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

NatGeo’s Our Country’s Presidents: Essential Desk Reference

Our Country’s Presidents: A Complete Encyclopedia of the U.S Presidency (2020 Edition), by Ann Bausum, (Jan. 2021, National Geographic Kids), $24.99, ISBN: 978-1-42637199-8

Ages 8-13

This latest update to the NatGeo desk reference includes coverage of the 2020 Presidential election and results. Every U.S. President, from George Washington to Joe Biden, has a profile; there are full-page official portraits, and over 400 illustrations, from period artwork to contemporary black-and-white and color photographs. Six sections examine the Presidency in different eras: The Presidency and How it Grew 1789-1837; From Sea to Shining Sea 1837-1861; A New Birth of Freedom 1861-1897; America Takes Center Stage 1897-1945; Seeking Stability in the Atomic Age 1945-1989; and Pathways for a New Millennium 1989-Present. Each presidential profile includes a facts-at-a-glance box with the President’s signature and fast facts, including landmarks, political party, number of terms, Vice President, and terms of office. Thematic spreads explain important themes to emerge and define different presidencies, and reference aids help direct learners to more resources. A comprehensive resource and great desk reference; get a copy for your Reference section and for your circulating collection if you have the budget.

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

Space Books take readers to new heights

Rocket Science: A Beginner’s Guide to the Fundamentals of Spaceflight, by Andrew Rader, PhD./Illustrated by Galen Frazer, (Nov. 2020, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536207422

Ages 10-13

This beginner’s guide to spaceflight is concise, comprehensive, and illustrated in full-color. Andrew Rader is an actual rocket scientist and a SpaceX Mission Manager, and he makes space travel so tempting, you’ll want to get in touch with Elon Musk and secure your spots now. Readers will learn the basics to start: gravity, the solar system, and how we can push through gravity to reach the Moon. That leads in to a discussion on rockets: how they work, the staging series, and how to use rockets to communicate, navigate, and travel. There is information on interplanetary travel, possible life in the universe beyond our planet, and a word about the future of space exploration. Digital illustrations are colorful and detailed. A glossary and list of web resources are available. A spread on spacecraft and the solar system details some of the more well-known spacecraft, in relation to layout of the planets, like the Hubble, International Space Station, Curiosity, and Cassini. A nice intro to rocket science without throwing calculus into the mix, this is a great intro to whet younger readers’ appetitles for space travel.

 

 

Space Encyclopedia: A Tour of Our Solar System and Beyond (2nd Edition), by David Aguilar & Patricia Daniels, (Nov. 2020, National Geographic Kids), $24.99, ISBN: 9781426338564

Ages 8-12

This is the updated version of the 2013 Space Encyclopedia, and there has been a lot to update! The 2020 version includes updated photos, facts, and profiles on the latest in space exploration, including the first ever image of a black hole, newly discovered dwarf planets, the possibility of life beyond Earth, and the formation of the universe. Profiles on icons in the field include Stephen Hawking, Einstein, and Galileo. It’s a beautiful desk reference, loaded with full color photos and artwork beyond the facts. My Kiddo used this as a reference tool for his report on space and he was beyond excited at how much he was able to use from this source.

 

Posted in Non-Fiction, Tween Reads

Where’s the Coolest Stuff on Earth? In this book.

The Coolest Stuff on Earth: A Closer Look at the Weird, Wild, and Wonderful, by Brenda Scott Royce, (Nov. 2020, National Geographic Kids), $19.99, ISBN: 978-1426338588

Ages 8-13

More fantastic facts and photos from NatGeo Kids! Kids can take an armchair world tour with The Coolest Stuff on Earth. Organized into nine areas, kids can learn through stories, photos, infographics, Q&A with expert, and maps: Magnificent Marvels looks at world wonders, where readers can dive into the Secrets of Stonehenge. Travel Unraveled is all about the wacky and wild sites worldwide, and Extraordinary Animals profiles everything from dolphin language to what happens when animals hibernate. History’s Mysteries looks at ancient Pompeii through to California’s Golden Gate Bridge, and Shocking Science offers info about astronauts and technology. Peculiar Planet is all about the natural world, and Spectacular Sports shows readers the science of physical movement. Money Decoded features the secrets of the U.S. $1 bill, and Epic Extremes – one of the most popular reading areas for my library’s kids – is all about the coolest, most extreme stuff going, like deep-ocean robotics and giant sequoia forests. Back matter includes a full index.

The NatGeo books are always popular for a reason. Great gift idea, essential collection development, all around fun. Display and booktalk with Atlas Obscura: Explorer’s Guide for the World’s Most Adventurous Kid, by Dylan Thuras and Rosemary Mosco/Illustrated by Joy Ang.

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

Holiday Goodies: Gift book shopping guide!

I hope everyone enjoyed their holiday break! If you celebrate Thanksgiving, I hope you had a wonderful and safe holiday. And now, the shopping season heats up, so let’s get another gift guide together. This one is all about the gift books, and remember: today is Small Business Saturday, so if you’re able to, please support a local business!

 

Anatomicum (Welcome to the Museum), by Jennifer Z. Paxton/Illustrated by Katy Wiedemann, (Sept. 2020, Big Picture Press), $35, ISBN: 9781536215069

Ages 8-13

The Welcome to the Museum series is a great nonfiction series that lets readers recreate a museum in their own homes. Every museum wing you can imagine has a book: Dinosaurs, Animals, History, and so many more; many of the books have companion workbooks. The latest book, Anatomicum, dives  into the inner workings of the human body: how our cardiovascular systems and respiratory systems work, how facial muscles contribute to facial expressions, the development of a baby in the reproductive system, and how our immune and lymphatic systems help fight disease are just a few areas readers will explore. Katy Wiedemann’s scientific drawings in 2-color sepia-tones are detailed and Jennifer Z. Paxton’s accompanying text provides factual explanations and overviews on each area. Think of this as a Grey’s Anatomy for younger readers; artists and budding biologists and medical professionals alike will love this.

 

One of a Kind: A Story About Sorting and Counting, by Neil Packer, (Oct. 2020, Candlewick Studio), $22.99, ISBN: 9781536211214

Ages 7-10

A story wrapped within a book on classification, this is an excellent introduction to scientific classification and organization for kids. Readers meet a boy named Arvo, and get a look at his family tree. They meet his cat, Malcolm, and see his family tree, too. As Arvo moves through his day, readers discover how many ways there are to classify and organize information: as he learns to play the violin, we see where it fits into a grouping of musical instruments; when he needs to fix his bicycle’s tire, we get a look at different types of tools. Arvo visits the library, where the books are laid out by subject: can I get a print of this for my library? Back matter describes the classifications discussed throughout the story, and the mixed media art is interesting; each piece looks like a museum piece. What a great next step for sorting and classifying for kids!

The Language of the Universe, by Colin Stuart/Illustrated by Ximo Abadía, (Oct. 2020, Big Picture Press), $24.99, ISBN: 9781536215052

Ages 8-12

A visually stunning of the intersection of math and science, The Language of the Universe examines the history and application of math in the natural world. Discover the Fibonacci sequence in a sunflower and investigate the atom patterns in the periodic table; lift with levers and use math to encrypt messages. The text is easy to understand and lends itself to fun new projects for readers to think up. The art is colorful and there’s always something exciting to look at. Another great addition to shelves for young scientists and artists everywhere.

 

 

Space Encyclopedia: A Tour of Our Solar System and Beyond, by David A. Aguilar, (Nov. 2020, National Geographic), $24.99, ISBN: 978-1426338564

Ages 8-12

The latest update of NatGeo Kid’s Space Encyclopedia is out just in time for the holidays! The latest updates on our universe, all accompanied by breathtaking, full-color photographs, wait for readers in these pages. Sections on the stars, a tour of the solar system, life on other planets, and our future inclue Amazing Space! Milestone timelines, fun facts, and easy-to-read quick data bursts throughout. Spotlights on key figures in space exploration include Galileo Galilei, Albert Einstein, and Copernicus. The book is indexed and includes resources for additional reading and websites. A great gift idea for your budding astronomers and astrophycisists.

Posted in Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Tween Reads

STEAM into Summer!

Summer Reading is the best – and craziest – time for librarians. We’re planning intense levels of programming, ordering books and putting lists together like mad, and just waiting for that last day of school, when the kids will storm the library like… well, let the Avengers tell you.

It’s real.

NatGeo Kids was kind enough to send some books my way to check out and talk up for my STEM programs this summer. Let’s take a look!

 

This Book is Cute! The Soft and Squishy Science and Culture of Aww, by Sarah Wassner Flynn,
(March 2019, National Geographic Kids), $12.99, ISBN: 9781426332944
Ages 5-12

Can you believe there’s a science to cuteness? Of course NatGeo Kids would get to the bottom of this! Cute foods! (More attractive to eat!) Cute (human and animal) babies! (Trigger emotions in us that make us protect and care for them!) Cute clothes and toys! (We can’t get enough of ’em!) This Book is Cute is 112 pages of high-pitched squealing, science, and lists of cute animals, cutest jobs ever (I would like to apply for the Cat Cuddler spot, please), even appliances. Put up a bulletin board and see how many cute animals or food your kids can identify, or test their Cute IQ using the quiz in the book. This Book is Cute! is absolutely adorable; kids will go crazy for it and so will you.

Ages 8-12
A companion to Dr. E’s Super Stellar Solar System and Dirtmeister’s Nitty Gritty Planet Earth, Awesome Ocean takes readers underwater exploring with cartoon superhero Captain Aquatica and her hammerhead shark sidekick, Finn. Shark researcher and marine conservationist Jess Cramp is the real-life version of Captain Aquatica, and leads readers through chapters on the ocean; waves, tides, and water; sharks and marine life; underwater technology; ecosystem engineering, and the critical importance of conservation. Moving back and forth between a comic book adventure and factual explanation, the book is loaded with incredible photos, fact boxes, and easy experiments that kids and families can do at home. There are scientist profiles – I love these, because they introduce readers to even more scientists than they’ll meet in our biography aisles – a glossary, index, and book and website resources for more exploration. NatGeo books are amazing because they always make sure to empower kids to make the world a better place, providing ways to get involved and start making changes. Their photos are consistently fantastic, and I love having as many of their books as possible in my library. If a parent or kid comes in looking for nonfiction about the natural world or animal book suggestions, I bring them to NatGeo books first. Display this set together, if you have them, and direct your readers to a series that looks at the big picture: earth, ocean, and space.
Luna: The Science and Stories of Our Moon, by David A. Aguilar,
(June 2019, National Geographic Kids), $17.99, ISBN: 9781426333224
Ages 8-12
NatGeo wouldn’t let a Summer Reading theme go by without a book for us to give to the kiddos! Luna is all about our friendly satellite, the Moon. It’s a compact volume, at 64 pages, packed with all the info a middle grade space enthusiast could want. There are beautiful photos, callout quotes and facts, and full-color diagrams, and thought-provoking chapters cover topics including moon myths and hoaxes; the famous “dark side” of the moon; how our moon stacks up against other moons; lunar phases, and – naturally! – the 1969 lunar landing. There’s a fun make the moon activity (get your old t-shirts on; this one involves Plaster of Paris), a viewing guide, and tips on drawing the moon. There’s an index and a list of additional resources. This is one of the best middle grade volumes on the moon that I’ve read since Elaine Scott’s Our Moon (2015), and a solid add to your 520s. Mine are always in high demand (along with my dinosaurs), and with the outer space theme for this year’s Summer Reading, I imagine I’ll need a second copy of my own to use for programming.
Thanks again to NatGeo for always keeping nonfiction interesting and fun!
Posted in Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Teen, Tween Reads

Don’t read on an empty stomach: NatGeo Kids Food Fight

Food Fight! A Mouthwatering History of WHO Ate WHAT and WHY Through the Ages, by Tanya Steel, (Sept. 2018, National Geographic Kids), $19.99, ISBN: 9781426331626

Ages 10-14

Did you know that the Visigoths demanded 3,000 pounds of pepper as a gift when they conquered the Western Roman Empire in the 5th Century AD? Or that some medieval bakers whitened their flour with ground bones or chalk? Those are just a few of the wild food facts readers will pick up when they pick up Food Fight! by former Bon Appétit and Food & Wine editor Tanya Steel. Food Fight! is a history of food, combined with some fantastic (and frightful) facts, and recipes. The book covers food fads and eating habits from 14 different moments in history, from the prehistoric era through the 1960s, and there’s a special chapter imagining a future life (and food) on Mars! There are fun Popcorn Quizzes (you can’t have a plain pop quiz in a book about food) throughout, and amazing and hilarious photos, plus quotes from kid chefs who’ve made and enjoyed the 30 recipes you’ll find here. The book kicks off with safety tips, and a food timeline, recipe index, bibliography, and further reading and resources rounds everything out.

Kids in my library are big nonfiction fans, and Food Fight! offers history, fun, and kid-friendly recipes all in one volume. It’s a fun add to collections, and a good gift for budding chefs and food historians. (Psst… introduce older tweens and teens to Alton Brown’s excellent Food Network show, Good Eats, for more food history and cooking tips.) It’s a big plus that author Tanya Steel is a major name in the food journalism, so she knows how to write about food and food history, and she makes it accessible to younger readers. Plus, she originated the White House’s Healthy Lunchtime Challenge & Kids’ State Dinner, hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama, which brought recipes created by young chefs from each state to the White House. Kids are invited to make and upload photos of their Food Fight dishes – check out the Instagram tag #natgeofoodfight, and check out the Food Fight webpage for more info.

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

Join NatGeo’s Explorer Academy!

Explorer Academy: The Nebula Secret, by Trudi Trueit, (Sept. 2018, National Geographic), $16.99, ISBN: 9781426331596

Ages 9-13

Twelve year-old Cruz Coronado has lived with his dad in Hawaii ever since his mom died in a work-related accident when he was little. Now that Cruz is 12, though, he’s got a big future: he’s been accepted into the prestigious Explorer Academy, which will take him to Washington, DC. The Explorer Academy is no joke: they accept only 24 kids from around the world every year; the students train to become the next generation of great explorers. But someone doesn’t want Cruz at the Academy: there’s an attempt on his life before he even leaves for the school! When he arrives at the Academy, he learns that his mother’s history is tied into his – and this could endanger his life, and the lives of his new friends. But who’s out to get Cruz?

Explorer Academy: The Nebula Secret is the first in a new NatGeo adventure series, and I loved it. It’s action-packed, fast-paced, and features a good cast of diverse, interesting characters with loads of cool tech and devices, like Mell, Cruz’s honeybee drone. There are copious tech and nature facts and information found throughout the story, with scientist and technology profiles in a “Truth Behind the Fiction” section at the end of the book. Color illustrations and maps throughout the book make this a solid hit for tweens and early teens. I’m looking forward to The Falcon’s Feather – the second book in the series – in March. Cruz is a likable hero who has a talent for code-breaking and a good relationship with his dad and his aunt, who also happens to be a professor at the Academy. Cruz’s best friend, Lani, isn’t a student at the Academy (yet), and serves as an anchor to home for Cruz. She, and Cruz’s friend and Academy roommate, Emmett, are the gadget masters here: the Q of the series, for you James Bond fans. Talk them up to your STEM/STEAM kids!

Display and booktalk with the Nick and Tesla series from Quirk; the HowToons comic series, and the Book Scavenger series by Jennifer Chambliss Berman. And talk up the Explorer Academy website! There are character profiles, book trailers, a chapter excerpt, gadget talk, and a crack the code challenge. It’s a good series to wrap a program around… just sayin’.

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 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 Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Teen, Tween Reads

To Explore Strange New Worlds…

Pop quiz! We know that outer space is still largely unexplored, but did you know that we’ve explored less than five percent of the world’s oceans? There are some great new books on space and sea exploration for middle graders to dive into (see what I did there?). Read on!

Dr. E’s Super Stellar Solar System, by Bethany Ehlmann with Jennifer Swanson, (Jan. 2018, National Geographic Kids), $12.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-2798-8

Recommended for readers 8-12

Planetary geologist Dr. E (Bethany Ehlmann) and her sidekick, Rover, take readers on a trip around the universe, filled with activities, photos, facts, and comics. Readers will learn about space exploration and how our big blue dot fits in with our cosmic neighbors: who else has volcanoes and sand dunes; how plate tectonics work; how craters are formed. There’s information about robots and rovers; space exploration and technology; and how learning about space helps us learn more about Earth. Each chapter begins with a 2-page comic spread, following Dr. E and Rover on an adventure related to chapter material. There are scientist profiles throughout the book, thought-provoking questions to generate discussion, and incredible photos. A glossary, list of book and web resources, and index makes this a solid book to have in space collections and a fun gift for kids who love science.

 

Astronaut-Aquanaut: How Space Science and Sea Science Interact, by Jennifer Swanson, (Jan. 2018, National Geographic Kids), $18.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-2867-1

Recommended for readers 8-12

What do space and the ocean exploration have in common? SO much. There’s a reason we’re still trying to figure out how to explore both. Extreme pressure, temperatures and climates are all considerations scientists have to make when planning missions up above or far below. Author Jennifer Swanson (she’s co-author on Dr. E’s book, above!) gets a new generation of explorers ready for action with discussions about buoyancy and gravity; the shapes used in space and sea exploration (shape counts!); creating livable habitats; similarities and differences in each form of travel, and more. There’s consideration given to preservation and conservation for both sea and space: we leave a lot of garbage behind, and we need to stop that. Explorer’s Notebook callouts give readers a quick run-down on different topics, like training for a trip and how to create successful living and working environments – ideas that readers can apply to their daily lives while getting ready to be explorers. Activities give readers hands-on opportunities to learn about concepts like docking the International Space Station. There are detailed illustrations and color photos throughout, astronaut and aquanaut profiles, fun facts, resources, a glossary, and an index. NatGeo never disappoints: I love how Jennifer Swanson brings these two areas of exploration together; maybe it will inspire kids to become both astronauts AND aquanauts!

 

The Space Race: How the Cold War Put Humans on the Moon, by Matthew Brenden Wood/Illustrated by Sam Carbaugh, (May 2018, Nomad Press), $17.95, ISBN: 978-1-61930-663-9

Recommended for readers 12-15

The Cold War between the U.S. and Soviet Union led to a race for dominance, and space was best place to push for that dominance. Matthew Brenden’s book, The Space Race, is an interactive chronicle of this pivotal point in history. Beginning with a timeline to give readers background, Brenden takes us from the 1917 Russian Revolution, through World War II (when Russia was our ally) and the Cold War, to July 20, 1969: the date Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first people to walk on the moon.

A  comic strip running throughout the book illustrates and encapsulates the big ideas in the book, adding a little mental break for readers. There are loads of callout boxes, enhanced with QR codes that lead to historical reference and further learning; some topics include McCarthyism, duck-and-cover nuclear war drills, and the first anniversary of the Berlin Wall. Blast Fact callout boxes provide quick facts, and Inquire and Investigate sections provide rich inspiration for projects and research. Questions throughout the text challenge readers to think deeper about the material and would provide a great jumping-off point for book group or class discussions, and Vocab Lab sections offer new words to learn, all defined in the glossary at the end of the book. There are black-and-white and color photos throughout, providing a strong connection to history. Thankfully, there’s a metric conversion table, since science is metric and I’m not; there are additional resources, source notes, and an index.

I love Nomad Press’ books; there are so many entry points for students in each book. This one is a valuable reference for Science or History: in fact, The Space Race is one in a set of four Nomad books exploring great events of the 20th Century (others include Globalization: Why We Care About Faraway Events; The Vietnam War; and World War II: From the Rise of the Nazi Party to the Dropping of the Atomic Bomb).

The Space Race skews slightly older than the NatGeo books above: Nomad recommends this one for ages 12-15, but I think it can go a year or two younger, especially in my children’s room, where it will see more circ than in our teen section. Your library’s mileage, and your kids’ reading interests may vary. It’s a Guided Reading level Z, which can go as young as 9; I’d suggest at least 10 or 11.