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 Non-fiction, picture books

A look at an ecosystem in crisis: If You Take Away the Otter

If You Take Away the Otter, by Susannah Buhrman-Deever/Illustrated by Matthew Trueman, (May 2020, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9780763689346

Ages 5-8

A moving look at how ecosystems are connected, If You Take Away the Otter begins with a discussion on the kelp forests in the Pacific Coast waters. Towering kelp trees can grow up to a foot a day, and are full of living creatures: abalones, clams, sea stars, and more find their shelter within the kelp. Sea otters hunt in these waters, requiring about a quarter of their own body weight in food to keep warm (kids would need to eat about 24 hamburgers a day as an equivalent!). Otters keep the food web in balance. In the 18th century, the international fur trade came to the Pacific waters, and otters were hunted for their pelts: which caused a disastrous fallout in the ecosystem. With the otter population decimated, sea urchins proliferated, eating the kelp forests to their bottoms, forming “urchin barrens”. When people above noticed the change, they enacted laws to protect the remaining population; the otters returned, got control of the urchins, and new kelp once again flourished. As the story says: “Those forests are homes again for crabs and snails, sea worms and shrimps. They make safe places for the fish and their eggs. There is food for the seaweed eaters; there is food for the hunters. There is just enough of everything to help the kelp forests, and all that depend on them, thrive”. An author’s note highlights the importance of food webs in our ecosystems, and how a change in one part of the web affects both the ecosystem and the people – in this case, the Indigenous Peoples of the northern Pacific –  who depend on them to survive and thrive. There are resources available for further reading and research.

Mixed media illustrations run primarily blue and green, showing both a thriving and a struggling underwater world. The otters are rendered in beautiful detail, and the floating kelp is almost tangible as it dances across the page. The artwork is just brilliant and gives real life to the factual text. Small callouts throughout offer deeper reading about the effects of environmental change.

A solid book to have in your natural history collections. When my Corona kids come in looking for food webs/ecosystems information, this is a book I want to have handy for them.

Posted in Middle School, Non-Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads, Young Adult/New Adult

A little bit of Flower Power goes a long way

Flower Power: The Magic of Nature’s Healers, by Christine Paxmann/Illustrated by Olaf Hajek/Translated by Jane Michael, (Apr. 2020, Prestel), $19.95, ISBN: 978-3-7913-7399-7

Ages 9-14

People have turned to flowers and plants for healing and food since the dawn of time. Flower Power: The Magic of Nature’s Healers presents 17 flowers that we still use for their healing properties, whether they’re available as teas, herbal medicine, or spices. Christine Paxmann begins with an author’s note on the human history of our relationship with flowering plants, from hunter-gatherers who learned through trial and error which were poisonous and which were beneficial (and tasty), to the ancient shamans, who began boiling, crushing, and mixing flowers and seeds together, to today’s consumer, who can walk into just about any store to pick up an herbal tea, cough drop, or spice to add to their food.

Each flower enjoys its own spread here, with an interesting profile discussing history and uses on the left-hand page, and on the right, a painting by illustrator Olaf Hajek. It’s really Olaf Hajek’s illustrations that are the stars of the show here: inspired by folk art, Renaissance paintings, and fairy tale illustrative style, each flower is bright and bold, with a touch of the fantastic and surreal, and immediately draws readers to the pages. These could easily be in a gallery as in a book.

The 17 flowers include names that are readily familiar, like the artichoke, dandelion, pineapple, and ginger; lesser-known appearances introduce readers to such plants as the Mary thistle, Madonna lily, and rowan. Flower Power is a nice reference book for readers interested in learning more about flowering plants and their uses and is a thoughtful add to STEM and nonfiction collections for middle school and high school. Flower Power is translated from the work’s original German.

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

Unhinged History, where the oddest of couples change the world: The Bathysphere Boys

The Bathysphere Boys: Beebe & Barton (Unhinged History), by Ted Enik/Illustrated by G.F. Newland, (Sept. 2019, Schiffer Books). $16.99, ISBN: 9780764357930

Ages 7-10

This second book in Schiffer’s Unhinged History series brings together William Beebe and Otis Barton, who came together to create the bathysphere, an invention that sent the two underwater explorers more than half a mile underwater in 1930. The two were able to sees, close-up, underwater sea life that redefined deep-sea exploration. The story, written in slant rhyming, tells the story of the two very different personalities, who clashed throughout the invention process and, in 1934, split up for good after their historic dive. The story mentions the sphere’s return to life in 1994, when a renovation to the New York Aquarium gave the sphere a facelift, and where it proudly stands today. Back matter includes drawings of some of the sea life discovered during the deep sea dives, Bathysphere schematics, a timeline of human diving, and a profile on explorer Gloria Hollister, who worked with Beebe and Barton and who made her own deep sea dive in 1934.

Cartoon illustrations and a rhyme scheme outside of the norm make this an interesting choice for intermediate and middle grade readers who have an interest in science and underwater exploration. I like the idea of bringing together people who may not always have the most harmonious relationship, but who work together to affect great change: it’s a good way to show kids that you may not always get along, but there’s a value in putting aside differences to work together. A note on slant rhyming (also called “lazy rhyme”) will help readers ease into reading the story, which may feel off at first.

 

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

Humanimals demonstrates ways animals and humans are similar

Humanimal: Incredible Ways Animals are Just Like Us!, by Christopher Lloyd/Illustrated by Mark Ruffle, (Nov. 2019, What on Earth Books), $19.99, ISBN: 978-1-912920-01-3

Ages 7-13

Christopher Lloyd‘s latest nonfiction introduces readers to all the ways we’re not that unique: animals are just like we are. Breaking down big areas like Community, Feelings, and Intelligence into finer points like teamwork, showing off, love, grief, self-awareness and invention, Humanimals reminds us not to discount the animals we share the planet with: we have as Lloyd writes in his introduction, “we need a new word, one that helps us understand how much we have in common”.

Christopher Lloyd gives readers a blend of animals and behaviors we know – honeybees work together; termites create vast cities; cats arch their backs and stiffen their tails to show aggression – and introduces behaviors readers may not be aware of: ravens roll down hills for fun; fish and leafcutter ants are farmers; orcas, baboons, and elephants all experience grief and mourning; chickens can communicate with one another. With bold, colorful artwork by Mark Ruffle, and easy-to-read sentences for more confident readers, this is a nice nonfiction add for your animal fans and natural history readers. It builds bridges to understanding animals, and encourages kids (and adults) to pay attention to the world they share.

Humanimal is a good choice for STEM and Discovery Clubs, too; encourage kids to talk about animal behaviors they’ve observed that remind them of human behavior. I love telling kids about seeing lizards that do push-ups to show off when I was in Florida.

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

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.

Posted in Non-Fiction, picture books

History via foldout timeline: A Brief History of Life on Earth

A Brief History of Life on Earth, by Clémence Dupont, (Apr. 2019, Prestel Publishing), $24.95, ISBN: 9783791373737

Ages 6-10

A book that touts the claim, “Book folds out the length of a triceratops”, on the cover is a book that I’m going to stop and read. A Brief History of Life on Earth attempts to put the changes our little blue dot has been through into perspective by creating a foldout book that stretches through time and unfolds to reveal the formation of volcanoes and glaciers; the development of aquatic life, to the dinosaurs, early mammals, and modern humans, ending with a modern-day lakeside scene. Each spread folds out, accordion-style; the illustrations are colorful. Each spread has the noted age and time period (Hadean Age, 4.6 to 4 billion years ago; Proterozoic Age, 2.5 billion to 540 million years ago), and a brief, descriptive paragraph. Upon reaching the end of the Holocene Epoch (11,700 years ago to the present day), readers can flip the page over and look through a timeline of Earth’s first 4.6 billion years, really giving kids an idea of how recently we humans arrived on the scene. The book unfolds to a full 26 feet (8 meters), allowing you to see a truly visual timeline. Just get a lot of volunteers in a large space to hold the pages!

This is a handy book for classroom and library reference, and a fun gift for science fans. In circulation, I know my copy would be dead within the first 3-5 circs. But would I buy a copy to use during science storytimes or Discovery Club sessions? Heck, yes. It’s fun, eye-catching, and informative.

A Brief History of Life on Earth was originally published in the UK in 2017. Reference Readalikes would include the Wallbook Timeline books by Christopher Lloyd and the Welcome to the Museum series.

Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction, picture books

February Non-Fiction is all about the animals!

River Rescue, by Jennifer Keats Curtis & Tri-State Bird Rescue & Research, Inc./Illustrated by Tammy Yee, (Feb. 2019, Arbordale), $17.95, ISBN: 9781607188230

Ages 5-8

River Rescue illustrates how an oil spill – even one drop of oil – can be devastating to plan and animal life. Introducing readers to the Wildlife Response Team at Tri-State Bird & Rescue, a Delaware-based organization that rescues and rehabilitates animals affected by oil, River Rescue teaches readers about the delicate cleaning process and the care so critical to helping evaluate, treat, and rehabilitate affected animals.

There are so many questions to ask: is the animal alert on arrival? What kind of oil is on the animal? The cleansing process brings more questions: what kind of bird is this? Is it a flocking bird, or a solitary one? Is it a water bird or a land bird? After the rehabilitation process, animals are released back into the wild, preferably in the area where they were rescued.

River Rescue provides an informative look into animal rescue and rehabilitation and encourages good environmental citizenship among readers. The earth-toned art is realistic and the text is easy to understand. Back matter includes a 4-page For Creative Minds section allowing teachers, parents, and caregivers to photocopy and distribute activities on identifying wildlife, a Q&A with Tri-State Executive Director Dr. Lisa Smith, and information on preventing oil spills and helping animals.

The Long and Short Tale of Colo and Ruff, by Diane Lang/Illustrated by Laurie Allen Klein, (Feb. 2019, Arbordale Publishing), $17.95, ISBN: 9781607187387

Ages 4-7

Colo is a cougar and Ruff is a wild cat. The two friends want to play, but Ruff’s short tail prevents him from jumping as far as Colo can. As the two search for a new tail for Ruff, they encounter all the different things other animals can do with their tails and Ruff decides that his tail is just right after all.

This fun story is nonfiction with fiction wrapping: great for preschoolers and kindergartners! Colo and Ruff are realistically illustrated, but with softer artwork, playing up the cute factor. They encounter lizards, hawks, skunks and gophers on their search for a new tail, and callout facts throughout provide information that’s perfect for pleasure reading or an animal report. The For Creative Minds back matter includes a table comparing three kinds of cats and cat habitat maps.

Animal Noses, by Mary Holland, (Feb. 2019, Arbordale Publishing), $17.95, ISBN: 9781607188056

Ages 4-9

Noses, beaks, tongues, antennae – animals have a bunch of different ways to use their senses of smell, and Animal Noses is all about animal noses, how animals transmit messages through scent, and which animals have super noses versus which animals don’t. Loaded with sharp, full-color photos and facts, this is a nice add to science sections, especially when teachers come in looking for books on the five senses – always fun to throw something unexpected, like this, into my readers’ advisory, and show the similarities and differences between how we use our senses versus how animals use theirs.

Arbordale always has good back matter, too: their For Creative Minds sections allow for photocopying and distribution for educational use. The Animal Noses For Creative Minds covers fun facts about scent, a match the nose game, and spotlights animals with great senses of smell.

 

If a Mummy Could Talk…, by Rhonda Lucas Donald/Illustrated by Cathy Morrison, (Feb. 2019, Arbordale Publishing), $17.95, ISBN: 9781607187370

Ages 7-10

Meet some mummies and hear their stories: this volume contains stories about 12 different mummies: elephants, bison, dogs, cats, and humans, including the world’s most famous mummy, King Tut. Each spread focuses on one mummy, providing its date and location, and “before” and “after” illustrations that show readers what the animal or person most likely looked life while alive, and what its mummy looks like today. Facts gleaned from research and scientific observation bring each mummy’s story to life for readers, and provide clues to each demise. Discussions about different types of mummification, a mummy map of the world, and features on scientists’ tools and technology make up the back matter For Creative Minds section.

There are better books on mummies available, but this is an entertaining introduction for intermediate readers with an interest in natural history. The illustrations are realistic and colorful, and callout fact boxes appear throughout the book, clarifying bits of information contained in the text.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Concept Books for little learners

Hello Lilac Good Morning, Yellow: Colors and First Words, by Judith Drews, (Oct. 2018, Prestel), $14.95, ISBN: 9783791373515

Ages 3-6

This cute book features eleven colors; one per each spread. There’s a warm greeting on one side, and objects showcasing the color on the other: “Good morning, Yellow! You glow so warm and bright”, with hand-drawn pictures of a lion, a construction helmet, lemon, and crown. It’s a lovely way to introduce colors; letting kids greet them and name a property of the color that makes them enjoyable: “Ahoy, Blue! I want to splash about in you”; “Hi, White! Where is your color?” Some object choices may leave readers scratching their heads; a syringe is included for White, and blood for Red; a screw falls under Black, which I tend to associate with Silver. I’m also not sure on how words like “trousers”, “domino tile”, and “fly agaric mushroom” are considered first words.

Overall, it’s a cute enough concept book for an additional add to collections, but there are other books that are better.

 

A is for Australian Mammals, by Frané Lessac, (Aug. 2018, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9780763694845

Ages 7-9

This book combines an abcedary for early readers with a geographic tour of Australia. There are 38 animals to be found here: tried and true favorites like the kangaroo, platypus, and koala are here, but there are other fantastic animals to be discovered, including the flying fox (it’s actually a huge bat); the red crab and robber crab (keep an eye on your valuables), a crayfish called the yabby, and the x-shaped crusader bug.  Loaded with facts about these Australian creatures, and featuring colorful gouache illustration, this one is a hit. Pull out some cool facts to share during a science storytime or Discovery Club program. Here’s one that will go over big with the kids in my library: “In a Tasmanian devil’s poop, a wildlife biologist discovered: the head of a tiger snake, an owl’s foot, a sock, aluminum foil, half a pencil, and the knee of a pair of jeans”. Also, a koala’s fingerprints are almost identical to human’s fingerprints. Back matter includes maps of animal distribution, highlighting areas where each animal can be found on the continent. There are free, downloadable teacher’s notes available through author Frané Lessac’s website. The Educate Empower blog has some great ways to use this book across subjects, too.

This is a fun add to your natural history books, and it doubles as a concept book for learning readers who can benefit from learning about exciting new animals and their names.