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Middle Grade Nonfiction Book Review – Totally Random Questions Volume 6

TOTALLY RANDOM QUESTIONS VOLUME 6:

101 Fascinating and Factual Q&As

Written by Melina Gerosa Bellows

Full-Color Photo Credits from Multiple Sources

(Bright Matter Books; H/C $12.99, Paperback $8.99, Ages 8-12)

 

 

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Publisher Summary:

How much does a human skeleton weigh? Who was Bluetooth technology named after? What do rabbits do when they’re happy? Discover the answers to these questions and more in the newest installment of this kid-friendly series packed with fun, fascinating Q&As!

 

Review:

Totally Random Questions Vol. 6 by Melina Gerosa Bellows keeps this popular series going strong. Its small size (six-by-six inches) fits perfectly into hands. And it doesn’t take up much room in backpacks because middle-graders will bring this book to school to quiz their BFFs. With a wide range of topics, there’s something for everyone such as information about animals, sports, science, famous people, and then some.

 

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Interior pages 170 and 171 from Totally Random Questions Volume 6 by Melina Gerosa Bellows, Bright Matters Books ©2023.

 

The format alternates between multiple-choice and true-or-false questions. Interesting information served in this fast way makes for an engaging experience. Wanting to test my knowledge kept me immersed as did the gorgeous full-color photos. Facts I found fascinating include: Cats can drink salt water, the average human skeleton weighs about 25 pounds, and pink snow (also known as “watermelon snow”) really exists.

Kids and adults will have fun reading and challenging one another. Books from this series make great gifts for birthdays and beyond. Volumes 7 and 8 will be available this August.

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Early Graphic Novel – Burt the Beetle Doesn’t Bite!

BURT THE BEETLE DOESN’T BITE!

Written and illustrated by Ashley Spires

(Kids Can Press; $12.99, Ages 5-8)

 

 

burt the beetle doesnt bite cover

 

 

Sticky Burt is a bug who hugs!

 

Burt the Beetle Doesn’t Bite! is the first in a new series by Ashley Spires, the author and illustrator of The Most Magnificent Thing and the Binky adventure series.

Meet Burt, he’s a ten-lined June (or watermelon) beetle. Burt has feathered antennae, a large body, a sticky abdomen, and can flail his legs when he falls on his back (but needs assistance flipping over). He notices that other insects have special or “super” abilities. A bumblebee is a “super hard worker” and ants can carry heavy loads. So what makes Burt special? Well, he’s trying to figure this out. As Burt meets more insects and learns about their amazing features, he wonders what his “super” ability is. Would winking count? How about hanging out around porch lights? Trying to imitate other insects’ super abilities doesn’t work either and Burt continually ends up on his back.

 

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Interior artwork from Burt the Beetle Doesn’t Bite! written and illustrated by Ashley Spires, Kids Can Press ©2021.

 

When Burt discovers a spider web with insects trapped in it, he’s amazed to find that their super abilities cannot free them from the web. As the venomous spider taunts Burt, he realizes he does have some super abilities. Burt’s a hugger and he happens to be sticky, too. Furthermore, he’s big and heavy enough to tear up the spider’s web when he falls on it, saving the other insects–and landing on his back once again. This time he has very grateful friends to help him flip over!

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Interior artwork from Burt the Beetle Doesn’t Bite! written and illustrated by Ashley Spires, Kids Can Press ©2021.

 

Cheerful and upbeat humor shines in this book. Commenting on his feathery antennae, Burt notes “it’s a style choice.” Gentle quips are exchanged between characters. When the spider, firmly stuck to Burt’s abdomen, asks “is this ever going to end?” Burt replies “I guess you’re stuck with me. Get it?” Exaggerated bodies and expressive faces, especially “bug” eyes, add to the enjoyment. 

 

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Interior artwork from Burt the Beetle Doesn’t Bite! written and illustrated by Ashley Spires, Kids Can Press ©2021.

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Spires has created a graphic novel designed for younger readers, especially those new to the graphic novel format. The panels are clean and well organized, without a lot of distractions. The number of characters and speech bubbles in a panel are kept to a minimum and the print is bold and slightly larger than usual.  This book is appropriate for independent readers or as a read-aloud for emerging readers.  

The book includes some themes which could be used to invite children to discuss character and friendship. Burt’s search for what makes him unique is something children also explore for themselves. Perseverance is a challenge for children, but Burt’s positive “can do” type of behavior in the face of repeated failures may encourage them to keep trying. He takes care of his friends and “doesn’t bite because that’s not how you make friends.”

Lastly, this graphic novel engages children in the natural world around them, weaving in factual information about insects and including “awesome insect super facts” in the back matter. Hopefully, it will inspire children to continue exploring the world of insects and their “super” abilities. 

  • Reviewed by Dornel Cerro
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