Book review: Charlie Numb3rs and the Woolly Mammoth, by Ben and Tonya Mezrich

Mezrich, Ben and Tonya Mezrich. Charlie Numb3rs and the Woolly Mammoth. (Charlie Numbers series, book 3.) Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2019. $17.99. 183 pages. ISBN 9781534441002. Ages 8-12. P7 Q7

Charlie is on a Cargo ship being chased and heading for freezing water. He has two choices; he can be caught or he can jump into freezing water. The adventure then goes back two weeks to when Charlie and his friends, all Whiz Kids, find a bone while they are on a field trip to the Boston Public Gardens. Stumped by what the object is, they take it to a science professor at Harvard to be identified. This discovery leads to more questions and new friends who are also scientists. The new friends include Janice and Rod. While Janice is sweet and kind, Rod is a bully and mean. They work together to solve the mystery of the “bone” and why it was found in Boston. The cast of friends include a black girl in a wheelchair (Janice), a Japanese boy, two redheaded boys, boys from a wealthy suburb and some from the city, which offer a diversity in characters. The friends use carbon dating, Boston trivia, and science factoids as they seek to figure out the mystery. Fossils and rocks are highlighted in the story and a rock is actually a clue to the origin of how the “bone” arrived at the Boston Public Gardens. While Rod is a bully, as the story develops, Rod’s backstory comes to light and the dynamics between the friends change in a positive direction. This is the third novel In the Charlie Numbers series, but can stand alone.

Verdict: If you have a child interested in fossils, rocks, carbon dating or science, they would enjoy this adventure.

The reader will learn a lot about fossils, Africa, elephant tusk trade and science as they read this mystery. While the book appears to be lighthearted, one will learn a lot. The themes of friendship, giving others a chance and looking beyond the obvious come through strongly in this book. This would be a great read aloud for a teacher or a good book for families to read together.

November 2019 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Do Not Open This Math Book, by Danica McKellar, illustrated by Maranda Maberry

McKellar, Danica. Do Not Open This Math Book. Illustrator Maranda Maberry. Random House, 2018. $21.99. ISBN 9781101933985. 152 pages. Ages 6-9. P7Q8.  

Do Not Open This Math Book is the ultimate math guide for parents and a fun-loving math companion for 1st and 2nd grade mathematicians. McKellar provides vocabulary explanations, addition and subtraction strategy practice, and hands-on games to provide readers a fail proof method of enjoying and mastering addition and subtraction skills. She uses food, cute characters, and clear and concise illustrations to help families understand the ‘new math’ learned at school. She takes the mystery out of math and makes it fun for all. Verdict: This should be a resource available for all 1st and 2nd grade classrooms and a back to school gift for parents.

September 2018 review by Marcy Doyle.

Book review: The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl, by Stacy McAnulty

McAnulty, Stacy. The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl. Random House, 2018. ISBN 978-1-5247-6758-7. $16.99 283 pages. “Advance Reader’s Copy.” Ages 8-13. P7 Q9

Lucy has not been the same since her near death experience when she was struck by lightning four years ago when she was 8 years old.  The experience left her with brain damage that enhanced her number sense to an amazing ability to recall numbers, make impressive calculations, and recite the digits of pi to the 314th decimal place!  Lucy lives with her grandmother after her mother died and her father disappeared. She would prefer to spend week after week without ever leaving the apartment; she has finished online school and is ready for college academically but lacks social experience.  Lucy’s gifted math mind finds a challenge in finding her way through the drama of middle school halls while she does make a friend or two to help her along. Numbers are routinely represented as numerals to highlight Lucy’s mathematical world. While I found this distracting; I recognized that this was the point.  

Verdict:  Readers will enjoy watching the problems flow into solutions that will remind them of experiences that they personally explore. The problems with group projects and friends will appeal to everyone.  Lucy’s grandmother is supportive which complemented Lucy’s determination and resilience. Very Nice! There are a few typographical errors that I hope are fixed in the published copy.

April 2018 review by Penny McDermott.


Book review: Peg + Cat: The Big Dog Problem, by Jennifer Oxley and Billy Aronson

Oxley, Jennifer and Billy Aronson. Peg + Cat: The Big Dog Problem. (Level 2 Reader)  Candlewick Entertainment, 2017. $4.99. ISBN 9780763697907. 42 Pages. Ages 5-8. P7 Q8

Follow Peg and Cat as they figure out how to mail five letters. Peg and Cat divide the five letters in many ways. On their way to mailing the letter, they encounter a problem…a BIG problem. Using math, drawing plans, and through trial and error, they figure out a way to mail their letters. Peg + Cat is based on the Emmy award-winning animated TV series that uses math skills to solve problems. It is a level 2 reader and great for the developing reader. The illustrations match the text and enhance the story.

Verdict: With four chapters, spacing between the words, and a nice mix of easy and challenging words, this book will be a great addition to any young children’s library. Not only will your child build his/her confidence reading he/she will also learn to manipulate numbers.

December 2017 review by Tami Harris

Book review: Lines, Bars, and Circles: How William Playfair Invented Graphs, by Helaine Becker, illustrated by Marie-Eve Tremblay

Becker, Helaine. Lines, Bars, and Circles: How William Playfair Invented Graphs. Illus. Marie-Eve Tremblay. Kids Can Press, 2017. unp. $17.95. ISBN:978-1-77138-570-1. Gr. 2+. P7 Q8

 I have often heard people remark that they hate change and how, through the ages, people have not wanted to change. William Playfair was a dreamer who lived in the 1700’s in Scotland. During this time, people followed the scientific method to prove ideas, a bad thing for dreamer. He worked at two jobs. One was with Andrew Meike an inventor of machines used in grain mills. The second was with James Watt, an inventor and draftsman. When William had learned what he could, he started his own business and failed at it. William started writing books and the money helped him to live. One of his books was on graphs, which he used to describe different concepts. People scoffed at the circle, line and bar graphs, and the pie charts he dreamed up. It took another 100 years for people to see and use his ideas. The artwork was digitally rendered using Photoshop to tell this story of the dreamer who saw “numbers in pictures.”

Verdict: This historical story tells how one man’s dreams changed how we see the world.

April 2017 review by Carol Bernardi.


Book review: Short Mysteries You Solve with Math!=Misterios cortos que resuelves con matemáticas!, by Eric and Natalie Yoder

Yoder, Eric and Natalie Yoder. Short Mysteries You Solve with Math!=Misterios cortos que resuelves con matemáticas! (One Minute Mysteries series) Science, Naturally!, 2017. $12.95. ISBN 9781938492228. 224 pages. Includes Glossary, Index, and Conversion Table.  Ages 10-14. P6 Q8

Bilingual (English/Spanish) book with vignettes of realistic things that could happen and some silly stories provoke thoughts to explain the mystery. Using higher level thinking skills the reader can predict the explanation and then check the following pages to learn the answer and the mathematical explanation.

Verdict: It is great for a bilingual classroom as a transition read aloud or daily discussion.  Also for the Talented And Gifted (TAG) students or students that need additional challenges, it would be an engaging book to provide an extension to their thinking.

June 2017 review by Deborah Gwynn.


Book review: Max’s Math, by Kate Banks, illustrated by Boris Kulikov

Banks, Kate. Illustrated by Boris Kulikov. Maxs Math. (Max’s Word series.) Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers. 2015. $17.99. 9780374348755. Ages 4-6. P8 Q7

Banks Maxs MathMax’s Math is the fourth book in the Max’s Words series. While the previous books in the series focus on Max’s affinity for language and words, Max’s Math is a slight departure from the norm; the subjects are shapes and numbers. Max travels with his two ever-present brothers to Shapeville and Count Town where they help the inhabitants solve problems—is that a 6 or an inverted 9? The usual wordplay and rhyming dialogue is missing from this volume. Instead, we find clever shape combinations, twin Einsteinesque mayors, and a nearly foiled Count Town countdown. Despite the differences, a visual and conceptual consistency is maintained through Kulikov’s illustration. The pictures in Max’s Math are less painterly than those in Max’s Castle (volume 3); however, this can be attributed to the requisite right angles found in Shapeville. This book is most successful at encouraging problem solving through critical thinking, not necessarily through mathematics. Perhaps Max’s Math denotes an evolution for the series, and a fifth volume may lend more insight into what the future holds for Max and his brothers.

December 2015 review by Lillian Curanzy.