Posted in Middle Grade, Middle School, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Teen, Tween Reads

#SummersCool Math books that your kids will love! Honest!

I do not take Math lightly. It’s one of those subjects I have endless admiration for, and way too much fear of. I encourage my kids, and my library kids, to love Math. Embrace Math, run to Math and dance in a field of flowers with it: you get my drift. It’s too late for me, go… go forth and calculate, my children.

So, when I was invited to review two Math books, I was a little terrified. Cool Math? Geometry is as Easy as Pie? I broke out in a cold sweat just thinking of them. I needn’t have stressed. These books are SO much fun (and tasty, as you’ll see). C’mon, join me for an exploration of Math.

 

Geometry is as Easy as Pie (Pieces of Cake series), by Katie Coppens, (March 2020, Tumblehome, Inc.) $17.95, ISBN: 978-1-943431-52-6

Ages 8-12

I know Katie Coppens as the author of the Acadia Files series (I’ve got a writeup about the latest one coming), but she writes about Math, too! Her first book, Geology is a Piece of Cake is a companion of sorts to her latest, Geometry is as Easy as Pie, and it’s an oh-so-yummy way to learn about angles, polygons, and symmetry. Katie Coppens uses pie to explain geometry, but she goes above and beyond the usual “look at this pie chart and imagine it’s a piece of pie” business. She BAKES PIES to illustrate the seven fundamental concepts of geometry. With direct, parent- and child-friendly explanations (she is an English and Science teacher), she discusses mathematical concepts, including calculating radius and diameter, and – naturally – she devotes time to talk about pi (π). You’ll feel a rumbly in your tumbly as you look through her lovely photographed pies; you may want to get a shopping lists together, too, because she includes recipes. Geometry includes pie-centric review questions and a photo gallery of “Just Desserts”, making this a phenomenal way to spend the summer learning math and baking with your kiddos. Yum.

 

Cool Math: 50 Fantastic Facts for Kids of All Ages, by Tracie Young & Katie Hewett, (March 2020, Pavilion Books), $14.95, ISBN: 978-1-84365-448-3

Ages 11+

Geared more toward middle and high schoolers Cool Math (originally released in the UK as Cool Maths, because they can even make Math sound cooler than we do) is so much more than a rundown of 50 Math facts for kids. Think of the NatGeo digest books on weird stuff, silly stuff, cool facts, and add Math to it. That’s Cool Math. With a cover that looks like chalk board gone wild, and with page backgrounds like chalk board, graph paper, and lined paper, this is the notebook your cool nerdy friend would have put together with all their doodles during the school day. Tips and tricks make your life easier throughout the book, like how to multiply by 9 on your fingers. IT WORKS. I tried it. Remember PEMDAS and FOIL? They almost gave me a nervous breakdown in 8th grade, but they’re here in this book, and they’re not as terrifying any more. Real-life tips, like the Super Speedy Recipe Converter and How to Tip put an end to questions like, “When will I ever need this in my life?”

A smart, witty, companion to keep handy, Cool Math takes a lot of the fear out of Math and makes it… dare I say… pretty cool.

 

Disclaimer: I’ve received copies of each of these books from the publisher/their publicists in exchange for a review.

Posted in Non-Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Two YA nonfiction titles for the weird fact fans in your life

Next up, with the new school year upon us, I look for nonfiction that will inform and entertain. Sometimes, I find nonfiction that is just so out there, I have to suggest them because they’re freaky, fun, and will give readers who equate nonfiction with boring a nudge and a wink, and maybe – just maybe – make a nonfiction reader out of one or three.

History’s Weirdest Deaths, by James Proud, (June 2019, Portable Press), $12.99, ISBN: 978-1-68412-757-3

Ages 15+

The title tells you all you need to know here: it’s a collection of stories and facts about freaky deaths throughout history. There are famous last words, unsettling statistics about Japanese pufferfish consumption, an unbelievable number of stories about people who went over Niagara Falls in a barrel, and unusual methods of execution. Each page has something new and bizarre to be discovered, like the story of 13-year-old William Snyder, who died in 1854 after “being swung around by the heels by a circus clown”. Or Joao Maria de Souza, who was crushed in 2013 when a cow wandered onto his roof and crashed through his ceiling, crushing him. There are also famous firsts: first death by robot, first death by auto accident, first spectator to die after being hit by a baseball during a game, and the first – and only known – jockey to win a race after dying. Illustrations add to the tongue-in-cheek morbid humor.

Strange Hollywood: Amazing and Intriguing Stories from Tinseltown and Beyond, by the Editors of Portable Press, (May 2019, Portable Press), $15.99, ISBN: 978-1-68412-677-4

Ages 15+

This is the latest in Portable’s Strange series and is loaded with stories about Hollywood, with a big emphasis on Hollywood’s Golden Age: stories about Rudolph Valentino, Charlie Chaplin, Judy Garland, Elvis, and Audrey Hepburn get a lot of page space; teens may not know the names, but the stories are a hook. There are quotes, Tweets, and facts in here, too, making this an easily readable book with tidbits to make readers laugh or wince. The recent Twitter feud between Armie Hammer and Jeffrey Dean Morgan is in here, and there are highlights called, “Putting the REAL in Reality TV” that squeal on the dubious verity of some of the more popular shows out there. Crazy lawsuits get touched on, too, like Hormel Foods, makers of canned meat Spam, suing Jim Henson Productions over naming a villainous Muppet Treasure Island character Spa’am. It’s morbid in some spots, head-shaking and wincing in others. An additional grab if you have nonfiction readers who love the gossip rags. Illustrated in two-color throughout.

 

Posted in Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction, Preschool Reads, Tween Reads

More holiday shopping ideas!

The days are creeping closer – Hanukkah starts this evening! – but I’ve got your back with more book gift ideas! Read on, and get yourselves to a bookstore, stat.

Where’s Waldo? Destination: Everywhere!, Featuring 12 Classic Scenes by Martin Handford,
(November 2017, Candlewick), $19.99, ISBN: 9780763697266
Good for all ages!

This is a gift that’s perfect for kids who love mazes, puzzles, and those Seek and Find/I Spy books, or older teens and adults who grew up with old school Waldo. Destination: Everywhere! celebrates THIRTY YEARS of Where’s Waldo – pardon me while I go lay down after writing that – and showcases 12 of Waldo’s favorite adventures, plus a brand new challenge to keep us on our toes. This one’s going to my now 14-year old, who plagued me with I Spy books all hours of the day and night, as a toddler and preschooler. And I’m telling the 5 year-old that his big brother can’t wait to find ALL THE WALDOS with him. Muah hah hah.

 

Weird but True! Christmas, by National Geographic Kids
(Sept. 2017, National Geographic Kids), $8.99, ISBN: 9781426328893
Good for readers 6-12

One thing my kids, my library kids, and I have in common is a love of these NatGeo weird facts books. Weird but True! Christmas keeps it real for the holiday season, with full-color photos and crazy factoids like this one: “The town Gävle, Sweden, erects a giant straw goat at Christmas. The Yule Goat has its own social media account.” That social media account is @gavlebocken on Twitter, by the way. You’re welcome. There are 300 facts in here, including Christmas customs from around the world, weird and slightly gross animal facts, and Christmas decorating statistics. Perfect size for a stocking stuffer, and kids can’t get enough of these books.

 

Harry Potter: Magical Film Projects – Quidditch, by Insight Editions,
(Sept. 2017, Candlewick), $16.99, ISBN: 978-0-7636-9587-3
Good for readers 7-10

This is just so cool. Black line drawings from the Harry Potter universe on acetate pages let you create your own reader’s theatre. Shine a flashlight, light bulb, or cell phone light through the window, and project images onto a wall, screen, your little brother or sister, anywhere, to create your own shadow theatre! Short, Quidditch-related scenes from three books in the series (Sorcerer’s Stone, Chamber of Secrets, Half-Blood Prince) are broken out into script format, letting readers become Harry, Oliver Wood, Ron, or Cormac McLaggen. A final panel lets you draw and project your own Quidditch team. Give this book to a Potterhead, along with a dry-erase marker, and get ready for the love.

 

 

History’s Mysteries, by Kitson Jazynka, (Oct. 2017, National Geographic Kids),
$14.99, ISBN: 9781426328718
Good for readers 9-12

I loved this kind of stuff when I was a kid – okay, I still do.When I was a kid in the ’70s, Dynamite Magazine released these cool guides – digest-sized books – loaded with stories about Amelia Earhart, Anastasia, and other spooky, true stories. I watch Mysteries at the Museum on Travel Channel. I’m a sucker for a good, unsolved mystery; bonus points if it’s creepy. History’s Mysteries is the closest I’ve seen to my beloved Dynamite guides in a long time. Kids will love these quick, fully illustrated case files on a screaming mummy, a 50-foot snake slithering around Africa, missing Irish crown jewels, and more. An interview with archaeologist Chris Fisher gives kids some insight on the exciting – and sometimes, not so thrilling – parts of the job. Stick a calendar, plus a ticket for a local museum exhibit in here and you’re set.

 

Just Joking, by National Geographic Kids,
(Oct. 2017, National Geographic Kids), $14.99, ISBN: 9781426328794
Good for readers 6-10

Another home-run with my kids and my library kids. Yes, many of these jokes will make you groan: that’s the POINT. There are crazy facts (rats laugh when they’re tickled), puns that will make you wince, but giggle while you do it, full-color photos, and truly, terribly funny, jokes like this gem: Who did Darth Vader summon when craving ice cream? Storm Scoopers. See? You winced, but you laughed.

 

Knightology, by Dugald A. Steer/Illustrated by Ollie Cuthbertson, Fabio Leone, David Demaret,
(Nov. 2017, Candlewick), $24.99, ISBN: 9780763698485
Good for readers 7-12

The latest entry in Candlewick’s Ology series looks at the knights of old. Legend has it (actually, the publisher’s note says it, but I’m setting a mood here) that two children, while playing, discovered a book set into a mysterious stone. The book appears to be a secret book about knights from Elizabethan times, printed here for readers to read and discover more mysteries within. Beautifully illustrated, with margin notes, flaps and hidden notes throughout, this is a gorgeous gift book about the myths and legends surrounding the burial site of none other than King Arthur.  Put a plush dragon on the wrapped gift and put your feet up.

 

Don’t Wake the Yeti!, by Claire Freedman/Illustrated by Claudia Ranucci,
(Sept. 2017, Albert Whitman), $17.99, ISBN: 978-0-8075-1690-4
Good for readers 3-7

I didn’t forget about the little ones! What better way to greet the holidays than with the tale of a Yeti who’s just looking for a friend? This rhyming story stars a young girl who finds a Yeti under her bed – but he’s more afraid of her than she is of him! It’s a reader’s guide to the proper care and handling of one’s own Yeti, including details on how to get around that whole Mom finding out business. The illustrations are adorable: the Yeti is hardly a menacing figure; he’s covered in long, white fur, has a goofy, toothy smile, and big, blue eyes. Originally published in the UK, the story has a touch of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie to it – see if the little readers catch the rhythm!

 

Away We Grow!: Poems for Baby’s First Year, by Jeremy Eisler,
(March 2017, self-published), $12.99, ISBN: 9780989389075
Good for new parents

This is a sweet stocking stuffer for a mom-to-be or a new mom. There are 32 short poems, all celebrating milestones in a baby’s first year; that first grasp of your finger, that big gummy smile; that first, unimpressive meal: “In my mouth and out again / Down my cheeks and off my chin / I think I’ve had my fill of peas… / Now I would like my bottle please!” They’re simple and sweet, ready to welcome parents and babies on a new adventure together.

And that’s that for now!

Posted in Humor, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction, Tween Reads

My Weird School: nonfiction on the run with Fast Facts!

My Weird School_GeoMy Weird School Fast Facts: Geography, by Dan Gutman/Illustrated by Jim Paillot, (June 2016, HarperCollins), $5.99, ISBN: 9780062306173

Recommended for ages 8-12

ajAJ and Andrea from the hugely popular My Weird School series are here to stuff your heads full of fun facts! The Fast Facts series is just that: loads of factoids, split into subject areas, narrated by My Weird School characters AJ, the attention-loving goof-off, and Andrea, who’s going to run the country one day.

Fast Facts: Geography covers the definition of geography, and starts out big: like, Planet Earth big, with facts about the earth’s rotation and its “imaginary lines”: its axis, the equator, and the international date line. Next, AJ and Andrea tackle the continents; bodies of water; mountains, deserts, and forests; the fifty United States; and finally, AJ’s favorite topic, natural disasters. Each fact is bulleted by a picture of AJ or Andrea, so you can tell who’s talking to you, and the dialogue is loaded with back and forth bantering between the two characters. There are black and white photos and line drawings throughout the book to add to the reader’s interest.

My Weird School_SportsMy Weird School Fast Facts: Sports, by Dan Gutman/Illustrated by Jim Paillot, (June 2016, HarperCollins), $5.99, ISBN: 9780062306173

Recommended for ages 8-12

Next up, we have Fast Facts: Sports, with chapters devoted to the biggies: baseball, football, soccer, basketball, hockey, golf, and auto racing. Other chapters include facts about speed records; other sports, like skating, skiing, bowling, and tennis; the Olympics, and a wrap-up of other weird sports facts. You want to know why umpires have to wear black underwear? The answer’s in here. Like Fast Facts: Geography, Fast Facts: Sports is loaded with photos, statistics and fun facts, and black and white illustrations by My Weird School illustrator Jim Paillot.

andreaThe Fast Facts books are fun. The Sports books will be popular with kids who are fans of the series or just sports fans in general; it’s a good companion book for kids who love wacky facts and ephemera. The Geography book is a good companion book that you can booktalk when kids come in with a geography project – it’s a companion book, an additional book, but the My Weird School brand will make sure it gets read, and maybe, just maybe, inspire a reader to explore an interesting topic.

Kids love My Weird School and all its offshoots. These are the second and third books in a nonfiction series (the first, My Weird Writing Tips, was published in 2013). Having some nonfiction feature popular characters hopefully spikes some interest.

Dan Gutman is a prolific children’s author, with My Weird School and The Genius Files being two of his hugely popular book series. He’s got a great author website where you can find out about all of his book, read excerpts, download study guides, watch book trailers, and read about ways that kids can change the world.

Illustrator Jim Paillot has illustrated for School Library Journal, Weekly Reader, Boys Life, and many other children’s books. He has a great website with funny comics for kids, illustrations, samples of his work, and a shop where you can buy prints of his artwork.

(images courtesy of My Weird School Wikia)