Tag Archives: animals

Sea Otter Heroes by Patricia Newman

Sea Otter Heroes: The Predators That Saved an Ecosystem by Patricia Newman. January 1, 2017. Millbrook Press, 56 p. ISBN: 9781512426311.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 7.2; Lexile: 1060.

Marine biologist Brent Hughes didn’t think sea otters and sea grass had much in common. But his research at Elkhorn Slough, an estuary on Monterrey Bay in northern California, revealed a new and surprising connection between the two. The scientist expected this estuary to be overrun with algae due to the fertilizer runoff from surrounding fields. But it wasn’t. Why?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (February 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 11))
Grades 5-8. Though the cover of promises photographs of adorable, fluffy-faced otters, this volume packs a substantial amount of scientific detail as well. The main narrative follows marine biologist Brent Hughes and his study of Elkhorn Slough, which grew healthy seagrass while other inlets in similar conditions suffered. Eventually, careful research revealed that it was the presence of sea otters, the local apex predator, that allowed the slough to flourish. In four chapters, Newman details Hughes’ research processes and examines the workings of ecosystems in general and how its inhabitants affect it at every level. Illustrations include not only those irresistible otter photos but also scientific diagrams and photographs of Hughes’ experiments. A final chapter on conservation explains the often-damaging effect humans can have on ecosystems, while back matter includes relevant experiments, extensive secondary resources, and ways in which young people can help the environment on a daily basis. Not just an exploration of one particular discovery in marine biology, this is a comprehensive explanation of the scientific process as well.

Kirkus Reviews starred (February 15, 2017)
A young scientist’s doctoral research reveals a surprising relationship between sea grasses and sea otters in a California bay.Valuable sea grasses in Elkhorn Slough, in Northern California, were thriving in spite of heavy nutrient pollution from nearby Salinas Valley farms. When Brent Hughes began his investigation of this mystery, he looked at things directly affecting sea-grass growth, such as weather patterns. It wasn’t until he compared sea grass cover with otter population that he found a match. In discussions with other researchers, the young white biologist learned that otters like to eat big, meaty crabs, which feed on sea hares, a type of sea slug that in turn feeds on algae growth that smothers the grasses. Following usual procedures, he then designed experiments to prove his hypothesis that the thriving otter population made the sea grass flourish. This intriguing description of the problem he saw and his research process is a model of the scientific method. Interspersed with chapters describing the mystery, the development of the hypothesis, the proof, and the larger idea of “trophic cascades” (interactions among predators and prey that begin at the top of the food chain) are sections about otters and about sea-grass science in general. A map, ample photographs, and an attractive design add appeal, and there are sensible suggestions for environmental protection. A thoughtfully organized and attractively presented example of science in the field. (source notes, glossary, bibliography, suggested resources, index). (Nonfiction. 11-16)

About the Author

Writing for children is the hardest thing I’ve ever done—the field is intensely competitive. But I write because I can’t imagine not writing. I write for myself and for the kids who read my work. I write for the joy of seeing a kid sitting in the front row at a school visit, hand stretched high to answer my questions. I write for the kid who tells me he already owns one of my books and has read it 15 times.

Her website is www.patriciamnewman.com.

Teacher Resources

Sea Otter Heroes Teachers Guide

Around the Web

Sea Otter Heroes on Amazon

Sea Otter Heroes on Goodreads

Sea Otter Heroes on JLG

Sea Otter Heroes Publisher Page

A Dog in the Cave by Kay Frydenborg

A Dog in the Cave: The Wolves Who Made Us Human by Kay Frydenborg. March 14, 2017. HMH Books for Young Readers, 256 p. ISBN: 9780544286566.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 1400.

We know dogs are our best animal friends, but have you ever thought about what that might mean?

Fossils show we’ve shared our work and homes with dogs for tens of thousands of years. Now there’s growing evidence that we influenced dogs’ evolution—and they, in turn, changed ours. Even more than our closest relatives, the apes, dogs are the species with whom we communicate best.

Combining history, paleontology, biology, and cutting-edge medical science, Kay Frydenborg paints a picture of how two different species became deeply entwined—and how we co-evolved into the species we are today.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (February 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 11))
Grades 8-12. With vast scope and thorough research, Frydenborg (Wild Horse Scientists, 2012) explores the evolution of humans and their most constant companions. Dogs, she says, have been our most enduring partners since our earliest days, and as we tamed and domesticated them, they changed the course of our own development. Despite our long relationship with dogs, this co-evolution has been little discussed. Frydenborg begins in the Paleolithic era, explaining how fossils and cave paintings depict the first dogs, before moving on to examine the genetic history of wolves (and their fraught history with humans), the circumstances that may have led to the early partnering of canines and humans, and the ways in which dogs may have kept ancestors of the modern human from going extinct, as the Neanderthals did. Occasional insert sections provide details on some of the more scientific processes (radiocarbon dating, MRIs) and historical and modern anecdotes (the “dog fancy” that swept Victorian England; a wolf named Romeo who became friendly with residents of an Alaskan town), and full-color photos offer glimpses of scientific processes and ancient artwork, alongside images of wolves and dogs today. The tone is inviting and accessible, the topic high interest, and the research impeccable. This narrative blend of history and science belongs on all shelves.

Horn Book Magazine (January/February, 2017)
“Humankind’s best friend,” as Frydenborg amends the phrase, has been relatively understudied in scientific circles, but recent developments– particularly the 1994 discovery of dog tracks that rewrote the evolutionary timeline, DNA testing that allows us to more fully explore the connections between modern species and ancient ones, and MRI technology that allows us to monitor brain activity–have led to an increase in dog research across a variety of fields and disciplines. Those discoveries help us wonder, speculate, and understand how dogs evolved from wolves and how those dogs also helped us evolve into humans, a complicated dance of a process known as co-evolution. After setting the stage, Frydenborg goes back for a deep dive into some of these disciplines, most notably paleontology, genetics, and psychology, but she also takes frequent digressions into history and biology, some confined to sidebars, others woven into the main narrative. Evident throughout are the author’s passion and curiosity. Full-color photographs (not seen) are interspersed, while a glossary, source notes, a bibliography, and an index are appended. jonathan hunt

About the Author

Kay Frydenborg lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two dogs. She’s the author of numerous books for young readers including ChocolateWild Horse Scientists, They Dreamed of Horses, and Animal Therapist.

Her website is www.kayfrydenborg.com.

 

Around the Web

A Dog in the Cave on Amazon

A Dog in the Cave on Goodreads

A Dog in the Cave on JLG

A Dog in the Cave Publisher Page

Last of the Giants by Jeff Campbell

Last of the Giants: The Rise and Fall of Earth’s Most Dominant Species by Jeff Campbell. March 1, 2016. Zest Books, 272 p. ISBN: 9781942186045.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 1180.

Today, an ancient world is vanishing right before our eyes: the age of giant animals. Over 40,000 years ago, the earth was ruled by megafauna: mammoths and mastodons, saber-toothed tigers and giant sloths. Of course, those creatures no longer exist, due to the evolution and arrival of the wildly adaptive human species, among other factors. Many more of the world’s biggest and baddest creatures—including the black rhino, the dodo, giant tortoises, and the great auk—have vanished since our world became truly global. Last of the Giants chronicles those giant animals and apex predators who have been pushed to extinction in the modern era.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Harsh realities of the wilderness

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (April 15, 2016 (Vol. 112, No. 16))
Grades 8-12. Bigger is better—except when it comes to wildlife. Or at least that’s how mankind has reacted against giant species, causing what scientists are now calling “the sixth extinction.” Campbell opens with an explanation of this widespread wave of extinction and our crisis of coexistence with wildlife. He then focuses on 13 giant species that once thrived—until humans arrived. Using the unscientific term giant loosely, he includes 10 megafauna (a scientific term referring to animals 100 pounds or larger) as well as smaller species that dominated their surroundings. Also representing a variety of species alive in the modern era (the last 500 years), individual chapters are devoted to a range of animals, from lions, tigers, and the California grizzly to the giant tortoises of the Indian Ocean, baiji (a river dolphin), and the passenger pigeon. Complemented by graphic novel–style illustrations, each chapter looks at what life was like when humans were introduced to the animal and the role they had in the animal’s extinction. Campbell is careful, however, to place the human activity in its historical context. Emphasizing the connection between extinction and conservation throughout, the author also relates how scientists are trying to save similar, sub-, and hybrid species of those now extinct. These timely, important, and fascinating stories will encourage readers to save all life, no matter its size.

School Library Journal (April 1, 2016)
Gr 9 Up-The extinctions of giant (both in size and number) species at the mercy of nature and humanity turn out to be a fascinating and jarring lesson for our present. Chronicling the fates of aurochs, moa, passenger pigeons, and sea cows, alongside the unresolved destinies of today’s lions and tigers, this work gazes back at evolutionary history through a retrospect that, with the aid of Campbell’s humorous and scientific tone, is truly 20/20. Thankfully, the text’s explorations of these annihilated species are complex and perceptive and go beyond the usual worn conclusion of human-wrought woe. Mixing geology, ethnography, history, zoology, biology, industry, and sociology, Campbell demonstrates how interconnected Earth’s species and societies-human and nonhuman-are. By examining the complex web of evolution through the misfortunes of these lost species, the author drives home that our present is not a final, linear result of history but rather an ever-evolving system that needs care and attention. To that end, a “Call to Action” section laden with resources for the aspiring activist appears at the end; though there is no index, an extensive list of works cited illuminates a path for those who wish to read further. VERDICT Required reading for the budding naturalist and a good pairing for a STEM or history curriculum, too.-Chelsea Woods, New Brunswick Free Public Library, NJ

About the Author

Jeff Campbell is a freelance writer, book editor, and creative writing teacher. Most recently, he’s published two nonfiction books for young adults: Last of the Giants (Zest, 2016), about extinct and endangered animals, and Daisy to the Rescue (Zest, 2014), about animals saving humans and animal intelligence. For twelve years he was a travel writer for Lonely Planet, coauthoring over a dozen guidebooks to US destinations. As an editor for over twenty years, he has specialized in pop culture, self-help, sports, and YA fiction. He also teaches creative writing to kids and adults with the Writers Circle (NJ).

Her website is www.jeffcampbellbooks.com.

Teacher Resources

Last of the Giants Educator’s Guide

Around the Web

Last of the Giants on Amazon

Last of the Giants on Goodreads

Last of the Giants on JLG

Last of the Giants Publisher Page

Moo by Sharon Creech

Moo by Sharon Creech. August 30, 2016. HarperCollins, 241 p. ISBN: 9780062415240.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 6.3; Lexile: 790.

Zora was chasing us.

Mooooooooo. Mooooooooo.

When we reached the gate Luke scrambled up and over it instead of through it and I was trying to follow when Zora’s ENORMOUS HEAD loomed up below me and bumped me into the air

When twelve-year-old Reena, her little brother, Luke, and their parents move to Maine, Reena doesn’t know what to expect. She’s ready for beaches, blueberries, and all the lobster she can eat. Instead, her parents “volunteer” Reena and Luke to work for an eccentric neighbor named Mrs. Falala, who has a pig named Paulie, a cat named China, a snake named Edna—and one very ornery cow named Zora.

From Newbery Medal winner Sharon Creech comes a lovely and uplifting story of how a little kindness can change lives, reminding us that if you’re open to new experiences, life offers surprises.

Was there room inside for the sights and sounds and smells of Maine?

Would I know what to do and how to be in Maine?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Book Trailer

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist (July 2016 (Vol. 112, No. 21))
Grades 3-6. When 12-year-old Reena, her younger brother, and their parents move from New York City to a small town in Maine, the differences are apparent: a slower pace and a quieter place where the kids are free to bike around town on their own. Almost immediately, their mother volunteers their services to Mrs. Falala, an elderly Italian woman who needs help with her cow. From their first job, shoveling manure, they progress to putting a halter on moody Zora, the Belted Galloway cow they gradually befriend. Reena learns to show her at the upcoming fair. The first-person narrative, written partly in prose and partly in free verse, features a city girl facing challenges that strengthen her body and broaden her thinking. The cover design links it to Creech’s previous novels in verse, Love That Dog (2001) and Hate That Cat (2008), and with its distinctive near-rural setting, this highly readable, down-to-earth chapter book offers a refreshing change of pace from most realistic fiction.

Kirkus Reviews starred (June 1, 2016)
Newbery Medalist Creech touches on themes of loss, friendship, and belonging in this appealing tale of a young girl’s unlikely relationship with Zora, an enormous belted Galloway.When 12-year-old Reena’s parents lose their newspaper jobs in the big city, they decide to change the flight plan of their lives and move to a small coastal town in Maine. Reena and her brother, Luke, “a seven-year-old complexity,” are volunteered by their mother to help Mrs. Falala, an elderly and ostensibly cantankerous woman whose menagerie of animals includes a pig named Paulie, a cat named China, a snake named Edna, and the ornery, stubborn, slobbering, bellowing cow, Zora. Soon Luke is teaching Mrs. Falala to draw, and Reena is preparing to show Zora at the upcoming fair. The book’s playful use of words sets this novel apart. Not only does Creech seamlessly intersperse prose and poetry, but the design manipulates typeface, font, setting, and spacing to paint word-pictures, in some instances creating concrete poetry while in others emphasizing a few words on the page–an accentuation that makes the story come alive and deftly communicates the range of emotions, from humor to sorrow, that the story conveys. Luke, Reena, and most of their new neighbors are likely white; Beat, an older girl who helps Reena learn about cows, is dark-skinned. Fans of Love That Dog (2001) and Hate That Cat (2010) will find much to love in this story of a girl, a cow, and so much more. (Fiction. 8-12)

About the Author

Sharon Creech was born in South Euclid, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland.  She is the author of several books for adults and young adults, including the Newbery Medal winning Walk Two Moons.

She currently lives in Maine with her husband, Lyle Rigg, and has two grown children, Rob and Karin.

Her website is www.sharoncreech.com.

 

Teacher Resources

Teach Creech Teaching Guide (Including Moo)

The World of Sharon Creech Teaching Guide (Including Moo)

Around the Web

Moo on Amazon

Moo on Goodreads

Moo on JLG

Moo Publisher Page