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade

The Ocean Strikes Back in Super Sidekicks #2!

Super Sidekicks #2: Ocean’s Revenge, by Gavin Aung Than, (July 2021, RH Graphic), $12.99, ISBN: 9780593175125
Ages 8 to 12, Grades 3 to 7
The second book in the Super Sidekicks graphic novel series is all about the sidekicks standing on their own. The world’s leaders and the superhero grownups have been captured by The Mother of the Sea, who’s sick and tired of the damage us humans are wreaking on the planet, and it’s up to Junior Justice (JJ), Flygirl, Dinomite, Goo, and Ada, the most intelligent belt buckle in the universe, to save things and start the world on a better path. Mother of the Sea has put together a Trash Titan – a giant monster created out of all the trash from the Pacific Ocean – and wants to destroy all the land dwellers, so talking her down is going to take all of the skills the Sidekicks have at their disposal!
This is a perfect series for readers who are moving up from chapter books. It’s a fast-paced adventure story with fun superheroes who show the adults a thing or two about respecting kids and the planet. Illustrations are colorful, and the beginning of the story carries incredible weight: drifting trash in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch; seagulls feeding plastic bottle caps to their babies; a sea turtle swimming with a plastic soda ring around its neck. Watching the Trash Titan form from the tons of junk polluting the waters, you kind of want to root for the Mother of the Sea. Naturally, the adults are all clueless, but the kids know what’s up! Empowering kids to save the world one piece of junk at a time, Super Sidekicks: Ocean’s Revenge includes tips on reducing our trash footprint, and tips on how to draw Dinomite and Goo.
Posted in Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Escaping Greenland: The #WonderListAdventures continue

Escape Greenland (The Wonder List Adventures #2), by Ellen Prager, Ph.D./Illustrated by Tammy Yee, (Apr. 2021, Tumblehome Learning), $13.95, ISBN: 978-1-943431-70-0

Ages 9-13

The second book in Dr. Ellen Prager’s new Wonder List Adventures takes siblings Ezzy and Luke to the next stop on their mother’s “Wonder List”: Greenland. The siblings and their father, who are visiting the places their mother wanted them to see for her when she passed away. After visiting the Galápagos Islands and finding themselves in the middle of a poaching ring in Escape Galápagos (2019), they’re hoping for a calmer vacation in Greenland. No such luck, my friends. Dr. Skylar, Ezzy’s and Luke’s dad, is called away to help out an injured researcher, just as the siblings overhear a plot to attract tourism by speeding up the melting of a glacier and find themselves in some very unfriendly company! In between once-in-a-lifetime adventures like seeing humpback whales breach (and being under them when they’re eating!), playing with puppies and getting a ride from sled dogs, they’re on the run from some pretty scary bad guys. Dr. Prager creates likable, interesting characters and uses her wealth of knowledge about marine science and climate change to put readers in the middle of the story with them. Settling her stories in incredible locales, she encourages environmental awareness by creating a love for the natural wonders of our planet and by spotlighting the very real types of people who would wreak ecological havoc through illegal and shady business practices, Dr. Prager sets readers’ sights on the big villain: personal gain.

The Wonder List Adventures is a good series to recommend to your Nat Geo Explorer Academy readers and your Carl Hiaasen readers. And fans of her previous series, Tristan Hunt and the Sea Guardians, will love the little Easter Egg she put in there!

 

Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction

Do You Know? Reference books for younger readers!

Twirl Books has so many great new books coming out for younger readers. The board books coming out via the imprint are interactive and encourage new and developing readers to imagine and explore, and their desk reference series, “Do You Know?”, are just what early school-age kids need when they want to dig into a subject, maybe for the first time.

Do You Know? Dinosaurs and the Prehistoric World, by Pascale Hédelin, (Apr. 2021, Twirl Books), $16.99, ISBN: 9782408024673

Ages 5-8

Do You Know? Dinosaurs and the Prehistoric World gives kids what they want: information about dinosaurs in a picture-heavy format. A visual table of contents serves as a road map to discovery: Types of Dinosaurs, Popular Dinosaurs, Dinosaur Life, Life Without Dinosaurs, and More To Know sections bring kids right to the areas they’re interested in. Bold black fonts are easy to read and pop off the white page, and realistic dinosaur artwork shares space with cartoony artwork, along with cartoony kids, to explain fun facts versus science facts. Easy to understand diagrams show kids different parts of a dinosaur, and an added section on when dinosaurs lived show cartoony dinosaurs being puzzled at interacting with human children or frightened of a dinosaur they come across that lived at a different time. A Let’s Review! section at the end of each chapter offers fun activities to enhance learning.

 

Do You Know? Oceans and Marine Life, by Stéphanie Babin, (Apr. 2021, Twirl Books), $16.99, ISBN: 9782408024666

Ages 5-8

Similar in overall layout to Do You Know? Dinosaurs and the Prehistoric World, Do You Know? Oceans and Marine Life is all about underwater life: sections on Oceans, Seas, and More!, A Day by the Ocean, A Day at the Beach, Ocean Vehicles, Marine Animals, and More to Know brings the ocean and ocean life to the reader. Each section has a “Let’s Review” area with extra learning activities, and colored boxes at the bottom right of each page direct readers to related subjects in other areas of the book. Cartoony kids hang out with polar bears, deep sea dive with a school of fish, and sail a tugboat through spreads on warm waters, The Blue Planet, and water sports. Sidebars explain what sand is, what to eat at a picnic, and what to do if you’re afraid of the water. Infographics explain the water cycle and underwater food chain.

Each book has a full index and is a great desk reference for emerging readers. My Kiddo has absconded with my copies, if that’s any clue!

Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

#HomesCool for babies, too! Anti-Racism, Climate Change, Oceanography, and Mammals!

Babies need fun books, too! #HomesCool doesn’t just start with school-age kids: let’s take a look at some of the best board books out this summer, ready for you to read to your lap-sitters as we head into Fall.

Anti-Racist Baby, by Ibram X. Kendi/Illustrated by Ashley Lukashevsky, (June 2020, Kokila), $8.99, ISBN: 9780593110416

Ages 0-4

If you haven’t had the chance to enjoy Anti-Racist Baby yet, please find a copy now! National Book Award Winner Ibram X. Kendi and illustrator Ashley Lukashevsky have created a gorgeous, playful book for readers of all ages that celebrates diversity and offers simple, wonderful ways that we can teach our children, from the  youngest ages, to be actively anti-racist. There are easy concepts to grasp here; it’s our job as parents and caregivers to use the vocabulary to break down large concepts as “see all colors” “and “blame the policies, not the people” to our kids. The illustrations are bold, upbeat, and feature diverse groups of families. The rhyming scheme will keep kids entertained, introducing them to new words – just like STEM board books! – while we show them concepts through our own actions. Consider this for your collections, display and read with books like Feminist Baby, Woke Baby, and A is for Activist.

Anti-Racist Baby has a starred review from School Library Journal.

 

Climate Change for Babies, by Chris Ferrie/Illustrated by Katherina Petrou, (Aug. 2020, Sourcebooks Explore), $9.99, ISBN: 9781492680826

Ages 2-5

Another Chris Ferrie STEM board book! I love his STEM series for babies and toddlers. Here, Chris Ferrie and illustrator Katherina Petrou teach littles about climate change, using the idea of a blanket keeping planets warm: that’s the atmosphere. Different planets have different blankets, but Earth’s blanket is just right, thanks to our trees, animals, and oceans… but not when people start changing the blanket with transportation, pollution, and livestock! When our blanket gets too hot, Earth doesn’t feel well, and makes a lot of things go wrong. What can we do? Lots of things, like plant more trees, cut down on coal, oil, and cars and factories! Simply illustrated with bright colors and pictures of happy and sad planets, vehicles, and landscapes, kids will be entertained while we grownups digest the big picture and talk about keeping our world safe and healthy.

 

ABCs of Oceanography, by Chris Ferrie/Illustrated by Katherina Petrou, (Aug. 2020, Sourcebooks Explore), $9.99, ISBN: 9781492680819

Ages 2-5

It’s a Chris Ferrie Fest! ABCs of Oceanography is the seventh(ish?) book in Ferrie and illustrator Katherina Petrou’s ABCs series. Like other books in the series, this book grows along with your little ones: Colorful pictures illustrate each alphabetical concept, with the letter and word bright and bold, standing out against a stark white background: “A is for Algae”, with an illustration of algae. Next, for young learners, the concept word is used in a descriptive sentence: “Algae are aquatic life that conduct photosynthesis”; using bigger vocabulary words in a scientific context, to introduce preschoolers to the basic words they can expect to learn in kindergarten. Finally, a fuller definition, perfect for children moving up into elementary school, yet still easy enough to grasp, to give them the full breadth of the definition and ownership of the concept. There are familiar words, like Dolphin, Island, and Octopus, and newer words, like Euphotic Zone, Gyre, and Quahog. Pair with Baby Shark and get some flannel ocean figures out!

Sourcebooks has a Baby University page on their publisher website, that features Chris Ferrie’s books organized into series: For Babies, ABCs, and Picture Books.

 

Curious About Mammals, by Cathryn Sill/Illustrated by John Sill, (Aug. 2020, Peachtree Publishing), $6.99, ISBN: 978-1-68263-198-0

Ages 0-3

This book is adorable and informative! The second book in Peachtree’s and author-illustrator team Cathryn and John Sill’s Discovering Nature series, Curious About Mammals presents one-sentence facts about mammals, accompanied by elegant, detailed wildlife artwork by wildlife illustrator John Sill. The sentences contain basic facts and plenty of sight words for young learners, with the accompanying artwork showing animals in their daily lives: climbing; swimming; flying; alone, or with a group. Each animal’s common name appears under their picture, in small italic text, letting readers go back and discover their new favorite animals again and again. Some may be familiar, like the Northern Raccoon and Blue Whale; others may be brand new, like the Black-Tailed Jackrabbit and American Badger. A great add to board book collections where you have burgeoning animals fans.

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Intermediate, Middle Grade

Dewdrop is the cheerleader we all need right now

Dewdrop, by Katie O’Neill, (Apr. 2020, Oni Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781620106891

Ages 3-7

One of the ruling monarchs of All That is Adorable, Katie O’Neill – whom you may know from her Tea Dragon series, Aquicorn Cove, or Princess Princess Ever After graphic novels – now gives us a cheerleading axolotl named Dewdrop, in an upbeat, sweet graphic novel.

Dewdrop and his underwater friends are practicing their skills to show off at the yearly sports fair. Mia is a weightlifting turtle, Newman the newt is a musician, and three minnows fancy themselves as chefs. Dewdrop? He’s a cheerleader! And as his friends practice for the fair, Dewdrop visits each one of them to cheer them on and get them past their fears, which is perfect practice for his own skills: cheering! Dewdrop is a sweet story with tips about mindfulness, positivity, and friendship, and it turns some antiquated gender tropes on their heads: Dewdrop is male. A pink, cheerleading, adorable male. Mia is a female turtle, rocking a little flower head decoration, and she’s a weightlifter. Having a male character radiate positivity – something we’ve often seen as the female characters’ responsibility – sends a refreshing, reassuring message to all children about how easy it is to be a good friend. Katie O’Neill is fantastic at upending outdated gender roles, and Dewdrop continues to deliver upbeat, inspiring messages through colorful and bright artwork with charming characters.

Katie O’Neill is an award-winning author and graphic novelist. Her author webpage has more of her illustrations, information about her graphic novels, and an online store.

Want to learn more about axolotls? Live Science has pictures and facts, as does National Geographic. Author Jess Keating has the cutest axolotl coloring page, and her book, Cute As An Axolotl, is all about “nature’s cutest weirdos”.

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

Ocean: Secrets of the Deep is STEM fun!

Ocean: Secrets of the Deep, by Sabrina Weiss/Illustrated by Giulia De Amicis, (April 2019, What on Earth Books), $19.99, ISBN: 97-1-9999680-7-6

Ages 7-12

We’re heading to Florida on the first road trip we’ve had in ages, so I’m all over the beachy reading right now. My little guy is excited, because his grandpa lives right by the ocean, so we’ve been enjoying this book immensely.

Ocean: Secrets of the Deep is loaded with facts and figures about the underwater world, and I am in love with the bright, bold illustrations and infographics! The information is presented in bite-size chunks that kids can easily enjoy and digest, and the minimailst artwork is bold and gorgeous. Not just a fact book, there is info about myths and legends (including one of my faves, the Kraken); sections on each of the ocean’s zones, with numbered renderings of each form of life living in each zone; animals who work together in the deep; animal sizes and sounds, and migration patterns. There are sections on environmental concerns and challenges, including overfishing, pollution, and climate change, and a call to action that encourages and empowers kids to act. A glossary and index complete this beautiful volume.

Natural history and environmental studies units would benefit from adding this book to shelves, and you can easily use Ocean in your library STEM programming. When we had our Discovery Club at my library, we did a unit on the ocean, and had the kids create their own ocean zones display on a wall in our meeting room. Print out pictures of different fish featured in Ocean, and invite the kids to color and stick their own marine life to the zones in your library or classroom! It’s a great multi-week project, if you want to spend time creating the monochromatic zones, then working on the marine life.

Ocean is absolute fun and absolutely gorgeous.