Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes and Stinkers: Celebrating Animal Underdogs

Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes and Stinkers: Celebrating Animal Underdogs
by Melissa Stewart
illustrated by Stephanie Laberis
Peachtree, 2018
Grades PreS-3

Today we're taking part in the Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes and Stinkers Blog Tour.

Stewart, a favorite nonfiction author of ours, focuses not on the big and mighty animals, but on the "unsung underdogs of the animal world. The small, slow, stinky, lazy, clumsy, shy, and more."

The narrative nonfiction book focuses on over twelve animals that have unusual traits that help them survive. For instance, the hoatzin. It's stinky! Smells like cow manure! Why? Because it eats lots of leaves. Or zorillas, whose nasty spray is stronger than a skunk. "Should hoatzins and zorillas clean up their act? No Way! These stinkers are sending their enemies a powerful message."  Would you want to eat something that stinks?

Stewart engages young readers with a conversational style and effective use of questions. When writing about the Amau frog, the author asks, "How can these puny peewees survive in a world of predators with huge teeth and razor-sharp claws?" Adults who read aloud the book to children may want to pause after the questions and allow children time to think and discuss their ideas before turning the page.

Laberis' bold and colorful illustrations, created in Adobe Photoshop CC, lend a humorous tone to the charming and informative narrative. The back matter provides more information about animals listed in the text in addition to a list of selected sources. Pick up a copy today to add to your library, classroom or to give as a gift to the animal lover in your life.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Eavesdropping On Elephants: How Listening Helps Conservation by Patricia Newman

Eavesdropping On Elephants: How Listening Helps Conservation
by Patricia Newman
Millbrook Press. 2018
Grades 4-up

To write this review, I used a copy of this book sent from the publisher.

Newman (Plastic, Ahoy!) introduces readers to the Elephant Listening Project (ELP), a research program with the Cornell University, and the biologist, Katy Payne who initiated the first recording. 

Payne had experience with animal communication. Prior to 1984, she had spend fifteen years listening to the humpback whale, the largest marine mammal. It was while visiting the Washing Park Zoo in Portland, Oregon in May of '84 and heard the low-rumbling communication of two Asian elephants who were standing on opposite sides of a concrete wall* that she decided to begin recording them. 

Newman follows Payne and ELP’s development. They hope that by using the elephants conversations it will raise awareness that might save Africa’s forest elephants from extinction caused by poaching, logging, mining, and the increase of human populations. 

Divided into five chapters, the first three go into detail about the set up and process of recording the elephants. Chapters 4 & 5, explain how their hopes of listening will help with conservation. Additional information is offered in sidebars, and the colorful well-captioned color photos further enhance the narrative. The photos of the elephants are particularly moving.

Back matter includes source notes, glossary, a selected bibliography of books and websites for further study. An interesting addition is the inclusion highlighting middle school student student, Taegen Yardley, who as made her own films about elephant conservation. 

To learn more about Elephant Listening Project, click here
*Elephant Listening Project. About ELP. 

Thursday, August 23, 2018

The Sequoia Lives On By Joanna Cooke

The Sequoia Lives On
By Joanna Cooke; Illustrated by Fiona Hsieh
Yosemite Conservancy. 2018
All ages

The publisher sent me a copy of this book to review

Cooke pays tribute to the magnificent sequoia tree in this informational picture book with an engaging narrative that explains the sequoia’s life cycle. 

To sprout their seeds, a sequoia relies on fire to dry out its scaly cone. Once opened, the seeds float towards fertile ground. “When fire is absent in a sequoia grove, the seeds rely on other help.” From the furry chickarees to the long-horned beetle, each does their part to help spread the tree’s seeds.

The comparison of everyday things will help young readers’ visual what is being explained in the text. 

“Each day, a large sequoia’s roots absorb enough water to fill more than eight bathtubs.”

“With enough sunlight, air, and water, a mighty sequoia can live more than thirty human lifetimes. Imagine a sequoia so old and so huge not even a ring of twenty children holding hands could hug it.”

Even after a sequoia becomes old and falls to the ground, it is still working by feeding new seedlings as it decomposes.

Perfectly complementing the text are Hesieh’s lush paintings that seem to glow.

Another aspect of the book that is appealing is the addition of children, of different races and one in a wheelchair, are placed throughout the book giving a perspective of the height of the giant sequoia. 

Back matter includes more facts about the Sequoia and tips on being mindful of what you leave behind when visiting a sequoia grove.

Published by the Yosemite Company, The Sequoia Lives On will enlighten those all who read it.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Two Truths and a Lie: Histories and Mysteries

Two Truths and a Lie: Histories and Mysteries 
Ammi-Joan Paquette and Laurie Ann Thompson
Walden Pond Press, 2018
Grades 3-8

Following their successful middle grade nonfiction collaboration, Two Truths and a Lie: It's Alive, Paquette and Thompson have returned with another book in the series. This time they turn their attention to unusual events, locations and peculiar stories from the past.

If you're not familiar with the series, here's how it works. In each chapter, the authors share three stories. Two are nonfiction, and one is fiction. After reading the stories, readers guess which one is fake then check the back for the answer. The authors suggest doing some research before deciding which story isn't true. There is even a Research Guide in the back which offers advice such as looking carefully at sources, questioning everything, and asking librarians for help.

The engaging writing style blends narrative and expository and uses the 3rd person point of view to bring readers into the stories.

"Take the locker room. Have you ever gone swimming in a public pool or gym class, leaving your clothes and other stuff behind- only to come back and find it gone? Taken by a proxy thief? If you haven't, lucky you." (p.10-11)

The intriguing topics in the book range from ancient dentistry to Ben Franklin's fart science and a republic with a population of six. Vocabulary words are printed in bold and definitions are provided on the side of the pages.  Some pages are made to look like notebook paper, while other pages use colorful background colors and high-interest photos making this a visually pleasing read for tweens.

Two Truths and a Lie: Histories Mysteries will be in high demand with upper elementary and middle school students. Kids will enjoy reading it independently. It can also be shared with groups of friends or read aloud to a large group. It's the perfect book for discussing fake news and evaluating sources; which is both important and timely.

Visit the publisher's site to download an educator's guide to both books in the series.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Pass Go and Collect $200

Pass Go and Collect $200: The Real Story of How Monopoly Was Invented 
by Tanya Lee Stone
illustrated by Steven Salerno
Henry Holt and Company, 2018
Grades K-6

How many times have you played Monopoly? Have you ever wondered how it was invented? Tanya Lee Stone takes readers back to the early 1900s to learn about the origin of the popular board game. In the author's note, Stone explains that her editor suggested she research Charles Darrow, the inventor of Monopoly. However, Stone discovered that it was actually a woman who created the game. Thus, the story begins with Elizabeth "Lizzie" Magie, an outspoken and creative woman who created The Landlord's Game. The game was intended to show players who "unjust this landlord-tenant relationship could be."

Stone relates the story of how Lizzie patented her game and tried unsuccessfully to sell it the Parker Brothers. Readers will feel a sense of unfairness when they learn that Charles Darrow later became known as the inventor of Monopoly after he made some minor changes to the Landlord's Game and sold the game to Parker Brothers. Stone speaks directly to readers at times and effectively uses questions to engage readers in the story. Throughout the story, readers are also introduced to events, concepts and places they might not know such as The Great Depression, patents, and Atlantic City. Salerno's bold gouache, pastel, ink and crayon illustrations fill the pages including a bird's eye view of Charles Darrow standing on a Monopoly board. Don't miss the back matter which includes Monopoly trivia and math.

Add Pass Go and Collect $200 to your library or classroom. It's perfect for readers who want to learn about inventors and inventions. Read it aloud then have kids discuss and debate the idea of intellectual property and who should take credit for the game.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Lines, Bars and Circles by Helaine Becker

Lines, Bars and Circles: How William Playfair Invented Graphs
Written by Helaine Becker; Illustrated by Marie-Eve Tremblay
Kids Can Press. 2017
ISBN: 9781771385701

Becker’s picture book biography celebrates those of us who see the world differently from other people.  The narrative hits the mark for a child audience, and Tremblay’s art, rendered digitally, adds the right touch of humor to the text.

William Playfair was born in Scotland in 1759. He was a dreamer and enjoyed playing tricks on people. “He could be annoying, especially to his sisters and brothers.”  The accompanying illustration shows a frog in the younger sister’s soup.

As he grows, Playfair is trained in the scientific method and excels at math, yet he never stopped dreaming. His hope is to invent something that would make him rich and famous. A prolific author, one day, as a way to organize his information, Playfair creates the first graph: a line graph.“When he wanted to include a second chart that had fewer details, he came up with another good idea: he grouped the information into chunks.” The first bar graph.  With the onset of the French Revolution, Playfair moved to England and, still dreaming of how to represent information in pictures, he creates the first pie chart. 

Did Playfair ever become rich and famous with his discoveries? Nope! Not until more than a hundred years after he died (1823) would his charts be rediscovered and put to use.

The book lacks any bibliography on resources used, but there is an extensive author’s note accompanies the does mention a few of Playfield’s books.

An interesting introduction to inspire dreamers and makers.