Book Review: The Magnificent Books Series

The Magnificent Book of Horses cover image
The Magnificent Book of Horses inside image

Gone are the days when families kept a set of encyclopedias for reference when they wanted to find out facts about something they were interested in. But nonfiction books on a specific topic of interest that have beautiful illustrations, engaging facts and lots of information still have a treasured space on book shelves of young readers.

Two new titles in The Magnificent Book series: The Magnificent Book of Horses and The Magnificent Book of Birds may be especially appealing to young readers drawn to fact-based books. I can easily see kids wanting to take them off the shelves often and flipping through the pages to find out something new or reinforce what they have previously read.

These large-format books allow for two-page spreads to highlight each of the 36 horses or birds featured. The illustrations are colorful, and a set of bullet points give lots of info. A fact file makes it easy to see at a glance the size, color, where each animal lives, and its size relative to humans.

The Magnificent Book of Birds cover image

The drawing of size relativity is a clever way to show, for instance, how much bigger an Andalusian horse from Spain is than a Basuto Pony from Lesotho. Or that an Australian Gouldian finch and a North American Eastern bluebird are both about half the size of a human hand. It’s a memorable way to present what could otherwise be dry information that’s hard to visualize.

The Magnificent Book of Birds inside image

A world map on the last page has small illustrations of each featured animal to show where it lives in the world, which can also help kids learn more about geography. I recommend these titles in The Magnificent Book series for readers ages 8 to 12.

The publisher provided me with a copy of this title in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: The Science and Technology of Leonardo da Vinci by Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan

Many people know that Leonardo da Vinci painted The Last Supper as a mural in Milan. Or they know of his famous portrait, The Mona Lisa. They may even know about some of his ideas to invent machines long before they became reality, like a contraption that would let man fly.

Yet they may not be aware that he developed plans for an armored tank that could be used in battle or invented a musical instrument. Leonardo had a mind that constantly questioned the way things had always been done, and he looked at challenges with a creative mindset. He also studied problems thoroughly before coming up with solutions that used both math and science.

Young readers can learn more about this fascinating man in The Science and Technology of Leonardo da Vinci by Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan. Part of the Build It Yourself series, the book starts with an introduction to the man and the times he lived in before delving into the areas where he excelled: Art, Civil Engineering, Anatomy, Mathematics, Astronomy and Flight. Each section is chock full of facts, words to know, and concepts that da Vinci delved into. Sections conclude with ideas for hands-on experimentation and involvement, with projects that range from simple to complicated, usually with objects easily found around the house.

For instance, to draw a vanishing point all readers need is paper, a pencil and a ruler. To mimic the way a human joint works, supplies include card stock, string, and pasta tubes. There are lots of fun concepts that should appeal to young readers who like to experiment and see how things work. I recommend The Science and Technology of Leonardo da Vinci for readers aged 12 and up.

The publisher provided me with a copy of this title in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: Jungle Animals: A Spotter’s Guide by Jane Wilsher

Did you know that the platypus is one of the few poisonous mammals, able to inject poison through its back claws? Or that piranhas make sounds like short barks? These are just a couple of the interesting and fun facts readers can find in Jungle Animals: A Spotter’s Guide by Jane Wilsher.

This gorgeous book is full of colorful artwork and fascinating information about all kinds of jungle life divided into six categories: mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish and invertebrates. Each section begins with a page on how to spot what you’re looking for among foliage and colors that jungle life has adapted to hide in.

Each page is loaded with information that will help readers understand basic facts. This includes a map showing where the animal lives, the type of habitat where it can be found, what it eats, its status on the endangered scale and its size as compared to humans. In addition there’s a summary about the animal, a Spotter Fact, pointers to different parts of its anatomy, and more.

Jungle Animals should provide hours of reading fun, particularly for children who are drawn to nonfiction books. I highly recommend it for ages 6 and up.

The publisher provided me with a copy of this title in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: Taking Up Space by Alyson Gerber

Taking Up Space cover image

Sarah has always felt strong and confident in her body. She loves basketball, is a key player for the team, and has a group of friends who also play. But her parents are both often away from home for work, and sometimes they forget she needs to eat. Plus, the fridge and cupboard barely have any food. When her body starts changing and affecting how she plays basketball, Sarah follows conflicting information in a quest to lose weight, putting her health in jeopardy. Can a Junior Chef cooking tryout and a new friendship with her crush help her adjust her thinking about healthy eating?

Taking Up Space by Alyson Gerber tackles the topic of eating disorders by looking at how the whole family is affected when even one person has a misunderstanding about how to eat healthy. In Sarah’s case, her mom has a troubled relationship with food, which means she doesn’t know how to pass on healthy habits to her daughter. Her dad means well, but he’s not home enough to notice what’s going on.

Sarah doesn’t talk to anyone about what’s going on because she doesn’t want to appear different than she’s always been to her friends. Plus, she thinks she can figure it out on her own. She begins to see things differently when she teams up with Benny and learns to cook for a competition. Ultimately, a group that includes friends, her coach, a school counselor, and her parents work together to make positive change.

Taking Up Space can help anyone struggling with food issues or friends of someone who struggles understand what may be happening and seek help. In an author’s note Alyson Gerber comments about her own issues around food and notes a couple of resources for people who want more information to check out.

The publisher provided me with a copy of this title in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: The Wild Book by Juan Villoro

The Wild Book cover image

When Juan’s parents separate, he is sent to his eccentric uncle’s house for the summer while his mom and dad figure out how to move forward. Uncle Tito lives in a house filled with books and he has unusual ideas about how books behave. For instance, he swears that the books move around as they seek out the perfect reader. They are also arranged throughout different rooms of the house according to strange categories, like “Cheeses That Stink But Taste Delicious,” “The Teeth of Grandmothers,” and “Motors That Make No Noise.” But Juan is most intrigued by what Uncle Tito describes as The Wild Book, a volume that eludes everyone while it waits for its ideal reader.

The Wild Book by Juan Villoro is for those who love to read, appreciate a mystery, and like tales full of fantasy. The idea that books seek out their readers, searching for the right time to presents themselves to the person that needs them, should appeal to avid and reluctant readers alike. Also, while searching for the book that eludes everyone, Juan grapples with important issues in his life: what will life be like for him and his sister if his parents divorce; how can he express the way he feels about Catalina, the girl who works at the pharmacy across the street; can he make room in his heart for an uncle he barely knows and who acts differently from everyone else? It’s a great coming of age tale taking place in a dream-like setting.

I recommend The Wild Book for readers in mother-daughter book clubs and ages 9 to 12.

The publisher provided me with a copy of this title in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: Glow by Ruth Forman

Glow captures the joy of summer through the eyes of a Black boy, who winds down his busy day spent playing with friends. He eats ice cream, tunes into the sound of crickets, and watches dancing fireflies. A bubble bath awaits at home along with a thick towel and smooth cocoa butter to soften his brown skin. The full moon shines down as he slips into sleep.

This board book written by Ruth Forman and illustrated by Geneva Bowers is poetic and sweet, showing a boy who loves the way his dark skin looks by the light of the moon. It’s a joyful tribute to children of color that should be fun for parents to read to their little ones while snugging before bed. It’s a great companion to Curls, another book by Forman and Bowers, which celebrates the many ways Black girls can style their curls.

The publisher provided me with a copy of this title in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: The Girl in the Red Boots by Judith Ruskay Rabinor, PhD

The Girl in the Red Boots cover image

In her psychotherapy practice, Dr. Judith Ruskay Rabinor began to explore the importance of the mother-daughter relationship to her patients, many of whom were dealing with eating disorders. While helping others connect with their unexamined trauma, she turned her clinical eye on her relationship with her own mother. She writes about what she discovers in The Girl in the Red Boots: Making Peace With My Mother.

Rabinor is an engaging storyteller, whether recounting the issues she helped her patients work through or looking at her own childhood and the evolving way she interprets her mother’s actions throughout their lives together.

Rabinor also offers some exercises readers may consider doing to help them see their own mothers in a new way. For instance, one activity prompts readers to think about a story they tell repeatedly about their mother, and then imagine telling it again to someone who is listening attentively. Readers are asked to notice how they feel in their bodies while telling the story and look for insights into what it may reveal and why they like telling it.

The Girl in the Red Boots is engaging from the first page to the last, with Rabinor taking the reader on a thoughtful journey that can provide a jumping off point for mothers and daughters to begin their own discussions about issues important to them.

The publisher provided me with a copy of this title in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: The Universe by Matthew Brenden Wood

The Universe cover image

People have always looked into the night sky and wondered about what they were seeing. Over the centuries our understanding of what’s out there has changed as observers and scientists have gained greater ability to look further as well as study heavenly bodies relatively near to Earth. Young readers curious about finding out more can learn from a new title in the Nomad Press Inquire & Investigate series called, The Universe: The Big Bang, Black Holes, and Blue Whales by Matthew Brenden Wood.

The Universe starts with a timeline that began 13.8 billion years ago, with the Big Bang, and it explains the theory using diagrams, comics, sidebar facts, QR codes that can be scanned, and more. Each chapter uses that same format to cover galaxies, stars, planets, and the living Earth. There’s also a chapter on what’s currently predicted for the future of our universe.

Key vocabulary words get attention and there are also hands-on science projects. For instance, there are instructions for how to build a sunspot spotter, complete with ideas for supplies and step-by-step actions. An extensive glossary as well as further resources are included at the back.

Illustrated by Alexis Cornell, The Universe is a great book to engage readers aged 12-15 who are interested in discovering more about what goes on in the space where Earth spins as well as the ground under their feet.

The publisher provided me with a copy of this title in exchange for my honest review.

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