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Children's books

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“When it comes to introducing kids to science, there’s no place like home.” Stay-at-home mom Liz Lee Heinecke says this book grew out of her efforts to share the love of science with her kids. Using household items like vinegar, cabbage, and carbonated beverages, these 52 experiments detail fun projects as well as introductions to the principles of biology, physics, and chemistry. Projects include making rockets, solar ovens, yeast balloons, and rock candy. While readers can find many of these experiments elsewhere, clear instructions and kid-friendly photos make the book noteworthy. Parents and educators may also appreciate the instructions for journal keeping.

Marie Durand

In 1730, Marie Durand was a 19-year-old Huguenot living in France. When the Catholic king arrested her for her Protestant faith, she chose to spend 38 years in the Tower of Constance with other Huguenot women and children rather than recant and go free. Marie redeemed the time, however, as she prayed fervently for threatened family members, wrote letters for fellow prisoners, and taught children. In this latest installment of Simonetta Carr’s Christian Biographies for Young Readers, photographs and artistic illustrations complement the text and help bring Marie’s story to life. A timeline in the final pages may be especially helpful for educators.

The Magic School Bus Presents The Rain Forest

First launched in 1986 by Joanna Cole, the Magic School Bus books and TV show have been staples in kids’ science education for decades. This title on rain forests is part of a new series of picture books meant to provide nonfiction (Common Core–aligned) companions to the older books and shows. In this book, Ms. Frizzle and her students still travel to the rain forest, but the focus here is on the vivid photos of tree frogs, chimpanzees, and other highlights of the rain forest. While these may be good companion books, they lack the magic of the originals.

Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt 

In this follow-up to her 2011 picture book Over and Under the Snow, Kate Messner dishes up the dirt on many of the hidden animals and bugs that make our gardens grow. The story celebrates the adventures of a girl and her Nana over the course of one gardening season—from spring planting to fall harvest. End pages profile each animal and insect mentioned throughout the tale, including pill bugs, honey bees, and orb-weaver spiders. Christopher Silas Neal’s illustrations aren’t detailed enough to help kids identify some insects in real life, but they do bring a warm, earthy feel to Messner’s lyrical text. 

Spotlight

Last December, author S.D. Smith opened the door to a new fantasy world for children with his book, The Green Ember. The tale of talking rabbits, castles, and swashbuckling adventure (summed up as “rabbits with swords” by its author) gained another installment this July with the release of a prequel. 

The Black Star of Kingston traces the rise of Fleck, a hard-working rabbit tasked with building a new colony in the mountains across the lake. As Fleck tries to overcome fire-breathing monsters and his own faults as a leader, we learn the origin of the green ember—a jewel in the king’s crown—and the promise of a good king it represents.

Released by Smith’s website, StoryWarren.com, the book isn’t overtly Christian. However, its themes of fallenness, self-sacrifice, and restoration reflect a richly Christian worldview. Its few flaws include uneven pacing and several underdeveloped characters. —E.W.