Elem. – Over and Under the Rainforest

Messner, Kate. Over and Under the Rainforest. Chronicle Books, 2020. 978-1-452-16940-8. Unpaged. $18.99. Grades K-3.

Following up Over and Under the Snow and Over and Under the Pond Messner explores the rainforest both high and low. Christopher Silas Neal’s artwork, overwhelming the pages in luscious saturated shades of green, draws the reader into the forest along with the young narrator and her guide. Above is a world of monkeys, insects, and birds. Colorful toucans, flit among the branches. Capuchin and howler monkeys and sloths move through the leafy growth. Below are critters and creatures, both cute and deadly: agoutis and crocodiles, anteaters and spiders. As the day wanes, the rainforest fades to purples, creatures of the night emerge, and the young narrator heads for home, Abuelita and supper. Messner’s informative text never overwhelms the reader. Facts are lovingly wrapped in description to evoke life in the rainforest.

THOUGHTS: Messner never disappoints, and this book will be a solid addition to any elementary collection, useful as a read-aloud or with a classroom curriculum.

Picture Book         Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

Elem. – Looking at Layers (Series NF)

Looking at Layers. The Child’s World, 2020. $20.00 ea. 24 p. Grades 3-6. 

London, Martha. Looking Inside Earth. 978-1-503-83518-4.
Huddleston, Emma. Looking Inside the Human Body. 978-1-503-83519-1.
—. Looking Into Caves. 978-1-503-83522-1.
—. Looking Into Soil. 978-1-503-83520-7.
London, Martha. Looking Into the Atmosphere. 978-1-503-83516-0.
—. Looking Into the Grand Canyon. 978-1-503-83517-7.
—. Looking Into the Ocean. 978-1-503-83515-3.
Huddleton, Emma. Looking Into the Rain Forest. 978-1-503-83521-4.

An attractive nonfiction series exploring various layers of natural things, from the human body to soil to the rainforest. Straightforward text clearly explains concepts with a natural projection from outward layers in. Words from the glossary are highlighted in red which is a nice feature for readers. Sidebars focus on timely topics, such as “Creating Mountains” when text discusses tectonic plates in Looking Inside Earth. Visuals are both illustrations and photographs. Looking Inside the Human Body has fascinating illustrations of many body systems that will keep little readers absorbed. Back matter includes a helpful Fast Facts section that covers main points from the text, a glossary, “To Learn More” section, and index.

THOUGHTS: Nice collection additions if nonfiction is hot.

500s-600s          Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin SD

Elem. – My Friend Earth

MacLachlan, Patricia. My Friend Earth. Chronicle Books, 2020. Unpaged. 978-0-811-87910-1. $17.99. Grades K-3.

This engaging picture book is a tribute to Earth, which is portrayed as a young girl of color. Using lyrical text, MacLachlan takes the reader on a journey through the seasons as well as a trip around the world. The story begins with Friend Earth waking up from a winter slumber and hearing the sounds of insects, birds, and a farmer busy at work. Next she is in Africa helping a zebra find its mother and a chimpanzee find a place to sleep. Friend Earth is also caretaker of all sea creatures and polar bears and reindeer on the tundra. Fall gives way to winter where once again Earth rests. The illustrations by Sanna, which are done in pencil, ink, and digital painting, are really the star of the show. Children will enjoy searching for the die-cuts that can be found on every double page spread. On the first page, Earth is sleeping and after turning the small flap, she is now awake on the opposite page. The edges of some pages are trimmed in a scalloped design, which mimic a stream of fall leaves in the wind and the rolling slopes of the distant mountains. With heavy use, there is some concern that some of the die-cuts might tear. The author’s hope is that children will appreciate the wonders of our planet and work to “be a good friend in return.”

THOUGHTS: This is a beautiful book that is a perfect read aloud for Earth Day. A strong purchase for all elementary collections.

Picture Book          Denise Medwick, Retired, PSLA Member

Tags:  Earth, Nature, Seasons, Picture Books, Earth Day, Toy and Movable Books

Elem. – If You Come to Earth

Blackall, Sophie. If You Come to Earth. Chronicle Books, 2020. 978-1-452-13779-7. Unpaged. $18.99. PreK-2.

A young narrator writes a letter to an alien, detailing what life is like on our planet. He explains our housing, clothing, family life, means of transportation, work, recreation, food, animals, and more. He highlights the fact that everyone is different, but we are all better off when we are kind to one another. Stunning illustrations accompany this delightful portrait of our beautiful Earth.

THOUGHTS: I am absolutely loving this breathtaking celebration of diversity on our planet. The gorgeous illustrations depict people of all sizes and colors, as well as many different kinds of houses, families, food, jobs, and clothing. Students and adults alike could spend hours poring over the illustrations, prompting important discussions about how we are all created different but equal. There is also much to be learned about cultures other than our own, and this could be an excellent starting point for such a research project. This very timely call for unity on our planet is sure to resonate with readers of all ages.

Picture Book          Julie Ritter, PSLA Member

A daydreaming child named Quinn writes an extensive letter to a “visitor from Outer Space” which includes everything from Earth’s location in the solar system to differences between humans. Blackall’s Chinese ink and watercolor illustrations provide depth and detail to the story as Quinn explains the dizzying array of options for life on Earth. Differences are emphasized. In one spread, a wide variety of dwellings from tall apartment buildings to tree houses are depicted alongside a simple sentence stating “we live in all kinds of homes.” A group of people whose homes have been lost to disaster are also included. Transportation, clothing, and food are similarly treated. One spread explains thoughts cannot be seen but feelings may be worn on faces with an array of portraits demonstrating emotion. Communication, including Braille and Sign Language is mentioned along with music and soundwaves. Opposite concepts such as large and small along with natural vs. artificial are addressed. Injuries and illnesses, war, and aging are also briefly touched upon in age-appropriate context.

THOUGHTS: It’s nearly impossible to list all of the topics covered in this picture book. There are so many details in the illustrations that this is likely to be one that can be enjoyed repeatedly.

Picture Book          Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD 

Elementary series NF – Real Monsters; Our Renewable Earth; Olympic Biographies; Be an Engineer

Real Monsters (series). Abdo Publishing, 2017. $21.68 ea. 32p. Gr. 3 – 5.

Bernhardt, Carolyn. Gila Monster: Venomous Desert Dweller. 978-1-68078-420-6.

Harvey, Jillian L., Komodo Dragon: Toxic Lizard Titan. 978-1-68078-421-3.

Leusted,  Marcia Amidon. Tasmanian Devil: Savage Island Scavenger. 978-1-68078-423-7.

Polinsky, Paige V. Spotted Hyena: Cackling Carnivore of the Savanna. 978-1-68078-422-0.

Polinsky, Paige V. Giant Centipede: Colossal Creeper of the Night. 978-1-68078-418-3.

Polinsky, Paige V.  Giant Squid: Mysterious Monster of the Deep. 978-1-68078-419-0.

Spotted Hyena: Cackling Carnivore of the Savanna begins with a good table of contents, and has a very good introductory “Creature Feature” page with many of the basic facts (name, class, size , life span) as well as a world map showing the range and diet of the hyena. The book addresses legends, then moves on to educational facts. The cover and the series title are geared toward the more monstrous aspects of the species, and some of the contents reflect this. THOUGHTS: More recent books focusing on specific animals without a an agenda (biggest, scariest) are few and far between. This is not one of them, but it does have good information and the pictures are adequate.

Animals            Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School

 

Rivera, Andrea. Zoom In on Our Renewable Earth. ABDO Zoom, 2017. $18.95 ea. $113.70 set of 6. 24p. Gr. K-2.

Conservation. 9781680799385.

Plants. 9781680799392.

Recycling. 9781680799408.

Solar Power. 9781680799415.

Water. 9781680799422.

Wind Power. 9781680799439.

This series is geared toward the younger elementary set.  Wind Power looks at the basic ideas of wind and how it can be used to make electricity. The text is quite general with some keywords, such as “turbine,” that are explained in the glossary. It also covers a range of topics such as engineering, art, and math. THOUGHTS:  If your school is excited about renewable resources, this is a good series to introduce the concept to the youngest readers.

Science           Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School

 

Lajiness, Katie. Big Buddy Olympic Biographies (series). Abdo Publishing, 2017. $19.95 ea. Set of 6 $119.70.  32p. Gr. 2 – 5.

Ibtihaj Muhammad: Olympic Fencer. 9781680785548.

Katie Ledecky: Olympic Swimmer. 9781680785531.

Laurie Hernandez: Olympic Gymnast. 9781680785524.

Michael Phelps: Olympic Swimmer. 9781680785555.

Simone Biles: Olympic Gymnast. 9781680785500.

Usain Bolt: Olympic Sprinter. 9781680785517.

This series is notable not only for the quality information and the professional pictures, but also for highlighting women athletes. These biographies cover birthplace and training, as well as important milestones in the athlete’s career. It does focus on the Rio Olympics, and the further out they get the more dated this biographies will be. Yet some will be lasting because their Olympic careers are over. THOUGHTS: I love this series! It has the fastest runner (not from the US) as well as high profile women athletes. It’s great to expose young readers to success stories that are not just USA (Usain Bolt) and diverse females that don’t usually get coverage (Ibtihaj Muhammad).

Sports Biographies        Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School

 

Be An Engineer: Designing to Solve Problems (series). Crabtree, 2017. 24 pp. $17.95 each. Gr. 2-5.

Burns, Kylie. A Bridge Goes Over. 979-0-7787-2907-5.

Burns, Kylie. A Skyscraper Reaches Up. 979-0-7787-2904-4.

Sikkens, Crystal. A Dam Holds Back. 979-0-7787-2905-1.

Sikkens, Crystal. A Tunnel Runs Through. 979-0-7787-2903-7.

Engineers solve problems. It’s as simple as that, but much more complex is the process that gets them there. Whether building a bridge, a tunnel, a dam, or a building, each engineer uses science, math, and creative thinking to work out the problem. Each book in this series flows from an example problem to explaining the role of an engineer and the problem solving process. Then there are plenty of structure specific examples with photographs and captions to lead the reader to a model activity at the end. Also included are resource lists, online codes, glossaries, and indexes. Be an Engineer!: Designing to Solve Problems is a great way to open the eyes of young innovators to the structures that support us every day!  THOUGHTS: This series complements well with themes of STEAM and inquiry science and future careers. The predictable pattern of each book makes them comparable for small group projects, note taking or discussion. Visually they are a good blend of pictures, colors, and descriptions to hold the reader’s attention.

620, Engineering      Dustin Brackbill, State College Area SD