Elem. – Mini Animals

Murray, Julie. Mini Animals. Abdo, 2020. $19.95 ea. $119.70 set of 6. 24 p. Grades PreK-2. 

African Pygmy Hedgehog. 978-1-532-18878-7.
Dwarf Caiman. 978-1-532-18879-4.
Fennec Fox. 978-1-532-18880-0.
Leaf Chameleon. 978-1-532-18882-4.
Little Penguin. 978-1-532-18881-7.
Pygmy Marmoset. 978-1-532-18883-1.

The only thing cuter than a regular animal is a miniature animal, of course! In Mini Animals readers will learn about some of the amazing small creatures that populate the world. Easy text (example text from African Pygmy Hedgehog: “It has small eyes and ears. Its legs are short.”) make the series best suited for young readers. Basic facts about each animal, including habitat, physical characteristics, and diet are included in the text. The text is paired with numerous highly appealing photographs. Each title also contains a visual glossary and a comparison page comparing the mini animal to the typical sized animal.

THOUGHTS: This series is sure to be a hit with young animal lovers. The close-up, high quality photos  will allow students to fully appreciate these tiny, amazing animals. Highly recommended. 

590s  Animals          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD   

Elem. – Horses, Set 2 (Series NF)

Hansen, Grace. Horses (set 2). Abdo, 2020. $20.95 ea. $125.70 set of 6. 24 p. Grades PreK-2. 

Arabian Horses. 978-1-532-18563-2.
Highland Ponies. 978-1-532-18564-9.
Mustang Ponies. 978-1-532-18565-6.
Palomino Horses. 978-1-532-18566-3.
Pinto Horses. 978-1-532-18567-0.
Shetland Ponies. 978-1-532-18568-7.

Horse books of all types are always a popular choice for students. Abdo, realizing this fact, has expanded their existing Horses nonfiction series for young readers with the publication of six additional titles. Each book explores the unique characteristics of a specific horse breed. Readers will learn about the history of the breed as well as the horse’s physical characteristics and abilities. Highland Ponies, for example, informs the reader about the strong and sturdy horse breed native to Scotland. Easy to handle and train, these horses are versatile, working on farms, but also to be used as family ponies and trained for riding and showing. The text is supported by the inclusion numerous high quality photos, a “More Facts” page, and glossary.

THOUGHTS: This series is an excellent choice for primary school libraries looking to update the horse area of their collections. The books are oversized, allowing for larger photos that are sure to capture the interest of readers. The supplemental Abdo Online materials that relate to series are a nice added bonus – I particularly like the craft project, which involved using a paper bag to create a horse puppet.

636.1  Horses          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD

Elem. – Animal Homes

Murray, Julie. Animal Homes. Abdo, 2020. $19.95 ea. $119.70 set of 6. 24 p. Grades PreK-2.

Burrows. 978-1-5321-8521-2.
Caves. 978-1-5321-8522-9.
Dens. 978-1-5321-8523-6.
Nests. 978-1-5321-8524-3.
Trees. 978-1-5321-8525-0.
Webs. 978-1-5321-8526-7.

While many children’s non-fiction series focus on animals, fewer titles focus solely on the habitats they call home. Abdo aims to fill this gap with their Animal Homes series for younger readers. Each title discusses a home, giving several examples of creatures that live in each type of home and also how each home is created. This reviewer had the opportunity to review Nests. Photographs depicted a variety of nests, including birds’ nests, wasp nests, sea turtle nests, and more. The accompanying text conveyed basic information regarding nests and their inhabitants. Back matter includes a visual glossary and additional photos of creatures that live in the home. Also present is a code that readers can use on Abdo Online to access crafts, games, videos, etc. related to the title. 

THOUGHTS: This series offers primary readers a basic understanding of some of the most common animal homes they might encounter in nature or see outside their windows. Abdo’s accompanying online material is superior to what many other publishers offer and could be utilized by teachers in lessons or as extension activities. Educators who are teaching in a hybrid-type model may wish to encourage students who check out Abdo titles of the school library to explore their title’s Abdo Online resources on days when classes are not meeting in-person. 

591.564 Animals          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD

Elem. – Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera

Fleming, Candace, and Eric Rohmann. Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera. Neal Porter Books, 2020. 978-0-8234-4285-0. Unpaged. $18.99. Grades K-2.

On a summer morning, a new life begins, a new honeybee emerges from her cell. With characteristically flawless prose, Fleming guides the reader day by day through the short life cycle of the honeybee. The new worker bee immediately begins tasks about the hive, from cleaning, to feeding larva, to tending the queen. At approximately four weeks, the worker transitions to a forager, seeking nectar and communicating its location to other foragers. This job will consume the honeybee for the rest of her days. Fleming’s text is gently poetic, imbuing grace and beauty to the life of the bee and the hive. Caldecott winner Rohmann’s eye-catching artwork adds another layer to the experience and is not for the faint-of-heart.  Illustrations of the bee are enormous, covering entire pages. Some young readers will thrill to the extreme closeups of eyes and antenni, but other, more bug-phobic, children (and adults) may find the pictures terrifying.

THOUGHTS: This is a lovely, lyrical peek inside the hive and the life of the honeybee, but know your audience before using it as a read-aloud.

Picture Book          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

Elem. – Polar Animals (Series NF)

Jaycox, Jaclyn. Polar Animals. Pebble, 2020. $20.99 ea. $167.92 set of 8. 32 p. Grades K-3. 

Arctic Foxes Are Awesome. 978-1-977-10814-2.
Caribou Are Awesome. 978-1-977-10819-7.
Killer Whales Are Awesome. 978-1-977-10816-6.
Narwhals Are Awesome. 978-1-977-10817-3.
Penguins Are Awesome. 978-1-977-10815-9.
Polar Bears Are Awesome. 978-1-977-10818-0.
Seals Are Awesome. 978-1-977-10820-3.
Snowy Owls Are Awesome. 978-1-977-10821-0.

Narwhals Are Awesome gives readers a glimpse inside the life of a narwhal, one of the Arctic Ocean’s most interesting creatures. Known as the unicorns of the sea, these animals have a long tooth that sprouts through its lip and looks similar to a unicorn’s horn. People hunt narwhals for this exact reason: their tusks are often sold or used to make jewelry. Like dolphins and other whales, narwhals use echolocation to search for their food which they find on the ocean floor. Narwhals can stay underwater for twenty-five minutes before having to return to the surface to breathe air. This means that climate change can be harmful to them; as rising temperatures cause ice to melt, the ice moves while narwhals swim underneath. Sometimes, they can become trapped under the ice and drown. Currently, there are about 75,000 narwhals in the ocean, but they are hard to study given the very chilly climate of their habitats. But one thing is for sure – no other animal is quite like them.

THOUGHTS: As narwhals become more prominent in books and graphic novels (such as the Narwhal and Jelly series by Ben Clanton), younger students have shown an increased interest in these creatures. Full of facts and written in kid-friendly language, this book shows readers what a narwhal’s life is like in the Arctic Ocean while also addressing current event issues like climate change. Students also will enjoy up close and personal photographs of these creatures. Although the critical thinking questions in the back of the book are lacking, other features, such as the list of other nonfiction narwhal books and websites to explore, are valuable. There is even a website focused on STEM-inspired narwhal activities. This book is a perfect nonfiction addition to any elementary library. 

599.5 Narwhals          Danielle Corrao, Ephrata Area SD

Elem. – I Don’t Like Rain

Dillard, Sarah. I Don’t Like Rain. Aladdin, 2020. Unpaged. 978-1-534-40678-0. $17.99. PreK-1.

Rabbit finds a pine cone and begins to play catch with his animal friends. When they notice dark clouds, Rabbit’s friends go inside because they do not like playing in the rain. Rabbit sadly returns to his house as the rain comes down. Then, he notices that Bird is having fun playing in a rain puddle and puts on a raincoat to join him.  The other animals also come outside to join in on the fun, which once again is put to a halt when the rain stops. But this time, they all enjoy what happens next. The colorful digital illustrations of the anthropomorphized animals were created by the author.

THOUGHTS: This picture book is a good choice for rainy day storytimes. It shows the value of being positive and making the most of a disappointing situation.

Picture Book          Denise Medwick, Retired, PSLA Member

MG – Can You See Me?

Scott, Libby, and Rebecca Westcott. Can You See Me? Scholastic.2020. 978-1-338-60891-5. 358 p. $16.99. Grades 6-8.

Co-authored by Rebecca Westcott and Libby Scott, an eleven-year old neuro-diverse girl, Can You See Me? uniquely captures the inner feelings of Tally Adams, an autistic British sixth grader. Through Tally’s eyes, the reader learns of the frustrations and perceptions an autistic person experiences navigating teachers, friends, and family while transitioning to the more sophisticated world of middle school. Luke, a classmate suffering from his own trauma, bullies Tally because he unwittingly views her autism as weird. Tally receives the brunt of Luke’s anger and loses her few friends when she tells the teacher Luke stole the answers to an upcoming quiz. As Tally tries to fit in at school and adjust her behavior at home, she finds comfort and courage in wearing a tiger mask and companionship in the old, three-legged dog the family is taking care of for their elderly, sick neighbor. Tally is a treasured part of a loving and supportive family, but she sometimes tries the patience of her father and older sister, Nell. Westcott and Scott do a fine job creating a window into the world of autism as well as providing tips for how to cope best with the autistic personality (both Tally’s mother and a sympathetic drama teacher are pros). After selected chapters, Tally as narrator relates excerpts from her journal which gauge her anxiety level and note the pros and cons of autism. Though the ending is somewhat abruptly idealistic–Tally’s fair-weather, catty friends proclaim that they need her and one even confesses she told the entire class Tally is autistic. Tally’s response to both, though, is authentic. She tells the girl that the information was not hers to share and she refuses to offer the girls the cookies her mother suggests she share. Overall, this book gives a particular view of autism not seen in other novels that can lead to understanding and rich discussion.

THOUGHTS: Mockingjay, A Boy and a Bat, Al Capone Does My Shirts, Rain Reign. . . no shortage of books featuring a person with autism. In Can You See Me? however, the reader can relate not only to the behaviors associated with autism, but also with the times any of us have been called out for our quirks or feeling different or not fitting in. This book is ideal for character studies, even for comparing it with R. J. Palacio’s format of Wonder: How does Tally’s sister Nell feel always sacrificing her needs for Tally? Why is it difficult for Tally’s friend, Layla, to stay loyal to Tally?, etc. The title and cover refer to the tiger mask Tally sometimes dons when she needs to face hard situations. The cover art is so busy, the background obscures the title of the book; though that may be the goal, the artwork looks amateurish and the result makes the cover forgettable.

Realistic Fiction          Bernadette Cooke, School District of Philadelphia

Elem. – Animal Kingdom Series NF

Murray, Julie. Animal Kingdom. Abdo Publishing, 2020.

Toads. 978-1-532-11655-1. $20.95 ea. $1,005.60 set of 48. Grades 2-4.
Other titles in this series may be viewed here.

Toads is an introductory book to the hopping amphibian! This book is filled with information on the physical description of toads, the life cycle, eating habits, habitat, and additional materials. Beautiful photographs, infographics, bold-faced words, a glossary, and even more exploratory information is found within this exciting read. Readers will enjoy learning about toads and discovering what makes them unique!

THOUGHTS: I really liked this introductory book to toads. It was filled with a lot of great information, but it was presented in an engaging way that young readers will be able to learn a lot of information, but still have understanding of the material presented. A fun, visual read.

597.87 MUR                                        Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

Elem. – The Biggest Story

Coyle, Sarah. The Biggest Story. Kane Miller, 2020. 978-1-684-64045-4. 32 p. $12.99. Grades K-2.

Sarah Coyle’s vibrant picture book, illustrated by Dan Taylor, reminds readers that even in a world with the iPad, Nintendo Switch, and YouTube, the best entertainment comes from the imagination of storytellers. Errol is surrounded by every toy and electronic he owns and yet, he is still bored. His mother is a fantastic storyteller, and he begs for one of her stellar stories. Unfortunately, she must complete some errands around the house first. She suggests Errol think up his own tale instead. While worrying that he doesn’t know how to come up with a story, he bumps into some insect and animal friends who give him some fun and unusual ideas for his tale. Errol also meets some time-traveling dinosaurs who want a featured spot in his first literary creation. Together, his newfound furry and scaly friends help him create a story so big, even his mother, storyteller extraordinaire, is impressed with the final result.

THOUGHTS: This book shows students the power of storytelling and how a story can be generated just by looking all around you. Teachers and librarians will especially love that Errol has an activity in the back of the book to help students find their inner storyteller. What I love most about this book, however, is that Errol is a character of color featured in a children’s book that shows him doing normal activities. Every library can benefit from books that show people of color being, well, regular people!

Picture Book         Danielle Corrao, Ephrata Area SD

Elem. – Packs: Strength in Numbers

Salyer, Hannah. Packs: Strength in Numbers. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2020. 978-1-328-57788-7. 44 p. $17.99. Grades K-3. 

This nonfiction title celebrates togetherness in the animal kingdom, highlighting many forms of animal cooperation. From packs and herds to huddles and pods, the author shows how animals are better together. Spotlighting animals who are at risk of losing their homes due to climate change, poaching, or habitat loss, each spread includes three descriptive sentences sharing how animals cooperate for the benefit of the group. The spread about bees explains how some of the swarm buzzes from flower to flower, while others stay home tending to the hive and making honey. Together, they work. Additional pages spotlight information about ants, bats, lions, fish, wildebeest, frogs, coral, flamingos, and mongooses. The final page features groups of humans enjoying a variety of outdoor activities, again underlining the idea that people need each other too. The cut paper, gouache, acrylic paint, and colored pencil illustrations were finished digitally and are the true stars of this book. Each full-bleed double-page spread features a single animal as well as a large group of the same animal. Seeing so many of the same creatures together in large groups echos the idea of strength in numbers and solidifies the refrain that together we are better than we are individually. An Author’s Note encourages readers to learn more about the threatened animals featured in this book by reading and researching how every creature plays an important role in our planet’s survival. The final page includes full names and diagrams of each animal included in the book.

THOUGHTS: This first-purchase title will be a beautiful addition to elementary library collections. Students will pour over the illustrations while also gleaning knowledge about cooperation in the animal kingdom.

591.5 Animal Behavior          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD