Posted in Animal Fiction, Fiction, Middle Grade

Happy #Nocturnals Day!

It’s the Nocturnals, Book 3: The Fallen Star‘s book birthday today, and I’d like to shine a (soft) spotlight on my favorite Nocturnal, Tobin! Fabled Films put together a little writeup about pangolins that I thought I’d share with you. Enjoy!

In The Fallen Star, the third installment of the non-episodic middle grade series, The Nocturnals, all of the forest’s pomelos have been inexplicably poisoned. Iris, a mysterious aye-aye, claims that monsters from the moon are to blame. When Tobin the pangolin falls ill, the Nocturnal Brigade must race to find answers, and the cure, before this possibly unearthly predicament threatens to harm them all.

Tobin is one of the main characters of The Nocturnals series, and many of our readers write to us saying that they have never heard of the critically endangered pangolin before reading our books. Here are some interesting facts about pangolins that help inform and develop Tobin’s character.

Pangolins are funny-looking creatures, but everything about them is designed to help them survive and protect themselves. All of their physical features perform a specific job.

Pangolins look like they wear an armor, and that’s because they are covered in scales made of keratin, which is the same thing that our human fingernails are made of. Just like our fingernails, the keratin on a pangolin is hard and forms a protective shell. Whenever Tobin is scared, he curls up as a way of protecting himself.

Not only does Tobin curl himself up for protection with his scales when he’s scared, but he also sprays something smelly to ward off predators. This smell comes from the scent glands on his tail end. Remember when Bismark complained how stinky Tobin was when they first met? That was because Tobin sprayed something because Bismark had startled him. When Tobin is afraid, he sprays an unpleasant smell from his scent glands. This reaction also helps deter the thing that he’s afraid of. Tobin is sometimes embarrassed by this bad smell, but he shouldn’t be, because spraying that smell helps him survive (especially if the smell has been enhanced by a poisoned pomelo, like in The Fallen Star!).

Pangolins have very poor eyesight. When Tobin first meets the bats in The Mysterious Abductions, he thinks that they’re the same creatures as Bismark because he can’t see very well. But Tobin has other senses like smell and hearing that compensate for his poor eyesight. His very long snout makes his nose very sensitive. Instead of seeing something, he can detect its presence by smelling it.

To read more about pangolins and their special features, check out these resources:

“Mammals.” Animal Encyclopedia: 2,500 Animals with Photos, Maps, and More! Washington, D.C.: National Geographic, 2012. 47. Print.

(http://www.iucnredlist.org/ ;

(http://animaldiversity.org/)

(Macdonald, David W. “Pangolins.” The Princeton Encyclopedia of Mammals. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 2009. 476-77. Print.)

 

Posted in Early Reader, Intermediate, Non-Fiction, Non-Fiction

Animal Planet’s Animal Bites series is great for young readers!

Animal books are KING with younger readers. I gush constantly about the NatGeo books, but I’ve just been made aware of Animal Planet’s Animal Bites series: books spotlighting animals from different habitats, like Farm Animals and Wild Animals, and loaded with bite-sized info (see what I did there?), questions for discussion, and yes, outstanding photos.

wild animalsEach book is organized to guide readers through information about family relationships, animal bodies, ecosystems, play time, conservation, and so much more. Check boxes throughout prompt discussion about whether these animals are friendly or would make good pets (bears, not so much; horses, yes) and discussion questions ask kids to compare themselves with animals: do you like to play games, like a border collie does? We get infographics on featured animals, including geographic location, weight, and height, and to help younger kids form a more solid frame of reference, a comparison to something most of us see every day, from a truck to a computer printer.

I love the emphasis on conservation, particularly in the Wild Animals book. Features on animals that have been saved from the brink of extinction, like the gray wolf, make very real the idea that conservation works when there is awareness.

Each book ends with a quiz, an activity and a craft, and a robust list of resources, a glossary, and an index. Endpapers lead readers in and send them off with a gorgeous photo of an animal.

There are over 200 photos in each book, along with infographics, maps, and informative Quick Bites. Other books in the series include Animal Planet Polar Animals and Animal Planet Ocean Animals.farm animals

Further committing to conservation, a portion of the proceeds benefits Animal Planet’s R.O.A.R. (Reach Out. Act. Respond.) campaign that partners with leading animal organization to make the world a better place for domestic and wild animals.

My 4 year old LOVES these books: trying to get them back so I could refer to them for this review was fun (he’s at school right now). Every page is a new discovery, something waiting for him to find and explore. Sometimes, he plays with his animal toys, showing me his horses when I read the section on horses; he’ll show me a lion when I get to a spotlight on lions. If he asks why his shark is missing, I’ll explain that I have to buy him a copy of Ocean Animals. 😉

Kids love animals. Animal Planet books make it easy for you to bring more animals into their lives, and even more importantly, to discuss humane treatment of animals and the importance of conservation of our planet with them. The books are a nice, sturdy softcover, perfect for tucking into your tote bag when you’re traveling (or sneaking your kid’s copy out so you can read it on the way to work), and it’ll hold up to repeated reads.

Animal Planet: Animal Bites – Wild Animals, by Laaren Brown (Animal Planet, June 2016), $12.95, ISBN: 978-1618934147

Animal Planet: Animal Bites – Farm Animals, by Laaren Brown (Animal Planet, June 2016), $12.95, ISBN: 978-1618934130

Recommended for ages 4-8

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

National Geographic talks Angry Birds!

angrybirds_natgeoNational Geographic: The Angry Birds Movie-Red’s Big Adventure, by Christy Ullrich Barcus (Apr. 2016, National Geographic Children’s Books), $14.99, ISBN: 978-1426216848

Recommended for ages 8-12

The Angry Birds have arrived on the big screen, and NatGeo Kids is there to celebrate with the release of their twelfth and latest Angry Birds title, Red’s Big Adventure. The book, set in the world of the Angry Birds movie, is set up in four levels: Bird Island, Bird Village, The Search for Mighty Eagle, and Beyond the Island, readers are introduced (or, really, familiarized with – they likely know most of these birds already) to the Angry Birds: Red, Matilda, Chuck, Bomb, Terence, Judge Peckinpah and Cyrus, the Mighty Eagle, and that rascally pig, Leonard. Each character gets a spotlight and a bio, and Red’s adventure is a thread that runs through the course of the book.

What we also get are breathtaking pictures and facts on  the animals and plants, the environments and natural wonders of the world’s islands, from Greenland to Galapagos. Learn how a bird’s beak is better than a Swiss Army knife in terms of multi-purpose use: it’s a weapon, a utensil, a mating signal, and a sensory organ. Learn about mountain ranges and how glaciers are formed; learn to create maps or navigate using the stars, like our forefathers did. Find out about some of the biggest animal migrations in history, or discover an island inhabited by pigs (is that were Leonard and his friends came from?)!

I love the NatGeo books. They have the perfect combination of fun and learning, whether it’s their handy, schoolbag-sized fun facts books, like the Angry Birds and the Weird But True books, their sticker books (my living room coffee table currently has all the Dino Sticker Activity book stickers on them, like it’s a mini-Jurassic Park), the First Big Books, or their atlases and almanacs. The photos are incredible, and the information is easily digestible and exciting in its presentation. My kids love them, and the kids at my library go berserk for them. I celebrated the Angry Birds movie release with an Angry Birds Treasure Hunt around the children’s room, where they had to locate different pictures of the birds and pig for a prize. I honestly wasn’t sure how it was going to go over: were younger kids that into Angry Birds anymore? The answer was a resounding YES.  About 30 kids took part in the treasure hunt, ensuring that this book and the 11 other NatGeo Angry Birds books will be in my next ordering cart.

Add to collections where nature books and Angry Birds are popular. You’ll be happy you did!