National Geographic Readers: Elephants
Avery Elizabeth Hurt

Happy World Elephant Day! 🐘 These majestic herbivores develop strong social ties within their matriarchal social groups. Not only are they one of the world’s largest land mammals, they are also one of the most intelligent, able to use tools and solve problems. They can communicate with each other from up to two miles apart, and they show empathy, even mourning their dead. Sadly, elephant populations are under extreme threat primarily due to habit loss and poaching.

Today, I thought I’d read National Geographic Readers: Elephants to honor these animals. Geared toward ages two to five, this is one of National Geographic’s “You Read, I Read” series. One page is designed for a parent or guardian to read aloud with a challenging world highlighted while the facing page is designed for the child to read and repeats the highlighted word. Each of the brief chapters concludes with a different interactive activity to reinforce comprehension and retention.

This volume about elephants included a lot of information on their body parts, like their trunks and ears, their families, their needs, such as diet, sleep, and water, and their habitat. The text is engaging and age appropriate with the help of an older reader, and the numerous color photographs are phenomenal. The book mentions the declining elephant population and that organizations are trying to help but doesn’t provide details. National Geographic Readers: Elephants is a wonderful introduction to the natural history of elephants for young readers, and the illustrations will absolutely delight them.

If you want to see amazing pictures of elephants and learn how to help, please visit these excellent organizations:

Book Review: THE STORY OF PEOPLE, a concise history of humankind for children

The Story of PeopleThe Story of People
A First Book about Humankind
Catherine Barr and Steve Williams
Illustrated by Amy Husband

The Story of People promises to deliver an ambitious goal–summarize the history of humankind on earth in a book digestible for children–and it does an amazing job parsing two million years into around forty pages.

Barr and Williams begin when dinosaurs went extinct but small mammals survived the asteroid that killed so much life on earth. From there, readers learn about hunter and gatherer societies, the formation of towns, trade, the development of government, the influence of religion, to the industrial revolution, and today’s amazing technological developments.

They don’t shy away from difficult topics such as the slave trade, war, and climate change, though their message is one of cooperation and hopefulness.

Completed in a style I particularly like, Amy Husband’s illustrations are somewhat cartoon-like, colorful, playing with perspective, and with new details every time you look at the page.

The book includes a running timeline and a helpful glossary.

For an audience of six-to-nine-year-olds, The Story of People does deliver a full, though concise history that will also certainly inspire questions and provoke discussion. A must for libraries, this is also a great book to have at home.

Thank you to Netgalley and Quarto Publishing Group, Frances Lincoln Children’s Books for providing an advance reading copy in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: MARIA MONTESSORI, a new book in the Little People, BIG DREAMS series

Maria MontessoriMaria Montessori
by Isabel Sanchez Vegara
Illustrated by Raquel Martín

When I was younger, I went to a Montessori school, so I thought I was familiar with the Montessori technique. Although I did know about the method, I certainly knew very little about the woman who developed it.

Maria Montessori, a new board book in the Little People, BIG DREAMS series offers a condensed biography of this pioneering educator designed to be read aloud to babies and toddlers.

Although Maria loved to learn, she thought school was boring and made up games to enliven lessons. She was the only girl in an all-boys technical institute, and the first woman in Italy to study medicine. At times, she was segregated from the male students and had to study cadavers alone. In her first job, working at a hospital for disabled children, she changed the approach to treatment with wondrous effects. She realized her methods would work for all children, and she opened a school. Maria taught her technique all over the world, helping make learning more fun and developing thoughtful learners and critical thinkers. Vegara’s story doesn’t just capture Maria’s life but holds out a promise of what we all can be.

Martín’s illustrations are fabulous, colorful and vibrant, and they reflect gender, race, and ethnic diversity.

Both young readers and the people who read to them will learn from and enjoy this interesting biography of Maria Montessori, and it would be a great addition to any child’s home library.

Thank you to Netgalley and Quarto Publishing Group, Frances Lincoln Children’s Books for providing an advance reading copy in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: ADA LOVELACE, a new Little People, Big Dreams board book

Ada Lovelace

Ada Lovelace is a board book addition to the Little People, Big Dreams series designed to be read aloud to babies and toddlers. Although Ada Lovelace is an important historical figure, critical in the development of the calculator, so few people know of her, it’s wonderful she has this introduction to a new generation (as well as to the people who read to them).

Vegara does a good job distilling Lovelace’s story, and the vocabulary involved in her inventions, to a beginning level, and Yamamoto’s illustrations are delightful. Ada’s cat, Mrs. Puff, appears on every spread, and it’s fun to find her in the background. There are also nice details like simple mathematical problems and subtle additions like the 0-1 binary language in a background of a portrait of Ada.

Although I very much like the book and think it is a valuable addition to a young reader’s library, I thought the first pages, of Ada’s childhood, were a little vague, and that the narrative really developed once Ada recognized her talent for invention.

Ada faced significant hurdles, including her mother’s skepticism, sexism, and the disbelief of scientists. These are present but played down in the text, though the message that using one’s imagination and being persistent shines through.

Thank you to Netgalley and Quarto Publishing Group, Frances Lincoln Children’s Books for providing an advance reading copy in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: YAY FOR VACAY! a pug lover’s must

Ahn, Flora - Vay for Vacay (3)Vay for Vacay!
Pug Pals #2
Flora Ahn

In Vay for Vacy! pugs Sunny and Rosy stay at their grandma’s house while their human is out of town. They are enjoying lounging in the yard while grandma gardens, but when the vegetables are all stolen, grandma blames them and banishes from the garden. Sunny decides they need to solve this mystery and even remembers they have Sherlock and Holmes costumes from a past Halloween. Can they solve the crime before their human returns so they can get back in grandma’s good graces?

A beginning chapter book, Vay for Vacy! is the second book in Flora Ahn’s Pug Pal’s series. In the first book, Sunny met Rosy. Now, Sunny has grudgingly accepted little sister Rosy but is sometimes exasperated and impatient with her, often to comic effect.

Ahn’s line drawings are delightful and capture a wide range of expressions on her pugs which are amazingly realistic, as I know from recognizing them on my pups! She puts the dogs in several situations that require “costume changes” which are adorable, and the dogs even meet a new friend while solving the mystery.

A must for pug lovers, young and old alike, this book will also appeal to children who like cute mysteries to read by themselves or who who like to be read to.

You’ll also want to check out the real Sunny and Rosy, plus Monkey, the newest grumble member, on Instagram!