Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction

Intermediate Nonfiction to love!

I’ve got some great middle grade nonfiction here, if you’re shopping for your back-to-school carts. My library kids tend to be nonfiction readers, so I’m always looking for fun, interesting books for them, and I think these will fit the bill nicely. Take a look, see what appeals to you!

What a Wonderful Phrase: A collection of amazing idioms from around the world, by Nicola Edwards & Many Montoya, (Sept. 2021, Kane Miller), $14.99, ISBN: 9781684642991

Ages 7-10

This collection of phrases and idioms from all over the world is a great little resource. Kids will easily recognize some phrases, like “buttering a person up”, and “raining cats and dogs”, but will they know where “seeing a peacock dance in the jungle” comes from? How about “peeing in your shoes will only keep you warm for a little while”? The origins of these phrases are interesting and amusing, and this little collection contains explanations, a phrase in its native language and phonetic pronunciations, and colorful illustrations. There’s no cow on the ice here (Swedish for “no rush”), but consider this one for your quirky readers who enjoy playing with language. What a Wonderful Phrase is a companion to What a Wonderful Word (2018).

 

Is There Life on Your Nose? Meet the Microbes, by Christian Borstlap, (Sept. 2021, Prestel Junior), $17.95, ISBN: 9783791374970

Ages 6-10

This is going to be huge with my library kids. Microbes make up every part of our day-to-day life, and this book is all about those microbes and where they live: on your nose, in boiling water or the arid desert, even underground. Filled with fun facts and entertaining illustrations, Is There Life on Your Nose? is all about microbes: how they breed, how they contribute to our lives (we wouldn’t have pickles, cheese, or bread without them!), how they can generate clean energy, and even how they can make us sick, in the form of viruses. It’s a great introduction to a timely subject, explained with humor and smart facts that will help kids understand – especially now – those little, microscopic creatures we share our world with. Are you doing STEM activities again, either in-person or virtually? Pair a reading of this with some of these experiments from Go Science Girls – I’m thinking of the hand-washing one in particular for my kiddos!

 

The Weather Pop-Up Book, by Maike Biederstadt/Illustrated by Michael Prestel, (Sept. 2021, Prestel Junior), $25, ISBN: 9783791373935

Ages 7-10

Just because kids are getting older doesn’t mean they can’t appreciate a good pop-up book! This book on weather is a great way to communicate the power of weather and the devastating influence of climate change. Spreads on storms, rain, tornadoes, heat, and snow fold out into 3-D landscapes, with paragraphs on each weather phenomenon. The opening spread explains “why weather is the way it is”, and the final spread on climate change explains how it affects weather, and what we can expect as weather patterns are further affected. A good addition to your reference section – if you’re putting this into circulation, it may wear out pretty quickly, but it will be a popular choice.

 

Explore! America’s National Parks, by Krista Langlois/Illustrated by Hannah Bailey, (June 2021, Kane Miller), $18.99, ISBN: 9781684641932

Ages 7-12

Who’s up for a road trip? This voyage through America’s 61 National Parks will have readers ready to pack their backpacks and head out with this book as their guide. Beautifully illustrated, laid out by geographic region (West Coast, Alaska, Rocky Mountains, Southwest, Central, East, and Tropics), and with a strong message of environmental respect and care, this is a treasure trove. United States maps highlight each region and its parks; a descriptive paragraph on states covered and activities to discover entices readers to turn the pages and dive in. Fact files give the statistics for each park, including size, state, founding date, and one fun fact; ranger tips help readers plan for a safe and exciting visit. Want to help scientists estimate how many bears live in Denali? Want to learn where the best place is to listen for the Mexican spotted owl? You’ll find all the answers in here. Armchair explorers and travelers, natural world fans, anyone who loves NatGeo books. Need a program idea? Take virtual tours through each of the parks using this book as your guide.

The Book of Labyrinths and Mazes, by Silke Vry/Illustrated by Finn Dean, (Sept. 2021, Prestel Junior), $19.95, ISBN: 9783791374741
Ages 7-10
Part activity book, part reference guide, this book on mazes and labyrinths will send puzzle fans over the moon. Organized into four sections: I Think I’m Going Crazy! explains the differences between a maze and a labyrinth, how detours can lead us to our goals, and mazes and labyrinths within our bodies and our lives; Winding Paths as Far as the Eye Can See spotlights famous labyrinths from history; To The Center, Please! looks at the journey to the center of a labyrinth – and how to get back out, and Strange Paths! leads readers to mazes all around the world. From Theseus and the Minotaur’s labyrinth of legend to the quiet contemplation of walking a labyrinth in n nature, beautifully illustrated spreads include mazes and activities for readers to complete and ideas to mull over. A guide to solving mazes will help readers before they wander into a maze (hey, Fall’s coming… corn mazes!). Back matter includes more information about famous labyrinths worldwide and a glossary. Great for reference collections. History fans and brain buster fans will devour this one.
Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Play with Your Words! Stop That Poem!

Stop That Poem!, by Eric Ode/Illustrated Jieting Chen, (Sept. 2021, Kane Miller), $14.99, ISBN: 9781684642236

Ages 4-8

This colorful exploration of the moving nature of poetry is so much fun. A girl constructs a tower of words, creating a poem, which flies away, going on a series of adventures where the words will reassemble in the water, on a clothesline, and carried off by dogs, birds, and buses, with new experiences to read about each time. Three children chase the words, calling, “Stop that poem!”, but that’s the thing, about poems: words are free and flow like water, like air currents. It’s inspiring for younger readers, learning to put their thoughts together, and the colorful artwork and movement furthers the idea that words never stay in one place. The words of each poem appear on cards, allowing for fun programs where kids can assemble their own poems, either from words they write, or words you provide for them. I used to have large MegaBlocks with sight words glued to them that let kids create their own words during play, at my library; this could be a fun learning exercise for preschoolers! Stop That Poem! is a fun addition to your wordplay books.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Books about friends make back to school all better!

So how’s everyone doing? My kids went back to school as fully remote students today… it’s got to get better, right? RIGHT? I will say that one thing that’s been a saving grace during this has been the ability to get together with friends. We wear our masks, we sit out in the open, and our kids are able to run around together and get some much-needed friend time in.

My older son, a high school senior (WOW), has been active throughout the quarantine by gaming and videochatting with his friends; he’s just started meeting up with them in public parks and spaces, so that’s helped him, too.

Seeing my 3rd grader brighten up when he saw all his friends online (the remote learners all have the same class for now) was amazing. He saw a bunch of these kids yesterday, but seeing him light up at the thought of having ALL of his school friends in his class was wonderful: “Mom! There’s Harry! And Rahwi! And Miles!” He went down the line, calling out every one of his friends, and it helped him engage with the teacher and ease into a fairly stressful day (for me, anyway).

Having said that, I thought I’d talk up some books about friends that are just right for readalouds this time of year, when we’re making new friends and greeting existing friends. Enjoy some buddy time with your littlest friends and read a few of these.

Lost Beast, Found Friend, by Josh Trujillo/Illustrated by Nick Kennedy and Melanie Lapovich, (June 2020, Oni Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781620107423

Ages 3-7

This rhyming story of friends helping one another is absolutely adorable. Keelee is a young girl living on an island, who discovers a big, purple beast one day! The poor beast is lost and scared, and Keelee comes to the rescue by calming and befriending the Beast, and journeys with her new, lost friend across the island to find Beast’s home. The rhyme is so comforting; it’s a joy to read and listen to, and kids will ask for this one again and again. The colors are just incredible: so vibrant and happy, with adorable characters and lush landscapes. I love spending time with this story and can’t wait to bring this to my preschoolers. It’s a sweet story of friendship that appeals to all ages.

 

 

Will You Be Friends With Me?, by Kathleen Long Bostrom/Illustrated by Jo de Ruiter, (July 2020, WorthyKids), $7.99, ISBN: 9781546033806

Ages 0-3

I love board books! Will You Be Friends With Me? is an adorable board book that’s all about celebrating the little things that make us individuals: “I like orange. / You like pink. / I use crayon. / You use ink.” Each phrase ends with the question, “Will you be friends with me?”; it’s an invitation to embrace these fun differences and celebrate the choices available to us. Featuring a soothing rhyme scheme and a gently illustrated group of diverse children, this is an adorable story for storytime and cuddle time. It’s a sweet way to introduce personal preferences and remind toddlers and preschoolers that we don’t always have to like the same things to be friends: in fact, liking different things just gives us that much more to talk about. Don’t miss the free, downloadable companion activity sheets, courtesy of publisher, Hachette.

 

The Same But Different Too, by Karl Newson/Illustrated by Kate Hindley, (March 2020, Nosy Crow), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536212013

Ages 2-6

Another book about celebrating what makes us unique, The Same But Different Too is a rhyming look at what makes us the same – but different, all at once. Diverse children and animals join together to celebrate what we have in common, and what makes us each a special individual: children play hide and seek with a zebra, against a striped wall: “I am playful. / You are too. / I can’t hide as well as you”;  a child and a tiger wait at a rainy bus stop, while another child dives underwater with jellyfish, a whale, and a squid: “I am wet. / You are too. I can splash and swim like you.” The pencil artwork and digitally colored illustrations are lively, cartoony, and fun. This one is a guaranteed win for storytime.

 

The Word for Friend, by Aidan Cassie, (June 2020, Farrar, Straus and Giroux BYR), $18.99, ISBN: 9780374310462

Ages 4-8

Kemala is a pangolin who’s moved, with her family, to a new country! She loves to talk and can’t wait to make new friends… but she realizes that their words are different from hers. She doesn’t understand the language here in her new country, and she curls into a little ball, feeling alone. But not to worry! A friendly anteater named Ana introduces herself to Kemala as she sits by herself at recess, cutting animal shapes from leaves. The two bond over a shared love of crafting, and before Kemala knows it, she’s laughing and learning how to communicate, with and without words. A timely story of kindness, empathy, and being the new kid, The Word for Friend is touching and heart-aching at points. Aidan Cassie makes us ache for Kemala when she realizes that “all her wonderful words were missing”; and we rejoice as Kemala and Ana discover how to communicate together with the puppets they create, giving Kemala the confidence she needs to come out of her little ball. An author’s note introduces readers to Esperanto, Kemala’s “new language”, and provides phrases used throughout the book. There’s a note about pangolins, too! (If you love them and want more pangolin stories, may I steer you to Tracey Hecht’s Nocturnals series?) The artwork has earth colors and softer, less cartoony versions of animals like foxes, otters, raccoons, and, naturally, a pangolin and an anteater. The endpapers are stunning, with black, intricate cutout artwork of animal puppets that become part of the story, set against a brown/beige background.

A gorgeous story of friendship and language that you shouldn’t miss. Keep this with books like Anne Sibley O’Brien’s Someone New and I’m New Here, and Chana Stiefel’s My Name is Wakawakaloch!

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

#HomesCool: Career Day, Playing with Words, Women’s History, and ICK!

More #HomesCool fun as I catch up on my Summer Reading TBR! Here’s what’s good this week:

Incredible Jobs You’ve (Probably) Never Heard Of, by Natalie Labarre, (Apr. 2020, Nosy Crow), $19.99, ISBN: 9781536212198

Ages 9-12

Welcome to Career Day! What do you want to be when you grow up: a librarian? Teacher or doctor? How about… a Train Pusher, or a Pet Preservationist? If the usual Career Day job list is leaving you with a case of the blahs, Incredible Jobs You’ve (Probably) Never Heard Of is the book for you and your kiddos. Oversized and illustrated in full color, this book spotlights jobs that are off the beaten path: sure, kids may have heard of an Egyptologist, but do they know that a Body Farmer uses the bodies of folks who’ve donated their bodies to science to recreate crime scenes or do scientific research? Or that a Chief Sniffer smell-checks anything going on a spacecraft launch? How about creating works of art from cheese, like a Cheese Sculptor? There are so many great jobs in here, kids will never look at Career Day the same way again. Illustrated with upbeat, fun artwork, and bright blue endpapers that give nods to all sorts of careers waiting inside, this is way too much fun, and a brand new take on the question, “So… what do you want to be when you grow up?”.

 

Alphamaniacs: Builders of the 26 Wonders of the Word, by Paul Fleischman/Illustrated by Melissa Sweet, (Apr. 2020, Candlewick Studio), $19.99, ISBN: 9780763690663

Ages 12+

Looking like an artist’s journal, filled with colorful, mixed media illustrations in bold, wild colors, Alphamaniacs is a book for those of us who love words and language. Twenty-six profiles fill this book, but they’re not the kind of wordsmiths you may think of: Simon Vostre, the 15-century publisher of religious books who wrote book curses to protect his works from careless readers and handlers: “Whoever steals this Book of Prayer / May he be ripped apart by swine, / His heart be splintered, this I swear, / And his body dragged along the Rhine”; Corín Tellado, the prolific author whose writing career left us with over 4,000 novels; and Daniel Nussbaum, the creator of “PL8SPK” – vanity license plates that retell the classics – are all here, as are other word artists and lovers. The book is perfect for tweens and teens who love a good word-related joke, and can be used in ELA classes to show how much fun it is to play with language. Any language!

Alphamaniacs has starred reviews from Kirkus and the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books.

 

Noise Makers: 25 Women Who Raised Their Voices & Changed the World, by Kazoo Magazine, Edited by Erin Bried, (Jan. 2020, Alfred A. Knopf), $25.99, ISBN: 9780525580171

Ages 9-14

This book is AMAZING. It’s a graphic novel look at 25 women who made history, written and drawn by some of the most outstanding names in comics and graphic novels today, including Lucy Knisley, Maris Wicks, and Kat Leyh. Collected by the editors at Kazoo Magazine, every woman profiled here gets star treatment: a biographical spread with a picture, summary paragraph, and bullets points, inviting readers to see what they have in common with these women (talk about inspiring!), and a short graphic novel story from the woman’s life. Eugenie Clark, the “Shark Whisperer” (and Shark Lady, according to Jess Keating), is here; Wangari Maathai, who planted trees in Kenya, is here, too. Junko Tabei, the first woman to reach the peak of Mount Everest; artist Frida Kahlo, and musician and spy Josephine Baker are all here, too. Their stories are beautifully told and in a way that links reader, writer, and subject. Noise Makers organizes profiles under six areas: Grow (women who worked with nature); Tinker (entrepreneurs and inventors); Play (those with more physical accomplishments); Create (artists and creators); Rally (advocates and activists); and Explore (pioneers and explorers). This is essential, joyful, reading. Each contributing artist has a profile in the back matter. Put a copy on your Biography shelves and a copy on your Graphic Novels shelves.

 

 

Ick! Delightfully Disgusting Animal Dinners, Dwellings, and Defenses, by Melissa Stewart, (June 2020, National Geographic Kids), $14.99, ISBN: 9781426337468

Ages 7-13

You have got to love NatGeo Kids for having their finger on the pulse of what kids like. Ick! celebrates the grossest stuff in the animal world: caterpillars that camouflage themselves to look like dung, birds who build their nests with spit, a wasp who builds her nest inside her prey; it’s all here, with full-color photos that will make readers squeal with macabre delight. Organized into sections on Disgusting Dinners, Disgusting Dwellings, and Disgusting Defenses, readers learn all about the ways animals live, eat, and protect themselves. Callout facts and stats feature throughout the book, as do “Extra Ick!” sections with even grosser facts! Birds, bugs, mammals, fish, lizards, every type of animal can be found here: 45 of them, to be precise. A glossary, selected sources, and index round out the back matter.

Pair this with NatGeo Kids’ and Anna Claybourne’s Don’t Read This Book Before Dinner for an all-out squeal fest. And check out the Ick! section of author Melissa Stewart’s webpage, which includes a great interactive teaching presentation!

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Gift Guide for Little Readers

What do you get the littlest readers? (Hint: BOOKS) Come on, everyone else is going to get them all the toys.

Alphabet Street, by Jonathan Emmett/Illustrated by Ingela P. Arrhenius, (Oct. 2019, Nosy Crow), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536208276

Ages 0-4

How fantastic is a lift-the-flap book that also folds out into a little neighborhood street? It’s an alphabetical trip through 13 storefronts, where each store is named after neighboring letters (Alfie’s Bakery; Coffee & Donuts; Elegant Fashions) and feature two big flaps, where little explorers can discover an alphabet lesson. The reverse side of the flaps is a bright, bold, park play area, making this absolutely perfect for kids to bring out their toys to interact with the storefronts and the book characters! The construction is sturdy, and will hold up to lots of play; the book is held together with a blue satin ribbon to keep everything together when not laid out. There’s eight feet of play here, so kids can play together or fly solo. If you put a copy in your storytime reference, your library kids will love you.

I am a big fan of Ingela P. Arrhenius’s art, which is so perfect for toddlers and preschoolers who love to see big, expressive, and friendly animal faces. The retro art, the big, bold color, it all makes for fun, tactile learning play.

 

 

100 First Words, by  Edward Underwood, (Sept. 2019, Nosy Crow), $9.99, ISBN: 9781536208221

Ages 0-3

This giant board book is loaded with words to explore – there are bunches of them hidden behind flaps, where a fence can reveal a pig; fold back a leaf to discover a caterpillar; discover a cat hidden behind a houseplant. Big, bold words are paired with bold, bright artwork, and sturdy flaps will hold up to curious little hands that want to explore over and over again. There are animals; household items; means of transportation (including a rocket ship!); body parts; baby esssentials, like diaper, cup, pajamas, and teddy: all easy words for you to share with your little one, and most easily enough spotted in the wild that you can point them out and reinforce the picture-word connection. Edward Underwood is great with concept art for little ones, and makes this book absolute fun.

 

Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction, picture books, Preschool Reads

Nonfiction rundown: October and November

Picture book nonfiction just gets better and better. In October and November, we get two more biographies on people of color that have, until now, been largely overlooked by history. It’s disheartening on one hand, but I choose to be glad that books are coming forward now to liven up our nonfiction shelves and give readers even more role models across all walks of life to learn about and be inspired by. I’ve also got some fun alphabet books and some nature and science. Pull up a chair, brew a warm beverage of your choice, and enjoy!

 

Someday is Now: Clara Luper and the 1958 Oklahoma City Sit-Ins, by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich/Illustrated by Jade Johnson, (Aug. 2018, Seagrass Press), $17.95, ISBN: 9781633224988

Ages 6-9

I missed this one the first time around, but I’m glad I caught it when I went back through my Edelweiss account to check up on my TBR. This picture book biography of civil rights activist Clara Luper (nee Clara Mae Shepard) is a great addition to your picture book biographies. Growing up in segregated Oklahoma, Clara saw her World War I veteran father diminished by the very country he fought for: her brother turned away from a local hospital because it was a whites-only facility; she was educated in a run-down classroom with torn books and a teacher who also served as the principal and janitor; restaurants dictated where Blacks could eat. Everywhere she looked, Clara saw things were “separate and unequal”, a phrase repeated throughout the book in bold, large font to drive home the message. Ms. Luper became a teacher who pushed for change, working with the NAACP Youth Council and participating in lunch counter protests with her students after a trip to non-segregated New York. Back matter includes an encapsulated biography of Ms. Luper.

This is the first picture book biography on Clara Luper: everything else I found online is decades old. Let’s get more civil activist bios into the hands of our kids, so they can see for themselves how many voices led to change. Someday is Now has a starred review from Kirkus.

Author Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich is the co-author of the NAACP Image Award nominated Two Naomis and the forthcoming Naomis Too and is the editor of The Hero Next Door, an anthology from We Need Diverse Books. You can see more of Jade Johnson’s illustration work, including downloadable coloring pages, on her website.

 

Who Will Roar If I Go? (If We’re Gone, Book 1), by Paige Jaeger/Illustrated by Carol Hill Quirk, (June 2018, Boutique of Quality Books), $18.95, ISBN: 9781945448157

Ages 5-7

This rhyming story, the first in a planned series, is a plea to readers from endangered animals suffering from a multitude of human-based maladies, most commonly, the disappearance of their habitats and hunting, be it for trophies or luxury dining. Thirteen animals ask humans for help in their quest for survival; each rhyme provides readers with a little background on the animal and why it needs help. The elephant’s page reads: “I sure am an enormous creature; With ivory tusks my most attractive feature; For these long, tapered tusks that I hold dear; Thousands of friends were lost last year; No one needs my tusks but me; Go make some in a factory”.

Back matter includes a glossary of terms and an animal footprint guessing game. Each animal gets its own spread, including its geographic location and footprint, related to a game in the back matter. The watercolor artwork is realistic and showcases each animal in its natural environment. Who Will Roar If I Go? is a good introduction to endangered animals and the need for conservation and preservation; it’s a good additional add to your picture book nonfiction.

The Who Will Roar webpage offers free, downloadable educator resources.

 

 

P is for Paris, by Paul Thurlby, (Oct. 2018, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $19.99, ISBN: 9781492668152

Ages 5-8

The latest book in Paul Thurlby’s ABC Cities series brings readers on an alphabetical tour of the City of Lights: Paris. Beautiful, bright artwork brings to mind vintage travel posters, and little bites of Parisian history on each page make this a fun addition to your picture books and world sections. Adults will enjoy this one as much as the kids will; references are equally accessible to kids and grownups. From the Abbesses to the Zoo De Vincennes, this is a nice addition to Thurlby’s Cities set. Endpapers provide a map to Paris, with attractions throughout the book numbered for reference. The author provides a concise explanation of the city’s organization into arrondissments. This easily works for both concept sections and geography sections, but don’t mistake this for a beginner’s abecedary; it’s a little more complex and better for Kindergarteners and up.

Check out Paul Thurlby’s webpage for more artwork and information on his other books. Take your armchair travelers on a picture book trip around the world with Thurlby’s books and Miroslav Sasek’s books.

 

Flow, Spin, Grow: Looking for Patterns in Nature, by Patchen Barss/Illustrated by Todd Stewart, (Oct. 2018, OwlKids), $18.95, ISBN: 9781771472876

Ages 5-7

Readers are encouraged to explore patterns in nature in this mindful rhyming book. A diverse group of children play and relax in an open park area in the opening spread. The text playfully crawls around the scene, encouraging kids to “Look, climb, dig, flow. Breathe in deep, around you go. Twirl, whirl, swirl, grow. Explore, find more, join the show.” The text inspires readers to look for patterns everywhere: observe, dig, explore, climb; a tree trunk splits, branches split, and below the ground, roots split and grow; water branches off into smaller bodies of water, and our own lungs have little branches like mini-trees, reaching for air. Nature twirls and whirls, like the galaxies in space or two friends at play; pine cones, storm clouds, and snail shells all swirl. It’s an interesting way to introduce scientific inquiry to burgeoning scientists. An author’s note goes further into the “secret code” hidden in the shapes of things, and suggests additional resources for more reading.

The artwork is the star in this book. Multilayered screen prints and muted colors create a setting where patterns gently emerge, waiting for readers to spot them: triangles on a tree or bush; cracks in the dirt and roots underground reach out. Flow Spin Grow is a good purchase for primary science collections; I also love Joyce Sidman and Beth Krommes’ award-winning Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature, and Jane Brocket’s Spotty, Stripy, Swirly: What Are Patterns?

The Vast Wonder of the World: Biologist Ernest Everett Just, by Mélina Mangal/Illustrated by Luisa Uribe, (Nov. 2018, Lerner Publishing Group), $19.99, ISBN: 9781512483758

Ages 7-9

This bio on biologist Ernest Everett Just is just what your picture book biography section needs. He came of age in the Jim Crow South, paying his way through Dartmouth College while supporting his siblings after his mother’s passing. He “unlocked the mysteries of how the different parts of the cell worked together as new life developed”, and found success as a Howard University professor, embryologist, and cytologist, working in both Europe and the States. The Vast Wonder of the World tells his story, introducing him to a new generation of budding scientists who will be inspired by his determination and success in the face of racism and adversity. The muted pencil and digital artwork, in shades of blue, creates a sense of wonder and beauty, giving readers a real appreciation for Just and his place in science history. An author’s note, a timeline, and source notes complete this solid addition to science biography sections. Display and booktalk – PLEASE – with Gwendolyn Hudson Hooks and Colin Bootman’s Tiny Stitches: The Life of Medical Pioneer Vivien Thomas, and – if you can find it (can we please get this book back in print?) – May Chinn: The Best Medicine, by Ellen Butts and Joyce R. Schwartz, illustrated by Janet Hamlin.

The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) has a good feature story on Dr. Just, with references to further reading, by W. Malcolm Byrnes.

P is for Pterodactyl, by Raj Haldar & Chris Carpenter/Illustrated by Maria Beddia, (Nov. 2018, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $17.99, ISBN: 9781492674313

Ages 6-10

Calling itself “The Worst Alphabet Book Ever”, P is for Pterodactyl is a smirk, wink, and nudge at rebel words in the English language: words that don’t follow the rules. The book uses humor, alliteration, and amusing artwork to get its point across, as with E is for Ewe, which depicts sheep at a wake: “Eileen the ewe was so euphoric with wolves were eaten, she even gave the eulogy” (keep reading the book for more on Eileen); or L is not for Elle, which shows an elevated subway car transporting some elephants across the city of El Paso: “An elephant named Elle rode the el train halfway to El Paso and dined on hearts of palm with her folks”. It’s not a basic concept book for new learners, but it’s sure fun to read it out loud and watch kids laugh and play with language. My 6-year-old cracks up at this one, and it helps when he tries to figure out new words.

P is for Pterodactyl has a starred review from Foreword Reviews.

 

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

How many words will stay on The List?

The List, by Patricia Forde, (Aug. 2017, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $16.99, ISBN: 9781492647966

Recommended for readers 10-13

A post-cataclysmic society called Ark is led by a fanatic who believes words are at the heart of the problem. After all, words can stretch the truth, can bend, can lie, just like the politicians did before The Great Melting. Letta is apprenticed to Ark’s wordsmith, Benjamin; the community is allowed only 500 words, which Benjamin and Letta curate. Benjamin saves words for a time when man will be able to handle more – or so Letta believes. When Benjamin disappears on a word-finding mission, and Letta meets a boy from a neighboring community of free-thinkers and artists, she discovers that their leader, the leader she put her trust in, is working on a way to rob the people of Ark of language forever.

The List is similar on many levels to The Giver: an enclosed, guarded society, quiet removals of dissidents, and hidden truths waiting to be revealed. As an apprentice wordsmith, Letta sees more than the average Ark citizen; saving the life of a Desecrator – a member of a neighboring group of artists and musicians – opens her eyes to even more goings-on within Ark and its surroundings. It’s up to her to act on the information she receives, and she struggles with the burden of responsibility. There are strong themes for discussion here: the power of words, free thought and speech, and art as resistance. This is a great book to give readers who are ready for something beyond The Giver, but not yet ready for Fahrenheit 451. This novel can easily stand on its own, but readers may want to see what lies in Ark’s future.

Posted in Middle School, Non-Fiction, Tween Reads

ChitChat Makes Phonics and Language Made Interesting for Middle Graders

chitchatChitChat: Celebrating the World’s Languages, by Jude Isabella/Illustrated by Kathy Boake. Kids Can Press (2013), $17.95, ISBN: 9781554537877

Recommended for ages 9-12

ChitChat takes a look at language – spoken, written, and sign;  how it’s evolved, and how it continues to evolve over time. Author Jude Isabella talks about everything from phonics sentence structures to the Rosetta Stone, slang, dead and endangered languages to how babies and toddlers can learn up to one new word every 90 seconds – all in 44 pages. It’s an incredible amount of information packed into a relative handful of pages, and yet nothing feels forced, rushed, cut off, or – and this is the most important part – boring.

Kathy Boakes’ illustrations are fun and interesting; she creates fun graphics using distorted faces from a wealth of ethnicities and giant mouths that call attention to interesting facts. There are fun callout boxes and graphics, including an interesting look at endangered languages of the world set against a map of the world. I was particularly happy to see a section devoted to diagramming a sentence – I haven’t seen one of those in far too long!

ChitChat is a good book to have in school and home libraries. Middle graders will get a kick out of the bite-sized facts and information, and pick up some Victorian slang while they’re at it (“fizzing fart catcher” is really a term I’d like to see someone bring back).