Elem. – How the Sea Came to Be (and All the Creatures in It)

Berne, Jennifer. How the Sea Came to Be (and All the Creatures in It). Illustrated by Amanda Hall. Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2023. 978-0-802-85478-0. $18.99. 56 p. Grades 2-5.

4.6 billion years ago our Earth was formed. For the next 600 million years the Earth’s surface was hot enough to melt rock. As the Earth began to cool, water formed from condensation, creating clouds and rain. Our oceans were born, and along with them came the first signs of single-cell life. Two billion years ago oxygen began to fill the oceans and atmosphere leading to more complex lifeforms in the oceans. This beautiful nonfiction picture book tells the story of the creation of the oceans and the life within them in rhymed verse. From the fiery start in bold reds and oranges, through the cooling period in icy shades of blue, and the eventual growth of life in luscious greens, the illustrations depict thousands of pre-historic and current day ocean creatures with detailed accuracy. End notes from the author and illustrator explain that our understanding of how the oceans formed is constantly evolving. This book’s information is based on what is currently known about the formation of the Earth, our oceans, and ocean life. Extensively illustrated factual information, recommendations for further research, reading, and viewing for students and educators as well as a selected biography, timeline, and glossary are all included.

THOUGHTS: A treasure trove of extensively researched information in a beautifully illustrated verse story. Useful as a read aloud, read alone, or elementary research resource.

551.46 Oceans

Elem. – The Frozen Worlds: The Astonishing Nature of the Arctic and Antarctic

Bittel, Jason. The Frozen Worlds: The Astonishing Nature of the Arctic and Antarctic. DK Publishing, 2023. 978-0-744-07000-2. $16.99. 80 p. Grades 2-5.

This beautiful and busy book is an informative and delightful look at both the Arctic and Antarctic. Divided into four main sections that discuss the similarities of each region as well as the different types of life forms that are unique to each pole, and a concluding section covering climate change, its implications for life in these ecosystems, and practical, kid-accessible suggestions to help our planet. Beautiful illustrations composed of hand drawings and photo collage by Clarie McElfatrick are a definite highlight of this selection. Includes a full table of contents, glossary, and index.

THOUGHTS: This is a fabulous choice for elementary nonfiction readers and researchers. Chock-full of information presented in small chunks. The illustrations are absolutely gorgeous. Informative and entertaining, this is a great choice if you are looking to update your animal ecology section.

591.7 Animal Ecology
Animals Characteristic of Specific Environments

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

MS NF – Peace & War; Ecosystems Research Journal

Ogden, Charlie. Peace & War. Crabtree, 2018. 978-0-778739074. $8.95.  32pp. Gr. 4-6.

This book is a good introduction to the subject of war and peace for the younger reader (about 10 to 12). It includes bolded vocabulary that is included in a glossary, a Table of Contents, an index, and discussion questions. At 32 pages the book does not go in-depth into the subject matter, but it does offer a decent overview to different types of war, consequences of war, and significant wars in history (significant to American readers). The photographs, type, and layout are visually appealing.THOUGHTS: This is a good introductory resource for children about a difficult subject: war. This book handles the atrocities of war well. The visuals and text are suitable to the young reader, but the images chosen (the pile of shoes from the Holocaust, the 911 memorial, napalm burning, etc.) are just horrible enough to make an impact but not so graphic as to cause nightmares. This would be a good, not overwhelming resource about the subject of war and peace for younger readers.

Juvenile Nonfiction                                                Bridget Fox, Central Bucks SD


Ecosystems Research Journal (series). Crabtree Publishing, 2017. $27.60 Hardcover, $8.95 Paperback. 32p. Gr. 4 – 7.

Hyde, Natalie. Amazon Rainforest Research Journal. 978-0778734925.

Hyde, Natalie. Great Barrier Reef Research Journal. 978-0778734956.

Hyde, Natalie. Rocky Mountains Research Journal. 978-0778734963.

Johnson, Robin. Everglades Research Journal. 978-0778734949.

Johnson, Robin. Sonoran Desert Journal. 978-0778734970.

Rodger, Ellen. Arctic Research Journal. 978-0778734932.

The hands-on reporting style and colorful photographs will catch students attention. The information about environment, animals, and the attention to detail will impress teachers and librarians. Every journal has a mission, unique to the area the research takes place in. The arctic is focused on climate and environmental changes whereas the everglades has a wildlife biologist studying loss of freshwater and if there are other concerns such as pollution or invasive species. All the journals have 11 entries chock full of status reports (how an animal or landmark is doing), sightings of animals, and descriptive facts.  THOUGHTS: I think the layout of the book will appeal to students. Many have words written as if the author is keeping a journal on a tablet, iPad, or phone. This series also has more titles to offer that will be coming out in the next year or so.

Series Nonfiction; Ecosystems       Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School


Elementary NF – Ready, Set…Baby!; Sea Otter Heroes; Beacon to Freedom; Bicycles

Rusch, Elizabeth. Ready, Set…Baby! Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017. 978-0-544-47272-3. Unpaged. $17.99. Gr. PreK-K.

Big siblings Anna and Oliver have a new baby at home, so they’re prepared to offer advice to any kid whose family has a new baby on the way. “Lots of people are probably telling you what to expect, but kids in the know can give you the real deal.” Author Elizabeth Rusch gives practical advice and information for new big siblings as Anna and Oliver tell the story of their sister’s arrival, along with a lot of advice on the days and months that followed. Sections detail “The Big Wait,” “Meet the Conehead”, “The Real Scoop on Baby Poop,” and more. Information is basic yet helpful. “At first, our baby got to stay up later than we did!” (“It’s all that napping…” says Oliver sullenly in a speech bubble, common throughout the story).  Colorful, cartoonish illustrations complement the information, and kids will love the family’s curious brown dog. Extra resources include “More Stuff About Life with a New Baby,” a list of helpful websites and books, and “Tips for Parents on Life with Big Kids and New Babies.” THOUGHTS: A funny and helpful book for new big brothers and sisters who are old enough to appreciate the humor and understand the information.

306.87; Family Structure      Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin School District


Newman, Patricia. Sea Otter Heroes: The Predators That Saved an Ecosystem. Millbrook Press, 2017.  978-1512426311  $25.95  56 pp. Grades 3-8.                        

“What does a playful sea otter have to do with flowering seagrass that grows underwater?”  In this book, Patricia Newman follows marine biologist Brent Hughes as he works in the intertidal area of Elkhorn Slough in Northern California.  Hughes observed that although the Slough is the recipient of heavy pollution from fertilizer and should be heavily polluted with dead or dying seagrass, the seagrass in the Elkhorn Slough is “healthy and lush and green” (7).  Hughes set out to discover what made this happen.  Newman tracks Hughes’ work and his thinking as Hughes eventually discovered it was: the sea otters.  The sea otters an apex predator reduce the number of sea crabs, which in turn leads to an increase in the sea crabs’ food of choice: the sea hares.  It is the sea hares which rid the seagrass of the algae which would otherwise smother and kill it.  Thus the presence of sea otter influenced the health of the entire Slough.  This book presents the scientific method and the work of marine biologist Hughes in an interesting ‘solve-the-mystery’ light.  The page spreads are colorful and accompanied by full-color photographs and sidebars illustrating important concepts.  Newman also spends a chapter focusing on the full range of Hughes’ education and work, and ends with a doable experiment and ways to positively impact the environment.  Source notes, glossary, bibliography, further reading, and index.  A positive read for middle and high schoolers interested in marine biology and science careers.  Teaching Guide available through Titlewave.  Readers may also be interested in Newman’s post Newman, Patricia. “Giving Readers a Front Row Seat.” Nerdy Book Club Blog.  15 May 2017.  nerdybookclub.wordpress.com/2017/05/15/giving-readers-a-front-row-seat-by-patricia-newman/.   THOUGHTS: Newman’s book is an accessible, realistic look at the work of current scientists, and is a fantastic addition to science, career, and STEM collections for middle and high school.         

599.769; Sea Otter    Melissa Scott, Shenango High School


Glatzer, Jenna. Beacon to Freedom: The Story of a Conductor on the Underground Railroad. Capstone, 2017. 978-15157-34963 $21.49  40 pp.   Gr. 3-6.

A short but impactful biography of John Rankin, a reverend and abolitionist who saved over 2,000 lives before the end of the American Civil War.  Raised by religious, abolitionist parents, John believed strongly that no human being should own another.  He set out to talk his Kentucky neighbors into setting their slaves free, but none wanted to let go of their free labor, and so Rankin, his family, and his unsettling talk were compelled to move.  When they settled in a house in Ohio (a free state) along the Ohio River, John placed a lamp in the window each night.  The lamp served as a beacon to tell slaves, “make it to this house—across the river into Ohio—and you will have help”.  Many did.  Many slave-holders suspected the Rankin family’s work, but raids and harsh treatment did not uncover anything nor frighten John and his family.  The digital illustrations show frantic, desperate slaves and often-angry slave owners.  Several stories of escaping slaves make their plight more personal.  The content is suitable for upper elementary.  Afterword, glossary, source notes, index.    THOUGHTS:  An inspiring biography of a man who stood up for others’ rights.

326 Abolitionists; Picture Book Biography     Melissa Scott, Shenango High School


Lakin, Patricia. Bicycles (Made by Hand series). Aladdin, 2017. 978-1-4814-7896-0. $17.99. 32 pp. Gr. 2-5.

With a voice that is conversational and relatable, Patricia Larkin grabs readers and takes them for a ride! Readers soon see not just the joy and history of bikes, but also the dreams of one maker who wanted to build his passion into a business. Along the way, we meet Aaron Dykstra, who has always loved bicycles and decided to start making them for a living. The bulk of the book shows the effort and process that he uses to create the frame of a new bike, including many close up photographs designed as a step-by-step scrapbook of sorts. The challenge at the end to explore STEM concepts and make your own inspirations, as well as the detailed timeline and resource list, should be enough to draw in scientists, makers, and bikers alike. Get ready to ride! THOUGHTS: This narrative nonfiction style is very approachable, and the photos help readers to connect to the text easily. This is part of a new series (Made by Hand) which also includes Skateboards and Steel Drums. I think this would be great for tinkerers and hands on readers to explore and get inspired.

629, Transportation    Dustin Brackbil, State College Area

New Series Nonfiction…Straight Talk About; Ecosystems Inside Out


Bow, James. Binge Drinking (Straight Talk About series). New York: Crabtree, 2015. 978-0778722045. 48p. $30.60. Gr. 7-12.

In the series, Straight Talk About…topics are discussed in detail. A table of contents introduces the sensitive information to readers.  Chapters begin with a clear definition of the topic coupled with pictures and individual personal statements relating to situations teens have encountered when facing the specific issue. The author effectively uses the text to talk to readers in an effort to make authentic connections. Photographs are bright, carefully placed, and whenever possible, symbolic in representing text. A feature specifically helpful from a purchasing standpoint is how the book takes into consideration timeless photos, meaning there are few photos of human subjects, focusing on the subject matter. It creates a longevity of the book making it last longer on the library shelves. Subheadings are clear, important words are bold-faced and further defined within text as well as in the glossary. Because the intended audience is students aged 12 and up, there are other resources listed in the back of the book relative to teens in both the United States and Canada as well as frequently asked questions with detailed answers. Informative and straight to the point, these nonfiction resources are perfect for a struggling teen or a student who is researching specific topics.

The series includes Dealing with Loss, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, and Digital Dangers.  Because the books are only 48 pages, students will easily find what they are looking for in researching them. The table of contents outlines what exactly students are looking for. It cannot be stressed enough how the photographs and images in the book are timeless. Too often libraries have resources that are outdated not only because of content, but even more because of the images that turn away readers. The authors did this series justice in being forward thinking and non-judgmental.

362.2; Social Issues         Brooke Gerlach, Manheim Central MS



Cohen, Marina. Deserts Inside Out. New York: Crabtree, 2015. 978-0778706274. 32p. $27.60. Gr. 4-6.

Ecosystems Inside Out is a series filled with short bursts of information about particular biomes throughout the world. Within each double page spread, readers will learn about the animals inhabiting the ecosystem, the keywords hierarchy of its inhabitants, and relationships between the plants and animals that live there and the nonliving resources found there. Text features are obvious and include bright fonts, bold-faced vocabulary, and subheadings. Even more the author gives the reader an activity to extend and enrich. Locator maps help readers visualize the place in the world the biome is found. The text digs deeper with an “Eco Up Close” section providing readers with facts enriching topics discussed. The glossary is thorough and provides definitions students will clearly comprehend. There is a list of additional resources if readers are in need of more information.

Educators will find these resources as a phenomenal extension piece for their science units. Students will be able to learn the basics of the biome, while also enriching their knowledge. The pictures of the biomes and that animals are vibrant and timeless. Taken in the peak seasons for all of these biomes, the photographs and the way they are graphically placed, draws attention to the brilliance in the visuals. Not only will educators embrace the text structure of the books, giving the ability to use each section as one piece to aid in both remediation and enrichment, but also the ability to introduce material initially. Additional titles include: Wetlands, Rain Forests, Grasslands, Oceans, Islands, Tundra, Rivers and Lakes, Mountains, and Forests.  This series is a must have resource for any middle school collection.

577.7; Ecosystems      Brooke Gerlach, Manheim Central MS