December 12, 2017

The Advocate's Toolbox

Most Unusual Atlases, Animals Galore, & More Reference Titles

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The Animal Book. 164p. glossary. illus. index. photos. Lonely Planet. Sept. 2017. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781786574343.

Gr 2-5 –This coffee-table book examines various animals of the world, arranged by continents and regions: the Arctic, North and Central America, South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, Antarctica, Oceania, and the oceans. Each one- to two-page entry covers a different creature, with up-to-date tidbits of information accompanying small, full-color photographs. Readers will learn, for example, that the four types of giraffes once considered subspecies are now recognized as separate species, making conservation efforts crucial. A text box includes the animal’s scientific name, size (and sometimes weight), diet, endangered status, and an “amazing fact” (for instance, hippos kill in self-defense and are among the most dangerous animals in Africa). A larger drawing of each creature highlights features that might not show up in photographs, such as the female mosquito’s tubelike mouthparts, which enable her to simultaneously inject saliva and drink her victim’s blood. VERDICT A valuable addition to the 590s section of any library serving elementary schoolers.–Frances E. Millhouser, formerly at Fairfax County Public Library, VA

The Arts: A Visual Encyclopedia. 304p. glossary. illus. index. photos. reprods. DK. Aug. 2017. pap. $19.99. ISBN 9781465461780.

Gr 4-8 –This eye-catching offering chronologically explores the history of painting, sculpture, photography, music, and dance. Painting, for instance (which receives the most attention), starts with a look at cave drawings and ends with an examination of contemporary artists such as Gerhard Richter and Ibrahim El-Salahi. The intended audience will likely recognize many of the topics: Leonardo da Vinci, Egypt’s Sphinx, Ludwig van Beethoven, Frédéric Chopin, and ballet. Other individuals, such as sculptor and painter Louise Bourgeois, may be less familiar. Coverage is up-to-date (for dance, there’s a page on 2016’s La La Land), but overwhelmingly rooted in European art forms, and though informative, like many DK titles, the book provides only a brief treatment of each topic. A useful glossary and index round out the volume. VERDICT Just what audiences expect from DK—pertinent facts surrounded by enticing illustrations. A solid starting point for students researching the arts.–Anne Chapman Callaghan, Racine Public Library, WI

Guinness World Records: Amazing Animals. 216p. illus. index. photos. Guinness World Records. Aug. 2017. Tr $24.95. ISBN 9781910561904; pap. $14.99. ISBN 9781910561621.

Gr 3-6 –Wacky and eclectic bursts of unusual or amusing animal facts are arranged in 10 chapters. This volume is a mix of the world records for which Guinness is famous (the longest beaver dam on record is about 2,788 feet long) and fascinating information (on Japan’s Aoshima Island, 20 humans live with approximately 120 felines). Readers will also learn about the World’s Ugliest Dog Contest, run by California’s Sonoma-Marin Fair (contestant Himisaboo’s fur is likened to Donald Trump’s hair). Other topics include rescues and sanctuaries, medical marvels, animal celebrities, babies, and much more. With a directory of animal charities and a quiz, this entertaining volume is loaded with funny wordplay and material both scientific and silly—though there’s no documentation for material. Librarians should note that while popular, Guinness World Record titles will become dated soon, and their bindings typically deteriorate quickly. VERDICT Purchase where trivia or fact books are in demand, but be aware that these resources may need to be replaced soon.–Nancy Call, formerly at Santa Cruz Public Libraries, Aptos, CA

Hibbert, Clare. Around the World in 80 Maps. 96p. illus. maps. Firefly. Sept. 2017. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9780228100102.

Gr 4-7 –Colorful? Yes. Vintage look? Yes. Old world charm? Yes. But it’s unclear for whom this book of centuries-old maps, culled from the collection of the British Library, is intended. Granted, given GPS, GoogleEarth, and other technologies, today’s kids are not as familiar with paper maps, so there may be a curiosity factor for some middle grade readers. Some of the maps are of obscure places (such as the capital of Tibet, or Kyushu, a small Japanese island). The maps are gorgeous pieces of art, accompanied by tidbits of information as well as a “find me” search game on each page. There’s much to learn here—some readers may not know that North and South Korea used to be one country or that Calcutta was once spelled Kolkata. But it’s hard to imagine many readers picking up this book. VERDICT For geography and maybe ancient history buffs only.–Sharon Verbeten, Brown County Library, Green Bay, WI

Malerba, Giulia. Food Atlas. illus. by Febe Sillani. 72p. maps. Firefly. Oct. 2017. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781770859524.

Gr 1-4 –This enticing oversize book covers ancient and modern fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, seafood, and meat from all regions of the world, from humitas in Ecuador to yemista in Greece and tandoori chicken in India and wontons in China. Full-page spreads depict maps of the countries, speckled with the dishes eaten there. Each spread includes an introductory paragraph that offers general information on the cuisine of the region (for instance, cured pork, potatoes, cereal, and fish are common in Germany). Playful illustrations accompany brief descriptions of the foods. A pronunciation guide, however, would have been helpful. ­VERDICT A browsable book that will spur discussion and lead to a greater awareness of cultural differences.–Sharon Verbeten, Brown County Library, Green Bay, WI

Morgan, Ben & Steve Setford, eds. Coding Projects in Python: A Step-by-Step Visual Guide to Creating Your Own Python Projects. 224p. glossary. illus. index. DK. Jun. 2017. pap. $19.99. ISBN 9781465461889.

Gr 5 Up –Coding is a current buzzword in schools, and the text-based coding language Python is an engaging next step for readers who have mastered Scratch (or choose to tackle Python on its own). Named by creator Guido Van Rossum as a tribute to Monty Python, the language allows users (suggested for ages 10 and up) to string together English words, punctuation, numbers, and symbols to devise games, visual tricks, and coding projects. Like other coding languages, Python introduces concepts such as naming nomenclature, variables, text strings, and decision trees. Conditionals, loops, functions, modules, and nested constructions allow for more sophisticated creation. Line-by-line instructions detail how to create an animated quiz, a password picker, a screen pet, and more. The directions are bright and clearly illustrated, and boxy, bitmapped humans in many styles and colors encourage readers and clarify concepts. Troubleshooting and “bug busting” are discussed. Readers with some familiarity with (or sincere interest in) computer language concepts will get the most out of this volume. VERDICT This informative title deserves a place in any library where patrons are interested in coding. Coders with some experience will enjoy the challenge of following from “First Steps” to “Hacks and Tweaks” and branching out to come up with original projects.–Maggie Knapp, Trinity Valley School, Fort Worth, TX

Super Earth Encyclopedia. 208p. glossary. index. maps. photos. DK. Jul. 2017. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9781465461872.

Gr 4-6 –The visual drama never lets up in this tour of our planet’s land forms and dynamic processes. Vivid photographs and conceptual images offer riveting aerial shots, close-ups, and inside looks at 67 features or phenomena, paired with suitably bombastic descriptive commentary (“Deep beneath the spectacular wilderness of Yellowstone National Park lies a simmering supervolcano.”). Grouped by type, entries range from the Andes to Mount Everest, black smokers in the ocean depths to massive ice storms and wild “fire devils.” Following later spreads on the “Wave of Death” wrought by the Japanese tsunami of 2011 and six other natural disasters, a closing section surveys wonders of the “Living Earth” from rain forests to marine habitats. Most entries come with a basic fact file, but the back matter is limited to a brief glossary and equally perfunctory index, with no suggestions for further information. VERDICT Likely to be a popular choice for budding naturalists and thrill seekers, but more suitable for random browsing and marveling than systematic research.–John Peters, Children’s Literature Consultant, New York

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

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