Behold the Beautiful Dung Beetle

July 18th, 2018 · Books


After reading Cheryl Bardoe’s BEHOLD THE BEAUTIFUL DUNG BEETLE, you’ll have a newfound appreciation and admiration for the insects. The book, recently out in paperback, details the three types of dung beetles: Dwellers, Rollers, and Tunnelers. The illustrations by Alan Marks are instructive and intricate – and yes, beautiful. Recommended for ages 5-8 (older children and adults will learn a lot too!), the language in this book is direct, factual, and infused with bemused observations even as it reflects a deep respect and enjoyment of the dung beetle.

The information about how dung beetles make use of the animal world’s waste is impressive and wide-ranging. The behavior of the “dweller” dung beetles characterizes them as easy-going: “Being less choosy about the freshness of their dung, many dwellers simply remain at the buffet longer than other dung beetles…” The “rollers” and “tunnelers,” meanwhile, will wrestle and fight each other for the best burrows, balls, mates, and dung mountains.

The book explains how the habits of the dung beetles differ in how they lay eggs as well. Some simply lay eggs where they eat, others create strong orbs of dung that circles the vulnerable egg, and still others will lay eggs deep in the ground, surrounded by dung that will nourish and protect the next generation. Behold the Beautiful Dung Beetle is fascinating and helps reinforce the ways in which every living thing is essential and contributes to nature’s cycles.

See the book trailer for Behold the Beautiful Dung Beetle here.

I received a review copy from the publisher.

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A Place to Start a Family: Poems about Creatures That Build

July 6th, 2018 · Books


A PLACE TO START A FAMILY, by David Harrison, is a collection of 12 poems about animals and the homes they build. Separated into sections for builders underground, on land, in water, and in air, the poems focus on the materials and techniques each animal uses to create a cozy, safe space for their young. The beautiful and lifelike illustrations by Giles Laroche are a mixture of collage, painting and more. Families will notice new details each time they read the book.

While the poems alternate between first and third person, each shares a positive and admiring perspective of the subject’s talents. The termites, for example, “keep a tidy nest” and “no one builds a better fortress” than they do. The yellow garden spider is described as “crafting in the dark” and possess an “ancient weaver’s skill.” A favorite in our house was the star-nosed mole whose “secret tunnels sometimes lead outside, sometimes beneath a ledge or limb, sometimes I even have to swim.” The poems are short enough to read several times, but rich in detail for creating discussion and prompting questions, especially together with the illustrations.

Anticipating wide-ranging questions from readers, additional information for each animal is provided at the end, including suggestions for further reading. The final page even is a bonus section entitled “A Different Kind of Builder,” which includes a poem and information about the sun coral.

A PLACE TO START A FAMILY is recommended for ages 5-9, but children slightly younger and older will find much to enjoy.

I received a review copy from the publisher.




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Sharks: Nature’s Perfect Hunter

May 23rd, 2018 · Books


Shark Week doesn’t come around until mid-July, but the magnificent Science Comics line has a new book out to tide us over. Sharks: Nature’s Perfect Hunter, by Joe Flood, is entertaining, informative, surprising, and its environmental call to action will inspire young readers to pay attention to sharks as co-habitants of Earth and not enemies.

From the opening note by Marine Conservation Biologist, Dr. David Shiffman, to the final frame of this graphic text, Sharks: Nature’s Perfect Hunter doesn’t shy away from focusing the reader’s attention on human responsibility in both the misunderstanding of sharks and the threats to their existence. With mentions of actual shark encounters, Hollywood’s influence, and markets for shark fins and souvenirs, the book firmly and gently places the onus on the reader to do better.

The book spends a good amount time on shark anatomy, including cartilage, organs, and the shark’s impressive sense of smell. With illustrations showing the spinal column, a cross-section of the shark’s body to highlight muscles, and various detailed jaw examples, Joe Flood makes sure readers have a comprehensive idea of how sharks work. This is especially important when the book pinpoints the shark fin trade in all its irony and gore.

A wide array of shark species are highlighted in the text and with colorful and detailed illustrations. Using a narrative that includes a captain and a group of “land-lubbers” who know a lot about ocean life, including sharks, we learn about the terrifying Goblin Shark, the pain-inducing Cookie Cutter Shark, and the toothless Whale Shark. Sharks: Nature’s Perfect Hunter also dips into folklore, prehistoric times, and the shark’s defenses that have nothing to do with its teeth.

The accessible glossary (complete with really cool drawings of shark egg cases!) and a busy Shark Family Tree at the back of the book, make sure young and adult readers alike will find the book entertaining and informative. In addition, you’ll be well-versed in shark facts when Shark Week comes around!

Highly recommended for ages 9-13 and beyond.

I received a review copy of the book from the publisher.



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Dr. Dolittle (1998) and Dr. Dolittle 2 (2001)

April 16th, 2018 · Movies

Girl holding a movie camera - stock image to accompany movie reviewReview By JENNIFER KALI

One weekend, my family enjoyed a movie marathon of “Dr. Dolittle” and “Dr. Dolittle 2.” The first movie tells the story of a doctor (Eddie Murphy) who suddenly realizes he can talk to animals. He spends most of the movie coming to terms with his new reality. in the second movie, Dr. Dolittle used his ability to talk to animals to save a park land which is home to a very rare bear.

My daughter, age 8, loved these movies. There are a lot of visual gags and jokes that she found hilarious. The second movie has a strong animal rights theme. There are a few crude jokes, sexual innuendo, and mild cursing that seemed out of place in this family movie, but it wasn’t overwhelming.

Common Sense Media recommends “Dr. Dolittle” for ages 9+ and “Dr. Dolittle 2” for ages 8+.

This was a great selection for family movie night. Now we are off to see “Dr. Dolittle 3”!

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