Beetlemania, and Other Kid’s Stuff A review of The Mountain Pine Beetle: Tiny but Mighty by Kay Turnbaugh, Sheila Says We’re Weird by Ruth Ann Smalley and Riparia’s River by Olga Pastuchiv

“Imagine an insect as small as a fat grain of rice killing a tree that towers 70 feet above the forest floor. That’s as high as a seven-story building. It’s as tall as the biggest dinosaur. Seems impossible, doesn’t it?” In The Mountain Pine Beetle: Tiny But Mighty (The Pruett Series) (Pruett Publishing Company), Colorado-based author Kay Turnbaugh and artist David Brooks illuminate kids on how and why these little beetles are causing “extreme damage” to forests. Each colorful page is full of fascinating facts like “beetle-killed forests can change how the clouds form and where it rains and snows for 10 years or more” as well as fun facts like how beetles weren’t bothered when scientists were “playing rock music.” Kids can feel empowered with the book’s conclusion, “What’s a Kid to Do?” where they are encouraged to “take part in a tree-planting project” or “become a scientist” to help fight the beetle epidemic and save forests.

Sheila, like most kids, asks a lot of questions, especially when she’s trying to figure out her “really, really weird” neighbors. “Why don’t you get your groceries from the store?” she asks. “We like local food. It’s fresher and tastes better when it comes from nearby farmers. And it doesn’t use so much energy to get to us,” her neighbors reply. “That’s weird,” Sheila replies. In Sheila Says We’re Weird (but we’re just green) (Tilbury House Publishers), author Ruth Ann Smalley and illustrator Jennifer Emery tell the story of the eco-conscious family next door that does everything differently—from how they travel, to how they eat and live. After plenty of questions, Sheila comes to realize that her neighbors actually have a lot of fun (and make really tasty soup)—and maybe aren’t so “weird” after all.

To Jason, Gretchen, Daphne and Mark, a rope swing and their favorite swimming hole is the perfect way to pass a summer day, until they notice green slime and a foul smell. “What is wrong with this water?” Mark asks. “It smells like a sewer.” In an attempt to figure it out where the smell and slime are coming from, they start walking upstream and meet a mysterious woman who calls herself “Riparia” or “of the riverbank.” She tells them “the river isn’t well” and offers to show them why the water is polluted. In their journey up Riparia’s River (Tilbury House Publishers), author Michael J. Caduto and illustrator Olga Pastuchiv tell an inspiring tale about the nature of rivers and sources of pollution and how if “we do what Riparia says, we can help things grow back along the riverbank and make the water clean again.”