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For Rick Riordan Fans

Today’s review comes courtesy of Julia, a 10-year-old 5th grader who loves polar bears, designing clothes and books, books, books. Her father queried her about the latest novel she read from best-selling author Rick Riordan.


The Mark of Athena (Heroes of Olympus, Book 3) by Rick Riordan ($19.99, Hyperion Books for Children, ages 9-11).

How would you describe the story to someone?

This story is about Percy, Hazel and Frank meeting Annabeth, Leo, Piper in New Rome and their journey to Rome.

What did you like the best in the story?

I liked that it is from each character’s point-of-view but not narrated by them, like the Red Pyramid books, and it’s filled with adventures, like when they met Narcissus, Echo and all of the love-sick nymphs.

Was there anything you disliked about the book?

The cliffhanger ending because I don’t like being left hanging.

Who was your favorite character in the book?   

Annabeth – because I love how she is smart, crafty and fierce, and she stays strong in the worst situations.  And Hazel because I love her back story.

Would you recommend Heroes of Olympus to people if they liked earlier Rick Riordan books?

Yes, they would like this one, too.


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A Question of Chemistry


Today’s book is reviewed by Debbie Glade who never tires of reading terrific science books for kids.

Why is Milk White? & 200 Other Curious Chemistry Questions ($14.95, Chicago Review Press, Ages 9 and up) is quite a sophisticated science book for kids, educating readers about the basic chemistry of products we use every day as well as the chemistry of people, animals and plants. The questions were written by 11-year-old Alexa Coelho, and the answers were written by her neighbor, a chemist and author, Simon Quellen Field.

The first question that caught my eye in Why is Milk White was “Why does Benedryl make you tired?” Being a major allergy-sufferer myself and frequently relying on Benedryl to get me through countless nights during hay fever season, I was fascinated to read about how this drug actually works and why it makes me so darn sleepy.

Ten chapters cover the topics of: 1)People and Animals; 2)Plants; 3)Household Chemistry; 4)Health and Safety; 5)Things That Catch Fire or Go Bang; 6)Things that Stink; 7) Color; 8) Chemistry in the World; 9) Chemists; and 10)Food. Under each topic is a list of fascinating questions. There is no index in the back of the book so readers must thumb through sections if they are searching for specific information.

Woven throughout the chapters are some really cool chemistry projects budding scientists can do at home, such as making oxygen and hollowing out pennies. Some of these experiments require adult supervision.

What I like about the book is that it was a collaboration between a curious child and a chemist, so it answers many questions that kids (and adults) all over the world ask. It is very well written meaning that children can understand the answers easily, without the author talking down to them.  Also, as I’ve said many times before, there is a serious shortage of scientists in our country, so we cannot have too many great science books for young readers. I can seriously see how this book could inspire a young reader to get interested in a career as a chemist.

As far as the answer to the question, “Why is milk white?” check out page 131 of the book yourself. If you’re as curious as I was to find out the answer to this question, let me give you a hint; it has something to do with light.

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Suffrage: How Women Won the Vote

On this presidential election day, Debbie Glade reviews a book about the history of women voting in the USA.

Now is the perfect time to read Rightfully Ours: How Women Won the Vote; 21 Activities ($16.95, Chicago Review Press, Ages 9 and up) by Kerrie Logan Hollihan. Young readers will learn about the important struggles women of America faced for rights from the cradle of American history through the early 1920s when they were first allowed to vote. They will be introduced to the term, “suffrage,” the act of voting, and will become familiar with the most important figures in women’s voting history.

What I realized when I began reading this book is that there is a lot I didn’t know about the history of women’s rights in America. Sure, I was aware that women struggled for rights, but the details were always lacking in my education. I’m sure many other Americans can say the same.

This book proved to be so very inspiring for me. Women have been fighting for their rights in America since the very beginning of its history. It took great courage and resilience for them to stand up for what they believed in, in a time where their opinions were not respected. Had it not been for the efforts of: Lucy Stone, the first woman to earn a college degree in the state of Massachusetts; Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, organizers of the first women’s rights convention; Harriet Tubman, an organizer of the Underground Railroad; Harriet Beecher Stowe, who wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin and many other prominent female figures in the women’s rights movement, we as women would not have the rights we do today. Readers will understand more about the sacrifices our ancestors made that shaped American history and perhaps they will be grateful for their own civil rights.

As with all Chicago Review Press for Kids Series, there are 21 wonderful activities that accompany this book’s theme. Among my favorites are: crafting your own soap, which reminds us of the way women used to make their own from grease; making an oil lamp with a glass jar; staging a reader’s theater for suffrage; finding out how “comfortable” a corset may be; and making a coat hanger banner similar to those that suffragists marched with to promote their cause. In the back of the book are excellent resources for further learning – books, places to visit and websites of interest.

In October, 2011, I interviewed the author  of this book, Kerrie Logan Hollihan for her impressive Elizabeth I, the People’s Queen: Her Life and Times, 21 Activities book. She has also written, Isaac Newton and Physics for Kids: His Life and Ideas with 21 Activities and Theodore Roosevelt for Kids: His Life and Times, 21 Activities. I so admire Hollihan’s dedication to writing these factual historical books on such important subjects for children which take a great deal of time and passion and I look forward to her next book.

Check out all the Chicago Review Press Kids Series books here.

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Relatively Speaking

“You’re a very clever boy, Einstein, an extremely clever boy. But you have one great fault: you’ll never let yourself be told anything.”

 -Heinrich Weber, Einstein’s professor at Zurich Polytech Institute

By now, those who follow our book reviews know we are big fans of the Chicago Review Press for Kids series, as Debbie Glade has reviewed quite a few of these. Find out why Debbie feels this book about Einstein is one of the most informative and fascinating titles in the series.

I picked up my review copy of Albert Einstein and Relativity for Kids: His Life and Ideas with 21 Activities and Thought Experiments, and could not put it down. It wasn’t at the top of my gigantic review pile, but I was too eager to wait to read it and happily plucked it from the middle of the stack. Lucky for me, I found distraction-free time to read it on a three-hour flight. This made it easy to savor every word of the book’s 126 pages and study the historic black and white photographs.

I’ll start by disclosing that my daughter is a college junior studying geology, requiring that she take several advanced physics classes. She has accelerated my interest in science by patiently sharing with me, in layman’s terms, some of what she has learned through her own studies. I am well aware that not all readers share my thirst for knowledge on the subject of science, but that thirst is not a requirement for thoroughly enjoying this book. Albert Einstein’s scientific contributions to the world were so great that any person, age 9 and older can greatly benefit from reading this book.

As I  finished the last page of Albert Einstein and Relativity for Kids, I thought about how the general public has come to believe Einstein, a scientist with unkempt hair, who never wore socks, was a brilliant man– so brilliant that we cannot possibly understand the basics of what his scientific theories mean. Author and science teacher, Jerome Pohlen proves that all wrong. Through his clear and clever explanations, Pohlen will help children (and adults!) understand the primary elements of the equation E=mc2 and the basic principals of Special Relativity and General Relativity, as well as all of Einstein’s other scientific discoveries. Surely, explaining complicated theories on physics to children is an imposing task, so I must highly commend the author on his success.


“Mass and energy, different forms of the same thing.”

What your child will learn in this book is way too great for summarizing, but here is a list of some highlights:

  • Scientists all benefit from the theories, proven or not, of the scientists who were here before them and who work alongside them.
  • No matter how brilliant a man may be, success may be long coming.
  • Einstein was an independent thinker, and although he was not a good student in college, he had an unmatched ability to process mathematical and scientific information into provable theories.
  • Einstein’s personal life was not as successful as his professional life.
  • Einstein was a kind and generous man.
  • Einstein was a broad-minded thinker who was outspoken about his views.
  • Einstein’s findings were credited for the development of the atomic bomb, quite an irony to his views opposing war.

In addition to enjoying the eight excellent chapters in the book and sidebars with fascinating facts about other scientists and important figures in Einstein’s life, readers will delight in the 21 suggested activities in the book. From using a microwave and marshmallow Peeps to learn about the speed of light to driving in a car with your parents to learn about relative motion, these activities add an additional element of hands-on learning for readers.

What I love about this book is …everything! It’s fascinating, informative and essential, plus curious kids will love and understand it. Our country is greatly lacking in the number of scientists, and books like these are the best way to get children interested from an early age. If you have always wondered about Einstein’s life and his Theories of Relativity, you too will love reading this book.

Einstein changed the world of science forever, and surely there’s a child out there somewhere who will have a similar impact on the world some day. Perhaps that child is yours.

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Despair, Courage and Triumph: The Life and Times of Frederick Douglas

Once I started reading Frederick Douglas for Kids: The Life and Times with 21 Activities, ($16.95, Chicago Review Press, Ages 9 and up) I couldn’t put the book down. (Even the Olympic Games could not distract me!) Douglas’ life story, as brilliantly and thoroughly told by author Nancy I. Sanders, is one of great risk and reward, despair and triumph.

Born as Frederick Augustine Washington Baily, the young slave boy from Baltimore, Maryland was taken from his mother, lived with his grandmother and then was sent into slavery at a young age.  Throughout the book we learn how he spoke out against the atrocities of slavery and took the most courageous risks through the Underground Railroad to become a free man. We also discover that his name was changed to protect his true identity. His life was one of many hardships and tragedies, yet he rose above it all to become a revered speaker against slavery, an author and a leader in the abolitionist and civil rights movements.

I really enjoyed every aspect of this book. In addition to the astounding life story of Douglas, there many excellent photographs and feature boxes with fascinating facts about other abolitionists and key figures of the era. The 21 activities in the book, such as forming a debate club, taking action in the current world slave market and making a carpet bag, are among the best I’ve seen in any of the Chicago Review Press books I’ve read.  In the back of the book are resources and a detailed index I found myself using often to cross-reference information.

Now that I’ve read this book, I am so much more knowledgeable about not only Douglas, but also slavery, the Civil War, civil rights and the abolitionist movement. Frederick Douglas will live on as one of the bravest and brightest Americans in history, and reading this book will inspire children to think about what they should stand up for – or against.  Simply put, Frederick Douglas for Kids: The Life and Times with 21 Activities an invaluable resource and a spectacular book that should be read by every American child (and parent too).

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Slithering Snake Science

Debbie Glade pursues her thirst for scientific knowledge with this great book from Chicago Review Press.

Once again, I find myself with an amazing non-fiction children’s book from Chicago Review Press on my lap that I can’t put down. Awesome Snake Science: 40 Activities for Learning About Snakes ($14.95, Chicago Review Press, ages 9 -12) by author and naturalist, Cindy Blobaum, helps children appreciate these intriguing reptiles that are so often feared.

Like all other Chicago Review Press books for kids I’ve read, parents and teachers will benefit greatly from reading this book too. Readers learn about different species of snakes, where to find them, the anatomy of them, how they survive, why and how they strike and how they defend themselves.  Even the squeamish can appreciate learning fascinating facts such as this: It is common for snake teeth to get stuck in the animal it is eating and fall out, but since snakes can grow new teeth any time they need them, this is not a problem. Or how about this one? If the temperature of a snake’s body dips below 60 degrees Fahrenheit while food is in his stomach, the food will not digest. Rather it will simply rot, which may in turn poison the snake.

In addition to becoming a young herpetologist, readers can enjoy many different activities from making a research journal and making a snake spine to seeing through a snake’s eyes and testing your own tongue. All the activities use materials that are easy to find in your home and do not require any slithering thing (such as a real snake). There are wonderful photographs and illustrations throughout the book as well.

This book is a hit in many ways, but most importantly it works because it teaches readers to think like scientists, inspiring them to seek out the true facts about snakes. In turn this may help alleviate some of the fears they have about these slithering creatures and make them want to learn more. And perhaps they will one day become scientists themselves.

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Fridays Featuring Flintridge: Find Your Child’s Next Favorite Book Here!

An Insider’s Guide to Getting Your Kids
to Become Passionate Page Turners

Welcome to an exciting new feature we’ll be offering every other Friday at Good Reads With Ronna, Fridays Featuring Flintridge. This insider’s look at great books for kids and teens is brought to us by professional children’s book buyer, Catherine Linka. She’ll present her recommended reads in themes and today’s theme is a rather dreamy one. Read more about Catherine below and see her suggestions for this summer. We’re sure you’ll soon understand why we value her opinions and why we’re so delighted she’s on board!

About Catherine

Catherine Linka is the Children’s and Teen Book Buyer for the Flintridge Bookstore in Southern California. She has an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts, and blogs about writing at  Catherine also leads two groups of young book reviewers, elementary school and teens. Her book recommendations are books she respects and those her young reviewers loved.

Raising an Enthusiastic Reader –a message from Catherine Linka

– You want your child to grow up to be successful and independent and you know that being a good reader is crucial for their success.

– There are two parts to being a good reader. First, a child has to learn the technical skills of “decoding” text–of learning the relationship between letters, sounds, and the meaning of words.

– Second, a child has to want to read–to be excited about it, and to find it satisfying. Unless a child is motivated to read, they won’t advance. 

– Decoding is the job of your child’s teacher. But your job is better–to build your child’s love of reading.

– The books I picked for this blog are ones that kids I work with loved. These are books they held up and said, “This is the best book I’ve ever read.” I hope your child will find a book they love.


Books for Dreamy Girls who love to sit in the shade with a book for company. 

JUNONIA by Kevin Henkes ($6.99, Harper Collins Children’s Books)

Now in paperback, this lovely story of a girl who goes to Florida every year with her family only to find that this year, things are different. A perfect book to reassure a child that things change, but change can be OK. (8+)

THE SECRET TREE by Natalie Sandiford ($16.99, Scholastic Press)

This reminded me of BECAUSE OF WINN DIXIE. Set in a woodsy neighborhood, everyone writes their secrets on slips of paper and leaves them in a hollow tree, hoping their pain will be absolved. Two friends do what they can to help their neighbors heal. (9+)


REMARKABLE by Elizabeth Foley ($16.99, Dial Books For Young Readers)

The book for little girls who don’t see themselves as special, but who hunger to be. In this story, Jane is the only child in the town of Remarkable who is plain and unremarkable. But Jane becomes the hero when three unpleasant characters come to down. The fifth and sixth graders in my Advance Readers club LOVED this book. (8+)

THE GIRL WHO CIRCUMNAVIGATED FAIRYLAND by Catherynne M.Valente ($6.99, Macmillan/Square Fish)

Think ALICE IN WONDERLAND. Sophisticated, gorgeous, playful and ironic language and a perfect read aloud for 10+. Now in paperback. Sequel is coming.

KAT, INCORRIGIBLE   ($6.99, Atheneum Books For Young Readers)

Fun and funny fantasy set in England in the 1800s. Kat doesn’t want her older sisters to have to get married,
so she uses magic to mess up her stepmother’s plans. A little flavor of Jane Austen. Very sweet. Now in paperback. 10+.

SPARROW ROAD by Sheila O’Connor ($6.99, Penguin)

Now in paperback. A sensitive portrait of a 12 year old girl trying to figure herself out over a summer when her mother goes
to work at an artist colony. A tender, beautiful story. (10+)

Please visit the Flintridge Bookstore today to pick up your copy of these great books, buy gifts, enjoy their extension selection of other great reads  and relax over a great cup of coffee.  Also visit the website at to keep up-to-date with story times author events and other exciting special events.

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Explorer: The Mystery Boxes, a Graphic Novel For Kids Worth Exploring

Reinterpreting the Anthology For a New Generation

Reviewed today by Jason Carpenter

Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone’s enduring legacy has been the impact it’s had on short form storytelling and the generation-spanning celebration of the paranormal-infused science fiction/fantasy genre.  But, alas, for the demographic born after 1990, television has failed to deliver the next culture-defining anthology program.  Perhaps with Explorer: The Mystery Boxes ($10.95 paperback, $19.95 hardcover, Amulet Books, ages 9 and up), as edited by Amulet creator Kazu Kibuishi, with stories by a host of other artists and writers, the graphic novel format will carry the torch of those well-told– often replete with  jaw-dropping, gut-punching finales– morality plays that possess more than a touch of the bizarre.

Explorer holds seven short tales, including one by Kibuishi himself, connected thematically by one element: each work has its own manifestation of a magical, mystical, or otherwise pedestrian-seeming box.  The boxes, whether harboring treasure or inciting mischief, are really the crystal pools in which the true nature of the protagonists are reflected.  The seven stories vary in tone and atmosphere, from the comic to the otherworldly, and, as is wont with anthology compendiums, they achieve varying levels of success.

Chief among the standouts are Emily Carroll’s “Under the Floorboards”; in it, a young girl discovers a duty-bound wax doll that may be evolving (or devolving) into a spiteful doppelgänger.  Carroll’s grim fairy tale plays out like a minimalist hybrid of the gothic whimsy of Cartoon Network’s Adventure Time series and the psychological interior of Marjane Satrapi’s award-winning graphic novel Persepolis.  It’s also the closest in spirit to Serling’s odes to the macabre. Rad Sechrist’s “The Butter Thief” adopts an outline-free aesthetic reminiscent of Genndy Tartakovsky’s elegant Samurai Jack animated series, and is the most action-packed and oddly moving of the bunch.

The scope and spiritual ambition of the Explorer: The Mystery Boxes compilation is admirable– the mystery is why it isn’t attempted more often.

To learn more about Jason, please visit About Our Reviewers page by clicking here.

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Philosophy for Middle Grade Readers

Lives of the Great Spiritual Leaders ($19.95, Thames and Hudson, middle grade readers) is the first book of its kind I have seen. 20 of the most powerful spiritual leaders from Moses (1250 BC) to the Dalai Lama (present day) are featured in this book, giving middle grade readers background and highlights of a wide variety of philosophies. Listed in chronological order of when he or she lived, each leader’s nationality, religious association and basic doctrine is listed, followed by more details about that individual’s life. We learn about how Socrates showed the people of the world they do not really know the answers to questions they think they understand, how Gandhi taught his people to peacefully protest against injustice to make positive changes and how Mother Teresa gave her life to the poorest of the poor.

From the most famous spiritual leaders in the world, to the lesser known, what I love about this book is that author Henry Whitbread gives us enough information to get a basic sense of the background, beliefs struggles and accomplishments of each individual. Every section of the book is complemented by excellent quotes, photographs and illustrations. No matter what religion a child follows, an important part of a well-rounded education is learning about other religions and philosophies and the spiritual leaders who made great impacts on the world. This book should be on classroom shelves and in the libraries of families everywhere.

This book was reviewed by Debbie Glade.

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A Race to the South Pole

The Winter Pony is reviewed today by Krista Jefferies.

Iain Lawrence’s The Winter Pony ($16.99, Delacorte Books for Young Readers, ages 9-12) is an adventurous tale of the historic race to the South Pole by two explorers in the early 1900s. While the Norwegian, Roald Amundsen, used a team of dogs to help haul his supplies across the icy terrain of Antarctica, Englishman Robert Scott used white ponies, which were his downfall for a number of reasons. Though the story gives small excerpts from the real-life journals of Amundsen and Scott, most of the story is told from the point of view of one of Scott’s ponies, which the men nicknamed Jimmy Pigg.  Jimmy brings us into the mind of a majestic animal helpless to escape the life he was made to bear.

The beginning of the story depicts how the ponies were initially captured from a field and put to work as laborers, hauling heavy cargo and being abused by their masters. The rest of the story describes, as accurately as possible, the hazardous and inhumane experiences of the ponies during this treacherous expedition, the bond they develop with their caretakers along the way, and the heartbreaking outcome for these unique and lovely animals. As a reader I accepted the literary license Lawrence took with some aspects of the storytelling and became invested in the book. I found myself rooting for these animals and hoping they would survive.  Though the reality of the story is quite sad, I did enjoy reading it because of the history it involves and the message it offers to any reader today. It’s a poignant reminder that animals are marvelous creatures of nature that should be cared for, respected, and free.  For some readers, it may inspire them to become animal activists in the future, for others it may arouse an interest in history or geography. Either way, it opens up a great dialogue for young people to have with their parents, as well as an opportunity for kids to develop the gift of empathy.

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Gotta Love a Mystery

Middle grade readers love to solve mysteries, and after reading The Seals That Wouldn’t Swim ($5.95 Stone Arch Books, ages 9 and up) one of several books in the Field Trip Mysteries Series, I know I love to solve them too. In this story, a 6th grade science class takes a trip to an aquarium to observe the marine life. But not long after they arrive, they discover the seals at that aquarium are sluggish, and the marine animal show has been cancelled. Just as the students try to figure out why the seals are so sleepy, those students learn that the seals are now missing from the aquarium. Where can they be? Who could be involved in their disappearance?  With some methodical thinking and clever detective work, can they solve the mystery?

What I like about this book, written by Steve Brezenoff and illustrated by Marcos Calo, is that it is easy to understand, yet it really makes the reader pay attention to the details and think outside the box. The solution is not obvious, so I found myself going back to previous pages to check the facts to try to figure out who was responsible for the missing seals. The students in the story explain in detail how they reached their conclusions, which really helps kids at this age develop their reasoning skills. In the back of the book is a detective’s notebook with more information for further detective work. The Field Trip Mysteries Series would make a great collection for any middle grade reader who enjoys a good whodunnit. These are the kind of stories kids have fun reading and solving together.

– Reviewed by Debbie Glade

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Travel Around the World (Without Leaving Your Chair)

Debbie Glade reviews two books that offer creative ways to introduce your children to geography, cultures and ancient history.

There’s no denying that there’s something mysteriously exciting about hieroglyphics, pharaohs, pyramids and buried treasures. Perhaps that’s why I never met a child who was not fascinated by Ancient Egypt.  Ancient Egypt: Tales of Gods and Pharaohs ($16.99, Candlewick Press, ages 6 and up) is a very unique and creative book. Author/illustrator Marcia Williams retells nine Ancient Egyptian tales using the format of a comic book. But don’t be mistaken – unlike a regular comic book, this is a very sturdy, well-crafted hardcover book with vibrant illustrations using the quintessential Egyptian colors and high quality paper. Dialogue goes on inside the comic frames, while stories are told in bits beneath each frame. The dialogue is often funny, and oh so entertaining. The best part is that young readers will learn a lot about Egyptian culture and discoveries, without having to study a boring textbook. Your child will love the dialogue and the illustrations. There’s a lot to look at here and a lot to learn too.

Tales from India: Stories of Creation and the Cosmos ($19.99, Templar Books, ages 9 and up) is a big (88 pages), beautiful book, filled with Hindu tales and colorful, one-of-a-kind illustrations by award-winning illustrator, Amanda Hall. Written by award-winning author, Jamila Gavin, this books takes readers on a journey though creation, natural disasters, evil kings, powerful romances, unsung heroes and so much more. Think of it as a sophisticated book of Indian mythology. The stories are ideal for advanced readers and for upper elementary and middle school classrooms. They can easily be read out loud for the entire class to enjoy and can easily spark some creativity for doing social studies projects.

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From the Forest to the Farm

Debbie Glade reviews two educational paperback books from Dawn Publications that would make a great addition to any child’s library.

Over in the Forest: Come and Take a Peek ($8.95, Dawn Publications, ages 3-8) teaches readers about the most common animals one would find in the forest. Written by Marianne Berkes in rhyme, each page features a different animal, revealing where that species typically lives in the forest and what the offspring are called. For example, did you know that a baby possum is called a joey? The story is wonderfully complemented by unique paper cut collage illustrations by artist, Jill Dubin. What I really like about this book is all the educational information included in the back. Here you’ll find more details about the animals you can clearly see in the forest and those that are often hidden. There are tips from the author about how to be a wildlife detective, suggested indoor activities to help young readers learn more about the forest and tips from the illustrator about how to do a collage. There are even lyrics to a song, written by Berkes, set to the tune of “Over in the Meadow.”

Since I grow organic vegetables of my own, I can totally appreciate Molly’s Organic Farm ($8.95, Dawn Publications, ages 4-10), written by Carol L. Malnor. Through the frolics of a homeless cat named, Molly, readers discover what life is like on an organic vegetable farm. I love that the book is based upon a true story of a small orange cat, that one day appeared on a small organic farm in Northern California. The story cleverly weaves in educational details about organic farming, while keeping the child’s interest in the story with the help of Molly’s assorted activities. Readers want to know if Molly will find a home come winter. The lovely watercolor illustrations by Trina L. Hunner bring the cute cat and the story to life. In the back of the book is more in-depth educational information about the farm, info about the seasons of the farm and the true story of Molly the cat, as told by the illustrator who once lived near the farm that Molly calls home.

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Heart and Soul, the History of African Americans

Debbie Glade reviews a remarkable ALA Notable Children’s Book, Coretta Scott King Author Award and Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor book for Black History Month.

Heart and Soul:The Story of America and African Americans ($19.99, Balzer & Bray, ages 9 and up) is an essential historical fiction book for children and their parents and teachers. It was written and illustrated by Kadir Nelson, one of our nation’s most accomplished, multiple award-winning artists. You will undoubtedly be wowed by the 44 illustrations in this remarkable book and will want to covet every page to soak in all the details. Made from oil paintings on canvas, these pictures are so incredibly impressive that they alone are worth the price of the book – and then some.

In the Author’s Note, Mr. Nelson talks about how history was never a favorite subject of his. Yet he found himself illustrating many historical figures over the years and getting more and more fascinated by the subject. It’s a good thing he did, because through his fascination comes this incredible summary of the most important aspects of the history of African Americans through the time of Abe Lincoln’s presidency. Through the voice of a narrator, Heart and Soul is a concise account of the life of the narrator’s ancestors, who endured the wrath of slavery.

I like the way the story touches upon a wide timeline, covering a great deal of information, while not being overwhelming to young readers. From injustice and despair to hope and freedom, the story inspires readers to want to learn more about slaves – the very people who were the “Heart and Soul” of our great nation. A detailed timeline in the back of the book helps readers better understand the history of black America. There’s even a detailed index too.

This is not your every day children’s book. Heart and Soul is a book you should buy and keep, rather than borrow and return. Trust me on this one.

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