Book review: Curious Constructions: A Peculiar Portfolio of Fifty Fascinating Structures, by Michael Hearst, illustrated by Matt Johnstone

Hearst, Michael. Curious Constructions: A Peculiar Portfolio of Fifty Fascinating Structures. (Series: Uncommon Compendiums). Ill. by Matt Johnstone. Chronicle, 2017. $19.99. 102p. ISBN 978-1-4521-4484-9. Ages 8-12. P8 Q7

From the expected, such as the Eiffel Tower in Paris and Stonehenge in England, to the unusual, such as a cathedral termite mound over 13 feet tall, author and illustrator delight and educate in this collection of human- and animal-created buildings. Each two-page spread has a full-page illustration, accompanied by smaller drawings, maps, diagrams, and portraits as well as true/false questions, history, or quirky facts following a few paragraphs about the structure. Earlier books in the series are Extraordinary People and Unusual Creatures.

Verdict: Humor and simplicity made this accessible book a great one to dip into although the narrative is stronger than the visuals. It’s global perspective is a boon to broadening the perspectives of youth to the entire world.

May/June 2017 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Tales of Extraordinary Women, by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo

Favilli, Elena and Francesca Cavallo. Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Tales of Extraordinary Women. Timbuktu Labs, 2016. $35.00. 212p. ISBN 978-0-7798958-1-0. Ages 8-10. P8 Q9

Heroic women of all seven continents from the past four millennia are celebrated in two-page spreads that include a charming narrative about each woman and a full-page colorful illustration in a variety of artistic styles depending on the subject. Each description includes a short descriptor of the “girl,” birth/death dates, and country of origin.  Names of the 60 women providing the artwork are listed in the back. Selection of these pioneers varies from ten-year-old transgender Coy Mathis, brave enough to fight to use the bathroom of her gender identity, to Hillary Clinton, strong enough to survive sexist attacks in her campaign for U.S. president. In feminist tradition, the alphabetical order uses the women’s first names. Through crowdfunding, 20,025 backers from over 70 countries provided more than $1 million for the book published by a children’s media innovation lab.

Verdict: Advertised as “bedtime stories,” these brief accounts of the subject’s life and adventures should whet the appetite of readers who will want to know more about them, inspiring further research. Some of the women included are famous, but others are everyday women who managed to accomplish “extraordinary” things. This is recommended for all collections for youth and as gifts for all young girls.

May/June 2017 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: The New Ocean: The Fate of Life in a Changing Sea, by Bryn Barnard

Barnard, Bryn. The New Ocean: The Fate of Life in a Changing Sea. Knopf, 2017. $18.99. unp. ISBN 978-0-375-87049-1. Ages 9-12. P6 Q9

Pollution, global warming, overfishing—these are all problems that are creating a “new ocean,” more similar to the simplicity of the past with the loss of many of its 230,000 species. Four pages about each of six different species—jellyfish, orcas, sea turtles, tuna, coral, and blue-green algae—detail their history, characteristics, and problems they face from the carelessness of humans. The two-page conclusion briefly describes five extinctions of the past with ways that young people can help reverse the tragedy.

Verdict: Although heavy in text, the narration sometimes uses generalities, for example with no specific information about the extinctions, that make the book more accessible to younger people. The full-page oil illustrations cross the fold for a more magnificent image, and the two double-page maps in the end papers show the areas of garbage and the ocean acidification during the past two decades. A thought-provoking wake-up call to the world of the future.

May/June 2017 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Short Mysteries You Solve with Math!=Misterios cortos que resuelves con matemáticas!, by Eric and Natalie Yoder

Yoder, Eric and Natalie Yoder. Short Mysteries You Solve with Math!=Misterios cortos que resuelves con matemáticas! (One Minute Mysteries series) Science, Naturally!, 2017. $12.95. ISBN 9781938492228. 224 pages. Includes Glossary, Index, and Conversion Table.  Ages 10-14. P6 Q8

Bilingual (English/Spanish) book with vignettes of realistic things that could happen and some silly stories provoke thoughts to explain the mystery. Using higher level thinking skills the reader can predict the explanation and then check the following pages to learn the answer and the mathematical explanation.

Verdict: It is great for a bilingual classroom as a transition read aloud or daily discussion.  Also for the Talented And Gifted (TAG) students or students that need additional challenges, it would be an engaging book to provide an extension to their thinking.

June 2017 review by Deborah Gwynn.

 

Book review: Crazy Creepy Crawlers series.

Crazy Creepy Crawlers series.

Turner, Matt. Extraordinary Insects. Illustrated by Santiago Calle. Hungry Tomato, 2016. $26.04. ISBN 9781512415568. 32 pages. Includes glossary and index. Ages 8-12. P8 Q8.

 

Turner, Matt. Deadly Spiders. Illustrated by Santiago Calle. Hungry Tomato, 2016. $19.59. ISBN 9781512415537. 32 pages. Includes glossary and index. Ages 8-12. P8 Q8.

 

 

A mix of photographs, illustrations with talk bubbles of talking insects or spiders, and labelled diagrams engage the reader.  A size comparison with a hand or paperclip provides perspective to the actual sizes in comparison to the insect or spider as well as giving the measurements and habitat. During the reading, it would have been helpful if the glossary words had been in bold for easier reference for the meaning.  A reader will realize that insects and spiders rule the world as there are more insects than humans.

Verdict: Two fact-filled titles recommended for addition to a non-fiction library.

May 2017 review by Deborah Gwynn.

Book review: Dancing Bees and Other Amazing Communicators, by Mary Lindeen

Lindeen, Mary. Dancing Bees and Other Amazing Communicators.  (Searchlight Books. Animal Superpowers series) Lerner Publications, 2017. $13.10. ISBN 9781512425451. 40 pages. Includes glossary, “Learn More about Animal Communicators”, and index. Ages 8-14. P7 Q6.

The book starts with Humming Giraffes instead of the Dancing Bees. Maybe to add suspense, the author waits for the second chapter to explore the bees.  The Table of Contents was helpful in identifying the other animals that were to be explained in the book.  The index does not provide an extensive list of the all the animals explored in the book limiting the usefulness. The words in the glossary are not marked in the text also limiting the usefulness of the glossary to a reader.  The “Compare It!” pages provide amazing facts about additional species and how they communicate; however, the placement in the middle of the chapter interrupted the flow of the reading about a particular animal. There are websites listed in additional resources.

Verdict:  Animals are amazing and reading about them is fun.  As more of an entertaining informative book it is great, but it is not as useful of a non-fiction text for researching about animal communication.

May 2017 review by Deborah Gwynn.

Book review: Exploding Ants and Other Amazing Defenses, by Rebecca E. Hirsch

Hirsch, Rebecca E. Exploding Ants and Other Amazing Defenses.  (Searchlight Books. Animal Superpower series) Lerner Publications, 2017. $23.10. ISBN 9781512425444. 40 pages. Includes glossary, “Learn More about Animal Defenses”, and index. Ages 8-14. P7 Q6

Though the title mentions Exploding Ants, the book actually begins with a chapter on the Slimy Hagfish.  The amazing defense of slime coming first was confusing. The Table of Contents was helpful in identifying the other animals that were to be explained in the book.  The index did not include all the animals explored in the book, so it was not a helpful resource for someone doing research about a particular animal. The “Compare It!” pages provide amazing facts about additional species and their defenses (which are not listed in the index). They even have great photographs.  The “Compare It!” pages are sometimes in the middle of the chapter, interrupting the flow of the reading about a particular animal. It would flow better at the end of each chapter. In addition, glossary words are not identified in the text. Additional online resources are provided.

Verdict:  Learning about animals and their amazing defenses is great popular topic for children, and the book has eye catching photographs.  It is informative, but it is not a useful book for research.

May 2017 review by Deborah Gwynn.