Review of Washed Ashore, by Kelly Crull

Washed Ashore

Making Art from Ocean Plastic

by Kelly Crull

Millbrook Press, 2022. 40 pages.
Review written October 8, 2022, from a library book
Starred Review

This book is the kind I can’t resist showing to my coworkers on the spot. The art is stunning. The subject is convicting. And the overall presentation is mind-blowing.

Yes, I knew that there’s lots of plastic trash in the ocean. But this book makes you feel the magnitude.

This book documents the work of Angela Haseltine Pozzi and her organization called Washed Ashore. They make animal sculptures out of trash found in the ocean.

Washed Ashore shows large photographs of fourteen of these sculptures. They give facts about the ocean animals portrayed and how they’re affected by plastic trash. They also list tips for reducing plastic trash in the ocean. And across the bottom of each spread, there are objects for you to find in the sculptures.

It’s finding those objects that makes you look closely and get your mind blown with all the junk. It also helps you realize just how big these sculptures are. Some of the objects to look for include a cigarette lighter, sunglasses, an inhaler, a steering wheel, toothbrushes, multiple toys, shoe parts, and even the front of a stereo.

And the art itself is stunning. Looking closely and realizing what it’s made of makes the achievement all the more remarkable.

Take a look at this book. I don’t believe that you can fail to be moved.

kellycrull.com
washedashore.org
lernerbooks.com

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Review of A Seed Grows, by Antoinette Portis

A Seed Grows

by Antoinette Portis

Neal Porter Books (Holiday House), 2022. 36 pages.
Review written August 30, 2022, from a library book
Starred Review

As I write this review, I’m still deciding whether to put it on my Picture Books page or my Children’s Nonfiction page as an example of beginning nonfiction for the very very youngest listeners. I think I will put it on the Picture Books page, because this is the kind of book I’d love to use in a story time or to read to a small child on my lap, and I don’t usually look on the Nonfiction page for such books.

In fact, for years, I’ve kept my eyes open for picture books with very few words on a page to use for Toddler story times and their shorter attention spans. Even though I’m not doing story times any more (with my new awesome job as Youth Materials Selector), I have to point out that this book would be perfect for that — and it teaches little ones about the life cycle of plants in a way they can understand, so it would also work for a STEM story time.

There are few words on a page and they’re short and sweet, and the bright, colorful illustrations use simple shapes. Here’s how the book starts out:

A seed falls

[That’s on a white background. The facing page shows one striped sunflower seed falling against a blue background.]

and settles into the soil

[Now we see the same blue background with a stripe of brown at the bottom and the seed sitting on top of that.]

and the sun shines

[Now the facing picture is a big round sun.]

and the rain comes down

[Now the picture side has raindrops filling the page.]

and the seed sprouts

I think by now you get the idea. Very simple language and simple, colorful pictures show the entire process of a sunflower growing. When it grows to its full height, the page folds upward to show how tall it gets.

After the sunflower blooms, it makes seeds which birds take to their nests. Eventually, to end the book, a seed falls. And we’re back to where we started.

Three pages at the back give more information for readers a little bit older, including a diagram of the life cycle of a sunflower plant.

This book is simple, but the bright blue and yellow colors leave me smiling.

antoinetteportis.com
HolidayHouse.com

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Review of Kitten Lady’s Big Book of Little Kittens, by Hannah Shaw

Kitten Lady’s Big Book of Little Kittens

by Hannah Shaw

Aladdin (Simon & Schuster), 2019. 56 pages.
Review written July 11, 2020, from a library book

A big thank-you for my co-worker Pam Coughlan for alerting me to this book. Reading it makes me sad we didn’t get to booktalk in the schools this year – because the many, many adorable photographs of little kittens that fill this book would make it an absolutely certain hit.

The book is written by the “Kitten Lady,” who fosters hundreds of kittens every year, getting them to a point where they can be adopted into a forever family.

Fostering is when you give temporary care to a homeless animal. Once the kittens are healthy and old enough, they go to a permanent home with a loving adopter, and then my house is empty so I can save even more kittens.

It’s like a revolving door of tiny tigers!

She goes on to talk about the care the kittens need and steps in their growth. It’s all loaded with photographs. I think my favorites are the ones of kittens learning to eat solid food. I had no idea that kittens could be just as messy as babies – more so, because instead of putting their hands in the food like babies, kittens put their feet in the food.

Of course, that was also the page that kept me from rushing out to foster a kitten myself. Be warned that if you expose your kids to this book, you should probably be prepared for them to want to start a new family activity of fostering kittens.

But if you just want an overload of cuteness, this book will do the trick.

KittenLady.org
simonandschuster.com/kids

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Source: This review is based on a book from Fairfax County Public Library.

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Review of All in a Drop, by Lori Alexander

All in a Drop

How Antony van Leeuwenhoek Discovered an Invisible World

by Lori Alexander
illustrated by Vivien Mildenberger

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019. 93 pages.
Review written April 2, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review
2020 Robert F. Sibert Award Honor

This book is about the man who discovered that there were tiny organisms in drops of water. And what surprised me is that even the members of the Royal Society in London didn’t believe him for a whole year after his report.

Born in 1632 in the Netherlands, Antony van Leeuwenhoek never studied science, and he became a draper, a seller of cloth. But to examine cloth closely, they used magnifying lenses. After a trip to London, where he saw a book about a new invention called a microscope, Antony decided to make one himself.

What fascinated me is that Antony didn’t make just one microscope and then look at many different things. Instead, he’d glue his specimens to a base, and then make a new microscope to look at that thing. He devised a system, and he’d shape the glass and screw the lenses into focus. They ended up being the best microscopes in the world at the time.

And Antony proceeded to make discoveries. He discovered that insects didn’t spontaneously generate, as was thought at the time. And he found “little animals” in rivers and streams and also in people’s mouths. In fact, he made discoveries in many different fields of science without ever being trained as a scientist, but simply a curious person.

I love it when I read a children’s book and learn about someone I knew nothing about. This short chapter book is full of fascinating information and tells about a man who changed the way we see the world.

lorialexanderbooks.com
vivien.mildenberger.com

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Review of Bringing Back the Wolves, by Jude Isabella, illustrated by Kim Smith

Bringing Back the Wolves

How a Predator Restored an Ecosystem

by Jude Isabella
illustrated by Kim Smith

Kids Can Press, 2020. 40 pages.
Review written August 22, 2020, from a library book

Bringing Back the Wolves is not flashy, but it’s simply presented nonfiction in a picture book format – and I learned a whole lot.

This book explains that all the wolves in Yellowstone National Park were gone by 1926. The government had offered a bounty on wolves and other predators in its quest to tame the west. But what nobody at the time realized was that would affect the entire ecosystem.

The book talks about the food web and food chains. But it shows that wolves affected the ecosystem far beyond ways you’d expect. Especially effective for me were spreads at the beginning and end of the book showing a valley in Yellowstone’s northern range in 1995 just before wolves were reintroduced, contrasted with a picture of that same valley twenty-five years later.

In between those spreads, it’s clearly laid out how much the wolves affected. First, it was the large herds of elk, which in 1995 were five times larger than in 1968. Fewer elk affected which plants and trees could survive and thrive. That affected animals in the middle of the food chain as well as bringing more birds and raptors to Yellowstone. Then, especially affecting the landscape, beavers came back, building dams and reviving the ecosystem on their part. Songbirds returning mean that the park even sounds different than it did in 1995. I’d no idea how much is affected, down to the insects in the soil.

Here’s how the author finishes this book, on the spread with the picture of the revitalized valley:

Twenty-five years after their reintroduction, about 500 wolves roam the greater Yellowstone ecosystem, staking their claim in the food web. Wolves have helped to balance the ecosystem just by being themselves, apex predators. But perhaps even more important, studying the wolves has exposed just how complex and interconnected the ecosystem is, revealing surprising links no one could have imagined.

kidscanpress.com

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Review of Even More Lesser Spotted Animals, by Martin Brown

Even More Lesser Spotted Animals

More Brilliant Beasts You Never Knew You Needed to Know About

by Martin Brown

Scholastic, 2019. First published in the United Kingdom in 2019. 52 pages.

Even More Lesser Spotted Animals is, not surprisingly, a sequel to Lesser Spotted Animals, which I reviewed in 2017 and booktalked in the elementary schools.

I’ve got a soft spot for Martin Brown’s illustrations. He’s the illustrator of the Horrible Histories books that my son devoured when he was in elementary school. As in Horrible Histories, he puts comical speech bubbles in the illustrations and makes them tremendously entertaining. He also knows how to pull out the most interesting information to kids.

Like its predecessor, this book focuses on species and subspecies that nobody ever talks about. Many of them have entertaining quirks. The forest musk deer, for example, is a deer that sits in trees. And the dingiso is a kangaroo that lives in trees. Then there are sengis, which are as small as a guinea pig with a nose and appetite like an anteater.

In this book, I learned about the existence of both kangaroo rats and rat kangaroos. You might think bears are too common to appear in this book, but did you know that the Syrian Brown Bear doesn’t live in Syria? It is also vulnerable to extinction. The maned wolf is not actually a wolf, but a dog that looks like a fox with long legs.

Those are some of the interesting animals this book explores, with a spread for each animal and a box of basic facts about each one. The fun parts are the cartoons that occur throughout the book. Give this book to a child who enjoys animal facts, and they’ll absorb all kinds of information. An entertaining way to learn. And as the author says in the Introduction, “But how can we help something survive if we don’t even know it exists?”

scholastic.com

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Review of The Tide Pool Waits, by Candace Fleming, pictures by Amy Hevron

The Tide Pool Waits

by Candace Fleming
pictures by Amy Hevron

Neal Porter Books (Holiday House), 2022. 40 pages.
Review written May 27, 2022, from a library book
Starred Review

The Tide Pool Waits is a beautifully simple picture book about a complex scientific topic. I learned things I didn’t know about tide pools, and it was presented in a way that even small children can understand.

The main text is simple. We meet many different kind of creatures in the tide pool. After each one is presented, we see the words, “They wait.”

Here’s the last group:

There are others, too.
Under rocks.
In the tangle of floating, fanning seaweed.
Beneath the sand and between patches of sponge.

They all wait.

And wait.

And wait.

But then the waves crash! They wait for just the right time to sweep over the shore.

They surge over barnacles, mussels, and snails,
stir the tangle of seaweed,
shake the crevice-cracked rocks,
rise higher and higher and higher until . . .

the pool is part
of the sea once more.

The tide has come.
The wait is over.

Then the book looks at those same creatures we already met, and we see that they do different things now that the tide has come in. Sea anemones bloom, barnacles open their shells and eat, various animals hunt, and some return to the open sea.

There’s a flurry of activity until the tide goes out again.

At the back of the book, there’s “An Illustrated Guide to This Tide Pool.” We learn more about the specific animals featured and their place in the tide pool and how their behavior changes when the tide is in or out. There’s even an illustration on the last page showing which creatures live in which zone of the tide pool — where different zones get different amounts of water.

So the main text is simple language, suitable for storytime. But the back matter fills out the information for curious older readers like me. The illustration style is bold and simple — and does make the different creatures easy to distinguish.

A marvelous beginning science picture book.

HolidayHouse.com

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Review of Wait, Rest, Pause: Dormancy in Nature, by Marcie Flinchum Atkins

Wait, Rest, Pause

Dormancy in Nature

by Marcie Flinchum Atkins

Millbrook Press, 2019. 32 pages.
Starred Review
Review written October 22, 2019, from a library book

Here’s a children’s picture book about science simple enough to use in Preschool Storytime – yet it taught me some things.

The book looks at six creatures that go dormant for some amount of time. Each one gets two spreads, the first about what happens when they are dormant, and the second about what happens when they are active again. The language is simple and repetitive between creatures, and the spreads are filled with big, beautiful pictures.

Here’s an example:

If you were a dormant ladybug, you would…
fatten up,
pile up,
stiffen up.

You would swarm into a ladybug pile, sharing warmth together.

You would pause.

In spring you…
wiggle awake,
feast,
flit away.

The dormant creatures featured include trees, ladybugs, Arctic ground squirrels, chickadees (dormant for a few hours on cold winter nights), alligators, and earthworms (dormant when it’s too dry).

Here’s how the book finishes off:

If you were dormant, you would be…
silent,
still,
waiting,
just waiting,
until…

maybe the spring,
maybe the warmth,
maybe the rain
helps you…
stir,
burst,
appear!

This is a simple and clear science presentation for very young learners. There are more details at the back, including different types of dormancy.

marcieatkins.com
lernerbooks.com

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Review of Crazy Contraptions, by Laura Perdew

Crazy Contraptions

Build Rube Goldberg Machines That Swoop, Spin, Stack, and Swivel
With Hands-on Engineering Activities

by Laura Perdew
illustrated by Micah Rauch

Nomad Press, 2019. 122 pages.
Review written April 13, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review

This is another book I’d planned to booktalk in 2020 but hadn’t actually gotten around to reading until the library closed for the pandemic. I still hope to booktalk it some day, and I’d even like to do a Rube-Goldberg-Machine-Building program inspired by its approach.

This is a book that teaches kids how to make Rube Goldberg machines, or I should say inspires kids to create their own Rube Goldberg machines.

I love the approach. First, they start with the overall concept and tell about Rube Goldberg. But then they present each of the six types of simple machines and suggest activities of trying out that type of simple machine in your own creation.

For example, here’s the first activity in the Inclined Planes chapter:

Use an inclined plane and something that can roll or slide down the plane to knock over an object. Yes, this is a ridiculous little task! That’s what crazy contraptions are all about.

With each activity, they have the reader brainstorm ideas and supplies, draw a plan, build, test, evaluate, and possibly redesign.

The next exercise has you build a pyramid and use two inclined planes to knock it down.

Further activities include ringing a bell using both a lever and an inclined plane, watering a plant using a homemade conveyor belt (with wheels), rolling dice using at least one inclined plane, one lever, one wheel and axle, and one pulley, and launching a boat with a contraption that includes a wedge that separates or splits two things apart.

Challenges at the end include making a over-sized contraption in your yard and making a micro-sized contraption that you can fit in a box.

It’s all fun and playful and just packed with science. There are QR-codes linked to videos that demonstrate related principles. I confess I didn’t follow the QR-codes, but kids who do will become even more engaged.

I went through a time when I was a kid that I loved making domino runs. This book will take kids far beyond that. Perfect for kids who like to tinker.

nomadpress.net

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Review of What Linnaeus Saw, by Karen Magnuson Beil

What Linnaeus Saw

A Scientist’s Quest to Name Every Living Thing

by Karen Magnuson Beil

Norton Young Readers, 2019. 256 pages.
Review written January 14, 2020, from a library book.

This book is a middle school and up biography of Carl Linnaeus, who founded the science of taxonomy by coming up with a system to classify and name all creatures on earth. He even thought at the time that he could complete this task. But in his attempt, he furthered scientific progress tremendously by giving scientists all over the world a way to know they were talking about the same animals.

Carl Linnaeus was born in 1707 in Sweden. His parents badly wanted him to be a pastor, but he wasn’t suited for that at all. He headed into medicine, much to their disappointment – being a medical doctor wasn’t a respected profession at that time. But it was a profession suited for someone obsessed with botany, the study of plants. At those times, doctors made their own medicines. His study of plants and his methodical nature ended up changing the world.

Part of what’s so interesting about this story is how differently the world was seen in those days. Something that earned Linnaeus fame was determining that the Seven-Headed Hydra of Hamburg was a fake. I love that it took a scientist to figure that out!

The book is full of illustrations, and many of them are reproductions from Linnaeus’s notebooks. There are sidebars with interesting notes, and the story of his life is told in an engaging way. This is an interesting story about someone I never before realized was so important.

nortonyoungreaders.com

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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