What’s in Your Pocket?

September 24th, 2021 · Books

WHAT’S IN YOUR POCKET? by Heather L. Montgomery is a nature-focused picture book that spotlights everyday childhood adventures as inspirations for famous scientists in various fields. George Washington Carver, Jane Goodall, Diego Cisneros-Heredia, and Mary Anning are just a few of the children who grow up to be important discoverers and scientists. The book is engaging and simple, and the connection between childhood curiosity and its joyful (and sometimes messy!) side effects will ring true for many readers. With the growing emphasis on outdoor education and connecting to nature, families and educators are sure to find this non-fiction book inspiring and entertaining.

Highlights include being kind to living beings (Darwin’s sister convinces him to stop collecting and killing beetles, Diego Cisneros-Heredia and his mother return a lizard to the wild) and the repeated incidents of children’s joy in the wonder and diversity in nature. The beautiful illustrations by Maribel Lechuga are perfectly matched to the childhood adventures and discoveries. With nature-based colors and expressive expressions, the focus on joyful curiosity is apparent. The drawings of butterflies, sea creatures, and even milkweed pods are realistic enough to spark interest in further research.

A caveat: readers should know that creatures like worms, slugs, butterflies, and sea creatures are all presented as “discoveries to collect.” This presents an important opportunity for families to discuss the ethics of treating living creatures with respect and how scientific discoveries may bump up against those ethics. Age appropriate emphasis is possible within the spectrum of vignettes depicted. For example, William Beebe’s childhood curiosity encourages him to take eggs from a bird’s nest; this example can give clear guidance to younger readers of what to observe and not collect. Older readers will be able to respond to the inserted questions throughout the book about the differences between collecting and removing from an ecosystem, observing, categorizing, or even killing. The author includes “My Rules for Collecting” at the end of the book that includes respect for nature, people she lives with, and herself. Included is a reminder the it is sometimes illegal to collect some items and to only collect plants and organisms that are not alive. She also mentions the alternatives of taking a photograph or drawing a picture instead of removing something from its environment. I would have liked to see more of these “rules for collecting” within the text of the book, but it’s a comprehensive list overall.

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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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