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: 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.

Book review: The Moon, by Hannah Pang, illustrated by Thomas Hegbrook

Pang, Hannah. The Moon. Illus. by Thomas Hegbrook. 360 Degrees/Tiger Tales, 2019. 175p. $19.99. ISBN 978-1-944530-24-2. Ages 9-14. P7Q8

Glorious one- and two-page colored digital illustrations enhance the verbal collage of moon-related art and science: literature, history, myths and legends, language, religion, architecture, and film in addition to factual information and trivia (such as scorpions being fluorescent) to details about travel to the moon and stepping foot on it. One debatable fact in the book is that a “blue moon” is the 13th full moon in one year instead of two full moons within one calendar month, but that is a minor quibble.

Verdict: Fascinating information in an accessible fashion makes the book a delight to dip into from time to time. One problem might be that the large amount of white space surrounding text and illustrations resulted in small print. The fragmented style of the book provides launching points for study about the moon’s influence. Recommended.

June 2019 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: From Here to There: The Story of How We Transport Ourselves and Everything Else, by HP Newquist

Newquist, HP. From Here to There: The Story of How We Transport Ourselves and Everything Else. Viking, 2017. $18.99. ISBN 9780451476456. 123 pgs. Ages 10+. P6Q8

This history of transportation and how human mobility has affected our history and development was written for the Smithsonian.  The first chapter begins, “Survival depends on moving, and for humans that begins with two legs and two feet.” The author looks at the earliest examples of footwear, and how the development of different kinds of shoes helped humans advance. Then we move on to snowshoes, skis, skates, and more. Subsequent chapters look at water travel, wagons, cars, trains, and air and space transportation. Each chapter has a different color scheme and specific graphic markers, and is supported by photographs and reproductions of art work found in the Smithsonian. I enjoyed the scope of the book- the topic is enormous, and the sections are very broad, but the author manages to organize the material in a way that keeps you interested. I really liked the inclusion of a lot of social history, like details about the bicycle changed the social behavior and public perception of women, and even how women dressed. There is a page of the author’s resources (mostly websites), and an index. It was voted one of the best STEM Books of 2018.

VERDICT: This book will be a good addition to public and school libraries. It may be a useful resource to supplement social studies and history classes, and is interesting enough that kids may pick it up just to browse.

May 2019 review by Carol Schramm.

Book review: A Quick and Easy Guide to Queer and Trans Identities, by Mady G. and J.R. Zukerberg

Zuckerberg, Mady G. and J.R. Zuckerberg. A Quick & Easy Guide to Queer & Trans Identities. Limerence Press. 2019. $9.99. 92p. ISBN 978-1-62010-586-3. Ages 9-13. P8Q8

Fun pink and teal cartoons, interviews, and worksheets take younger readers through simple explanations by snails and gender neutral “sproutlings” about LGBTQ basics of such topics as gender identity, sexuality, coming out, and relationship development. Readers learn about the wild rainbow of queer people—trans, bi, pan, asexual/ARO/ACE, etc.

Verdict: As young people become more curious about their developing sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression, they will benefit from factual information. With accessible language, this brief book, although only an introduction, provides a starting research point for those who are interested. This guide stresses the ways that different people react to personal experiences and the importance of inclusivity by “making our quilt bigger” so everyone can fit. Every library should have a copy of this book to help young people on their journey of life.

April 2019 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Polar Bears: Survival on the Ice, by Jason Viola, illustrated by Zack Gaillongo

Viola, Jason. Polar Bears: Survival on the Ice. (Get to Know Your Universe! Science Comics series). Illus. Zack Giallongo. First Second. 2019. $19.99. 119p. ISBN 978-1-62672-823-3. Ages 8-12. P8Q8

The most recent foray into this educational, fun-to-read science series features brother and sister polar bear cubs, Anik and Ila, as they learn the ins and outs of survival in the harshness of the Arctic. Subjects include the Arctic animals’ life cycle, the bears’ anatomy and strategies for hunting and swimming, types of ice, and global warming. The mother explains the realities of life, for example a seal hunt and the fact that the cubs’ father might kill and eat them. Viola contrasts the growing bears’ natures: Anik struggles with his hyperactivity while Ila shows her ability to be patient and quiet. The book differs from others in the series in that the entire narrative comes from one polar bear family, but the fluid illustrations and whimsical narrative keeps the readers engaged.

Verdict: From seasonal changes to scientific concepts, the information in this book is well-presented in an enjoyable format. It should be included in libraries.

April 2019 review by Nel Ward.