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

Image result for give me back my bones norman

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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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Moth: An Evolution Story by Isabel Thomas, illustrated by Daniel Egneús

Published by Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Image result for moth isabel thomas amazon

Summary:  Before the Industrial Revolution, most peppered moths had speckled wings.  The ones that were all black didn’t blend into tree bark as well and were more likely to get eaten.  But the smoke and soot from burning coal turned tree bark black, and before long, there were more black peppered moths than speckled ones.  After clean air laws were passed in the middle of the 20th century, the proportions started to shift again as tree bark returned to its original color. Includes additional information that explains defines evolution, natural selection, and adaptation.  48 pages; grades 1-5.

Pros:  How do you explain evolution and natural selection to a 7-year-old?  Isabel Thomas has done an amazing job here, ably assisted by Daniel Egneús collage-style illustrations.  The blue and silver cover is particularly eye-catching. This belongs in the science section of every elementary library.

Cons:  No photos of the real moths.

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Rocket Says Look Up! by Nathan Bryon, illustrated by Dapo Adeola

Published by Random House Books for Young Readers

Image result for rocket says look up

Image result for rocket says look up adeola

Summary:  Named for a famous spaceship that blasted off the day she was born, Rocket is always looking up and loves all things space.  Her heroine is Mae Jemison, and she is counting down the days until she can see the Phoenix Meteor Shower. Her brother Jamal, though, isn’t impressed by her enthusiasm.  He prefers to look down…at his phone. Rocket’s marketing skills about the meteor shower are so good that when the night comes, half the neighborhood shows up to accompany her and Jamal to the park.  Everyone is looking up, telescopes and binoculars are trained on the sky, but…nothing. Rocket is so crushed that Jamal actually puts away his phone and looks up, too. They’re just about to give up when a big bright light catches everyone’s attention.  The shower has begun! Jamal and Rocket pour themselves some hot chocolate, lie back, and enjoy the show. 32 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  Rocket is a high-energy narrator (she wears an orange space suit throughout the book) who will get kids excited about space and science in general.  This could be a good introduction to the Perseid meteor shower coming up in August. The sibling relationship is a sweet addition to the story.

Cons:  No back matter on meteor showers or Mae Jemison?  Seems like a missed opportunity.  Also, I think the Phoenix Meteor Shower is fictional…why not use a real one (like Perseid) instead?

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Image result for rocket says look up adeola

Look Again: Secrets of Animal Camouflage by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page

Published by HMH Books for Young Readers

Image result for look again jenkins amazon

Summary:  Steve Jenkins and Robin Page take a tour of different habitats–coral reefs, trees, the Arctic, etc.–and show how animals blend in to hide themselves in each one.  There are two cut-paper illustrations for each animal, one against a white background and one in which the animal is camouflaged. Each page has a couple sentences of introductory text; the rest is brief captions for the illustrations.  Additional information about each of the 36 animals is given at the end, along with thumbnail illustrations. Also includes books and websites for additional research. 40 pages; grades K-3.

Pros:  As you may already know, I’m a big fan of Steve Jenkins books (I’ve only reviewed nine), and this one includes many of his beautiful trademark collage illustrations.  As usual, the information is fun and accessible for primary grade readers.

Cons:  This lacked the wow factor of some of my favorite Jenkins books like Biggest, Strongest, Fastest and  Animals By the Numbers

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