Can rats burp? What’s the smartest animal on Earth? And why is poo brown?

These are just a few of the questions children asked while at a special cafe set up at Toronto‘s Ontario Science Centre. The answers were provided by educators and science researchers in the book Why Don’t Cars Run on Apple Juice? Real Science Questions from Real Kids by Kira Vermond ($19.95, Annick Press).

The hardcover book, for kids in grades two to six, breaks questions down into categories such as Earth, creepy, crawling, living things, human bodies, outer space and big ideas.

The questions are really great and quite thoughtful. And as a reader, I wanted to know the answers to ‘Can we make dinosaurs from dino DNA’ (no); ‘Will another asteroid hit Earth’ (yes and in fact it gets hit by rocks all the time) and ‘Why do my toots smell?’ (bacteria that live in our large intestines produce waste and some of it is stinky).

The answers are funny, interesting and easy to read. Big questions are answered in a few paragraphs. The illustrations by Suharu Ogawa are quite funny, too.

For the record, rats can’t burp or vomit, but they do fart; smart depends on how you look at things, crows can solve puzzles and dolphins recognize themselves, but humans are the smartest; and poop is brown because of bile, red blood cells and gut bacteria.

Illustration of two boys and two girls and an old creepy house
The Ghost of Mill House by Margriet Ruurs is for six to eight year olds.

The Ghost of Mill House

The Ghost of Mill House by Margriet Ruurs ($6.95, Orca Echoes) is the second book in a series featuring Josh and his friends – Mark, Mary Jane and Angela. You didn’t need to read the first book – Bus to the Badlands – to understand what was going on in this one.

In The Ghost of Mill House, Mark’s Aunt Sue and Uncle Doug invite him and his friends to help restore a historic mill house in Oregon. There are positives – freedom of country living, learning about the area, starring in a movie, but issues too – lots of bugs and a resident ghost who makes an appearance. The mill is also in financial trouble and the kids have to find a way to help Sue and Doug keep it running.

This book is for six to eight year olds. Despite the title and the fact there is a resident ghost, the book is not at all scary. It’s a quick read about a fun summer break for four friends.

The Orca Echoes series are short chapter books that teach responsibility and character building.

Read my Q&A with Ruurs about her book Birthdays Around the World here.

Illustration of two Chinese friends looking at the stars around them.
Stargazing is a graphic novel for eight to 12 year olds.


Stargazing is a graphic novel by Jen Wang ($16.99, Raincoast Books, First Second Books) for children eight to 12. In this book, Moon moves into Christine’s Chinese-American community. The two unlikely friends become best friends – they paint their toenails (when Christine’s strict parents aren’t around), hang out and plan to enter the talent show. Moon then tells Christine her deepest secret – celestial beings tell Moon she doesn’t belong on Earth.

“But then catastrophe strikes. After relying on Moon for everything, can Christine find it in herself to be the friend Moon really needs?”

The book was OK. I liked the illustrations. Moon was such a unique character. She was who she was and didn’t apologize for it. Christine, growing up with strict parents in a traditional home, was less so. You could see why she became friends with Moon. And while Christine’s behaviour wasn’t kind, it wasn’t surprising either. Jealousy is a power emotion.

A copy of these books were provided by Annick Press, Orca Books and Raincoast Books for an honest review. The opinions are my own.