Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Monday, May 22, 2017

Eyes & Spies: How You’re Tracked and Why You Should Know
Text by Tanya Lloyd Kyi; Art by Belle Wuthrich
Annick Press. 2017
ISBN: 9781554519118
Grades 7 – 12
To review this book, I borrowed a copy from my local public library.

Note: Louise is writing all the reviews while Cathy is on sabbatical. She will return February, 2018.

Security and privacy, where do we draw the line as we become more and more dependent on our digital devices? In Eyes & Spies, Canadian author, Kyi, looks at how companies, organizations, governments, and individuals collects and uses our personal information and data for a myriad of reasons, not always in our favor.. Topics explored: facial recognition technology, security cameras, data mining, cyberbullying, and tracking in schools. 

A chilling informational book that asks three questions:
1.      Who’s watching, and why?
2.      Where is the line between public and private?
3.      How can you keep your secrets to yourself?

The book has six chapters chock full of examples of how new technologies can be helpful, but also when used in certain ways can be an invasion of our privacy. From webcams, GPS, social media, to businesses tracking our movements using features on smartphones, this book balances the positive uses of new digital technology with the creepy side as well.

The Global Positioning System, or GPS, was developed by the American military in the 1970’s to help them calculate exact coordinates. They were carrying missiles on moving ships and needed to be sure they could aim precisely at targets.” In 2000, people and companies were given access to GPS, a real-life saver to many who find reading a map challenging. Kyi asks readers to weight in on whether they think it is crossing a line when parents use GPS tracking devises to keep tabs on their child’s whereabouts. 

Text boxes offer additional fact and real-life scenarios. The Creepy Line sections throughout the book asks readers to consider, if they ruled the world, where they might set up boundaries. 

The overall design is attractive. Colorful graphics and text boxes break up the text. Back matter includes further reading, sources, and index. 

I did question one comment regarding RFID tags. It's true that many retailers use RFID tags to track their products from factory to store, but Kyi states, “Libraries use (RFID) tags to track their books.” The public library where I work uses RFID tags in all materials we check out. They are used not to track where are book are at any given time. The tags work with our security system. If someone walks out the door with materials that have not been demagnetized our alarm system goes into action. Light flash! Alarms ring! Simply, RFID tags are used to stop individuals from stealing our materials. 

This is an interesting, relevant title; a good jumping off point for discussions. 

Monday, May 15, 2017

Out of the Box: 25 Cardboard Engineering Projects for Makers by Jemma Westing

Out of the Box: 25 Cardboard Engineering Projects for Makers
by Jemma Westing
DK. 2017
ISBN: 9781465458964
All ages
I borrowed a copy of this book from my local public library to write the review

Note: Louise is writing all the reviews during 2017 while Cathy is on sabbatical. She returns February, 2018.

Do you like to make crafts at home or with kids at the library? If so, don't miss out on Out of the Box. One of the coolest craft books I've seen in awhile.


I saw this book while at ALA Midwinter in Atlanta. The DK booth had these cute little owls on display. I spent quite a bit of time thumbing through the ARC of the book, getting excited at all the ideas. I couldn’t wait until it was available to purchase for my library.

The book includes twenty actives: costumes, castles, gifts, games, puppets, and pirate ships. The list of supplies needed are standard stuff, most likely you have them around the house or library. Like tape, glue, scissors, thread, pencil, acrylic paints, brushes, and pencils. Each activity has easy to follow, step by step color photos that are captioned with the directions. There is also an explanation of the difficulty level (easy, medium, hard). 

To look inside the book, go here

Templates for tracing are in the back of the book.

The ideas here are really cool and could be incorporated into any maker activity, especially during the summer. 

Here are a few of the activities I liked::

A bean bag toss made from cardboard boxes called, “Feed the Monsters”;
Cardville City is a city made from small boxes and cardboard tubes. 


This book will definitely inspire creative play in children of all ages. Be sure to have copies on hand during the summer. 

Watch this to see how to make a robot costume.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Motor Girls: How Women Took the Wheel and Drove Boldly Into the Twentieth Century Sue Macy

Motor Girls: How Women Took the Wheel and Drove Boldly Into the Twentieth Century
Sue Macy
National Geographic. 2017
ISBN: 9781426326974
Grades 5 and up
To review this book, I used a copy that was sent by the publishers.

Note: Louise is writing all the reviews in 2017 while Cathy is on sabbatical. She returns February, 2018. 

Prolific nonfiction writer, Sue Macy, gives us an intriguing story of how the rise of the automobile helped liberate women from their restive lives and allowed them to change their place in society. Despite hurdles, men thinking they were too delicate to handle the weight of a car to banning them from races (were they worried a woman might best them?), women never gave up. Suffragettes drove cars to rally support for the right to vote; Mary Dexter, in 1918, was an ambulance driver in France during World War One. 

The writing is engaging. Clear, well-captioned photos, most in black & white, offer a visual of women embracing this new technology. Side bars throughout each chapter offer more details on topics discussed in the text. Between each chapter (five in all), is added information on how automobiles changed so many things in our society. Proper car etiquette, how driving fashion changed for the motorist to the increase in novels describing adventures people had in their motor cars. 

The book begins with a forward by professional stock car racing driver, Danica Patrick. She encourages readers to never let being a woman limit your options. “My dad always told me: “Don’t be the best girl, be the best driver.” As of 2016, Patrick has been racing automobiles for 15 years. 

Macy includes many interesting facts in the appendix: Ten silent films that feature women and their cars; U.S. passenger car production, 1900-1920; an estimate of registered automobiles in the U.S., 1900-1920. A list of resources (books, websites and museums), source notes and an index makes this a solid informational book. 

As she did in her book, Wheels of Change: How Women Rode The Bicycle to Freedom (With a Few Flat Tires Along the Way), Macy offers readers a fresh look at the history and how the automobile changed our lives forever…especially women.
Pair this with two new titles about women taking the lead: Alice Paul and the Fight for Women's Rights by Deborah Kops and Martina & Chrissie by Phil Bildner  

Monday, May 1, 2017

Lesser Spotted Animals: the Coolest Creatures You’ve Never Heard Of by Martin Brown

Lesser Spotted Animals: the Coolest Creatures You’ve Never Heard Of
by Martin Brown
David Fickling Books, an Imprint of Scholastic, Inc. 2017
ISBN: 9781338089349
Grades 2 and up (Younger if read aloud)

Note: Louise is writing all the reviews while Cathy is on Sabbatical until February, 2018.

Have you ever heard of a Gaur (“Gow-A”)? How about a Long-Tailed Dunnart? Possibly a Dagger-Toothed Flower Bat? No? These animals and nineteen more are the subject of Brown’s factual, with a twist of humor, informational narrative. 

In the introduction Brown states, “Fed up with the same old animals? Had enough of hippo bored with bears? Tired of tigers? Try Lesser Spotted Animals, a book about the wonderfully wow wildlife we never get to see.” 

Take the Crabeater Seal, the world’s not rarest seal. They live in the Antarctic and eat krill. Their specially developed teeth are not made for biting, but filtering. When they take a bit at a swarm of krill, the water strains out and all that’s left “is a mouthful of lunch.” So why have we never heard of this animal that is more numerous than brown bears, zebras, and bottle-nosed dolphins? Because. “The poor creature is a dull, pale browny-gray color. It can’t jump and it doesn’t chose its prey in thrilling, TV-friendly fashion. It doesn’t even eat crabs!”  

Each two-page spread includes facts about what makes the animal unique. Where it lives, what it eats, and why did Brown decide to include it. Sadly, most of the animals are threatened or endangered. 

Illustrated by the author, Brown’s colorful, representational drawings paired with his zany, witty jokes make this a perfect book for reluctant readers who love facts. Go here to see  some of the pages from this book. 

Back matter only include a glossary. 

A fun book to share with those who love the unusual.

You may recognize Brown's name. He is the illustrator of the wildly popular Horrible Histories series. 

Monday, April 24, 2017

Moto and Me by Suzi Eszterhas

Moto and Me: My Year as a Wildcat’s Foster Mom
By Suzi Eszterhas
Owl Kids Books. 2017
ISBN: 9781771472425
Grades 2-5

Note: Louise is writing all the reviews while Cathy is on Sabbatical until February, 2018.

I am a big fan of Suzi Eszterhas. We have reviewed her Eyes on the Wild series and Koala Hospital. A wildlife photographer, her books are scrumptious, as well as informative. Eszterhas supplies an engaging narrative full of animal facts, beautiful color photos mirror what is explained in the text that makes her books extremely eye catching.

In Moto and Me, Eszterhas explains, “As a child, I used to tell my mom that one day I would live in a tent in Africa. So it was a dream come true when I headed to the Masai Mara, a wildlife reserve in Kenya, to photograph animals.” Little did she know that soon she would become a foster mother to a two-week-old serval kitten!  She gave it the name, Moto, which means “Fire” in Swahili, the language spoken in the Masai Mara. 

The gorgeous, full page photographs follow the kitten as it grows from a tiny baby to full size, ready to live on its own. 

Eszterhas narrative balances the tremendous responsibility of raising a wild animal with a scientist’s eye.  

Then, eight months later, “one night, Moto didn’t come to my tent. I woke up in the morning very worried. The day passed without any sign of him, and then the next and the next. I was terrified that something bad had happened to Moto."  Eszterhas spots the serval a week later. Moto had successfully returned to the wild.  

Though no resources for further reading, the author includes facts about Servals, which are at risk in some parts of Africa due to loss of habitat and…sadly, are hunted for their fur.

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Great American Foot Race by Andrew P. Speno

The Great American Foot Race: Ballyhoo for the Bunion Derby!
by Andrew P. Speno
Calkins Creek: an Imprint of Highlights. 2017
ISBN: 9781629796024
Grades 6 and up

Note: Louise is writing all the reviews while Cathy is on sabbatical until February, 2018.

At 3:30 in the afternoon on March 4, 1928, Charles Cassius “C. C.” Pyle lit the firecracker that started a 3,400-mile foot race, nicknamed the Bunion Derby. Starting in Los Angeles and ending at Madison Square Garden in New York City, The Great American Foot Race embraced runners from around the U.S. and around the world. Some were seasoned athletes while others saw it as an opportunity to make some big bucks. All who entered hoped to at least finish in the top ten and win some cash. (The purse was $25,000)

First time author, Speno, takes readers along as he recounts the ups and downs of the “greatest, most stupendous athletic accomplishment in all history.”  Can you image averaging 50 miles per day, running through deserts, up mountains, and hilly New England with little food and water for 84 days? All the excitement is recorded here in Speno’s deft hand. The narrative is engaging (I read it cover-to-cover in one sitting) with lots of historical details seamlessly woven into the text. 

For instance, before 1920, “most of the roads outside major U.S. cities were still unpaved, especially in the South and West. Roads were indirect and rarely went far in any one direction.” It wasn’t until 1925 that the American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHO) began building interstate highways. One of the newly made highways went from Chicago to Los Angeles, traveling through the state of Oklahoma. This road would one day become famous through song and story as: Route 66. The Transcontinental Foot Race ran on Route 66 as a way to promote the highway and the towns along its route.

Complementing the text are archival black & white photos that brings this amazing event to life. 

Back matter includes a map of the route, source notes, a fantastic bibliography, and index.

Speno is an author to watch. His ability to make history exciting is a great skill. To learn more about Speno, visit his webpage by clicking here.

For history fans and those who love running.

Meatless? A Fresh Look at What You Eat Written by Sarah Elton



Meatless? A Fresh Look at What You Eat
Written by Sarah Elton; Illustrations by Julie McLaughlin
Owl Kids Books. 2017
ISBN: 9781926818436
Grades 5 and up

Note: Louise is writing all the reviews while Cathy is on Sabbatical until February, 2018.

During a farm visit, Sarah Elton was asked if she wanted to help kill one of the older chickens.  Her spur-of-the-moment decision (she said yes!) changed the way she thought about meat.
After her experience, Elton decided to explore why some people eat meat while others none at all.  

Elton does a good job balancing the factual narrative with an uplifting tone. Never judgmental, just presents the facts in an engaging way.  It is a very interesting read.  

The book is divided into four parts: A History of Meat-Eating, Why Go Vegetarian?, If Not Meat, Then What?, Becoming a Vegetarian, and Set the Table for Everyone.  Within each heading Elton breaks it down even further into topics. For example, under Why Go Vegetarian?, Animal Welfare, The High Cost of Meat, Greenhouse Gases, Enough Food for Everyone. Each topic is two pages in length, some have sidebars for more detailed information, with illustrations.

Back matter includes tips from kids who are vegetarian, encouragement that there is room at the table for all eating choices, glossary, index, and further reading.

Elton has explored societies food choices in her adult titles, Consumed: Food for a Finite Planet and Locavore. Meatless? will serve as a great introduction to kids who are curious about becoming a vegetarian.

Reviewed by Louise

Monday, April 3, 2017

Out of School and Into Nature: the Anna Comstock Story Written by Suzanne Slade

Out of School and Into Nature: the Anna Comstock Story
Written by Suzanne Slade & Illustrated by Jessica Lanan
Sleeping Bear Press. 2017
ISBN: 9781585369867
K - Grade 4
Note: Louise is writing all the reviews while Cathy is on sabbatical until February 2018.

This handsomely designed picture book biography of writer and scientist, Anna Comstock, is truly inspiring. The narrative is just the right mix of information that never falls flat in the telling.

She loved to hold it close in her fingers, she wanted to feel it squish between her toes, which was why she ran barefoot all summer long, raised slimy tadpoles into pet
toads, and climbed tall trees instead of sitting in their shade.”

Born in 1854, Anna’s observational skills allowed her to discover nature’s secrets. From camouflage to pollination, Anna absorbed it all. She loved nature so much she decided to go to college to learn more of its secrets. Despite the fact that women were not encouraged to seek higher education, Anna attended Cornell University. 

After graduation, Comstock would go on to write and illustrate nine nature books and initiated a nature-study program for teachers in New York State through Cornell. 

Lanan's colorful, watercolor illustrations strengthens this book’s appeal, as does the added engravings of Anna Comstock's art. Quotes from Comstock are set off from the rest of the text in a larger font

Back matter includes an author's note and quote sources
Highly recommended.


Reviewed by Louise

Monday, March 27, 2017

The Search for Olinguito: Discovering a New Species by Sandra Markle

The Search for Olinguito: Discovering a New Species
by Sandra Markle
Millbrook Press. 2017
ISBN: 9781512410150
Grades 3 up
To review this book I borrowed a copy from my local public library
Note: Louise is writing all the reviews while Cathy is on sabbatical until February 2018.

It is hard to imagine, in this world of information overload, that there still could be an animal species undiscovered. Yet, that is exactly what happened in 2013 from the auditorium at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. Kristofer Helgen, a scientist at the museum in charge of their collection of mammals, made the exciting announcement that they had found a new animal. The first new species discovered in thirty-five years.

Facts about this new species and just exactly how Helgen went about tracking it down is the subject of this riveting science book. Full of color photographs that are well-captioned, Markle’s book is perfect for budding scientists. 

Oh, what was the new species? An Olinguito (oh-ling-GEE-toe)

Purchase a copy for your library to find out more about this thrilling science adventure.

Back matter includes an author’s note, source notes, a glossary, ways to find out more information about cloud forests, index.

Sandra Markle has written numerous award winning books for children. 
Other books we've reviewed by her:

Reviewed by Louise!