Showing posts with label educational. Show all posts
Showing posts with label educational. Show all posts

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Let's Fly a Plane by Chris Ferrie


Rating: WORTHY!

From an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

Friends, red kangaroos, children, lend me your engineers! Having just seen Fantasy Island at the movie theater, (the plane the plane - yes they did use that phrase and the movie was great!), how could I not want to review this book with such a bold and maybe even a teensy bit reckless title?

This was a short and fun little book about a kangaroo who wants to fly, but who can't seem to get off the ground. She seeks out author Chris Ferrie who has a doctorate in applied mathematics and who is a senior lecturer at the University of Technology in Sydney. Dr Chris explains the four forces involved in flight (drag, gravity, lift - or was it Uber? - no it was lift!, and thrust), and does so in simple terms. The lift component to flight is the one that's most often misunderstood, even in textbooks, but the explanations here are kept simple and straight-forward.

Red Kangaroo still can't manage to propel herself into the air, but she gets to fly in an airplane! This was a colorful and easy book, useful for introducing young children to a complicated idea without straining young minds. Hopefully a few who read this will become engineers and make some wonderful things because their interest in science was piqued by books like this one, I commend it as a worthy read.


Saturday, February 15, 2020

Small Matters by Heather Ferranti Kinser


Rating: WORTHY!

From an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

If the fact that bumble bees have hairy eyeballs grosses you out, then this book is not for you! Not that bees really have eyeballs as such, but you know what I mean. The book literally zooms in on animals and finds things that are too small to be seen with the unaided eye.

I don't know about you, but for me, some books are way too long. This was too short, because it was over before I felt fully-satisfied by these truly engaging images and revelations. I wanted more, but for a much younger child than me, it's probably the ideal length. It educates young children to the unseen world, and encourages them to realize that there is much below the surface to fascinate and learn. I don't doubt that the lessons taught here will be as useful in preparing us for learning about fellow humans as they are in learning about the animals presented here, from all walks - and slithers an flights - of life.

In some thirty pages, we meet a sea-snail, a shark, a butterfly, a bird or two, a snake, an insect or two, and others that each has a microscopic secret to success. For example, I'm sure many of you know that a gecko has a sort of 'suction pad' on its feet that help it climb the walls, but the details of exactly how this works are really interesting - and it's not really a suction pad! Each creature we visit here has a similar script about some aspect of its life. It turns out that 'small matters' are big deals! I found it fascinating and educational and I commend this as a worthy read.


Friday, February 14, 2020

The Not Bad Animals by Sophie Corrigan


Rating: WORTHY!

Erratum:
p17 has 'bast' instead of 'bats' in the 'facts' section! Bast was a cat god of the Egyptians.
I don't know of any scorpion that's poisonous, but several are venomous! The difference is that if you eat a scorpion (and people as well as animals do eat them) you won't be poisoned, but you can get its venom injected if one stings you!

From an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

Here's another educational book about animals. This one tries to improve the undeservedly bad reps of certain critters such as spiders, sharks, and vampire bats. Good luck with that! But it's intelligently written and amusingly-illustrated by an author who is evidently English as judged by her lingo (or perhaps Australian?) and whose last name maybe ought to be 'Incorrigible'? I ask this because I'm by no means convinced that cats have anywhere near the negative reputation she seems to think, yet here they are, right up front, getting a PR job. I find that highly suspicious!

The book even features hyenas, so if you're a fan of the recent (as of this blog post!) Birds of Prey movie, in which Harley Quinn had a pet hyena (not recommended!), you may find this entertaining! I did. But then I loved that movie. The book also features skunks, which I agree are very cute. I'll never forget this one episode of Mythbusters in which the stated task was to determine the best method of removing skunk smells from clothing.

In order to do that, they had to get a skunk to spray, and they had this cute little thing that refuse to spray no matter what they did! It was hilarious, It was like the anti-skunk, but having encountered one walking in to work one dark morning (I was walking in to work - the skunk was already quite busily at work), and noticing how it turned so its back was always toward me as I passed it, the very opposite of what most wild animals will do, I would never trust one as a coworker! That said, it did not spray me since I kept moving and made no threat to it, so I thank that skunk for its forbearance and restraint under trying conditions.

But I digress. The book covers crocodiles, vultures, rats (which I personally adore, having had pet ones and started a children's book series - The Little Rattuses™ - about them), wasps (which, call me waspish, but I certainly do not adore), scorpions (which I adore even less, having found one in the bathtub one night that had apparently been enterprising enough to climb up the bath drainpipe, but then stupid enough to find itself in a slippery bathtub with no exit!), snakes, toads, wolves, ants, and so on, you can see that the animal kingdom is well covered and it's not just all about mammals, as far too many young children's books are.

This book is very well done - amusing, entertaining, nicely put together, hosted a wealth of animals in its eighty-some pages and was very educational. Yes! It's correct, for example, when it advises that peeing on a jellyfish sting will not help. It might even make it worse. The best treatment for such a sting is to pour vinegar on the affected area and then remove the stingers with tweezers (don't scrape them off with anything). What's not to like? Okay, apart from the vampire bats, what's not to like? Okay, vampire bats and scorpions, what's not to like? Really? I commend this as a worthy read.


Play Like an Animal! by Maria Gianferrari, Mia Powell


Rating: WORTHY!

From an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

Maria and Mia what a team! The author amusingly explains why animals do some of the crazy things they do, and the illustrator (Powell) illustrates them with verve and passion. The idea is of course, to talk kids into exercising their right to be animals as well, playing like these amusing creatures do, and there's nothing wrong with that.

The book covers a variety of animals, but as usual with young childrens' books, it's mostly the mammals which are favored, such as peccaries, rhinos, monkeys, gorillas, and so on, but there are also aquatic mammals featured such a dolphins and otters, along with a couple of birds - ravens and keas - and who wouldn't mourn a kea?! (Sorry, I could not for the life of me resist.)

The behavior of the animals is explained in growing - they need to learn to defend themselves, to get a mate, to stalk prey, to escape being prey, and even to develop their minds, as is the case with ravens. The book was gorgeously illustrated and amusingly written, and I commend it as a worthy read.


Saturday, January 25, 2020

Mexico Treasure Quest by Steven Wolfe Pereira, Susie Jaramillo


Rating: WORTHY!

From an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

So another in the Tiny Traveler's series, and if it seems like I'm choosing ones just to annoy the racist president of a certain country I assure you that's not the case....

This one follows the same pattern as the other two I've reviewed today (China and puerto Rico). It features about a dozen colorful illustrations with local language words for various items, places, and customs depicted, and each page contains a search item. The books are bright, engaging, interesting and very educational. Like the other two, I commend this whole-heartedly.


Puerto Rico Treasure Quest by Steven Wolfe Pereira, Susie Jaramillo


Rating: WORTHY!

From an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

Another fun book in the 'Tiny Travelers' series. This one covers your president's most favorite place to hate (after Africa) - Puerto Rico! That's one reason I chose to review this! Anything he hates, I tend to love - apart from Amazon that is! Once again it's a series of about a dozen beautifully-drawn and gorgeously-colored illustrations, each of which imparts a little knowledge of the location, and a hidden treasure to find.

There's a website and a club to join for anyone who chooses, or you can just stick with the fun books, the poetic descriptions, and the joyful attitude. Either way I commend this as a worthy read!


China Treasure Quest by Steven Wolfe Pereira, Susie Jaramillo


Rating: WORTHY!

From an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

This book is both an educational trip through China, whose new year - the Year of the Rat started the day this review was posted, so 新年快乐 (shin yin kwai luh - that's happy new year in Chinese)!

The book consists of about a dozen pages of brightly-drawn and nicely-illustrated images of various places and landmarks in China along with happy kids visiting them. Each has interesting facts, along with Chinese words, their English translations and pronunciation, and a hidden treasure to be found.

This book was a fun treasure hunt and an educational trip. I commend it.


Let's Explore Bread by Jill Colella


Rating: WORTHY!

From an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

This was a fun and useful book of less than thirty pages, full of good advice, exploration, and a recipe for bread bears! Who wouldn't want bread bears?! I fell in love with the title to begin with, but the content is equally of value.

Using bright photos for illustration, the short texts describe bread in many varieties and how it's used; there's an experiment you can do, and then comes the bread recipe and that's followed by the bread bear recipe!

It would have been nice to have a word about nutrition content, and whole wheat versus white, things you can add to bread - such as nuts and raises, for example, and also about gluten and gluten-free. Not everyone can enjoy bread as it's so routinely offered in stores, so that felt like it was an opportunity missed in educating as to why baking your own is important, but that aside, this is a fun way to gat kids interested in baking and in eating healthily, and I commend it as a worthy read.


Spending and Saving by Mary Lindeen


Rating: WORTHY!

From an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

In this third book from the Mary Lindeen collection, the author discusses what to do with all the lovely lucre you've earned from providing the goods and/or services form various careers which were discussed in the previous two books I reviewed today! The others talk about the kinds of opportunities for earning, and what goods and services actually are. The book employs short texts and big colorful photos illustrating the text and tuns to around 30 pages.

It discusses how money is earned and what uses it's put to. There are some things which have to be bought, and others which we choose to buy for fun or entertainment. Some money is spent, and some is saved. The book admirably makes it clear that once the money is spent, it's gone. Children might not grasp that the first time they think about spending, especially if they're some of the kids I see in the grocery store from time to time! Race, circumstances and income are things which kids don't worry overmuch about, so it was nice to see a diversity of people in this book, as it was in all three books I read in this series.

Because the author is a former elementary school teacher, she has wisely set up in the back of the book, a guide to how the book works and how children can learn from it, along with vocabulary and skills information. I commend this as a worthy read!


Goods and Services by Mary Lindeen


Rating: WORTHY!

From an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

This is another in a series about how people earn and spend or save money. This one goes into some detail (it's about 30 pages long) concerning how people make things to sell (which are the goods), or how they offer a service, and this is what makes the world go round. And here I thought it was simply inertia from the formation of the planet! Just kidding!

The book is colorfully illustrated with photographs and features a diverse 'cast' of people who are growing or making things to sell. It talks about how goods are supplied (from near and far) and transported (trains, and boats, and planes!) and how some services are free, but others cost money.

At the end of the book there's a guide to how the book works and how children can learn from it, along with vocabulary and skills information. The author is a former elementary school teacher so she knows how this works. I commend this as a worthy read!


Earning Money by Mary Lindeen


Rating: WORTHY!

From an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

This is a sweet book about how people earn money: through providing goods and services. Another volume in this series, which I shall also review, explains just what goods and services are, and a third book, which I shall review as well, explains just what to do with that money once it's earned!

Using short text and large colorful photos illustrating that text, the book, with commendable diversity as its watchword, shows a variety of people, such as a farmer, a nurse, a teacher, who pursue different careers to earn their money. The book describes how people can earn in different ways: by providing a service or offering goods, and describes how varied jobs can be: quiet or loud, clean or messy.

We learn that children can also earn money from doing chores (providing a service) or making things (those brownies looked awesome!). The book is short - some 30 pages or so - and very colorful, filled with different people from all walks of life. In the back there's a guide to how the book works and how children can learn from it, along with vocabulary and skills information. It could be fun to get a bunch of kids to set up a shop together, and offer work and services for cash (Monopoly cash, of course!). They can learn about real life and about managing money. On which score, stay tuned - there are more reviews to come!

The author is a former elementary school teacher so she has this covered! I commend this as a worthy read!


Sing Freedom! by Vanita Oelschlager, Mike DeSantis


Rating: WORTHY!

From an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

Here's another from the Oelschlager oeuvre, this time illustrated by DeSantis. The story is a true one: of the singing victory of the Estonians over the overbearing Soviet Union as it was known back then (but it was really all Russia). Estonia (called Eesti in Estonian) is one of the Baltic states, and it sits between the other two (Lithuania and Latvia) and the sliver of Baltic sea that separates Estonia from Finland. After World War 2 (like one wasn't more than enough), Russia began subsuming the smaller European nations along its border, and trying to grind them under its heels into subservience.

Estonia was one of the 14 such nations that resented this and always sought to recover its own identity and freedom. They did this in many ways, but in part, it was achieved through a five-yearly festival of song, where they rebelled by singing a nationalist Estonian song, which the Russians did not like. The Estonians would not give up and in the end, they found their freedom during Mikhail Gorbachev's reign.

This book tells a colorful and enjoyable story about this great and peaceful success, and is well worth reading.


Monday, September 2, 2019

An ABC of Equality by Chana Ginelle Ewing, Paulina Morgan


Rating: WORTHY!

From an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

This is a neat little colorful book (illustrated by Morgan) for young children written by Ewing, aimed at teaching tolerance and acceptance, and it's never too soon to learn such things. Young children in particular are far more accepting than so-called grown-ups when it comes to those who might be perceived as different, and it's only to the good to bolster those non-discriminatory perceptions. From A for ability through D for difference and E for equality, through I for immigration and J for justice to T for transgender and Y for 'Yes!', this book covers it all. I commend it as a worthy read for young children.


Experiment with Kitchen Science by Nick Arnold


Rating: WORTHY!

From an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

What kid doesn't like to mess it up in the kitchen? This book facilitates all of that, but with a purpose: that of learning some science (and making some sweet treats along the way). We learn how to make butter, how to make a non-Newtonian fluid - which is a lot more fun than it sounds. We lean about fat and protein, starch and cellulose, swelling jellies, and how to mix oil and water!

We learn about specific gravity, air pressure, and surface tension, making beautiful paintings using milk, dishwashing liquid and food coloring, and also about colored foam and giant green eggs! The lesson on bicarbonate of soda and volcanoes makes some crunchy sweet treats, but note that not everything that results from these scientific forays ends up being edible! Educational it is, though. There will definitely need to be a lesson about brushing teeth properly after that one.

Throughout the book there are safety warnings and copious advice on when adults should step in and help out. I think this was a smart, fun, safe, entertaining, and very educational book, and I commend it fully.


Saturday, August 31, 2019

Volcanoes and Earthquakes by Anita Ganeri, Chris Oxlade, Pau Morgan


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

From the same team who brought The Water Cycle (Ganeri and Oxlade writing, and Morgan illustrating), comes this one about volcanoes and earthquakes. Once again our guides are Ava and George who seem to have an extraordinary wealth of knowledge about a commendable diversity of topics! Would that our president was as well-informed as these two kids are. In this one we go up to the top of volcanoes and deep into the Earth's core.

In this volume we learn of magma chambers and ash clouds, of sliding sandwiches and lava lamps. Actually I made up that last one, but we do have sliding sandwiches so kids can make their own fault lines and strike slips! Fun! The kids take us through tectonic plates and home-made volcanoes and educate us along the way. The only thing I found fault with (if you'll excuse the pun) was that in the section on famous earthquakes it seemed to be largely the USA which was featured - San Francisco and Alaska, with a mention of Kobe in Japan.

It's a little tiresome for the US to always be puffing-itself up into the forefront, like the rest of the world doesn't exist. San Francisco barely makes it into the top ten of the most devastating earthquakes. All of the others were elsewhere, such as the appalling St Stephen's tsunami of 2004 in the Indian Ocean, and the devastation in Haiti less than a decade ago. I felt it disrespectful that the US was held up as being famous (for what exactly?) as though nowhere else really matters, when these other disasters took far more lives and some of which are far fresher in the world's memory. The world isn't the US and the fiction that it is has become a serious and dangerous problem under our current president. This insularity and provinciality needs to stop.

That aside though, I consider this book an informative and worthy read.


The Water Cycle by Anita Ganeri, Chris Oxlade, Pau Morgan


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

Erratum:
In the back of the book, in a section labeled 'Notes for Teachers and Parents', I read in the second paragraph "How do the children think this might have effected the city?" which should have employed 'affected' rather than 'effected'. I'd recommend changing that before any teachers read it! It's much more effective, and not an affectation!

This was an amusingly-illustrated (by Morgan) and informatively-written (by Ganeri and Oxlade) book which discusses the water cycle, without which Earth would be a desert The book discusses, sometimes a bit repetitively, but repetition helps recollection, how water from the oceans evaporates and later precipitates over land as fresh water, which nourishes the soil and eventually flows back to the ocean via rivers, thereby completing the cycle.

The water cycle is a critical part of everyone's need for water, and access is becoming more stressed as the climate change grows worse and the rains come too harshly or not at all, and changing snowfall patterns leave less water to return to the rivers and ocean in spring. Lack of access to sufficient clean fresh water is looming as the number one crisis on our planet. As spoiled Americans each splash through 300 gallons a day in average, the poorer residents of, say, Chennai, in India, which is undergoing an appalling drought in 2019, have less than eight gallons per person per day.

Ava and George the 'geo-detectives' are our guides in this story, and are well-informed. Taking trips on boats and via airplane and even a parachute, and traveling from beach to mountain, they explore not only the cycle, but how water is abused and polluted. Until recently, Cape Town in South Africa was facing a zero water day in the near future: a day when there would be no fresh water for the city's population to use. This scared people so much that they began a serious conservation effort, and now they have put off zero day indefinitely.

There are eleven other major cities across the globe: Bangalore, Beijing, Cairo, Istanbul, Jakarta, London, Mexico, Miami, Moscow, São Paulo, and Tokyo which will face this crisis as well in the very near future if something isn't done - if water isn't valued as highly as it ought to be. This will occur during the lifetime of the children who might read this book, so any effort to educate them as to the vital importance of water is to be commended. This book as a worthy effort in that direction.


Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Lulu-Grenadine Fait des Cauchemars by Laurence Gillot


Rating: WORTHY!

Continuing the international theme from the last review, There is over 20 Lulu-Grenadine books for children written by this slightly crazed-looking female author. This is the first I ever encountered her, and it was appropriately in French. I have only high-school French and most of that is forgotten, but I had enough to guess at what was being said and it was entertaining. I didn't know the word 'Cauchemars' but it became obvious that it means nightmare, of which a literal translation from English would be jument de nuit, except that the 'mare' in nightmare has nothing to do with a female horse, but is derived from an ancient European word related to oppressive feelings. So no more horses of the night! LOL! I have no idea what cauchemar actually means if translated literally.

In the story, this young girl, Lulu-Grenadine (that latter word meaning pomegranate) has a nightmare of little white dark-eyed ghosties floating around in her room, but eventually realizes they're nothing but her wild imagination. The book is entertaining and educational, usefully advising children that there really aren't any ghosts, and that an active imagination can be put to better uses than keeping you awake at night! I commend this book even though it needs no mending, except to maybe have it in the English version for better clarity for us English-speakers!


Sunday, August 11, 2019

Mythologica by Steve Kershaw, Victoria Topping


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

If Steve is the cake in this book, then Victoria is definitely the Topping. The text is great, but the artwork will blow your socks off. In fact I still haven't found mine, and I'm seriously considering billing the artist for a new pair.

I asked myself, when beginning to read this, what it can bring to the table that couldn't be served equally well by a quick reference to Wikipedia. The answer quickly became obvious. This book has pizazz, which no one could ever accuse Wikipedia of! It's not dry and technical, but lively, exciting, and has roots you can follow all the way back to Tartarus. Unlike those annoying Rick Riordan books which brutally-wrenched the mythology from its native Greece and inexplicably transplanted it to the USA with nary a με την άδειά σας (which is Greek for 'by-your-leave'), like only the USA matters and alas who cares about Hellas anyway, this book keeps everything where it originated and tells the complete story in pithy paragraphs that skip none of the weird details which is what makes these tales so engrossing.

The book runs to some fifty pages of text and illustration, and covers Zeus, Hera, Athena, Apollo, Artemis, Poseidon, Aphrodite, Hephaestus, Hermes, Dionysius, Hades, Demeter, Persephone, Ares, Gaia, Prometheus, Pan, Eros, Penelope, Narcissus, Oedipus, Pandora, Icarus, Midas, Cassandra, Orpheus, Helen, Achilles, Hector, Jason, Medea, Cyclops, Argos, Typhon, Chimaera, Medusa, Cerberus, Talos, Pegasus, the Muses, the Fates, the Amazons, the Argonauts, the Hydra, the Centaurs, The Griffin, the Giants, the Hundred Handers, The Minotaur, the Sirens, the Harpies, the Phoenix. In short, it has everything in one convenient place.

The text alone would have made this a worthy read, but add to that the artwork (and especially its diversity) and it takes it to a whole other place. I was repeatedly struck by how much of the Bible's mythology was taken directly from the earlier Greek stories. This is a wonderful book with much to entice, and I commend it as a worthy and educational read.


Math Games for Kids by Rebecca Rapoport, JA Yoder


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

Telling a kid that the book you're gifting them has some forty pages of math might well make the kid turn and run the other way. Is math fun? Well that depends how it's done. If you lead with the idea of building 3-D shapes using toothpicks and...gumdrops, then you might get the kid's attention, and that's how this book starts out!

Not all kids are math averse, of course. Some do love it already, but for many, if they're at all like me (and hopefully they're not!), then math might seem daunting rather than haunting. The first thing you should know is that this isn't really about working with numbers, but about working with shapes and patterns, and reading this made me wonder if maybe our approach to math ought to include topics like these early - bring math to your kid as fun and games and maybe when the tougher and more numerically-oriented materials inevitably crop up, they'll be less inclined to run? I know I would have been.

Colorfully- and simply-illustrated and full of fun topics laid out intelligently and attractively, this book begins with creating shapes using toothpicks for the edges and gumdrops for the vertices, teaching about prisms and pyramids, but before your child becomes completely imprismed, the book moves on to drawing circles and ellipses, including how to create a giant one in the playground. Next up is topology and Möbius strips, which might sound scandalous to some but it really isn't, because Möbius knows where to draw the line.

This is followed by a little bit of geography and a lot of four-color maps, and then stitching curves (which commendably shows both boys and girls at work) followed by fractals. And trust me if you understand only a part of the fractal section you've got it all. Snowflakes and graph theory lead to Eulerian circuits and a trip to Königsberg which now has a much less appealing name I'm afraid to say. No! I'm not afraid to say it. I will say it! It's Kaliningrad! There, I said it!

All the solutions to the various puzzles are included toward the back of the book along with an index. I liked this book, and consider it very useful and effective way to introduce young children to math. I commend it as a worthy read.


Friday, August 9, 2019

The Animal Awards by Martin Jenkins, Tor Freeman


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

Written by Jenkins and illustrated by Freeman, this is a fun and educational book about animal world record holders. Some of the records are less to be desired than others, but are nonetheless interesting. The book covers axolotls to vampire bats, and scores of others in between, but it features only those who are outstanding in one way or another - and their closest competitors. It might be that they live longest - like an estimated 400 years for a Greenland shark! - or that they are the fastest on land - like the cheetah, or the fastest in the air, like the peregrine falcon.

Maybe they have the goofiest mating dance, or can make the loudest noise (from one of the smallest animals, too!). Maybe they dive deeper or travel further, or have the most boring diet. Whatever it is, they're very likely in here. The record holders are not always cute and cuddly-looking mammals either. They could be vertebrates or non-vertebrates, fish, molluscs, birds, insects, mammals, amphibians. They could live anywhere on land or sea, or in the air. They could live in the hot or the cold, the jungle or the plains. But they're out there, and this books tells you what's special about them, and with enough text to educate, without lecturing, and with colorful and useful illustrations.

We puff ourselves up with human achievements, and often forget that these animals were first in the field (and elsewhere!). I commend this as a worthy read.