Justin Bieber, published by Lerner, 2013
While Bieber enjoys success and wealth now, the reader will learn that he grew up quite poor, living with a single mother and sleeping on a pull-out couch. He always loved music and his mother and grandparents encouraged him to sing at home and in church. Reading about Bieber’s rise to fame makes for interesting reading, and the fact boxes add zip.
Your Mission to Jupiter, published by Magic Wagon, 2012
Hooray! A mission to Jupiter! “You couldn’t really go to Jupiter,” the book begins. Oh. Well, imagining it is pretty fun, too. Cartoon illustrations of a boy (a stand in for “you”) and his Chihuahua in a rocket ship simulate a fantastical trip to the faraway planet. Each spread devotes itself to one area: “Imagine you could squash all the planets into one. That planet would only be half as heavy as Jupiter!” Meanwhile, smaller facts further clarify the lesson: “If Jupiter were a giant bag, you could stuff more than 1,400 Earths inside it.” Burroughs’ illustrations remain too close to the boy astronaut to bestow any real sense of scale, but we nevertheless learn about a lot of cool stuff, from the Great Red Spot to the famous moons of Io and Europa. Higgins never takes her eye off the story, either: “You’re tired by now . . .you can’t wait to return to planet Earth.” The slightly heavier “How Do Scientists Know about Jupiter?” closes out this fine entry in the Planets series.
Brief but well stocked with details, these titles invite readers to travel to a planet to explore both its surface and interior or, in the case of Earth, to observe from space. … the content is well presented both in main narratives and in closing summaries.
–School Library Journal
Henry and Hala Build a Haiku, published by Norwood House, 2011
“Henry and Hala Build a Haiku: Poetry Builders” is part of the Poetry Builders series using a picture book format to instruct students in grades 2–4 in the how-to’s of creating poetry in specific forms. Fun approaches to writing haiku poetry are described along with specific steps that describe a good creative and refining process. Kids will enjoy the “zing” of creating a good haiku and will clamor for more.
—Midwest Book Review
Children curious about dramatic weather, or those writing reports, will find what they need in Higgins’s succinct texts. . . . Each opening spread places readers in the middle of the action. Thunderstorm, for example, invites them to imagine that “It’s afternoon, but the sky is very dark. Suddenly there’s a flash of light!” Successive chapters describe related science (sometimes accompanied by diagrams) and scientists, events, and a minimum of safety information. Sidebars drizzled throughout offer additional tips and facts.
—School Library Journal
It’s a Tsunami! (Weather Watchers), published by Magic Wagon, 2010
Geared for classroom use, this title in the Weather Watchers series uses succinct text and nonthreatening illustrations to give a basic overview of the earth’s most dangerous tides. It begins with warning signs: Water on the shore starts heading out to sea. The ocean starts bubbling. From there, we are given glimpses of the tips of buildings peeking through an ocean crest and workers helping with a clean-up effort, while being supplied with some simple science lessons involving earthquake forces and maps. Smaller type is used for frequent factoids, such as, “Most tsunamis are about as tall as a telephone pole. A big tsunami could be as tall as a seven-story building.” The only specific disaster cited is the December 26, 2004, tsunami, but the book is nevertheless a fine way to educate young children about a word they might overhear from adults.
Fiona and Frieda love to act out fairy tales. Usually Frieda takes on the evil witch role, while Fiona favors princesses and fairies, but the real fun begins when the girls invoke MRP, their magic rhyming powers. Their incantations make the real world recede, thrusting the third graders into a fantasy realm where they handle such emergencies as, in Cinderella, a ruined ball gown and the prospect that the poor heroine might not even make it to the ball. Knowing the story endings gives the girls a definite advantage, though their contribution of such modern devices as a digital watch alarm that can remind Cinderella to leave on time presents a new challenge. In Goldilocks, the duo discovers that the three bears are really pandas residing in a bamboo forest. Goldie is now in a new adventure—she is being pursued by the notorious big bad wolf. When the friends help Hansel and Gretel to find their way out of the subway, they become imprisoned by the witch along the way, and use the facts of the original story against her. . . . [T]hese fractured fairy tales, accompanied by simple, black-and-white line drawings, offer solid independent-reading choices as well as ideas for dramatic play.
—School Library Journal
As readers discover the author’s fractured tales, they will look forward to more books in the series. . . . “Fiona & Frieda’s Fairy-Tale Adventures” can be used as read-alouds, to inspire creating original renditions, and for incorporating speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills into the curriculum. When using one’s imagination, there are no limits, particularly as two best friends use magic rhyming powers to transform fairy-tales into the real world.
—Children’s Literature (www.childrenslit.com)
These books include maps, full-color illustrations or black-and-white reproductions on every page, sidebars, quotes from journals and other writings, and short biographies of relevant people. Missions [Spanish Missions of the Old West] covers the time period from the 1600s to 1830s and the settlement by the Spanish of Mexico and the parts of North America that are now the states of New Mexico, Texas, Arizona, and California. Because the Spanish did not have enough people to settle in the New World, they sent priests to try to convert the Indians to Christianity and a European way of life. The book describes the various types of mission communities and makes comparisons among them . . . [a] useful supplement to the study of United States history.
—School Library Journal
This is an outstanding new series, which is historically accurate with titles that read like novels. The artwork includes reproductions of paintings, drawings, and maps from the period, mixed with color photographs of objects and places. Short profiles of famous people, documents, and explanatory notes are placed in the margins so as not to disrupt the flow of the narrative. Quotes from primary source documents are scattered throughout and set apart from the narrative. . . . Highly Recommended.
—Library Media Connection
These breezy introductions to the parks touch on camping, hiking, picnicking, and other outdoor opportunities such as horseback riding, ranger tours, or do-it-yourself drive-through and overlook stops. . . . Beautiful images capture the natural landscapes and the rich variety of flora and fauna found in each area. Visually compelling with interesting texts, these titles also offer some sound advice, such as to take binoculars and to start at the visitor center. Just a bit of history is supplied to whet readers’ interest. Serviceable jumping-off points for prospective visitors or armchair travelers.
—School Library Journal