McCullough, Joy. Across the Pond. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2021. 978-5344-7121-4. 276 p. Grades 4-6. $17.99.
Twelve year old Calliope is excited to move from sunny San Diego to not so sunny Scotland. Her parents inherited a castle from Lady Whittington-Spence, who knew her parents as students. Callie sees this move as an opportunity to have a fresh start, after dealing with friend issues back home. Sid, a girl her age living on the estate with her grandfather, the caretaker, does not seem interested in becoming friends. Callie’s parents insist that she join a club where she can socialize with others her age. So Callie joins a birdwatching (“twitching”) club, but is kicked out when she disagrees with the adult leader. Sid and Callie become tentative friends and go bird watching together. During a twitching competition on the estate, alarming events help both girls realize how to be a true friend while staying true to themselves. The author uses flashback to tell the parallel story of Lady Whittington-Spence as a young war evacuee. Her letters disclose the same feelings of loneliness and interest in birdwatching as Callie. Another flashback toward the end reveals the peer pressure incident in San Diego that shattered Callie’s self-esteem. The unique setting, based on McCullough’s own experience, takes this narrative of young adolescent struggles to a different level. As the book comes to an end, the author has one more surprise to share.
THOUGHTS: Although the story gets off to a slow start, readers who stick with it will be rewarded. Preteen and young teenagers will be able to relate to the issues of facing peer pressure and developing friendships. An excellent choice for elementary and middle school collections.
Realistic Fiction Denise Medwick, Retired, PSLA Member
Huddleston, Emma. The Science of Animal Movement. Abdo. 2021. Book: $21.95, Series of 6: $131.70. Grades 2-5.
How Birds Fly. 978-1-532-19292-0. How Bugs Jump. 978-1-532-19293-7. How Critters Climb. 978-1-532-19294-4. How Fish Swim. 978-1-532-19295-1. How Mammals Run. 978-1-532-19296-8. How Snakes Slither. 978-1-532-19297-5.
The Science of Animal Movement series describes how animals are able to move depending on their body, size, and its surroundings. The Reviewer read How Birds Fly, focusing specifically on birds. How Birds Fly provides information on how the wide category of birds can move in a variety of ways. From the largest of birds, to the smallest, coast to coast and in every possible biome, birds are found and able to move differently compared to others of the same type.
THOUGHTS: This series provides great information on the science behind the movement of animals. The books come with several different information pieces, including large photographs, colorful text, links & QR codes, diagrams, charts, and more.
Sandri, Barbara, and Francesco Giubbilini. Chickenology: The Ultimate Encyclopedia. Princeton Architectural Press, 2021. 978-1-616-89908-0. 71 p. $19.95. Grades 3-6.
What’s that clucking noise you hear? It’s a chicken, of course! Students will learn all about these amazing barnyard creatures in Chickenology: The Ultimate Encyclopedia. Topics presented include the different varieties of chickens, chicken characteristics, habitat, chicken care and health, reproduction, chickens throughout history, and much more. Also discussed are chickens in literature and chickens as pets. In addition, readers will learn about chicken eggs, including parts of the egg, types of eggs, and how eggs are eaten around the world. The text is accompanied by Camilla Pintonato’s numerous detailed illustrations, which are sure to keep readers engaged in the world of chickens.
THOUGHTS: This is an excellent resource for all things chicken! Written in a conversational style, Chickenology will be of use to student researchers as well as the casual browser, who will no doubt enjoy all the unique chicken factoids shared through the book. (Did you know studies have shown chicks can count up to four?) Highly recommended.
Author and illustrator Susan Stockdale celebrates the unique characteristics and adaptations of birds in Bird Show. Each vibrant illustration, created with acrylic on paper, depicts a bird displaying it’s unique coat of feathers. The text, which is written in rhyming couplets, features the birds describing their characteristics. Examples include the golden pheasant declaring “My scarf stripes are curvy” while the egret tells readers “I flaunt a full skirt of milky-white lace.” Backmatter includes a profile of each bird as well as a quiz that asks readers to match the colors and patterns to the correct bird.
THOUGHTS: A fantastic choice for read-alouds, this title could be incorporated into a variety of lessons, including poetry, birds, or an illustration. A first purchase for any elementary library collection.
Page, Robin. The Beak Book. Beach Lane Books, 2021. 978-1-534-46041-6. $17.99. Grades K-3
Beaks, beaks, and more beaks! The Beak Book by Robin Page is filled with beaks from birds found all over the world. With beautiful illustrations, this book provides information to young readers about the jobs of different beaks. From a toucan to a hummingbird, stabbing to plucking, beaks are an amazing feature of birds that can do a variety of jobs!
THOUGHTS: This book provides many examples of the amazing things birds can do with their beaks. The illustrations provide a picture of the bird head, as well as a smaller illustration with what the bird can do with its beak. This book is a great, easy to understand, informational book for young readers.
Meisel, Paul. My Tiny Life by Ruby T. Hummingbird. Holiday House, 2021. 978-0-823-44322-2. 36 p. Grades K-2. $17.99.
This charming picture book is told from the point of view of a hummingbird called Ruby. Written in a diary format, the humorous narrative follows the bird’s life cycle. The story begins with Ruby exiting his tiny egg and looking forward to a tasty meal of insects and nectar delivered by his mother. Soon the small bird begins to fly and finds his own source of food. Ruby needs to learn to defend himself from the other hummingbirds, who also enjoy eating at the flower-shaped feeder. With the arrival of fall, this tiny creature flies to Mexico and makes an exhausting return trip by flying 500 miles nonstop over the Gulf of Mexico. In the spring, Ruby turns his thoughts to finding a mate. The text is sparse, with one or two sentences per page, which allows the pictures to take center stage. Meisel uses watercolors, acrylics, and gouache to create his colorful large scale full bleed illustrations. He does an excellent job showing the motion of the hummingbird’s fast beating wings and its amazing aviation skills, as the birds go up, down, backwards and even upside down. The author includes facts about these feathered friends on the front endpapers and in the back matter and gives helpful comparisons to allow readers to imagine their actual size.
THOUGHTS: Children will enjoy poring over the drawings as they read about this interesting animal. They may want to check out other books in Meisel’s “A Nature Diary” series to learn about the praying mantis, the bluebird and the always popular stink bug. This book is a worthwhile addition to elementary collections as a good resource for science units, as a mentor text for point of view, and creative nonfiction and for just plain enjoyment.
598.764, Hummingbirds Denise Medwick, Retired, PSLA Member
D’Aquino, Andrea. She Heard the Birds: The Story of Florence Merriam Bailey Pioneering Nature Activist. Princeton, Architectural Press, 2021. Unpaged. 978-1-648-96050-5. $18.95. Grades 1-3.
This picture book biography is the story of a woman who made a difference. Florence Merriam Bailey grew up in the late 19th century with her family who loved nature. Her mother was an astronomer and her father took the family on a summer long camping trip where she loved to observe the forest animals. Florence’s favorite creatures were birds and she studied their behavior and songs. She strongly disliked the latest fashion in hats, which were adorned with feathers and even the actual carcasses of birds. Bailey and her classmates at Smith College initiated a successful boycott of these hats. Florence became an avid ornithologist and promoted watching birds in a natural setting with binoculars in contrast to scientists who studied them in laboratories. She was the author of a field guide and other books on birds and their methods of communication. The author’s full bleed illustrations are done using hand-painted collage, oil pastel and pencil. Readers will enjoy examining the many colorful birds that are depicted.
THOUGHTS: This book is a great choice for elementary collections. It could be used during Women’s History Month, Earth Day or in science units. Children will learn about the wonder and beauty of our feathered friends and may be inspired to do some birdwatching on their own.
921 Biography Denise Medwick, Retired, PSLA Member 598.2 Birds
Fernihough, Jo. The Crow and the Peacock. Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2021. 978-0-802-85568-8. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-3.
Crow is living a perfectly happy life until he encounters a dove in the forest one day. Her beautiful, bright feathers and soft cooing cause him to question his dark feathers and loud “caw caw.” Suddenly, his self-confidence dwindles. In talking to the dove, however, he discovers that the dove actually envies the nightingale, whose singing is even more magnificent. The nightingale, in turn, envies the rooster, whose call is so famous it is heard across the land. As the crow travels from bird to bird, he discovers that they all want something another bird has. Ultimately, he meets a caged peacock, who only wishes to fly free like a crow. It is then that the crow realizes how good he has it and that the only thing that could possibly make him happier is sharing his joy with others. A thought-provoking tale complete with lively, colorful illustrations, this book would be an excellent read aloud selection.
THOUGHTS: This book would be a great introduction to self-esteem/confidence building activities. After hearing the story, young listeners could reflect on their own special traits and characteristics. Perhaps they could even share with their peers the attributes they like most about each other. The book might also prompt discussions about jealousy and the problem with comparing oneself to others. This is definitely a must-have for those looking to build social and emotional learning collections.
Whipple, Annette. Whooo Knew? The Truth About Owls. Reycraft Books, 2020. 978-1-478-86962-7. 32 p. $17.95. Grades 1-3.
Children and adults have long been fascinated with owls. Likely many of our students have read a fictional story featuring an owl or heard the hoot of an owl while camping, hiking, or just relaxing in their backyard. In Whooo Knew?, readers have the opportunity to learn more about these amazing creatures. Information about owl characteristics, life cycle, and habitat are introduced by the author posing a question (for example: “Can Owls Spin Their Heads?”, “What Good Are Ear Tufts?”, and “What Do Owl Babies Do?”). Each question is answered in an informational two page spread featuring numerous photographs. The title also includes a section on what readers can do to help owls, and backmatter includes a glossary, instructions on dissecting an owl pellet, and illustrations of owl anatomy.
THOUGHTS: This engaging non-fiction title is sure to be a hit with students, who will find it useful for research as well as casual reading. The structure of the book, with each topic introduced by catchy questions, will catch the attention of readers and the numerous photos of owl species and close-up views of owl characteristics will allow readers to appreciate these amazing animals. Recommended.
Animals Back From the Brink. Crabtree Publishing, 2020. $14.30 ea. $290.50 set of 14. 32p. Grades 3-6.
Bringing Back the American Alligator. 978-1-549-08040-1. Bringing Back the Black-Footed Ferret. 978-1-725-44237-5. Bringing Back the Blue Iguana. 978-1-725-48072-8. Bringing Back the California Condor. 978-1-725-48073-5. Bringing Back the Giant Panda. 978-1-549-08041-8. Bringing Back the Gray Wolf. 978-1-549-08042-5. Bringing Back the Grizzly Bear. 978-1-549-08043-2. Bringing Back the Humpback Whale. 978-1-549-08044-9. Bringing Back the Island Fox. 978-1-725-48074-2. Bringing Back the Lesser Long-Nosed Bat. 978-1-725-44238-2. Bringing Back the Mountain Gorilla. 978-1-725-44239-9. Bringing Back the Snow Leopard. 978-1-725-44240-5. Bringing Back the Southern White Rhino. 978-1-725-48075-9. Bringing Back the Whooping Crane. 978-1-549-08045-6.
Readers will discover endangered species around the world. Each book begins with facts about the featured species including its habitat and an introduction to the dangerous factors contributing to extinction. Each book explains the scientific criteria that is used to figure out the levels of threat to each species, the historical and current threat to each species, and the problems environmental groups have had trying to protect them. Each book concludes with an explanation of future protection efforts and what the reader can do to help. The “Learning More” section of each book provides books and websites for the reader to learn more about the specific species featured.
THOUGHTS: A good supplement to an existing collection of endangered species books and for libraries with patrons interested in this topic.