nonfiction

John Ronald’s Dragons: The Story of J.R.R. Tolkien By Caroline McAlister

John Ronald's Dragons book cover: illustrated man on a hill under a tree with a book in his lap. He is looking up at the leaves of the tree which have taken the shape of a dragon“Then one day when John Ronald was grading exams, he came to a blank page. He wrote on the page, ‘In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.’

J.R.R. Tolkien loved dragons. He loved all types of dragons and wanted to meet one, but he couldn’t find them anywhere. Until one day he did.

This well-researched biography gives the reader a glimpse of the man who never forgot how to dream and imagine a fantastical world that millions of people would fall in love with. Recommended for elementary readers who would love to learn about the man who wrote about hobbits, wizards and yes, dragons.

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Victoria, Kids World

Charles Darwin’s Around-the-World Adventure by Jennifer Thermes

Charles Darwin's Around the world adventure: a boy in old fashioned clothes appears to be in the middle of a jungle with butterflies surrounding him. “He was beginning to have new ideas about how the earth was formed and how animals evolved in order to survive.”

This picture book depicts Charles Darwin as a young man when he sails the HMS Beagle in 1831. The five-year voyage would bring him to exotic places that would spark his curiosity about biology and geology. It teaches us that we should keep our eyes open because we never know what we can learn in the world!

Thermes brings Darwin to life with bright colors and detailed maps of his travels with a time-line of his journey in the front and back of the book. This biography is recommended for all elementary school students, especially those in the lower grades.

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Victoria, Kids World

I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy

I Dissent book cover: illustration of supreme court justice Ruth Bader ginsburg"Step by step, she has made a difference... one disagreement after another."

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, also known as the Notorious RBG, was the first Jewish woman on the United States Supreme Court and, at nearly 84 years old, she still serves on the Court today. Learn about Ruth's childhood and the injustice she personally faced as a woman and as a Jewish person and how this inspired her to break barriers and stand up for not only herself, but for others facing injustice as well. To become the change you wish to see in the world, there is no better place to start than with Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Hand this title to readers of all ages, particularly those in elementary school, who have a strong voice, a passion for justice and politics, or who want to learn more about one of the most important female figures of modern times.

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Brittany, Kids World

Echo Echo by Marilyn Singer

Echo Echo book cover: illustrations of a couple on a lake, the reverse of the image is seen as a reflections"Ancient Greece: An age of marvelous myths, gone, but not forgotten. Heroes that rise and fall."
"Heroes that rise and fall, gone, but not forgotten. An age of marvelous myths: Ancient Greece."

Enter the world of Ancient Greek mythology in Marilyn Singer's third installment of reverso poems. Each myth is presented as a different type of poem, sometimes freeform and sometimes rhyming, but always able to be flipped upside down and still make sense. Not only will readers learn the different myths of Ancient Greece in poem form, but many myths also have accompanying footnotes for further explanation.

This book is recommended for students in grades 2-6 who enjoy mythology or poetry and wordplay. Be sure to also check out the author's other fairy tale reverso offerings, Mirror Mirror and Follow Follow.

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Brittany, Kids World

Maker Lab by the Smithsonian Institution

Maker Lab book cover: depicts planets Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn made out of rubberbands"We young scientists have to start somewhere...you can start by asking "why?" And by making messes, making mistakes, and making connections." -Jack Andraka in the "Foreword."

Maker Lab makes science look awesome. The 28 activities range from the simple such as making invisible ink or monster marshmallows to more complex like the construction of a breathing machine and sound speakers. Scientists ranging from grade 3 and older will find something to spark their imagination. (Younger scientists definitely will, too, though an older mind will be needed to assist.)

Each activity has background information followed by a photo list of items needed for the experiment. Step-by-step instructions are simple and their accompanying photograph makes it easy to find success. An "How It Works" section concludes each experiment lending an effective cohesion between the initial background information and what occurred during the experiment process. Parents may also be pleased to note that each entry also contains a difficulty rating and an estimated amount of time needed to complete the experiment.

While it will certainly be useful come science fair time, this book is recommended for anyone looking for time to fill.

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Celeste, Kids World

Run for Your Life!: Predators and Prey on the African Savanna by Lola Schaefer

Run For Your Life book cover: illustration of a zebra running from 2 hyenasIt's a real-life game of hide-and-seek.”

The savannah animals are sleeping under the big night sky as this day-in-the-life story begins and ends. In between, each two-page spread shows and names a specific African pedator and its prey as they run in pursuit and in fear. The watercolors are engaging, the animals a bit cartoonish with hungry and/or fearful eyes. The simple text builds and maintains a sense of excitement with distinct action verbs; the animals don't run but spring, bound, swoop, hop, lunge, and trot.

Readers from 4 to 94 will enjoy this quick read, either as a lap-sit or shared with a group, Older kids and adults will appreciate the detailed back matter, a brief explanation of camoflauge and speed and a list of the animals and their average sprint speeds. (Note: the real-life gore, killing and flesh consumption is only implied, not depicted nor discussed.)

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Mary Jo, Kids World

Little Kids' First Big Book of the World by Elizabeth Carney

Little Kids First Big Book of the World book cover: photographs of planet eart, a tiger, egyptian pyramid, statue of liberty, tree frog, elephant, castle“Pop-up facts offer tidbits of really cool information. Use these to impress your friends and family with your geo knowledge.”

National Geographic Kids’ books are some of my favorite non-fiction books to share with young readers because of their stunning photographs of the natural world. This book covers all seven continents in 120 pages. The simple text is somewhat spotty and jumpy but I think curious kid readers will be taken in by the engaging spreads of maps, photos, “fact boxes” and “pop-up facts”.

I recommend this book for early-ish readers who might be interested in reading maps and facts. It would make a great browsing book for a car ride or waiting room. What a great offering for curious kids!

Mary Jo, Kids World

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One Today by Richard Blanco

One Today book cover: shows a mom, girl, and dog walking down a hill away from houses“Hear: the doors we open for each other all day, saying: hello / shalom / buon giorno / howdy / namaste / or buenas dias…”

There are hidden gems to be found in any library’s poetry section, many beautifully illustrated picture books interspersed with anthologies old and new.  I admired Richard Blanco’s reading of this original poem at President Obama’s 2013 inauguration and here it is rendered for little lap-sitters through Dav Pilkey’s evocative paintings.  The short verse spans time and place across one day in America, an homage to our industry, hopefulness and diverse landscape and population.

I recommend this book for all ages.  It is best enjoyed when read in a quiet, contemplative time, perhaps early in the morning or late at night. Enjoy it with someone who still fits on your lap.

Mary Jo, Kids World

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The True Story of Winnie the Pooh; 1 Story, 2 Books, 2 Unique Voices

2 book covers: Finding Winnie features a brown bear cub hugging a soldier's booted leg. Winnie shows a sideview of a bear cub being carried in the arms of a soldierCaptain Harry Colebourn, a Canadian veterinarian and horse doctor in World War I, bought a baby bear from a trapper, and later, brought the bear overseas to England. He named the bear Winnipeg after their home, and the bear was called Winnie for short. However, Colebourn is only part of the story.  Both books show Winnie growing from a trapped baby cub to a soldier's bear to a little boy's best friend. While both nonfiction books are illustrated, each feature photographs of Winnie and Colebourn.

Finding Winnie by Lindsay Mattick

"His head said, "I shouldn't." His head said, "I can't." But his heart made up his mind."

And so, Captain Harry Colebourn's empathy flows smoothly across the pages and in doing so demonstrates the meaning of unselfishness. The relationship between himself and Winnie is displayed as lovingly paternal. The story of the bear that inspired the tales of Winnie the Pooh is told here in a soft story book style and is recommended for a lovely quiet read for animal fans. Preschoolers and kindergarteners in particular might find this a great book for cuddle time.

Winnie by Sally M. Walker

"Harry, what in the world were you thinking?"
   -"That I had to save her."

Walker's rendition showcases Captain Harry Colebourn relationship and experiences with Winnie as quite lively. While the language is not as smooth, readers will find humor in the  the anecdotes selected from the live of the bear who inspired the tales of Winnie the Pooh. The illustrations portray the movement and action in each related experience. Recommended for fans looking for a little more romp in their stories.

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Find Winnie in the Library

Celeste, Kids World

125 True Stories of Amazing Pets By National Geographic Kids

125 true stories of amazing pets book cover: a photograph of a steer being ridden as it jumps over a pole gate like a horse“Paw through these pages and find 125 of National Geographic Kids’ favorite true tales of animal heroes, silly tricks, spoiled-rotten critters, and even pets that have pets of their own.”

Opening with a full page spread of a surfing pig, this book delivers one fascinating surprise after another.  Touching stories of animal helpers and pets that have made heroic rescues are included, but many of the profiled animals seem to have, for better or for worse, quirky owners or keepers who train them to do ridiculous stunts.  Meet dogs that drive cars, a gorilla with a pet bunny and a goat that rides a cow every day.  My favorite: the poodle whose owner disguises it as other (wild) animals (like a lion and a panda) through exquisite grooming and dying of its hair. 

The photography is what makes this book (and other National Geographic books) exceptional. This book is recommended as a bring-along browsing book for families with readers ages 6-12.  It is a good bet for reluctant readers due to the high interest subject manner and the number and variety of animals profiled.

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Mary Jo, Kids World

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