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: Strong as Sandow


Strong as Sandow: How Eugen Sandow Became the Strongest Man on Earth

Author/Illustrator: Don Tate

Publisher: Charlesbridge, 2017

Source: Personal Purchase

If you look back at the panel discussion post, you’ll see that Don Tate was the artist who suffered from “crippling shyness.” Keep that in mind as I tell you more about this book.

I have to admit that I did not know who Eugen Sandow was before purchasing this book. For those other readers who are also not familiar with him, he is considered the father of modern-day body building.

Sandow (born Friedrich Wilhelm Muller) was not a natural-born athlete. Although he loved athletics, he was a weak and sickly child. He exercised like crazy, but didn’t have the success he hoped. Although he studied anatomy at the university, it wasn’t until he ran away to become an acrobat that he began to develop the muscles that would eventually have him gain fame as the strongest man on earth. While his job with the circus would not last, it propelled his bodybuilding career forward.

Now, as inspirational as Sandow’s story is, what I found to be even more inspirational was the story from Tate’s Author’s Note. He was a skinny kid and his father gave him information on nutrition and bodybuilding to help him beef up. It wasn’t until he was in his thirties that he began competing. His first efforts may have been disappointing, but Tate persevered – and won! There are lots of kids out there who are interested in bodybuilding and while it is nice to learn about it from a historical perspective, I think it is even better to hear about it from someone like Tate. Here is someone who was skinny and shy and artistic, not someone you would think of as a strong bodybuilder. He is, however, a strong person and I truly admired that he shared his personal story and interest in bodybuilding.

Tate admits in his Note that this story may not be historically accurate on all counts. Despite his research into the man’s life, very little is actually known about Eugen Sandow. The lion story seems to have been exceptionally difficult to gain the truth. Still, I am glad it was included.

I haven’t talked much about Tate’s illustrations. That is not because I didn’t appreciate them; I just found the story fascinating. I feel sure, however, that those who want to appreciate the book for its drawings will do so as much as I did for the text.



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.