Posted in Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Teen, Tween Reads

Don’t read on an empty stomach: NatGeo Kids Food Fight

Food Fight! A Mouthwatering History of WHO Ate WHAT and WHY Through the Ages, by Tanya Steel, (Sept. 2018, National Geographic Kids), $19.99, ISBN: 9781426331626

Ages 10-14

Did you know that the Visigoths demanded 3,000 pounds of pepper as a gift when they conquered the Western Roman Empire in the 5th Century AD? Or that some medieval bakers whitened their flour with ground bones or chalk? Those are just a few of the wild food facts readers will pick up when they pick up Food Fight! by former Bon Appétit and Food & Wine editor Tanya Steel. Food Fight! is a history of food, combined with some fantastic (and frightful) facts, and recipes. The book covers food fads and eating habits from 14 different moments in history, from the prehistoric era through the 1960s, and there’s a special chapter imagining a future life (and food) on Mars! There are fun Popcorn Quizzes (you can’t have a plain pop quiz in a book about food) throughout, and amazing and hilarious photos, plus quotes from kid chefs who’ve made and enjoyed the 30 recipes you’ll find here. The book kicks off with safety tips, and a food timeline, recipe index, bibliography, and further reading and resources rounds everything out.

Kids in my library are big nonfiction fans, and Food Fight! offers history, fun, and kid-friendly recipes all in one volume. It’s a fun add to collections, and a good gift for budding chefs and food historians. (Psst… introduce older tweens and teens to Alton Brown’s excellent Food Network show, Good Eats, for more food history and cooking tips.) It’s a big plus that author Tanya Steel is a major name in the food journalism, so she knows how to write about food and food history, and she makes it accessible to younger readers. Plus, she originated the White House’s Healthy Lunchtime Challenge & Kids’ State Dinner, hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama, which brought recipes created by young chefs from each state to the White House. Kids are invited to make and upload photos of their Food Fight dishes – check out the Instagram tag #natgeofoodfight, and check out the Food Fight webpage for more info.

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Posted in Middle Grade, Non-fiction

Be an Absolute Expert with NatGeo Kids

NatGeo Kids rolled out a new series of books. The Absolute Expert series helps kids become experts on a favorite, high-interest topic: current topics are Dolphins, Dinosaurs, Volcanoes, and Soccer. Experts in the field act as guides, leading readers through the info-packed books. Stunning photos, facts, and activities make each volume a great reference for science and STEM collections, and great desk references for kids who just can’t get enough of their favorite topics.

Absolute Expert: Volcanoes, by Lela Nargi and Arianna Soldati, (Aug. 2018, National Geographic Kids), $14.99, ISBN: 9781426331428

Ages 8-12

Volcanologist Arianna Soldati guides readers through a solid volume on volcanoes. Kids learn about ocean volcanoes, volcanoes in space, and deadliest eruptions (psst… Vesuvius isn’t #1!) The book explains plate tectonics and features a world map noting explosive volcanoes, and gives readers a heads-up on staying safe during a volcanic eruption, including an evacuation plan strategy exercise. Four “Get in the Flow!” sections provide activities that will take kids deeper; from building and cataloging a rock collection to creating a volcanic (soda) eruption of one’s own. Resources for further reading and an index finish up this book.

I buy all the volcano/natural disaster books I can get my hands on, because the schools here do a science unit on natural disasters, and the kids raid our libraries, usually heading for the volcano books first. I remember my first year as a librarian, hosting a class trip, and having the teacher ask me where those books were. I pointed out the shelf, and the kids swarmed me. TWO SHELVES. EMPTY. Since then, I don’t play games with my natural disaster books, and neither should you.

The writing is geared for middle grade to early middle school, with scientific terms that may send kids to the dictionaries (and good for that!) for new terms, while photos and illustrations provide a look at volcanoes in various stages of being, from quiet to very, very active. If seeing lightning hit a volcano spewing lava doesn’t inspire an awesome respect for nature, I don’t know what will.

NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day in 2013, similar to the one found in Absolute Expert: Volcanoes

 

Absolute Expert: Dinosaurs, by Steve Brusatte and Lela Nargi, (Aug. 2018, National Geographic Kids), $14.99, ISBN: 9781426331404

Ages 8-12

Paleontologist Steve Brusatte combines forces with author Lela Nargi to make dino EXPERTS out of readers. My favorite section? The little callout box that tries to unravel the mystery of T-Rex’s itty bitty arms. Turns out, they were incredibly strong, and have to have served some purpose, but what? We still don’t know, but there will be countless memes to entertain us until we do. There are details on some of the biggest and smallest dinosaurs; a dinosaur family tree that shows how dinosaurs evolved as history marched on, and a nice section dedicated to feathered dinosaurs, including the evolution of dinosaur feathers, with a picture of a fossilized archaeopteryx feather! Photos of fossils and dino digs make this a perfect volume for budding archaeologists, and beautiful illustrations help readers put faces to those bones they see in the museums. (Jurassic Park does a pretty good job of that, too, but the dinos are usually trying to eat people; this is much less threatening.) A world map spread points out where dino evidence has been found, worldwide, and four “Dig In” sections teach kids about dino tracking, offer quizzes, and invite kids to make their own dinosaur teeth and paleontologist field kits.

Do I even need to say this book is a given in your collections? It’s NatGeo, and it’s dinosaurs. Put this NatGeo dino page on your reference resources list of links: there are videos, activities, and games, and there’s a YouTube video playlist of nothing but dinosaurs! That is a program all by itself!

 

Absolute Expert: Dolphins, by Jennifer Swanson and Justine Jackson-Ricketts, (May 2018, National Geographic Kids), $14.99, ISBN: 9781426330100

Ages 8-12

Marine biologist Justine Jackson-Ricketts serves as the guide in this volume, taking readers deeper into the world of dolphins. A world map spread shows kids the waters where dolphins tend to spend their time. There are tips on becoming a dolphin trainer, what to do if one encounters a stranded animal, and important life lessons dolphins have to impart (“Thanks for the all the fish” is not one of them). As Justine Jackson-Ricketts’ research involves ecology, there’s substantial information on preservation and conservation of our waters and of our dolphins; the authors also shed some light onto the captivity debate. Four “Dolphin Deep Dive” sections help kids design a dolphin study, offers suggestions on how to move and like a dolphin, tests kids’ ability to find dolphin figures in everyday objects, and organize a beach clean-up. Resources for further reading and an index are included.

There are wonderful pictures of dolphins and orcas in here, sure to please animal fans and make some new ones. There are great call-out facts here – perfect for adding to projects and classroom/library displays, too! There’s good scientific writing that challenges readers, and some information on the National Geographic Pristine Seas Initiative; National Geographic’s commitment to explore and help save the last wild places in the ocean. This is a good site to keep in your reference links: there are videos taken on the Initiative’s expeditions, mission descriptions, and updated news events as they unfold. Conservation projects and ocean research projects can get a nice boost from this site.

 

Absolute Expert: Soccer, by Eric Zweig and Mark Geiger, (May 2018, National Geographic Kids), $14.99, ISBN: 9781426330087

Ages 8-12

Professional soccer referee Mark Geiger is here to talk soccer with author Eric Zweig. Conversation goes into supporting one’s team and the different ways fans around the world show their love, including the now-famous vuvuzela; soccer jargon and the 17 Laws of the Game. There are maps of the field and the positions’ places on the field, an explanation of the penalty cards, and a history of “the beautiful game”. A Soccer Around the World section celebrates the diversity of the game and its fans, and since this is a book on sports, there are World Cup numbers, results by nation, and a US map of MLS teams, for us Americans just getting on the soccer bandwagon. Facts and stats throughout give readers some extra street cred knowledge, and four “Get in the Game” activities encourage kids to make up their own game and offer quizzes. There are great photos and illustrations of soccer players and equipment through history, and there are callout biographies on major players throughout. The text is easily readable by middle grade and middle schoolers; this is a volume that soccer fans are going to love.

Check out the National Geographic World Cup 2018 website for vintage photos, World Cup facts, and articles on the science of sport. This 2014 National Geographic blog post, Why the World Cup is About More Than Soccer, puts into words how the sport brings people together, worldwide.

NatGeo, keeping it real for my nonfiction section.

Posted in Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction

Birds and Their Feathers brings art and STEM together

Birds and Their Feathers, by Britta Teckentrup, (March 2018, Prestel), $16.95, ISBN: 9783791373355

Ages 6+

It’s always wonderful when art and science come together to show us the world in all of its natural beauty. Britta Tecktentrup’s Birds and Their Feathers is a stunning example. The book introduces readers to the science of plumology – bird feather science, or plumage science. If this is a new term for you, you’re not alone; this is a branch of ornithology that I wasn’t aware of, either! The book beautifully blends fascinating facts about plumage and birds with breathtaking artwork to give readers a wonderful introduction to this area of the natural world, with spreads dedicated to the structure and development of the feather; types and colors of feathers (they all have their own jobs!) and wings, human usage of the feather, and how humankind was so inspired by the feather, we used it to take flight on our own.

The artwork is quietly breathtaking, using earth tones and collage artwork to create soft, yet dramatic, pictures of birds and their plumage. The endpapers are covered with feather artwork so realistic, you’ll swear you can feel their softness under your fingertips. The writing is never overwhelming; rather, each page has anywhere from a few lines to a handful of paragraphs dedicated to its topic, with facts like: “The inside of a feather needs colours that help protect it and keep it durable. Such colours may include red and yellow, which can prevent bacteria from harming the feather”; “Some birds can make different sounds generated by their feathers”; and “Some fish-eating birds eat their own feathers to line their stomachs, which protects them from sharp fish bones”. This book is perfect for kids and grown-ups alike.

Perfect for a nature study or STEM project, Birds and Their Feathers is a must-add to your nonfiction shelves. Get your readers working with feathers to make their own art, and if you can find a feather or two to show off the parts of a feather up close (wear gloves if you get this from outside!), even better. I’d use this in my Discovery Club in a second. Birds and Their Feathers has a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly.

 

 

Feathers: Not Just for Flying, by Melissa Stewart/Illustrated by Sarah S. Brannen – Science picture book on how different birds use their feathers.

Feather, by Cao Wenxuan/Illustrated by Roger Mello, Translated by Chloe Garcia-Roberts – A fable about a feather trying to find its origin.

 

Posted in Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction, picture books

H is for Haiku and the magic of the small moment

H is for Haiku, by Sydell Rosenberg/Illustrated by Sawsan Chalabi, (Apr. 2018, Penny Candy Books), $16.95, ISBN: 978-0998799971

Ages 5+

Sydell “Syd” Rosenberg, who lived, wrote, and taught in New York City. Syd passed away in 1996, but her daughter, Amy Losak, made it her mission to see her mother’s work published. H is for Haiku, is a fun, illustrated book containing 26 “small moments” haiku: little slices of daily life. As Ms. Losak notes in her introduction, “Haiku poems make small moments big”.

Reading H is for Haiku took me back to sons’ “small moments” units in elementary school. They and I both struggled with the idea of a small moment; often puzzling over the feedback, “no, smaller”. How could a trip to the grocery store get smaller? H is for Haiku is the book to go to for those moments: a cat dreams; rain water collects in an old watering can, a girl rides a bike downhill. Syd Rosenberg captures the magic in these tiny moments, finding the poetry in the everyday and illuminating them for readers. Sawsan Chalabi’s artwork is a treat, bringing creativity and movement to these magical moments with color and bold fonts.

A library card’s potential, through the eyes of a new reader. I want a print of this for my library!

This is so Queens. I love it. Book samples courtesy of Penny Candy Books.

This is a great way to bring poetry, particularly haiku, to kids. It’s a great way to explain small moment writing to students, too. Consider adding H is for Haiku to your collections, or giving a copy to your poetry readers. To see more of a illustrator Sawsan Chalabi’s work, visit her website; to learn more about Amy Losak and her mother’s haiku, visit the Penny Candy website.

Posted in Intermediate, Middle Grade, Middle School, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction, Tween Reads

BIG Summer Nonfiction Reads Roundup!

From sharks, to space, to stories of survival in the wild, I’ve got books for all sorts of nonfiction tastes! Let’s start with the oogie stuff and go from there.

They Lost Their Heads! What Happened to Washington’s Teeth, Einstein’s Brain, and Other Famous Body Parts, by Carlyn Beccia, (Apr. 2018, Bloomsbury), $18.99, ISBN: 9780802737458

Recommended for readers 10+

If you have readers who loved Georgia Bragg and Kevin O’Malley’s books, How They Croaked: Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous, and How They Choked: Failures, Flops, and Flaws of the Awfully Famous, this is a home run! Learn what happened to the famous body parts of 17 famous folks, and pick up some knowledge about other body parts and how they influenced science medicine. If you’ve ever ever wanted to know what happened to Thomas Edison’s last breath or Van Gogh’s missing ear, this is the place to go. You also learn cool stuff like what rots first after you die (psst… it’s the intestines). Loaded with black and white drawings, funny footnotes, sources, an index, and a bibliography. This one’s a hit for upper elementary readers, all the way through high school. They Lost Their Heads! has a starred review from Booklist.

StarTalk with Neil DeGrasse Tyson (Young Readers Edition), by National Geographic, (March 2018, National Geographic), $17.99, ISBN: 9781426330872

Recommended for readers 10+

I LOVE Neil DeGrasse Tyson and evangelize his StarTalk Radio podcast any chance I get. (Seriously, it’s great stuff.) NatGeo’s Young Readers edition of the StarTalk book is must-booktalk summer reading. Get your Summer Reading budget and buy some astronaut ice cream; while you and the kids feast, read the section on why you can’t get a pulled pork sandwich in space; find out what the Vomit Comet is; and read mini-bios on scientists like Carl Sagan. Not so much with the food? There are also sections on zombies and superheroes. Debate the eternal question: Could the Death Star really blow up a planet? There’s so much to discover in this book that every kid is darn near guaranteed to find something to interest him or her. (Psst… get an extra copy for yourself. You’ll thank me.)

 

Survivors: Extraordinary tales from the Wild and Beyond, by David Long/Illustrated by Kerry Hyndman, (Sept. 2017, Faber & Faber), $19.95, ISBN: 9780571316014

Recommended for readers 9-13

Do you know fans of Lauren Tarshis’ I Survived series? I’ve never been able to keep those books on the shelves, no matter which library I’ve been at. Middle graders go berserk for that series, and they’ll LOVE this oversized, illustrated anthology of true survival tales. There are 23 stories in here; the most famous being explorer Ernest Shackleton, who saved his crew when a 1914 Antarctic expedition put their lives in danger. There’s also the story of Hugh Glass, a “fur trapper and adventurer” who made the critical error of surprising a mother bear and her cubs by the Missouri River in 1823, or Mauro Prosperi, a runner competing in the 1994 Marathon of the Sands through the Sahara Desert, found himself in the middle of a sandstorm. Not crazy enough for your readers? There’s also a Hollywood pilot who crashed INSIDE a Hawaiian volcano in 1992. The stories are fast-paced, beautifully illustrated in color, and are perfect for adventure fans. Best part? All the stories are TRUE.

 

The Ultimate Book of Sharks, by Brian Skerry, Elizabeth Carney, & Sarah Wassner Flynn, (May 2018, National Geographic Kids), $19.99, ISBN: 9781426330711

Recommended for readers 7-13

Kids love sharks. This is a fact. The Ultimate Book of Sharks has all the info and pictures your shark-loving fans crave, just in time for Shark Week, which kicks off on July 22 (get your printables and programs lined up – I’ll do a separate post about Shark Week as it gets closer). The NatGeo folks bust myths about sharks, give us a look at shark anatomy, and – as always – provide loads of information about conservation and preservation, and how we can all help keep sharks, and our waters, safe and clean. This volume is chock full of fast facts and lists, with Up-Close Encounters, where marine wildlife photojournalist and author Brian Skerry shares some of his stories with readers. There’s an index at the end. This volume is an absolute must-add to your science and nature collections.

 

Red Alert! Endangered Animals Around the World, by Catherin Barr/Illustrated by Anne Wilson, (July 2018, Charlesbridge), $17.99, ISBN: 9781580898393

Recommended for readers 7-11

This is such a fun book. Think of a Choose Your Own Adventure about endangered animals, and you’ve got Red Alert! Red Alert! profiles 15 animals on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) list. A beginning note explains the organization’s “Red List”: a list of endangered plants, animals, and fungi, and lists some of the categories mentioned in the book. Colorful endpapers start the fun: the first, a map of the world, with the 15 profiled animals drawn into their world regions; final endpapers highlight a plethora of endangered animals. From here, readers can pick a place to explore: deserts, forests, mountains, grasslands, rivers, or oceans; pick a creature from each of these regions, and go to its page to read further. You can also read the book straight through. Spreads include the animals’ scientific names, facts, endangered category, and factors contributing to the endangerment of the species. A section at the end provides resources for more information on taking conservation action. A solid introduction to environmental action for younger readers.

 

National Geographic Kids Almanac (2019 Edition), (May 2018, National Geographic Kids), $14.99, ISBN: 9781426330131

Recommended for readers 8-13

Another guaranteed must-have from NatGeo Kids, this latest edition of their Kids Almanac shows readers a baby animal “tweet-off” between several zoos and aquariums (it’s from 2017, but who doesn’t want to revisit that simpler, lovelier time?), talks about updates in robotics and technology, dwarf planets, and has a Special Gross Edition of their Just Joking feature. Facts, quizzes, updated maps and stats, and homework help ideas all in one volume? This is one desk reference every kid should have – put one on your shelves, and keep one in your reference area, to be on the safe side.

 

How’s that for a start? Next time a kid comes in, stressed about needing a nonfiction book, consider yourself ready.

Posted in Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction

Bookjoy, Wordjoy, Reading Joy!

Bookjoy, Wordjoy, by Pat Mora/Illustrated by Raúl Colón, (May 2018, Lee & Low), $17.95, ISBN: 9781620142868

Recommended for readers 5-9

Fans of words and language will enjoy this book of poems by award-winning author and poet Pat Mora, beautifully illustrated by award-winning children’s book artist Raúl Colón. Each spread presents vibrant, colorful artwork with accompanying wordplay celebrating books, words, and the fun of playing with language; English and Spanish words come together like old friends; or, as Mora would have it, “toast and jelly/o queso y tortillas”. Most of the poems flow in free verse, and every selection is upbeat and loaded with a sense of play. Artist Raúl Colón’s images have a lovely Mexican influence, with bright colors coming together and communicating in rich visuals.

This is a great jumping-off point for introducing younger readers and writers to poetry, particularly free verse poetry, which demands less rigor and allows more freedom and imagination. Give kids visual points and ask them to think up their own poems, or flip the tables and introduce them to mural art by taping some butcher paper (or the blank side of an old roll of wrapping paper) across a wall, a table, or another long, flat surface. Let them go wild, and then ask them to talk about what they see. You’ll be amazed at a kid’s natural poetry.

Posted in Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction

Epic Fails! New series nonfiction looks at the not-so-great moments in history

The Wright Brothers: Nose-Diving into History (Epic Fails #1), by Erik Slader & Ben Thompson/Illustrated by Tim Foley, (July 2018, Roaring Brook Press), $6.99, ISBN: 978-1-250-15056-1

Recommended for readers 7-11

Say the names Orville and Wilbur Wright, and people automatically think of airplanes. They were the first self-taught engineers, after all, to achieve flight. But success didn’t come easy, and there were a lot of fails before their 12-second success. Epic Fails is a new non-fiction series for intermediate and middle grade readers that details some of history’s biggest successes – and the failures that went hand-in-hand with them.

Written with a humorous tone, readers will learn about the previous attempts made before the Wright Brothers were even born; the nosedives and crashes, and the lessons learned from each misstep that led to success. Filled with black-and-white illustrations and photos, a timeline of flight, a bibliography, and an index, this is a handy additional resource for schoolwork, and a fun read that delivers the message that it’s okay if that science project, that school paper, or that great model rocket you were building doesn’t work the first time. Or the second time. Or multiple times. It’s okay to not be perfect, because it really is part of the learning process. That’s a pretty great message to communicate to our kids, isn’t it?

Add to your STEM/STEAM reading lists, and display with the Science Comics volume on Flying Machines, and maybe some instructions for paper airplanes. Fold ‘N Fly is a searchable database of free paper airplane designs, filtered by difficulty, type, and whether or not you want to use scissors to cut them, manipulating air flow. Sweet!