March 19, 2018

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The Latest STEM and History Titles | January 2018 Xpress Reviews

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Bennett, Howard. The Fantastic Body: What Makes You Tick & How You Get Sick. illus. by Teresa Martinez. 240p. diag. illus. index. photos. Rodale. Nov. 2017. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781623368890.

Gr 4-6 –In this physically hefty volume, Bennett captivates readers with an engaging look at the inside and outside workings of the human body. Rich with medical terminology, the writing style smoothly blends definitions of unfamiliar vocabulary with factual details. Technical passages are enhanced by clear diagrams. Large doses of humor lighten the tone, and gross-out descriptions, such as “snot rocket,” should keep students reading. Bennett has a knack for breaking down complex medical information into understandable material. Nine sections delve into topics such as body systems, senses, puberty, and human development. Also covered are ways to stay well and some common illnesses, with suggestions on how to get better. Heaps of supplemental material, which appears in sidebars, further expands the content. A thorough index aides in quick retrieval of information—but since there is no separate glossary, readers will need to flip back to previous pages to reacquaint themselves with terms. Colorful photos (a mix of original and stock) and illustrations are plentiful. At times, the cartoonish art style, especially those on chapter-heading pages, seem geared more towards a younger audience when compared to the level of the text. VERDICT A fresh perspective on health and wellness and a useful resource or browsing selection for nonfiction collections.–Lynn Vanca, Freelance Librarian, Akron

Campagna, Gino. Chef Gino’s Taste Test Challenge: 100+ Winning Recipes That Any Kid Can Cook. illus. by Mike Lowery. 192p. index. photos. Rodale. Oct. 2017. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781623368869.

Gr 5 Up –Campagna draws on his training in early childhood education to “raise American families’ food IQ.” Campagna’s wide smile and expressive face present the act of cooking as not only fun but also as an “empowering adventure.” The introduction, most likely of interest to adults, is followed by “Kitchen Rules” and bright photos of related tools and their uses. Recipe sections cover soups, pasta, pizza, eggs, fruit, and more. Pages are slick and richly colored, with eye-catching illustrations and photos of food prep and finished dishes prepared by the chef and a diverse group of young kitchen helpers. Processed ingredients are rarely used and fresh vegetables appear often. Food allergies are not specifically addressed. Budding cooks are encouraged to experiment with flavor combinations and make the recipes their own. Brief tips and boxed facts accompany many recipes. Most recipes are relatively quick to prepare and accessible to tweens with some kitchen experience or an adult nearby. VERDICT The bright colors, catchy dish names and Campagna’s friendly attitude offer encouragement and guidance for novice cooks. Suitable for any school cookbook collection.–Maggie Knapp, Trinity Valley School, Fort Worth, TX

Coy, Cissie. Dennis Chávez: The First Hispanic US Senator/El primer senador hispano de los Estados Unidos. tr. from Spanish by Gabriela Baeza Ventura. 64p. Piñata. Oct. 2017. pap. $9.95. ISBN 9781558858527.

Gr 4-6 –The first Hispanic senator born in the United States was Dennis Chávez, who represented the state of New Mexico and served in the U.S. Senate from 1935–62. His granddaughter, Coy, writes this bilingual middle grade biography in a flip-book format. Senator Chávez fought for the rights of the oppressed and clean water for Native Americans, sponsored bills to get free textbooks for children in New Mexico, spoke against Senator Joseph McCarthy, and pushed for legislation to make it illegal to not hire someone based on race. The narrative is not entirely presented in chronological order—there are a few time jumps. Despite that, readers will be interested to learn about Chávez, a Hispanic pioneer in the world of U.S. politics, and how “the seeds he helped plant grew into the new Civil Rights law.” The story of his life, battles, and accomplishments need to be told, especially in the context of the fight for equality and desegregation in the early and mid-1900s. VERDICT A good purchase for biography collections.–Cynthia Molinar, Medio Creek Elementary SWISD, San Antonio

Dlugos, Jenn & Charlie Hatton. Bizarre Space: A Kid’s Guide to Our Strange, Unusual Universe. 300p. bibliog. discog. photos. websites. Sourcebooks. Oct. 2017. pap. $19.95. ISBN 9781618216892.

Gr 4-7 –Dlugos and Hatton introduce readers to current theories pertaining to the science of space. Witty chapter and section headings appear throughout. For example, the two chapters on the planets are divided into the “Innies” and the “Outies,” and a section on Saturn is titled “The Fellowship of the Icy Rings.” In addition, a “Spacebook” segment imagines what planets and moons and other space objects would write on their social media profiles. The layout is highly visual, featuring images such as pictures from space and highly pixilated computer animations on every page spread. Large text boxes appear on almost every spread to expand on topics mentioned in the content. The visually appealing layout and clever writing will appeal to readers. Additional chapters cover comets and asteroids, stars, the Milky Way, and the universe. The book concludes with a bibliography that lists 10 websites for further research, but it does not include an index. VERDICT This funny yet informative title would be a useful addition to any collection serving space enthusiasts.–Maren Ostergard, King County Library System, Issaquah, WA

Fredericks, Anthony D. Tall Tall Tree. illus. by Chad Wallace. 32p. index. websites. Dawn. Sept. 2017. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781584696018; pap. $8.95. ISBN 9781584696025.

PreS-Gr 3 –An engaging, informative book encouraging ecological awareness for young readers. The ecosystem of a giant redwood tree is charmingly presented in this beautifully illustrated counting book that uses rhyme and rhythm based on the numbers one through 10, stanzas, and snippets of facts about animals who actually live in the redwoods. The text emphasizes counting, number recognition, and simple animal facts. Exquisite, highly detailed illustrations in a palette of natural woodland colors and tones complement the text. The pictures have a soft, blurred edge, which makes all the creatures, even the wood rats, seem appealing. The illustrated animals and the text are displayed in large enough format for young readers to easily discern, enabling them to make the connection between the words, numbers, and pictures. End notes add to the value of this title. There is a fact sheet about giant redwoods, another about the animals featured, a pictorial index to additional animals, and several authoritative online resources listed, as well as QR code access. A STEAM activities page has five educational and age-appropriate projects, such as making bark pictures by using the long side of crayons on paper held against a tree. VERDICT An excellent addition to any nonfiction collection, a great classroom tool for STEAM, and a fun read-a-loud at school, in the library, and at home.–Gretchen Crowley, formerly at Alexandria City Public Libraries, VA

Heroes of Black History: Biographies of Four Great Americans. 192p. chron. further reading. glossary. index. photos. Liberty Street/TIME. Dec. 2017. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781683300120; pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781683307761.

Gr 3-6 –This biographical collection of black heroes provides information on well-known subjects including Harriet Tubman, Jackie Robinson, Rosa Parks, and Barack Obama. The simple syntax and straightforward language makes this accessible to middle grade readers. Captioned photographs provide additional firsthand information to offer readers a comprehensive perspective on these figures. Full-color graphics and sidebars help divide large segments of text. The introductory resource includes a time line of U.S. history from the beginnings of chattel slavery to the modern Black Lives Matter movement. The scope is vast and sometimes the cohesiveness suffers when some text features fail to match the tone or content of the main subject, such as a sidebar on the origins of baseball in Jackie Robinson’s profile. Additional people are referenced in the appendices, but many included are no longer living and more contemporary counterparts are not featured. VERDICT The accessibility of this volume and its photojournalistic style will aid both browsers and report writers alike.–Jamie Jensen, Wayne Cox Elementary School, Roanoke, TX

Jazynka, Kitson. History’s Mysteries: Curious Clues, Cold Cases, and Puzzles From the Past. 160p. index. photos. National Geographic. Oct. 2017. pap. $14.99. ISBN 9781426328718.

Gr 6 Up –Our world is filled with mysteries, from unexplained disappearances and cryptic codes to paranormal occurrences. A hodgepodge of material categorized into seven themes introduces readers to a brief background of the conundrum, some uncovered details, followed by theories or discoveries. The time frames of these riddles ranges from thousands of years ago (Where is the city of Atlantis? Is the Kraken real?), to more current events (Who is D.B. Cooper? Can the code for Kryptos be cracked?) Common mysteries, such as the Lost Colony of Roanoke, the disappearance of Amelia Earhart, the abominable snowman, and Stonehenge, are found among rarer counterparts. Students will be curious once they read about the monster Kongamato, the Georgia Guidestones, or the Voynich manuscript. The tone of the text is upbeat, making it a pleasurable read. Most questions are given two to three pages, with lots of photographs to provide additional information and pique interest. The layout is inviting and time can be spent studying the photos for more details. VERDICT This is a win-win for readers who like spooky mysteries and solid nonfiction.–Sandra Welzenbach, Villarreal Elementary School, San Antonio

Morris, Jackie. The Quiet Music of Gently Falling Snow. illus. by Jackie Morris. 100p. Graffeg. Aug. 2017. Tr $37.95. ISBN 9781910862650.

Gr 7 Up –Music, snow, and well-dressed fairies figure prominently in the dozen sumptuous paintings in this oversize volume of original tales. Morris painted the scenes, one each year, as elegant Christmas cards on commission as part of a fund-raiser for England’s Help Musicians UK charity. Her wintry scenes, enlarged here and positioned above the text, are fairy-tale vignettes filled with fanciful figures and structures large and small. Fay musicians ride on bears, tigers, and other animals and sometimes travel in clever carriages or air vehicles. Morris describes the newly invented stories as “a series of lullabies for grown-ups,” and it does seem unlikely that children would enter into them. They’re dreamy and romantic, lyrical, and also elusive in recounting the arrival of unnamed folks by sea where “there had been no music heard in the land for centuries.” It takes patient reading through poetic, often vague but also imaginative tales to grasp events, characters, and shifts of sequence in the tales of loss and love and quest to restore the music. VERDICT ​A very attractive coffee table item.–Margaret Bush, Simmons College, Boston

Ohlin, Nancy. The Civil Rights Movement. ISBN 9781499804553; ISBN 9781499804546.

––––. The Statue of Liberty. ISBN 9781499804577; ISBN 9781499804560.

ea vol: illus. by Roger Simó. 112p. (Blast Back!). little bee. Dec. 2017. Tr. $16.99. pap. $5.99.

Gr 3-5 –Both books feature easy-to-read type, multiple short chapters, and occasional sidebars, and they are adorned by abundant line drawings done in a light playful tone. In theory, they are a welcome rival for Penguin’s “Who Is” series. However, in practice, they fall far short. The Civil Rights Movement begins by asking if readers have ever heard of the movement and then launches into a lengthy and dry explanation—the text doesn’t reach the titular topic until page 46. Simó’s illustrations do not match the tone of the subject matter and often undercut the content. For instance, smiling cartoon people are just a page turn away from a slave auction scene. In addition, the majority of the people shown protesting in The Civil Rights Movement are white. The Statue of Liberty suffers from the same readability problems. Its illustrations are also equally goofy and insensitive; for example, a group of smiling “Native Americans” (tribes are not specified) is depicted as wearing loin clothes and headbands right before the text discusses European colonization on the next page (“The original Native American inhabitants were forced to leave and try to find new homes to the north and west.”). VERDICT Poorly designed and visually misleading.–Sheri Reda, Wilmette Public Library, IL

Quigley, Andrea. What On Earth?: Bees. illus. by Paulina Morgan. 64p. glossary. index. Quarto/QEB. Jun. 2017. Tr $12.95. ISBN 9781682971499.

Gr 2-5 –A cross-disciplinary approach to the topic of bees that covers biology, history, culture, and science. There are also games, dances, crafts, and projects. The information is well researched and presented in an engaging manner. The illustrations are colorful in a child-friendly style and illustrate the text well. Instructions for the different activities are easy to understand. There is a glossary of “bee” words and a listing of different species with their common and scientific name. The book is beautiful, educational, and fun. While there are no actual photographs of bees, the illustrator does draw each one with its identifying characteristic. The information is detailed, including anatomy, lifespan, and activities of the bee, how pollination works, and how the insects contribute to the environment. VERDICT An excellent book about bees for elementary students with a wealth of information.–Cynde Suite, Bartow City. Library System, Adairsville, GA

Richards-Ross, Sanya. Run with Me: The Story of a U.S. Olympic Champion. 208p. Zondervan. Jun. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780310761211.

Gr 6 Up –In this inspiring read, Richards-Ross writes about her journey to win the 2012 Olympic Gold Medal in the Woman’s 400-meter sprint. She not only contemplates the many trials and tribulations toward the path to victory but also about her journey with God. Christian themes are heavily included throughout as well as quotes from Bible scriptures. Richards-Ross does touch on many other relationships—with her mother, father, sister, and eventual husband. However, the true focus of the book is on running and Richards-Ross’s goal to win. At times, the writing is clunky and uneven. It gets mired in the many descriptions of competitions; but ultimately, this is a very positive story about determination. VERDICT Consider wherever inspirational stories with Christian themes are in demand.–Esther Keller, I.S. 278, Brooklyn

SOUZA, Pete. Dream Big Dreams: Photographs from Barack Obama’s Inspiring and Historic Presidency. photos by Pete Souza. 96p. Little, Brown. Nov. 2017. Tr $21.99. ISBN 9780316514392.

Gr 4-6 –An archive of historical and candid photographs snapped during President Barack Obama’s two terms in office. Former chief White House photographer Souza provides young people with a glimpse of Obama’s presidential legacy and tells a behind-the-scenes story of a leader who made time to engage with kids, encouraging them to “Dream big dreams.” Souza commemorates eight years of hope and change through 75 iconic images. The inclusion of key historical moments and the red, white, and blue palette complement and enhance the overall patriotic design. The work ends on an upbeat note, with sections “Have Fun” and “Dream Big Dreams” filled with images of Obama with his family and with children. Overall, the book effectively communicates the lasting human and emotional impression of Obama’s presidential legacy. VERDICT A powerful and intimate photo diary of President Obama that will empower onlookers to “be their best and do their best.”–Angelina Bair, Willoughby-Eastlake Public Library, OH

Stabler, David. Kid Authors: True Tales of Childhood from Famous Writers. illus. by Doogie Horner. 200p. index. Quirk. Oct. 2017. Tr $13.95. ISBN 9781594749872.

Gr 3-6 –An eclectic mix of short profiles on a variety of authors. The individuals featured are a balance of historical and contemporary writers, all of whom mostly hail from the United States. Stabler goes beyond basic biographical information and provides witty, interesting stories to paint a vivid picture of each author’s childhood and influences. These tales are highly relatable for kids and can also be an encouragement for coping with difficult situations, such as bullying. This text is ideal for developing researchers. An index allows for easy navigation and there is a short bibliography for each entry. Profiles are organized under common themes, which also allows for quick reference and browsing. Horner’s bright and vibrant drawings add humor to the collection. VERDICT A fun and useful addition, especially for aspiring writers and class projects.–Paige Rowse, Needham High School, MA

Steer, Dugald A. Knightology: A True Account of the Most Valiant Knights. 30p. (Ologies). Candlewick. Nov. 2017. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9780763698485.

Gr 4 Up –The latest title in the series starts with a letter from “Sir Lancelot Marshall,” exhorting would-be knights to help defend England and solve the puzzle, based on clues in the book, of the last resting place of King Arthur and Excalibur. Readers travel back to Queen Elizabeth’s reign with the Secret Order of the Round Table, learning what it takes to go from squire to knight. This is a richly detailed history of knighthood, famous knights, infamous battles, the importance of horses and armor, and more. Information is packed onto the highly illustrated pages with tidbits galore. For example, spiral stairs in castles veer to the left so that attacking soldiers’ use of their right hand is limited. Each spread covers a separate topic, such as “Hero Knights of Legend” and the Crusades. Multiple illustrations cover the pages as well as numerous flaps, fold outs, maps, and envelopes that open to reveal removable letters. Even readers already knowledgeable about the Middle Ages and Arthurian lore will learn something new. This oversize gem-embellished novelty book will likely appeal to younger readers who may struggle with the vocabulary, but the interactivity makes it perfect for reading alongside an adult. VERDICT A surprisingly comprehensive overview of all-things knightly that would greatly interest middle school students.–Lee De Groft, Jamestown High School, Williamsburg, VA

This article was published in School Library Journal's January 2018 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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