Fox: A Circle of Life Story by Isabel Thomas, illustrated by Daniel Egnéus

Published by Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Fox: A Circle of Life Story: Thomas, Isabel: 9781526600776: Amazon.com:  Books
Fox: A Circle of Life Story by Daniel Egneus

Summary:  Look: you might see a bushy tail or a flash of orange.  Listen: a soft pad of paws.  A fox travels through the snow, hunting for food to take back to its den, where three cubs wait.  As the cubs get bigger, they go out on hunting expeditions, too.  On one trip, the fox is hit by a car and dies by the side of the road.  The cubs return home and are seen walking by the fox’s body as it slowly starts to decompose.  Birds and insects feed on the body, and insects lay their eggs there.  “Life is everywhere.  Death is not just an end but a beginning.”  Includes additional information on death, decomposition, and the cycle of life.  48 pages; grades 1-5.

Pros:  This beautiful book looks at death and decomposition from a scientific viewpoint, part of the cycle that allows new life to grow and flourish.  It doesn’t deal with grief (the young foxes seem unfazed by the death of their parent) but shows readers the natural process of death.

Cons:  Readers who may not have picked up on the foreshadowing of the “circle of life” subtitle may be shocked and dismayed by the death of the fox.  This is definitely a book to share and discuss one-on-one.

Saving Sorya: Chang and the Sun Bear by Trang Nguyen, illustrated by Jeet Zdung

Published by Dial Books

Saving Sorya: Chang and the Sun Bear: Nguyen, Trang, Zdung, Jeet, Zdung,  Jeet: 9780593353639: Amazon.com: Books
Saving Sorya: Chang and the Sun Bear: Nguyen, Trang, Zdung, Jeet, Zdung,  Jeet: 9780593353639: Amazon.com: Books

Summary:  The author based this story on her life, portraying herself as a young girl named Chang who commits to becoming a wildlife conservationist after witnessing people extracting bear bile on a bear farm.  As she grows up, she’s given little encouragement due to her gender and age, but she persists in her goal, and eventually is accepted as a volunteer for an organization called Free the Bears.  There she meets a sun bear cub named Sorya and takes on the task of reintroducing her to the wild.  This proves to be a long process, since Sorya is shy and becomes attached to Chang.  Again, Chang’s persistence pays off, and after many months, Sorya gradually goes back to the wild.  Chang misses her friend, but is happy that Sorya is where she belongs.  128 pages; grades 3-7.

Pros:  This unusual graphic story features gorgeous artwork showing the forests of Vietnam and an inspiring story about a determined young woman who is able to make a difference with her conservation work.

Cons:  The scene at the bear farm is a bit disturbing.

The Message: The Extraordinary Journey of an Ordinary Text Message by Michael Emberley

Published by Caitlyn Dlouhy Books

The Message | Book by Michael Emberley | Official Publisher Page | Simon &  Schuster
The Message: The Extraordinary Journey of an Ordinary Text Message: Emberley,  Michael, Emberley, Michael: 9781534452909: Amazon.com: Books

Summary:  Michael Emberley traces the journey of a text message from one phone to another, starting with the formation of the message in the brain, then traveling through the fingers to the phone’s glass.  Next, the signal travels to a cell tower, then on through underground cables that travel deep into the ocean.  Eventually (I’m skipping over a few steps here) the message arrives at the recipient’s phone and is received by her eyes and brain.  Although emotions can’t travel via text, the message can trigger an emotion, in this case love as a mother and child exchange messages when the mom is away on a trip.  Includes additional information and resources (which are printed on the back endpapers…grrr!).  48 pages; grades 1-5.

Pros:  Kudos to Michael Embereley for taking an incredibly complex process that most of us take for granted and making it interesting and understandable.  Both kids and adults will learn a lot from this introduction and the back matter adds much more.

Cons:  I definitely didn’t follow the whole process. My mind is still blown, though.

The Secret Explorers and the Missing Scientist by SJ King

Published by DK Children

Amazon.com: The Secret Explorers and the Missing Scientist: 9781465499899:  King, SJ: Books

Summary:  Kiki is tinkering with a bicycle near her home in Ghana when she gets the signal that the Secret Explorers have a mission.  When they’re all gathered, they learn that they’ve been assigned to the Arctic, and Kiki and marine specialist Connor are the two chosen to go.  When they get there, they find a ship stuck in the ice and learn that one of the scientists has gone missing.  As they carry out their rescue mission, they learn a lot about the polar environment, and have a close encounter with a polar bear.  Not only do they find the scientist, but Kiki’s engineering skills allow them to free the ship from the ice as well.  Includes additional information on the Arctic, the people who live there, and polar bears; a quiz; and a glossary.  128 pages; grades 2-4.

Pros:  Somehow I’ve missed this series until this book, #7, which got a starred review from School Library Journal.  Kids who like science and reading nonfiction will enjoy learning all the facts that are woven into the story and given in the backmatter.  There’s a diverse cast of characters that apparently answer the call from all around the globe when there’s a new mission. I was a little vague as to the group works, so definitely start with book 1.

Cons:  Even though there are plenty of illustrations, there’s no credit given on the cover or title page. Unless SJ King is also the illustrator?

Anteaters, Bats & Boas: The Amazon Rainforest from the Forest Floor to the Treetops by Roxie Munro

Published by Holiday House

Anteaters, Bats & Boas by Roxie Munro: 9780823446568 |  PenguinRandomHouse.com: Books

Summary:  Thirty animals from the rainforest are profiled, beginning with an introduction that tells readers a little bit about rainforests, specifically the Amazon, where the animals in the book live.  From there, the two-page spreads show two or three animals with a paragraph of facts about each one.  The animals are pictured in their natural habitats and shown in proportion to each other.  A final spread includes black-and-white outlines of all the animals with a color-coded list that categorizes them by class.  There’s also information on the layers of the rainforests and rainforest preservation, as well as a glossary, index, and list of additional information sources.  32 pages; grades 2-5.

Pros:  The large, full-color illustrations really make this book, which also includes interesting tidbits of information about each animal, and excellent backmatter which can lead readers to further research.

Cons:  It’s a beautiful and interesting catalog of animals, but kids will have to look elsewhere for more comprehensive information about the rainforest.

Amara and the Bats by Emma Reynolds

Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Amara and the Bats: Reynolds, Emma, Reynolds, Emma: 9781534469013: Amazon.com:  Books
Amara and the Bats: Reynolds, Emma, Reynolds, Emma: 9781534469013: Amazon.com:  Books

Summary:  Amara has loved bats since one got into her attic and a wildlife rescue team gave her a close look when it came to get it out.  When the family moves, she’s dismayed to learn that there are no bats at the local park.  After reading about other young environmental activists, Amara gets the idea to build bat houses to try to get her favorite animals to return.  She bravely makes a presentation about it at her new school, and is joined by a couple of other kids who also love animals.  It takes a lot of time and patience, but the kids raise money, build the houses, and wait.  Finally, Amara gets a call one night from the park ranger, and when she and her family get to the park, they see that the bats have returned!  Includes facts about bats, echolocation, setting up bat houses, and ways kids can help bats.  48 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  An empowering story of how one kid can make a difference in her community.  Amara stays true to her passion for bats while also dealing with moving and making new friends.  The material at the end could be good for starting some research.

Cons:  Sorry, Amara, I just can’t share your excitement for finding a bat in the attic.

The Shark Book by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page

Published by Clarion Books

The Shark Book: Jenkins, Steve, Page, Robin: 9781328569493: Amazon.com:  Books
Bound To Stay Bound Books, Inc. - Bookstore

Summary:  The husband-and-wife team of Jenkins and Page introduce readers to the world of sharks through cut-paper illustrations and text describing different types of sharks, how sharks reproduce, what they eat, and more.  Of course, what readers REALLY want to know is how dangerous sharks are to humans, and this is addressed as well, along with additional information about how dangerous humans are to sharks.  Includes a chart showing size, range, danger to humans, and conservation status of all the sharks in the book as well as a bibliography.  40 pages; grades K-4.

Pros:  One can never have too many shark books on the library shelves, and, as per usual, Jenkins and Page do a stellar job of making the information interesting and accessible to the intended audience, with excellent illustrations as well as text.

Cons:  The font seemed a bit small to me, especially since it was one that looked like handwriting.

Hidden Planet: Secrets of the Animal Kingdom by Ben Rothery

Published by Tilbury House Publishers

Hidden Planet: Rothery, Ben: 9780241361016: Amazon.com: Books
Hidden Planet: An Illustrator's Love Letter to Planet Earth: Rothery, Ben:  9780241361009: Amazon.com: Books

Summary: This animal book focuses on secret or hidden aspects of the animal kingdom.  There are hidden relationships like mutualism and parasitism; hidden families, like the surprising connections among the elephant, the manatee, the dugong, and the rock hyrax; and hidden abilities, such as camouflage and other defenses.  Each oversized page contains at least one illustration (sometimes filling the whole page), and often has two, three, or more, some in color and some black and white.  Includes an introduction and a final author’s note that explain how he became interested in illustrating and writing about animals, why it’s so important to understand animals better, and an invitation to readers to start their own writing and drawing; also, an index.  96 pages; grades 3-8.

Pros:  The wealth of information and especially the illustrations are phenomenal.  Any kid interested in animals will love this book, whether it’s just to browse through the gorgeous pictures or to pore over the interesting facts. 

Cons:  So many of the full-color illustrations are suitable for framing; if I were a kid with an Exacto knife, well…I might not be responsible for my actions.

The Leaf Thief by Alice Hemming, illustrated by Nicola Slater

Published by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

The Leaf Thief: Hemming, Alice, Slater, Nicola: 0760789305887: Amazon.com:  Books
The Leaf Thief: Hemming, Alice, Slater, Nicola: 0760789305887: Amazon.com:  Books

Summary:  Squirrel is in a panic when he notices that one of his leaves is missing, and immediately runs to his friend Bird’s house to report the theft.  Bird reassures him that it’s normal to lose a leaf or two at this time of year, but the next day, Squirrel freaks out again when more leaves go missing.  He accuses some of the other animals, but eventually Bird reminds him that this has happened before, and that the only one stealing leaves is the wind.  Squirrel is finally able to calm down…until he wakes up on a snowy morning, and realizes that someone has stolen the GRASS!  Includes two pages of facts about autumn and the changes deciduous trees undergo during the fall season.  32 pages; ages 3-7.

Pros:  I have nothing against Halloween and Thanksgiving books, but sometimes you just want a good fall story; this one is sure to be a hit with younger kids who will undoubtedly find Squirrel’s antics hilarious.  As a bonus, there’s some good, age-appropriate information to share about the season.

Cons:  The fall facts are printed on the back cover.  Someday, in my ideal world, publishers will listen to me and stop doing that, so we librarians won’t have to cover them up with the dust jackets. 

Dr. Fauci: How a Boy from Brooklyn Became America’s Doctor by Kate Messner, illustrated by Alexandra Bye

Published by Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers

Dr. Fauci | Book by Kate Messner, Alexandra Bye | Official Publisher Page |  Simon & Schuster
Dr. Fauci | Book by Kate Messner, Alexandra Bye | Official Publisher Page |  Simon & Schuster

Summary:  From the time he was a boy growing up in Brooklyn, Anthony Fauci always had a curious mind.  His family encouraged that, telling him to always gather evidence and keep an open mind when solving a problem.  Although he wasn’t the biggest kid in the neighborhood, he learned to be competitive in sports, using speed to make up for what he lacked in stature.  In 1966, Anthony became Dr. Fauci when he graduated first in his class from Cornell Medical School.  Throughout his career, he studied new diseases like AIDS, West Nile virus, and, of course, COVID-19.  Keeping an open mind, working with scientists around the world to gather evidence and look for solutions, Dr. Fauci worked tirelessly on the problem of COVID-19.  The book ends on a positive note, with the vaccine rollout; Dr. Fauci is happy to get his vaccine, reunite with family, and get back to work on whatever problem comes along next.  Includes additional information on vaccines and their safety; Dr. Fauci’s five tips for future scientists; a timeline of his life; a recommended reading list; and several photos of Anthony Fauci growing up.  48 pages; grades K-3.

Pros:  A much-needed picture book biography of Dr. Fauci, along with timely information about vaccine safety.  The information is straightforward, emphasizing the importance of hard work and critical thinking in the scientific world.

Cons:  Probably appropriate for the age group, but the tone of the book is consistently upbeat, with none of the political controversy around Dr. Fauci touched upon.