Friday, April 29, 2016

In the Fields and the Trenches

In the Fields and the Trenches: The Famous and the Forgotten on the Battlefields of World War I 
by Kerrie Logan Hollihan
Chicago Review Press, 2016
Grades 7-12

When I first picked up In the Fields and the Trenches, I excepted a traditional World War I history book for kids. I definitely underestimated this title. Hooligan provides exciting glimpses into the lives of successful (and sometimes famous) young people who enlisted in the service or provided support to troops during the Great War.

After a brief overview of events that led up to World War I, Hoolihan publishes an extensive timeline in the front of the book. This makes so much sense and will prove useful to teen readers with limited knowledge about the Great War. The book is organized into twelve chapters and introduces readers to 18 amazing young adults who made sacrifices, offered their services, and were involved in combat. Photographs are thoughtfully placed throughout the chapters. Some photos are posed, but there are several candid pictures from battlefields.

The book effectively conveys the important roles played by young people in the war. Many of the subjects in the book had successful careers, were accomplished in school, or came from famous families before becoming involved in World War I. Katherine Stinson was a "premier pilot" and stunt aviator before she taught the US Aero Squadron how to use aerial maneuvers to "dodge enemy bullets." Henry Lincoln Johnson worked as a porter at US Central Station in Albany before enlisting with the 15th Regiment of New York. The book also describes how Ernest Hemingway, J.R.R. Tolkien, Harry Truman, Irene Curie, and the children of President Theodore Roosevelt flew planes, delivered messages to troops, drove ambulances, worked in field hospitals and more.

The book goes in-depth just enough to provide readers with interesting details about the lives and sacrifices of the subjects, yet the chapters are the perfect length (10-22 pages). The Epilogue ties the stories together with the poem, "In Flanders Field." In Fields and Trenches is a fitting tribute to the many individuals to risked (and sometimes gave) their lives in the Great War. It would be an excellent book to read in high school World History classes. Give the book to teens who are interested in history and biographies.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Animal Bites- New Animal Planet Series

Ocean Animals (Animal Bites series)
by Laaren Brown
Liberty Street, an imprint of Time Inc. Books, 2016
Grades K-5

Polar Animals (Animal Bites series)
by Laaren Brown
Liberty Street, an imprint of Time Inc. Books, 2016
Grades K-5

Today is Earth Day, and it's the perfect time to highlight the new Animal Bites series by Animal Planet. Published by Time Inc., the series was released earlier this year and is inspired by the Animal Bites blog.

There are currently two titles in the Animal Bites series: Ocean Animals and Polar Animals. Upon opening the books, readers will immediately notice the stunning photography. High-resolution, bright photographs capture animals in their natural habitats: a whale shark with mouth wide open, a dolphin eating a squid, and a puffin flying over a humpback whale.

The information is broken into manageable chunks and the text is printed in a large font making the series accessible to young readers. Captions, sidebars (Info Bites) and labels provide readers with interesting facts about the various animals. Maps, charts and diagrams also help convey information about the animals and their habitats, diet, and physical characteristics. The books in the Animal Bites series are ideal for children who love reading about animals and for readers who enjoy survey-style books that provide quick facts about a many topics.

Portions of the proceeds from book sales will benefit R.O.A.R. (Reach Out. Act. Respond.) a fund from Animal Planet that helps make the world a better place for animals.

The reviewer received copies of the books from the publisher.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Pogo: A New Imprint from Jump!

 Jump! has been publishing nonfiction for children since 2012. The publisher known for Bullfrog Books for PreK-2 readers, has a new imprint released this year. Pogo features science books for grades 2-5.

Books released under the Pogo imprint cover life science, earth science, physical science, and engineering/technology. Each book incorporates a variety of text features including sidebars, colorful photos, a glossary and index. The expository text is accessible to elementary readers, and new concepts are reinforced with diagrams and infographics. Activities and experiments related to the science concepts can be found in the back of the book. Teachers and librarians will appreciate the sturdy library binding. E-book versions are also available for schools that need multiple copies for classroom use.

The design of the book including colorful pages, close-up photos and interesting sidebars are sure to get young readers excited about science.

Visit the publisher's website to see all of the Pogo titles.

Monday, April 11, 2016

A Girl Called Vincent

A Girl Called Vincent: The Life of Poet Edna St. Vincent Millay 
by Krystyna Poray Goddu
Chicago Review Press, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-61373-172-7
Grades 5 and up

April is Poetry Month, so it's fitting that A Girl Called Vincent was released earlier this month. The biography provides middle grade and teen readers with an in-depth look at the life of Edna St. Vincent Millay, who was known to her friends and family as Vincent.

Millay grew up on the coast of Maine in the towns of Camden and Rockport. When her parents divorced, Millay was forced to take over the household duties while her mother worked long hours as a nurse. Despite her many responsibilities at home, Millay found time to write and publish dozens of poems while attending high school. Throughout her life, Millay faced adversity including being estranged from her father, being mocked by her male classmates and losing a national poetry competition because she was female. Goddu shows readers how Millay persevered and took advantage of opportunities to better herself including accepting an offer to attend Vassar. Millay went on to become the first female to receive the Pulitzer Prize for poetry.

The book makes is clear that Millay's admiration of nature and the beauty of Maine greatly influenced her work. Black and white photographs of Millay give readers a sense of what life was like for the gifted writer. Gouda's thorough research is evident as she uses numerous quotes and poems by Millay to paint a vivid picture for readers. Give A Girl Called Vincent to middle school and high school students looking for an interesting biography. The book is packed with enough information to satisfy students doing in-depth research on the poet's life.

Visit the author's website for more information about the book and the work of Edna St. Vincent Millay.

An excerpt from Millay's poem "Renascence" can be seen on top of  Mt. Battie in Camden Hills State Park in Maine.

Photo credit: Casteel, David. "100_6119.jpg" 1 September 2005. Online. Flickr Creative Commons. 10 April 2016.  

The reviewer received a copy of the book from the publisher.

Monday, April 4, 2016

The Story of Seeds

The Story of Seeds: From Mendel's Garden to Your Plate, and How There's More of Less to Eat Around the World
by Nancy F. Castaldo
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-544-32023-9
Grades 6-12

Nancy Castaldo, author of Sniffer Dogs: How Dogs (and Their Noses) Save the World, has turned her attention to the topic of seeds. In her new nonfiction book for tweens and teens, Castaldo writes about the importance of seed diversity and health. You might wonder why an author would devote an entire book to seeds. In chapter one, the Castaldo explains that seeds are in danger. "Our diversity is shrinking fast. The world's seed are in crisis." We should pay attention because, "Seeds equal life."

The book begins with a history of Gregor Mendel and his experiments with pea plants and dominant traits before moving on to Luther Burbank, who experimented with crossing different varieties of plants. History buffs will be interested in the chapters describing how people saved seeds in times of war to ensure there would be food once the war was over. Several chapters are devoted to the thesis that diversity in seeds is essential to life. Castaldo uses the potato famine in Ireland as a prime example of what can happen when "monoculture" is practiced.

Seed banks also play a vital role in saving the world's crops. The book features seed banks in Russian, Norway and the United States. Teens who have heard about GMOs in the news will appreciate the clear and thoughtful way the book explains how GMOs have negatively impacted crops in places like India where farmers are forced to purchase expensive cotton seeds from Monsanto. Castaldo explains the difference between the natural process of hybridization and genetic modification that occurs in a laboratory. The book also introduces readers to scientists and activists from the past and present who are working to ensure the preservation of seeds from around the world.

The design of the book is ideal, including the small trim size, glossy pages, colorful photos and sidebars placed at the ends of chapters. Important vocabulary words are highlighted and defined throughout the book.  The final chapter persuades readers to take action by swapping seeds, shopping at farmers' markets, and planting their own gardens. Back matter includes a list of seed libraries by state, a glossary and a list additional books and videos on the topic.

Pair The Story of Seeds with Black Potatoes: The Story of the Great Irish Potato Famine by Susan Campbell Bartoletti and The Omnivore's Dilemma: The Secrets Behind What You Eat by Michael Pollan. The Story of Seeds is recommended for high school science classes or for teen readers interested in learning about the world's food supply, genetics and gardening.

Visit the author's site to download a curriculum guide.

The reviewer received a copy of the book from the publisher.