Spring After Spring: How Rachel Carson Inspired the Environmental Movement by Stephanie Roth Sisson

Published by Roaring Brook Press

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Summary:  Rachel Carson loved nature from the time she was a child.  She spent a lot of time outside, looking and listening to the wonders around her.  Although she grew up far from the ocean, she loved to read about it and imagined what it would be like.  She also enjoyed writing, and planned to study it in college. But after seeing tiny sea creatures through a microscope, she changed her major to biology.  After graduation, she combined her two interests, writing popular books about the ocean. Her most famous work, though, was Silent Spring, based on her research on the effects of pesticides on the environment.  Although not everyone agreed with her conclusions, enough people were concerned that real changes occurred as a result, including the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and the first Earth Day.  Includes author’s note, notes, and bibliography. 40 pages; grades K-4.

Pros:  A charming introduction to Rachel Carson’s life, emphasizing her lifelong love of nature, especially the ocean, and illustrated with cartoon-style illustrations.

Cons:  The notes gave a lot of interesting information about Carson’s life, but are written in a small, cramped font, and are likely to be overlooked by young readers.

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Saving Fiona: The Story of the World’s Most Famous Baby Hippo by Thane Maynard

Published by HMH Books for Young Readers

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Summary:  When Fiona the hippo arrived two months prematurely, her caretakers at the Cincinnati Zoo sprang into action to save her.  At 29 pounds, she was about one-third the healthy weight for a newborn hippo, and was too weak to climb on her mom’s back or to nurse.  The staff watched over her day and night, creating a hippo formula based on her mother’s milk to feed her. When she was a few months old, she began gradually transitioning to her parents’ care.  Fiona became something of a social media sensation, and a Google News search reveals that as recently as two weeks ago, her growth spurt was making headlines. Includes four pages of back matter with additional information about hippos.  48 pages; ages 4-10.

Pros:  This is my favorite kind of animal nonfiction book…an engaging story, lots of adorable photos, and plenty of information that would make it a good research resource.  I was surprised to read that hippos are the most requested animals at the zoo, but after seeing the photos of Fiona, I can understand why.

Cons:  Some resources about hippos for additional research would have been a nice addition.

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Kiki Greenbriar?

Nothing Stopped Sophie: The Story of Unshakable Mathematician Sophie Germain by Cheryl Bardoe, illustrated by Barbara McClintock

Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

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Image result for nothing stopped sophie mcclintock

Summary:  Growing up during the French Revolution, Sophie Germain faced a number of obstacles to a career in mathematics.  Girls received little education, and Sophie’s parents tried discourage her late-night studies by taking away her candles and warm clothing.  She was undaunted, though, and they finally realized there was no way to stop her from studying math. When she grew up, she corresponded with other mathematicians under a pen name, but they tended to lose interest when they discovered she was a woman.  She kept studying any way she could, and when the Academy of Sciences offered a medal worth 3,000 francs to find a mathematical formula that would predict patterns of vibration, Sophie was determined to find a solution. It took her several years, but in 1816, she became the first woman to win a grand prize from the Royal Academy of Sciences.  Her work helped other mathematicians and engineers build modern skyscrapers, including the Eiffel Tower. Includes additional information about Sophie and the problem of vibration she solved. 40 pages; grades 2-5.

Pros:  Perseverance is the theme of Sophie Germain’s story, and readers will enjoy learning of her eventual success in the face of daunting obstacles.  The illustrations do an amazing job of incorporating numbers and mathematical formulas into Sophie’s world.

Cons:  I really didn’t understand the vibration problem that Sophie was working on.

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Unsinkable: From Russian Orphan to Paralympic Swimming World Champion by Jessica Long with Hannah Long

Published by HMH Books for Young Readers

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Summary:  Jessica Long started life in Siberia as Tatiana Kirillova; she was adopted by the Long family at the age of 13 months.  Born without fibular bones, Jessica underwent surgery shortly after arriving in the U.S. to remove both legs below the knee.  She learned to walk with prosthetics, and soon became active in a variety of sports. Swimming eventually won out over the others, and Jessica began competing as a Paralympian.  She has participated in Paralympic events in Athens, Beijing, London, and Rio de Janeiro, winning 23 medals to make her the second-most decorated Paralympian of all times. She tells her story as a series of life-changing moments (“The moment I won my first gold”, “The moment I lost my confidence”, etc.), that cover the highs and lows of her life and athletic career.  Jessica has enjoyed working as a model, and the text is illustrated with many photos of her, her family, and her friends. Looking at her Facebook page, it seems as though she is making plans to compete in Tokyo in 2020. 112 pages; grades 5-8.

Pros:  Jessica tells her story in a chatty, upbeat style that, along with the many photos, will appeal to upper elementary and middle school readers.  Even her struggles with anxiety, OCD, and bulimia are covered with a pretty positive spin.

Cons:  The format of life-changing moments, which were not in exact chronological order, made the story seem a little disjointed. Also, not a con, but a heads-up that Jessica and her family are devout Christians, which is sometimes mentioned in the story, particularly “The moment I found peace”.

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National Parks of the U.S.A. by Kate Siber, illustrated by Chris Turnham

Published by Wide Eyed Editions

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Image result for national parks of the u.s.a. turnham

Summary:  This oversized guide to the national parks of the U.S. is divided into seven sections: Alaska, Tropics (Hawaii, the Virgin Islands, and American Samoa), West, Southwest, Rocky Mountains, Central, and East.  Each section starts with a map showing all the parks from that area, then gives more in-depth information (a two-page spread) on a few selected ones. These spreads include the location, date founded, size, and information about various plants and animals that can be found in the park.  Two pages at the end have an A-Z of wildlife: 26 plants and animals with a challenge to find which parks they are from. Also includes information on how to help protect the national parks and an extensive index. 112 pages; grades 1-7.

Pros:  It will take a pretty committed homebody to resist the urge to go exploring after perusing these pages.  The retro illustrations, oversized pages, and fascinating information make every park beckon to road trippers.

Cons:  For such a big book, some of the type is pretty tiny.

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Crescent Moons and Pointed Minarets: A Muslim Book of Shapes by Hena Khan, illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini

Published by Chronicle Books

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Image result for crescent moons and pointed minarets

Summary:  In this follow-up to Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Shapes, the author-illustrator team explores various aspects of Islam by looking at different shapes.  Each page contains a rhyming couplet introducing a shape and a word from Islam (“Circle is a daff, a drum large and round./We fill the air with its festive sound”).  The illustrations portray Muslims from a variety of countries and cultures. Includes a glossary that gives more information about each term from the text and an author’s note describing the importance of shapes and geometry in Islamic art.  32 pages; ages 3-8.

Pros:  An excellent introduction to the Muslim faith, with interesting illustrations that include a wide variety of beautiful geometric patterns.

Cons:  The information is pretty brief; I was curious about many of the terms, but the glossary only provides a sentence or two about each one.

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The Sockeye Mother by Hetxw’ms Gyetxw (Brett David Huson), illustrated by Natasha Donovan

Published by Highwater Press

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Summary:  The life of a sockeye salmon is described from the time she hatches from an egg until she returns to the same spawning ground two years later to lay her eggs before dying.  The sockeyes’ connection to the Gitxsan, indigenous people of British Columbia, is alluded to, as well as the reverence these people have for the fish that help sustain them.  The balance of nature is also described in a section called “A Replenishing Death”, when the salmon’s body becomes fertilizer for the flora in and around the water. 32 pages; grades 2-6.

Pros:  The author grew up in the Gitxsan Nation and imparts both scientific and cultural information in this brief story of a sockeye salmon.  The close-up illustrations vividly bring to life the different stages of the fish’s life, as well as the people and animals around her.

Cons:  This may not be a book many kids will pick up on their own, but with some guidance, they will find it an interesting resource.

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