October 16, 2017

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Nonfiction Xpress Reviews | January 2017

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1701-nf-xpressrevCusick, Dawn. Get the Scoop on Animal Snot, Spit & Slime!: From Snake Venom to Fish Slime, 251 Cool Facts About Mucus, Saliva & More. 80p. glossary. index. photos. Quarto/MoonDance. Sept. 2016. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9781633221154.

Gr 3 Up –Using colorful photos, short paragraphs, and a well-organized format, this book on the nastier bits of animal biology will be a fun read for all. Kids will learn about the importance of mucus for the eyes, skin, and digestion of a variety of beasts, such as elephants and sea lions. The importance of slime and spit, including their role in protecting prey from their predators, will surprise readers. Subjects that often provoke laughter in children are presented in an informative, straightforward manner that reveals the amazing abilities of many domestic and wild creatures. VERDICT Consider for collections where students can’t get enough gross animal facts.–Denise Moore, formerly at O’Gorman Junior High School, Sioux Falls, SD

Garbot, Dave. The Big Book of Cartooning: An Adventurous Journey into the Amazing & Awesome World of Cartooning! illus. by Dave Garbot. 200p. Walter Foster. Oct. 2016. pap. $14.95. ISBN 9781633221772.

K-Gr 4 –How many eyes should an alien have? What kind of face does a race car driver make in action? Professional illustrator Garbot encourages kids to use imagination and humor when drawing cartoons. Cartoon themes include superheroes, aliens, monsters, animals, sports, and fantasy figures made up of simple shapes such as circles, squares, triangles, and, occasionally, blobs. Ultimately, this is a simple exercise in learning how to draw. Projects are suggested with steps to take toward the finished figure. Blank practice pages follow examples of eyes and mouths, while color wheels teach about using primary, secondary, and complementary colors. Expressions are suggested to show different emotions. The line drawings given as templates are bold and easily traceable, while the color palette is vibrant and inviting. The book encourages readers to add their own ideas to the offered suggestions. VERDICT Kids will want to draw all over this book, so have some scrap paper handy. Consider for art/illustration-centered programming.–Jessica Cline, New York Public Library

Gilinsky, Jack & Jack Johnson. Jack & Jack: You Don’t Know Jacks. 256p. photos. HarperCollins. Sept. 2016. Tr $21.99. ISBN 9780062484444.

Gr 9 Up –Back in their high school days, Gilinsky and Johnson created a Vine that they dubbed “Nerd Vandals.” The Vine went viral, racking up more than 10 million plays, thus paving their way to social media stardom. Since then, they’ve become Vine stars, YouTube celebrities, and popular musicians. This book serves as a photo album, providing images from their childhoods through recent concerts, with an extended Q&A in which the pair discuss embarrassing school moments, relationships, and their path to the spotlight. They detail their transition from Nebraska to Los Angeles, their decision to delay college in favor of their entertainment careers, and more. Some of their comments reflect their youth (“I don’t want to be single my entire life. That stuff’s fun, but once you’re past twenty-five, you know what you want”) and light misogyny (“I don’t think you should ever, on principle, kiss and tell. Unless it’s some badass celebrity chick like Rihanna. Then you gotta brag and tell your bros. You just gotta.”). VERDICT The book’s references to particular Vines, music videos, and inside jokes are more likely to alienate readers unfamiliar with the authors’ brand than to entice them to become new viewers. However, fans of this duo will enjoy this inside peek into the pair’s life.–Brandy Danner, Coakley Middle School, Norwood, MA

Jones, Charlotte Foltz. Mistakes That Worked: The World’s Familiar Inventions and How They Came To Be. illus. by John O’Brien. 96p. bibliog. ebook available. illus. index. Delacorte. Oct. 2016. Tr $12.99. ISBN 9780399552021.

Gr 3-5 –All of the inventions mentioned in this book were the result of accidents. Frozen dinner rolls, cheese, Velcro, piggy banks, X-rays, and penicillin were all “oopsies” that turned into popular everyday items. Sections cover food, clothing, toys, medical inventions, and more. Significant changes have been made to the original version of this title, published in 1991. Recent statistics replace outdated numbers: how much cheese people eat, how much Coke has been consumed, how many potato chips are sold, etc. Previously, additional information or recipes were included on the page. Now, they are given their own space, making them easier to read. Gone are the full-page, color, pen-and-ink illustrations. Smaller, black-and-white versions are inserted among the text. These images comically portray the unexpected benefits that can come from making mistakes. VERDICT Nicely updated; consider to replace the older edition.–Sandra Welzenbach, Villarreal Elementary School, San Antonio

Kainen, Dan & Kathy Wollard. Jungle: A Photicular Book. 24p. photos. Workman. Aug. 2016. Tr $25.95. ISBN 9780761189534.

Gr 3 Up –Kainen, author of several “Photicular” titles (including Safari and Ocean), wows readers yet again with gorgeous, rippling photos of jungle creatures. A monkey, a snake, a tiger, and a very realistic tarantula all seem to move across the page thanks to the unique photicular images. Wollard, who contributed to the dynamic text, brings even more life to the page with her descriptions of each animal and its connection to its ecosystem. The vibrant photos will make this a highly engaging title for individual and group use. As with other interactive books, the pages may take a beating, and that is something to consider before purchasing. The images are energetic, and the text is informative and interesting. VERDICT This would make a great fit for collections that serve animal lovers and those who can’t get enough of the “Photicular” books.–Sarah Knutson, American Canyon Middle School, CA

McGillian, Jamie Kyle. The Kids’ Money Book: Earning, Saving, Spending, Investing, Donating. 112p. index. websites. Sterling. Sept. 2016. pap. $7.95. ISBN 9781454919773.

Gr 3-5 –This update of the 2003 edition by the same author adds credit cards and bitcoin to the broad range of financial topics presented to young money managers. The introduction refers to a 2015 Piper Jaffray survey, “Taking Stock with Teens,” as the source of data about what teens buy. U.S. investment bank and asset management firm Piper Jaffray surveyed 6,500 subjects who preferred high-end stores such as Ralph Lauren, so readers with smaller allowances may not find answers to their questions. The content covers the history of money and basic money management, from maximizing allowance through bank accounts to using credit and debit cards. There is discussion of debt, identity theft, and charity. The most valuable tip is the “Immediate Gratification Blaster” (IGB), a trick to help readers hesitate before spending unwisely—this alone is worth the price of admission. The language is simple and accessible to middle grade readers. The explanations are clear despite the breadth of information offered in only 112 pages. VERDICT Targeted toward upper-middle-class consumers/readers. Consider only as an update to the original title.–Dorcas Hand, formerly at Annunciation Orthodox School, Houston

Morgan, Emily. Next Time You See a Cloud. 32p. (Next Time You See). photos. websites. National Science Teachers Association. Sept. 2016. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781941316320.

K-Gr 4 –Designed to be shared with an adult, this book is filled with glossy photographs and engaging facts about clouds. The conversational narrative speaks to child readers, asking questions such as, “Have you ever looked up at a cloud and wondered what it would be like to be inside it?” This direct address will encourage youngsters to consider nature more deeply. In addition to the back matter, free supplementary activities are available on the NSTA website. VERDICT Though this title is written for elementary-age children, educators can use it, as well as others in the series, as a launching pad for student exploration.–Annette Herbert, F. E. Smith Elementary School, Cortland, NY

Osborne, Mary Pope & Natalie Pope Boyce. Magic Tree House Incredible Fact Book. illus. by Sal Murdocca. 132p. ebook available. index. photos. Random. Sept. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780399551178.

Gr 2-5 –Jack and Annie, stars of the “Magic Tree House” books, have traveled to prehistoric times, sailed around the world, and even visited fantasy realms. These fictional installments have always been able to combine adventure storytelling with true facts and a riddle or two to solve. Now our intrepid travelers have decided to put all they’ve learned into a slick-looking volume. The tidbits presented aren’t for serious research or study. Rather, they are for kids who love to eat up information and beat everyone else at trivia games. Each spread contains photographs, spot illustrations of Jack and Annie, and about five to 10 sentences, depending on the topic. The title is organized into various subject areas, starting with insects and arachnids and ending with an additional facts section for the content that didn’t fit neatly into any other category. Although no source material is listed, the authors—Osborne and sister Boyce—have written 35 “Magic Tree House Fact Trackers,” which provide their bona fides. VERDICT An additional purchase for most libraries, but a very cool gift for a child who loves to learn.–Marie Drucker, Hewlett-Woodmere Public Library, NY

Smiler, Andrew P. Dating and Sex: A Guide for the 21st Century Teen Boy. 208p. charts. further reading. index. Magination. Sept. 2016. pap. $14.95. ISBN 9781433820458.

Gr 9 Up –Smiler, the associate editor of the journal Psychology of Men and Masculinity, has written an insightful and engaging work that explores dating and sex in a nonjudgmental manner. He emphasizes early on that the primary focus for teens should be awareness of their identity and being comfortable with their bodies. Smiler asserts that dating and sex also call for an understanding of one’s partner as well as adherence to one’s values and preferences. The very extensive list of references (a whopping 15 pages) is likely more suited to professionals than to the average teen reader. However, there are charts, a short resource list (pertaining only to three of the 11 chapters), and a comprehensive index. Overall, this is a refreshing work that covers a number of pertinent issues (body image, masturbation, sexual identity, etc.) with sensitivity and clarity. VERDICT In addition to teen boys, parents and youth professionals should also find this title rewarding.–Jeanette Lambert, formerly at Nashville-Davidson County Schools, TN

Watts, Gillian. Creatures Close Up. photos by Philippe Martin. 64p. index. Firefly. Oct. 2016. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781770857834; pap. $9.95. ISBN 9781770857827.

Gr 3-6 –A stunning rainbow locus, a mesmerizing praying mantis, and a gorgeous lined day gecko are just a few of the amazing subjects that nature photographer Martin has captured for this book. In 2013, Martin traveled to Madagascar, where he spent 28 days in the rain forest taking photographs of many of the animals featured using a technique he developed called “hyper focus.” Children will be entranced as each creature appears to jump off the page. A short but highly informative summary by Watts accompanies each image and will be sure to spark curiosity. A section on close-up photography and the hyper focus process is included for those intrigued by the technique. VERDICT Pair this book with Martin’s equally striking Hyper Nature for more up-close nature photography.–Joy Poynor, formerly at Rogers Public Library, AR

This article was published in School Library Journal's January 2017 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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