INSECTS

Informative and appealing—but flawed.

A photo essay invites young readers to explore the world of insects.

Master science writer Simon knows how to craft nonfiction, choosing interesting topics, appropriate examples, and just the right level of information for elementary school readers. His newest title is no exception. Well-organized, lucid descriptions include the characteristics of insects, their body parts, life stages, size, numbers, history, and sensory equipment. He goes into further detail about five common orders: Coleoptera (beetles), Orthoptera (grasshoppers and crickets), Hymenoptera (bees and wasps), Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths), and Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies). He describes other insects that stand out—strangest, most beautiful, fastest, heaviest, longest, and smallest—and concludes with the importance of insects in the world. Carefully chosen and beautifully reproduced photographs (most from Shutterstock) appear on each page. Vocabulary that might be unfamiliar is printed in boldface and defined in a glossary. Alas, in this otherwise splendid introduction, the author says “Butterflies and moths are similar in these ways:...Larvae form cocoons during the pupa stage before they emerge as adults.” This is not true of most butterflies, which protect themselves as pupae with chrysalises. Scientists and teachers have been working to correct this common misconception, and young readers who know something about insects will recognize the mistake. (Indeed, the caption on the facing page says, “Butterfly emerges from chrysalis.”

Informative and appealing—but flawed. (index, websites) (Nonfiction. 6-10)

Pub Date: July 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-228915-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 12, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2016

CODY HARMON, KING OF PETS

From the Franklin School Friends series

Another winner from Mills, equally well suited to reading aloud and independent reading.

When Franklin School principal Mr. Boone announces a pet-show fundraiser, white third-grader Cody—whose lack of skill and interest in academics is matched by keen enthusiasm for and knowledge of animals—discovers his time to shine.

As with other books in this series, the children and adults are believable and well-rounded. Even the dialogue is natural—no small feat for a text easily accessible to intermediate readers. Character growth occurs, organically and believably. Students occasionally, humorously, show annoyance with teachers: “He made mad squinty eyes at Mrs. Molina, which fortunately she didn’t see.” Readers will be kept entertained by Cody’s various problems and the eventual solutions. His problems include needing to raise $10 to enter one of his nine pets in the show (he really wants to enter all of them), his troublesome dog Angus—“a dog who ate homework—actually, who ate everything and then threw up afterward”—struggles with homework, and grappling with his best friend’s apparently uncaring behavior toward a squirrel. Serious values and issues are explored with a light touch. The cheery pencil illustrations show the school’s racially diverse population as well as the memorable image of Mr. Boone wearing an elephant costume. A minor oddity: why does a child so immersed in animal facts call his male chicken a rooster but his female chickens chickens?

Another winner from Mills, equally well suited to reading aloud and independent reading. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: June 14, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-374-30223-8

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2016

ACOUSTIC ROOSTER AND HIS BARNYARD BAND

Having put together a band with renowned cousin Duck Ellington and singer “Bee” Holiday, Rooster’s chances sure look...

Winning actually isn’t everything, as jazz-happy Rooster learns when he goes up against the legendary likes of Mules Davis and Ella Finchgerald at the barnyard talent show.

Having put together a band with renowned cousin Duck Ellington and singer “Bee” Holiday, Rooster’s chances sure look good—particularly after his “ ‘Hen from Ipanema’ [makes] / the barnyard chickies swoon.”—but in the end the competition is just too stiff. No matter: A compliment from cool Mules and the conviction that he still has the world’s best band soon puts the strut back in his stride. Alexander’s versifying isn’t always in tune (“So, he went to see his cousin, / a pianist of great fame…”), and despite his moniker Rooster plays an electric bass in Bower’s canted country scenes. Children are unlikely to get most of the jokes liberally sprinkled through the text, of course, so the adults sharing it with them should be ready to consult the backmatter, which consists of closing notes on jazz’s instruments, history and best-known musicians.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-58536-688-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press

Review Posted Online: July 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2011

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