„Acadia Files, Book Two, Autumn Science“ by Katie Coppens

I am ashamed to admit that I didn’t write a single book review since the beginning of summer. 2018 presented itself as an unexpected, chaotic and nevertheless extremely positive year. The summer was turbulent, but as of now Finja and I are settling into the new, typical routine of a single-parent-family. The beginning of fall always marks the time of cuddly blankets, evenings spend on the couch and reading not only one, but two or three (or four 🙂 ) books at bedtime. We are excited for fall crafts, Halloween décor, pumpkin spice everything, baking and, sure, reading.

Acadia Files, Book Two, Autumn Science“ by Katie Coppens arrived just at the official beginning of fall. Myrick Marketing and Tilsbury House Publishers put together a thoughtful box with some craft supplies and leaf identification cards for us. This didn’t just make my day, but also made the beginning of fall more special for us. Why? Just keep reading… 🙂

“The Acadia Files, Autumn Science” is the second book in the Acadia Files series by author and teacher Katie Coppens. Our heroine, Acadia, is a curious and clever middle-schooler. She wants answers to everything she discovers around her. Do frogs have lungs? Why do leaves change colors in fall? How do plants produce oxygen, which role does sunlight have? What are time zones? Is water dinosaur pee? And, more practically, why do people litter?

Acadia doesn’t just ask questions. She conducts science to answer them. In her notebook, she writes down “new science words” she is learning, glues down her favorite leaves and the appropriate tree names, draws and writes down questions she couldn’t answer yet.

“The Acadia Files” presents five stories of fall, followed by pages of Acadia’s notebook. The book will engage elementary and middle school aged children from morning to evening:
They will enjoy the story of Acadia and her friends during bedtime and be engaged to conduct experiments with Acadia during the day. Children are motivated to ask questions, to discover and to find creative ways of thinking. The book series by Katie Coppens is a wonderful introduction into practical science! Acadia makes hypotheses, designs experiments, analyzes data, and draws conclusions. Acadia does science.

Finja was amazed by Acadia and immediately caught by Acadia’s quick wit and her curiosity. As a five year old she is a little younger than the target audience for the Acadia files, but she enjoyed the stories and followed the scientific explanations nonetheless. Author Katie Coppens is a middle school English and Science teacher and definitely knows how to make science interesting for children! We can’t wait to discover the other books of the Acadia series.

More information:
„Acadia Files, Book Two, Autumn Science“
Written by Katie Coppens
Illustrated by Holly Hatam
Grade Level: 4 – 7
Series: Acadia Files (Book 2)
Hardcover: 88 pages
Publisher: Tilbury House Publishers (September 18, 2018)
ISBN-13: 978-0884486046

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“BUGS!” by Nick Forshaw and William Exley

Our daughter loves nature. And she’s extremely curious and rarely satisfied with quick explanations. Last week we discussed why snails are slimy for about one hour, only to switch topics, debating why hummingbirds only eat nectar and can’t digest seeds. Her interest in everything is one of the reasons why preschool-age is so much fun! I finally got to share all the cool non-fiction books and have an excuse to expand our book collection further. 🙂

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But: Explaining science to children and adults without scientific background sometimes actually is rocket science. I should know – I had to edit my articles for a popularly science magazine a zillion time until our editor-in-chief was convinced they didn’t contain “too much science as not to confuse anyone”. What was really tough, when genetics was your passion, but you didn’t want to make the topic to bothersome. 🙂 What might sound silly is actually true. You don’t want to make science too confusing, boring and annoying – but at the same time you want to keep to the facts, too, and not leave too many details out. There are lots of great nonfiction books for children out there, that hit the mark – and others that we didn’t like as much.

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“BUGS!” is one of the scientific books for children that is head-on. The book was published in cooperation with the Natural History Museum in London, so it packs a lot of information into a little over 30 pages. Readers accompany “Agent Eagle”, the senior librarian of the “Eagle-Eyed Explorer Club”, on his latest mission: Filing a report on the history of bugs. Agent Eagle goes back millions of years in time! His journal contains detailed information about bugs, their history and their life. The report doesn’t leave lots of questions – thorough explanations will satisfy even the most curious mind. The illustrations are not too colorful, they could have been from a museum collection – but maybe this is what Agent Eagle had in mind? And the expandable 6-feet timeline, prominent feature of the “What on Earth”-books, makes definitely up for it! A little quiz on the last pages helps young readers to check their knowledge.

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“BUGS!” makes a complex topic attractive. The Indiana Jones lookalike Agent Eagle and his exploration keeps young readers involved. And this is the key, when it comes to complex topics that could become overwhelming. Taxonomy of bug ancestry, fossils, sacred bugs and past bug scientists: These matters might not sound too interesting, but middle school and high school aged readers with an interest in biology will learn a lot about bugs and their history.

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When it comes to science books for children, the target age range defines into how much details you can go. That being said, the complex topic makes “BUGS!” more appropriate for middle school age and was a great read for me as adult with science background. Our five-year-old daughter loved to look at the pictures and had lots of questions. The text was a little bit complex for her, but this was not surprising as this book is written for a different age range.

Publishing house “What on earth” brought another great non-fiction book into our house. “Bugs!” is a keepsake book that will hold the interest of a wide age range from Kindergarten to High School! The book is part of four titles exploring the world of dinosaurs, bugs, plants and mammals with super-sleuth Agent Eagle as guide.

More information:
“BUGS!” Explorer
by Nick Forshaw and William Exley
Age Range: 7 – 11 years
Publisher: What on Earth Publishing
ISBN-13: 978-0995577060

“Esme’s Wish” by Elizabeth Foster

Are you excited about spring? I am. At least I’m looking forward to doing some planting – Finja and I already selected some veggies and fruits and will start our raised garden beds and edible garden within the next weeks. Luckily, our five-year-old is an avid gardener. With a new job and a new book project coming up I somehow find myself behind the computer more than I planned on… But please, don’t get too excited. I would love to write some great fiction, but after writing textbooks and working in public relations, my writing-stamina seems to have suffered. As a teenager I would spend days on my computer, lost in the pages of my writing program, dreaming up new worlds and imagining new characters. Years of non-fiction-writing made it harder to use my imagination – but maybe growing up is part of this, too…

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Luckily Elizabeth Foster, author of “Esme’s wish”, overcame the same condition – and her book is proof of that! According to her own words, Elizabeth sees daydreaming as central part of her life. She used to enjoy writing as a child, but then grew up and was sadly waylaid by more serious pursuits. “Reading to my own kids reminded me of how much I missed getting lost in other worlds, and once I started writing again, I couldn’t stop.”

The book cover of “Esme’s wish” promises a coming-of-age-story with fantastic elements. Dragons flying over the Mediterranean Sea, a magical island and flying book pages – does it take more to make you curious?

Years after her mother’s disappearance, Esme’s family seemed to have moved on. Her father is getting married. Everybody is keeping silent about the tragedy that happened seven years ago. Each day is a reminder that Esme is utterly alone with her wish to find out what really happened to her mother. The world around her isn’t as it should be. By accident, Esme find an old letter by her great-grandmother – a clue, which leads her to a gateway into the world of Aeolia. Here, Esme will find out what really happened to her mother…

Esme’s story is aimed towards teenagers, but will be loved by adult readers, too – especially those who love mythology, strong characters and female role models. While younger readers will identify themselves with the curious, strong willed and sometimes too trusting Esme, I couldn’t stop reflecting about the mother-daughter-relationship.

Elizabeth Foster describes a vibrant world full of magic, a world that will not let go of you when you turn the last page… A book for everyone that loves foreign worlds and would love to start dreaming again!

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Curious about an author’s life? Follow Elizabeth Foster on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

More information:
“Esme’s Wish”
Written by Elizabeth Foster
Paperback: 252 pages
Publisher: Odyssey Books
ISBN-13: 978-1925652246

“Dragonfly Song” by Wendy Orr

From the first glimpse of the magnificent cover I knew that „Dragonfly Song“ would be a glorious read. A fantasy story embedded in history? A strong heroine? Sign me up!

Long story short: “Dragonfly Song” was all what I expected it to be – and, at the same time, completely different. Is that a good thing? Definitely! “Dragonfly Song” is a magnificent, magical book for teens and young adults. During a sleepless night, I couldn’t put the book down. I suffered, laughed and, yes, cried. And although I live and die with books, I don’t cry often 🙂

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But let’s start at the beginning.

Crete, Bronze Age. When Aissa is born with two additional thumbs, her mother, the oracle of Crete, casts her out. Aissa is lucky: The servant entrusted with taking her away suspects that there’s more to the girl. Instead of death, Aissa earns a second chance with a farmer’s family. When raiders kill her adoptive parents and Aissa is the lone survivor, she finds herself on her own again… In a town where the mute girl is denounced as a demon, Aissa has to find her own way to survive and escape her miserable existence. Might the yearly lottery for bull-riders, who will be send as tribute to the bull king’s island, her chance?

I expected fast action when I turned the first page of “Dragonfly Song”. Instead, I found a slow revealing, deep, thoughtful and almost philosophical tale of an abandoned girl and her fight for a better existence. “Dragonfly Song” is more than just a good read. It’s a saga, not just a retelling of the legend of the Minotaur, but a tale of fighting for one’s identity. It’s the story of a strong girl taking her life in her own hands, finding her way against all odds.

We take part in Aissa’s thoughts, dreams and hopes and live with her through highs and lows. As a mother, it pained me to see the girl suffer, living from scrapes on a good day, going hungry for bad days. The townspeople’s treatment of a child left me angry. Then I was at the verge of crying happy tears when Aissa found a special friend in the oracle’s cat and when a bed from seaweed gave her the first good night sleep in years. I might not be the author’s anticipated target audience – but I’m a really critical reader and Wendy Orr’s ability to let me hurt like this speaks for her storytelling!

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Wendy Orr slows down significantly. She incorporates rhyme, which makes “Dragonfly Song” lyrical and interesting to read. Orr’s poetry might be challenging for the average midgrade reader. The sections are not bothersome, though. Embedded in Aissa’s story, at the right time and in the right place, they intensify the feeling of “Dragonfly Song” being a saga. Orr’s writing makes the book really special and a wonderful read – even for mid-graders!

Dragonfly Song” – an outstanding book for young (and old 🙂 ) adults! Read it! Now!

More information:
“Dragonfly Song”
by Wendy Orr
Age Range: 10 – 14 years
Publisher: Pajama Press (October 27, 2017)
ISBN-13: 978-1772780376