The Latest "Scientists in the Field" & More Savory Nonfiction | July 2018 Xpress Reviews

New releases from nonfiction authors Sy Montgomery, Britta Teckentrup, and others.

Arnold, Nick. Fantastic Forces and Incredible Machines: Engineering. illus. by Kristyna Baczynski. ISBN 9781438011349.

––––. Tools, Robotics, and Gadgets Galore: Technology. illus. by Kristyna Baczynski. ISBN 9781438011370.

Stuart, Colin. Astonishing Atoms and Matter Mayhem: Science. illus. by Annika Brandow. ISBN 9781438011363.

––––. Fabulous Figures and Cool Calculations: Math. illus. by Annika Brandow. ISBN 9781438011356.

ea vol: 80p. (STEM Quest). chart. glossary. index. Barron’s. May 2018. pap. $10.99.

Gr 3-5 –This series covers topics ranging from aeronautics to zoology, with each volume focusing on one area of STEM. One cartoon member of the “STEM Squad” and their robotic assistant act as guides in each book. There is an introductory discussion of the discipline and branches of study within it, then the narrative addresses various topics within those branches. For example, adaptations are covered in the biology section of Astonishing Atoms, while water filtration is explained as part of Fantastic Forces. There are also more than 30 experiments included in each title; however, the activities in Fabulous Figures are more puzzles than actual experiments, and encourage readers to create tessellations or use Cartesian coordinates. There are also small profiles of innovators from the various fields along with their pictures; Grace Hopper for computer codes and Johannes Kepler for planetary orbits, among others. The series could be used independently by students or as a lab guide for instructors. Although some of the experiments appear in other STEM resources, the way they are presented and the convenience of having them all in one place makes this a good investment despite the possible duplication of some information. VERDICT Recommended for collections in need of STEM-related information.–Suzanne Costner, Fairview Elementary School, Maryville, TN

Braun, Dieter. Mountains of the World. illus. by Dieter Braun. 96p. glossary. maps. Flying Eye. Jun. 2018. Tr $24. ISBN 9781912497942.

Gr 4-7 –Reading this latest from Braun is a pleasant way to gain an introduction to mountains. Braun has delivered a well-paced, visually enchanting insight into their many aspects: formation, composition, devolution, mythology, environment, fauna, and more. Spectacular mountains are highlighted along with the explorers, mountaineers, skiers, and spelunkers who brave their heights and depths. A few spreads are devoted to the gear needed. Fun facts are featured in text boxes and are light in tone: “Did you know the chamois likes to go sledding? In the winter when there’s lots of snow in the mountains, it just sits down and slides down the slope on its backside, steering with its legs.” The facts are quick and easy to digest and will capture interest, but it is the stunning art that will delight readers. VERDICT From endpaper to endpaper, buy one for the library and one for yourself.–Nancy Call, formerly at Santa Cruz Public Libraries, Aptos, CA

Brunelle, Lynn. Turn This Book Into a Beehive!: And 19 Other Experiments and Activities That Explore the Amazing World of Bees. illus. by Anna-Maria Jung. 192p. Workman. Apr. 2018. pap. $19.95. ISBN 9781523501410.

Gr 4-7 –Brunelle introduces two major groups of bees: “social” ones (honeybees, bumblebees, and others that live in colonies and work together) and “solitary” bees: each makes its own nest, collects pollen and nectar to feed its offspring, and enjoys living near each other. A short chapter on bee anatomy includes labeled diagrams of a honeybee and mason bee; another that demonstrates how a bee flies; and a third that describes its eyesight. An introduction to pollination includes diagrams of half a flower, a stamen, and a pistil with labeled parts; a short comparison of self-pollination versus cross-pollination; and a “Who’s Who of Pollinating.” Full chapters on the mason bee and the honeybee describe their life cycles and activities through the seasons. The author touches on first aid for bee stings, proper dress for beekeepers, and attracting bees to one’s yard. She includes seven activities and 13 experiments designed to reinforce information about topics covered throughout. A short list of websites offers further information. The final 48 pages, each colored or decorated with small butterflies, flowers, bugs, or bees, are meant to be cut from the book and rolled around a pencil, then fitted into the teardrop-shaped dust jacket to form a mason bee hive. Most illustrations are cartoons. VERDICT Students interested in bees will find a variety of great ideas for science fair projects here.–Susan Scheps, formerly at Shaker Public Library, OH

Buffetaut, Yves. 101st Airborne in Normandy: June 1944. ISBN 9781612005232.

––––. The 2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich. ISBN 9781612005256.

ea vol: tr. from French. 128p. (Casemate Illustrated). further reading. index. photos. Casemate. Apr. 2018. pap. $24.95.

Gr 9 Up –Originally published in French, each volume is profusely illustrated with vintage black-and-white photos and a few in color. Almost none of the images are commonly found in U.S. publications. The format is identical in each book: two-to-four page spreads with photos and drawings of the motorized weapons used in each situation. Individual pages are devoted to a photo and a short biography of the military leaders involved in the various campaigns. The layout can be a little irksome, as sentences are often interrupted by the images. Extra information is included in green or gray boxes with white print. The text font is small and the detailed captions are even smaller. Unfortunately, the small font and glossy paper on which it is printed does not allow for comfortable reading. 101st Airborne is the more fluid of the two, as the content is likely to be more familiar to readers; Panzer does feature a photo of three nude men examining a destroyed Russian tank. VERDICT Great titles for ardent military history readers.–Eldon Younce, Anthony Public Library, KS

Cruschiform . Colorama: From Fuchsia to Midnight Blue. 280p. index. Prestel. Mar. 2018. Tr $24.95. ISBN 9783791373287.

Gr 4 Up –“Ultimately, every color has a history,” reads the introduction to this unique book, which features full-page representations of colors, each faced by a short essay and related illustration. Sometimes that history is based in the natural world: ivory, cornflower blue, turmeric. Sometimes it has to do with human emotion or commercial products: green with anger, Tiffany blue. The selections have a particularly British feel, with entries for British racing green, Royal Air Force blue, and Mountbatten pink, for example. Some choices seem particularly personal, such as a lemonade and mint-syrup drink called a mint diablo and All Blacks (the nickname for New Zealand’s rugby team). Unfortunately, some selections, such as Mexican pink or Indian yellow, may include inaccurate generalizations, and some of the short write-ups would benefit from sources to clarify or contextualize statements, such as one about a particular dye containing a compound that can heal wounds. VERDICT This visually striking book is an optional purchase.–Stephanie Klose, Library Journal

Gunderson, Jessica & Joe Tougas. Assassins’ America: Four Killers, Four Murdered Presidents, and the Country They Left Behind. 208p. chron. glossary. index. notes. photos. reprods. Capstone. Mar. 2018. pap. $9.95. ISBN 9781623709815.

Gr 5 Up –Gunderson and Tougas ask readers a salient question: How would things be different if an assassinated president had survived to finish his term? Each section profiles a different president and starts with background information about his early life and influences, accomplishments, and the events that lead each to become president. The authors also discuss the assassins and their background and apparent motivation. The tone is fairly informal given the topic. There are some narrative elements meant to help readers imagine the scenes of history. There are also some period photographs to help with the visualization and a time line to keep events in order. The background information is thorough enough to help students who don’t have a good handle on the time periods. VERDICT Consider where students have a strong interest in presidential history.–Debbie Tanner, S D Spady Montessori Elementary, FL

Herbs A to Z. illus. by Morgan Hutcherson. 100p. Missouri Botanical Garden Pr. Feb. 2018. pap. $12. ISBN 9780988455153.

Gr 3-6 –”A” is for Artemisia in this beautifully illustrated alphabet book that showcases one herb per spread. The text, written by members of the St. Louis Herb Society, notes that lavender’s Latin name means “to wash,” thyme stands for courage, and za’atar is used in Middle Eastern and North African cooking. The text references mythology (Artemisia, Iris), history (Charlemagne liked dill), and culinary tips, among other wide-ranging information. However, librarians will have to provide additional information about a generalization regarding Native Americans set in the past tense (“Native Americans used different sages in ceremonies, and other types were used as toothbrushes!”). The full-page illustrations include details of leaves, sometimes flowers, and often a six-legged creature that serves as a pollinator. The brief text for each herb contains a wide array of facts, with links across the curriculum. Young readers who have not yet encountered hyssop or who aren’t interested in Neanderthals using yarrow may still enjoy seeing the mason bee that pollinates geraniums or the painted lady butterfly fluttering across the entry for nepeta. VERDICT An additional purchase for classrooms in need of alphabet books that go beyond A, B, C.–Maggie Knapp, Trinity Valley School, Fort Worth, TX

Holland, Mary. Yodel the Yearling. photos. by Mary Holland. 32p. bibliog. glossary. Arbordale. Feb. 2018. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781607184485.

K-Gr 3 –Holland’s latest beautifully photographed book follows a family of black bears—Yodel and his fellow one-year-old siblings—as they explore the world around them and learn to fend for themselves before they will begin living independently by the time the year is up. It has the kind of simple text—accompanied by lush color photographs in the vein of Joy Cowley’s famed 2006 nonfiction book, Red-Eyed Tree Frog—that is always in demand for self-motivated children (who simply must read every book available on a given animal) and teachers and homeschoolers looking for a variety of levels within a single topic. Holland’s photos include several dynamic action shots, as well as plenty of cute and cuddly moments that appeal directly to its audience. Back matter includes a glossary of terms that delves into more detail for slightly older or more advanced readers and a link to the publisher’s website, where lesson plans, activity sheets, interactive quizzes, and more educational tools can be found. Factual verification throughout is provided from the Colorado USDA Forest Service and the Pueblo and Birmingham Zoo’s educators. Simultaneous publication will also be available in Spanish. VERDICT A welcome addition to any size nonfiction collection.–Ann Santori, Cook Memorial Public Library, Libertyville, IL

Kovatch, Johnny. 59 Hours. 224p. (Simon True). notes. S. & S./Simon Pulse. Mar. 2018. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781481476607; pap. $11.99. ISBN 9781481476591.

Gr 7 Up –In this latest addition to the series, Kovatch brings readers the story of Nick Markowitz and his murder by Jesse James Hollywood in August 2000. Hollywood, a small-time California marijuana dealer, wanted to settle up a debt owed by Markowitz’s older brother Ben and ended up kidnapping Markowitz and killing him in the desert 59 hours later. There were a number of accomplices who were involved in the act, some with more knowledge of the plan than others, which the author helpfully lays out by name and association at the beginning. The story covers the initial kidnapping, movement of the victim, and all those with whom he came in contact, as well as the eventual murder and the search for and trial of Hollywood. The incident, which was originally made into a movie (Alpha Dog, starring Justin Timberlake), reveals all the ways that just one wrong decision, one thing left unsaid, can lead to a preventable tragedy. The text is well researched and provides a helpful list of sources. With testimony lifted from the trial and insight from Markowitz’s parents and those who saw and spoke with him throughout the ordeal, this book provides a strong and focused narrative. Drug usage, murder planning and execution are discussed in great detail, which lend this book as better suited for older readers.  VERDICT A solid choice for teens who are interested in true-crime stories.–Traci Glass, Multnomah County Library, OR

Montgomery, Sy. The Hyena Scientist. photos by Nic Bishop. 80p. (Scientists in the Field). bibliog. index. photos. websites. HMH. May 2018. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780544635111.

Gr 4-8 –Consummate science author Montgomery and renowned nature photographer Bishop team up and turn their attention to a small group of scientists working in the Masai Mara wildlife reserve in Kenya studying hyenas. Kay Holekamp, who has been working with animals since her teen years, leads the group of researchers working out of a makeshift camp in the reserve. They spend their days gathering information from several groups of hyenas, including data about diet, social hierarchy, communication, hunting prey, and innumerable other things. Montgomery does an expert job of weaving facts into the explanations of the scientific work being done in the field, thus keeping the attention of readers who are here for the animals. Much of what she shares dispels many the more commonly held misconceptions about hyenas (being scavengers, dirty) and highlights their incredibly complex social structure and ability to communicate with each other in many ways. Because Montgomery and Bishop traveled together to do the research for the book, there is a remarkably personal feel throughout as they become part of the team and participate in all aspects of the work, from spotting to packing up gear, and even cradling a sedated hyena’s head. Bishop’s photographs offer a perfect complement throughout, immersing the reader fully into the world of the hyenas and those studying them. VERDICT A truly strong addition to the series and a worthwhile purchase for most libraries.–Jody Kopple, Shady Hill School, Cambridge, MA

Teckentrup, Britta. Birds and Their Feathers. illus. by Britta Teckentrup. 86p. Prestel. May 2018. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9783791373355.

Gr 2-4 –Teckentrup’s beautiful, almost ethereal illustrations of feathers are brought back down to earth by the matter-of-fact text describing and defining their functions. Many interesting facts are presented and often amplified with a memorable example; for instance, if pink flamingos did not eat certain crustaceans they would be grey. Fun facts—what bird has the longest feathers (the crested argus pheasant, up to 68 inches long), and which one has the shortest (the bee hummingbird of Cuba, at a little over two inches)—are also part of the readable narrative. Specialized functions are explained; soaring birds’ wings are shaped differently from those of speedy fliers, slow flappers, and hoverers. Every page is beautiful and informative. Readers will be delighted to learn there’s a feather on the moon—but who dropped it? They’ll have read to the very last page to find out. VERDICT Lively text and intricate artwork make this a page-turner suitable for most nonfiction collections.–Frances E. Millhouser, formerly at Fairfax County Public Library, VA

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.

RELATED 

TOP STORIES

LIBRARY EDUCATION

Kids are using VR to explore worlds and create new ones

COMMUNITY FORM

Kids are using VR to explore worlds and create new ones

COLLECTION DEVELOPMENT

Kids are using VR to explore worlds and create new ones

Get connected. Join our global community of more than 200,000 librarians and educators.