Posted in gaming, Librarianing, programs

How my Thursday afternoon Math Club became a Thursday afternoon Gaming Club (and still has math!)

I’ve been having a great time with Math Clubs at my library lately. I know, Math Club, right? Aren’t most kids supposed to run screaming from Math Club? Not the Crazy 8s Math Club. Grab a nice, cold water, have a seat, let’s talk.

Most of the kids in my library community need help with math. Math can be intimidating and frustrating for them – I know it is for me – and it can be difficult to see the fun side of it. I had the idea of running a math club where we could play numbers games and taking some of that fear out of Math, so I started researching, and found Crazy 8s, a Math Club that developed out of the Bedtime Math Foundation. I was already familiar with the Bedtime Math app, having used it to do daily math games with my Kiddo when he was little, so finding out they had a Math Club was great news! The format reminds me of Girls Who Code, in that you get kits mailed to you, with lessons, for 8 weeks worth of math club sessions for Season 1, and there’s a coach login area with extra resources. I had a call with a Crazy 8s representative and about a week later, two boxes showed up!

I run two clubs every week: one for grades K-2, one for grades 3-5, and the sessions have been wonderful. Our first week, we did glow-in-the-dark geometry: Crazy 8s provided the glow-in-the-dark sticks, the kids provided the building knowledge to make the shapes. We counted sides, we talked about shapes and how many sides different shapes have and what we call them, and the kids had a blast.

Another week, we had hacky sack darts: Crazy 8s provided the hacky sacks and a floor-sized dartboard. We added up numbers, we played “darts”, and we had four teams compete with fun challenges, all while they were doing math. We had Beach Ball math another week, where they had to count how many breaths it took for me to blow up a beach ball (and not pass out), and called out math problems as they played catch.

The verdict: Get yourselves in on Crazy 8s Math Club. I am absolutely going for another season come the Fall! The website is super user-friendly and it’s a great program to run.

My Thursday group is the Grades 3-5 Math Club. They enjoy the games, but when time was up, they lingered around, wanting more. I’d been holding onto some games to introduce in September, particularly Dungeons & Dragons, but I figured there was no time like the present. I brought out character sheets and started explaining the idea of “storytelling, but with math” to my Corona Kids, and they were intrigued. I showed them the different kinds of dice – that was pretty great; I forget that a 20-sided die is a new thing to some people! – and explained how to work percentile dice. We started creating a quick adventure where one kid, playing a dwarf, had to roll his Intelligence to see what he could read; another kid, playing a wizard, got to roll Magic Missile to stop an orc bearing down on him. They loved it, I loved it, and we decided that Thursdays would now be Dungeons and Dragons math club. Huzzah!

The joy was increased tenfold when a friend put a link up on my Facebook page with the news that Wizards of the Coast – the company that owns Dungeons and Dragons AND the Magic: The Gathering card game – is providing activity kits to educators and librarians who want to start a Dungeons and Dragons group. I filled my form out, and my kit will arrive in the Fall! Until then, I’ll use the Starter Set I have at home from when my older kids were younger, and some of the freebies available on the Dungeons & Dragons resources area.

I mentioned Magic: The Gathering, which is a great fantasy card game that I played years ago, when my family and I learned it at the Wizards of the Coast pavilion at New York Comic Con. My cards have been dormant for a while, but that changed when I discovered this great nonprofit, MagiKids by Weirdcards. MagiKids is a nonprofit that has an education curriculum built around Magic: The Gathering! You fill out a form on their website, and they may send you a massive bunch of stuff. Look at this!

That’s not even the whole thing. I received this big card box full of donated M:TG cards; unopened booster packs, deck boxes for when the kids put together their decks, and score counters. It is INCREDIBLE. I was holding onto this one until September, too, but when the kids became so excited over Dungeons and Dragons, I had to introduce them to Magic. Sure enough, they couldn’t believe their eyes. We talked a little bit about the game, I let them open the boosters (honestly, it’s just so exciting), and we talked about MagiKids’s Sort, Build, Play curriculum. For the first week, we looked through the cards, talked about the different colors and what powers, what cards, attached to those colors. We talked about the numbers on the cards and what they meant; we talked about how many types of colors they could have in their decks (I suggested two to start, but agreed that yes, you can play all the lands in your deck if you want to). This coming week, we’ll talk about building their first decks. I may take that up to two weeks, because honestly, that’s a lot.

So for now, that’s it: Wednesdays is Crazy 8s for my Kindergarteners, First, and Second graders; Thursday, my bigger kids will have their Crazy 8s club, and then we’ll alternate between D&D and M:TG every week. I think I may be more excited than they are!

 

Image courtesy of DND Sage Advice

Posted in Early Reader, Non-Fiction, picture books, Preschool Reads

Two books for dinosaur fans!

I’ve got two fun books for dinosaur fans: one fiction, one non-fiction, both adorable.

I Am Hatzetgopteryx (I Am Preshistoric), by Timothy J. Bradley, (Nov. 2021, Arbordale Publishing), $10.95, ISBN: 9781643518213

Ages 3-7

Look at that brilliant beak! Look at that impressive wingspan! I Am Hatzetgopteryx introduces readers to a pterosaur they may not have heard of – yet. Everyone knows pterodactyls, but Hatzegopteryx is a more recent discovery (2002). I Am Hatzetgopteryx is an early reader that uses repetition and simple, factual sentences to teach readers about this pteranodon. A Hatzegopteryx chick hatches and goes through life, flapping and leaping, dodging and chasing, giving readers a glimpse into the prehistoric world. Artwork is colorful and the Hatzegopteryx’s bright orange and black beak jumps off the page, as does the pteranodon’s often colorful prey.

The For Creative Minds supplement is available on the book detail page at Arbordale’s website, as are quizzes. The book is available in English and Spanish, and is the companion book to I Am Allosaurus, the first book in the I Am Prehistoric series.

There are some good Hatzegopteryx resources available for readers who want to learn more. Check out Earth Archives, and Planet Dinosaur’s wiki page dedicated to the pterosaur.

 

Never Teach a Stegosaur to Do Sums, by Rashmi Sirdeshpande & Diane Ewen, (Jan. 2022, Kane Miller), $12.99, ISBN: 9781684643424

Ages 3-7

Imagine what would happen if you could teach a dinosaur to do math? The little girl who almost caused a dinosaur uprising by teaching a T. Rex to read is back with a new dinosaur friend in a companion book to Never Show a T. Rex a Book (2021). Here, she teaches a stegosaurus to do math, leading to delicious baked goods, coding, even building a rocket ship to go to the moon! But wait! What happens when you can do math so well that you accidentally create a possible robot uprising? Never Teach a Stegosaur to Do Sums is a celebration of all things mathematics, with fun illustration details including cameos from our T. Rex friend and his storybook. The cartoon artwork portrays a young girl of color exploring all the things math lets you do, with exciting moments like opening a book and unleashing a whirlwind of numbers, pie charts, and bar graphs; unlocking codes and recipes; engineering bridges, and building rockets and robots. A poster of NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson graces the girl’s bedroom wall, and rocket ship curtains frame her window; a dinosaur blanket covers her bed. The light, fun storytelling inspires kids to love math by illustrating its presence in our everyday lives. Pair with its companion book or with another fun dinosaur, like my old friend Dexter T. Rexter, for a fun dinosaur storytime: and don’t forget the Laurie Berkner soundtrack (and book)!

 

Posted in picture books

We Are One: How the World Adds Up – Unity Counts!

We Are One: How the World Adds Up, by Susan Hood/Illustrated by Linda Yan, (Nov. 2021, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536201147

Ages 3-7

Individually, we may be one – one person, one student, one kid – but together, we are so much more: a nation; a family; a society. That’s the underlying message delivered in rhyming concept story, We Are One: How the World Adds Up. The rhyming story here will attract younger readers, with easy-to-imagine concepts like “one sandwich requires two slices of bread / Two vows make one marriage when friends want to wed”, while informational panels run across the bottom of each page, with more meaty information for older kids: how the sandwich got its name, or Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s 2015 statement that “In forming a marital union, two people become something stronger than they once were”. The book goes from 1 to 10 – a relatively simple concept – and illustrates how those base 10 numbers contribute to greater and greater moments that make up our world. The message at the heart of the book is that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and that each of those parts are connected to one another. It’s a great book to explain the beginnings of early math concepts, and can be a book you can turn to as readers progress in their education to explain exponents, part/whole relationships, fractions, or more. All of these concepts come back to cooperation, kindness, and unity, making this a positive, upbeat read all around. Colorful digital artwork shows a wealth of illustrations, with an ever-present cast of diverse children and animals bringing the concepts to life. Back matter includes sources and resources, additional reading, and more stats on how the world adds up.

We Are One: How the World Adds Up has a starred review from Kirkus.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

#HomesCool: Storytelling Math RULES!

Charlesbridge Publishing has a new series that’s just in time for school, whether you’re fully remote, homeschooling, unschooling, or blended learning. Storytelling Math is all about looking at math a little differently. The authors and illustrators are diverse, their characters speak different languages, and they all speak the universal language of mathematics. The series was developed in collaboration with math experts at STEM education non-profit TERC, under a grant from the Heising-Simons Foundation.

Let’s start with award-winning author/illustrator Grace Lin’s new math board book series!

What Will Fit?, by Grace Lin, (Oct. 2020, Charlesbridge), $6.99, ISBN: 9781623541255

Ages 0-3

Olivia, a little girl, heads to a farmer’s market, ready to fill her basket with good food. What will fit? The beet just rolls around, but the zucchini is too long, and just sticks out. How will Olivia find the best fit and bring home some healthy food? What Will Fit? is all about spatial relations. A section called Exploring the Math explains the math – in this case, spatial sense and how things fit – in the context of the story. A Try This! section offers easy activities that parents and caregivers can incorporate lessons into a child’s day. Exploring Math and Try This are written by Douglas Clements, Kennedy Endowed Chair and Professor at the University of Denver and executive director of the Marsico Institute for Early Learning and Literacy.

Grace Lin’s artwork is always so colorful and fun. Setting What Will Fit? in a farmer’s market allows her to let her character, a young girl of color, wander through a colorful setting, with delicious foods that kids can identify, count, and name shapes and colors.

 

The Last Marshmallow, by Grace Lin, (Oct. 2020, Charlesbridge), $6.99, ISBN: 9781623541262

Ages 0-3

It’s a cold day out, and Olivia and Mei warm up with some hot chocolate. There are two friends, and three marshmallows: who will get the last marshmallow? All about division and fractions, The Last Marshmallow is also about sharing and friendship. Exploring the Math explains how sharing leads to a real-world understanding of fractions and division, and Try This! suggests having kids figure out how to share food in different increments in a way that’s fair to everyone.

The artwork is cheerful and focuses mainly on Olivia and Mei, with two yummy cups of hot cocoa, and three plump marshmallows to split between them.

 

Circle! Sphere!, by Grace Lin, (Oct. 2020, Charlesbridge), $6.99, ISBN: 9781623541248

Ages 0-3

Manny, Mei, and Olivia are playing outside together and want to blow bubbles. There are three bubble wands; one for each friend. Each wand has a different shape, but they all blow spherical bubbles! Teaching children the foundation of geometry, Circle! Sphere! looks at shapes and 3-dimensional objects using a day outside, spent blowing bubbles with friends. Exploring the Math explains how the story helps build that mathematical foundation, and Try This! introduces new vocabulary words, including sphere, circle, and round, along with suggestions for encouraging children to think about shapes.

The artwork is cheery , depicting three friends playing outside on a warm day. Bubbles and wands offer the chance to go over shapes and colors with little learners.

 

Up to My Knees!, by Grace Lin, (Oct. 2020, Charlesbridge), $6.99, ISBN: 9781623541231

Ages 0-3

Mei celebrates the spring by gardening! She plants a seed and waits for it to grow. With water, sun, and time, the plant grows and grows: first it’s as tall as her toe; then, her knees; her shoulders, and finally, when summer arrives, the sunflower is in full bloom and taller than Mei! Up to My Knees introduces height and measurement in a story about plants, growing, and the seasons. Explore This explains how stories like Up to My Knees set the stage for understanding measurements and, eventually, using tools like yardsticks and rulers. Try This! encourages parents and caregivers to work with kids to measure things in their homes and environs, and introduces vocabulary words like longer and taller.

The artwork is cheery and bright: it’s spring and summer! Mei is out in the open air, gardening and growing a lush green plant that blooms into a bright sunflower.

Setting the stage for everyday math concepts, Grace Lin’s board book series features diverse characters and tells deeper stories of sharing and friendship. While Grace Lin’s website doesn’t have anything about the Storytelling Math books up yet, she does have some great resources available for parents, caregivers, and kids. The Storytelling Math website has author Q&A and videos; I’m hoping we get some educator and parent resources soon, too.

 

Lia and Luis: Who Has More?, by Ana Crespo/Illustrated by Giovana Medeiros, (Oct. 2020, Charlesbridge), $15.99, ISBN: 9781623541279

Ages 3-6

Twins Lia and Luis try to one-up one another when it comes to their favorite snacks. Lia’s got two chicken croquettes, and Luis has a bag of tapioca biscuits. So who has more? Depends on how you look at it: if you’re counting, a bag of chips has a lot more than just two; but if you weigh them, two chicken croquettes weigh more than a light bag of chips. So how do they even things out without anyone feeling bad?

The twins use the math concepts of comparing, measuring, and counting to work out who has “more”: depending on what you consider more, the answer is going to be different, as they learn. They learn that quantity and weight are two very, very different things! It’s an easy way to put learning into practice: the next time you go to a grocery store, show your kids how different packaging doesn’t necessarily mean there’s more of something; point out how the weight really makes the difference, especially when it comes to getting the best deal for your money.  A Try This! section at the end of the story, by Sara Cordes, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Psychology at Boston College, offers practical ways to help kids put this story into practice.

This is a fun story made even more fun by the fact that Lia and Luis speak Portuguese! The narrative text of the story is in English, and Lia and Luis, who are Brazilian, speak Portuguese to one another. A glossary of phrases is there for readers (but they’re largely understandable in context). Friendly characters, warm colors, and an exciting new language lesson make learning math even more enjoyable!

 

The Animals Would Not Sleep, by Sara Levine/Illustrated by Marta Alvarez Miguens, (Oct. 2020, Charlesbridge), $15.99, ISBN: 9781623541286

Ages 3-6

Marco has to get ready for bed, but his stuffed animals are causing a ruckus! He tries to sort them into bins to get ready for bed, but they aren’t happy! He attemps different classifications to sort by – he IS a scientist, after all! – and finally arrives at an arrangement that works well for everyone. Incredibly relatable – my Kiddo loved this, because it mirrors has bedtime arrangement – and sweetly affectionate, The Animals Would Not Sleep is a good bedtime story, but it’s also a great way to start talking about the concepts of classification, sorting, and characteristics. Each time Marco classifies and sorts his animals, he’s spot on – some are flying animals, some move on land, some swim – but they complain. He changes them up according to size, and then color, but someone is always feeling left out. His last arrangement takes everyone’s feelings into consideration and leads to a good night’s sleep.

Back matter talks about sorting in science, and a sections on Exploring the Math and Try This! by Karen Economopoulos, Co-Director of the Investigations Center for Curriculum and Professional Development at TERC, introduces ways to bring sorting and classifying into your homes. Encourage your kids to sort some of their toys or school supplies and explain what led them to their decisions. Encourage scientific thinking!

Most Storytelling Math books are available in both English and Spanish, which makes me very happy.

Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction, picture books

#HomesCool Reads: Math & Nature

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

Ages 7-11

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.

 

The Lion Queens of India, by Jan Reynolds, (Sept. 2020, Lee and Low Books), $18.95, ISBN: 9781643790510

Ages 6-8

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.

 

Seven Golden Rings: A Tale of Music and Math, by Rajani LaRocca/Illustrated by Archana Sreenivasan, (Oct. 2020, Lee and Low Books), $19.95, ISBN: 9781885008978

Ages 6-10

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.

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 Humor, Non-Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Quantum Theory explained in rhyme: The Cat in the Box

The Cat in the Box, by Chris Ferrie/Illustrated by Kevin Sherry, (June 2019, Sourcebooks), $17.99: ISBN; 9781492671237

Ages 14+

The Cat in the Hat meets quantum physics with Chris Ferrie’s The Cat in the Box. The story is similar in structure to Dr. Seuss’ classic, giving it a tongue-in-cheek twist. The narrator sits with Schrödinger himself, puzzling out a problem, when a box shows up. It’s a cat! Can the cat solve the problem? Schrödinger thinks so – and all the cat has to do in this situation is “see and not see”. Whew! What a relief. The story explains Schrödinger’s theory in rhyme that the folks on The Big Bang Theory would love: “Schrödinger used/this cat in a box/to dream up the first/quantum paradox/A paradox is something/that doesn’t make sense/There must be an assumption/that is causing offense”. The cat is the winner in this story, giving the two humans a lesson in quantum physics and probability, sing-songing, “The more math you know, the happier you’ll be”. An author’s note on Schrödinger recounts the original hypothesis, which didn’t end nearly so well for the cat.

The illustrations are black and white, with a big, googly-eyed scientist and a googly-eyed cat. Mathematical symbols and atomic symbols abound, with occasional reds for emphasis. The fun artwork is a perfect match for the light tone of the rhyme, and makes this a great book to keep around for teens and college students who may need a little brain break from studying.

Can younger kids read this? Of course! It’s a fun rhyme, loaded with math and science terms, and there are adorable cats and wacky scientists telling readers that math is fun. They may not get the bare bones of quantum physics, but they’ll pick up new science and math vocabulary.

Chris Ferrie, bringing a love of science and math to the kiddos.

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction

Math, Loss, and Zombie Movies: A Good Night for Shooting Zombies

A Good Night for Shooting Zombies, by Jaco Jacobs/Illustrated by Jim Tierney/Translated from Afrikaans by Kobus Geldenhuys, (March 2019, Rock the Boat), $12.95, ISBN: 9781786074508

Ages 10-14

Martin is a South African teen living with loss. His father was killed in a car crash a few years ago, and his mother hasn’t left the house since. His sister is hardly ever home, usually out with her sketchy boyfriend. All Martin has is his chickens – his nickname is Clucky – and his propensity for numbers. When the neighbor kid’s dog kills his prize chicken, he goes over to say something – and ends up making a friend instead. Vusi, whose dog, Cheetah has a taste for chicken, is a horror movie fan determined to make his own zombie movie. He’s also fighting Hodgkin’s lymphoma, but he has no interest in letting that, or his protective parents and nurse, stop him. He quickly recruits Martin as a zombie extra, and before Martin realizes it, he’s sneaking out with Vusi, shooting Vusi’s movie and even developing a crush on a schoolmate. And, bonus: the cover glows in the dark!

Jaco Jacobs knows how to pack a book. While A Good Night for Shooting Zombies is primarily about Martin’s and Vusi’s friendship, it’s also about coping with loss, as Martin and his family grieve in their own ways; it’s about potential loss, as Vusi and Martin cope with Vusi’s lymphatic cancer, and it’s got a quietly compelling subplot about a group of troublemaking teens and Vusi and Martin bumbling their way into their sights. Martin is comforted by his mathematics equations, which he uses as a coping mechanism, very similar to Willow in Counting by 7s. He and Vusi each have their comforts – Vusi’s is horror movies – and as they share these pieces of themselves, they build a deeper friendship. Jim Tierney’s black and grey illustrations add some visual interest, and Jaco Jacobs’ writing keeps pages turning; the end of the story will stick with you long after you close the book.

I became a Jaco fan after reading last year’s A Good Day for Climbing Trees. A Good Night for Shooting Zombies just sealed it. I can’t wait to read more.

A Good Night for Shooting Zombies has a starred review from Foreword Reviews. There’s a free, downloadable readers’ guide available from publisher OneWorld Publications.

Posted in Early Reader, Non-Fiction, picture books

A math concept book with NO WRONG ANSWERS? Sign me up!

Which One Doesn’t Belong? Playing with Shapes, by Christopher Danielson, (Feb. 2019, Charlesbridge), $15.99, ISBN: 9781580899444

Ages 4-8

Math educator Christopher Danielson came up with a creative new way to get kids thinking about mathematical concepts: give them groups of shapes, and ask them, “What doesn’t belong?” The best part: NO WRONG ANSWERS. As the beginning explanation details, it’s all about the process, about critical thinking. One color could be different. A shape could be more squished, smooshed, or just look weirder than the others. It’s all in the eye, the mind, of the beholder here! Spreads alternate between layouts with shapes, and explanations on how every answer is correct, with supporting information like shapes, color, and other properties.

This is such a great way to make mathematics accessible to readers (kids and adults alike!). It doesn’t discourage anyone; it doesn’t make anyone’s answer, or rationale, wrong. Which One Doesn’t Belong shows readers how easy it is to approach things in a mathematical way: and this is coming from the lady who tells kids “the best way to do well in math is to not ask me for help with it”. Like the author himself says, “All properties count here; all ideas matter…”. Add this one to your nonfiction collections, build some programs around it for different age groups, and start making math more friendly to your readers!

Which One Doesn’t Belong? has a starred review from Kirkus and is the Winner of the Mathical Book Prize.

Posted in Early Reader, Graphic Novels, Intermediate, Non-Fiction, Non-Fiction, Preschool Reads

Two from TOON: Fun ways of looking at Math and Science

TOON’s doing it again: promoting authors and illustrators who know how to take abstract concepts and craft them into something exciting, beautiful, and fun. The two Fall graphic novels TOON has coming out: 3×4, by Ivan Brunetti, and We Are All Me, by Jordan Crane, play with multiplication, sorting, and sets; creation, DNA, and our relation to the planet and beyond. Sounds like weighty stuff, right? It is, but here’s the best part: these books are for kids, ages 3 and up. Let’s take a deeper look.

3 x 4, by Ivan Brunetti, (Sept. 2018, TOON Books), $12.95, ISBN: 9781943145348

Ages 3+

A teacher gives his class an assignment: draw 12 things, but in sets. Everything else is up to them: how many sets, what to draw, what colors to use. Annemarie, one of the girls in class, thinks deeply about what to create, as we see her classmates get to work on their sets. The book introduces readers to the beginning principles in multiplication; sorting; and thinking outside the box, as we see through the kids’ assignments. The book is so meta – it’s a math assignment within a math assignment – that teachers can easily use this as a math storytime.

Ivan Brunetti’s previous TOON book, WordPlay, played with language and compound words, and also starred Annemarie, a child of color in a diverse classroom of friends. As an art teacher, he has a gift for seeing things differently, and has the talent to make his ideas fun and relatable to a young audience. My 6-year-old read 3×4 to me, cover to cover, one night, after I read it to him and we worked through all the similarities between events in the book and what he’d done in his Kindergarten classroom the past school year. I’d love to try a math challenge for the kids in my library, asking them to start with 3 x 4, and go from there: make an art gallery and keep switching up the numbers. Have stickers and stamps and other creative materials handy!

3 x 4 has a starred review from Kirkus. As with all TOON books, a free, downloadable teacher’s guide is forthcoming.

 

We Are All Me, by Jordan Crane, (Sept. 2018, TOON Books), $12.95, ISBN: 9781943145355

Ages 3+

A dot forms and takes readers on a visual journey through existence. As it moves through bodies, nature, DNA, and space, readers experience evolution, our relationship to the Earth, and consciousness, all in vibrant, pulsing, day-glo pen, ink, and tablet artwork. Spare text reads lyrically, almost mantra-like, as we – via the dot – progress through time and space. The visual confirmation that we are connected to this world, and to one another, is exciting and humbling all at once; for young readers, it’s mind-blowing and beautiful. This is one of those books that left me speechless when I first read it, because it’s breathtaking and uses such brief, eloquent verbiage to explain… everything. A stunning must-have for all collections. Own it, and read it. Often.

We Are All Me has a free, downloadable teacher’s guide forthcoming.