These four picture books all feature animals, but the messages they impart are all quite different. However, in all of them, the animals are clever and open to new ideas, and isn’t that an important message we want to teach our children?Continue reading
The Spanish word “solito” means alone, and in his memoir, “Solito,” Javier Zamora shares the perilous journey the author made as a fairly sheltered nine-year-old child from a rural town in El Salvador, through Guatemala and Mexico, to the US.Continue reading
National Geographic Kids creates the kind of nonfiction books that kids of all ages (and adults, too) love to read. They are filled with facts, photographs, maps, charts, and lists, in addition to the nonfiction text features that elementary school students learn about — like table of contents, indexes, glossaries, and pages with more information. In short, they are the perfect vehicle for teaching about nonfiction reading because kids love the content. And as every teacher knows, when the content is engaging and interesting to the reader, kids are able to read higher level material. As an aside, when my six-year-old grandson saw these books, his eyes lit up. “I’m taking these home,” he declared. Music to my ears. From dinosaurs to animals and space, these sturdy, beautifully edited books will have you covered.
“5,000 Awesome Facts (About Animals!)” is organized in an unusual manner. Each double page spread is titled with a number and the subject matter. For example, one such spread is called “35 Witty Facts about Animal Intelligence” and features a big picture of an African gray parrot. Fact number 10 states that “in a study, African gray parrots showed selflessness—one parrot helped another get treats, even if it meant it would get less.” There are facts about dolphins, a beluga whale who could mimic human speech, fish, elephants, and even chickens. Some of the clever groupings include “100 Eye-popping Facts about Animal Vision,” “50 Buzzworthy Facts about Bees, Wasps, and Hornets” and “50 Facts about Animals that Can Take the Heat.” This is a book that will be picked up over and over again, as it’s not a book that will be read straight through. I could envision a teacher using this every morning to share a few fascinating facts with students as an engaging way to start the day.
“Dinosaur Atlas: When They Roamed, How They Lived, and Where We Find Their Fossils” is true to the title and includes a map on many double page spreads. In the table of contents we see that the book is organized perfectly. It starts with “Meet the Dinosaurs” and then has “Prehistoric Planet” which includes sections about the three periods, Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous. Then there is the section “Finding Fossils,” which takes readers to different continents from North and South America to all the other continents except Antarctica. Then, of course, no book about dinosaurs would be complete without information about what happened to the dinosaurs, so three theories are presented: The Asteroid, Volcanoes, and Slow Climate Change. We learn about dino descendants and prehistoric birds. There is a very detailed dino dictionary at the end, listing all the dinosaurs in alphabetical order with pronunciation, meaning, geologic time, where found, length, and group. And like all the information in these books, the careful use of color makes reading and understanding the information simple.
“Can’t Get Enough Space Stuff” states on the cover that it includes “fun facts, awesome info, cool games, silly jokes, and more!” This soft-covered book includes double page spreads that are labeled “From the Field,” which explain different elements of space like black holes, water on Mars, Europa, a planet with two suns, and more. There are pages with space sillies, fun and games, quizzes, and far-out facts. This book is filled with corny jokes like “Why couldn’t the astronaut focus on his book?” Of course — “he kept spacing out.” Some of the information is interesting, like “Astronaut John Young sneaked a corned beef sandwich onto the Gemini 3 mission in 1965.” There are pages labeled “Try it out” with ideas for activities like creating a galaxy mobile. There isn’t a chronology, and it isn’t organized by sections, so kids will enjoy looking randomly at the different pages and activities. It’s another book that they won’t tire of because of the plethora of information it contains.
Please note: This review is based on the final books provided by National Geographic Kids, the publisher, for review purposes.
From the iconic Ruby Bridges and Colin Kaepernick to the lesser known Ethelda Bleibtrey (whom I had never heard of prior to reading this book), these nonfiction picture books will teach children about individuals from history whose determination, imagination, and strength impacted the world.Continue reading
“Bark to the Future” is the latest doggie mystery featuring the charismatic narrator Chet, a distinctive black shepherd-mix dog with one white ear, who tells the story as only a dog might. And in the capable paws, er, hands, of author Spencer Quinn, we chuckle and nod our heads in amusement as we realize that Chet’s narrative is just what our dogs might say if only we could understand them.Continue reading
These three picture books are about the world around us and while two of them focus on our planet and what makes it special, the third book ventures outside our solar system and imagines what might happen if a black hole ended up in a student’s desk.Continue reading
Fans of mystery author Claire Douglas expect complex plots with many twists, and her latest murder mystery, “The Couple at Number 9,” generously exceeds our expectations. Even the title, referencing the “couple” who live at Number 9 on the street with the creepy name, Skelton Place, in the picturesque Cotswold town of Beggar’s Nook, isn’t completely straightforward. There are, in actuality, two couples to whom this might refer.Continue reading
Although “What Jonah Knew” is Barbara Graham’s first novel, she is a seasoned writer. That experience is ably reflected in the narrative — we are invested in the story from the first page (I could not stop reading this book). We know something bad happens to Henry Bird, the young musician whose mother Helen has a bakery and whose girlfriend is expecting their baby, but we don’t know exactly what. His mother is bereft at his disappearance and knows he met with foul play. He also has a loyal dog, Charlie, who becomes a hero in his own right. And in the alternative narrative, we meet Jonah, the title character, who at a very young age seems bothered by things that don’t affect other children. His mother Lucie observes him becoming terrorized by fireworks and loud noises. He also occasionally references his “other mother” and “his” dog.Continue reading
With “Girl, Forgotten,” author Karin Slaughter pens a worthy sequel to “Pieces of Her,” which became a huge hit as a Netflix series. My slight problem with “Pieces of Her” was that main character Andrea was, at times, an incompetent, insecure, fumbling fool. Well now, two years after the events in the first book, Andrea has matured and grown into a formidable character whose insecurities have taken second place to her intelligence and a bit more confidence. She has learned to control her emotions, mostly, and is quite able to start her first assignment as a United States Marshal.Continue reading
The title of Megan Goldin’s newest thriller, “Stay Awake,” is important. We find out that those two words have been vital to the survival of the main character, Liv Reese, for two different reasons. Why must Liv Reese stay awake? Why has she written those words on her arms? On her doors? In fact, why are exhortations like that posted and written everywhere: stay awake, don’t trust anyone, don’t sleep? What we know from the first page is that Liv has problems remembering things. For example, she doesn’t know why she has a bloody butcher knife in the pocket of her cardigan. She doesn’t know why someone else is living in her apartment nor why it’s been totally redecorated. She doesn’t know why her roommate Amy doesn’t answer her phone, nor does Liv’s boyfriend, Marco.Continue reading
“Spy School: Project X” might just be my favorite novel in the “Spy School” series by acclaimed children’s author Stuart Gibbs. It has all of the action and humor that the previous books in the series do, but in this one, Gibbs centers the plot on a disinformation campaign designed to put a target on our main character, Ben Ripley, who attends the CIA Academy of Espionage for school-aged potential agents.Continue reading
In “The Second Husband,” Kate White presents us with an unusual murder mystery: the first murder in question happened over two years before the present time, in the “then,” as she labels the flashbacks. Emma was married to Derrick, who was tragically murdered while at a conference in New York City. The murder was senseless, and the culprit never found. Emma has felt guilt since that horrific act of violence because their marriage was unhappy, and Derrick had changed from the man she fell in love with. No one, not even her closest friend, knows about her lack of grief.Continue reading