Monday, June 1, 2020

Nonfiction Monday

ANIMAL SKINS by nature photographer Mary Holland introduces young readers to the variety of furs, feathers, and scales utilized by animals in this addition to her award-winning Animal Anatomy series.

Age appropriate text offers insights into the many ways that animals utilize their skin for survival: as protection from the cold and wet, as camouflage, or as a means of warning away predators. Although written with children in mind, adults will learn new facts as well. Porcupines have three types of hair: underfur for warmth, guard hair that acts like whiskers to alert the porcupine to its surroundings, and quills for protection. Frogs can absorb oxygen through their skin. Many male birds wear feathers that are more brilliantly colored than the females.  Why?

The book identifies an audience of ages 5-9. Young readers will enjoy the strong visual impact of the images and benefit from reading with an adult or older sibling. Experienced readers will find the text engaging and will discover more information in the final section titled For Creative Minds where readers are challenged to review what they have learned:
  •  “Match The Skin To The Animal” pairs thumbnail photos of skin with the host animal.
  • “How Animals Use Their Skins” asks which animal uses its skin to breathe, crawl, keep warm, defend itself, camouflage itself, and warn others.
  • “Special Skins” discusses some of the unusual skin of moles, honey bees, turkey vultures, and the gray treefrog.
  • “Skins and Animal Classes” explains how animals can be sorted into classes by their skin coverings.

The publisher, Arbordale, has aligned this book to NGSS, Core, and state standards. An extensive teaching activities guide is available on
Animal Skins is an excellent STEM resource. Recommended for home, school, and library.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Nonfiction Monday

Biomes: Discover the Earth’s Ecosystems with Science Activities for Kids by Donna Latham with illustrations by Tom Casteel introduces readers in grades 4-6 to nine environments: Deciduous Forests, Coniferous Forests, Tropical Rainforests, Deserts, Temperate grasslands, Tropical Savannas, Tundra, Mountains, and Oceans.

An introduction sets up the later chapters by explaining what a biome is, introducing much of the environment-related vocabulary that appears throughout and mapping the location of each biome on a world map. Chapter One provides background via an overview of our home on Earth and the basic adaptations of plant and animal life to our unique planet.
Biome-focused chapters define specific characteristics such as seasons, soils, rainfall, and highlight flora and fauna – a 5,000- year-old Bristlecone pine in a coniferous forest, glow-in-the-dark ocean dwellers of the deep sea, the 2-ounce Pygmy Tarsier found in the mountains of Indonesia – and so on.
Additionally, chapters incorporate information about broader concepts such as food chains, food webs, environmental changes, and the multiple ways in which each biome contributes to creating a sustainable planet. Vocabulary is highlighted in Words To Know sidebars.  Related STEM projects are listed at the end to check knowledge and offer hands-on reinforcement for concepts.  Each chapter includes a feature called Climate Change Corner that uses a QR code
Readers are challenged to ask questions and use critical thinking skills in response to calls to action: Essential Question, Try This!,  and Did You Know? Photographs and illustrations enhance content and provide visual interest.

The book is well organized and the content expands on familiar facts and introduces readers to details that are often overlooked. It is not only educational, but is also a pleasure to read. The conversational tone and age-appropriate vocabulary is appealing.
Recommended for STEM home and school libraries.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Picture Book Friday

My Hair, the debut picture book by Hannah Lee with illustrations by Allen Fatimaharan, chronicles an entertaining quest for a girl’s perfect birthday hairdo.

My birthday's coming up so soon,  
I'll need new clothes to wear.
But most of all, I need to know,
How shall I style my hair?
This first-person rhyming narrative highlights a wealth of possibilities as the young girl reflects on the many styles utilized by her family and friends – dreadlocks, Bantu knots, high top fade, braids, cornrows, short and cropped. What would be the perfect choice?

The exuberant tone pairs perfectly with vibrant large-scale illustrations in this delightful celebration of a little girl who loves her HAIR!
Recommended as a fun addition for home and school libraries.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Picture Book Friday

If You Had Your Birthday Party on the Moon by Joyce Lapin with illustrations by Simona Ceccarelli honors the 50th anniversary of the moon landing in this imaginative exploration of an out-of-this-world birthday party.

The narrative traces the adventure from take-off to moon landing and finishes with the return trip to earth. The entertaining romp is also a clever device for introducing young readers to a wealth of facts tucked neatly into the story line.

You’ll make the 239,000-mile journey at 40 times the speed of a plane. Along the way experience zero gravity and then discover that gravity on the moon means a 100-pound person on earth only weighs 17 pounds on the moon. Gravity is so slight that the moon can’t hold onto atmosphere so spacesuits must be worn outside of the rocket ship. Favorite activities for any moon party will be bouncing and gliding in slow motion, exploring craters, and gathering moon rocks for souvenirs. Or perhaps making moon angels in the thick moon dust would be fun. Another possibility would be a scavenger hunt for many things that astronauts left on the moon during their visit.

And, of course, you’ll want to take advantage of the fact that a day on the moon lasts 709 hours, so you’ll have about 30 days to celebrate.  Pizza, cake, and punch pose unique challenges for the partiers when they return to the rocket to eat and the obligatory birthday piƱata offers a last look at low-gravity hijinks. 

Text boxes appear on double-page spreads to provide additional details and a Glossary explains terms.

Ceccarelli’s bold artwork provides plenty of visual appeal. A wealth of detail reinforces both the fun and the facts.

IF YOU HAD YOUR BIRTHDAY PARTY ON THE MOON is an entertaining picture book with the added bonus of being a delightful introduction to a study of the moon.

Recommended for home and school libraries.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Picture Book Friday

THERE’S ONLY ONE YOU by Kathryn Heling and Deborah Hembrook with illustrations by Rose Butcher is a celebration of diversity and the special qualities that make each of us one-of-a-kind!

Are you outgoing or introvert? Boisterous or quiet? The simple but charming rhyming text speaks directly to the reader as it explores the many ways in which YOU are unique and assures the audience that being you is wonderful! The text pays attention to the obvious – differences in appearance – but gives equal consideration to other more subtle qualities:
Do your feelings spill out?
Do they lay low and hide?

The narrative explores interests, abilities, manner of speaking, even the various ways in which learning takes place.  This joyful and uplifting story concludes by focusing on how we relate to one another --
Families are families,
but soon you will find
That each can be different –
A “best-for-them” kind.

Butcher's thoughtfully detailed illustrations create a richly diverse neighborhood that invites children to find themselves and their families within the pages.
Recommended for home and school libraries.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Nonfiction Monday

River Rescue is a narrative nonfiction story describing the consequences of an oil spill and the work of Tri-State Bird Rescue & Research, Inc. Tri-State is identified as a coauthor with Jennifer Keats Curtis. Illustrations are provided by Tammy Yee.

The text begins with a thorough explanation of what happens to birds like ducks and herons when they encounter an oil spill and the step-by-step process of rescuing, rehabilitating, and releasing birds back into the wild. The language is straight forward and the conversational tone invites readers to immerse themselves in the shared experience.

Like other Arbordale titles, there is a special section at the end of the book titled FOR CREATIVE MINDS. Preventing Oil Spills & Helping Animals offers details on how readers can help reduce oil contamination and pollution at home. Wildlife Identification challenges readers to match photographs to names of animals rescued by Tri State. Q & A with Tri-State Executive Director Lisa Smith offers additional facts in response to specific questions about oil spill rescue procedures. 

The richly-detailed illustrations provide a lovely visual context and perfectly compliment the story.

Recommended for STEM for nature studies, biology, and wildlife content.
Ideal for home and school libraries.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Picture Book Friday

Some Days by Karen Kaufman Orloff with illustrations by Ziyue Chen explores the varied feelings that young children experience.

The text is shaped around a year in the life of a boy and girl as they deal with “Kites up in the sky days.” and “Need my mommy now days.” The rhyming text examines a multitude of emotions – joy, excitement, contentment, disappointment, anger, sadness, and more through everyday experiences –
“Take a little doze days.”
“Hurt myself somehow days.”
“Drippy nose and sneeze days.”

Large, cartoon-style characters fill double-page spreads that are uncluttered and maintain reader focus on the essential narrative points. “Running for the bus days.” Positions the viewer directly in the path of the oncoming children.  “Some days are feeling kind of mad days.” gives readers a birds-eye view of the girl angrily scribbling across a paper with crayons.

Children will readily identify with the characters and recognize the emotional responses portrayed in the varied situations. Good days and difficult days are thoughtfully juxtaposed and the book concludes with a strong positive message:
“But MOST days are…
Ready? One, two, three days.
Lots to do and see days.
Learning to be me days.”

SOME DAYS gives parents and children a warm and honest look at childhood emotions, acknowledges both the positive and negative moments, and creates a perfect opportunity to talk about feelings: how they come and go, and ways to cope with our emotions when they sometimes seem too big to deal with in the moment.
Recommended as a read-aloud or read alone title for home and school libraries.

The Gingerbread Cowboy Book Trailer