Zoo Scientists cover

Zoo Scientists cover

by Patri­cia New­man, pho­tographs by Annie Crawley
Mill­brook Press/August 1, 2017
Grades 4–8, 64 pages

Here’s what the pub­lish­er says:

Zoos take care of ani­mals and wel­come vis­i­tors of all ages, but that’s not all zoos do. Author Patri­cia New­man and pho­tog­ra­ph­er Annie Craw­ley bring read­ers behind the scenes at three zoos to meet sci­en­tists work­ing to save endan­gered animals.
Mered­ith Bas­tian’s expe­ri­ences study­ing wild orang­utans help edu­cate both zoo vis­i­tors and the zoo work­ers who care for cap­tive orang­utans. Jeff Baugh­man breeds black-foot­ed fer­rets and rein­tro­duces them into the wild. And Rachel San­tymire exam­ines poop from black rhi­noc­er­os­es at the zoo and in their nat­ur­al habi­tat to ben­e­fit all black rhi­nos. Find out how zoo sci­en­tists are help­ing us learn more about these remark­able, at-risk species before it’s too late!
Fea­tures: Author Biog­ra­phy, Bib­li­og­ra­phy, Full-Col­or Pho­tographs, Fur­ther Read­ing, Glos­sary, Index, Maps, Pri­ma­ry Source Quo­ta­tions, Websites

The pro­fes­sion­al review­ers liked it:

“Many kids are famil­iar with zoos, but there’s much more to these attrac­tions than an oppor­tu­ni­ty to see ani­mals up close. New­man shines a light on the impor­tant work zoo sci­en­tists do to aid con­ser­va­tion and con­tribute impor­tant research, both at zoo labs and in the wild. This engag­ing­ly writ­ten book focus­es on three sci­en­tists and their work pro­tect­ing and research­ing orang­utans, black-foot­ed fer­rets, and black rhi­noc­er­os­es, respec­tive­ly. Each sci­en­tist describes his or her back­ground, research in the wild, chal­lenges to con­ser­va­tion efforts, and how zoo labs help them do their work. Pho­tos of the sci­en­tists in the field, as well as their ani­mal research sub­jects, enlivens the already fas­ci­nat­ing mate­r­i­al. New­man clear­ly describes the con­di­tions that led to each species becom­ing endan­gered and encour­ages read­ers to think care­ful­ly about their own actions in light of threats to wildlife. Though the book appears slim, the con­tent is fair­ly dense, so this will like­ly appeal more to mid­dle-grade read­ers. Hand this to kids who can’t get enough of the Sci­en­tists in the Field series.” —Book­list

“In this incred­i­bly infor­ma­tive book, read­ers learn about three zoo sci­en­tists who are work­ing to save three species (orang­utans, black-foot­ed fer­rets, and wild black rhi­nos) using a vari­ety of meth­ods, from con­ser­va­tion edu­ca­tion to breed­ing pro­grams. New­man also includes ideas on how stu­dents can con­tribute to con­ser­va­tion efforts, such as reduc­ing palm oil usage. Var­i­ous zoos and orga­ni­za­tions that focus on con­ser­va­tion are also men­tioned; for exam­ple, biobanks, where sci­en­tists freeze the sperm and eggs of var­i­ous species in order to pro­tect it from a cat­a­stroph­ic loss. The pho­tographs show the ani­mals as well as the sci­en­tists and effec­tive­ly enhance the infor­ma­tion pre­sent­ed. Sev­er­al charts, includ­ing one com­par­ing apes and mon­keys, add a deep­er lev­el of under­stand­ing. Maps of the orig­i­nal and cur­rent habi­tats of the crea­tures are help­ful in visu­al­iz­ing how the earth has changed over the years. A great book for research or for stu­dents inter­est­ed in con­ser­va­tion. School Library Journal

And here are my thoughts:
I real­ly enjoyed this book. As the Book­list review above says, the book is quite slim, so I was not expect­ing to learn as much as I did once I cracked the cov­er! On the one hand, I did­n’t want to put the book down, because I was so engrossed in the sto­ries and infor­ma­tion. On the oth­er, it was nice­ly bro­ken up into the three sep­a­rate sto­ries fol­low­ing three sep­a­rate sci­en­tists and their efforts to help three spe­cif­ic species, so it was easy to pick up where I’d left off when I was forced to walk away for a bit. The sci­ence is fas­ci­nat­ing, the human sto­ries are com­pelling, and the gor­geous pho­tog­ra­phy brings it all to life right before your eyes. I’ve been ambiva­lent about zoos my whole life. I love ani­mals, so I love being able to see them… but I also want them to live as hap­pi­ly and nat­u­ral­ly as pos­si­ble. This book helped me see a dif­fer­ent side of zoos that I have heard about but nev­er real­ly had a chance to explore in much detail or depth, the con­ser­va­tion aspect. I admire the sci­en­tists pro­filed in this book and the work that they’re doing, and I am grate­ful to Patri­cia New­man and Annie Craw­ley for shar­ing their sto­ries with us.
Final­ly, watch the trail­er to see some of the peo­ple and ani­mals from the book!

Review: POISON by Sarah Albee

POISON interior

POISON cover

by Sarah Albee
Pen­guin Ran­dom House/September 05, 2017
Mid­dle Grade (8–12), 192 pages

Here’s what the pub­lish­er says:

Sci­ence geeks and arm­chair detec­tives will soak up this non-lethal, humor­ous account of the role poi­sons have played in human his­to­ry. Per­fect for STEM enthusiasts!
For cen­turies, peo­ple have been poi­son­ing one another—changing per­son­al lives and the course of empires alike.
From spurned spous­es and rivals, to con­demned pris­on­ers like Socrates, to endan­gered emper­ors like Alexan­der the Great, to mod­ern-day lead­ers like Joseph Stal­in and Yass­er Arafat, poi­son has played a star­ring role in the demise of count­less indi­vid­u­als. And those are just the delib­er­ate poi­son­ings. Med­ical mishaps, greedy “snake oil” sales­men and food con­t­a­m­i­nants, poi­so­nous Pro­hi­bi­tion, and indus­tri­al tox­ins also impact­ed millions.
Part his­to­ry, part chem­istry, part who­dunit, Poi­son: Dead­ly Deeds, Per­ilous Pro­fes­sions, and Mur­der­ous Med­i­cines traces the role poi­sons have played in his­to­ry from antiq­ui­ty to the present and shines a ghoul­ish light on the dead­ly inter­sec­tion of human nature … and Moth­er Nature.

The pro­fes­sion­al review­ers have weighed in favorably:

“[Albee’s] light tone makes this mor­bid, well-researched study a sin­is­ter indul­gence.“—Book­list starred review

A com­pelling, enter­tain­ing, and infor­ma­tive intro­duc­tion to a sin­is­ter aspect of human his­to­ry.” Kirkus Reviews
“There’s plen­ty of mate­r­i­al here to delight fans of [Geor­gia] Bragg’s pop­u­lar How They Croaked.” —The Bul­letin
Ide­al for read­ers, includ­ing reluc­tant ones, who delight in the sci­ence and scare fac­tor of poi­sons or grotesque med­i­cine.” —School Library Journal

And here are my thoughts:
This book is deli­cious­ly dark fun! Sarah Albee’s POISON is the per­fect mix of sci­ence, his­to­ry, mys­tery, and enter­tain­ment, and read­ers of many dif­fer­ent gen­res will be thor­ough­ly engaged by this book. I know I was! From ancient times to today (and beyond!), Albee shows us how poisons–both nat­ur­al and man-made–have affect­ed humans lives and cul­ture. The facts are shock­ing and fas­ci­nat­ing, but bro­ken down in a way that makes them acces­si­ble. There’s also a ton of humor to bal­ance the heavy sub­ject mat­ter, with puns and sar­casm galore, espe­cial­ly in the titles and cap­tions. And all of it is tied togeth­er with a com­pelling design fea­tur­ing side­bars, pull­outs, pho­tos, and illus­tra­tions. There are also some seri­ous non­fic­tion fea­tures, includ­ing a table of con­tents, author’s note, acknowl­edge­ments, notes, select­ed bib­li­og­ra­phy, research guide, index, and more. A high­ly rec­om­mend­ed mid­dle-grade nonfiction!
Here are some inte­ri­or views to give you a bet­ter sense of what you can expect:
POISON interiorPOISON interior 2 POISON interior 3 POISON interior 4POISON interior 5POISON interior 6
And yes, if you’re won­der­ing, this review is per­fect for Labor Day! One of my favorite fea­tures of the book was the “Nice Work if You Can Sur­vive It” side­bars, which told of var­i­ous pro­fes­sions through­out the ages where peo­ple were actu­al­ly poi­soned by their jobs (did you know mad hat­ters were mad because of the chem­i­cals used for felt­ing?). Sober­ing, to say the least. And it made me even more grate­ful for reg­u­la­tions that pro­tect work­ers from unscrupu­lous busi­ness owners!
Be sure to check out Sarah’s oth­er great books, too!
Why'd They Wear That? cover BUGGED cover POOP HAPPENED cover

Review: A Bandit’s Tale by Deborah Hopkinson

Today, I’m thrilled to be par­tic­i­pat­ing in anoth­er blog tour for Deb­o­rah Hop­kin­son! This time, the award-win­ning mas­ter of his­tor­i­cal fic­tion for chil­dren takes read­ers back to nine­teenth-cen­tu­ry New York City in her new mid­dle-grade nov­el: A BANDIT’S TALE: THE MUDDLED MISADVENTURES OF A PICKPOCKET (Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Read­ers | on sale April 5, 2016 | Ages 8–12 | $16.99). Here’s the pub­lish­er’s descrip­tion of this sto­ry of sur­vival, crime, adven­ture, and horses:

Here are a few words from oth­er reviewers:

“A strong choice for those who enjoy adven­tures about scrap­py and resource­ful kids.”
School Library Jour­nal, Starred Review
“A dynam­ic his­tor­i­cal nov­el ide­al for both class­room stud­ies and plea­sure reading.”
Pub­lish­ers Week­ly, Starred Review

And here are a few more from me:
I am a diehard ani­mal lover, so when I found out that the founder of the ASPCA, Hen­ry Bergh, appears as a char­ac­ter in this nov­el and that part of the plot is about help­ing the street hors­es in NYC, I knew I had to read it! What I found was so much more. It turns out there were sev­er­al oth­er things I loved about this nov­el, too:

  1. It’s an inter­est­ing set­ting, late 1800s New York City, that I had­n’t real­ly thought about much before. The nov­el immers­es read­ers in this world and brings it to life on a very human lev­el. I love when his­tor­i­cal fic­tion does that!
  2. There’s a secret! I won’t give away any spoil­ers, but there’s an inci­dent at the begin­ning of the book that isn’t ful­ly explained or under­stood by the read­er until much lat­er, but it sure keeps you wondering.
  3. I love the voice. The book is writ­ten in first-per­son from Roc­co’s some­what irrev­er­ent point of view, some­times address­ing the read­er direct­ly. Roc­co thinks and sounds like a com­plete­ly believ­able 11- to 12-year-old. He is naive and imma­ture but good-heart­ed and try­ing to cope as best he can with a chal­leng­ing and com­plex world. I espe­cial­ly appre­ci­at­ed how with age and expe­ri­ence he is able to look back on pre­vi­ous events and see them differently.
  4. Okay, as much as enjoyed the set­ting, plot, and char­ac­ter of the nov­el, what tru­ly blew me away was the back­mat­ter. (I love fic­tion, but I guess I’m a non­fic­tion girl at heart!) There’s a map; an expla­na­tion of what a picaresque nov­el is; notes about the set­ting, times, and peo­ple; a glos­sary of terms used by the thieves; a guide for fur­ther read­ing; and source notes. Many real peo­ple are ref­er­enced in the nov­el, and Hop­kin­son takes great care to explain exact­ly what is true and what she made up for the sake of the sto­ry. I think read­ers and writ­ers alike will find it inter­est­ing to see how the fic­tion and facts can inter­twine and overlap.
  5. Adding to all of this were the pho­tos! Being able to see authen­tic vin­tage pho­tos from the actu­al time and place of the nov­el real­ly added to the intel­lec­tu­al under­stand­ing as well as the emo­tion­al impact of the fic­tion­al scenes.

5B7C832B-F02E-4045-A0AD-C26D55DC4289All in all, this book earns A Ban­dit’s Tale two thumbs up from this read­er! I would high­ly rec­om­mend hand­ing it to any­one who enjoys his­tor­i­cal fic­tion, ani­mal lovers, adven­ture lovers, ruf­fi­ans and rogues, and, yes, even read­ers who tend to pre­fer non­fic­tion his­to­ry and/or biography.
Thank you to Deb­o­rah Hop­kin­son and Michele Kophs at Prova­to Events for the plea­sure of read­ing this advance read­er’s copy!
For oth­er stops on the Ban­dit Blog Tour please check and watch for the hash­tag, #Ban­dit­Blog­Tour.

I am not my book… Or am I?

Emu's Debuts headerEar­li­er this month over on Emu’s Debuts, I blogged about the impor­tance, and dif­fi­cul­ties, of sep­a­rat­ing the cre­ator (our­selves) from the works cre­at­ed. Since some of you may not fol­low that blog, I thought I should post it here, too. Here’s an excerpt…

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Alchemy and Karen Cushman!

Oh, this is so much fun! Not only is there a brand-new book out from one of my all-time favorite authors, but I got to read an ear­ly copy (squeee!) and inter­view the author for my blog (huz­zah)!

First, let me gush a lit­tle about how much I enjoyed read­ing Alche­my and Meg­gy Swann. There’s an awful lot for read­ers of any age to love in this lit­tle book: from the open­ing scene where we start right in with action and a bit of a mys­tery, to the feisty but kind-heart­ed hero­ine, to the his­tor­i­cal rich­ness, to the won­der­ful array of cre­ative insults. It’s tru­ly got some­thing for every­one. If you’re not already a fan of Karen Cush­man, this book will sure­ly trans­form you into one. And now, let’s meet the alchemist herself—welcome, Karen!

LT: First, I love the par­al­lels between the father’s search for alchem­i­cal trans­for­ma­tion and Meggy’s per­son­al trans­for­ma­tion. What made you start think­ing about alche­my as a book sub­ject, and was the par­al­lel planned from the outset?
KC: I found alche­my an intrigu­ing idea but did­n’t real­ly have an idea about how I’d use it in a book until I thought more about trans­for­ma­tion, about that very par­al­lel between alchem­i­cal and per­son­al trans­for­ma­tion.  I love how the ides of change works for both and how trans­for­ma­tion may not hap­pen exact­ly as they want­ed or expected.


LT: I think you real­ly gave us an accu­rate por­tray­al at what it’s like to feel dif­fer­ent and/or unwant­ed and the mis­guid­ed but all-too-com­mon defense mech­a­nism of push­ing peo­ple away before they can reject us, and it is these under­stand­able flaws that make Meg­gy such an inter­est­ing and uni­ver­sal­ly appeal­ing char­ac­ter. Did you know you were shoot­ing for that at the start, or did those aspects of char­ac­ter evolve nat­u­ral­ly as you wrote the story?
KC: Meg­gy start­ed out much sweet­er and more com­pli­ant but as I under­stood more about her and her strug­gles, I real­ized she prob­a­bly would not have respond­ed or act­ed in such under­stand­ing ways.  So, yes, those aspects of char­ac­ter evolved as I wrote the story.


LT: I find it fair­ly dif­fi­cult (but extreme­ly enter­tain­ing) to pic­ture you hurl­ing insults at any­one, but Meg­gy seems to have no trou­ble what­so­ev­er. How exact­ly did you come up with Meggy’s many inven­tive invectives?
KC: I found an invalu­able lit­tle book called Shake­speare’s Insults and bor­rowed some of those.  And there is a web­site called the Shake­speare­an Insult Kit ( that allowed me to come up with intrigu­ing com­bi­na­tions.  It was great fun.


LT: I can tell you did a ton of research for this book. Do you think you’ll reuse any of it in future sto­ries? Will we see Meg­gy again? (I need to see her reunit­ed with her goose!)
KC: I had­n’t planned on a Meg­gy sequel but young read­ers have said they like the idea.  First I’d have to fin­ish a new book, Will Spar­row’s Road, where I will use a lot of what I learned about Eliz­a­bethan England.


LT: How about non­fic­tion? I’m a pri­mar­i­ly non­fic­tion writer who dab­bles in research-based fic­tion when some­thing I’m research­ing gets my imag­i­na­tion going. Have you ever or do you think you will ever dab­ble in non­fic­tion? You’ve cer­tain­ly got the research part down!
KC: So far it’s the “what if?” of sto­ries that has my atten­tion.  I love sit­ting in my chair and mak­ing things up.  But I dab­ble in non­fic­tion when I write my author’s notes.  The notes for Meg­gy Swann were espe­cial­ly fun to do.


LT: I love that you “like to write about gut­sy girls fig­ur­ing out who they are,” and I love gut­sy girls, even if some of us don’t get gut­sy or fig­ure out who we are until we’re actu­al­ly mid­dle-aged women (who, me?). Which real-life gut­sy girls (and women) have inspired you most?
KC: Some of my female heroes are Jane Addams of Chicago’s Hull House, the anthro­pol­o­gist Mar­garet Mead, Eleanor Roo­sevelt, and genius illus­tra­tor Tri­na Schart Hyman—all gut­sy girls.


LT: I’ve always said that I’ll feel like a suc­cess­ful writer when I receive one let­ter from a read­er say­ing that my book helped them in some way, and you’ve said that con­nect­ing with read­ers is what makes you feel proud­est of your work. What’s the best let­ter you’ve ever received from a reader?
KC: I got a won­der­ful let­ter that said, “I nev­er read one of your books but now that you’ve come to my school, I am con­sid­er­ing try­ing to read one.”  But I trea­sure the ones that say “I nev­er thought about that before but…” or “Since I read your book, I know there are oth­er peo­ple who feel like I do.”


LT: Alche­my and Meg­gy Swann, even more so than your oth­er books, I think, is a short­er book with more dif­fi­cult lan­guage. Was there ever any ques­tion, from you or your pub­lish­er, about audi­ence, age, and/or read­ing ability?
KC: No, I think Dinah, my edi­tor, thinks as I do that we should give young peo­ple more cred­it for their under­stand­ing. And I tried to use words that could be under­stood through con­text or ono­matopoeia.  It was great fun search­ing the­saurus­es and the Oxford Eng­lish Dic­tio­nary.


LT: I love that answer and com­plete­ly share the belief that we should chal­lenge and believe in chil­dren rather than sell them short. Since you men­tioned Dinah, can you tell us what it’s like to work with the leg­endary Dinah Steven­son?
KC: Leg­endary?  Is Dinah old enough to be leg­endary?  I was assigned to work with Dinah when Clar­i­on bought my first book–an amaz­ing stroke of luck.  Dinah is a great edi­tor, intel­li­gent, insight­ful, and not at all pushy, and she makes my work much bet­ter and rich­er than it would be with­out her.  That does­n’t mean I don’t snarl and throw things when I get one of her famous 17-page edi­to­r­i­al let­ters, and I don’t fol­low every sug­ges­tion she makes but I do think about them care­ful­ly.  And she always reminds me it’s my book and I should write it my way.


LT: Age has noth­ing to do with it—only the esteem she’s earned with­in the indus­try! You’ve been very loy­al to Dinah and to Clar­i­on over the years (and I must admit that Clar­i­on is one of my dream pub­lish­ers!). They’re inter­est­ing because they’re a rather small imprint with a small list, but owned by a huge con­glom­er­ate. How do think this has helped or hurt you?
KC: I think Clar­i­on’s small size has meant there’s a small­er list and few­er oth­er authors.  I can have a per­son­al rela­tion­ship with every­one on the staff and feel they know me.  I like that.  And I’m sure the sup­port Clar­i­on gets from Houghton Mif­flin Har­court ben­e­fits me in ways I don’t even know.  So far I have felt no drawbacks.


LT: Final­ly, any advice for up-and-com­ing wanna-be’s?
KC: I tell most women who come to me for advice that they prob­a­bly are just too young yetI was fifty, after all, before I start­ed writ­ing.  Beyond that I rec­om­mend what most writ­ers dolots of read­ing, much writ­ing, cri­tique groups, and sup­port groups of like-mind­ed folks like the SCBWI.


LT: Phew, that’s good to knowI’ve got a few more years yet. What a relief! Thanks so much, Karen. As always, it was won­der­ful to talk with you, made even more so by hav­ing such a delight­ful book to discuss. 



** Dis­claimer: I received a free advance review copy of this book from the publisher.

Book Review — Swimming with Maya

I picked up this book because the pic­ture on the cov­er looks like my own daugh­ter. When I read the back notes and learned that she was dead, I quick­ly put it back down. I didn’t want to read about Eleanor Vincent’s dev­as­tat­ing loss. For some rea­son, though, I felt com­pelled to try to com­pre­hend her experience.

What I found was indeed dis­tress­ing, but inspi­ra­tional at the same time. The book is in many ways a post­mortem trib­ute to Vincent’s daugh­ter and an explo­ration of the heal­ing effects of organ dona­tion. Tak­en in its entire­ty, how­ev­er, this book is real­ly about a jour­ney through the process of heal­ing from a life­time of psy­cho­log­i­cal trau­mas. The extreme grief over her daughter’s sud­den death and the strug­gle to cope with it lead Vin­cent down buried paths of pain going all the way back to her child­hood. She emerges trans­formed. She lost her daugh­ter, but there­in found her­self, and we can’t help but applaud her success.