Book review: Wild Weather: Storms, Meteorology, and Climate

Reed, MK. Wild Weather: Storms, Meteorology, and Climate. Illus. by Jonathan Hill. (Get to Know Your Universe! Science Comics series). First Second, 2019. 119p. $19.99. ISBN 978-1-62672-789-2. Ages 10-13. P9Q9

The 19th of this series picks up the pace of quirky comics to explain another facet of science. The narrator throughout the entire book is a curmudgeonly TV weatherman annoyed with his ignored colleagues as a giant snowstorm approaches the area. He launches into explanations of high and low pressures, types of clouds, formations of tornadoes and hurricanes, wind currents, the water cycle, jet streams—and the influence of climate change.

Verdict: This book may be more inviting than some of the others in the series because it uses less highly scientific terminology and the narrative is accessible. The interaction among protagonists is also highly amusing. Included are a glossary, weather tools, and debunking wild weather myths.

June 2019 review by Nel Ward.

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Book review: Finding the Speed of Light: The 1676 Discovery That Dazzled the World, by Mark Weston, illustrated by Rebecca Evans

Weston, Mark. Finding the Speed of Light: The 1676 Discovery That Dazzled the World. Illus. by Rebecca Evans. Tilbury House, 2019. Unp. $17.95. ISBN 978-0-88448-545-2. Ages 8-11. P8Q8

Cartoon-style illustrations combine with diagrams and mathematical calculations to highlight the life and experiences of Danish astronomer Ole Romer who not only discovered that light moves but also measured its speed with a clock and homemade telescope—all two centuries before Albert Einstein was born. When Romer saw that Jupiter’s moon sped up and slowed down in a regular pattern, he began his investigation.

Verdict: Puns and humorous drawings bring the events of over three centuries ago into the 21st century and make this book highly readable.

June 2019 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Rescuing Rialto: A Baby Sea Otter’s Story, by Lynda V. Mapes, photographs by Alan Berner

Mapes, Lynda V. Rescuing Rialto: A Baby Sea Otter’s Story. Photo. By Alan Berner. Roaring Brook, 2019. Unp. $18.99. ISBN 978-1-250-14764-6. Ages 7-10. P8Q8

“The baby sea otter was hungry.” That is how Mapes begins her odyssey following the rescue of the infant stranded alone on Rialto Beach in northern Washington. As Mapes chronicles the steps taken to bring Rialto back to health, care for his as he grows, and train him for his future to be with other orphaned baby otters at Vancouver Aquarium, she describes otters’ characteristics, characteristics, and nature. Photographs contribute to the text in their depictions of staff members working with Rialto.

Verdict: Rialto’s story is lively, and the photographs are captivating. An advantage of the book is the use of photographs instead of illustrations that give a sense of reality to Rialto and his needs that creates empathy for this endangered species.

June 2019 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Crossing on Time: Steam Engines, Fast Ships, and a Journey to the New World

Macaulay, David. Crossing on Time: Steam Engines, Fast Ships, and a Journey to the New World. Roaring Brook, 2019. 125p. ISBN 978-1-59643-477-6. Ages 9-13. P8Q9

Using his typical detailed drawings and narrative the author-illustrator follows the people and inventions of steam-powered ships that made shipping and travel across the ocean possible. Of particular interest to Macaulay was the last of these ships, the SS United States, built by Francis Gibbs in the 1950s, just before the launch of jet service across the North Atlantic in 1958.

Verdict: A delightful touch to this narrative comes from Macaulay’s personal view: he traveled on the ship 62 years ago from England when he was only ten years old. With his mother, sister, and brother, he came to join his father in the United States. The award-winning creator of the book is noted for other architectural books such as Cathedral and City as well as his Caldecott winner, Black and White. History, engineering, and memoir—all wrapped up in one book.

June 2019 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Two Men and a Car: Franklin Roosevelt, Al Capone, and a Cadillac V-8, by Michael Garland

Garland, Michael. Two Men and a Car: Franklin Roosevelt, Al Capone, and a Cadillac V-8. Tilbury House, 2019. Unp. $17.95. ISBN 978-0-88448-620-6. Ages 7-10. P8Q8

Culture and biography from the first half of the 20th century blend in this possibly true story of how an armored car constructed by a famous mobster in 1928 was later used to protect the president of the United States on his way to give a speech the day after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941. With biographical information about the two men, both New Yorkers, Garland shows the contrast in backgrounds between the wealthy, privileged only child who changed the U.S. with his political acumen and the poor immigrant with eight siblings who controlled the Chicago underworld. Thousands of lines cover the illustrations of the subjects and the places where each spent part of his life—13 years in the White House and eight years in Alcatraz.

Verdict: Dense scratchwork art is distracting, but the use of the story to show U.S. history during a half century is clever.

June 2019 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Hey There, Earth Dweller! Dive into This World We Call Earth, by Marc ter Horst, illustrated by Wendy Panders, translated by Laura Watkinson

Horst, Marc ter. Hey There, Earth Dweller! Dive into This World We Call Earth.  Illus by Wendy Panders. Trans. by Laura Watkinson. Beyond Words/Aladdin, 2019. 176p. $19.99. ISBN 978-1-58270-656-6. Ages 9-12. P7Q7

From the earth’s core to the top atmospheric layer, fascinating information is enlivened and enriched by whimsical cartoonish drawings and photographs of natural phenomena. The book begins with the creation of the universe and moves on to the solar system and the earth’s depths and water before moving on to climate change and the end of the world. Chapters begin with entertaining stories such as the man who went 24 miles into the atmosphere in 2012, four times higher than airplanes travel.

Verdict: Sometime the author stretches his analogies a bit—for example—using groups of mice to explain how the moon’s gravity creates tides, and he claimed that “your grandmother” probably didn’t have a watch. First written and published in the Netherlands, the book has a European emphasis but still contains great charm and pieces of universal knowledge. The pieces on surviving extreme weather events are useful, and the migration of humans around the world interesting. No index.

June 2019 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Beyond Words: What Elephants and Whales Think and Feel, by Carl Safina

Safina, Carl. Beyond Words: What Elephants and Whales Think and Feel. Roaring Brook, 2019. 165p. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-250-14463-8. Ages 8-12. P7Q8

Large print invites readers to anecdotes about the author’s experiences in Kenya and the Pacific Northwest as he learns about behaviors of the largest animals on earth. Safina also explains how humans are eradicating both species; the last chapter about the deaths of orcas from humans separating families, taking their food, polluting their water, and then finishing them off with Navy underwater sonar and explosion testing is especially painful. Adapted from Safina’s 2015 book with the same name, this version for middle school readers omits chapters about wolves.

Verdict: Black and white photographs are a bit muddy and repetitive, adding little to the text. Readers will gain, however, from learning that these animals are more protective and supportive of their families than humans are.

June 2019 review by Nel Ward.