Posted in Family Storytimes, picture books, Preschool Reads, Storytime, Toddler Reads

Saturday Storytime: Mindfulness and Wonder

I had a Saturday storytime a couple of weeks ago, and used it as a testing ground for some new books. A nice theme of mindfulness emerged, with a smidgen of wonder underneath; the kids and parents alike seemed to really enjoy this one. I created a short YouTube playlist to show videos for the singalong parts of the storytime; you can use this one, too, or build on it. Now, onto the books!

You Are Light, by Aaron Becker, (March 2019, Candlewick), $15.99, ISBN: 9781536201154

Ages 2-8

I started off with this gorgeous board book by Aaron Becker. The cover has a beautiful die-cut sun and circles; when you hold it up to the light, the effect is really stunning. The book is a rhyming meditation on the relationships between everything in our world: “This is the light that brings the dawn/to warm the sky and hug the land/It sips the sea to make the rain,/which waters wheat to grow the grain”. Each page highlights a facet of the world: sun, fire, water, wheat, leaves, a flower, the moon, and finally, a multicolored mandala with a human form inside of it. The die-cut circles shift in color as each spread progresses, always keeping the readers’ attention and reminding us that all things are connected, including us. The watercolor art is elegant, simple, and lovely; the pacing and text is thought-provoking and soothing. I saw parents cuddle their little ones while the bigger kids reveled in the shifting colors on each page. Aaron Becker does it again, bringing a board book with incredible depth for readers to love. This is going into my regular storytime rotation: it’s beautiful to look at, soothing to read and hear, and inspires thought and affection.

Aaron Becker is a Caldecott Honor-winning author of the Journey picture book trilogy and A Stone for Sascha. His author website has a wealth of free downloadables for parents, caregivers, and educators. You Are Light has starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal.

The Whole Wide World and Me, by Toni Yuly, (Feb. 2019, Candlewick), $15.99, ISBN: 9780763692636

Ages 2-6

A young girl considers the world and her place in it in this beautifully illustrated book. This is another story about how we, and nature, are all connected; the story reads like a gentle meditation: “Like a flower/in a field…/like a fish…/in a pond…/like a cloud…/in the sky…/so am I”. It’s a story of being present, being mindful, and reads almost like a mantra. This would easily be as at home in a yoga or meditation storytime as it is in a traditional storytime. The ink, charcoal, torn tissue, cut paper, and digital collage artwork comes together and provides texture, with bright, bold colors adding a sweet, childhood feel that will bring the grownups in the room back to days when they would climb a tree, lay on the grass, or stick their toes in the water in a pond or at the beach. The artwork is perfect for a post-storytime craft where kids can make their own torn paper collage art.

The Whole Wide World and Me was another hit; I encouraged the kids to stretch to touch the clouds and pretend they were trees; bloom like a flower, spreading their hands wide and raising them up over their heads; and waving like a leaf floating from a tree. I’d pair this with Tiny, Perfect Things and Gina Perry’s Small for another storytime, too.

The Whole Wide World and Me has a starred review from Kirkus.

Stardust, by Jeanne Willis/Illustrated by Briony May Smith, (Feb. 2019, Nosy Crow), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536202656

Ages 3-8

A little girl dreams of being a star, but she always ends up in her sister’s shadow. Whether it’s finding her mother’s ring, knitting a scarf for her grandfather, or entering a costume contest, the girl’s sister outshines her in everything she does, but Grandpa is in her corner, cheering her on. He tells her that of course she’s a star: he explains the Big Bang Theory to her and how we are all made of stardust, and that she just “shines in [a] different way” from her sister. It’s a message that stays with the girl, as we later discover.

Stardust is one of those stories we can all relate to: there’s always someone better, smarter, funnier… sibling or no, Stardust speaks to us all and reminds us that we all have gifts, we all have something that makes us special – we’re just special at different things. The mixed media artwork gives a multilayered feel to the story, and Briony May Smith’s use of shadows give depth to her spreads. The spreads devoted to the birth of the universe are breathtaking, and placing the girl and her grandfather within those spreads is genius; it gives a real sense of the universe and our place in it, and a source of inspiration for kids everywhere.

The kids enjoyed this one, especially the outer-space spreads. I’d pair this with The Stuff of Stars by Marion Dane Bauer and Jordan Crane’s We Are All Me for future storytimes and displays.

 

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

The Stuff of Stars explores the beauty in science, love

The Stuff of Stars, by Marion Dane Bauer/Illustrated by Ekua Holmes, (Sept. 2018, Candlewick), $17.99, ISBN: 9780763678838

Ages 4-8

“In the dark, in the dark, in the deep, deep dark…” with this opening phrase, Newbery Honor winner Marion Dane Bauer and Caledecott Honor winning illustrator Ekua Holmes create a breathtaking story of the Big Bang, our connection to the stars, and celebrate the miracle of birth.

Marion Dane Bauer’s lyrical verse, set to Ekua Holmes, swirling hand-cut, digitally assembled marbled paper artwork gives readers a sense of being part of something much larger than themselves. The verse cradles readers, carrying them through the waiting, first for the Bang! and its expansions that form the planets and stars; through the formation of our planet and the life upon it, and through more waiting, dreaming, growing… and then a final burst upon the world: a child, made of stardust, breathing the same air, made of the same carbon, that formed the earth so long ago. Finding the figures within the ebb and flow of the greater art spreads cements our connection to the earth and one another. The book leaves me feeling small, yet overflowing with gratitude, every time I read it; whether I’m cuddled with my son, or I’m by myself and just want the comfort of its pages.

An absolute must-read, and a wonderful addition to picture book collections, fiction or non-fiction. Pair this with Jordan Crane’s graphic novel, We Are All Me, for exciting new takes on the science of life.

The Stuff of Stars has starred reviews from Kirkus, Booklist, and Publisher’s Weekly.

Posted in Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, picture books, Preschool Reads, Tween Reads

Books to inspire your young scientists!

This is an incredible year for children’s books! There’s something for everyone available or coming soon, with wonderful artwork and text that draws readers right in. This time around, I’m looking at some fun science books for readers – and caregivers will like them, too.

Izzy Gizmo, by Pip Jones/Illustrated by Sara Ogilve,
(March 2018, Peachtree Publishers), $16.95, ISBN: 978-1-68263-021-1
Recommended for readers 4-7

 

Izzy Gizmo is a curious little girl of color who loves to invent, tweak, and discover. Her inventions don’t always work, but she discovers that she has to put her frustrations aside when she rescues a crow with a broken wing. He wants her to help him fly again, and he’s willing to stick with her through trial and error, until she can get it right. I love the bright colors and chaotic art in this story; it lets readers know that creativity is often messy and wild; the story assures readers that mistakes are just opportunities to filter out what isn’t working and concentrate on what will work; and I love the story of endurance and perseverance. Izzy’s grandfather and her crow friend have faith in Izzy; she just has to find her faith in herself. The gray and white endpapers feature different gears and mechanical parts, letting readers know they’re going to put on their engineering hats to help Izzy out, and the art – a mix of pencil, ink, oil pastel, monoprint, and digital technique – create a busy background that provides a glimpse into the mind of a scientist. Originally published in the UK in 2011, Izzy’s just arrived here in the U.S. and her rhyming story would be a great addition to collections where Andrea Beaty’s Iggy Peck, Architect, Rosie Revere, Engineer, and Ada Twist, Scientist are popular.

 

Scientist, Scientist, Who Do You See?, by Chris Ferrie,
(Apr. 2018, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $17.99, ISBN: 9781492656180
Recommended for readers 3-6

 

Set to the cadence of the classic, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, scientist and dad Chris Ferrie introduces little readers to some of history’s greatest minds with Scientist, Scientist, Who Do You See? There is a strong mix of disciplines and diversity represented here, with Einstein sharing space with Grace Hopper, Ahmed Zewail, George Washington Carver, Katherine Johnson, and more. It’s noted as a “scientific parody”, and it certainly is a fun book that will make everyone smile, but kids are introduced to names and ideas, and that’s just great. Starting off with the question, “Einstein, Einstein, Who Do You See?” and the response, “I see Marie Curie in her laboratory”, the story goes on, introducing scientists and their accomplishments, in the soothing rhyme style we’ve grown up hearing and enjoying. Chris Ferrie has given us Baby Science board books and a fun take on Goodnight, Moon with Goodnight, Lab; let’s hope he keeps finding new, fun ways to make science lovers out of our kids.

 

One Day a Dot: The Story of You, the Universe, and Everything, by Ian Lendler/Illustrated by Shelli Paroline & Braden Lamb,
(Apr. 2018, First Second Books), $17.99, ISBN: 9781626722446
Recommended for readers 7-10

This one’s one of my standout favorites. Author Ian Lendler and illustrators Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb drill down the history of everything to one humble dot. From one dot’s excited burst of joy comes the Big Bang, bringing new dots together to form planets and, eventually, life. The dots are animated, dancing, playing, even running away from other dots that want to eat them! The artwork is bright with a retro feel and uses the dot theme as a focal point through the story, gently leading readers on a trip through time and space. It’s a simplified look at the formation of the universe, but works nicely for younger readers. Give this one to kids who like Stacy McAnulty’s Earth: My First 4.5 Billion Years, and Dominic Walliman’s Professor Astro Cat books, published by Nobrow.

 

Iqbal and His Ingenious Idea: How a Science Project Helps One Family and the Planet, by Elizabeth Suneby/Illustrated by Rebecca Green,
(May 2018, Kids Can Press), $19.99, ISBN: 9781771387200
Recommended for readers 7-10

The latest from Kids Can Press’ Citizen Kid imprint, Iqbal and His Ingenious Idea is a fictional story about a Bangladeshi boy named Iqbal, who comes with a clean, solar-powered cookstove for his science fair project. He sees his mother force to cook the family’s meals indoors during monsoon season, but the family has no stove: she cooks over an open fire, which produces smoke that makes breathing difficult, especially for his mother and baby sister. He learns about solar energy cooking, wins first place in the science fair, and introduces a sustainable and healthier way for families to prepare meals. The artwork illustrates everyday life in Bangladesh and communicates the closeness Iqbal shares with his family and his hard work to create a science fair project that accomplishes the dual purpose of getting him a good grade and helping his family. The story shows readers that kids can make a difference, and that healthier living doesn’t depend on expensive gadgets – a little research, and you can make the world a better place with tools right in front of you. The book includes more information on cookstoves, a glossary, and instructions for making a DIY solar cooker. Great for class projects and science fair ideas!

Audrey the Inventor, by Rachel Valentine/Illustrated by Katie Weymouth,
(May 2018), words & pictures, $17.95, ISBN: 9781910277584
Recommended for readers 4-7

Audrey could hang out with Izzy (first book) and Andrea Beaty’s gang. A wild-haired, redheaded little girl who uses measuring tape for ribbons, Audrey is a curious kid who wants to be an inventor – but she doesn’t know what to invent! She sets off on a host of different ideas, some involving her poor cat, Happy Cat, all of which end up in the “rework” pile. She’s ready to throw in the towel, but decides to give it one last try after getting some encouragement. Little touches, like featuring a graph paper background and visualizing Audrey’s thought process and her doodles, invite kids to share their own ways of working out ideas. The collage, watercolor, and pen artwork comes together to create a busy story about a busy mind. A fun add to creative collections.

These books offer a great way to introduce the scientific method, even for younger grades. Little Bins for Little Hands has a good article, with tips on using the scientific method – and including links to experiments – for preschoolers.

Posted in Non-Fiction, Tween Reads

How to Make a Planet makes astronomy accessible – and awesome – to middle graders

how to make a planetHow to Make a Planet, by Scott Forbes/Illustrated by Jean Camden. Kids Can Press (2012), $17.95, ISBN: 9781894786881

Recommended for ages 8-12

How to Make a Planet takes the best part of an astronomy textbook and makes it accessible to middle grade students. Written as a how-to-guide to making your own planet, Scott Forbes breaks down the entire process of Earth’s formation, from the Big Bang through to the arrival of… well, us. Mr. Forbes writes about quarks and neutrons, the periodic table of elements and continental drift, all in a way that neither speaks down to his audience nor bores them. Accompanied by Jean Camden’s fun illustrations, including kids working on their planetary masterpiece and bike riding across the solar system, with giant insects, dinosaurs and more, there is always something exciting to read and see. A running “Time Check” box contains information bullets describing what’s happening at different intervals in the Earth’s creation. There is an Amazing Facts page, glossary and index.

This book is a great resource for teachers and librarians to have available in classroom, school, and public libraries. It’s a great way increase science literacy and interest younger readers in the sciences.

 

 

 

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