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Nature Books for Kids

Adventures of Riley: Project Panda
By Amanda Lumry and Laura Hurwitz
Scholastic, 48 pages, $16.99 (Ages 4–8)

Nine-year-old Riley has a sweet deal regularly accompanying his Uncle Max, a world-renowned biologist, and Max’s family on expeditions. In this second installment of the “Adventures of Riley” series, the youngster journeys with his relatives to China in search of giant pandas. Upon visiting a research station at the Wolong Panda Reserve, the first and largest of its kind in the country, they learn that one of the pandas living in the surrounding habitat has gone unaccounted for, and they set out to find it. Considering that there are only about 1,600 pandas in the wild, it’s an important mission. Lively text plunges readers into the quest, drawing them to the edge of their seats when Riley, upon seeing a river of mud and rocks careening down the mountain where the family is hiking, yells “LANDSLIDE!” and pulls everyone to safety. Kids will also enjoy sharing the young hero’s enthusiasm when he makes a grand discovery—paw prints. “This can only mean one thing!” he exclaims. “I think I’ve found our missing panda.” Factoids collected from researchers and conservationists accompany the narrative, providing additional background on pandas and their habitat. Project Panda’s illustrations, which blend wildlife photographs with cartoon drawings of the region, offer a creative take on China while also whetting readers’ appetites for Riley’s next big adventure.—Julie Leibach
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Curious George Plants a Tree
By Monica Perez/Illustrated by Anna Grossnickle Hines, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt,
32 pages, $12.95 (Ages 3–7)

Beloved cartoon primate Curious George is up to his good-natured antics again in Curious George Plants a Tree. After the Man with the Yellow Hat takes him to a museum exhibit about caring for the earth, George is inspired to do his part by volunteering for a tree-planting and recycling project at a local park. To prepare, he collects all the recyclable paper he can find in his house, including old mail and food cartons. But George, who likes nothing better than to help, goes overboard by swiping newspapers from neighbors’ stoops, paper cups from kids selling lemonade, and magazines from a newsstand. His overzealousness ends up saving the day, however, when people in search of their missing items follow him to the park, and then stay to help plant trees. Illustrated in the vein of one of George’s creators, H.A. Rey, bright watercolor depictions of the impish hero proudly pulling a red wagon loaded with recyclable paper or digging a hole for a new sapling will charm kids while also conveying to them that protecting the planet isn’t just a bunch of monkey business.—Julie Leibach
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