Category Archives: Grade 4-6

The Natural World

The Natural World, by Jon Richards and Ed Simkins, Crabtree Publishing 2016. ISBN: 9780778726586. Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS.


This extremely well illustrated book is divided into several two page chapters: Our planet, climate, biodiversity, forests, deserts, adapting for survival, animal migration, endangered species, oceans, plates and quakes, volcanoes, natural disasters, climate change and mapping the world. Each one has a representation of the earth or series of charts/boxes that combine easily understood facts with visual images to support them. This approach will hook a lot of youngsters. Those already interested in earth science will find numerous facts and statistics they don’t already know, while casual/reluctant readers will be drawn in by the way the data and images work together. All in all an excellent book for school and public libraries to consider adding.


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Filed under Grade 4-6, Nonfiction, Uncategorized

Grasslands Inside and Out

Grasslands Inside and Out by James Bow, Crabtree Publishing, 2015. ISBN: 9780778706335. Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS


This is a fascinating and very information rich book. Even though I’m well educated and a retired librarian, I was amazed at how much I learned while reading this book. It does a stellar job of combining facts, pictures and very well written descriptions of all the varied types of grasslands on our planet. It differentiates between them in terms of temperature range, plants and annual precipitation. In addition, it discusses animals and birds native and adapted to each one as well as threats to the health of each mini-ecosystem. It’s an impressive and very useful book, well worth considering for school and public libraries.

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Filed under Grade 4-6, Nonfiction

The Secret Horses of Briar Hill

The Secret Horses of Briar Hill by Megan Shepherd, Delacorte Books for Young Readers (October 11, 2016). ISBN: 9781101939758. Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS.


Anyone unfamiliar with the sub-genre of magical realism will understand what it typifies after reading this book. When readers first meet Emmaline, her history is a bit cloudy, to herself and the reader. In fact, it won’t be until very close to the end before that’s sorted out. No matter, for a lot takes place on the journey. She has what she calls the stillwaters (we know it as tuberculosis). She’s one of numerous children in varying stages of the disease in a former mansion away from populated areas because of the illness, but also because it’s during World War II and the Germans have been bombing England mercilessly.

Emmaline is closest to Anna, the sickest child there. The older girl may be gravely ill, but can still give love and nurture to Em. Even so, when Em begins seeing winged horses in the mirrors, she can’t bring herself to tell Anna, at least at first. When she sneaks into an abandoned garden, a place strictly off limits, she discovers one of the winged horses with a broken wing has entered our world. Em soon learns that the horse, named Foxfire, is being hunted by a black winged horse from beyond the mirrors and she must do everything she can to protect the injured animal.

Doing so involves risking her own fragile health, disobedience and struggling to decide who she can trust. Managing those challenges makes for an absorbing, albeit somewhat dark read. Despite the darkness, many younger teens will find this book almost impossible to put down. The blend of mystery, magic and suspense will draw them in and keep them reading.

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Filed under Fantasy, Grade 4-6, Grade 7-9

The Lost City of Atlantis

The Lost City of Atlantis by Natalie Hyde, Crabtree Publishing, 2016. ISBN: 9780778722984. Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS.


This book provides an in-depth and even handed account of mankind’s fascination with and search for Atlantis. Young readers will be intrigued by the number of theories that have been put forth over the last two thousand years. The author uses mythology, history and scientific discoveries/theories to help each person to come to their own conclusion. Since the question of whether or not Atlantis really existed remains unanswered, readers will find sufficient information in the book to continue their own information quests and/or follow up on the theorized location they find most promising.

With very good photos and illustrations as well as a cast of philosophers and explorers spanning two millennia, there’s plenty in this work to catch and stimulate young minds.

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Filed under Grade 4-6, Nonfiction

Animals That Live in Social Groups

Animals That Live in Social Groups by Bobbi Kalman, Crabtree Publishing, 2016. ISBN: 9780778727873. Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS.


Like many of the books Bobbi Kalman writes, this is information rich and easy to understand. She introduces younger readers to the concept of social groups by listing some of the names given to specific collections of animals—A mob of meerkats, a cotery of prairie dogs, etc. She differentiates between nuclear families and larger groups, then shows five groups of birds, insects and animals, challenging readers to match each with the name assigned to the group.

Specific groups of social animals and birds are covered in subsequent sections, beginning with elephants, then wolves, dolphins, penguins, lions, various species of apes, lemurs. meerkats and prairie dogs. Each group’s size, cohesion, fidelity and communication is covered, accompanied by well laid out photos. At the end is a two page section that encourages readers to reflect on how the information about animal groups relates to human social structure.

This is a good introductory work that will fit well in both school and public libraries where it can serve as a gateway to more complex and in depth material.

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Filed under Grade 4-6, Grade K-3, Nonfiction

Genetic Engineering and Developments in Biotechnology

Genetic Engineering and Developments in Biotechnology by Anne Rooney, Crabtree Publishing, 2016. ISBN: 9780778775386. Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS.


This is another good entry in the Crabtree Engineering series. It starts with the same introduction-the eight steps engineers use in the development process, then lists some of the areas where genetic engineering is most promising, including agriculture, medicine, environmental management, research and conservation (notably of endangered species). The book does acknowledge the fact that there are aspects of genetic engineering which are fairly controversial. It describes how genes work, mentions the Human Genome Project, while noting that mapping has been completed, but the functions of the more than 20,000 genes is far from being identified..

How genetic engineering works, who the notable pioneers have been/are, what cloning is and how introducing changed material into cells works are next. Ethical issues surrounding GMOs, how difficult future choices may be as well as some modifications like disease resistant bees, plus the potential to bring back extinct creatures like the Woolly Mammoth round out this text. While it doesn’t go into great depth about any of these areas, it still provides younger students with an eye-opening introduction to an aspect of engineering that will only grow in importance as time goes on.

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Filed under Grade 4-6, Nonfiction

Dahlov Ipcar, Artist

Dahlov Ipcar, Artist by Pat Davidson Reef, Thomaston, ME : Custom Museum Publishing, 2016. ISBN: 9781633810877. Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS.

Beautifully done update that blends art and the story of how Dahlov and her family settled in Maine. Younger readers, teachers and parents will all enjoy the art, bits of personal history and how the artist’s career was worked around the demands of a relatively primitive life on a coastal Maine farm. Pat Davidson Reef has done the people of Maine (and the world) a great service in detailing the story of an amazing Maine artist. This is a book well worth having in both school and public libraries and is very timely given the artist’s passing so recently.

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Filed under Grade 4-6, Grade 7-9, Nonfiction

Lost and Found Cat: The true story of Kunkush’s incredible journey

Lost and Found Cat: The true story of Kunkush’s incredible journey by Doug Kuntz and Amy Shrodes, illustrated by Sue Cornelison, 2017. ISBN: 9781524715472. Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS.


This is a true story that is so amazing it will strike many readers as being too incredible to be true. After her husband dies in Mosul, Iraq, Sura pays a smuggler to spirit her and her five children out of the country. The family can’t imagine leaving their per cat Kunkush behind.

Getting a family of five safely out of a war-torn land would be difficult enough, but add in a white cat in a battered carrier and you have quite a challenge, especially when crossing the Mediterranean Sea in a rubber boat. Everything works until the carrier breaks and the cat runs off. What happens after this tragedy to reunite Kunkush and his family makes for an extremely emotional story. It’s one pet lovers will relate to and is a tale that will bring home what love and dangerous living conditions are in extremely vivid ways for young readers. The illustrations are striking in their color and richness. An excellent choice for any public or school library.

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Filed under Grade 4-6, Grade K-3

Explore With Hernando de Soto (Travel with the great explorers series)

Explore With Hernando de Soto (Travel with the great explorers series) by Rachel Stuckey, Crabtree Publishing, 2016. ISBN: 9780778728498. Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS.


This book does a nice job of chronicling what we know about De Soto’s expedition in a very balanced manner. Unlike many of the history books I read in school 50 years ago, this makes no attempt to sugar coat what types of cruelty and harm the expedition inflicted on Native Americans. It goes into great detail about where the Spaniards went, which tribes they encountered and what kinds of wildlife/plants they discovered. Young readers interest in history may well be sparked further by reading this book. It’s a good choice for any library.

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Filed under Grade 4-6, Nonfiction

Energy Engineering and Powering the Future

Energy Engineering and Powering the Future by Jonathan Nixon, Crabtree Publishing, 2016. ISBN: 9780778775393. Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS.


This is an in-depth (for the age group) look at an emerging branch of engineering. It begins by describing the eight step process engineers use to go from a problem to a solution. It then takes readers through each step by combining actual challenges, history of engineering relevant to energy and challenges facing the goal of lowering global warming as well as such aspects of the clean energy challenge as location, environmental challenges and unintended consequences. It does a very good job of exposing readers to the hurdles encountered in such branches of clean or cleaner energy as solar, wind, water, nuclear and geothermal.

Youngsters who take the time to read this book carefully and thoroughly will have a solid place from which to learn more complex and challenging aspects of the subject. It, like others in the series, is a good one to consider for school and public libraries.

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Filed under Grade 4-6, Nonfiction