Growing Up: Caterpillar to Butterfly by Stephanie Fitzgerald

5 stars Children’s Nonfiction

I have no idea why my library chose to put this book under the Easy section of the children’s library.  This is definitely a non-fiction book with a capital N and I will definitely bring this to their attention.  There was a lot to love about this children’s nonfiction book and being a newly butterfly nature lover, I’m all over this book.

Within the past couple years, we have planted butterfly bushes and have witnessed the lifecycle of the monarch butterfly firsthand.  I can tell you; this has been a truly remarkable and rewarding experience.  I never thought in my 50+ years of life, I would be having sleepless nights over aphids and buying ladybugs in the mail but now, I can say I have.   I like to find children’s books that talk about incredible process as I think children need to understand this process and if possible, witness this journey firsthand, as it’s part of nature unfolding.

I liked that this book is 32 pages of some incredible illustrations and the variety of text fonts makes this book fun to read.  The book begins with a Table of Contents listing exactly what you’re going to be reading about, from what a butterfly is, to the life cycle of the butterfly, to butterfly facts, and a glossary and an index in the back.  The text is big and bold and the illustrations give great captions of interesting information. 

This is one book that can be used as a great reference over and over again as you learn about butterflies and one that will never get old.    This is definitely one that you need to get a hold of and read – I highly recommend it!

” A caterpillar has 4,000 muscles in its body. People have about 650.”

“Threats to the butterfly change depending on the stage of its life cycle.”

Kate the Chemist: The Awesome Book of Edible Experiments for Kids by Kate Biberdorf,

4.5 stars nonfiction children’s

I was all excited about another Kate, the Chemist book but I felt confused as I looked inside to see what types of experiments, she was featuring this time.  I hoped it wasn’t filled with slime recipes but I wasn’t expecting tomato sauce, chocolate chip cookies, defrosting berries, and creating pretzels bites.  Perhaps the title of the book threw me off and reading her last book which had another edible experiment.  To me, these weren’t experiments, they were recipes that turned into experiments based on how you went about preparing them. 

Don’t get me wrong, this is not a horrible book, it’s just that I was expecting something totally different.  This book focuses on why something works in a recipe.  While doing this, it also provides alternative methods (more experiments) to achieve this result.  Take for example the Banana Bread Experiment.  To make great banana bread, you usually need overripen, sweet bananas, but what if you only have yellow bananas?  Kate has an experiment for this recipe that has the reader doing 3 different methods for ripening your yellow bananas, so you can make the bread.  You’re recording your results as you perform the 3 different experiments. Once you get your results, you can continue on with the rest of the Banana Bread Experiment.

For each of the chapters, Kate provides a brief note about the project, a messiness level (most were 2 out of 3), a list of materials needed, whether you need: oven mitts, latex gloves, an adult, wonderful step-by-step instructions with fantastic illustrations, a What Do You Think? Section, and a How It Works: section. 

Each chapter is its own experiment (recipe).  I can’t say enough about how organized and detailed each chapter is.  That is what I love about Kate’s books, she is very detailed-oriented.  The illustrations are in color and the directions are detailed, with easy-to-understand language.   The What Do You Think? section asks the reader a handful of thought-provoking questions about what they have done and has them think about what might happen had they done something else.  I really enjoyed the How It Works section as it goes into detail about why this experiment does its job.  This section is quite lengthy which is why I like it also.  This section is not a bunch of scientific words but it explains the science behind why the reaction occurred which might be overwhelming to some young readers.  You could have an older individual read this section and explain it to a younger child so they could understand it.    

I liked reading why these experiments worked as I found it interesting and cooking can be fun, if you make it fun.  I feel that some children will be like me and be shocked when they open the book and see what each chapter is about.  I’m afraid they will see the book as a cookbook and they’ll want to pass on it while others will love it.  If you haven’t seen Kate before, I suggest you check her out.  She’s on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and online.  This is a great book; I just wished the title was something else.  4.5 stars

The Radium Girls: The Scary But True Story of the Poison That Made People Glow in the Dark by Kate Moore

5 stars Nonfiction Middle School/YA

I have already read the adult version of this book, so when our book club decided that The Radium Girls was going to be this month’s selection, I opted to read the young readers version of the story.  I was anxious to read this book as I read lots of books geared towards young readers and I hoped this one was as great as the adult version.  I had hoped that they hadn’t taken this incredible story, watered it down and condensed it.  Had they changed the storyline and make it more reserved for these young minds?  This book really surprised me as I began reading.

This was fantastic!  This book was condensed but the author had not watered it down.  This was as great as the adult version only; it didn’t go into as much detail as the adult’s version.  It had been a few years since I have read the adult version but it all came back to me as I began reading and I fell in love with it all over again. 

Filled with hope and opportunity the girls began working at the watch dial factory.  They were teenage girls, working with the “wonder element,” the miracle wonder that was treating cancer and helping with other illnesses.  This “liquid sunshine” was incorporated into toothpaste, butter, and skin products as everyone wanted to benefit from its greatness yet only wealthy could afford to indulge in these.  Radium, the glow-in-the-dark paint, was expensive in the late 1910’s.  

Working in the factory, the girls sat and they painted.  Holding watch faces, the girls manually painted the watch dials onto each one.  It was delicate work that relied on a steady hand and the perfect tool.  With the factory suppling the brushes, the girls took their brushes and created the perfect tool.

Lip-dip-paint. The girls did lip pointing as they painted their watch dials.  Since the girls were paid based on the number of dials they painted, they needed to work quickly and efficient.  By wetting the end of the brush in their mouths to make a tapered end, this technique made their jobs easier.  Lip-dip-paint.  There would be no rinsing of the brush between each dial, there was only a minimal amount of radium on the brush at all times while she painted, and she had been told that the radium was safe.  She was set to make millions, right?  It sounds right but these girls were doing this every day, all day, and the number of times that her brush touched their lips each day was high, for she painted hundreds of dials each day.    

It wasn’t until years later, that things started to change for the girls and they started to realize that perhaps this “liquid sunshine” wasn’t as safe as they were led to believe.  I marveled at how this book didn’t shy away from the facts. The trips to the dentist had me squirming in my chair. I’m not fond of dentists but they had to go. Their pain was so bad but their diagnose was worse than cavities. The girls had enjoyed working in the factory, they’d made lots of cash and enjoyed their new lifestyle but now, was it worth it?  

As more girls were getting sick, more individuals were getting involved and it irritated me that no one was working together to solve the issues.  Hired individuals, doctors, lawyers, family members, everyone was a witness but what was the cause?  How can they move forward?

This book is not for the weak, as the author tells it like it was.  As I thought about what these girls had to endure, it made me cringe.  The pain, the frustration, and the emptiness they must have felt, had to be exhausting.  It’s sad and horrific that the girls had to battle this.  To have to fight for their lives and also for support.  That’s so frustrating.  These girls are heroes for what they went through and how they shaped our future.  I’m glad that this book was written for young readers so they can read how these young women fought for others and themselves.  They weren’t quitters, whinners, or looking for a handout- they did it by believing in themselves and moving forward.  A great book that should be read by mature young readers (middle school).  

“After her jaw was gone, an important discovery was made. Knef had always hoped that by removing a tooth or a piece of infected bone, the progress of the mysterious disease would be stopped. “

“Her mouth, emoty of teeth, empty of jawbone, empty of words, filled with red, hot blood instead. It spilled over her lips and down her stricken, shaken face.”

They Call Us Enemy by George Takei

5 stars Graphic Novel

This book is a true account of George Takei’s experience in internment camps during WWII.  I read a lot of WWII books and it was shocking to read about these camps here in the U.S. 

When Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese in 1941, the President signed a proclamation stating that every adult Japanese citizen in the United States was now an Alien Enemy.  This meant that George’s father, after living 23 years in the U.S., was now an Alien Enemy and under strict rules.  Speaking to Congress, the President declares War not long after that.  California’s Attorney General decides that he’s going to start excluding Japanese individuals around certain areas.  He begins to round them up and house them together.  This made me angry as I read about his agenda, as there was no reason behind his actions, besides his own agenda. Many individuals were stripped of their own possessions and they were left with nothing. How was he able to do this?  The restrictions became tighter and tighter as he pulled on their reigns.

As George’s family was moved around, the illustrations in this graphic novel did an excellent job portraying the author’s attitude at what was happening in his life. Just looking at the illustrations, you can sense how things are with the family as they try to adjust.  Mother carried with her hope, as she made her way to the camps.  Her forbidden item had to be heavy as she lugged it around but she was determined to bring it.  She did, “not want to leave it behind” and she was also looking out for her children.  I liked how his father stepped up and made the best of his situation at the camps also.  His family was definitely a bright spot in the camp.  I found this graphic novel very interesting and educational. It one that you should look into if you like this type of book.  I appreciate George sharing his story with others.  

Woke: A Young Poet’s Call to Justice by Mahogany Browne

5 stars Children’s poetry

Beautiful, amazing pieces of poetry! Each work of poetry is unique and brilliant as it enlists each of us to look at the world around us and embrace it. After reading this book, the message is strong and empowering: 5 stars

We are all unique in our own ways but
we are all united. We all have the power.

We all should feel secure in our environment,
being able to be ourselves without ridicule,
lifting up our voice, without fear of harassment, just for being who we are.

Throughout history, individuals have tried: some success and some not.
Those that have fought, have not fought in vain.

What can I do? I cannot move bridges. I cannot lead a march.
I can be awake. I can support you. I can encourage you.
All voices don’t need to be loud to be felt.
They just need to be woke.

We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom

5 stars Children’s Picture

We all should know how important our water supply is.  It’s not something that we should take for granted, ask anyone who doesn’t have water or has had to go without their water for an extended amount of time and they will tell you, water is precious.  I really enjoyed how the author makes us look at water and how valuable it really is.   

       “It nourished us inside our mother’s body.

        As it nourished us her on Mother Earth.

         Water is sacred, she said.  (Nokomis)”

 I have to tell you that I went into this book blindly.  I knew that it was a popular book and that it was up for some awards but I didn’t know its subject matter.  For me, going into this book blindly was ideal as I had to guess what the author was referring to as she spoke of the black snake tainting the waters.   Something has to be done to stop the black snake but what?     She stepped forward, hoping to rally her people together to stop the black snake, but can they?  They march as many, to also carry the torch for those without a voice, to fight those who wear blinders. 

You definitely have to read the 2- page section at the back of the book, as I thought these notes and information gave the book more depth and force.   The illustrations were fabulous with striking colors and images.  Definitely a book that you have to read more than once.  5 stars. 

How Sweet the Sound: The Story of Amazing Grace by Carole Boston Weatherford

3 stars Chilren’s Biography

This wasn’t what I thought this book would be like, but it’s a start.  This song was a favorite of my grandmothers and it’s also one of my mother’s favorite songs, when I saw the cover, I knew I had to read it.   I wondered what the song’s words came from and what they meant as it’s sang a lot at funerals and religious services. 

The song began with John Newton aboard a slave ship.  He’s a passenger as the ships being tossed about, during a stormy night.   John hears the crew complaining as he worries about the ship going down with the storm.  As the storm whips around him, John reflects back on his life. 

John’s father was a sea captain and his mother stayed home and took care of him. She took him to church and John was a good Christian boy.  When she died, John put on his sea legs and went with his father to the sea, where he got into trouble and he became a wild fellow.  This was the time that he also met his wife, Mary.

The storm grabs John’s attention as the boat is being torn apart.  Everyone fears the worse and hopes the best.  The illustrations capture the fear that these individuals felt. Fortunately, they do eventually find land and John later retires.  Once an individual who transported slaves, John now preaches to end slavery.  I had a few questions about things that were happening here as it seemed rather choppy.  John now writes the first lines to this famous song.  Those lines travel across sea and land where other individuals sing them and add their own words to them until ……..we have a song.   What?  Yep!  There are Author Notes at the back (which I highly recommend you read), Additional Reading and Info, and Amazing Grace (the song).

I feel that the illustrations captured the energy of this book.  They were bold, colorful, and the individuals presented were nicely done. I was surprised at how much of the book was devoted to the life of John and how much of the book was devoted to the song, itself.  Then, to find out that he only wrote the first lines to the song.  That was a huge surprise to me!   The Author’s Notes at the back of the book need to be read as I found them very informative.  They helped answer some of my questions and put the book together for me.  I also liked having all the verses of the song together in the back, with the nice illustration in the background, that was a nice touch.  I was disappointed that not more was written about the rest of the song though.   

Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera

5 stars Children’s Nonfiction

I am in awe! This book is breathtaking! As a nature lover, I am fascinated about the world around me and as I read about Apis, I was glued to this book. As Apis made her made into the world, her journey was just beginning. Each page of this book, brought new experiences and I was exhausted just reading about everything that she did. Only days old and she was working non-stop.

Image result for free honey bee  images

I learned a great deal about the Short Life of a bee and my mood quickly changed as the I got the end of the book. I liked how the author presented the information with facts and comments in a story-like narration. The illustrations are bright, engaging, and bigger than life. At the back of the book is a diagram of a honeybee with its different parts highlighted and there’s also a section about helping honeybees, facts about honeybees, online and books about honeybees. I highly recommend this book as I can’t stop thinking about this book!

We Thought We Knew You: A Terrifying True Story of Secrets, Betrayal, Deception, and Murder by M. William Phelps

4.5 stars Nonfiction/True Crime

I’m new to reading true crime novels so I didn’t know what to expect when I picked up this book.  I know that I hadn’t heard about this case before, so that was a plus. I like to watch true crime shows on television and reading this book was just like watching an investigation unfold on television.  I liked that there were just a few individuals to keep track of, therefore, I narrowed my suspects down to two, quite quickly.

When Mary arrived home from work, she wasn’t feeling well. Mary would normally fight off an illness, letting her cheerful-self shine through but whatever she had, it was getting the best of her. When her husband Bill awoke in the morning and found that Mary had not slept all night but had been sick all night, he took her to the hospital. They ran tests, gave her fluids and Mary started to feel better.  Reluctant to leave her side, Bill finally went home that evening to sleep while the hospital staff took care of Mary overnight. It wasn’t long before the hospital called the family in, as Mary’s condition deteriorates.  Within 24 hours, Mary’s illness had killed her. 

Crazy! Mary was considered a healthy person. Suddenly, she gets sick and then, just dies?!?  Something is just not adding up. When Bill left that night after he took her to the hospital, she was improving and then, the family is summoned to the hospital when things take a turn for the worse. They ordered an autopsy and it was finally discovered that Mary was poisoned.  How? On purpose or accidentally?  I liked how the author showed this process, how in-depth and difficult this procedure really was.  Mary wasn’t poisoned with your typical toxic either which leads to more investigations and boy, the story really starts to gets interesting now.  

When we meet their son Adam, he was working at the family’s chiropractic business in the office.  This kept him busy fulltime until he decided to go back to school.  He seemed to have it all together until we are introduced to his girlfriend, Katie.  Katie was, in my opinion, needy.  Katie played Adam and he fell for it. Katie becomes a big part of the family as she takes over in the office when Adam returns to school.  She makes the perfect office manager or so, it looks like she does. They were my suspects from the beginning.  Their motive for the killing? I didn’t have one but I felt it must be in the book somewhere.  Their relationship was off and on, all the time.  They’d fight, then made-up and I wondered if they even remembered if they were together or not, half the time.

The investigation itself was interesting and I liked how it was laid out.  I was curious and was feeling analytical as I turned the pages, trying to predict what would be happening next.  Although, I felt at times that some of the investigation was repeated or rehashed over and over again.  I don’t know if that was done as a means to connect pieces together or to remind us what had already occurred but I just wanted to move on.  I did like how the author fed the information to the reader.  It was definitely an interesting story and I think I’m going to look into other books this author has written.

Maker Lab: 28 Super Cool Projects by Smithsonian Foreword by Jack Andraka

4.5 stars Nonfiction

This book got me excited for doing science experiments at home, I just need my granddaughter and we would be off!  I liked how this book is set up with 4 different sections: a food section, a water and outside section, and then, experiments for around the home.  By looking at the instructions, they’re not limited to those specific areas but I think it helps that they’re grouped.  There are at least 6 experiments in each section and most of the items that you’ll need, are items that you should have somewhere close by.

Each experiment is laid out with numbered step-by-step instructions with illustrations for each step.  But, that is not all,  no…. there is an explanation on why this experiment works, which is the important thing.  It’s fun to make experiments but it’s even better, if they work.   There’s also a difficulty level meter and an estimated time (in minutes) on how long each experiment should take.    I love how there are tidbits of information included in each experiment because it’s also fun to learn something neat and interesting while you’re being a scientist, as you never know when you might need to know this information later. 

Some experiments are ones that we have done before (like the erupting volcano, sticky slime, dancing snake (although ours was a bit different)), there are some that look very interesting.  Sugar lollipops, kaleidoscope, rocket car, stalactites, orbs, and a few others.   There’s a glossary and an index at the back of the book to help navigate within the book.  And yes, I also thought a few of the experiments, I wouldn’t even attempt.  I just had no desire to do them.

From personal experience, I have to say that there are a few experiments that are geared for the younger crowd.  These experiments would be ones that can be accomplished quickly, results can be seen rapidly, and they can be explained without much difficulty.   That being said, there are some that look time-consuming (not necessarily difficult), the results might take a few days to accomplish, and the reasoning behind why they work, might be more involved.  The majority of the experiments, I feel fall in the middle. DK produced another great book that will provide hours of fun and education and will spark the minds of our future generation.  4.5 stars