Posted in Fiction, geek culture, Guide, Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Tween Reads

Cyber Monday Gift Guide

Okay, get ready for the latest MomReadIt gift guide – if you can find great deals on Cyber Monday, go for it; if you prefer your local indie bookstore, have at it! Here are some books that the kiddos you know will be thrilled to receive, whether it’s for holiday or any day.

Paper World: Planet Earth, by Bomboland, (Sept. 2019, Big Picture Press),
$24.99, ISBN: 9781536208542
Ages 7-12

An awesome lift-the-flap book for bigger kids, Paper World: Planet Earth is a die-cut, lift-the-flap trip in and around our big blue planet. Readers explore and learn about earth’s tectonic plates; volcanoes, mountains, and glaciers; weather and storms, and more. Sturdy pages and flaps reveal facts, and die cut features add incredible texture. Hands-on science starts here! Back matter includes a glossary.

Code This Game!, by Meg Ray/Illustrated by Keith Zoo, (Aug. 2019, Odd Dot Books),
$24.99, ISBN: 978-1-250-30669-2
Ages 8-13

I’ve been working on coding with the Girls Who Code club at my library, and with my kiddo at home. We’ve been doing a lot of Scratch programming, but we want our kids to be multilingual in all areas – and that includes programming! Code This Game teaches kids how to use the Python programming language, and guides them, step-by-step, through how to make their very own computer game: Attack of the Vampire Pizzas! Brightly illustrated, with chunks of easy-to-read, easy to digest information, this is a fantastic book to get kids up and running with Python. The book is spiral bound and opens into an easel stand, so you can have the book open and standing up, making it that much easier to read while you work.

 

Code This! Puzzles, Games, Challenges, and Computer Coding Concepts
for the Problem-Solver in You!, by Jennifer Szymanski,
(Aug. 2019, National Geographic Kids), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-3443-6
Ages 8-12

More coding fun! A robot named Cody is packed with gadgets, and needs Explorers (that’s us readers) to program him. Together, readers and Cody learn different coding concepts and solve complete missions. Have a burgeoning coder? This is the book for them. They’ll learn how to apply offline concepts to online programming, using ciphers, mazes, secret codes, and good old-fashioned logic. Solutions are there when you get stuck, and quick takes on HTML/Javascript and Python help with quick reference, along with a glossary and index.

 

The Big Book of Bling, by Rose Davidson, (Sept. 2019, National Geographic Kids),
$19.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-3531-0
Ages 8-12

What would the holidays be without a little bling? NatGeo Kids packs a bunch of bling into one volume, with incredible photos and facts about all things shiny. There are rocks and gems both dazzling and dangerous (stay away from that Hope Diamond), and some of nature’s most extra creations, like the Indian Peacock and the Jewel Caterpillar. Want to meet the richest pets in the world? They’re in here. Ever wonder what sushi wrapped in 24K gold looks like? You’ll find out, in here. Loaded with facts and stunning photos, this will definitely add some zing to the holiday gift-giving.

 

Black Beauty, by Anna Sewell/Illustrated by Christian Birmingham
(Oct. 2019, Candlewick Press), $24.99, ISBN: 9781536211245
Ages 8-12

I can’t believe Black Beauty was published over 140 years ago. It was a mainstay of my childhood library, and I still hand it to kids in my library today. This Anna Sewell classic features more than 50 new illustrations by artist Christian Birmingham, and is a gorgeous gift to anyone who grew up loving this story – or a horse-loving reader who hasn’t yet met the beautiful horse in this Victorian novel. Pair with Into the Jungle: Stories for Mowgli for a reader who loves an eternal story.

 

Treasury of Bible Stories, by Donna Jo Napoli/Illustrated by Christina Balit,
(Oct. 2019, National Geographic Kids), $24.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-3538-9
Ages 4-12

This stunning compendium of Bible stories are taken from the Hebrew Bible, also known as the Christian Old Testament. There are 28 stories in all, beginning with Creation and going through to the story of Daniel in the Lion’s Den, all gorgeously illustrated in full color. The author’s note talks about the writing process, under the guidance of Rabbi Helen Plotkin, over the course of a year and how the book presents a “human history from Creation to the building of the second temple in Jerusalem”. A note on the illustrations points out that the stunning artwork is informed by archaeology and biogenetics: in other words, the humans are depicted with different skin tones, facial characteristics and hair texture. Callouts and fact boxes throughout the stories provide nonfiction content such as the domestication of animals, beginning and diversification of human language, and one of my favorites, “Sanctioned Recklessness”, which talks about the spring festivals of Purim and Carnival. There are maps for Lands of the Bible, a timeline of early civilizations, and a section spotlighting major figures in the Bible. Includes a bibliography and index.

Posted in Fiction, Middle Grade, picture books, Preschool Reads, Realistic Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads

National Native American Heritage Month

November is National Native American Heritage Month. I am eternally grateful to people like Dr. Debbie Reese, whose blog, American Indians in Children’s Literature, has reviews and writing on Native writing, problematic phrases and stereotypes, and advocacy and activism. I am grateful for authors like Nancy Bo Flood, Joseph Bruchac, and Cynthia Leitich Smith, whose work has introduced me to the realities and beauty of Native culture. I commit to expanding my reading horizons, and the horizons of the kids in my life, by promoting Native literature at every opportunity.

The Horn Book has a list of comprehensive links dedicated to Native American Heritage Month, as does Lee and Low’s blog. Teen Vogue has an article on avoiding offensive stereotypes and being a better ally to indigenous people. The National Native American Heritage Month website has a wealth of information, including a calendar of events; links to exhibits and collections including the Smithsonian, the Library of Congress, and the National Archives. The First Nations Development Institute has comprehensive resources, including printables, largely produced by and for Native people. The American Indian Library Association (AILA) is an affiliate of our national organization, the American Library Organization, and advocates for the information- and library-related needs of Natives. The AILA distributes information about Native culture to the library community, and works to develop programs that will improve Native library, cultural, and information services in school, public, and research libraries on reservations (from the AILA website).

Some books to read and add to your collections follow.

Encyclopedia of American Indian History & Culture: Stories, Time Lines, Maps, and More, by Cynthia O’Brien,
(Oct. 2019, National Geographic Kids), $24.99, ISBN: 9781426334535
Ages 8-12

This encyclopedia features over 160 Native American tribes, organized by location: Arctic and Subarctic; Northeast; Southeast; Plains; Southwest; Great Basin and Plateau; Northwest Coast, and California. Each section includes maps, timelines, and a traditional story from the region’s people, along with profiles of each tribe and biographies on key Native Americans in history. The photos are gorgeous, and the information is comprehensive. There’s a glossary, index, list of federally recognized tribes, and list of consultants who contributed to the book.

There’s no reason not to have this available to your library kids. I have a collection of books by tribe, by nation, that’s helpful for my younger kids, but this is an invaluable resources for my middle graders and middle schoolers. I hope NatGeo expands on this and works on other indigenous peoples, including Central and South American peoples.

The Encyclopedia of American Indian History & Culture has a starred review from Booklist.

 

Hearts Unbroken, by Cynthia Leitich Smith,
(Oct. 2018, Candlewick), $17.99, ISBN: 9780763681142
Ages 13+

After breaking up with her insensitive boyfriend, a Native high school senior focuses on her school year and advocating for her younger brother, who lands a key part in the school production of The Wizard of Oz, when a group of parents react to the play’s diverse casting by promoting hate speech and putting pressure on local businesses that support the play. A strong #ownvoices story with an outstanding heroine, Hearts Unbroken is unputdownable reading. Read my full review here.

 

First Laugh Welcome, Baby!, by Rose Ann Tahe and Nancy Bo Flood/Illustrated by Jonathan Nelson,
(Aug. 2018, Charlesbridge), $16.99, ISBN: 9781580897945
Ages 5-8

I adore this celebration of life and family. The First Laugh Celebration is a Navajo tradition where a child’s first laugh marks their entry into the physical world from the spiritual one. First Laugh Welcome Baby is a lyrical story about a family’s wait for that first joyful laugh and the celebration that follows. Navajo words and images fill the pages and invite us readers to spend time with a family as they welcome their new baby into their lives. When I read this at storytime, parents are delighted by such a wonderful way to rejoice. Read my full review here.

 

We Sang You Home, by Richard Van Camp/Illustrated by Julie Flett,
(Oct. 2016, Orca), $9.95, ISBN: 978-1-4598-1178-2
Ages 0-3

This board book, by Canadian First Nations author and illustrator Richard Van Camp and Julie Flett, is a poem to a child from loving parents who use a song to tell their child how much they are loved. The story is a beautiful illustration of what we, as parents and caregivers, give our children, and what we receive from them: “We sang you home and you sang back… As we give you roots you give us wings / And through you we are born again”. It’s such a simple, powerful book, with gouache paintings and digital college illustrations that put every feelings about loving a child into words. We Sang You Home is in my regular storytime rotation, and always receives a great reception.

 

Soldier Sister, Fly Home, by Nancy Bo Flood/Illustrated by Shonto Begay,
(Aug. 2016, Charlesbridge), $16.95, ISBN: 9781580897020
Recommended for ages 10+

A 13-year-old girl struggles with her part white, part Navajo identity while coping with her sister’s deployment shortly after attending a memorial service for a Native member of her community. By caring for her sister’s semi-wild horse, she discovers a well of inner strength and learns about herself. A novel of family, identity, and loss, Soldier Sister Fly Home is an incredible book. Read my original review here.

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized

The latest Explorer Academy installment, and a code-breaking adventure!

One of my absolute favorite middle grade series to emerge in the last couple of years has been, without a doubt, the Explorer Academy series from NatGeo Kids by Trudi Trueit. I’ve been waiting on every book in the series with the same anticipation, excitement, and – when the book is done – pins and needles feeling, knowing I have to wait for another book in the series. I’ve gotten my nephew hooked on the series, too: when I get my hello hug from him, he’ll say, “Did you get the next Explorer Academy book yet?” I’ve just ordered the first three books for my library, too, so I’m going to start booktalking this to my I Survived readers… which is to say, all my readers. So let’s talk about that third book, shall we?

Explorer Academy: The Double Helix, by Trudi Trueit, (Sept. 2019, National Geographic Kids), $16.99, ISBN: 9781426334580

Ages 8-13

Things are heating up with the third book in the Explorer Academy series! In the last book, The Falcon’s Feather, Cruz Coronado and his friends narrowly escaped a scary situation, only to discover that Cruz’s dad has disappeared. The shadowy Nebula group is getting braver in their pursuit of Cruz and the pieces of his mother’s ciphers. Cruz needs to stay one step ahead of them while trying to track down his father, and find the next cipher. The closer Cruz gets to his 13th birthday, the higher the stakes. What happens when Cruz turns 13? WE NEED TO KNOW!

While the main plot continues to be Cruz vs. the Nebula group, we get some great subplots, including a look at space archaeology, where scientists use satellites to look for signs of looting at ancient burial sites. There’s great technology, too: this time around, the kids get to work with a PANDA: a Portable Artifact and Data Analyzer, that scans items and identifies the origins of bones, fossils, pottery, and includes a holographic image of the artifact being scanned.

Illustrated throughout, the latest installment is white-knuckle reading that adventure fans will refuse to put down from start to finish. The characters have become old friends at this point, so readers can jump in, reacquaint themselves, and get down to the business of conservation, preservation, and solving mysteries. The Truth Behind the Fiction highlights a space archaeologist and Egyptologist. Don’t miss this one.

 

Explorer Academy: Code-Breaking Activity Adventure, by National Geographic Kids, (May 2019, National Geographic Kids), $12.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-3307-1

Ages 8-12

Who loves secret codes? This book, written like a handbook for Explorer Academy students, teaches readers secret codes while sending them on codebreaking missions throughout the book. Hubbard, the adorable Westie who shows up in the Explorer Academy series, appears throughout the book with helpful hints if you get stuck. Readers and codebreakers will learn about acrostic messages, morse code, semaphore, pigpen ciphers, and more, all while learning about different areas in the Explorer Academy: The Library, the CAVE, and the Museum, for starters. A certificate of achievement is ready for readers who finish their missions.

This book is just too much fun, and nicely incorporates the Explorer Academy into the activities. This book would be beat up in circulation in my library, but for Explorer Academy fans, this is a great gift. And for kids who love the spy activities I have at my library, this will be a fun group of exercises to emulate. I had a fun Spy Week during Summer Reading a few years ago; bringing some secret coding adventures back may be fun to explore. Since I have the Explorer Academy books arriving at my library soon, it may be time for an Explorer Academy adventure, with some codebreaking and scavenger hunts around the children’s room… hmmm…

Posted in History, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Tween Reads, Uncategorized

Big nonfiction roundup!

I have been curating a pile of nonfiction over the last several weeks, ready to do a back to school post, but all these other great books started coming out, too… so, before this pile crushes me, let’s do this!

North America: A Fold-Out History, by Sarah Albee/Illlustrated by William Exley, (Oct. 2019, What on Earth Books), $19.99, ISBN: 978-1999967925

Ages 8-14

That What on Earth Books fold-out are so much fun! This time, we’ve got a fold-out graphic timeline of Canada, the United States, Mexico, and the Caribbean islands, going from 11,000 BCE to 2017. It’s fully illustrated and offers a wealth of history on early indigenous peoples, including the Olmecs, Maya, Taino, and Aztec. European invasions are covered – first the Vikings; later, Columbus and the conquistadors – and American history covers much of the book’s second half. History is captured with dates and a brief blurb about standout moments, and callout boxes call attention to larger happenings, like the spreading out of humans across the land, and how European conflicts played out in North America. Back matter includes facts; glossary; source notes, and an index.

Not one for circulation – it’ll sustain damage quickly – but it’s a good reference tool and darn fun to have at home. My little guy loves these books.

Source: Bounce Marketing UK

 

Migration: Incredible Animal Journeys, by Mike Unwin/Illustrated by Jenni Desmond, (Aug. 2019, Bloomsbury USA), $18.99, ISBN: 9781547600977

Ages 9-13

Originally published in the UK, Migration profiles 20 different migrating animals, including the humpback whale; emperor penguin; ruby-throated hummingbird; blue wildebeest, and green turtle. Each spread contains acrylic, watercolor, ink, pencil and crayon illustrations of these animals, captured in the progress of their journeys. Some artwork gives an incredible breadth of scale, like the spread dedicated to the Christmas Island red crabs, which form a “river of crabs” as they march to the sea. Others, like the humpback whale, are a more personal journey shared between a mother and her calf. Each spread provides a migration story, which reads like an I Survived novel: crossing rivers; digging through snow for food; flying for miles to reach their destination; marching across an icy landscape. Each spread also offers a quick animal fact. Back matter includes a migration map and notes on making the world safer for migrating animals.

Animals of all shapes and sizes make epic journeys across our planet, through harsh weather, avoiding hungry predators, in their efforts to survive. Travel around the globe with some of the world’s most incredible animals and discover their unique migration stories. A nice addition to your nonfiction collections, especially if your books on migration are spare.

Mike Unwin is a UK Travel Writer of the Year, and Jenni Desmond is a winner of the New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book, The Polar Bear. Migration: Incredible Animal Journeys has a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly.

 

National Geographic Kids Student World Atlas (Fifth Edition), (July 2019, National Geographic Kids), $12.99, ISBN: 978-1426334795

Ages 8-12

This latest edition of this handy-dandy student reference has a wealth of facts, figures, and maps at your fingertips. There are over 100 maps, 70 incredible color photos, 50 charts and graphs with the latest data on climate change, the human footprint on our world, and most populous urban areas. Back matter includes an updated flags of the world section; a list of important websites on world resources, religions, languages, and quality of life; a glossary, thematic and place-name indexes, and more. If your budget allows for you to order two of these, do it: I like to keep one on hand at reference and put one into circulation. Along with the NatGeo Kids Almanac, you can’t go wrong with having these available for homework help.

 

1000 Facts About Ancient Egypt, by Nancy Honovich (February 2019, National Geographic Kids), $14.99, ISBN: 978-1426332739

Ages 8-12

The 1000 Facts series from NatGeo Kids is almost as popular as the digest-sized Weird/Gross/Silly Facts books in my library. These are the books that prove that kids LOVE nonfiction! There are fast, bite-sized facts all about Ancient Egypt in this book: facts about the Egyptian gods and goddesses; facts about the Nile River; about making mummies and about the most famous mummy of them all, Tutankhamun; facts about inventions and temples; facts about hieroglyphics. There’s so much here, presented in compulsively readable, memorable chunks and illustrated with photos of artifacts. Back matter includes a glossary, a look at a tomb excavation, a timeline of Ancient Egyptian civilization, an index, and further resources. Have history fans? Is Ancient Egypt on the schools’ report list this year? Get this book on your shelf.

 

Walk This Underground World, by Kate Baker/Illustrated by Sam Brewster, (Oct. 2019, Big Picture Press), $19.95, ISBN: 978-1536208566

Ages 5-8

Lift the Flap fun! Readers can wander through underground worlds, from Montreal’s famous underground city to the ancient, underground tombs of Ancient Egypt. Wander the hidden natural world and see prairie dog dens, ant cities, and naked mole rat burrows. See Australian fortune hunters and Poland’s salt-rock mines; the bustling London Underground and the sleek underground train stations in Tokyo. There are 12 spreads with over 80 flaps to discover, making this a great gift book for the kiddos in your life. Definitely not going to last in circulation, but you could score a few copies for a program on underground ecosystems or travel.

That’s all for now – I have to get this copy of Walk This World back into my son’s room before he notices it’s gone!

Posted in Early Reader, Non-Fiction, Preschool Reads

Real-Life Paw Patrol: NatGeo Kids brings you Doggy Defenders!

This has to be one of the most adorable easy nonfiction series I’ve come across yet: National Geographic Kids has a new series, Doggy Defenders, that introduces readers to working dogs: Willow, The Therapy Dog; Tiger, the Police Dog; Dolley, the Fire Dog; and Stella, the Search Dog. Look at these doggies!

from NatGeoKIDS Twitter @NGKIDS

Each book introduces us to a working dog, their humans, and takes us through a training session and a workday. Stella the Search dog and her human, Trooper Diaz, find a lost hiker; plus, she gets to ride in a helicopter and wears sunglasses! Tiger the Police Dog works with Officer Rodriguez and inspects the Washington, DC Metro. Dolley the Fire Dog and her human, Captain Herndon, teach kids about fire safety and then get to work, where Dolley sniffs out the cause of a fire. Willow the Therapy Dog and her human, Megan, cheer people up by visiting a hospital, a school, a retirement home, and a library.

Each book includes back matter on the team, including a Q&A with the human half of each team, and safety and kindness tips for readers to remember. The books have short, easy-to-read sentences with loads of sight words, making this a great step up for early readers who are ready to take on more challenging material. And the photos! The photos! Look at Stella and her sunglasses!

And here’s Willow with Megan!

I love these books, and hope we get more in this series. These work as early nonfiction career books, too; they can function as companion books to books on firefighters, police, and therapists. The kids in my library will gobble them up, and my kiddo devoured all four the day they arrived at my home. Got Paw Patrol fans? Show them these books and tell them these are the real Paw Patrol dogs! Visit National Geographic Kids’ Doggy Defenders site for a slideshow and more information about the books.

 

Stella the Search Dog, by Lisa M. Gerry/photos by Lori Epstein, (Aug. 2019, Natonal Geographic Kids), $9.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-3449-8

Willow the Therapy Dog, by Lisa M. Gerry/photos by Lori Epstein, (Aug. 2019, Natonal Geographic Kids), $9.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-3447-4

Tiger the Police Dog, by Lisa M. Gerry/photos by Lori Epstein, (Aug. 2019, Natonal Geographic Kids), $9.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-3297-5

Dolley the Fire Dog, by Lisa M. Gerry/photos by Lori Epstein, (Aug. 2019, Natonal Geographic Kids), $9.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-3229-9

Ages 3-7

Posted in Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction

More Weird But True Facts for all those barbecue conversations!

Weird But True! USA: 300 Fascinating Facts About the 50 States, by National Geographic Kids, (March 2019, National Geographic Kids), $8.99, ISBN: 9781426333712

Ages 7-12

You’ve got a lot of barbecues to hit this summer. Family, friends, someone’s having a BBQ, somewhere, and you’re invited. What better way to keep a conversation going than to bust out some weird – but true! – facts about the US of A? NatGeo Kids has kids (and grownups, too: you know you love these books) covered with their latest digest-sized Weird But True facts, easily carried in your favorite tote.

Dazzle friends and family with goodies about our states! Did you know that the average driver in New York City spends more than 100 hours a year looking for a parking spot? (I did, just ask my husband.) Or the Pledge of Allegiance was written for a magazine to help sell subscriptions? How about one of my favorites: the Washington National Cathedral has a Darth Vader gargoyle? Seriously, this this knowledge has made my day.

The NatGeo books just get better. Where do they find all these wacky facts? I hope they keep doing whatever they’re doing, because I love them, my own kids love them, and the kids in my library can’t get enough of them. Add these to your NatGeo collections and just sit at the reference desk and wait for them to come at you with their favorite facts.

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

The National Geographic Kids Almanac Turns 10! Plus, a major giveaway opportunity!

Every year, the NatGeo Kids Almanac hits my library shelf, and I don’t see it for a couple of months after I put it out. It’s a little bit of everything: a desk reference; a current events recap; a guide to conservation and preservation efforts around the world; it’s loaded with gorgeous pictures of animals and amazing places all over the world, and a hilarious joke book – and that’s just for starters.

National Geographic Kids Almanac 2020, (May 2019, National Geographic Kids),
$14.99, ISBN: 9781426332814
Ages 8-12

The 2020 Almanac offers all the usual facts and figures, games, and pop culture/technology/extreme exploration and conservation efforts that we’ve come to expect from NatGeo Kids, plus some new features: there are interviews with NatGeo scientists and explorers in each chapter, a special section on how the world has changed between that first NatGeo Almanac in 2010 and today, and the results of the 2019 Lions Forever Poster Contest. There’s also a new 20/20 Visionary Challenge for kids, inviting them to be futurists and imagine what the world will be like 10 years from now. It’s positive and it inspires and empowers kids to see themselves as the changemakers.

There are quizzes, homework hacks, and a section on Crafts Around the Globe that you can easily incorporate into your summer reading activities; the Space and Earth chapter fits perfectly with this year’s Universe of Stories theme, and includes a sky calendar that gives readers the heads-up on what’s happening in the coolest live show on earth: just look up to see lunar eclipses, meteor showers, supermoons, and even the International Space Station!

To celebrate the Almanac’s 10th Anniversary, NatGeo is hosting a Summer on the Go Almanac 2020 Grand Prize Giveaway — a GO-PRO!

Don’t miss your chance at winning your own GoPro, to capture your own extreme exploration! Enter this Rafflecopter giveaway today! (U.S. and Canada addresses only, please!)

Good luck!

Posted in Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Teen, Tween Reads, Women's History

Taking Cover: Growing up during the Iranian Revolution

Taking Cover: One Girl’s Story of Growing Up During the Iranian Revolution, by Nioucha Homayoonfar, (Jan. 2019, National Geographic Kids), $18.99, ISBN: 9781426333668

Ages 10-14

Nioucha Homayoonfar’s memoir of life in Iran during the Iranian Revolution is equal parts joyful and heartbreaking. In 1976, at the age of 5, her family moves from Pittsburgh to Iran, where her father can be with his family again. For several years, Nioucha and her expat friends are educated in a progressive French-Persian school and enjoy the things most kids do, including listening to music, dancing, and swimming. But the revolution changes all that. Nioucha and her friends are segregated; they have to wear robes and hoods that cover their hair (and are threatened with burning in Hell, hanging on every visible thread of hair), and live in fear of being kidnapped by the Moral Police: a group called the Zeinab Sisters. Nioucha refers to them as The Black Crows, which brings a colorful, tongue in cheek image to mind, but these women are anything but humorous. The women patrol the streets in a van, capturing women and teens they deem immoral, hiding them in prisons, and beating them until they feel redemption is earned.

But there are wonderful moments of family and friendship in Taking Cover, too. Nioucha recalls her first Iranian Christmas, when she hopes Santa Claus will remember that she’s moved to Iran, so she’ll get her presents, and her family decorates her aunt’s house with a beautiful tree and presents. She talks about her relationship with her grandparents, who adore her and comfort her during her first sleepover away from her parents; going to concerts and driving around with her cousin, Sara, even learning French in an underground school run by her mother and her best friend’s mother. In the midst of explosions and oppression, Nioucha and her family managed to take joy where they found it.

Parallels to Persepolis are expected, and should be encouraged. Taking Cover is an excellent memoir and lead-in to Persepolis, allowing middle graders to expand their worldview and start a conversation on how the Iranian Revolution changed the world. The book includes a map of Iran and surrounding areas, and a timeline of Iranian history. There is a free, downloadable Educator’s Guide available.

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

Makers… Get Tinkering!

Forgive the stretch between updates, all; I’m home this week, with my little guy, who’s on Midwinter Recess. He’s currently got a Lego stronghold of army men fighting across two rooms, so I used the break to get some writing in.

Did you know that this week is National Engineers Week? It is, and with many of us facing looming Science Fair deadlines, I’ve got a book for you. NatGeo, lifesaving publisher of all the things my own kids and library kids have needed for reports and projects, now has a book called Make This! Building, Thinking, and Tinkering Projects for the Amazing Maker in You

Make This! Building, Thinking, and Tinkering Projects for the Amazing Maker in You,
by Ella Schwartz/Photos by Matthew Rakola,
(Feb. 2019, National Geographic Kids), $16.99, ISBN: 9781426333248
Ages 8-12

This is a perfect book to start off a basic maker program, or a book to add to an already robust program. Most of the materials needed are already in your home: I did three projects today with my first grader! (Pencil Pusher, Silly Noisemaker, and Kazoo, if you’re curious.) The basics of tinkering are here; you can take all of these projects to different levels with questions about the process of making and considering results (we talked briefly about the scientific method as we made predictions about using pencils as wheels, for instance, to propel a pile of books across a table).

Projects are broken down into 8 areas: Simple Machines; Materials; Systes; Optics; Energy; Acoustics; Forces; and Motion. Each area has a spread explaining the concept, followed by several projects further exploring each area. There are questions to consider, fast facts, a list of materials, and a step-by-step of what to do to complete your project. Each project also has a difficulty level and maximum number of people to work on each project.

A foreword explains the nature of making, and sections on makers and makerspaces assure every kid that there is no “maker profile”: you make something, you’re a maker! There are some handy suggestions on materials to keep handy if you want making to be a regular activity in your home, library, or classroom, and there are some spreads dedicated on using the book and starting with a toy challenge. Safety is always paramount, so there’s cautionary messages about having an adult nearby to help out; really, we’re just window dressing, though: kids can easily make these great projects. Afterwords have some info on more complex, advanced making (3-d printers and robotics), and introduce readers to real-life makers: scientists, conservationists, and photographers are makers, too!

This one is yet another win for my Science Projects section and a guaranteed “program in a book” add to my STEM shelf.

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

Space… The Final Frontier…

…these are the voyages of the starship Bibliomaniac. My continuing mission: to bring you the coolest books about space, while butchering a beloved TV show’s intro. This post has a books that should appeal to fiction and non-fiction lovers alike. Because it’s SPACE! Planets! Stars! Rocket ships! So whaddaya say? Join me! After all… Stardust Explores the Solar System (Stardust Science), by Bailey and Douglas Harris, (Apr. 2018, StoryBook Genius Publishing), $10.95, ISBN: 9781941434918 Ages 5-9 Stardust Science is a kids’ nonfiction series from a small-press publisher that I’ve just been turned onto. Bailey and Douglas Harris are a daughter-father team who write some pretty fun books starring a girl who loves science and is named named Stardust. Stardust Explores the Solar System is the second Stardust book, and here, Stardust takes readers on a tour of our solar system and its formation, and a trip to each planet. Spreads have a brief, informative paragraph and artwork placing Stardust on each planet, whether she’s driving an exploration craft across Venus or freezing atop Uranus. Extra fun facts focus on the possibility of extraterrestrial life, the Kuiper belt and dwarf planets, and the asteroid belt. Stardust Explores the Solar System was a successful 2017 Kickstarter (which is where I found the internal artwork for this post), and there’s a current Kickstarter for the next book, Stardust Explores Earth’s Wonders. You can pick up copies of My Name is Stardust and Stardust Explores the Solar System from the Stardust Science webpage. It’s a fun book, co-written by a 12-year old Neil DeGrasse Tyson fan, so how can you go wrong? It’s a nice additional book to big collections, and a sweet way to empower your younger readers. My 6-year-old loves this one and says he’s ready to write his own book.   The Universe Ate My Homework, by David Zeltser/Illustrated by Ayesha L. Rubio, (Aug. 2018, Carolrhoda Books), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1512417982 Ages 6-8 Abby’s a little girl who has homework to do, but UGH. She’d rather be stargazing with her dog, Cosmo, or talking to her physicist dad. He’s been thinking about universes, and how to make a baby universe, which gets Abby thinking. She sneaks into her dad’s study and works on making her own black holeout of the dreaded homework! It takes a lot of squeezing and a lot of energy, but Abby and Cosmo have done it! But what happens when a black hole’s gravity kicks in? HELP! This is an absolute fun way to explain the science of black holes to kiddos. What better way to get rid of your homework than by turning it into an actual science experiment? Kids will be squeezing the daylights out of their looseleaf for weeks to come, waiting for their own wee Big Bang. The artwork is too much fun, with something to see in every spread: the John Coltrane album and record player in the family living room; Dad’s study is loaded with things to see, including a framed picture of Marie Curie, family photo, Abby’s family drawing, and a postcard depicting a scene from  Georges Méliès’s 1902 A Trip to the Moon. The mini galaxy Abby creates unfolds for readers, starting first with swirls and stars, then with planets. It’s a fun book that makes for a great storytime, and a teacher’s note to Abby (you didn’t forget about the homework, did you?) at the story’s end will leave kids and adults alike laughing out loud. An author’s note gives a little more information about black holes and baby universes. Add this one to your collections and get your little ones contemplating astrophysics! Apollo 8: The Mission That Changed Everything, by Martin W. Sandler, (Oct. 2018, Candlewick), $24.99, ISBN: 978-0-7636-9489-0 Ages 10+ It was 1968, and the U.S. was about to make a huge gamble. America was deep into the Cold War with the USSR, and the country was fraying at the seams after the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy; it was a country where the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War caused violent clashes. We needed something to unite us. Russia had already launched the first man-made satellite to orbit Earth, Sputnik I – in 1957, but now, they were getting ready to go to the moon. America was determined to get there first. But first, we had to get into space. Apollo 8: The Mission That Changed Everything is a brilliantly written chronicle of NASA’s mission to put a craft into orbit around the earth. Loaded with black and white and color archival photos and written by one of the most well-known names in children’s and young adult nonfiction, this is a must-have for your middle grade and middle school collections. With the 50th anniversary celebration of the Apollo 8 mission falling in December of this year, this is going to be an in-demand title in classrooms and libraries. Martin W. Sandler is an award-winning writer – a two-time Pulitzer nominee, five-time Emmy winner, and Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor winner – who makes nonfiction read as compulsively as solid fiction; There are extensive source notes and a bibliography for further reading and research.
Earthrise: Apollo 8 and the Photo That Changed the World, by James Gladstone/Illustrated by Christy Lundy, (Oct. 2018, OwlKids Books), $16.95, ISBN: 9781771473163
Ages 4-8
This is the year for Apollo 8 books! Earthrise is a gorgeous picture book that tells that story of Earthrise, the history-making photo of Earth, taken from lunar orbit, taken by astronaut Bill Anders. The story shows readers how this single photo took us from a planet full of conflict to a global community – if only for a moment. We see the story from shifting perspectives: the crowds gathered in anticipation, the men in Mission Control, and an African-American family, with a little girl who dreams of being an astronaut one day.
The text is just beautiful. James Gladstone creates a mood of wonder as he writes lines like, “Now the craft was coasting on a human dream, speeding the crew off to another world”, and “The astronauts saw the whole turning Earth – no countries, no borders – floating in the vastness of space”. Back matter includes a piece on how the Earthrise photo changed the world, and an invitation to readers to share what Earthrise means to them. It’s the perfect program in a book! Show the original Apollo 8 launch broadcast, this NASA Apollo 8 documentary, and/or the broadcast Apollo 8 Christmas Eve message and ask kids to talk about what seeing the Earthrise makes them feel, 50 years later. Paired with Christy Lundy’s vintage-inspired artwork, Earthrise is a necessity in your nonfiction collections. Earthrise has a starred review from Kirkus.
To the Moon and Back, by Buzz Aldrin with Marianne J. Dyson/Paper engineering by Bruce Foster, (Oct. 2018, National Geographic), $32, ISBN: 978-1-4263-3249-4
Ages 6+
How much fun is a pop-up book about SPACE? With ROCKETS?! Buzz Aldrin, Marianne J. Dyson, and Bruce Foster take readers on a trip through “humanity’s greatest adventure”. Learn Buzz Aldrin’s nickname on the mission; read about the launch and landing; souvenirs left on the lunar surface, and the astronauts’ return, all accompanied by amazing paper engineering: pop-up rockets, fold-out lunar landings, and side flaps that offer even greater information – and a few laughs. If you’re getting this for a library or classroom collection, put it in reference; it will get beaten up pretty quickly. The book also comes with a paper Apollo 11 lunar module kids can engineer on their own. (We haven’t built that one yet.) Want to make a space fan happy? Put this on your holiday and special occasion shopping lists. Read more about the 1969 Moon Landing on NatGeo’s webpage.
Whew! Okay, that’s all I’ve got for now, go forth and explore!