Jabari Tries by Gaia Cornwall

Published by Candlewick (released September 8)

Jabari Tries: Cornwall, Gaia, Cornwall, Gaia: 9781536207163 ...

Jabari Tries: Cornwall, Gaia, Cornwall, Gaia: 9781536207163 ...

Summary:  Jabari, his little sister Nika, and his dad are back for a follow-up book to Jabari Jumps.  This time, Jabari is excited to be building a flying machine.  “It’ll be easy,” he says.  “I don’t need any help.”  His first attempt flies, but crashes, and Jabari works to redesign it.  He thinks about other Black engineers and scientists who have had to solve problems like this one.  When another attempt fails, his dad suggests that he take Nika on as a partner.  Another crash brings frustration, and Dad helps Jabari take a break, then try again.  Nika turns out to have the key to success, and when Jabari implements it into his design, success!  The two engineers are ready for their next project: a rocket to Jupiter.  32 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  I was happy to see the return of Jabari and his family from one of my favorite slice-of-life picture books.  This one celebrates both engineering and grit, helping readers see what it takes to persevere.  

Cons:  This story felt a bit more didactic than the first one.

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Solar System by the Numbers: A Book of Infographics by Steve Jenkins

Published by HMH Books for Young Readers

Solar System: By The Numbers - Kindle edition by Jenkins, Steve ...

Summary:  Using illustrations, graphs, and diagrams, Steve Jenkins explores the solar system, including the sun, moon, planets, comets, and asteroids.  Comparisons are made of size, climate, gravity, and other features of the different planets, using visuals to make the facts easier to grasp.  Humans’ exploration of the solar system is also shown, with a timeline of solar system discoveries, animals sent to space, and more.  There’s also a page speculating on life in the solar system, and one showing the frequency and effects of different-sized asteroids crashing into Earth.  Includes a glossary and bibliography.  40 pages; grades 2-5.

Pros:  How did Steve Jenkins’s biggest fangirl (as I’m occasionally known) miss this new infographics series?  Dinosaurs and Earth came out last year, and Insects was published simultaneously with Solar SystemAnimals by the Numbers is one of my favorite nonfiction books to book talk.  Just showing kids a page or two sends a bunch of them clamoring for more, so I look forward to sharing these books with science fans.

Cons:  These seem to be marketed as readers for kids starting in first grade, but I think they will find more of an audience with slightly older readers.

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I’m Trying to Love Rocks by Bethany Barton

Published by Viking Books for Young Readers

I'm Trying to Love Rocks: Barton, Bethany: 9780451480958: Amazon ...

I'm Trying to Love Rocks by Barton, Bethany - Amazon.ae

Summary:  The author of three other I’m Trying to Love… books makes seemingly dull, boring rocks come alive with a spirited girl narrator who corrects the off-the-page speaker by showing how rocks tell interesting stories.  She identifies the three types of rocks, explaining how each kind is formed, and goes on to show examples of work geologists do that kids will relate to.  She makes a brief plug for scientists in general, “Science isn’t about having the answers–it’s about asking questions.”  A careful examination of the end papers indicates that her mission has been accomplished: the front papers show a bunch of rocks, each one labeled “rock”, while the end ones have each rock correctly labeled.  40 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  Another lively, informative entry in this series, with plenty of humor, bright cartoon-style illustrations and comic bubble dialogue. This would make a perfect introduction to a unit on rocks for preschool and primary grades.

Cons:  No back matter. 

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Ocean Speaks: How Marie Tharp Revealed the Ocean’s Biggest Secret by Jess Keating, illustrated by Katie Hickey

Published by Tundra Books (Released June 30)

Ocean Speaks: How Marie Tharp Revealed the Ocean's Biggest Secret ...

Ocean Speaks: Marie Tharp and the Map That Moved the Earth by Jess ...

Summary:  Growing up in the 1920’s and 1930’s, Marie Tharp wasn’t encouraged to pursue her interests in science.  During World War II, however, she was able to study geology and got a job in a lab in New York.  When the men came back from war, they were the ones who went out on research ships to study the ocean, while Marie stayed back in the lab.  She began using the data collected from this research to create a map of the ocean.  Her map revealed a rift valley and mountain ranges under the ocean.  When her work was called into question, she did it over again, coming up with the same results.  Eventually, her mapping was accepted by the scientific world, changing the way scientists think about the geology of the earth.  Includes an author’s note, photo, list of questions and answers, and resources for further reading.  34 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  An excellent introduction to the life of a little-known woman scientist that could be used alongside Robert Burleigh’s Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea (2016).  The illustrations complement the text nicely; I particularly like the ones that show Marie sailing on an ocean of ink in a paper boat as she pursues her explorations of the ocean back in the lab.

Cons:  This doesn’t offer as much of the science of continental drift that Tharp helped discover as Burleigh’s book does.

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A Rainbow of Rocks by Kate DePalma

Published by Barefoot Books

A Rainbow of Rocks: DePalma, Kate: 9781782859925: Amazon.com: Books

A Rainbow of Rocks | Ages 3-7 | Barefoot Books

Summary:  Each page features two rocks of the same color on a black background with rhyming text to identify them (“Pyrite cubes reflect the light. Calcite is glassy–edged with white.”).  After going through red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, black, and rainbow-colored, the author concludes, “Rocks in every shape and hue. Each one’s different, just like you!”  The final three pages contain five questions about rocks and minerals with fairly in-depth answers.  24 pages; ages 3-7.

Pros:  The photos of are gorgeous, and the back matter provides a good introduction to rocks and minerals.

Cons:  There feels like a disconnect between the rhyming text, which seems most appropriate for preschoolers, and the back matter, which would work for kids up to age 10 or so.

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Stink Fights, Earwax, and Other Marvelous Mammal Adaptations by Laura Perdew, illustrated by Katie Mazeika

Published by Nomad Press (released August 13)

Stink Fights, Earwax, and Other Marvelous Mammal Adaptations by ...

Stink Fights, Earwax, and Other Marvelous Mammal Adaptations ...

Summary:  Beginning with four haiku about adaptation, the author then moves to a one-page explanation of what animal adaptation is.  From there, it’s a look at individual animals who have interesting adaptations:  ring-tailed lemurs’ stink fights and whales’ earwax from the title, as well as elephants’ ears, star-nosed moles’ noses, giant anteaters’ tongues, and more.  Each two-page spread includes an illustration and a few sentences describing the adaptation and how it helps that animal.  Includes an activity to explore how humans adapt; a page called “Connections” which is a list of fun facts about mammals; and a glossary.  32 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  A fun introduction to animal adaptation (specifically mammals) with playful illustrations and facts that are sure to pique the interest of young readers.

Cons:  There’s not a lot of information or additional resources; some facts, like “Elephants have an excellent sense of smell” don’t get any additional explanation.

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Bright Dreams: The Brilliant Ideas of Nikola Tesla by Tracy Dockray

Published by Capstone Editions (released August 1)

Bright Dreams: The Brilliant Ideas of Nikola Tesla by Tracy ...

Bright Dreams: The Brilliant Ideas of Nikola Tesla by Tracy ...

Summary:  Growing up in the 19th-century Austrian empire, Nikola Tesla was fascinated by electricity and dreamed of studying engineering.  Although his father wanted him to become a priest, Nikola eventually got his way.  He was so focused on his questions about electricity, though, that he flunked out of engineering school.  Tesla eventually emigrated to America, where he worked with both Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse to develop his ideas about AC (alternating current) electricity.  In spite of his brilliance, Nikola lacked the social and business skills to make his inventions a success, and died a poor man at the age of 86.  His life and ideas have experienced a revival in recent years, including the naming of the Tesla car.  Includes a timeline, bibliography, and additional sources of information.  32 pages; grades 2-5.

Pros:  This is a good introduction to Nikola Tesla’s life, and would serve as a good starting point for research for elementary kids.  Plenty of sidebars help explain some of the more technical aspects of Tesla’s work.  

Cons:  Thomas Edison sounds like a pretty terrible person.

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Boxitects by Kim Smith

Published by Clarion Books

Boxitects: Smith, Kim: 9781328477200: Amazon.com: Books

Boxitects – Kim Smith

Summary:  Meg is a boxitect who loves to create all kinds of structures from cardboard boxes.  Her mother signs her up for Maker School so she can be with other kids who like to build and create.  At first, Meg is the only boxitect, and enjoys this distinction among the blanketeers, egg-cartoneers, and spaghetti-tects.  But one day, Simone shows up in class.  Simone is another boxitect, and pretty soon a rivalry develops between the two of them.  Things come to a head at the school’s Maker Match, when the two are put on a team.  Not wanting to work together, they divide their space in half and each compete to see whose structure can be bigger and better.  This results in disaster, and they have to work together to salvage anything from their original design.  They don’t get first place, but together they make something pretty cool…and each one also makes a new friend.  Includes four pages showing why cardboard is a good building material and giving directions to build a tunnel and castle from cardboard boxes.  40 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  This would be a perfect introduction to any kind of maker session for young kids, with a nice emphasis on teamwork and friendship.

Cons:  The ending was pretty predictable from the moment Simone showed up.

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Under My Tree by Muriel Tallandier, illustrated by Mizuho Fujisawa, translated by Sarah Klinger

Published by Blue Dot Kids Press

Under My Tree: Tallandier, Muriel, Fujisawa, Mizuho, Klinger ...

Under My Tree: Tallandier, Muriel, Fujisawa, Mizuho, Klinger ...

Summary:  When Susanne visits her grandparents’ house in the country one summer, she makes friends with a tree she and her grandmother meet in the woods.  Each time she visits, Susanne makes a new discovery.  She’s initially drawn to the tree because of baby birds nesting in it.  Later on, she hugs it, climbs it, and discovers insects crawling up and down its trunk.  When she sees the leaves changing color, she knows it’s time for her visit to end.  She and her mother have one last visit with the tree that includes a hug and gathering a leaf to remember her tree all winter.  32 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  This lovely introduction to trees includes “Did you know?” and “Try this” sidebars on many of the pages to share additional facts and encourage kids to interact with their own trees.  The illustrations highlight the tree with beautifully colored leaves, and both story and picture will make readers want to head for the woods.

Cons:  Once again, a missed opportunity for back matter, which could have included all sorts of additional information and resources about trees.

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If You Take Away the Otter by Susannah Buhrman-Deever, illustrated by Matthew Trueman

Published by Candlewick (Released May 26)

If You Take Away the Otter: Susannah Buhrman-Deever, Matthew ...

If You Take Away the Otter: Susannah Buhrman-Deever, Matthew ...

Summary:  Kelp forests, like any habitat, are home to a web of living creatures that keep the whole ecosystem in balance.  Otters do their part by eating the fish, shellfish, and sea urchins that live in these forests.  But a demand for the otters’ fur, beginning in the eighteenth century, reduced the otter population on the Pacific coast from between 150,00 and 300,000 to fewer than 2,000.  Without the otters, sea urchins flourished, eating the base of the kelp and eventually destroying the forests.  In 1911, laws were passed to stop the fur trade, and the otters slowly began to return.  As the otter population went up, the sea urchins’ went down, until balance was restored once again.  Includes additional information about kelp forests, sea otters, and people; a bibliography; and a list of additional resources.  32 pages; grades 1-4.

Pros:  Another book that shows the importance of maintaining the balance of an ecosystem, how humans often mess that up, and how laws and other regulations can help to restore it.  The text is simple enough for primary grades without being condescending, the watercolor illustrations of the kelp forest world are beautiful, and the sea otters are adorable.

Cons:  There’s a little too much anthropomorphized good-versus-evil in the world of the kelp forest, with the sea otters being described as “the kings of these forests” without any evidence to back that claim.  Meanwhile, the sea urchins, who were really just doing their thing, are portrayed as “an army”.  It doesn’t help that they look a bit like a well-known virus. 

Links to COVID-19 Resources – Copyright Clearance Center     40 Animal Species that Outlive the Rest

Is there a resemblance, or am I just starting to see coronavirus everywhere?

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