Book review: Amelia Earhart and the Flying Chariot, by Steve Sheinkin, illustrated by Neil Swaab

Sheinkin, Steve. Amelia Earhart and the Flying Chariot. Illustrated by Neil Swaab. (Time Twisters series, book 4.) Roaring Brook Press, 2019. $13.99. ISBN 9781250148995. 157 pages. Ages 7-10. P7 Q7

Abby and Doc have the ability to go back in time through a cardboard box in the library where their mom works. However, the box works both ways and people from the past are able to come to the library as well. When Abby finds a pair of goggles where her glasses were, this starts an adventure to visit the owner of the goggles, Amelia Earhart. As the adventure continues, it is obvious that someone is messing with time, who could it be? There are twists and turns which will bring the reader to interesting places in history. The ending is especially delightful. The illustrations are line drawings and spread throughout the book. The end of the book includes a section titled “Untwisting history” where the author includes true facts about Amelia Earhart. This book is unique in that it is nonfiction/fiction all in one. Even though this book is the fourth in the series, it can stand alone. The author references adventures from past books in the series in this book, which may spark the readers interest and encourage them to read the rest of the series.

Verdict: Readers who are interested in past historical figures but also like adventures and imagination will enjoy this time travel book. This is a fun way for readers to learn about historical figures. I recommend this book.

November 2019 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: The Little Guys, by Vera Brosgol

Brosgol, Vera. The Little Guys. Roaring Book Press, 2019. Unpaged. $17.99 ISBN 9781626724426. Ages  5-7. P7Q7

Strength and courage can come in any size! From beginning to end The Little Guys in an inspirational book that encourages teamwork and perseverance. From marching through the dark forest unafraid to climbing the tallest trees the little guys can do it all bravely and most importantly together. Beautiful, silly and colorful illustrations make this book a fun book to read for young children. The little guys also wreak a little havoc on the other woodland creatures along the way in silly and unique ways that will keep children laughing and engaged.

Verdict: There is a mild semi-bullying related page in the book that might turn off some teachers or parents. Other than that The Little Guys is a catchy book with words of encouragement teaching children that even if you may be small you can still be mighty.

October 2019 review by Melissa Roberts.

Book review: Vincent Comes Home, by Jessixa Bagley and Aaron Bagley

Bagley, Jessixa, and Aaron Bagley. Vincent Comes Home. Roaring Book Press, 2018. 32 pages. $17.99. ISBN 9781626727809. Ages 4 and up. P8Q8

Vincent is a cat who lives on a cargo ship. He has travelled all over the world with the crew and his master. He begins to hear about “home” and crew looking forward to going to this place called home. Vincent finally gets off the ship and follows them home, thinking it was a special town or place. Finally, his master tells him it is time to go home… and Vincent learns the true meaning of the word. The illustrations are quite fun- seaports and cities and maps of the world.

VERDICT- I very much enjoyed this book. Of course, the true meaning of ‘home’ was well illustrated, but the drawings were also full of great things to explore. It is light and a fun addition to picture books.

June 2019 review by Lynne Wright.

Book review: Spring After Spring: How Rachel Carson Inspired the Environmental Movement, by Stephanie Roth Sisson

Sisson, Stephanie Roth. Spring After Spring: How Rachel Carson Inspired the Environmental Movement. Roaring Brook Press, 2018. 31 pages. $17.99. ISBN: 9781626728196. Ages 4-7. P8Q6

This picture book biography of Rachel Carson begins with her childhood life observing wildlife in Pennsylvania.  Pictures of Eastern songbirds captioned with songs of various specific species illustrate the young girl’s wonder at the natural life around her.  As the book progresses, text and pictures flow to show first her fascination with sea life and then her growing concern with the expanding use of environmental poisons and the unintended effects on the evironment.  Includes bibliographic notes, source notes, and bibliography.

Verdict: The author has written a pleasant story about nature and a girl becoming a science writer who addressed pesticides in the environment. The illustrations and varied layout flow well from page to page.  Unfortunately, as a biography, this falls short.  The author repeats the phrase, “She was scared” to try to show Carson’s courage, but the repetition conveys the notion only that she was afraid.  For me, It did not convey the concept of courage. Nowhere does the author mention the sexism  and family crises that limited Rachel Carson’s life as a woman and scientist.  I am torn—the birdsong and depictions of wildlife will be good for reading aloud and storytimes–but the gloss over the life of a fascinating woman limits my appreciation of this book.  Treat this an addition purchase for public and elementary school libraries.

June 2019 review by Jane Cothron.

Book review: Rescuing Rialto: A Baby Sea Otter’s Story, by Lynda V. Mapes, photographs by Alan Berner

Mapes, Lynda V. Rescuing Rialto: A Baby Sea Otter’s Story. Photo. By Alan Berner. Roaring Brook, 2019. Unp. $18.99. ISBN 978-1-250-14764-6. Ages 7-10. P8Q8

“The baby sea otter was hungry.” That is how Mapes begins her odyssey following the rescue of the infant stranded alone on Rialto Beach in northern Washington. As Mapes chronicles the steps taken to bring Rialto back to health, care for his as he grows, and train him for his future to be with other orphaned baby otters at Vancouver Aquarium, she describes otters’ characteristics, characteristics, and nature. Photographs contribute to the text in their depictions of staff members working with Rialto.

Verdict: Rialto’s story is lively, and the photographs are captivating. An advantage of the book is the use of photographs instead of illustrations that give a sense of reality to Rialto and his needs that creates empathy for this endangered species.

June 2019 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Crossing on Time: Steam Engines, Fast Ships, and a Journey to the New World

Macaulay, David. Crossing on Time: Steam Engines, Fast Ships, and a Journey to the New World. Roaring Brook, 2019. 125p. ISBN 978-1-59643-477-6. Ages 9-13. P8Q9

Using his typical detailed drawings and narrative the author-illustrator follows the people and inventions of steam-powered ships that made shipping and travel across the ocean possible. Of particular interest to Macaulay was the last of these ships, the SS United States, built by Francis Gibbs in the 1950s, just before the launch of jet service across the North Atlantic in 1958.

Verdict: A delightful touch to this narrative comes from Macaulay’s personal view: he traveled on the ship 62 years ago from England when he was only ten years old. With his mother, sister, and brother, he came to join his father in the United States. The award-winning creator of the book is noted for other architectural books such as Cathedral and City as well as his Caldecott winner, Black and White. History, engineering, and memoir—all wrapped up in one book.

June 2019 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Beyond Words: What Elephants and Whales Think and Feel, by Carl Safina

Safina, Carl. Beyond Words: What Elephants and Whales Think and Feel. Roaring Brook, 2019. 165p. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-250-14463-8. Ages 8-12. P7Q8

Large print invites readers to anecdotes about the author’s experiences in Kenya and the Pacific Northwest as he learns about behaviors of the largest animals on earth. Safina also explains how humans are eradicating both species; the last chapter about the deaths of orcas from humans separating families, taking their food, polluting their water, and then finishing them off with Navy underwater sonar and explosion testing is especially painful. Adapted from Safina’s 2015 book with the same name, this version for middle school readers omits chapters about wolves.

Verdict: Black and white photographs are a bit muddy and repetitive, adding little to the text. Readers will gain, however, from learning that these animals are more protective and supportive of their families than humans are.

June 2019 review by Nel Ward.