Posted in Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction

Starting off Earth Day right!

Earth Day is coming at the end of the month, so expect to see lots of books about our big blue dot here over the next few weeks. Today, I’m starting with the earth – the ground itself – and what it gives us.

A World of Plants by Martin Jenkins & James Brown, (March 2021, Candlewick Studio), $25, ISBN: 9781536215328

Ages 7-10

The latest in the “A World of…” series from Martin Jenkins and James Brown is all about plants. Organized into 30 areas and fully illustrated with 2-color artwork and infographics, this oversized book covers plants from seed to bloom; how they spread, who eats them and who they eat; plants that thrive in different habitats, and more. A Plants in Peril section covers conservation and environmental awareness, with an eye to different plants that are threatened, overharvested, and facing habitat destruction.  A section on symbolic plants discusses the link between religion and nature. Fun facts abound: learn your climbing plants, for instance, by identifying which are twiners, which are tendrils and leaf twiners, which are clingers, and which are hook climbers. How do plants defend themselves? A World of Plants goes beyond thorns and looks at the dumb cane, a plant that accumulates needlelike crystals that can pierce an animal’s mouth, or the passionflower, whose leaves mimic dots that look like butterfly eggs, so butterfiles will pass them by. A World of Plants is a nice addition to a beautiful nonfiction series. Sample a chapter at publisher Candlewick’s website.

 

Fungarium (Welcome to the Museum), curated by Katie Scott and Ester Gaya, (April 2021, Big Picture Press), $35, ISBN: 9781536217094

Ages 8-12

Another good nonfiction series, Welcome to the Museum, introduces its newest wing, Fungarium. It’s all about the mushrooms here! Organized into four galleries, readers will get the full scoop on Fungal Biology, Fungal Diversity, Fungal Interactions, and Fungi and Humans. Fungi get a pretty bad rap (myself included: not a mushroom fan), but this book seeks to clear up a lot of issues people have: without fungi, there would be no coffee, tea, or chocolate, which is reason enough for me to fully support my local mycologist. Beautiful scientific illustration brings the diversity of these organisms to life on the page, and detailed keys to each plate provide helpful information at a glance. Entries on each section in the galleries give readers plenty of information to get them started on learning about fungi, from what’s growing on that tree we pass on the way to school every morning to what’s in cans at the grocery store. Worried about what not to eat? The section on Poisonous Fungi makes sure you know how to identify a Death cap, False morel, or Destroying angel. If that’s too much of a turn-off, head over to Wonder Drugs and learn how fungi are also the source of many modern medicines, including that wonder drug, penicillin. Fully indexed, with a list of further resources and brief bios on the curators behind the book, Fungarium is a nice addition to the Welcome to the Museum series. Publisher Candlewick has a sample chapter available for viewing.

Fungarium has starred reviews from Booklist and Kirkus.

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

Wild History! Books about prehistoric animals

Kids love dinosaurs. This is a known fact, and my groaning 567.9 section is proof positive of it, but I like to branch out a little and get kids checking out what other prehistoric animals there are to learn about. There are several great new books out that will give my 567 section a nice boost.

Forgotten Beasts: Amazing Creatures That Once Roamed the Earth, by Matt Sewell, (July 2019, Pavilion), $19.95, ISBN: 9781843653936

Ages 7+

Originally published in the UK in 2018, Forgotten Beasts contains over 45 illustrated portraits and profiles of birds and beasts that roamed the planet alongside and after the dinosaurs. There’s the Opabinia, a 2-inch arthropod from 508 million years ago through 1936, when the last Thylacine, a carnivorous marsupial, went extinct. There are some names kids will recognize, like the ginormous shark, Megalodon; the saber-toothed tiger, also known as the Smilodon Fatalis, and the Woolly Mammoth (for the Ice Age fans!). Each picture is skillfully rendered in muted watercolors, showing readers that prehistory wasn’t relegated to muddy greens, browns, and grays. Each profile includes the animal’s size, weight, time period, and diet, and a descriptive paragraph or two, and a timeline helps readers envision when these animals, alongside dinosaurs, roamed the Earth. Endpapers feature the stars of the book in miniature, parading across the pages. A nice book to beef up your non-dinosaur prehistoric collections.

Life: The First Four Billion Years (The Story of Life from the Big Bang to the Evolution of Humans), by Martin Jenkins/Illustrated by Grahame Baker-Smith, (Sept. 2019, Candlewick Studio), $24.99, ISBN: 978-1-5362-0420-9

Ages 10-14

The cover alone will make readers stop and give this book a look. Starting with the Big Bang, Life: The First Four Billion Years brings readers along on a journey through Earth’s first four billion years, ending right before we humans show up. Life starts off with foldout spreads that detail the beginning of Earth; from there, the book moves into the Ice Age, life’s beginnings in the water, its move to land, the ages of dinosaurs and of mammals, and the breakup of Pangea and formation of the continents, and the “Road to Us”: evolution of homo sapiens. Illustrations are the focal point of the book, and Kate Greenway Medal winner Grahame Baker-Smith is at the top of his game, creating landscapes both lush and stark, with black and white and color artwork of a prehistoric world. Award-winning author Martin Jenkins writes for upper middle graders and older, making the science of prehistory accessible to all ages. A glossary and illustrated timeline of the planet make this a stunning volume to have on your shelves.

Prehistoric: Dinosaurs, Megalodons, and Other Fascinating Creatures of the Deep Past, by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld/Illustrated by Julius Csotonyi, (Sept. 2019, What on Earth Publishing), $18.99, ISBN: 978-1-912920-05-1

Ages 7-11

Traveling backwards from present day to 541 million years ago, this slim volume is packed with illustrations, infographics, and easily digestible information about the earth through 17 eras. There’s information about climate change, ecosystems and extinctions. A running timeline at each right-hand page margin keeps readers up-to-date on the era and presents a visual representation of time covered as the book progresses.

Color illustrations are museum-quality; you can easily envision these bringing life to exhibits at any museum you may go to. Keeping in mind a younger and middle-grade audience, the information is broken up into short paragraphs, bold infographics, and callout facts. Back endpapers act as a visual table of contents. Keep Prehistoric in mind for your nonfiction sections; hand any of these books to your Apex Predators and Prehistoric Actual Size fans.

Prehistoric is produced in association with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.