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

Ducks Overboard! The story behind the story that inspired Eric Carle

Ducks Overboard!: A True Story of Plastic in Our Oceans, by Markus Motum, (Sept. 2021, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536217728

Ages 7-10

In 2005, Eric Carle wrote Ten Little Rubber Ducks, a story about a shipping carton that leaked dozens of plastic rubber ducks into the sea, and their adventures after landing in the water. The book is based on a true story that took place in 1992; Ducks Overboard! is about the environmental impact of that accident, and about the pollution crisis facing our oceans. Narrated by one rubber duck, the story is part narrative – the duck’s story – and part nonfiction text. As the duck tells its story, smaller font provides factual information about plastic, its uses, and its the environmental impact. As the ducks bobs in the water, it sees pollution all around it: a plastic bag here; discarded fishing nets there; all creating problems for the animals in the water. Getting caught in a trash whirlpool, the duck spends years tossed around the ocean, until arriving on a beach shore during an environmental cleanup. The mixed media artwork is bright and colorful, and creates strong statements with its imagery: hundreds of dots in the ocean look like the shape of a continent, until one realizes that it’s a depiction of the shipping containers that get lost in the sea every year; a sea turtle swims underwater, dragging a fishing net wrapped around its neck; a spread illustrates the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The message is clear: plastic is choking our oceans. Back matter includes more about the 1992 shipping container that spilled ducks and other plastic toys into the ocean; how trash moves along ocean currents; facts about plastic, and how kids can help protect the waters. Great for storytime, great for STEM and Earth Day stories, great to read before a beach or neighborhood cleanup project.

Science Friday has a Great Pacific Garbage Patch teacher’s guide; Better Lesson and Siemens STEM Day have free downloadable lesson plans and activities.

Posted in Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade

The Ocean Strikes Back in Super Sidekicks #2!

Super Sidekicks #2: Ocean’s Revenge, by Gavin Aung Than, (July 2021, RH Graphic), $12.99, ISBN: 9780593175125
Ages 8 to 12, Grades 3 to 7
The second book in the Super Sidekicks graphic novel series is all about the sidekicks standing on their own. The world’s leaders and the superhero grownups have been captured by The Mother of the Sea, who’s sick and tired of the damage us humans are wreaking on the planet, and it’s up to Junior Justice (JJ), Flygirl, Dinomite, Goo, and Ada, the most intelligent belt buckle in the universe, to save things and start the world on a better path. Mother of the Sea has put together a Trash Titan – a giant monster created out of all the trash from the Pacific Ocean – and wants to destroy all the land dwellers, so talking her down is going to take all of the skills the Sidekicks have at their disposal!
This is a perfect series for readers who are moving up from chapter books. It’s a fast-paced adventure story with fun superheroes who show the adults a thing or two about respecting kids and the planet. Illustrations are colorful, and the beginning of the story carries incredible weight: drifting trash in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch; seagulls feeding plastic bottle caps to their babies; a sea turtle swimming with a plastic soda ring around its neck. Watching the Trash Titan form from the tons of junk polluting the waters, you kind of want to root for the Mother of the Sea. Naturally, the adults are all clueless, but the kids know what’s up! Empowering kids to save the world one piece of junk at a time, Super Sidekicks: Ocean’s Revenge includes tips on reducing our trash footprint, and tips on how to draw Dinomite and Goo.
Posted in Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction, Preschool Reads

Reading Takes you Everywhere: Nature!

I’m going to stick to my library’s Summer Reading theme, Reading Takes You Everywhere, for this post; in this case, reading takes you into the Great Outdoors!

Weird but True! Ocean: 300 Fin-Tastic Facts from the Deep Blue Sea, by National Geographic Kids, $8.99, ISBN: 9781426371813

Ages 7-12

I have said this before, and I’ll say it again: these chunky, digest-sized NatGeo books MOVE. I refresh my collection throughout the year, every year, because the kids in my library love them. They love the wild collection of facts across all sorts of subjects, they love that they’re small enough to shove in their schoolbags (or mom’s bag), and they’ll pull them out anywhere (ANYWHERE) to rattle off facts to anyone (ANYONE) who will listen. It’s just great. This volume has loads of facts about the ocean: did you know that otters keep rocks under their arms to help them crack open clams? Or that feeding cows seaweed helps them burp less? Maybe you didn’t know this, but a sea cucumber can expel its organs to distract predators, and grow them back later. There are tons of great and fun facts here, accompanied by incredible color photos. Just add it to your cart; the kids will take care of the rest.

 

Out of the Blue: How Animals Evolved from Prehistoric Seas, by Elizabeth Shreeve, Illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon, (May 2021, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536214109

Ages 6-9

I love this gorgeous book! It’s a “story from out of the blue” about how animals evolved from microbes in the ocean to land creatures through Earth’s timeline. Spread by spread, readers travel through the planet’s history, from the Archean Eon (4-2.5 billion years ago) through the Cenzoic Era (66 million year ago to the present), with colorful illustrations as life evolves from sea-dwelling single-celled organisms, to athropods and echinoderms, to mollusks, dinosaurs, and finally, humans. It’s a compulsively readable history that describes the different types of organisms and illustrates the evolution from single- to multi-celled creatures; the development of fins to limbs, and how we are always connected to the water.  Readers learn how animals (and people!) compare to those that came before, and the informative text is chunked into readable paragraphs that respect and never overwhelm readers. Perfect for STEM/STEAM collections.

Out of the Blue has starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal.
Wild is the Wind, by Grahame Baker-Smith, (May 2021, Templar), $18.99, ISBN: 9781536217926
Ages 4-8
A girl named Cassi watches over a small bird, a swift, that she’s cared for. It’s time to let the bird go; the swifts soar around them, hearing the call of the wind, and Cassi knows that “They are wild and belong to the wind”. This breathtaking book is alternately a story about a girl letting her bird rejoin the world that brought it to her, and a story about the wonder of the wind. Across the world, winds whip into the sky, as ancient as the dinosaurs; they power turbines and give us power; they “howl with power” as storms. Every spread is a gorgeous revelation, with the ever-present swifts traveling the currents. Deep colors and incredible visions in the sky make this a fantasy to sweep readers away and return them, where they’ll never think of an ordinary breeze in the same way again. Grahame Baker-Smith is a Kate Greenaway Award-winning illustrator, and his companion book, The Rhythm of the Rain, is an excellent companion to Wild is the Wind. Have these available for your nature readers and display this with Aaron Becker’s Journey Trilogy.
Wild is the Wind has a starred review from Kirkus.
Little Kids First Big Book of Rocks, Minerals & Shells, by  Moira Rose Donohue & National Geographic Kids, (July 2021, National Geographic Kids), $14.99, ISBN: 9781426372223
Ages 4-8
The “Little Kids First Big Book” is another great series from NatGeo Kids. They introduce younger learners to science concepts in a fun, accessible way. It’s NatGeo, so you know the photos are amazing, and the information is organized into easily readable sections of interest. Here, kids will learn how rocks are formed, the difference between rocks and minerals, and how they’re used in just about every facet of our lives. Chapters are organized into Rocks, Minerals, and Seashells, and activities and map-reading activities at the end of every chapter help kids put their thinking caps on and sharpen new and developing skills. Fact boxes and cool callout boxes throughout keep kids turning pages, almost feeling like they’ve got that fun, small digest (see up above, Weird But True) handy, where they can tell everyone cool bits of info (The Great Sphinx in Egypt was carved from limestone!).  A Parent Tips section offers fun and safe ways to join your kids in learning about rocks, minerals, and seashells (ahem… STEM program in a book!). There are additional resources, including a Bill Nye video on the rock cycle, and a glossary, and the book is indexed. What a great resource to have handy!
Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction

Do You Know? Reference books for younger readers!

Twirl Books has so many great new books coming out for younger readers. The board books coming out via the imprint are interactive and encourage new and developing readers to imagine and explore, and their desk reference series, “Do You Know?”, are just what early school-age kids need when they want to dig into a subject, maybe for the first time.

Do You Know? Dinosaurs and the Prehistoric World, by Pascale Hédelin, (Apr. 2021, Twirl Books), $16.99, ISBN: 9782408024673

Ages 5-8

Do You Know? Dinosaurs and the Prehistoric World gives kids what they want: information about dinosaurs in a picture-heavy format. A visual table of contents serves as a road map to discovery: Types of Dinosaurs, Popular Dinosaurs, Dinosaur Life, Life Without Dinosaurs, and More To Know sections bring kids right to the areas they’re interested in. Bold black fonts are easy to read and pop off the white page, and realistic dinosaur artwork shares space with cartoony artwork, along with cartoony kids, to explain fun facts versus science facts. Easy to understand diagrams show kids different parts of a dinosaur, and an added section on when dinosaurs lived show cartoony dinosaurs being puzzled at interacting with human children or frightened of a dinosaur they come across that lived at a different time. A Let’s Review! section at the end of each chapter offers fun activities to enhance learning.

 

Do You Know? Oceans and Marine Life, by Stéphanie Babin, (Apr. 2021, Twirl Books), $16.99, ISBN: 9782408024666

Ages 5-8

Similar in overall layout to Do You Know? Dinosaurs and the Prehistoric World, Do You Know? Oceans and Marine Life is all about underwater life: sections on Oceans, Seas, and More!, A Day by the Ocean, A Day at the Beach, Ocean Vehicles, Marine Animals, and More to Know brings the ocean and ocean life to the reader. Each section has a “Let’s Review” area with extra learning activities, and colored boxes at the bottom right of each page direct readers to related subjects in other areas of the book. Cartoony kids hang out with polar bears, deep sea dive with a school of fish, and sail a tugboat through spreads on warm waters, The Blue Planet, and water sports. Sidebars explain what sand is, what to eat at a picnic, and what to do if you’re afraid of the water. Infographics explain the water cycle and underwater food chain.

Each book has a full index and is a great desk reference for emerging readers. My Kiddo has absconded with my copies, if that’s any clue!

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Happy Earth Day! Books for the Journey.

Tomorrow is Earth Day, which is a surreal experience when we’re sheltering in place. Luckily, we can still go out, taking precautions, to enjoy our world; whether it’s a walk around the neighborhood or just sitting in front of your home to notice the sky, the trees, the birds: everything around us is part of the experience. Here are some books to enjoy on the way.

Only a Tree Knows How to Be a Tree, by Mary Murphy, $16.99, ISBN: 9781536214703

Ages 3-7

Is there anything like a comfort of a Mary Murphy book? As soon as I see her artwork and that font I’ve come to know and love, I just know I’m going to experience the picture book equivalent of a hug. Her new book, Only a Tree Knows how to Be a Tree, celebrates nature and life by pointing out how we’re all unique and how we all manage to live together, here, on Earth. Trees have leaves that turn sunshine into food; birds build homes in trees and can fly; dogs can wag their tails and flick water into their mouths to drink, fish live in water and flash like jewels. We are all a part of one another, as each spread illustrates, yet only a fish can be a fish; only a bird can be a bird; only a tree can be a tree. We’re all unique. Mary Murphy’s brush and ink artwork is colorful, bright, inviting, and warm. Endpapers show vibrant areas with a varied group of people coming together to celebrate trees and play in the sun. It’s just the perfect book to start off an Earth Day readaloud.

Mary Murphy’s author website has free, downloadable coloring sheets and card crafts! Keep the fun going!

Only a Tree Knows How to Be a Tree has a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly.

 

Alba and the Ocean Cleanup, by Lara Hawthorne, (March 2020, Big Picture Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536210446

Ages 4-8

Alba is a sweet little fish who loves collecting shiny things. She enjoys being surrounded by her friends in their ocean home, but, as the ocean becomes more polluted, her friends have moved on, looking for cleaner waters and leaving Alba all alone. When Alba spies a shiny pearl, she must have it: and ends up trapped in a plastic bottle! A young girl cleaning up her beach notices Alba and takes her home to rehabilitate while the girl mobilizes her town to clean up the beach. Once she returns Alba to cleaner water, she’s thrilled to discover that her friends have returned – and that she can put her shiny pearl into her collection to proudly show off! An engaging story with dual messages makes Alba and the Ocean Cleanup such a good story to read on Earth Day and every day. Kids will be motivated by Kaia – the girl who discovers Alba trapped in a bottle – a child who makes a big difference, and they’ll relate to Alba’s love of shiny things and empathize with her experiencing her friends moving away. The artwork is colorful, vibrant, and just fun: it’s like a carnival underwater when Alba and her friends have clean living spaces! Endpapers are a colorful presentation of the ocean floor, with little Albas swimming around. Sharp-eyed readers can go back and look for 10 different kids of fish that author Lara Hawthorne provides information about at the end of the book, along with ways families can help take care of our oceans.

Alba and the Ocean Cleanup was originally published in 2019 in the UK.

 

My Green Day: 10 Green Things I Can Do Today, by Melanie Green, (March 2019, Candlewick Press), $7.99, ISBN: 9781536211313

Ages 3-7

This is a must-have Earth Day book for home, classroom, and library collections. Melanie Walsh’s 10 Things I Can Do To Help My World (2012) has been an Earth Day standard for me for years; adding My Green Day to my storytime reference and my circulating collection is just a given. A narrator moves through their day coming up with ways to be green; be environmentally friendly, for the day: from eating a free-range egg breakfast and composting the egg shell, handmaking gifts with recycled materials, bringing recyclable bags to the grocery store, and taking a short shower before bed are just a handful of the green things that come up in the course of a day. Each step is a simple, easy-to-accomplish task that kids can do and feel empowered, having taken action to improve their world. Each spread has simple, helpful facts on how each task accomplishes a green goal: “Cloth bags can be used again and again. You’ll never need to use another plastic bag”; Playing outside with friends keeps you fit and makes you feel good”.

Empowering, easy-to-read, and with colorful mixed media artwork that beckons readers to the pages makes My Green Day another great Melanie Green book to add to your collections.

 

More to come tomorrow! In the meantime, check out the Earth Day Education Resource Library.

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

Ocean: Secrets of the Deep is STEM fun!

Ocean: Secrets of the Deep, by Sabrina Weiss/Illustrated by Giulia De Amicis, (April 2019, What on Earth Books), $19.99, ISBN: 97-1-9999680-7-6

Ages 7-12

We’re heading to Florida on the first road trip we’ve had in ages, so I’m all over the beachy reading right now. My little guy is excited, because his grandpa lives right by the ocean, so we’ve been enjoying this book immensely.

Ocean: Secrets of the Deep is loaded with facts and figures about the underwater world, and I am in love with the bright, bold illustrations and infographics! The information is presented in bite-size chunks that kids can easily enjoy and digest, and the minimailst artwork is bold and gorgeous. Not just a fact book, there is info about myths and legends (including one of my faves, the Kraken); sections on each of the ocean’s zones, with numbered renderings of each form of life living in each zone; animals who work together in the deep; animal sizes and sounds, and migration patterns. There are sections on environmental concerns and challenges, including overfishing, pollution, and climate change, and a call to action that encourages and empowers kids to act. A glossary and index complete this beautiful volume.

Natural history and environmental studies units would benefit from adding this book to shelves, and you can easily use Ocean in your library STEM programming. When we had our Discovery Club at my library, we did a unit on the ocean, and had the kids create their own ocean zones display on a wall in our meeting room. Print out pictures of different fish featured in Ocean, and invite the kids to color and stick their own marine life to the zones in your library or classroom! It’s a great multi-week project, if you want to spend time creating the monochromatic zones, then working on the marine life.

Ocean is absolute fun and absolutely gorgeous.

Posted in Uncategorized

Little Whale has a long voyage ahead of him…

Little Whale, by Jo Weaver, (Oct. 2018, Peachtree Publishers), $17.95, ISBN: 9781682630495

Ages 4-8

Little Whale and Gray Whale are heading off to the North to join the rest of their family. It is not an easy journey, and Little Whale doesn’t know where this place called “home” is; the only thing he knows is that his mother is next to him, keeping him safe. Through underwater forests and midnight skies, cold and dark waters and menacing orcas, Gray Whale urges Little Whale on, keeping him safe and guiding him home, until they hear their family welcome them home.

Little Whale is as much a story for parents as it is for children. Gray Whale is a strong, silent presence, leading her little one through an exhausting journey. Little Whale is afraid of the unknown – he’s surrounded by it! – but implicitly trusts his mother. Like a child on a long journey, he often asks, “are we there yet?”, but Gray Whale never grows impatient; she just keeps swimming. Little Whale is also an exploration of the ocean: the gray-blue and white charcoal art reveals shadowy coral reefs, murky underwater plant life, schools of fish, and a mother guiding her baby on. A brief author’s note talks about gray whale migration.

A nice cuddle-time story that sea life fans will enjoy. See more of Jo Weaver’s artwork on her website.

 

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

To Explore Strange New Worlds…

Pop quiz! We know that outer space is still largely unexplored, but did you know that we’ve explored less than five percent of the world’s oceans? There are some great new books on space and sea exploration for middle graders to dive into (see what I did there?). Read on!

Dr. E’s Super Stellar Solar System, by Bethany Ehlmann with Jennifer Swanson, (Jan. 2018, National Geographic Kids), $12.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-2798-8

Recommended for readers 8-12

Planetary geologist Dr. E (Bethany Ehlmann) and her sidekick, Rover, take readers on a trip around the universe, filled with activities, photos, facts, and comics. Readers will learn about space exploration and how our big blue dot fits in with our cosmic neighbors: who else has volcanoes and sand dunes; how plate tectonics work; how craters are formed. There’s information about robots and rovers; space exploration and technology; and how learning about space helps us learn more about Earth. Each chapter begins with a 2-page comic spread, following Dr. E and Rover on an adventure related to chapter material. There are scientist profiles throughout the book, thought-provoking questions to generate discussion, and incredible photos. A glossary, list of book and web resources, and index makes this a solid book to have in space collections and a fun gift for kids who love science.

 

Astronaut-Aquanaut: How Space Science and Sea Science Interact, by Jennifer Swanson, (Jan. 2018, National Geographic Kids), $18.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-2867-1

Recommended for readers 8-12

What do space and the ocean exploration have in common? SO much. There’s a reason we’re still trying to figure out how to explore both. Extreme pressure, temperatures and climates are all considerations scientists have to make when planning missions up above or far below. Author Jennifer Swanson (she’s co-author on Dr. E’s book, above!) gets a new generation of explorers ready for action with discussions about buoyancy and gravity; the shapes used in space and sea exploration (shape counts!); creating livable habitats; similarities and differences in each form of travel, and more. There’s consideration given to preservation and conservation for both sea and space: we leave a lot of garbage behind, and we need to stop that. Explorer’s Notebook callouts give readers a quick run-down on different topics, like training for a trip and how to create successful living and working environments – ideas that readers can apply to their daily lives while getting ready to be explorers. Activities give readers hands-on opportunities to learn about concepts like docking the International Space Station. There are detailed illustrations and color photos throughout, astronaut and aquanaut profiles, fun facts, resources, a glossary, and an index. NatGeo never disappoints: I love how Jennifer Swanson brings these two areas of exploration together; maybe it will inspire kids to become both astronauts AND aquanauts!

 

The Space Race: How the Cold War Put Humans on the Moon, by Matthew Brenden Wood/Illustrated by Sam Carbaugh, (May 2018, Nomad Press), $17.95, ISBN: 978-1-61930-663-9

Recommended for readers 12-15

The Cold War between the U.S. and Soviet Union led to a race for dominance, and space was best place to push for that dominance. Matthew Brenden’s book, The Space Race, is an interactive chronicle of this pivotal point in history. Beginning with a timeline to give readers background, Brenden takes us from the 1917 Russian Revolution, through World War II (when Russia was our ally) and the Cold War, to July 20, 1969: the date Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first people to walk on the moon.

A  comic strip running throughout the book illustrates and encapsulates the big ideas in the book, adding a little mental break for readers. There are loads of callout boxes, enhanced with QR codes that lead to historical reference and further learning; some topics include McCarthyism, duck-and-cover nuclear war drills, and the first anniversary of the Berlin Wall. Blast Fact callout boxes provide quick facts, and Inquire and Investigate sections provide rich inspiration for projects and research. Questions throughout the text challenge readers to think deeper about the material and would provide a great jumping-off point for book group or class discussions, and Vocab Lab sections offer new words to learn, all defined in the glossary at the end of the book. There are black-and-white and color photos throughout, providing a strong connection to history. Thankfully, there’s a metric conversion table, since science is metric and I’m not; there are additional resources, source notes, and an index.

I love Nomad Press’ books; there are so many entry points for students in each book. This one is a valuable reference for Science or History: in fact, The Space Race is one in a set of four Nomad books exploring great events of the 20th Century (others include Globalization: Why We Care About Faraway Events; The Vietnam War; and World War II: From the Rise of the Nazi Party to the Dropping of the Atomic Bomb).

The Space Race skews slightly older than the NatGeo books above: Nomad recommends this one for ages 12-15, but I think it can go a year or two younger, especially in my children’s room, where it will see more circ than in our teen section. Your library’s mileage, and your kids’ reading interests may vary. It’s a Guided Reading level Z, which can go as young as 9; I’d suggest at least 10 or 11.