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Creatures That Fly, Creatures that Crawl

Our regular readers have figured out by now that I love bugs, because I cannot seem to pass up reading books about them. I often daydream that I am an entomologist who researches and raises insects of all kinds, and even identifies new species. I suppose the next best thing to being a scientist who studies insects is reading books written by scientists, including  these two special books about dragonflies and caterpillars.

Author Chris G. Earley is the interpretive biologist at the University of Guelph’s Arboretum in Ontario, Canada. Most of the photos in the book were taken by the author.

dragonfDragonflies: Catching, Identifying, How and Where They Live ($6.95, Firefly Books, Ages 8-11) will get you hooked on these fascinating creatures. Dragonflies are part of a group of insects called odonates. They are fast fliers and have been around since before dinosaurs roamed the earth! If you want to find dragonflies on your own, look for them near rivers, lakes and swamps from early spring to late autumn.

In this information-packed compact paperback book, you’ll learn about the life cycle of the dragonfly (egg, nymph, adult); what they eat (other insects); how to catch them (using a net); and how to hold them (by gently folding back their wings). You’ll also discover many different kinds of dragonflies with descriptions and incredible photographs. There’s a list of additional books worth reading and an index to help you find what you’re looking for.

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caterp2The cover of Caterpillars: Find, Identify, Raise Your Own ($6.95, Firefly Books, Ages 8-11) makes you want to open this book right up and start reading. Caterpillars never cease to amaze children because their transformation into butterflies is nothing short of amazing.

Readers will be able to identify all the parts of the caterpillar and their life cycle (egg, caterpillar, chrysallis/cocoon, adult stage). They will also learn how to find, raise and feed them. And after reading about all the different types of moths and butterflies, and looking at photos, they will be able to identify a wide variety of species. This book also has a list for further reading and an index for quick reference.

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Both of these books teach children what they can do to protect these insects and to cherish the creatures of the wild. They will also encourage kids to want to learn more about nature and perhaps one day become scientists themselves.

– Reviewed by Debbie Glade

If you enjoy these books about bugs, read some of Debbie’s other reviews here.

Step Gently Out

Noisy Bug Sing-a-long

How To Raise Monarch Butterflies

Mayfly Day

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Reading Dogs and Writing Snakes You Say?

What the Snakes WroteIn a picture book, any scenario you can imagine – and even those beyond your wildest dreams – can come to life. In What the Snakes Wrote ($9.95, Firefly Books, Ages 5-8), a farm dog named Rufus befriends a big family of snakes that slither and arrange themselves into letters and words to send messages. Rufus, being the friendly, helpful canine that he is, runs to the rescue of the snakes as they post different messages calling for help. He even tries to get the attention of the farmer when the snakes need more assistance than he alone can give. But the farmer is busy and just doesn’t notice what’s going on. When the snakes are in real deep trouble, will Rufus be able to save the day?

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The story, by author Hazel Hutchins, is original and the message is one of literacy. I like the fact that even though the story is not reality (i.e. snakes cannot write and dogs cannot read) in the back of the book the author provides two pages of interesting true facts about snakes. The cheerful illustrations are cartoon-like, and I love the way illustrator Tina Holdcroft depicts the snakes as they form words.

Reading What the Snakes Wrote with your children, is the perfect time to broach the subject of the importance of being able to read and communicate. It also opens the door to further exploration of the fascinating world of snakes. And it is just a really cute story.

– Reviewed by Debbie Glade

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The Weird and Wonderful Under Water World

weirdseacreatures Ever since I watched the IMAX movie, Deep Sea 3D in 2006  have been enamored with the many mysteries of the sea. Weird Sea Creatures ($9.95, FireFly Books, Ages 10 and up) is a magical book, highlighting 50 of the most unique animals living in the deepest parts of the sea where there is total darkness.

Author Eric Hoyt offers a most informative introduction to his book discussing the fascinating elements of the deepest parts of the sea (Pacific) and explaining how the sea creatures in the book were captured in nets and placed in aquariums in temperature controlled laboratories aboard the sea vessels used in the expedition. The sea animals were photographed against black backgrounds inside these aquariums using specially timed flashes to illuminate the subjects in order to capture them in the most ideal ways. You will be overwhelmed by these extraordinary photos taken by David Shale, Solvin Zanki and Jeff Rotman, (whose names are listed only in the author’s note.) The incredible detail of these photos is like that of no animal photo I’ve ever seen before.

Each of the 50 photos is accompanied by a paragraph explaining where the animal was found, how it lives, what it eats and any unusual facts about it that may interest the reader. I was fascinated by every creature, but was most in awe of the Yeti Crab, Hydromedusan Jellyfish, Naked Sea Butterfly, Northern Stoplight Loosejaw, Acorn Worm and Sea Spider. It’s hard to believe that animals this exotic live lower in the depths of the sea than Mount Everest is high in the sky!

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If it were not for the expeditions into the deep and the efforts of scientists like Eric Hoyt as well as the photographers who shoot pictures of the sea creatures living too deep for us to ever see, the great mysteries of the ocean would remain undiscovered. It is so wonderful that children (and their parents) can enjoy learning about the exotic fauna in Weird Sea Creatures. It is such an intriguing read and visual wonderland that this book is sure to inspire young, curious minds to want to learn more about sea life and perhaps even be scientists themselves one day.

– Reviewed by Debbie Glade

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$ Money 101$

9781554514816_p0_v1_s260x420Managing money is one of those subjects children just don’t learn in school, yet it’s one of the most important life skills. Learning about money at a young age is key. But when it comes to teaching their children, where do parents begin? Now there’s Follow Your Money: Who Gets it, Who Spends it, Where Does it go? ($14.95, Firefly Books, Ages 10 and up) by Kevin Sylvester and Michael Hlinka, to help you get started.

The book is written in such a clever way with young readers in mind, who most likely have not thought in real detail about money before. The book begins with an explanation about what money is, and from there many short chapters cover topics young readers can most relate to. For example, readers can understand how much it costs to buy groceries to eat breakfast – from the farmer costs, packaging, wages and store expenses. The authors actually break down the costs so kids can see how it all adds up. There are chapters on school supplies, jeans, shoes and even earrings. Readers will know all about the breakdown of the costs of gas, MP3 players, computers, cell phones, going to the movies and much more. Plus the book is illustrated with colorful cartoon-like pictures.

I admire the way the authors managed to write in light entertaining prose while at the same time educating kids about the bottom line of earning, spending, saving.  When we buy our kids a new cell phone or a computer, how many really think about, or understand what it took to make that product? On the cell phone page in Follow Your Money there’s an illustration of all the parts of a cell phone and what country each part originated from. There’s a breakdown of cell plan charges and even a blurb on the costs of going over one’s limit. How great is that?! With this book, your kids can start to appreciate how hard you had to work to get them that cell phone as well as the cost of modern day communication.

I recommend that all parents and teachers of 10 to 13 year-olds buy this book for their kids. When it comes to learning about how money works, how it is earned, spent and saved, you simply cannot start too early. The way we manage money from the start is often the way we continue through life, and unfortunately this is one important subject not taught in school.

– Reviewed by Debbie Glade

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Capture the Best Moments of Your Child’s Life Like a Pro

Debbie Glade shares her thoughts on a subject very important to all parents – taking great photos of their children.

The beautiful picture on the cover of Photograph Your Kids Like a Pro: How to Take, Edit and Display the Best Ever Photos of Your Kids, Whatever the Occasion  ($24.95, Firefly Books, Adults) is proof that author Heather Mosher knows what she’s talking about. Within the 160 meaty pages of this book are tips and tricks that would take you many years to learn on your own. If you’re like me and have a good camera, but haven’t really mastered all you can do with it, this book is for you.

To start, this book, although a paper back, features so many magnificent photographs of children it is worthy of coffee table book status. The essential first chapter helps you make sense of the many camera choices out there so you can buy the one that’s right for you. Mosher gives you tips on understanding how your camera works which is so important. After all, what’s the point in paying for a fabulous camera if you don’t really know how to use it to its fullest capacity?

The second chapter deals with light, shutter speed, depth of field and how to control your camera to make light work for you rather than against you. Chapters 3 and 4 take you into the mind of a professional photographer who knows how to create style and personality with each photo taken. Just when you think there cannot possibly be an original photo that has yet to be taken, this books show you there are many. Getting to know the personality of the subject can make all the difference.

My daughter Rachel and Darwin taken with my well-used Nikon D40

In Chapter 5 you’ll learn how to choose the proper location for your photo and how to set your camera to harmonize with whatever the weather may be at the time. Chapter 6 narrows in on specific themes for your photo shoot, with camera setting suggestions to help you get the perfect shot. In Chapter 7, the final chapter of the book, you’ll learn how to edit your pictures using various photo-editing software programs. There are even tips on how to display your photos and also a gallery of pictures that will absolutely leave you awestruck.

Photograph Your Kids Like a Pro is easy to read and an ideal manual for anyone who wants to photograph their children like a pro. It will inspire you and take you to new photographic heights as well as help you capture the best moments of your child’s life. What’s more important than that?

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