The Queen’s Shadow: A story about how animals see by Cybele Young

The Queen's Shadow Kids Can Press, 2015.

The queen has lost her shadow, and all the animals at the ball are suspect. How will their unique ways of seeing help Mantis Shrimp, the royal detective, solve the mystery of who stole the queen’s shadow?

Cybele Young’s detailed but whimsical illustrations and engaging story present the mystery as a way to explore how different creatures see. From a goat’s blind spot to the depth perception of a chameleon, the guests at the queen’s ball all have different ways of seeing the world. As each suspect is accused, we see through the illustrations how that suspect sees the room. Detailed sidebars explain how each animal’s eyesight works.

End matter provides even more science information. One endnote explains in detail how human vision works, another gives more information about the animals featured in the text. A glossary page gives detailed definitions of terms used in the text.

The Queen’s Shadow is a creative and engaging treatment of an interesting subject. This would be a wonderful book to introduce to students who are particularly interested in science or animals. It would also be great to use in coordination with the Next Generation Science Standards as there are specific standards related to eyes and vision. Though this is a picture book, it is geared toward older elementary and middle school readers.

I read this book as an electronic Advance Reader Copy courtesy of Kids Can Press and NetGalley.

The Six by Mark Alpert

The SixSourcebooks Fire, July 1, 2015

Adam is dying slowly and painfully from muscular dystrophy. His dad would do anything to save him, but for now all he can manage is to  keep him supplied with virtual reality games that help him feel like he can still move even though he’s confined to a wheelchair and rapidly losing motor function. One day through his game Adam encounters a serious virtual enemy. The problem is, that enemy is virtual, but also very real–so real that  it’s threatening the human race. Soon, the government hatches a plan to use a group of dying teenagers, including Adam, to fight this artificially intelligent enemy. The doctors say they’re all about to lose their lives anyway. But in order to join the fight and save humanity, they’ll have to abandon their ailing bodies for good.

This is a gripping story full of fascinating questions. Could a computer equipped with artificial intelligence take over the world? How would we fight it? If your body fails but your mind remains, do you still exist? Would you make the choice to live in a robotic body if the alternative was dying?

Teen (and adult) readers will love this book. It’s not just a fast-paced, exciting story, but an invitation to explore existential and ethical questions. Readers will consider whether a person can exist within a robotic body. Could the soul live without the body? They’ll consider the ethics of artificial intelligence. Do we have the right to develop programs that are extremely powerful and that evolve? It’s a dream and a whole passel of nightmares rolled into one.

I read The Six as an electronic ARC courtesy of Sourcebooks Fire and NetGalley. Release is scheduled for July 1, 2015.