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

Reading Takes you Everywhere: Nature!

I’m going to stick to my library’s Summer Reading theme, Reading Takes You Everywhere, for this post; in this case, reading takes you into the Great Outdoors!

Weird but True! Ocean: 300 Fin-Tastic Facts from the Deep Blue Sea, by National Geographic Kids, $8.99, ISBN: 9781426371813

Ages 7-12

I have said this before, and I’ll say it again: these chunky, digest-sized NatGeo books MOVE. I refresh my collection throughout the year, every year, because the kids in my library love them. They love the wild collection of facts across all sorts of subjects, they love that they’re small enough to shove in their schoolbags (or mom’s bag), and they’ll pull them out anywhere (ANYWHERE) to rattle off facts to anyone (ANYONE) who will listen. It’s just great. This volume has loads of facts about the ocean: did you know that otters keep rocks under their arms to help them crack open clams? Or that feeding cows seaweed helps them burp less? Maybe you didn’t know this, but a sea cucumber can expel its organs to distract predators, and grow them back later. There are tons of great and fun facts here, accompanied by incredible color photos. Just add it to your cart; the kids will take care of the rest.

 

Out of the Blue: How Animals Evolved from Prehistoric Seas, by Elizabeth Shreeve, Illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon, (May 2021, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536214109

Ages 6-9

I love this gorgeous book! It’s a “story from out of the blue” about how animals evolved from microbes in the ocean to land creatures through Earth’s timeline. Spread by spread, readers travel through the planet’s history, from the Archean Eon (4-2.5 billion years ago) through the Cenzoic Era (66 million year ago to the present), with colorful illustrations as life evolves from sea-dwelling single-celled organisms, to athropods and echinoderms, to mollusks, dinosaurs, and finally, humans. It’s a compulsively readable history that describes the different types of organisms and illustrates the evolution from single- to multi-celled creatures; the development of fins to limbs, and how we are always connected to the water.  Readers learn how animals (and people!) compare to those that came before, and the informative text is chunked into readable paragraphs that respect and never overwhelm readers. Perfect for STEM/STEAM collections.

Out of the Blue has starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal.
Wild is the Wind, by Grahame Baker-Smith, (May 2021, Templar), $18.99, ISBN: 9781536217926
Ages 4-8
A girl named Cassi watches over a small bird, a swift, that she’s cared for. It’s time to let the bird go; the swifts soar around them, hearing the call of the wind, and Cassi knows that “They are wild and belong to the wind”. This breathtaking book is alternately a story about a girl letting her bird rejoin the world that brought it to her, and a story about the wonder of the wind. Across the world, winds whip into the sky, as ancient as the dinosaurs; they power turbines and give us power; they “howl with power” as storms. Every spread is a gorgeous revelation, with the ever-present swifts traveling the currents. Deep colors and incredible visions in the sky make this a fantasy to sweep readers away and return them, where they’ll never think of an ordinary breeze in the same way again. Grahame Baker-Smith is a Kate Greenaway Award-winning illustrator, and his companion book, The Rhythm of the Rain, is an excellent companion to Wild is the Wind. Have these available for your nature readers and display this with Aaron Becker’s Journey Trilogy.
Wild is the Wind has a starred review from Kirkus.
Little Kids First Big Book of Rocks, Minerals & Shells, by  Moira Rose Donohue & National Geographic Kids, (July 2021, National Geographic Kids), $14.99, ISBN: 9781426372223
Ages 4-8
The “Little Kids First Big Book” is another great series from NatGeo Kids. They introduce younger learners to science concepts in a fun, accessible way. It’s NatGeo, so you know the photos are amazing, and the information is organized into easily readable sections of interest. Here, kids will learn how rocks are formed, the difference between rocks and minerals, and how they’re used in just about every facet of our lives. Chapters are organized into Rocks, Minerals, and Seashells, and activities and map-reading activities at the end of every chapter help kids put their thinking caps on and sharpen new and developing skills. Fact boxes and cool callout boxes throughout keep kids turning pages, almost feeling like they’ve got that fun, small digest (see up above, Weird But True) handy, where they can tell everyone cool bits of info (The Great Sphinx in Egypt was carved from limestone!).  A Parent Tips section offers fun and safe ways to join your kids in learning about rocks, minerals, and seashells (ahem… STEM program in a book!). There are additional resources, including a Bill Nye video on the rock cycle, and a glossary, and the book is indexed. What a great resource to have handy!
Posted in Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction

Creepy, Kooky, Oogie: Weird But True Halloween!

Weird But True! Halloween: 300 Facts to Scare You Silly, by Julie Beer & Michelle Harris, (Sept. 2020, NatGeo Kids), $8.99, ISBN: 978-1426338281

Ages 7-12

These books are the backbone of my nonfiction section. These little Weird But True! books MOVE; kids love the wild facts that NatGeo writers keep unearthing, and the incredible photos throughout are creepy, freaky, and downright cute. What facts await us in this volume? There are some good ones: a theme park in St. Louis, Missouri, held a “Coffin Challenge” where contestants lay in a coffin for 30 hours to win a prize; there are gummy tarantulas the size of a kid’s hand; there are more Halloween emojis than there are U.S. states. There’s a Halloween theme running through, with Halloween-themed facts, eerie facts, and overall Fall facts. These don’t even require a handselling in my library – I just put it on the shelf and watch the kids surge. The NatGeo Kids digests are essential for pleasurable, nonfiction, reading.

 

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

More Weird But True Facts for all those barbecue conversations!

Weird But True! USA: 300 Fascinating Facts About the 50 States, by National Geographic Kids, (March 2019, National Geographic Kids), $8.99, ISBN: 9781426333712

Ages 7-12

You’ve got a lot of barbecues to hit this summer. Family, friends, someone’s having a BBQ, somewhere, and you’re invited. What better way to keep a conversation going than to bust out some weird – but true! – facts about the US of A? NatGeo Kids has kids (and grownups, too: you know you love these books) covered with their latest digest-sized Weird But True facts, easily carried in your favorite tote.

Dazzle friends and family with goodies about our states! Did you know that the average driver in New York City spends more than 100 hours a year looking for a parking spot? (I did, just ask my husband.) Or the Pledge of Allegiance was written for a magazine to help sell subscriptions? How about one of my favorites: the Washington National Cathedral has a Darth Vader gargoyle? Seriously, this this knowledge has made my day.

The NatGeo books just get better. Where do they find all these wacky facts? I hope they keep doing whatever they’re doing, because I love them, my own kids love them, and the kids in my library can’t get enough of them. Add these to your NatGeo collections and just sit at the reference desk and wait for them to come at you with their favorite facts.

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

More holiday shopping ideas!

The days are creeping closer – Hanukkah starts this evening! – but I’ve got your back with more book gift ideas! Read on, and get yourselves to a bookstore, stat.

Where’s Waldo? Destination: Everywhere!, Featuring 12 Classic Scenes by Martin Handford,
(November 2017, Candlewick), $19.99, ISBN: 9780763697266
Good for all ages!

This is a gift that’s perfect for kids who love mazes, puzzles, and those Seek and Find/I Spy books, or older teens and adults who grew up with old school Waldo. Destination: Everywhere! celebrates THIRTY YEARS of Where’s Waldo – pardon me while I go lay down after writing that – and showcases 12 of Waldo’s favorite adventures, plus a brand new challenge to keep us on our toes. This one’s going to my now 14-year old, who plagued me with I Spy books all hours of the day and night, as a toddler and preschooler. And I’m telling the 5 year-old that his big brother can’t wait to find ALL THE WALDOS with him. Muah hah hah.

 

Weird but True! Christmas, by National Geographic Kids
(Sept. 2017, National Geographic Kids), $8.99, ISBN: 9781426328893
Good for readers 6-12

One thing my kids, my library kids, and I have in common is a love of these NatGeo weird facts books. Weird but True! Christmas keeps it real for the holiday season, with full-color photos and crazy factoids like this one: “The town Gävle, Sweden, erects a giant straw goat at Christmas. The Yule Goat has its own social media account.” That social media account is @gavlebocken on Twitter, by the way. You’re welcome. There are 300 facts in here, including Christmas customs from around the world, weird and slightly gross animal facts, and Christmas decorating statistics. Perfect size for a stocking stuffer, and kids can’t get enough of these books.

 

Harry Potter: Magical Film Projects – Quidditch, by Insight Editions,
(Sept. 2017, Candlewick), $16.99, ISBN: 978-0-7636-9587-3
Good for readers 7-10

This is just so cool. Black line drawings from the Harry Potter universe on acetate pages let you create your own reader’s theatre. Shine a flashlight, light bulb, or cell phone light through the window, and project images onto a wall, screen, your little brother or sister, anywhere, to create your own shadow theatre! Short, Quidditch-related scenes from three books in the series (Sorcerer’s Stone, Chamber of Secrets, Half-Blood Prince) are broken out into script format, letting readers become Harry, Oliver Wood, Ron, or Cormac McLaggen. A final panel lets you draw and project your own Quidditch team. Give this book to a Potterhead, along with a dry-erase marker, and get ready for the love.

 

 

History’s Mysteries, by Kitson Jazynka, (Oct. 2017, National Geographic Kids),
$14.99, ISBN: 9781426328718
Good for readers 9-12

I loved this kind of stuff when I was a kid – okay, I still do.When I was a kid in the ’70s, Dynamite Magazine released these cool guides – digest-sized books – loaded with stories about Amelia Earhart, Anastasia, and other spooky, true stories. I watch Mysteries at the Museum on Travel Channel. I’m a sucker for a good, unsolved mystery; bonus points if it’s creepy. History’s Mysteries is the closest I’ve seen to my beloved Dynamite guides in a long time. Kids will love these quick, fully illustrated case files on a screaming mummy, a 50-foot snake slithering around Africa, missing Irish crown jewels, and more. An interview with archaeologist Chris Fisher gives kids some insight on the exciting – and sometimes, not so thrilling – parts of the job. Stick a calendar, plus a ticket for a local museum exhibit in here and you’re set.

 

Just Joking, by National Geographic Kids,
(Oct. 2017, National Geographic Kids), $14.99, ISBN: 9781426328794
Good for readers 6-10

Another home-run with my kids and my library kids. Yes, many of these jokes will make you groan: that’s the POINT. There are crazy facts (rats laugh when they’re tickled), puns that will make you wince, but giggle while you do it, full-color photos, and truly, terribly funny, jokes like this gem: Who did Darth Vader summon when craving ice cream? Storm Scoopers. See? You winced, but you laughed.

 

Knightology, by Dugald A. Steer/Illustrated by Ollie Cuthbertson, Fabio Leone, David Demaret,
(Nov. 2017, Candlewick), $24.99, ISBN: 9780763698485
Good for readers 7-12

The latest entry in Candlewick’s Ology series looks at the knights of old. Legend has it (actually, the publisher’s note says it, but I’m setting a mood here) that two children, while playing, discovered a book set into a mysterious stone. The book appears to be a secret book about knights from Elizabethan times, printed here for readers to read and discover more mysteries within. Beautifully illustrated, with margin notes, flaps and hidden notes throughout, this is a gorgeous gift book about the myths and legends surrounding the burial site of none other than King Arthur.  Put a plush dragon on the wrapped gift and put your feet up.

 

Don’t Wake the Yeti!, by Claire Freedman/Illustrated by Claudia Ranucci,
(Sept. 2017, Albert Whitman), $17.99, ISBN: 978-0-8075-1690-4
Good for readers 3-7

I didn’t forget about the little ones! What better way to greet the holidays than with the tale of a Yeti who’s just looking for a friend? This rhyming story stars a young girl who finds a Yeti under her bed – but he’s more afraid of her than she is of him! It’s a reader’s guide to the proper care and handling of one’s own Yeti, including details on how to get around that whole Mom finding out business. The illustrations are adorable: the Yeti is hardly a menacing figure; he’s covered in long, white fur, has a goofy, toothy smile, and big, blue eyes. Originally published in the UK, the story has a touch of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie to it – see if the little readers catch the rhythm!

 

Away We Grow!: Poems for Baby’s First Year, by Jeremy Eisler,
(March 2017, self-published), $12.99, ISBN: 9780989389075
Good for new parents

This is a sweet stocking stuffer for a mom-to-be or a new mom. There are 32 short poems, all celebrating milestones in a baby’s first year; that first grasp of your finger, that big gummy smile; that first, unimpressive meal: “In my mouth and out again / Down my cheeks and off my chin / I think I’ve had my fill of peas… / Now I would like my bottle please!” They’re simple and sweet, ready to welcome parents and babies on a new adventure together.

And that’s that for now!

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

NatGeo Kids sends kids back to school ready for everything!

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

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

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

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

Catch up on U.S. History with NatGeo Kids

Weird But True! (Know-It-All) U.S. Presidents, by Brianna Dumont, (July 2017, National Geographic Kids), $12.99, ISBN: 978-1426327964

Recommended for readers 8-12

I love these NatGeo Kids’ facts-at-a-glance books. I learn something new every time, and I have a good time reading them. I’m pretty sure my library kids agree with me, because these books fly off the shelves. In this latest Weird But True, NatGeo gives readers a quick rundown of the U.S. Presidency: fun facts, a renovation timeline, an overview of the three branches of government and the powers of the Supreme Court, Congress, and the President; from there, we get a profile of each President, from Washington through to 45. Profiles run between 2 and 8 pages, outlining high points (Oval Awesome), low points (Oval Awful), and fun facts (Why He’s Weird!). It’s a fun read, loaded with caricature art and photos. Also a nice little supplement for reports and projects down the line.

 

Benjamin Franklin’s Wise Words: How to Work Smart, Play Well, and Make Real Friends, by K.M. Kostyal/Illustrated by Fred Harper, (Jan. 2017, National Geographic Kids), $16.99, ISBN: 978-4263-2699-8

Recommended for readers 8-12

Think of this as a “Life’s Little Instruction Book” for middle grade history fans. Ben Franklin’s sage advice is organized into quotes on tranqulity, industry, order, humility, resolution, sincerity, and moderation. Readers may be surprised at how many sayings they’re familiar with: “there are no pains without gains”, “haste makes waste”, and “honesty is the best policy”. There are 50 of Franklin’s quotes in this book, each with an accompanying caricature illustration with loads of physical comedy to appeal to middle graders. Quotes receive a more modern, accessible translation and a story about Franklin’s life, which may cause a disconnect to anyone who expects the story to illustrate the quote. It’s a fun look at one of U.S. history’s more fascinating characters, but unless you have a dedicated Franklin fan or two, it’s a supplemental or secondary add to your collection.