Review: Chomp!



Author: Brady Barr

Publisher: National Geographic, 2017

There’s a lot more to teeth than you might imagine. Chomp! gives us that information. Predators of all kinds are divided into categories: grippers, slicers, crushers, and gulpers.

First let’s meet the grippers. This group includes animals like the African Lion, the Tasmanian Devil, and the Nile Crocodile. These guys all kill their prey with a strong bite, but each animal listed has their own unique hunting adaptations and strategies. For example, the Tasmanian Devil’s “jaws open extra wide, to around 80 degrees (about the same as a T. rex) (pg. 11).

The next group are the slicers, animals whose teeth operate like a set of steak knives. Included in this category are the Alligator Snapping Turtle, the Great White Shark, and the Komodo Dragon. The Great White Shark is known as “the “bite and spit” predator. The Great White “attacks at high speed to cut and slice with a huge bite.” They also have protrusible jaws, which means they can spit their jaws out ahead of themselves for an even bigger bite (pg. 38).

Then we have the crushers who chomp away at their food. Humans are part of this group, as are the Gila Monster and the Grizzly Bear. Gila Monsters have the additional assistance of a deadly venom that uses grooves in its teeth for the venom to flow into the wound (pg. 63).

Lastly, we have the gulpers, those animals whose table manners don’t include much chewing. Animals in this group include the American Bullfrog, the Nurse Shark, and the African Rock Python. Unlike the Great White, the Nurse Shark sucks up its meals like humans would suck up a milkshake (pg. 82). Talk about diversity within a species!

Added to all of this fascinating information are Barr’s personal experiences with the animals. I have to admit – I couldn’t do his job. I am especially thankful for books like this one where the information is shared, and I can enjoy it in the comfort of my nice, safe home! Great photos and a snappy style makes this book a winner.


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

Review: NG Kids Ultimate Space Atlas

Ultimate Space AtlasReview:

National Geographic Kids Ultimate Space Atlas

Author: Carolyn DeCristofano

A couple of weeks ago I recommended the National Geographic Kids United States Atlas. The Ultimate Space Atlas is yet another invaluable resource for your child’s personal resource library.

It includes a ton of information like seasonal maps of the Northern and Southern night skies and details on each of the planets in our solar system and the Milky Way. There’s also information on less-common space stuff like oort clouds and nebulas.

My favorite section is for the amateur astronomer. If you’re curious about ways to make your own personal observations or learn more about astronomy, this is an excellent resource to get started. And, as always, I think the trivia challenges and games found at the end of the book are not only fun but may give young readers the desire to learn more.


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

Review: NG Kids Weird but True Daily Planner

Weird but True PlannerReview:

National Geographic Kids Weird but True Daily Planner

Here’s another selection from National Geographic that should be a part of your back-to-school purchases. It’s a daily planner which will – hopefully – help your child keep track of all their necessary assignments.

The nice thing about this planner is that it is not just a weekly calendar. It’s filled with fun facts of all sorts. Did you know that a tiger’s skin is striped like its fur? Or that humans are the only animals that have chins?

It also lists special days. Sure, we all might remember that March 17th is Saint Patrick’s Day. But without this planner, you probably won’t know that November 19th is World Toilet Day or that October 14th is Chocolate Covered Insect Day.

Seriously, if your kid struggles with organization, this book is interesting enough that he/she just might not lose it.  It’s worth a try, anyway. And even if they aren’t the type who are going to misplace their planner (even a boring one) in the first week of school, they will still have plenty of cool information to share with their friends.


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

Review: NG Kids US Atlas

US AtlasReview:

National Geographic Kids United States Atlas, Fifth Edition

It’s time for back to school shopping, and if there ever was a book that needs to be in your home library, this is it. Last year I had the experience of preparing high school students for geography tests. Let me tell you, their geography skills were abysmal. I kept asking myself: how could we let them get to high school without at least knowing the states? I found their lack of knowledge embarrassing, even if they didn’t.

I’m old-fashioned enough to appreciate that there is a real map for each state. Yes, I like the maps in this book. The book is divided into regions, and for each area we get both a physical and a political map. There is an overview of the region and then information for each individual state. And on each state’s page there is a map that includes economy symbols. Lots and lots of wonderful maps!

Each state’s page also includes basic information: when it became a state, the capital, its population. There are also a few interesting facts about each state which makes the book more interesting than a standard atlas.

I won’t pretend that this is the type of book you are going to read from cover to cover, but it is an important resource. It’s the type of book you pull off the shelf to gain an understanding of not only geography, but for other history and social studies classes as well. It can help produce better reports and papers and maybe, just maybe, someday your child will be able to travel from state to state using only a map.


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

Review: Get the Scoop on Animal Poop!


Get the Scoop on Animal Poop!

Author: Dawn Cusick

Publisher: Charlesbridge Publishing Inc., 2012

Source: Public Library

I saw this on the “New Books” shelf at the public library but when checking publishing information, realized it was not actually new. I suppose the librarians were questioning it; should we really order a book on poop?

I’ll grant you, I said “Ewwww” more times while reading this book than any other I have read. And I came up with a whole poopload of jokes that are definitely in bad taste. That aside, it’s actually pretty interesting. Yes, I know what I just wrote.

There’s a lot more to coprology (the study of feces) than most people would imagine. Get the Scoop on Animal Poop! explains things that were previously inexplicable to me. Why would any animal eat their own – or worse yet, another animal’s – poop? (I will have you know that there’s more than one reason for this.) Some animals are nice and tidy and use latrines. Then there are those who use a latrine, then deliberately walk through the poop anyway. And poop is actually ecologically important.

Overall, I enjoyed this book far more than I ever expected, and I have a feeling that young readers will be even more entertained. One thing is for sure: kopi luwak may be the most expensive coffee in the world, but I am never drinking it. Nor will I be getting a Geisha facial anytime soon. I don’t care if they kill the parasites and bacteria – it’s still not going on my face!

You can learn more about Dawn Cusick and her books at:


Review: Weird but True U.S. Presidents

Weird but True PresidentsReview:

Weird but True know-it-all U. S. Presidents

Author: Brianna Dumont

Illustrated by: Adrian Lubbers

Publisher: National Geographic Kids, 2017

Source: ARC

Do you want to put a new – and definitely not boring – spin on Presidential biographies? This is just the book to get.

Did you know…

… that James Abram Garfield could write ancient Greek with his left hand and Latin with his right – at the same time?! (pg. 81)

… that Dwight D. Eisenhower and Barack Obama both held ice cream jobs? (pg. 177)

… or that President McKinley had a parrot named Washington Post that whistled “Yankee Doodle” duets with him? (pg. 90) Now that is weird!

Fortunately for us, all the Presidents had those little foibles we can find so entertaining. Since they were also burdened with a definite lack of privacy, Dumont has been able to dig up tons of unusual and not always flattering (though definitely always interesting!) facts. Along the way she slips in plenty of historical information so sneakily that we don’t even notice we’ve taken the pill with the jam. Wonderful!


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

Review: National Geographic Kids Almanac 2018

 NG Almanac 2018Review:

National Geographic Kids Almanac 2018

I love National Geographic books – and all of my local librarians assure me that young readers do, too. The 2018 Almanac is a treasure-trove of all my favorite things: fun facts, quizzes, games, jokes, experiments.

Here’s a little quiz of my own, just to whet your appetite:

  1. What is NASA using a 3-D printer to develop?
  2. What is the average temperature of Earth?
  3. What are the holes in Swiss cheese called?
  4. What is the purpose of ear wax?
  5. Which country has more castles than anywhere else in the world?

(Check out the following pages: 1. 113  2. 171  3. 185  4. 214  5. 281)

There is a lot of other wonderful stuff, too. There is a Sky Calendar, a Holiday Celebrations Around the World Calendar, a list of all the Presidents, and plenty of maps to study (and based on what the high schoolers I worked with last year know about geography, we should be doing a lot more of this).

This is the kind of book that keeps readers entertained for hours. Get a copy and bring it on your next road trip.


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

Review: Benjamin Franklin’s Wise Words


Benjamin Franklin’s Wise Words

Author: K. M. Kostyal

Illustrator: Fred Harper

Publisher: National Geographic, 2017

Source: ARC

We all recognize them:

Honesty is the best policy.

Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.

Haste makes waste.

These were the sayings of Benjamin Franklin, the famous printer, diplomat, and scientist.

In this volume, young readers get these and many more of BF’s sayings, with explanations that pertain to today’s situations – and they are not so different from the past as you might imagine. Kostyal also works in plenty of interesting biographical and historical information.

I love the illustrations. They are wildly and wonderfully comical. For instance, readers should check out page 48 which illustrates the adage “He that Lies Down with Dogs, Shall Rise Up with Fleas.”

Learn more about K. M. Kostyal at:

Learn more about Fred Harper at:


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

Review: The Whydah


The Whydah, A Pirate Ship Feared, Wrecked & Found

Author: Martin W. Sandler

Publisher: Candlewick Press, 2017

Source: Library

Tales of pirates have fascinated us for generations. These legends, told over and over in print and on the screen, have had all sorts of fresh, modern updates. They continue to lure us with tales of adventurous lives.

So the real question is this: Is the nonfiction as entertaining as the fiction?

Yes – although perhaps not in the way readers will expect. The Whydah, A Pirate Ship Feared, Wrecked & Found gives us plenty of information, not only about the Whydah specifically but of piracy in general. It debunks the myths of buried treasure and secret maps. Unfortunately, most pirates spent their loot too quickly to actually bury it and while some of the treasure was gold and silver, much of it was “ordinary trade goods, such as lumber, cloth, and animal hides – all items that would have been ruined if they had been buried” (pg. 110). And although pirates certainly were violent and cruel, no one really walked the plank. The most common – and feared – punishment was flogging.

Pirates were also surprisingly democratic. In fact, “the biggest reason to turn to piracy was the desire to be free men” (pg. 40). On a pirate ship, everything of significance was decided by vote and booty was distributed equally. Men of color were treated as equals, even though many had been (or had been destined to become) slaves. They even had a sort of “insurance policy” for men injured and disabled.

So will all of our romantic notions of pirates be shattered?

Not really. The Whydah was captained by Samuel Bellamy, known as “Black Sam” or “Black Bellamy.” He had jet-black hair and instead of the usual powdered wig,  he grew his hair long and tied it back with a black satin ribbon. His outfit, which consisted of a long velvet coat, knee britches, silk stockings and silver-buckled shoes, was “completed by a sword that hung at his left hip and four pistols that were secured by a broad sash” (pg. 11).  And of course there is a romance (though undocumented) of Black Sam and a girl from Cape Cod named Maria Hallett.

There’s plenty of adventure, too. Bellamy learned the pirate trade from Benjamin Hornigold, a legend himself because he trained so many pirates including the infamous Edward Teach, aka Blackbeard. Bellamy quickly became one of the most successful pirates. The book gives details of pirate attacks, including tactics like playing weird music and doing even weirder dances meant to terrify their prey.

The Whydah sunk off the coast of Cape Cod in what meteorologist’s called “the perfect storm” and Bellamy and most of the crew died. Though heading to Maine, it is presumed that Bellamy had visited with Maria just before the wreck. The legends, however, have lived on. Then, in the 1980’s, the Whydah was discovered by Barry Clifford. It was first documented pirate ship discovered. Did the discovery take away from the mystery? Not at all. The archeological evidence is just as fascinating as the Whydah’s story.

If you are taking a trip to Cape Cod this summer, you might want to check out the Whydah Pirate Museum to see the real artifacts.

Review: I’m Trying to Love Spiders

I'm Trying to Love SpidersReview:

I’m Trying to Love Spiders

Author/Illustrator: Bethany Barton

Publisher: Viking, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group, 2015

Source: Library

I’ll be honest. In the official spider test, I chose d. run away screaming. So thinking my attitude may need some adjustment, I decided to give this picture book a try.

It’s hard to like spiders or their relatives, scorpions and ticks. They’re just not cuddly. Almost all of them are venomous, though most cannot bite a human (note that I did not say all – a particularly disturbing thought). They use their venom to liquefy their prey, which is kind of gross even if it does rid the world of a lot of unwanted pests. And it is not particularly comforting to know that there are some 40,000 species of spiders.

For young readers, though, this book gives plenty of arachnid facts, told in a very engaging way. Several species are listed, including all kinds of fun facts, so be sure to check out the end papers. For example, did you know that the Bird-Dung Crab Spider hides in plain sight by looking like bird poop? Or that there is even a spider called the Happy Face Spider? Actually, I have to admit it. This book actually leaves me wanting to know more about spiders.

I just don’t want to get too close. As Barton is the first to admit, loving – or at least getting to know – spiders is not easy, but as she also points out, we can all keep trying.

Check out Bethany Barton’s website at: