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.

Book review: Join the No-Plastic Challenge!: A First Book of Reducing Waste, by Scot Ritchie

Ritchie, Scot. Join the No-Plastic Challenge!: A First Book of Reducing Waste. (Exploring Our Community series, book 7.) Kids Can Press, 2019. 32 pages. $16.99. ISBN 978-1525302404. Ages 5 and up. P9 Q9

This is a very timely subject of reducing plastic waste that is full of valuable and useable information on why plastic is bad for everything to ideas for using other reusable items as alternatives. It also explains in a manner that children will understand why straws are not good, how to plan for a party and not use plastic, and also how to help clean up the waste now here.

VERDICT: This is a subject often discussed, and the way this was written will inform kids and the adults who are reading to them. The illustrations are simple yet effective, and the Words to Know at the back are a helpful tool. Great to see this children’s book to teach this important subject.

December 2019 review by Lynne Wright.

Book review: Bugs, by Pamela Hickman, illustrated by Carolyn Gavin

Hickman, Pamela. Bugs. Illustrated by Carolyn Gavin.  (Nature All Around series.) Kids Can Press, 2019. $17.99. ISBN 9781771388207. 32 pgs. Ages 7-10. P7 Q6

This excellent science book gives the reader an abundance of information about insects. One of the first things we learn is the definitions of “insect” and “bug”- the scientific difference is explained, but the author uses “bug” as the general term throughout the book. Other topics are metamorphosis, how to tell insects apart from imposters (like spiders), where insects live, their life cycles, and what happens to them during the four seasons- each presented with simple yet informative language. Some unusual insects are showcased in side bars on several pages, and there is a guide to “Beginner Bug-Watching,” information on endangered insects, a glossary, and an index. The illustrations are clear, colorful, and have a sense of fun. I really liked how the illustrator used artistic scenes, charts, and diagram-like spreads to present information. My library has Nature All Around: Trees, by the same authors, and it has been a big hit with homeschooling families and others.

VERDICT: I am really impressed with the books in this series (I hope there will be more?). They are informative, beautiful, and fun to read.

December 2019 review by Carol Schramm.

Book review: Megabugs: And Other Prehistoric Critters That Roamed the Planet, by Helaine Becker, illustrated by John Bindon

Becker, Helaine. Megabugs: And Other Prehistoric Critters That Roamed the Planet. Illustrated by John Bindon. Kids Can Press, 2019. $17.99. ISBN 9781771388115. 31 pages. Ages 6-10. P7 Q7

Have you ever thought about the bugs that existed before humans? Megabugs, which are the ancestors of modern-day insects, from the Paleozoic era, are featured. All of the megabugs are arthropods, invertebrates with segmented bodies, exoskeletons, and jointed appendages. Each megabug has an illustration of its size in comparison to a 4 ft 7-inch human. The size of the megabugs range between 9.8 inches to 8 ft 6 inches. Each page includes the megabug’s name with a pronunciation guide, name meaning, number of species, habitat, fave snack, survival strategy, and modern relatives. The book also includes giants of today, from the colossal crab, supersized spider, and revolting roach. The author leaves the reader with the question, “what will megabugs of the future be like?” Text boxes set in each page explain adaptation, mutation, eurypterids, family trees, oxygen connection, oxygen levels now and then, and fossil forensics. The illustrator relied on research and fossils left behind, which can show the shapes and sizes of the bugs, to create the illustrations. Several paleontologists reviewed the illustrations for accuracy. Contains a glossary, further reading section, and online resources.

Verdict: This book is a must have for readers who like dinosaurs, prehistoric life and insects. The visuals will appeal to readers of all ages and the information is presented in as easy to understand format. This book has STEM applications for earth and life science. Emerging readers will enjoy looking at the infographics and be able to glean information as well as advanced readers.

September 2019 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Trees, by Pamela Hickman, illustrated by Carolyn Gavin

Hickman, Pamela. Trees. Illustrated by Carolyn Gavin. (Nature All Around series.) Kids Can Press, 2019. 32 pgs. $17.99. ISBN 9781771388047. Ages 7 and up. P9Q8

This is a new addition to the Nature All Around series. It is a factual general introduction on trees. It moves from a wide view on types of trees and narrows through the pages on the scientific parts of various trees, plus processes of photosynthesis and respiration. It then moves into the different seasons and what happens to trees in each period, and even covers beginning tree watching and touches on endangered trees. Contains very complete basic information and a glossary in the back. The illustrations are a bit elementary for identification purposes, although attractive to look at.

VERDICT: This is an excellent basic introduction to trees, and I even learned a couple of interesting tree facts. It is well organized and would be a great learning tool. The one drawback I observed was the illustrations, which seemed too basic for the information provided. It would be difficult to actually ID trees and some parts through the illustrations. But it is a great starting book, and educators could step in and add more detailed photographs or a field trip to continue this discovery of trees.

April 2019 review by Lynne Wright.


Book review: Rosie’s Glasses, by Dave Whamond

Whamond, Dave. Rosie’s Glasses. Kids Can, 2018. $16.99. unp. ISBN 978-1-77138-991-4. Ages 4-7. P8Q7

Ink drawings with purple highlights and a black cloud over Rosie’s head morph to full color and a happy Rosie when she discovers a pair of rose-colored glasses. Her loss of the glasses at the end of this wordless book shows her that she doesn’t need them to be satisfied with her life.

Verdict: A somewhat didactic look at dealing with depression, the book makes recovery seem simpler than it actually is. Illustrations from varied perspectives in an almost amusement park “fun house” fashion are well done, but the glasses don’t seem enough justification for gloomy people, including Rosie’s family, to immediately move into a world of happiness.

January 2019 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Me and Me, by Alice Kuipers

Kuipers, Alice. Me and Me. Kids Can Press, 2018. 239. $10.99. ISBN  9781525301414. 14+. P7Q7

Lark’s dream date with Alec begins as she has imagined. As she’s living it, she knows it will become a new song for her to perform with her band, one more way to capture its perfection.  Then the idyllic canoe ride on the glassy lake becomes a nightmare when the air is pierced by cries for help. Annabelle, a four-year-old who has been enjoying the afternoon with her mom at the lake’s edge, is drowning. When Lark and Alec dive in for the rescue, Alec hits his head and sinks.  Lark can only save one.  Will it be Alec or Annabelle?  The choice she makes splits her world in two. In the course of this novel, Lark plays out two versions of her life; in each, only one of the two regains consciousness.  The other remains in a coma at the hospital.  In one, Lark continues her relationship with Alec, one that becomes more complex as it develops.  In the other, guilt over Alec and the gratitude of Annabelle’s parents send Lark in a totally different direction. She switches between these parallel states and begins to fray as the world start to overlap. She is not fully herself in either, and before she loses herself altogether, she must find a way to integrate these lives.

VERDICT: The possibilities inherent in “what if” thinking, in the existence of parallel lives, will appeal to mature teen readers as will the important role music plays.  Kuipers uses a rush of water as the way to take Lark from one life to the other, and unfortunately as a device, it is not totally successful.  Her epilogue admits as much when she answers the questions that linger after the narrative has concluded. The writing successfully carries each of the separate story strands, but the resolution lacks the conviction of the rest of the novel. The idea, however, of how pivotal moments define us will appeal to many teens.

November 2018 review by Patricia Emerson.