Published by Aladdin
Summary: Divided into three sections–human body, animal kingdom, and earth and science–this book investigates life on earth through comic book-style stories about a day in the life of various things. From the profound (brain, blue whale, moon) to the profane (fart, pimple, dung beetle), these stories will educate and entertain many different types of kids. Includes a glossary. 128 pages; grades 2-6.
Pros: Both the format and the wide range of topics make this a very appealing book that is perfect for browsing.
Cons: There’s a little information on a lot of topics, so probably not the best for research.
Published by Roaring Brook Press
Summary: Each two-page spread has a watercolor illustration of the tree in its natural habitat with animals that live in or near it, a free-verse poem, and several paragraphs of information about the tree. The “wisdom” aspect of trees is emphasized, showing the remarkable ways trees defend themselves, maintain Earth’s balance, and even communicate with each other. Includes an author’s note; additional information about each tree in the book and the future of forests; how to help forests; glossary; and sources. 48 pages; grades 3-6.
Pros: This gorgeous science book has some pretty mind-blowing information about trees that scientists are just beginning to discover. It certainly gave me a new appreciation for trees, and it will undoubtedly have the same effect on younger readers.
Cons: It will take a pretty dedicated tree enthusiast to get through the entire book. But the good news is, if this tree book doesn’t grab you, there are a couple dozen more to choose from this year.
Published by Holiday House
Summary: A ruby throated hummingbird narrates a year in his life, starting on May 15 when he hatches out of an egg. A few weeks later, he’s ready to fly, and spends the summer sipping nectar and fighting/playing with the other hummingbirds. August 22: “I’m hearing a lot of chatter about a big trip soon.” In September, he heads to Mexico, where he stays until the end of February. By May 4, he’s back home again, and thinking about finding a mate. Includes additional information about hummingbirds on both the front and back endpapers, as well as a glossary and a list of sources and recommended reading. 40 pages; ages 4-9.
Pros: Paul Meisel and Holiday House have teamed up for a number of I Like to Read books, and this series feels like it could appeal to the same audience. There’s just a sentence or two of text on each page, and the diary format makes it engaging and fun. Yet there’s plenty of back matter that could make this a great research resource for older kids. There are three other books in this series, which started in 2018.
Cons: As you may recall, I’m not a big fan of using the endpapers for additional information. Fortunately, the book I got from the library didn’t have a dust jacket, so nothing was covered up.
Published by Tundra Books
Summary: A butterfly tells readers that “everyone knows that butterflies are pretty.” If that’s as much as you want to know about butterflies, you’re warned not to read any further. But, of course, who can resist? Keep going, and you’ll learn that butterflies can be drab, noisy, and eat rotten food or poop. Some are stinky, sneaky, and all are shape-shifters, turning from a caterpillar into a butterfly. They taste with their feet and drink other animals’ tears. Butterflies are gross, they are amazing, AND they are beautiful…just like humans! Includes additional information about the butterfly species in the book. 36 pages; grades K-4.
Pros: This is a fun approach that is a nice counterbalance to more traditional butterfly books. I used to teach in a school where there was a second grade field trip to The Butterfly Place in Westford, MA, and there were always one or two kids who were completely freaked out by butterflies. They might enjoy having their phobias validated by this book.
Cons: Honestly, I was hoping for something a little bit grosser.
Published by Blue Dot Kids Press
Summary: A child hears a voice calling from the bay, a voice that the adults are unable to hear. The voice grows loud, sometimes joyful and sometimes full of sorrow. A whale is telling the story of how she wants to come home but feels unsafe, knowing that other whales have been hurt or sent away. Then one morning, the whale appears in the bay with her baby. People gather on the shore to watch and to hear her call, which others beside the child can finally hear. Includes two pages of additional information about right whales and four things people can do to help whales. 32 pages; ages 4-8.
Pros: The gentle voice of the text and beautiful watercolor illustrations provide a compelling introduction to whales and their endangered status.
Cons: There were no additional resources about whales listed.
Published by Henry Holt and Co.
Summary: When the narrator’s sister calls the nursery to order “a trillium, please”, the worker there hears “a trillion trees”. Before long, the first installment–a thousand saplings–is delivered to their house. The whole family races to plant the trees all over town, identifying many of them as they go. Exhausted, they return home, only to face the next delivery arriving. 40 pages; ages 4-8.
Pros: This follow-up to Billions of Bricks has the same fun rhyming text and big numbers incorporated into the story. There’s some good information on trees here as well as plenty of humor tied to the impossibility of the family’s tree-planting situation.
Cons: The lack of back matter about trees and/or large numbers.
Published by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux
Summary: The narrative begins long ago when nomads traveled through Europe and Asia, fighting wolves for their prey. A girl meets a young wolf and they play together until the pup gets older. This cycle is repeated throughout history, with the bond between child and pup growing, and the certainty that their friendship can’t last becoming less. In the last iteration, the human group packs up and leaves the area, the boy calls to his wolf friend, “and Dog left the wolf pack to follow his boy away.” The last spread shows a contemporary girl and puppy meeting for the first time. Includes two pages of back matter giving additional information on how dogs became domesticated and a bibliography. 40 pages; ages 4-8.
Pros: Dog lovers will be intrigued by the progression of domestication over thousands of years. The illustrations seem simple with cartoon-inspired characters, but also include gorgeous backgrounds portraying the natural world. The back matter adds to the research value and will make the book more interesting to older kids.
Cons: The process of domestication is very simplified.
Published by Orca Book Publishers
Published by Blue Dot Kids Press
Summary: These two books provide a starting point for learning more about climate change and actions kids can take, both now and as they begin their careers. Our World Out of Balance has 17 chapters that address various areas of environmental concern, such as global warming, plastics in the ocean, and extreme weather. In addition to facts, there are sidebars on how kids can help address these problems. Design Like Nature looks at ways people can study nature to inspire designs that will help the environment. Both books include additional resources, an index, and a glossary. Design Like Nature, 48 pages; Our World Out of Balance, 72 pages; both, grades 3-7.
Pros: As environmental problems worsen around the world, it’s important to raise awareness with kids as to what the issues are and what can be done to solve them. Both books take the problems seriously, but also offer a note of optimism that there are solutions.
Cons: The illustrations in Design Like Nature are mostly stock photos that don’t always do a great job supporting the text.
Published by Charlesbridge
Summary: Zapped, wrapped, trapped, or poked: those are a few of the ways flies get eaten by other animals. Each method is accompanied by a cartoon illustration along with a few sentences of text describing how the fly is trapped and consumed. The last few pages give nutrition facts for flies, show their edible parts, and offer lists of books and websites, as well as a selected bibliography. 32 pages; ages 4-8.
Pros: The emphasis on the gross-out factor, reinforced in the illustrations, will undoubtedly have readers flocking to this book like the proverbial flies to honey.
Cons: If flies are such easy prey, why are there still so many of them around?
Published by Magic Cat Publishing
Summary: Twelve children from around the world are profiled, each one having started an initiative to help the planet. Each two-page spread shows kids at work, with a brief paragraph describing the young person and their activity. Captions in the illustrations give additional information. The last few pages offer ten things kids can do to help save the planet; ten things they can do to make their voices heard; and a list of seven websites with additional information. 32 pages; grades 1-5.
Pros: Readers will be inspired by these kid activists who have already done amazing things to help make the world a better place. There’s a lot to see in each illustration, and the information is brief enough for the younger grades.
Cons: In the back matter, the author states that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change “found that the world is already 34 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than two hundred years ago.” Was a decimal point left out?