Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Beneath the Waves: Celebrating the Ocean Through Pictures, Poems, and Stories by Stephanie Warren Drimmer

Beneath the Waves: Celebrating the Ocean 
Through Pictures, Poems, and Stories
by Stephanie Warren Drimmer
National Geographic Kids, 2021, 192 pages

This year's Earth Day theme is "Restore the Earth" and what better place to begin than with the earth's oceans. After all, there is more ocean on earth than there is land, and unfortunately, it has become a dumping ground for a lot of man-made garbage, making it a good place to begin restoring. But before that, it would be good to get to know the oceans...and Beneath the Waves is the perfect place to begin. If you look at the Table of Contents you can see that it is a book chockablock with information accompanied by some wonderful poetry and many exquisite photographs.

The book begins with an explanation of the three ocean zones. There is the sunlit zone, the twilight zone, and the midnight zone and readers will learn that each one is a world unto itself. As you can see, the book is arranged in eleven chapters beginning at the ocean's edge and ending in the extreme ocean depths. The last chapter looks at People and Oceans.

Each chapter includes two-page spreads on each of the topics covered, and includes lots of relevant interesting factoids. For example, in On the Beach readers discover what a beach is and how those tiny grains of sand are created. There is also information on sea shells and all different kinds of beach living creatures, from crabs to turtles and beach birds (yes, there's many more than just seagulls waiting to snatch the ice cream right off your cone). 

Throughout the book, each chapter ends with a section called Sea Sleuths that looks at a topic relative to the chapter's subject matter. Why is the Sea Salty?, The Myth of Mermaids, The Myth of the Kraken, and The Search for Longitude are just some of what readers will marvel at. 

The next chapter, Between Two Worlds, looks at animals that live on both land and in the water. Here you will meet swimming lizards and creatures most of us are familiar with - seal and sea lions. Interesting factoid: do you know the difference between a seal and a seal lion? And that seals share their ancestry with dogs? There are also a wide variety of sea birds here, too. And in some parts of the world, there are crocodiles and even some fish that will leave the water and fly through the air. 

Chapter Three, Wading In, begins with a look at the different kinds of sea snails living in the ocean, and the variety of colorful boneless echinoderms or spiny creatures such as sand dollars and sea urchins. This is followed by a chapter on Reef Life, all about the different kinds of colorful coral reefs that flourish in the tropical parts of the ocean and the wide variety of marine species that dwell in these coral reefs.

Leaving the shallower waters, the next few chapter explore the deeper parts of the ocean. First up are Ocean Forests, what they are, for example, eel-grass, seaweed, and kelp. and who lives there, creatures like crabs, leafy sea dragons, octopuses, and the enemy of ocean forests, the spiny sea urchin and the enemy of the sea urchin, the otter, among others that readers will learn about. 

The next chapter introduces The Open Ocean, which covers more than half the earth and is more than two miles deep. This is the home to animals like the giant blue whale and the tiny plankton. In between, there are jelly fish, schools of different kinds of fish, sea creatures like the cuttlefish, which is really part of the mollusk family and not a fish at all. Like octopuses and squids, they have the ability to change their skin pattern, color and texture to blend into their surroundings and fool any hungry predators. And of course, the open ocean is home to sharks and dolphins.

Chapter Seven, On the Move, follows those ocean creatures that are either swimming in search of food or breeding grounds or hitching a ride on these distance swimmers. Readers learn about the journey of salmon, humpback whales, and leatherback sea turtles, as well as hitchhikers like seahorses and barnacles. There is also information on the many migrating sea birds.

In Life on the Icy Edge, readers heads to the north and south poles to learn about penguins, seals, walruses, polar bears, orcas and narwhals, and there is an informative 2 page Sea Sleuths spread called Arctic Experts, all about the Inuit, the indigenous people living there and who know the arctic better than anyone. 

In the next chapter, Deep Down, readers enter the twilight zone, where sunlight no longer filters in and there is just blackness. Here there are some really strange sea creatures to discover, such as the hatchetfish, the Sloan's viper, and the lanternfish.

Chapter 10 brings readers into the Extreme Ocean, the least known place on earth. Here there are "mountains, geysers that spew superheated noxious water, and all kinds of living things that make these alien places their home." (pg 159) And this is where shipwrecks provide a home for all kinds of deep water species, like sear stars, crabs and fish.

Finally, Chapter 11 is about People and Oceans. This includes spreads on the history of ocean exploration, the importance of oceans, ways of protecting oceans and their occupants, and finally, how people have polluted our oceans and why I chose this book to highlight Earth Day 2021.

Beneath the Waves make the ocean sound like a pretty amazing place - beautiful, scary, powerful, busy, and necessary for sustaining life on earth. Thankfully, this book ends on a note of hope - "...success stories [that] show. when people step in to help, they can make a difference.' (pg 184)

Wondering what kids can do for Earth Day and every day after, and to help clean up and restore the ocean? You can find all kinds of activities and projects just right for youngsters at National Geographic Kids Celebrates Earth Day.

Or visit the official Earth Day website HERE

Meet the Author:                                                                                            Stephanie Warren Drimmer writes books and magazine stories for kids. She covers all topics weird and wonderful, including adorable animals, freaky brain experiments, and the hunt for new planets. She is a longtime contributor to National Geographic Kids magazine and has written many books for National Geographic kids, including Hey, Baby!, Mastermind, The Book of Heroines, Ultimate Secrets Revealed, and Ultimate Weatherpedia. Drimmer studied science journalism at New York University. You can find Stephanie on, and on Twitter @Stephdrimmer 

This book is recommended for readers age 8+
This book was received from Media Masters Publicity in exchange for a review

Monday, April 12, 2021

Ancestor Approved: Intertribal Stories for Kids by Cynthia Leitich Smith, editor

First, I was attracted to the cover illustration, which I think is great. Then, I was attracted to the title, thinking it was going to be a collection of family history stories (because of the word Ancestor in the title). What it is, however, is a collection of 16 contemporary short stories and two poems that are centered around the University of Michigan powwow that is held each year at Skyline High School in Ann Arbor, Michigan (except 2020 and 2021 because of COVID-19).

The stories begin with a poem called "What is a Powwow?" by Kim Rogers who writes that it is about family, friends, and remembering those who have passed on, it is also dancing in regalia made with love, and eating fry bread and corn soup, and healing and soul-soothing. And these are just some aspects of what you will find in the stories that follow. 

One of the things I really loved about this collection is the way they connect to each other. Characters show up in different stories. For example, there is a story called "Joey Reads the Sky" by Dawn Quigley. Joey's mom sells the World Best Fry Bread and this fry bread stand also briefly appears in "Bad Dog"  by Joseph Bruchac and "Between the Lines" by Cynthia Leitich Smith. One of my favorite stories is called "Rez Dog Rules" by Rebecca Roanhorse, about a dog named Ozzie with no master who travels to the Powwow with Marino. Marino is hoping to sell his silk screen T-shirts celebrating Native identity and culture to help out his grandma. At one point, Ozzie wiggles into a T-shirt that says Ancestor Approved on it and becomes a walking advertisement. The story is told from Ozzie's point of view, and he briefly appears in "Flying Together" by Kim Rogers, "Brothers" by David A. Robertson, "Wendigos Don't Dance" by Art Coulson, "Senecavajo: Alan's Story" by Brian Young, "What We Know About Glaciers" by Christine Day, and "Between the Line"s by Cynthis Leitich Smith. Connecting the stories to each other like this gives the reader a sense of continuity and the sense like they are also there, to the point where I could feel the beat of the drums as the dancers danced. And I could most definitely taste the fry bread, one of my favorite things about having lived in Arizona for a while.

The stories are varied, ranging from lighthearted to very serious. There are a number of different nations represented, including Ojibwa, Choctaw, Cree, Cherokee, Navajo, Haudenosaunee, and Abenaki, and there is a smattering of words in the various Native languages throughout. I was also stunned by the impressive descriptions of the regalia that is made and worn by the dancers. By the end of the book, I had developed a much deeper appreciation for the importance of Powwow than I had had before, mainly because these stories were so informative about them. And yes, anyone can go to a powwow, just learn what the etiquette is if you are not Native.  

Back matter includes Notes and Acknowledgements for each story and the poems, and a Glossary of all the Native words used in the stories and the Nation they belong to. This is followed by short biographies of the different writers.

Ancestor Approved is a wonderful collection that introduces young readers, as Cynthia Leitich Smith writes, to "the diversity of the intertribal Native and First Nations community, of each Indigenous Nation within it, and of young Native heroes." I was so happy to read this and discover they are perfect for middle grade readers because so often anthologies like this are geared toward young adult readers and, believe me, these are stories not to be missed. 

This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was an eARC gratefully received from Edelweiss+ 

Friday, April 9, 2021

Bruno the Beekeeper: A Honey Primer written and illustrated by Aneta Františka Holasová

Bruno the Beekeeper: A Honey Primer
written and illustrated by Aneta Františka Holasová,
translated from the original Czech by Andrew Lass
Candlewick Press, 2021, 80 pages

There is something about bees and beekeeping that has always fascinated me. But since we have begun to hear so much about hive collapse and the dire predictions of what would happen if there were no bees to pollinate plants and flowers, my interest has grown. Bruno the Beekeeper is a book just right for kids who may be interested in bees, too.

It is the story of Bruno the bear beekeeper and his grandma, who helps him. The book begins with some basic bee facts, such as detailed drawings of bees and similar flying insects that will help kids sort through a world of lookalikes. This is followed by pages devoted to the worker bee, whose important role is hive maintenance and security, guarding the hive; the drone who keeps the hive stocked with bees by passing on sperm to the queen bee; and the queen, whose main job is to lay eggs that she then fertilizes with the sperm she received from the drone. There is also a detailed illustration for each bee showing their metamorphosis as well as a labeled anatomical closeup of each adult bee.

Also included in this section is a two page spread showing the hive a beekeeper uses and it parts, with a brief explanation of of what each part is and why it is needed, a two page spread showing the beekeeper's clothing, and a two page spread showing bee parasites and predators. 

Once these basics are understood, Bruno's beekeeping activities begin in Late Summer and Fall, which I thought was odd but once I read through this section, I understood why the author began here. This is when a good beekeeper like Bruno removes the supers and the honey frames that contain the honeycombs. These are cleaned of residue wax and put away for the winter, and all Bruno has to do until Spring is check that they bees are buzzing.

Come spring, Bruno reverses the process and supers up, putting the hives together. This is also the time when you might hear about bees swarming and a number of reasons why this happens is given.

Once summer comes, and the flowers are in bloom, honey making is in full swing and Bruno and grandma being harvesting the honey-filled combs using the honey extractor. When that is done, the honey is put into jar to be used and Bruno beings the yearly cycle all over again, beginning with taking apart the supers.

Bruno the Beekeeper is a interesting look at so many different aspects to beekeeping including all kinds of useful information about bees and their life cycle. I did find it a little disconcerting at first that Bruno is an anthropomorphized bear while grandma is an elderly woman, but the two work so well together that I quickly got past that and focused on their activities and the information at each step in the honey making process.

The writing may feel a little stiff at first, but remember, it was translated from the Czech into English, and there is a lot of technical information included which may account for that, but the translator did keep the humor of the original book. And it really isn't Bruno story as much as it is the story of bees and how we get honey. The author did the watercolor illustrations in various shades of honey browns and beiges with touches of humor throughout (check out the bee faces). 

All in all, this is a very nice STEM book, and one that you might want to consider including in your Earth Day library at home and/or in the classroom. There is much to be learned and appreciated in this picture book for older readers.

Be sure to check out the recipe for gingerbread cookies at the end of the book. They sound sooooo good!

This book is recommended for readers 7+
I received this book from Candlewick Press in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, April 5, 2021

Blog Tour and Giveaway: You Were Made For Me by Jenna Guillaume


Welcome to the You Were Made for Me Blog Tour!

You Were Made For Me by Jenna Guillaume
Peachtree Publishing, 2021, 320 pages

Buy | Add on Goodreads

YA author Jenna Guillaume is back with a fun and modern feminist twist on the 1985 pop cult film Weird Science.

Sixteen-year-old Katie Camilleri can’t believe she’s accidentally created a teenage boy. A boy six-feet tall with floppy hair and eyes like the sky on a clear summer’s day. A boy whose lips taste like cookie dough and whose skin smells like springtime. A boy completely devoted to Katie. But silly musings and kitchen antics with her best friend, Libby, have definitely taken a whimsical twist into something bigger than Katie could have ever daydreamed. Turns out the consequences of fumbling a human being into existence are rather complicated. More importantly, does Guy, the golden Adonis Katie’s created, like her because he wants to, or because he has to? And will he be Katie’s very first kiss?

From the author of What I Like About Me comes a hilarious feminist twist on a classic narrative, loaded with laughs, mishaps, and plenty of 80s and 90s pop-culture callbacks. Jenna Guillaume’s entertaining romantic comedy novel features a humorous and relatable voice and will appeal to fans of Jenny Han.

Praise for You Were Made For Me
“Plenty of early 2000s rom-com vibes and lighthearted mishaps… Guillaume’s cinematic story weaves together beloved romantic comedy tropes touched with magic—or is it science?—and drops them into a fresh, contemporary setting. Despite the playful tone, this isn’t without nuance, taking on serious topics such as male body image, friendship, and asexuality.” —Booklist

To celebrate the release of You Were Made for Me by Jenna Guillaume on April 1st, blogs across the web are featuring original content from Jenna, as well as 10 chances to win the hardcover!

You Were Made for Me Deleted Scene

by Jenna Guillaume

This is a deleted scene from the first draft of You Were Made for Me. If you read the book, you may notice that there is a similar scene in the final version of the book. It serves the same purpose—introduces Theo, reinforces Katie’s desperation to have her first kiss, and establishes her and Libby’s boredom which leads to their experimentation and the creation of the “perfect” boy.

There are a bunch of reasons why this scene evolved from what it is below to what you see in the finished book—one of them was that I wanted to take out the reference to Never Been Kissed, because it felt like one too many old school pop culture nods for a modern book. Theo changed slightly as a character from what you see here, too. But I did really like some of the banter between him, Libby, and Katie, so I’m glad to be able to share it now!


“We could…watch a movie?” I said.

“Hooooow?” Libby whined. “The internet’s down.”

“My mum has a bunch of DVDs.”

“What is this, 2007?”

After a good ten minutes of staring at my mum’s dust-covered DVD collection, we ended up picking this old rom-com starring Drew Barrymore called Never Been Kissed. Libby and I stretched out on the lounge with the plate of warm cookies between us. Max snuggled at my feet and cast longing looks at the cookies. 

We hadn’t got far into the movie when I heard the back door slide open. Theo sauntered in, the shoulders of his hoodie darkened from the rain, his shaggy hair dripping wet. I mumbled a “hey” and turned back to the screen. Libby didn’t even look up. She was used to Theo waltzing in like he owned the place. He was in the year above us at school, and he lived in this little granny flat behind his dad’s house next door. Well, it was just a bedroom with an en suite really, there was no kitchen or anything, but still. He was so lucky to have his own space. Even though he was at mine half the time anyway. He liked to jump the back fence rather than walk all the way around to the front door, and he always seemed to show up when Dad had cooked something good, or I’d baked. Completely coincidentally, I’m sure.

 Without a word, he flopped down on the lounge next to me. I tutted and looked pointedly at his wet clothes before sliding over to make more room for him, moving the cookies onto my lap. He pulled off his hoodie and used the inside of it to dry off his hair. Then he grabbed a cookie and settled back into the lounge. Max jumped up and tried to cram his huge body onto Theo’s legs. He’s a total traitor to me whenever Theo’s around. Theo laughed and shuffled closer to me to make room for Max on the other side of him. He was rewarded with a few big sloppy licks to his face. From Max, I mean—not from me, obviously. 

By the time the movie was over, the cookies were gone and my foot was asleep.  

“That’s going to be me in the future,” I said with a moan, getting up and shaking my leg around to get feeling back into it.

“What, making out with your teacher on a baseball field?” Libby said. “Super gross, by the way. I don’t care if she was secretly an adult, he thought she was a student. Why do teachers always hook up with teenagers in these things? It’s all kinds of wrong.”

“I dunno, if I had a teacher who looked like that…”

“Ewwwww, Katie!”

“What, you wouldn’t make out with Mr O’Malley?” Theo said, making kissing noises. O’Malley was an English teacher at our school who was at least 105 years old.

“At this rate, I’ll probably have to. I’m going to be 25 and never been kissed. Just call me Josie Grossie.”

“We would never do that,” Theo said. I almost smiled in gratitude, but then he said, “It’s not your name. You’re more like… Katie Latey.”

“Hey, that’s not fair,” Libby chimed in. “Don’t you know, she’s Kate now. So it’d be…Kate the Late.”

“Oh you’re both just hilarious aren’t you,” I said as the two of them cracked up. “It’s alright for you! You’re kissing a new girl every week,” I gestured to Theo and then turned to Libby, “and you’ve been with Michael since you were practically in nappies.” Libby’s boyfriend went to the selective school in town. They only saw each other on occasional weekends, but they’d been going out since Year 6. 

Libby rolled her eyes. “Should we order pizza?”

“I’m 15 years old,” I said, not done with the subject yet. “It’s beyond ridiculous at this point.”

You’re the one being ridiculous,” Libby said.

” am not.”

“You are too! There are plenty of people our age who’ve never kissed anyone.” 

“Name one,” I said.

Libby’s lips tightened and she looked away.

“See! You can’t.”

No response.

“Face it, I’m a freak.” 

Libby’s head snapped my way, and there was anger in her eyes. She opened her mouth to say something, but Theo broke in before she got the chance.

“God, if it bothers you that much, I’ll do it,” he said. 


“I’ll kiss you.” He could not have sounded less enthused if he tried.

“Gee, thanks!”

“What? It’s a bona fide offer.”

“I’m not a charity case.”

“Well stop whinging, then.”

“You don’t get it. My first kiss can’t be just anyone. It’s got to be someone special. Someone perfect.”

Theo shook his head. “Huh. Good luck with that. Forget 25, you’ll be the only person in the retirement village who’s never been kissed.” He stood up and flung his hoodie over his shoulder. 

“What are you on about?”

“Nobody’s perfect, KC.” He gave Max a pat on the head. “Well, except maybe Maxie. Hey, he gives you kisses all the time! There you go, problem sorted.”

Theo’s back was already to me as he headed for the door, so he didn’t see the middle finger I was sticking up at him. He wouldn’t have cared even if he did. 


Blog Tour Schedule:

3/29 - BookhoundsYA
3/30 - Book Briefs
3/31 - Novel Novice
4/1 - The Fandom
4/2 - YA Book Nerd

 4/5 - Randomly Reading
4/6 - Crossroad Reviews
4/7 - The Young Folks
4/8 - A Dream Within a Dream
4/9 - I'm All Booked Up

Follow Jenna: Website | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

About the Author: Jenna Guillaume was the editor-at-large for BuzzFeed Australia, where she wrote about very important things like pop culture, identity, feminism, social media, and Chris Hemsworth's biceps. Previously, she spent more than half a decade in the features department of Girlfriend magazine, editing the sealed section (yes, all those questions are real), and writing about everything from bullying and body image to bad kisses and boy bands. She was also a contributor to Girlfriend Life Hacks, an essential guide to navigating a girl's completely-awkward-but-totally-awesome teen years.


  • 1 winner will receive a finished copy of You Were Made for Me
  • Check out the other tour stops for more chances to win!
  • US/Canada only
  • Ends 11:59pm ET on 4/18

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Friday, April 2, 2021

Knight of the Cape (Definitely Dominguita #1) by Terry Catasús Jennings, illustrated by Fatima Anaya

Knight of the Cape (Definitely Dominguita #1)
by Terry Catasús Jennings, illustrated by Fatima Anaya
Aladdin/Simon & Schuster, 2021, 144 pages

There's a new chapter book series in town and it's all about a girl with a great big imagination. Cuban American Dominguita Melendez loves to read even more than playing with the other kids in her class during recess. Lately, she's been reading Don Quijote, a book her grandmother loves, to feel closer to her abuela who has recently moved to Florida. But when the class bully, Ernie Bublassi, demands to know why she's reading it, she tells him she's studying to become a knight. Throwing the book into the playground dirt, he tells her girls can't be knights, making Dominguita all that much more determined to do exactly that and go questing for adventure...and to help people in distress.

Dominguita turns to her older brother Rafi for help. Maybe he could write a book about her knightly deeds to send to their abuela? Rafi agrees after finding out that one of the Bublassi bullies is behind Dominguita's idea - he has had run-ins of his own with Ernie's older brothers. The Bublassi's are the biggest bullies in otherwise quiet and friendly Mundytown.

Before long, Dominguita has acquired a lance, a helmet, some armor, and a cape and is transformed into Dom Capote. She also adds a squire named Pancho Sanchez and a trusty steed/stray dog named Rocinante or Roco for short, but will they find adventure on their quests besides rescuing stray bunnies from cats? Yes, indeed. Leave it to the Bublassi bullies to help Dom and Pancho find a new addition to their quests - Stephanie, after one of the Bublassi takes her leg brace. The three new friends roam around Mundytown and perform good deeds, but can they finally put an end to the Bublassi's bullying once and for all? 

This is a charming story about a young girl's adventures and how she finds new friends. Dom had also hoped that asking Rafi to help her write her adventures who serve to bring them close together again. Ever since he began high school, Rafi has had not time for Dom and they used to have so much fun together. 

I liked that both of Dominguita's parents and her brother Rafi are supportive of her adventures, though they encourage her to make new friends, too. Mundytown is such a friendly place to live. Even when Dom can't pay for her lunch at Pancho's uncle's restaurant, he gives her a job to do to work off the cost instead of getting mad. And the grocery store owner, Mr. Kowalski, is more than willing to go along with things and knight Dom with his heirloom sword. 

This is the first book in a new series, and like all first books, much of this one is spent setting the premise for future books. In fact, Book #2, Captain Dom's Treasure is already available (watch this space) and in August, Book #3, All for One, will also be available. These are sure to provide some good reading for younger elementary school kids looking for some fun books.  

And just in case you are wondering, yes, Knight of the Cape does include a windmill.  

This book is recommended for readers age 7+
This book was an ARC gratefully received from Barbara Fisch at Blue Slip Media
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