Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Books about masking up

Welp, it’s almost the end of the year and we’re still wearing masks. I remember back in April when I ordered masks for my Kiddo and I and thinking, “Geez, they’re backordered 8 weeks? By the time I get them, we won’t need masks anymore.”

So here we are, still masking up – most of us, anyway, but that’s not for me to get into here. It’s hard to explain to littles that they need to keep their masks on, sometimes for an entire school day, depending on where you are. Once again, children’s book authors have our backs. Here are a couple of new ones to help kids work it out.

We Wear Masks, by Marla Lesage, (Nov. 2020, Orca Book Publishers), $19.95, ISBN: 9781459828797

Ages 3-5

This rhyming book takes all the stress out of wearing a mask by showing kids all the people who wear masks for their work or hobbies: ranchers, who wear bandanas around their faces to keep bugs out of their noses and mouths (yuck!); jet pilots, who wear them to breathe; deep sea explorers, actors, and superheroes all wear masks! Transitioning into current events, the verse moves into “everyday heroes” wearing masks, like doctors and nurses, and how wearing a mask can be super helpful: a stinky diaper isn’t so bad when you’re wearing a mask, after all! By encouraging fun, imaginative play, finding a mask that matches one’s style, and emphasizing that we wear masks to show we care for and respect others, this is a lovely little book for younger readers. The artwork is colorful and soft, with a variety of characters wearing a variety of masks in different situations: for example, a duo uses masks with a clear area around the mouth while communicating via sign language; the picture illustrates how different masks are available to accommodate different needs. A cute story that will work nicely in storytimes. Add some fun by handing out mask coloring pages and let kids design their own. There are so many great freebies on Teachers Pay Teachers, like this super-cute mask and social distancing coloring page set, and this super-cute clip art set with animals in masks!

 

 

 

Remember to Smile, by Shannon Q. McDonald, (Aug. 2020, Independently Published), $12, ISBN: 978-0578745497

Ages 4-7

Another cute rhyming book about masks, this is all about finding a mask that fits your style: you can wear a shell mask, like a mermaid, wear a team mask to cheer on your favorite football team, and you can wear masks while hanging roasting s’mores. Just don’t let a dragon wear a mask, unless you want the whole place to burn down! It may not be fun to wear a mask all the time, but remember to smile and have fun. That’s the best thing we can do while we keep the germs away, right? A cute story, illustrated with pastels and loaded with fantasy artwork like mermaids, dragons, and unicorns, this is more about boosting your spirits and looking for the fun in the middle of the chaos. The decorate your own mask crafts I mentioned above will work really well here; encourage kids to find their style!

Remember to Smile supports the COVID-19 Relief Fund for Teachers and Students through the nonprofit organization AdoptAClassroom.org. For more information, head over to RememberToSmile.org.

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

Book Tour: College Student Health Handbook

Hi all! I’ve got a blog tour for our seniors to have on hand as they get read for college. Good health practices never go out of style, as we’ve certainly learned this year, and whether you’re home or (eventually) headed to a dorm, there’s some important info to be found here.

 

The Ultimate College Student Health Handbook: Your Guide for Everything from Hangovers to Homesickness,
by Jill Grimes, MD, GAPP/Illustrations by Nicole Grimes,
(May 2020, Skyhorse), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1510751033
Ages 16+

5 Must-Have Items for Your College Freshman

You’re making a list and checking it twice…because especially if this is your FIRST kid heading off to college, you want to be sure you’ve included every critical item.

  • Twin XL (Extra Long) Sheets?
  • Command Strips in every shape, size and strength? Check.

(Much bigger deal for girls vs. guys, but this is the only way to hang stuff on walls.)

  • Dorm Bed Risers? (I highly recommend the ones with extra outlets.) Check.

Chargers, fan, laundry bag, clothes, shoes, coats…the list goes on. And on. And ON. What could possibly be missing? From my perspective as a seasoned move-in mom and a university doctor, here ‘s my list of the top five forgotten items:

  1. Small Tool Kit: Hammer, screwdrivers, wrench set, pliers, scissors, tape measure and level. This should be last in, first out, because you’ll often need these immediately to assemble and disassemble dorm room furniture or fix a stuck drawer. Pro tip: Add in a couple garbage bags; trash piles up as soon as you start unpacking.
  2. Backup Prescription Glasses: especially for the kid that ALWAYS wears contacts! Why? Because if you get a bad stye or “pinkeye” (viral conjunctivitis), or more commonly, you accidentally fall asleep in your contacts or get something in your eye that scratches your cornea- you CANNOT wear contacts for several days to a week or more. And seeing clearly tends to help grades. If you always wear glasses, the backup pair is for when yours break or disappear. And inevitably, it happens during midterms or finals.
  3. Small Lock Box: If you take prescription medications for ADD, this is a must. These stimulant pills sell for $5-10 each (a felony if caught!!) and dorm rooms are rarely private and/or consistently locked. Please remove the temptation for others and keep your meds safe. Lock boxes also work well for pricey jewelry, your passport, and while we’re at it, your backup glasses.
  4. Heating Pad: Okay, not critical, but a great way to guarantee your popularity! Seriously, few students have these, but those that do tell me “EVERYONE borrows it” for aching muscles, back spasms and “cramps”. Bonus points: in cold climates they can double as an electric blanket (just don’t fall asleep on top of one, as this can cause burns.)
  5. Solid Air Freshener: Plug-ins are rarely allowed in dorms, but you can place a solid or gel freshener in your closet (by your shoes) and tuck another under your bed. Extra-strong odors? Bamboo charcoal bags are a pricey option, but they work incredibly well. Choose a neutral or “fresh” smell, not “flowery” or “citrus” as you don’t know your roommate’s sensitivity to different scents. Bodies, dirty clothes, third-hand smoke and old dorms all get very smelly. Unless you are moving into a brand-new dorm with a neat-freak roommate, these fresheners can be lifesavers. Or at the very least, roommate-savers.

Bottom Line: Add these five items to your list for a smoother move-in and a healthier, safer semester! (If you’re flying, pack the glasses & shop for the rest when you arrive.) Good Luck!

Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction, Preschool Reads

Show kids the excitement of cooking with Kids Cooking!

Kids Cooking: Students Prepare and Eat Foods From Around the World, by George Ancona, (Oct. 2018, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9780763698768

Ages 4-7

When my son (now a high schooler) was in first grade, his school participated in a great program called CookShop. The teachers ran the program, and we parents volunteered as helpers, and a couple of times a month, kids learned cooking skills: chopping (with plastic knives), mixing, and the math involved in putting together a recipe. I loved it, and he loved the process of creating meals. No, he didn’t eat anything he made (that honor went to me), but working together brought us even closer, and the whole class came together as a group to prepare and share food. I may have enjoyed CookShop more than he did – I still have my apron! – and am glad it’s still a program in NYC schools. When I read Kids Cooking: Students Prepare and Eat Foods From Around the World, I was immediately brought back to that first grade classroom and the warm memories.

Kids Cooking is photographer George Ancona’s venture into classrooms where a similar organization, Cooking with Kids, brings children from diverse backgrounds come together to prepare healthy meals from different cultures. They roast vegetables and prepare a Moroccan sauce called chermoula; make Chinese-American fried rice with sweet and sour cucumbers; work together to cook up an Italian minestrone soup with breadsticks, and learn about different tomatoes that go into making a Mexican salsa with tortillas and tamales. They draw pictures as they go; teachers use a globe to demonstrate where different meals originate, and parents and teachers make sure that everyone’s cooking experience is safe and exciting.

The book presents photos of the kids and grownups at work, along with some of the children’s artwork, and phrases from the cultures whose meals they’ve prepared. It’s a celebration of food, friendship, and different cultures: meals prepared and shared together are the best meals. An author’s note mentions the Cooking With Kids program and the schools that participated in the book.

With the holidays on the horizon, Kids Cooking is a great book to read to kids and get them talking about meals they enjoy at home. A recipe link included in the book didn’t work for me, but the Cooking with Kids website has recipes available: see if your family wants to try a few out!

You can find more of George Ancona’s photos and learn more about his children’s books here.

Posted in Uncategorized

Science Comics takes an up-close look at Plagues

Science Comics: Plagues-The Microscopic Battlefield, by Falynn Koch, (Aug. 20017, :01First Second), $12.99, ISBN: 9781626727526

Recommended for readers 8-12

The latest issue of Science Comics introduces readers to Bubonic Plague and Yellow Fever – no, really, they’re characters in this volume – a white blood cell, and a scientist charged with studying pathogens via simulation in order to “recruit” them to help fight disease. Kids learn how the body trains white blood cells – leukocytes – to fight infection and will meet the different kinds of leukocytes on the job. We also get a closer look at different germ classifications, bacteria, viruses, and fungi: it’s a biology class in the form of a graphic novel. We learn about scientists who studied germs, meet a black plague victim (yikes), and see the evolution of disease prevention from medieval times to the present.

Science Comics have been a valuable addition to my nonfiction collections since First Second introduced the series. They’re comprehensive, breaking a wealth of detailed information into readable, digestible panels. The art never disappoints, blending fun artwork like germs with personalities and detailed cross-sections and diagrams of cells, and historical representation. A fictional narrative wraps around the nonfiction information, creating a comfortable reading and learning environment for voracious and reluctant readers alike. A brief glossary provides definitions for terms that appear throughout the book, and there is a timeline outlining milestones in the fight against disease. Footnotes provide further reading for those interested in learning more.

I’m a big proponent of comics in the classroom, and books like Science Comics are why. There’s solid, scientific information presented in a way that never talks down to readers, yet manages to make complex subjects accessible to kids and adults alike. I learn something new every time I pick up a Science Comic.

Author Falynn Koch also wrote the Bats Science Comic. You can read her blog, see more of her illustration, and see a calendar of her appearances at her website.

 

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Humor, Middle Grade, Middle School, Tween Reads

David Walliams’ DEMON DENTIST is taking appointments!

demon dentistDemon Dentist, by David Walliams (March 2016, HarperCollins), $16.99, ISBN: 9780062417046

Recommended for ages 8-12

Weird things are happening in Alfie’s town, and they seem to have started when the freaky new dentist, Ms. Root – who insists everyone call her “Mummy” – shows up. Kids are getting terrible things under their pillow – eyeballs, bugs, slugs, and more! – instead of a shiny coin from the tooth fairy. Alfie’s own teeth need some serious dental work, but there’s no way he’s going to be Mummy’s next victim – but his social worker, Winnie, has other ideas. Can Alfie and his friend Gabz figure out Ms. Root’s secrets? Or will they find themselves in the demon dentist’s chair?

I’ve been a fan of David Walliams since the decidedly un-child-friendly (but HILARIOUS) show Little Britain, where he and comedian Matt Lucas created insanely funny sketches and characters. He’s become a prolific children’s author in the UK, but I’ve never had the chance until now to read any of his work. Demon Dentist, I believe, is his first US release, and I am thrilled – I already ordered a copy for my library.

Walliams’ work has a distinct Roald Dahl influence: Alfie’s poor surroundings and sickly father in particular remind me of Charlie Bucket’s family; but like Charlie, he doesn’t let it get to him. He takes care of his dad; it’s Alfie and his dad against the world. The two have more than a deep love for one another; they’re devoted to each other. Alfie’s dad spins tales of imagination that take them both on journeys and adventures far and wide, and although, as Alfie gets older, he’d rather be playing video games, he continues to go on these journeys with his dad because he loves him and knows what it means to his father. Winnie, the social worker tasked with checking in on Alfie and his dad, is brash, loud, and funny, with a heart of gold and the best of intentions. Doctor Root is a brilliant, 3-D villain that leaps off the page and hides under your bed.

To add to the Dahl-esque feel, we have Quentin Blake’s wonderful black and white illustrations. I love his artwork for so many reasons, not the least being the memories of reading Mr. Dahl’s books as a kid, curled up in my little reading corner. Blake’s illustrations are wickedly funny here, giving more life to Walliams’ story.

There are larger than life personalities in here, laugh out loud humor, made-up words galore (clearly asterisked for you!), and a bittersweet, gorgeous story about family that will leave you cheering as you wipe a tear away from your eye. My next move: download the rest of Walliams’ novels for my Nook.

Posted in Fiction, Middle Grade

Cybils Middle Grade Fiction – A Few Reviews

Hey there!

I’m working hard, getting through my Cybils Middle Grade nominees – there’s so much good fiction out there! – so I thought I’d give a quick update on a few I’ve read so far.

red pencilThe Red Pencil, by Andrea Davis Pinkney, (Sept. 2014, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers), $17, ISBN: 978-0316247801

Recommended for ages 8-14

Amira is a 12 year-old girl living in Darfur. She dreams of going to school, something her mother will not hear. She will marry a husband who can read for her, her mother tells her. That all changes when the Janjaweed come.

When her village is attacked by the Sudanese militia, her life is changed forever. She, and the survivors of her village, make their way to a refugee camp, where she grieves and learns how to start life anew.

Written in verse, The Red Pencil is one of the most powerful books I have ever read. It’s about time we see fiction about this time and place in history hitting our bookshelves. Children need to read this book, and teachers need to discuss it with them. If you don’t have access to this book yet, PLEASE – find it, read it, and share it.

 

crossoverThe Crossover, by Kwame Alexander, (March 2014, HMH Books for Young Readers), $16.99, ISBN: 978-0544107717

Recommended for ages 8-14

Josh and his twin brother, Jordan, are lightning on the basketball court. The sons of a basketball player whose pro career was derailed by an injury and the assistant principal of their school, they have a strong family background that emphasizes teamwork and schoolwork.

Josh loves to rhyme, cranking out beats in his head as he plays. Jordan has other things in mind these days, though – namely, a girlfriend. Josh has a hard time with accepting this third party in his and Jordan’s relationship. Throw in their father’s health problems that he refuses to seek help for, and you’ve got a compelling read that will appeal to all readers, male and female, sports fans or not. There’s a flow and pacing to this novel, also written in verse, that just moves the pages on its own. Josh is a likable kid, and readers will see themselves in his shoes as he talks about his fears and frustrations.

The Crossover has been designated as a Kirkus Best Children’s Book of 2014, one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Best Children’s Books of 2014, and a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year.