Staff Book Reviews by Genre: Science/Mathematics

Dinosaurs The Grand Tour: Everything Worth Knowing About Dinosaurs from Aardonyx to Zuniceratops
Pim, Keiron
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Dinosaurs: The Grand Tour is a remarkably well-encompassing resource, covering everything from polar dinosaurs (yes, you read that right) to a dinosaur three times taller than a giraffe. The information is presented in such a way that a layperson can follow along without feeling overwhelmed by scientific jargon. The author even included a pronunciation guide for the dinosaurs’ tongue-twisting names.

One of the main selling points of this book is the fact that it’s currently one of the most up-to-date resources on dinosaurs, with a publication date of 2019. Considering how quickly the field of paleontology continues to evolve, resources that were up-to-date ten years ago soon become... well… prehistoric. Notably, it’s also the second edition and has been expanded and updated since the original was published in 2016. Since I didn’t read the first edition, I can’t comment on how the two editions compare, but from what I can tell, you’ll be hard pressed to find a more cutting-edge resource on dinosaurs.

The illustrations are also nicely done, especially the color pieces that encompass two pages. It should be noted that most of the illustrations are not in color, so if you’re looking for a coffee table book, you might be disappointed. Still, the illustrations are beautiful as a whole and complement the text nicely.

Speaking of color, Pim explains how scientists have used fossilized pigment cells to determine both the colors of certain dinosaurs and the physical advantages these colors might have conferred. Considering this topic has been a source of mystery for many years, this section was particularly illuminating.

Finally, the quizzes peppered throughout the book are engaging and help you retain what you’ve learned. The author also includes an answer key at the back of the book, so if you don’t feel like hunting for the answer, you can always cheat.

Overall, I would recommend this resource to anyone interested in dinosaurs and paleontology in general.

Reviewer's Name: Lisa
The Family that Couldn't Sleep
Max, D. T.
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

The Family that Couldn’t Sleep is a bit of a misnomer. Although the underlying thread revolves around a mysterious and terrifying disease called fatal insomnia, multiple chapters are devoted to other diseases, including bovine spongiform encephalopathy (better known as mad cow disease) and kuru (a fatal neurodegenerative disorder thought to be caused by cannibalism). All of these conditions are caused by mutations in prions, which are proteins of the central nervous system.

Most of the information on these diseases is fascinating, though some of the more technical information might require several re-reads if you’re a non-specialist (like me). Also, if you picked up this book wanting to learn exclusively about fatal insomnia, you might find yourself wanting to skip some of the other chapters.

Even so, this book provides a fascinating look at the tragic nature of fatal insomnia, especially the Italian family genetically predisposed to it. You’ll find yourself both sympathizing with them and horrified by the unrelenting nature of the disease.

I would recommend The Family that Couldn’t Sleep to anyone who is interested in prion diseases or epidemiology in general.

Reviewer's Name: Lisa
The Wild Trees: A Story of Passion and Daring
Preston, Richard
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

You might know Richard Preston from his nonfiction thriller The Hot Zone or Micro, a techno-thriller Michael Crichton started before his untimely death in 2008. Although the subject matter of The Wild Trees is very different from these works, it continues Preston’s trend of combining scientific detail with narrative finesse. Specifically, this book focuses on the California redwoods, but readers will learn as much about the redwoods themselves as they will about the men and women who study them. Steve Sillett, for instance, started climbing redwoods freehand without any equipment to break his fall. Considering some redwoods are nearly 400 feet tall, this feat is as awe-inspiring as it is terrifying.

This book also provides fascinating detail on redwood canopies, which house salamanders, copepods (a type of crustacean), and even other trees! Thanks to Preston’s meticulous research and eye-popping descriptions, readers will feel like they’re exploring the redwoods alongside him.

The Wild Trees is a must-read for anyone who loves the redwoods or nature in general.

Reviewer's Name: Lisa
Humans: A Brief History of How We F---ed It All Up
Phillips, Tom
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

A thoroughly entertaining account of how far modern humans have come and how often they messed it up in groan-worthy ways despite best intentions. Journalist and humor writer Tom Phillips relies on sound scholarship to inform, entertain and maybe demoralize (in a funny way) the reader. Examples run the gamut from a Chinese emperor who stored gunpowder in his palace then hosted a lantern festival, the inadvertent forensics pioneer/lawyer defending an accused murderer who proved to the jury that the victim may have accidentally shot himself by accidentally shooting himself, the Austrian army that attacked itself one drunken night, and other equally spectacular blunders of modern times.

Reviewer's Name: Joe P.
Deep: Freediving, Renegade Science, and What the Ocean Tells Us about Ourselves
Nestor, James
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

James Nestor’s book Deep: Freediving, Renegade Science, and What the Ocean Tells Us about Ourselves is both literally and figuratively the most breathtaking book I’ve ever read. It’s literally breathtaking because it’s about freediving, AKA diving sans scuba equipment, an activity as awe-inspiring as it is dangerous. (Side effects may include death, blood squirting out of your nose, mouth, and eyeballs, and paralysis.) Herbert Nitsch, the world’s self-proclaimed “deepest man” dove more than 800 feet on a single breath without using a scuba tank. And he lived to tell the tale.

Deep is also figuratively breathtaking because it reveals some of the most awe-inspiring facts about our ocean that you’ll ever read. Freediving is the only way to see sperm whales up close and personal. These behemoths' brains are shockingly similar to our own and allow them to communicate using a click-based language. Resulting studies have even shown that sperm whales have their own culture and distinct accents.

But freediving with sperm whales is, naturally, not without risks. Sperm whales’ clicks are so loud, their pulsations can literally kill us. One intrepid freediver found his hand temporarily paralyzed when a sperm whale greeted him with a click.

Deep is the rare sort of nonfiction book that reads like a thriller novel. Every page is chock-full of awe-inspiring revelations that will make you look at the sea with a sense of wonder typically reserved for children. Scientific journalism has never been this entertaining.

Reviewer's Name: Lisa
Awards:
I'm Trying to Love Math
Barton, Bethany
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Using abundant humor, Bethany Barton makes this book about math interesting to all. Her facts and explanations show how math is used in our everyday lives and why it’s important. Math is used all around the world and even in space. We used math when we bake cookies, make music, and explore. It’s part of many of the patterns we see in nature. Since math is part of so many of the things you already love, you may just already love math.

Reviewer's Name: Carol
Mysterious Experiments
Claybourne, Anna
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

There’s nothing magical about these experiments – just everyday science. Experiment with raisins, sugar cubes, eggs, and more. You can just use simple materials that you already have around the house to test things out and learn something too.

Reviewer's Name: Carol
Extreme Abilities: Amazing Human Feats and the Simple Science Behind Them
Watson, Galadriel
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Read this book to learn about the science behind a variety of amazing feats! Do you want to learn about super strength? What about speed demons? These abilities and many more, and showcased and explained in this book. You’ll be astounded and learn something too. You can also test your abilities on some of these feats.

Reviewer's Name: Carol
Experiments with Movement
Claybourne, Anna
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Check out the amazing experiments in Experiments with Movement by Anna Claybourne. You’ll learn to use everyday materials to make things fly and zoom! You’ll learn the basics of how things move, the basics of vehicle transportation. You’ll also be environmentally friendly as you reuse and recycle materials. Will you make a balloon-powered car, an air-powered rocket, or maybe an air blaster? Check out this book and get started!

Reviewer's Name: Carol
Sorting
Pluckrose, Henry
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Learn about sorting as you read this book. You’ll learn simple ways to sort of pile of things and how to further sort a group. You’ll get some sorting practice and see some sorted groups. You’ll learn about different sets and what they might include. This book is a fun introduction to sorting a variety of things.

Reviewer's Name: Carol
Weather Words and What They Mean
Gibbons, Gail
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Gail Gibbons has another winning book with her updated Weather Words and What They Mean. She uses simple language to explain weather terminology and meteorology. You can learn about temperature, air pressure, moisture, and wind. Our weather is always changing. Learn about what causes the changes and how they might affect us. Also, learn some interesting weather facts. Remember to heed storm warnings and be careful in serious weather.

Reviewer's Name: Carol
The Clue Is in the Poop: And Other Things Too
Seed, Andy
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Using the clues they've left behind, you can learn to track and identify animals and this book will help. It will introduce you animal tracking through observing what's left behind whether it is poop, tracks, or more. You'll learn about what animals eat (and therefore, what you might find in their poop). You'll learn fascinating facts about a variety of animals and start on your way to become a wildlife detective.

Reviewer's Name: Carol
Brain Lab for Kids
Chudler, Eric H.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Are you interested in neuroscience? Try these 52 experiments and activities to explore neuroscience. You might explore your reflexes, vision, hearing, or sleep and body rhythms. You might learn about memory. Have some fun and learn about yourself as you read this book.

Reviewer's Name: Carol
Math Curse
Scieszka, Jon
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Some days you might feel that you are under a math curse where everything has become a math problem. This is the story of a girl whose life is just like that. Everything – even things that shouldn’t be math – now involve math! Work along with her to solve the problems and therefore, solve the math curse. Read and see if she succeeds.

Reviewer's Name: Carol
The Night Sky: A Frozen Discovery Book
Ditcher, Paul
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Learn about the night sky with your friends Anna, Elsa, and Olaf from Disney’s Frozen. Each topic is explored and connected to part of the Frozen story. You can learn about Northern Lights, Seasons, Stars, the planets, Eclipses, and more. If you are a fan of Frozen, this book is a great resource to learn more the science of our night sky.

Reviewer's Name: Carol
What Is Water?
Nelson, Robin
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Are you curious about water and its properties? This book can help. You’ll learn about the different states that water can occupy – solid, liquid, and gas. You’ll learn water facts and about rainbows. A great starter book!

Reviewer's Name: Carol
All the Water in the World
Lyon, George Ella and Tillotson, Katherine
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Using simple text and colorful illustrations, All the Water in the World explains the water cycle and encourages us to live green.

Reviewer's Name: Carol
Countdown: 2979 Days to the Moon
Slade, Suzanne
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

In the book, Countdown: 2979 Days to the Moon, Suzanne Slade and Thomas Gonzalez have created a gorgeous non-fiction book about Project Apollo and all the people who made the moon landing possible. Lush illustrations combine with informative free verse in this book for children age 10 - 14. There are photos, a selected bibliography, and website list in the back of the book.

Reviewer's Name: Barbara
Awards:
Covered in Water
Lawrence, Ellen
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

If you’re looking for a good introduction to the study of water, this may
be the book for you. You’ll learn about the water on earth – salt &
fresh. You’ll learn where our water comes from and why it’s limited, how
rivers are formed, and frozen water. You’ll also learn about the water
cycle. Try the experiment at the end of the book and resolve to use water
wisely.

Reviewer's Name: Carol
The Book of Massively Epic Engineering Disasters
Connolly, Sean
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

History tells us of many engineering disasters from the Colossus of Rhodes to the “Unsinkable” Titanic and more. While some of these engineering disasters are merely embarrassing, others had deadly consequences. Learn about what happened in these events and then try out the hands-on experiments demonstrating why the event happened. Learn not just the “what”, but also “why” and have some fun doing it.

Reviewer's Name: Carol

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