YA – The Subtle Knife

Pullman, Philip. The Subtle Knife. Alfred A. Knopf, 2022. 978-0-593-17693-1. 272 p. $21.99. Grades 9-12.

This is the second book in the graphic novel edition of His Dark Materials series. Lyra has escaped into a new world after being betrayed by her mother and abandoned by her father. She is searching for information on Dust. Will is a new character, a boy from our world who is dealing with his mother’s struggle with mental illness and his father’s disappearance while exploring. Lyra and Will meet, and their worlds collide. They both set out together to help each other.

THOUGHTS: The illustrations are incredible. The world of Cittigazze is captured amazingly with these dark, steampunk illustrations. The story flowed quite nicely as well. 

Graphic Novel          Victoria Dziewulski, Plum Borough SD

Elem. – Alexander von Humboldt: Explorer, Naturalist & Environmental Pioneer

Novgorodoff, Danica. Alexander von Humboldt: Explorer, Naturalist & Environmental Pioneer. Crown Books for Young Readers, 2022.  978-1-524-77308-3. 39 p. $17.99. Grades K-3.

As a young boy growing up in eighteenth century Germany, Alexander von Humboldt was very curious about the natural world. He was full of questions and wanted to be an explorer like Captain James Cook. Alexander spent many hours outdoors and his observations led him to understand that animals, plants, and the weather are all connected to each other. So he studied science and prepared himself to travel to faraway lands. Von Humboldt’s first voyage was to South America, where he found towering mountains, lush vegetation and unfamiliar animals and people. He soon realized that this New World was not all that different from his home and that he shared a lot in common with the indigenous people. The German explorer recognized that the volcanoes here were situated in a chain and he developed theories about why they erupt. He later wrote and lectured on his findings, thus earning the title of “Father of Ecology.”  The author-illustrator includes a detailed author’s note, maps, and a timeline in the back matter. Novgorodoff uses pencil and watercolor to create engaging illustrations and the text placement creates added interest.

THOUGHTS: This picture book biography is a great choice for ecology units or Earth Day storytimes. It may inspire young explorers to pursue a career in ecology. A must have for elementary collections.

921 Biography          Denise Medwick, Retired, PSLA Member
509.2 Natural Science-Biography

Lives of the Explorers


Krull, Kathleen. Lives of the Explorers: Discoveries, Disasters (and What the Neighbors Thought).  Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014. 978-0152059101 96 p. $20.99 Gr. 4-8

Krull and Hewitt continue their Lives of the… series (now totaling eight), this time with a look at the lives of 20 famous explorers.  In 2-5 pages per person or group, they give the basics as well as some fun details about the world or the person.  For instance, we learn that Daniel Boone was a peace-loving man who hated coonskin caps; Richard Byrd found fundraising more arduous than months in below-zero temperatures; and Magellan was hated by nearly everyone, especially his crew members.  For each explorer, Krull details the major accomplishments and Hewitt illustrates. The group includes 16 men and 4 women, exploring the earth, ocean, and space. This is an unintimidating, at times humorous, look at intrepid and inquisitive people, which includes further reading but no index.
This is an approachable book, great for browsing, booktalking, and for adding some spark to reports.  It could easily be incorporated into “explorer” units, with students reading these pages before continuing research, or using these mini-biographies as examples for writing their own book on other explorers not included.
920: Collective Biographies; Explorers   Melissa Scott, Shenango High School