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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One Dark Bird by Liz Garton Scanlon, illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon

Published by Beach Lane Books

Image result for one dark bird liz garton scanlon

Image result for one dark bird liz garton scanlon

Summary:  On the title page, we learn that if starlings are threatened, they will sometimes form what’s called a murmurration: a huge flock that can fly in a coordinated mass, almost like a dance.  The book goes on to count starlings from 1 to 10; when they are startled by a bird of prey, hundreds come together to move in a flock through the sky. When danger passes, they go their separate ways, and the countdown goes from 10 to 1.  The last one falls asleep in a tree as a full moon is rising. 40 pages; ages 2 -7.

Pros:  Readers will learn a little bit about starlings and counting as they enjoy the gorgeous illustrations.  The single starlings are a medley of jewel-toned colors, and the murmurration against the evening sky is quite spectacular.

Cons:  I would have liked a little more information or additional resources about starlings.

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Homes in the Wild: Where Baby Animals and Their Parents Live by Lita Judge

Published by Roaring Brook Press

Image result for homes in the wild judge

Image result for homes in the wild judge

Summary:  26 animal babies and their families are profiled, grouped together by the type of home they have–underground, hidden in the trees, a nest, etc.  Large, realistic watercolors introduce each section, followed by smaller pictures with a paragraph of text about the two or three animals who inhabit that particular type of home.  The book concludes with the statement that animals are safe and sheltered in their homes, just like human children. Includes further information about each animal with a thumbnail sketch, a brief glossary, and a list of books and websites that give more information.  48 pages; grades K-3.

Pros:  Kids will love these adorable baby animal pictures, and there’s plenty of interesting information for them to browse.  The lists of additional resources will allow for further research.

Cons:  All 26 animals are mammals; it would have been interesting to throw in a few fish, reptiles, and birds for comparison.

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Give Me Back My Bones! by Kim Norman, illustrated by Bob Kolar

Published by Candlewick

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Summary:  A pile of bones on the ocean floor slowly reassembles itself into a pirate with the help of some sea creatures.  “Help me find my head bone, my pillowed-on-the-bed bone, the pirate’s flag-of-dread bone–I’m scouting out my skull.”  He continues working his way down, each rhyme ending with the name of the bone he’s seeking: from mandible and clavicle all the way to tibia, fibula, and phalanges.  At last, he’s ready to don his pirate’s hat, and climb aboard his shipwrecked ship where he’s sure he’ll find treasure–”I feel it in my bones!” The endpapers show the separate bones on the front and a labeled skeleton on the back.  40 pages; ages 4-9.

Pros:  Although this has the feel of a preschool-to-primary-grade picture book, older kids would find this a humorous introduction to different bones.  The rhymes are catchy and the skeleton is oddly endearing. It could even be a nice alternative to traditional Halloween reading. Great fun!

Cons:  Back matter about the skeleton with additional resources would have been useful.

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