Wednesday, July 21, 2010


by Raina Telgemeier

214 pages
published by Graphix (Scholastic)

Publisher's description:

Raina just wants to be a normal sixth grader. But one night after Girl Scouts she trips and falls, severely injuring her two front teeth, and what follows is a long and frustrating journey with on-again, off-again braces, surgery, embarrassing headgear, and even a retainer with fake teeth attached. And on top of all that, there's still more to deal with: a major earthquake, boy confusion, and friends who turn out to be not so friendly. This coming-of-age true story is sure to resonate with anyone who has ever been in middle school, and especially those who have ever had a bit of their own dental drama.

My comments:

I've never had braces and slept completely through the removal of my wisdom teeth, so Raina's account of her personal "dental drama" was very enlightening to me. I had no idea, for instance, that teeth could be shifted to the extremes that hers are. The fact that this is a graphic memoir, and Telgemeier uses drawings to show you what has been done to her teeth makes it very easy to grasp the process. I'm not sure if young people facing the prospect of wearing braces would be more horrified or reassured by seeing what they could be in for, but anyone who's been through any of the various procedures will likely be comforted to know that they're not alone.

In addition to the dental drama, she also depicts how she learned to stand up for herself and pursue her own interests in high school, rather than trying to hold on to middle school friendships that no longer suit her. Who can't identify with that?

I really like Telgemeier's artwork. It's colorful and detailed without looking cluttered. The details help to create a strong sense of time (early 1990s) and place (both the overall San Francisco setting and her middle and high schools).

Other nice touches include the end papers, which have been designed to look like signature pages in a school yearbook, and the author's note, which explains how she came to put her story down on paper. Overall, it's a cute and charming book.

Your comments?

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Hive Detectives

The Hive Detectives: Chronicle of a Honey Bee Catastrophe
by Loree Griffin Burns
80 pages
published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Publisher's Comments:

Without honey bees the world would be a different place. There would be no honey, no beeswax for candles, and, worst of all, barely a fruit, nut, or vegetable to eat. So imagine beekeeper Dave Hackenburg's horror when he discovered twenty million of his charges had vanished. Those missing bees became the first casualties of a mysterious scourge that continues to plague honey bee populations today. In The Hive Detectives, Loree Griffin Burns profiles bee wranglers and bee scientists who have been working to understand colony collapse disorder, or CCD. In this dramatic and enlightening story, readers explore the lives of the fuzzy, buzzy insects and learn what might happen to us if they were gone.

My comments:

This is another solid entry in the Scientists in the Field series. Burns provides a very interesting look at honeybees, the mysterious affliction (Colony Collapse Disorder) that have decimated their populations since 2006, and the scientists who study them. The pages are full of colorful high-quality photographs that show off the bees and the different colors of honey that they produce, as well as lots of facts about bees, apiarists (another name for beekeepers) and the scientists, of course.

I like that the various theories of what is happening to the bees are presented, as well as the evidence the scientists find that either rule them out or mark them as possible culprits. It's made clear that we don't know for sure what is happening to the bees yet, and that further research is necessary.

At the end there is a helpful glossary of bee-related terms, the cutely named "Appendix Bee," and a nice list of resources (including books, documentaries and websites) for further study.

This book didn't grab me as much as another title in the same series, The Frog Scientist. I think this is partially because The Hive Detectives highlights several scientists instead of focusing on one. There simply isn't time or space for Burns to get very personal with her subjects.

Your Comments?