MG – Little Monarchs

Case, Jonathan. Little Monarchs. Margaret Ferguson Books, 2022. 978-0-823-44260-7. $22.99. 255 p. Grades 5-8.

African-American, ten-year-old Elvie cruises around a post-apocalyptic world of 2101 in a dilapidated van with her white, twenty-something caregiver, Flora. The world’s population has decreased to a mere 7,000 due to sun sickness; the sun hovers dangerously close to the Earth, and many of the inhabitants have retreated under the ground, the Deepers. The sole way Elvie and Flora can survive in the daytime is because biologist Flora has created a serum from the scales of monarch butterflies. Shortly after Elvie’s birth, her parents traveled to Michoacan, Mexico, to pursue the migration of the monarchs and further Flora’s discovery. Since the deaths of Elvie’s grandparents, Flora has protected Elvie and schooled her in both survival skills and nature. Since the serum only lasts for a brief time, Flora is determined to find a vaccine. The pair are following the migration route of the monarchs up and down the west coast, searching for sufficient material to do so. As they wind their way to Michoacan, hoping for the survival of Elvie’s parents, they cope with natural disasters and get caught up with sinister Deepers who want to thwart Flora’s pursuit. Though very young, Elvie’s unusual upbringing makes her an environmental expert and fearless explorer who emerges a clever and unflappable hero. Part graphic novel, part naturalist notebook, Little Monarchs boasts of colorful and clear illustrations with a compelling, if unusual, plot. 

THOUGHTS: Given the insatiable thirst for graphic novels, Little Monarchs proves itself to be a worthy contender. The storyline is clear and different and has the bonus of being extremely informative. Through Elvira’s system of writing facts in red, readers can learn about the monarchs’ migration and other habits, edible plants, characteristics of frogs, and types of knots, among other secrets of nature and survival. Different frames contain the geographical coordinates. This title sparks discussion of future results of climate change as well as an interest in survival skills, geography, and map skills. 

Graphic Novel          Bernadette Cooke, School District of Philadelphia
Science Fiction

Elem. – Animals We Can’t Live Without (Series NF)

Animals We Can’t Live Without. The Child’s World. 2022. $19.95 each or $239.40 for set of 12. Grades 1-4.

Huddleston, Emma. Thank You, Ants. 978-1-503-84991-4.

Thank You, Corals. 978-1-503-85007-1.
Thank You, Earthworms. 978-1-503-84997-6.
Thank You, Frogs. 978-1-503-84994-5.
Thank You, Primates. 978-1-503-85010-1.

Erickson, Marty. Thank You, Bats. 978-1-503-84993-8.

Thank You, Bees. 978-1-503-84996-9.
Thank You, Sharks. 978-1-503-85008-8.
Thank You, Termites. 978-1-503-84992-1.
Thank You, Zooplankton. 978-1-503-84998-3.

Pearson, Marie. Thank You, Raptors. 978-1-503-84995-2.

Thank You, Rodents. 978-1-503-85009-5.

The series Animals We Can’t Live Without focuses on animal species that may not be the cutest or cuddliest animals, but rather animals that help our environment in ways we may often forget. Whether the animal flies, swims, lives on land or in the sea, there are important factors these animals have that affect the ecosystem around them. This reviewer read the titles Thank You, Raptors and Thank You, Rodents, both by Marie Pearson. Thank You, Raptors discusses the amazing raptors of our world, also known as birds of prey. With beautiful photographs, helpful charts, and vocabulary words, readers will be able to learn why these birds are so helpful to our world and how we can help keep them safe and protect them from endangerment. Thank You, Rodents, does the same, but focuses on those tiny rodents we all know (and may not always like!). Despite the fact that some people may be squeamish about tiny mice or rats, these rodents are important to their environment and help our world continue to function as a whole.

THOUGHTS: The two books reviewed are very interesting, full of great information for younger elementary students to read and learn about. The photographs are beautifully taken, and the additional information in the back to further your knowledge is a great way for readers to continue to learn about the amazing species the book presents.

590s Animals          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

Elem./MG – Mapmakers and the Lost Magic

Chittock, Cameron. Illustrated by Amanda Castillo. Mapmakers and the Lost Magic. RH Graphics, 2022. 978-0-593-17286-5. Unpaged  $12.99. Grades 3-6.

Mapmakers and the Lost Magic  is a debut graphic novel by Cameron Chittock and Amanda Castillo and is intended to be the first in a series of books that follow the main character, Alidade, and her adventures. Alidade constantly pushes the boundaries of what is expected in her community, Alden–which is ruled by the Night Coats–and inevitably lands herself and her best friend, Lewis, in trouble. In the course of her forbidden explorations of the territory surrounding Alden, Alidade discovers a secret entrance to the Valley Lodge, which belonged to the Mapmakers, once the peacekeepers of the valley that Alidade and Lewis call home. Though the Mapmakers are long gone, Alidade finds a hidden map in the lodge and releases Blue, a Memri brought to life by the Mapmakers for the purpose of supporting all life in the valley in their quest to live peacefully and in harmony with their surroundings. All is not peaceful, however, and Alidade’s curiosity and resentment of the Night Coats’ rule leads to her pursuit of becoming a Mapmaker herself under Blue’s tutelage as well as increased insight into the Night Coat’s control of Alden.

THOUGHTS: The Mapmakers’ use of maps to advance its fantasy storyline is unique and well-developed. The book contains subtle environmental messages and lessons about friendship and teamwork that are nearly seamlessly woven into the story, and Amanda Castillo’s illustrations will be accessible both to readers who love the simplicity of the Babysitters Club graphics and those who are attached to more detailed fantasy in graphics. Back matter includes a nature journal entry from Alidade documenting her world; activities, such as crafts and recipes that connect to the story; information on the creation of the graphic novel; and notes from the author and illustrator. There is much here for the reader who is curious about the creation of a graphic novel and the writing process. I think this book will appeal to many of our readers and fly off the shelves. Highly recommended.

Graphic Novel          Hannah J. Thomas, Central Bucks SD
Fantasy

Elem. – Over and Under the Canyon

Messner, Kate. Over and Under the Canyon. Chronicle Books, 2021. 978-1-452-16939-2. 56 p. $18.99. Grades K-3. 

Discover the wonders of a desert ecosystem in the newest edition of Kate Messner’s ecology-based Over and Under series. This story is about one family’s hike through a real-world desert habitat. Messner’s book Over and Under the Canyon aligns perfectly with national science standards with excellent and amazing facts about the animals, wildlife, and wonders that inhabit the desert world. With colorful and vivid illustrations by award-winning artist Christopher Silas Neal, this picture book is undoubtedly driven by an engaging narrative packed with STEM content. In addition, the content within the story provides many opportunities to discuss the importance of natural habitats and ecosystems and how to preserve our natural wonders. As a result, readers will be engaged in every page turn. 

THOUGHTS: Science-loving readers will want to explore this fact-filled story about animals and wildlife. Curiosity may grow with each page, and educators will be able to dive into the well-researched content. Messner’s other books in this series include: Over and Under the Pond and Over and Under the Rainforest. Add this gorgeous book to your science collection! 

Picture Book          Marie Mengel, Reading SD

Elem. – The Fox and the Forest Fire

Popovici Danny. The Fox and the Forest Fire. Chronicle Books, 2021. 978-1-797-20282-2 44 p. $17.95. Grades K-3. 

A young boy moves from the city to a house in the woods. At first, he is unsure of his new surroundings, but he begins to love his new environment with time. He loves to explore, adventure, and learn about the animals and their homes that inhabit the woods that surround his new home, especially a bright orange fox that lives nearby. In Danny Popovici’s The Fox and the Forest Fire, the reader will fall in love with the forest through the eyes of a young explorer. But when the young boy spots a fire that quickly engulfs the woods, his family is not only displaced, but his beloved home, trees, bugs, plants, and animals are forever changed. With a forest fire, so much can change quickly, but the family (and forest) can regrow and rejuvenate with time, hope, and support. In this touching story, resilience wins. 

THOUGHTS: The Fox and the Forest Fire was written and illustrated by a volunteer forest firefighter, which gives the book a unique and special perspective. The story has an uplifting message about rebuilding and resilience, not only for humans but for nature too. At the close of the book, the author’s notes and information could ignite essential conversations in the classroom about the effects of natural disasters on our environment. I love that this book can serve as a resource for coping with personal and community tragedies with a small nod to the first responders that risk their lives for others. 

Picture Book          Marie Mengel, Reading SD

MG – Planet Ocean: Why We All Need a Healthy Ocean

Newman, Patricia. Planet Ocean: Why We All Need a Healthy Ocean. Photographs by Annie Crawley. Millbrook Press, 2021. 64 p. 978-1-541-58121-0. $31.99. Grades 5-8.

Writer Newman and diver Crawley team up for a second book, after the success of their first collaboration Plastic Ahoy! Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (2014). Their excitement over the beauty of the ocean is evident and contagious as they visit three distinct areas of ocean: the Coral Triangle near Indonesia, the Salish Sea in the Pacific Northwest, and the Arctic Ocean at the top of the world. Since Earth is about 70% ocean and 30% land, they contend that a better name for it would be Planet Ocean. The facts they share about the importance and wonder of the ocean and its creatures make it seem amazing that much of the ocean is yet unexplored because of its size and depth. In each location they highlight young people who are working to improve the health of the oceans. Examples include a group of children who regularly meet to clean their Indonesian beach of plastic and garbage that washes ashore daily, and Inupiat teen Eben Hopson, who started his own film company and has traveled the world to show his films and educate about the changing climate in his own town. Crawley states, “I know how important the ocean is to our daily lives, how fragile it is, and how much we’re changing it. I want kids and teens to speak up for our oceans” (7).

THOUGHTS: This is an engaging look at why our oceans matter, and it encourages young people to take action. Free teaching resources are available via Titlewave.

551.56 Oceans          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

Elem. – One Little Bag: An Amazing Journey

Cole, Henry. One Little Bag: An Amazing Journey. Scholastic Press, 2020. 978-1-338-35997-8. 48 p. $18.99. Grades K-3. 

This wordless book takes readers on one paper bag’s journey from the forest, through a lifetime of different uses, and ultimately back to the forest. Opening spreads depict woods full of trees, and readers watch as one tree is chopped down, loaded onto a truck, and delivered to a sawmill. The tree is turned into a paper bag, and it’s journey continues when a small boy and his father use the bag to carry a flashlight home from the store. The bag is used over and over again through the years to carry lunches, sheet music, tools, snacks, an engagement ring, flower petals, toy blocks, and seashells. The bag passes through generations until it is ultimately used to plant a tiny evergreen tree. Even though this story doesn’t include any words, there is plenty to discuss and infer. Illustrations were created with an ink pen, and the only spot color is the brown paper bag and the red hearts that accumulate on the bag throughout the story. Thoughtful readers will pore over the illustrations, noting details such as woodland creatures, newspaper headlines, and family portraits. An Author’s Note at the end of the book shares this story’s inspiration and offers perspective about the importance of reusing and recycling.

Thoughts: This is sure to become an Earth Day classic, prompting discussions about what other seemingly disposable items people may creatively use more than once.

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County 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

 

Series NF for Elementary & MS – Investigating Natural Disasters

Elkins, Elizabeth.  Investigating Natural Disasters. Capstone, 2017. $20.99ea. $83.96 set of 4. 32p. Gr. 3-7.

Investigating Earthquakes. 978-1-51574-038-4.

Investigating Floods. 978-1-51574-040-7.

Investigating Hurricanes. 978-1-51574-039-1.

Investigating Tornadoes. 978-1-51574-037-7.

The Investigating Natural Disasters series aims to inform readers about four of the most common natural disasters: earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and tornadoes. The forces that form each type of disaster and explained and scientific terminology is defined within callout boxes present throughout the chapters. The role and scientists, meteorologists and other forecasters in predicting events is also highlighted. Well-known examples of each type of disaster are included within the text. Disaster safety tips, for before, during, and after each each event are presented and discussed. THOUGHTS: This engaging series offers interested readers a good introduction to the science behind the natural disasters most likely to strike in the United States. A solid choice for student researchers and casual readers alike.

Geology; Meteorology      Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg School District

Picture Books – Water Princess; Marta; Became a Bird

Verde, Susan. The Water Princess. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2016. 978-0-399-17258-8. Unpaged. $17.99. Gr. K-3.

This gorgeous picture book is based on the childhood experience of fashion model and activist Georgie Badiel. A princess, named Gie Gie, has a magnificent kingdom and wonderful powers. But the one thing she wishes for, to make the water come closer, Gie Gie cannot do. Every day she and her mother walk miles to get water, “dusty, earth-colored liquid.” Gie Gie dances with her mother on the journey there and plays with her friends while her mother waits in line for their turn. When they arrive home, mother boils water for them to drink. Gie Gie cleans their clothes, and the dinner is fixed. The next morning the journey for water is to be repeated again. THOUGHTS: The pictures are beautifully done and make you feel hot and parched. This book is a gentle, positive way to introduce the struggle some societies have over water. It is also based on a true story and has pictures in the back of Georgie Badiel and how she raised money for a well in a school situated in an area with no water. A great introductory read for a service project and to help students be aware of what some children struggle with.

Picture Book      Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School

 

Arena, Jen. Marta! Big & Small. New York: Roaring Brook Press, 2016. 978-1-62672-243-9. Unpaged. $16.99. Gr. PreK-1.

Marta is a clever girl who lives in a jungle and knows Spanish. She teaches the reader descriptive words as well as animal names throughout the book. Marta shows the reader how she’s slow compared to a horse, but fast when matched with a turtle. When a snake arrives on the scene, will Marta be as tasty as she looks? She is ingeniosa and escapes with a smile.  THOUGHTS: This fun little book incorporates Spanish & English, opposites, similarities, comparisons and animals. It’s easy to follow while still having a lot of content. Perfect for Preschool through 1st Grade when introducing any of the above topics.

Picture Book      Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School

 

Chabbert, Ingrid & Guridi. The Day I Became a Bird. Toronto: Kids Can Press, 2016. 978-1771-3862-10. Unpaged. $12.99. Gr. 1+.

In this sweet and unusual book, a boy falls in love with a girl for the first time. She however, only has eyes for the birds. The boy decides instead of passively waiting, to do something that will definitely catch her attention.  Whether in class or on the soccer field, he wholeheartedly makes a transformation into a large bird. Will it be enough?  THOUGHTS: I loved the spare simplicity of the illustrations and the writing. The concept of the story paired with the mostly black and white images bring something rich to the reader. A wonderful read aloud for older elementary school/middle school classes.

Picture Book    Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School