Elem. – Outdoor Adventure Guides (Series NF)

Outdoor Adventure Guides. Capstone Press, 2020. $24.04 ea. $96.16 set of 4. 48 p. Grades 3-6.

Bean, Raymond. Backpacking Hacks: Camping Tips for Outdoor Adventures. 978-1-543-59031-9.
Hoena, B.A. Campfire Cooking: Wild Eats for Outdoor Adventures. 978-1-543-59033-3.
Hoena, B.A. Wilderness Survival: Basic Safety for Outdoor Adventures. 978-1-543-59029-6.
Bean, Raymond. Wildlife Watching: Spotting Animals on Outdoor Adventures. 978-1-543-59035-7.

Part of the Outdoor Adventure Guides series, Backpacking Hacks is a valuable resource for both the novice and experienced hiker. Chapter titles include “Preparation and Planning;” “Food, Water, and Shelter;” and “Critters and Fire.” There are thoughtful tips for staying warm, staying cool, and staying dry. The book also includes information on how to pack food and what to pack, how to make your tent more comfortable, and hygiene when you are away from a bathroom. Readers who are using this guide to plan a trip will appreciate the websites listed in the back and the “Hack Your Pack” section that will make all hikers well prepared.

THOUGHTS: This is a thorough guide for planning a backpacking trip. There is so much great information packed into the scant 48 pages. Appropriate for all school libraries, this book should have broad appeal.

796.54 Camping          Melissa Johnston, North Allegheny SD

Elem. – In a Garden

McCanna, Tim. In a Garden. Ill. Aimée Sicuro. Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2020. 978-1-5344-1797-7. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades PreK-2.

Through rhyming verses and vivid watercolor illustrations, In a Garden explores how things grow. From seeds being planted to sunlight and rain nurturing the plants, readers see all of the various aspects of natural growth both in a garden and in those who nurture and care for the garden. McCanna identifies a variety of flowers and vegetables that grow in gardens, while also describing the duties of the various insects that help the garden grow. The four seasons establish how things grow unseen, and also establish the life cycle with insects laying eggs and a woman, pregnant in the beginning, holding a baby when spring returns after winter.

THOUGHTS: This is a gorgeous picture book. Sicuro’s watercolors represent each aspect of the natural world beautifully, while McCanna’s words are playful and representative of the life cycle. Many readers will see themselves in this text because the garden is in a city, and the humans are representative of the diversity in a city. This picture book is a great introduction to the life cycle, gardening, and caring for the natural world. It would pair well with growing a school garden or just planting a seed that students can take home and grow.

Picture Book        Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD

Elem. – Nesting

Cole, Henry. Nesting. Katherine Tegen Books, 2020. 978-0-062-88592-0. 32 p. $17.99. Grades K-3. 

From the branches of an apple tree, a male robin calls out to his mate on an early spring morning. After scoping out the perfect spot, the pair gather twigs and grasses, building a nest in the crook of the tree. The mother robin settles in quietly, and soon, four smooth, blue eggs appear. One week later, the eggs hatch, and the parents begin gathering food for their defenseless babies. The young family weathers a spring storm, as well as an unwelcome snake visitor, before the baby birds flap their small wings and leave the nest for the first time. As spring gives way to summer, then autumn, the family fills up on berries to tide them over during the approaching winter. Snow covers the nest, and the world is quiet, waiting for spring to return, along with the robin’s first call. The story unfolds through simple, straightforward text as well as a brief author’s note sharing additional information about robins. The illustrations are the stars of the story. Cole uses Micron pens and acrylic paints to create beautifully detailed crosshatch illustrations that perfectly capture both the depth and the simplicity found in the natural world.  

THOUGHTS: Students who love nature, and especially bird-watching, will gravitate towards this book. It will also be a nice tie-in for primary grade teachers who discuss the changing seasons, since readers can follow the robin family throughout the year. Pair with Mark Teague’s Fly or Denise Fleming’s This is the Nest that Robin Built with a Little Help from Her Friends for a robin-themed story time. 

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

Elem. – Astonishing Animals (Series NF)

Astonishing Animals. Crabtree Publishing Company, 2020. $15.16 ea. $90.96, Set of 6. Grades 3-6. 

Howell, Izzi. Animal Athletes. 978-0-778-76933-0.
—. Animal Engineers. 978-0-778-76936-1.
Hyde, Natalie. Animal Oddballs. 978-0-778-76937-8.
—. Animal Disguises.  978-0-778-76935-4.
—. Animal Survivors. 978-0-778-76938-5.
Johnson, Robin. Animal Celebrities. 978-0-778-76934-7.

Astonishing Animals is a high-interest nonfiction series for upper elementary students brimming with full-color nature photography and fascinating facts. Each title focuses on animals that have extraordinary characteristics. In Animal Oddballs, students will read about animals with bizarre adaptations and how these adaptations have allowed the species to thrive including the red-lipped batfish, flic-flac spider and naked mole rats. Animal Athletes focuses on the fastest, toughest, most flexible, and strongest specimens in the animal kingdom. Highlighted animals include impalas, mako sharks, and horned dung beetles. The text is divided into manageable chunks with colorful call-out boxes and captions. Most two-page spreads also include a Fact File table with brief notes about the animal’s size, habitat, diet, and location. Other non-fiction text features include a glossary, index, and table of contents. Website suggestions are also included for students who would like to read more about the featured astonishing animals.

THOUGHTS: This series is filled with everything nonfiction elementary readers crave especially bite-sized facts about unusual nature and extreme full-colored photography. Readers who enjoy almanac and fact books will also appreciate Astonishing Animals.

591.5 Habitats and Behavior          Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD

Elem. – Under My Tree

Tallandier, Muriel. Under My Tree. Myrick Marketing & Media, 2020. 978-1-733-12123-1. $18.95. Grades K-2.

Under My Tree is a sweet picture book that follows Suzanne, a young girl, as she discovers her tree. She has found a tree that is special to her, and she takes the time to get to know it. She feels the bark, climbs the branches, smells the fruit, and even watches as it goes through its yearly cycle of changes. Suzanne learns much about her tree and even shares some of the things she has learned about with others. Suzanne loves her tree and knows that her tree loves her.

THOUGHTS: My favorite part of this story is the little “Fun Facts!” or “Try This!” that appears in the corners. There is information about a variety of topics, including information on what the fruit feels like, to fun ‘did you know’ facts about animals and bugs that may be on trees. This small information piece added something extra that teachers will love to use within their classrooms.

Picture Book          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

Elem. – Tiny Bird: A Hummingbird’s Amazing Journey

Burleigh, Robert. Tiny Bird: A Hummingbird’s Amazing Journey. Christy Ottaviano Books: Henry Holt and Company. 2020. 978-1-627-79369-8. $18.99. Grades K-4.

Behold, a tiny bird, no bigger than a quarter. This tiny bird takes its last drink at an orange flower, manages to bite one last bug, before it begins it’s difficult journey to it’s winter home. The bird faces many obstacles: hawks, storms, and anything in between. Some hummingbirds never complete the journey, including the 24 hour flight across the raging sea. Will this tiny bird make it to it’s winter home? We hope so!

THOUGHTS: This book is filled with tons of information about hummingbirds. In addition to the great information provided, the book is illustrated with beautiful colors, showing the beauty of nature and this tiny bird.

Picture Book          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

Elem. – Beehive

Hurley, Jorey. Beehive. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2020. 978-1-481-47003-2. $17.99. Grades PreK-K.

A simple picture book, Beehive explores the world of a honeybee. Using one word on a page, this beautifully illustrated book shares different events in a bee’s life. We see the bee FLY, EXPLORE, and POLLINATE. We watch as the bee LAYs, FEEDs, and GROWs. A fun picture book filled with important words that can help explain the life of a honeybee!

THOUGHTS: My favorite part of this book actually appears in the author’s notes. The author uses each word from the book and explains the life of the honeybee in further detail. This would be a fantastic piece of information to use for continuing education of the honeybee or for older students who may require more information.

Picture Book          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

Elem. – Green on Green

White, Dianne. Green on Green. Beach Lane Books, 2020. 978-1-481-46278-5. 48 p. $17.99. Grades K-3.

Dianne White’s beautifully designed book, illustrated by award-winning Felicita Sala, is an ode to seasons and the colors they bring to the world. The most prominent color, however, is green, which makes an appearance in every season. Sometimes the color green is bold like in spring when the flowers are blooming and the grass is sparkling from a recent rainstorm; other times it is subtle like the snow-covered pines in winter or the color of a sweater in fall. White’s book celebrates the beauty of a year in nature while also showing the beauty of a year in the life of a family. As the seasons change, the family in the book spends time together, enjoying the different events each season brings – flower picking in the spring, seaside bathing in the summer, pumpkin picking in the fall, and wood chopping in the winter. The changes brought on in life are also punctuated by the mother, whose pregnant belly grows with each season until a sibling is born, and the older brother sees the beauty of sharing those seasonal family moments with him.

THOUGHTS: Green on Green is an interesting addition to other children’s books about seasons as it shows how changes in human life can parallel the changing seasons of nature. Children will enjoy searching for the lighthouse, featured on many pages as a permanent symbol of stability while everything else changes around it. With rhyming, musical prose paired with vibrant, detailed illustrations, readers of all ages can find joy reading about the changes each year brings in nature, family, and life.

Picture Book          Danielle Corrao, Ephrata Area SD

Picture Books – Goldfish Ghost; Life; Three Billy Goats; Peterrific

Snicket, Lemony. Goldfish Ghost. Roaring Brook Press, 2017: ISBN 978-1-62672-507-2. 36pp. 17.99. Gr. K-3.

Goldfish Ghost is born in a bowl in a boy’s bedroom, but after floating and staring at the ceiling for a while, he becomes bored and drifts through the air towards the room’s open window in search of some company. He floats over the town’s fishing pier, past some shops, and near the haunted lighthouse. He considers befriending a flock of seagulls, but they are too noisy and are preoccupied with the fishing boats. Everyone he passes in town already has a companion, so he drifts toward the beach. All the beachgoers are busy reading, sunbathing, digging, or swimming, and no one pays him any attention there either. He does spot the ghosts of deceased sea creatures floating over the water, but Goldfish Ghost doesn’t feel quite at home on top of the ocean either. As night falls, Goldfish Ghost hears a voice calling to him from the haunted lighthouse. The ghost of the lighthouse keeper scoops him up, each recognizing that they finally have the sort of company they’ve been searching for. This title’s India ink and watercolor illustrations are filled with fun visuals including families enjoying a day at the beach and people navigating through a seaside town, and students will likely spot new details each time the book is reread. Observant readers will also spot other ghosts, including some old-fashioned beachgoers, in the detailed illustrations.  THOUGHTS:  Although this story’s main character is a ghost, this is not the typical creepy, scary ghost story. Instead, it’s a story about finding friendship and a place to belong. It also presents a fresh perspective about dead pets and will be a winner with readers who enjoy slightly eerie yet comical stories.

Picture Book     Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

 

Rylant, Cynthia. Life. Beach Lane Books, 2017.  978-1-4814-5162-8. 43pp. $17.99. Gr. K-3.

This book beautifully pairs Cynthia Rylant’s lyrical text with Caldecott Honor-winner Brendan Wenzel’s stunning paintings of the natural world and its many animals. The result is striking; a concise, yet powerful tribute to life’s many twists, turns, mountains, valleys, and surprises. Each page contains only a line or two of text, letting Wenzel’s vibrant paintings shine. The book begins succinctly, noting that life begins small. Following pages depict a baby elephant and a tiny seedling growing beneath the sun’s rays and the moon’s glow. Several animals express what they love most about life, describing simple things such as sky, grass, sand, and rain. Subsequent pages depict how life might not always be easy or beautiful, showing animals braving dark skies, fierce winds, craggy mountains, and thorny underbrush. But eventually, the wilderness ends, and new roads are visible. In a beautiful spread featuring a deer watching a flock of birds fly across a moonlit sky, Rylant reminds readers that life is always changing, and it’s worth waking up each morning to see what a new day holds.  THOUGHTS: This inspirational book can be shared with guidance counselors who could perhaps use it to reassure students who are having a challenging time or who are facing some obstacle in their life. It will also be a good fit for units exploring animals and their many habitats, and it shines as an example of how to boil writing down to just the most essential words and ideas.

Picture Book      Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

 

Pinkney, Jerry. The Three Billy Goats Gruff. Little, Brown, and Company, 2017. 978-0-316-34157-8. 40pp. $17.99. Gr. K-3.

With beautiful pencil and watercolor illustrations and a freshly-imagined ending, Jerry Pinkney breathes new life into this classic tale. Many original elements remain: three billy goats wish to cross a troll-guarded bridge so they can graze on the opposite river bank’s green grass. The littlest billy goat goes first, and he convinces the troll to spare him, promising a bigger billy goat will be crossing soon. His prediction is correct, and soon, a second goat attempts to cross. The troll threatens to gobble him up, but he urges the troll to wait for Big Billy Goat Gruff. Sure enough, Big Billy Goat Gruff comes crashing across the bridge, and when confronted by the troll, he lowers his head and charges, knocking the troll into the water. In the water, a giant fish demands to know who is splish-splashing in his river, and he threatens to gobble up the troll. The troll escapes and paddles back to the riverbank. He finds himself on the opposite side of the river, however, and he watches as the entire herd of billy goats crosses over the bridge to eat the green grass on the hillside. Careful readers will notice that this is not the end of the story, however. On the last page of the book, the troll begins gathering stones to build himself a new house, and the littlest billy goat races over the bridge to help him. The final endpapers depict goats traveling freely back and forth across the bridge, as well as other goats coming to assist the troll with his building, suggesting that these characters might ultimately work out a peaceful coexistence.  THOUGHTS:  This stunning retelling is destined to become a classic, and readers will pour over the artwork again and again. The reimagined ending offers readers the chance to experience bullying from a fresh point of view, and it opens the door for discussions about big ideas such as confronting adversity, forgiveness, redemption, and tolerance. This will be a valuable addition to all elementary collections.

Picture Book     Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

 

Kann, Victoria. Peterrific. Harper, 2017.  978-0-06-256357-6. 36pp. $18.89. Gr. K-3.

Pinkalicious is back, but this time, her brother Peter is the star of the story. Peter’s goal is to build a block tower high enough to reach the stars, so while he builds, Pinkalicious borrows wagon-loads of blocks from all the neighbors. Peter’s tower grows and grows, but once he’s high in the sky, he realizes it can be lonely, and a little scary, at the top. When he spies a high-flying bird passing by, Peter brainstorms an idea for leaving his tower, and once he reaches the ground, he’s quick to imagine ideas for how to construct an even better one. There’s lots to look at in this book’s brightly colored mixed media digital illustrations, and readers will enjoy spotting trains, a slinky, crayons, binoculars, and other toys tucked in among the blocks of Peter’s growing tower.  THOUGHTS: This book is perfect for teaching elements of Design Thinking since Peter works through Asking, Imagining, Planning, Creating, and Improving as he builds his tower. He begins by asking himself how he might create a tall, tall tower. Then, he imagines designing a structure tall enough to reach the stars, and he plans by drawing pictures of his ideas. He uses blocks, tape, rope, and glue to create and hold together his tower, and he continuously adds more blocks so he can improve his design. Once he’s at the top of the tower, he also realizes the tower has some problems: there’s no way to get down, and it might be structurally unsafe. Once he’s safely on the ground again, Peter draws a plan for a new and improved tower, underscoring the ideas in the circular Design Thinking process.

Picture Book     Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

 

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