Caramel loves facts about robots, spaceships, and science. He also loves facts about animals. Today he reviews a beautiful book published by National Geographic Kids: 5000 Awesome Facts (About Animals). As usual, Sprinkles is taking notes and asking questions.
Sprinkles: So Caramel, I see you are rereading 5000 Awesome Facts (About Animals).
Caramel: Yes. You know five thousand is a big number.
S: So are there really that many facts in the book?
S: And have you really read them all already?
S: So why are you rereading then?
C: Because I like rereading. These are all really cool facts.
S: Really? So tell me one from that page you are looking at now.
C: This page is called “75 Facts about Coral Reef Animals”. And here is a neat fact: Sea horses don’t have stomachs! It’s so weird!
S: How do they eat then?
C: I don’t know. The book doesn’t tell.
S: Well, let’s see. This National Geographic for Kids website says “Seahorses use their tube-shaped snouts like powerful vacuums to scoop up hundreds of tiny meals in a single day. These fish don’t have true stomachs, just a digestive tube, so they need to eat all day to get their nutrients.”
C: Oh, that explains it, very interesting!
S: So I guess the book tells you neat tidbits, but you might need to look elsewhere for more explanations.
C: Yes, but these are really cool tidbits. Here is another one: some moray eels have two sets of jaws. The second one is hidden inside their throats.
S: That is weird!
C: Yes. It’s kind of like they have a second mouth in their throats.
S: So it seems like the facts are organized into groups. And each two-page spread is about a particular group of animals. Right?
C: More or less. But the groups are not always types of animals. Sometimes it is about where they live, like those 75 facts about coral reef animals. And then there are 35 facts about gorillas, and you took my photo when I was looking at that page.
S: Yes, let me post that photo right here:
C: There are fact collections about animals living in the Himalayas, about dogs, about animals in books and movies. And so on. It is all pretty awesome!
S: I guess the title makes sense then.
S: Did you see on the back cover that there are a couple other volumes in this same series called 5000 Awesome Facts?
C: Yes, there is a book called 5000 Awesome Facts About Everything, another called 5000 Awesome Facts About Everything 2, and there is a third one: 5000 Awesome Facts About Everything 3.
S: Those sound neat too. But I know you really like animals and books about animal facts.
C: Yep. And I already reviewed many such books. Maybe you can put a link to some of them?
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.
Caramel loves reading books about real things, and he especially loves learning about how things work. Today’s book, from National Geographic Kids, is just up his alley: How Things Work by T. J. Resler. As usual Sprinkles is asking questions and taking notes.
Sprinkles: So Caramel you got your nose into another big book about real things!
Caramel: Yes, exactly.
S: Tell me what this book is about.
C: It’s about how things work, as you can tell by the cover.
S: Yes. What kinds of things though?
C: Things like hoverbikes and hoverboards. Tablets, bionic arms, thermoses, and invisibility cloaks! Tractor beams…
S: Wait, invisibility cloaks? Tractor beams? Are those things real?
C: No, they are just theoretical. And they are not really invisibility cloaks but cloaking devices.
S: Hmm, so the book is about inventions, both real and fantastical, right?
C: Yes. They are really cool.
S: And I thought the chapter titles were quite fun. Can you tell us some of them?
C: There is one called “Beaming Up”. And another called “Home Where The Fridge Is”. There is “School of Cool”, and “Extreme Fun”, and some others.
S: Which is your favorite thing that you read about in this book?
C: My favorite is in the chapter called “Caught in the Tractor!” There is a picture of an alien ship in a section called “Think Big”.
S: Is that a real alien ship? I did not know we had alien visitors!
C: No it’s just a picture. An artist’s imagination.
S: Hmm, so what do you like about this particular page?
C: The picture of the alien ship is cool. But the section is about tractor beams, something we see a lot in Star Trek. Apparently a gigawatt in laser energy would totally vaporize a baseball. That’s basically a phaser, like in Star Trek.
S: Okay, how is that related to tractor beams?
C: It would be able to move the thing, but then it would also totally vaporize it too.
S: So there is a lot in this book about Star Trek science?
C: Not exactly, but I like Star Trek so I am telling you things about Star Trek in the book. There are also a lot of real things.
S: Like what?
C: Like fridges, space ships, microwave ovens, thermoses, and photocopy machines. And we learn about Elon Musk. He is an engineer and apparently he read a whole encyclopedia when he was a child.
S: Hmm, do you ever read an encyclopedia Caramel?
C: No, not really.
S: Well, we do often check out Wikipedia, and that is kind of like an encyclopedia, right?
C: I guess so. But I like reading real books with pictures, and learning about how things work.
S: And this book has a lot of pictures. Every one of its two hundred pages has at least one picture and there are pages which have only pictures. So it is a great book to read if you like to see what you are reading about.
C: Yes, there is a full-page picture of a dog drinking from the toilet bowl. The dog says “hmm, that’s the stuff!”
S: So the book is also quite funny, it sounds like.
C: Well kind of, but I like it more for the facts.
S: Okay, so tell me three words or phrases to describe this book.
C: Full of facts, colorful pictures, useful.
S: Great! This is a good place to wrap up this review. What do you want to tell our readers Caramel?
Marshmallow reviews Animal Friendship! Collection by National Geographic Kids, a collection of three books in one volume:
Book 1: Best Friends Forever! And More True Stories of Animal Friendships (by Amy Shields)
Book 2: The Whale Who Won Hearts! And More True Stories of Adventures with Animals (by Brian Skerry with Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld)
Book 3: Lucky Leopards! And More True Stories of Amazing Animal Rescues (by Aline Alexander Newman)
Marshmallow has been reading the Animal Friendship! Collection by National Geographic Kids on and off for a couple years now. Finally she is writing about it.
Marshmallow’s quick take: If you like nonfiction books about animals, then this might be the book for you.
Marshmallow’s Overview: This book has three books in one volume:
Book 1: Best Friends Forever! And More True Stories of Animal Friendships (by Amy Shields) Book 2: The Whale Who Won Hearts! And More True Stories of Adventures with Animals (by Brian Skerry with Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld) Book 3: Lucky Leopards! And More True Stories of Amazing Animal Rescues (by Aline Alexander Newman)
In the first two books, there are four stories each, each made up of three chapters. The third book has three stories, each made up of three chapters. That means that there are, in total, eleven stories (all told in a total of 33 chapters) in the collection.
Each story is three chapters long. The stories are all about different animals: there are stories about leopards, apes, dogs, whales, cats, sharks, and so on. In the stories of the first book, there is a friendship between two species of animals that are each unique in different ways. Most stories in the second book are about human interactions with special animals, and the stories in the third book are about people rescuing hurt animals. The stories are all real, and the book contains many colorful photos of the events happening.
Marshmallow’s Review: The book cover says that this book is about “Amazing Stories of Animal Friends and the Humans Who Love Them”. This description is accurate as these are really heartwarming and amazing stories.
This is a great read for people and rabbits who like nonfiction books about animals and people. It contains stories that have characters that are all loyal and kind to their friends or companions.
My favorite book in the collection is Book 1: Best Friends Forever! I like this book because it has my favorite stories. The stories in this book are about animal friendships. The animals are very loyal to their companions who are from a different species, which makes it even more impressive that they are friends. The very first story is about Roscoe the dog and Suryia the orangutan. The second one is about a gorilla named Koko who loves cats. The third story is about a greyhound named Jasmine and the many different animals she becomes friends with. The last story of Book 1 is about Owen the hippo and his friend Mzee the tortoise.
The fact that this book is nonfiction is almost unbelievable since the stories are so unlikely but very cute and adorable. In my opinion this is a very good and well written book.