by Judith Jango-Cohen
Overall: 3 out of 5 stars
Category: Nonfiction – Animals
Personal Evaluation: This book had a list of more books, an index and a glossary (whose words were italicized throughout the book). Despite these great features, it seemed like it could use a bit more organization and clarification. For example, the author noted that there are 23 species, but in photos did not identify which species was pictures or where the animal lived, and they looked very different from each other. Some other visual representations, besides photos of porcupines and a map showing where the two classes of porcupines live, would have been nice. The author’s authority seemed to be only that she has spent a lot of time in nature. She did a pretty good job of writing engaging narration to introduce the chapter without too much anthropomorphizing, though I did wonder about a few words she used, like saying a porcupine surprised a lion or that a fisher was clever in its fight with the porcupine.
What might interest children: Kids will get a kick out of the photo of the dog with quills in its face and the one of the baby porcupette. There was one mention of the fact that porcupines often sleep hanging by their legs from a tree branch, but there was no photo which would have made a great addition. There are lots of photos (at least one per two-page spread) and “Did You Know?” facts along the margins to break up the text and keep interest.
by Mark Stewart
Overall: 2 out of 5 stars
Category: Nonfiction – Sports
Personal Evaluation: I could tell from the Table of Contents that this book was going to be a challenge. It had one chapter for the whole text of the book, and then listed the Appendices. It probably would be easier to read if the author had actually broken it up into chapters, but instead he just went through the history of the game chronologically, with a strong focus on World Cups and soccer in America. Since it was published in 1998, readers would also probably benefit from an updated version or a different (and more recent) book on soccer, since the sport’s standing in this country seems to be shifting. The author is quite prolific in writing about sports and athletes and lists a full page of books and websites to visit for further reading, but I’m not sure citing yourself counts as authority.
What might interest children: This is definitely a book for an older reader, probably 7th-8th grade. There are not too many pictures and lots of text on each page, and not too much organization (other than chronological). There is a detailed index but in terms of the content, not too much to keep interest or give context. For example, at the end of the text is a “Modern Soccer Timeline” which says things like “The Sheffield Football Club – the oldest team still in existence – is formed” but does not say where exactly this team is from (though an educated guess would be England). I was underwhelmed but probably a kid who’s really into soccer would get a lot out of it.