“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

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“Most people” by Michael Leannah and Jennifer E. Morris

Do recent political events sometimes make you feel hopeless? Has reading the newspaper become a „damage report”, rather than enjoyment? Did you stop believing in the good of people?

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But: No matter how it seems, not everyone is a bad person! On the contrary, most people are good… This is the topic of the picture book “Most people” by Michael Leannah. Young readers accompany various diverse family and persons during their day, see them interact, assist each other and ask for help. The author shows that there are bad things happening in the world, some people might behave badly – but most people love to smile and laugh. They like to see other people smile and make them happy. The world isn’t just glitter and sunshine, but there are multiple ways to do good and make the world a better place! A person who is frowning or mean can change as soon as you show them a little bit of kindness.

“Most people” is easy to understand for preschoolers and kindergarteners and a wonderful conversation starter for families and classrooms. We can tell our children about intolerance and biases, but challenging our own tolerance demonstrates is a big part of truly getting to the bottom of it. That’s why I especially loved one of the first pages of the book, showing all the important book characters in overview: A mother going for a walk with her two children, an elderly lady trying to cross the street, a service dog with his human, a homeless lady, pushing her belongings in a shopping cart, the baker, a child hurting herself when crashing her bike and several more. Finja’s first assessment after a few minutes of contemplating: “The big man looks like a pirate, pirates are bad.” Luckily exactly this big tattooed guy helps an elderly lady into the bus on the next page… Impressions can be misleading and there is no better way to teach your child about prejudice!

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“Most people” doesn’t tell young readers how to behave or how to be good. It’s not a map to Santa’s nice list. But it gives examples of how to do good: Letting an elderly lady going first on the bus, sharing food with a homeless person. Laughing when you see a young child on the sidewalk instead of complaining about the noise. And what about the boy stealing an apple from a market cart? What might be his motivation? Is he right or wrong? We especially loved the diverse characters in this book. “Most people” includes people of every age, color and lifestyle, from the tourist asking a policeman for help over a street musician, the housewife, a punk to a bus driver lady. Every one of these people is able to do good, no matter their appearance.  When talking about “good” and “bad” it’s hard not to fall into a stereotypical mentality. Michael Leanna does a good job, he shows that people sometimes make bad decisions, but in general most people are friendly and helpful – no matter where they come from or how they look like.

The illustrations by Jennifer E. Morris are rich in detail and expression and go perfectly with the tender told story. Morris works out individual characters and family situations, young reader will find something to discover on every page.

Sometimes people surprise you when you just see the good in them!

“Most people” offers a positive perspective on the world and is a wonderful read for children and adults alike. While not everyone is good and children surely need to be careful of strangers, most people are worth a second chance. A wonderful book for preschool and kindergarten aged children!

More information:

“Most people”
written by Michael Leannah
illustrated by Jennifer E. Morris
Publisher: Tilbury House Publishers
ISBN-13: 978-0884485544

“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

“Will you help Doug find his dog” by Jane Caston

I really must apologize for being offline for such a long time. Our move into a bigger home didn’t go as planned and we are still battling with a huge water damage. But: The books are safe and I can’t wait to get started on some new reviews!

The last three weeks were a little crazy for Finja. Reading helped her to keep her schedule and calm down after another exciting (and loud – think about fans, de-humidifier and air filter…) day. Look at this picture – do I need to tell more?

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One of the books she’s totally into is “Will you help Doug find his dog?” from one of my favorite publishers, Barefoot Books. “Will you help Doug find his dog” is a little different from the Barefoot books I selected so far. It’s not about diversity, it’s not about cultural literacy, but it’s about sharing the love of reading with your child and offering them a book they can discover by themselves.

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The story: Doug is devastated, he lost his dog… Luckily, Doug can count on the help of the young reader enjoying his story at this very moment. Together with Doug kids can sort through all the different dogs on the pages of the lovingly illustrated volume. Is Doug’s dog scruffy? Can you give all spotted dogs a pat? And tickle all small dogs? Finally, there is Doug’s dog!

“Will you help Doug find his dog” combines the idea of a search-and-find-book with interactive, sensory books like “Tickle my ears”. Lots of things are happening on the colorful pages, sorting and counting keeps children entertained and helps them to rediscover the story every time they pull “Will you help Doug find his dog” out of the bookshelf.

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The book from Jane Caston was illustrated by Carmen Saldana and is one of the books that keeps kids smiling and motivates them to “read” a book all by themselves. The publisher recommends “Will you help Doug find his dog?” for children between 1 and 5 years of age. Helping Doug find his dog is a fun way for preschoolers to practice early math skills, sort and spot similarities and differences! With lot of action on every page it’s a page turner for younger children as well.

“Will you help Doug find his dog?”
written by Jane Caston
illustrated by Carmen Saldana
Publisher: Barefoot Books
ISBN-13: 978-1782853206

„Little fairy makes a wish“ by Daniela Drescher

It’s always fun to review an English translation of a German children’s book! „Little fairy makes a wish“ can be found in German bookstores under the titel „Die kleine Elfe wünscht sich was“ and is part of a series about the little fairy, who needs a new dress, can’t sleep or celebrates Christmas. Most of this books as well as other titles by Daniela Drescher have been translated into English as well.

"Little fairy makes a wish" by Daniela Drescher
“Little fairy makes a wish” by Daniela Drescher

Daniela Drescher is author and illustrator of this book about the little fairy and her friend, the mole. Mole hopes to one day fly just like the fairies do – “oh, how wonderful would that be!” Fairies can make wishes come true when they find fallen stars – and so the fairy and her friend start their search for a fallen star. When mole’s wish is granted he discovers that he loves the feeling of flying, the night breeze in his fur, “the moonlight dancing with the flowers and the wind brushing through the grass.” More than everything he gets homesick though. At the end of this adventure the mole is feeling lucky, but also tired – and is glad to be able to shuffle into his snug, narrow and dark underground home “just as it should be”.

“Little fairy makes a wish” reminds me of several books I read as a child. The classic artwork of this book and as its message make it a timeless fairytale about making wishes come true, adventures and finding your way back home. Sometimes we all wish for a change, to experience something new, just to realize that what we have is exactly where we belong.

This book was published by Floris Books, an independent publishing company based in Edinburgh, Scotland.

More information:
„Little fairy makes a wish“
written and illustrated by Daniela Drescher
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Floris Books
ISBN-13: 978-1782502432

“The Other Rabbit” by Maranke Rinck

Can you imagine a picture book like a memory game? I couldn’t – until I read „The Other Rabbit“ by author-illustrator-team Maranke Rinck and Martijn van der Linden. The world of the favorite children’s games is made out of pairs. What a wonderful symbol for the search for friendship and love!

"The Other Rabitt" - a modern tale of friendship
“The Other Rabbit” – a modern tale of friendship

The rabbit’s world is just like in a memory game. It’s made out of pairs. And – who wants to be alone in world of couples? So the bunny starts a journey to find it’s match, “the other rabbit”. Rabbit meets lots of helpful creatures during his journey: A flock of birds, a king with a giant nose, a chicken, a swarm of fish and a herd of different animals help him to find “the other rabbit” – until they find their own counterparts… But the rabbit doesn’t give up. He finally discovers the whereabouts of the other rabbit. And it’s seems to be impossible to finally unite with his match: The other rabbit is guarded by a lonely dragon, who wants to keep his only friend… “Rabbit flew an airplane and drove a car. He swam in the sea and sailed a boat. But now he knows where the other rabbit is… and they can’t be together!” But isn’t everyone lonely until he finds his match? Rabbit has a great idea…

“The other rabbit” is a wonderful tale about the search for friendship and love, about never giving up and not getting discouraged. Younger children will love the repetitive rhymes of this book and enjoy the impressive illustrations by Martijn van der Linden while preschool aged kids will identify themselves with the rabbit and his search for his friend, “the other rabbit”.

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But isn’t a metaphor like a memory game as search for happiness too abstract for most children? I don’t think so. Our almost-four-year-old immediately got the message. We were talking about the lonely rabbit, who is “sad to be alone” and “needs a friend” hours after we finished the book. Friends are important for children every age. But the search for a real friend isn’t always easy… Can’t all of us remember the first days of school, when we were desperately searching for someone nice, someone to talk to, laugh with, share secrets – a friend? I also loved the artwork by illustrator Martijn van der Linden: A little abstract and just the right hint of color to support the message of this book. A good match, not just when it comes to books: Maranke Rinck and Martijn van der Linden are married in real life, the couple has two children.

“The other rabbit” is another unconventional book published by one of the oldest and well known children’s book publishers in Holland, Lemniscaat. You can read our review of “Playground” by the same publisher here.

More information:
The Other Rabbit
By Maranke Rinck (Author) and Martijn van der Linden (Illustrator)
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Lemniscaat USA
Language: English
ISBN-13: 978-1935954460

“The Whisper” by Pamela Zagarenski

How do stories arise? Everyone who loves books knows that our own perceptions is a big part of the story developing in our head. A story would be nothing without the author behind and the reader in front of it.

Some weeks ago we reviewed “Journey”, a picture book without words. Pamela Zagarenski’s is the illustrator behind “Sleep like a tiger“. Her book “The Whisper” goes in a similar direction than “Journey” – and is completely different as well.

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The protagonist of “The whisper”, a red hooded girl “who loved stories”, borrows a magical book of stories from her teacher. But as she runs home to finally immerge into this wonderful book, the words blow away… The reader witnesses a fox capturing the words – and meets him again in every following page. When the girl finally has time to open the special book, she’s disappointed. The book seems to be empty except of the curious illustrations. But how can a magical book of stories exist without any words? When hearing a whisper telling her to imagine words and layers she looks closely and starts developing a story on her own. Relentless and curious about what the next page brings she stays up all night looking at the rich illustrations, imagining situations, stories and mysteries. She takes the reader on a magical journey to meet a wizard able to create creatures out of bubbles, an elephant and lion on a long voyage. When reading this book, the opening scenes Zagarenski’s protagonist constructs are just be the start of a very unique, very personal approach. Where are the elephant and the lion travelling? And which part does the fox, which appears in every picture, have?

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“The Whisper” at least has an answer to the last question. On her way to school our girl meets the fox, which captured her words the day before. For those who know Aesop’s fables it doesn’t come as a surprise when seeing the illustration of the fox reaching for grapes. But unlike the original from old Greece our fox learned to reimagine a story – just like our girl.

Pamela Zagarenski’s “The Whisper” is not only a picture book for children. It’s a well told and richly illustrated fable about reading, storytelling and the power of imagination. Motivating the reader to look behind the illustrations and telling a story on his own makes “The Whisper” to a highly individual book. Or, as the author puts it: “I love to imagine. And maybe just in the act of imagining, one actually makes the stories real.”

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An extraordinary book that will encourage children to imagine and can help adults discovering dreaming again!

More about this book:
Story and illustrations by Pamela Zagarenski
Hardcover: 40 pages
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
ISBN-10: 0544416864
ISBN-13: 978-0544416864

„The fantastic flying books of Mr. Morris Lessmore“ by Willian Joyce

„The flying books of Mr. Morris Lessmore“ is one of these books I put on my wishlist weeks ago and thought about purchasing it every day… The oscar-winning short film by author William Joyce and the book being a tribute to librarian pioneer Bill Morris, the pioneer of children’s book publishing, finally convinced me.

"The fantastic flying books of Mr. Morris Lessmore"
“The fantastic flying books of Mr. Morris Lessmore”

I got the book in the mail today and started reading immediately. And what can I say? „The flying books of Mr. Morris Lessmore“ is as wonderful and magical as I expected. But what else is to be expected with so many personal connections author William Joyce has with this story… But let’s come to that later.

Mr. Lessmore is a person of order – his life “was a book of his own writing, one orderly page after another.” The world how he knew it comes to an end when he loses his whole library in a terrible storm… As a book lover Mr. Morris Lessmore is devasted. Could he guess that this is just the beginning of his story – and the beginning of Bill Morris’ literary references? The almost magical appearance of a women, carried by flying books, who lends her a Humpty-Dumpty-themed book, leads him to a library, where Mr. Morris Lessmore rediscovers the purpose of his life: Caring for books, “gently fixing those with fragile bindings and unfolding the dog-eared pages of others.” He shares the story of his books with others. He brings them to life.

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This picture book is more than a children’s book. It might bring the love of reading to every child, but every book lover can identify himself with the slightly melancholy men, whose best friend is a book.

„The flying books of Mr. Morris Lessmore“ is a truly magical book, from the meaningful story full of references and memorable quotes to the captivating illustrations. It’s not surprising that it’s based on real characters and on William Joyce’s own experiences when losing his home during hurricane Katrina. The author saw firsthand the power of stories as he visited children, who lost everything in the storm. “And so our story ends as it began – with a book.”

We give „The flying books of Mr. Morris Lessmore“ five crowns for illustrations and story. Definitely a book that belongs in the bookshelf of every book lover!

More information:
„The flying books of Mr. Morris Lessmore“ by Willian Joyce
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers; First Edition/First Printing edition
ISBN-10: 1442457023
ISBN-13: 978-1442457027