Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Book: Wild Animal Neighbors by Ann Downer

Wild Animal Neighbors: Sharing Our Urban World by Ann Downer. Minneapolis, MN; Twenty-First Century Books; 2013. 64 Pages.

This book asks the question about how our lives as humans have affected the wildlife that previously roamed free around the areas that we now call home, areas that we have turned from forests and meadows into cities and suburbs. The book introduces readers to the urban wildlife conundrum with a story of a black bear that despite being removed from Cape Cod by wildlife officials, it soon returned to a populated suburb of Boston.The biggest question throughout the book is why? Why do wild animals continue returning to populated cities or choose to try and make their home in a place clearly different from their natural habitat?

The concept of the city as an ecosystem is introduced next to readers, covering the many reasons an urban area may be seen as a potential home to wildlife. The book dissects "artificial cliffs" created by skyscrapers that become inviting to hawks as well as the "heat island effect" which basically states that cities, with their concrete and metal barriers, are often warmer than the surrounding wilderness, and thus a more pleasant place to raise young. Divided into roughly seven stories that show examples how wild animals have been spotted amongst the hustle and bustle of cities. Wild Animal Neighbors uses raccoons, mountain lions, crows, coyotes, flying foxes, turtles, and alligators as examples of wildlife that has been spotted in territories now claimed by humans. The book discusses the reasons that an animal may decide that it prefers a more urban setting than its natural habitat, stating reasons that make its foray successful in terms of survival. Also covered are the ways that animals change their behaviors and become urban citizens.

Wild Animal Neighbors combines short and interesting stories of how animals have crept out of their natural habitats into our more densely populated areas along with facts that are presented in an appealing way. The photographs included are pulled directly from the reported stories themselves, creating a book that will have readers turning the pages to learn more about our new neighbors.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Book: Hit the Road, Helen! by Kate McMullan

Hit the Road Helen! (Myth-O-Mania) by Kate McMullan. North Mankato, MN; Stone Arch Books, 2013. 240 pages.

Hades, ruler of the Underworld, tells the Greek Myth of Helen of Troy as it should be told - with no convenient cover-ups. It turns out that the myths that we know are actually incorrect as they had been altered by Zeus to cover up any embarrassing situations that painted him in a bad light. According to Hades, it was really Zeus' fault that the Trojan War started in the first place! The other Gods involved didn't help out much either, their interference just ended up causing the war to last longer.

Our story starts off with Zeus falling for Helen's mom, Leda, which results in her giving birth to two blue eggs, each with a set of twins. One set of twins looks like their father, Leda's husband King Tyndareus, while the other did not. Zeus continues to meddle in many ways that affect Helen's life, while Hades tries his hardest to stop his little brother from doing something stupid. Good luck, Hades! If only he could save the world from the comfort of his La-Z-God chair!!
Kate McMullan returns to get Myth-o-Mania series after a 10-year hiatus. This fractured tale, or classic, well-known tale that has had its characters, plot, setting, or point of view changed, is told from Hade's perspective, which adds a touch of humor to the story. McMullan has managed to add another amusing chapter-book to her popular series. The book does a good job introducing all of the key players and explaining the various parts of the legend in a way that was easy to follow. Hit the Road Helen! is a quick and fun read that will help children ignite a spark of interest in Greek Mythology.

If you'd like to try and write your own fractured tale, go and visit this website for ideas:

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Book: Samphire Song by Jill Hucklesby

Samphire Song by Jill Hucklesby. Egmont Books; 2011. 296 pages.

14-year-old Jodie Palmer is working at Whitehawk Farm Stables as a volunteer in return for free riding and lessons. Jodie and her family have been going through a difficult time; first her Royal Airforce Pilot father's death and the fact that her 11-year-old brother has kidney disease. Her mother has been worried about finances and when she lands a job that will bring additional money, the siblings are told they will get their promised presents. For Jodie that is a horse of her own; her brother Ed just wants a radio controlled airplane.
When it comes time to pick out her horse, Jodie's mother takes her to the horse auction, their intentions to purchase a docile mare. Fate steps in when a gray stallion makes a fuss at being unloaded off of a horse trailer; Jodie knows that Samphire as he is called is the horse for her. Despite her mother's reluctance to buy a stallion with an untamed spirit, Jodie gets her horse.
Through hard work and patience, Jodie works with Samphire to get used to his new home and over some of his skittishness. Samphire and Jodie form a close bond, but when Ed's illness takes a turn for the worse, Jodie makes the decision to sell Samphire to help her mother with the finances. Jodie makes Samphire a promise to get him back as soon as she is able to earn enough money, but will finding him again be easy?
The book is very descriptive and is narrated by Jodie in a way that really allows the reader to connect to her rollercoaster of emotions. The author does a wonderful job of showing the relationship between a girl and her horse as well as the hurdles that both must overcome in order to get past their emotional history. The book is easy to read and will keep readers eager to find out if all of Jodie's hard work has paid off and if horse and rider will be reunited.