Book review: Samuel Morse, That’s Who!, by Tracy Nelson Maurer, illustrated by El Primo Ramón

Maurer, Tracy Nelson. Samuel Morse, That’s Who! Illustrated by El Primo Ramón. Henry Holt & Co, 2019. $18.99. ISBN 9781627791304. Unpaged. Age 5-9. P5 Q7

What was it like in the 1800’s before cell phones and instant communication? Did you know that Samuel Morse not only invented Morse Code, he was also a fine artist? Samuel saw the need for instant communication and created a system using dots and dashes to stand for letters and numbers. Many of the inventions he created failed. The author explains his ideas and asks, “who would dream of instant messages, who would think of a better system, who would show them, and finally, who created instant messages and changed the world forever?” The author answers, “Samuel Morse, That’s Who!” The illustrations in subdued colors fit the 1800’s era. The book includes an Author’s note, “Tap into more facts about Samuel Morse and telegraphic history,” bibliography, and Timeline of Samuel Morse’s life. There is a Morse Code chart if one flips over the cover, which would not be accessible if it has a mylar plastic cover from the library.

Verdict: Samuel Morse was tenacious, creative, and passionate. The themes of perseverance, commitment, and growth mindset are emphasized. If one is writing a report about Samuel Morse’s life, this book would provide valuable information. While this book is well written and interesting, children may not gravitate towards it on their own, but would enjoy it if an adult read it to them.

September 2019 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Facts vs. Opinions vs. Robots, by Michael Rex

Rex, Michael. Facts vs. Opinions vs. Robots. Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin Random House LLC, 2020. $17.99. ISBN 9781984816269. Unpaged. Ages 4-8. P7 Q7

Author/Illustrator Michael Rex is known for his unique humor, and this book for young children is a good example of his unique means of dealing with something adults everywhere are trying to figure out:  What is fact, and what is opinion?  Rex uses robots in primary colors to help get across what are facts and what are opinions.  For example, it is easy to state as a fact whether a robot is blue or red, etc. Facts can be proven true or false. But if you are trying to decide which color robot is the most fun?  Well, that is an opinion. This book makes logical thinking a fun experience for its audience. It is surprising to find this foundational, logical simplicity in a picture book on a topic that alludes many adults. I think families will appreciate the happy robots and the solid message.  Classrooms and libraries will welcome Facts vs. Opinions vs. Robots as a book that will inspire conversation and programs.

March 2020 review by Sharon McCrum.

Book review: Our World Is Relative, by Julia Sooy, illustrated by Molly Walsh

Sooy, Julia. Our World is Relative. Illustrated by Molly Walsh. Feiwel and Friends, 2019. $17.99. ISBN 9781250293688. Unpaged. Ages 4-8. P7 Q7

This is a very original idea in a picture book. It will be just right for some young readers. Our World is Relative, by Julia Sooy, gives children a very simple comprehension of Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity regarding the measurement of time and space. Sooy did a report on Einstein in third grade and has been hooked ever since.  The pictures by Molly Walsh match well with the simple words like “Something that seems big . . . can also seem small.” The artist brings visible white, chalk-like measurements into the illustrations throughout the book. The illustrations and words take the reader on a trip through a neighborhood to a train and to outer space.  It gets young brains thinking “What is big? What is small? What is moving? What is not?”  I find this book fascinating.  As a first science book, this puts some huge concepts into small bites.  Young scientists may well love it. It will be a unique addition to early classrooms and libraries, with a specific audience.

March 2020 review by Sharon McCrum.

Book review: Packs: Strength in Numbers, by Hannah Salyer

Salyer, Hannah. Packs: Strength in Numbers.  Houghton Mifflin. 2020. Unpaged. $17.99. ISBN 9781328577887. Ages 5 and up. P9 Q9

Groups, pods, and huddles. This large format book captures the imagination of all involved in opening this adventure about living in a pack.  The illustrations of animals in large groups jump out at us, and with spare text, show us how and why moving, dancing, singing and building together makes the pack stronger. Every page engages young and old, but quietly sneaks in the real natural science information of why it matters to live in a pack.

VERDICT: What an amazing book! Highly recommended for all ages to understand why living together makes organisms stronger. In the back pages, there is a helpful species ID, too. The artwork is a vibrant journey all on its own. Wonderful. On the back of the cover, people bike together, which was great fun to tie us into the web of life.

March 2020 review by Lynne Wright.

Book review: Being Frog, by April Pulley Sayre

Sayre, April Pulley. Being Frog. Beach Lane Books, 2020. Unpaged. $17.99. ISBN 9781534428812. Ages 3 and up. P9Q8

What is it like to be a frog? This wonderful natural history book gives us a frog’s eye view of the world in brilliant photos that cover the pages. Simple text on the pages invite conversation and engage the smallest of children into the pond water to call with a glunk glunk GLUNK and leap. The author has pages in the back to give more adult exploration to enhance this subject.

VERDICT: What a wonderful journey into the pond staring into the eyes of a frog. The photos add great realism and the spare text is perfect for reading to many ages and talking about the life of the frog.

March 2020 review by Lynne Wright.

Book review: I am Allosaurus, by Timothy J. Bradley

Bradley, Timothy J. I am Allosaurus. ” Early reader.” Arbordale, 2020. Unpaged. $17.95. ISBN 9781643517490.  Ages 4 and up. P9 Q8

The large and bright illustrations with the repetitive words will teach and interest young readers. What would it be like to live as an Allosaurus? This captured my attention and would be a great read aloud book. The extensive information in the back about timelines, colors and skeletons will assist adults in bringing this dinosaur back to life.

VERDICT: A great addition to a dinosaur collection. This is even more valuable because the dinosaur books are often geared for older children, so this adds depth to the section. Illustrations pop off of the page, and it is simple yet teaches many facts.

March 2020 review by Lynne Wright.

Book review: Knight Owls, by Eric Seltzer, illustrated by Tom Disbury

Seltzer, Eric. Knight Owls. Illustrated by Tom Disbury. (Ready to Read series). Simon Spotlight, 2019. $17.99. ISBN 97821534448810. Unpaged. Ages 4-6. P6 Q7

Knight Owls are here to save the day. They are kind and brave. When Phil the dragon makes a mess of the mill, they encourage him to be helpful.  A pre-level one reader with large text and illustrations that match the text. The illustrations show Phil the dragon with a sad look on its face when it made a mess of the mill, pondering when the Knight owl suggest it do something helpful and happy tears when the owls sing it a happy song.  I chuckled out loud near the end of the book.

Verdict: This is an adorable rhyming book that emphasizes friendship. A fun and sweet story for children to learn to read on their own.

September 2019 review by Tami Harris.