Thursday, November 3, 2011

Cybils Nonfiction Picture Book Nominations

 Super Science: Feel the force! Full of pop-up physics fun by Tom Adams, illustrated by Thomas Flintham

A random mass of physics information is packed into this book, along with flaps, pull-tabs, pop-ups, and more. The opening spread talks about some physics basics, then we move on to force, friction, floating/sinking, pressure, sound, light, electricity, and magnetism. The illustrations and layout are bright and colorful. This is an amusing jumble and would make a fun present (I rather liked the pop-up bed of nails) but I wouldn’t recommend it for a library collection.

ISBN: 978-0763655662; Published September 2011 by Templar; Review copy provided by publisher for Cybils

 Animalogy: Animal Analogies by Marianne Berkes, illustrated by Cathy Morrison

Rhyming couplets introduce readers to a series of analogies using various animals. “Deer is to run/as mouse is to scurry./Chick is to feathery/as bear is to furry.” The text is a fun introduction to analogies for young children. The art is elaborate and detailed, with lots of intricate lines throughout the pictures. Some of the text is a little difficult to read, superimposed over the illustrations.

The book includes an extensive section of extension activities, “For creative minds.” Including questions about the book, word games, information on adjectives, and a discussion of classification.

Verdict: This book would be especially useful in a school and is clearly designed for educational use with the extensive activities, lexile level, and curriculum keywords included. It would also make a fun read for storytime with some of the activities included.

ISBN: 978-1607181378; Published August 2011 by Sylvan Dell; Review copy provided by publisher for Cybils

 Lift the flap and learn: The human body by Pascale Hedelin, illustrated by Robert Barborini

Simple, cartoon illustrations on white backgrounds illustrate this guide to the human body. The end pages have a colored silhouette of a body – for some reason, the presumably female silhouette on the front cover has a question mark, the presumably male figure on the back cover does not (I’m guessing genders by the hair length). The first few pages introduce birth, along with, among other things, a pull tab of a woman giving birth. No, I’m not kidding – you get to pull the baby out of her body. The next spread talks briefly about growing up, then the book moves into the composition of the body. Muscles, bones, circulation system, lungs, digestion (pull tab! Watch the poop come out!) brain, five senses, and the mouth are all covered. Then the book discusses getting sick, taking care of yourself, and skin. The skin section is accompanied by a flip strip of body parts. You can lift different flaps to see parts of a girl’s body. Turn them over, and do the same to see a boy’s body.

Verdict: The illustrations are cute and it covers a lot of different aspects, but some of the choices for pull tabs are *cough* a little weird. Plus, there’s the double-whammy of movable parts AND spiral binding. Also, some of the movable parts are badly designed and don’t work. Not recommended, at least not for my audience which combines a fairly conservative town with kids who are extremely hard on books. But I had a blast getting the other library staff to pull out the baby and make a poopy *heh heh heh* and I'll pass this on to someone who works with children and might want an illustrated guide to the body

ISBN: 978-1897349861; Published March 2011 by Owlkids Books; Review copy provided by publisher for Cybils

 Animal Loudmoths: Howler monkey, super loud by Natalie Lunis

This is the latest entry in the Animal Loudmouths series. Designed for beginning readers and young listeners, each spread has a set of simpler sentences in a panel with a green background and additional information in smaller boxes as well as captions for the photographs. The book talks about the sounds howler monkeys make, how they use sound to communicate, what they eat, and more details about their life and habitat. Some of the captions are a little ridiculous, like the one which points out “baby howler monkey” on top of “mother howler monkey” which is pretty obvious on its own.

A comparison of sounds, glossary, index, and further resources is also included.

Verdict: This title isn’t perfect – the captions could easily have been removed – but it’s miles away better than the easy picture book nonfiction churned out by other publishers with stock photography, a couple bland sentences, and a price out the window (you know who you are). As always, Bearport delivers lots of information in an easy-to-read format with good photos and well-organized resources. Recommended.

ISBN: 978-1617722769; Published August 2011 by Bearport; Review copy provided by the publisher

 What does it mean to be safe? by Rana DiOrio, illustrated by Sandra Salsbury

Bland illustrations accompany this explanation of safety, which reads like a cross between a clunky public service announcement and a government publication. Being safe does not mean baseball, betting, or even locking yourself up. According to this book, it means “feeling secure in your environment and protected from danger.” It also means observing safety precautions like looking both ways before crossing a street, buckling up, responding to emergencies, etc. Finally, it means “realizing that you are the single best person to protect your precious self.” Huh? The information is useless – it’s fine to tell kids they shouldn’t tolerate bullying or give in to peer pressure, but how do they accomplish this? Additional resources include the publisher’s mission, an “environmental benefits statement” and lengthy notes about the author and illustrator.

Verdict: The illustrations are passable, if rather static and the information could be used to spark a discussion on safety, but the vague information and idealized children and situations are annoying. An additional purchase.

ISBN: 978-0982993866; Published 2011 by Little Pickle Press; Review copy provided by publisher for Cybils

Prairie storms by Darcy Pattison, illustrated by Kathleen Rietz

Simple paragraphs in large, bold text describe storms in each month of the year and the animals that must survive them. January has snowstorms and a prairie chicken, February a groundhog peering through the fog, March shows “Migrating sandhill cranes sail down, seeking safety from strange winds that twist and twirl. Nervous, they wade and call. Overhead, a tornado roars past, sweeping across the opens lands.”

The spreads each have a thick border that matches some element in the pictures – tree bark, plowed rows, etc. A thin white border surrounds the picture featuring text and an animal for each month.

As in all of Sylvan Dell’s titles, extensive learning activities are included, with maps, information on grasslands and weather, and quizzes and projects.

Verdict: I found the vague descriptions of weather in the book a little confusing, but the pictures are detailed and attractive and the activities have a nice variety. Probably best for a school library.

ISBN: 978-1607181392; Published August 2011 by Sylvan Dell; Review copy provided by publisher

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