For my latest Reading Takes You Everywhere Summer Reading post, I’m taking you to the Himalayas, where we can – from a safe, much warmer distance – scale the heights of K2, a mountain “more treacherous” than Mount Everest. Fewer than 400 people have been able to successfully climb K2: “four every four mountaineers who have stood on its summit, one has died trying to get there”. Although Everest stands higher, K2 has unpredictable weather and gale-force winds that have swept climbers off its face entirely. Into the Clouds is the story of two parties that attempted K2: the first American Karakoram Expedition in 1938, and the 1953 Third American Expedition, which makes up a greater part of the book. Into the Clouds follows Charlie Houston’s team as they attempt to summit the mountain in the midst of vicious storms, risks of avalanche, frostbite, illness, and rivalry, turning the expedition into a rescue mission.
Tod Olson can write narrative non-fiction like the most exciting adventure/survival novel: if you haven’t read his Lost series, you need to check in with your I Survived readers, who likely have. Here, he puts together an exhaustively researched work filled with photos to set the reader at base camp along with Houston’s team. The biting winds, the constant fear of freezing and the aggravation each team member felt clearly comes through here. Adventure and survival readers who have moved on from I Survived and are ready to read middle grade and middle school narrative non-fiction like Trapped by Marc Aronson and Jennifer Armstrong’s Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World.
Read the book, and tell your readers to visit Tod Olson’s webpage where they can find an Into the Clouds scavenger hunt. Into the Clouds has a starred review from School Library Journal.
I’m going to stick to my library’s Summer Reading theme, Reading Takes You Everywhere, for this post; in this case, reading takes you into the Great Outdoors!
I have said this before, and I’ll say it again: these chunky, digest-sized NatGeo books MOVE. I refresh my collection throughout the year, every year, because the kids in my library love them. They love the wild collection of facts across all sorts of subjects, they love that they’re small enough to shove in their schoolbags (or mom’s bag), and they’ll pull them out anywhere (ANYWHERE) to rattle off facts to anyone (ANYONE) who will listen. It’s just great. This volume has loads of facts about the ocean: did you know that otters keep rocks under their arms to help them crack open clams? Or that feeding cows seaweed helps them burp less? Maybe you didn’t know this, but a sea cucumber can expel its organs to distract predators, and grow them back later. There are tons of great and fun facts here, accompanied by incredible color photos. Just add it to your cart; the kids will take care of the rest.
I love this gorgeous book! It’s a “story from out of the blue” about how animals evolved from microbes in the ocean to land creatures through Earth’s timeline. Spread by spread, readers travel through the planet’s history, from the Archean Eon (4-2.5 billion years ago) through the Cenzoic Era (66 million year ago to the present), with colorful illustrations as life evolves from sea-dwelling single-celled organisms, to athropods and echinoderms, to mollusks, dinosaurs, and finally, humans. It’s a compulsively readable history that describes the different types of organisms and illustrates the evolution from single- to multi-celled creatures; the development of fins to limbs, and how we are always connected to the water. Readers learn how animals (and people!) compare to those that came before, and the informative text is chunked into readable paragraphs that respect and never overwhelm readers. Perfect for STEM/STEAM collections.
During this last year, lots of us have started some new things: yes, I made my own sourdough starter in the beginning of the shutdown. I finally picked up my knitting needles again, and even managed to finish projects, rather than leave them in various tote bags stuffed into my closet. But one thing I haven’t been able to get back to is sewing. The wonderful folx at Schiffer sent me these two adorable sewing books, though, and I’m thinking that this may be where I pick up some felt, some thread, and a needle, because these are just too cute.
This book is ADORABLE. They have a softie sandwich! And a tiger with a tooth pouch for the Tooth Fairy! Seventeen projects, loaded with color photos, and with bright, easy-to-follow instructions make this a book I need in my home collection and my 745 section. The book is big on being accessible: no expensive threads, fancy machines, or pricey fabrics needed. This is all about learning to love creating with fabric and thread. Inspired by Trixi Symonds’s Sew a Softie initiative to teach kids how to sew, the book offers all you need to get you up and running on a sewing habit, from choosing tools and materials to deciphering the different kinds of stitches. A section for parents on teaching kids to sew is a reminder that this is supposed to be a fun learning experience where the kids get to have a say. Just offer a guiding hand, try not to take over the project. Designs are offered by popular creative bloggers around the world and include such fun projects as a koala softie, circus pincushion, and mermaid snuggle friend. The book includes templates for each softie, making this a fun book to pick up a new hobby. I love it!
What’s a Zenki, you ask? The simplest way to use your imagination and create a softie that speaks to you! Trixi Symonds of Sew a Softie also came up with this great idea to get kids sewing: two squares of felt, four straight lines to sew, and wide seam allowances to let all sorts of limbs, hair, and features be added in with no pinning. Just stick ’em in and sew! These little folx are loaded with character and will inspire kids to make their own Zenkis. All you need is materials and imagination (and a grownup to help out)! Fourteen Zenki patterns include the basics: square, circle, triangle, and mixed-up Zenkis; other patterns let readers add features and character to their Zenkis once they feel ready. Templates are in the back, and the book is filled with color photos and tips and ideas to help you along. A section on the Zenki pattern testers from ages 7-17 with their creations. SO kid friendly, with easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions make this a definite must-buy.
I’ve been blogging and Instagramming about Odd Dot’s Outdoor School series, and today is the big day: launch day! Keep your eyes on this space for news about a giveaway coming soon, and if you’re able, register for a launch event tonight, featuring series creators Jennifer Davis, Haley Blevins, Mary Kay Carson, and Jennifer Swanson discussing the series and answering your questions about mastering outdoor skills! The event is free and open to the public; all you need to do is register here with EventBrite!
The latest “Kid” series from Quirk focuses on the innovators and leaders in technology, business, science and art when they were kids. Organized into four areas, profiles on 16 kid innovators include a diverse group of kids, including Madam C.J. Walker, an African-American woman who became one of the first American women to become a self-made millionaire through her hair and beauty products business; Girls Who Code founder Reshma Saujani, who arrived in the States with her family as Ugandan refugees; William Kamkwamba, the boy from Malawai who brought wind power to his village, and Maria Montessori, whose new approach to education endures today. Full-color illustrations and informative, interesting biographies make this yet another great addition to your middle grade biography sections. I love anthologies like these, because they offer a good jumping-off point for kids to discover someone they may not have previously been familiar with, and be encouraged to delve further into the shelves for more information. Back matter includes a bibliography and index.
Great for virtual programs, use Kid Innovators to spotlight additional biographies from your collection, and related ideas: spotlight Reshma Saujani with Girls Who Code books, and some coding workbooks (DK has some great ones). Shine a light on Jacques Cousteau with his picture book biography, Manfish, and books about marine life. There are activities galore available for every single person profiled in this book! Go wild and have fun.
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.
This collection of biographies shines a light on 40 Latinx women from Latin America and the U.S. who have made outstanding contributions across the board: activists and advocates, educators, musicians, scientists, artists, politicians, and so many more. Some names will be familiar: Pura Belpré, Frida Kahlo, and Sonia Sotomayor are all here, as are names that will be new to many readers, like Rosa Peña de González, who built schools for girls in Paraguay; playwright and congresswoman Gumercinda Páez, who helped draft Panama’s new constitution in 1941, with an eye to Afro-Latinx rights and women’s rights; and Wanda Díaz-Merced, a blind astrophysicist who turned data points into rhythm and sound in order to create a “symphony of sounds for the stars, planets, and asteroids”. The women are outstanding, and this collection of stories should be the tip of the iceberg for more research. Hand-painted illustrations have beautiful folk art feel. Endpapers feature additional artwork with flowers representing each of the countries represented in the book. An inspiring collection with comprehensive back matter that includes brief looks at an additional 10 Latin women and full sources.
Latinitas has a starred review from Kirkus. Get a free activity kit and read a Q&A with author-illustrator Juliet Menéndez. Visit Juliet Menéndez’s author website to see more of her gorgeous artwork and more information about her books.
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.