Book review: A Boy, a Mouse, and a Spider: The Story of E.B. White., by Barbara Herkert, illustrated by Lauren Castillo

Herkert, Barbara. A Boy, a Mouse, and a Spider: The Story of E.B. White. Illustrated by Lauren Castillo  Christy Ottaviano Books, 2017. $18.99 ISBN: 9781627792455. Unpaged. Gr. K-2. P7 Q10

This exquisitely written and beautifully illustrated book, written by Newport author Barbara Herkert, introduces the author of Charlotte’s Web to young readers.  E.B. White’s early childhood was filled with explorations of nature and interactions with all sorts of animal life, including a “bold mouse” who later became famous as Stuart Little.   Readers will be captivated by this sweet tale, which shows how adult E.B. (now Andy, editor at The New Yorker) moved his young family to a farm in Maine, where he became inspired to write his famous children’s books.  This book would be an excellent introduction to a classroom reading of his chapter books.  Also contains a brief biography and bibliography.

March 2018 review by N.H.S. students, edited and compiled by Liz Fox.


Book review: Ribbit, by Jorey Hurley

Hurley, Jorey. Ribbit. Simon & Schuster, 2017. Unpaged. $16.99. ISBN 9781481432740. Ages 3-5. P8Q8

Simple, bold illustrations created in Photoshop combined with a single word in each 2-page spread introduce young children to the first year in the life cycle of the northern leopard frog.  The changes from egg to tadpole, tadpole to polliwog, polliwog to froglet, and then to adult hibernating, before beginning the cycle again are given in the illustrations, though the words for the stages are not a part of the book.  Even the ideas of frog as both predator and prey come through in the pictures.

Verdict:  This introduction to the life cycle of frogs is an effective early science book. The visual design is striking, but the spare text does not introduce naming words such as tadpole.  The author’s note at the end of the book does fill in some gaps, but may not be as useful for very young readers. Recommended for preschool, kindergarten and public library collections.

May 2018 review by Jane Cothron.

Book review: Blue Grass Boy, by Barb Rosenstock, illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham

Rosenstock, Barb. Blue Grass Boy. Illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham. Calkins Creek,
2018. $17.95 ISBN 9781629794396. Unpaged. Ages 5-9. P6Q8

I enjoyed learning about Bill Monroe, the father of Bluegrass music, in this picture book biography. From his early years growing up in a big hard working family, to performing in his first band, this story is full of interesting details. Beautiful bold pictures support the text, which includes a two-page biography and actual photos of Monroe and his band. The final page features the lyrics to “Uncle Pen,” a song Bill wrote in tribute to his Uncle Pen, a fiddler, who greatly influenced him as he was growing up.

VERDICT: I highly recommend this book for both school and public libraries. It has a great story
about the roots of Bluegrass Music.

May 2018 review by Denyse Marsh.

Book review: Rock Explorer series, two titles by Claudia Martin

Martin, Claudia. Fossils. (Rock Explorer series). QEB/Quarto Publishing, 2018. $26.65. ISBN 9781682973264. 24 pages. Ages 6-9. P7 Q8

Not only can fossils tell us about the past, they are fun to find and there are so many types. Starting off with the definition of fossils and moving on to how fossils form this reference book includes photographs and facts that will entice children to learn more about fossils. Fossil facts are inserted among the photographs, which makes it easy to read and not overwhelming. This book can be read straight through or readers can pick and choose the chapters they are interested in. In the Rock Explorer series, this book Includes a table of contents, glossary and fossil guide.

Verdict: Children who are interested in learning more about fossils will enjoy this book, which is full of facts and photographs. This book is great for units on fossils. I work in an elementary school and students often ask me how fossils and petrified wood are formed. This book has easy to understand explanations of fossil formation. As an adult who likes to find fossils, I found this book interesting and engaging.


Martin, Claudia. Minerals. (Rock Explorer series). QEB/Quarto Publishing, 2018. $26.65. ISBN 9781682973240. 24 pages. Ages 6-9. P7 Q8

What is a mineral and how does it form? Did you know that there are around 5,000 different minerals? Mineral facts inserted around the colorful photographs will keep children’s interest. This book features amazing crystals, shining metals, strange and powerful minerals, most deadly minerals, and useful minerals. In the Rock Explorer series, this book includes a table of contents, glossary and mineral guide. The photographs are large and colorful. Readers will be not only be able to identify minerals, they will also know why the minerals are important.

Verdict: Children who are interested in minerals will enjoy this fact filled book filled with beautiful photographs. Useful for a unit on minerals. As an adult who likes to learn more about minerals, I found this book interesting and engaging.

March 2018 reviews by Tami Harris.

Book review: Crayola Colorology Series, two titles by Mari Schuh

Schuh, Mari. Crayola Science of Color. “Crayola Colorology Series.” Lerner Publications, 2018. $26.65. ISBN 9781512466911. 32 pages. Ages 5-7.  P7 Q8

Did you know that bright blue pigment was made by surprise? Color is all around us, but have we ever thought what is color, where does it come from, and how does color effect how we feel? Colors can make us calm or give us energy. Featuring Crayola, children learn about primary, secondary, complementary colors and the color wheel. The vibrant photos and lyrical texts will keep children engaged while they learn about colors. The book contains four chapters and includes a table of contents, index, glossary, and titles of books and websites to learn more about colors. This book is in the Crayola Colorology series.

Verdict: Great for a beginning art class or unit on art. Encourages readers to notice colors in the world. Readers and beginning readers alike will enjoy this colorful book.


Schuh, Mari. Crayola Color in Culture. “Crayola Colorology Series.” Lerner Publications, 2018. $26.65. ISBN 9781512466898. 32 pages. Ages 5-7.  P7 Q8

Color is all around us, but why is it important? Color is part of culture: “Culture is the art we make, clothes we wear, and the way we live in the world.” Featuring Crayola, readers discover that colors have different meanings around the world. In Mexico, green is the color of freedom. In India, Holi is the festival of colors. The vibrant photographs and lyrical text will keep children engaged while they learn about colors in culture. The book contains five chapters and includes a table of contents, index, glossary, and titles of books and websites to learn more about colors. It is in the Crayola Colorology series.

Verdict: Not only do readers learn more about colors, they learn about colors in different cultures, expanding the readers knowledge of different cultures while enjoying beautiful photographs. A great addition to libraries for elementary age children.

March 2018 reviews by Tami Harris.

Book review: Hatching Chicks in Room 6, by Caroline Arnold

Arnold, Caroline. Hatching Chicks in Room 6. Charlesbridge, 2017. Unpaged. $16.99. ISBN:9781580897358. Gr. PreK-2.  P5 Q9

Disclaimer: I am a chicken addict, so my enthusiastic endorsement of this book is probably that of a raging poultrygeist.  There are a lot of picture books that feature chickens these days, but few that are as informational as this book on hatching chicks.  Having taught basic embryology to PK-5th graders, I know there’s a need for a book that is engaging and clearly explains incubation.  While this book doesn’t go into the stages of embryology, the photos and text do a great job of showing the process of hatching eggs in a classroom.  Text sidebars are “eggs” that give more detailed information; it’s evident in how user-friendly this book is that the author worked closely with a classroom educator. Contains FAQ, definitions, list of online and book resources.

March 2018 review by Liz Fox.

Book review: Two picture biographies about Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Krull, Kathleen. No Truth without Ruth: The Life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Illus. by Nancy Zhang. Harper, 2018. $17.99. unp. ISBN 978-0-06-256011-7. Ages 6-9.

Winter, Jonah. Ruth Bader Ginsburg: The Case of R.B.G. vs. Equality. Illus. by Stacy Innerst. Abrams, 2017. $18.95. unp. ISBN 978-1-4197-2559-3. Ages 7-10.

Both books begin with the childhood of the person who grew up to be the first Jewish woman Supreme Court judge, highlighting her mother’s life as she was forced to find a job to support her brother in college and then stay home after her marriage. Both authors describe how Ginsburg adored her mother and skipped her high school graduation because of her mother’s death the day before. Other anecdotes, such as Ginsburg hiding in the bathroom to study in college to hide her intelligence from males, are repeated in both books. From there, they diverge: Krull’s concentrates almost entirely on Ginsburg’s legal cases whereas Winter addresses her observation of prejudice while she is young and her devotion to her husband. The real differences between the books are the stylistic approach toward Ginsburg’s activism and the artwork.

Zhang’s digital art in the Krull book is very colorful and almost pretty at time. Ginsburg, who is much shorter than most people, seems to be equal in height or even loom over others except for the illustration of her with Bill Clinton when he names her justice. Both he and Jimmy Carter are unrecognizable, and Clinton is pictured with gray hair which he didn’t have at that time. Innerst’s gouache, ink, and Photoshop in Winter’s book are more somber with muted shades and a diminutive Ginsburg. The narrative uses the framework of a court case to give biographical information, and a break partway through the book uses pages from yellow pads to show evidence of the “more outrageous nonsense Ruth endured,” beginning with her demotion and loss of wages at her first job after college because she was pregnant. Winter’s book also has a helpful glossary and one-page Author’s Note that gives more about Ginsburg’s life. Krull’s narrative may be slightly more accessible, but Winter’s book is a fuller picture of its subject.

Verdict: Although both books are worth purchasing, I would pick the Winter book if making a choice of just one because it is a fuller depiction of Ginsburg.

Krull: P7Q7; Winter: P6Q9

March 2018 review by Nel Ward.