Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction

A Boy Called Bat is gentle and kind

boy-called-batA Boy Called Bat, by Elana K. Arnold/Illustrated by Charles Santoso, (March 2017, Walden Pond Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9780062445827

Recommended for ages 8-12

Bixby Alexander Tam – Bat, for short – loves animals. Fortunately, his mom is a veterinarian, so he gets to be around them quite a bit, and he knows how to handle them, too. One day, his  mom brings home an orphaned baby skunk that needs to be nursed and cared for until he’s big enough to go to a wild animal shelter, and Bat falls in love. He just knows that the kit, who he names Thor, is meant to be his pet. Now, he just has to convince his mom!

A Boy Called Bat is a sweet story about a gentle boy who also happens to be on the autism spectrum. It’s never outwardly addressed – no giant, neon arrows here – but Elana Arnold alludes to it in her text, and rather than concentrating on a label for the boy, gives us a well-rounded story about a special boy and the special animal that comes into his life. At only 96 pages, with black and white illustrations, it’s a great book for all kids (and adults!) to read; it also would  make for a great classroom read-aloud. It helps further understanding, showing Bat doing the same things most kids do: not loving shuttling back and forth between his divorced parents’ homes; wanting a pet and learning how to take care of it; navigating friendships at school.

This is a solid addition to diversity collections. Booktalk this with Daniel Stefanski’s How to Talk to an Autistic Kid and Ben Hatke’s Mighty Jack; graduate readers to books like Ann M. Martin’s Rain Reign.

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

Animal Planet’s Animal Atlas is a passport to the world’s habitats

animal-planet-animal-atlas-hardcover-book-658_670Animal Planet Animal Atlas, by Animal Planet (May 2016, Animal Planet), $17.95, ISBN: 978-1618931658

Recommended for ages 7-10

I have tons of animal nonfiction books in my library, and I have a bunch of really good books on habitats, too.  What Animal Planet’s Animal Atlas does it bring together explanations of different biomes/habitats, and the animals who live in them on each continent and in the oceans of our world.

The atlas begins with a map to present the major biomes of the world, and describes each biome: alpine, desert, marine, grassland, rain forest, temperate forest, tundra, and taiga. Animal tour guides for each continent take readers through a look at different animals that inhabit each biome on each continent, and features like ROAR (Reach Out. Act. Respond.) – Animal Planet’s initiative, dedicated to improving the lives of animals worldwide – empower kids with knowledge about how humans are working to change the world for the better through conservation and protective measures. Surprisingly Human boxes provide facts about the similarities between animals and people. Each continent section ends with a spotlight on an animal from the area, giving readers a close-up look at animals like the bald eage, anaconda, or Sumatran tiger. Spotlights include a Where in the World section, where maps detail the animals’ living areas; Animals Facts, and information on what they eat and how animals adapt best to their environments.

Combining colorful illustration and full-color photographs of over 200 animals, the atlas is a great resource for young readers. It’s got information ready at a glance for my Corona Kids, who come in asking for books about various habitats and then, what animals live in those habitats. It’s a strong companion book for slightly bigger kids, who will need more in-depth books to complete a report, but it’s a great starting point for anyone who wants a little more info on different habitats, and who may not realize that different continents have so many different biomes. A brief glossary and index round it all out.

This is a good addition to primary nonfiction collections if you have strong books that provide more detail that kids can jump to if they want to go further into a topic. Or, if you’re like me, and your kiddo just loves learning about different animals, where they live, and what they eat, it’s a nice add to your bookshelf. The passport and guide animal features add a cute touch that brings something different and fun to learning. Hmmm… now, I’m thinking of an animal program for my Discovery Club… learning about a new animal each week, and stamping a “passport” with an animal sticker or stamp… I’ve got to talk to my Discovery Team!

Posted in Early Reader, Intermediate, Non-Fiction, Non-Fiction

Animal Planet’s Animal Bites series is great for young readers!

Animal books are KING with younger readers. I gush constantly about the NatGeo books, but I’ve just been made aware of Animal Planet’s Animal Bites series: books spotlighting animals from different habitats, like Farm Animals and Wild Animals, and loaded with bite-sized info (see what I did there?), questions for discussion, and yes, outstanding photos.

wild animalsEach book is organized to guide readers through information about family relationships, animal bodies, ecosystems, play time, conservation, and so much more. Check boxes throughout prompt discussion about whether these animals are friendly or would make good pets (bears, not so much; horses, yes) and discussion questions ask kids to compare themselves with animals: do you like to play games, like a border collie does? We get infographics on featured animals, including geographic location, weight, and height, and to help younger kids form a more solid frame of reference, a comparison to something most of us see every day, from a truck to a computer printer.

I love the emphasis on conservation, particularly in the Wild Animals book. Features on animals that have been saved from the brink of extinction, like the gray wolf, make very real the idea that conservation works when there is awareness.

Each book ends with a quiz, an activity and a craft, and a robust list of resources, a glossary, and an index. Endpapers lead readers in and send them off with a gorgeous photo of an animal.

There are over 200 photos in each book, along with infographics, maps, and informative Quick Bites. Other books in the series include Animal Planet Polar Animals and Animal Planet Ocean animals

Further committing to conservation, a portion of the proceeds benefits Animal Planet’s R.O.A.R. (Reach Out. Act. Respond.) campaign that partners with leading animal organization to make the world a better place for domestic and wild animals.

My 4 year old LOVES these books: trying to get them back so I could refer to them for this review was fun (he’s at school right now). Every page is a new discovery, something waiting for him to find and explore. Sometimes, he plays with his animal toys, showing me his horses when I read the section on horses; he’ll show me a lion when I get to a spotlight on lions. If he asks why his shark is missing, I’ll explain that I have to buy him a copy of Ocean Animals. 😉

Kids love animals. Animal Planet books make it easy for you to bring more animals into their lives, and even more importantly, to discuss humane treatment of animals and the importance of conservation of our planet with them. The books are a nice, sturdy softcover, perfect for tucking into your tote bag when you’re traveling (or sneaking your kid’s copy out so you can read it on the way to work), and it’ll hold up to repeated reads.

Animal Planet: Animal Bites – Wild Animals, by Laaren Brown (Animal Planet, June 2016), $12.95, ISBN: 978-1618934147

Animal Planet: Animal Bites – Farm Animals, by Laaren Brown (Animal Planet, June 2016), $12.95, ISBN: 978-1618934130

Recommended for ages 4-8