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

Space Books take readers to new heights

Rocket Science: A Beginner’s Guide to the Fundamentals of Spaceflight, by Andrew Rader, PhD./Illustrated by Galen Frazer, (Nov. 2020, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536207422

Ages 10-13

This beginner’s guide to spaceflight is concise, comprehensive, and illustrated in full-color. Andrew Rader is an actual rocket scientist and a SpaceX Mission Manager, and he makes space travel so tempting, you’ll want to get in touch with Elon Musk and secure your spots now. Readers will learn the basics to start: gravity, the solar system, and how we can push through gravity to reach the Moon. That leads in to a discussion on rockets: how they work, the staging series, and how to use rockets to communicate, navigate, and travel. There is information on interplanetary travel, possible life in the universe beyond our planet, and a word about the future of space exploration. Digital illustrations are colorful and detailed. A glossary and list of web resources are available. A spread on spacecraft and the solar system details some of the more well-known spacecraft, in relation to layout of the planets, like the Hubble, International Space Station, Curiosity, and Cassini. A nice intro to rocket science without throwing calculus into the mix, this is a great intro to whet younger readers’ appetitles for space travel.

 

 

Space Encyclopedia: A Tour of Our Solar System and Beyond (2nd Edition), by David Aguilar & Patricia Daniels, (Nov. 2020, National Geographic Kids), $24.99, ISBN: 9781426338564

Ages 8-12

This is the updated version of the 2013 Space Encyclopedia, and there has been a lot to update! The 2020 version includes updated photos, facts, and profiles on the latest in space exploration, including the first ever image of a black hole, newly discovered dwarf planets, the possibility of life beyond Earth, and the formation of the universe. Profiles on icons in the field include Stephen Hawking, Einstein, and Galileo. It’s a beautiful desk reference, loaded with full color photos and artwork beyond the facts. My Kiddo used this as a reference tool for his report on space and he was beyond excited at how much he was able to use from this source.

 

Posted in Fiction, Intermediate, picture books

Picture book STEM with second-grader, Geraldine: Gizmo Girl!

I’ve got two STEM picture books from Schiffer Publishing, by author Sol Regwan and illustrator Denise Muzzio. The Gizmo Girl series stars a second grader named Geraldine. If you have readers who enjoyed Pip Jones’s Izzy Gizmo, Andrea Beaty’s Questioneers series, or Ashley Spires’s The Most Magnificent Thing, this series should be next on their reading lists.

 

Geraldine and the Most Spectacular Science Project, by Sol Regwan/Illustrated by Denise Muzzio, (Feb. 2020, Schiffer Kids), $16.99, ISBN: 9780764358982

Ages 5-8

Geraldine is a second grader who loves to call herself a troublemaker, but she’s really not. She’s curious, a budding astronaut and scientist, and just needs a little focus, which she gets when her teacher announces a science contest! The winner gets a trophy and the title of Best Second-Grade Scientist, and Geraldine knows she has to win. She puts her talent for tinkering to work and gets out her piles of gadgets, screws, electronic parts, and other bits and pieces she’s scavenged from her parents (sometimes, while they were still in use), and thinks about what to make that would win first prize. Will it be good enough to impress her teacher and take home the gold? A fun story with a rambunctious heroine, Geraldine and the Most Spectacular Science Project is a good STEM/STEAM picture book for kids who still love picture books, but are ready to take on more complex text. The story provides a look at some popular science fair projects, like the erupting volcano and solar system mobile; teachers who are prepping classes for a science fair should kick off with this one, particularly for first- and second-graders. Illustrations are colorful and cheerful, and present a diverse group of learners. The cover and endpapers are a nod to Geraldine’s interest in outer space, and her name looks like a fun mashup of technology and gadgets from her project pile. Additional Schiffer Kids readalikes in the back are spotlighted as some of Geraldine’s “favorites”, which is really sweet and invests readers in the character.

Give this one a shot; I think it’s going to be a hit. Kids who are interested in Geraldine’s project can find a similar one here at the HomeScienceTools website.

 

Geraldine and the Space Bees, by Sol Regwan/Illustrated by Denise Muzzio, (Aug. 2020, Schiffer Kids), $16.99, ISBN: 9780764359941

Ages 5-8

Gizmo Girl Geraldine waters her mother’s plants one day and notices that there aren’t as many bees as she’s used to seeing. After mentioning it to her mother, she learns that bee populations are on the decline and that pesticides – bug-killing poisons – are a big cause. Geraldine decides to make saving the bees the subject of her next science project: creating a model of something she’d like to send into outer space, for the Space Museum. After thinking over the decline of the bee population and how a spaceship wouldn’t have harmful chemicals aboard, she decides she’s going to build a feeding station that will allow scientists to study bees in space, in a pesticide-free environment! This story delves even further into the scientific process than the first Geraldine book, and it’s really exciting to read and see Geraldine work out the steps in her experiment. Geraldine and the Space Bees makes a great reading choice for science and STEM/STEAM classes, where learners can discuss how they can and would address the environmental factors leading to the decline in bee populations, and why this is such a serious matter. Back matter includes a note about pollination and why bees are so important. Endpapers show bees buzzing around the planets in outer space, a nod to the story inside. A note at the end of the book promises more Gizmo Girl books are coming soon.

Readers who are interested in learning more about the bee crisis can read 6 Ways to Help Honeybees, from the Whole Kids Foundation; A Bee is More Than a Bug from NASA’s Climate Kid webpage; and Why Are Bees Vanishing? from Science News for Students. The Pragmatic Mom blog has a DIY Bee House STEM project that would be a good project to work on over the winter.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

#SummersCool: Picture Book Party!

Want to keep the kiddos reading and learning this summer? Picture books are the way to go! Fiction, non-fiction, a great mix of the two, picture books have them all and they’re fun to read with and to your littles. Give some of these a whirl:

Rover Throws a Party, by Kristin L. Gray/Illustrated by Scott Magoon, (March 2020, Knopf Books for Young Readers), $17.99, ISBN: 9780525646488

Ages 3-7

I get such a kick out of the Rover books that have been hitting shelves, introducing the Rovers as kid-friendly robots wandering around Mars. This latest one, Rover Throws a Party, inspired by the Curiosity Rover, is a great mix of fiction and non-fiction for preschoolers and early elementary learners. Rover is planning the best party in the universe to celebrate an anniversary on Mars, and there is so much to do! Will someone – or something – join Curiosity to celebrate? As the Curiosity trundles through each spread, there’s a fun story to read; a step in the party planning, and a fact about Mars or the Curiosity, related to the storyline. As Curiosity captures a sunrise, the accompanying fact tells readers that Mars sunrises and sunsets appear blue; Curiosity invites NASA to the party, and we discover that it takes about 20 minutes for a radio transmission to reach Earth from Mars. The digital artwork is bright and fun, instantly eyecatching, and just adorable: Curiosity wears a party hat on the cover; how can you pass that up? Endpapers feature NASA Mission Control and the Mars landscape, with party invitations and confetti strewn about. An author’s note, a bibliography, and Rover fast facts make this a storytime, science time pick.

Visit illustrator Scott Magoon’s website for some more info on Rover Throws a Party, including a link to fun printables (and storytime videos)! Author Kristin L. Gray’s website has link to her blog, information about her other books, and author fun facts.

 

The Blunders: A Counting Catastrophe!, by Christina Soontornvat/Illustrated by Colin Jack, (Feb. 2020, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536201093

Ages 3-7

The Blunder Kids are driving their mom CRAZY. The 10 brothers and sisters “blundered” the laundry, the bathtub, and let the hamsters out and the dogs in. Momma Blunder needs a break, so she sends them out to go play, telling them to be back by sunset. No problem! The kids go play outside by the creek, but when it’s time to go home, the headcount doesn’t quite match up. No matter who’s counting -and each and every kid takes a shot at counting! – there are only 9 Blunders! Can you figure out where the mistake is? Thank goodness, Mom saves the day.

This is a sweetly fun story, based on a favorite folktale. Teachers and parents responsible for headcounts will get a big kick out of this, as (spoiler alert!) each child leaves themselves out of the counting, always leaving them one short. It’s great for interactive storytelling, because you can get kids counting along with you and asking them if they can figure out who’s missing and why. The digital illustrations are bright, bold, and characters have expressive faces that kids can easily read. The different headcounting methods are good for a laugh (“Raise your hand if you’re lost”), and the excuses for being late are just hilarious. Great for counting storytimes, and if you have Loud House fans, sign them up as Reading Buddies to read this one to younger readers; I got a real Loud House vibe from the big family and the general mayhem that goes along with them. So much fun for math-type reading.

Author Christina Soontornvat has a great author website with more info about the author herself, all of her books, and videos with book trailers and interviews. Illustrator Colin Jack has worked on books and for Dreamworks; check out his Instagram for more of his illustration.

 

Creature Features, by Big Picture Press/Illustrated by Natasha Durley, (March 2020, Big Picture Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536210439

Ages 3-8

This is a fun animal book for younger kids: preschoolers to kindergarteners are the sweet spot, with older kids enjoying the cool animals that they may not see in animal books. Vibrant colors set off the pages, and each spread features animals with unusual, alliterative, characteristics: Enormous Eyes; Nice Noses; Excellent Ears; Terrific Tails; Dreaded Defenses; Huge Horns; Wonderful Webbed Feet; Lovely Long Necks; Tremendous Tongues, and Fantastic Fur. There’s an introductory paragraph about how these characteristics help the animals, and questions for observant readers to discover and answer. There is always something new to discover here, and the larger size and heavy cardboard pages make this a great transitional book for kids moving from board books to picture books. I enjoy books that give kids a look at different animals, and this has a bunch of good ones, including a sea hare (doesn’t look like a rabbit), an aardwolf (not in the Nice Noses section!), and narwhal, who’s become a popular picture book subject over the last few years. Worth the purchase for your animal book collections.

 

Ocean! Waves for All (Our Universe), by Stacy McAnulty/Illustrated by David Litchfield, (May 2020, Henry Holt), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250108098

Ages 4-8

Stacy McAnulty’s Our Universe books have been home runs here at home. My kiddo – who just turned 8 in quarantine! – has asked me to get each one as it comes out, ever since I introduced him to Earth! My First 4.54 Billion Years at a bookstore a couple of years ago. Ocean: Waves for All is the fourth book in the series; this is the nonfiction STEM series to spend your budget dollars on. Plus, it’s written in the voice of a surfer, which opens up amazing storytime readaloud possibilities for me. Win-win.

Ocean is the dude. Atlantic, Pacific, Arctic, Indian, it’s all excellent Ocean. Ocean is super laid-back, proud of itself – and why shouldn’t it be? Ocean covers over 71% of our world. Ocean is free: “no flag. No nationality. My waves are for all.” But DUDE! People visit outer space more than Ocean; what’s up with that? And Ocean is in some serious trouble, too; people are filling Ocean up with garbage; Ocean’s creatures are struggling to survive, and glaciers and icebergs are melting too fast. Loaded with amazing facts, Ocean is gorgeously illustrated and superbly written, and comes with a serious message: take care of our planet. Take care of our ocean. Ocean is drawn with a friendly face, big, blue eyes, and a smiling (and sometimes scared) mouth. Endpapers are bursting with color, giving readers a glimpse of the underwater landscape. Slip off the book’s cover to see a different view of Ocean. Don’t miss it.

Illustrator David Litchfield’s website has more of his artwork and links to his blog. Author Stacy McAnulty has a great author website with info about her books, activity sheets, and curriculum guides. It’s a great reference resource and storytime resource (SO MANY COLORING SHEETS).

Posted in Non-Fiction, picture books, Preschool Reads

Three great books about space!

The Summer Reading theme for this year is all about Space, and I am psyched. I love outer space, and I’ve got a growing list of books to add to my own readers advisory lists (I’ll put that together in the next week or two for a post). Meanwhile, Sourcebooks and Barefoot Books have three great books about space that are staggered throughout the year, and perfect for your space-faring STEM fans. Let’s check them out, shall we?

 

Moon’s First Friends: One Giant Leap for Friendship, by Susanna Leonard Hill/Illustrated by Elisa Paganelli, (June 2019, Sourcebooks Wonderland), $17.99, ISBN: 9781492656807

Ages 4-8

The Moon was so lonely, up in the night sky by herself. When she sees life developing on Earth, she patiently waits for someone to notice and visit her. It takes a while: the dinosaurs don’t notice; early people build pyramids and structures that just aren’t high enough. Eventually, though, she gets some visitors, and she is thrilled! She gives them presents of rocks and dust to take back to Earth, and they give her a beautiful flag and a plaque. Now, Moon is in the sky, happy and waiting for more visitors. Will you be her next guest?

This is the sweetest story I’ve read yet on the Apollo 11 mission to the Moon. The Moon is illustrated as a softly shining, opalescent sphere with kind eyes, rosy cheeks, and a sweet smile; readers are treated to a quick history of Earth’s development as the Moon quietly observes, waiting for a friend to reach out – or up – and say hello. She even dances around the planet, showing off her phases! The actual Apollo mission takes up a brief part of the story, making this sweet book about a lonely satellite who just wants a friend an adorable storytime read for younger kids, and a fun book with solid facts for school-age kids. There’s a brief bibliography on the verso page, and back matter includes several pages dedicated to Mission Moon, the Apollo 11 voyage; moon facts, and moon phases, along with a running timeline of Earth’s formation and development. Endpapers are starry nights, where kids can imagine sailing through the stars to visit their favorite moon. Readers can also scan a QR code to hear Neil Armstrong’s historic first words from the 1969 moon landing. Gentle storytelling and adorable illustration make this a great Summer Reading addition! Display and booktalk with Stacey McAnulty’s Moon, Earth, and Sun trilogy.

 

There Was a Black Hole That Swallowed the Universe, by Chris Ferrie/Illustrated by Susan Batori, (Sept. 2019, Sourcebooks Explore), $17.99, ISBN: 9781492680772

Ages 3-8

You know if Chris Ferrie is writing a book, I’m reading it. This STEM-errific take on There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly is about a giant black hole that swallows… well, everything. He starts with a universe… it couldn’t get worse! But oh, it does: the black hole swallows planets, stars, galaxies, and atoms, molecules, and quarks along with it. Yikes!

I read this to my first grader this morning and he immediately smiled and said, “This is like The Old Lady story!”, so kids familiar with the classic tale (and all of its spin-offs) will immediately jump in and know what’s coming; how the story will progress. With each chomping, the black hole gets bigger, and the planets and heavenly bodies look hilariously terrified as they try to get away from its maw. The storytelling is fun and loaded with humor; it’s cumulative and rhyming storytelling at its scientific funniest. The illustrations are goofy, with exaggerated facial expressions that make the storytelling more dramatic and humorous as you go. Bone up on your keyword knowledge for kids who will ask during the story (neutrons, atoms, quarks, oh my!). Scientific terms are highlighted in bold yellow, and capitalized to stand out and give your readers a nice working STEM vocabulary. Shine a blacklight on the pages from back to front, and you’ll reveal a super-cool, hidden history of the universe’s creation!

Absolute fun and a must-get for your storytime collections. Be a rock star at Science Storytime! Pair this with The Universe Ate My Homework by David Zelster for more black hole-related fun.

 

Barefoot Books Solar System, by Anne Jankéliowitch/Illustrated by Annabelle Buxton, Translated by Lisa Rosinsky, $19.99, ISBN: 9781782858232

Ages 8-12

Riding high on the post-Summer Reading wave, middle grade kids can go back school and check out Barefoot Books Solar System, a glow-in-the-dark, interactive guide to our Milky Way, complete with lift the flap booklets, a pull-out map, and beautiful artwork. Originally published in French, the book has been reviewed, edited, and updated by Dr. Carie Cardamone, professor of STEM education and Boston Museum of Science teacher and educator. The text is written with a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor while delivering solid nonfiction goods to middle graders. The book covers each planet, with nicknames like :Saturn: The Space Diva”, and “Uranus and Neptune: The Icy Sisters”; the asteroid belt; differences between solid and gas planets; measuring the universe, and famous outer space voyages. The artwork is bright and bold, seeming to explode off the black pages to grab the reader’s attention.

In keeping with Barefoot’s mission of diversity and inclusivity, there is information about space exploration from around the world, making this a truly global effort. Back matter includes a comprehensive glossary of scientific terms and a note on the units of measurement used in the book. Don’t pass this one up; your 520s will shine a little brighter with Barefoot Books Solar System on your shelf.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Customize your own outer space trip with You Choose in Space

You Choose in Space, by Pippa Goodhart/Illustrated by Nick Sharratt, (Feb. 2019, Kane Miller), $12.99, ISBN: 9781610678018

Ages 3-8

Originally published in the UK in 2017, the latest You Choose book from Pippa Goodhart and Nick Sharratt takes kids on a trip into space where they have an array of choices to customize their journey: they can pick a job, an outfit, try some new alien food, even explore a cool new city on another planet! Led by a girl of color, a caucasian boy in a wheelchair, and a robot dog that looks similar to K-9 from Doctor Who (shout-out my Whovians out there!), the universe is there for every reader’s delight. The rhyming text invites readers to jump in and join the fun, and loads of details on every spread for kids to wander through: the giant cruiser has a gym, movie theatre, laundromat on board; a full-service wardrobe lets kids choose some wild new outfits and wigs; and an intergalactic zoo full of mixed-up animals give you the chance to create some wild new species of your own!

The bright, bold art is playful and kids will love having a new experience every time they pick up the book.  This series is a fun add to your collections and a good gift idea for kids who see reading as an adventure.

Posted in Adventure, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Science Fiction, Tween Reads

Star Scouts gets the merit badge for fun reading!

starscouts_1Star Scouts, by Mike Lawrence, (March 2017, First Second), $14.99, ISBN: 9781626722804

Recommended for ages 8-12

Avani Patel is not feeling this new scouts Flower Scouts troop her parents signed her up for. She’s the new kid, her parents figured it would be a new way to make friends, but the Flower Scouts are so lame. All they talk about are boys and makeovers; it’s totally out of line with her interests, like rodeos and adventure. Things change for the better when Avani is accidentally picked up by an alien named Mabel, who happens to be a scout – a Star Scout – working on one of her badges. The two girls hit it off, and Avani finds herself an unofficial Star Scout! She’s zooming around on a jetpack, working on teleportation, and avoiding the xenoscatology lab; she’s made some out of this world friends, and she’s happy. When Star Scouts announce their yearly camping trip, Avani manages to fib her father into signing off on the trip – she’s going away to camp, she doesn’t need to mention that it’s not exactly on the planet, right? But shortly after arriving at Camp Andromeda, Avani finds herself on the wrong side of a rival group of aliens; Avani, Mabel and their friends are in for a heck of a week, if they can work together to get through it.

Star Scouts is a fun outer-space adventure for middle graders. It’s scouting with a little more adventure added in, and lots of hilarious bathroom humor (look, I raised three boys, I find poop and fart jokes funny) to keep readers cracking up. There are positive messages about friendship and working together that parents and caregivers will appreciate, and the two main characters are spunky girls that aren’t afraid to take on an adventure.

starscouts_2

If you want to go the sci-fi way with displays and booktalks, you have to pair this with Zita the Spacegirl and Cleopatra in Space. You can revisit this book when you’re getting ready for Summer Reading by booktalking this with camp books like Camp Midnight, Beth Vrabel’s Camp Dork, and Nancy Cavanaugh’s Just Like Me.

Check out more of Mike Cavanaugh’s illustration at his website.

starscouts_3starscouts_4

 

starscouts_5

Posted in Fantasy, Graphic Novels, Science Fiction, Tween Reads

Legends of Zita the Spacegirl is out of this world!

legends of zitaLegends of Zita the Spacegirl, by Ben Hatke. :01 First Second (2012), $18.99, ISBN: 978-1-59643-806-4

Recommended for ages 8-14

I just realized that while I’d reviewed both Zita the Spacegirl and the upcoming Return of Zita the Spacegirl, I never wrote a review for the second book in this great series – so I re-read it in order to remedy the situation.

When we rejoin Zita in the second book in her series, she has found intergalactic fame as The Girl Who Saved Scriptorious. Creatures from all over the galaxy are clamoring to meet her, and fame has become a bit overwhelming for Zita. When she encounters a robot that looks just like her, she decides to let the robot handle fame while she and Mouse take off to relax and be anonymous for a while. The only problem is, the robot is an Imprint-o-Tron, which eventually tries to replace their targets – and when two aliens seek “Zita”‘s help in saving their planet from the interstellar scavengers, the Star Hearts, Zita-bot is all too happy to lend a hand, stirring up trouble for Zita and her friends.

I am a big Zita fan, and this second book has every bit of the spirit of fun and adventure that the first book (and the upcoming third) do. We see a slightly different Zita here -she’s overwhelmed by fame, she wants to go home, and she ultimately learns about the power of sacrifice – she’s a more mature Zita who is still, at heart, a kid. The Imprint-o-Tron reminds me of Pinocchio, who wanted to be a real boy. The Imprint-o-Tron, or as I started calling her, the Zita-bot, isn’t bad – she’s following her programming, and she really seems to want to be Zita, to face the exciting adventures that Zita does. There are some great messages to be found in this second book.

There are some great resources on the Web for using Zita materials in the classroom. Comics Are Great has a downloadable lesson plan, along with an hour-long podcast dedicated to the book, where teachers, librarians, and cartoonists discussing the book.

The Zita trilogy is a great middle-grade graphic novel series. She stands as a good role model for any girl or boy who seizes the power of imagination and inner courage.

Posted in Fantasy, Science Fiction, Steampunk, Tween Reads

Book Review: Larklight: A Rousing Tale of Dauntless Pluck in the Farthest Reaches of Space, by Philip Reeve (Bloomsbury, 2007)

Recommended for ages 9-12
Larklight is the first in a ‘tween steampunk trilogy by Philip Reeve, and I was really looking forward to sinking my teeth into this book. Steampunk? Pirates? Pass that book over!
I was not disappointed. A great read for both boys and girls interested in science fiction and fantasy, Larklight offers a little something for everyone. The main character, Arthur Mumby, is a boy of about 11 or 12 who lives with his 14-year old sister, Myrtle (who is a very big part of the storyline – no wallflower female characters in this book!) and their widowed father upon Larklight, a floating home in space. The story takes place during the Victorian era, and the British Empire has colonized space. Aetherships cruise the skies much as Blackbeard’s Queen Anne’s Revenge hunted ships in the waters on earth.
Mr. Mumby, a xenobiologist, agrees to a meeting with a correspondent who refers to himself as “Mr. Webster” – when he arrives, we discover that Webster is an evil space spider with whose spidery army traps Larklight and Mr. Mumby in their webs. Art and Myrtle escape, ultimately ending up with a band of space pirates led by Jack Havoc, a teenager with his own troubled past, and his band of alien misfits. Running from the British Empire, Jack joins Art and Myrtle on their quest to save their father and learn what made them Webster’s target.
In addition to the nonstop action and wonderfully Victorian narrative, there is mech and steam aplenty for steampunk fans. Giant, mechanized spiders, steam-driven aetherships propelled by alchemic reactions, and an assault on Queen Victoria – what more could a kid possibly ask for?

I appreciated Reeve’s strong male and female characters. At first glance , Myrtle appears solely as Art’s antagonist for Art but emerges as a strong, clever character – it’s interesting to see her character evolve. Ssil, one of Jack Havoc’s alien crew, has no idea where her origins lie, providing a sense of mystery and pathos. She has only the family she creates around her, but longs to know who she is. While scientific men are assumed to be the only ones capable of performing the “chemical wedding” that propels aetherships into space, Ssil performs it with ease – indeed, she is the only member of Jack’s crew who can do it.

There are two sequels to Larklight, also by Reeve: Starcross and Mothstorm, that I expect I shall be picking up shortly. The film rights for Larklight have been bought and a film is due out in 2013.