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Summer science

These new books for primary readers present scientifically accurate information about the birds and the bees (and the snails, and the…hippos?) with engaging formats and plenty of humor.

In the factual and funny A Round of Robins, sixteen brief, easy-to-read poems follow a pair of robin parents as they raise their chicks. Author Katie Hesterman employs both humorous wordplay and accurate terminology. Sergio Ruzzier’s pen-and-ink and watercolor pictures likewise combine correct bird anatomy with mannerisms that are undeniably (and comically) human. The individual poems stand alone, but together are short and lively enough to captivate readers’ attention. (Penguin/Paulsen, 5–8 years)

Kirsten Hall’s nimble rhyming verse and Isabelle Arsenault’s warm mixed-media illustrations provide an up-close visit with a wild (but friendly) colony of bees in The Honeybee. Smiling forager bees collect nectar from flowers and return to the hive, where house bees work to transform the nectar into “liquid gold” — i.e., honey. The book hovers between fiction and information; the solid if limited facts are conveyed in an impressionistic style. (Atheneum, 5–8 years)

Kevin McCloskey tackles the subject of snails (including plenty of talk about mucus — “YUCK!”) in his Giggle and Learn early-reader comics series entry Snails Are Just My Speed! An omniscient, informational main text provides fascinating facts about snail species, habitats, and even courtship rituals; meanwhile, a peanut gallery of human and animal characters reacts to the details through lighthearted, speech-bubbled side conversations. The illustrations, rendered with acrylics on parchment-style paper, balance realistic representations and humor. (TOON, 5–8 years)

Maxwell Eaton III hits upon a similarly effective combination of silly and informative in The Truth About Bears, The Truth About Dolphins, and The Truth About Hippos, the first three entries in a new nonfiction picture-book series. The main texts, accompanied by crisply rendered cartoon illustrations, dispense basic facts about species, habitats, diet, physiology, and behaviors; speech bubbles alternate between supplementing information and advancing goofy subplots, such as a hippo’s failed attempts at bike riding. (Roaring Brook/Porter, 5–8 years)

From the June 2018 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

Katie Bircher About Katie Bircher

Katie Bircher, associate editor at The Horn Book, Inc., is a former bookseller and holds an MA in children's literature from Simmons College. She served as chair of the 2018 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award committee. Follow Katie on Twitter @lyraelle.

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