Review: Buzz Aldrin: To the Moon and Back

buzz aldrinReview:

Buzz Aldrin: To the Moon and Back

Author: Buzz Aldrin with Marianne J. Dyson

Paper Engineering by Bruce Foster

Publisher: National Geographic Kids, 2018

This new book from National Geographic is a wonderful twist on learning about the Space Race. Told by Buzz Aldrin, it gives fascinating details about space missions. Fortunately, it is told in a way that is not overly complicated and includes plenty of photos that will help young readers gain understanding. I especially enjoyed the Aldrin family reflections.

What really sets this book apart are the pop-up diagrams. I took an extra picture for this post of one of the lift-up pages. I am sorry my photography skills aren’t stronger, since this photo doesn’t give the real idea of just how magnificent the pop-ups are. They include things like the Saturn V rocket including (on the back) the inner workings of the rocket and Apollo 11’s splash down into the Pacific Ocean.

bug eyed space monster

Much as I am impressed with the paper engineering of this book, I will offer one warning. Little hands are hard on books like this. The wonderfully designed paper space crafts are delicate. This is a book that I would suggest be read with an adult close by, perhaps even helping with the usually simple task of turning a page. The paper structures are too beautiful to be manhandled by (unintentional) rough treatment.


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

Review: Solve This!

solve thisReview:

Solve This! Wild and Wacky Challenges for the Genius Engineer in You

Author: Joan Marie Galat

Publisher: National Geographic Kids, 2018

According to this book, engineers are problem solving champs! I couldn’t agree more!

This book is filled with all kinds of experiments that will appeal to the budding engineer. Section 1 reviews some of the different kinds of engineers. It is pretty basic and there is often more overlap than this overview gives credit for, but that’s OK. The information isn’t overwhelming to kids. Section 2 constitutes the bulk of the book and gives example problems and real-life solutions. Kids get to work through problems like how to effectively protect their candy stash or sound-proof their rooms. Engineers working in the field weigh in on different engineering techniques. Section 3 gives information on historical successes, like the Great Pyramids or the waterwheel, and some of its failures. Remember the Tower of Pisa? It also mentions a few developments that could take place in the not too distant future, like roadways that melt ice.

Techie kids tend to like hands-on books. This one certainly fits that requirement. It has plenty of graphics which help make the topics easily understandable. There is plenty of encouragement from experts in the field, too. These role models are invaluable for getting kids interested in the STEM fields.



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

Review: Food Fight!

food fightReview:

Food fight! A Mouthwatering History of WHO ate WHAT and WHY Through the Ages

Author: Tanya Steel

Publisher: National Geographic Kids, 2018

Throughout history, humans have survived on all types of foods. During the Prehistoric Era, deer, wheat, rye and nuts were foods that were commonly eaten. During World War I, canned foods were a staple: canned tuna and other fish and meats, canned fruits and vegetables, canned soups. During the Renaissance, most people subsisted on rye and barley bread and some cheese while wealthy families included meat in their diet.

For each time period, we learn a “bite-size history” which gives a small background as to what was going on in the world at the time. Readers learn what a typical day was like, how spices were used, and what utensils were available. There are sections describing table manners of the day, as well as yucky food facts. Here’s just one example to whet your appetite (or not): In ancient Greece, paint used on plates was mixed with human urine to keep the paint from fading.

The book also includes recipes. All of these are much more appetizing than you might think. There are things like Roast Mastodon on a Stick (and if mastodon is in short supply, substitute beef), King Tut’s Not Fishy Cakes, Lentil Stew for Junior Olympiads, Revolutionary Potatoes, and Oliver Twist Oat Cakes. I haven’t tried any of these recipes yet, but they look reasonably easy. I do hope to try a few out and will follow up with my successes/failures.


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

Review: My First Wild Activity Book

my first wild activity bookReview:

My First Wild Activity Book

Author: Maxime LeBrun

Publisher: Silver Dolphin Books, 2018

Ages: 5+

This activity book invites young readers to explore different habitats: the rain forest, the desert, the ocean, the mountains, the forest, the savanna, and the polar ice caps. For each habitat, there is a brief description followed by a series of activities. There are pull-out pages on which to add stickers and complete mazes, matching activities, and coloring pages. Each area also has a more in-depth project. For example, for the rain forest, steps are given to make a leaf collage.

While I certainly think the book is great for younger readers, I would be a bit careful. The suggested age group is 5+, but readers too much beyond that age are going to find this book babyish. The activities will be too simplistic and the pictures are not realistic enough to satisfy a more mature reader. So although I found the book to be charming, I would warn parents to review it for age-appropriateness.


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




Review: Absolute Expert Soccer


Absolute Expert Soccer

Author: Eric Zweig, with Professional Referee Mark Geiger

Publisher: National Geographic Kids, 2018

This is the last review of the Absolute Expert series. I have enjoyed all the books, but I am also happy to see a sports topic in the mix. Young readers do tend to like dinosaurs and dolphins, but others want something different. Some kids (I would say typically boys, but not always) really like sports and have little interest in other books. With this selection, National Geographic has addressed this population, given kids a topic they enjoy, and combined it with interesting text and graphics.

There are some avid soccer fans and players in my family. I must truthfully admit that I am not one of them, so I relied heavily on their opinions of the book. Here is a sampling of the comments I received:

“I like that the book included the history of soccer.”

Did You Know? The oldest soccer ball is in a museum in Stirling, Scotland and probably belonged to Mary, Queen of Scots. It was made from a pig’s bladder, wrapped in cow leather.

“I liked the photos, especially the ones of fans from around the world.”

Did You Know? While in prison, Nelson Mandela fought for the right for prisoners to be allowed to play soccer. “Soccer is more than just a game,” Mandela would later say. “The energy, passion, and dedication this game created made us feel alive and triumphant despite the situation we found ourselves in” (pg. 69).

Several favorite players – including a few women – are profiled. Not surprisingly, this section was of especial interest to young readers. Mark Geiger, professional referee, also shared requirements for becoming appointed as a World Cup referee. It’s more involved that many people would suspect. One of my assistant reviewers was disappoint to learn it is much like going to school! I didn’t have the heart to enlighten him at that moment about the schooling involved in other career choices.


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

Review: Absolute Expert Volcanoes



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Absolute Expert Volcanoes

Author: Lela Nargi

National Geographic Field Expert: Arianna Soldatti

Publisher: National Geographic Kids, 2018

Source: ARC

Today I am reviewing another book from the new Absolute Expert series by National Geographic. Although you don’t see nearly as many books on volcanoes as we do on dinosaurs and dolphins, let me tell you that the topic is no less fascinating. I am going to share a few of the facts I learned that made this book so interesting.

What is the difference between magma and lava? Magma is melted rock that can reach up to 2120°F. Lava is magma that comes out of the Earth which reaches 1165°F.

Lava can be ejected into the atmosphere with the same force as an exploding nuclear bomb.

There is plenty more to interest readers, too. We explore all the different types of volcanoes, including those – like black smokers and seamounts – that exist underwater. Soldatti also gives information about volcanoes on other planets, some of which spew ice rather than lava.

Another feature I liked in this book were the activities. OK, I know it is not new, but a DIY volcanic eruption is fun (out of doors only, please!) More important is the information about getting together a family emergency evacuation plan and the supplies your emergency kit should contain. It’s a good reminder to update and practice those plans. Volcanoes are not the only natural disaster!


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

Review: Absolute Expert Dinosaurs


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Absolute Expert Dinosaurs

Author: Lela Nargi

National Geographic Explorer: Steve Brusatte

Publisher: National Geographic Kids, 2018

Source: ARC

Today’s review is on another perennial favorite topic with young readers: dinosaurs! I sometimes wonder: there are so many books on dinosaurs; can the information be new, fresh, and exciting? Maybe so, because I like the approach this book takes. While it is about dinosaurs, it is not just a list. We don’t learn about the animals so much as we learn about the science behind all of the dinosaur discoveries. This book answers questions like:

^ What exactly is a dinosaur (not all the old bones dug up are dinosaurs)?

^ How do scientists know what dinosaurs were really like, especially since it is not common to find a complete skeleton?

^ How did dinosaurs evolve – and once again, how does science prove these theories?

^ Do dinosaurs still exist, at least in some form?

^ How can we prove what caused the extinction of most dinosaurs?

I also like that although this book certainly takes readers out into the field, we also get an insight into the lab work behind dinosaur science. Yes, I am sure that finding fossils is exciting – but who says that discoveries made using computers and technology are less so? I think that introducing young readers to both aspects of the field gives them a deeper appreciation for the work it takes to make these amazing discoveries.


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


Review: Absolute Expert Dolphins


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This week I am going to be focusing on a new National Geographic Kids series. It is the Absolute Expert series and features books on perennial favorites like dinosaurs and dolphins. All the book topics are interesting, with the latest information from the field, and all are filled with wonderful photographs as only National Geographic provides.

Absolute Expert Dolphins

Author: Jennifer Swanson

National Geographic Explorer: Justine Jackson-Ricketts

Publisher: National Geographic Kids, 2018

Source: ARC

Dolphins are one of those topics that kids always love and the good thing is that there is so much to learn. Here is a little quiz, just to give you a taste of what is included in this volume:

  1. True or False – A pilot whale is a dolphin. (T)
  2. True or False – One tablespoon of water in a dolphin’s lungs could cause it to drown. (T)
  3. True or False – Dolphins sometimes hunt by herding fish toward a shore’s shallow waters. (T)
  4. True or False – Dolphins do not actually drink water. (T)
  5. True or False – Paleontologists study dolphins. (T)

One of the things I like about this book is that it not only helps readers learn about dolphins but it also gives career information. What kinds of jobs exist for those who want to work with marine animals? What kind of education do you need? And what kind of experiences has the explorer – in this case, Justine Jackson-Ricketts – had in the field? I feel another valuable learning feature to this book is that it lists what are things that everyone can do to help dolphins and other marine animals.


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




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.


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!