Book review: The Brilliant Deep: Rebuilding the World’s Coral Reefs, by Kate Messner, illustrated by Matthew Forsythe

Messner, Kate. The Brilliant Deep: Rebuilding the World’s Coral Reefs. Illus. by Matthew Forsythe. Chronicle, 2018. $17.99. unp. ISBN 978-1-4521-3350-8. Ages 5-8. P9Q9

“It starts with one.” Those are the first and last words in this biography of Ken Nedimyer and the story of how he brought back coral reefs by transplanting staghorn corals grown in his personal live rock farm. Messner explains how one coral gamete can begin a colony in a time that humans are rapidly destroying the coral reefs around the world. Forsythe’s bold grainy block illustrations highlight Nedimyer’s accomplishments in an underwater community in reviving part of a disappearing environment.

Verdict: The details of the narrative, such as comparing the glue used to attach the corals to “the size of a Hershey Kiss,” create a vivid feel for his work. The message, “it starts with one,” can encourage all young readers that they are not helpless.

April/May 2018 review by Nel Ward.


Book review: Fergus and Zeke, by Kate Messner, illustrated by Heather Ross

Messner, Kate. Fergus and Zeke.  Illustrated by Heather Ross. Candlewick Press, 2017. $14.99. ISBN 9780763678463. 56 pages. Ages 5-8. P7 Q7

Fergus is the classroom pet who follows all the rules of the class. When the class goes on a field trip, Fergus realizes that he will have to stay at school. He devises a plan to go on the field trip and along his adventure, he meets a new friend, Zeke. Fergus and Zeke has four chapters and includes a table of contents. The illustrations are colorful and action packed and will help keep children’s attention and add to the text. Through the mice’s experience at the museum, children will see how friendships develop. The book is realistic in what the mouse experiences in a regular day at school. This is the first book in a new series. The book is set up for a sequel.

Verdict: I recommend this book for young children’s libraries. It is action packed, realistic, colorful and fun. Children will relate to the book and be interested in finding out what new adventures Fergus and Zeke will have.

June 2017 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Tree of Wonder: The Many Marvelous Lives of a Rainforest Tree, Kate Messner, illustrated by Simona Mulazzani

Messner, Kate. Tree of Wonder: The Many Marvelous Lives of a Rainforest Tree. Illustrated by Simona Mulazzani. Chronicle Books, 2015.$16.99. ISBN 9781452112480. Unpaged. Ages 5-8. P7Q7.

Messner Tree of WonderThis will be a useful book for school libraries and for classrooms working on environmental issues, geography, biology, etc. The setting is an almendro tree (the “tree of life” in Latin America), and we learn about the wide variety of animals and insects that are supported in this little ecosystem. Each spread has information about a specific animal or insect, a sidebar with more detailed information, silhouettes of the specific creature, and rich acrylic and pencil illustrations. I liked that at the end of the book there is detailed information about the almendro tree and rainforest conservation. There are also a couple of pages about “rainforest math” and suggestions for further information.

January 2016 review by Carol Schramm.

Book review: How to Read a Story, by Kate Messner, illustrated by Mark Siegel

Messner, Kate. How to Read a Story. Il. by Mark Siegel. Chronicle. 2015. $16.99. unp. 978-1-4521-1233-6. Ages 4-6.  P9Q9

Messner How to Read a StoryPeople who love to read may have forgotten that even this automatic skill requires instruction, and Messner has done exactly that in her cheerful, encouraging picture book delineating the ten steps in “how to read a story.” The directions may seem obvious—it starts with “Find a story” and ends with say “the end,” but that is what makes the book so accessible. In between, Siegel’s happy ink and watercolor illustrations make the steps even easier; for example, the boy reads his story to his dog while other family members gather around him. The step to “open the book” is the fifth one, showing the rituals of reading the book for enjoyment. Of course, looking at the cover comes immediately before that. Messner’s new book is a wonderful gift for teachers, parents, librarians, and anyone else who likes to read.

Summer 2015 reviews by Nel Ward.

Book review: Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt, by Kate Messner, art by Christopher Silas Neal

Messner Up in the GardenMessner, Kate. Art by Christopher Silas Neal. Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt. Chronicle Books. 2015. $16.99. 9781452119366. Unp. Ages 4-10. P7Q9

Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt is a successful presentation of the most important component of home gardening—a healthy natural ecosystem. The story follows a young protagonist and her Nana as they coexist alongside their backyard critter counterparts. We are introduced to all of the helpful beasts who inhabit our gardens across the seasons. Without the use of chemicals or much equipment, our narrator and Nana are able to demonstrate how a vigorous community of insects, birds, and reptiles work together to support a thriving garden. This underground biota is revealed through dynamically illustrated cross-sections by which we can observe the garden from above and below. Following the story, Messner included a very useful illustrated glossary that gives the reader a deeper understanding of each animal met in the story. This book will be appreciated by any child with a backyard, community garden, or houseplant. May 2015 review by Lillian Curanzy.