Tag: Juvenile Nonfic

Sharing Our Urban World

by Ann Downer

I didn’t realize when I picked this book from a recommended list, that it was juvenile non-fiction. I liked it anyway. It’s about wildlife in cities. Why wild animals are becoming more common in urban areas, why that’s a problem, and what people are doing about it. The book tells about raccoons, black bears, cougars, sea turtles, crows, bats, coyotes and alligators in particular, but also mentions some other species. Details why exactly certain animals start to inundate cities. Some are very adaptable, having a broad diet, ease in finding their way around or making do with different kinds of living space. Some have developed a very short flight distance, being unafraid of people. And others are simply forced into close contact with people because of habitat overlapping or being lost- in particular the flying foxes in Sydney Australia and loggerhead turtles in Florida. I thought that most of the animals mentioned would be numerous- and that’s the case for many, but not all. Deer, raccoons and coyotes are in no danger of disappearing soon. But the flying foxes and sea turtles are. It’s troubling to read about how difficult we’ve made it for animals to live in the world, but also encouraging to see how people are solving the issues in many places. Making greener spaces. Discouraging animals from living off garbage, while leaving them alone to live their lives otherwise. Building wildlife bridges or tunnels so they can safely cross highways. I learned quite a few new things- didn’t know before that jungle crows are such a problem in Tokyo (one stopped a bullet train for several hours when its nest on a power station caused an electrical shortage!) I didn’t know that crows are afraid of bees- the city encouraged urban beekeeping as a way to discourage crow numbers. I had no idea that some bat guano is purple- I’m guessing from the fruit they eat. Fun read with a lot of information, and just the right balance of detail for kids (I think).

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 3/5
64 pages, 2014

by Dr. Michael Fox

Lovely little book about the family life of wolves. Part of it is story, following one pup from birth to adulthood as it learns life skills, how to stay safe, hunting with the pack etc- all the usual stuff. Interjected are explanations about wolf behavior and ecology, so it\’s very educational as well. The little wolves grow and play, although one dies young from a disease. This book has a lot more about their intimate social lives- showing how the interactions form their bonds and organize their place in the pack. The young wolves encounter threats from a bald eagle, a wolverine and porcupine (seems to be the classic encounter in any book about young wild animals). They learn to catch mice and grasshoppers on their own, and are schooled in hunting caribou by their parents. I thought for once this would be a story just about the (relatively) peaceful lives of the animals, but man does make an appearance at the end- the wolf pack is hounded by hunters using airplanes. Some are shot and left to die. The ending is a plea for wolves to be protected, pointing out their role in keeping populations of caribou and other prey animals healthy, and a little bit about conservation work. Of course the book is dated- it hopes for example that wolves will someday be re-introduced to Yellowstone (which has now occurred).  The illustrations by Charles Fracé are very nice.

As I read this book immediately after Cry Wild, I couldn\’t help notice the differences between a few very similar scenes. In both stories the young wolf pups find a porcupine, but in this case the parent warned them from approaching, and later they came across a dead one and found out how sharp the quills were against their curious noses, so escaped injury. In both books one pup dies very young, and the mother\’s reaction is opposite. In Cry Wild the mother wolf anxiously licked and tended the dead pup, trying to coax it to nurse again and finally when they all moved to a new den, simply left the body behind. Here in The Wolf, as soon as the dead pup ceases moving, the mother apparently no longer recognizes it as her young, and matter-of-factly eats the body.

I wonder which depiction is more accurate. I suppose they both could be, if the wolf learned how to react to the situation according to what wolves around it normally did?

Rating: 3/5                96 pages, 1973

Tracking Wolves in the Wild
by Sylvia A. Johnson and Alice Aamodt

For a juvenile non-fiction book about wolves, this one is pretty thorough. It details how wolves live in the wild, their social structure and pack life, how the pups are raised, what they eat, hunting methods, territory defense and so on. Also conflicts with humans, some folklore and misconceptions about wolves, and how radio-tracking is used to study them (thus the subtitle, which I found a bit odd because it\’s only one short chapter at the very end that discusses this). It\’s basic, but really informative for all that. I recognized most of the photographs. I think I\’ve seen them before in some older edition of National Geographic.

Rating: 3/5                96 pages, 1985

by Joanne Ryder

I picked up this book for my seven-year-old. She\’s never quite as keen on animal stories as I was at her age (still am). I also found for her a book about a bear cub, and a more fanciful one about a crow family (which I might review here later). Tried to read Snail in the Woods as a bedtime story, but my kid was grossed out by hearing about slime and snails eating fungus and how they can retract their eyeballs back into their heads through their feelers; she refused to finish it. So I read the book myself. It\’s very simple text, decent monochromatic pictures, about the life of a land snail. Hatches from an egg, eats its own eggshell, crawls around seeking shelter and food. Estivating when there is no moisture. Avoiding getting eaten by shrews (more drawings of shrews in this one book than I\’ve ever seen before!), mice, birds, millipedes and other predators purely by luck. (My kid thought the millipede looked like a monster. It surely is to a tiny snail). Biggest event in the story is a flood, which some snails escape by crawling higher on trees and shrubs, and our snail gets carried downstream on a log. Finds a new home, finds a mate, crawls around more, lays eggs which will hatch in spring. Nice little book, if your kid wants to learn about how snails live.

Rating: 3/5               62 pages, 1979

Exploring the Mind of a Mollusk
by Sy Montgomery

This \’Scientist in the Field\’ book was more in-depth than the previous one, and I enjoyed it more. The chapters detail how the author accompanied a team of scientists who were studying the eating habits of octopuses around the island of Moorea. For the duration of her visit they actually spent most of their time looking for octopuses to be their study subjects- they\’re very difficult to find, being excellent at camouflage and hiding in small spaces. Then it all fell into place and on the last day of her trip, they were suddenly finding octopus all over the place. So a lot of the information about octopus in this book is side notes and explanations, but it\’s fascinating regardless. (She mentions briefly the encounters with octopus in public aquariums described in The Soul of an Octopus). The part about how octopus change color (and skin texture) to blend with their surroundings is especially cool. There\’s a lot about other animals sharing the same ocean habitat, as well. And for some reason this book reminded me of those I\’ve read by Eugenie Clark.

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 4/5            72 pages, 2015

by Pamela Turner

This is another of the \”Scientist in the Field\” books, just the level of J-Nonfiction I like reading. While the focus is on marine biologist Amanda Vincent\’s study concerning the impact of fishing and trade on seahorses worldwide, her focus began around one coral reef in the Philippines. Initially the study was to gain knowledge on seahorse reproduction but after talking to many local fisherman to find what they knew about seahorses, she realized their numbers were steadily dropping. She also realized that many local fishers depended on seahorses and other marine life for their livelihood. She expanded her project to change that- educating locals about seahorses and the welfare of the reef in general, advocating to close off certain areas against fishing entirely, implementing plans to repopulate the reef and plant mangroves to protect marginal areas, creating sustainable fishing practices and so on. It\’s all very intertwined, a precise example how the fate of one small creature (there is a pygmy seahorse the size of a pecan!) depends on the choices and actions of many people far away. And of course, there\’s lots of info on the seahorses themselves- charming, intriguing little creatures. I do stare at them in wonder whenever I visit a public aquarium.

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 3/5            58 pages, 2010

more opinions:
Miss Rumphius Effect

by Cat Urbigkit

Browsing, picked up a few juvenile non-fiction books on wildlife, which I enjoy sometimes. This one is about pronghorn antelope, which aren\’t actually antelope but something between an antelope and a goat. Which the book did not really explain, it keeps things simple. It basically just describes the life cycle of pronghorn, where they live and migrate, what they eat, how they survive the winter, something of their behavior repertoire etc. The photos by Mark Gocke are excellent. I learned just enough about these animals to become curious about finding a more in-depth book on the same subject.

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 3/5              34 pages, 2010

Growing Up Maasai on the African Savanna
by Joseph Lemasolai Lekuton

This is a firsthand account of growing up in a nomadic Maasai tribe, the Ariaal to be precise. Lemasolai describes what it is like to live in Kenya as a nomadic herder, and learning a bit about Maasai culture was pretty interesting. The customs, gender divisions, hardships, his experience in the initiation ceremony and most of all, the cattle. He talks a lot about cows, and it makes sense, seeing how important they are to the Maasai. There is not much mention of wildlife- avoidance of elephants, a brief but very memorable story about a hyena, a lion hunt where he is desperate to prove his bravery.

The government requires each family to send one child to school. Lemasolai\’s brother went first, but hated it and ran away from school, so Lemasolai volunteered to go in his place. He had a bit of a culture shock there, being required to wear western-style clothes, learn English and submit to a different form of discipline. While a lot of his story opens your eyes to how different some people live in the world, much of it is universal as well. He wants to make friends and impress them, has to endure teasing, struggles to face a bully, sometimes skips his obligations to play instead. Has to trek miles to go home to his family on vacation time- as they are nomads sometimes they are very far away, there are no roads and once it took him two weeks to get home. I really admired how he held onto his traditions and managed to straddle two cultures, seemingly with ease. He learned as much as he could at school. Catching the attention of the President of Kenya in a soccer game earned him a sponsorship which sent him very far, and eventually he ended up as a teacher himself in the States. Always returning home when he could, taking American students with him to show them to his homeland.

One really amusing incident occurred when he was home for a visit, dressed in traditional clothing and walking with some friends. They encountered a group of European tourists who tried to take advantage of their presumed ignorance. It was hilarious and satisfying when Lemasolai revealed that he\’d understood everything the tourists said. Near the end of the book, I found it very touching that he took his mother a gift of fine cattle. He really wanted to show his love and appreciation, and did not give her any modern gadgets or labor-saving devices, but some quality livestock that would improve his family\’s herd, a thing she could really value. The afterword, written by a man who knew the author in his teaching capacity, is insightful and adds a bit more context to the book.

While the writing style is simple and straightforward, in this case it worked well. It\’s a book written for younger readers after all- the author wanted to share his story with children. I did wish for a bit more depth and detail, but as it accomplishes what it set out to do admirably, I can\’t complain.

Rating: 3/5        128 pages, 2003

Yellowstone 1988
by Patricia Lauber

In 1988, Yellowstone National Park had not seen any huge wildfires in over 200 years. Fire was managed in the park- manmade fires were put out, while naturally occurring ones were allowed to burn unless they threatened people or buildings. This book tells about the events during the wildfires of 1988, when an entire third of the park burned. It describes the dangers and benefits of wildfire, and how the park recovered.

Because it did. I was twelve when those fires occured, I had visited Yellowstone and I remember feeling devastated at the news. Reading this book puts it all in perspective- the land actually recovers fairly quickly from wildfire. Most animal species survived, some benefitted greatly (predators ate smaller mammals on the run, insects moved in to take advantage of dying trees, etc). The lodgepole pines, in particular, start to die back until fire revives the forests by allowing younger trees to thrive. Certain seeds will not germinate unless prompted to by high temperatures caused by fire. I was surprised to learn about the unique way aspen thickets grow- they send up shoots from root systems that are often interconnected throughout the grove. Aspen seeds are troublesome to germinate, and the young trees easily shaded out. So most aspen in the park did not grow from seed but instead exist because of stands that have been growing back from the root systems for hundreds of years. I think that\’s amazing.

This book is a bit old- I can tell from the quality of the photographs alone, although they are very nice. It\’s also a juvenile nonfiction book, which I didn\’t realize until I started reading it. As such, it doesn\’t offer a lot of in-depth information and poses lots of unanswered questions, because when it was written scientists were still studying the effects of the blaze and how the Yellowstone plants and wildlife recovered from fire. (In some cases, very systematically- blocking off sections that hadn\’t been burned, planting them with certain seeds or not, observing later to see what grew and didn\’t after the fire, etc.) It would be nice to know more of the answers, so it prompts me to look more stuff up online. A nice, fairly informative read I got through in one sitting.

Rating: 3/5          64 pages, 1991

the Summer of the Scopes Trial
by Ronald Kidd

Middle-grade novel about a famous trial that was staged in Dayton, Tennessee in 1925. The author had a friend whose mother was the girl Frances featured in the story; he gathered details doing interviews with people who actually remembered the trial from seventy years before. (A brief afterword delineates some of what was fact/what was fiction here).

In the novel, Frances is seventeen and swooning over the young schoolteacher Johnny Scopes. Her father owns the local drugstore, and he\’s always looking for ways to drum up business. Tennessee law at the time forbade state-run schools from teaching evolution, but the law had never been enforced. Scopes was a basketball and football coach. At one point he substituted a biology class and assigned some reading from the state-required textbook that included a chapter on Darwin\’s theory of evolution. Some scheming men (including Frances\’ father) saw this as reason to put him on trial for teaching evolution. It was all a stunt to get publicity and revitalize their quiet town. Scopes agreed to play his part. In fact (from a bit other reading I did online) it seems he encouraged students to testify against him. This story shows it all going sour on him, though in the end he had his own share of fame. Reporters and journalists swarm the town, everyone gets involved in heated arguments about evolution vs. creationism. Frances starts to question everything, too. But her main preoccupation is this infatuation with Johnny. It doesn\’t go anywhere. He always treats her like a kid.

And in the end, I got bored. I skimmed the last few chapters. I had heard of the Scopes trial before, but I was disappointed to discover it was all a big set-up. Frances gets enough glimpses of the trial to make a fair description of what happened, but those details did not quite hold my interest. Her child\’s view of how the townspeople respond to the implications of the trial could have been refreshing; there is plenty of contrast between small-town good-at-heart folks and big-city snobs that criticize and insult them. Frances also sees flaws among her familiar neighbors- those who want to sabotage the trial or who attack others for their beliefs. She\’s upset at discovering a side to her own father she never recognized before- he\’s often just out to make a buck. But her character felt rather flat to me. She was always questioning the status quo, always mooning over Johnny Scopes, and that was about it. I wanted a bit more depth. I\’m probably being too hard on the book, after all it is written for middle grade or YA readers -kind of straddles the age groups in a way. The writing style and simplicity seem more appropriate for the younger set, but the discussions about God, evolution, questioning parental integrity, even some brief showing of early feminism, are more serious subject matter.

Rating: 2/5         259 pages, 2006

DISCLAIMER:

All books reviewed on this site are owned by me, or borrowed from the public library. Exceptions are a very occasional review copy sent to me by a publisher or author, as noted. Receiving a book does not influence my opinion or evaluation of it

SUBSCRIBE VIA EMAIL:

Subscribe to my blog:

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.

VIEW MY PERSONAL COLLECTION:

TRADE BOOKS WITH ME ON:

ARCHIVES: 

2021
January 2021 (14)February 2021 (13)March 2021 (14)April 2021 (7)May 2021 (10)June 2021 (5)July 2021 (10)August 2021 (27)September 2021 (9)
2020
January 2020 (14)February 2020 (6)March 2020 (10)April 2020 (1)May 2020 (10)June 2020 (15)July 2020 (13)August 2020 (26)September 2020 (10)October 2020 (9)November 2020 (16)December 2020 (22)
2019
January 2019 (12)February 2019 (9)March 2019 (5)April 2019 (10)May 2019 (9)June 2019 (6)July 2019 (18)August 2019 (13)September 2019 (13)October 2019 (7)November 2019 (5)December 2019 (18)
2018
January 2018 (17)February 2018 (18)March 2018 (9)April 2018 (9)May 2018 (6)June 2018 (21)July 2018 (12)August 2018 (7)September 2018 (13)October 2018 (15)November 2018 (10)December 2018 (13)
2017
January 2017 (19)February 2017 (12)March 2017 (7)April 2017 (4)May 2017 (5)June 2017 (8)July 2017 (13)August 2017 (17)September 2017 (12)October 2017 (15)November 2017 (14)December 2017 (11)
2016
January 2016 (5)February 2016 (14)March 2016 (5)April 2016 (6)May 2016 (14)June 2016 (12)July 2016 (11)August 2016 (11)September 2016 (11)October 2016 (9)November 2016 (1)December 2016 (3)
2015
January 2015 (9)February 2015 (9)March 2015 (11)April 2015 (10)May 2015 (10)June 2015 (2)July 2015 (12)August 2015 (13)September 2015 (16)October 2015 (13)November 2015 (10)December 2015 (14)
2014
January 2014 (14)February 2014 (11)March 2014 (5)April 2014 (15)May 2014 (12)June 2014 (17)July 2014 (22)August 2014 (19)September 2014 (10)October 2014 (19)November 2014 (14)December 2014 (14)
2013
January 2013 (25)February 2013 (28)March 2013 (18)April 2013 (21)May 2013 (12)June 2013 (7)July 2013 (13)August 2013 (25)September 2013 (24)October 2013 (17)November 2013 (18)December 2013 (20)
2012
January 2012 (21)February 2012 (19)March 2012 (9)April 2012 (23)May 2012 (31)June 2012 (21)July 2012 (19)August 2012 (16)September 2012 (4)October 2012 (2)November 2012 (7)December 2012 (19)
2011
January 2011 (26)February 2011 (22)March 2011 (18)April 2011 (11)May 2011 (6)June 2011 (7)July 2011 (10)August 2011 (9)September 2011 (14)October 2011 (13)November 2011 (15)December 2011 (22)
2010
January 2010 (27)February 2010 (19)March 2010 (20)April 2010 (24)May 2010 (22)June 2010 (24)July 2010 (31)August 2010 (17)September 2010 (18)October 2010 (11)November 2010 (13)December 2010 (19)
2009
January 2009 (23)February 2009 (26)March 2009 (32)April 2009 (22)May 2009 (18)June 2009 (26)July 2009 (34)August 2009 (31)September 2009 (30)October 2009 (23)November 2009 (26)December 2009 (18)
2008
January 2008 (35)February 2008 (26)March 2008 (33)April 2008 (15)May 2008 (29)June 2008 (29)July 2008 (29)August 2008 (34)September 2008 (29)October 2008 (27)November 2008 (27)December 2008 (24)
2007
August 2007 (12)September 2007 (28)October 2007 (27)November 2007 (28)December 2007 (14)
2006
2005
2004
2003
2002
2001
2000
1999
1998
1997
1996
1995
1994
1993
1992
1991
1990
1989
1988
1987
1986
1985
1984
1983
1982
1981
1980
1979
1978
1977
1976
1975
1974
1973
1972
1971
1970
1969
1968
1967
1966
1965
1964
1963
1962
1961
1960
1959
1958
1957
1956
1955
1954
1953
1952
1951
1950