Category Archives: Children’s Book Reviews

Non-Fiction Children’s Animal Books!

My two younger children adore reading and learning about animals so much so that that has been the bulk of our reading for the past 8 months.  There are two favorites that I will discuss first and then two more that we read after requesting them from netgalley which I will review subsequently.

 

National Geographic Animal Encyclopedia: 2,500 Animals with Photos, Maps, and More! by National Geographic Kids

Pages:  304

Published: October 23, 2012

 

 

 

 

 

This book is fabulous!  I cannot believe this book that is so densely packed with information entertained my 4 and 6 year old nightly for a period of 6 months.  I might have thought the content would have been too dry, describing the diet, habitat, size and lifespan of animal after animal, however, my children were riveted.  The book is divided into sections by taxonomy:  mammals, birds, fish, invertebrates, amphibians reptiles.  Within each section, each page is devoted to a particular animal group and then goes more in depth on 8-10 particular species of that group.  I personally loved learning so much about all these animals.  We would make each page a game with me quizzing my children at the end of each page to see how much they retained.  Our  “Guess the Animal” game in the car has become quite sophisticated as a result of this book.  I loved how at the end of each taxonomy there is a page that goes into records: biggest, fastest, most poisonous, etc.  There are also pages describing researchers studying animal species in the wild which has served as a source of professional inspiration for my son.  If you have an animal lover in your family, I cannot recommend this book enough!  The photos are stunning, the maps detailing where the animals live are highly educational and there is so much depth to this book for great discussion to occur.  

 

Did You Know? Animals by DK Publishing

Pages: 144

Published: May 17, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

Having already tackled the National Geographic Encyclopedia of Animals, there was great enthusiam when this book entered our house, especially from my 4 year daughter.  This book was exactly what she wanted.  She would carry it around the house, begging for someone to read it to her and once it was finished, we would start again at the beginning.  Each page focuses on one animal species and starts with a question to get you thinking.  It discusses the answer to the question and gives descriptive information about the animal with arrows from the text to the relative anatomy.  It usually talks briefly about a couple of other animals who may have a similar behavior or adaption.  Then there is a “quick quiz” which covers topics that usually have not been covered in the text.  This did not cause concern for us.  We usually discussed the question, made a guess and then checked our answers in the back.  The re-reading was satisfying for my daughter because she was able to remember many of the answers to these “quick quizzes,” most of which we had been guessing at the first time around.  The photos are beautiful, the text engaging, and as demonstrated in our family… a great book for reading over and over.  

 

“Different?  Same!”  by Heather Tekavec and  Pippa Curnick (Illustrator)

Pages:  32

Expected Publication Date: May 2, 2017

 

 

 

This is a beautiful and playful animal book that seeks to engage young readers by pointing out differences between groupings of widely different animals and then asking what similarity exists.   The similarity might be stripes, horns, whiskers or shells.  It  is wonderfully written and beautifully illustrated.  It was engaging and fun to read with my four year old.  I would highly recommend this to readers 2-5 years old.  It makes you consider animals in different ways and think about why these vastly different animals might all have horns, whiskers, shells, etc.  We had fun with the last page of the book, pointing at various animals that all had a particular characteristic or habitat.  This is a great book for re-reading and generating discussion! 

 

“Animals Do Too!:  How They Behave Just Like You”  by Etta Kaner and Marilyn Faucher (Illustrator)

Pages:  32

Expected Publication Date:  May 2, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

This book asks the child a question followed by a discussion of how a particular animal likes to do the same thing.  It is playful in that it makes animal behavior seem childlike and fun.  A couple of examples are:  honeybees dance and gazelles play tag.  There are eight such children activity – animal behavior comparisons explored in this book.   This is a great read for any young animal lover, aged 2-5.  

 

“Striker, Slow Down!: A Calming Book for Kids who are Always on the Go” by Emma Hughes, Illustrations by John Smisson

 

29980765

 

 

Pages: 40

Expected Publication:  October 21, 2016

 

 

This is a cute picture book about a cat who is alway wound up, keeping busy, running circles around himself.  It is full of gentle reminders to slow down, relax, find quiet.    My 6 year old summed it as “a book about finding peace.”   Interestingly, I have an 8 year old who is this “on-the-go”, “can’t-sit-still” personality.  My 6 and 4 year olds with whom I read the book with, had trouble identifying their brother in this story.  This would be a lovely book to read with a child who has these tendencies, as a reminder that it’s ok to slow down, especially in today’s society where there is so much emphasis on starting sports and other activities so early.  In today’s world we are always telling are children to go, go, go.  This is a nice reminder to children and parents alike that it’s great to slow down, breath, think, be.  The illustrations are lovely: simplistic and fun.  It makes sense that a yoga instructor wrote this, someone who has a practice of patience, of mediation.  This is definitely something our children need more of in life, which is easy to forget.   I recommend this book highly, especially for anxious children, or those with ADD.3-stars

 

Discussion Questions:

  1.  Do you know anyone who acts like Striker?
  2. How does Striker finally calm down?
  3. What ways do you find to calm down?
  4. What activities do you find relaxing?
  5. What activities make you anxious?

 

“The Pruwahaha Monster” by Jean-Paul Mulders, Illustrations by Jacques Maes and Lise Braekers

 

28964168

 

Pages: 26

 

Expected Publication Date:  October 4, 2016

 

 

 

This is a gorgeous picture book with a beautiful story in such a unique format.  I loved it to pieces and, even as a parent, I could read it over and over, discovering new bits of language and illustration to enjoy and appreciate.

There is a foreward that lets the reader know the the story is told by a father as he pushes is son on a swing.  The story he tells is slightly scary, about a monster looking to eat a boy, however, the moral is empowerment for the boy not acknowledging the monster.

I love the shape of the book, being long and narrow.  Even though I read an electronic version, I could envision holding this shape in my hands.  The words are usually contained only on every other page, drawing you further into the beauty and importance of the illustrations, which really go hand and hand with the story.  The story would be nothing without the illustrations, and vice versa.  I love the detail of the illustrations and the writing, the way the words invite you in to search for the acorn, the bicycle, the bird poop.  The father tells the story through the voice of the monster which leaves the reader guessing and searching, but maybe also knowing all along who he is.   It is lovely that the 5 year old boy is unfazed by the monster.  It is a beautiful story with a wonderful moral that is perfect for discussion with children about the meaning of monsters, especially ones of their own creation.

The writing is beautiful.  It doesn’t shy away from difficult vocabulary.  It is descriptive and invokes all the senses:  vision, smell, touch, noise, taste.    I love the short sentence series, that seem childlike, about what the monster sees, about the foods that the monster does not like.  I love the different type sizes and fonts to remind the reader to speak those words with different volumes or inflections.   Most of all, I love the open-ended-ness of the story, the feeling of mystery, the wanting to go back and search through the pictures and words for answers.  Gorgeous!!  I recommend this to 5 year olds and their parents everywhere!  images

Discussion Questions:

  1.  Why wasn’t the boy afraid of the monster?
  2. Who was the monster?  Was he real?
  3. What keeps us safe?
  4. What is a monster?
  5. What happens when he boy does not acknowledge the monster?

 

 

“Gracie Meets a Ghost” by Keiko Sena

 

29363131

 

Pages: 32

 

 

Expected Publication: October 1, 2016

 

A perfectly timed ghost story for children!  Gracie is bespectacled rabbit who loses her glasses while playing in the mountains with her friends.   She goes in search of them, bumbling around into other animals, helpless without her glasses.  A friendly looking ghost attempts to scare her, however, because she cannot see the ghost she isn’t frightened.  She promises she will look at the ghost once her glasses are found.  The ghost appears kind and searches all night for her glasses.  Upon putting the glasses on, it is daylight, and the ghost has now vanished.  This is a cute ghost story that is nonthreatening.  It is a story that would be great to read with a child who needs to wear glasses, as the book brings up some great talking points around this.  The illustrations are playful and sweet.  I recommend this book for children ages 3-5, especially those who might need glasses.  images-2

 

 

 

“Pedro, First Grade Hero” by Fran Manushkin, Illustrated by Tammie Lyon

 

29058868

 

Pages:97

Expected Publication:  September 1, 2016

 

 

 

 

This is an early reader chapter book.  It is full of positive messages, word repetition, simple grammar and plenty of well done illustrations to help decode vocabulary.  I read it with my 6 year old and felt that it was very appropriate for his reading level and interest.  He very much would like to be reading chapter books and this is the perfect easier chapter book for him.   There is a lot of silly humor within this book and at the end.  It is the kind of humor you expect to hear a drumroll with to emphasize that it is funny, the kind of humor adults don’t appreciate so much, but 5-7 year olds think is hilarious.   I give itimages-2 and recommend it to 5-7 years, depending on reading ability.

Discussion Questions:

  1.  Is Pedro a hero?  Why or why not?  What do you think makes someone a hero?
  2. What do you think makes someone good at soccer?
  3. What kind of qualities do you think are important in a class president?
  4. If you were going to form a club with your friends, what kind of club would it be?
  5. Do you have a favorite bug?

Fran Manushkin’s webpage

“The Night the Stars Went Out” by Suz Hughes

 

29058875

Pages:  33

Expected Publication:  August 1, 2016

 

 

This is a children’s picture book featuring an alien who shines stars and makes no time for friends or play.  One night the stars go out and he goes to earth in search of magic star varnish.  He realizes that as he develops a friendship with a boy on earth that he didn’t need the varnish, he only needed friendship and joy in his heart.  It is beautifully illustrated.  I love that this book teaches children about friendship and balance. This book requires certain leaps of faith to keep up with the plot and logistics (alien floating on earth, boy and alien communicating by phone between earth and outer space), but children are more forgiving of these things.  I would give this 3-stars and recommend it to 2-6 year olds.

Discussion Questions:

  1.  Do you think there is an alien who polishes stars?
  2. What is gravity?  What happens when people go into outer space?
  3. Why is friendship and play important?  Who are your friends?  What are your favorite things to play?

Suz Hughes Website

“Herbie’s Big Adventure” by Jennie Poh

29058881

 

Pages:  41

Expected Publication Date: September 1, 2016

 

 

This is a beautifully illustrated, endearing story of a hedgehog about to set out to forage on his own for the first time.  It teaches about seasons, a mother’s love, leaving home, and separating from mom.  It explains what foraging is.  It teaches what it means to be brave, to overcome fears.  Indirectly, it also teaches about hibernation.  I interpreted the giant snowman in the story as a version of “Old Man Winter,” telling the animal to go to sleep, to hibernate.   When Herbie awakens, it is spring and he reunites with his mother.  The story is told in a way that all the senses are involved.  The words are noisy, soft, soothing, windy, rough, cold, wet at all the right times.  It is an adventure for all the senses.   The illustrations are lovely: sweet and natural, with special appeal to children.  I give this book images-2 and would recommend it to 2-6 year olds.

Discussion Questions:

  1.  What is foraging?
  2. Why does Herbie fall asleep while he is out foraging?
  3. What season is it when he returns home to his mother?
  4. Why was he gone so long?
  5. How long do you think he was hibernating?

Jennie Poh’s Blog

“The Most Magnificent Thing” by Ashley Spires

18383325Pages: 32

Published:  April 1, 2014

Awards:  OLA Forest of Reading Blue Spruce Award Nominee (2015), Christie Harris Illustrated Children’s Literature Prize Nominee (2015)

 

Wow!!  What an amazing book with a beautiful, truly insightful message for young children!  I just loved it through and through!!  It is the story of a little girl who wishes to create “the most magnificent thing.”  Despite all her efforts it does not come out as planned.  She is frustrated and upset, but is able to calm herself down with a walk.  When she returns to look at her work, she slowly realizes the goodness and rightness in pieces of what she has created and is able to work with that to achieve something she is quite happy with and proud of. It is a message that even adults need to hear and can learn from.

The illustrations are lovely.  I love the black and white backgrounds against the colorful foregrounds where the action is happening.  I love the writing style and think that there is so much new language and vocabulary that can be developed in the reader by the reiterations of different verbs and adjectives in the sentences.  This is a book that can be read again and again, and new things will be noticed, learned and appreciated.

I received this as a netgalley ARC, so was surprised when I read it to my children and they told me they had already heard/read it “thousands” of times at school.  I now realize, it had been published 2 years earlier, so I’m not at all surprised that schools are making this a part of the curriculum and school experience.  I highly recommend this to all children ages 3-10! images  It is wonderful!!

 

Discussion Questions:

  1.  What is the most magnificent thing that she attempts to make?
  2. What are some of the ways she tries to modify what she made so it will be as she imagined?
  3. Why does she get so upset?
  4. What does she do to calm herself down?
  5. What is something you would like to create?  How would you like to go about making it?  Do you think you might get frustrated along the way?  How might you help yourself to calm down?
  6. Do you think taking a break from work might be a good thing?  Why?
  7. If you were to have an assistant help you with your magnificent thing, who would it be?  Why?
  8. Do you think it’s ok to not be able to make something exactly the way you wanted to?
  9. The girl in this book, keeps trying, she perseveres… what do you think would happen if she just gave up after she got mad?

Ashley Spires’ website

Teaching Guide for The Most Magnificent Thing

“Too Many Moose!” by Lisa Bakos

27015381

 

Pages:  40

Expected Publication:  July 5, 2016

 

 

A memorable, masterful story that is melodious, metrical, mesmerizing, merry and  amazing.

My children immediately picked up on the alliteration throughout the book.  “Mom, did you notice that the moose spend all their time doing M things?”  This is a whimsical tale of a girl who mail orders a pet moose.  It is so fun to read because of the rhyming, alliteration and poetic format.  The illustrations by Mark Chambers are a perfect fit. They, too, are cheerful and comical.  This book is pure delight.  I give it images and would recommend it to all 3-8 year olds!

Discussion Questions:  (My children & I had a great time discussing this one.)

  1. What letter do you keep hearing throughout the book?  What are some examples?
  2. Do you think a moose would make a good pet?
  3. If you were to order an animal for a pet, what would you choose?  Why?
  4. Would you get upset if your pet moose used all of your shampoo?
  5. How many pets do you think are reasonable?

Lisa Bakos’ website