Review: You Can Be A Nature Detective


You Can Be A Nature Detective

Author: Peggy Kochanoff

Publisher: Mountain Press Publishing Company, 2009

Source: Public Library

What makes that spit you sometimes see on grasses?

Why do leaves change color?

Can you identify which frog or toad is calling out in the night?

Will that caterpillar turn into a moth or a butterfly?

Whose footprints (tracks) are those?

Why don’t spiders stick to their own webs?

How can a mushroom grow so quickly?

Who built that nest?

Some kids really like the outdoors and are curious about how the natural world works. This book will provide an excellent resource for their explorations. It explains, in simple, easily-understandable language, all of the above questions. It also provides plenty of pictures that further help with understanding.

For a small volume, it packs plenty of information. And if you have a reader who likes this type of book, there are others available, too. Check out this link: for more books by Kochanoff.


August 2018 Introduction

Summertime, and the reading is easy… Well, maybe not easy, exactly, but July and August are hardly the months to start working your way through the works of Germanic philosophers. Save Hegel, Heidegger, and Husserl for the bleaker days of February.

-Michael Dirda


We are already to August and after reviewing my reading pile, I realize it hasn’t grown smaller. It’s far too easy during these lazy summer months to lie in the hammock, “reading” (aka, napping). I may have plenty of time for reading, but I am a far more productive reader when I am at school. Funny how that works, but the busier I am, the more I read. Of course, I am realizing that I have got to get my summer reading done. I can’t be like my students. I can’t be reading my books on the bus into school on the first day. I have to drive there!

I have been to the library, busy researching new picture books and nonfiction selections. I made myself sit there and read them – no hammock napping today! I’m pretty excited about my YA and middle grade August book choices, too. There’s some adventure, a classic and I will be preparing to reveal which books I have read from my 100 Kids Books poster I received in June.

Stay tuned and get your summer reading done. I’ll be trying, too.




July 2018 Round-Up

Check out my reviews for the month of July! You can find links to all of these reviews in the Index!

Let me know in the comments below what books you want me to review next!

Review: They Say Blue


They Say Blue

Author/Illustrator: Jillian Tamaki

Publisher: Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2018

Source: Public Library

In this new picture book by Jillian Tamaki, we get not only a new and unique way of exploring colors and their many variations, but also seasons.

The story begins on a sunny day with a beautiful blue sky. A young girl sitting on the beach notices the water is blue, too. At least for now. Jumping into the waves, she realizes the water is actually clear, which she can “toss… up into the air to make diamonds.” She begins to wonder about colors. She doesn’t need to crack the egg to know the yolk is orange and she knows her blood is red, even when she doesn’t see it.

As the yearly cycle moves on, the grass is golden and the sky changes to deep gray. It’s spring and rain is coming. It’s a sign of new things: a flower blooms, a tree grows its leaves. Summer means lots of activity, whether it be the insects that fly around the tree or children playing ball. Then fall arrives, and the tree loses its golden leaves. Winter comes – a time of white snows and dark, moody skies – and the tree rests.

As the book ends, we are brought once again to the sky. Only this time, it is not blue. As the girl and her mother watch out the window, they notice “the black crows that bob and chatter in the field outside.” The sky is no longer blue, but instead a sea of rich reds and oranges.

With its wonderfully poetic language and its vibrant colors, this book draws us in to nature’s cycles. We begin to think in specifics. They say the sky is blue, but that is not always the case. The grass and leaves are not always green. Each has many variations and Tamaki’s book helps open our eyes to these wonders.

Review: We Don’t Eat Our Classmates


We Don’t Eat Our Classmates

Author: Ryan T. Higgins

Publisher: Disney Hyperion, 2018

Source: Public Library

Penelope Rex is a young Tyrannosaurus Rex who is just about to start school. Her classmates are not other T. Rex youngsters. Nope, they are human children. And human children are delicious.

Penelope has a lot of trouble adjusting to school. She keeps swallowing (and having to spit back out) her classmates. The teacher is never very happy with Penelope when she snacks on her classmates and the classmates aren’t terribly happy with her either. It’s awfully hard for Penelope to make friends. She’s lonely at school. She just doesn’t know how to get the other children to like her; at least, not until Walter the Goldfish gives her a lesson in how to be a friend.

For fans of Ryan T. Higgins (Mother Bruce, Hotel Bruce, Bruce’s Big Move, and BE QUIET), We Don’t Eat Our Classmates is another winner to add to your library. Despite her difficulties in making friends (and plenty of real human children can have this problem, too!), Penelope really is pretty cute and lovable. She just needs a little help learning to understand the other person’s point of view.






Author Review: Cammie McGovern

just my luck

Just My Luck by Cammie McGovern

Several weeks back, The Eric Carle Museum for Picture Book Art had a panel discussion on “Why We Write Middle Grade.” I’ve been working on posts for each of the panelists and this week I am concentrating on Cammie McGovern.

I have already reviewed one book by McGovern, called Just My Luck. You can check out my review HERE.

McGovern’s writing are about young people with disabilities. As she writes in her own website, “I…have felt a little dismayed at how rarely we see their stories in books, movies, and TV shows. This is the largest minority group in the country and also—seemingly—the least represented in popular culture. My hope in telling a few of their stories is that readers will see how much they have in common with other young adults who might look and act quite differently because of a disability.”

I couldn’t agree more!

Learn more about McGovern and her work at



Review: The Girl with More Than One Heart


The Girl with More Than One Heart

Author: Laura Geringer Bass

Publisher: Amulet Books, an imprint of Abrams, 2018

Source: ARC

When Briana’s father suddenly and unexpectedly dies, she discovers that she has a new heart. This heart, which resides in her belly, speaks to her in her dad’s voice and gives her instructions on how to live life now.

The loss of Briana’s father is devastating. She and her dad where so close, much closer than Briana and her mother. Once Briana’s brother Aaron was born, her mother was totally wrapped up in him. All Briana can do is remember the special times she and her dad had together and grieve for his loss.

The rest of the family is grieving, too, and Briana is expected to be the one to hold them together. She is expected to help and deal with the challenges of her demanding (autistic) younger brother, while her mother is unable to anything but sleep. She’s confused about the changed relationships with her friends. Even Grandpa Ben seems unable to help the struggling family. Throughout all this turmoil, Briana hears bits of advice from her heart that speaks in her dad’s voice: “Find them” (mom and Aaron), “Be your own” and “Let go.”

This is the kind of book that makes an emotional impact that lingers with you. For the whole day after finishing the story, I just wanted to cry. It’s realistic and touching, with a surprisingly positive (though no less emotional) ending.


*Note: I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.


Review: The Landscapes of Anne of Green Gables

landscapes of anne of green gablesReview:

The Landscapes of Anne of Green Gables

Author: Catherine Reid

Publisher: Timber Press, Inc., 2018

Source: Personal Purchase

Anyone who has read Anne of Green Gables – or any other of L. M. Montgomery’s books, for that matter – knows that setting is an essential part of the story. Montgomery almost always used Prince Edward Island, the place where she grew up, as the backdrop for her books. But Prince Edward Island is more than just a place; it provides a background that allowed Montgomery to spread the wonder of the natural world which she felt always gave her an inner source of strength. Her stories are rich in sensory detail and help fuel our own imaginations. Anyone familiar with the Haunted Wood or Hester Gray’s garden will know exactly what I mean. It’s no wonder so many fans of Montgomery’s work want to visit the island and experience its beauty for themselves.

For die-hard Anne fans, this book is a must read. There are excerpts from the book, Montgomery’s journals, and other works including her autobiography, The Alpine Path. Reid explores the importance of nature to Montgomery. Although Anne of Green Gables is not autobiographical, there are many similarities between the fictional Anne and the real-life girl Maud (the name by which she preferred to be known). There are also many photographs included, some taken by Montgomery herself. However, the photographs of the modern-day PEI are the most beautiful. Readers might ask: Hasn’t Prince Edward Island changed? Of course, it has. Yet there is still a lingering feeling, the certainty that we, too, can find “a wonderful lightness of spirit and a soul-stirring joy” (pg. 250) when we visit the area – even if only through the pages of this book.

Timber Press has a series of books inspired by classics with an all-important setting. The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh: A Walk Through the Forest That Inspired the Hundred Acre Woods and The World of Laura Ingalls Wilder: The Frontier Landscapes That Inspired the Little House Books are also available. I have not seen these selections – but I will be looking for them!

Review: The Ultimate Book of Sharks

ultimate books of sharksReview:

The Ultimate Book of Sharks

Author: Brian Skerry, with Elizabeth Carney and Sarah Wassner Flynn

Publisher: National Geographic Partners LLC, 2018

Source: ARC

What’s the first thing you think of when someone mentions sharks? Maybe Jaws? Or maybe you think of some other shark attack?

Skerry’s new book, The Ultimate Book of Sharks, goes into great depth about sharks. Are they really the fierce predators portrayed in movies? (Yup, kind of – although there are some that are not.) Does wearing yellow in the water make you more vulnerable to shark attack? (I am afraid that is true, too.) Will sharks really attack a boat? (Well, they will bump a boat and take a nibble. That’s just to see if it is edible. Fortunately, they don’t eat wood or plastic and aren’t vengeful, no matter what the movies portray)

Although you may know a little about sharks – again, thanks to movies – the reality is that there is tons of information most people don’t know. “Sharks, you’ll find out, come in a dazzling variety of shapes, colors, and sizes” (pg. 9). There are about 500 species of shark, with more being discovered all the time! Chapter 1 gives a list of the different shark orders and a sampling of the sharks found in each order.

Sharks are found all over the world and even in the deepest, darkest depths of the oceans. In fact, there are glow-in-the-dark sharks! All sharks have extraordinary abilities. Check out Chapter 2 to learn just how amazing their senses are. “Imagine being able to hear your friend whisper ‘hello’ from the other side of your school” (pg. 43). Or how would you like to have such a strong sense of smell that you can sniff a drop of blood in the water half a mile away? It certainly makes sharks seem even more impressive and fearsome.

Does this book make sharks scarier? No, it helps us gain an understanding of these amazing creatures. (It helps that it clarifies that humans really aren’t on a shark’s diet; usually it is a case of mistaken identity.) It explains the importance of sharks to our ocean and lastly lists ways in which we can help protect sharks.

As always with National Geographic books, the photographs are truly impressive. Skerry’s anecdotes of up-close-and-personal experiences with sharks makes the book seem so much more real that you may forget all about movie version sharks. Well, maybe not entirely, but at least when you are watching you can say, “Hey, that isn’t true!”


*Note: I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.


Review: The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away and Learned His A B C’s (the Hard Way)

little red cat

Photo Source;


The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away and Learned His A B C’s (the Hard Way)

Author/Illustrator: Patrick McDonnell

Publisher: Little Brown and Company, 2017

Source: Public Library

Do you remember the game I Am Going on a Vacation? The first player starts, “I am going on a vacation and I am bringing an apple.” The second player then takes their turn and adds something to bring that starts with a ‘b’. “I am going on a vacation and I am bringing an apple and a banana.” You go back and forth, remembering all the items brought until you get through the alphabet. (When I worked in elementary school, I used to play a variation of this to remember all the students’ names when we all first met!) Anyway, the point is that The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away and Learned His A B C’s (the Hard Way) begins in a similar way. The cat runs out his door and away from his home to be confronted by an alligator, who is then joined by a bear, and a chicken, and a dragon, and an egg. The animals continue on their adventure, meeting all kinds of obstacles: fire (from the dragon), ice, mountainous terrain, a long wait in the restroom line…

If you are tired of boring A B C books that just show pictures of alphabetically arranged items, this adventurous – and hilarious – book will be a refreshing change of pace. There are several ways you could use this book in an interactive reading style. You could simply check out the pictures and see what is going on. You could tell it like a story. Or you could use it like the I Am Going on a Vacation game and see how much you and your listener can remember. Any way you read this book, it will provide a wonderful new way to experience the A B C’s.