Archive for August 20, 2018

The King of Bees

Written by Lester L. Laminack
Illustrated by Jim LaMarche

In a short, entertaining story about Henry, who lives with his Aunt Lilla, the reader learns about both bees and family. The author manages to tell a riveting story without being too scary and imparts information without being didactic. The reader will come away loving bees and hoping the bees survive.

The two live in Lowcountry South Carolina and struggle to make ends meet. Henry wants desperately to help his aunt in any way he can. He’s just a little young for some of the activities that appeal to him. He helps gather the eggs and quickly learns not to break any of them. He watches as his aunt tends her beehives and is fascinated. Aunt Lilla explains how the bees live and how they also work hard. When the bees swarm, Henry tries his best to make sure none of the bees leave him or Aunt Lilla. He’s learning to bee talk. Anxious moments occur, but it all turns out well in the end.

Beautiful illustrations accompany and help tell the story. Even the end papers add to an understanding of Henry’s world.

Recommended for a unit on nature or conservation. Great spark for further exploration.

  • King of BeesTitle: The King of Bees
  • Author: Lester L. Laminack
  • Illustrator: Jim LaMarche
  • Published: Peachtree Publishers, 2018
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 2
  • Genre: Picture Book, Fiction, Nature, Responsibility
  • ISBN: 978-1-56145-953-7
  • Extra: Author’s Note

Many: The Diversity of Life on Earth

Written by Nicola Davies
Illustrated by Emily Sutton

The flora and fauna of the earth are not only beautifully diverse but also interdependent in magnificently complicated ways. The author shows that interdependence in simple terms, highlighting food chains and ways usefulness goes both ways. She also shows how man’s shortsightedness has contributed to the elimination of some vital species. As a zoologist, the author maintains that extinctions need to be stopped.

Wonderfully rich and detailed illustrations show just how busy the earth is, with over two million species identified over the years by humans. Even the end pages get into the act showing many, many plants and animals.

Enough of the text is familiar (elephants and oak trees) to catch a reader’s attention, while enough is new and unusual (Galapagos rosy iguana and microbes that make volcanic lakes brightly colored) to spark curiosity and further research. Recommended for the classroom and for at the home of a budding biologist.

  • Many2Title: Many: The Diversity of Life on Earth
  • Author: Nicola Davies
  • Illustrator: Emily Sutton
  • Published: Candlewick Press, 2017
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 40 pages
  • Grade Level: K to 3
  • Genre: Picture Book, Biology, Ecology
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-9483-8

Blacksmith’s Song

Written by Elizabeth Van Steenwyk
Illustrated by Anna Rich

One of the many methods for passing along information about the Underground Railroad may have been the rhythms of the plantation blacksmith. This is a heartwarming look at how a young boy would have perceived the actions of his blacksmith father. It will help the reader identify with both the conductors and passengers on the railroad.

Late into the night, Pa swings his hammer, giving the passengers direction. As an excuse, Pa tells his master he’s working on a special birthday present for the mistress of the plantation. Pa is an artist with the iron, forming a beautiful gate topped by a bird. When Pa works himself ill, the boy must take the hammer and pound out the rhythms, at risk to his own well-being. Finally, his family takes a journey of their own.

The beautiful illustrations add to the feel and demonstrate the darkness, fear, and hope associated with the railroad. Pa’s creations are reproduced stunningly. Besides the iron bird, he produces a star for the boy, pointing the way to freedom.

Recommended for use with history units, musical studies of spirituals, or as independent reading. It should spark many discussions and suggest many projects.

  • 61HBFeE1G5L._SY438_BO1,204,203,200_Title: Blacksmith’s Song
  • Author: Elizabeth Van Steenwyk
  • Illustrator: Anna Rich
  • Published: Peachtree Publishers, 2018
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 3
  • Genre: Fiction, History
  • ISBN: 978-1-56145-580-5
  • Extras: Author’s Note

Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes, and Stinkers: Celebrating Animal Underdogs

Written by Melissa Stewart
Illustrated by Stephanie Laberis

The theme of this cute new book is that even the non-elephants deserve our respect, if only for the ability to survive. That ability is a combination of camouflage, ability to hide, and other factors. Playful language make the concepts fun. Accurate and detailed illustrations make them easy to understand.

Etruscan pygmy shrews and Amau frogs are so small they escape predators by slipping into holes and cracks. Galapagos tortoises are incredibly slow but can hide inside their strong shells. The hoatzin, a bird, and the zorilla, a weasel relative, scare predators away with their awful smells. The okapi is known for its ability to hide in plain sight. Koalas, giant armadillos, and brown bats get an edge by sleeping a lot and not needing a lot of food. The western fence lizard is so fast, it can catch any number of spiders and insects. It can also lose its balance a lot. Walruses rely on their blubber to keep them warm and act as storage for lean times. Naked mole rats and perfectly adapted to their desert burrows.

More information about each animal is available in the final section. A fun way to learn about animals that may not be featured in your favorite movie.

  • PipsqueaksTitle: Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes, and Stinkers: Celebrating Animal Underdogs
  • Author: Melissa Stewart
  • Illustrator: Stephanie Laberis
  • Published: Peachtree Publishers, September 1, 2018
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: 1 to 2
  • Genre: Nonfiction, Biology
  • ISBN: 978-1-56145-950-6
  • Extras: More about the Underdogs

King and Kayla and the Case of the Mysterious Mouse

Written by Dori Hillestad Butler
Illustrated by Nancy Myers

Kayla and King are busy solving a mystery again in the third installment of this wonderful series for young readers.

King is playing ball with a puppy when his ball gets thrown over the fence. In trying to recover it, they find many other balls, but not King’s. He meets a cat who tells him “Mouse took it.” How could a mouse take a ball larger than itself? The girls list all the clues they know and all the things they don’t know. Then King figures out who Mouse is.

What’s great about this series is that there are enough illustrations to help move the story along and enhance a young reader’s ability to figure out the words. The story is exciting and complicated enough to make the reader think a bit. And the language is simple enough to be readable. Plus, it’s humorous.

Recommended for reading together, reading aloud, and independent reading.

  • Mysterious MouseTitle: King and Kayla and the Case of the Mysterious Mouse           
  • Author: Dori Hillestad Butler
  • Illustrator: Nancy Myers
  • Published: Peachtree Publishers, 2017
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 48 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 3
  • Genre: Early Reader, Mystery
  • ISBN: 978-1-56145-879-0