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Nonfiction for primary-age readers

Food chains, Arctic migration, animal communication, and evolution: four new picture books for young readers take on some complex and fascinating topics.

Secrets of the GardenIn Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld’s Secrets of the Garden: Food Chains and the Food Web in Our Backyard, narrator Alice tells readers how her family grows edible plants, raises chickens, and interacts with a variety of living things in their backyard garden. Information about composting, plant life cycles, food chains and food webs, and nutrition is included; science-savvy cartoon chickens directly address readers throughout, explaining underlying facts. Priscilla Lamont’s cheery illustrations portray the changes over the growing season. (5–8 years)

North the Amazing Story of Artic MigrationNorth: The Amazing Story of Arctic Migration by Nick Dowson introduces young readers to the Arctic’s part-time residents: those that migrate to the region for the summer months in the Northern hemisphere, including whales from Mexico, narwhals from Europe, Canadian caribou, snow geese, and terns from Antarctica. Patrick Benson’s luminous watercolor with pen and pencil illustrations, spread out beautifully on the oversized pages, capture the graceful movements of the migrating groups as they pass through lower latitude forests, oceans, and skies. (7–10 years)

Talk Talk SquawkNicola Davies’s Talk, Talk, Squawk!: A Human’s Guide to Animal Communication presents the ways in which animals communicate through the use of color and pattern recognition, smells, sounds, and chemical exchanges. Her friendly, conversational tone makes the complex ideas remarkably clear and understandable, and Neal Layton’s cartoon illustrations, complete with humorous communications from the anthropomorphized animals, neatly underscore the important scientific messages in each section. (7–10 years)

Billions of Years Amazing ChangesFor a middle-grade audience, Laurence Pringle’s Billions of Years, Amazing Changes: The Story of Evolution traces developments in the fields of geology and biology that led to Darwin’s On the Origin of Species as well as subsequent discoveries. Pringle’s accessible explanations of such concepts as natural selection and genetic mutations are woven through the book. Color photographs and diagrams of flora and fauna accompany the text, as well as Steve Jenkins’s wonderfully detailed cut-paper animal illustrations and portraits of scientists. (9–12 years)

Danielle J. Ford About Danielle J. Ford

Danielle J. Ford is a Horn Book reviewer and an associate professor of Science Education at the University of Delaware.

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