THE SECRET GALAXY

By Fran Hodgkins

Tilbury House Publishers, 2014.

32 pages, $16.95

It is a rare person who cannot look up into the clear night sky, see all those stars, and not wonder about our amazing galaxy The publishers at Tilbury House know this, and have produced a wonderfully entertaining and educational children’s book that carefully explains some of the mysteries of the stars.

Award-winning author Fran Hodgkins and astrophotographer Mike Taylor (both Mainers) allow the galaxy to tell its own story, using beautiful color photographs and illustrations, and clever narrative, highlighting fun factoids about astronomy and the wonders of the night sky for readers 6-8 years old. This book is another terrific addition to Tilbury House’s Nature Book series.

They explain scientific phenomenon like how stars are created, how stars and galaxies rotate in the universe and how stars live as nebula and die as exploding supernovas. All this may sound too scientific for young readers, but it is presented with simple, short and straight-forward clarity.

Readers will learn what the Milky Way really is and how it got its tasty name from the ancient Greeks (the Chinese, Scandinavians and Native Americans also had their own names for it), why stars are different colors, why a “shooting star” isn’t a star at all and what is the “star stuff” that makes up all matter.’

THE LAKE WHERE LOON LIVES

By Brenda Reeves Sturgis

Islandport Press, 2014

32 pages, $17.95

Who knew that loons could be so much fun? Well, apparently author Brenda Sturgis and illustrator Brooke Carlton knew, because their children’s book, “The Lake Where Loon Lives,” is a funny, silly, laugh-out-loud look at loons at play on a Maine lake.

Sturgis, of Shapleigh, and Carlton, of Freeport, have combined their talents to produce a delightfully wacky story of a loon family enjoying a day at the lake, complete with the mother loon waterskiing (father loon is driving the speedboat), and the two baby loons frolicking with Mom and Dad.

Mama loon wears bunny slippers and a Minnie Pearl-style hat complete with flowers on top, and lets her babies ride around the lake on her back. Fun at the lake also includes a pesky trumpet-playing fly and a boy fishing who falls into the water with a playful splash.

Carlton’s vibrant watercolors and Sturgis’ rhyming prose brilliantly represent all that is good in a whimsical children’s book (ages 3-6) — fun, pictures, words in full sentences and a cute story sure to bring smiles to kids and adults.

STONE WALL SECRETS

By Kristine and Robert Thorson

Tilbury House Publishers, 2014

40 pages, $17.95

Tilbury House’s Nature Book series is a treasure trove of educational children’s book designed to entertain and inform young readers about our natural world.

“Stone Wall Secrets” is a charming geology story told by a patient grandfather and a curious grandson as they explore the stone walls on the family farm. This book was originally published in 1998, and contains complex written narrative best suited for advanced readers aged 8-10.

The grandfather’s farm has many old stone walls, and when he is asked to sell the stones, he wisely requests his grandson’s opinion. The two explore the walls, examining special stones as the grandfather tells how and why the stone walls were built long ago, and how stones were created geologically.

Grandson Adam is fascinated with his grandfather’s stories of how rocks, mountains and glaciers were formed, and how certain stones tell their own stories, like the Ice Age stone, the campfire stone and the meteorite hidden in a wall.

In addition to its excellent geology lesson, this is a heartwarming tale of the loving, nurturing relationship between the grandfather and his grandson, resulting in a close bond and ultimately a sound, thoughtful decision.

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.


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