Bringing Back the Wolves: How a Predator Restored an Ecosystem by Jude Isabella, illustrated by Kim Smith

Published by Kids Can Press

Bringing Back the Wolves: How a Predator Restored an Ecosystem ...

Bringing Back the Wolves in 2020

Summary:  In 1995, nearly 70 years after they had disappeared due to hunting, wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park.  The results provide a fascinating study on how changing the top of the food chain affects all kinds of species in an ecosystem.  The first and most obvious change was that elk, which had multiplied without a natural predator, were now being hunted for the first time in years.  As their numbers went down, the trees they had eaten were allowed to grow.  Bigger trees meant that beavers were able to return to the park in greater numbers.  Coyotes got bumped down from the top of the food chain to the middle, lowering their numbers and allowing more smaller animals to thrive…which in turn attracted more birds of prey.  The book also briefly touches on other factors such as drought and fire that also affected the ecosystem.  Today there are more than 500 wolves in Yellowstone, balance has been restored, and scientists have had the opportunity to study the effects of reintroducing an apex predator.  Includes a glossary, additional resources, and an index.  40 pages; grades 3-6.

Pros:  I was planning to read this book in small chunks (I’m reading some books on my phone these days), but the story was so fascinating that I finished it in one sitting.  The text is engagingly written and the illustrations add to the information, not only with pictures of the various animals but diagrams showing how they are connected to each other.

Cons:  Several sidebars were labeled “It’s Elemental”, which I think referred to other elements besides the wolves that affected the ecosystem, but it wasn’t 100% clear.

If you would like to order this book from the Odyssey Bookshop, click here.

Winged Wonders: Solving the Monarch Migration Mystery by Meeg Pincus, illustrated by Yas Imamura

Published by Sleeping Bear Press

Winged Wonders: Solving the Monarch Migration Mystery: Meeg Pincus ...

19 | March | 2020 |

Summary:  In 1976, Canadian scientist Fred Urquhart published an article in National Geographic describing the migration of the monarch butterflies–answering a question that had puzzled scientists for decades.  But Dr. Urquhart didn’t solve this mystery by himself.  Citizen scientists all over the United States and Mexico helped by tagging butterflies and discovering the places where they spent the winter in Mexico.  Today, another mystery about the monarchs needs solving: how to keep these butterflies from dying out.  Pesticides have destroyed much of the milkwood they need to survive.  Readers are encouraged to become part of the solution to this problem, just as ordinary people did for Dr. Urquhart’s research.  Includes additional information and ideas for how to help monarchs.  40 pages; grades 1-5.

Pros:  This engagingly written science book shows readers how ordinary people can make real contributions to scientific research and help solve global problems.  The back matter gives concrete ways that kids can make a difference.

Cons:  No list of resources for additional research.

If you would like to order this book from the Odyssey Bookshop, click here.

My Wild Life: Adventures of a Wildlife Photographer by Suzi Eszterhas

Published by Owlkids (Released October 15)

Buy My Wild Life: Adventures of a Wildlife Photographer Book ...

Summary:  Suzi Eszterhas shares how she became a wildlife photographer, beginning with her experiences as a child taking pictures of her cats in her backyard.  Over the years, she has traveled around the globe, often living in a tent and enduring difficult and occasionally dangerous conditions (no showers, lots of insects, airsickness while taking aerial photos, a charging gorilla) to capture the photographs that have appeared in her many books and helped raise awareness for endangered species.  Many of her photographs appear in the text. The final pages answer some of the questions she is most frequently asked. 32 pages; grades 2-5.

Pros:  As a Suzi Eszterhas fan who has promoted her books to kids over the years (most notably Moto and Me), I am delighted to learn that she’ll have this up-close-and-personal look at her life coming out in the fall.  Kids will enjoy reading about her adventurous life and seeing her photos of a wide variety of animals. Clearly, wildlife photography has been a boys’ club for a long time, and Suzi explains how she had to prove she was tough enough to be a part of it–which this book makes very clear she has done successfully.

Cons:  I got this copy off of NetGalley, and it didn’t include all the photos…however, I feel confident they will be excellent and highly appealing to kids.

If you would like to pre-order this book from the Odyssey Bookshop, click here.

Q&A: Wildlife Photographer Suzi Eszterhas | Sierra Club


Nesting by Henry Cole

Published by Katherine Tegen Books

Nesting: Cole, Henry, Cole, Henry: 9780062885920: Books

Summary: Step by step, readers are taken through the early part of a robin’s life cycle, starting when two robins mate and build a nest together.  Soon there are four blue eggs in the nest. After the babies hatch out of the eggs, the parents are busy providing them with food and protection, including a dramatic battle with a snake that crawls up the tree.  Eventually the young robins learn to fly and leave the nest. They’ll survive the winter together, the old nest covered in snow. Includes an author’s note with additional information about robins. 40 pages; ages 3-8.

Pros:  A perfect introduction to robins, with just the right amount of information for picture book readers.  The illustrations are outstanding, showing lots of details in black and white with occasional splashes of blue for the sky and eggs.

Cons:  As is so often the case, there wasn’t quite enough back matter to satisfy me.

If you would like to buy this book from the Odyssey Bookshop, click here.

My Ocean Is Blue by Darren Lebeuf, illustrated by Ashley Barron

Published by Kids Can Press

Image result for my ocean is blue darren

Image result for my ocean is blue darren

Summary:  A girl and her mother explore many different aspects of the ocean.  It can be shallow or deep; slimy or sandy; sparkly or dull. It can splash, crash, echo, squawk, or be silent. It appears and disappears with the tides.  She finds things that are pink, orange, grey, green, and red in and around the ocean, but mostly it is deep, endless blue. 32 pages; ages 3-7.

Pros:  This follow up to My Forest Is Green will make kids want to go to the beach and look closely at all that is in and around the ocean.  The collage illustrations are filled with great colors and textures that really capture the feel of the seashore.

Cons:  I turned the last page, eagerly expecting additional information and sources about the ocean…nothing.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

On a Snow-Melting Day: Seeking Signs of Spring by Buffy Silverman

Published by Millbrook Press

Image result for on a snow melting day amazon

Image result for on a snow melting day buffy silverman

Summary:  “On a drip-droppy, slip-sloppy, snow-melting day…squirrels cuddle.  Snakes huddle. Clouds break. Salamanders wake.” The rest of the text of this book takes this format, describing a type of spring day, then showing signs of spring with a subject/verb combination.  The photographs illustrate each phrase, portraying plants and animals in early spring. The final two pages give more information about each of the photos; there’s also a glossary and list of books for further reading.  32 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  This would be a great catalyst to start a conversation about looking for signs of spring.  The photos are sure to inspire kids to think of what they’ve noticed in their own neighborhoods.

Cons:  Like my other recent Millbrook Press review (Run, Sea Turtle, Run), this only comes in an expensive library-bound format: $23.88 on Amazon; $21.04 on Follet.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

Run, Sea Turtle, Run: A Hatchling’s Journey by Stephen R. Swinburne, photographs by Guillaume Feuillet

Published by Millbrook Press

Image result for run sea turtle run swinburne

Image result for run sea turtle run swinburne

Summary:  A leatherback sea turtle tells of her journey from the time she hatches out of an egg until she reaches the water.  Close-up photos show the turtle and her siblings as they emerge from their nest and race for the water. A Google search tells me that only one in 1,000 baby turtles make it to the sea, but happily we are spared seeing what happens to this turtle’s brothers and sisters.  The last page shows a fully grown leatherback emerging from the waves: “Someday I will come back to this same beach. I will lay eggs of my own.” Includes a page of information on the sea turtle life cycle; how you can help sea turtles; a link to a YouTube video of Stephen Swinburne singing a song about sea turtles (which didn’t work, but I found it by searching on YouTube); and books and websites for additional research.  32 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  Preschoolers will love the photos of turtles and enjoy learning about them from the simple text.  The extra material at the end would make this a good research resource for primary grades.

Cons:  This book is only available with a library binding, which costs $27.99 on Amazon and $21.99 on Follett. 

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

Old Rock (Is Not Boring) by Deb Pilutti

Published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

Image result for old rock is not boring amazon

Image result for old rock is not boring amazon

Summary:  Tall Pine, Spotted Beetle, and Hummingbird all think Old Rock must be bored, sitting in the same spot day after day.  But Old Rock has been around, and he has a lot more interesting stories to tell than his friends could have guessed. For instance, Hummingbird is not the only one who has flown.  When Old Rock erupted out of a volcano, he soared through the air into the world. He’s also seen dinosaurs, traveled in a glacier, and somersaulted down a mountain. Now he enjoys spending his days in the field, visited by his friends, who conclude that it’s a nice spot and that Old Rock is definitely not boring.  Includes a timeline of Old Rock’s adventures, going back 18 billion years. 40 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  A delightful story that can be appreciated on many levels: geological history, intergenerational sharing, or simply enjoying the present moment.  

Cons:  Tall Pine hardly seems in a position to give Old Rock a hard time about staying in the same spot all the time.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

Packs: Strength in Numbers by Hannah Salyer

Published by HMH Books for Young Readers

Image result for packs strength in numbers by hannah salyer

Summary:  The first four two-page spreads each contain a single word: “Packs, herds, huddles, and pods.”  Each shows a group of animals: wolves, buffalo, penguins, and whales. The text continues, “Together, we are better.”  Then there are lengthier descriptions of how different animals work together. Ants collect and store leaves as a group: “Together, we harvest!”  Wildebeest migrate together for protection: “Together, we travel!” The last two pages show a big group of humans, enjoying the streets, parks, and restaurants of a city: “All together…we are better!”  Includes an author’s note about protecting animals of all species; a picture illustrating and identifying all the animals in the book; and a list of books for further reading. 48 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  Kids will enjoy learning how animals work together and applying those lessons to their own groups, but the illustrations are what really make this book outstanding.  The first eight pages are especially spectacular. This is Hannah Salyer’s first picture book…hoping we will see many more.

Cons:  The theme of this book seemed a bit disjointed: it was about pack animals, but also seemed to be about humans working together, and then there was the author’s note about helping endangered animals.  All good things, but a single focus might have worked better.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.


Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera by Candace Fleming, illustrated by Eric Rohmann

Published by Neal Porter Books

Image result for honeybee candace fleming amazon

Summary:  A new worker bee pushes her way out of her cell on the pages before the title page.  Apis Mellifera, or Apis for short, she gives new meaning to the phrase “busy as a bee” as she cleans up the hive, feeds the larvae, cares for the queen, and builds and protects the hive.  Finally, on day 25 of her life, she is ready to fly to the fields, where she spends the next ten days collecting nectar from 30,000 flowers before her life is over.  As she falls to the ground, back in the next, a new Apis Mellifera emerges from a cell.  Includes a detailed diagram of a bee’s anatomy; additional information about bees and how to help them; and additional books and websites for further research.  40 pages; grades 1-5.

Pros:  The award-winning team that brought you Giant Squid has created another marvelous nonfiction book.  The poetic text, amazingly lifelike illustrations, and extensive back matter make this an outstanding resource for research or reading for enjoyment.

Cons:  I started getting impatient for Apis to fly already.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.