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

NatGeo Kids sends kids back to school ready for everything!

I am an unabashed fan of NatGeo for my nonfiction sections. They have books on EVERYTHING, and the kids love it. They also make every single thing they cover amazing, hilarious, or both, which makes my life a lot easier when I have kids trudging into my children’s room, moaning that they have to read more nonfiction. Excuse me, do you see the GIANT WATER FAUCET on the cover of this book? Guess what? Nonfiction. Suddenly, they’re a lot more amenable to what I have to offer.

Let’s start with the backpack essential: The Weird But True Planner ($12.99, ISBN: 978-1426327933). The Weird But True books come in second only to the NatGeo Kids joke books when it comes to demand in my children’s room. It’s got the planner essentials: it’s spiral bound and sturdy, so kids can use it and it will hold up. It’s got paper that won’t tear when you turn a page. You know that paper; it’s usually the one that flies away and has the details of your homework on it. The space is smartly laid out, with NatGeo’s trademark gorgeous photos sharing space with planning and goal pages that help your kids keep it together during the school year. And because it’s NatGeo, it’s got the fun, weird holidays, crazy facts, pages for scribbling areas where you need homework help, little writing prompts, and an overall fun vibe that demands you embrace your weirdness. I have a copy that I desperately want to keep for my own library notes, programs, and scheduling the lives of my weird family; now, the key is making sure the kids don’t take mine off my desk at work OR at home.

Let’s be clear: this is not a library book; it’s a book meant to be written in, used, and yeah, even a little abused. But it IS an essential buy.

Next up is the NatGeo Kids 2018 Almanac ($14.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-2772-8). Updated for 2018, this is another go-to for my library kids. There are 12 sections – up from last year’s 10 – and cover current events, life science, engineering and technology, space and earth, and more. The fun and games section is still here, and the overall fun spirit of discovery runs through the book. A spread in life science tells readers “18 Fantastic Facts About Fungi”, with facts about cheese mold, to mushrooms, to athlete’s foot (it’s just a photo of a bare foot). Feel bad for the Ugly Food, but rejoice in reading how being ugly doesn’t mean being garbage – make banana bread with those brown bananas (that’s when they’re the best), or make a smoothie using that bruised peach. A companion page on the time it takes different types of trash to decompose is a powerful call to action for recycling and re-purposing our trash. Homework help tips, quizzes, jokes, fun facts, and breathtaking photos make this Almanac a keeper.
Atlases are always handy to have around, especially with increased importance on understanding global affairs and cultures. The United States Atlas (Fifth Edition, $12.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-2831-2) gives readers a literal lay of the land, with political and physical maps by territory: Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, Southwest, and West. There are maps and statistics for each state within the territories; economy symbols to illustrate local economies like crops and industries. Photos and infographics round out each state’s profile. The atlas also includes U.S. territories, a glossary, postal abbreviations, and additional web resources.
The Ultimate Space Atlas ($12.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-2802-2) is a handy guide to what’s “up there”: phases of the moon, seasonal constellation maps for each hemisphere, what’s new in space exploration. “Digital Traveler” boxes help readers expand their learning by using going online. There are fun facts, amazing photos, diagrams, and Space Travel Attractions to visit… you know, from here. Earth. There’s a section with some fun activities at the end, and a glossary and index complete this handy astronomy desk reference. Both atlases will be helfpul during the school year, so load up your bookshelves if you’re in a library, or consider these when you’re buying school supplies.
CHOMP!: Fierce Facts About the Bite Force, Crushing Jaws, and Mighty Teeth of Earth’s Champion Chewers ($12.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-2839-8) has been on my shelves since this summer, and I see it wandering around the tables at the library (meaning, the kids are reading it while they’re in the library during the day) pretty regularly. Written by “Extreme Animal Explorer” Brady Barr, CHOMP! has a lot of pictures of a lot of big, mean teeth. The first page has a hippo, jaws open wide, greeting readers, and those choppers are intimidating! Barr organizes his chompers into four groups: the grippers, slicers, crushers, and gulpers; bite force and preferred menu for each animal profiled appear on each page. Barr jumps in with his own entertaining anecdotes, Brady’s Bite Stories, that will make kids squeal and cringe all at once; I’m thinking of reading the one about Barr squeezing a live otter out of a gator the next time I have a class visit. I like to be memorable. Further resources, a glossary and an index, make this a good companion guide for animal reports and fun reading for animal fans.
Last but never least, What Would Happen? Serious Answers to Silly Questions ($14.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-2770-4) looks at the logic and science behind some wild, weird questions. Starting with questions like, “What if you ate nothing but ice cream?” (short answer: DON’T) and working their way up to “What if you could wield The Force?” (You may call me Lady Vader), questions are organized into areas covering humans, space, nature, time, technology, natural wonders, worst-case scenarios, and just plain surreal. Each question is examined by giving readers a background on the deeper question (ice cream tastes great, but without protein and fiber, you’re in for some problems); primary repercussions (those problems could include going to the bathroom, no matter how much you love butter pecan); side effects (you’ll get weak and possibly develop scurvy from lack of Vitamin C); and finally, could it happen (unless you’re putting chunks of chicken or tofu, plus some broccoli and tomato on that ice cream, probably not)? This is going to move right along with my Weird Facts books. Heck, I may just turn this one into a program – write your own What Would Happen? and let’s swap; research it and find out the answer. But I’m totally developing The Force.
Go forth and fill up backpacks, and have a great school year!
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Posted in Animal Fiction, Preschool Reads

On Duck Pond, there is chaos… and then peace.

On Duck Pond, by Jane Yolen/Illustrated by Bob Marstall, (Apr. 2017, Cornell Lab Publishing Group), $15.95, ISBN: 978-1-943645-22-0

Recommended for readers 3-7

A boy and his dog walk by a duck pond in the morning, when nature is at peace; when a quack of ducks appear, they splash, they chitter and chatter, and the pond’s inhabitants scramble in the momentary chaos. The boy notes that even his reflection looks different in the disturbed water. When the ducks move on, the pond returns to its peaceful setting, the pond life resumes, and the boy, contemplative, heads home.

This rhyming tale is a sequel to On Bird Hill, but it’s not necessary to have read it to enjoy this quiet nature tale. Award-winning author Jane Yolen gives readers a wonderful rhyming tale of quiet and chaos, coming up with fun, descriptive terms like “a quack of ducks”, and evocative phrases like, “Old Duck Pond, once still and quiet/Now seemed battered by the riot”, and, of the boy’s reflection, “Every part of me was changed/I looked like I’d been re-arranged”. She captures the riot of noise and blunder of movement that disturbs the quiet  morning, and the gradual pace with which nature recovers when the ducks move on, all witnessed by the boy and his dog. We meet some of the pond’s inhabitants – turtles, herons, frogs, and tadpoles – during the course of the story; the realistic illustrations introduce us to even more wildlife. There are lovely, detailed drawing of the pond from various angles, from close-ups of lily pads to sweeping vistas. The ducks’ descent is beautifully rendered, with wings spread, water splashing, beaks open, communicating the movement and noise they bring to the scene. A section on pond habitats and birds, and information about the ducks and other birds and animals featured in the story, adds a nice non-fiction section to the book.

This is a great read-aloud for storytimes – the rhyming text provides a nice cadence for readers to listen to – and for introductions to habitats for younger readers. Kirkus captures the spirit of the narration by referring to it as a “sense of wonder” book.

Pair this with some of Jane Yolen’s  more nature-oriented books, like On Bird Hill or Owl Moon for an author study, or display with books like Denise Fleming’s In the Small, Small Pond and Henry Cole’s I Took a Walk.

Posted in Early Reader, Non-Fiction, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Cultivate your little scientist with Baby University’s books

Baby University, from Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, are a cute series of board books that break down principles of science for little ones. Written by quantum theorist and dad Chris Ferrie,  the first four books: Newtonian Physics for Babies, General Relativity for Babies, Rocket Science for Babies, and Quantum Physics for Babies all use the example of a child’s toy – a ball – to explain science to the littlest scientists in training. The covers are adorable, incorporating pacifiers into the scientific art.

newtonian

Newtonian Physics for Babies (May 2017, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, $9.99, ISBN: 9781492656203) introduces babies to a bouncy ball, explaining in short, bolded sentences how gravity affects the ball, which leads to an exploration of mass, acceleration, and force. Being Newtonian Physics, we also see the apple, and gravity’s effect on the apple and Sir Isaac Newton. The ending proudly exclaims that the reader is understands Newtonian physics.

relativity

General Relativity for Babies (May 2017, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, $9.99, ISBN: 9781492656265) uses the ball to explore mass, black holes, and gravitational waves. Babies are pronounced experts in general relativity at the end.

rocket-science

Rocket Science for Babies (May 2017, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, $9.99, ISBN: 9781492656258) looks at the ball, but changes the ball’s shape to a wing to explain air movement, lift, and thrust. From there, we learn how to put wings on a rocket to make it move, and how a rocket requires an explosion to propel it forward. Readers are affirmed rocket scientists at the book’s end.

quantum

Quantum Physics for Babies (May 2017, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, $9.99, ISBN: 9781492656227) demonstrates energy and atoms – starring the neutrons, protons, and electrons – by using the ball. Readers learn about movement within the atom, and are bestowed with the quantum phycisist title at the end.

The books are simple and fun, with clean, computer-generated art and simple explanatory text. Are my toddlers at storytime going to get this? No, but it’s not going to stop me from handing out small rubber balls to parents to let the kids play with and get a feel for as I read the books. It’s exploring scientific topics early, introducing babies to the words and letting them become household names, words that maybe won’t frighten them when they get older, if they grow up hearing them. I’d read these with preschoolers, too, when they can grasp ideas a bit more.

I love STEM, and I love helping young children fall in love with science, especially the sciences (and their accompanying mathematics) that scared me away when I was a kid. These are fun, bright books to get in front of babies, toddlers, and preschoolers now, if just to introduce exciting new words to their vocabularies. At least, your little one learns that Sir Isaac Newton was beaned on the head by an apple. At most, you get a Nobel Prize winner who thanks you in his or her speech.

Posted in Non-Fiction

Celebrate Earth Day! Books about our big, blue dot.

Families on Foot: Urban Hikes to Backyard Treks and National Park Adventures, by Jennifer Pharr Davis & Brew Davis, (March 2017, Falcon Guides), $17.95, ISBN: 978-1-4930-2671-5

I’ve been waiting to talk this one up! Published in partnership with the American Hiking Society, this is the book you want if you want to start – or already are a fan of – hiking and taking nature walks with your family. You’ll find tips and information on hiking etiquette, packing, safety, urgent matters like diaper blowouts, using technology like smartphone apps and GPS, activities to keep all ages engaged, and 9 tasty trail mix recipes that are nature-friendly. There’s information on hiking with special needs children and seniors; comprehensive online resources, and a state-by-state directory of family-friendly trails. Full color photos and first-hand stories from the trail will have you packing a bag and getting ready to hit the road.

 

Ranger Rick’s Travels: National Parks!, by Stacy Tornio & Ken Keffer,
(Aug. 2016, Muddy Boots), $14.95, ISBN: 9781630762308

Now that you’re ready to hit the trail, Ranger Rick’s Travels: National Parks will tell you where to go! Ranger Rick and his friend Deputy Scarlett take readers on a scenic tour of America’s 58 national parks, which profiles including stunning photos and facts, top nature picks on plants and animals to look for, and a bucket list for each park.

 

Change the World Before Bedtime, a collaboration by Mark Kimball Moulton, Josh Chalmers, and Karen Good (Schiffer Publishing, 2012). $16.99, ISBN: 978-0764342387

I tend to think of Change the World Before Bedtime as an accompanying read to 10 Things I Can Do To Help My World, by Melanie Walsh. The story tells kids that anyone, big or small, can do things to bring about positive change. Over the course of one day, a group of children make positive decisions and take action to brighten the world around them, tying on their “hero capes” and eating a healthy breakfast, spending the day doing random good deeds, like picking up litter, visiting a sick friends or family, donating clothing, toys, and food to the needy, and keeping a positive mindset.

 

The Earth Book, by Todd Parr, (March 2010, Hachette), $11.99, ISBN: 9780316042659

Who does social justice better than Todd Parr? The Earth Book – printed with recycled material and nontoxic ink – empowers kids to work together to make the Earth feel good, from planting a tree to reducing, reusing, and recycling. The Earth Book is great for toddlers and preschoolers, who may otherwise feel left out of the action.

 

These Bees Count!, by Alison Ashley Formento/Illustrated by Sarah Snow,
(March 2012, Albert Whitman), $16.99, ISBN: 9780807578681

I love this book and its companions, These Seas Count!, These Rocks Count!, and This Tree Counts! In These Bees Count, kids learn the importance of bees to our society by helping pollinate flowers and producing honey. There’s a counting aspect to the books, too, making it accessible to preschoolers and possibly younger; introduce the counting concepts and talk about the good things bees do.

 

Compost Stew: An A to Z Recipe for the Earth, by Mary McKenna Siddals/Illustrated by Ashley Wolff,
(March 2010, Tricycle Press), $15.99, ISBN: 9781582463162

What’s composting? Glad you asked! This A -to-Z explains composting, how to make a compost pile: what to throw in? what to keep out?, and how composting helps keep gardens growing healthy and happy. It’s great for toddlers and preschoolers who can learn their ABCs through gardening, after they practice their 123s with the bees (above)!

Gabby and Grandma Go Green, by Monica Wellington,
(March 2011, Dutton), $10.99 via Kindle, ASIN: B01F2IJRXA

If you can buy this through a third-party seller or see it in a bookstore, it’s worth it to make the purchase. I really hope this one comes back into print, because I love this story. It’s a good intergenerational story, with young Gabby and her Grandma going green by sewing their own cloth bags, buying veggies at the Farmer’s Market, and recycling their bottles. I love this book and use my battered old copy during my Earth Day storytimes.

These are just a few great Earth Day titles. For today, go out and enjoy the planet! Tomorrow, go to your library or bookstore and check a few out for yourself and your family.

Posted in Early Reader, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction, Preschool Reads

Welcome #NationalPoetryMonth with Animal Ark

Animal Ark, created by photographer Joel Sartore/text by Kwame Alexander, (Feb. 2017, National Geographic), $15.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-2767-4

Recommended for ages 3+

Newbery Award winning author Kwame Alexander lends his voice to award-winning National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore’s beautiful book of wild animals. Animal Ark is inspired by the National Geographic Photo Ark: a project between Sartore and the National Geographic Society to document every species in captivity, with the goal of raising awareness and protecting these animals for future generations.

Kwame Alexander writes amazing verse. If you’ve read The Crossover or Booked, you know this. His Animal Ark verse is at once playful and a call to action; paired with Sartore’s visually stunning photos, they pack a powerful punch to the psyche. A full-page photo of a wolf’s face in profile proclaims, “Howl like you mean it… the world is listening”; brightly colored beetles stand out against a black background, reading “Color me ancient and sacred”. The words placement is also playful, winding across the page and around the animals, to create a full visual experience for the reader. Several gatefolds throughout the book surprise the reader with a “chorus of creatures”, collages of photos. Here, the text reminds us of what we have and not to squander our gifts: “There are too few remaining/in the rain forest/in the big blue sea/in the whole wide world/because of you and me”.

Joel Sartore has photographed more than 6,000 species for the PhotoArk project, more than 100 of which are featured in Animal Ark. A companion adult book, National Geographic The Photo Ark: One Man’s Quest to Document the World’s Animals (March 2017) includes more photographs and a foreword by Harrison Ford.

This is a perfect book to read and display for National Poetry Month (starting April 28), and for Earth Day (April 22nd). It’s a beautiful photo book with lovely verse that will draw readers in. Animal Ark received a starred review from School Library Journal and the companion adult book received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly.

Have a look at the blooper reel – photographing animals isn’t always easy!

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Preschool Reads

Do Fairies Bring the Spring? Let’s find out!

Do Fairies Bring the Spring?, by Liza Gardner Walsh/Illustrated by Hazel Mitchell, (Feb. 2017, Down East Books), $16.95, ISBN: 978-1-60893-633-5

Recommended for readers 3-7

Do fairies bring the spring? This adorable picture book poses the question while infusing nature with a little bit of magic, as Liza Gardner Walsh’s rhyming text suggests that fairies are behind the scenes, working to bring spring to the world. Suggestions for attracting fairies to your own gardens in the spring, at the end of the book, encourage you to dig into nature with your little ones and take care of your little corner of the world.

Hazel Mitchell’s illustrations of diverse, adorable little fairies and their woodland friends infuse this Spring story with all the charm and wonder that makes a preschool/Kindergartner story a success.

Invite some magic into your life this spring with this sweet springtime story! Little ones will love the soothing rhyme and the adorable pictures. Encourage parents to get outside with their little ones and enjoy nature while respecting it –  no littering, please! This is a great story to read and follow up with a planting activity, whether it’s going out in the yard with your little one, or planting some seeds in recyclable egg cartons and bringing them home to start a container garden. Hand out fairy coloring sheets, or print small fairy pictures out on card stock, let the kids color them in, and mount them on popsicle sticks to give your new  plants extra fairy protection!

Liza Gardner Walsh is a former librarian (whoo hoo!) and has a companion book, Where Do Fairies Go When It Snows? (2015). Her website, Moss & Grove, encourages parents and kids to get outside and embrace nature. See more of illustrator Hazel Mitchell’s work at her website.

Posted in Early Reader, Non-Fiction, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Adorable animal books for toddlers and preschoolers!

Anita Bijsterbosch has two adorable animal books out this month and next, perfect for toddlers who love to explore their books.

do-you-see-my-tailDo You See My Tail? (March 2017, Clavis Books, $12.95, ISBN: 978-1605373201) introduces readers to seven animals – well, seven animal tails; the rest of the animals are hidden behind local flora. The text drops a hint, and a gatefold reveals the full answer: an animal family! The repetitive question/answer format, and greeting to the animals and their babies, creates a fun discovery experience for little hands. An extra challenge: find the little ladybug hiding on every spread.

Preschoolers will like being able to control finding out more about the animals and learning about animal habitats: beavers play in a nest of tree trunks and branches, rabbits in a hole under the ground. Toddlers will love the excitement of discovery and the very cute artwork.

Whewhen-i-grow-upn I Grow Up (April 2017, Clavis Books, $14.95, ISBN: 978-1605373348) features six young animals who dream about what they’ll be able to do once they grow up: a little lion who can only growl softly now will be a big lion whose roar will be heard by all the animals; a little giraffe whose nose barely touches the leaves in a tree will one day be able to reach everything with his long neck. Die cut pages let readers flip the page to reveal the adult animal in the young animal’s place within the same setting.

As with Do You See My Tail?, When I Grow Up offers toddlers the excitement of discovery, with something new on every page. The pages are sturdy and will hold up to multiple page flips (always a concern in my library). Preschoolers can focus on habitats, food, and other animals sharing the living spaces.

Originally published in 2016 in Belgium and Holland, these are fun new choices to bookshelves and collections.