Caramel and the rest of the book bunnies household have been watching Star Trek Voyager during these months of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Voyager is the third Star Trek series Caramel has watched, after The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine. In other words, he is a little Trekkie. One of his favorite things about the whole series is the star ships. As a result it was natural that he would fall in love with the book Star Trek: Ships of the Line, edited by Doug Drexler and Margaret Clark, with text from Michael Okuda. Below he shares his enthusiasm about this book, as Sprinkles takes notes and asks followup questions.
Sprinkles: So Caramel, what do you want to tell us about this book?
Caramel: It’s a good book if you like space ships and that kind of stuff.
S: Do you also need to like Star Trek?
C: Not exactly. As long as you like star ships, you are in luck. The book is packed with pictures of star ships.
S: I see. I think that also fits in the Star Trek universe narrative though, right?
C: I guess.
S: Are the pictures photos or hand-drawn?
C: I think there are both kinds of pictures.
S: What else can you tell us?
C: So on each two-page spread, there is a whole-page picture of a ship, and some writing.
S: What kind of writing?
C: There is a name for the photo or drawing and who it is by. Then there is a paragraph about the picture.
S: The content seems to be arranged in eight chapters (altogether in over 350 pages). Can you tell me a bit about that?
C: The chapter names are: “In the Beginning”, “The Creation of a Legend”, “Rebirth”, “The Finest in the Fleet”, “Of Gods and Men”, “There Will Always Be An Enterprise”, “Delta Voyager”, “Semper Exploro”.
S: Hmm, so I can guess that “Delta Voyager” is about the ships in Star Trek Voyager.
C: Yes, and “Of Gods and Men” is about Deep Space Nine.
S: And “In the Beginning” seems to be about the more recent Star Trek Enterprise. We have not yet watched that show. But so it seems that the book is telling us the stories of the star ships in the Star Trek universe in their chronological order.
C: Yes. Exactly.
S: Do you know who the people who put together this book are?
As the United States is approaching another presidential election, Sprinkles thought that it could be a good idea to review children’s books about a recent president: President Barack Obama. Here Sprinkles shares her candid opinions on five books about him, with the goal of informing parents of young bunnies. Perhaps other young bunnies (and their parents too) will find one or more of these books worth the read to learn from and get inspired by.
School-age bunnies often need to find people to write about for school reports. Most of the books I review in this post found their way to the book bunnies household as the younger bunnies were writing reports about their personal heroes, about well-known world leaders, and about past presidents. And occasionally young readers get their paws on books about inspiring people and just read them on their own. The five books I review in this post are all suitable for both kinds of reading goals. If your little one is curious about president Barack Obama, just keep reading to see which of these five books might be the right one for them!
In what follows I organize and present my thoughts in the order of reader level. By that I mean that the youngest bunnies will likely find it easier to read the books I mention first, and the older ones, those that are more independent readers and those that can handle more challenging sentences, might get more details and all around just more out of the books that come up later.
The first book I will describe for this review is President Barack Obama, written by A. D. Largie and illustrated by Sabrina Pichardo. A slim and mid-size paperback, this book is aimed at younger readers. It can be read out loud, as there is some basic rhyme built into the text on each page. I wished that some of this rhyming was made more visible by formatting of the text or by punctuation. For example the text “Barack Obama proved that you can can (sic) do anything that you believe as long as you hope for the best and focus you can achieve.” would be easier to read if it were written more visibly in two lines and / or with more punctuation:
Barack Obama proved that you can do anything that you believe,
As long as you hope for the best and focus, you can achieve.
Still, a parent used to reading books out loud for their little ones will probably figure out the rhythm soon enough.
There was also a small factual error in the book. Obama was elected to the Illinois state senate in 1996, and to the United States Senate in 2004. But again it is not a big enough deal; a parent can easily correct it while reading.
Despite these two minor issues, I would say that this can be a good book to teach young ones about President Obama. A part of a “Boys Grow Up To Be Heroes” book series, the book emphasizes that Obama was teased for his name when he was young but he persevered; he worked hard on his classes and on building community; and he wanted to bring people of many differences together. And after all that, he was the first black president! This can certainly be an inspiring read.
Next, I will describe Caroline Crosson Gilpin’s Barack Obama, published by National Geographic Kids. Rated Level 2 by the publisher, the book is meant for transitional readers who are getting comfortable reading on their own. The font size is large and the pictures are colorful. After a brief introduction starting on January 20, 2009, the day of the inauguration of President Barack Hussein Obama, most of the rest of the book is organized chronologically, and ends the story with a quote from Obama himself:
“The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.”
President Barack Obama
The book ends with a seven-question quiz, and a one-page glossary describing terms like “civil rights lawyer”, “community organizer”, and “multiracial”. All in all, this is a good book, telling the story with just enough details, and besides the facts, you also get a little dose of the inspiration that Obama’s presidency offered for many.
Barack Obama: Out of Many, One, written by Shana Corey and illustrated by James Bernardin, is also aimed toward the same level of readers, I believe. The book’s publisher Random House ranks it “Step 3: Reading on Your Own” and this is still written for the young reader, who is not yet quite ready for the chapter book. President Obama’s story is told in simple and clear language, from the beginning up to the time of writing of the book, during Obama’s second term. We start with:
We all have stories–each and every one of us. This is one of those stories. It is the story of a skinny little boy with a funny name and how he became part of America’s history.
and end along similar lines:
But the story is not complete. In fact it’s just started. Where does your story fit in the American story? You could help your neighbor or your school. You could even grow up to be president! Anything is possible–what happens next is up to you!
The illustrations are appealingly hand-drawn, and are peppered with actual photographic images. My favorite was the last one, right under the words I quoted above, where President Obama is looking at some school kids through a ginormous magnifying glass. And luckily due to copyright laws that say “a work of the U.S. federal government” will be on public domain, I can insert it right here:
Next I will share my thoughts on Who Is Barack Obama? by Roberta Edwards and John O’Brien. This book is clearly directed towards readers who are comfortable with chapter books, as it is one, and at over one hundred pages, it is actually quite an informative read. Its twelve chapters tell a chronological story, with a great many details, including a description of the Democratic nomination process and the competition between Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton at the time before the 2008 presidential elections. The author seems to trust that her reader can handle both details and large-picture connections; I always appreciate authors who respect their readers! The book ends with two timelines, one for Obama’s life and the other noting some world events relevant to the narrative of the book.
I believe that this would make an excellent choice for the young reader who is curious to learn about President Obama. Illustrated in simple black and white sketches by John O’Brien, the book tells the story of one of the most inspiring political figures of our times, and situates his story within the wider American context.
The last book I will describe in this review is Stephen Krensky’s Barack Obama. This book also targets a similar audience but perhaps expects a little bit more from the reader. The font size is much smaller, the sentences are a little bit more complex, and the book overall has more the flavor of a historical biography than that of a children’s book. This is not particularly a disadvantage, however, and should definitely not deter any young reader wishing to learn more about the first black president of the United States. The details and the historical conextualization that were strengths for the previous book are also a strength for this one, and the photographic images add a lot to the book’s appeal.
The longest of the books reviewed in this blog post, at 125 pages, Krensky’s Barack Obama is a good text for those young bunnies writing reports or essays about the president, and it can be a good resource for learning more about his life and accomplishments. (Among other things, it contains a neat timeline and several references for further reading and study.) However, it does end on the inauguration day of 2009, and we do not learn much about his accomplishments as the forty-fourth president of the United States. Still, I would recommend it for those bunnies looking to learn more.
But perhaps those same young bunnies are up to learn even more about this man? Then I’d urge them and their parents to consider diving into one of Obama’s own books. Many parents will likely think Obama’s 2006 book The Audacity of Hope might be too political (or politically motivated) for their young ones, but his first book, Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, written in 1995, tells this man’s tale up to that time in lyrical but not overly dramatic language. This is a beautiful coming-of-age story, and it is perhaps uniquely American. Obama tries in it to open up, understand (for himself–and to our benefit), and come to terms with his own multicultural multiracial heritage. It can be a challenging read for preteens, but for tweens and teenagers, it is bound to be inspiring. And I’d say, it can be especially so, knowing that this young man narrating his own story would become the forty-fourth president of the United States in a little less than fifteen years from the end of the book.
Sprinkles: I saw that you got your paws on another Narwhal and Jelly book Caramel!
Caramel: Yes! Its name is Happy Narwhalidays!
S: I guess it just came out right about in time for the holiday season. Do you think it would make a good book present for bunnies like you who love reading?
C: Yes. Especially if the bunny loves the other Narwhal and Jelly books.
S: They are fun to read, aren’t they? So what happens in this one?
C: They are fun to read, and I am rereading it again, right now.
S: Hmm, I see you are looking at the pages where Narwhal is dreaming up all the things Jelly could be gifting him.
C: Yes. The ideas he has are not really possible. He thinks that the gift might be a giant waffle or a big bouncy blow-up bubble castle! Or it could be a rocket ship to take him to the unicorn planet!
S: Narwhal sure has a big imagination!
C: He sure does!
S: So the book is about giving friends gifts then, right?
C: Yes, mostly.
S: I know these books always have a whole lot of facts about ocean life, and I know you love facts. So tell me the most interesting fact you learned reading this book.
C: Let me read it to you: “Tardigrades, commonly known as water bears, are water-dwelling micro-animals that can survive in temperatures as hot as 304F (151C) and as cold as absolute zero.”
S: That is one weird fact Caramel. Do you know what absolute zero is?
C: No. Is it like -100?
S: No, actually it is even colder than that. It is -273C, and it is -459F. Absolute zero is when it is so cold that nothing moves. Heat and temperature are about molecules moving about, and at absolute zero, nothing moves anymore. It is really fascinating that these water-bears can survive that temperature.
C: I didn’t know that.
S: I do like how these books bring up all sorts of interesting facts! Okay, so what else do you want to say about this book?
C: I love Jelly. He is the best character.
S: Why do you say that?
C: He is super funny.
S: I think Narwhal is also super funny.
C: Yes. He is a little goofier.
S: I know. Theyt are good friends though, right?
S: So tell me three words that would describe this book Caramel.
C: Awesome, colorful, factful.
S: I am not sure factful is a word, but let us go with it. Shall we then wrap up this review so you can read the book one more time?
C: Okay! Stay tuned for more book bunnies reviews!
Marshmallow has already reviewed the first five books from Stuart Gibbs’ FunJungle series: you can check out her review of the first book, Belly Up, here, while her review of the second book, Poached, is here. Her review of the third book Big Game is here, her review of the fourth book, Panda-monium, is available here, and her review of the fifth book in the series, Lion Down, is here. Today she shares with us her thoughts on the sixth and most recent book on the adventures of Teddy Fitzroy: Tyrannosaurus Wrecks.
Marshmallow’s Quick Take: If you like animals or if you have enjoyed some of Stuart Gibbs’s other books, then this might be the book for you.
Marshmallow’s Summary (with spoilers): Teddy Fitzroy lives in FunJungle, a mix of a zoo and a theme park. He has just apprehended the Zebra Spanker when his friend, Sage Bonotto, asks him to investigate the disappearance of his tyrannosaurus rex. Apparently, while the skeleton of a T-rex was being excavated on his family’s ranch, someone stole her skull.
The case seems impossible. The skull of Minerva (which is what they named the T-rex) was five hundred pounds and the burglary happened in the middle of a really bad storm. The thieves should have left some trace but it seems like they haven’t. Even worse, the local police thinks that it’s a hoax. So Sage asks Teddy to investigate. (Teddy solved some other cases before.)
While Teddy is at the scene of the crime, the twin school bullies Tim and Jim Barksdale call him. Jim asks Teddy whether he can use the Heimlich maneuver on a snake that has eaten a cat. It turns out that Tim and Jim illegally purchased an anaconda that ate their cat Griselda. As he investigates, Teddy finds that the twins bought it from Snakes Alive, a new zoo that is nearby and is trying to take business from FunJungle. (Their signs say stuff like “MORE FUN THAN FUNJUNGLE—AND A WHOLE LOT CHEAPER!”)
As Teddy learns more about the two cases, things get more and more complicated. You will just have to read the book to find out more!
Marshmallow’s Review: This is a really good book for people who like to read about animals and mysteries. The characters are very well written. The plot involves a very interesting mystery. There are a lot of people that you could suspect, and the thief is someone I would not have suspected. Without all of the evidence, it would be impossible to solve the case.
At the end of the book, the author, Stuart Gibbs, has some notes about one of the main topics in the book: animal trafficking. This is something Gibbs does in all the FunJungle books, and helps the reader connect the book to real life.
Tyrannosaurus Wrecks is probably best for ages nine and up. This is because the plot is very intricate and it could be very confusing if the reader doesn’t catch all of the evidence. Also it could be scary for readers who do not like snakes. Another reason is because its “language is not very delicate” (as Roald Dahl wrote about Matilda‘s father). But all that aside, this is a very entertaining book.