Elem. – Season to Season (Series NF)

Gardeski, Christina Mia. Season to Season. Pebble Plus, 2020. $20.54 ea. $82.16 set of 4. 24 p. Grades PreK-2.

A Year in the City. 978-1-977112-87-3.
A Year on the Farm. 978-1-9771-1293-4.
A Year in the Forest. 978-1-977112-89-7.
A Year at the Pond. 978-1-977112-91-0.

Readers can explore the four seasons as seen on a farm or in a city, forest, or pond. Large color photographs compliment simple, factual text that covers the basics of changing seasons in each setting. Spring on the farm finds farmers plowing, planting, and welcoming newborn animals; in summer, “Crops grow in the warm sun. Tomatoes ripen. Cornstalks stretch from the earth.” Pebble Plus continues to produce high quality, high interest nonfiction for early readers. Each book includes a table of contents, glossary, index, and resources for students interested in learning more about the topic.

THOUGHTS: An attractive addition for collections looking to update their offerings on the four seasons or any reader who enjoys learning something new.

577 Nature of Life         Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin SD

Elem. – The Ocean : Exploring Our Blue Planet

Krestovnikoff, Miranda. The Ocean: Exploring Our Blue Planet. Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2020. 978-1-547-60335-0. $23.99. Grades K-3.

The Ocean is a non-fiction book that focuses on different parts of the ocean, both underwater and above water areas. Each section is broken down into different parts of the ocean. For example there is a section about coastlines, shipwrecks, the polar seas and more. Each section has beautiful illustrations that definitely give an underwater feel to the book as you read. There is a table of contents page; however, there is no index or a glossary in the book, so the reader may need something additional to help them as they read if they are using this book for research.

THOUGHTS: Overall, this is a beautifully illustrated book that gives some more information about the oceans and different animals who live in and around the ocean. This book could not be the only book someone could use for research, but it does make a nice companion as well as a great book for those students who are always interested in learning more. This book makes a nice jumping off point.

551.46 Ocean          Mary Hyson, Lehigh Valley Charter Academy

MG – My Life in the Fish Tank

Dee, Barbara. My Life In the Fish Tank. Aladdin, 2020. 978-1-534-43233-8. $17.99. Grades 6-8.

Zinny Manning’s family is known for being noisy and tightknit. She has a nurturing older brother, Gabriel; a moody sister in high school, Scarlett; and a younger, inquisitive brother, Aiden; and two longtime best friends, Kailani and Maisie. At the beginning of seventh grade, though, her world comes crashing down when Gabe steals and crashes his college roommate’s car. His impulsive behavior and hospitalization uncover Gabe’s bipolar disease. Now, a cloud hangs over the whole family as they strive to keep Gabe’s mental illness a secret from classmates, teachers, and neighbors. Zinny’s voice alternates from the present to the recent past. While she drifts further and further away from her concerned friends, Zinny recalls the fun times she has had with Gabe and dissects occasions when signs of his mental illness appeared. Zinny finds some solace in the predictable, controlled world of science. Her favorite teacher, Ms. Molina, has recommended her for a coveted spot as part of a middle school research team for the summer. Zinny gets respite from her friends’ constant questioning by helping Ms. Molina set up the crayfish tanks for the class’s animal unit. Zinny proves herself a resilient girl, helping her younger brother with his “how-to” project, shopping for groceries for the family, and sparking her beleaguered mother’s interest with an herb garden. When Zinny receives an invitation to the counselor’s Lunch Club, she at first throws it in the trash; but eventually, she starts to appreciate the opportunity to align with others who are also suffering from family concerns: divorce, stepfamilies, grief, or sick parents. Although it takes quite a while for Zinny to feel comfortable sharing, the group supports her and makes her feel she is not alone. At a therapy session at Gabe’s residential treatment center, Zinny confesses the anger she feels keeping the family secret. That small confession spurs a huge release that eases Gabe’s return home and allows the family to accept Gabe with a chronic illness just like cancer or diabetes. My Life in the Fish Tank is a story of a family in crisis and the shame and guilt they struggle with trying to deal with insurance, disruption, and worry. Author Barbara Dee has excelled in presenting an important topic with sensitivity and honesty. The Manning family seems to be white; the author integrates the diversity of other characters organically into the plot.

THOUGHTS: Though there are some fine books dealing with mental illness (Crazy by Han Nolan and All the Greys on Greene Street by Laura Tucker), My Life in the Fish Tank is a welcome addition. The dialogue captures the main character’s frame of mind well and depicts a likeable, relatable person. Zinny’s love of science and the crayfish experiment act as metaphors for her family situation Even though the plot flipped back and forth, the chapters were short and the writing fluent, making the story easy to follow. I could not put down this book.

Realistic Fiction          Bernadette Cooke, School District of Philadelphia

Elem. – Ocean Speaks: How Marie Tharp Revealed the Ocean’s Biggest Secret

Keating, Jess. Ocean Speaks: How Marie Tharp Revealed the Ocean’s Biggest Secret. Tundra Books, 2020. 978-0-735-26508-0. 32 p. $17.99. Grades K-3.

From the time she was a young girl, Marie loved being outdoors. From feeling waves splash on her toes to discovering boulders, trees, and bird calls, she was fascinated by the world around her. But, girls were not supposed to have outdoor jobs involving rocks, mountains, and sunshine, and they weren’t supposed to dream of becoming explorers or scientists. When men enlisted during World War I, women like Marie had their chance to study science. Marie learned as much as she could about earth science and geology, and she secured a job in a New York laboratory. When men returned from War, they were sent on ocean research trips, but Marie had to stay behind. As her male colleagues sent back box after box of measurements, Marie used the data to create a map of the ocean floor. She’d found a way to be an explorer, even if she had to stay in her small office. After weeks of plotting data, Marie discovered a giant rift valley on the bottom of the ocean floor: a long crack with mountains on both sides. Her colleagues made her redo the map, and even then, no one believed her work was accurate. Jacques Cousteau sent cameras to the bottom of the ocean to prove her wrong, but instead, the cameras captured the evidence revealing Marie was actually correct. Today, she’s credited with mapping the mid-Atlantic ocean ridge, and her maps have been displayed at the Library of Congress. Katie Hickey’s watercolor and pencil illustrations, featuring a palette of primarily blues, yellows, and greens, gorgeously capture the spirit and perseverance of this unsung scientist. Two pages of Author’s Notes and Questions and Answers provide further insights about Marie Tharp and her legacy.

THOUGHTS: Share this story of female resilience and determination as part of STEM units or during elementary morning meetings. Also a great choice to recommend to girls who are interested in outdoor pursuits such as rock collecting, bird watching, and exploring.

526 Mathematical Geography          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

Elem. – Winged Wonders: Solving the Monarch Migration Mystery

Pincus, Meeg. Winged Wonders: Solving the Monarch Migration Mystery. Sleeping Bear Press, 2020. 978-1-534-11040-3. $17.99. Grades 2-4.

Did you ever wonder who discovered the migration pattern of monarch butterflies?  Pincus explains it all in this beautifully illustrated picture book. She begins with a discussion of how these insects have inhabited North America for centuries, but no one knew where the butterflies went in winter. The answer was revealed in 1976 through the cooperation of scientists, science teachers, gardeners, and many other people. It began with a Canadian scientist who began tagging the butterflies’ wings in order to track them. He and his wife placed ads in newspapers throughout the continent, asking people to help with both tagging and searching for them. Finally in Mexico, an American adventurer and his wife located the insects’ winter destination with the help of the local people. The author asks readers of today to help save the monarch’s food source and habitat before it is too late. Imamura’s mostly full bleed drawings are colorful and full of details. The back matter includes a page called “How to Help the Monarch” and more information about the migration discovery.

THOUGHTS:  This is a wonderful nonfiction text that will delight the reader. It is a perfect choice for butterfly or ecology units and is a great read aloud at any time. A first purchase for elementary collections.

595.789 Butterflies          Denise Medwick, Retired, PSLA Member

Elem. – Great Races (Series NF)

Great Races. Momentum, The Child’s World, 2020. $20.95 ea. $167.70 set of 8. 32 p. Grades 3-6.

Ford, Jeanne Marie. Race Around the World. 978-1-503-83219-0.
Havemeyer, Janie. Race to Mount Everest. 978-1-503-83223-7.
Hutchinson, Patricia. Race to Space. 978-1-503-83220-6.
Maurer, Gretchen. Race to the Bottom of the Ocean. 978-1-503-83224-4.
Perdew, Laura. Race to Discover Energy Independence. 978-1-503-83222-0.
—. Race to Renewable Energy. 978-1-503-83226-8.
Rea, Amy C. Race to Develop the Atomic Bomb. 978-1-503-83225-1.
—. Race to the Poles. 978-1-503-83221-3.

Author Amy C. Rea taps into touchstones of world history in these concise overviews. Race to the Atomic Bomb provides the highlights of the creation of the atomic bomb, starting with brief background of founding scientists and ending with a mention of the post World War II proliferation of nuclear weapons. Aimed at a young audience, the thirty-two page book traces the development of the atom bomb from the British James Chadwick’s discovery of the neutron in 1935 to Albert Einstein’s prodding Franklin Delano Roosevelt to form the Manhattan Project to the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Black and white photographs of major scientists and scenes give context for young readers. The book concludes with probing critical thinking questions. Includes contents, glossary, resources, index.

THOUGHTS: Young readers who need some knowledge of these topics may benefit from this series. Though the facts are true, they just skim the surface. For example, Harry Truman’s decision to drop the atom bomb merits a few lines. Relaying the number of deaths and including Truman’s reflection on the dreadfulness of the atom bomb does not convey the impact of such devastation. This series seems directed at a younger audience who are just learning about these events.

355.8 History          Bernadette Cooke, School District of Philadelphia

MG – Born Curious: 20 Girls Who Grew Up to Be Awesome Scientists

Freeman, Martha. Born Curious: 20 Girls Who Grew Up to Be Awesome Scientists. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2020. 122 p. 978-1-5344-2153-0. $19.99. Grades 3-8.

Born Curious is a biography of 20 female scientists in one kid-friendly collection. A diverse collection of disciplines and scientists are covered. Each biography starts with childhood influences and follows the scientist throughout her career. A colorful, full page portrait is included for each scientist as well as a “round up” box at the end of each bio that includes her greatest achievement, a quote, and a fascinating fact. Includes an Afterword that sums up 13 traits of the scientists featured, a glossary, an index, and a thorough source list for each scientist.

THOUGHTS: This collection features scientists that are not household names presented in a friendly and accessible format. Could be read for those interested in science as a non-fiction read and can also be used for research.

509.2 Science Biographies                  Krista Fitzpatrick- Waldron Mercy Academy
Collective Biographies

Elem. – Silly Measurements

Cella, Clara. Silly Measurements. Capstone, 2020. $21.99 ea. $87.96 set of 4. Unpaged. Grades PreK-1. 

How Many Ducks Could Fit in a Bus? Creative Ways to Look at Volume. 978-1-9771-1324-5.
How Many Flamingos Tall Is a Giraffe? Creative Ways to Look at Height. 978-1-9771-1322-1.
How Many Kittens Could Ride a Shark? Creative Ways to Look at Length. 978-1-9771-1323-8.
How Many Llamas Does a Car Weigh? Creative Ways to Look at Weight. 978-1-9771-1325-2.

The Silly Measurements series encourages pre/early readers to learn about measurements via humorous comparison between non-traditional measuring units. For example, in How Many Llamas Does a Car Weigh?, in addition to the comparison between llamas and cars (in case you are wondering, a car weighs nine llamas), other items compared include clowns and camels, moose and motorcycles, and baseball and bunnies. Each comparison features large photos and large, colorful text. 

THOUGHTS: A great way to begin to introduce the concept of measurement to young readers, these books are sure to bring a smile to the face of readers with their choice of unusual comparisons. They would also be a great option for those looking for math-related read alouds for PreK-1 age students.

530.8 Measurement          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD

Elem. – Animal Homes

Murray, Julie. Animal Homes. Abdo, 2020. $19.95 ea. $119.70 set of 6. 24 p. Grades PreK-2.

Burrows. 978-1-5321-8521-2.
Caves. 978-1-5321-8522-9.
Dens. 978-1-5321-8523-6.
Nests. 978-1-5321-8524-3.
Trees. 978-1-5321-8525-0.
Webs. 978-1-5321-8526-7.

While many children’s non-fiction series focus on animals, fewer titles focus solely on the habitats they call home. Abdo aims to fill this gap with their Animal Homes series for younger readers. Each title discusses a home, giving several examples of creatures that live in each type of home and also how each home is created. This reviewer had the opportunity to review Nests. Photographs depicted a variety of nests, including birds’ nests, wasp nests, sea turtle nests, and more. The accompanying text conveyed basic information regarding nests and their inhabitants. Back matter includes a visual glossary and additional photos of creatures that live in the home. Also present is a code that readers can use on Abdo Online to access crafts, games, videos, etc. related to the title. 

THOUGHTS: This series offers primary readers a basic understanding of some of the most common animal homes they might encounter in nature or see outside their windows. Abdo’s accompanying online material is superior to what many other publishers offer and could be utilized by teachers in lessons or as extension activities. Educators who are teaching in a hybrid-type model may wish to encourage students who check out Abdo titles of the school library to explore their title’s Abdo Online resources on days when classes are not meeting in-person. 

591.564 Animals          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD

Elem. – What Was It? (Series NF)

McCurry, Kristen. What Was It? Pebble, 2020. Unpaged (32). $21.99 ea. Pre-K.

What Was It Before It Got Wet? 978-1-9771-1334-4.
What Was It Before Melted? 978-1-9771-1332-0.
What Was It Before It Was Cut? 978-1-9771-1331-3.
What Was It Before It Was Smashed? 978-1-9771-1333-7.

These “turn and see” books encourage critical thinking in the very young. What Was It Before It Got Wet presents readers with vibrant close-up photographs of a wet substance, and challenges them to identify what the substance was in its dry state. Many of the illustrations are of familiar items – soapy lather, hot chocolate – but some are more challenging to recognize, including a drenched koala. A photo of a seedling may really stretch young minds to determine the answer. The graphic design of the volume is gorgeous, with bright “what was it?” photos set off by wide margins, and answer photos on the reverse side full-page images.

THOUGHTS: This book begs to be read one-to-one, with enthusiastic discussion to ensue. 

530.02 Physics and Matter          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD