Friday, December 15, 2017

Forest World and Calpurnia Tate, Girl Vet

I love it when I'm reading a novel and find that the author has a passion for animals, nature, math - and has incorporated STEM into their story. Here are two recent books where the science and environmental issues are integral to the plot. If you're still seeking a gift for your science-loving kid, these fit well into stockings (and budgets).

Forest World
by Margarita Engle
208 pages; ages 10 & up
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2017

Edver isn't happy about being shipped off to Cuba to see the father he barely knows. He definitely isn't expecting to meet a sister he didn't know existed! And he most certainly didn't plan to capture a wildlife poacher.

But what we, the readers don't expect, is to be completely immersed in a Cuban jungle. In the first twelve pages, Margarita Engle introduces us to bee-sized hummingbirds, condors, zombie cockroaches, and the seemingly opposing forces of survival and conservation on a small island. And she does all this in poetry.

What I like LOVE about this book: tucked into every page is a connection to the world beyond humans. There's a discussion of convergent evolution and, later, biodiversity and the advantages of variability in a world being changed by global warming. Layered over this are the real-world concerns of kids: if their mama loves them, why is she off doing research, and what can they do to bring her home? Back matter includes a list of "truly cool biodiversity words".

A couple years ago I reviewed Engle's picture book about Louis Fuertes who, like Audubon, painted birds from life.

 Who Gives a Hoot (Calpurnia Tate, Girl Vet)
by Jacqueline Kelly
112 pages; ages 7-10
Henry Holt & Co, 2017

If you have a girl who wants to be a veterinarian- or who just loves wild animals - get this book into her hands. Eleven-year-old Calpurnia Tate - yes, the very same Calpurnia from The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate - explores the natural world around her Texas home. She learns about wildlife right in her backyard (or, in this case, a neighboring farmer's field) and helps the veterinarian mend their injuries. What's cool is that the book is set at the turn of the 20th century - the beginning of the 1900s - when veterinarians focused on livestock.

What I like about this book: Kelly's attention to details: mockingbird songs, what happens to a wet owl - those sorts of things. I also like the illustrations of Calpurnia's field notebook, and her "strong girl" attitude. She's not afraid to help an injured owl, even though it means catching mice for its meals. And she helps solve the mystery of what made the owl sick. A hint: it has to do with food chains.

 On Monday we'll be hanging out on Marvelous Middle Grade Monday with other  bloggers over at Shannon Messenger's blog, so hop over to see what other people are reading. Review copies provided by publisher.


  1. You always find interesting books to review. Thanks for the post.

  2. These both sound great. I like the story lines and the covers. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Both these two novels sound like real gems! I love your finds. May come to you for advice about books that might be good to a new school for girls in Kitenga, Africa. They even have a STEM science building. Our niece is exec director. Right now looking for all genres.