Slimy #kidlit: The Slug by Elise Gravel

Thanks to my cousin Karen’s recommendation, today we are highlighting The Slug, part of the Disgusting Critters series by Elise Gravel. What fun!

Combining accurate information with  silly cartoon illustrations and hilarious asides, Elise Gravel has come up with a winning formula for making nonfiction “slide” down easily.

See for yourself (although use caution if you are easily grossed out by mucus.):

Perfect for nature or STEM story times!

Age Range: 6 – 9 years
Publisher: Tundra Books; Reprint edition (July 5, 2016)
ISBN-10: 1770496564
ISBN-13: 978-1770496569

Ready to learn more about slugs and snails? Visit our growing list at Science Books for Kids.

STEM Friday #Kidlit Do Doodlebugs Doodle?

I’m in the mood for something fun and light this morning, so let’s take a look at the picture book Do Doodlebugs Doodle? Amazing Insect Facts by Corinne Demas, Artemis Roehrig, and illustrated by Ellen Shi.

Do Doodlebugs Doodle? has a lot of positives going for it. First, there’s the engaging premise, which is to ask silly questions relating insect common names and then astonish the reader with an actual fact about that group. For example, the authors ask, “Do horseflies gallop?” The accompanying illustration shows a jockey riding a horsefly. Turning the page, the reader learns that although horseflies don’t gallop, they can fly faster than a horse can gallop. Cool!

Ellen Shi’s illustrations are just the right mix of silly fun and realistically-portrayed insects.

It also has some pedigree. Corinne Demas is an award-winning children’s author and Artemis Roehrig is a biologist who works with invasive insects. Persnickety Press is the sister imprint of the Cornell Lab Publishing Group, which is doing Jane Yolen’s wonderful bird series.

Then why wasn’t I wholly thrilled about Do Doodlebugs Doodle? As an entomologist, I know that there are millions of species of insects the authors could have highlighted. Insects that do such amazing things. Yet, out of ten insects selected, they chose two that were considered to be pests of humans, kissing bugs and bed bugs. Plus they placed the “pests” near the end, which is the “climax” of the book and where they leave a lasting impression. If their motivation is to truly encourage children to appreciate insects, something about making 20% of the insects ones that bite you (and 10% that sting) feels flawed to me. If the author’s motivation was to add an “ick” factor, then again there were many more positive choices (dung beetles, burying beetles, etc.) But that’s just my perception, and its not a major issue. If you have read it or pick it up, I’d love to hear what your thoughts are.

The authors dedicate their book to budding entomologists. Check out a copy and find out if doodlebugs do indeed doodle.

Age Range: 4 – 8 years
Publisher: Persnickety Press (March 27, 2018)
ISBN-10: 1943978352
ISBN-13: 978-1943978359




Disclosure: This book was provided by the publisher for Cybils review. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

Come visit the STEM Friday blog each week to find more great Science, Technology, Engineering and Math books.Opens in a new window Note: this is a new link as of 1/2019.

2018 #Cybils Shortlists Announced

If you have been following this blog, you know for the last few months I have been a round I judge in the 2018 Cybils Elementary/Middle Grade Nonfiction category.

After reading some 140+ books in about two months, we have picked out 7 elementary finalists and 7 middle grade finalists. Today the shortlists were announced on the Cybils blog. Congratulations to all the authors and illustrators whose books made the cut.

Although all the children’s and young adult books on the nomination lists have merit, the books on the shortlists have a little something extra that caught the attention of our experts.  During the next few weeks they will be read and assessed by another set of judges and the overall winners will be announced on or around February 14, 2019.

Here are the lists from the nonfiction elementary/middle grade categories (numbers on list are random, I just needed to make sure I got all seven):

Elementary Nonfiction (Picture Books)

1. Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor: The Woman Who Loved Reptiles by Patricia Valdez and illustrated by Felicita Sala.

A picture book biography with an important “It’s okay to be different” message. Reviewed here.

2. Chester Nez and the Unbreakable Code: A Navajo Code Talker’s Story by Joseph Bruchac and illustrated by Liz Amini-Holmes

This picture book biography about the incredible history of one of the Navajo code talkers whose contributions during World War II were kept secret for decades.

3. Flying Deep: Climb Inside Deep-Sea Submersible Alvin by Michelle Cusolito and illustrated by Nicole Wong

Review will be posted for STEM Friday this week.

4. Saving Fiona: The Story of the World’s Most Famous Baby Hippo by Thane Maynard

The story of the premature birth and fight to save this tiny hippo oozes adorable.

5. A Frog’s Life by Irene Kelly and illustrated by Margherita Borin

Reviewed at Growing With Science (with activity suggestions)

6. What Do You Do with a Voice Like That?: The Story of Extraordinary Congresswoman Barbara Jordan by Chris Barton and illustrated by Ekua Holmes.

You can hear Barbara Jordan’s voice in the rhythm of Chris Barton’s brilliant text. Reviewed here.

7. The True Tale of a Giantess: The Story of Anna Swan by Anne Renaud and Marie Lafrance

This picture book biography explores the life of one of P. T. Barnum’s Gallery of Wonders.

Middle Grade Nonfiction

1. Maya Lin: Thinking With Her Hands by Susan Goldman Rubin.

Not everyone knows, but the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D. C. was designed by a young student of Chinese descent. The architect Maya Lin has gone on to shape many more breathtaking buildings and outdoor spaces. Reviewed here.

2. Dog Days of History:  The Incredible Story of Our Best Friends by Sarah Albee

Reviewed at Growing with Science.

3. The Hyena Scientist by Sy Montgomery and Nic Bishop

Another fabulous title in the Scientists in the Field series. Reviewed at Growing with Science.

4.  Frenemies in the Family: Famous Brothers and Sisters Who Butted Heads and Had Each Other’s Backs by Kathleen Krull and illustrated by Maple Lam

  Kathlenn Krull takes the reader on a raucous ride through the history of some famous sibling rivalries.

5.  Death Eaters: Meet Nature’s Scavengers by Kelly Milner Halls

The cover shows it all in this book about decomposers and decomposition,

6. Two Truths and a Lie: Histories and Mysteries by Ammi-Joan Paquette and Laurie Ann Thompson

The premise is to try to figure out which stories are facts and which are fakes.

7. The Ultimate Book of Sharks (National Geographic Kids) by Brian Skerry

This middle grade title is chock full of gorgeous photographs and fascinating facts.

If you are resolving to read more in 2019, here’s a great list of books to start with.

Disclosure: These books were mostly provided by our local library, although some were provided by the publisher for review purposes. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

Purrfect #Kidlit: Super Cats -True Stories of Felines That Made History

For the Chinese Year of the Dog I created a list of children’s books about dogs, so let’s even things up by taking a look at the new middle grade book Super Cats: True Stories of Felines That Made History by Elizabeth Macleod.

After a brief introduction to how cool cats are, Elizabeth MacLeod delves into the history of cats, including how cats were treated as gods in ancient Egypt. Next she explores cultures that considered cats to be bad luck versus cultures that considered cats to be good luck.

In addition to being popular pets, cats can be much more. The author reveals some true stories of cat heroism, such as a cat famous for tracking down fish smugglers, two cats that detected electronic bugs in a Dutch embassy in Russia, and therapy cats that save lives. She also has some stories about how cats inspired their owners, from sparks from his cat’s fur motivating Nikola Tesla to study electricity, to composers stimulated to write cat-themed music.

Intermixed with the stories are interesting facts about cats, for example how far they can leap or tidbits about different breeds.

Some parts involve a frank look at death and dying. The book has photographs of cats catching mice, a lion attacking water buffalo, and a cat mummy. The author suggests that superstitions against cats in Europe from the 1300s to 1700s may have made the Black Death plague much worse because removing cats allowed mice and rat populations to explode. (The Black death is carried by rodent fleas.) One of the prominent inspirational stories is about Oscar the cat who seems to be able to predict or detect when the patients in the nursing home are about to die.

Most of the illustrations are cute cats like this one.

On the other hand,  most of the stories are heartwarming. Who can’t feel their blood pressure lowering when they read about cat cafés where patrons enjoy interacting with cats, or bookstore and library cats who nap among the books?

Super Felines is a “purrfect” choice for young cat owners and others who would like to learn more about these amazing animals. Cuddle up with a copy today!

Activity Suggestions

1. Writing prompt:  Write your own story about a cat.

For example:  Have you ever been adopted by a cat?

If you’ve ever had a cat, you know how they creep into your lives. At the shop where my son worked, the employees didn’t know they needed a cat, but a stray black and white female realized that they had an opening in their lives and decided to adopt them. Soon after her arrival, she had all the guys who work there at her beck and call. They were wrangled into giving her food, changing her litter box, and providing a warm lap now and then. Now she is the queen of the shop.

In another example, even though the book says the Bourke Police Department in New South Wales, Australia took in a stray cat they named PC Splashe, we know that instead PC Splashe adopted the police department.

2. Listen to some cat-inspired music such as Kitten on the Keys by Zez Confrey.


Age Range: 8 – 11 years
Publisher: Annick Press (March 13, 2018)
ISBN-10: 1554519934
ISBN-13: 978-1554519934

Disclosure: This book was from our local library. I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.


Looking for more children’s nonfiction books? Try the Nonfiction Monday blog.