Nonfiction: Career Guidance, Garbage Galore, and Homework Help | July 2017 Xpress Reviews

This month's nonfiction Xpress Reviews include a volume aimed at students in need of some tips on doing homework, a primer on careers working with animals, and much more.

Bedell, J.M. So, You Want To Work with Animals?: Discover Fantastic Ways To Work with Animals, from Veterinary Science to Aquatic Biology. 256p. (Be What You Want). bibliog. further reading. glossary. index. notes. websites. S. & S./Aladdin. Apr. 2017. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781582705965; pap. $12.99. ISBN 9781582705972.

Gr 5-8 –An introduction to myriad career paths for animal lovers. The volume’s well-organized chapters delve into choosing a career; caring for domestic or wild animals; tending bugs, birds, and fish; protecting animals; and conducting research. Within each chapter are spotlights on famous pioneers of the industry, as well as “Top Dog” and “Young Pup” interviews with everyday people in the field. Together these short bios put these jobs into a real-life context. A strong sense of advocacy runs through the descriptions of all the vocations (even ranchers and animal scientists), making it clear that the author believes caring for animals is the first priority of anyone who embarks on this path. Furthermore, examples of careers and companies from around the world, such as the Black Ivory Coffee Company in Thailand and Kostroma Moose Farm in Russia, give this title a scope not often seen in books of this type. The glossary, index, list of sources, and additional resources are thorough and user-friendly. VERDICT This mix of trivia, quizzes, and historical anecdotes will hold the attention of passionate middle school readers. Recommended for general purchase or to replace outdated similar materials.–Leighanne Law, Scriber Lake High School, WA

BENZEL, Kathryn, ed. Carl Sandburg. illus. by Robert Crawford. 48p. (Poetry for Kids). index. Quarto/MoonDance. Apr. 2017. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9781633221512.

Gr 3 Up –This addition to the series, which began with Emily Dickinson, showcases the poetry of Carl Sandburg, the singing bard of America. Arranged in two categories, poems about people and places, the 36 free verse selections follow a brief biographical introduction by Benzel, who is noted for her work on the Sandburg Project: Prayers for the People. Acrylic illustrations are paired with the poems and are most effective when portraying the natural world. Least successful are Crawford’s simplistic renderings, such as the letters that spell out the word soup in a bowl of broth, which accompany the poem of the same name. While much of the artwork is stunning, it depicts the surface layer of the poems without revealing any of the subtle imagery beneath. Many of Sandburg’s classic poems, such as “Fog” and “Jazz Fantasia,” can be found here. More complex pieces such as “Psalm of Those Who Go Forth Before Daylight” and “Sunset from Omaha Hotel Window” have been chosen instead of delightful nonsense poems such as “We Must Be Polite” or “Arithmetic,” which seems odd in a volume meant for kids. Poetry for Young People: Carl Sandburg, edited by Frances Schoonmaker Bolin, is a more comprehensive overview that features some of Sandburg’s nonsense poetry. Benzel’s book is best suited for reading aloud. A table of contents and an index of first lines are also included. VERDICT A weaker offering than Susan Snively’s Emily Dickinson (the first title in the series), though it is an acceptable, additional purchase for those wanting to update their poetry collections.–Rachel Zuffa, Racine Public Library, WI

Fiedler, Heidi. The Know-Nonsense Guide to Grammar: An Awesomely Fun Guide to the Way We Use Words! illus. by Brendan Kearney. 64p. Walter Foster. Apr. 2017. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9781633222960.

Gr 3-6 –An engaging way to introduce and reinforce basic grammar concepts for elementary readers. The guide is broken down into three main areas (parts of speech, grammar, and literary devices). Each page focuses on one concept and provides a clear definition along with an example. The adjacent page contains a whimsical, inviting illustration. The book makes grammar accessible for children by associating images with definitions. In addition, the text offers an understanding of the concepts that goes beyond simple definitions. VERDICT This guide is valuable for elementary classrooms and home collections as both a reference and a learning tool.–April Sanders, Spring Hill College, Mobile, AL

Flynn, Sarah Wassner. This Book Stinks!: Gross Garbage, Rotten Rubbish, and the Science of Trash. 128p. charts. diag. index. photos. National Geographic. Mar. 2017. Tr $24.90. ISBN 9781426327315; pap. $14.99. ISBN 9781426327308.

Gr 4-7 –Dive into one of the most pressing ecological issues facing our planet—trash! This engaging title takes readers through the facts and figures of refuse and recycling: what we throw out, where it goes, and what we can do to lighten our litter load. A focus on our global garbage habits, including trash’s impact on everything from oceans to outer space, will open the minds of young ecologists to this hot-button topic. Full-color pages text accompanied by photographs, with many informational spreads featuring eye-catching charts and diagrams. Some readers may find the vibrant neon coloration of some pages overwhelming, but overall the eclectic layout helps to bring a stinky subject to life. With a table of contents, bold headings on each page, and an index, this is a useful resource for researchers. The design, which calls to mind many a records book, also makes this a strong recommendation for recreational reading. The content is enhanced by interviews, intermittent quizzes that reinforce as well as entertain, a word scramble, and an entire section dedicated to how-tos on upcycling, composting, and more. There’s even a recipe for sour milk pancakes! VERDICT A strong purchase for any middle grade nonfiction collection.–Darla Salva Cruz, Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY

Ham, Catherine. You Talking to Me?: Discover the World of Words, Codes, Emojis, Signs, Slang, Smoke Signals, Barks, Babbles, Growls, Gestures, Hieroglyphics & More. illus. by Anthony Owsley. 96p. bibliog. glossary. index. Quarto/MoonDance. Apr. 2017. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9781633221550.

Gr 3-7 –In an attractively designed overview of linguistics for middle grade readers, Ham provides tidbits about speech, dialects, accents, body language, conversational faux pas, and more. A wide variety of topics are introduced, from tattoos to sound waves used by animals to communicate, but the presentation is brief. Words are randomly italicized, with only some identified in the glossary. The author is chatty and instructs readers not to make fun of people with different accents or customs, but the book is occasionally patronizing. Unusual conclusions, such as the explanation for why people from warmer climates use their hands to communicate more than those from colder climates do, are drawn without any citation of evidence. Some facts could have been fleshed out further; for instance, it’s not clear why the thumbs-up sign is “an absolute no-no in some countries.” The only indication of research is a paragraph of sources, including people (without credentials listed) and dictionaries. VERDICT Readers interested in a general overview of linguistics might enjoy browsing through this title, but the lack of research citations, inclusion of too many subjects, unfounded conclusions, and haphazard presentation of information make this volume less suitable for research.–Jennifer Schultz, Fauquier County Public Library, Warrenton, VA

Limentani, Alison. How Long Is a Whale? illus. by Alison Limentani. 36p. Sterling. May 2017. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9781910716212.

PreS-Gr 2 –In this simple counting book enlivened by colorful relief-printed images, Limentani introduces young readers to the concept of length by comparing different sea creatures, counting down from 10 sea otters to one humpback whale. For instance, 10 sea otters are as long as nine yellowfin tuna, and three great white sharks are as long as two killer whales. In the final pages, readers learn that two humpback whales are the size of one blue whale, but a foldout shows that the length of a blue whale can be achieved by a combination of dolphins, leatherback sea turtles, and a great white shark, among others. Although not to scale, the final spread depicts all of the aquatic life previously included and gives their length in feet. The illustrations are simple and sometimes portray other species not mentioned in the text, such as clownfish and angelfish. A diver who points to the animals and makes an OK sign appears in every image, which adds a look-and-find element that is perfect for one-on-one sharing. VERDICT An additional purchase for libraries in need of an accessible ocean-themed counting book.–Meaghan Darling, Long Hill Township Public Library, Gillette, NJ

Moberg, Julia. Animal Heroes: The Wolves, Camels, Elephants, Dogs, Cats, Horses, Penguins, Dolphins, and Other Remarkable Animals That Proved They Are Man’s Best Friend. illus. by Jeff Albrecht Studios. 96p. index. Quarto/MoonDance. Apr. 2017. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9781633221598.

Gr 3-5 –Imagine being saved by lions, rescued by dolphins, or protected by pigs! This vivid and comically illustrated book is divided into short chapters and contains a rhyming anecdote for each featured animal’s act of heroism, a “Did You Know” sidebar, and a “Tell Me More” section that provides details on the history and mythology surrounding each tale. The ending section lets kids create their own poem about an awesome animal, add a photograph or illustration, and include further tidbits of information. VERDICT This latest offering from Moberg will educate and entertain die-hard animal lovers. Readers interested in similar stories told through rhyme may also enjoy Moberg’s Historical Animals and Presidential Pets.–Tabitha Nordby, Red River College, Man.

Newman, Aline Alexander. Cat Tales: True Stories of Kindness and Companionship with Kitties. 160p. further reading. photos. websites. National Geographic. Apr. 2017. Tr $12.99. ISBN 9781426327346.

Gr 4 Up –Twenty-two cat stories are grouped into five categories based on personality traits. For instance, Corduroy, a 26-year-old cat (120 in human years), and Bambi, a deaf cat who learned sign language, both fall under the category “Awesome.” Kuli, the only known cat who surfs, is “Adventurous.” “Hardworking” Nudge saved her owners from a house fire. “Caring” furball Monty monitors his owner for signs of a drop in blood sugar and has saved her from going into a diabetic coma more than once. These are just a few of the inspiring tales in this pocket-size tome. Each section also includes tidbits, “Just for Fun Facts,” and additional information on how to care for felines. Photos of each cat along with other cute pictures are interspersed throughout. The end pages offer additional resources: videos and books as well as organizations that help cats. Cat lovers will rejoice. However, the tiny font is a downside. VERDICT A fun addition for the animal lovers, but collections that already own pet-related “Chicken Soup for the Soul” books or other similar series can skip.–Sandra Welzenbach, Villarreal Elementary School, San Antonio

Robison, Nick. President Donald Trump. 32p. (Pebble Plus). chron. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Capstone. Mar. 2017. Tr $26.65. ISBN 9781515778950; pap. $6.29. ISBN 9781515778967.

Gr 1-3 –Avoiding the many controversies associated with Donald Trump and his tumultuous campaign and early presidency, this title is a collection of basic facts about Trump’s life, business career, family, candidacy, and election to the presidency that ends with his inauguration. Discussion of his decision to enter politics, political platform, and surprise election win is brief but adequate. The book is generally positive in tone, describing Trump’s successes in the business and political spheres without mentioning the country’s political polarization or specifics of his controversial statements and behavior. Each spread has around three sentences on the left page and a full-page photo on the right. The time line that runs along the bottom of the pages adds some details, and a “Facts” page lists his marriages and children as well as trivia bits, such as his favorite movies. Photos are decidedly average; most are stock images of Trump and his family in campaign venues. Robison provides early readers an age-appropriate but uninspired introduction to Trump and the most important aspects of his life. VERDICT Supplemental purchase based upon demand for biographies of presidents.–Mary Mueller, Rolla Public Schools, MO

Romain, Trevor. How To Do Homework Without Throwing Up. illus. by Steve Mark. 80p. index. Free Spirit. Mar. 2017. pap. $8.95. ISBN 9781631980664.

Gr 3-6 –Romain provides helpful homework hints, such as making a schedule, not procrastinating, getting a homework buddy, taking short breaks, prioritizing, and eating a healthy snack before beginning. His valuable suggestions empower readers to balance work and play, manage their time effectively, keep on task, and even leave some time for relaxing. The title addresses gripes such as not having enough time, not understanding the homework, not being able to finish it, too much homework, forgetting books, and more. Romain’s strategies are easy to implement. The illustrations are colorful and lively, and the layout is effective. The information is detailed enough to be helpful but is not overwhelming. VERDICT This no-nonsense, quick guide leaves no stone unturned and will be an invaluable read for any kid who has ever struggled to finish homework or who wants to develop better study habits.–Kira Moody, Whitmore Public Library, Salt Lake City

Sampson, Scott D. You Can Be a Paleontologist!: Discovering Dinosaurs with Dr. Scott. 32p. glossary. photos. National Geographic. Apr. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781426327285.

Gr 4-6 –Bright photos accent the colorful pages in this eye-catching overview of paleontology. Sampson, otherwise known as Dr. Scott, the host of the TV show Dinosaur Train, takes a question-and-answer approach to entice readers. “How Do You Find Fossils?,” “Where Are Fossils Stored?,” and “How Do Paleontologists Study Fossils?” are among the baker’s dozen of queries to which Sampson replies in brief, informative, and chatty text. While he doesn’t mention education requirements for paleontology careers, he does urge readers to “learn as much as you can about all kinds of science” and “to spend a lot of time out in nature.” A glossary of possibly unfamiliar terms (burlap and awl among them) is appended. While the book lacks an in-depth diagram that details how to become a paleontologist, it will certainly set the feet of incipient fossil hunters on the right road to their desired goal—and is a fun read as well. VERDICT Eye candy for the paleontological wannabe, and some serious scientific nutrition as well.–Patricia Manning, formerly at Eastchester Public Library, NY

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