Mom Read It

If the kids are reading it, chances are I have, too.

Wild Animals of the South – beautiful animals, beautiful artwork March 1, 2017

wild_1Wild Animals of the South, by Dieter Braun/Translated by Jen Calleja, (March 2017, Nobrow), $35, ISBN: 9781909263970

Recommended for ages 5+

This gorgeous companion to Braun’s Wild Animals of the North (Nobrow, 2016) introduces readers to animals in the Southern hemisphere. Organized by continent: South America, Africa, Asia, Australia, and Antarctica, readers will enjoy the beautiful, colorful illustrations. The emphasis here is on the illustrations, making this a great starter book for younger children; caregivers can read the short passages on featured animals, which offer fun facts. For example, while most know that a male lion’s mane is his crowning glory, did you know that female lions prefer males with more beautiful and lustrous manes? And that other males will hold back when a male with a more impressive mane appears?

The art is stunning. Braun’s illustrations are geometric, with strong lines and rich colors. There is a wry sense of humor in some – the lion’s lush mane, for instance – while others, like the breaching humpback whale, are breathtaking. A waddle of penguins, under a snowy sky, stand in the stark shadow of glaciers. Braun captures habitats with the same beauty the he sees in the animals themselves.

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The $35 price tag may be a bit steep for some readers, especially those who are looking for more information than artwork (but that’s what libraries are for!), but this book is gorgeous for wildlife lovers and art lovers. For more of Dieter Braun’s illustrations, make sure to visit his website.

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Black History Month: Shackles from the Deep, by Michael Cottman February 10, 2017

shackles-from-the-deepShackles from the Deep: Tracing the Path of a Sunken Slave Ship, a Bitter Past, and a Rich Legacy, by Michael Cottman, (Jan. 2017, National Geographic Society), $17.99, ISBN: 9781426326639

Recommended for ages 10-13

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Michael Cottman investigates the wreck of a 17-century slave ship, the Henrietta Marie, and goes on a journey that will take him from the Caribbean islands, where the Henrietta Marie docked to unload hundreds of kidnapped Africans to be sold into slavery, to Africa, to see Goree Island – location of the Maison des Esclaves; House of the Slaves, and the Door of No Return; the last glimpse enslaved Africans would have of their homeland – with his own eyes.

Cottman’s journey is as personal as it is professional. He struggles with anger at the slavers themselves, and with the manufacturers of the shackles, discovered by African-American diver Captain Demostenes “Moe” Molinar, in 1972. Cottman discovers that many of the men behind the Henrietta Marie were members of their parishes, even philanthropists in their own communities, and yet turned a blind eye to the suffering of countless men, women, and children caught up in the slave trade. He wonders if the spouses and children of these men knew that their comfortable lifestyle came at the expense of human misery, and he agonizes as he tries to understand, and forgive.

Adapted for younger readers from Michael Cottman’s 1999 book, The Wreck of the Henrietta Marie, Shackles from the Deep introduces readers to the aftereffects of slavery, centuries later. Entire families have been lost to history; people feel unrooted, to some degree, to this day. Imagine wondering your ancestors endured the brutal conditions of slavery, and never being able to find out the answer? By personalizing his story, Michael Cottman makes this already important book vital reading for middle school students and above.

We are still dealing with the fallout from centuries of slavery. It is personal, and by adding his story to the story of the Henrietta Marie, Michael Cottman invites readers to look at events that may seem so long past through different eyes. What we also get, unexpectedly, is a call to action for young divers of color to continue exploring the waters of our planet to learn more about our collective past, and our future.

An important book for libraries and nonfiction collections, Shackles from the Deep has received a starred review from Booklist. There are four pages of full-color photos; an index, and further resources on deep-water exploration, shipwrecks, and slave ships.

The West Virginia Division of Culture and History has a comprehensive booklet on the Henrietta Marie, from their 2000 expedition at the West Virginia State Museum. It would be an excellent companion to any social studies unit on slavery and an accompaniment to Shackles From the Deep.

 

Time For Kids Presidents is a good desk reference for middle graders January 30, 2017

tfkpresidentsTime for Kids: Presidents of the United States, by Editors at Time for Kids, (Jan. 2017, Time for Kids), $15.95, ISBN: 978-1683300007

Recommended for ages 8-12

Time for Kids’ Presidents of the United States is a slim, backpack and desk-friendly reference guide for middle graders. Loaded with color photos and illustrations, there are facts about the Presidency, branches of government, political parties and why we have them, a spotlight on the First Ladies, and more. Each President receives a brief biography, fast facts, including birth and death dates, political party, Vice President, wife, children, key dates during his administration, and a Did You Know? fact. A 2016 election spotlight and President portrait gallery completes the volume, along with links to the White House website, Presidential homesteads and museums. The volume includes an index.

This is a helpful resource for middle graders – it will help with social studies and current events homework, and provides a quick, easy reading experience by chunking information into readable bites. A good buy for classroom libraries and social studies collections.

 

 

Blog Tour: Twisted True Tales from Science! January 2, 2017

Happy New Year! What better way to kick things off than by talking up a new, cool nonfiction science series?

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Series information:

Title: Twisted True Tales from Science

Author: Stephanie Bearce

Release Date: February 1, 2017

Publisher: Prufrock Press

Did you know that Nikola Tesla invented a death ray gun and was also afraid of women who wore jewelry? How about the Chinese scientists from two-thousand years ago who were trying to create a medicine that would make them live forever but accidentally blew up their lab and discovered gun powder?

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Find out more about the strange history of science in Twisted True Tales from Science, a new non-fiction series that introduces kids to some of the most twisted yet completely true stories from science. These books are perfect for the gross-but-true legends of the Ripley’s Believe-It-Or-Not! stories.

Freaky Facts from Explosive Experiments

Gunpowder was a chemical explosive discovered by the ancient Chinese. But they weren’t experimenting to invent a weapon. They were actually trying to make a medicine that would give their emperor eternal life. Boy – were they surprised when the elixir for life exploded and blew up their laboratory.

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The mission was code named Starfish Prime and it was one of the largest man-made explosions in the history of the world. In 1962 the United States tested a nuclear bomb in outer space. The explosion was so bright that it lit up the sky over Honolulu just like it was the fourth of July. But instead of fireworks, it was a nuclear bomb 100 times bigger than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

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GIVEAWAY for one bundle of the entire Twisted True Tales from Science series (4 books)

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Women in the Old West: Frontier Grit October 18, 2016

frontier-gritFrontier Grit, by Marianne Monson, (Sept. 2016, Shadow Mountain), $19.99, ISBN: 9781629722276

Recommended for ages 12+

Monson profiles 12 pioneer women who lived life on the frontier as America expanded into the West. From a freed slave who watched her husband and children sold in front of her to a woman who rescued Chinese girls from human trafficking, every woman profiled in this book withstood hardships, overcame obstacles, and thumbed their noses at nay-sayers to change the world. There are entrepreneurs, doctors, politicans, and activists, all here to inform and inspire a new generation.

Frontier Grit gives us a new batch of women in history that many of us would otherwise never have heard of; while the research is well done and comprehensive, the writing is simplified, more for a middle school audience than the 18+ age group suggested by the publisher. An author summary at end of each profile relates what each woman personally means to the author, detracting from the scholarship of the overall book and relegating it to the territory of history report. Each woman’s impact could more effectively be communicated by making it less personal, more definitive; the lasting impact of each woman on all women.

Each profile includes photos (or drawings, where applicable), notes and sources. A reasonable purchase if you need additional women’s biographies, particularly as they relate to the American frontier or women’s suffrage.

 

Science Comics explores Volcanoes September 30, 2016

volcanoesScience Comics: Volcanoes-Fire and Life, by Jon Chad, (Oct. 2016, First Second), $12.99, ISBN: 9781626723603

Recommended for ages 8-12

Earlier this year, we got a look at First Second’s two Science Comics, Coral Reefs and Dinosaurs. There’s great science and fun art wrapped up in each of these comics, so I was super-psyched when I met a First Second rep at the PLA Conference this year, and she told me that there were more Science Comics coming. True to her word, we’re getting Volcanoes in just a couple of weeks.

Similar to Coral Reefs, Volcanoes wraps information about volcanic activity into a story: there’s been some sort of environmental cataclysm, and Earth is freezing. A tribe is scanning books when Aurora, one of the kids, discovers a book about volcanoes; she is HOOKED. She’s saved her tribe! The power to warm the planet is right underneath their feet!

From there, Aurora becomes the reader’s guide through a look into the activity bubbling under the earth’s crust: there are magma vents, shifting tectonic plates, and volcanic eruptions. Volcanoes create just as much as they destroy: there are entire land masses that owe their existence to a volcanic eruption, just as there are entire cities that have been wiped out by them.

 

What Dog Knows September 22, 2016

what-dog-knowsWhat Dog Knows, by Sylvia Vanden Heede, (Sept. 2016, Gecko Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781776570362

Recommended for ages 7-10

Wolf is tired of his cousin, Dog, always knowing more than he does, so he checks a book out of the library (never mind that he can’t read), and tries to outsmart Dog with his new knowledge about mummies, knights, and dinosaurs.

Mixing facts into the fictional tale of the Dog and Wolf, this seems like it’s geared toward younger readers, but then throws in the process of mummification, and a plotline where Wolf intends to mummify Cat, his antagonist, and suddenly, things take a little bit of a weird turn. This wasn’t really my book, and I don’t see the kids in my library really catching on with this one because it’s a bit disjointed and quirky. The art is very sweet, and I did love that Cat struck fear into Wolf’s heart, but overall, it didn’t work for either age group (4-7 vs 8-12) for me.

This is the second Dog and Wolf book from Gecko. Wolf and Dog was published in 2013.