Book review: Under Pressure: The Science of Stress, by Tanya Lloyd Kyi, illustrations Marie-Ève Tremblay

Kyi, Tanya Lloyd. Under Pressure: The Science of Stress. Il. Marie-Ève Tremblay. Kids CanPress, 2019. $16.99. 76p. ISBN 978-1-5253-0007-3. Ages 7-10. P6 Q7

Each chapter opening with a hypothetical tale of stress, this self-help book describes the fight-or-flight response to perceived danger, the affects of trauma on the brain and hormones, coping strategies such as mindfulness for stress, methods used by athletes for positively employing stress, and treatments from scientists to help young people understand stress management. Sidebars and factoids add to the narration that includes stories and examples. Tremblay’s colorful and humorous digitally-rendered illustrations add to the content.

Verdict: Probably better read with an adult, the book provides useful scientific information about the subject. It has a positive approach by explaining how stress can help the body.

May 2020 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Manners Are Not for Monkeys, by Heather Tekavec, illustrated by David Huyck

Tekavec, Heather. Manners are Not for Monkeys. Illustrated by David Huyck. Kids Can Press, 2016. 32 pages. $16.95 cloth. ISBN 978-1-77138-051-5. Ages 3-7. P8 Q7

This is quite the rollicking story about manners… in monkeys and in children, and what they each learn from each other by watching and imitation. The illustrations are quite fun, and children will enjoy the faces and antics of the monkeys. With some adult supervision and comment, young readers will get a good dose of starting basic manners.

Verdict: This was an ok book for me. The illustrations were engaging, but I am guessing some parents won’t love some of the story about how the monkeys seemed to have better manners than the kids. But… maybe that is the point? I think kids will enjoy the story.

May 2020 review by Lynne Wright.

Book review: Hawks Kettle, Puffins Wheel and Other Poems of Birds in Flight, by Susan Vande Griek, illustrated by Mark Hoffman

Vande Griek, Susan. Hawks Kettle, Puffins Wheel and Other Poems of Birds in Flight. Illustrated by Mark Hoffman. Kids Can Press, 2019. $16.99. ISBN 9781771389952. Unpaged. Ages 8-12. P6 Q7

Birds, poetry, and bird facts work together to create a beautiful picture book which features twelve species of birds. One page contains lyrical poetry about the bird’s flight and the next page contains facts about the bird, with drawings of large birds, on backgrounds consisting of soft bluish-green, peach, and mustard yellow. The illustrations were rendered in gouche and digital media. Included is a “More about birds” section that provides facts about each of the birds featured and a glossary along with drawings of feathers from each of the birds.  This informational picture book won the Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children’s Book Award and the Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children’s Non-Fiction.

Verdict: Not only will the reader enjoy the poetry, they will learn about the birds as well. I can see this book being used on a unit about birds or poetry. It can be a model for readers on how to write poetry based on subjects that interest them. My daughter is a bird watcher and she loved this book.

May 2020 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: No Room for a Pup!, by Elizabeth Suneby, illustrated by Laurel Molk

Suneby, Elizabeth. No Room For a Pup! Illustrated by Laurel Molk. Kids Can Press, 2019. $16.99. ISBN 9781525300295. Unpaged. Ages 5-12. P7 Q7

Mia wants a puppy, but her mom says they do not have room for one. Mia and her grandmother come up with a plan to help her mother see that they do have room for a puppy. This sweet story is full of animals, chaos, control, and then compromise. The bond of love between Mia and her grandmother is heartwarming. The characters are of various races and the exchangse between animals and humans are kind. The illustrations are animated and show movement of the animals. The illustrations are created with watercolor, pencil, bits of paper, tea bags and other sundry items with a bit of Photoshop. This is a twist on the Yiddish folktale, It Could Always be Worse. An earlier retelling by Margot Zemach was published in 1978 and was a Caldecott Honor book.

Verdict: Readers will be entertained by the grandmother’s antics, the movement of the animals and the love that is shared in the family. Readers will relate to wanting something so badly that they try a wide variety of ideas to get what they want.  Teamwork, imagination, compromise and growth mindset run throughout the story. This is a great read aloud.

May 2020 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Alien Nate, by Dave Whamond

Whamond, Dave. Alien Nate. Kids Can Press, 2020. $14.99. ISBN 9781525302091. 64 pages. Ages 6-10. P7 Q7

Why would an alien want to come to earth? To find pizza of course! Vegans, aliens from the Vega system find pizza that was accidently left on Voyager 1 and send a representative to earth to get pizza. Alien Nate is chosen for the mission and he only has one thing on his mind: pizza! A child helps Nate navigate earth while men in beige suits chase after Nate. When Nate tries a variety of pizzas, the long held debate over pineapple on pizza is discussed. When Nate tries to go back to his planet, he discovers his spaceship is out of fuel. Along with his new friends, he has to find a way to refuel his spaceship before the men in beige find him. This humorous graphic novel has glossy pages, bright expressive illustrations and is full of action. Capital letters are used when the characters exclaim or yell. The graphic novel style platform works well for this adventure.

Verdict: A perfect choice for emerging readers, this graphic novel will keep the reader engaged as they learn about adaptability, teamwork, problem solving, growth mindset, and inclusivity. The action and bright colors will appeal to readers of all ages. The interactions between the characters is heart-warming and positive. I highly recommend this book.

March 2020 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Hide-and-Seek, by R.D. Ornot, illustrations by Sakshi Mangal

Ornot, R.D. Hide-and-Seek. Illustrations by Sakshi Mangal. Kids Can Press, 2019. 16.99. ISBN 9781771387941. Unpaged Ages 2-4. P9Q8

Prepositions have never been so much fun! A fox, and bear, and an owl play hide and seek at the park. The familiar game of hide and seek starts with counting 1-10, and then the all important “Ready or not here I come” is announced. As the characters seek to find each other the cute illustrations clearly show the meaning of each positional word. The text features these words in big, bold capital letters. Each time a friend is found, a hug is given. So sweet! In the last game, Bear cannot find his hiding friends, so they finish the game with a new twist.

Verdict: This short simple  book does not lack in teaching big important concepts. Vocabulary words like beside, behind, and among are clearly laid out in the book. Coupled with the value of friends and kindness, this book is a keeper.

March 2020 review by Denyse Marsh.

Book review: The Boy Who Invented the Popsicle: The Cool Science Behind Frank Epperson’s Famous Frozen Treat, by Anne Renaud, illustrated by Milan Pavlovic

Renaud, Anne. The Boy Who Invented the Popsicle: The Cool Science Behind Frank Epperson’s Famous Frozen Treat. Illustrated by Milan Pavlovic. Kids Can Press, 2019. $16.99. ISBN 9781525300288. Unpaged. Ages 4-8. P8 Q8

Have you ever wondered how the popsicle was invented? Frank was always interested in inventing. He pondered questions, tinkered, tested, analyzed and scrutinized. At age 10 he masterminded his first invention, a handcar with two handles He loved experimenting with flavored soda waters. In 1905, when he was 11, he put his glass of soda water on the back porch and woke up with it frozen! This was before 1940 when the freezer became popular in North America. When Frank was unsuccessful with an invention, he kept trying. Science experiments are sprinkled throughout the book relating to the story. When talking about the freezer box, the experiment is how to make a frozen treat in 5 min. The backmatter contains the Author’s note which is a biography of Frank’s life, which include photos from 1907 of Frank’s family, Frank selling popsicles, and vintage popsicle advertisements. Having  9 children, he wanted to make extra money for his growing family. In 1924 he applied for patents for his “frozen confectionery” and his “confectionery-making apparatus.” In his lifetime, he invented many things, he even designed and built two of his homes, both of which were inspired by castles. The illustrations bring the reader back to the early 1900’s and show Frank’s imagination.

Verdict: This book stands apart from other biographies in that it includes science facts and experiments. Children will be inspired by Frank’s story and want to do the experiments, which are quick, easy and require common items that most households have. This story could be a catalyst for children to create their own invention. I highly recommend this book.

December 2019 review by Tami Harris.