Nonfiction: Quirky Cuisine, Poetry, Earth Science & More | November 2017 Xpress Reviews

Two contemporary poetry titles, additions to the "Ranger Rick" series and much more in this month's nonfiction Xpress.

Cajal, David. De las cicatrices se aprende. 128p. Rocaeditorial. Jul. 2017. pap. $12.95. ISBN 9788416700981.

Gr 10 Up –The many thoughts and feelings of YouTuber Cajal, known as Kajal Napalm, make up this poetry collection. In mostly one-page poems, readers learn about the author’s thoughts on love, society, empathy, and his father. Interspersed are brief writings about topics such as being a YouTuber, an adult, and destiny. Among these verses are others about simple but enjoyable things in life—movies—and a series of letters to Gizmo, the small sweet creature from the popular Gremlins movie. While at times repetitive and unfinished, these entries are easy to read and contain musings that will resonate with teens, and perhaps inspire them to write their own poetry. VERDICT Recommended for readers interested in contemporary poetry in Spanish, but not an essential purchase.–Selenia Paz, Helen Hall Library, League City, TX

Calkhoven, Laurie. Secret Agents! Sharks! Ghost Armies!: World War II. ISBN 9781481499491; ISBN 9781481499484.

Lakin, Patricia. The Founding Fathers Were Spies!: Revolutionary War. ISBN 9781481499705; ISBN 9781481499699.

ea vol: illus. by Valerio Fabbretti. 48p. (Secrets of American History). S. & S./Simon Spotlight. Jul. 2017. Tr. $16.99. pap. $3.99.

Gr 1-3 –The covert and quirky history of the United States is revealed in this engaging nonfiction series for emerging readers. From George Washington’s spy ring to shark repellent, these texts outline several of the more unusual inventions and tactics deployed in wartime. The texts are fast-paced and chock-full of action. Throughout the books are bright cartoon illustrations that add a sense of levity and also communicate additional information. The artwork incorporates people of color but, disappointingly, the texts fail to identify them. For instance, in Revolutionary War, the illustrations depict Hercules Mulligan whispering to a black man, but the text only states that Mulligan was speaking to “a man he trusted to pass on the information.” World War II includes information on Josephine Baker, but only in the back matter. In both titles, the use of the second person and the sensational nature in which the content is presented—plenty of exclamation points and heightened language—will make the facts stick and will draw in reluctant readers. VERDICT Consider for large nonfiction chapter book collections.–Bridgid Gallagher-Sauter, The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County

Cobb, Vicki. How Could We Harness a Hurricane? 48p. bibliog. chart. diag. glossary. illus. index. maps. photos. websites. Seagrass. Aug. 2017. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781633222465.

Gr 3-5 –Cobb urges students to think about the possible answers to the titular question in this image-rich and fact-filled book. Readers learn the characteristics of hurricanes, how to distinguish elements of the storms, and the work of scientists who study them. Each chapter contains captioned photographs, maps, diagrams, illustrations that explain scientific concepts and related experiments that readers can perform. Cobb presents many current theories on how to diminish the destruction created by these immensely powerful windstorms. For instance, a project called “Silverlining” aims to keep the surface of the ocean cool by using flotation vehicles to prevent hurricanes from forming in the first place. Readers are left with the final question: “Should we mess with mother nature?” Cobb briefly acknowledges the role of climate change in extreme weather phenomena. VERDICT A great addition to STEM collections.–Patricia Ann Owens, formerly at Illinois Eastern Community College, Mount Carmel

de la Cruz, Melissa, ed. Because I Was a Girl: True Stories for Girls of All Ages. 256p. photos. Holt. Oct. 2017. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781250154460.

Gr 7 Up –A collection of essays that points to hurdles that successful women have had to jump solely because of their gender. The entries feature many different women and many different types of success, all written to inspire girls to aim high and work hard to achieve their goals. Contributors run the gamut—authors, athletes, politicians, organizers, and entrepreneurs. Several of the essays shy away from discussion on sexism and are simply motivational in nature. The collection is organized by decade, with each author included in, one can assume, the decade in which they were born. Overall the chapters are brief and readable and form a positive message for readers to achieve, endure, and persevere, no matter the circumstances. VERDICT A fine additional selection where personal essays are popular.–Sara Jurek, Children’s English Library, Stuttgart, Germany

Fitch, Sheree & Anne Hunt, eds. Whispers of Mermaids and Wonderful Things: Atlantic Canadian Poetry and Verse for Children. 160p. index. Nimbus. Jul. 2017. Tr $29.99. ISBN 9781771084710.

K-Gr 4 –This Canadian anthology of poetry begs to be read aloud. Adults and children are in for a real treat with this volume, which is cleverly organized by six “W’s” (wordplay, weather, wonder, whimsy, warmth, and whispers). The poems range from late 19th-century works to contemporary verses and are as varied in style and subject as they are in time of publication. Many of the entries have been previously published, with permissions noted in the helpful back matter; some poems are in the public domain or have never been published. All, however, work together to evoke distinct images of place and culture. The poems are a pleasure to read silently, but should be read aloud for proper digestion and context. While the intended audience is on the younger end, adults and older children will still find pleasure in William Bauer’s humorous “Tantrum Poem III” or wonder in the sparse images of Mary Dalton’s “St. John’s Haiku.” This thoughtfully compiled collection of poems conjures feelings of salty air, wind-whipped wood, long winters, and lingering summer evenings. Together the varied voices of the poets speak for a rich literary and cultural tradition tied deeply to the land from which they hail. VERDICT A strong and playful addition to any children’s poetry collection.–Bridgid Gallagher-Sauter, The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County

Gutman, Dan. Space, Humans, and Farts. illus. by Jim Paillot. 192p. (My Weird School Fast Facts). photos. HarperCollins/Harper. Jun. 2017. pap. $5.99. ISBN 9780062306265.

Gr 2-5 –This energetic, funny book about science follows a similar pattern for each chapter. The teacher, Mr. Docker, makes a statement about science. A.J. says it doesn’t make sense, and then Andrea and Mr. Docker explain the concept. A.J. chimes in with silly comments, questions, and riddles. The science presented covers a lot of topics, including the solar system, matter, forces, machines, and even famous scientists. Kids familiar with the series will immediately connect to the age-appropriate humor. The data is interesting and, because of the conversational format of the book, it’s quick to read. Reluctant readers will appreciate the space around the text and pictures that identify which character is speaking. There are a few black-and-white photographs and inspirational quotes from famous scientists as well as experiments, fast facts, and, of course, burping and farting. VERDICT An enjoyable work of science for middle grade readers and an easy addition to nonfiction collections.–Debbie Tanner, S D Spady Montessori Elementary, FL

Crupi, Jaclyn. Super Fun Science: With Cool and Challenging Experiments. 48p. photos. Barron’s. Sept. 2017. spiral $9.99. ISBN 9781438050102.

Gr 2-4 –This collection of science experiments is beautifully presented in a plastic spiral-bound format, which makes it easier to lay flat when referencing. Crupi begins by defining scientists and what type of clothing and protective gear one should wear if conducting scientific experiments. Safety rules are also outlined, along with equipment typically used in simple experiments. The book lists the different branches of science, some famous scientists, and explains what the experiments involve. Energy, gravity, weight, light, and matter are all defined and described before the text segues into the project. Each activity includes clear step-by-step instructions. The information is concise and entertaining as well as informative, and the experiments are thought-provoking and fun. VERDICT A fine choice for hands-on future scientists.–Cynde Suite, Bartow City Library System, Adairsville, GA

Leonard, Dion. Finding Gobi: The True Story of One Little Dog’s Big Journey. 208p. photos. Thomas Nelson. Aug. 2017. pap. $14.99. ISBN 9780718075316.

Gr 4-7 –When Dion Leonard was befriended by a tenacious, friendly little pup while running an ultramarathon across China, he knew that he and the little dog were meant to be together, but he had no idea how difficult it would be to bring his new furry friend home. Gobi, named after the desert in which the two met, singled Leonard out from all of the runners and kept pace with him for almost 80 miles of the treacherous track, urging him on to a second-place win. Unfortunately, Leonard, who resided in Scotland, had to leave Gobi behind, but the two soon became worldwide sensations. After completing stacks of paperwork and fulfilling lots of medical requirements, he was finally able to fly Gobi to her new home. Their story has been published in several different formats; this young reader’s edition includes occasional comments from the perspective of Gobi and several pages of color photos. VERDICT Although the ending is a bit abrupt, the combination of ultramarathon racing and an adorable dog are sure to appeal to fans of adventure.–MaryAnn Karre, Binghamton, NY

Maas, Dave. Ranger Rick Kids’ Guide to Fishing: The Young Angler’s Guide To Catching More and Bigger Fish. ISBN 9781633223820.

Winner, Cherie. Ranger Rick Kids’ Guide to Camping: All You Need To Know About Having Fun in the Outdoors. ISBN 9781633223813.

ea vol: 96p. (Ranger Rick). diag. illus. index. maps. photos. Walter Foster. Jul. 2017. Tr. $14.95.

Gr 3-6 –Ranger Rick, a cheerful raccoon in a park ranger’s campaign hat, pops in and out of these straightforward how-to guides for outdoorsy kids. Each title includes an attached compass, though using it necessitates bringing the book along. Both books include clear coverage of the basics, with frequent photos, illustrations, maps, and diagrams. Safety is stressed—readers are encouraged to ask for adult help as needed. They are reminded to care for the environment by leaving little trace when camping and releasing undersize fish gently. Both books have contributions by National Wildife Federation Naturalist David Mizejewsi and offer an excellent introduction to camping and fishing while providing tips for those with a little familiarity, such as noting types of tents and tips for pitching them. They also offer suggestions for adjusting casting techniques to attract different species of fish. Readers will likely breeze through the titles, and each includes an index, if needed. Photos include boys and girls, as well as lots of fish, plants, and animals. However, most of the people featured appear to be white. VERDICT Great for learning new skills and taking a vicarious adventure. The sturdy construction will help the books last if taken outdoors.–Maggie Knapp, Trinity Valley School, Fort Worth, TX

Mach, Jo Meserve & Vera Lynne Stroup-Rentier. Waylen Wants To Jam/Waylen quiere improvisar: A True Story Promoting Inclusion and Self-Determination/Una historia real que promueve la inclusión y la autodeterminación. photos by Mary Birdsell. 40p. glossary. photos. Finding My Way. Mar. 2017. Tr $20.99. ISBN 9781944764531; pap. $10.49. ISBN 9781944764524. BL

K-Gr 2 –Mach’s latest informational book builds on her previous works’ familiar themes of inclusion and determination, offering an experiential insight into a drum class from the point of view of Waylen, a boy with autism. Waylen is fond of drumming and is a member of a drum class. Mr. Sal, the teacher, instructs children how to hold the sticks together, how to perform tricks, and how to hit the drum with the right and left hand. However, sometimes it is strenuous for Waylen to stop and listen because he can’t stop playing. Mach’s true-story setting will appeal to caregivers who are looking for nonfiction literature on inclusion and achievements in the life of differently-abled children. Mach’s bilingual text is written in a large black font and is laid out at the bottom of the pages. Unfortunately, the photos are of modest quality and detract from the overall look of the book. VERDICT A moving bilingual story about self-determination for public libraries.–Kathia Ibacache, Simi Valley Public Library, CA

Mishra, Samina & Sherna Dastur. My Sweet Home: Childhood Stories from a Corner of the City. 156p. illus. photos. Mapin. May 2017. pap. $27. ISBN 9789385360190.

Gr 3-5 –A collection of stories and art by children from Okhla, a majority Muslim neighborhood in Delhi, India. In 2008, police raided a house in Okhla that they believed to hold terrorists: two youths and a police inspector died as a result. Controversy over the encounter persists, and in 2010 the authors held a workshop with neighborhood kids to get them talking and creating. The fruit of that collaboration is produced here: colorful student-created art (some uncredited), short writings, and numerous black-and-white photos of the city. The work does have a slight audience issue. The stories, in structure and vocabulary, best suit upper elementary schoolers, but the simple sentences and the overall look signal a younger audience. VERDICT Readers with an interest in India, or in children’s art, might be motivated to read.–Patricia D. Lothrop, formerly at St. George’s School, Newport, RI

Roberts, Ceri. Refugees and Migrants. ISBN 9781438050201.

SpilsbuRy, Louise. Poverty and Hunger. ISBN 9781438050195.

ea vol: illus. by Hanane Kai. 32p. (Children in Our World). further reading. glossary. index. websites. Barron’s. Aug. 2017. Tr. $9.99.

K-Gr 3 –The series expands its scope to cover the difficult issues of poverty, hunger, and immigration in all its iterations using child-friendly layouts. Each title begins by defining the target issue in simple and straightforward language, employing comparisons that are relatable for the audience. Spilsbury and Roberts then dig into the many layers of each concept, including a brief history up to the present day and a listing of questions that young readers would likely ask. Factual answers to each question are provided, creating an ideal setup for teachers using this as a class read-aloud or a caregiver in need of age-appropriate answers for kids. The authors also discuss people who are attempting to make positive changes for those in these situations, as well as offer discussion prompts for students. Kai illustrates familiar scenes of parents, children, and animals to help cushion the subject matter. Back matter includes a list of related reference and fiction titles. VERDICT Both volumes provide a powerful opportunity for discussion with youngsters and are a worthwhile purchase for home and school collections.–Colleen S. Banick, Westport Public Schools, CT

Roig, Gabriel Martín. I Am Vincent van Gogh. illus. by Fátima García. 64p. chron. reprods. websites. Star Bright Bks. Apr. 2017. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781595727701.

Gr 5 Up –This first-person narrative brings together a biographical sketch of the post-Impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh. The story of the artist’s life details the challenges he had in his personal relationships and with money; the support of his brother, Theo; and the development of his subject matter and painting style. Explanations of individual art movements, such as Pointillism and post-Impressionism, provide context about the time period van Gogh was working in. Key figures and places in van Gogh’s life are also written about in greater depth. This translation of an earlier Spanish edition adequately captures van Gogh’s sensitive nature and devotion to his family, religion, and art. Original illustrations of scenes from the artist’s life in watercolor are interspersed with poor quality reproductions of van Gogh’s paintings. A brief time line and list of paintings are provided at the end. VERDICT A readable narrative that is useful for biographical details of Vincent van Gogh’s life, but not as a reliable source for reproductions of his work.–Jessica Cline, New York Public Library

Tee, Susanna. The Gross Cookbook: Awesome Recipes for (Deceptively) Disgusting Treats Kids Can Make. 64p. glossary. illus. index. photos. Sourcebooks. Aug. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781492653158.

Gr 3 Up –Delightfully disgusting-looking recipes fill this playful cookbook for kids. Perfect for Halloween, there are recipes for severed fingers, cat litter cake, frog’s egg pudding, and many more that are made to look totally gross but are actually delicious. The book has full-color photographs and cartoon illustrations showing the steps and the finished work. The instructions are clear and easy to follow and recommend the help of an adult when needed. There is a section of kitchen rules and cooking terms. The best part of the book is the many pages that discuss real-life delicacies, such as fried tarantulas, fried rattlesnake, bat soup, and fish eyeballs. There are even party ideas, including all these secretly yummy foods. VERDICT Not recommended reading before lunch, but totally fun to make. Consider for large cookbook collections.–Cynde Suite, Bartow City Library System, Adairsville, GA

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