Category Archives: Nature

The Frog That Could Not Jump by Sofia O’Hara

Standard

The Frog That Could Not Jump by Sofia O’Hara, e-book, 10 pages, published in 2016.

Oscar is a little green frog that has been told all his life that his legs are too small and weak to jump. Oscar believes the other frogs and is too scared to even try jumping. He feels so ashamed of his legs that he leaves his home looking for somewhere less judgemental.

This short fable is about believing in oneself and ignoring negative attitudes from others. It is impossible to know if you can’t do something if you have never tried to do it, as Oscar discovers. However, many things take a lot of practice to achieve, and since Oscar’s legs were described as being “completely numb” and “lifeless”, it is unrealistic to think he would be able to jump at the moment he most needs to. Yet, perhaps this just reinforces the idea that if you really, truly believe in yourself, you can do anything.

The Frog that Could Not Jump was an easy and quick read. It has a simple plot and gets its message across clearly. There were no illustrations, aside from the cover. I thought it could have worked nicely as a picture book. Even the occasional line drawing to break up the text for younger readers would have been a nice addition.

The Frog that Could Not Jump is suitable for middle and upper primary school students.

 

*I received this book as a digital copy from the author, who asked me for an honest review of this book. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

SaveSave

Advertisements

Tummy Rumble Quake by Heather L. Beal

Standard

Tummy Rumble Quake by Heather L. Beal and illustrated by Jubayda Sagor, 26 pages, picture e-book, published by Train 4 Safety Press in 2017.

Lily and Niko Rabbit, along with their childcare class, are practicing earthquake drills in the class room and outside. They learn about what an earthquake is, what it can do and how to stay safe during one.

Tummy Rumble Quake delivers information about earthquakes and earthquake safety in a way that young children can understand. It emphasises the safety aspects, and reminds the children of what to do in the event of an earthquake with a little song. It also opens the door for a discussion about these important safety procedures and allows the children to ask questions in a safe environment. I think it would be a good addition to classrooms in areas where earthquakes are common.

I had no idea what the Great ShakeOut was, so I Googled it. I assume that it is common for schools in areas prone to Earthquakes to participate in the Great ShakeOut and that the term would already be familiar to many readers there, however, the story could have been just as effective without these references.

Well, when I read Beal’s other safety picture book, Elephant Wind, I greatly disliked the illustrations, and that hasn’t changed for this book. However, the facial expressions have improved profoundly, Dylan’s arms are more in proportion and Ms Mandy’s feet are better this time round. So whilst I still don’t enjoy this style, these illustrations are an improvement.

Tummy Rumble Quake is most suitable for reading to pre-schoolers and lower primary school children.

 

*I received this book as a digital copy from the author, who asked me for an honest review of this book. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

 

Elephant Wind by Heather L. Beal

Standard

Elephant Wind by Heather L. Beal and illustrated by Jubayda Sagor, picture e-book, 26 pages, published by Train 4 Safety Press in 2017.

Lily and Niko Rabbit are visiting a science fair with their childcare class when the tornado siren sounds. Their teacher gets them safely into the basement and explains to the children what a tornado is, and how to stay safe during one.

Elephant Wind explains tornado safety in simple terms that children can understand. It covers what a tornado looks and sounds like, and where it is safest to take cover. There is even a little song to help the kids remember what they need to do. Overall, it is quite informative and would be useful in school and childcare settings to prepare children for such adverse weather.

I dislike the style of illustrations in this book. While they are quite detailed, they are not appealing to me at all. It’s hard to explain why, but they just feel wrong to me. I don’t like the smirking fox child, or the stumpy arms on Dylan, or the way the teacher’s feet are aligned, so maybe it’s just about proportions, but the childrens’ facial expressions don’t change to suit the story either; even when Lily is scared, she’s still got a huge smile plastered on her face. It’s just not suitable, and I think the pictures let the book down.

Elephant Wind is most suitable for reading to pre-schoolers and lower primary school children.

*I received this book as a digital copy from the author, who asked me for an honest review of this book. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

Guest Post: K. E. Rocha

Standard

K. E. Rocha (Kristin) is the author of the wonderful Secrets of Bearhaven series. This exciting adventure series is suitable for upper primary school students and up. As I read the first book in the series I found myself immersed in an incredible world with cunning villains, young heroes, and bears that quickly felt like old friends. It even includes bear language developed especially for these books.

Kristin has kindly written a guest post for Today We Did to tell us a little bit about herself and why she writes.

If you had told me when I was in third grade that I would be an author one day, I would not have believed you. I know it might seem like all authors say that, but I really would have been horrified by the idea. As a third grader I was still struggling to learn to read. I had to be in special classes, working with literacy specialists, and as a result, reading and writing just felt like hard work to me.

I was in sixth grade when an author’s visit to my school inspired me to become a writer. By then I had finally caught up to my peers in reading and was enchanted (like I think most kids were and still are!) by the magical world of Harry Potter. The author at my school that day was none other than J.K. Rowling. When she read from her third Harry Potter book and talked about the incredible series she’d created I quickly realized that dreaming up worlds and people, and bringing them into existence in a story, was the coolest job I could imagine.

I wrote Secrets of Bearhaven for the reader I was in the third grade, and the one I was in the sixth grade, because it is my hope that these books will help all types of readers fall in love with reading. The vocabulary is meant to be accessible and the chapters intentionally short for less confident readers—like I was for so long. At the same time, the excitement of the adventure, and the themes of family, animal rights, and communication are intended to draw in avid readers—like the one Harry Potter helped me to become.

What’s more, I want kids to feel empowered by Secrets of Bearhaven, whether they are empowered to write their own stories and find their own voices, or empowered to stand up for what they believe in, like Spencer does in each of the four books.

I think it’s essential for kids to have the experience of being transported by reading. Stories about characters with super powers who go on otherworldly adventures are important. They allow our imaginations to fire. But at the same time, I think it’s equally important for kids to read about characters who really aren’t so different from themselves, and who still go on to do extraordinary things. Those are the stories that change us by showing us what we might be capable of.

Spencer is not blessed with any superpowers. He’s not even the fastest kid on his school baseball team, but he rises to the occasion, because the people he loves, and the animals he cares about are threatened. It’s my hope that readers see themselves in Spencer and in doing so, see how powerful the combination of courage and determination can be.

So whether your child is out there saving bears or, like third grade me, still trying to work out what’s so great about reading and writing, I hope they find the books, characters, or authors that inspire them.

And thank you Sara for inviting me to share a little about myself and what makes me so passionate about reading and writing!

Kristin

 

Visit Kristin on her website, Facebook, or Instagram. And definitely check out the Secrets of Bearhaven pages at Scholastic for more information about the books and some cool extras like learning the bear language and watching the book trailer. There are plenty of great reviews of the books on Goodreads too.

You can also purchase the books from Book Depository, and  Amazon.

 

SaveSaveSaveSave

Australia Illustrated by Tania McCartney

Standard

Australia Illustrated by Tania McCartney, hardback non-fiction, 96 pages, published by EK Books in 2016.

Discover Australia in this beautifully illustrated book. It contains bite-size pieces about Australian culture, its quirks, landmarks, cities, flora and fauna. It is simple enough to be enjoyed by young children, whilst also being interesting enough to engage older kids and adults.

I found this to be a somewhat quirky look at Australia and I loved it! The illustrations are simply gorgeous; colourful, detailed and unique. I enjoyed reading all of the place names and other information contained in the outlines of each state or territory; these were very cleverly compiled. Reading Australia Illustrated made me feel great to be Australian! It made me want to travel and explore my beautiful homeland, and seek out some of the more unusual aspects of our nation.

I read this book cover to cover in one sitting, though I still took my time to enjoy it. It wouldn’t necessarily need to be read in order; it is browsable, and could make a good coffee table or waiting room book. I also think it would be a good book to spark the interest of reluctant readers, hopefully leaving them wanting to know more about Australia.

Australia Illustrated is suitable for children and adults alike. It is a great read and I highly recommend it.

SaveSave

SaveSave

Wholesome: Together we can save the planet! by Grace Nava

Standard

wholesomeWholesome: Together we can save the planet! by Grace Nava, paperback picture book, 48 pages, published by Media for Life in 2016.

Little Peach Pit is out for a walk. Along the way Pit encounters and appreciates the wonder of nature. The soil and ponds are healthy, there are bees and ants and frogs. However, as Pit draws closer to the city, nature is not so healthy. There pollution and waste and other human activities are hurting nature. What can Little Peach Pit do to help? Pit discovers some ways that we can all help to improve the health of our environment.

Little Peach Pit’s walk is an interesting one, flowing from the healthy countryside into the polluted city. Each step of the way there was advice on how people could help the environment and make the world a better place for everyone. Even though Pit found some very sad areas within the city, such as a polluted pond and unhealthy, weedy soil, he also found hope that we can improve. He saw people picking up rubbish, recycling, and growing a community garden. He learns that the way people interact with the environment, even in little ways, can have a huge impact on the health of our planet.

All children should learn how to help protect and improve our environment, and Wholesome is a great way to introduce some of these concepts. Reading this with young children will provide a starting point for discussions on what we, as individuals, and as communities, can do to make the planet healthy and happy. There is a vocabulary list at the back of the book to help children understand some of the terms referred to in the story and there is also a list of resources that will assist in further education.

Wholesome: Together we can save the Planet! is a lovely educational story suitable for primary school children. It would make an excellent addition to school and public libraries.

 

*I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

 

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

A Day in the Park by Matt Weiss

Standard

dayparkA Day in the Park by Matt Weiss, e-book, 271 pages, published in 2016.

During a science lesson at school, Ryan’s teacher suggests that he investigate a local park area to look for frogs and frog spawn. Along with his mates, Casey and Jay, Ryan heads to the park, but along one of the trails in the forest, he discovers something else. Even though they do not know what it is, the three boys decide to dig it up and research it.

Overall, I quite enjoyed A Day in the Park. I have an interest in archaeology and palaeontology, so a book about fossils and prehistoric creatures is right up my alley. There were a lot of references to scientific terms and processes during the story, which might throw some readers. However, all of the terms were explained sufficiently for people new to this area of science.

I was surprised the first time that Ryan drifted off into the prehistoric landscape. And I’m still not sure if he was dreaming, hallucinating or actually travelling back in time! There was also no explanation as to how or why he was experiencing these prehistoric travels. These sequences were some of my favourite parts of the story. They were well developed with lovely descriptive language, bringing the prairie and its inhabitants to life.

The boys were average young teens being encouraged to leave their screens behind and find adventures in nature. Jay was definitely the clown of the trio, doing some rather silly, though funny things. Casey was the brains, always ready to investigate things thoroughly, and read extra information. Ryan was kind of in between. He was quieter than Jay, but less studious than Casey. I liked all three, and through the story I learnt plenty about each of them.

A Day in the Park is most suitable for middle primary school to lower high school children. I read the whole book in one day, and it kept me entertained throughout. While I enjoyed it as an adult, I know that I would have loved this book when I was about ten or eleven, so I am recommending it to my ten year old to read.

 

*I received this book from the author as a digital copy in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

Don’t Miss the Boat!: Adventures at Arrowhead Island by Deborah Vallez

Standard

dontmisstheboatDon’t Miss the Boat!: Adventures at Arrowhead Island by Deborah Vallez, e-book, 84 pages, published by Archway Publishing in 2016.

The Benson family head to Arrowhead Island for a weekend of water-skiing, swimming and fishing. Brothers Joe and Tom and their little sister Debbie are very excited to be back on Lake Wateree. Their dog, Anna, also joins them on their camping adventure.

Don’t Miss the Boat! is based on the author’s childhood memories of spending family time at Lake Wateree. I was expecting a work of fiction, but this is more of a memoir, a re-telling of summer family fun during the 60s. This is to be the first in a series about the Benson’s adventures on Arrowhead Island.

The story is told quite simply, often with short sentences, which suits a chapter book. It was an easy read which I knocked over quickly. Quite a lot of the book was about the family water-skiing, which I found slightly overwhelming, having no experience or interest in water-skiing. However, I felt like I learnt a little bit about the sport whilst reading, and I didn’t feel excluded by my lack of knowledge in that area. I liked the depth to which each activity was described; it made me feel I was part of the trip to Arrowhead Island.

The Bensons seem like an interesting and likeable family, which I hope will have plenty more adventures in the future. I really liked Anna, the Benson’s long-haired dachshund, such a cute addition to the family. Debbie obviously adores her big brothers, which made them seem rather angelic. This image was sadly shattered when they played a prank on their father! The Bensons are a military family, and there are a number of references to this throughout the book. The kids call their father “Sir”, which is novel these days, but was probably much more common back then. I think being a military family during the 1960s has the potential to add a unique slant to the series.

Don’t Miss the Boat! will suit lower primary school children. It would be particularly good for children interested in the outdoors, camping and fishing.

 

*I received this book from the author as a digital copy in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

Bigfoot Trails: Pacific Northwest by S.A. Jeffers

Standard

bigfootBigfoot Trails: Pacific Northwest by S.A. Jeffers and illustrated by Catherine Straus, picture e-book, 24 pages, published by Jeffers Publishing in 2016.

Come on a journey through the Pacific Northwest to see if you can spot evidence of Bigfoot. Look for his footprints, nest or broken trees; you might even spy Bigfoot himself!

I had a lot of fun looking for Bigfoot on each page. The illustrations are very detailed, and evidence of Bigfoot is well hidden, so it was quite satisfying when I was able to spot him! It’s really difficult to decide which scene is my favourite, as they are all great, but I think I like the gold-panning river scene best. I really liked the way the trees on every page were depicted.

The story is told through simple rhyme, and contains facts about the myth of Bigfoot. The language is basic, suitable for younger children, and the text is quite clear, despite the busyness of each page. Some of the story is spent reminding the reader to keep an eye open for the ever elusive Bigfoot.

I read this as an e-book. Unfortunately, in this format each page didn’t align with it’s pair, as it would when the paperback version is opened to any given page. Ergo, I would have preferred to read the physical book, but it was really only a minor inconvenience, and I still enjoyed it very much.

Bigfoot Trails: Pacific Northwest is suitable for children and adults, though I think primary school students would enjoy it the most. It is good to share with children, helping them to spot evidence of Bigfoot, and talking about the legend. We also spoke about other things we could see in each scene, such as explaining gold-panning.

 

*I received this book from the author as a digital copy in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

Bees in Loretta’s Bonnet by Lois Wickstrom

Standard

beeslorettaBees in Loretta’s Bonnet by Lois Wickstrom and illustrated by Francie Mion, picture e-book, 34 pages, published in 2016.

While bringing in wood from the woodpile during winter, Loretta finds a leafcutter bee’s nest. She puts the nest back in the woodpile and watches it to see what happens when spring arrives.

Bees in Loretta’s Bonnet blends facts and fiction into a delightful and educational picture book. Information about leafcutter bees is integrated subtlety; the kids won’t even know they are learning about nature! The story is easy to read and the text is clear. Quaint illustrations feature throughout the book.

At the end of the book there are instructions for making a home for solitary bees, such as the leafcutter, to encourage them into your garden. This looks like an easy and fun activity for kids, as well as something that will help your garden flourish.

Suitable for primary school children, Bees in Loretta’s Bonnet makes for lovely shared reading time.

 

*I received this book from the author as a digital copy in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.