Being Frog by April Pulley Sayre

Published by Beach Lane Books

Image result for being frog april pulley sayre

Image result for being frog april pulley sayre

Summary:  “A frog is a being./It is watching./It is seeing.”  The rhyming text follows a frog as it sits on a log, hunts for food, cools off in the water, and leaps into the air.  Questions are asked: does a frog remember its tadpole days? Does time move fast or slow for the frog? No one knows; the text simply concludes: “A frog has a life./A frog is a being.”  Includes a two-page author’s note in which Sayre talks about fictional frogs and how real frogs are different. She discusses things she imagines about the frogs she observes at a local pond (a favorite frog responds to her) versus what science teaches us about frogs.  Also includes resources for further exploration. 32 pages; ages 3-8.

Pros:  It’s always a pleasure to discover a new science book by April Pulley Sayre, with her gifts for photography and rhyme.  I particularly liked her author’s note introducing kids to various topics dealing with science and scientists.

Cons:  There’s not enough information to use this as a research resource.

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Beehive by Jorey Hurley

Published by Simon and Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books

Image result for beehive jorey hurley

Image result for beehive jorey hurley

Summary:  With only one word per page, Jorey Hurley’s illustrations portray the steps of creating a beehive and making honey.  The bees swarm and explore until they find a large hollow tree where they can build their hive.  Eggs are laid, the larvae are fed, and eventually new workers join the hive. They collect nectar from flowers in a nearby field, pollinating as they go, then return to the hive to make honey.  A final page explains what is going on in the illustrations, with each word from the story in all caps to show how it fits into the narrative. 40 pages; ages 3-7.

Pros:  Jorey Hurley’s distinctive books introduce the scientific world to kids in a way that is understandable for even the youngest readers.  The Photoshop illustrations are beautiful, with a distinctive palette that repeats throughout the book. The simple one-word pages convey a surprising amount of information.

Cons:  There are no additional resources listed.

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The Great Shark Rescue: Saving the Whale Sharks by Sandra Markle

Published Millbrook Press

Image result for great shark rescue markle amazon

Image result for great shark rescue markle

Summary:  Opening with a story of two young whale sharks getting caught in a fishing net, Sandra Markle introduces readers to the variety of problems these animals face, all of them created by humans.  She looks at efforts to protect them, as well as some of the technologies scientists use to study them. While knowledge of these giants of the shark world has increased over the years, there are still discoveries to be made.  She describes how scientists have learned more in recent years about the way the sharks reproduce, but how they still don’t know exactly how young sharks survive in the ocean. The last page features the whale shark’s famous cousin, the great white shark, and provides information about its endangered status.  Includes an author’s note; a timeline of the scientific study of whale sharks; a glossary; additional resources; and an index. 48 pages; grades 4-6.

Pros:  Markle has produced another excellent science book, choosing a topic with lots of kid appeal and presenting science as a fascinating career choice.  There are plenty of photos and maps, and also a fair amount of text; definitely no dumbing-down here.

Cons:  All the books in this series (Sandra Markle’s Science Discoveries) seem to only be available as e-books or with library bindings, $25.00 on Follett; $32.00 on Amazon.

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Unseen World: Real-Life Microscopic Creatures Hiding All Around Us by Hélène Rajcak, illustrated by Damien Laverdunt

Published by What On Earth Books

Image result for unseen worlds real-life microscopic creatures hiding all around us

Image result for unseen worlds laverdunt

Summary:  Each two page spread describes microscopic creatures that live in different environments:  under the ocean, on the forest floor, in your bed, on your kitchen floor. A fold-out page gives an introduction; when it’s unfolded, more of the illustration is revealed and specific organisms are identified.  Ten environments are profiled in all. Includes additional information about and history of the microscope; information on classifying microorganisms; glossary; index; and selected sources. 32 pages; grades 4-7.

Pros:  This French import is a real work of art.  Sure, we may not all be curious about the mites that feed on our skin at night, but for those who are, this is a beautiful way to go.  The illustrations are amazingly detailed, and the information is fascinating.

Cons:  The foldout pages and $18.00 price tag are a less-than-ideal combination for a school library.

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Pluto Gets the Call by Adam Rex, illustrated by Laurie Keller

Published by Beach Lane Books 

Image result for pluto gets the call

Image result for pluto gets the call

Summary:  On the title page, three scientists are seen arguing about who will call Pluto; we then travel to the outskirts of the solar system to meet Pluto, a friendly fellow, who introduces himself as the ninth planet.  While he’s giving a tour of his part of the universe, he gets the call. He is no longer a planet. Devastated, he seeks out advice from other planets, who turn out to have their own distinctive personalities.  Neptune is a bit slow on the uptake; Saturn is gushing with charm and just might have a crush on Pluto; Jupiter is a big bully. Finally, Pluto heads for the big guy–the Sun–who tells Pluto to enjoy being himself.  “You’re still a planet to everyone who was too short to ride the Ferris wheel…to all the people picked last for kickball.” Besides, scientists are still debating. At one point in history, they said there were 23 planets. Two pages of planetary facts round out this wacky tour of the solar system.  48 pages; grades K-4.

Pros:  I laughed out loud more than once, enjoying the planets’ personalities (“People talk about Uranus for reasons I don’t really want to get into.”  “Aww, shucks, you must mean my charming personality.”) There’s plenty of information tucked into the text and illustrations; kids will be having so much fun, they won’t even notice that they’re getting educated.

Cons:  48 pages seemed a little long and rambling to me.

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Driftwood Days by William Miniver, illustrated by Charles Vess

Published by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers

Image result for driftwood days charles vess"

Image result for driftwood days charles vess"

Summary:  As a boy watches a beaver build a lodge, a stick breaks away and floats down the river.  It gets stuck against a boulder for the winter, but when spring comes, it continues along the river to the ocean.  After getting tangled in fishing nets, the stick washes up on shore, where it is discovered by the same boy, now on vacation at the beach.  He takes the stick–now a piece of driftwood–back with him to his home by the river. The last page shows him sitting in a tree with his driftwood, watching the beaver once again. Includes a two-page author’s note with additional information on driftwood.  48 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  This gorgeous science book tells the stick’s journey in the context of the changing seasons, showing the cyclical nature by ending the story where it began.  The colored pencil illustrations realistically and beautifully portray the different landscapes.

Cons:  Humans do it again: as per usual, the author’s note mentions how humans have messed up the production of driftwood, which plays an important part in beach ecosystems.

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Skulls! by Blair Thornburgh, illustrated by Scott Campbell

Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Image result for skulls blair thornburgh

Image result for skulls blair thornburgh

Summary:  It may seem alarming to think that every person you’ve ever seen has a skull, but this is a good thing.  Skulls might look a little scary, but they protect our brains. The holes in our skulls allow us to see, hear, and eat.  They give our faces shapes, allow us to open and close our jaws, and hold our teeth in place. By the time you reach the last page, you will be thanking your skull for all it does and shouting along with the girl in the book, “I love my skull!”  Includes a page of cool skull facts. 40 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  Pair this book with Kim Norman’s Give Me Back My Bones! to make an excellent story hour for Halloween or any time.

Cons:  In this age of concussions, some safety tips for protecting your skull would have made a nice addition.

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