Book Review: Crow Not Crow by Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple

Crow Not Crow cover imageWhen children know how to name the things they see in the world around them, it can be an important part of understanding how they fit into that world. Birds can be robins, crows, chickadees, or many other types. A picture book by Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple, Crow Not Crow helps young readers understand the role of observance in learning how to identify and name the myriad birds they are likely to see in their daily lives.

In the book, a young girl goes birding with her dad. She brings along child-size binoculars to help her see birds up close. Her dad teaches her to identify a crow by looking at its size and the color of its feathers, beak, eyes, and feet. When they encounter other birds on their outing, the dad asks the girl to determine if the new bird is a crow or not, simply by observing. It’s a great way to introduce the concepts of birding.

Illustrations by Elizabeth Dulemba show many different types of birds and various environments where they can be found. A guide at the back of the book gives detailed information about crows and all the other birds depicted on the pages of the books. There’s also a free book companion app, Bird QR, created specifically for Crow Not Crow and other books from the publisher where readers can listen to bird calls and learn more.

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

Book Review: Come November by Katrin van Dam

Come November cover imageWhen Rooney starts her senior year of high school she’s looking forward to applying to Columbia University, the only school she really wants to attend. But first she has to make it through November, when her mom, younger brother, and other members of the New World Society expect her to leave a climate-changing Earth to start over with them on another planet.

Rooney doesn’t buy into the society’s propaganda, but her mom’s dedication threatens to ruin everything she’s dreamed of. Her dad and friend can help, but only if she lets them know her family’s true situation.

Come November by Katrin van Dam gives a glimpse of the ramifications when a parent gets drawn in to a kind of cult. Rooney believes the hardest part of her mom’s actions is waiting until November, when she’s sure her life will get back to normal after her mom stays rooted to the ground instead of leaving Earth. In reality, her troubles multiply.

While Rooney is responsible, working to earn money and make sure there is food in the house, she can’t tackle the enormity of the situation on her own. She’s not sure she can trust her dad, who left when she was young, and she’s having doubts about her best friend. Once she starts opening up to them, she finds the help she needs.

Come November shows the vulnerability that even older teens face when a parent is not responsible in the expected way. It also shows how teens can overcome a reluctance to share embarrassing or traumatic family events so they can get support when they need it. I recommend it for mother-daughter book clubs and all readers aged 14 and up.

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

Book Review and Giveaway: First Snow by Nancy Viau

If you’re looking for a great picture book to share with your children about having winter fun in the snow, Nancy Viau’s First Snow is a great choice. I have one copy to give away (courtesy of Albert Whitman and Co.) to a reader with a U.S. address. Just leave a comment about your favorite way to have fun in the snow by midnight (PST) on December 17 for a chance to win. Now, here’s my review:

First Snow cover imageFirst Snow by Nancy Viau captures the joy of going out to play in the snow. Two children, a brother and sister, run to their window one morning to find the world outside has turned white. Soon they are bundled up in puffy jackets, scarves, mittens, clunky boots, and funky hats. They rush outside to join their friends. Together they make a snowman, ride sleds, have a snowball fight and more. At the end of the day they head home where warm cocoa and cozy pajamas wait.

First Snow inner pageBeautiful illustrations by Talitha Shipman show children laughing and having a great time. It’s the perfect kind of book for parents to read with their children when the weather outside is cold and wintry. In addition to children playing, the scenes include birds eating seeds from a feeder, snowflakes falling, housetops covered in white with smoking chimneys, and a pet dog that plays along. It’s all great fun.

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

Book Review: Peaceful Fights for Equal Rights by Rob Sanders

Peaceful Fights for Equal RightsRob Sanders’ picture book, Peaceful Fights for Equal Rights, provides a way to talk with young children about activism and how people can choose to peacefully make their voices heard to advocate for justice. It’s also a way to look at protest through the lens of the letters of the alphabet.

It starts with activities built around the letter “a”: Assemble. Take action. Create allies. Each activity can be public or private, as shown with the letter “m”: March. Mediate. Meditate. Motivate.

Cut-paper illustrations by Jared Andrew Schorr depict adults and children of all types marching with signs, going to the voting booth, even knitting for a cause. A glossary at the back explains words and terms. There’s also a page that talks about peaceful protests, beginning with those from the 1950s and 1960s in behalf of civil rights, and going on to what it means to peacefully protest today.

Peaceful Fights for Equal Rights can provide a way into discussions about things children see or hear in the news as well as for talking about family values.

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

Book Review: What Can a Citizen Do? by Dave Eggers

What Can a Citizen Do cover imageDave Eggers’ picture book, What Can a Citizen Do?, shows children how they can actively work to make the world around them a better place. Activities showcased include helping a neighbor, joining a cause, planting a tree, help change laws, and more. The actions taken show that being a citizen is a lot more than being able to vote, because it also means making an impact in big and small ways by taking action.

Shawn Harris’s cut-paper illustrations show children actively engaging with the world around them in ways that can make a difference. The book can be a great way for parents to talk with their children about what anyone, even children, can do to make a difference.

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

Book Review: Dry by Clare Liardet

Dry cover imageI enjoy a good cocktail. But sometimes I love to get the fruity, fizzy, refreshing experience I like without having alcohol. I know plenty of other people who feel the same, and that’s why I was excited to get a copy of Dry: Delicious Handcrafted Cocktails and Other Clever Concoctions by Clare Liardet. The subhead of the book lets you know what you’re in for: “Seasonal. Refreshing. Alcohol-Free.” Sometimes that’s just what I need.

I really like that the book starts out with a list of equipment necessary to make the recipes as well as a depiction of types of cocktail glasses. I have to admit that while I have indulged in cocktails all my adult life, I never have been sure of the names of some of the glasses they’re served in. Highball, tumbler, flute…the illustrations make it easy to know what you’re pouring into and sipping from.

There’s also a list of ingredients that go into the cocktail recipes, which includes flowers, spices, fruit, sugar, herbs and more. It’s easy to stock the pantry and spice rack with many of the ingredients, which means you can whip up something on a whim without worrying about going to the store.

With the intro complete, Dry launches into recipes under categories such as, Friday Nights, Lazy Sundays, Long Summers and Fireside Glow. That makes it simple to find things to fit your mood and the time of year. But truly it’s fun just to thumb through the collection and find something that suits your fancy and make it on the spur of the moment. One of my favorites was the Fiery Ginger and Apple Boost. Like the author, I love ginger beer but not necessarily the calories that come in the drink. This recipe gives that fizzy tang without so much sugar.

I also like the author’s comments that go with each recipe, letting readers know at a glance if something is healthy, flavorful, can be adapted, or is inspiring. I found Dry to be a handy-sized book that’s easy to use at home or take on vacation. I expect to use it often for years to come.

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

Book Review: Uncharted by Erin Cashman

UnchartedAnnabeth is still grieving the death of her mother, a death she feels responsible for, when she has to attend a memorial for friends of her parents at a secluded manor. While there she reconnects with a boy from her past, Griffin, who, like Annabeth, grew up in the orbit of his parents’ college friends. But when others in the circle begin to disappear, including Annabeth’s dad, she must unravel carefully hidden secrets that endanger her life and save him if she can.

Uncharted by Erin Cashman is full of mystery, intrigue, and a touch of fantasy. As Annabeth uncovers more secrets, she questions who she can believe and trust. No one seems transparent, and she has to rely on her instincts to keep moving forward. Plus, she can’t deny that she’s falling in love with Griffin, despite the fact that she finds his explanations of events unreliable. The mystery, when it’s revealed, is intriguing.

I recommend Uncharted for readers aged 14 and up. A word of caution for sensitive readers: the story contains scenes and descriptions of physical torture and violence.

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

Book Review: Science Comics The Brain by Tory Woollcott

Science Comics The Brain cover imageIf your middle-schoolers are interested in how the body works, then they’ll probably love the new title in the Science Comics series called The Brain: The Ultimate Thinking Machine by Tory Woollcott and Alex Graudins. The graphic novel format, along with a story to follow, is a great way to explain a complex topic.

In this title, Fahama has been kidnapped by a mad scientist who is all brain and his zombie assistant. He wants to steal her brain so he can study it. To stall and give her sister time to realize she’s missing, Fahama asks lots of questions the scientist has to answer.

Some of the things she discovers are the different parts of the brain and which parts of the body they control, how memory works, how humans register touch, and more. A helpful glossary of terms can be found in the back.

I recommend The Brain for ages 11 and up.

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

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