Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade

Books from Quarantine: Kate the Chemist

So while I live in my Stephen King-esque Dome (as I like to think of my home at the moment), I’ve been doing a lot of reading, in addition to my virtual programming, helping my kids with their schoolwork, and assorted goofiness with the dog. First up, let’s talk about Kate the Chemist, a fun new STEM intermediate/middle grade series.

Kate the Chemist: Dragons vs. Unicorns, by Dr. Kate Biberdorf with Hillary Homzie, (Apr. 2020, Philomel Books), $12.99, ISBN: 978-0-593116555

AgesĀ  7-12

Ten-year-old Kate the Chemist is a science problem solver: meaning, she can solve just about any problem that she faces with science! In her first STEM adventure, Dragons vs. Unicorns, Kate is the assistant director on her school play, and her best friend is the lead unicorn. But someone is sabotaging the production! Kate has to use her science skills to figure out who’s trying to hurt the show, and how to save the day when the unicorns face a last-minute costume malfunction. The narration is fast-paced and comprehensive in its look at science, and how chemistry is a big help in day-to-day situations (baking = science! special effects = science!). Scientist Kate Biberdorf includes a recipe for Unicorn Glue at the end of the book (looks easy enough – I haven’t tried it yet) and an explanation of how it works. Ellie May series author Hillary Homzie and Kate Biberdorf come together to give readers a fun intermediate/middle school mix of drama (literal and figurative), friendship, and science. This one is a good series to watch. There are some black and white illustrations throughout; usually journal pages and scientific items like flasks and volcanoes, to add to the fun.

Kate Biberdorf is a science entertainer with a series of videos and a Big Book of Experiments to introduce kids to fun, safe, science. Her website has videos, information about her books, and contact information. Hillary Homzie’s author webpage has great info for aspiring writers, links to her blog and social media, and more information about her books.


Posted in Fiction, Intermediate, Realistic Fiction

Celebrate holidays with Ellie May!

Ellie May on President’s Day, by Hillary Homzie/Illustrated by Jeffrey Ebbeler, (Nov. 2018, Charlesbridge), $14.99, ISBN: 9781580898195

Ages 6-10

Second grader Ellie May loves learning about the US Presidents and is desperate to show her patriotism during Presidents’ Week at school. She just has to be flag leader during the Pledge of Allegiance during this week! She is on a mission to be presidential and to make sure her teacher, Ms. Silva, knows it; this way, she’ll be sure to get picked. But Ellie can’t seem to catch a break, whether she’s chopping the class plant (a cactus!) while trying to relive George Washington and the cherry tree, or taking apart the pencil sharpener and making a big mess, while attempting to tinker like Abraham Lincoln. Don’t even ask about how she tried to make her little sister, Midge, a flag, so she could teach her the Pledge at home. Ellie’s got a good heart and means well – she just has to learn to let that shine through, and most importantly, to be patient.

This is a brand new chapter book series that celebrates popular classroom holidays, and stars a dynamic, funny child of color named Ellie May. Second graders will love her, and they’re sure to see themselves reflected in her and her quest to be noticed. Patience? Who needs patience, when you’re eager? Ellie discovers she has a lot to learn as each of her attempts to show off for her teacher end in near catastrophe, but she’s surrounded by supportive friends, family, and teachers who are there to slow Ellie down and put her on the right path. Written in the first person from Ellie’s point of view, and illustrated with black and white sketches throughout, kids will enjoy this one – and it’s a great series to feature in classrooms and libraries. back matter includes the history of the Pledge of Allegiance, and of the Presidents’ Day holiday.



Ellie May on April Fools’ Day, by Hillary Homzie/Illustrated by Jeffrey Ebbeler, (Dec. 2018, Charlesbridge), $14.99, ISBN: 9781580898201

Ages 6-10

Ellie May is back, and is ready for April Fools’ Day! Her class is allowed to celebrate, as long as the pranks are made in good fun. Ellie decides she’s going to prank her friend, Ava, whose birthday celebration is taking place on the same day! After a few attempts at pranks fall flat at home and at school, she’s ready for the big day: but this is Ellie May, after all, and her attempt at a silly goof goes awry when she gets carried away in the classroom. After sitting it out and thinking it over, Ellie May starts understanding the true meaning of a good-natured prank, apologizes to her friend, Mo, and to Ava, and celebrates April Fool’s Day with her whole class as her teacher takes them outside for a rare bird sighting!

This second Ellie May story is every bit as fun as the first one. Ellie is trying so hard to make a name for herself that she gets a little carried away, but it’s never mean-spirited, and she’s always got someone there to point her in the right direction. Kids will see themselves and their classmates in this one, and the story lends itself to a good discussion about how getting carried away can lead to hurt feelings or hurt body parts. The teacher’s April Fools’ Day activity is a fun one – I may have to try that one in the library. Back matter includes an explanation on April Fools’ Day’s history and traditions. Black and white illustrations throughout add to the fun and promote reader interest.

This series is going on my to-buy list. Chapter books do really well here at my library, and books about classroom holidays – holidays, in general, for my growing readers – are always in high demand. I’ll have to mention this series to a few visiting teachers, too!