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Geology Is a Piece of Cake

Katie Coppens. Tumblehome Learning, $17.95 (40p) ISBN 978-1-943431-28-1

When textbooks fall short, head to the kitchen. That’s the thinking behind this clever cooking-meets-science book, which uses cakes to help readers understand how minerals form rocks (via the example of a carrot cake) and the movement of tectonic plates (mimicked in the way two halves of a whoopie pie slide against icing), among other topics. (A “recipe” for granite is also included, though it requires heating the batter to 900 °C, followed by a million years of cooling.) Between recipes, Q&A sections explore a variety of subjects including weathering, fossils, and the Earth’s age. Photographs augment the recipes and discussions, and Coppens builds scientific explanations into each recipe: “The batter is like the magma that will slowly harden to become an intrusive igneous rock.” An unexpected (and tasty) entry point to better understanding multiple aspects of geology. Ages 7–9. (May)

Reviewed on 06/23/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Geology Lab for Kids: 52 Projects to Explore Rocks, Gems, Geodes, Crystals, Fossils, and Other Wonders of the Earth’s Surface

Garret Romaine. Quarry, $22.99 trade paper (144p) ISBN 978-1-63159-285-0

This companion to Outdoor Science Lab for Kids and Astronomy Lab for Kids is structured around more than 50 experiments. Divided into 12 thematic units, the labs include several ways of growing crystals, scratching various materials to test their hardness, creating fossil-like molds and impressions, and cooking up several edible experiments (a molten cake to study how lava cools, and a soufflé to suggest the caldera that forms after a volcanic eruption). Photographs, clear instructions, and safety tips walk readers through the brief projects, and sidebars titled “The Science Behind the Fun” thoroughly explore the geological underpinnings of each one. It’s a smart, hands-on way for kids to get a better understanding of the rock cycle, volcanism, and the formation and breakdown of rocks and minerals. Ages 6–12. (July)

Reviewed on 06/23/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Rocks & Minerals

Seymour Simon. Harper, $17.99 (48p) ISBN 978-0-06-228918-6

Addressing readers directly in engaging second-person narration, Simon examines a wide range of rocks and minerals, their properties, and how one goes about identifying them: “Telling one mineral from another is something like guessing the villain in a mystery story,” he writes, leading into a discussion of the clues provided by color, luster, and the “streak” a mineral leaves behind when tested. Simon includes a substantial amount of detail while still keeping his explanations accessible (“when you touch a diamond at room temperature it feels cold because it conducts heat away from your fingers”). Plentiful photographs—of gem and mineral specimens, as well as larger natural landscapes—complement the main narrative, and closing tips about collecting and studying rocks offer a natural lead-in to post-reading activities. Ages 6–10. Agent: Wendy Schmalz, Wendy Schmalz Agency. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/23/2017 | Details & Permalink

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My Book of Rocks and Minerals

Devin Dennie. DK, $12.99 (96p) ISBN 978-1-4654-6190-2

Aspiring “rock hounds” are the kinds of readers Dennie is after in this broad introduction to the diversity of rocks, minerals, and gems on Earth. After initial spreads devoted to rock hunting and starting a collection, Dennie moves on to discuss dozens of rocks and minerals (in one nifty visual, bits of yellow, red, and blue crayons are compressed, combined, and melted in different ways to demonstrate how igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks vary). Vibrant photographs provide close-up looks at the vivid coloring and dramatic crystalline structures of fluorite, mica, topaz, and more. Small sidebars succinctly define relevant terms such as luster and transparency, and the images are annotated with intriguing details (“Turquoise crystals have no definable shape”) that supplement each section’s introductory text. A solid primer that should have many readers looking at the ground in a new light. Ages 6–9. (July)

Reviewed on 06/23/2017 | Details & Permalink

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My Little Book of Rocks, Minerals, and Gems

Claudia Martin. QEB, $15.95 (64p) ISBN 978-1-68297-147-5

Martin provides a brisk but wide-ranging overview of rocks and minerals in this addition to the My Little Book series. The photo-driven format presents full-bleed vistas of the Grand Canyon and its layers of sandstone, Northern Ireland’s basalt Giant’s Causeway, and other dramatic locations, which are paired with smaller inset photographs that tie in with each spread’s theme. Those topics include explanations of how various rocks form as well as focused looks at specific rocks, gems, and minerals (marble, coal, silicates, diamonds, etc.), all discussed in clear, direct writing (“Shale is a sedimentary rock made of mud and clay”). Not every obscure mineral gets defined (“Kaolinite and illite give clay a brown or orangey color”), but a glossary is included. Readers will pick up fascinating tidbits about these varied minerals and elements, and gain a sense of how humans put them to use. Ages 4–8. (May)

Reviewed on 06/23/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Halloween

Richard Platt, illus. by Richard Watson. Red Shed (IPG/Trafalgar Sq., dist.), $12.99 (14p) ISBN 978-1-4052-7659-7

Paper flaps conceal answers to dozens of questions about Halloween and its associated symbols and traditions in this large-format board book. Among the topics covered: the evolution of trick-or-treating, how different countries honor the dead (such as China’s Hungry Ghosts festival or Germany’s Walpurgis Night), and the origins of vampires, werewolves, and other creatures. More cheery than scary, Watson’s cartoons follow costumed children through a neighborhood, cemetery, and haunted house while trick-or-treating. Platt’s brief captions don’t go into much detail, but the book’s broad focus may encourage curious readers to seek out more information about Samhain, the Egyptian pyramids, the Day of the Dead, and more. Ages 5–7. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/23/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Little Skeletons/Esqueletitos

Susie Jaramillo. Encantos (PGW, dist.), $19.99 (22p) ISBN 978-1-945635-06-9

A Spanish rhyme, “Los Esqueletos,” forms the basis of this bilingual, accordion-style board book that features a busy cast of skeletons (humans, monkeys, birds, and more) drawn in the style of José Guadalupe Posada’s La Catrina, which has become synonymous with Día de los Muertos celebrations. Given that the rhyme originated in Spanish, it’s perhaps not surprising that it reads more smoothly in that language than in English (“When the old clock strikes the hour of three,/ three skeletitos backwards flee”). But Jaramillo’s exuberant pencil illustrations brim with festive detail; clocks with moveable hands open both versions of the story, playing into the time-telling aspect of this eerie counting tale. Up to age 4. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/23/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Five Little Pumpkins: A Fingers & Toes Nursery Rhyme Book

Natalie Marshall. Cartwheel, $6.99 (12p) ISBN 978-1-338-09117-5

Five pumpkins set off to explore the night in this tabbed board book (a follow-up to Five Little Ducks and other titles), which incorporates small icons that demonstrate how adults can act out each line of the story for their children. When the fourth pumpkin suggests, “Let’s run and run and run!” an inset box shows a human mother pumping her arms up and down, and when pumpkin #5 says, “I am ready for some fun!” the accompanying box proposes a “raise the roof” gesture. Breezy rhymes, the fun of the accompanying actions, and the atmosphere of nocturnal adventure in Marshall’s crisp digital illustrations are sure to lead to some active readalouds. Up to age 3. (June)

Reviewed on 06/23/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Halloween ABC

Jannie Ho. Nosy Crow, $6.99 (26p) ISBN 978-0-7636-9527-9

Ho presents an alphabetical tour of all things spooky in this Halloween board book. Bright, friendly cartoons keep the mood upbeat, though low-level frights abound: the E page features four disembodied eyeballs, and a smiley mummy waves at a terrified boy representing “nightmare” on the facing M and N pages. Not every moment is a success: three pages in a row feature ghosts (ghost, haunted house, and invisible), and a monster wearing “underpants” isn’t the strongest U entry. But there are several entertaining interactions between Ho’s characters, as when a zombie makes a beeline for some “yummy” candy corn in the book’s final pages. Up to age 3. Agent: Mela Bolinao, MB Artists. (July)

Reviewed on 06/23/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Bizzy Bear: Spooky House

Benji Davies. Nosy Crow, $6.99 (8p) ISBN 978-0-7636-9327-5

Tabs, sliders, and a rotating wheel activate surprises as Bizzy Bear explores a benevolently haunted house in this playful addition to Davies’s long-running series. Writing in rhymes with a “Pat-a-cake” cadence (“Bizzy Bear, Bizzy Bear, creaky stair./ Bizzy Bear, Bizzy Bear, what’s that there?”), Davies sends Bizzy Bear through cobwebbed rooms up to a party in the attic, accompanied by his host, a dog dressed as a vampire (but where is his reflection in the hallway mirror?). The interactive elements set up several fun peekaboo moments—with an emphasis on the boo—as a mummy elephant peeks from behind a door that slides open and a frog-as-ghost leaps out from behind a chair. Up to age 3. Agency: Bright Literary. (July)

Reviewed on 06/23/2017 | Details & Permalink

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