history, tween

The Summer We Found the Baby


Author: Amy Hest
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Genre: Middle-grade / Historical fiction
ISBN: 978-0-7636-6007-9
Pages: 192
Price: $16.99

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Eleven-year-old Julie Sweet and her six-year-old sister, Martha, are on the way to the dedication of the new children’s library in Belle Beach, Long Island. They have been spending the summer there along with their dad, and are looking forward to the big event. But when they discover a baby in a basket on the library steps, all thoughts of the celebration are gone.

Bruno Bel-Eli is on his way to catch a train to New York City when he sees Julie carrying the baby away from the library. Convinced she’s kidnapping it, he follows them.

Told from all three perspectives, this unusual summer day unfolds slowly, like peeling the layers of an onion. Each of the three main characters expresses their thoughts on the world around them in the midst of World War II, and what they’re feeling about the baby. There is a mystery surrounding her arrival at the library, and by the end of the story, the secret is revealed.

World War II has drifted from our collective memory, and this book shows us what life was like when our nation was in the midst of this war. Not knowing if loved ones would return – or tragically finding out they definitely wouldn’t – hangs in the background as we learn more about Belle Beach and its inhabitants. My only question is why the mother decided to place the baby in the basket on the library steps in the first place, since she reveals herself before the day is over. But otherwise, The Summer We Found the Baby is an interesting and enjoyable read.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

children, computers, science

Code This!


Produced by: National Geographic Kids
Genre: Computers / Science / Children
ISBN: 978-1-4263-3443-6
Pages: 160
Price: $16.99

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Programming can be fun for kids, even if they don’t actually use a computer. Code This! provides step by step exercises designed to introduce them to this fun and useful skill.

Puzzles and games show how to move robots and frogs based on the instructions they are given. In the process, kids learn algorithms, constraints, loops, and debugging, as well as many other coding concepts. Exercises build on each other, and the processes become more complicated. By the time they complete this book, they will have a good understanding of how coding works, and be ready for the real thing.

Code This! is a perfect introduction to computer programming, and can be used at home and in classrooms. I highly recommend it.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

children, nature

The Big Book of Blooms


Author & Illustrator: Yuval Zommer
Publisher: Thames & Hudson
Genre: Children / Nature
ISBN: 978-0-500-65199-5
Pages: 64
Price: $19.95
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Author & Illustrator: Yuval Zommer
Publisher: Thames & Hudson
Genre: Children / Nature
ISBN: 978-0-500-65229-9
Pages: 56
Price: $14.95
Buy it at Amazon

Flowers are beautiful and they’re also fascinating to study. If kids have ever wondered what a Venus flytrap eats, how strong a giant water lily is, or if flowers bloom at night, The Big Book of Blooms will answer their questions.

After a brief introduction to the various types of flowers and their anatomy, this guidebook visits some of the more interesting varieties for a more in-depth look. Kids will study venus fly traps, cacti, wildflowers, and stinking flowers, as well as many others. Bright and colorful illustrations fill the oversized pages.

And if kids still want to learn more, they can have fun with The Big Sticker Book of Blooms, which includes “more stickers than there are prickles on a cactus.” I highly recommend this fun and whimsical two-book set for all budding naturalists.

Reviewer:  Alice Berger

animals, children

If I Had a Sleepy Sloth


Author & Illustrator: Alex Barrow and Gabby Dawnay
Publisher: Thames & Hudson
Genre: Children / Animals
ISBN: 978-0-500-65194-0
Pages: 32
Price: 14.95

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What would be the perfect pet for this little girl? A sleepy sloth, who will help her slow down and relax. Sloths are the perfect companions for hammocks, meditation, and simply hanging around.

If I Had a Sleepy Sloth is a cute rhyming book sharing all the benefits to having a sloth as pet. Kids will love this adorable, lovable creature, and probably ask Mom and Dad for a sloth of their own. (Parents, consider yourselves fore-warned!) I highly recommend it.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

Christian, men

Calling


Author: Pierce Brantley
Publisher: David C Cook
Genre: Christian / Men
ISBN: 978-0-8307-8073-0
Pages: 224
Price: $17.99

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Many men see their jobs as nothing more than a weekly paycheck, but Pierce Brantley doesn’t agree. Instead, he asks men to see their jobs as a calling that has meaning and purpose. But how can they find that purpose in the daily grind? Calling shows them how.

Throughout this book, Brantley shares his own experiences of growing up and working at various jobs. He has been laborer and business owner, and he shows how each has worked to further God’s will in his life, using the Bible as a reference. And finally, he shows men how to see the same purpose in their own lives.

As a woman, I was disappointed that the author chose to direct this book exclusively to men. Women can also benefit from his thoughts about following God’s will in our workplaces. But overall, I thought that Calling offered a fresh perspective of turning our daily work over to God to use for his highest glory.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

children, creativity, science

This Book Thinks You’re an Inventor


Author: Jon Milton
Illustrator: Harriet Russell
Publisher: Thames & Hudson
Genre: Children / Science
ISBN: 978-0-500-65176-6
Pages: 96
Price: $14.95

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Kids may not realize it, but they might be able to think like an inventor. If they’ve ever thought there was a better, faster, or smarter way to do something, or if they’ve ever thought about creating a useful tool to make their lives easier, they just might be an inventor. This Book Thinks You’re an Inventor taps into kids’ creativity to explore this concept.

This is no boring science book that kids will read cover to cover. Instead, they dive right in with exercises and experiments that teach them how to see things differently. Are they a doer, a refiner, or a dreamer? They can take the quiz to find out their own inventor style. Tinkering with bridges, engineering a new hairdo, or building paper skyscrapers with minimal tools are just some of the experiments they will enjoy.

Kids love to be creative, and they will have loads of fun with This Book Thinks You’re an Inventor. I highly recommend it.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

animals, children, nature

Bats


Author & Illustrator: Gail Gibbons
Publisher: Holiday House
Genre: Nature / Children
ISBN: 978-0-8234-4354-3
Pages: 32
Price: $18.99

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Bats are amazing creatures, but many people are afraid of them. They are harmless animals that care for their young, help control the insect population, and pollinate plants. And right now they are in danger.

Since people don’t understand much about these mammals, they destroy their habitats. Pollution and pesticides also threaten bats. And now, they face a terrible disease called white-nose syndrome that has killed many bats.

Bats may be associated with Count Dracula but they’re not scary at all. In fact, they will probably never come near you. Bats provides a wealth of information so kids can learn all about these nocturnal animals and develop a healthy respect for them. I highly recommend it.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

children, nature

Hoot and Howl Across the Desert


Author & Illustrator: Vassiliki Tzomaka
Publisher: Thames & Hudson
Genre: Children / Nature
ISBN: 978-0-500-65198-8
Pages: 56
Price: $19.95

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It’s hard to survive in harsh desert conditions, but many animals and plants not only survive, but thrive. They’ve adapted to fit into their environments. Hoot and Howl Across the Desert shows us some of these deserts and the animals and plants that live there.

First, kids learn the definition of a desert, and may be surprised to learn about Antarctica. While focusing on each of the deserts, certain plants and animals are featured, as the author shows us some of their unique characteristics. Illustrations draw on indigenous and folk art local to each featured desert.

There is a wealth of information about the inhabitants of the world’s worst living conditions, and kids will enjoy reading about them all. They may even be inspired to learn more about these intrepid creatures. I highly recommend Hoot and Howl Across the Desert.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

Christian

The Hope of Glory


Author: Jon Meacham
Publisher: Convergent Books
Genre: Christian
ISBN: 978-0-593-23666-6
Pages: 144
Price: $22.00

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In commemorating the Passion of Christ, Christians often focus on the last seven words of Jesus. Taken from the Gospels, these last words express essential Christian truths. The Hope of Glory is a collection of meditations on each of these last words, beginning with an explanation of their significance.

These words are:
The First Word: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”
The Second Word: “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
The Third Word: “Woman, behond thy son!” “Behold thy mother.”
The Fourth Word: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”
The Fifth Word: “I thirst.”
The Sixth Word: “It is finished.”
The Seventh Word: “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.”

These meditations originally were spoken from the pulpit in 2013, and focus on the Jesus’s message of love, grace, and extraordinary mercy. The Hope of Glory would be a great read during the Lenten season.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

food & drink

Wine: A Beginner’s Guide


Author: Ken Fredrickson, Master Sommelier
Publisher: Rockridge Press
Genre: Food & Drink
ISBN: 978-1-64611-04-4
Pages: 160
Price: $14.99

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Wine is simple to drink, but complicated to understand. Why do people recommend white wine with some foods, and red wine with others? How does wine pairing really work? If you’ve always been curious, Wine: A Beginner’s Guide will answer these and many other questions for you.

First, the author explains the wine-making process from harvest to bottling. Then he touches on the various flavor elements in wine that give them their distinct tastes. Various reds, whites, sparkling and dessert wines are described in detail, along with regions where they may be found. Once we understand what we’re looking for, he explains the tasting process. Finally, we learn how to pair food and wine in combinations that will work best for us.

Ultimately, how we taste and perceive a wine is up to our own individual taste. But with Wine: A Beginner’s Guide, we’ll be ready to select our favorites quickly and easily. This book is a perfect guide for the wannabe sommelier.

Reviewer: Alice Berger