June 29, 2016

Solomon Islands by kayak

Jungle Islands: My South Sea Adventure
by Maria Coffey with Debora Pearson
photography by Dag Goering

Husband-and-wife team Coffey and Goering are avid kayakers and adventure travel operators (visit their website at http://hiddenplaces.net/). Published in 2000, Jungle Islands is an account of their kayaking trip to the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific. Their self-directed journey depended on the hospitality of the Solomon Islanders, most of whom had never seen white people before. Aided by the islanders, they learned to speak Pidgin English, follow unfamiliar social customs, and sleep in leaf huts. They also had close encounters with bats, sharks, crocodiles, and leatherback turtles. A visit to Skull Island is one of the highlights.

Coffey's text conveys her wonder and enthusiasm very well, while Goering's many photos excellently capture the exotic locales. Colourful maps preceding each chapter allow readers to follow along. 

An excellent adventure!

June 27, 2016

Desert nomad

52 Days by Camel: My Sahara Adventure
by Lawrie Raskin with Debora Pearson
photography by Lawrie Raskin

A fascination with deserts and Lawrence of Arabia led Raskin to visit the Sahara in Africa, where he saw a sign saying "Tombouctou 52 jours" (Timbuktu 52 days). That's 52 days by camel. 

While Raskin did travel by camel, his journey to Timbuktu was mainly accomplished by van, bus, truck, train, boat, and jeep. His meanderings took him to many exotic ports of call like Fez, Marrakesh, Tan Tan, Nouakchott, and Mopti. Having reached Timbuktu, he even went to visit the salt mines of Taoudenni.

Raskin's adventurous spirit and sense of wonder is palpable as he sleeps under desert skies, survives a sandstorm, and enjoys the hospitality of nomads. Interesting sidebars offer tips on how to mount a camel, how to bargain in an African market, creative ways to recycle used cars, and top ten ways to use a turban. As well, his evocative photos bring the African culture to life.

A fascinating introduction to adventure travel.

June 24, 2016

What time is it?

The Time Book: A Brief History from Lunar Calendars to Atomic Clocks
by Martin Jenkins
illustrated by Richard Holland

What is time? When did we first start measuring it? How do animals tell time? Why is time so important? This book attempts to provide some answers about why and how the calendar was created and how time was measured by ancient civilizations and how it is measured today. 

Author Jenkins tries to turn a complicated story into an easy one, but he doesn't quite succeed. The book is divided into untitled chapters, but it's really just a long narrative. This can make the concept of time confusing to grasp, requiring repeated and careful reading. Holland's surreal illustrations are not helpful. There is an the index, but it's in two different layouts (vertical and horizontal), which is annoying.

June 20, 2016

How to tell time

It's About Time: Untangling Everything You Need to Know About Time
by Pascale Estellon

This book will teach kids all about the passage of time. It defines one second, one minute, one hour, one day, one week, etc., until they have grasped months, years, seasons, and centuries. It'll even show them how to tell time by reading a clock. Big, brightly coloured pictures make it fun and easy.

June 17, 2016

Wild eggs

Wild Eggs: A Tale of Arctic Egg Collecting 
by Suzie Napayok-Short
illustrated by Jonathan Wright

A young girl travels from Yellowknife to visit with her grandparents in Nunavut. At first, she's afraid that there will be nothing to see or do up there, but she soon discovers that the land is alive with birds and animals. Even the eggs that she eats for breakfast are exotic to her - they're bigger and more colourful than the hen eggs she usually eats. So when her grandparents suggest that they collect more eggs, she is eager to go.

A magical, gently told story that captures the beauty of the arctic. Wright's wonderful paintings are a highlight.

June 15, 2016

Jigging for fish

Fishing with Grandma
by Susan Avingaq & Maren Vsetula
illustrated by Charlene Chua

A grandmother takes her grandchildren on an adventure in this charming picture book. She drives them out to a frozen lake and shows them how to jig for fish. Using simple Inuit tools, they catch a lot of Arctic char which they share with other elders. 

A good book that gently encourages sharing, self-sufficiency and outdoor fun.

June 13, 2016

Discoveries along the shoreline

A Walk on the Shoreline
by Rebecca Hainnu
illustrated by Qin Leng

A young boy visiting his biological family in Clyde River, Nunavut, learns about arctic plants and sea animals as he walks along the shoreline with his uncle. They are on their way to their summer campsite, where grandparents and other family members await.

The story is a bit wordy, with lots of explanatory dialogue, but it does manage to capture what life can be like in the north. The book concludes with a glossary of plants and animals and notes about landforms and hunting tools. 

June 10, 2016

The science of building

The Art of Construction: Projects and Principles for Beginning Engineers & Architects
by Mario Salvadori

With this book, kids can create all kinds of models with straws, paper, tongue depressors, balloons, and string. As they build, they'll learn about the laws of equilibrium, demonstrate the principles of tension and compression, and see what makes bridges and buildings stand up.

An excellent book.

June 8, 2016

Big trucks!

See How They Work & Look Inside Big Rigs 

See How They Work & Look Inside Diggers

Kids just love trucks and other construction vehicles, probably because they're so big and noisy. Plus, they help you do awesome things like lift, dig, and run things over. So they'll get a kick out of these two books, which give them an inside view of the wheels, axles, engines, and gears of dump trucks, forklifts, excavators, and mining shovels. 

Big books with big pictures, they'll be a big hit with many youngsters.

June 6, 2016

Construction site secrets

On the Construction Site
by Carron Brown & Bee Johnson

This is a "shine-a-light" book, meaning that if you hold the pages up to a window or shine a light behind the pages, it'll reveal a hidden picture. So a visit to a construction site reveals all the dirt and rocks a dump truck is carrying, the steel poles being pounded into place by a pile driver, the wires and pipes behind opaque walls, and the contents of moving vans and trucks.

Kids will delight in revealing the many hidden details on page. They should also like the large simple text that explains what they're seeing. 

Good for preschoolers and kindergartners too!

June 3, 2016

Return to the moon

Our Moon: New Discoveries about Earth's Closest Companion
by Elaine Scott

No one has set foot on the moon since 1972, but that doesn't mean that the moon is no longer worthy of study. It still has much to tell us as recent space probes have revealed: the presence of water and a very thin atmosphere. Additionally, prebiotic material in lunar dust may have jumpstarted life here on Earth. 

In Scott's well-written narrative, she explains how the moon was mapped, retells the exciting mission when humans first walked on it, the value of studying the moon rocks collected, and the challenges of establishing a permanent moon colony. With fascinating photographs and interesting facts (plus glossary, index, and list of resources), this is a wondrous book sure to have kids dreaming of a trip to the moon.

June 1, 2016

Not the best travel guide

The Moon (Astronaut Travel Guides)
by Chris Oxlade

Oxlade begins his travel guide with a brief history of moon exploration before going into even less detail about the possibility of future moon missions. He doesn't even mention the physical requirements of space travel or what it would be like to actually live on the moon. I was also disappointed in his ideas for suitable travel companions. Neil Armstrong and Sally Ride are good, but Isaac Newton, Jules Verne (as the mission diarist) and Jean-Michel Cousteau (as a breathing expert)? Considering that the book was published in 2013, there are far worthier candidates to mention. And why is Armstrong called a mission scientist and Ride called an astronaut? With degrees in physics and astrophysics, Ride was every bit a mission scientist as well.

Not the book I was hoping for.