Posted in Non-Fiction, Tween Reads

Where’s the Coolest Stuff on Earth? In this book.

The Coolest Stuff on Earth: A Closer Look at the Weird, Wild, and Wonderful, by Brenda Scott Royce, (Nov. 2020, National Geographic Kids), $19.99, ISBN: 978-1426338588

Ages 8-13

More fantastic facts and photos from NatGeo Kids! Kids can take an armchair world tour with The Coolest Stuff on Earth. Organized into nine areas, kids can learn through stories, photos, infographics, Q&A with expert, and maps: Magnificent Marvels looks at world wonders, where readers can dive into the Secrets of Stonehenge. Travel Unraveled is all about the wacky and wild sites worldwide, and Extraordinary Animals profiles everything from dolphin language to what happens when animals hibernate. History’s Mysteries looks at ancient Pompeii through to California’s Golden Gate Bridge, and Shocking Science offers info about astronauts and technology. Peculiar Planet is all about the natural world, and Spectacular Sports shows readers the science of physical movement. Money Decoded features the secrets of the U.S. $1 bill, and Epic Extremes – one of the most popular reading areas for my library’s kids – is all about the coolest, most extreme stuff going, like deep-ocean robotics and giant sequoia forests. Back matter includes a full index.

The NatGeo books are always popular for a reason. Great gift idea, essential collection development, all around fun. Display and booktalk with Atlas Obscura: Explorer’s Guide for the World’s Most Adventurous Kid, by Dylan Thuras and Rosemary Mosco/Illustrated by Joy Ang.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Operation Photobomb: Smile! (Plus, a giveaway!)

Operation: Photobomb, by Tara Luebbe & Becky Cattie/Illustrated by Matthew Rivera, (Sept. 2019, Albert Whitman & Co.), $16.99, ISBN: 9780807561300

Ages 4-7

Monkey and Chameleon love when jungle tours visit their jungle: they get toys! This time around, Monkey finds a camera and starts snapping away. Chameleon loves the spotlight a little too much, though, and when Monkey starts taking photos of their other jungle friends, Chameleon can’t resist a good photobomb. This gets on everyone’s nerves pretty quickly, so the animals plan a little comeuppance of their own.

This book is guaranteed to bring the snickers. Most people, certainly most kids, know what a photobomb is these days, and love doing it. They’ll love Chameleon’s spotlight-stealing presence, and they’ll get a kick out of the other animals’ retribution. There are a good discussion points to be found here, too, the biggest being to think about how one’s actions can affect others. Ruining other people’s pictures, other people’s fun? Not very nice. Talk about jealousy, and how that motivates Chameleon – what could he have done to let others know he was feeling left out? Light-hearted and fun, the story gets its point across without being preachy or melodramatic. The bright and bold illustrations feature striking colors and bold fonts, making this a storytime winner.

Speaking of storytime, Operation Photobomb went over well at storytime here, and a little too well at home: my little guy already appreciates a good photobomb; now I fear for his older brother even more. Stay tuned.

 

Tara Luebbe and Becky Cattie are sisters and collaborators. Together they’ve written several picture books, including I Am Famous and I Used to Be Famous, illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff, and Shark Nate-O, illustrated by Daniel Duncan. Visit Becky and Tara online at www.beckytarabooks.com.

Matthew Rivera began drawing animals when he was old enough to hold a crayon. His parents still prize the toucan he drew when he was five. He earned his degree in Fine Arts from the University of Arizona. Visit him on Instagram @matthewdidit, or at his website, matthewdidit.com.

 

Want a shot at winning your own copy of Operation Photobomb? (U.S. addresses only, please!) Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway!

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, Teen, Tween Reads

20 Recipes Kids Should Know is delicious!

20 Recipes Kids Should Know, by Esme Washburn/Photos by Calista Washburn, (April 2019, Prestel), $16.95, ISBN: 9783791385075

Ages 8+

Esme Washburn is a 12-year-old cooking enthusiast. Her sister Calista is a 17-year-old photographer. Together, the two sisters have come up with a delicious book of easy-to-make recipes for kids. These 20 recipes provide a nice variety for a burgeoning chef: there’s a choice of breakfasts, lunches, dinners (called Mains here), appetizers, sides, and desserts, plus two extra recipes for “Back to Basics Bread” and “Popovers That Pop”. There’s something for everyone here, from meat-based dishes to vegetarian fare. Ingredients are easily attained at your local grocery store, and the directions are numbered, step-by-step, and written out in short, simple sentences that allow readers to have the book propped open, ready to follow along with a glance as needed.

The photos are just beautiful. I’m assuming that Esme Washburn, as the cook, plates her food for photos, and does a scrumptious job; Calista Washburn creates lovely foodscapes on pastel dishes, with culinary flourishes like dishcloths, measuring spoons, and fresh foods to add to the visual appeal. The Quintessential Grilled Cheese Sandwich is begging me to take a bite out of it, with its crispy, textured bread and melted cheese sitting on a plate; the Creamiest Mac and Cheese would be the perfect accompaniment to it, with gooey, melty cheese peeking through the wagon wheel pasta. (Yes, I’m a cheese fanatic.)

An introduction provides the important stuff to go over: weights and measurements, safety tips, guidelines for prep and cleanup, and a glossary/cooking techniques section are all here to help get new cooks up and running. Esme writes an introduction before each recipe.

20 Recipes Kids Should Know is a nice addition to a young cook’s bookshelf. There’s no firm minimum age noted here, so I’d say that, as a parent or caregiver, you know when your kids are ready – and require guidance. I’ve got a 15-year-old who I still keep an ear out for, and I’ve got a 7-year-old who I stand at the stove with while he cooks up his own scrambled eggs. (My oldest is 20 and has a pretty firm hand on cooking, but he’s been cooking with me since he was 3.) Bottom line? Use your judgement and err on the side of caution, but encourage them to try some cooking with the Washburn sisters and lend a hand. It’s science!

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

Can You Crack the Code? makes codebreakers out of your readers

Can You Crack the Code? A Fascinating History of Ciphers and Cryptography, by Ella Schwartz/Illustrated by Lily Williams, (March 2019, Bloomsbury USA), $21.99, ISBN: 9781681195148

Ages 10-13

Three years ago, I held a great, week-long Spy program at my library for Summer Reading. The kids went berserk for it; I had a blast planning and running it, and books like Can You Crack the Code? make me think it might be time to hold a program like that again. Ella Schwartz has come up with a nice history of codes, code names, and cryptography for middle graders, with loads of pictures, informative sidebars, and activities to keep readers on their toes. Famous moments in cryptography history include the Caesar Cipher, invented by Julius Caesar, the Arnold Cipher, used by the infamous Benedict Arnold, and the Enigma machine, used by the Germans during World War II; the machine that gave them the upper hand until a team of British codebreakers at Bletchley Park finally broke the code (shout-out to computer scientist and codebreaker Alan Turing). Want to know why you have to generate a strong password, obnoxious as it may be? Check out the “Can You Hack the Bank?” activity and you’ll be changing all of your passwords. A final challenge has readers going through the book to solve one last cipher. There’s a comprehensive bibliography and the book is indexed, making this a nice volume to have on your shelves.

Display this with the Book Scavenger series, the Mr. Lemoncello’s Library books, the Secret Coders graphic novels, and – naturally! – the Girls Who Code books, both fiction and nonfiction. Brightly has a good post on fiction with puzzles and codes.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to revisit some of my old Summer Reading plans… I know this year’s theme is A Universe of Stories; maybe I’ll just use some codes to send them into space! Great escape room ideas in here, too. All around fun for your brain-teaser-loving readers.

Posted in Non-Fiction, picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads, Toddler Storytime

Birds, Birds, Birds: Hello, I’m Here! A new bird greets the world, and Carme Lemniscrates’s Birds

Hello, I’m Here!, by Helen Frost/Photographs by Rick Lieder, (March 2019, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9780763698584

Ages 2-5

With rhyming text accompanying beautiful wildlife photos, Hello, I’m Here! is the story of an adorable sandhill crane chick hatching and exploring its new world. The hatchling and its sibling splash around in the water and enjoy some bugs and snails under the watchful guidance of their Mama and Papa, always nearby. The photographs are beautiful, allowing readers to enjoy the fuzzy, long-legged chicks and the stunning adult birds’ coloring. The photos have incredible texture; the birds’ feathers look like they’d ruffle under one’s hand, and the chicks look so fuzzy, you’ll want to run your finger across their heads. The photos of the birds in flight are stunning. The text is sweet and has a comforting cadence; the sentences are short and put readers in the chick’s place as it discovers the world around it. An author note about sandhill cranes has some great additional information for readers: did you know that parents and chicks communicate while the chicks are still in their eggs? That went over really well when I told the parents! I love being able to add little facts like that in a storytime. The endpapers have beautiful photos of a baby sandhill crane and its parent, and of four cranes flying across the sky at sunset. Absolutely breathtaking.

I tried Hello, I’m Here! out in a recent storytime, and the kids and parents alike loved it. The parents gestured to the pages quite often, impressed with the photos, and the little ones loved hearing about the little bird taking its first steps, flapping around with its sibling, and watching other cranes fly overhead. This is a great choice for a nature/discovery/science storytime, a spring storytime, and just a plain, good storytime for the little ones. I would also read Alex Latimer’s Am I Yours? as a companion to this one: it’s got dinosaurs, but the whole story of a baby dino in its egg talking to prospective parents is just too cute to pass up.

Hello, I’m Here! has a starred review from Kirkus. This is the fifth book that Helen Frost and Rick Lieder have collaborated on; all of which have received starred reviews from Kirkus.

 

 

Birds, by Carme Lemniscates, (March 2019, Candlewick Press), $14.99, ISBN: 9781536201789

Ages 2-5

Next up, I read Birds, by Carme Lemniscates. It’s a nonfiction book of a different sort, with bright, bold mixed media illustrations of various birds and two children enjoying their company. The text reads like a poetic ode to birds, starting first with descriptive sentences: “Some birds are really big/Others are tiny/Some like to show off, while others would rather watch”, moving into more illustrative musings: “A bird’s song is like the loving words of a friend/A happy song that greets us every morning/And our hearts sing, too, because birds are like good news coming”. Eagles, owls, peacocks, and hummingbirds all find a home here, as do parrots, toucans, and Canadian geese. It’s a celebration of birds, of spring, and of nature. The endpapers feature bright and bold feathers, some that you’ll recognize right away, like the peacock’s; some, you may have to guess at (is that black and white spotted one a woodpecker or a guinea fowl?). Let the kids color some feathers of their own as an after-storytime craft.

Birds went over nicely in storytime. The kids loved the bright colors and enjoyed calling out birds they recognized. We made some bird sounds (honking for the Canadian geese went over well, as did the parrot caws) and spread our arms to soar and flap like the birds do. It’s a nice addition to picture books where nature and birds are popular.

 

Posted in Non-Fiction, picture books, Preschool Reads

It’s Spring… time to raise the butterflies!

Butterflies in Room 6, by Caroline Arnold, (March 2019, Charlesbridge), $16.99, ISBN: 9781580898942

Ages 3-7

Spring is getting closer and closer, and that means that science classrooms all over the place are going to introduce their little ones to the life cycle of a caterpillar/butterfly. We’ve done it in my home, and each of my kids has done it in school, and it’s exciting every time. Butterflies in Room 6 revisits the Kindergarten students of Room 6 – a new group, since Hatching Chicks in Room 6 was published in 2017 – as they raise butterflies, starting from teeny, tiny caterpillar eggs.

Full-color photographs and informative text take this STEM/STEAM story through the step-by-step process by which the class observed and cared for their caterpillars; feeding them, observing the stages of life, moving the chrysalises to a larger, netted environment, the exciting emergence of the painted lady butterflies from their cocoons, and their release into the world! Leaf-shaped callouts throughout the book provide additional caterpillar and butterfly facts, and back matter provides butterfly questions, vocabulary, and a nice list of online and print resources for further reading.

Butterflies in Room 6 brings a real-world look into a primary classroom – it’ll get kids excited about science, especially if this is one of your classroom projects. Pair this with The Very Hungry Caterpillar and the classic that my kids all read in their kindergarten classes, Deborah Heiligman’s From Caterpillar to Butterfly.

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

Dinosaurs books for the arts and sciences!

The 50 State Fossils: A Guidebook for Aspiring Paleontologists, by Yinan Wang/Illustrations by Jane Levy, (Sept. 2018, Schiffer Publishing), $18.99, ISBN: 9780764355578

Ages 7-12

You know that states have their own flags. You probably even knew that states have their own trees, foods, and animals, but did you know that most states have their own fossils? It’s true! 50 State Fossils give readers a state-by-state look at each one. Maryland’s state fossil, for instance, is a Sea Snail, while Michigan’s is a Mastodon – a mammal similar to elephants and mammoths. Some state fossils are plants: Oregon’s is a Dawn Redwood, while North Dakota’s is Shipworm-Bored Petrified Wood. Each entry includes a photo and illustration of the fossil (or proposed fossil, for those states that don’t have a state fossil); a state map with a designated area where fossils can be found in that state; and a brief notation on the fossil: when the fossil dates from, when it was designated a state fossil, scientific names, and a paragraph or two about the fossil.

The State Fossils are the meat of the book, but this slim volume is packed with information for budding paleontologists: there are sections on how fossils form, how a state fossil is designated, dating fossils and the geologic time scale, and taxonomic rank.  There’s a glossary, a state-by-state breakdown of where to see fossils, and further reading. Endpapers are a colorful mix of various flora and fauna that can be found in the book.

50 State Fossils is one of those books a kid will carry to the museum to refer to while wandering through exhibits (I know I used to) and makes for a great book to give dino fans. It’s a nice add to nonfiction collections and a good gift idea.

 

If da Vinci Painted a Dinosaur, by Amy Newbold/Illustrated by Greg Newbold, (Oct. 2018, Tilbury House), $17.95, ISBN: 9780884486671

Ages 4-8

This follow up to 2017’s If Picasso Painted a Snowman is an enjoyable look at dinosaurs and art history. The hamster guide is back, escorting readers through an art gallery of different artists’ takes on dinosaurs, from a da Vinci-esque Virtruvian Dino, through Katusushika Hokusai’s giant wave (with dinosaurs wave surfing), and itty bitty dinosaurs hiding in Diego Rivera’s lilies. Who would da Vinci really paint, though, if he were painting dinosaurs? Why, Dino Lisa, of course! Readers are encouraged to copy a page sporting a blank easel and make their own dinosaur artwork, and featured artists get capsule biographies at the end, along with the dinosaur species designated to their paintings. A word from artist Greg Newbold encourages readers to draw, explore, and have fun on their own artist journeys. Endpapers inspired by Henri Matisse’s paper cutouts lead the reader in and usher them out, hopefully with a head full of ideas.

This book is just too much fun! It’s a great way to introduce art and science to kids, and begs for a program where kids can learn about artists and create their own dinosaurs. I’d have used this in my art storytime, for sure. (So maybe I need to dust that storytime off and revisit it.) Booktalk and feature in an art storytime with Lucy Volpin’s Crocdali; David Wiesner’s Art & Max; My Museum by Joanne Liu, and Henri’s Scissors by Jeanette Winter. This one’s an absolute add to collections.

Posted in Fiction, Intermediate, picture books

Dad’s Camera explains Alzheimer’s to children

Dad’s Camera, by Ross Watkins/Illustrated by Liz Anelli, (Oct. 2018, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536201383

Ages 5-10

A boy’s father comes home one day with “one of those old cameras, the kind that uses film”, and starts taking pictures of the world around him. The boy and his mother don’t think much of it at first – Dad is doing funny things, like putting tools in the fridge, and milk in the cupboard; it’s what the doctor says will continue happening. As Dad continues photographing everyday objects, the boy and his mother wonder why he’s not taking pictures of them: aren’t they worth remembering, too? Dad just looks puzzled, and makes collages of his developed photos, sticking them on a window. When Dad passes, a package arrives for the boy and his mother: it’s the camera, with one photo left to be developed. The boy and his mother discover a final photo from Dad: a family portrait.

Dad’s Camera is a heartbreaking conversation about a young family struggling with Alzheimer’s, inspired by the author’s father-in-law, who developed the disease when his daughter was a tween. An author’s note explains that Ross Watkins wrote Dad’s Camera to “create a way for children and adults to talk about the confusion often surrounding Alzheimer’s, but also to celebrate the tenderness and small surprises of such difficult times”. Mission accomplished: Dad’s Camera is a series of poignant, small moments that are tender and loving; a bright spot in a family’s dark time. It’s a moving, bittersweet story of loss, grief, and the joy of memory and is a smart addition to your collections. It begins a conversation that is normally reserved for grandparents and elder family members, and provides a comforting strength for families.

 

Liz Anelli’s incorporates collage, watercolor, mono print, acrylic, and digital color to create a sedate atmosphere for the story, always mindful of details that readers will discover through multiple reads. A bus runs a camera film ad on its side in one spread; in the next spread, the camera arrives in a box with the same photo on the side. The colors are warm, homey, and yet, infused with a sadness and a yearning.

Dad’s Camera was originally published in the UK as One Photo (2016).