I’ve gotten into a groove (of sorts) when it comes to my middle grade reading; I’ve been reading one upcoming book and one from my TBR, trying to keep both lists copasetic. I had to read Angela Dominguez’s latest two Stella Díaz books back to back because I enjoyed them so much! I wrote about the first Stella book, Stella Díaz Has Something to Say, when I read it in 2018 (and revisited in a book bundles post this past June), and finally read the next two. Stella is such a great young heroine for middle graders; read on and see for yourself.
Hope everyone had a restful Fourth, and if you’re off today, enjoy. I’m working on getting caught up, on getting my library together for a July 12th opening, and basically just working on keeping my head together in the middle of a year and a half that is just bananas. Anyway, join me as I escape into a great new nonfiction series by National Geographic Kids.
This is such a cute new nonfiction series for younger readers! The Go Wild! series introduces readers to different animals, in this case, the panda. The book has a conversational, informative tone, inviting readers to “visit the world of pandas”. Readers learn about their habitat, where in the world they are found, their size, anatomy, related animals (like the Sun Bear, Spectacled Bear, and Sloth Bear), food, socialization, and more. The author addresses the need for conservation and addresses a major threat to the panda – deforestation – and offers tips for ways kids can get involved to protect pandas. A fun Name That Animal activity and parent tips on building enthusiasm close out this fun book, which also includes a glossary. Loaded with fast, fun facts and beautiful color photos, this is such a great new series that I know my kiddos will snap up. They already devour my NatGeo Kids Easy Readers (like this Panda book), and this hardcover 8×8 series will fit nicely on my shelves and look great in my displays.
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.
This is a new adventure series that animal adventure fans are going to want to pay attention to. A team of endangered animals from all over the world – an orangutan, a narwhal, and a pangolin – meet at a rehabilitation and research facility called The Ark, and discover they are hyperaware. They can understand humans, and they can understand and communicate with each other. Nukilik, a polar bear, joins the Ark and is solely focused on one thing: going home. But when a mated pair of ferrets leave the Ark to be reintroduced into the wild and go missing, Nukilik joins the team as they launch into action to find their friends and discover an insidious plot to cause pure mayhem. A fun story, colorful characters with strong, standout personalities and solid backstories, and great pacing and dialogue, this is just nonstop action and great reading; there are strong themes of climate change and environmental encroachment that will appeal to younger readers, who will be motivated to think about our impact on the planet and how we can work to make things better for ourselves and the creatures we share this world with.
Philippe Cousteau, grandson of Jacques Cousteau and host of Xploration Awesome Planet, and award-winning author Austin Aslan – who also holds a master’s degree in Tropical Conservation Biology, have a great new series on their hands. I’m looking forward to seeing where the Endangereds go next!
There are lots of great books about taking care of our planet out for kids, and two timely ones focus on the ways tweens and middle graders can start on a big problem: the use of single-use plastics. Inspiring, empowering, and fun, these are two great books to add to your shelves (and Plastic Sucks! also has the dual duty of offering some environmentally conscious careers, too).
Musician and activist Dougie Poynter, of the group McFly, is here to give kids some straight talk about single-use plastics: they suck. They suck the life out of our oceans, most notably, by killing marine life and decimating our natural resources. Poynter has put together a history of plastic, how plastic still has good uses (medical equipment, safety belts) but is largely used as a temporary convenience, and how kids can take action – and get families involved – to lessen the use of single-use plastic in their everyday lives.
Illustrated in two-color green and black, with loads of infographics and eye-catching statistics, this is a smart look at conservation with a friendly, informative voice. Poynter breaks down recycling symbols and has an illustrated aquatic foodweb to show how everything is interconnected, and how pollution affects life on earth as well as the oceans. Easy swaps illustrate how to cut down on plastic waste. Profiles of environmental activists run throughout the book, offering a look at different careers that may appeal to burgeoning activists: marine biologists, wildlife charity heads, and bloggers/YouTubers are all in here. A glossary is available to help readers with some new terminology. A nice, concise book to have in your environmental collections.
Absolute fun while providing absolute info, this digitally illustrated guide to fighting single-use plastic gives kids a book full of missions to fight plastic: from our homes to our schools, to the supermarket and beyond, kids get the skinny on plastics while racking up points, whether it’s through identifying five “good” and five “bad” pieces of plastic, bringing a reusable water bottle everywhere you go, and making homemade snacks to cut down on the use of plastic-wrapped stuff, there’s something for everyone here. Martin Dorey is the founder of the #2minutebeachclean movement, and shows kids that 2 minutes can make a huge difference. Missions are all worth different points, which they can tally up at the end and calculate their “Superhero Rating”. Profiles of different rescued sea life and activists appear throughout on “Everyday Superhero” graphics that look like collectible cards – they can even envision their own Everyday Superhero card! – and missions are all available at the end of the book, in one convenient spot, so folks don’t have to go throughout the book to locate each mission. More resources are available for readers who want to learn more, including more information about the #2minutebeachclean initiative.
There are so many great books that have come out, and are coming out in the next couple of months! With school having started for some kids (NYC doesn’t go back until after Labor Day), I’m transitioning #SummersCool into #HomesCool, since a lot of us will be learning in either a blended or completely remote environment. For everyone who’s back in a classroom, or had to make the decision on how to schedule your children for learning, hang in there. And thank you, teachers!
Up this time, we’ve got folk tales using math and logic; we’ve got lion queens in India, and an archaeologist who discovered Peru’s ancient cultures. Let’s go!
Sharuko: El arqueólogo peruano Julio C. Tello/Peruvian Archaeologist Julio C. Tello, by Monica Brown/Illustrated by Elisa Chavarri, Translated by Adriana Domínguez, (Aug. 2020, Lee & Low Books), $19.95, ISBN: 9780892394234
This bilingual (English/Spanish) biography of Peruvian archaeologist Julio C. Tello, nicknamed “Sharuko”, is a beautifully written, illustrated, and translated story of Julio Tello, an Indigenous boy growing up in late 1800s Peru, who became a leading expert in Peru’s Indigenous culture. As a boy, Sharuko – a nickname meaning “brave” in Quechua, the language spoken by the Indigenous people of Peru – explored caves and burial grounds in the Peruvian Andes. As he got older and continued his education, he read articles about skulls he had found as a child, which were sent to the city of Lima to be further studied. The article inspired Julio to devote his medical school training to study Peru’s indigenous history; going on to prove that Peru’s Indigenous culture was established thousands of years before, not inherited from other countries, as was the pervasive belief. He awakened pride in his country’s ancestry and its cultural legacy and became a hero to the people of Peru.
Elisa Chavarri’s watercolor and gouache artwork is colorful, with maps, beautiful landscapes, and artifacts all coming together to tell Julio Tello’s story. Author Monica Brown tells Tello’s story in a way that will captivate readers and possibly inspire new generations of archaeologists and anthropologists. The Spanish translation is parallel to the English text, which helps learning readers (like me!) learn the flow of the language, be it Spanish or English. Back matter includes an afterword a note on the illustration, and additional sources. I need more picture book biographies in my Spanish/bilingual collection. Happy to add this one.
Sharuko: El arqueólogo peruano Julio C. Tello/Peruvian Archaeologist Julio C. Tello has starred reviews from The Horn Book, Booklist, and School Library Journal.
Award-winning photojournalist Jan Reynolds introduces readers to the Lion Queens – a group of female forest guards who track and protect the lions in the Gir Sanctuary. Narrated by Rashila, the first Lion Queen, readers learn about a day in the life of the Lion Queens; from patrolling areas on motorcycle to checking on food and water availability for the lions. There are facts about lions throughout, and Rashila talks about the different lions’ personalities, the “Web of Life” balance in the Gir, and the growing lion population, coming back from the brink of extinction. The Queens work with communities to educate and inform; they discuss conservation and preservation and how to live alongside the lions without hurting the habitats that both human and lion rely on to survive. Back matter includes an author’s note and bibliography. The book is filled with beautiful photos of the lions of the Gir Sanctuary and Rashila and her fellow Lion Queens, and the sentences are brief and to the point, making this a great nonfiction book for emerging readers and for storytimes. It’s an exciting subject to introduce to kids – especially on a Career Day! Consider looking up the Lion Queens of India documentary from Animal Planet to have on hand.
Set in ancient India, Bhagat is a boy living with his mother. They are poor and they are hungry, but a chance to win a place at the Rajah’s court as a singer gives Bhagat some hope for bettering their circumstances. As he leaves for the Rajah’s city, his mother gives him the last of their wealth – seven gold links from her wedding necklace – to pay for his food and lodging, and Bhagat knows he must be careful in budgeting, as he doesn’t know how long it will take for the Rajah to see him and he doesn’t want to overpay and run out of money. Bhagat uses math to work out how to safely pay his way and keep the innkeeper satisfied, and his math skills lead to a happy resolution.
There are lessons in computational thinking and mathematics, and has the building blocks for coding units here. An author’s note explains the mathematics at work in the story, touching on binary numbers, base 10, and the history of mathematics in the ancient world. The digital artwork is bright, warm, and attractive, with clear illustrations explaining Bhagat’s use of the golden rings. A solid addition to your fables/folk tales and math tales like the Sir Cumference series, One Grain of Rice, and The Grapes of Math.
It’s Earth Day! I’ve got more books to gush about, and some resources, too.
The first book up is one of the most visually stunning books I’ve read this year – and the lyrical prose reads like a prayer, a poem, a witnessing. Inspired by the Standing Rock Water Protectors who protested the Dakota Pipeline, We Are Water Protectors is created by indigenous author, Carole Lindstrom, and illustrator, Michaela Goade. Phrased as a story passed down through generations, about the sustaining life we receive from water, it also stands as a witnessing and call for help as we face the continued debasing of our planet’s natural resources. The artwork has traditional details, like a traditional skirt worn by the main character; swirling patterns inspire thoughts of water and its place in our life cycle; deep blues, purples, and orange inspire the dreamlike, womblike, atmosphere created by water. It’s a book that should give you chills as you read it, and is quietly urgent in its plea for action and positive, forward movement. Notes about Water Protectors, a glossary, and list of further reading add valuable resources to this story; an Earth Steward and Water Protector Pledge inspires kids to take action.
If you don’t want to mess up your book, or have a library book (please don’t write in it or tear the page out!), you can print a copy of the pledge, and activities to help readers realize their place in the world as stewards of our future, in this free, downloadable activity kit.
We Are Water Protectors has starred reviews from Kirkus, Booklist, Publishers Weekly, and Bookpage.
Some Earth Day things to do with your family today:
Earth Day 2020: Earth Day’s official website let readers tune into Earth Day events via webcast, including protests in Spanish and English, through the Earth Day Live link. Find Earth Day events on the general website.
The American Museum of Natural History is going all out for Earth Day, holding Earth Fest 2020; a collection of virtual celebrations to take part in, including Field Trip Earth, a global field trip around the world using interactive data-visualization software. Join a botany watch party and make a mini garden, learn to make your own instruments out of household objects like rubber bands and cardboard boxes, and travel to Venus and Mars and hang out with Neil DeGrasse Tyson.
National Geographic Kids has great, easy ways for kids to get involved in taking care of the world.
Check out the Environmental Protection Agency’s website, filled with videos, activities, and information on Earth Day.
NASA has Earth Day projects, videos, and images of our big, blue marble!
Zoos are getting in on Earth Day with virtual field trips and activities. Check out:
Protect our planet: it’s the only one we have!
Tomorrow is Earth Day, which is a surreal experience when we’re sheltering in place. Luckily, we can still go out, taking precautions, to enjoy our world; whether it’s a walk around the neighborhood or just sitting in front of your home to notice the sky, the trees, the birds: everything around us is part of the experience. Here are some books to enjoy on the way.
Is there anything like a comfort of a Mary Murphy book? As soon as I see her artwork and that font I’ve come to know and love, I just know I’m going to experience the picture book equivalent of a hug. Her new book, Only a Tree Knows how to Be a Tree, celebrates nature and life by pointing out how we’re all unique and how we all manage to live together, here, on Earth. Trees have leaves that turn sunshine into food; birds build homes in trees and can fly; dogs can wag their tails and flick water into their mouths to drink, fish live in water and flash like jewels. We are all a part of one another, as each spread illustrates, yet only a fish can be a fish; only a bird can be a bird; only a tree can be a tree. We’re all unique. Mary Murphy’s brush and ink artwork is colorful, bright, inviting, and warm. Endpapers show vibrant areas with a varied group of people coming together to celebrate trees and play in the sun. It’s just the perfect book to start off an Earth Day readaloud.
Mary Murphy’s author website has free, downloadable coloring sheets and card crafts! Keep the fun going!
Only a Tree Knows How to Be a Tree has a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly.
Alba is a sweet little fish who loves collecting shiny things. She enjoys being surrounded by her friends in their ocean home, but, as the ocean becomes more polluted, her friends have moved on, looking for cleaner waters and leaving Alba all alone. When Alba spies a shiny pearl, she must have it: and ends up trapped in a plastic bottle! A young girl cleaning up her beach notices Alba and takes her home to rehabilitate while the girl mobilizes her town to clean up the beach. Once she returns Alba to cleaner water, she’s thrilled to discover that her friends have returned – and that she can put her shiny pearl into her collection to proudly show off! An engaging story with dual messages makes Alba and the Ocean Cleanup such a good story to read on Earth Day and every day. Kids will be motivated by Kaia – the girl who discovers Alba trapped in a bottle – a child who makes a big difference, and they’ll relate to Alba’s love of shiny things and empathize with her experiencing her friends moving away. The artwork is colorful, vibrant, and just fun: it’s like a carnival underwater when Alba and her friends have clean living spaces! Endpapers are a colorful presentation of the ocean floor, with little Albas swimming around. Sharp-eyed readers can go back and look for 10 different kids of fish that author Lara Hawthorne provides information about at the end of the book, along with ways families can help take care of our oceans.
Alba and the Ocean Cleanup was originally published in 2019 in the UK.
This is a must-have Earth Day book for home, classroom, and library collections. Melanie Walsh’s 10 Things I Can Do To Help My World (2012) has been an Earth Day standard for me for years; adding My Green Day to my storytime reference and my circulating collection is just a given. A narrator moves through their day coming up with ways to be green; be environmentally friendly, for the day: from eating a free-range egg breakfast and composting the egg shell, handmaking gifts with recycled materials, bringing recyclable bags to the grocery store, and taking a short shower before bed are just a handful of the green things that come up in the course of a day. Each step is a simple, easy-to-accomplish task that kids can do and feel empowered, having taken action to improve their world. Each spread has simple, helpful facts on how each task accomplishes a green goal: “Cloth bags can be used again and again. You’ll never need to use another plastic bag”; Playing outside with friends keeps you fit and makes you feel good”.
Empowering, easy-to-read, and with colorful mixed media artwork that beckons readers to the pages makes My Green Day another great Melanie Green book to add to your collections.
More to come tomorrow! In the meantime, check out the Earth Day Education Resource Library.