Monday, June 19, 2017

Nonfiction Monday

In this new installment in the Animal Planet Chapter Book series: BUGS!, James Buckley, Jr. leads young readers on an exploration of the world of bugs.

The opening page entitled BUG BITE offers a close up of a dragonfly with its various body parts neatly labeled as an introduction to Chapter 1: What makes an insect and insect?

The eleven chapters shift focus between general knowledge and the examination of specific types of insects. Insect Life Cycles, What’s for Dinner, Moving Around, and Insect Senses provide overviews of the topic with highlighted examples of termites, grasshoppers, water striders, katydids, and so on.

Additional chapters concentrate on some of the most familiar – butterflies and moths, interesting – ants and bees, abundant – beetles (350,000 known species), unusual – praying mantises and walking sticks, beautiful – dragonflies, and annoying – mosquitoes and flies.

FACT FILES, discuss where various insects live, lead readers through the process of metamorphosis, highlight the brief life of Mayflies, compare survival tools, detail insect locomotion, and explore possible reasons that moths are attracted to light.  Colored text boxes define terms, and offer extra details.

A fun look at the amazing diversity of insect life that will capture the imagination and encourage young scientists at home or in school.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Picture Book Friday

Lola Gets A Cat, by Anna McQuinn with illustrations by Rosalind Beardshaw, is a new addition to the delightful Lola series. 

Lola has been content with cat pictures and stuffed animals, but now she wants a real live cat to love. But, of course, there are obstacles to overcome. In this case, its Mommy who reminds Lola that a real cat is much more responsibility than the stuffed variety. Knowing Lola, she is up for the challenge. She begins by reading up on cat care, then she puts what she’s learned into use by charting the steps and practicing on one of her stuffed animals. Sure enough, her diligence wins over her mom. And best of all, when it’s time to get that pet, Lola adopts her cat from a shelter.

McQuinn’s and Beardshaw’s experience with their own cats are clearly in evidence. The simple language and straight forward writing style makes the story accessible and readers will enjoy following Lola’s progress – from learning how to persuade mom to successfully introducing the new cat into the family. The colorful illustrations and uncluttered pages are a lovely counterpoint to the appealing story.

Youngsters will enjoy the story and discover plenty of helpful tips for their own journey to bringing a cat into their family. I applaud the subtle message about the value of acquiring a new pet through adoption at a shelter.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Picture Book Friday

Squash Boom Beet by Lisa Maxbauer Price is a thoroughly delightful ABC book that offers a glimpse into the edible garden with a special focus on adventurous eating.

This clever alphabet book is written in a simple rhyming format that makes it a entertaining read-aloud as it leads readers on a march
from –
asparagus, “long and thin like warriors’ spears” and beets, “with juice like ink”
to –
Yukon Gold Potatoes that “glow so bright. Even their blossoms are a radiant sight.” And zucchini cupcakes, “you can eat for dessert.”

Along the way, children are introduce to an array of vegetables with unusual names and appearances – Dinosaur Kale, Dragon Tongue Beans, Easter Egg Radishes,  Lemon Cucumbers, Kohlrabi, Oyster Mushrooms, Rainbow Carrots, and Goosebump Pumpkins.

Vibrant color photographs highlight farm foods with portrait style close-ups. Small snapshots of additional alphabet items are tucked into the pages.

A final page titled Farm Field Notes encourages children to add photos, lists, or drawings of their fun food discoveries.

Squash Boom Beet in an innovative ABC book and that invites readers to explore the idea of gardening while providing an opportunity for conversations about healthy eating. And most important of all, the book is fun!

A lovely addition to home and school libraries.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Writers Wednesday

Writing takes many forms and today’s interview explores the world of the documentary film in this interview with the multi-talent filmmaker Joyce Marie Fitzpatrick

She numbers among her credits, work for ABC, NBC, CW/UPN, BET, E! Entertainment, PBS and the Discovery Channel. Her documentaries include the award-winning Sunshine, Noodles and Me a heart-warming Cancer documentary and “Discovering Mary about Mary Fields, the first black woman in the old West who drove through the Montana trails to deliver the mail for the U.S. Postal Service.

Joyce shares an inside look at her life as a documentary filmmaker and gives us a sneak peek at her newest project – THE COLOR OF MEDICINE: THE STORY OF HOMER G. PHILLIPS HOSPITAL, A Film by Joyce Marie Fitzpatrick and Brian Shackelford.

When did you first realize you wanted to be involved in film making?
I knew at a very early age (around 7 years old) that I wanted to be involved in filmmaking. I didn’t know a lot about how to make movies or TV, I just knew that I enjoyed watching them. Growing up in Indianapolis, Indiana, there were only 3 network channels and 2 independent channels, so there weren’t many options. We had one local channel that showed movies starting at 8 am, "The Early Morning Movie," "The Mid-Morning Movie," “The Early Afternoon Movie", etc. You get the picture. This went on all day until television signed off around 3 am. So, I could literally watch TV all day!

This allowed me to see classic Hitchcock, Cecil B. Demille movies, musicals, exploitation films of the 70’s, romantic comedies, westerns, and mysteries. I also loved watching our hometown’s ridiculous local horror show that came on every Friday night called, “Sammy Terry’s Nightmare Theater. I learned a lot of useless trivia that is stuck in my head, even today about film and television. It was a wonderful time to be a kid.

What made the final decision for me to be involved with film and TV was watching the 1970’s show, “The Brady Bunch.” One afternoon I asked my mother, "Why don't I see shows like this with black families?" She didn’t really have an answer for me, and that’s when I made up my mind to tell stories of black lives that pretty much mirrored everything I saw on television and in film.

How does your career as a filmmaker influence other areas of your life and vice versa?
As a filmmaker and a story teller, film has influenced my life by allowing me to go places that I thought I never would like Malaysia or Montana, and to meet people of different cultures and backgrounds, and it also teaches me to be a better person. Co-directing and writing the documentary about Breast Cancer called, "Sunshine, Noodles and Me" starring Cheryl Ash-Simpson, introduced me to the story of a woman who found out 3 days before she was to wed that she had breast cancer and that she had to adjust dealing with her treatment while living in Malaysia, where her husband landed a new job. It really opened my eyes to the disease and also to life in Malaysia, Tokyo, and Hong Kong. I learned a lot about Cancer, and when I was diagnosed myself, one year later while doing the film, that knowledge helped me cope with my journey and gave me courage to film my own experience for my new documentary – “Cancer is Just Another Word That Begins with the Letter C,” which I co-directed and wrote with my partner, Brian Shackelford. We are in post-production right now on that film. It covers a completely difference aspect of the disease from a health and wellness aspect. Being a filmmaker can take you on many paths that you might not explore on your own.

You’ve done a number of successful documentaries. What drew you to that particular type of work?
I started my career as a music video director. As I gained more experience it took me in a few different directions. I started doing promos for the PBS affiliate in Los Angeles, then I started producing independent short films and writing scripts. I was somewhat a “Jack of all Trades”! Then I joined cable network television as a producer and although my jobs were rewarding financially, they weren't rewarding emotionally or intellectually. I love to research subjects and people, and I love to read, so when I would see interesting stories about historic places or people, I delved deeper into their stories out of curiosity to learn more about them.

That’s how I ran across the story of "Black Mary" or "Stagecoach Mary,” as most people know her. I read an article about her in an old EBONY magazine that I found at a thrift store, and it intrigued me so much, that I became obsessed with learning more about her. My interest led to many months in the public library, online, and reading numerous books. I talked about her so much, that one day a good friend of mine, told me that I needed to go to Montana to learn more about this woman, because everyone who lived in Cascade Montana where she was from, basically worshiped this woman. The friend that told me about her, went to great Falls, Montana every year and told me that was where she learned about Mary Fields herself.

So, I decided to go to Montana, and that's when I made the documentary, "Discovering Mary." I met the ONLY living witness who actually met her and he was 94 at the time. I am the only person who, to this day, had the last interview with this man who has probably passed on now He was born in Cascade, Montana, and his father was the 2nd Mayor of the town of Cascade at the time when they still called bars “Saloons” which Mary was allowed to enter as the only woman and the only black person in town to do so. This part of Mary’s history was shown in an episode of AMC’s “Hell on Wheels” where they combined two stories about her life. One where she actually knocked out a man for not paying a bill of $2.50 cents for laundry that she did for him when she owned her Launderette in Cascade, and the story of her being the only female who was allowed in a saloon in Cascade. It was exciting to see her story told on a hit cable show.

What led you to do your current subject of the Homer G. Phillips Hospital?
I have to credit Facebook for connecting me to so many people from my past, and that is how I became connected to this powerful story about Homer G. Phillips hospital. A woman reached out to me via Facebook and told me she knew me from my childhood and it turned out that I actually used to babysit this woman. I was a young child of 12 and she was around 4 or 5 years old. When we re-connected it was strange because it was the first time I had ever heard her using full sentences. It’s was a lot to absorb at first, but now we talk all of the time and I think of her as a little sister. Her name is Rebecca Robinson-Williams and her family, and my family were next door neighbors. Her father, Dr. Earle U. Robinson Jr., was a friend of my parents and also our family physician. When I spoke to Dr. Robinson, I found out that his father, who I also met as a child, had an amazing legacy in American history!

His father was one of the first 28 interns to work at one of the United States premier hospitals, Homer G. Phillips in St. Louis Missouri. This hospital existed because a political activist attorney named Homer G. Phillips lobbied to acquire $3 million dollars of an $87 million-dollar bond to build a state-of-the-art hospital that would provide adequate medical facilities and service the under-served black community called, “The Ville.”

What is so intriguing about this story is the attorney Homer G. Phillips was murdered before the hospital was completed, which is an amazing story unto itself, but makes telling this story so important. Homer G. Phillips never saw this hospital open, but because of his work, blacks in the community received the medical help that they needed and by medical professionals that looked like them!  The hospital was built and opened in 1937, staying open through desegregation until 1979, when it was closed despite protests by the community. The hospital has since been remodeled and used as a living facility for seniors in St. Louis. Homer G. Philips should never be forgotten for what he did for the city of St. Louis Missouri’s black population.

What would you like the audience to take from the Homer G. Phillips Hospital film?
I want the audience to watch our documentary and see the accomplishments and disappointments and challenges that running a black hospital went through during the turbulent times in our American history of racism, segregation, desegregation and how even now, Missouri is still a hot-bed of controversy. Look at the situation in Ferguson. This hospital has been featured in numerous publications and was featured in the book, “The Warmth of Other Suns” by Isabel Wilkerson which won her a Pulitzer Prize and I believe is being turned into a television mini-series. This film has a rich history and there are numerous doctors and nurses who worked at Homer G. Phillips who have migrated all over the United States and their children and grandchildren need to see this story to know what their ancestors have given to American History and to Black History. This story is truly another “Hidden Figures.”

What are your current/future projects?
I have several current projects in development right now. Some for television and some for the theater. As I stated, my Cancer documentary is in post-production. I am also working on several narrative films and scripted dock-series for cable. I am very busy and sometimes don’t know how I can juggle it all, but I do.

How do you go about researching the subjects of your films?
I research my projects by internet, books, actual witnesses’ accounts of subjects, historical events, etc. If it peaks my interest and I find myself just exploring it on my free time, then I know that I should look into it further, and that’s when I pursue turning my discoveries into something viable. Also, as I stated before, social media has been great for finding projects as well. People find me on social media and pitch me ideas. Some good, some bad, but they pitch me all the same.

What challenges did you face in getting this film made?
The film is currently in production and the biggest challenge we’ve faced is finding physicians, nurses, and personnel who are still available to tell us more about this historic hospital. It’s been a great experience putting the word out about the hospital, but it’s been a daunting task gathering the information as it is with most documentaries. We are doing our best and we will keep at it to complete the film.

Finishing funds have also been a challenge as it is with most films, and we are currently hosting an Indiegogo Crowd Source Funding campaign to garner funds to help complete this film. As the executive producer, I have been funding it myself along with Dr. Robinson and his’ family and friends and my other producing and directing team. This is an expensive project, but we’ve been doing our best, and we really need help to finish it. It will be such a powerful and informative film that needs to be shared with the public, and I hope people will look into their hearts and pocket books and see that this story needs to be made and shared. Those who see this film will realize how important it has been in helping to shape our current and future medical professionals’ careers, and show that their opportunities have possibly grown and we hope have been enriched by standing on the shoulders of these pioneers!

Are there certain themes or ideas you prefer?
I do love unique and different stories. I’m not into romantic movies or war movies. I love mysteries, comedies, sci-fi, westerns, and horror! I’ve created several projects under those themes. Those are my favorite genres.

Who’s been the greatest influence on your career?
Wow!  That’s hard to say…I’ve been influenced by many in the arts, but I will have to say that James Cameron is someone who I truly admire. I first fell in love with his work on ‘The Terminator” because when I saw that movie in the theater, it made me go out and buy my first CJ7 jeep in 1985, while I was in college! I’ve also liked other films that he’s done, but that is my favorite.

I admire several writers, but the one writer who stands out for me is Leslie Dixon, I LOVE her work! It’s so diverse and she can go from campy like “Outrageous Fortune” to quirky love story like “Overboard” to sci-fi like “Limitless.” She’s amazing to me. But I also love classic story telling like “To Kill a Mockingbird” and one of my all-time favorites movies is “Arsenic and Old Lace” starring Cary Grant! I can go on and on with the films that have influenced me throughout my life.

What's one piece of advice you'd like to pass on to my readers who aspire to a career in the film industry?
Learn the craft of storytelling. Story is the most important element of filmmaking. If the story is boring, slow or just not worthwhile, then no matter how much money you throw at it, you won’t save it. Also learn by action not theory. I’ve met so many people who watch others and think they can just go do it. But I’ve learned by experience good and bad. You have to fail to do better, there is just no other way. So go out and fail and you’ll be successful!!!

Anything else you'd like readers to know?
Please check out our Indiegogo campaign at this link: or click HERE.

If you enjoy the trailer, please donate $5, the cost of a cup of coffee, or at least share it on your social media. Maybe someone will find it interesting and will either share it or donate to it as well. Also if any of your readers want to check out my work go to my website at: or click HERE.  or look me up on For IMDB, click HERE.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Nonfiction Monday

Explore Atoms and Molecules! With 25 Great Projects by Janet Slingerland with illustrations by Matt Aucoin enables readers ages 7 - 10  to take a first look at the building blocks of matter.

The book opens with a timeline that traces the history of the atom from the ancient Greeks of 500 BCE to the addition of four new elements added to the periodic table in 2016.  An introduction explains the relation between atoms, molecules and matter. Six chapters follow covering atomic arrangement, elements, electrons, how atoms bond to create materials, compounds vs. mixtures, states of matter, and chemical reactions.

Each chapter is thoughtfully organized and concludes with a collection of hands-on projects. Reader-friendly pull-outs: Words to Know, Investigate, Consider and Discuss, and Did You Know are paired with colorful cartoon-style illustrations and visually appealing diagrams.

Consider this book for home and school library collections.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Picture Book Friday

It’s never too soon to start your child’s library.

Here are two new board books – Baby Animals Take A Bath and Baby Animals Take A Nap, both by Marsha Diane Arnold – to add to the bookshelf.

Each ten-page book is filled with charming pictures by Phyllis Tildes.  The illustrations feature an assortment of animals in various settings paired with descriptive two word captions set in large type.

The “bath” book highlights a polar bear rolling in the snow, a hippo wallowing in the mud, a bird having a splash in a puddle, a zebra enjoying a dust bath and others, 
culminating in a baby in a bubble bath.

The “nap” book includes an imaginative mix of penguins, dolphins, bats, koalas, sloths, monkeys, foxes, and otters, ending with a human infant snuggling on daddy’s lap.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Picture Book Friday

The Seashore Book by Charlotte Zolotow with illustrations by Wendell Minor has been redesigned for its 25th Anniversary and the results are splendid in this celebration of a children’s classic.

This gentle story begins with a young boy’s question. “What is the seashore like?” In response, his mother suggests they pretend to leave their mountain home and make a visit. Beginning in the early morning, as the misty sky grades from gray to pale purple to hazy blue, we follow mother and son as they build sand castles, delight in finding a white gull’s feather, sleep to the rising and falling song of waves, watch sand crabs squaggling at their toes, and finally make their way home as a glowing orange sun dips into the sea.

Zolotow creates a beautiful word picture that leads the child, and in turn the reader, through an extraordinary experience that delights the senses with lyrical language – “cold water makes your skin feel like peppermint.”; “The swish-swashing sound of [waves]”; “the lighthouse is flashing golden gleam on, golden gleam gone.”

Minor’s richly colored artwork is spare and precise, drawing attention to the heart of the text.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Nonfiction Monday

What is the fascination with sharks?

Curious readers will find plenty of answers in Animal Planet’s chapter book SHARKS! which takes a look at sharks, from the petite 8-inch Dwarf Lanternshark to the enormous 45-foot Whale Shark.

The author, Lori Stein, dives into the subject beginning with a look at shared shark characteristics and basic differences. Included in the eleven chapters are a wide range of topics: senses, feeding habits, hunting strategies, and social interactions as well as in-depth looks at Great Whites and Hammerheads, discussions of shark bites, and the importance of sharks to the ocean ecosystem.

An abundance of photographs enrich the text and provide visual interest. Inserts titled IN YOUR NEWS FEED supply thumbnail discussions ranging from the study of cancer in Dogfish sharks, to the ongoing tracking of a Great White Shark named Mary Lee. Double-page FACT FILES, highlight extraordinary details such as the cave off the coast of Mexico where sharks can sleep, the epic 12,400-mile migration of a Great White Shark named Nicole, and the spectacular breaching of sharks as they hunt seals off the coast of South Africa. Colored text boxes define terms, and offer extra details.

A fun resource for home or school.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Picture Book Friday

I’m The Happiest by Anna Shuttlewood takes a gentle look at a group of animal friends who find themselves at odds when they begin competing with each other.

There’s no denying the obvious when Giraffe claims to be the tallest, but it doesn’t stop Hedgehog, Pig, Frog, Sheep, Leopard, and a host of others from experiencing a twinge of jealousy. Only Raccoon is happy for Giraffe. 

Soon each one is laying claim to a favorite quality: spikiest, prettiest, greenest, curliest, spottiest, and so on. But Raccoon continues to celebrate the unique qualities of his friends with the happiest of all dances and before long all his friends are setting their competition aside and joining in the celebration.

The bright watercolor illustrations are playful, never crowding the child-friendly text.

An entertaining story to read aloud.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Nonfiction Monday

The Age of Dinosaurs lasted about 186 million years. Those millions of years produced creatures whose names: Tyrannosaurus Rex, Triceratops, and Stegosaurus are familiar to book and movie audiences.

Animal Planet’s new chapter book, DINOSAURS! opens with an overview that introduces some of the more familiar names, explains the basics of fossilization, details how dinosaur are placed in orders and groups, and describes the characteristics that dinosaurs share.

Included in the eleven chapters are a wide range of topics: the bi-pedal theropods, T-Rex, dinosaur parents, feathered dinosaurs, the gigantic sauropods, anatomy, and carnivores vs. herbivores.

An abundance of photographs enrich the text and provide visual interest. Inserts titled IN YOUR NEWS FEED supply thumbnail discussions ranging from growth rates in dinosaur hatchlings, to the Pinocchio Rex named for its long nose. FACT FILES, highlight extraordinary details such as the discovery of the most complete T-Rex skeleton, Sue -- the remarkable mummification of dinosaur skin brought to light by a 16-year-old amateur paleontologist – as well as discussions of dinosaur eggs, and the ways in which Stegosaurus and Ankylosaurus utilized their armored tails in battle. Colored text boxes define terms, and offer extra details.

A fun and informative resource for young dinosaur fans.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Picture Book Friday

Hattie Peck: The Journey Home by Emma Levey is a lovely story of diversity and the true meaning of family.

Hattie Peck returns in this follow-up book as she faces that parental moment of saying good-bye to the hatchlings that she saved and raised.  Unable to have eggs of her own, she collected the abandoned eggs of birds, reptiles, even a platypus. Raising her extraordinary blended family proves to be a mix of fun and chaos, but Hattie meets each challenge with wisdom and humor.

But at last the moment comes when her brood must leave home and make their way in the world. True to form, Hattie Peck shepherds her flock through stormy seas, up mountains, down underground, and through wind, rain and snow until each hatchling is settled into a new life. In a melancholy moment, she finds herself now with an empty nest, but life has  a splendid new surprise waiting just for her!

The lively text and bold colors make this a fun read-aloud. The subtle message never intrudes on the story’s exuberance. Simple language will make this a favorite with new readers. The imaginative and often large-scale illustrations contain just the right amount of detail to encourage new discoveries with closer examination.  

Friday, May 5, 2017

Picture Book Friday

If you are a fan of ABC books or looking for a gift for that special little someone, this gem celebrating sustainable farming is a must have!

A Farmer’s Alphabet,” written by Charles Long with illustrations by Christina Allen, is an exceptionally fine example of all that is best in an alphabet book. The rhyming text is clever, imaginative, and introduces young readers to new vocabulary that is defined or explained in an author’s note at the end of the book. Each letter is paired with animals, plants, or other nature-inspired terms.

One of my favorite passages is:
M is for mushrooms, for moon, and for mice.
N is for nettles and nests in the night.
O is for owls, for onions, and oats.
P is for pumpkins, potatoes, and poults.

The glorious watercolor illustrations are inspired by Christina Allen’s farm in southern Maryland. The realistic artwork is beautifully detailed and many of the pages would be equally at home in frames.

Lovely from beginning to end.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Nonfiction Monday

Salamander Dance by David FitzSimmons is a feast for the eyes and a delightful read that introduces young readers to the exotic woodland world of the spotted salamander.

The story traces the life cycle of these shy amphibians as they find their way to cool vernal pools in the spring where their dance takes place in the dark of the night. A few days later, the females lay eggs then return to their forest homes. Baby salamanders, known as larvae, emerge a month later and live their underwater life sustained by plankton and insects. As summer warms and dries the pools, the salamander’s metamorphosis causes them to grow legs, and their gills disappear as their lungs develop. Soon the young salamanders make their way into the forest and seek refuge where they will hibernate throughout the winter.

 Lyrical descriptions, “Through slippery leaves, down muddy slopes, salamanders slide silently into the rising waters of their vernal pools,” are paired with richly colored illustrations of varying perspectives. The detailed pictures yield new information with each examination – an invitation to delve deeper.  

The final pages include a discussion that explains what vernal pools are and how they are created. Additional information on the natural history, migration, dancing, life-cycle, and diet of the salamander is provided along with a Glossary.

A perfect choice for nature lovers.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Picture Book Friday

Charming in every way, Wonderful You: An Adoption Story captures both the birth mother's search for the "perfect family" and the anticipation and joy of the adoptive parents when their hopes for a child are fulfilled.

The poetic voice is never forced nor does it stray from the heart of this thoughtfully imagined story.  The verse carries the reader through the birth mother's determination to give her child a loving family, celebrates that special moment when a couple becomes parents, and imagines their future as a family with all those "firsts" -- crawling, walking, birthdays, school, snowmen, before ending with a special promise to their "Wonderful You."

Inspired by author Lauren McLaughlin's experience as an adoptive mother, the story is filled with honest warmth and subtle insight. An ideal gift.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Poetry Friday

I’m delighted to share Poetry for Kids: Emily Dickinson by Susan Snively, PhD.

Snively, who regularly leads discussions at the Emily Dickinson Museum,has collected 35 of Dickinson’s loveliest poems to introduce the poet’s artful work to a new generation of upper grade readers. The verses are organized by season and point up Dickinson’s interest in nature. Many of her works are inspired by the large garden where she preferred to spend time caring for the plants and observing the creatures who made a home there. Subjects range from butterfly and bee to death and eternity in this sweeping tribute to her remarkable talent.

The text is enriched by brief definitions that are strategically tucked beside or below the illustrations. A section titled, “What Emily Was Thinking,” provides a discussion of the works. A brief biography introduces the poet and creates a frame for her work.

The lovely pen and watercolor illustrations capture the varied subjects, reflect the shifting tones that range from playful to thoughtful, and provide hints to some of the subtler meanings embodied in Dickinson’s choice of words. 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Writers Wednesday

When Mountain Lions AreNeighbors by Beth Pratt Bergstrom, California Director for The National Wildlife Federation, is a thoughtful and well-written collection of stories that highlight the challenges and opportunities that are inherent when people and wildlife coexist. 

The book focuses on the ways in which individuals – from biologists and other natural scientists to homeowners and freeway commuters – are finding ways to support and even encourage California’s amazing biodiversity. A pair of deer venturing across the Golden Gate Bridge, the amazing presence of P22, Griffith Park’s resident cougar, a peregrine falcon in San Jose City, and harbor porpoises returning to San Francisco Bay are only a few of the remarkable stories.

Bergstrom covers a lot of territory as she recounts the work undertaken to study and conserve a wide variety of creatures across California’s geographically diverse landscape. Each of the five photo-illustrated chapters open with a specific case and its significance in the overall conservation picture then enlarges on the theme to include associated topics before closing with a look at other related animals and situations in a series of one-page essays at the end of each chapter.

The writing is compelling and varied in its approach to the subjects. Chapter Three, Keeping Bears Wild: How Staff and Visitors in Yosemite National Park Help Wildlife, opens with forty-eight hours in the life of Yosemite black bear, based on the recorded travels of one of the bears tracked for research in 2014. This approach provides readers with an in-depth look at motivations, behaviors, and the impact of human habitation on the natural activity of this wild inhabitant of Yosemite. Additional discussions focus on Yosemite’s environment, the work of staff to intervene and develop humane strategies to reduce human/bear interactions that led to property damage and bear deaths. The chapter concludes with a look at the bighorn sheep, the fisher, the pika, Great Gray Owls, and the Yosemite Toad among other subjects.

The final chapter, Good Neighbors: What Californians Are Doing For Wildlife In Their Own Backyards details the ways in which communities, schools, organizations, and individuals are finding ways to support local wildlife.

The tone of the book is honest, realistic, and cautiously hopeful. The current challenges facing out natural environments are daunting, but this book is a reminder that successes are possible. Whether you’re a dedicated conservationist or simply someone who values the opportunity to enjoy a walk in nature, you’ll find inspiration and a new appreciation of the wild world just outside your door.

I enthusiastically recommend When Mountain Lions Are Neighbors.


Friday, April 7, 2017

Picture Book Friday

Kingly College Knight Classes and the Dainty Damsel University of Distress: A Royal Mess by Jessica Parsons endeavors to turn the fairy tale world upside down in this tongue-in-cheek rhyming story. Dainty princesses and brave knights may make for an entertaining story, but they aren’t much use in real world situations – a fact all to evident when the Queen endeavors to turn all her subjects into paragons of fictional virtue and creates havoc instead. 

All too soon, the populace is in revolt and the queen soon discovers there’s more to personal success then rescuing fainting damsels in distress. Her princely sons won’t fight dragons and the ladies abhor glass slippers. But all comes right in the end when her majesty institutes a new policy the insures everyone can pursue their own dreams of success without bending to stereotypical roles. 

It's an entertaining story with a valuable subtext. The lengthy title gives a hint that the story is a bit longer than it needed to be. Never-the-less, youngsters who enjoy princely fairy tales will find fun in the pages which are designed to be colored by the reader.

The book identifies its audience as ages 6-12, but younger readers may require some assistance with the vocabulary and syntax. 

Monday, April 3, 2017

Nonfiction Monday

Curious Critters by David FitzSimmons shines a spotlight on twenty-one unique creatures from the animal kingdom: fish, insects, reptiles, mammals, and birds. Many of the names will be familiar goldfish, bullfrog, blue jay, opossum, and monarch, but there’s a twist in the up-close and personal portraits and first-person narratives. 

Monarch means butterfly to most people, but here the monarch is actually the beautifully striped yellow and black caterpillar. Details about the life of the Spotted Salamander are shared in a short pair of verses. The Eastern Box Turtle treats readers to the secret of its long life.

Crisp, colorful photographs provide stunning close-ups of the cotton-candy pink Bush Katydid, a perfectly coiled fox snake, a bright-eyed Eastern Screech Owl, and the green brilliance of a Gray Treefrog among the many spectacular images.

Thumbnail portraits are paired with additional animal details in a section titled Natural History. A double-page spread featuring life-size silhouettes challenges readers to make identifications and a Glossary provides definitions of important terms.

A wonderful addition to home or school library!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Writers Wednesday

Women in Blue: 16 Brave Officers, ForensicsExperts, Police Chiefs, and More by Cheryl Mullenbach chronicles remarkable lives and contributions of women in law enforcement from Sadie Likens, Denver’s first Jail Matron in the late 1800s, to Cristina Pinto, a modern day Forensic Specialist, in this well-written and carefully researched collection of biographies. 

There’s an impressive number of “firsts” – Isabella Goodwin: first female Undercover Detective, Grace Wilson: Chicago’s first African American Policewoman, Eva Blackman: first woman to become a Police Commissioner, and Penny Harrington: Portland’s first female Police Detective and first female Police Chief as the author traces the history of women in law enforcement. The accounts point out both the ridicule and discrimination women faced and the determination and successes they achieved, often under the most difficult of circumstances.

Comprehensive interviews provide readers with thoughtful accounts of the professional and personal challenges inherent in their various fields such as FBI special agent, Forensic Artist, and Forensic Specialist and the individual stories behind their success.  Julia Grimes account of her life as an Alaska State Trooper Pilot begins on a whim by Julia’s father when he agrees to let her take an introductory ride in a Cessna because he’s sure she’ll become airsick and give up her interest in flying. But the 14-year-old discovers a passion that leads her to a career that includes aerial surveillance, working with a K-9 drug dog, and undercover work.

The stories are both educational and entertaining, rich with anecdotes that run the gamut from horrendous to humorous. The content, which provides an historical perspective on topics ranging from prostitution to police brutality as well as discussions of modern-day drugs, and violent crime, is handled with honesty and sensitivity. Never-the-less, parents of younger teens might be advised to peruse the book and be prepared to discuss the contents.

The book contains side bars to direct the reader’s attention to related topics. Black and white photographs, a list of resources for learning more about career opportunities in law enforcement, source notes, and a bibliography complete the book.

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