Review: One Iguana Two Iguanas

one iguanaReview:

One Iguana Two Iguanas: A Story of Accident, Natural Selection, and Evolution

Author: Sneed B. Collard III

Publisher: Tilbury House Publishers, 2018

Interested in evolution and how natural selection develops and favors those animals (in the case of this book, lizards) who adapt more readily to changes in the environment? Pick up this book, which explores the theories of Charles Darwin!

This subject could seem boring to young readers, but this book approaches the topic in a fresh way. Instead of starting with an overall explanation of evolution, it gets specific. It starts with one marine iguana diving below the water’s surface to munch on algae. Nearby a land iguana sits guarding its dinner – a prickly pear cactus. As the excellent photos show, the iguanas are quite different. Yet both live on the Galapagos islands. How did they get to be there? How did they become so different?

As the book continues, we learn how these barren volcanic islands were formed and how life (plant and animal) arrived there. Although some of the information is conjecture, the text explains how scientists have researched the subject.

Each page is filled with wonderfully, detailed photographs of the inhabitants of the Galapagos islands: lizards and birds and turtles. Many of the pages also include inset photos of details, things like the tricuspid teeth of the marine iguana or a blue-footed booby diving for fish.

This book is part of the How Nature Works series. Look for my recent review of Don’t Mess With Me for another book in the series


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

Review: Don’t Mess With Me


Don’t Mess With Me: The Strange Lives of Venomous Sea Creatures

Author: Paul Erickson

Photography by: Andrew Martinez

Publisher: Tilbury House Publishers, 2018

Watch out! These creatures of the deep are dangerous. Just looking at the cover photo will let you know that these guys mean business.

Despite the creepy appearance of many of the sea creatures featured in the book, the material is fascinating. First of all, readers learn the difference between poisonous and venomous (and no, they are not the same thing). Then we are introduced to some of the deadliest creatures “that swim, glide, scuttle, slither and lurk beneath the waves” (3). I’d say it was like some underwater horror show, except that all of the fish/animals featured are just so interesting!

Some of the sea creatures included are the timid but deadly Blue-Ringed Octopus. This little guy, though only about the size of a walnut, is a killer that can hold his own against larger and seemingly more dangerous crabs. The Chinese Dragon Sea Slug may look like a delicacy to other fish, but beware! It has stolen stingers that irritate the mouths of those who try to eat it. If you’ve ever wondered why there is such a strong relationship between clownfish and anemones, you will find the answer in these pages.

For a strictly non-fiction book, the text is sometimes surprisingly poetic. “Tiny bioluminescent planktonic organisms twinkle like a million stars in the surrounding water” (14). The photographs which accompany the text are beautiful and vivid – and not just a little spine-tingling.

You may not think venomous sea creatures are such an interesting topic to explore, but Don’t Mess With Me will certainly change your opinion.


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





Review: Acadia Files (Book 2): Autumn Science

acadia filesReview:

Acadia Files (Book Two): Autumn Science

Author: Katie Coppens

Illustrated and designed by: Holly Hatam

Publisher: Tilbury House Publishers, 2018

This nice, new offering from Tilbury House Publishers does give readers information, but it is told in the form of a story.

The main character, Acadia Greene, discovers the science secrets of autumn with the help of family and friends. Topics explored include frogs, changing leaves, the water cycle (in a chapter creatively titled “Drinking Dinosaur Pee”), time zones, and germs. Each chapter ends with helpful illustrations/charts, experiments, a mini-glossary of new words related to that particular topic, and ideas that Acadia would like to learn more about. At the end of the book is a chapter-by-chapter list of helpful websites on each topic.

Though the colors are a bit muted, the illustrations are still eye-catching. Some photos are used. For example, there are before and after pictures of a pond that needed to be cleaned up. I think the blend of cartoon-style characters and real-life photos keeps young readers interested while also allowing them to understand that, while this is a story, the information presented is true.

For the science fan, especially those interested in nature sciences, this book provides a nice balance of characters they can love with the information that truly intrigues them.


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



Review: Where’s the Architect?


Where’s the Architect? From Pyramids to Skyscrapers: An Architecture Look and Find Book

Written by Susanne Rebscher

Illustrated by Annabelle von Sperber

Publisher: Prestel, 2018

Ben and Mia are on a journey to find the greatest structures ever built and readers are invited along on the journey. There is much more than just pyramids and skyscrapers, too. We explore the Tower of London, the Eiffel Tower, the Moscow Metro, the Colosseum, the Forbidden City, the Taj Mahal, the Empire State Building, the Hagia Sophia, Neuschwanstein Castle, Tõdai-ji Temple, and Sydney’s opera house.

The book starts with the “finding” illustrations. For example, the first location depicted is the Tower of London. We can search for Ben and Mia, count the ravens in the picture, and look for a man who is holding newly minted money (the Tower of London was where money was minted). My first thought was, “That’s it? It’s a great picture, but it has whet my appetite for more information.” I was being impatient. Readers do get to learn more but the informational section is at the end of the book.

The informational section gives important details about the location. Each section is also a fascinating mini history lesson. (And you can find the answers to the puzzles in this section.) There is a timeline that includes the construction dates and a glossary. Don’t forget to check out the end papers, which include a travel route. One last note: this book is oversized. It measures 15” x 11”, which gives the illustrations room to soar!

There are kids out there who really like this type of book. They might like the puzzles, but some kids just love architecture. This is an exceptional choice to add to their library.


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


Review: Absolutely Everything


Absolutely Everything! History of Earth, Dinosaurs, Rulers, Robots and Other Things Too Numerous to Mention

Author: Christopher Lloyd

Publisher: What on Earth Books, 2018

Does this book really contain information about everything? Of course not. However, it does contain lots and lots of information. It’s like an encyclopedia, but told in a style of historical vignettes that are far more readable and interesting than old-fashioned encyclopedias.

It is a nice timeline of Earth’s history. It is divided into chapters, but these are also color-coded so if you are looking for specific information, you can locate it a bit more quickly.

Learn about things like:

  • The discovery of the ancient Assyrian capital, Nineveh
  • The mummification process
  • The original Olympic games, which date back as far as 776 BCE
  • Did you know that chocolate contains a chemical called theobromine, which means “food for the gods”?
  • The Maya were some of the earliest people to use the idea of zero
  • The word Viking actually means “pirate”
  • The recipe for gunpowder appeared in a book called Opus Majus in 1267

While these little facts are fun to read, the book does go into far more historical depth. Yet it is not heavy reading. It is the type of book that kids could certainly read for pleasure, but it would also make an excellent classroom/library resource, as well.


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


Review: The Poetry of Us

poetry of usReview:

The Poetry of Us

Edited by J. Patrick Lewis, former U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate

Publisher: National Geographic Kids

Whenever I receive a poetry book, I am tempted to save it for April (National Poetry Month). However, this volume is an exception. I want readers to be aware of it now. It is a great resource. It would make a great gift. Yet it is also something more. As J. Patrick Lewis writes in his forward:

“Years ago I read a travel book, Blue Highways, by a true life wanderer, William Least Heat Moon. This was no average tour guide, but an epic poem, a love letter to America.”

I have come to think of this collection of poems in the same way. They are a love letter to America. Through the words of poets, we explore our country, region by region, celebrating some of best, most wonderful things it has to offer. Come along and experience what each region has to offer:

New England – whale watches, iconic seasonal vistas, blueberry barrens of Maine, coastal delights, and a little poke of fun at the somewhat unusual accent of the native New Englander (We do too know what an ‘r’ is! It belongs at the end of an idear.)

Mid-Atlantic – New Year’s Eve ball drops, the majestic beauty of Niagara Falls, the homeplace of Punxsatawney Phil, the City of Brotherly Love, and our nation’s capital

Southeast – a sunrise – seen from the top of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Graceland –  “the castle of a king,” the bayou, birthplace to Ella Fitzgerald and Jesse Owens, Disney world, a celebration of an American wedding

Midwest – the beauty of the Great Lakes, the influence of The Windy City, a tulip festival, everyday pleasures: bookmobile, skating, cardamom bread topped with walnuts

The Great Plains – Mount Rushmore and the Black Hills, workers in the fields, home to courageous women (Bessie Coleman and Amelia Earhart) and Marion Mitchell Morrison (aka John Wayne),

Rocky Mountain West – experience the rodeo, a sweat lodge or a great river at sunset, enjoy a mass ascension at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, or sing the Twelfth Song of Thunder

Pacific Coast – attend a new baby luau, drive through Los Angeles at rush hour, celebrate Asian Pacific American History Month or go to the Gilroy Garlic Festival (I am not sure I’d buy the garlic ice cream!), watch the San Francisco Pride Parade, discover the Redwoods, take a trip to Frozen Town (Barrow, Alaska, northernmost city in the United States)

Territories – visit our “Caribbean Gems” and beware the mango (“Problems with Hurricanes”)

It is enough to make you want to jump into an RV and begin the cross-country road trip you have always imagined taking. In these poems we celebrate our history, our diversity. We understand where we have been, look forward to our future. I loved that some of the poems were written first in the native language of the writer and then translated into English (I would have liked more translations, actually, even though I can only read English).

This collection offers something for everyone: beautiful photographs of our country, poems of all sorts – moving, spiritual, humorous. Don’t forget to remove the book jacket and take a peak at the book cover for a delightful surprise!


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

Review: If da Vinci Painted a Dinosaur

da vinci dinosaurReview:

If da Vinci Painted a Dinosaur

Author: Amy Newbold

Illustrator: Greg Newbold

Publisher: Tilbury House Publishers, 2018

I am going to start this post with a cliché: Don’t judge a book by its cover.

When I first saw the cover of If da Vinci Painted a Dinosaur, I will admit that I thought it looked kind of weird. I didn’t have high hopes for the book. I had this book on my desk and a number of other adults had a similar reaction.


Every one of us loved it. Over and over again, I heard, “This is a really good book” in a tone of great surprise.

Amy and Greg Newbold use dinosaurs – and a helpful little hamster – to introduce us to great works of art. Not only do we explore da Vinci’s take on dinosaurs, but we are given ideas based on the works of Edgar Degas, Cassius Coolidge, Katsushika Hokusai, Mary Cassatt, Grandma Moses, Frida Kahlo, Qi Baishi, Henri Matisse, Andy Warhol, Diego Rivera, Franz Marc, Harrison Begay, Alma Thomas, Aaron Douglas, Mark Rothko, Lois Mailou Jones, Marguerite Zorach, and Edvard Munch. Dinosaurs of all different varieties are included in the artwork, but that doesn’t mean that readers won’t be able to appreciate the unique style of each artist.

At the end of the book, there is a bite-sized biography about each artist, a list of the dinosaurs (and whose artwork featured each particular dino) and advice from Greg Newbold for artists to develop their own artistic style and voice.

I love books that invite us to explore a topic even further. Yes, young readers might want more dinosaur books. They might also be intrigued enough to check out a longer biography on some of the artists to learn more about their work. Supply some paper and crayons with which to explore their own artistic interests. Visit an art museum. Perhaps they will even have ideas for adapting the work of other artists to the dinosaur theme of this book. Whatever form their interest takes, follow up on it. Enjoy looking at the pictures together. You will certainly see dinosaurs from a whole new perspective.


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





Review: Fly With Me

fly with meReview:

Fly with Me: A Celebration of Birds through Pictures, Poems, and Stories

Authors: Jane Yolen, Heidi E. Y. Stemple, Adam Stemple, and Jason Stemple

Publisher: National Geographic Kids, 2018

I like books about birds. There are so many ways to enhance a book on birds. You can add them to all types of curriculum, be it reading, math, or science. There are many hands-on activities related to birds that can be done, either at school or at home. Birds are beautiful, easy to observe (not always and not all species, but often), and simply enjoyable.

This new book, Fly with Me, is an excellent resource. It includes so much information and helps lead readers to more discoveries. For the curious learner, it includes facts about all aspects of birds. From nests and eggs, to beaks and skeletal systems, from feathers to wing spans and migratory habits, readers can delve into all kinds of information. Did you know that a bird’s feathers can weigh more than its bones (31)?

This book includes a unique educational feature not typically found in books on birds: it examines historical information. There are bird facts from the time of dinosaurs to bird facts from ancient Rome, when geese were first used as watchdogs. There’s information about the sport falconry. Readers can also learn how the Audubon Christmas bird count was started. Readers can study some species that became extinct, but I especially liked the positive angle. There are plenty of success stories of species that have made recoveries.

For those who like a more hands-on approach, check out the following activities:

  • Page 94, for birding apps and ebirds (keep your life list online)
  • Page 96, for tips on how to photograph birds
  • Page 120, to learn about raptor rehabilitation
  • Page 170, for information on how to become a citizen scientist
  • Page 172-182, for ideas to invite birds into your own back yard

Birds are featured in many folk and fairy tales. Seven are featured here, but there are many others to be found with a bit of research. (I like that the ones offered in the book are relatively short; perfect for those nights/moments when you don’t have time/energy for something longer – yet you get the satisfaction of a complete story). Birds are also featured in other arts: pictures, music, movies. Several movies are suggested, suitable for a younger audience. Interesting fact: Although birds are notorious difficult to train, the Harry Potter movies did use three male owls to play Hedwig (149).

There are poems by Yolen and Stemple, plus a couple by Emily Dickinson. Pages are filled with inspirational quote selections. The photos are stunning. Don’t forget to check out the end papers.

Everything about this book is an A+. I can’t recommend it highly enough. This one should be on your holiday gift list, even it is for yourself.


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

Review: Smithsonian Solar System


Smithsonian Solar System

Written by Jon Richards

Publisher: Silver Dolphin Books, an imprint of Printer’s Row Publishing Group, 2018

Today I dug into the second of the Smithsonian Exploration Station kits. This one contains a 56-page guidebook, a poster with re-positionable stickers, 22 glow-in-the-dark stars, and some space toys.

The guidebook gives stats for each of the planets in our solar system, talks about dwarf planets (the category to which poor little Pluto is now relegated), comets, and meteoroids. We learn a little about space travel and the constellations. Once again, it is not in-depth material but instead provides an introduction to the subject.

I think young readers will like the toys and the glow-in-the-dark stars. I did, anyway. This kit is going to be hard to share! However, I promise to do so and will provide feedback on the comments I get.


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


Review: Smithsonian World Atlas


Smithsonian World Atlas

Written by John Farndon

Publisher: Silver Dolphin Press, an imprint of Printer’s Row Publishing Group, 2018

Now that my typical scary October reads are over, I will be concentrating more on books that make good gifts. The holiday season will be upon us before we realize it and a few gift ideas never hurts.

Today and tomorrow I will be reviewing two Smithsonian Exploration Station kits. The first, World Atlas, contains a 56-page guidebook, a poster with re-positionable stickers, three 3-D models to build, and an inflatable globe.

The guidebook not only gives us maps to explore, but takes us on a journey covering the planet. We learn about the continents (and here we are given help as to where all those reusable stickers are to go). We also get basic information about the oceans, deserts, forests, and mountains. It is not in-depth information, but it is certainly enough to whet the appetite and get kids curious about geography. Believe me, we need to get kids to learn more of their geography.  This type of kit makes learning enjoyable. I had fun with the kit, although I am saving the 3-D models for some young friends to try. I’ll follow up in a later post with their comments.


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