Children’s Book News: November-December 2021

Children’s non-fiction is an area which is often ignored. When children go to the library, their focus naturally tends towards picture books, juvenile fiction, and graphic novels. As a result, we have attempted to make our non-fiction shelves in the Pearl Children’s Room a bit more enticing. Instead of simply labeling the shelves with Dewey Decimal Numbers, we have added category labels. The labels still include a Dewey Decimal Number, but also the name of a specific category along with a corresponding colorful picture. So, if a child wants to read about dinosaurs or pirates, there is a label for books in that section. Such labels also encourage browsing, which Dewey Decimal labels alone do not. Next time you and your child are in the library, take time to explore this often-ignored section. You might even find a book that entices your curiosity as I often do!

All Thirteen, The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys’ Soccer Team, by Christina Soontornvat

2021 awards: Newbery Honor Book, Robert F. Sibert Honor Book, Excellence in Young Adult Nonfiction Finalist

Suggested ages: 9-13 years

Most adults will recall the harrowing rescue in 2018 of the Thai soccer team trapped in Tham Luang cave for eighteen days. Every day news reports, often with little progress to announce, were shared around the world of the dire situation these young boys and their coach had found themselves in. Though we are all aware of the amazingly successful outcome, in reading All Thirteen we become engrossed in a captivating true-life tale.

Soontornvat begins by recounting the day, June 23, when the town of Mai Sai’s Wild Boar soccer team winds up their afternoon practice with Coach Ek’s suggestion of an outing to The Cave of the Sleeping Lady. This was one of many outings the coach had led to provide opportunities for outdoor recreation for the team. Here, Soontornvat introduces the reader to the coach and the 12 boys, who soon become the 13 individuals we are pulling for throughout the book.

Day by day, we follow along with a local rescue team soon supported by the Thai Navy SEALS, a US Air Force Special Tactics Squadron, the A-team of British Cave Rescuers, water engineers, and many more volunteers. The author explains in vivid detail, the job of each, their successes and failures, supported by diagrams and color photos.

Another aspect of All Thirteen which contributes to its value and importance, are the frequent inserts which promote an understanding of the Thai culture and its influence on many of the individuals involved in this story—these highlight Buddhism in Thailand, the importance in Thai culture of respect and good graces, along with the value of meditation. All Thirteen is an incredible story of courage, unity of purpose, and the spiritual connection felt among us all.

The Elephant Scientist, by Caitlin O’Connell and Donna M. Jackson, photographs by Caitlin O’Connell and Timothy Rodwell

A 2012 Robert F. Sibert Honor Book

Suggested ages: 10-12 years

Most young people are intrigued by the members of the animal world. One of the more fascinating creatures is the elephant, about which scientists, such as Caitlin O’Connell, have discovered remarkable traits and abilities. 

O’Connell traveled to Etosha National Park in Namibia to study African elephants in their natural habitat. Being that African elephants are the largest living land mammals in the world, facts regarding their physical stature and appearance easily captivate. But besides their physicality, O’Connell concentrated her research on elephants’ behaviors and relationships with one another.

Motivated by her desire to protect them, she discovered remarkable abilities which elephants possess to communicate with one another. The book is filled with marvelous photos which demonstrate the careful experiments and observations O’Connell made, telling the story of her insights into this sensitive animal.  Through photos and text, one learns about the methods of scientific research as well as gains an appreciation and sense of wonder with regards to this extraordinary animal. The Elephant Scientist not only informs but may also open up a world which a young reader might wish to delve into further.

Astronomy Lab for Kids – 52 Family-Friendly Activities, by Michelle Nichols, M. Ed.

Suggested ages: 8-12 years

If you homeschool your child, this is a perfect guide to have on hand when exploring the topic of astronomy. Even if your children are not homeschooled, the activities are ones that may be engaged in during the summer months or for a science project during the school year.

Topics include light, motion, and gravity as well as our solar system and the stars. Each “Lab” presents new concepts and vocabulary in an easily-accessible fashion. Time, materials, safety tips, and setup hints are found in a highlighted column which one can refer to before reading over the comprehensive steps to the activity. Following that are again highlighted columns which cover “the science behind the fun” and for those who wish to go further, “creative enrichment.” Colored photos supplement the text. 

The Lab for Kids is an excellent series covering a wide variety of topics—from geology to bugs, from art to math. If there is interest in having any additional Lab for Kids books (check them out on the internet), contact the front desk and they can pass on your interest to me.