Elem. – Uncharted: Stories of Survival (Series NF)

McGregor, Harriet. Uncharted: Stories of Survival. Bearport, 2021. $19.95 ea. $119.70 set of 6. 24 p. Grades 2-5. 

Blown Away by a Blizzard! 978-1-64747-030-2.
Destroyed by a Hurricane! 978-1-64747-031-9.
Flattened by an Earthquake! 978-1-64747-032-6.
H
eat Wave Horror! 978-1-64747-033-3.
Lightning Strike Survivor! 978-1-64747-034-0.
Tornado Terror! 978-1-64747-031-9.

These action packed graphic novel stories recount various true stories of individuals who had to survive natural disasters. This reviewer had the opportunity to review Blown Away by a Blizzard!, which recounted the story of Randy Kraxberger, a skier who was trapped in the wilderness of Olympic National Park during a blizzard. Kraxberger had to build a snow cave to survive overnight during the blizzard and stay alert with exercise sessions to ward off hypothermia. Thankfully, in the morning he was rescued by park rangers. At the conclusion of the story, a two-page informational spread (not in graphic novel format) defined a blizzard and explained the science behind how blizzards form. Safety tips were also presented.

THOUGHTS: This action-packed, non-fiction graphic novel series is sure to be a hit. Readers will be kept on the edge of their seats as they wait to see how the individual will survive their situation. A worthwhile purchase for elementary libraries looking to expand their non-fiction graphic novel collections.

Graphic Novel          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD
363 Survival Stories

Elem. – World of Wonder (Series NF)

Barnham, Kay. World of Wonder (series of 4). Illustrated by Maddie Frost. Crabtree, 2021. 32 p. $20.75 ea. $83.00 Set of 4. Grades K-2.

Amazing Animal Babies. 978-0-778-78247-6.
The Awesome Night Sky. 978-0-778-78276-6.
Incredible Rain Forests. 978-0-778-78248-3.
A Wonderful World of Weather. 978-0-778-78246-9.

Barnham and Frost team up wonderfully with text and pictures suitable for the K-2 crowd. Each book focuses on one aspect of nature or science, acting as a pleasant introduction to the topic for beginners. Each book keeps a positive tone about ecology, learning and exploring, offering two-page spreads with a paragraph of text on each page. It’s just enough information, and may leave curious readers questioning; be prepared with answers to “what’s that animal?,” “where does the sky end?,” “why do some babies stay with their moms and some don’t?,” or “how many constellations are there?”  Two friendly children (one white, one slightly darker-skinned) and a black dog appear throughout the books, learning with the reader. The books close with Things To Do (three ideas such as inventing your own animal, creating a word cloud (each book), or designing a weather board game), Learning More (book and online resources), and Glossary (7-9 words used in text).

THOUGHTS: A solid choice for introducing astronomy, weather, rain forest and animal babies to young readers.

Science (520, 551, 577, 591)            Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

Elem. – Feel the Fog

Sayre, April Pulley.  Feel the Fog.  Beach Lane Books, 2020. 978-1-534-43760-9. Unpaged.  $17.99. Grades K-3.

Similar to her other works Best in Snow and Raindrops Roll, Sayre has created a beautiful photographic nonfiction book on the topic of fog. The images depict this “cloud, ground level” in a variety of settings, like the mountains, forests, valleys, and iceberg laden seas. Using spare rhyming text and personification, the author explains how fog develops, how it affects visibility and sound, as well as its appearance in different seasons. The reader also learns how animals like birds and deer adapt to their habitats when this phenomenon occurs. The words and images work together to provide a treat for the senses like this phrase, “Silhouettes sing from wires and fences,” which appears on a page with images of resting birds. The back matter contains additional information.

THOUGHTS: This lyrical and sensory depiction of this weather marvel is a first purchase. It works well as an introduction to weather units and also serves as a mentor text for the use of personification. Children will be fascinated by the images. After reading this book, they will experience fog in a different way the next time it rolls in.

551.575 Rainfall          Denise Medwick, Retired, PSLA Member
Moisture

Elem. – Weather and Climate (Series NF)

Raij, Emily. Weather and Climate. Capstone Press, 2020. $21.99 ea. $88.16 set of 4. 32 p. Grades 3-5. 

The Power of Weather. 978-1-543-59155-2.
Weather Watch. 978-1-543-59156-9.
Wide World of Weather. 978-1-543-59158-3.
Climate Change and You. 978-1-543-59157-6.

This series focuses on climate change and how it affects your everyday life. Each book has a table of contents, glossary, and index, as well as a list of internet sites if you want to do more research. Climate Change and You has extra facts throughout the book, as well as full color photos to go along with certain topics that are covered.

THOUGHTS: This book is a great addition to any upper elementary school collection. It’s a great addition to research about climate change, and the topic is broken down in a way that makes it easy to understand and follow.

363.738 Climate Change          Mary Hyson, Lehigh Valley Charter Academy

Elem. – I Don’t Like Rain

Dillard, Sarah. I Don’t Like Rain. Aladdin, 2020. Unpaged. 978-1-534-40678-0. $17.99. PreK-1.

Rabbit finds a pine cone and begins to play catch with his animal friends. When they notice dark clouds, Rabbit’s friends go inside because they do not like playing in the rain. Rabbit sadly returns to his house as the rain comes down. Then, he notices that Bird is having fun playing in a rain puddle and puts on a raincoat to join him.  The other animals also come outside to join in on the fun, which once again is put to a halt when the rain stops. But this time, they all enjoy what happens next. The colorful digital illustrations of the anthropomorphized animals were created by the author.

THOUGHTS: This picture book is a good choice for rainy day storytimes. It shows the value of being positive and making the most of a disappointing situation.

Picture Book          Denise Medwick, Retired, PSLA Member

Elem. – The Weather’s Bet

Young, Ed. The Weather’s Bet. Philomel Books, 2020. 978-0-525-51382-7. Unpaged. $18.99. Grades K-2.

The Wind and the Sun may be a familiar Aesop fable to many adults but a new puzzle for young readers. Ed Young has recreated the fable into The Weather’s Bet with his usual collage and mixed media. We see a young shepherd with a red cap who becomes the unknowing target of a bet between the wind, rain, and sun above. While wind and rain seek to use forceful methods of persuasion, the sun patiently waits for its gentle warmth to win out. Young brings in an environmental note in the forward and introduces several Chinese pictograms to symbolize the competing weather. It’s a good bet that children will appreciate and discuss this fabled work with fresh voice and vision.

THOUGHTS: The story length is ideal for a short storytime, and can easily be compared with other fables and versions of the story. The moral is not overt, so a discussion with classes would be recommended. Recommended for K-2.

398 Folklore          Dustin Brackbill, State College Area SD

Elem. – Sunny

Krampien, Celia. Sunny. Roaring Brook Press, 2020. 978-1-250-31660-8. 36 p. $17.99. Grades K-3.

Attitude is everything, and your outlook can make even the dreariest of circumstances appear in a different light. When it’s raining outside and everyone else’s spirits are down, Sunny believes it’s the perfect day to use her big yellow umbrella. She splashes happily to school until a gust of wind lifts her up and carries her above her seaside town and out over the ocean. Most people would agree blowing over an ocean during a storm is terrible, but Sunny enjoys watching the tumbling waves. The story progresses in this vein, with Sunny looking on the bright side of every obstacle she encounters, and ultimately relying on the help of some new friends to get her back where she needs to be. Bold illustrations, featuring a palette of primarily teal and yellow, are perfectly in sync with the nautical vibe of the story.

THOUGHTS: This book will be a natural fit for morning meetings focusing on the benefits of a positive outlook, and it will also prompt discussions about what to do and what you can control when a situation is looking bleak.

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

Tags: Emotions and Feelings. Optimism. Weather fiction.

YA NF – The Book of Chocolate; Jack London; Girl Rising; When the Sky Breaks

Winchester, Simon.  When the Sky Breaks: Hurricanes, Tornadoes, and the Worst Weather in the World.  Smithsonian/Viking, 2017. 978-0451-476357  $22.99  88 pp.  Gr. 7-12.

Simon Winchester, amateur meteorologist, follows his award-winning When the Earth Shakes: Earthquakes, Volcanoes, and Tsunamis (2016) with a second book which focuses on hurricanes (also known as cyclones or typhoons, depending upon rotation and hemisphere), tornadoes, El Nino, La Nina, and why these events occur.  He profiles Hurricane Sandy’s life and effects on New York and New Jersey in 2012; the deadliest U.S. hurricane on record, the Great Galveston Hurricane which hit Texas in 1900; a Hong Kong hurricane he experienced in 1995; one 1974 hurricane which leveled Darwin, Australia; Typhoon Haiyan which hit the Philippines in 2013; and of course, Hurricane Katrina which devastated New Orleans in 2005.  Through his often-suspenseful explanations, he explains meteorological instruments; the Coriolis effect (of the rotation of the earth on winds, causing circular wind patterns); the U.S. squadron of hurricane hunters; and the Walker Circulation, named after Gilbert Walker, who proved that “if something meteorological was happening on one side of the ocean, the exact opposite was happening on the other side” (53).  How to maintain public safety while not ‘crying wolf’ amid often unpredictable ferocious storms is the work of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminstration (NOAA) and the National Weather Service (NWS).  While hurricanes may pummel land with wind and water, tornadoes have “just” wind, but they more than make up for it with the ferocity and speed of the winds (the highest rating is EF5 at 201+ mph).  Winchester states that our world is warming, and the Pacific Ocean will “carry the world’s heat burden on its own” (77), but that “the world will eventually allow itself to come back into balance” (77).  Still, Winchester pushes for better efforts to clean up our world, for our own sake and for the future.  Recommended Reading, Index.  THOUGHTS: A solid addition to science and STEM collections.

551.5  Weather             Melissa Scott, Shenango High School

 

Newquist, H.P. The Book of Chocolate: The Amazing Story of the World’s Favorite Candy. Viking, 2017.  978-0670-015740. $17.99. 156 pp. Gr. 5-12.

Beginning with “What is chocolate, really?” and detailing how the cocoa (cacao) tree grows, Newquist begins the absorbing story of how the chocolate industry grew (to enormous proportions) and how the chocolate we eat is influenced by continent and makers.  Chocolate has been used as a drug, as money, as aphrodisiac, and daily is used as a delicious treat.  The Mayans and the Aztecs traded cocoa; Columbus was initially unimpressed with the beans, but once Cortes understood the bitter Aztec cocoa beverage (and was treated as the god Quetzalcoatl), he seized numerous plantations and re-routed the cocoa—and the recipe for the cocoa drink—to Spain.  Its popularity grew among the wealthy.  When people tasted it, they wanted more.  Demand was huge for this drink, and fortunately, many were experimenting with flavors and pressing.  Not until 1847 was the chocolate bar born; in 1875, milk chocolate (courtesy of Henri Nestle and Daniel Peter).  Just four years later, Rodolphe Lindt created the “conch” machine that made chocolate smooth, pourable, and revolutionary; he kept his methods secret for two decades.  Milton Hershey in Pennsylvania thus created his own methods to make a smooth milk chocolate and form an empire.  The candy battles were just beginning.  Newquist brings humanity to the history of chocolate, explaining how greed and flavors, advertising and demand would influence the industry in both the United States and in Europe (where Hershey’s chocolate are sneered at as inferior).  Newquist is complete in his explanation of chocolate manufacturing today and small chocolate makers worldwide, and what chemically makes chocolate so addictive.  He does include information on the dark side of the chocolate trade: human slavery on African plantations, and how companies are trying to address the issue.  And if you’d like to know the most popular chocolate brand in the U.S today?  It’s M&M’s!  Glossary, sources, index.

THOUGHTS: Newquist has created a highly readable account of the history of chocolate, colorful and full of research and photos.  Anyone who likes chocolate or who wonders about the major producers or future of the industry will enjoy this book.  More suitable for younger readers than Kay Frydenborg’s also interesting Chocolate: Sweet Science and Dark Secrets of the World’s Favorite Treat (2015).  This could also be paired with Gillian Richardson’s Ten Plants That Shook the World (2013) or Michael O. Tunnell’s Candy Bomber: The Story of Berlin Airlift’s ‘Chocolate Pilot’” (2010) or any examination of industry and economics.

338.4; Chocolate Industry              Melissa Scott, Shenango High School

 

Lourie, Peter. Jack London and the Klondike Gold Rush.  Henry Holt & Company, 2017. 978-08050-97573  $18.99  192 pp.  Grades 5-12.

One year in the life of Jack London; one year that killed many other men; one year that gave him all the fodder he needed for his exceptional stories about the gold rush and life in the harsh outdoor conditions of the Klondike.  In 1897, London joined the hordes of men headed on a 500-mile journey to the Klondike with hopes of finding gold.  While some found gold, many more did not.  London’s youth, optimism, physical strength and ability to connect with people helped him with his group.  Lourie wisely adds London’s own words about the experience, heightening the terrible reality of lost lives and dreams.  Photographs, sidebars and illustrations by Wendell Minor provide needed visual insight into the people and the dangers.  Lourie ends with notes from the author, notable places, a timeline of London’s life, bibliography and index. THOUGHTS:  This is not biography of London’s entire life, nor is it meant to be.  Covering this year of inspiration (which ended when London developed scurvy) can easily inspire young people to seek out London’s novels and short stories.  London’s personality comes through as a persistent and optimistic man.

Biography          Melissa Scott, Shenango High School

 

Stone, Tanya Lee. Girl Rising: Changing the World One Girl at a Time. Wendy Lamb Books, 2017. 978-0553-511468  $22.99  195 pp.  Gr. 7-12.

Girl Rising began as a film featuring the stories of nine girls whose situations (arranged marriage, forced slavery, and cultures that enabled it) had kept them from getting an education.  When she saw this film, author Tanya Lee Stone felt compelled to learn more, “What are the major obstacles to education, and what causes them in the first place?  Why are these issues so much more of a problem for girls than for boys?  What can we do about what seems to be an overwhelming global problem?” (preface).  She found that in more than fifty countries, school is not free.  Most often, it is the girls who are kept from school.  Poverty, gender discrimination and cultural expectations leave many families with limited choices.  Child marriage, slavery, and human trafficking exist even in countries where they are illegal.  Stone focuses largely on two sections in her book: The Stories and The Solutions.  Girls from Cambodia to India, Peru to Nepal, their faces draw readers to read their words.  The combination of clear photography, stark stories, and the girls’ own words makes this book a powerful push for change.  Excellent bibliography shares books, articles, reports, websites and videos (which could be useful to share with students to drive home the reality of the girls’ lives).  What Stone shows us is at once heartbreaking and hopeful.  The only drawback is the lack of any map identifying countries, to illustrate the truly worldwide nature of this problem.  THOUGHTS: It is hard to stop reading this book, since the stories are so compelling and the danger so real.  And it would be so easy for these girls to be broken.  But many are standing up, speaking out, even while (in many cases) being very careful to reveal their identities for fear of revenge against themselves or their family members.  This book shows the despair, and it shows the hope for these girls and for the world to experience their intelligence, their talents, and their bravery.  This would be a wonderful complement to fiction such as Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns (Afghanistan), Staples’ Shabanu (Pakistan), or Gloria Whelan’s Homeless Bird (India). Also consider nonfiction: I am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World (2014); I am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorce (2010); and Laura Scandiffio’s excellent Fight to Learn: The Struggle to Go to School (2016), which details this worldwide problem for both genders and has proven popular among my high school students.

371.8 Girls & Education              Melissa Scott, Shenango High School

 

Elementary NF – This or That? Weather; Thor

weather

This or That? Weather series. North Mankato: ABDO, 2016. $17.95 each. 24 p. Gr. K-3.

Doudna, Kelly. Cloud or Fog? 978-1-62403-953-9.

Doudna, Kelly. Tidal Wave or Tsunami? 978-1-62403-956-0.

Doudna, Kelly. Winter Storm or Blizzard? 978-1-62403-958-4.

Plattner, Josh. Hail or Freezing Rain? 978-1-62403-954-6.

Plattner, Josh. Hurricane or Waterspout? 978-1-62403-955-3.

Plattner, Josh. Tornado or Dust Devil? 978-1-62403-957-7.

This series seeks to help children identify the differences between similar kinds of weather, such as hail and freezing rain or hurricanes and waterspouts. The text is structured so that the two kinds of weather are compared on each two-page spread. For example, the first two pages of “Hail or Freezing Rain?” compares the two by saying “Hail falls from the sky. It is ice. It freezes before it lands,” on page 4, while page 5 says “Freezing rain falls from the sky. It is water. It freezes after it lands.” The books have several large, colorful photographs of each kind of weather to help demonstrate the concepts on each page. This series would work both as an introduction to various kinds of weather and as a simple mentor text for comparing facts on two similar things. The text is easy to read and understand and some text features add extra information. Each title has a Table of Contents, a glossary, an “At a Glance” chart comparing the two types of weather, and an experiment to help demonstrate how one kind of weather forms or works. THOUGHTS: A serviceable addition to the realm of easy nonfiction weather books. The strength here is the comparison feature of two items.

551.5; Weather; Science      Lindsey Long, Nye & Conewago Elementary Schools

 

thor

Bowen, Carl, and Eduardo Garcia. Thor vs. the Giants: A Viking Graphic Novel. North Mankato, MN: Stone Arch , 2017. 978-1-4965-3487-3.  55 pp. $20.99. Gr 3-6.

Norse Mythology may not be quite as commonly known as its Greek, Roman, and Egyptian relatives, but a certain Norse superhero has been slowly changing that. This unique graphic novel brings the style of Marvel’s Thor into the ancient Norse world where gods and giants were constantly at war. Told through the eye of Odin, the readers see three myths come to life in short order. There is plenty of trickery, jealousy, humor and violence in the graphic tales, but nothing too over the top. The active illustrations and fast paced story will catch plenty of new fans.  THOUGHTS: Try these, and then compare them to other versions, or even to the Marvel version of Thor. Hopefully this collection makes for natural extensions, from Riordan’s work to classic mythology.

Graphic Novel; Mythology     Dustin Brackbill, State College Area