Book review: The secret of the kelpie, by Lari Don, illustrated by Philip Longson

Don, Lari. The secret of the kelpie. Illustrated by Philip Longson.  Picture Kelpies/Floris Books, 2016. Unpaged. $17.95. ISBN 9781782502531. Ages 5-8. P8Q8

In this retelling of a traditional Scottish folk tale, Lari Don gives us the story of brothers and sisters who find a beautiful stray horse and are captured by the kelpie, a fairy shapeshifter, bent on drowning them in the loch.  Only the quick thinking of Flora, the youngest sister, saves them from the fairy’s intended evildoing.  Longson’s beautiful, haunted illustrations bring the story to life and his transformation of the kelpie from beautiful and majestic to monstrous is perfect.

Verdict: The story and illustrations pair beautifully to convey a traditional haunted and haunting tale.  Highly recommended for elementary and public library collections.

November 2016 review by Jane Cothron.

Book review: Cecil’s Pride: the True Story of a Lion King, told by Craig Hatkoff, Juliana Hatkoff, and Isabella Hatkoff; photographs by Brent Stapelkamp

Hatkoff, Craig, Hatkoff, Juliana, Hatkoff, Isabella. Cecil’s Pride : The True Story of a Lion King. Photographs by Brent Stapelkamp. Scholastic Press, 2016. unp. $17.99. ISBN: 978-1-338-03445-5. Gr. 2+. P8 Q8

hatkoff-cecils-prideThe world was horrified when they discovered that Cecil the lion had been killed. Guides lured him out of a national park in Africa, he was then shot by a dentist from the United States. The world was shocked as pictures were flashed across the screen of the dentist and his trophy. It was the dark mane of Cecil which made it so easy to identify this magnificent lion. This book uses color photographs to tell the story of Cecil and his family. Cecil’s pride included another male lion, his brother, Jericho, who was part of the family unit. After Cecil was killed, Jericho took over as the leader, or King of the pride.

Verdict: Any school which is studying preservation of endangered animals should have this book included as part of their unit. The book’s theme is on conservation of animals, their protection and how no matter what we do it doesn’t always work.

November 2016 review by Carol Bernardi.

[Editor’s note: The story of Cecil’s Pride centers on the photographs taken by Brent Stapelkamp, photographer and lion researcher with the Oxford University Wildlife Conservation Research Unit that has tracked Cecil and his pride for nine years. This photographic essay focuses on the life of a lion and the family relationships within the pride.]

Book review: Trailblazers: 33 Women in Science Who Changed the World, by Rachel Swaby

Swaby, Rachel. Trailblazers: 33 Women in Science Who Changed the World. Delacorte, 2016. $15.99. 195p. ISBN 978-0-399-55396-7. Ages 10-14. P6Q8

swaby-trailblazersWomen, largely overlooked, from Russia, Italy, France, Britain, Austria, Germany, and the United States have improved life through their discoveries during the past two centuries. The author divides these vignettes, almost entirely about the women’s scientific work, into chapters on Technology and Invention, Earth and Stars, Health and Medicine, and Biology.

Verdict: Accessible writing and interesting information make the reading inviting, and Swaby has added a baker’s dozen of women scientists in her excellent introductions to each chapter. Detailed bibliographies will invite further exploration into each subject.

January 2017 review by Nel Ward.

[Editor’s note: This appears to be a companion edition to Rachel Swaby’s 2015 Broadway Books title, Headstrong:  52 women who changed science– and the world.]


Book review: A Pair of Twins, by Kavitha Mandana, illustrated by Navantara Surendranth

Mandana, Kavitha. A Pair of Twins. Illus. Nayantara Surendranath. Karadi Tales, 2014. $11.95. 32p. 9788181903020. Ages 7-9. P9Q9

Mandana Pair of TwinsIn this feminist book from India, two females—a girl and an elephant—change tradition when Sundari is permitted to be the chief mahout, elephant trainer, who leads Lakshmi in the Dussehra procession celebrating the Hindu festival after her father, the old bull Drona, becomes too ill to perform this service for the king. Despite protests from a male elder, the queen helps Sundari become the first female mahout. Stunningly patterned artwork incorporating Indian designs enhances the narration with its folk story style that includes information about royal life, Hindu culture, gender roles, and elephant care. Highly recommended for all!

April 2016 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Attack of the Alien Horde, by Robert Venditti, illustrated by Dusty Higgins

Verditti, Robert. Attack of the alien horde. (Miles Taylor and the Golden Cape series, #1) Illustrated by Dusty Higgins. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2015. 299 pgs. ISBN:978-1-4814-0542-3. Gr. 5+. P7 Q9

Venditti Attack of the Alien HordeI have always loved the character, Superman, which I read in comics first and then saw in the movies. This book has a superhero, Gilded, the man with the golden cape. He has helped Earth for a long time but he dies from injuries that he sustains from a fight with the Gaarls, a race that thrives on the disgusting, green snooty slime that they hurl through their noses. Miles Taylor is a witness to the fight and to Gilded’s death. Gilded gives him the golden cape and the task of protecting Earth and its inhabitants. The problem is figuring out how he does anything because Gilded dies before any instructions are given. Taylor has to learn how to navigate his school life with his secret life as Gilded. This is something that any 12 year-old boy would find difficult so he asks Henry, a boy who was in  detention with him reading a Gilded comic book, to help him. The book is wonderful and has comic style, black and white illustrations, which draw the reader further into the story.

January 2016 review by Carol Bernardi.

Book review: Secret Admirer, by Ron Roy, illustrations by John Steven Gurney

Roy, Ron. Secret Admirer. Illustrations by John Steven Gurney. (A to Z Mysteries, super edition 8) Random House, 2015. $5.99. ISBN 978-0-533-52399-7. 127 pages. Ages 5-10. P9Q7

Roy Secret AdmirerDink, Josh, and Ruth Rose feel as if Valentine’s Day has lost its appeal as they get older. They are in the doldrums when they start receiving mysterious clues from secret admirers.   Where does Abe Lincoln hang out? Where does a buddy snore?  Where do jungle animals drink?  These clues lead the kids to more clues and scrambled words. This book explains the meaning of unfamiliar vocabulary and expressions as they are used in the prose. For example, I pine for you. My students enjoy the plot and brainstorming with predictions as they join the characters in solving the clues.

February 2016 review by Penny McDermott.

Book review: Firefly Hollow, by Alison McGhee, illustrated by Christopher Denise

McGhee, Alison. Firefly Hollow. Il. by Christopher Denise. Atheneum, 2015. $16.99. 291p. 978-1-4424-2336-7. Ages 8-11.

McGhee Firefly HollowTwo tiny creatures have big dreams—Firefly of flying into outer space and Cricket of playing baseball like Yogi Berra. Neither one fits into their individual rigid societies which try to keep the members from venturing outside and train them to fear the giants (aka human beings). Together, however, they feed off each other’s sense of adventure with the assistance of Vole, an ancient survivor of his river beings, and the miniature giant, a boy named Peter, who help them move toward, and modify their ambitions. Themes of death, friendship, cultural, transitions, and dreams help readers relate to the characters’ experiences while the adventures move the plot forward. Illustrations reminiscent of The Wind in the Willows, including a baker’s dozen gorgeously colored, full-page ones accompanied by the black-and-white drawings on many pages enhance the narrative. Sweet and charming, the novel is destined to be a classic.

October/November 2015 review by Nel Ward.