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.

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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: Aviary Wonders Inc., by Kate Samworth

Samworth Aviary WondersSamworth, Kate. Aviary Wonders Inc.: Spring Catalog and Instruction Manual. Clarion Books, 2014. $17.99. ISBN 9780547978994. 31 pgs. Ages 9-12. P9Q9

This fictional catalog of bird parts is a wonderfully dark, strange and funny look at “what could happen if we let natural habitats disappear”. The illustrations are wonderful- colorful, rich, and detailed (Booklist describes them as “opulent”). The language is equally rich and descriptive. As we read through the catalog and look at different types of bird parts, the book seems crazier and crazier. By the end, readers will see clearly that we can’t “make” something as intricate and precious as a bird. Once they’re gone, they’re gone. This book might be an interesting part of a class on habitat loss or ecology. It will also appeal to adults. I’m not sure where I’m going to put it in my library!

December 2014 review by Carol Schramm.