Books by Wendy Pfeffer

Released: Feb. 25, 2014

"An illuminating choice for the science shelf. (notes on experiments) (Informational picture book. 5-8)"
Inquiring minds in primary grades can gain understanding about a seemingly ever-present subject in this title about light in the Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science series. Read full book review >
THE LONGEST DAY by Wendy Pfeffer
Released: May 1, 2010

In this fourth of a series (A New Beginning, 2008, etc.), science, myth and custom merge into a celebratory introduction to the Summer Solstice. As summer approaches, bison shed winter coats, mountain goats move to summer pastures and butterflies emerge from cocoons. Simultaneously, people move outdoors to picnic and play in the growing sunlight. Pfeffer transitions from familiar summer activities into scientific concepts about the earth's orbital position on or about June 21, which produces the longest day. She segues into myths of the Egyptian, Mesopotamian and Greek sun gods and introduces ancient monuments erected to the solstice, such as the Chumash Indian House of the Sun, Stonehenge, New Hampshire's Mystery Hill and the Plains Indian Bighorn Medicine Wheel. From myths and monuments, the author moves to celebrations: Lithuanian fire wheels, Germanic bonfires, Bohemian flower wreaths, Swedish midsummer poles and Alaskan "Polar Bear" swims, ending with lawn sprinklers and beach sand. Bleck's sprightly, colorful illustrations offer a visual celebration as they faithfully track the text. A comfortable, multidimensional investigation of the Summer Solstice that transcends time and place. (facts, activities) (Informational picture book. 7-9)Read full book review >
LIFE IN A CORAL REEF by Wendy Pfeffer
Released: Sept. 1, 2009

This colorful entry in the long-running Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science series introduces the world of coral reefs with simple concepts and Jenkins's signature collage illustrations. Nicely contrasting the large size of one example, Australia's Great Barrier Reef, with the tiny coral polyps that comprise its bulk, Pfeffer goes on to describe polyp reproduction and a variety of sea creatures found in this habitat. With no more than a short paragraph or two per page, her text should be well within the capabilities of early elementary-school readers, although they may need some vocabulary help. The series's landscape format is particularly well suited to the underwater scenes, in which even the background blues vary and the layers of cut and torn textured papers add depth. Would-be divers will enjoy identifying the silhouettes on the end papers: snappers and four-eyed butterfly fish, a shark and flashlight fish, all identified in the text (but they may wonder about the Moorish Idol, which appears nameless on the endpapers and in an early illustration). Two "Find Out More" pages conclude this attractive presentation. (Informational picture book. 5-9) Read full book review >
A NEW BEGINNING by Wendy Pfeffer
Released: Jan. 1, 2008

Continuing her tributes to the seasons, Pfeffer explores spring in her latest science/history title. Beginning with the signs and activities that herald spring's arrival, there is a short explanation of the spring equinox. Following this are succinct and interesting explanations of how various peoples throughout the world commemorate this day and the historical origins of their celebrations. The holidays include the Chinese New Year, No Ruz in Iran, Holi in India, Maslenitsa in Russia, the Jewish Passover, the Christian Easter as well as explanations of what the Maya in Mexico and the Cree in America did to mark the spring equinox. Several pages of spring crafts and recipes follow the text, along with a list of print and online resources. Bleck's bright colors sing of spring, and she masterfully brings other cultures to life, capturing the essential parts of each celebration. Unfortunately, in the one illustration depicting the earth in its path around the sun, the seasons are labeled incorrectly: The North Pole is pointing away from the sun during the "summer solstice." Still, with a corrected picture replacing this one page, this could be a valuable seasonal resource, as are the two previous (and correct) titles about winter and fall. (Picture book/nonfiction. 6-8)Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 1, 2004

Here's an eye-opener for anyone unimpressed by the lowly worm. Pfeffer confirms what most preschoolers know: worms rock! In simple, precise prose, she describes how worms tunnel through soil by eating it, and how both the tunnels and the castings that the worms leave behind help plants grow in the soil. She covers worm anatomy and physiology in some detail (and, in the back, invites children to find worms and let them crawl down their arms, to experience their motion and bristles themselves). Jenkins's collages provide interesting texture; the cut-away views of worms underground are especially good. For a creature with "no eyes, no nose, no ears, and hardly any brain at all," the worm commands respect; Pfeffer shows why. Even squeamish kids will love this. (Picture book/nonfiction. 4-8)Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 2003

A Stage 2 entry in the Let's-Read-and-Find-Out series seeks to explain the mysteries of dolphin communication. Drawing parallels between human and dolphin interactions, Pfeffer describes dolphin vocabulary and the circumstances under which particular noises and gestures are made. Clear watercolors picture dolphins in diagram and in their natural environment; the varying angles and perspectives keep the blue-green sameness of palette from becoming boring. The text sticks narrowly to its topic, shining in its description of echolocation and its observations about dolphin behavior. It falls down, however, in its explanation of the "hows" of dolphin communication. Although it carefully discusses the role of cranial air sacs in the creation of dolphin vocalization, it's largely mute on the function of the "melon" (carefully labeled in more than one diagram) in the production or reception of sound, leaving a big question mark for curious readers. That there is very little else that goes into such detail on the subject for the age group makes this lack of explanation particularly frustrating; it also makes this, despite its flaws, a reasonable purchase. (Picture book/nonfiction. 5-9)Read full book review >
THE SHORTEST DAY by Wendy Pfeffer
Released: Sept. 1, 2003

Generic ancient and modern figures in the illustrations accurately reflect the superficiality of this bland account of the winter solstice's natural signs and traditional commemorations. Struggling to confine her discussion to the northern hemisphere alone, Pfeffer uses charts and a demonstration to show how the Earth's orbit creates seasons, shows astronomers in ancient China and (apparently) Egypt measuring the sun's movements, describes fire ceremonies of the Incas and an unspecified, fur-clad people, then mentions old customs that have come down to modern times, such as the hanging of evergreen wreaths, and the decoration of trees. Author and illustrator make only vague references to pagan symbolism, and avoid direct references to nonpagan religious symbols altogether—until the page devoted to St. Lucia's day in Sweden, billed as the origin of the season's custom of giving gifts. Closing with a handful of poorly designed activities ("Around March 21, June 21, and September 21, repeat steps 1 to 5"), and a skimpy resource list, this well-meaning effort is likely to leave readers more confused than enlightened. (Web sites) (Picture book/nonfiction. 7-9)Read full book review >
SOUNDS ALL AROUND by Wendy Pfeffer
Released: Jan. 31, 1999

PLB 0-06-027712-2 This appealing Stage 1 title in the Let's-Read-And-Find-Out Science series provides a simple explanation of sounds and hearing. Beginning with snaps, claps, and whistles, Pfeffer describes how sound waves vibrate through the air, and how tiny bones in the ear vibrate. She also explains how animals hear, from bats and echolocation to whales using sound waves to locate their young in the ocean, and notes that sound waves travel through the solid ground as well as air and water. Keller's charming illustrations show very young children, so the title may not draw in older readers. Still, with its suggestions for activities and clear language, it's a welcome addition to the series. (Picture book/nonfiction. 5-8) Read full book review >
MUTE SWANS by Wendy Pfeffer
Released: Nov. 1, 1996

In this entry in the Creatures in White series, glossy full- color photographs and a brief text document the life cycle of the mute swan, a European native that has been introduced into areas of the eastern US and Michigan. The stately white migratory bird returns each spring with its mate to the lake or pond where it was born to raise a brood of cygnets. Dramatic photographs show the cob and pen and their young, floating, feeding, brooding, flying, and gliding: white swans mirrored in deep blue waters and shadowy swans in silver-rippled water touched with gold from a setting sun. The close-ups of the nest, eggs, and cygnets are especially appealing. The final pages give pictures and brief facts about the seven species of swans, and provide a world map, with information on the mute swan's range. Without scientific names, sizes, or other vital statistics on the swans, this is an attractive title, though mostly for browsers. (Nonfiction. 8-10) Read full book review >
POPCORN PARK ZOO by Wendy Pfeffer
Released: June 3, 1992

This unusual zoo in New Jersey takes in and cares for old, injured, handicapped, or unwanted animals, both wild and domestic. Appealing color photos depict a blind fawn, an elephant with an injured trunk, a three-pawed raccoon, a lion cub, goats, and more. Pfeffer tells how each came to the zoo: some were abused (a baby goat found with his neck slashed; a macaque scalded by vandals); others were abandoned (a potbellied pig too big for an apartment; Easter chicks and rabbits; a cougar whose owner had died). Open to the public, the zoo is supported by contributions. The author stresses conservation and responsible pet ownership and lists zoo programs and places to write for information. Attractive and readable. Brief glossary; further reading; index. (Nonfiction. 8- 12) Read full book review >