Clever Hans by Kerri Kokias

Clever Hans by Kerri Kokias

Clever Hans: The True Story of the Counting, Adding, and Time-Telling Horse by Kerri Kokias, illustrated by Mike Lowery (9780525514985)

In 1904 in Berlin, Germany, Wilhelm von Osten had an extraordinary horse named Clever Hans. Hans could count and tell time. He could identify colors and the value of coins. He could do math, read words, and knew music as well. Many people didn’t believe that Hans could really do these things and assumed it was nothing but a trick. Wilhelm von Osten truly believed in his horse though, having spent four years teaching him using treats to keep him focused. Scientists came to test Clever Hans and watch for secret signals from van Osten or others in the audience. Soon the tests started to figure out how Clever Hans was doing such amazing things! It wasn’t a trick, but instead showed exactly how smart he actually was.

Kokias invites readers deep into the mystery and wonder of Clever Hans. She sets up her book so that readers are presented with the amazing things that the horse can do and then bring them along on the journey of exploring what was actually happening. The book is gripping and fascinating as readers steadily see their own theories dismissed by the experts and the final reveal of the truth is satisfying and fascinating. The art by Lowery has a great playfulness to it that adds to the delight of the book.

A book of scientific discovery that readers must finish to discover how Clever Hans does it. Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by G. P. Putnam’s Sons.

The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty

The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty

The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty (9781524767587)

When Lucy was struck by lightning as a child, she gained the ability to do genius-level math problems. She has other impacts from the lightning strike, including some OCD that has her tapping her feet three times and sitting three times before she can settle. Lucy has been homeschooled by her grandmother since the incident but now she is twelve and her grandmother wants her to go to middle school rather than college (like Lucy would prefer.) They make a deal that Lucy has to try middle school for one year, make one friend, join one activity and read one book that is not about math. Lucy decides not to tell anyone about her math skills and lowers all of her grades to make herself seem more normal. Lucy’s new class has to do a service project and she has to work with two other people. But how can she help if all she has to offer is a love of numbers that she is trying to hide?

For being such an extraordinary girl, Lucy is someone that everyone in middle school will be able to relate to. Issues starting a new school, making new friends, and finding a way to be yourself all make this middle school novel classic. Add in the math skills, lightning strike and Lucy’s need for cleanliness and her other quirks and you have a book that is something special. Throughout McAnulty makes sure that readers deeply understand Lucy at a variety of levels. Lucy is a protagonist who discovers a lot about herself in the course the book. As Lucy grows and changes, it feels entirely organic and natural.

At its heart, this book encourages us all to be our unique and quirky selves in middle school and beyond. The writing is accessible and the novel is a joy to read. The book is written with all numbers in numerical format, a clue that Lucy sees the world a bit differently. As she counts and calculates her way through her day, Lucy shows everyone that there are ways forward where you don’t want to pretend to be normal.

A stellar read, this middle school book is a book that is hard to sum up, but one you can count on. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Edelweiss and Random House Books for Young Readers.

How You Got So Smart

How You Got So Smart by David Milgrim

From infant to child, you have a come a long, long way!  This book reveals just how you got as smart as you are.  You watched and listened.  Chewed on things.  Explored and asked lots of questions.  You investigated, made friends, and were very brave.  Each and every step taught you something, and that is what made you so very smart.  This jolly book takes a humorous but sincere look at how babies grow into amazing children every day.

Milgrim’s success with this book is in its tone.  It is funny but really honest and truthful about what makes each of us smart.  The best part is that it is about normal children, who all grow in their own way, who all explore, who all invent.  Every child will see themselves here and relate effortlessly to the book.  Milgrim’s illustrations add to the humor.  They also bring the necessary bright colors and charm. 

Perfect spring reading for classes of children who are advancing to the next grade.  This reminds everyone that they are special and smart.  Appropriate for ages 4-7, older as a treat read-aloud around graduation time.

Reviewed from library copy.

The Clever Stick

The Clever Stick by John Lechner

This is one sharp stick, very smart and clever.  He is so bright, he writes poetry and enjoys listening to the birds singing.  So bright that he is frustrated when he can’t communicate with the other things in the forest.  Finally, he is so dejected that he just drags himself home.  But then he looks back and realizes that he is leaving a trail in the dirt, and that he can use that trail to communicate!  The stick draws a huge detailed picture that has everyone in the forest impressed.  Even when the rain comes and washes it all away, the stick is still happy because he knows he can always draw more.

Lechner has created a smart story about self-expression and finding innovative ways to communicate.  The book has a gentle sense of humor that works very well.  It is a quiet sort of book, one that is more about brains than action, more about creativity and imagination too.  The fact that the stick is special because of its intelligence is also a great message to send to children who may be hiding their own light in school.  Lechner’s illustrations done in ink and watercolor are simple and clear. 

A sharp stick for smart kids, this book is a quiet gem.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from publisher.

Also reviewed by Books4YourKids.