Book review: If Sharks Disappeared, by Lily Williams

Williams, Lily. If Sharks Disappeared. Roaring Brook Press, a division of Holtzbrinck Publishing, 2017. ISBN 9781626724136. $17.99. UNP. P5 Q8

The World Wildlife Fund estimates that 150-200 species of plants and animals reach extinction every 24 hours. This extinction rate is about 1000 times higher than what is generally understood as a “natural” rate. Therefore, a book about the disappearance of such important creatures is quite timely. Because humans live on land and breathe air, it is hard to grasp the true impact that the extinction of sharks and other major sea predators would have on our survival. If Sharks Disappeared introduces basic principles like the food chain, evolution, and natural selection to explain the consequences of an unbalanced ecosystem. The young female character and her parents bring the abstract event of shark extinction closer to home, especially when she is shown gazing across an ocean clogged with toxic algae. The illustrations are friendly (the sharks look like they have smiling faces), not too scientific, and successfully present new scientific concepts. A glossary of terms and further information about sharks can be found after the main text of the book.

Verdict: If Sharks Disappeared is a great classroom resource to supplement various important lessons like climate change, cause and effect, evolution, etc.

September 2017 review by Lillian Curanzy.


Book review: The New Ocean: The Fate of Life in a Changing Sea, by Bryn Barnard

Barnard, Bryn. The New Ocean: The Fate of Life in a Changing Sea. Knopf, 2017. $18.99. unp. ISBN 978-0-375-87049-1. Ages 9-12. P6 Q9

Pollution, global warming, overfishing—these are all problems that are creating a “new ocean,” more similar to the simplicity of the past with the loss of many of its 230,000 species. Four pages about each of six different species—jellyfish, orcas, sea turtles, tuna, coral, and blue-green algae—detail their history, characteristics, and problems they face from the carelessness of humans. The two-page conclusion briefly describes five extinctions of the past with ways that young people can help reverse the tragedy.

Verdict: Although heavy in text, the narration sometimes uses generalities, for example with no specific information about the extinctions, that make the book more accessible to younger people. The full-page oil illustrations cross the fold for a more magnificent image, and the two double-page maps in the end papers show the areas of garbage and the ocean acidification during the past two decades. A thought-provoking wake-up call to the world of the future.

May/June 2017 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Connect with Electricity series

Connect with Electricity [Series]. Lerner, 2017. 40p. Ages 9-12. P7 Q8

The books in this series outline the workings of electrical components work. Each book has a table of contents, Solve It! Answer Key, glossary, bibliography, Further Information, and index. Additional resources at listed under the Connect with Electricity series provide a teacher guide with student handout and ways to extend understanding. Verdict: Students of all ages can learn about these concepts in science books definitely recommended for teachers and school libraries. Some books in the series:


Roland, James. How LEDs Work. $30.65. ISBN 9781512407808.

This informative book about LEDs explains how they were invented and work as well as the difference between the traditional light bulbs. Two extended understanding questions give possible answers in the Solve It, Answer Key at the end of the book. A suggested experiment demonstrates the difference between standard bulbs and LEDs. Excellent illustrations explain LEDs and the visible spectrum of light. The narrative provides a comprehensible explanation of these concepts.


Christensen, Victoria G. How Batteries Work. $30.65. ISBN 9781512407815.

This kid-friendly non-fiction book explaining batteries and how they work begins with the background of electricity and progresses through the scientific process and development of the battery through examples of the Mars Rovers and battery operated cars as well the history of the first voltaic pile as the first battery. Photographs, well labelled diagrams, and engaging “solve it” questions engage readers and help them understand. The book finishes with the research in self-driving cars. 

March 2017 reviews by Deborah Gwynn.

Book review: Glow: Animals with Their Own Night-Lights, by W.H. Beck

Beck, W.H. Glow: Animals with Their Own Night-Lights. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016. $17.99. ISBN 9780544416666. Unp. Ages 3-12. P7 Q7

beck-glowGlow is a visually striking collection of images. Each featured organism has an element of bioluminescence. Each photo is set on a black page with bright white lettering. The story is quite brief; but, the author includes descriptions of each organism and why they glow which fleshes out the minimal narration. Instead of adding further information on the subjects within the main pages, the author attaches renderings of each organism along with their size and locale at the back of the book. Glow is a successfully visual  introduction to the world of bioluminescence for young readers. Even those who aren’t particularly interested in biology will enjoy learning about these strange creatures and why they glow.

September 2016 review by Lillian Curanzy.

Book review: Renewable Energy: Discover the Fuel of the Future With 20 Projects, by Joshua Sneideman and Erin Twamley, illustrated by Heather Jane Brinesh

Sneideman, Joshua and Erin Twamley. Renewable Energy: Discover the Fuel of the Future With 20 Projects. (Series: Build It Yourself). Illus. Heather Jane Brinesh. Nomad Press, 2016. $17.95. 128p. 9781619303607. Ages 9-12. P8Q9

Schneideman Renewable EnergyThe rapid depletion of the earth’s fossil fuel supply and resulting disastrous global warming has led to the development of alternative methods to power homes, cars, factories, businesses—in short the entire world. The authors explain these sources, including solar, wind, biofuel, hydro, and geothermal, and provide fascinating tactile exercises to illustrate how these work. The timeline that begins each of the book in the series has been reformatted in a far more visually appealing manner, and the usual cartoons showing young people working on projects has been minimized. The rapid growth of these industries will cause many opportunities for future jobs as scientists, engineers, and other careers. Relevant, current, and age-appropriate, this book may be the best thus far in the series.

April 2016 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Our Moon: New Discoveries about Earth’s Closest Companion, by Elaine Scott

Scott, Elaine. Our Moon: New Discoveries about Earth’s Closest Companion. Clarion, 2016. $18.99. 72p. 9780547483948. Ages 10-14. 

Scott Our MoonMaps, portraits, photos, diagrams, and artists’ perceptions of space scenes extend the discussion in this large-format book to show changes in centuries of people discovering, observing, and exploring the magical “man in the moon” as inventions made it easier to observe. One fascinating chapter refers to the moon as the “Earth’s Sister” and explains how much can be learned from the moon about the earth because the moon has not changed during the past millions of years in the way that the earth has. Sidebars and features—both single- and double-page—add information including “Astronauts as Geologists” and the phases of the moon. From the “giant impact theory” through examination of the 800 pounds of moon rocks from the 1969 Apollo mission to NASA’s unstaffed 21st-century missions, the book follows the science of craters, radioactive dating, a planet’s atmosphere, and far more. Up to date and detailed, this view of discoveries, historical information, and scientific theory and fact is an important addition for library collections.

April 2016 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: The Story of Seeds: From Mendel’s Garden to Your Plate, and How There’s More of Less to Eat around the World, by Nancy Castaldo

Castaldo, Nancy. The Story of Seeds: From Mendel’s Garden to Your Plate, and How There’s More of Less to Eat around the World. HMH, 2016. $17.99. 144p. 9780544320239. Ages 12-14. P4Q9

Castaldo Story of SeedsWho would know that a book about seeds could be so fascinating! Packed into this small book is how seeds are connected to genetics, history, politics, geography, technology, climate change, GMOs, and many other areas past ordinary agriculture. The conversational tone of the text is appealing to all ages, and many adults may not be familiar with some of the information—for example, scientists’ frantic attempts to save seeds from both Hitler and the Iraqi invasion. Colorful illustrations, including photographs, picture seeds and plants along with notable people who work with them including the “seed warriors” who fought biopiracy and protected these endangered species. Although it may not be a popular read with young people, it is a must purchase for libraries because of its valuable information.

April 2016 review by Nel Ward.