Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Elephant Secret by Eric Walters book review by Caroline Rabideau

Elephant Secret by Eric Walters is a book about Samantha and her rather large family. Samantha lives on an elephant sanctuary primarily owned and operated by her and her dad. They care for over 10 elephants. When a new baby is born, Samantha makes a promise that she has to work hard to keep. The sanctuary is a big challenge for two people, and juggling the care of a baby elephant, the rehabilitation of an elephant with a past, and the daily care of the pack is proving to be a great expense on the family, both financially and emotionally. In order to compensate, Samantha’s dad agrees to sign 10% over to a “backer” who proves to have different intentions and more power than the family expected. What is the secret with the baby? Will Burma, the elephant with history, be able to join the herd? And what kind of impact will their new “backer” have on their family? Packed with family emotion and love, this book about elephants and family dynamics will pull at your heart strings, giving the reader a greater understanding of elephants, and a love for Samantha’s large family.
I really appreciated the amount of research that went into this book. It is packed full of facts, told directly, as well as woven into the text. Each of the elephants has their own name and history. Though the difference in elephant and human emotions is stated clearly a number of times, Walters was able, through elephant body language and gestures, to give the elephants emotions and character traits. By the end of the book, I fell in love with each elephant for different reasons. Samantha has grown up on the sanctuary and has a very deep and innate understanding of elephant behavior and feelings. Because the story is told from her perspective, she is able to explain what the elephants are feeling in each scene and why she knows this.
This was an amazing, sweet, kind, and touching book about family on two levels. At the base level, Samantha and her dad struggle to define their relationship as she becomes a teenager. Also, Samantha’s family may be growing as they add a new member into the mix. As the story grows, you realize Samantha is part of a bigger family, and holds a place in the hierarchy of the elephants. She has been raised alongside them, and they care for her just as they deeply as they care for each other. This would be a great book for someone struggling with death, with a parent remarrying, or with adding new members to the family. Because these themes are handled both at the human level, as well as on an elephant level, they become less scary, more relatable, and more approachable.
Walters has created such a happy environment in his elephant sanctuary that I didn’t want to close the book when it had ended

Author Twitter: @EricRWalters
Author Website: http://www.ericwalters.net/
Review by Caroline Rabideau, school librarian
Publisher Twitter: @HMHKids

Friday, April 26, 2019

The Crayon Man by Natascha Biebow book review

I love this book! I think I was drawn in by the colorful cover, but also because my life is filled with crayons because of my kids.  I did not know the Crayola story, so as an adult, I really learned a lot from this beautiful picture book. I did not know that Edwin Binney was the inventor of Crayola crayons. Readers will be taken on his journey of discovery and how crayons came to be. There are actually a lot of scientific facts in this story. For example, readers will learn (in a sidebar) that “ground-up rocks and minerals made bright pigments for colors: red iron oxide (hematite) for red, yellow iron oxide (deothite) for yellow, carbon for black…” Then in the text the story of the name is told. The author wrote that “let’s mix the French word craie for stick of chalk, and the world ola from the word oleaginous, meaning oily like the oily texture of the crayon wax, to invent a new word CraieOla...Crayola. Edwin listened.” The crayons were introduced at the 1904 World Fair and were a huge success. Readers will also get to see picture of crayons being produced today. The author notes at the end are worth reading. The illustrator did a great job bring the story to life. The illustrations seem to be done in crayon and are happy, bright and the character expressions help to tell the story. 

Straight Talk for Librarians: This book is a good example of a non-fiction picture book. It can tie into American history or to visual arts. The story makes for a good read aloud, but the side notes are better for independent or guided reading. It would look great on a display and garner a lot of reader attention. If there was a special event, a great tie in would be to give away boxes of Crayola Crayons. Readers would love it. There is a lot of attention paid to the names of all the different colors, that could be turned into a library activity. If you are in an IB school, readers can discuss how Edward Binney was a risk-taker and knowledgeable. It also fits in really well to a few MYP Global Contexts, namely scientific and technical innovation and personal and cultural expression. This book is a great purchase for a school library.

Author website: https://www.nataschabiebow.com/
Publisher: @HMHKids

Review by Klaudia Janek @kjanek