animals, children, history

Maisie Mammoth’s Memoirs


Author & Illustrator: Rob Hodgson
Contributor: Prof. Michael J. Benton
Publisher: Thames & Hudson
Genre: Children / History / Animals
ISBN: 978-0-500-65206-0
Pages: 48
Price: $19.95

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Maisie Mammoth lived during the Ice Age, and she considers herself a popular socialite. In Maisie Mammoth’s Memoirs, she introduces us to some of the animals she knew in her day.

After a brief description of the Ice Age, Maisie introduces us to her personal assistant, Buttercup, who unfortunately fell in a bog and remained preserved in ice. Then she provides a tour around the world, sharing fun facts about each of her friends. As she introduces them by name, she explains a little about their diet, habits, body characteristics, and the dangers they faced.

When a woolly mammoth narrates, Ice Age information goes from hum-drum to fascinating. I highly recommend Maisie Mammoth’s Memoirs for anyone interested in Ice Age animals (and Neanderthals).

Reviewer: Alice Berger

history

So You Want to be a Ninja?


Author: Bruno Vincent
Illustrator: Takayo Akiyama
Publisher: Thames & Hudson
Genre: Children
ISBN: 978-0-500-65210-7
Pages: 96
Price: $14.95

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Eddie, Kate, and Angus are back again, and this time they’re exploring the possibility of becoming a ninja. But first, they need to learn some secret-keeping skills, because ninja don’t actually exist.

In order to be successful as a ninja, they will need to learn how to dress the part, since ninja need to blend into their surroundings. They will also practice walking on tiptoes and even on all fours, in order to be completely silent. And they will work with ninja weapons and learn how to break into buildings without being discovered. Unlike becoming Vikings or Roman Soldiers, this time they will most likely not have to kill anyone.

So You Want to be a Ninja? is a fun, tongue-in-cheek look at how to be a ninja. I found it very entertaining, and it will be a big hit with kids – especially boys – who will enjoy the author’s sense of humor. I highly recommend it.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

writing

Story Power


Author: Kate Farrell
Publisher: Mango
Genre: Writing / Story telling
ISBN: 978-1-64250-197-1
Pages: 272
Price: 18.95

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At one time, before TV and radio, people sat around together in the evenings and told stories. Being a great story teller was considered an art form, and people loved to listen. But with the advent of other entertainment options, the art of story telling has all but disappeared. Story Power gives us some pointers on learning this useful skill.

Telling your own stories can be fun. It can help you share your unique legacy and family folklore, give you the ability to market yourself through sharing your experiences in a particular area, or you can publish your stories. In this guide, the author works through her story telling process using examples of her own and other people’s stories, then gives exercises for the reader to work through on her own.

Story Power is a terrific resource for becoming a great story teller. I highly recommend it.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

children, nature

Pop-Up Volcano!


Author: Fleur Daugey
Illustrator: Tom Vaillant
Publisher: Thames & Hudson
Genre: Children / Nature
ISBN: 978-0-500-65222-0
Pages: 20
Price: $29.95

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Volcanoes can be deadly, but they’re fascinating to study. Pop-Up Volcano! is a fun resource explaining how volcanoes form and what happens when they explode.

Pop-up images fill this short book, along with information on various volcanoes. Whether on the ground, under the sea, or even on other planets, these volcanoes are fun to explore. Kids will enjoy this unique look at one of nature’s most dangerous formations.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

tween

My Life in the Fish Tank


Author: Barbara Dee
Publisher: Aladdin
Genre: Middle grade
ISBN: 978-1534432338
Pages: 320
Price: $17.99

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Zinny Manning couldn’t anticipate how her life would change when her brother, Gabriel, is involved in an automobile accident. Her family had always been normal, or at least as normal as it could be. But now Gabriel has been diagnosed with a mental illness, and she doesn’t know how to deal with it.

Her Mom has told her not to tell anyone, which means her best friends can’t know about it. And what about the Lunch Club that she’s recently been invited to? Keeping the secret feels wrong, but it’s the only thing she knows how to do. Thank goodness her favorite teacher allows her to work on the class project while she’s supposed to be at lunch, giving her a safe refuge. But is that really all she needs?

My Life in the Fish Tank is an honest but hopeful look at the family dynamics around a mental health diagnosis. Each of Zinny’s family cope in the only ways they can handle, and the family structure appears to be breaking down around them. But ultimately, Zinny and her family come to accept Gabriel’s condition and work with him to get better. Zinny is a likeable and real character, and I highly recommend this heart-warming middle-grade story.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

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