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Bri Meets Books

Children's and YA literature reviews.

Category Archives: non fiction

It’s Nonfiction Monday! Created by Picture Book of the Day, it’s where book bloggers feature a nonfiction book for kids.  

Wendie’s Wanderings hosts the roundup this week.

Today I’ll be reviewing a title sent to me by Capstone Publishers, Animal Rights: How You Can Make a Difference by Rhonda Lucas Donald.

This is an excellent book for any child or classroom interested in animal rights.  It’s not just a guide to how others make a difference, it emphasizes how anyone can.   Throughout the book, there’s several stories of teens who saw an injustice to animals and fought to right it.   As the book opens, we learn the story of Haley, who lost her dog due to antifreeze poisoning, and fought to get her home state of Tennessee to require manufacturers a bitter chemical. Her campaign paid off, and the bill she proposed became a law.

Each chapter of Animal Rights illustrates a step towards activism. This format makes it a great classroom addition, as it goes through all the parts required for such a campaign: brainstorming, research,  mapping out a plan, etc.  Keeping its young audience in mind at all times, the book asks the reader to consider the reliability of any website (such as looking for university and government websites first), book, etc,  to look out for bias and stereotyping.  Also, when discussing online communication for their cause,  it does remind children to use caution online and never reveal private information.  Finally, the resources section of Animal Rights offers the Capstone Facthound service, where readers simply plug in the book’s unique ID number in the Facthound website, and will receive quality and kid-safe websites on the topic.

With a kid-friendly approach towards a complex issue and a helpful guide for their campaign, Animal Rights is a must-have.  Slim but loaded with information, plus tips, a glossary, and additional resources, it’s the perfect introduction to giving children a voice for a concern.

Animal Rights: How You Can Make a Difference is part of Capstone’s Take Action! series.  Learn more about the series at the publisher’s website

Copy for review provided by the publisher.

Title: Animal Rights
Author: Rhonda Lucas Donald
Date: 2009
Publisher:  Capstone Publishers
Pages: 32
Format: Hardback


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I survived retail at Christmas, and am looking forward to reading a lot in 2010.

Fainting Goats and Other Weird Mammals by Carmen Bredeson is a small volume of peculiarities in the animal world.  The title is a part of the I Like Weird Animals! series by Enslow Publishers.  The hardback twenty four page book features eight strange animals, including the Duck-Billed Platypus, the Star-Nosed Mole, and the Pygmy Marmoset.  

The layout of the book is perfect for children, with bold large text, a small glossary of terms with pronunciation guide, and images that cover the entire page.  First animal profiled is the vampire bat, with a closeup on the mammal, fangs bared. The caption will intrigue even the most reluctant reader: “The vampire bat is the bat that drinks BLOOD!”  The rest of the animals profiled are just are interesting, especially the Tasmanian Devil.

Pygmy Marmoset

At the end of the book, readers will find two pages offering additional resources:  three additional books, and two websites of related mammal information.  Although they are helpful sources, my only criticism of this title is the limited number of resources.

Other titles in the series include Flying Geckos and Other Weird Reptiles, Leafy Sea Dragons and Other Weird Sea Creatures, and Weird Birds.   See the entire list at Enslow’s website

Copy for review provided by the publisher

Title: Fainting Goats and Other Weird Mammals
Author: Carmen Bredeson
Date:  2009
Publisher: Enslow Publishers
Pages: 24
Format: Hardback

It’s Nonfiction Monday! Created by Picture Book of the Day, it’s where book bloggers feature a nonfiction book for kids.

This week’s Nonfiction Monday is hosted by Wendie’s Wanderings

This week’s pick is Sea Soup: Zooplankton by Mary M. Cerullo, featuring photography by Bill Curtsinger.

Sea Soup: Zooplankton introduces readers to the various forms of the organism.  From the moment you open this book, stunning underwater images greet you.  The layout is very attractive, and catches your eye immediately. There’s splashes of color, vibrant photos in bubbles, but it still flows well, so you get all the information at an easy pace.

The opening starts off as if fiction and the letters cascade down the side of the page, a visual representation of a diver’s descent down below:
The moment they dropped into the dark,alien world, the searchers knew they were not alone. – (p.2, Sea Soup: Zooplankton)

The book talks directly to the reader, asking questions, inviting the reader to explore the world of the zooplankton.  On one page, it’s stark white, and in the middle, a bright colorful photo of a a jellyfish and the text, “Who’s who in a zoo plankton zoo?” or “Are there zooplankton you don’t ever want to bump into?”  The corresponding pages then answer the question. This theme continues throughout the book, always engaging the reader into a discussion.

Reference wise, Sea Soup: Zooplankton packs a lot into a thin book.   Sizes, their diets, the life cycles, and the various types of zooplankton are covered. Prior to reading this book, my plankton knowledge involved Spongebob Squarepants, and this book definitely filled in the gaps.     There’s a glossary and even an additional teacher’s guide available from the publisher, for those who want more information.

Copy for review provided by the publisher.

Title: Sea Soup: Zooplankton

Author: Mary Cerullo

Date: 2001
Publisher: Tilbury House

Pages: 40

Format: Hardback

As a child, I was nuts for dolphins.  I originally went to college for a degree in Psychology so I’d be able to become an animal behaviorist, and study dolphins. I even memorized the scientific names of various whales and dolphins.
Today I’ve got a review of a great new children’s nature book about a little dolphin with an incredible spirit, and the generous people who helped her recover from a terrible injury.
From the authors of Owen & Mzee: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship,  and Knut: How One Little Polar Bear Captivated the World comes Winter’s Tail: How One Little Dolphin Learned to Swim Again.
Winter the bottle-nose dolphin was entangled in a crab trap off the east coast of Florida, and was thankfully rescued by a concerned fisherman.

Her tail had become severely injured by the net, and needed medical attention soon.  Volunteers at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium were able to get the baby dolphin to eat, and gradually she grew healthier, but her tail eventually fell off.
The clever dolphin learned how to swim her tail’s stump by moving her body side-to-side, similar to that of a fish.  The staff at the aquarium was impressed by her ingenuity and determination.  They eventually introduced her to another rescued dolphin.  Soon, Winter began attracting media attention, including The Today Show and local radio programs.  An animal lover, Kevin Carroll, heard about Winter on the radio and wanted to help.  He created prostheses for humans, and thought he might be able to do the same for Winter. He and others developed a special prosthesis for Winter, one that would work in the water, and function like a real tail.   Kevin Caroll’s design and formation of a special gel to ease any of Winter’s discomfort helps others, such as Iraq war veterans who have lost limbs.  Winter’s courage and unwavering spirit helps inspire others who face challenges.
Winter’s Tail is a great story for kids and adults.  It’s an extraordinary tale of survival, and Winter will definitely touch your heart. The story flows well, and the enclosed photographs chronicle Winter’s journey from her discovery to her life today. It’s a really informative title with a lot of information conveyed in a pleasing format,  with such a good amount of text and pictures, the reader is immediately drawn into Winter’s story. I especially enjoyed the pictures of Winter’s birthday party, Winter with her trainers, and the crowds that she draws.
The back pages include information about her new home, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium,  dolphins, how dolphins are “trained,” and Kevin Carroll.
Would you like to get your own copy of Winter’s Tail?  Scholastic has an opportunity for you to win a Winter’s Tail prize pack.
The winner will receive the following: 
* Dolphin Plush
* Dolphin Key Chain
* Winter’s Tail video game for Nintendo DS
* Copy of Winter’s Tail: How One Little Dolphin Learned to Swim Again Book 
Retail value: $81.99 

One commenter will win.
Per the sponsor’s rules, The Winter’s Tail contest is open to U.S. addresses only.  International readers may enter, provided they can have a friend in the US receive the package for them.

Sweepstakes begins September 28, 2009 and will run for 3 weeks, closing October 12, 2009 at 12:00 AM (Central).  Winner will be chosen using

Leave your email address in the comments.  Additional entries:

+ 1 for Tweeting  this contest/review (please include your @twitter name)

My thanks to Scholastic and Big Honcho Media for inviting me to participate in this promotion.

There’s a wealth of material on Winter for teachers and parents who’d like to use the book in a curriculum.
View the book trailer:

Additional links:
There will be a live webcast about Winter on October 7, 1:00-1:45 ET at Scholastic
Copy for review provided by the publisher.
Title: Winter’s Tail: How One Little Dolphin Learned How to Swim Again
Author: Julianna Hatkoff, Isabella Hatkoff, and Craig Hatkoff
Date: October 1, 2009
Publisher: Scholastic
Pages: 40

Format: Hardback

It’s Non Fiction Monday! Created by Picture Book of the Day, it’s where book bloggers feature a nonfiction book for kids. This is my first time participating, and first up is Saving Birds: Heroes Around the World by Pete Salmansohn and Stephen W. Kress.

An Audubon book, Saving Birds features five stories of birds nearing extinction, and the efforts mounted by ordinary people to save them.   

The strongest point of the book is the variety of birds featured, the species aren’t common birds and the bright photographs alongside the text really educate the reader on the birds.  From Black Robins in New Zealand, to Common Murres in California, a worldwide view of threatened species, and the varying attempts to preserve their numbers.
Readers travel worldwide, to locations such as Israel, where the number of Lesser Kestrel pairs is below a thousand, or China, where the Black Necked Cranes’ wetlands are dwindling.
Particular favorite: The story of the Quetzals of Chiapas, Mexico, and Oswoldo Contreras and Gonzalo Del Carpio, who put on school productions educating children about the bird, who was once worshipped by the Mayan and Aztec Indians. The two pass out coloring books after their puppet shows, and children write letters pledging their support.

This is a great title that demonstrates to kids and adults that everyone has the power to help wildlife.  One minor thing: The font on the back cover is in red, and is hard to read when paired with the dark green background color.

Copy for review provided by the publisher.
Title: Saving Birds: Heroes Around the World
Author: Pete Salmansohn and Stephen W. Kress
Date: September 2005
Publisher: Tilbury House
Pages: 40

Format: Trade paperback

I love random facts. Such as each year more than 14,000 tons of cosmic dust fall to Earth – an equivalent to the weight of more than 3,000 African elephants. While they aren’t exactly going to help you score high on the SAT, facts and curiosities are still things kids love to stuff their heads with. And the weirder, the better.

Ripley’s Believe it or Not has released the 6th book, Seeing is Believing, in their annual series. And it’s so stuffed full of facts, weird records, there’s always going to be something new to you.

Seeing is Believing isn’t all largest-pancake and eye-lid stretching men stories. There’s odd news stories from 2008, such as the mysterious rash of severed feet washing ashore in Canada. Every conceivable topic is covered here from space, animals, literary-related things, food, customs, science, peculiar cars, strange houses, and more.

There’s even a page dedicated to Scrabble facts (Did you know 30,000 games begin every hour worldwide?) and Houdini, with descriptions of his tricks. The typical sideshow fodder stories are here too, with a fold-out 2 page layout. My favorite is page 206, showcasing artist Jason Hackenwerth’s giant-sized monsters and creatures made completely of balloons. One, a sea horse, is pictured at right.

There’s some pages that aren’t for the squeamish or young – animals with malformations, insects being eaten, etc. If a topic does interest a child, some of the pages have an icon that indicates more information will be found on

Seeing is Believing’s table of contents lets readers find exactly what topic they’re looking for – there’s quite a few – and there’s a comprehensive index. The page layouts burst with color and images with little white space leaving plenty for kids to discover.

Copy for review provided by the publisher.

Title: Ripley’s Believe it or Not: Seeing is Believing
Author: Ripley’s Believe it or Not
Date: August 4, 2009
Publisher: Ripley’s Publishing
Pages: 254
Format: Hardback

Other Reviews

Charlotte’s Library
Lorain County Moms

My internet connection has been having problems – this is without images and posted later than I would’ve liked.

I’ve decided to write a collective review of the first three Louder than Words books, because each title is around 150-170 pages, and I feel this kind of review will cover them more thoroughly than three short reviews.

I’ve blogged about the series before, but here’s a quick refresher: It’s a collection of memoirs, consisting of blog entries, diary pages, poems, etc, of teens in their own words.

Chelsey by Chelsey Shannon:

When she was fourteen, Chelsey’s father, a cruise ship entertainer, was violently murdered. The teen had already experienced parental loss with the death of her mother, to Leukemia, when she was six. Orphaned, Chelsey channels her emotion and anger creatively with writing. Shouldered with the burden of continuing school in the midst of being uprooted from her home, wanting to remain where it’s safe and familiar, she comes to terms with the loss. Chelsey finds solace in words, and eventually applies to the writing program of a performing arts school.

Emily by Emily Smucker:

Emily’s plagued with dizziness, stomaches, and fevers lately. Eventually, she learns she has West Nile, and it’s incurable. Suddenly, all of her plans for senior year put on hold. Now even the simplest things like traveling and attending classes are a struggle. Despite her diagnosis, Emily tries to continue her life as normal, even as her friends go on with their lives, while she’s left behind. A Mennonite, Emily’s faith both gives her strength and makes her question God’s plan with her diagnosis, until she finds peace with her situation.

Marni by Marni Bates:

Marni’s father is basically a stranger, her parents are divorcing, and school’s anything but easy. Unable to cope with the stress surrounding her, Marni begins plucking her eyebrows. At first it’s just heeding her sister’s beauty advice, until the urge to pick extends to her eyelashes, then hair. Scared to confront her family with the truth, Marni confesses to a classmate her habit and is met with disgust. Finally, after a talk with her mother, Marni finds a name for his disorder: trichotillomania and learns she’s not alone.

Each of the books in the series has an editor’s touch (Smart Girls’s mastermind, Deborah Reber), but the final products still bear the teen’s words. There’s almost a sense of voyeurism here – as if we’re reading an online journal we’ve stumbled upon. Within each account of the girls’ ordeals, I got a real sense of the author’s personalities from their writing – from Emily’s quirky sense of humor with her wryly-named cane, John McCane, to her diatribe against pink jellybeans. In their respective books, Chelsey’s complex search for an appropriate religion, and Marni’s resilience despite an absent father and troubling stress disorder stand out. The stylistic choices among the three authors differ, also reflecting the girls’ personalities well. Chelsey describes her ordeal chronologically, while Marni and Emily favor a more free-writing approach, using flashbacks and random anecdotes.

While I enjoyed all three books, Marni really struck a chord with me with its account of Trichotillomania, as I had a coworker and classmate who was stricken with the disorder. Reading a first hand-account of “trich” let me see what she was going through, as her situation was similar to Marni’s.

There’s been a deluge of biographies for adults on the market, but little for teens. Before Louder Than Words, “real” accounts for teens were the anonoymously-penned Annie’s Diary or Go Ask Alice. Now with the introduction of Marni, Emily, and Chelsey, Louder Than Words offers true stories teens were able to relate to, and definitely fills a niche. In the back of each title, readers will find book club discussion questions providing talking points for teens and parents.

Copies for review provided by the publisher.

Release Date: August 2009
Publisher: HCI Teens
Format: Paperback


I have the above three titles to give away to one winner. Simply leave a comment on this post to enter. Contest begins August 12, 2009 and ends September 9, 2009.