Category: Nonfiction


creature features

Creature Features: 25 Animals Explain Why They Look the Way They Do by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page

Look right into the eyes of 25 animals as they answer a question about why they look the way that they do.  The animals range from sun bears to various birds to giraffes to frogs and fish.  With each turn of the page there is a new animal looking straight at you, ready to explain the feature that is their most unusual.  That explanation is filled with just enough scientific information to be fascinating and to inspire more exploration of the animal.  The paragraphs are short enough to be shared with even quite young children who are fascinated by animals.  This is a great addition to even the most crowded of animal shelves.

Filled with Jenkins’ trademark cut paper art, this is an exquisite look at each animal, some of which you may never have seen straight on from the front like the mole rat or the shoebill stork. The unique point of view makes for unusual images of these animals that make you look at them in a different way.  Wonderfully, Jenkins manages to make each meet your eyes in a distinct way that matches their species.  See how long you can lock gazes with the ferocious ones!

One that will be read again and again by young animal lovers, this book deserves a spot in every public library.  Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from library copy.

winter bees

Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold by Joyce Sidman and Rick Allen

Master nature poet, Sidman, takes readers on a journey through the wonders of nature during winter in this new book.  Each poem focuses on a specific animal, showing the amazing adaptations they have made in order to survive the cold temperatures.  Done in a variety of poetic formats and styles, all of the poems have a lush beauty to them.  Each poem is paired with a paragraph of information that further explains the animal and their lives during the winter months.  The animals include tundra swans, voles, fox, moose, birds, insects and of course bees. 

Sidman’s poems are exceptional.  She clearly has designed them for children, but they stretch vocabulary and concepts.  Even better, they reveal things below the surface, inviting further exploration and investigation of the concepts.  The nonfiction paragraphs are equally welcoming.  They are filled with fascinating facts and will have nature-loving children fully engaged.

Allen’s illustrations are linoleum prints.  They have such depth and texture, with details of feathers and fur clear on the page.  Done in vibrant colors, the illustrations show the color of the world despite its layer of white snow.  Rich and detailed, these illustrations are luminous on the page.

An amazing book of nature poetry, get this into the hands of teachers doing nature units, units on winter, and share the poems merrily with children at any time.  Simply gorgeous.  Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from library copy.

The National Science Teachers Association has announced their choices for Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K-12 from books published in 2014.  Here are the winning books:

Abayomi, the Brazilian Puma: The True Story of an Orphaned cub 18319630

Abayomi, the Brazillian Puma by Darcy Pattison

About Habitats: Forests by Cathryn Sill

20729500 jacket image for Amazing Giant Sea Creatures by -  DK Publishing

About Parrots by Cathryn Sill

Amazing Giant Sea Creatures

Animalium Animals That Make Me Say Ouch! (National Wildlife Federation): Fierce Fangs, Stinging Spines, Scary Stares, and More Animals That Make Me Say Wow! (National Wildlife Federation): Secret Hideaways, Infrasonic Hearing, Bubble Gills, and More

Animalium by Jenny Broom

Animals That Make Me Say OUCH! by Dawn Cusick

Animals That Make Me Say WOW! by Dawn Cusick

At Home in Her Tomb A Baby Elephant in the Wild

At Home in Her Tomb by Christine Liu-Perkins

A Baby Elephant in the Wild by Caitlin O’Connell

Batman Science Set 20256559

Batman Science by Tammy Enz and Agnieszka Biskup

Beetle Busters by Loree Griffin Burns

Behold the Beautiful Dung Beetle Beneath the Sun

Behold the Beautiful Dung Beetle by Cheryl Bardoe

Beneath the Sun by Melissa Stewart

Bone Collection: Skulls Chasing Cheetahs: The Race to Save Africa's Fastest Cat

Bone Collection: Skulls by Rob Scott Colson

Chasing Cheetahs by Sy Montgomery and Nic Bishop

jacket image for Knowledge Encyclopedia Dinosaur! by -  DK Publishing  

Dinosaur!

Drones

Every Turtle Counts Extreme Laboratories

Every Turtle Counts by Sara Hoagland Hunter

Extreme Laboratories by Ann O. Squire

Eye to Eye: How Animals See The World Eyes Wide Open: Going Behind the Environmental Headlines

Eye to Eye by Steve Jenkins

Eyes Wide Open by Paul Fleischman

17870871 Full Speed Ahead!: How Fast Things Go

Feathers: Not Just for Flying by Melissa Stewart

Full Speed Ahead! by Cruschiform

Get the Scoop on Animal Puke!: From Zombie Ants to Vampire Bats, 251 Cool Facts about Vomit, Regurgitation, & More! Handle with Care: An Unusual Butterfly Journey

Get the Scoop on Animal Puke by Dawn Cusick

Handle with Care by Loree Griffin Burns

20256610 Neighborhood Sharks: Hunting with the Great Whites of California's Farallon Islands

Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Neighborhood Sharks by Katherine Roy

 

Next Time You See a Maple Seed by Emily Morgan

Ocean

18222688 Polar Bears and Penguins: A Compare and Contrast Book

Park Scientists by Mary Kay Carson

Polar Bears and Penguins by Katharine Hall

Sally Ride: Life on a Mission 18353949

Sally Ride by Sue Macy

Secrets of the Sky Caves by Sandra K. Athans

Sniffer Dogs: How Dogs (and Their Noses) Save the World 20518974

Sniffer Dogs by Nancy F. Castaldo

Star Stuff by Stephanie Roth Sisson

 Super Sniffers: Dog Detectives on the Job 

Super Human Encyclopedia

Super Sniffers by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent

The Griffin and the Dinosaur: How Adrienne Mayor Discovered a Fascinating Link Between Myth and Science 20256582

The Griffin and the Dinosaur by Marc Aronson and Adrienne Mayor

The Next Wave by Elizabeth Rusch

 Tiny Creatures: The World of Microbes Tooling Around

The Planets

Tiny Creatures by Nicola Davies

Tooling Around by Ellen Jackson

Ultimate Bodypedia: An Amazing Inside-Out Tour of the Human Body 18229546

Ultimate Bodypedia by Patricia Daniels

Wild about Bears by Jeannie Brett

buried sunlight

Buried Sunlight: How Fossil Fuels Have Changed the Earth by Molly Bang & Penny Chisholm

Everything needs energy in order to grow and we also need energy to run machines.  This energy comes from the sun though it may be stored as fossil fuels underground.  The fossil fuels have stored that energy inside them and it is released when they are burned.  This book looks at how sunlight energy is stored in fossil fuels, explaining photosynthesis and the balance of oxygen on the planet.  It speaks to the way that oxygen was first released to the atmosphere and the millions of years that it took to create fossil fuels.  The book then informs readers about the impact of carbon dioxide on the planet and the resulting climate change.  In the end, the book lets readers know that the choice for the future of the planet is theirs.

Bang worked with Chisholm, an award-winning MIT professor on the information in the book.  Told from the point of view of the sun, the book takes a clear and scientific tone throughout, enhanced by the more personal point of view.  The information is compellingly presented and interesting.  The final pages of the book offer even more details about the fossil fuel process for those looking for more in-depth information.

Bang’s illustrations capture the information of graphs along with an artistic feel.  She manages to keep it scientific but also speak to the wonder of the process and the beauty of the captured sunlight energy. 

This fourth book in their Sunlight series continues the combination of science, beauty and natural wonder.  Appropriate for ages 5-9.

Reviewed from library copy.

born in the wild

Born in the Wild: Baby Mammals and Their Parents by Lita Judge

Explore different baby mammals from around the world in this nonfiction picture book.  Learn about how different animals function when they are born, polar bear babies are tiny and are kept safe for months before going outside while giraffes are born ready to run right away.  Baby animals eat in different ways too.  Baby bears nurse, baby wolves learn to eat meat quickly, and other animals eat grass and drink their mother’s milk.  Other subjects like protection and shelter are examined as well as grooming, moving from place to place, and what their families look like.  This book is a celebration of the diversity of mammals on the earth and all of the ways in which they are loved and cared for as they grow. 

Judge offers just enough information on each animal to make the book readable.  She gives intriguing glimpses of each animal before moving on to the next.  It’s a fast paced book that merrily jumps from one animal to the next.  More in-depth information on each of the featured mammals can be found at the end of the book. 

Judge’s art is exceptional.  Her animals are filled with personality.  The baby mammals look straight out at the reader at times, their parents’ eyes are filled with love, and there is a tangible joy to each of the images.  The cuteness factor could have been unbearable, but instead it’s perfect, just the right amount of cute and wild mixed together.

A great choice for smaller children who love animals, this book is gorgeous as well as informative.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Roaring Brook Press.

little melba and her big trombone

Little Melba and Her Big Trombone by Katheryn Russell-Brown, illustrated by Frank Morrison

Melba had always loved the sounds of music: blues, jazz and gospel.  Even when she slept notes and rhythms were in her dreams.  When she signed up for music class at school, Melba picked out a long horn that was almost as big as she was.  Melba practiced and practiced, teaching herself to play.  Soon she was on the radio at age 8, playing a solo.  When Melba was in sixth grade, she moved from Kansas City to Los Angeles where she became a star player in the high school band.  When she was 17, she was invited to go on tour with a jazz band.  She played with some of the greats, but she was one of the only women on tour and racism in the South was harrowing.  Melba decided to quit, but her fans would not let her.  All of the top jazz acts in the 1950s wanted her to play with them.  So Melba came back, went on more tours, and her music conquered the world.

This picture book biography of Melba Doretta Liston shows how music virtuosos are born.  Her connection with music from such a young age, her determination to learn to play her selected instrument, and her immense talent make for a story that is even better than fiction.  Melba faced many obstacles on the way to her career but overcame them all.  She survived the Great Depression, found her musical voice early and then professionally.  She also had the challenges of sexism and racism to overcome on her way to greatness.  This is all clearly shown on the page and really tells the story of a woman made of music and steel (or brass).

Morrison’s art beautifully captures the life of Liston on the page.  His paintings are done in rich colors, filled with angles of elbows, horns and music, they leap on the page.  They evoke the time period and the sense of music and jazz. 

Put on some Dizzy Gillespie with Melba Liston playing in the band and share this triumphant picture book with music and band classes.  Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Lee & Low Books and Edelweiss.

star stuff

Star Stuff: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos by Stephanie Roth Sisson

This is a picture book biography about Carl Sagan and how he got interested in the stars.  It all started when he went to the 1939 World’s Fair and was inspired.  He started researching stars and space and wondering about the universe around us.  He got his doctorate and worked with other scientists to create machines that would investigate planets and take pictures of them.  Then he went on television with his show Cosmos and told everyone about the universe and how we are all made from the same stuff as the stars.  This is an inspirational story of how a child who loved the stars turning into a man who taught a generation about them.

Sisson keeps this book at the exactly right level for young readers.  She does not dwell on Sagan’s time in college, but instead spends much more time on his childhood dreams and interests.  She focuses too on his work as a scientist and then speaks very broadly about his time on television.  I greatly appreciate that his work was not narrowed to just Cosmos, but instead it is celebrated as a part of what he accomplished in his life.  The book ends with an Author’s Note and a bibliography and source notes that readers looking for more detailed information will find useful.

In her illustrations, Sisson wisely incorporates elements of comic books with panels and speech bubbles.  These give the book a great modern feel and help propel the story forward.  Done in a friendly cartoon style, the illustrations make astronomy approachable and friendly for the reader.

Children will be inspired to see a young person’s dream become their vocation in life.  This picture book is a new way for Sagan to inspire people to learn about the stars.  Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from copy received from Roaring Brook Press.

tiny creatures

Tiny Creatures: The World of Microbes by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Emily Sutton

There are tiny creatures all around us that do the most amazing things!  Microbes are too small to be seen by the human eye, but look through a microscope and you enter a world of them.  There are microbes like viruses that cause diseases or colds.  And there are others that are very good for our health and turn milk into yogurt and compost into dirt.  Microbes may be very small but their impact on our world and our lives is very big.  This book shows the huge impact they have and how much we need to appreciate them.

Davies has written very engagingly about microbes in this book.  When talking about something like microbes, the numbers can get too large to understand, but Davies nicely ties these huge numbers to others that make sense.  She shows how quickly a microbe can reproduce using the page of the book.  The entire book is cleverly done, exposing the facts about microbes in a friendly and approachable way.

The illustrations by Sutton show both the microbes and their effect on the world.  The pages with the tiny microbes are fascinating as one gets to see the different types up close.  The illustrations have a friendly charm about them that makes the subject matter even more fun to read.

A great book on microbes, this will encourage children to pick up a microscope and learn even more about these tiny little creatures.  Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from library copy.

right word

The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet

The incredible and award-winning team of Bryant and Sweet return with a picture book biography of Peter Roget.  The book looks deeply into his childhood as a boy who grew up moving around a lot in Switzerland.  He found that books stayed good friends through the many moves he made.  Roget was also a boy who enjoyed making lists, lists about all sorts of things:  Latin words, elements, weather and words for things in the garden.  As a teenager, he spent time silent and alone outside, making lists of birds and insects.  Then one day, he realized that it would be great to have a book that listed all the different words to choose from, and his idea of a thesaurus was born.  But it would take many years of hard work to come to fruition.

Bryant’s text has just the right amount of information about Roget and his life.  She wisely chooses to focus on his interest in lists as a child and how that grew into the thesaurus as Roget himself grew up.  This natural progression of interest from youth to adult is something that children will enjoy seeing in both Roget and in their own lives.  Bryant’s Author’s Note at the end of the book speaks to all of the research that goes into writing a biography for young children and the inspiration she herself found in Roget.

As always, the illustrations by Sweet are a highlight of the book.  Here, as she explains in her Illustrator’s Note at the end of the book, she has incorporated the Latin words that Roget used in his notebooks.  The other words that she weaves into her art are found in the first edition of his thesaurus.  Her art incorporates different papers, watercolors, and objects.  There is one page where it feels like it pops off the page, a book that contains words, creatures, plants and ideas.  Simply amazing art.

A noteworthy addition to the already impressive shelves of Bryant and Sweet, this is one that belongs in every library and in the hands of all young wordsmiths.  Appropriate for ages 7-10.

Reviewed from copy received from Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

Layout 1

Colors of the Wind: The Story of Blind Artist and Champion Runner George Mendoza by J.L. Powers, illustrated by George Mendoza and Hayley Morgan-Sanders

George loved to move, so he decided to be a basketball player.  Then one day the world outside looked red to him and he started to see other colorful squiggles in the air and suffer from constant headaches.  The doctor told him that he was going blind, but George didn’t lose all of his sight, instead he continued to see bright colors and flashing lights.  He had to stop playing basketball because he could no longer see the basket.  Eventually, George took up running, mostly because it made him so tired that he could forget being blind.  He could run very fast, so fast that he went to the Olympics, twice.  But George continued to see a world of colors that no one else could see.  It wasn’t until a friend was killed that he started to ask himself why he was there, and George started to talk about being blind to groups and also to paint the world that he sees.

A truly inspirational story, Mendoza is an example of someone being incredible resilient in the face of a life-changing disability.  The fact that he began to run after losing his sight is amazing and also inspiring.  But it is his visions and his art that shine on the page, a world painted in colors that only he can see.  The process of George becoming an artist is shown in all of its slow progression which also gives the sense that there is time to find your path, time to be the person you are meant to be.

Seeing his paintings on the page is immensely powerful.  They are bold and bright, done in thick lines.  They have a voice to them that shouts on the page and they tell the story of what George sees more clearly than any words can. 

Highly recommended, this picture book biography is a powerful tale of resilience and overcoming barriers.  Appropriate for ages 7-10.

Reviewed from pdf received from J.L. Powers.

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