Earth Day is tomorrow, but I’ve got books and books to talk about! Let’s love the animals we share the planet with, shall we?
Animals love to play hide and seek in the wild: it keeps them safe! Masters of Disguise profiles twelve different animals, from Gaboon Vipers in Africa to the Great Horned Owl in North and South America, to the Panther Chameleon in Madagascar. Gorgeous watercolor, pencil, and digital collage artwork invites readers to look for animals in their habitats, and profiles on each animal spotlights their uniqueness: polar bear paws and colorless coats; African leopard rosettes on their lush coats, the mimic octopus’s list of impersonations. Fun facts and inviting artwork make this a wonderful invitation to learn more about the animals in their habitats; endpapers spotlight a world map with the animals noted across their locations.
Masters of Disguise has a starred review from Kirkus.
Reptile fans, get ready! Britta Teckentrup – one of my favorite illustrators! – brings her talents to this great primer on reptiles. Zoologist Camilla de la Bedoyere writes a very readable, interactive book for animals fans, inviting readers to pick the dinosaurs out of a reptile lineup; view a reptile timeline; learn about reptiles in different habitats, and watch a group of baby leatherback turtles race for the ocean. Digital artwork is colorful, and fun facts make each page compulsively readable. Readers will be excited to look for more books on new favorite lizards, like the Komodo Dragon or the Gila Monster, when finishing this one.
Earth Day is getting closer, friends! I’ve got more fun to celebrate Earth Day every day!
This is a slight deviation from books, but how can you go wrong with an Earth-shaped puzzle of the Earth, using a NASA photo? The puzzle is a nice size, at 2 1/2 feet in diameter; pieces are large and sturdy, as is the storage container. It’s a beautiful shot of Earth from space that will delight you as it comes together. This puzzle is a companion to Chronicle’s Moon and Mars puzzles, for anyone interested in building their own universe. A fun, hands-on way to support astronomy and science learners! My Kiddo and I have been trying to put it together for a few weeks now, and it’s coming along; I’ll have to post the finished product.
Bruno is a beekeeping bear, having inherited his grandfather’s apiary. Together with his human Grandma, he spends his time caring for the bees and harvesting their honey in this introduction to beekeeping and the life cycle of bees. Organized into seasons, with warm, honey-colored illustrations, readers learn the different types of bees and their functions within the hive; parasites and predators to watch out for, and they watch Bruno as he goes about the business of cleaning and preparing the hives for the next year. Side notes about Grandma’s part in the beekeeping: helping Bruno prepare the hives, making beeswax candles, and delicious gingerbread cookies with the harvested honey! A lovely book about beekeeping and bees for the season, with a gingerbread cookie recipe and an index. Display with Katherine Pryor’s Bea’s Bees, Maribeth Boelts’s Kaia and the Bees, Candace Fleming and Eric Rohmann’s award-winning Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera, and Alison Formento’s These Bees Count! for a nice bee-related display.
And coming soon…
The Wild World Handbook: How Adventurers, Artists, Scientists – and You – Can Protect Earth’s Habitats, by Andrea Debbink/Illustrated by Asia Orlando, (May 2021, Quirk Books), $19.99, ISBN: 9781683692461
The first in a new middle grade series, this volume of The Wild World Handbook focuses on habitats. Organized into nine habitats, from mountains to grasslands, the handbook includes biographical profiles on outdoor scientists, artists, and activists; DIY crafts to give kids a hands-on learning experience and understanding of their world, natural wonders to be found in each habitat, and ways kids can take part in being stewards for the planet. Plan an expedition to the Himalayas or visit an underwater world; make a desert or rainforest biome or learn to press flowers and plants. This is another program-in-a-book treasure for us librarians, and a beautiful, full-color guidebook to earth advocacy for kids. Just in time to get the kids out and about for summer, make sure to display with the upcoming Outdoor School series from Macmillan and Odd Dot.
Earth Day is coming at the end of the month, so expect to see lots of books about our big blue dot here over the next few weeks. Today, I’m starting with the earth – the ground itself – and what it gives us.
The latest in the “A World of…” series from Martin Jenkins and James Brown is all about plants. Organized into 30 areas and fully illustrated with 2-color artwork and infographics, this oversized book covers plants from seed to bloom; how they spread, who eats them and who they eat; plants that thrive in different habitats, and more. A Plants in Peril section covers conservation and environmental awareness, with an eye to different plants that are threatened, overharvested, and facing habitat destruction. A section on symbolic plants discusses the link between religion and nature. Fun facts abound: learn your climbing plants, for instance, by identifying which are twiners, which are tendrils and leaf twiners, which are clingers, and which are hook climbers. How do plants defend themselves? A World of Plants goes beyond thorns and looks at the dumb cane, a plant that accumulates needlelike crystals that can pierce an animal’s mouth, or the passionflower, whose leaves mimic dots that look like butterfly eggs, so butterfiles will pass them by. A World of Plants is a nice addition to a beautiful nonfiction series. Sample a chapter at publisher Candlewick’s website.
Another good nonfiction series, Welcome to the Museum, introduces its newest wing, Fungarium. It’s all about the mushrooms here! Organized into four galleries, readers will get the full scoop on Fungal Biology, Fungal Diversity, Fungal Interactions, and Fungi and Humans. Fungi get a pretty bad rap (myself included: not a mushroom fan), but this book seeks to clear up a lot of issues people have: without fungi, there would be no coffee, tea, or chocolate, which is reason enough for me to fully support my local mycologist. Beautiful scientific illustration brings the diversity of these organisms to life on the page, and detailed keys to each plate provide helpful information at a glance. Entries on each section in the galleries give readers plenty of information to get them started on learning about fungi, from what’s growing on that tree we pass on the way to school every morning to what’s in cans at the grocery store. Worried about what not to eat? The section on Poisonous Fungi makes sure you know how to identify a Death cap, False morel, or Destroying angel. If that’s too much of a turn-off, head over to Wonder Drugs and learn how fungi are also the source of many modern medicines, including that wonder drug, penicillin. Fully indexed, with a list of further resources and brief bios on the curators behind the book, Fungarium is a nice addition to the Welcome to the Museum series. Publisher Candlewick has a sample chapter available for viewing.
Fungarium has starred reviews from Booklist and Kirkus.
Twirl Books has so many great new books coming out for younger readers. The board books coming out via the imprint are interactive and encourage new and developing readers to imagine and explore, and their desk reference series, “Do You Know?”, are just what early school-age kids need when they want to dig into a subject, maybe for the first time.
Do You Know? Dinosaurs and the Prehistoric World gives kids what they want: information about dinosaurs in a picture-heavy format. A visual table of contents serves as a road map to discovery: Types of Dinosaurs, Popular Dinosaurs, Dinosaur Life, Life Without Dinosaurs, and More To Know sections bring kids right to the areas they’re interested in. Bold black fonts are easy to read and pop off the white page, and realistic dinosaur artwork shares space with cartoony artwork, along with cartoony kids, to explain fun facts versus science facts. Easy to understand diagrams show kids different parts of a dinosaur, and an added section on when dinosaurs lived show cartoony dinosaurs being puzzled at interacting with human children or frightened of a dinosaur they come across that lived at a different time. A Let’s Review! section at the end of each chapter offers fun activities to enhance learning.
Similar in overall layout to Do You Know? Dinosaurs and the Prehistoric World, Do You Know? Oceans and Marine Life is all about underwater life: sections on Oceans, Seas, and More!, A Day by the Ocean, A Day at the Beach, Ocean Vehicles, Marine Animals, and More to Know brings the ocean and ocean life to the reader. Each section has a “Let’s Review” area with extra learning activities, and colored boxes at the bottom right of each page direct readers to related subjects in other areas of the book. Cartoony kids hang out with polar bears, deep sea dive with a school of fish, and sail a tugboat through spreads on warm waters, The Blue Planet, and water sports. Sidebars explain what sand is, what to eat at a picnic, and what to do if you’re afraid of the water. Infographics explain the water cycle and underwater food chain.
Each book has a full index and is a great desk reference for emerging readers. My Kiddo has absconded with my copies, if that’s any clue!
The Stuff Between the Stars is the picture book biography of Vera Rubin, the astronomer who discovered and named dark matter. It also touches on the sexism and ignorance she encountered from the male scientists in her field who called her ideas “ridiculous” and “outlandish”; she persisted, taking pictures of galaxies in motion, proving her groundbreaking theory and forcing the men in her field to admit she was right and concede that they had only been studying a fraction of the actual universe. A vanguard whose time has come, this biography is best for early grade schoolers. Watercolor, ink, and charcoal artwork bring the magic of the night sky to life, with colorful endpapers and artwork throughout. The images of Vera Rubin standing alone against a group of men helps readers feel the intimidation Vera Rubin must have fought off every day of her career, but she stands firm. Back matter includes an author’s note, a timeline of Vera Rubin’s life, notes, and a bibliography. Read this with Marion Dane Bauer’s The Stuff of Stars (2018) for a beautiful perspective on our connection to the universe.
Sandra Nickel says that story ideas are everywhere; you just have to reach out and grab them. She holds an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her first book, Nacho’s Nachos: The Story Behind the World’s Favorite Snack, was a Golden Kite Award finalist. Sandra lives in Chexbres, Switzerland, where she blogs about children’s book writers and illustrators at whatwason.com. To learn more, visit https://sandranickel.com/.
Aimée Sicuro is an illustrator, picture book maker, and surface pattern designer who received a BFA in Illustration from Columbus College of Art and Design. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and young sons. Visit her website to learn more.
One lucky winner will receive a copy of The Stuff Between the Stars courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers (U.S. addresses). Enter this Rafflecopter giveaway!
Told in the quiet, poetic voice of the Unknown Soldier, Twenty-One Steps is the story of the Unknown Soldier and of the soldiers who guard the Tomb through sun and rain. It is the most difficult post to earn, and the highest privilege for those who do. Every bit of each soldier’s appearance, every step they take, is in service to the Unknown Soldier. Jeff Gottesfeld and Matt Tavares create a moving tribute to the soldiers who have paid the ultimate price, and those who guard them in this flawless work. An afterword about Arlington National Cemetery concludes the book. The first soldier, a World War I veteran, was interred in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier 100 years ago this coming November; make sure to have this in your collections.
Twenty-One Steps has starred reviews from The Horn Book and Kirkus.
This picture book biography on code breaker Elizebeth Friedman is a great way to kick off Women’s History Month! Beginning with her early years as a Shakespeare-loving student and working for an eccentric millionaire, she meets fellow code aficionado and scientist, William Friedman. The two marry, and their expertise in codes and ciphers led to their groundbreaking work in cryptology during World War I. Friedman traveled two worlds, raising her family away from the city and answering the government’s call for help, whether it was to break smuggler’s codes during Prohibition or ferreting out Nazi spies and Japanese spies during World War II. The FBI took credit for the work she and her team did, and she was sworn to secrecy. Her secrets were declassified 35 years after her death in 2015. Laurie Wallmark, a STEM/STEAM biographer for women in STEM, has written several books I’ve brought to my Girls Who Code sessions, including Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code (2017) and Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine (2015). She has a great way of factual storytelling that show each of her heroines breaking barriers while juggling the weight of societal expectations. Ms. Wallmark does Elizebeth Friedman a great justice and brings her story to a new generation of girls.
Brooke Smart’s watercolor and gouache paintings sprinkle Friedman quotes throughout and have humorous moments, including a page where a line of coded language wraps itself around an angry group of Nazis as Friedman gazes off sagely on the companion page; one spread has Friedman leading a team of young men through ticker tapes, curling all over the page, likely pointing out how to break codes. She combines the realistic with the imaginative, encouraging readers to let their minds go where coding takes them. Back matter includes an explanation on codes and ciphers, cryptography, and a crack the code exercise, along with a bibliography and timeline of Friedman’s life. An excellent biography on a ’til-now virtually unknown figure in history.
Check out the Code Breaker, Spy Hunter book page on author Laurie Wallmark’s webpage where you’ll find a trailer, cool activity sheets, and more!
Award-winning author Laurie Wallmark has written picture-book biographies of women in STEM fields ranging from computer science to mathematics, astronomy to code breaking. Her books have earned multiple starred reviews, been chosen as Junior Library Guild Selections, and received awards such as Outstanding Science Trade Book, Cook Prize Honor, and Parents’; Choice Gold Medal. She is a former software engineer and computer science professor. She lives in Ringoes, New Jersey. You can find her at lauriewallmark.com.
On Twitter: @lauriewallmark
Brooke Smart loves telling stories through her illustrations, especially stories about brave women from history. She has always loved to read, and growing up she could be found nightly falling asleep with a book on her chest. Illustrating books as a professional artist is a lifelong dream come true. She is living the busy, tired, happy, wonderful dream in Salt Lake City, Utah, with her husband, their three kids, and their naughty cat named Sunshine. Learn more about her at brooke-smart.com.
One lucky winner will receive a copy of Code Breaker, Spy Hunter courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers (U.S. addresses). Enter this Rafflecopter giveaway!
Growing Up with a Bucket Full of Happiness: Three Rules for a Happier Life (10th Anniversary Edition), by Carol McCloud/Illustrated by Penny Weber, (Aug. 2020, Bucket Fillosophy), $9.95, ISBN: 9780996099998
When my older kids were in elementary school, their schoolwide book club read a book called Have You Filled a Bucket Today?, and they came home talking about filling buckets and being bucket fillers. When I went into the school, there were bucket-filling pictures hanging up outside the classrooms, and I thought, “Wow, this is really something”. Flash forward 10 years, and I’ve finally read the 10th Anniversary copy of the book in the bucket filler series, this one for intermediate and middle grade readers, Growing Up with a Bucket Full of Happiness. It’s a series of rules for living kindly, and there are three: Be a Bucket Filler, Don’t Dip, and Use Your Lid. The premise is smart: we all have buckets in which we carry our good thoughts and happy feelings, and when we fill other people’s buckets through kind words and good deeds, we fill our own buckets. People who hurt others and are disrespectful are bucket dippers – they take from your bucket and in doing so, take from their own buckets. If you are about to react to someone hurting your feelings, they suggest using a lid to remind you that you can control how you react to someone, but you can’t control their actions. The book is straightforward, with tips and encouraging ways to live kindly, ending with a pledge and journaling/discussion questions. Colorful artwork throughout features illustrations of kids and adults being kind – or unkind – to one another to emphasize the text. It’s something to keep in mind and on your shelves for kids to discover, and to talk about if you have a book group reading nonfiction. We’ve seen enough rampant unkindness over the last few years that maybe it’s time to concentrate on being bucket fillers again. The Bucket Fillers website has free activities to download, including crafts and activities, to help.
A travel book for kids that includes tips and tricks for navigating New York City, Little Kid, Big City: New York is set up like a choose-your-own-adventure book – just like New York! Most of the action is concentrated in Manhattan, but there are highlights in the outer boroughs, like Rockaway Beach and the Unisphere in my ‘hood, Queens; Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, Coney Island in Brooklyn, and so much more! There are great little inside secrets to New York, too: what makes our bagels taste so good? The water! The pizza? Foldable! Underground art galleries? Check the subways! Read the book straight through, or follow the prompts that give you a choice to wander all over the city. Colorful illustrations capture the buzz of New York by day, and the rhyming text lets little readers enjoy a story about New York City! The book is a spin-off of the Little Kid Big City website, which also has a wealth of information perfect for families traveling to New York, London, Amsterdam, and Washington, DC, and the Instagram account, which has gorgeous photos, guides, and reels.
Let the kids plan the next adventure when we can travel again – many of these sites are still closed at the moment – and you can’t go wrong. Until then, download a free Travel from Home Activity Kit. Back matter includes an “Adventure Index” that provides more in-depth detail about each of the sites visited in the book, and there’s a fold-out map of New York and the boroughs to hang up. Bundle this with Nadja Spiegelman and Sergio García Sánchez’s graphic novel, Lost in NYC, for a full New York experience.