Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner

3.5 stars Children’s

I’m on the fence on this one.  This is a sweet, slow story which might not capture the attention of some children (like my young grandchildren) but I liked that it actually shows how animals live in winter.  This might be a good picture book for older readers who are looking for information on animals or a good bedtime story but my little readers didn’t care for it when I read it to them.

The story is told from the point of view of a young boy who is snow-skiing with his father out on the fresh-fallen snow.  Quietly they are alone, using hand-poles and navigating around trees and up and down hillsides throughout the story.  The story begins when the boy notices a squirrel scamper by and then, it vanishes.  The boy asks his father, “Where did it go?”  The story takes off as the father explains all the different wildlife that is hiding under and around the snowy area.

There are lots of animals included in this story: from the owls on the branches which the boy can see, to the hidden tiny shrews and voles in the chilly tunnels under his feet, and the fat bullfrogs sleeping under the snow, the duo continues on their journey through the snow.  They’re thinking about all the creatures that are around them in this white landscape.  You’ll need to stop and look at the illustrations in this book as many of the pages, the illustrator has layered the landscape so the reader can see the chipmunk under the snow with his nuts and leaves, the queen bee safely sleeping under the roots of an tree, and the mice cuddling up together to stay warm (just a few of the examples).  While not a bright and colorful book, the book hues take on the warmth of the story and the quietness of the snowy day.  3.5 stars

Dementia in Lewy Body and Parkinson’s Disease Patients: Partnering with Your Doctor to Get the Most from Your Medications by J. Eric Ahlskog

2 stars Nonfiction

I have a family member who has been recently diagnosed with Lewy Bodies Dementia so I was pretty excited to find this book at the library.  I was hoping for some good information that I could use and according to the synopsis, Eric with 30 years of experience, would provide that for me.   He would “arm patients and families with crucial information that would enable them to work in tandem with their doctors.”  He would, “clearly explain all aspects of these disorders, their causes, symptoms, most effective drug treatments, proper doses, and which treatments to avoid.”  He’d also discuss complications from these disorders, give us choices of medications available, their side effects, and interactions.  Well, I found some of this information to be correct.

If you want to read about medications, this book is for you.  That is what the bulk of this book is about: medications.  I thought it started out okay as it was discussing different aspects of the disease and then, the conversation switched to medication and it stayed on this forever.  The book talks about medication- all aspects of medications.  The author states at the beginning of the book, that you don’t need to read it like a typical book but that you can jump around.  I started reading from the beginning but when it started to talk endlessly about medications, I started to skip sections.  I would read a bit out of each section but it was about medications, how medications interacted with other medications, or something along this line.  When there was a topic that I might be interested in, say hallucinations, I would dig in only to find, “hallucinations are primarily due to the disease itself: however, certain drugs can exacerbate this problem.”   Then, that section would talk about clinical trials, drugs, and then……finally, “they may be caused by sleep deprivation or a urinary infection.”  Finally, a bit of information that doesn’t talk about drugs.  If I wanted more information about hallucinations, I was referred to a different chapter.  That other chapter was only 4.5 pages long and it too talked about medications.  Over half of its pages were about medications.    

I didn’t want a book about medications, I understand that it’s part of these diseases but to spend the majority of this book discussing them, it was too much.  I also realize that there’s no treatment but drugs can’t be the only answer. This book was a big disappointment to me.   2 stars

Fantastic Feet Up Close by Melissa Stewart

4.5 stars Children’s Nonfiction

What animal is the fastest digger on Earth?  Using its long claws, which are shaped like shovels this animal’s feet are perfect for digging up the food that it eats.  Do you know the answer?  If you guessed a camel, you are wrong.  If you guessed an aardvark, you are correct. 

Looking at this animal in this book and then, looking up close at its feet, I can see its long, sharp claws and see how it can dig up tiny ants and termites as those toes look like super long toe nails with points on the end.  What an interesting book!  

I liked how this book shows its reader a variety of animals and then, shows them a close-up view of the animal’s feet so they can actually see what the focus is all about. The author explains why that specific animal has that type of foot also.  The pictures inside this book are photographs so the reader is able to see the animals in their own environment. Easy-to-read text accompanies with this bright picture book. 

There is a list of books and a few websites listed on the back page is the reader would like additional information.  An index completes this 24-page book.   4.5 stars

Snack, Snooze, Skedaddle: How Animals Get Ready For Winter by Paula Salas

5 stars Nonfiction Children’s

This is a very informative book and I liked that it covered more than just hibernate.    Normally when we think of animals in winter, we think of hibernate but this book talks about what other animals do beside hibernate and this is greatly appreciated.  I also liked that it covered some nontraditional animals which is always good to learn about.   The illustrations are bright and colorful and the pages weren’t too busy and disturbing.   Told in verse, this is a fun informative book.  5 stars

National Geographic Birding Basics: Tips, Tools, and Techniques for Great Bird-watching by Noah Strycker

5 stars Nonfiction

This is a good basic book.  It provides a good starting point to bird watching as it doesn’t give you too much information but gives a lot of different information to get someone started.  There was a lot of different topics, some topics that I haven’t even thought about or cared about but I read through them and I can see why they were included in here.  This book is very thorough which is too be expected from National Geographic.

As I have said before, there are a lot of topics covered in this book.  Every two-page spread covers a topic and with 239 pages, you have many subjects to read about.  On these two-page spreads, you might find some Fun Facts, ID Tips (how to identity tricky birds), or some Try This ideas (ideas for you to try to actually put that two-page spreads topic into reality). There is also an Introduction, Glossary, an Index, some acknowledgements and some information about the author in the back.  Throughout the book, you’ll find some two-page spreads scattered about that are titled “In the Field with Noah.” These pages feature Noah’s own pictures with captions of actual footage he has captured out in the field. 

I did find some interesting topics while reading this book and I did find myself frustrated, as I wanted more information on a topic but the book was just the basics.  I realize I will have to research those topics further, hopefully in another National Geographic book to find more information.  I do think this would be a good starting point for someone who thinks they like birds.  There is a lot of think about and look at when thinking about birds. 

The book talks about 15 terms that they recommend you learn to identify birds, I thought that was interesting. They mention the website BirdCast which uses radar to show the migration forecasts of birds and I think that this would be cool to check out. I know that squirrels hate chili pepper so you can put that in your bird feeder to keep squirrels out but now I know that it’s the capsaicin in the chili powder that the birds can’t taste.  I liked the Pronouncing Bird Names pages. The book also mentioned the Merlin Bird ID app that you can download for free to help identify birds, I need to check into that one.  I think my grandkids will also like to use that one.  There are a few sections devoted to eBird, a free website that helps you track your own bird sightings.  The book also lists other websites that might be helpful.  See, I told you there was a lot of fun interesting information in this book.   One more little piece of information:  “ when you see an unfamiliar bird, keep it in view as long as possible and make conscious observations of its characteristics.” Then, before looking it up in a book, write down what you saw.  Well, I don’t do that.  I grab the book and start looking up the bird as I’m watching it.  I’m going to have to change that.  As I find myself confused and just like the book says, “it’s easy to see an illustration and suddenly “remember” something you never really noticed.” 

The illustrations/pictures are beautiful.  Most of the pictures are photos but there are some drawings and models of birds with the different parts of the bird labeled.  The realistic photos provide great detail and I think they definitely add to the book.

This is another excellent resource book from National Geographic but just remember, it’s just the basics.  It’ll get you started and, on your way, to bird watching.  5 stars.

15 terms to identify birds: Crown, nape, supercilium, lore, auricular, malar, eye ring, wing bar, primaries, secondaries, tertials, rump, undertail coverts, rectrices, and flanks

How Does a Butterfly Grow? by D.K. Publishing

5 stars Children’s

A beautiful book and that’s what I have come to expect from a DK Book. This is a marvelous book and not just one for little ones.  Just because it’s a board book don’t write this one off to just toddlers as you’d be missing a good great piece of nonfiction.  This book with fun flaps has lots of information inside on how butterflies grow.  Beginning with how the swallowtail butterfly lays their tiny eggs on a plant, to how the butterfly builds its chrysalis, to how it flies from flower to flower collecting nectar.  I enjoyed the detail that this book goes into as it doesn’t gloss things over. You’ll walk away from this book learning a few things so just think what a little child will learn as they look at these beautiful pictures as they find out interesting facts about butterflies.

Stop!  Let’s talk about these illustrations, they are amazing!  The flaps add entertainment value to the book but the illustrations with their bright, realistic forms, add to the text to make this a great book.  Can you tell how much I love this book?  I’m super excited about it!!    The back two pages have a condensed Butterfly Life Cycle and a condensed Glossary which is helpful.  This is one book nature lovers should be snatching up and sharing. 

“A caterpillar sheds its skin about four times before it reaches its full size.”

“The wing is covered with thousands of tiny, overlapping pieces called scales.”

“After weeks, or sometimes months, the outside of the chrysalis becomes see-through.”

Can You Track Down Bigfoot?: An Interactive Monster Hunt (You Choose: Monster Hunter) by Bradon Terrell

4 stars Children’s/ Middle School

I wanted to track down Bigfoot, like who doesn’t?1?  My son was telling me that there are some individuals at his work who actually belong to a group who does this.  They go out on the weekends or take vacations and hunt for Bigfoot, seriously.  Boy, was I intrigued! I wanted to know exactly how they did this and what they found. Were this people, ok? Sure, I’ve watched those shows on TV but I feel they hype things up but to actually talk to someone who has actually went out and hunted around looking for him, now that’s crazy!  Do you think this is crazy? I think it’s fun and exciting but I don’t know if I would spend my free time doing it.  When I saw this book at the library, I knew I had to read it.  I wanted to know if I would learn anything.

I liked that this book included some of the famous pictures we all know surrounding Bigfoot.  I think seeing these throughout the book made me feel that I was actually on a mission.  I do enjoy reading these choose-your-own-ending books as it seems that you can spend however long you’d like, reading these books before you’re done with them.  In this book, I liked that they sent you right back to the beginning every time that you finished one of the missions.  This book did a great job setting up the scene and telling me about Bigfoot.  As you read each story, the encounters that you’ll have will vary. 

The book takes you on adventures with Bigfoot, The Skunk Ape of the Everglades, The Himalayan Yeti and there is some information about whether Bigfoot is real or just a hoax.   At the back of the book, there are some interesting sections, so make sure you check them out.  One was about the different Bigfoots in the world.  From the Orang Pendak in Indonesia to the Big Greyman in Scotland (original name, huh?) to the Moehau in New Zealand and Ucu in Argentina these are creatures from around the world that individuals can’t explain.  A man with yellow hair and large tusks? A man with glowing eyes and extra-large arms?  These all sound interesting and I wonder just how similar they are to each other.  The author also gives us other questions to consider while thinking about these creatures.  There are also a couple other books listed and some internet sites an individual could use to find out more about Bigfoot.  An index is also at the end of this book.  I think this makes a great book for children who enjoy these types of stories as there is a lot of different stories within this book.  This is not a scary book but carries a mysterious element to it, as you discover and uncover information about these unexplained creatures.   4 stars

World War C: Lessons from the Covid-19 Pandemic and How to Prepare for the Next One by Sanjay Gupta

4.5 stars Nonfiction

I wanted to know yet I felt that I’d already had enough of this disaster.  When the cover of this book came across my computer scene, I wanted to read another “expert’s” opinion of this life changing event but yet, I felt I’d really had enough of Covid and what could this doctor really tell me that I hadn’t already heard?  With over a year of restrictions, testing, quarantines, and now vaccinations, did I really want to read 300+ pages of more information and opinions? The synopsis had plenty of interesting topics that sparked my curiosity:  what had led us into our current pandemic, how could we prepare ourselves for a future pandemic (because folks, there will be another one).  Sanjay was also going to comment on whether Covid was going to be a part of our lives forever or whether it would finally die itself out.  I was hoping that his insight and information would provide some interesting information or at least something different than what I have already heard. 

I’ll be honest and say that, a few sections of this book were WAY over my head.  I’m not a doctor or a nurse, nor do I have any medical field experience.  I’m a mother and a Nana which gives me some medical experience but my badges of an accountant, substitute teacher, volunteer, and a devoted book reader don’t give me the background to handle some of the terms and procedures that Sanjay was mentioning in this book.  I did my best trying to decipher these sections of the book which included DNA, RNA, and chemical reactions, but some of it was just tumbling around in my head.  He talked about the origins of infectious diseases which I thought was interesting.  Finding the origins of these illnesses and when they began is important as it can say a lot about the disease.  Previously many infectious diseases began from domestic animals and I remembered that they were linking Covid to bats.  The common cold originally began in a camel and pigs and birds are the sources of the many strains of the flu.  Makes me wonder, if they can give us these diseases, do humans give them any diseases?

Sanjay talks about a Global Health Security Risk which I thought was interesting.  This Security Risk was assembled by “the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) and the John Hopkins Center for Health Security (JHU) and was developed with The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).”  The purpose of this index was “these organizations believe that, over time, the GHS Index will spur measurable changes in national health security and improve international capability to address one of the world’s most omnipresent risks: infectious disease outbreaks that can lead to international epidemics and pandemics.”   This index was created in Oct 2019, this was before the pandemic.   How was the U.S. ranked out the of 195 countries?  Number 1, they scored 83.5 out of 100, the best prepared county to handle a pandemic/epidemic.  The United Kingdom received a 77.9 and New Zealand a 54.  YET, and I say yet, we all know what happened in the U.S.  The U.S., according to the graphs that I saw on the news, they didn’t look like they were the best prepared.  Sanjay makes a point by saying that the United States has 4% of the world’s population but they had 22% of the world’s total infections of this disease by the end of 2020.  That’s like taking “Ten (10) Airbus 320 Jetliners with 150 individuals on board and having them all fall from the sky, every day!  We haven’t even considered the number of lives that were lost in 2021. 

“Had we taken action and carried out control measures, like physical distancing and masking up just one or two weeks earlier, a report created at Columbia University states that more than half of the deaths and illnesses could have been avoided.”  Sanjay gives more details about this topic and like many, he has his data to back it up.

So, what’s the future hold?  I thought what Sanjay said made sense and he used PROOF to organize his points.  Sanjay believes that Covid is here to stay, just like many other professionals.  Learning how to live together, each of us will need to adapt, change and respond to one another.  Using PROOF, Sanjay makes some valuable points about risks, the internet, keeping vigil, and planning.    

Overall, I thought it was a great book for me.  I liked his mindset and the book didn’t feel overloaded with emotions and turmoil.  I thought Sanjay was honest and he shared a variety of different topics in the book. There were some parts of the book that were difficult for me to read terminology, but I managed.   4.5 stars


Dr. Fauci: How a Boy from Brooklyn Became America’s Doctor by Kate Messner

3.5 stars Children’s Nonfiction

The illustrations inside this book are what makes this book for me. I like everything about them from the color selection, to the details included in them, to how simple the designs really are.  I also liked how the book addressed Covid-19. When I think of Anthony Fauci, I think of Covid-19, for he was the one who talked to me on the news about this pandemic and he seemed to know what was really happening. Many pages of this book addressed Anthony’s part in the Covid-19 crisis.

I thought this book was okay.  I was hoping it would have a lot more personal or entertaining information about Anthony than it did.  I thought the book contained a majority of general information about him.  Information that seemed boring or trivial.  I did find a few pieces of information that I thought, gave me an inside look at who Anthony really was. 

The book mentions some of Anthony’s attributes that began when he was child which have helped him as an adult.  Anthony loved playing basketball but he was short individual.  Determined to play, Anthony found that his speed and his ability to communicate would be his way to contribute to this game.  Anthony’s determination was also a huge asset.  Having these qualities also helped Anthony survive in the tough neighborhood that he lived in.

The book in general, gives general information and walks the reader through how Anthony found his way working on some of the toughest diseases in our nation.  It’s a book that shows children where it all began for Anthony and that anyone, can reach for the stars, if you keep reaching.

There is a lot of other pages full of added material, in the back of the book.  There are some pages dedicated to “How Do Vaccines Work?” Are Vaccines Safe?’  “Dr. Faucis’ Five Tips for Future Scientists.”  There’s also a timeline of some of Fauci’s milestones, a page of recommended reading, and a sources page.  A few pages of black-n-white photos of Anthony with a short author’s notes and acknowledgements, rounds out this book. 3.5 stars    

The Bat Book by Charlotte Milner

5 stars Nonfiction

I’m not bat savvy so I needed this book.  I thought I knew a few things about them and I knew I had some “deceptions” about them but now, I feel knowledgeable.  In our neighborhood at night, you can see a few bats soaring in the sky come dusk.  I’m grateful that they’re eating the insects yet, I’m also thinking how dirty those little guys are and how I don’t want them to get tangled up in my hair.  At least now, after reading this book, I feel educated and grateful that they picked our air space to do their hunting.

I have to share this eye-opening moment for me first.  I never realized that bats pollinate. Bees, yes but bats?  It makes sense but I never really thought about it until I read about it in the book.  A few pages were focused on this topic and I guess looking back over the years, pollination was always about bees and birds. 

I enjoyed this book immensely as I do with most DK books.  The paper is the thick matte finish which compliments the illustrations/text.  I think the paper provides a richness to the book and will hold up better over time.  The illustrations are fantastic, with their convincing drawings that pull your eyes in to pagefuls of helpful information.  I liked the contrasting text colors and the use of graphs, text boxes, and the how everything is labeled and arranged. 

I found plenty of information inside this book which was presented in an easy-to-read format.   From different types of bats and their body types, to why they are so important, to myths about them, the author gives us plenty to think about.  A great book! 5 stars