Review: It’s a Great Big Colorful World

colorful worldReview:

It’s a Great Big Colorful World

Author/Illustrator: Tom Schamp

Publisher: Prestel, 2020

Here’s a wonderful new way to explore color. Readers can join Otto, a cat, and Leon, a chameleon, as they travel through a colorful and fun-fact filled world. It’s like an I Spy book has met with a kaleidoscope.

Here are a few things readers can learn:

  • The biggest mammal in the world is gray.
  • White is the color of the moon.
  • The leader of the Tour du France always wears a yellow jersey.
  • However, the Tour of Spain leader wears a red jersey.
  • And the Tour of Italy leader wears a pink jersey.
  • A robin’s red breast is also orange.
  • Jeans may have been invented in the American west, but the wagon canvas they were made from came from Genoa (jeans) and then from Nimes (denim).
  • Girl Scouts aged 7-9 are called Brownies.

Add to this all kinds of jokes and puns, oodles of silly pictures, and you’ve got a great book for entertaining kids by the hour. Going on a road trip soon? This should definitely be one of your “secret weapons.”


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

Review: Pets and Their Famous Humans

pets and their famous humansReview:

Pets and Their Famous Humans

Author: Ana Gallo

Illustrator: Katherine Quinn

Publisher: Prestel, 2020 (English version)

Kids love pet stories and knowing about the pets of famous people intrigues them. So, despite my own reservations about this book, I think kids will like it.

I like the idea behind the book and I am aware that there are similar titles available that are popular. My reservation comes from this: I wonder if young readers will know, or even care, about some of the famous people chosen. T. S. Eliot? Karl Lagerfeld? Ernest Hemingway? Dorothy Parker? I mean, I am interested in these people, but would a kid feel the same way? Perhaps the animals will tip the balance toward the yes.

I also had a problem with some of the illustrations. If I hadn’t read the names, I would have thought Isaac Newton and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart were women. Some of the animals don’t seem terribly cute or cuddly (OK, I am not sure if a pet crocodile can ever be cuddly), but I would think that is a big part of the kid-attraction.

The bios are actually quite interesting. My concern is whether or not kid readers will make it that far. It’s definitely a book for an older picture book crowd, who may be at least familiar with some of the names.


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


Review: Breaking Through

breaking throughReview:

Breaking Through: How Female Athletes Shattered Stereotypes in the Roaring Twenties

Author: Sue Macy

Publisher: National Geographic Partners LLC, 2020

For young women interested in sports of any kind, this book will be an inspirational resource. Though the names of these athletes will be mostly unfamiliar, these trailblazers were strong, determined, and independent. Even those not particularly interested in sports will find themselves admiring these fierce female competitors.

The book covers athletes who participated in a variety of sports. It highlights their battles for gender equality and shares the opinions of both their many supporters – and their equally numerous critics.

Here are just of few of the (mini) biographies to read:

  • Bessie Coleman was a successful show pilot.
  • Constance Applebee, aka “the Apple,” demonstrated field hockey at all the major US colleges, eventually becoming the Director of Physical Education at Bryn Mawr in 1922.
  • Sybil Bauer was the first woman to beat a men’s swimming record, an accomplishment she achieved in 1922.

I really liked that this book slipped in quite a bit of history unrelated to sports. What was the Charleston? (Check out page 37.) Who was the Duke of Harlem? (See page 63.) Did you know that penicillin was discovered during the 1920s? (Read more about it on page 78.)

Filled with great photos, excerpts from news articles, and other interesting historical information, Breaking Through is much more than a sports story. It brings the stories of legendary women to the forefront – just where they belong.


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

Review: Turn It Up!

turn it upReview:

Turn It Up! A Pitch-Perfect History of Music That Rocked the World

Author: Joel Levy

Publisher: National Geographic Partners, 2019

Turn It Up! is a combination encyclopedia of music/timeline. It’s got a bit of everything. From descriptions of musical instruments made of bones that were played by our earliest ancestors to the technology that allows us to stream music, readers get a bit of everything.

It covers instruments, like the hornpipe, the lute, the harpsichord, the cornet, the electric guitar. There is historical information. There are some technical explanations. We learn about Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart – and also about Tchaikovsky, Wagner, and Puccini – and Dylan, Baez, and Sinatra. There’s information about Ragtime, the blues, jazz, country, and rock – and even each of these areas are broken down into further categories.

The book is colorful and energizing (perfect for making readers want to join in and dance!) with lots of great photos. My only regret: I wish a CD had been included! However, on each page there is a “Listen Up!” feature. You can go online and listen to an essential musical composition featured on that page. It’s a wonderful alternative.


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

Review: Surprising Stories Behind Everyday Stuff

everyday stuffReview:

Surprising Stories Behind Everyday Stuff

Author: Stephanie Warren Drimmer

Publisher: National Geographic Kids, 2019

Ever wonder how everyday stuff – like neckties or lipstick or pockets – came to be invented?  This new selection from National Geographic Kids has your answers.

Some of the trivia you learn is going to be pretty surprising. Did you know:

  • Some lipsticks contain fish scales (180)?
  • High heels were first worn by ancient Egyptian butchers to keep their feet out of blood (67)?
  • The first toothbrushes had bristles made from hogs’ hair (198)?
  • During the Middle Ages, everyone brought his or her own knife to dinner (55)?
  • Marbles were probably first used to tell fortunes (17)?

These are just a few of the fun facts readers can use to entertain friends and family. OK, some of the facts, like those found in the toilet paper and table manners sections, are a bit gross, but I am sure young readers won’t mind that a bit. They will probably think they are the perfect thing to bring up to get rid of that weird, old relative at one of the upcoming holiday dinners.

Seriously, this book contains a lot to interest everyone. It would make a long car ride seem faster, entertain visiting youngsters, and even ignite some people’s creative spark. After all, there are still plenty of things out there that have room for improvement!


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

Review: Adventures on Earth


Adventures on Earth

Author: Simon Tyler

Publisher: Pavilion Children’s Books, 2019

Do you have a young reader at home who thirsts for adventure and perhaps prefers nonfiction? This new book, Adventures on Earth, will provide plenty of entertaining reading.

In this book, we visit places few of us ever really see (and many of us don’t want to). We explore the polar regions, learn about the Trans-Arctic Expedition, and discover interesting facts about animals of the region, like penguins and Arctic terns. Did you know that Antarctica has never had indigenous people living on it?

After visiting the coldest regions on Earth, readers can jump right into – you guessed it – volcanoes! (You did guess that, right?) Volcanic exploration is filled with huge risks. Yes, there is all that hot lava to worry about. Volcanoes also release highly toxic gases that overwhelm humans within minutes. Plus, there is also the potential for pyroclastic flows, which sweep down the volcano at high speeds, obliterating everything in their way (think Pompeii).

And the fun doesn’t stop there! Readers can vicariously visit the oceans, the deserts, some of the world’s wildest rivers, the jungle, mountains, and  underground caves and chasms.  Each section provides interesting details about the terrain, the weather, animals of the region, and adaptations that people have made in order to survive.

While the illustrations in this book were fine, I would have really liked to see some photographs included. They would have made this book truly extraordinary. I did, however, think the maps were great. I will repeat myself: we don’t study enough geography any longer! Here’s a great way to get started.


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

Review: North America


North America: A Fold-Out Graphic History

Authors: Sarah Albee and William Exley

Publisher: Smithsonian, 2019

I loved this fold-out history book! It’s a little bit like a map (which I don’t think we use or teach enough about any longer) and a little bit like a mini trivia-style history book. It’s also a timeline, but far more graphic than most timelines I have seen.

The information isn’t the same-old same-old facts presented so frequently in kids’ history books. Here are a couple sample items:

9000 BCE – Wild Potatoes

Early North Americans gather and eat a kind of wild potato in what is now the midwestern part of the United States, and probably elsewhere, too.

1600s – Dying Cloth with Insects

The Aztecs and other nearby peoples dry and powder the cochineal insect and use the powder to dye cloth a brilliant red hue. Later the Spanish will steal this secret, and the sale of red dye will help make Spain a world power.

Who knew? That’s what makes this book so wonderfully interesting. There are many, many of these unique and fascinating facts.

The illustrations are done in muted tones, much like we think of the colors used on old maps. The drawings are a bit more like cartoons than I would have expected. I wondered if more realistic drawings might be more appealing. However, I shared this book with my fifth-grade class and they loved it. I wouldn’t change a thing.

While this book is a great reference resource, it’s interesting enough to simply be a pleasure reading book. It’s a nice alternative for nonfiction fans and for those whom big blocks of text may be overwhelming.


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


Review: 1,000 Facts About Ancient Egypt

1000 Facts About EgyptReview:

1,000 Facts About Ancient Egypt

Author: Nancy Honovich

Publisher: National Geographic Kids, 2019

OK, time for a little quiz! (Yes, yes, we are back to school and it’s time for quizzes again. I promise – this one won’t be painful.)

Did you know…..

  1. …… that ancient Egyptians used the same hieroglyph for ZERO as they did for BEAUTY? (13)
  2. …… that the amount of linen it takes to wrap a single mummy could cover three-quarters of a professional basketball court? (21)
  3. …….that most Egyptian men and women wore triangular linen loincloths as underwear? (25)
  4. …..that ancient Egyptian cats were similar to modern-day tabby cats? (42)
  5. ……that ancient Egyptian mummy makers were the first people known to use stitches? (51)

I could go on and on with this kind of information. This new offering by Honovich and National Geographic is simply packed with interesting, little known facts about ancient Egyptian life. There are plenty of visuals, too, depicting everything from the jewelry the Egyptians wore to some of the beastly animals of the land.

This is one of those books that provides hours of entertainment. The facts are presented in little trivia-style nuggets with the photos and other graphics giving relief from solid pages of facts.


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

Review: Explorer Academy Code-Breaking Activity Adventure


National Geographic Explorer Academy Code-Breaking Activity Adventure

Author: Dr. Gareth Moore

Publisher: National Geographic, 2019

For readers who loved National Geographic’s Explorer Academy series, The Nebula Secret and The Falcon’s Feather, this new activity book is going to be a hit (and even those who aren’t familiar with the books – yet – will enjoy it!).

Right away we start cracking codes: secret words or letters, scrambled words, Morse code or the semaphore alphabet. Some of these codes are pretty challenging, so readers can expect hours of entertainment.

If readers are familiar with the series, favorite characters reappear and make this code book more than just a book of puzzles. Everything adds up to lots of fun. It could even get kids to break away, for a bit, from the electronics.


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


Review: Awesome Achievers


Awesome Achievers Science

Author: Alan Katz

Illustrator: Chris Judge

Publisher: RP Kids Publishers, 2019


Awesome Achievers Technology

Author: Alan Katz

Illustrator: Chris Judge

Publisher: RP Kids Publishers, 2019


Let’s face it: some kids just do not like to read fiction. They want to read facts. They read to learn. (I know adults who are like this, too, so my unproven suspicion is that reading preferences do not change over a lifetime.) So, it’s especially nice when nonfiction books actually present new information. These two volumes are perfect examples. Katz gives us information that is simply not same-old same-old.

For instance, in the Awesome Achievers Science volume, readers learn about Dr. Henry Heimlich, the doctor who found the way to help choking victims. Before his technique was developed, victims often suffocated even when they received help. There are eleven other innovators discussed. Do you know who the developers of sticky notes are? Probably not, but you will!  And who is Edwin Land?

The Technology volume is also filled with intriguing people. Readers will find out about Mary Anderson, developer of “a window cleaning device for electric cars and other vehicles to remove snow, ice, or sleet from the window” (aka – a windshield wiper). Or read about Percy Spencer, inventor of the microwave oven.

After each mini-biography, there are a few pages of “extras.” These are things like funny little poems, jokes, cartoons, diagrams. Personally, I didn’t think these were necessary and frankly found many of these tidbits corny, which is why I think kids will love them. In fact, I think this silliness will be what really sells kids on these books. They can learn, they can laugh. Sounds like the perfect combination to me.


*Note: I received both of these books for free in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.