What if You Could Sniff Like a Shark?

August 9th, 2021 · Books

WHAT IF YOU COULD SNIFF LIKE A SHARK? is a fun and informative picture book is all about the amazing “superpowers” of various ocean animals. Author Sandra Markle has collected the wonderful abilities of sharks, jellyfish, the giant octopus, sea turtles, and more and paired them with fun ways kids could utilize them. The inventive and silly scenes are followed by interesting facts about each animal. The book provides fantastic opportunities for imaginative conversations and learning about the featured ocean animals. 

Highlights in the book include learning about the giant Pacific octopus’ siphon as an escape mechanism, seeing the massive claws of a coconut crab up close, and checking out the firefly squid’s ability to create light. The photographs are paired with Howard McWilliams’ fanciful illustrations of kids enjoying the “superpowers” of each ocean creature. The colorful, larger-than-life images contrast with the detailed photographs and facts. Readers of all ages will certainly learn something and revel in the scenes throughout the book.

Highly recommended. 

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Banana Fox and the Secret Sour Society

August 5th, 2021 · Books

BANANA FOX AND THE SECRET SOUR SOCIETY by James Kochalka is a wild, colorful, Super Sour Soda fueled ride. This is the kind of graphic novel that (sometimes) grates on caregivers, but delights its 6+ audience. The heavy-inked lines and bright colors draw the eye to the action — and there is a lot of action! The great detective Banana Fox is taking time off to work in a banana smoothie shack where he slurps up most of the profits. When he meets an admirer he names Flashlight (because she carries a red one), they soon embark on crime solving that brings them to a Banana Fox fan club, sticky sewers, and face-to-face with Sour Grapes, Jr., the number one rival of Banana Fox. The action is non-stop, and so are the gross jokes and giant turtles. Of course, Banana Fox overcomes the trickery of his rivals in the end, and he even learns that his new friend’s name is not Flashlight, but Sharyanna.

Readers in the intended age group will love reading this very silly and sour book, and caregivers may come around to enjoying it as well. This is a very good thing because book #2 is coming in the fall. Banana Fox and the Secret Sour Society is the perfect book to finish off the summer.

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Everything Awesome About Sharks

August 2nd, 2021 · Books

The full title of this fantastic non-fiction book by Mike Lowery is EVERYTHING AWESOME ABOUT SHARKS AND OTHER UNDERWATER CREATURES. The cover promises “totally shocking facts!” and the book certainly delivers. The colorful book is broken up into parts like “Out Amazing Oceans!” “SHARKS!” and “Extreme Marine Habitats.” Each section is stuffed with really amazing information (Do you know what Point Nemo is? How about what The Bloop! actually was?) and delightful illustrations that accentuate facts and entertain readers.

Lowery’s pacing is excellent for the intended audience of 7-10 year olds; he doesn’t give away prime nuggets right away. He uses interest in sharks to educate about fish in general. And he touches on various shark facts to juxtapose characteristics and preferences to highlight unique attributes. Then POW! Lowery inserts a “fun fact” about what has been found inside sharks’ stomachs. It’s the perfect balance between real-life horror and cartoonish glee for its readers.

The book also spotlights the coral reefs and some of the thousands of species that live in them, the glowing creatures of the Deep Sea and the Dark Zone (hello, Vampire Squid!), and even narwhals make an appearance. Part Five is short, but in its “Save the Sharks” theme it points out that plastic has been found in 100% of sea turtles and that by 2050 the ocean will contain more plastic than fish. Ugh! The section concludes with some tangible actions young readers can take to help stem the flow of plastic into the oceans.

The drawing style and comic-like captions are aimed at the older elementary crowd, but more mature readers will definitely learn a lot and find the style hilarious as well. The information is digestible and fun, and it doesn’t talk down to readers or waste time with the obvious. Everything Awesome About Sharks and Other Underwater Creatures is highly recommended!

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July 27th, 2021 · Books

ALLERGIC by Megan Wagner Lloyd and Michelle Mee Nutter is a graphic novel that addresses allergies to animals, and so much more. Maggie, the main character, is feeling alone at home and at school. Her parents are preparing for a new baby, her twin brothers have each other, and on top off all that, she’s in a new school. Everything starts from there and it is the likable Maggie’s optimism despite disappointment that powers through this story.

Maggie’s birthday trip to an animal rescue for a dog turns into rashy, sneezing misery. Then a visit to the allergy center tells her she is allergic to anything with fur or feathers, and Maggie expresses anger and sadness, but then starts making a list of pets she won’t be allergic to. Thus starts her Pet Quests. She tries a fish, but she can’t hold it, and it quickly dies. He brothers fall in love with her lizard. A toad should not be handled, and definitely not cuddled with, and hedgehogs are illegal to have as pets. Maggie’s quest for a pet of her own feels impossible!

At school, she’s the new kid without anyone to talk to. Then Maggie’s allergies cause the class pet to be moved to another classroom, and worse, the whole class knows it’s because of her allergies. ALLERGIC expresses the mortification and agony of a ten-year-old perfectly. And as with many middle grade conflicts, Maggie’s pain gets better when she meets a new neighbor and experiences a fresh infusion of activity and friendship. And of course, new drama and conflicts.

What ALLERGIC does thoughtfully and realistically is layer middle grade drama with a very specific challenge that is not often dealt with in novels. Maggie’s allergies to “fur and feathers” present very real restrictions to her life, especially when her new friend gets a dog. And the ways in which Maggie rebels against her allergies come across as true-to-life and relatable. Another effective aspect of Allergic is how Maggie and a boy named Sebastian educate each other (and the reader) about various types of allergies.

One area of concern for families who are animal-welfare focused is the beginning of the book when Maggie is searching for a new pet. While the animal rescue scene is unproblematic in its treatment of adoption, Maggie’s quick run-through possible animals on her list of “no fur, no feathers” pets doesn’t come across as responsible treatment of pets. Maggie’s brothers suddenly inherit two of the pets (a lizard and a hermit crab), and a fish dies and is flushed, and the (pregnant) mouse Maggie sneaks into her room is sold to a ten-year-old without supervision. Caregivers may want to preview the first part of the book and think about navigating conversations about responsible behavior when it comes to animals we welcome into our lives.

Overall, ALLERGIC is a wonderful story about adjusting and finding joy in different scenarios when we hit roadblocks. Highly recommended.

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