Book review: Magnificent Birds, by Narisa Togo

Togo, Narisa. Magnificent Birds. Candlewick Studio, 2018 (first US Edition). $20.00. ISBN 9781536201697. Unpaged. Ages 9-14. P7Q8

Togo teaches us about a variety of spectacular and interesting birds from around the world. The text is advanced in vocabulary and structure, and will provide a challenge for some readers, especially those who think the picture book format indicates a lower reading level. However, it provides a wealth of fascinating information about the birds chosen, and the flowing language will create a vivid impression in the readers’ minds. What I like most about the book is the illustrations, elegant linocut prints in soft colors that make the two page spreads engrossing.

VERDICT: Readers who like nature books, picture books, or birds will love this one.

November 2018 review by Carol Schramm.



Book review: Pasando Páginas: La historia de me vida, by Sonia Sotomayor, illustrated by Lulu Delacre, translated by Teresa Mlawer

Sotomayor, Sonia. Pasando Páginas: La historia de me vida. Illustrated by Lulu Delacre. Translated by Teresa Mlawer. Philomel Books, 2018. $17.99. ISBN 9780525515494. Unpaged. Ages 7-10. P9 Q10

In the Spanish version of Turning Pages: My Life Story, Sonia Sotomayor shares the story of her life and all she experiences that leads up to her becoming the first Latina Supreme Court Justice. In the English edition, she explains the meaning of cultural words while in the Spanish version, no explanation is needed. In the English edition, it mentions the Catholic High School she attended while the Spanish edition omits it. The phrases in the Spanish edition create a more positive message, for example, the English edition reads, “Fix and try harder to be better” while the Spanish edition reads, “Put things right and try harder.” The ending differs in the following way, “It is what I am” and “This is my responsibility.” The translator took liberty with sentence structure and wording. While the words are not exactly the same, the same image appears in one’s mind. The idiomatic phrases are unique to each language. The words in the Spanish edition flows better than the English edition, even though the English edition was written first. Having read both the English and Spanish editions, I would prefer the Spanish edition since it comes across as warmer and more familial in Spanish. The illustrations are the same in both editions and work equally well.

Verdict: This book contains a lot of information and may be difficult for some children to read. Children may not gravitate on their own to this book, but they may find it interesting if an adult read it to them. This is an inspirational book on starting out with very little and creating, with hard work, a life that greatly influences others. I recommend this book for elementary school libraries.

September 2018 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Inspector Croc’s Emotion-O-Meter, by Susanna Isern, illustrated by Monica Carretero

Isern, Susanna. Inspector Croc’s Emotion-O-Meter. Illustrated by Monica Carretero. NubeOCHO, 2018. 97 pages. ISBN 978-84-17123-07-9. Ages 6-10. P8 Q9

We all have emotions, but how do we explain those emotions to children so they can fully understand and learn to identify them? Inspector Croc is a specialist on emotions who teaches children how to identify, measure and manage emotions. The book consists of 10 short stories or cases with a section that analyzes each story. The emotion-o-meter, with the 3 levels of intensity for each emotion is very helpful. Emotions include joy, sadness, anger, fear, envy, jealousy, surprise, shame, disgust, and love. Included are recipes for dealing with each emotion. Illustrations include animals and creatures from the short stories. This is not a book that young children will read, but a book for adults to read with children. Great for exploring emotions in a fun and non-threatening way. Explains each emotion, low/medium/high intensity and what each level feels and looks like. Emotions are explained in detail, including what they look like and feel like. The book was originally written in Spanish with the title El Emocionometro del Inspector Drilo.

Verdict: With the explanation of all the emotions, the intensity levels, and the emotion-o-meter, this book is a useful tool to help children learn about their emotions. The back cover of the book has an emotion-o-meter that children can use to identify their level of intensity of each of the emotions. I highly recommend this book for elementary age children.

September 2018 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Hello, My Name Is…: How Adorabilis Got His Name, by Marisa Polansky, pictures by Joey Chou

Polansky, Marisa. Hello, My Name Is…: How Adorabilis Got His Name. Pictures by Joey Chou. Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers, 2018. $17.99. ISBN 9780374305062. Unp. Ages 3-7. P7 Q8

In Hello, My Name Is… we follow a cute pink creature as it searches for its name. Along the way, we meet several sea creatures and learn their common names and why they have them. After exploring the pink creature’s many attributes, we learn that it is Adorabilis, a type of flapjack octopus discovered in 2015 by researchers from the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The animals and scenery in the book are depicted with prominent angles, bright colors, and plenty of contrast. A picture of the actual adorabilis, a brief description of taxonomy, and the history of Opisthoteuthis adorabilis’ discovery and naming are included after the story.

Verdict: This is an informative story about how organisms’ names often reflect their physical attributes or behavior. It would be a great addition to a lesson on sea life; but make sure students realize that some of the creatures in the story live in vastly different environments and would never encounter each other in the wild.

October 2018 review by Lillian Curanzy.

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 5 O’clock Band, by Troy Andrew, Illustrated by Bryan Collier

Andrew, Troy. The 5 O’clock Band. Illustrated by Bryan Collier. Abrams Books For Young Readers, 2018. $17.99. ISBN 9781419728365. Unpaged. Ages 4-8. P7Q9.

The 5 O’clock Band is an amazing sneak peek into the magical neighborhood of Treme in New Orleans. The reader follows a young boy, Shorty. He is an integral part of a band called, The 5 O’clock Band.  The band would parade throughout the streets of the town playing and ‘living’ the music that they loved, out loud. One day he was late in meeting his band and is thrust on a personal mission as he doubts his ability to be the band leader he longs to be.  On the boy’s journey we meet many influential people who teach the boy about what it takes to be a leader, how to be dedicated, to honor tradition, and to play with heart. Illustrations are a rich blend of water color collage and pen and ink. Treme is brought to life with the vivid color displays from streets to rooftops captured throughout the story.

Verdict: This is a delightful story and would be a great cultural and historical addition to any classroom or library. It can be used to teach theme, perseverance, tradition, culture, community, and dedication.

September 2018 review by Marcy Doyle.

[Editor’s note: The 5 O’Clock Band is a companion to Andrew’s autobiographical picture book, Trombone Shorty, a 2016 Caldecott honor book and winner of the 2016 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award.]

Book review: Who Says Women Can’t be Computer Programmers?: The Story of Ada Lovelace, by Tanya Lee Stone, illustrated by Marjorie Priceman

Stone, Tanya Lee. Who Says Women Can’t be Computer Programmers?: The Story of Ada Lovelace. Illustrated by Marjorie Priceman. Henry Holt and Company, 2018. $18.99. ISBN 9781627792998. Unpaged. Ages 6-9. P6Q7

Ada Lovelace, daughter of Lord Byron, grew up in England with her mother, who wanted to protect her daughter from developing an overactive imagination like her badly behaved father. Her mother had Ada study math, French and music at home to keep her mind steady, and groomed her for a good marriage. As she grew older, she met the mathematician Charles Babbage, who invented the Difference Engine. Ada worked on the machine with Babbage, and realized that it could do more than basic mathematical calculations; she published a paper describing its potential not only to process numbers, but to create pictures and music. As a result, Ada is thought of as the first computer programmer, and the first to understand what such machines could do. The illustrations (gouache and india ink) are colorful and flowing, and I love that numbers, musical symbols, and other kinds of marks are incorporated in them.

VERDICT: This book will be a good addition to both public and school libraries, and will be useful for teachers talking about women in math and science.

September 2018 review by Carol Schramm.