The Truth About Elephants

December 3rd, 2018 · Books

The tagline for Maxwell Eaton’s collection of The Truth About… books is “Seriously Funny Facts About Your Favorite Animals,” and it proves itself true throughout the 32 pages of the latest installment: THE TRUTH ABOUT ELEPHANTS. Aimed at ages 4-8, the illustrations are colorful, funny, and detailed enough to both entertain and inform. As promised on the cover, there really is tons of information about elephants in the book.

Eaton takes readers through elephant origins, the differences between Asian and African elephants, body parts (did you know elephants have just four teeth?), the make-up of herds, and predators and defenses. All of this information is shared with humor through clever visuals and funny side-notes sprinkled on each page.

The book addresses threats posed by humans as well, including trophy hunting, the clearing of elephant habitats, and development of buildings and roads that slice through elephant land and paths. The threats, both human and non-human, are presented in an age-appropriate manner in both language and illustration.

The Truth About Elephants is a wonderful book for children interested in elephants or animals of all kinds. The three earlier books in this series, focused on bears, hippos, and dolphins, share facts in the same humorous and clever manner. Highly recommended for ages 4-8.


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When You Grow Up to Vote

November 30th, 2018 · Books

Eleanor Roosevelt first published WHEN YOU GROW UP TO VOTE in 1932 to help children learn about leaders and public employees, local first responders and elected leaders from local to national, and everything in between. This knowledge, she hoped, would help future voters make responsible and informed decisions when casting a ballot. Frankly, current voters could probably benefit from reading through the book as well.

Updated by Michelle Markel, who is Eleanor Roosevelt’s granddaughter, and illustrated by Grace Lin with images that reflect the diversity and growing equality of the United States of America, this short and informative book will help readers feel empowered to become an active part of government instead of exasperated and confused by it.

Starting with the important and micro-local work of fire fighters, police officers, and garbage collectors, the book moves on to town and state governments, and how a bill is made into law at the state level. The deepest levels of detail are rolled out for federal government. Not only are the three branches of government mentioned, but each of the sixteen cabinet members (fifteen secretaries and the vice president) and how taxes fuel the entire system.

Eleanor Roosevelt’s sincere desire to entice young people comes through in a conversational tone that is at once simple and straightforward while managing to be entertaining as well. Grace Lin’s illustrations are simple enough for young people to understand, but the diverse and specific details, especially at the federal level, are impressive and instructive. This is a lovely, useful, even fun book that teaches the basics of government and the tenets of citizenship.

Highly recommended for ages 6-12.



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Little Otter Learns to Swim

November 20th, 2018 · Books

With gentle rhymes and a combination of adventure and joy in learning, in LITTLE OTTER LEARNS TO SWIM, author Artie Knapp creates a fun book about a young otter exploring her environment and overcoming her fears. From the first underwater swim to surprising frogs with a dive to Little Otter’s first experience with predators and protection, the tale demonstrates the beauty and dangers of nature while keeping it appropriate for younger elementary school aged readers.

Kids will relate to the fear of the unknown, perhaps even the fear of learning to swim, that Little Otter exhibits. They will also celebrate overcoming those fears. The beautiful illustrations by Guy Hobbs add to the storyline with details including the flora and fauna of Little Otter’s river home. Standouts include the turtles and butterflies, the bobcat pup, the lily pads and cattails, and the hungry chipmunk watching Little Otter from above.

The endnotes of the book include additional facts about North American River Otters and ways to find out more regarding the animals and ways to help them survive. See the book trailer here.

This is a cute book for ages 6-8, although it would make a good rhyming read-aloud book for younger children as well.



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Wild Orca: The Oldest, Wisest Whale in the World

November 18th, 2018 · Books

WILD ORCA is a beautiful picture book filled with anticipation, drama, and a surprising amount of orca information. Told through the perspective of Mia, a young girl who awaits a familiar pod’s arrival. The pod, led by an ancient orca called Granny, hasn’t been seen for many seasons, and Mia is concerned that something is wrong. This trepidation sets up the tension in the story even as the bustle of preparation for the pod’s arrival builds.

Author Brenda Peterson has skillfully intertwined the touching story of Mia’s love for the pod and hope to see them with scientific methods of researching orcas. It feels natural when details about Mia and the San Juan islands drift into information about human-made dangers orcas face and dropping hydrophones into the oceans to listen to orca songs. Peterson tells the story while maintaining the voice of a young girl with emphasis on sounds, inner thoughts, and child-like wonder.

On Lime Kiln Point, Mia wonders: Is another orca stranded? Is Granny dead? No whale whistles. Just the shoosh of waves and the clank-clank of a ferryboat.

The paintings for Wild Orca are stunning. Illustrator Wendell Minor captures both the orca world and the human world with beauty and movement. The underwater and diving orca scenes are especially impressive. And the detail and storytelling images on land help readers picture the setting. I especially appreciated the image of Mia and the community singing and drumming as they await the orca pod. The joyful scenes of orcas splashing in the ocean are contrasted with the anxious work of islanders protecting a stranded whale until high tide. Minor ensures the emotion comes through while maintaining a realistic lens on the events.

Wild Orca is a children’s book that adults will also both enjoy and learn from. Its ability to be entertaining, informative, beautiful and inspiring ensures it will be read again and again. Billed as a tribute to Granny, a beloved orca who lived to be 105 years old, the book includes an endnote that adds detail about Granny, her pod and descendants, and a call to action for those moved by the story.

Highly recommended for ages 4-8 and beyond.


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