Seashore Life

Title: Seashore Life
Author: Jenna Kinghorn
Pages: 80
Recommended Ages: 7 & up
Star Rating: ★★★★★

Hi there! As of October 2013, I have upgraded to a new site – The Blithering Bookster – where I have posted all of my old reviews and continue to post new ones. Hoist yourself over to join the fun!

—–

Seashore Life provides brief descriptions of thirty-five different fishes, sea plants, birds, and crustaceans. Its format follows a set format – first the main text, where basic facts are mentioned. Second, a box called ‘Field Notes’ where an interesting fact is related about the species. Third, a ‘Where to Find’ box where the usual location of the specimen is shown on a map. Fourth is a box titled “What to look for”, wherein is briefly listed the species’ size, color, and behavior. Fifth is an illustration and photograph of each species.

Here are a few of the interesting facts mentioned.

  • An octopus can change colors to blend into its surrounding.
  • A scallop pushes itself through the water by quickly clapping its two shells together.
  • When an oyster is a few weeks old, it anchors itself to a rock or another oyster’s shell. It never moves again.
  • Horseshoe crabs have no teeth, but grind up shelled animals and worms with special plates at the base of their legs as the walk along.
  • The pistol shrimp stuns small fish that it eats by making a loud, popping noise with its oversized claw.
  • When a crab grows too big for its shell, the shell splits and the crab climbs out of it. The crab then grows a new shell.
  • Some starfish have up to thirty arms!

Cautions.

An illustration is given on pg. 56 of two seahorses entwined with one another – the description mentions that this is how they mate.

On pg. 58, it is stated that “the female sea horse lays her eggs in a pouch on the male’s belly”.

An entirely simple definition of the verb ‘mate’ is included in the glossary.

Conclusion. An excellent (though, of course non-comprehensive) pocket guide to sea creatures.

Project Gemini

Title: Project Gemini
Author: Ray Spangenburg & Kit Moser
Pages: 112
Recommended Ages: 9-14
Star Rating: ★★★★

Hi there! As of October 2013, I have upgraded to a new site – The Blithering Bookster – where I have posted all of my old reviews and continue to post new ones. Hoist yourself over to join the fun!

—–

In 1959, NASA began its human spaceflight program with Project Mercury, a series of spaceflights designed to provide the foundation for knowledge and exercises which would be need later during the Apollo Program which would actually place men on the moon. But between Mercury and Apollo came the pivotal program, Project Gemini.

While Project Mercury placed the first American in space, Project Gemini tested astronauts abilities to maneuver in space through rendezvous with other spacecraft, spacewalks, atmospheric reentry, and extended flights. Through a series of ten manned flights from 1965 through 1966, these goals were accomplished. This book provides a step-by-step, mission-by-mission account of these flights, replete with real life photographs on almost every page.

‘Gosh darn’ is used once.

Conclusion. An excellent study on the Gemini missions.

Can It Rain Cats and Dogs?

Title: Can It Rain Cats and Dogs?
Author: Melvin & Gilda Berger
Pages: 48
Recommended Ages: 9 & up
Star Rating: ★★★★

Hi there! As of October 2013, I have upgraded to a new site – The Blithering Bookster – where I have posted all of my old reviews and continue to post new ones. Hoist yourself over to join the fun!

—–

I debated with myself before purchasing this book. Is weather really all that interesting to children? Will the book be filled with stuffy language that might turn children off? In the end I decided to chance the $ .35. I’m super glad I did!

I’ve never been a weather person. My dad can talk for hours about the formation of a hurricane out in the Gulf and areas of ‘low pressure’ or ‘high pressure’. He just loves it. I, on the other hand, only check the weather in order to plan for a vacation – i.e., should I be prepared for temperature in the thirties or the nineties?

But this not-all-about-the-weather person found Can It Rain Cats and Dogs (a very all-about-the-weather-book) to be fascinating. The basic ideas of how our planet functions were explained in easy to understand language but without silliness. Here are a few examples of what was discussed in this book.

Q&As.

What makes the tropics hotter than the polar regions?

The direction of the sun’s rays. The sun shines straight down on the tropics. The rays are very strong, making it very hot.

The rays from the sun strike the polar regions at a sharp angle. This spreads the rays out over a large area. It brings less warmth to the North and South Poles, leaving them very chilly, indeed. [pg. 6]

What is the hottest place on Earth?

The town of Al’Aziziyah, Libya. On September 13, 1922, the temperature in the shade reached a scorching 136 degrees Fahrenheit (58 C)!

The record in the United States is held by Death Valley, California. The temperature there has reached 134 Fahrenheit. Every summer there is a race in Death Valley. But the ground is so hot that it sometimes melts the soles of the runners’ sneakers. [pg. 10]

What is the coldest place on Earth?

Vostok in Antarctica. On July 21, 1983, the temperature hit a bone-chilling -128.6 degrees Fahrenheit.

The lowest temperature in the United States, -80 degrees Fahrenheit, was recorded in Prospect Creek, Alaska. Boil a pot of water in Prospect Creek and fling it into the air. You’ll see the water turn instantly into ice! [pg. 11]

Which animals are “living barometers”?

Frogs. They can feel a drop in air pressure. As air pressure falls they croak more. A study in China shows that frogs are very accurate in sensing oncoming low pressure. So, if you hear frogs making more noise than usual, pack an umbrella! [pg. 15]

Can you smell rain?

Sometimes. Plants always give off a certain oil. When rain is coming, there is a drop in air pressure, and the air picks up a trace of the oil’s odor. One sniff and you may be able to tell that rain is on the way. [pg. 29]

Is snow always white?

No. Red snow fell in Switzerland in October 1755. The color came from red sand that blew over from the Sahara Desert. In January 1925, a layer of gray snow covered parts of Japan. It was probably colored gray by dust from an erupting volcano. [pg. 30]

How often does lightning occur?

At this moment, meteorologists are tracking nearly 2,000 lightning storms around the world! These storms are hurling about 100 bolts of lightning toward Earth every second.

The city of Bogor, Java, holds the record for most lightning. It has lightning almost 9 out of every 10 days! [pg. 34]

Does lightning ever strike twice in the same place?

Definitely. The Empire State Building may be hit as many as 12 times in just one 20- minute thunderstorm! It is struck up to 500 times a year. But no harm is done. The building has lightning rods that carry the electricity safely to the ground. [pg. 37]

What was the most amazing escape from a tornado?

The escape of 12 children in China. On May 29, 1986, the children were on their way to school. As they walked along, a tornado sucked them up and carried them 12 miles (19 km) through the air. But then it gently dropped them down onto some nice, soft sand dunes. No one was hurt! [pg. 42]

Did you know?

Prevailing westerlies [a certain kind of wind] also speed up airplanes. It takes a half hour less to fly from New York to London (with the wind pushing) than to fly back (against the wind)! [pg. 18]

Your sense of smell is sharpest when the air is moist. [pg. 29]

The most costly hurricane to hit the United States was Hurricane Andrew. It roared across Florida and Louisiana in August 1992. Among its effects were 76 dead, 258,000 homeless, and $47 billion in damage. [pg. 39]

“Humid air is better to breathe because it moistens the linings of your nose and throat. The moist linings help to fight off germs that cause colds and sore throats.” [pg. 25]

Cautions.

On one page there are a few Q&As about global warming. Here they are.

Is Earth’s climate changing?

Yes. It is always changing – but very slowly. Over the last 100 years the temperature has gone up abut 1 degree Fahrenheit (0.6 C). Experts fear that the atmosphere may warm another few degrees in the twenty-first century. They call this global warming.

A few degrees may not seem like much of a change. But even a slight rise in temperature can increase rainfall, heat ocean waters, and melt polar ice. Over many years, global warming could force farmers throughout the world to grow different crops. And rising sea levels could flood the world’s coasts.

What is the chief cause of global warming?

Widespread burning of such fuels as oil, coal, and wood. This adds vast amounts of carbon dioxide gas to the air. The carbon dioxide traps Earth’s heat, which warms the surface and the atmosphere. Global warming is also called the greenhouse effect.

How can you slow down global warming?

Cut back on activities that require the burning of fuels. Walk or bike short distances instead of depending on car rides. Turn off lights when not in use to save electricity. And in the winter, dress warmly indoors so you can keep your house at a lower temperature and burn less fuel for heating. [pg. 12]

This page could be glued to the one next to it (which is a picture), or you could use this opportunity to talk to your children about stewarding – not worshipping – the earth.

In the section about meteors and volcanoes, the question is asked

How can a large meteor affect the weather?

A big meteor smashing into Earth can send gigantic amounts of dust in the air. The results can be the same as an erupting volcano.

Many people believe that a giant meteor crashed into Earth about 65 million years ago. The impact changed the climate so much that it led to the extinction of the dinosaurs! [pg. 45]

It’s true. Many people do believe that. Another fine opportunity for instruction!

One page mentions something about the “imaginary character who is said to cover things with a thin layer of ice”, Jack Frost.

Conclusion. A fun, interestingly informative book. Your weather-minded children will love it!

Dolphins!

Title: Dolphins!
Author: Sharon Bokoske & M. Davidson
Pages: 48
Recommended Ages: 5-7
Star Rating: ★★★★

Hi there! As of October 2013, I have upgraded to a new site – The Blithering Bookster – where I have posted all of my old reviews and continue to post new ones. Hoist yourself over to join the fun!

—–

I used to love dolphins when I was a kid. I would sing the theme song from Flipper all day long. (Not an endorsement.) I played with dolphin stuffed animals. I even had a dolphin-themed birthday party when I was three. I was just into dolphins.

Once I began reading, I wanted a book about dolphins. This was the book that my mother gave me. Dolphins! I don’t know how many times I read this book. But it was over. And over. And over.

Dolphins! Is a very basic introduction to dolphins – the different kinds of dolphins, their lives, their personalities, their intelligence, and their interaction with people. The drawings make them look super cuddly.

Caution.

In several of the pictures, people are wearing bathing suits as they interact with the dolphins. Time for the Sharpie!

It is commented that “dolphins are mammals, like us.” [pg. 12]

Conclusion. A sweet book for little dolphin lovers.

The Night Sky

Title: The Night Sky
Author: Nigel Henbest
Illustrator: Michael Roffe
Pages: 64
Recommended Ages: 10 & up
Star Rating: ★★★★

Hi there! As of October 2013, I have upgraded to a new site – The Blithering Bookster – where I have posted all of my old reviews and continue to post new ones. Hoist yourself over to join the fun!

—–

The Night Sky is a book in the Usborne Spotter’s Guides and as such, plays its part beautifully. It provides simplistic maps of the night sky, which are specially drawn to depict the positions of the various constellations. Each constellation is named and described and information is given as to the best time of year to look for it in each hemisphere. Also provided is information about galaxies, planetary cycles, star types, etc.

Cautions.

In the sixty-four pages of this book, six evolutionary statements are made. One was a tiny box in the corner of page seven called ‘How it all began: the Big Bang”. It gives a brief description of this supposed event. It is described again in the Glossary of terms. On page forty-nine it is stated that something happened 20,000 years ago. On three separate pages, stars are described as being multiple million years old.

My main concern came when the process of how new stars are formed was briefly described on pgs. 26 and 28. Not being an astronomer myself, I could not say whether this statement is affected by evolution or has been scientifically observed/deduced.

Stars are formed from the very tenuous hydrogen and helium gas and dust which fills space. Denser clouds of gas are called nebulae. Within them, gravitation condenses and heats up the gas until stars are formed – huge balls of hot gas, a million or more kilometers across… Newly-formed stars, like the ones on the previous page, cover a wide range, from extremely bright and hot bluish-white stars to dim, cooler ones.

Like I said, I’m no astronomer. But do stars ‘form’ at all, or were each of them created as stars? Dunno.

Conclusion. A helpful, resource which is thorough without being pedantic, The Night Sky will be loved by any of your astronomically-minded youngsters (and perhaps you as well!).

One Day in the Alpine Tundra

Title: One Day in the Alpine Tundra
Author: Jean Craighead George
Illustrator: Walter Gaffney-Kessell
Pages: 52
Recommended Ages: 8-12
Star Rating: ★★★★

Hi there! As of October 2013, I have upgraded to a new site – The Blithering Bookster – where I have posted all of my old reviews and continue to post new ones. Hoist yourself over to join the fun!

—–

One Day in the Alpine Tundra, written by Jean Craighead George, is a part of a series in which Ms. George explores different ecologies through the camping/hiking adventures of young people. In this short chapter book, Johnny Moore is out camping on an alpine tundra where he experiences the peculiar weather patterns and animal activities of the environment before a storm breaks loose over the mountain.

There were several facts that Ms. George mentioned that I found interesting. For example, did you know that the tundra only boasts 200 species of plants and seven species of animals as opposed to the 100 million plant kinds and 500 species of animals that live in the tropics? That’s a huge difference!

Also, I had never read anything about hibernation. Here, Ms. George describes that of a marmot.

The marmot was in the first stage of hibernation. He was sleepy. His head drooped and nodded as he ate. A heavy frost two nights ago had set off his internal sleep clock. He was slowing down toward the hour when he would waddle into his den, put his paws over his nose, tuck his head in his groin and hibernate. His body temperature would drop to almost 34 degrees F., his heart rate would slow down and he would breathe only once or twice a day. In winter torpor he would live through the food-less subzero temperatures under the ice and snow. [pg. 17]

Maybe it was silly of me not to put two and two together, but I never realized that an animal’s body temperature and breathing rate changed during hibernation.

Mating season is mentioned but not described.

Conclusion. Solid. A detailed examination of tundra life that is sure to interest animal-loving children.

On the Spot: Space

Title: On the Spot: Space
Author: Claire Llewellyn
Illustrated: Jason Lewis
Pages: 17
Reading Level: Read Aloud
Star Rating: ★★★★

Hi there! As of October 2013, I have upgraded to a new site – The Blithering Bookster – where I have posted all of my old reviews and continue to post new ones. Hoist yourself over to join the fun!

—–

On the Spot: Space is a seventeen page board book filled with the sorts of facts that are calculated to fascinate youngsters. Perhaps I shouldn’t say this – it doesn’t make me sound all that intelligent – but several of them fascinated me, too (flabbergasted, actually).  Like this one…

Saturn is lighter than water, so it would float – if you could find an ocean big enough! [pg. 15]

Cool stuff, huh? Describing what you would need to pack for a space journey, Ms. Llewellyn includes,

a sleeping bag with straps to tie yourself down so that you won’t float around while you sleep. [pg. 5]

Hmm. I never thought about that…

This next one kinda freaks me out.

To do work outside the spacecraft, first you put on your spacesuit, then leave the cabin. Your job here is to repair the Hubble Space Telescope, which orbits Earth and sends us pictures of distant stars. [While working] You are standing on a sticky platform so that you won’t float away. Later you will use small jets on your backpack to move around. [pg. 6]

Moving by jet sounds neat, but the sticky platform part sounds scary to me. I mean, what kind of sticky are we talking about? Sticky-note sticky? Molasses sticky? I would want to be tied down with block and tackle to keep me from *floating off*

Anyway, before I drift too far into personal fears and preferences, I’ll conclude by recommending On the Spot: Space for very beginning readers or as a read aloud. It includes many facts, most of which have more educational value than the ones that stood out to me. : )