Category Archives: Nonfiction

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

Model It!

Model It! (Science Sleuths series) by Robin Johnson, Crabtree Books, 2015. ISBN: 9780778715412. Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS.


This is a good introduction to what models in science are and how they can be used to understand things. For example dinosaurs are extinct, but fossils and bones that have been found, allow scientists to create scale models or even computer images to help us understand how they looked and function. The book expands upon this to show how modeling allows us to predict weather, changes in animal and insect populations as well as help students understand how the human body works. Each section includes questions to stimulate young readers so they can understand better how scientific modeling can help them learn. The content is solid and not too complex for lower grades and includes directions for building a diorama as well as links to websites that offer more in depth information and examples of modeling. This is a book worthy of consideration for schools and libraries where such material is outdated or lacking.

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Filed under Grade K-3, Nonfiction

Clothing in Different Places

Clothing in Different Places by Adrianna Morganelli, Crabtree Publishing, 2015. ISBN: 9780778720102. Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS.


Like many Crabtree books, this is divided into several two page chapters: Our global community, Sharing a need, hot weather, cold weather, school clothes, work clothes, traditional clothing, materials and notes to educators. Readers are introduced to the idea that clothing around the world varies greatly in material, utility, style and color with examples of animal skins, alpaca hair fiber and head garb designed to protect breathing in harsh deserts. From there, the book explains the differences between clothing in terms of customs, then by how the body needs different fabric, thickness and climate conditions, particularly in extreme heat and cold. Different influences in school clothes around the world are touched upon, such as the prevalence of green and white in Burma and how some Chinese students are allowed to help design their own uniforms. Differences in work clothing is touched upon and some of the more colorful costumes like wedding outfits in India and Korea are shown along with festive garb like kilts and traditional Native American clothing. While interesting and well illustrated, this is a very basic introductory work.

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Filed under Grade K-3, Nonfiction

Prove It!

Prove It! (Science Sleuths) by Shirley Duke, Crabtree Publishing, 2015. ISBN: 9780778715436. Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS.


One of eight books in the Science Sleuths series, this particular entry introduces younger readers to a new way of looking at the word argument, the way scientists use arguments as a beginning point to prove a hypothesis. Examples of various ones are scattered through the book, along with experiments readers can perform, examples of the difference between fact and opinions, how scientists share information as well as respect dissenting opinions (I suspect the author and publisher wanted to stay far away from the disaster known as climate change.) All in all a decent introduction to how the concept of proof is integral to science and solid learning.

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Filed under Nonfiction

Cultural Traditions in Jamaica

Cultural Traditions in Jamaica, by Lynn Peppas, Crabtree Publishing, 2015. ISBN: 9780778780625. Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS.


This very colorful book is both enlightening and fun to read. I had almost no awareness of Jamaican culture or holiday traditions save for a superficial knowledge of Reggae and Rastafarianism. That changed pretty fast when I read this book. It will captivate young readers with its illustrations and descriptions of holidays and celebrations they’ve never heard of. I came away impressed with the richness and variety of celebrations. Young readers will, I expect, have a similar experience and in the process, gain an appreciation for how closely history, culture and ethnic diversity have come together on this Caribbean island to preserve important aspects of history and custom.

Certain snippets will catch individual readers attention; things like a holiday that changed name and date, one that is quite recent and what is left overnight in water on another holiday to help predict the future. This is a good book for libraries interested in expanding awareness of how varied our world is to add.

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Filed under Grade K-3, Nonfiction

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

Cultural Traditions in Iran

Cultural Traditions in Iran by Lynn Peppas, Crabtree Publishing, 2015. ISBN: 9780778780618. Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS.


This book is part of a series introducing youngsters to celebrations, festivals and holidays in other countries. Given the political turmoil that has beset Iran, particularly events in the two years since the book was published, it is hard to measure whether cultural celebrations have been impacted and, if so, to what extent. Having said that, the author has provided a colorful and information rich look at celebrations in a country that youngsters in America (and other countries) may know little or nothing about. Festivals like Sizdah Bedar is an example. Falling 13 days after New Year, it is also called Nature Day. Families are encouraged to spend the day outside as well as use it to get rid of bad luck. Religious holidays like Ramadan and Ashura are covered in detail, with differences between how Shia and Sunni Muslims celebrate them noted. One that may strike American youngsters as unusual is Oil Nationalization Day. Overall it’s a well done and interesting look at festivals and celebrations in a country that remains a mystery to many in our country.

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Filed under 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