Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

#HomesCool: Storytelling Math RULES!

Charlesbridge Publishing has a new series that’s just in time for school, whether you’re fully remote, homeschooling, unschooling, or blended learning. Storytelling Math is all about looking at math a little differently. The authors and illustrators are diverse, their characters speak different languages, and they all speak the universal language of mathematics. The series was developed in collaboration with math experts at STEM education non-profit TERC, under a grant from the Heising-Simons Foundation.

Let’s start with award-winning author/illustrator Grace Lin’s new math board book series!

What Will Fit?, by Grace Lin, (Oct. 2020, Charlesbridge), $6.99, ISBN: 9781623541255

Ages 0-3

Olivia, a little girl, heads to a farmer’s market, ready to fill her basket with good food. What will fit? The beet just rolls around, but the zucchini is too long, and just sticks out. How will Olivia find the best fit and bring home some healthy food? What Will Fit? is all about spatial relations. A section called Exploring the Math explains the math – in this case, spatial sense and how things fit – in the context of the story. A Try This! section offers easy activities that parents and caregivers can incorporate lessons into a child’s day. Exploring Math and Try This are written by Douglas Clements, Kennedy Endowed Chair and Professor at the University of Denver and executive director of the Marsico Institute for Early Learning and Literacy.

Grace Lin’s artwork is always so colorful and fun. Setting What Will Fit? in a farmer’s market allows her to let her character, a young girl of color, wander through a colorful setting, with delicious foods that kids can identify, count, and name shapes and colors.

 

The Last Marshmallow, by Grace Lin, (Oct. 2020, Charlesbridge), $6.99, ISBN: 9781623541262

Ages 0-3

It’s a cold day out, and Olivia and Mei warm up with some hot chocolate. There are two friends, and three marshmallows: who will get the last marshmallow? All about division and fractions, The Last Marshmallow is also about sharing and friendship. Exploring the Math explains how sharing leads to a real-world understanding of fractions and division, and Try This! suggests having kids figure out how to share food in different increments in a way that’s fair to everyone.

The artwork is cheerful and focuses mainly on Olivia and Mei, with two yummy cups of hot cocoa, and three plump marshmallows to split between them.

 

Circle! Sphere!, by Grace Lin, (Oct. 2020, Charlesbridge), $6.99, ISBN: 9781623541248

Ages 0-3

Manny, Mei, and Olivia are playing outside together and want to blow bubbles. There are three bubble wands; one for each friend. Each wand has a different shape, but they all blow spherical bubbles! Teaching children the foundation of geometry, Circle! Sphere! looks at shapes and 3-dimensional objects using a day outside, spent blowing bubbles with friends. Exploring the Math explains how the story helps build that mathematical foundation, and Try This! introduces new vocabulary words, including sphere, circle, and round, along with suggestions for encouraging children to think about shapes.

The artwork is cheery , depicting three friends playing outside on a warm day. Bubbles and wands offer the chance to go over shapes and colors with little learners.

 

Up to My Knees!, by Grace Lin, (Oct. 2020, Charlesbridge), $6.99, ISBN: 9781623541231

Ages 0-3

Mei celebrates the spring by gardening! She plants a seed and waits for it to grow. With water, sun, and time, the plant grows and grows: first it’s as tall as her toe; then, her knees; her shoulders, and finally, when summer arrives, the sunflower is in full bloom and taller than Mei! Up to My Knees introduces height and measurement in a story about plants, growing, and the seasons. Explore This explains how stories like Up to My Knees set the stage for understanding measurements and, eventually, using tools like yardsticks and rulers. Try This! encourages parents and caregivers to work with kids to measure things in their homes and environs, and introduces vocabulary words like longer and taller.

The artwork is cheery and bright: it’s spring and summer! Mei is out in the open air, gardening and growing a lush green plant that blooms into a bright sunflower.

Setting the stage for everyday math concepts, Grace Lin’s board book series features diverse characters and tells deeper stories of sharing and friendship. While Grace Lin’s website doesn’t have anything about the Storytelling Math books up yet, she does have some great resources available for parents, caregivers, and kids. The Storytelling Math website has author Q&A and videos; I’m hoping we get some educator and parent resources soon, too.

 

Lia and Luis: Who Has More?, by Ana Crespo/Illustrated by Giovana Medeiros, (Oct. 2020, Charlesbridge), $15.99, ISBN: 9781623541279

Ages 3-6

Twins Lia and Luis try to one-up one another when it comes to their favorite snacks. Lia’s got two chicken croquettes, and Luis has a bag of tapioca biscuits. So who has more? Depends on how you look at it: if you’re counting, a bag of chips has a lot more than just two; but if you weigh them, two chicken croquettes weigh more than a light bag of chips. So how do they even things out without anyone feeling bad?

The twins use the math concepts of comparing, measuring, and counting to work out who has “more”: depending on what you consider more, the answer is going to be different, as they learn. They learn that quantity and weight are two very, very different things! It’s an easy way to put learning into practice: the next time you go to a grocery store, show your kids how different packaging doesn’t necessarily mean there’s more of something; point out how the weight really makes the difference, especially when it comes to getting the best deal for your money.  A Try This! section at the end of the story, by Sara Cordes, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Psychology at Boston College, offers practical ways to help kids put this story into practice.

This is a fun story made even more fun by the fact that Lia and Luis speak Portuguese! The narrative text of the story is in English, and Lia and Luis, who are Brazilian, speak Portuguese to one another. A glossary of phrases is there for readers (but they’re largely understandable in context). Friendly characters, warm colors, and an exciting new language lesson make learning math even more enjoyable!

 

The Animals Would Not Sleep, by Sara Levine/Illustrated by Marta Alvarez Miguens, (Oct. 2020, Charlesbridge), $15.99, ISBN: 9781623541286

Ages 3-6

Marco has to get ready for bed, but his stuffed animals are causing a ruckus! He tries to sort them into bins to get ready for bed, but they aren’t happy! He attemps different classifications to sort by – he IS a scientist, after all! – and finally arrives at an arrangement that works well for everyone. Incredibly relatable – my Kiddo loved this, because it mirrors has bedtime arrangement – and sweetly affectionate, The Animals Would Not Sleep is a good bedtime story, but it’s also a great way to start talking about the concepts of classification, sorting, and characteristics. Each time Marco classifies and sorts his animals, he’s spot on – some are flying animals, some move on land, some swim – but they complain. He changes them up according to size, and then color, but someone is always feeling left out. His last arrangement takes everyone’s feelings into consideration and leads to a good night’s sleep.

Back matter talks about sorting in science, and a sections on Exploring the Math and Try This! by Karen Economopoulos, Co-Director of the Investigations Center for Curriculum and Professional Development at TERC, introduces ways to bring sorting and classifying into your homes. Encourage your kids to sort some of their toys or school supplies and explain what led them to their decisions. Encourage scientific thinking!

Most Storytelling Math books are available in both English and Spanish, which makes me very happy.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

#SummersCool: Picture Book Party!

Want to keep the kiddos reading and learning this summer? Picture books are the way to go! Fiction, non-fiction, a great mix of the two, picture books have them all and they’re fun to read with and to your littles. Give some of these a whirl:

Rover Throws a Party, by Kristin L. Gray/Illustrated by Scott Magoon, (March 2020, Knopf Books for Young Readers), $17.99, ISBN: 9780525646488

Ages 3-7

I get such a kick out of the Rover books that have been hitting shelves, introducing the Rovers as kid-friendly robots wandering around Mars. This latest one, Rover Throws a Party, inspired by the Curiosity Rover, is a great mix of fiction and non-fiction for preschoolers and early elementary learners. Rover is planning the best party in the universe to celebrate an anniversary on Mars, and there is so much to do! Will someone – or something – join Curiosity to celebrate? As the Curiosity trundles through each spread, there’s a fun story to read; a step in the party planning, and a fact about Mars or the Curiosity, related to the storyline. As Curiosity captures a sunrise, the accompanying fact tells readers that Mars sunrises and sunsets appear blue; Curiosity invites NASA to the party, and we discover that it takes about 20 minutes for a radio transmission to reach Earth from Mars. The digital artwork is bright and fun, instantly eyecatching, and just adorable: Curiosity wears a party hat on the cover; how can you pass that up? Endpapers feature NASA Mission Control and the Mars landscape, with party invitations and confetti strewn about. An author’s note, a bibliography, and Rover fast facts make this a storytime, science time pick.

Visit illustrator Scott Magoon’s website for some more info on Rover Throws a Party, including a link to fun printables (and storytime videos)! Author Kristin L. Gray’s website has link to her blog, information about her other books, and author fun facts.

 

The Blunders: A Counting Catastrophe!, by Christina Soontornvat/Illustrated by Colin Jack, (Feb. 2020, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536201093

Ages 3-7

The Blunder Kids are driving their mom CRAZY. The 10 brothers and sisters “blundered” the laundry, the bathtub, and let the hamsters out and the dogs in. Momma Blunder needs a break, so she sends them out to go play, telling them to be back by sunset. No problem! The kids go play outside by the creek, but when it’s time to go home, the headcount doesn’t quite match up. No matter who’s counting -and each and every kid takes a shot at counting! – there are only 9 Blunders! Can you figure out where the mistake is? Thank goodness, Mom saves the day.

This is a sweetly fun story, based on a favorite folktale. Teachers and parents responsible for headcounts will get a big kick out of this, as (spoiler alert!) each child leaves themselves out of the counting, always leaving them one short. It’s great for interactive storytelling, because you can get kids counting along with you and asking them if they can figure out who’s missing and why. The digital illustrations are bright, bold, and characters have expressive faces that kids can easily read. The different headcounting methods are good for a laugh (“Raise your hand if you’re lost”), and the excuses for being late are just hilarious. Great for counting storytimes, and if you have Loud House fans, sign them up as Reading Buddies to read this one to younger readers; I got a real Loud House vibe from the big family and the general mayhem that goes along with them. So much fun for math-type reading.

Author Christina Soontornvat has a great author website with more info about the author herself, all of her books, and videos with book trailers and interviews. Illustrator Colin Jack has worked on books and for Dreamworks; check out his Instagram for more of his illustration.

 

Creature Features, by Big Picture Press/Illustrated by Natasha Durley, (March 2020, Big Picture Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536210439

Ages 3-8

This is a fun animal book for younger kids: preschoolers to kindergarteners are the sweet spot, with older kids enjoying the cool animals that they may not see in animal books. Vibrant colors set off the pages, and each spread features animals with unusual, alliterative, characteristics: Enormous Eyes; Nice Noses; Excellent Ears; Terrific Tails; Dreaded Defenses; Huge Horns; Wonderful Webbed Feet; Lovely Long Necks; Tremendous Tongues, and Fantastic Fur. There’s an introductory paragraph about how these characteristics help the animals, and questions for observant readers to discover and answer. There is always something new to discover here, and the larger size and heavy cardboard pages make this a great transitional book for kids moving from board books to picture books. I enjoy books that give kids a look at different animals, and this has a bunch of good ones, including a sea hare (doesn’t look like a rabbit), an aardwolf (not in the Nice Noses section!), and narwhal, who’s become a popular picture book subject over the last few years. Worth the purchase for your animal book collections.

 

Ocean! Waves for All (Our Universe), by Stacy McAnulty/Illustrated by David Litchfield, (May 2020, Henry Holt), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250108098

Ages 4-8

Stacy McAnulty’s Our Universe books have been home runs here at home. My kiddo – who just turned 8 in quarantine! – has asked me to get each one as it comes out, ever since I introduced him to Earth! My First 4.54 Billion Years at a bookstore a couple of years ago. Ocean: Waves for All is the fourth book in the series; this is the nonfiction STEM series to spend your budget dollars on. Plus, it’s written in the voice of a surfer, which opens up amazing storytime readaloud possibilities for me. Win-win.

Ocean is the dude. Atlantic, Pacific, Arctic, Indian, it’s all excellent Ocean. Ocean is super laid-back, proud of itself – and why shouldn’t it be? Ocean covers over 71% of our world. Ocean is free: “no flag. No nationality. My waves are for all.” But DUDE! People visit outer space more than Ocean; what’s up with that? And Ocean is in some serious trouble, too; people are filling Ocean up with garbage; Ocean’s creatures are struggling to survive, and glaciers and icebergs are melting too fast. Loaded with amazing facts, Ocean is gorgeously illustrated and superbly written, and comes with a serious message: take care of our planet. Take care of our ocean. Ocean is drawn with a friendly face, big, blue eyes, and a smiling (and sometimes scared) mouth. Endpapers are bursting with color, giving readers a glimpse of the underwater landscape. Slip off the book’s cover to see a different view of Ocean. Don’t miss it.

Illustrator David Litchfield’s website has more of his artwork and links to his blog. Author Stacy McAnulty has a great author website with info about her books, activity sheets, and curriculum guides. It’s a great reference resource and storytime resource (SO MANY COLORING SHEETS).

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Am I Yours? is an adorable dino guessing game

Am I Yours?, by Alex Latimer, (Sept. 2018, Peachtree Publishers), $16.95, ISBN: 9781682630440

Ages 3-6

An icy prehistoric wind blows an egg out of its nest; it rolls, then lands, in the midst of a group of dinosaurs. As the egg begs for help in identifying its parents, each dinosaur offers a description of itself and asks the embryonic dinosaur if it shares the same trait: Stegosaurus, Brachiosaurus, Triceratops, Corythosaurus, even Tyrannosaurus all try to help, but the poor egg is bereft: it doesn’t sound like any of these dinosaurs are its parents! In a melodramatic turn, the egg fears the chill night will be its last, but no worries: the setting sun presents a silhouette of the little pterosaur inside the egg, and the dinosaurs rejoice: they can reunite the family!

This adorable rhyming tale is a dinoriffic take on the “Are You My Mother?” theme. The dinosaurs are mostly familiar faces, and the rhyming and repetition allows kids to anticipate what will happen next. Dinosaurs are bright in color; pencil art that’s been digitized and finished with color and texture gives the artwork a mixed media feel. This would make an adorable flannel story – get yourself to the craft store! There’s a free downloadable matching game on Peachtree’s website.

Booktalk and display with Stephen Lomp’s Mamasaurus and Papasaurus, and Ed Young’s Seven Blind Mice.

Posted in Early Reader, Preschool Reads

The Angry Little Puffin clears up some confusion

puffinThe Angry Little Puffin, by Timothy Young (Sept. 2014, Schiffer Publishing), $16.99, ISBN: 978-0-7643-4387

Recommended for ages 5-8

“Oh, look at that cute little penguin!” This little puffin has had it up to HERE with being mistaken for a penguin, and he’s going to let everyone know the differences between puffins and penguins – RIGHT NOW.

What follows is an adorably illustrated lesson on puffins: where they live, what they eat, different types of puffins, and their ability to fly (versus flightless penguins). The puffin’s rant isn’t fruitless; he discovers that there’s at least one little girl out there who understands the difference between penguins and puffins, something that hopefully tides him over for the next round of onlookers ready to see the “happy little penguin”.

What a great way to conduct a nature lesson! I’d love to use this book in an animal storytime, and I’d love to see teachers using this book in their Kindergarten and first grade classes. The illustrations are adorable, eye-catching, and use bright colors (especially on the puffin’s beak!). Fonts are large, in word balloons to denote dialogue, and bolded for easy reading. The puffin has character, with facial expressions and body gestures that teachers can use for emphasis during a read-aloud, and that kids will immediately recognize, whether it’s frustration or happiness.

The Angry Little Puffin just published on September 28, so ask your bookstore to order a copy, or buy it on Amazon.com.