Book review: Follow Those Zebras: Solving a Migration Mystery, by Sandra Markle

Markle, Sandra. Follow Those Zebras: Solving a Migration Mystery. Millbrook Press/Lerner Publishing, 2020. 40 pages. $31.99. ISBN 9781541538375. Ages 8-12. P8Q8

Every year in southern African, along the Chobe River in Namibia, a herd of some 2,000 zebras leaves their grazing area and returns months later—and where they go has been a mystery. How could such a sizable herd of large mammals just disappear? Using GPS collars and drones, scientists documented the zebras’ migration path and their destination, but that left the mystery of why the animals would leave an area with ample grazing and a year-round water supply.  Further research found an answer, but questions about human impacts on zebra biology and changes brought by climate change remain.  Back matter includes an author’s note, plains zebra fast facts, glossary, source notes, suggestions for futher reading, and an index.

Verdict: Brilliant photographs of zebras place the reader in the African plains and carry the story of how scientists approached the mystery of zebra migration.  In fact, the author’s repeated use of ‘mystery’ to describe the research brings readers into what might otherwise have been a simple scientific report and increases interest in the process with each repetition.  I really like how Markle weaves in the scientific process with the story of how scientists use technology to answer questions. The only drawback I see with this book is the price—at $31.99, the price is almost twice that of other similar books (see Caitlin O’Connell’s 2011 book, The Elephant Scientist, in the Scientists in the Field series, still available in hardcover edition for $18.99).  Recommended for middle through high school and public library collections.

March 2020 review by Jane Cothron.

Book review: In a Cloud of Dust, by Alma Fullerton, art by Brian Dienes

Fullerton, Alma. In a Cloud of Dust. Art by Brian Deines. Pajama Press, 2016. Unpaged. $8.95. ISBN 9781772780000 (pbk). Ages 4-7. P7Q8.

In Tanzania, children who may spend hours walking to the village school have the opportunity to borrow bicycles from the bicycle library.  When the bicycle library truck brings bicycles to the school, Anna, a hardworking student, comes too late to get one of the bicycles.  After she helps her friends learn to ride, Anna’s friend Mohammed shares a ride home with her.  The author’s note gives more information about the importance of reliable transportation to isolated communities in Africa and lists several organizations working to bring bicycles to these communities.

The bright, appealing illustrations carry the joy that the bicycles bring to the students through gold and orange washes, though specifics of the Tanzanian countryside are often lacking.

Verdict: Highly recommended for preschool, elementary and public libraries to increase awareness of life in different cultures and parts of the world.

January 2017 review by Jane Cothron.

Book review: Little Red and the Very Hungry Lion, by Alex T. Smith

Smith, Alex T. Little Red and the Very Hungry Lion. Scholastic, 2015. Unpaged. $17.99. ISBN 9780545914383. Ages 4-8. P9Q9

smith-little-redA funny version of Little Red Riding Hood has Little Red taking spot medicine to her Auntie Rosie. She had an adventure on the way meeting a hungry Lion who makes a plan to eat her. Little Red then does things to the Lion to teach him a lesson and reminds the Lion he could have just asked for food. So he eats with with Red and her Auntie Rosie and she goes home with him. And then, it has a funny ending. It also uses some good literary devices which make it more enjoyable. It is fun to do a comparison to the original Little Red Riding Hood Story. Verdict: When doing a unit on folk tales, this book provides a new fun book to create a comparison such as using a Venn Diagram with other version of the similar folk tales. Although there are many plays off of the original Little Red Riding Hood, it has a humorous twist that is engaging and fun to predict.

November 2016 review by Deborah Gwynn.

Editor’s note: This fractured fairy tale adaptation of Little Red Riding Hood features a young Black girl crossing the African savannah to deliver medicine to her Auntie Rosie.

Book review: Child Soldier, by Michael Chikwanine and Jessica Dee Humphreys, illustrated by Claudia Davila

Chikwanine, Michael and Humphreys, Jessica Dee. Child Soldier : When Boys and Girls are Used in War. Illustrated by Claudia Davila. Kids Can Press, 2015. 47 pgs. $17.95. ISBN:978-1-77138-126-0. Gr. 5+. P8 Q9

Humphreys Child SoldierWOW! WOW! WOW! This story is told from events that took place in the author’s, Michael Chikwanine, life when he was kidnapped with other students from his school, one night after school, and forced to become a child soldier. Michael’s frightening experience from capture to his escape are brought into a clearer perspective in this graphic memoir by the realistic illustrations of Claudia Davila. At the end of the book more details of Michael’s life are included.

October 2015 review by Carol Bernardi.