YA NF – Bioluminescence; Vietnam


Zimmer, Marc.  Bioluminescence: Nature and Science at Work.  Minneapolis: Twenty-First Century Books, 2016.  978-1-4677-5784-3. 72 p.  $26.00.  Gr. 7 and up.

This engaging title begins with an overview of bioluminescence in the animal kingdom, explaining its use as a communication, defense, and survival mechanism for animals, describing experiments that have been done on bioluminescent species, and explaining what we have learned about bioluminescence from these experiments.  Then, the author goes on to describe ways in which bioluminescence is being used in scientific studies.  For example, scientists who require sterile conditions for lab research use bioluminescence to test for the presence of bacteria; if bacteria is present, their lab surface will glow.  Scientists are also using bioluminescent proteins in medical studies to learn more about cancer, HIV, Alzheimer’s disease, malaria, and other viruses and diseases.  Color photographs, diagrams, and sidebars are dispersed throughout the text, and a glossary, source notes, bibliography, reading list, and index are all included.  A concise introduction to a complex topic, the author does an excellent job of presenting highlights about bioluminescence and explaining their applications and importance to the field of science.  THOUGHTS: Although I do not view myself as a science person, this book proved very interesting to me.  Not only were the concepts broken down so they were easy to understand, but there were many tidbits of information throughout the book that were actually very intriguing.  For example, I learned that females of some species of fireflies, unlike their male counterparts, do not have lucibufagin, a poisonous chemical that can be released when challenged by a predator.  To make up for this, they will actually eat a male firefly from a different species in order to take in his lucibufagin and increase their chances of survival. Full of interesting facts like this, this book would be a solid addition to any high school science collection.

572; Bioluminescence      Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area High School



Freedman, Russell. Vietnam: A History of the War. New York: Holiday House, 2016.  978-0-8234-3658-3.150 p. $20.00. Gr. 7 and up.

In this concise overview of the Vietnam War, Freedman begins with an examination of Vietnam’s history, presenting its struggles for independence against the Chinese, the French, and the Japanese.  He then goes on to explain how America became involved in Vietnam.  Throughout this explanation, Freedman explores many key figures (such Ho Chi Minh and multiple U.S. presidents) and major events (such as the Gulf of Tonkin incident, the My Lai massacre, the Kent State shootings, and more).  Freedman then concludes with a chapter on the relationship between the U.S. and Vietnam today and presents valuable lessons that were learned from America’s most controversial war.  Black and white period photographs are interspersed throughout the text, and a timeline, source notes, glossary, bibliography and index are included.   THOUGHTS:  Compared to much of the narrative nonfiction on the market these days, this title is very straightforward and even a little dry at times.  However, there have not been many excellent resources published on this topic in recent years, and the fact that this book comes from an author who has written many award-winning titles makes it all the more appealing.  Given that it is concise (yet thorough) and easy to understand, I feel that this would be a solid addition to any middle or high school library collection.

959.704; Vietnam War         Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area High School


Freedman, Russell. Vietnam: A History of the War. New York : Holiday House, 2016. 978-0-8234-3658-3. $20.00. 160 p. Gr. 6 and up.

A look back at the disastrous and divisive war America fought in Vietnam, Vietnam describes the turbulent history of the Vietnamese people under the rule of a long list of invaders and reviews the actions which led to the growing military involvement of the United States in Vietnam at the height of the Cold War along with the impact of the protests of the American people against the unpopular war.  The final chapter provides an update on the current positive political situation between the two nations. The book features many of the iconic photos of the war front and the protests at home. Includes chapter notes, timeline, bibliography, and index. THOUGHTS: Well-written and well-researched, a perfect choice for investigation into a turbulent period in American history. The narrative style makes a difficult topic readable for middle grades and older students.

U.S. History               Nancy Summers, Abington Senior High School

Elementary NF – Glow; Cecil’s Pride; Crossing Niagra


Beck, W. H. Glow: Animals with Their Own Night-Lights. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016. 978-0-544-41666-6. $17.99. Gr. 1-3.

This book is a must for any elementary library! With vivid, detailed photographs of animals and some plants, Glow explains to children what bioluminescence is. Discussing some land creatures, but mostly focusing on aquatic life, this book gives scientific information, but explains it in such a way that children will not find it overwhelming. It also gives reasons why these animals might use bioluminescence. The main story is told in larger font for younger children, and if the students want more in-depth information smaller lettering on each page gives specific animal names and details. At the end of the book there is additional information, including the actual size of these life forms (many of which are tiny) and where they live. A bibliography gives more information for those children left wanting to learn more. THOUGHTS: As someone always looking for eye-catching non-fiction books, I loved this book! It’s a perfect read-aloud for grades K-4 and also provides a great introduction for science curricula. A few of the pictures might be intimidating to some younger, more squeamish children, but 1st grade and up are fine.

572; Animals   Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School



Hatkoff, Craig. Cecil’s Pride: The True Story of a Lion King. New York: Scholastic, 2016. 978-1338-034455. $17.99. unpaged. Gr. 1-5.

Craig Hatkoff and his two daughters add to their Turtle Pond Publications which began with the popular Owen and Mzee.  In this title, they focus on Cecil, the black-mane lion of Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe.  Cecil gained worldwide attention when he was lured out of the Park to be hunted and killed by an American dentist and hunter.  This event is never mentioned here. “Everyone knew how Cecil died. We would tell the story of how Cecil lived.” And so, readers learn of how Cecil’s life was watched by wildlife researcher Brent Stapelkamp, and how he and Jericho, another male lion, had uncharacteristically led a pride of lions together without rivalry.  Upon Cecil’s death, Jericho appeared to search for Cecil. Brent worried that Jericho would kill Cecil’s cubs, a common lion practice with the rise of a new leader.  Instead, Jericho became the cub’s protector, and the cubs are now thriving in Jericho’s pride. THOUGHTS: This book beautifully showcases Cecil’s life with full-color photographs of his cubs, his pride, and of course, Jericho.  The text is more suited to slightly older students, who will also embrace these beautiful lions and the species conservation plea.  Use this as a read-aloud, or as a starter or centerpiece for the study of endangered species.  Many students will be drawn to the wildlife researcher’s efforts and they will be moved by the amazing story shared.

599.7; Lions     Melissa Scott, Shenango High School



Tavares, Matt. Crossing Niagara: The Death-Defying Tightrope Adventures of the Great Blondin. Somerville: Candlewick Press, 2016. 978-0-7636-6823-5. Unpaged. $17.99. Gr. 2-5.

Jean Francois Gravelet began his tightrope-walking career at the tender age of 5 as a circus performer. His fame grew as the years passed, and soon he was known worldwide as the Great Blondin. After a visit to Niagara Falls, he decided that he wanted to cross the famous landmark in the best way he knew—on a tightrope. While other acrobats laughed, he knew that he could do it and he did; not just once, but numerous times during the summers of 1859 and 1860. He even incorporated fancy tricks and walked with a man on his back! This short biography is sure to thrill readers of all ages. Tavares’ illustrations showcase Blondin’s death-defying tricks and the beautiful landscape of Niagara. The book contains an Author’s Note and bibliography. THOUGHTS: An interesting, exciting nonfiction read-aloud for all elementary ages. Pair this book with Mordicai Gerstein’s “The Man Who Walked Between the Towers” or Chris Van Allsburg’s “The Queen of the Falls” for two different kinds of adventure-filled story times.

791.34       Lindsey Long, Nye & Conewago Elementary Schools