Written by Mary Batten
Illustrated by Beverly J. Doyle
This newly revised book was been recommended by both the National Science Teachers Association and by the Izaak Walton League of America in an earlier edition. Entertaining as well as educational, it cites many examples of introduction of plants and animals into ecosystems where they were not developed. In each and every case, the new plant or animal had a long-lasting, or even disastrous effect on the new ecosystem. Some of the examples are well-known, but some are more obscure and surprising. Background includes a discussion of how alien introduction has accelerated since the 1800s and more mobility for humans. A prime example is pigs in Hawaii. Well-meaning settlers brought the pigs. The pigs spread and created small ponds by rooting in the dirt. Sailors inadvertently released mosquito larvae. And the mosquitos wiped out several species of birds. Starlings, not native to North America, were released in New York’s Central Park and now compete for food and nesting with others throughout America. Other examples are gypsy moths, Africanized bees, fire ants, zebra mussels, brown tree snakes in Guam, kudzu, and cane toads in Australia. Many alien species are introduced inadvertently, but even the well-meaning introductions can be devastating.
The illustrations are clear and accurate, adding to the educational value. There’s even a key for native species, endangered or extinct species, and aliens.
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- Title: Aliens from Earth: When Animals and Plants Invade Other Ecosystems
- Author: Mary Batten
- Illustrator: Beverly J. Doyle
- Published: Peachtree Publishers, 2016
- Reviewer: Sue Poduska
- Format: Hardcover, 144 pages
- Grade Level: 3 to 6
- Genre: Nonfiction, Environment
- ISBN: 978-1-56145-903-2
- Extras: Glossary, For Further Reading, Websites, Author’s Note
Written by Kate DiCamillo
Raymie Clarke has to learn to twirl a baton because she has to win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire 1975 title so her father will see her picture in the paper and return home after he ran off with a dental hygienist named Lee Anne Dickerson. Raymie’s fellow students, Louisiana Elefante and Beverly Tapinski, lead similarly crazy lives and make Raymie’s life even more crazy. Meanwhile, their baton twirling teacher, Ida Nee, has her own problems, including not being a very good teacher. Raymie is trying to do good deeds for the contest application, including reading a Florence Nightingale biography to the uncooperative and unimpressed elderly. Louisiana tells long, complicated stories about her family. And Beverly wants to sabotage everything and is very good at picking locks. Raymie does hear from her dad, but for an accomplishment other than winning the contest. Louisiana helps her family, if not her cat. Eventually, Louisiana learns that Raymie is not a Nightingale. And Beverly gains friends and a more relaxed perspective. Minor characters add a lot to the fun. Louisiana’s grandmother drives an old clunker much too fast and has Louisiana steal cans of tuna fish. The elderly ladies are unpredictable.
Fourth graders and above will get a kick out of their antics and get a chance to practice literacy skills. They will also learn a lot about friendship and about the value of looking at things from the other person’s perspective.
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- Title: Raymie Nightingale
- Author: Kate DiCamillo
- Published: Candlewick Press, 2016
- Reviewer: Sue Poduska
- Format: Hardcover, 272 pages
- Grade Level: 4 to 7
- Genre: Fiction, Friendship, Humor
- ISBN: 978-0-7636-8117-3
Written by Sara Pennypacker
Illustrated by Jon Klassen
Holding on and letting go are strong desires, flowing under all the plots and subplots of this beautiful story about a boy and his pet fox. When Peter’s father enlists to go off to war, he forces his son to set the fox loose in the wild and go live with a grandfather. It doesn’t take long to realize Peter isn’t wanted by the grandfather.
Within days, Peter realizes he needs to rescue Pax before he starves in the wild. So, he sets off on his own across miles of unknown territory. Without realizing it, he is heading toward the war zone. He encounters many problems, and a very strange woman.
Meanwhile, Pax waits patiently for his boy to come back for him. Finally, unbearable thirst sends him off searching for water. Real wild foxes growl warnings to stay out of their area. Will they accept him?
The adventure with challenges thrown in provides just the right pace of tension and intrigue to the story and will keep the readers flipping pages to find out what happens.
The language of the fox is put into italic font to separate it for young readers.
Black and white sketches by Jon Klassen add to the realities of the starkness of war and separation.
Teachers, librarians and parents will enjoy this novel as a read aloud or book club selection to share with their children.
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- Title: Pax
- Author: Sara Pennypacker
- Illustrator: Jon Klassen
- Publisher: Balzer& Bray/HarperCollins, 2016
- Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
- Format: Hardcover, 276 pages
- ISBN: 978-0-06-237701-2
- Genre: Fiction
- Grade level: 3 to 7