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Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Non-Fiction Pick: Cougar Crossing

 Cougar Crossing: How Hollywood's Celebrity Cougar Helped Build a Bridge for City Wildlife

by Meeg Pincus

Illustrated by Alexander Vidal 

Beach Lane Books

Simon & Schuster


40 pages

ISBN: 9781534461857

Beautiful cover illustrations will help this picture book fly off the shelf! It's not easy being a cougar, aka mountain lion, aka puma in a crowded city like Los Angeles. When a male cub grows older, he wants to have a large area to roam and find a mate, but P-22 is stuck in a small area with freeways all around him. With no clear way to get the nearby mountains, P-22 began to enter yards, pools, shopping areas, even tourist attractions until he found himself in Griffith Park, a small city park in the middle of L.A. When he's caught on camera, he becomes an international celebrity which was a godsend for him and all the area's wildlife. 

Because P-22 gave a face to the puma's plight, concerned humans began building the animal crossing at Liberty Canyon which is expected to be completed by 2024 and it will be the largest animal bridge or crossing in the world. Pumas and other wild animals will be able to make their way across a nature bridge covered in grass and trees to safety. 

A page showing twenty years of history of the mountain lions who live around L.A. is fascinating. It's sad to realize more cougars are killed by cars and rat poisoning. Hopefully the law will be passed that prohibits certain dangerous poisons in order to save L.A.'s cougar population. A helpful list of websites and facts follow. 

This one is a MUST READ, MUST HAVE purchase. Buy this book for your favorite child.  

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Board Book: Non-Fiction Pick: This Little Environmentalist: a Love-the-Earth Primer


This Little Environmentalist: A Love-the-Earth Primer

by Joan Holub

Illustrated by Daniel Roode

Little Simon

Simon & Schuster 


26 pages

ISBN: 9781534475588

Publication Date: March 30, 2021

This Little Environmentalist is the seventh book in the series This Little in board books. Featuring double page spreads on ten people who worked to help save the planet, This Little Environmentalist will start arly readers thinking about how humans impact the environment and what one person, no matter how small or how young or where they live can change our planet for the better. It is a breath of fresh air that the people featured are from many different countries including Brazil, Kenya, India, Canada, the USA and Sweden. 

Featuring Rachel Carson who changed the way farmers sprayed for pests, saving bees and birds and Sylvia Earle who studied the ocean and helped keep our ocean animals and plants thriving. Vandana Shiva started seed banks and encouraged farmers and others to save seeds and share them to ensure the future of crops. Autumn Peltier fought for clean water for everyone, rich or poor. With an emphasis on women in environmentalism, this is an exciting first read. The last pages feature seventeen more important people who have helped save our planet with a blank spot for "you!"

Highly recommended for little hands and hearts! 

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Adult Book Club Pick: At the Edge of the Haight


At the Edge of the Haight

by Katherine Seligman

Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill


292 pages

ISBN: 8781643750231

As a reporter living in San Francisco, author Katherine Seligman delivers a story ripped from the headlines, so terrible, but so unavoidable, yet often forgotten the next minute. Homelessness, especially in the soaring cost of living and tech bubble of billion dollar industry, is often ignored. People who live in San Francisco see the homeless every day, but do they SEE them? If they knew their stories, would they SEE them then? 

Maddy Donaldo is a twenty-year old runaway who's been living in Golden Gate Park with a ragtag group of her found family and her dog. She knows how get food, when the shelter can take her in, where she can sleep safely, how to avoid danger, and when to trust. When she accidentally stumbles upon a homeless, dying boy taking his last breaths, she realizes the murderer is standing nearby and that he saw her. Maddy needs to disappear before he can get her and kill her. 

On the run with her constant companion, Root, she moves night after night never sleeping in the same place. She avoids her old haunts and even some of her old "family." When the parents of the dead boy and the police close in on Maddy, she feels even more trapped. She doesn't want to relive anything. There's nothing she can tell them that will help. She's terrified the killer will find her. With the help a few caring adults, Maddy reaches a crossroads. 

She must decide to go home--which is what everyone but Maddy wants or stay "free" but always looking over her shoulder. 

This book was a tough read for me. It is not a feel good book, but you will feel empathy and sadness for Maddy. I was rooting for her and Root the entire time. This would be a good book for a book club. Maybe readers will come away with more understanding of homelessness and all the reasons someone could end up on the streets. I hope this book allows for discussion and change and makes cities act to help the homeless by finding them schools, books, job training, and daily needs. The problem (especially since Covid) has only gotten worse. 

Recommended adult reading. This book won the Pen America Literary Award and the 2018 PEN Bellweather Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction and  presented by Barbara Kingsolver. 

Monday, March 22, 2021

Women in History Month Picture Book Pick: Try It! How Frieda Caplan Changed the Way We Eat


Try It! How Frieda Caplan Changed the Way We Eat 

by Mara Rockliff

Illustrations by Giselle Potter 

Beach Lane Books 

Simon & Schuster 


32 pages

ISBN: 9781534460072

We should all thank Frieda Caplan, the lone woman working in produce in 1956 in Los Angeles, California. All the other produce sellers were men and they offered the same, boring produce for sale: potatoes, apples, tomatoes. All those are tasty and great but Frieda tried everything. She began by selling mushrooms. She became so good at it, she was known as the Mushroom Queen. She introduced kiwifruit, jicama, seedless watermelons, Asian pears and many more new fruits and vegetables to our palates and PLATES.

In 1956 when she started selling produce, the average grocery store only carried around sixty-five produce items. Today, over eight hundred items are found in the supermarket. From Buddha's hand to starfruit to alfalfa sprouts, we can look to Frieda Caplan as the reason we know and love these foods today. Quite the rabble rouser, when Frieda was honored in 1979 as "Produce MAN of the Year," she handed the award back to the presenters. After that, a new title was given to this honor: Produce Marketer of the Year which she then accepted. 

In 2020, Frieda died at age ninety-six after enjoying "...a long and FRUITful life," the book notes. A page of notes about Frieda follow the story complete with a list of sources.  

A loving tribute to an outstanding pioneer in nutrition and a strong market expert,  Frieda Caplan is presented by the author and illustrator in this easy to understand, yet entertaining book about a little known female figure in history. 

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Quirky and Rollicking: Spacebot



by Mike Twohy

Illustrated by the author

A Paula Wiseman Book 

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers


48 pages

ISBN: 9781534444362

What a great read-aloud. The rhyme and rhythm of this story can't be missed. Please, please read this aloud to your own kids and classrooms of children. Spacebot is a MUST HAVE, MUST READ picture book! 

Late one night, strange sounds. A pup looks up and spots a UFO! When the strange, rumbly ship lands, pup runs to greet a space robot dog just like him. He wants to play with the new entity but it has other ideas. Suddenly the household appliances want to hang out with the robot dog. Poor pup feels left out as the mechanicals have a great party flying around the back yard. When it's time for Spacebot to leave, he tosses Pup a red ball. Pup puts it on his nose and now he looks like Spacebot, but that's not all. Pup discovers his ball is magic.

Spacebot gave his friend a great gift until his return trip soon. 

Easy rhymes, fun to say and lots of white space give this book its charm. Young readers will soon be able to read the story on their own, but it's much more fun with a crowd. Pup may be my favorite character in a picture book. He's WONDERFUL! Kudos to Mike Twohy for creating an interesting, unique and charming story sure to captivate all readers. 

Highly recommended! All pre-school and up. 

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Non-Fiction Teen Pick: Kids On the March


Kids On the March: 15 Stories of Speaking Out, Protesting and Fighting for Justice

by Michael G. Long

Algonquin Young Readers 


304 pages

ISBN: 0781643751009

On Sale Date: March 23, 2021

Kids On the March is a detailed history of young people who stood up and spoke out against the policies and behaviors of their politicians and government. They were and are the voice of change and the voice of the future. 

Michael G. Long tells fifteen stories of history being made from 1903 with the March of the Mill Children to the Climate Strike of 2019 and the protests of policing policies in the deaths (murders) of black men and women  in 2020 and the national movement of protests that swept the nation after the killing of George Floyd. 

Whether it's marching, wearing a black armband, signing petitions, gathering at state houses, peacefully demonstrating, making and carrying signs, young people were brave and believed in making their country a better place for all. There are tips for marching--how to decide if you'll participate, what to do on the day of the march, what to do after the march. A detailed bibliography and many black and white photos make this book a great reference. 

Inspiring stories of kid-led marches and movements will move readers to become involved in their present and their future. 

The publisher recommends ages 10-14. I think this book has a wider audience with an older age group including high school. 

Recommended for any history and government buff and for any research on children-led movements. 

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Non-Fiction Picture Book Pick: Harlem Grown


Harlem Grown: How One Big Idea Transformed a Neighborhood

by Tony Hillery

Illustrated by Jessie Harland

Paula Wiseman Books

Simon & Schuster


40 pages

ISBN: 9781534402317

Harlem Grown is a feel good read about one man, a big idea, an empty, abandoned lot full of trash and a school full of hard-working kids. When Mr. Tony visits their school, he sees the ugly lot of trash the kids call "the haunted garden" and he begins to clear the trash himself. With a new, clean lot and he began to put in fresh soil and plant seedlings. A girl named Neveah helped Mr. Tony and soon her friends joined in. 

They planted 400 seedlings per child. This was great for the kids who had no art or gym classes. They spent their energy in the garden. After the first plants failed, Mr. Tony built raised beds and they planted again. In a neighborhood that has fifty-five fast food restaurants but no grocery store to buy fresh produce, Mr. Tony taught the kids and their families to run the garden and reap the rewards in fresh food. Soon other sites opened. Now there are twelve gardens all over Harlem with twenty-two full time employees. Harlem Grown uses mentors from the neighborhood to teach the younger kids about hard work and good nutrition. 

From one man and one seed, a movement and foundation was born. Truly an inspiring story of hope for a blighted neighborhood and a chance for the children to have pride in their work, rescuing one vacant lot at a time and turning it into a garden of sustenance to feed their neighbors. 

Folk art illustrations are colorful and beautiful. The story of Mr. Tony and his gardens is included following the story and instructions on how to start a garden and additional resources for future study.  

HIGHLY, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Every child should have this book. Every adult should read this book. Everyone should look at their own neighborhood and find a project to make it a better place. 

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Non-Fiction Picture Book Pick: The Beak Book


The Beak Book

by Robin Page

Illustrations by the author 

Beach Lane Books

Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Group


40 pages

ISBN: 9781534460416

A closeup of special beaks that are designed to sip nectar or water, snapping up prey, boring into trees for insects or plucking up grasses. Readers will learns different birds have unique beaks depending on what they use them for. Colorful illustrations highlight each beautiful bird and easy to read informative text and each bird's name appear son the pages.

Young readers will learn about vultures, puffins, macaws, eagles, scarlet ibises and many other fascinating types of birds. A handy reference of bird sizes and where they live follow with webpage links and books for further reading and discussion. 

This book is a must have for any picture book collection and animal lover. 

Highly recommended ages 3-8.