Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Stella’s Stellar Hair is out of this world!

Stella’s Stellar Hair, by Yesenia Moises, (Jan. 2021, Imprint), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250261779

Ages 4-8

Stella is a little girl with a fabulous head of hair! She wakes up on the morning of the Big Star Little Gala, though, and her hair is just not doing what she wants it to – so her mother sends her off across the solar system to get some hair advice from her aunties on all the different planets, and the sun! Every auntie has their own gorgeous style: twists, braids, buns, all beautiful, but not quite what Stella has in mind. Sun-dwelling Auntie Solana has the best advice of all: “there’s really no such thing as hair not acting right – your hair just wants to be a little more fun today. / And that’s okay. / You don’t have to change a thing. / Just be yourself”. A wonderful celebration of loving oneself, Stella’s Stellar Hair is the definition of Black Joy and Black Girl Magic. The story celebrates the different styles of Black hair, using the back matter to describe the type of atmosphere on each planet and how each hairstyle would be best adapted to it.

Can I have a moment to gush about the vibrant colors? The cartoon artwork is adorable, and the deep colors are just a wonder to look at. The blues and purples that run through most of the book are incredible, and then bright yellows come in to add a glow to the pages, and come together to create a reading experience that kids will return to often. I love this book.

Stella’s Stellar Hair has a starred review from Kirkus.

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, Middle Grade, Science Fiction

Books from Quarantine: Secret Explorers and the Comet Collision

The Secret Explorers and the Comet Collision, by SJ King, (July 2020, DK), $5.99, ISBN: 978-0744021066

Ages 7-10

This is the second book in an upcoming new series from DK; the first, The Secret Explorers and the Lost Whales, also publishes on July 7, 2020. Perfect reading for kids who loved Little Einsteins, Octonauts, or Wild Kratts when they were younger, these chapter books introduce a group of Secret Explorers – kids who specialize in different areas of the sciences – who go on secret missions to gather knowledge and solve a big problem. In Comet Collision, two explorers, Roshni and Ollie, have to work together when they’re sent into space to fix a broken space probe by the planet Jupiter. A comet is set to collide with the planet and will wipe out all the probe’s important data if they don’t fix it in time, so they have to work together and work fast!

Loaded with adventure, facts, and fast-paced reading, this is a fun new STEM-based series for readers. You don’t need to read the first book to enjoy this one (I picked this up at ALA Midwinter, and thought it was the first in the series until I finished it and saw the “2” on the spine). The kids play with cool technology, are specialists in different areas of science, and take readers to space and beyond. This will be a good series to fit with the Imagine Your Story Summer Reading theme this year, too – ask your readers to think of their favorite type of science (or give them one to explore) and ask them to imagine their story as a scientist in space, in a rain forest, in a lab, anywhere. Black and white cartoony artwork throughout helps place readers on a spacewalk and at the controls of a spaceship. The cast of characters is multicultural, from all over the world.

Invite kids to learn more about space probes from NASA, and about Jupiter and the other planets here.

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

To Infinity and Beyond! The Day the Universe Exploded My Head

The Day the Universe Exploded My Head: Poems to Take You Into Space and Back Again, by Allan Wolf/Illustrated by Anna Raff, (March 2019, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9780763680251

Ages 7-12

This is one of the best kids’ poetry books I’ve come across in a while! The Day the Universe Exploded My Head contains 29 poems, all about the wonder of space. Each planet gets a poem here, as do the outliers (Planet X, Charon, Pluto). There are nods to pivotal moments in space history (the 2013 meteorite over Cheylabinsk, Sputnik) natural phenomena (black holes, lunar and solar eclipses), and notable scientists (Ivan Ivanovich, Children of Astronomy). The poems are upbeat, factual, and, quite often, very funny, as with the poem, “Planet X”: “I’m one part supercilious/Another part mysterious/One part you-can’t-be-serious/They call me Planet X”. There are a wealth of poems for readers to read out loud, too: “Going the Distance” is a rap for two voices, color-coded for each speaker. The artwork: digitally assembled color collage, made from sumi ink washes, salt, pen, and pencil, explode off the page, with texture that will entice kids to see the swirls of light curling off a star and a fuzzy rings of moons around Neptune.

Non-fiction that informs and excites is aces with me, and The Day the Universe Exploded My Head is a great way to kick off and conclude a space storytime, a STEM program, or a fun read-aloud. Have some printable space coloring sheets ready to hand out, or check out illustrator Anna Raff’s webpage for super-cool activities (I like the Little Card printable for a library visit). Author Allan Wolf’s webpage also has activities, including poetry jokes.

The Day the Universe Exploded My Head has starred reviews from Kirkus and Booklist.

 

Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

The newest Board Books for little learners are GREAT!

I have a special place in my heart for a good board book. They’re so little, and durable, and take the biggest ideas in the world and make them perfect for little eyes, fingers, and minds (and yes, mouths) to enjoy. I  love everything about board books, so I’m always on the lookout for good ones to read to my toddlers and babies. Here are the latest ones that you can expect to show up in storytimes.

8 Little Planets, by Chris Ferrie/Illustrated by Lizzie Doyle, (Oct. 2018, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $10.99, ISBN: 9781492671244

Ages 2-5

How adorable is this book?! Put a cute little face on a planet or two, and I will buy it. It’s a weakness. Chris Ferrie, whose praises I sing pretty regularly here at MomReadIt, shifts his focus from the sciences to this sweet rhyming story about the planets. Counting down from 8 to 1, readers learn a couple of facts about each planet, from Neptune to Mercury, in an upbeat rhyming pattern that kids and caregivers will easily clap along with. Each planet is unique in its own way: Uranus spins on one side; Mars has the tallest mountain in the solar system. The collage artwork adds fun texture; there are corrugated planets and waffle-patterned moons, comets that combine textures, and happy stars and constellations abound. The happy-faced planets are going to delight any reader that comes across the book.

This is a perfect flannel board read. I’m going to have to get some flannel planets underway. Pair this with They Might Be Giants’ “How Many Planets?” to get the little ones up and dancing. For some more nonfiction-y board books, you can’t go wrong with ABC Universe, from the American Museum of Natural History (nice and big, for a larger storytime), and Our Solar System, also from the American Museum of Natural History, complete with graduated flaps that make turning pages a little easier for itty bitty fingers.

Vroom Vroom Garbage Truck, by Asia Citro/Illustrated by Troy Cummings, (Oct. 2018, Innovation Press), $8.99, ISBN: 9781943147434

Ages 0-4

A garbage truck wakes up and starts its day in this fun board book. Creaks and clangs, rumbles and bangs, and naturally, vroom-a-vroom vrooms abound as the garbage truck trundles through the city, picking up the trash and keeping its headlights open for crossing ducks and slowing down for a grateful early riser who forgot to put out his trash the night before. After a trip to the dump to lighten its load, Garbage Truck heads back to the garage for a good night’s sleep, with a shush, a sigh, and a click.

Told using only sound effects, this is a great story for infant and toddler storytime! There are so many fun sounds to make, and inviting caregivers to rumble and gently bounce little ones on their laps adds to the fun. Bold, black lines, bold, large text, and bright colors will keep little eyes engaged and active. There are oodles of great transportation board books out there to make for a fun storytime, especially anything by Byron Barton. If you want to go with a city-inspired storytime, you can’t go wrong with Christopher Franceschelli’s CityBlock. Songs and fingerplays abound, too. Add some plastic cars and trucks to your playtime and let the toddlers vroom along!

 

You Can Be, by Elise Gravel, (Oct. 2018, Innovation Press), $8.99, ISBN: 978-1-943147-40-3

Ages 3-5

A sight familiar to any kid or caregiver, You Can Be starts readers off with a carefree kid, clad only in underwear, running across the cover. And you know this is going to be a kid-friendly book about being a carefree, happy kiddo. Elise Gravel starts off by telling readers, “There are many ways to be a kid. You can be…” and proceeds to bring readers through weird and wonderful ways of being a kid: funny and sensitive; noisy and artsy; grumpy and smelly (sometimes… complete with toot cloud!). Kids are diverse and the drawings are bold and bright, each adjective large, bold, colorful, and fun. The message here? You can be angry, you can be smelly, you can be funny, or quiet… there’s no wrong way to be a kid. After all, as Elise Gravel says, “you can feel “almost any way you feel like being. (Except mean or rude, of course.)” I love that gender doesn’t define anyone’s mood here: girls are smelly, boys are artsy; kids are kids. It’s a great message to readers about self-acceptance and self-awareness.

Invite your readers to act out different moods! Let them be as silly or serious as they want to be. I love all things Elise Gravel, so this one will be on my shelves, no question. Pair this one with any Todd Parr book for a feel good, I Love Me! storytime. Check out Elise’s website for a free downloadable book, Artsy Boys and Smelly Girls, and other fun downloadables!

 

Autumn Babies and Winter Babies, by Kathryn O. Galbraith/Illustrated by Adela Pons, (Sept. 2018, Peachtree Publishers), $6.95, ISBN: 9781682630662 (Autumn) and 9781682630679 (Winter)

The first in a new series, Babies in the Park, Autumn Babies and Winter Babies star a group of multicultural babies who discover the joy in each season as they play in the park. Composed of two- and three-word sentences, each book takes readers through a park as it goes through the season. The four babies ( Sai, Simón, Jayden, and Emma) are dressed for the season and stomp, romp, and roll through the Fall, throwing sticks for pups to fetch, flying kites, and throwing leaves.

They bundle up for their winter playdate, sporting boots, hats, scarves, and warm coats. Snow plops, and babies catch snowflakes on their tongues, run, glide, and ride through the snow. Each book begins with a simple statement of the season: “It’s autumn in the park.” “It’s winter in the park”, establishing the season, and ends with a closeup of one a baby, with a joyful exclamation of the season: “It’s Autumn!” “It’s Winter!”

These books are such fun ways to greet the seasons, and the Babies in the Park idea is adorable. Give parents and caregivers ideas about activities – Peachtree has done the work for you and made up an activity companion sheet to the books! There are great extension activities to engage the kids during storytime: show different shapes (circle trees, diamond kites, triangle roofs), talk about different colors that you see. There are so many seasonal songs and fingerplays to be found on the Web: TeachingMama, one of my favorite blogs, always has adorable printables that you can give out to your families to sing along; let them bring the sheets home to keep the kids singing along after storytime.

If you want to read a little more about the series, Peachtree has an article on their website. Spring Babies and Summer Babies will be out early next year, so completionists like me can breathe a sigh of relief.

Posted in Fiction, Intermediate, picture books, Preschool Reads

August Picture Book Rundown

Loretta’s Gift, by Pat Zietlow Miller/Illustrated by Alea Marley, (Aug. 2018, little bee books), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1499806816

Recommended for readers 4-8

Loretta is a little girl who’s so excited when she learns that her aunt and uncle are having a baby! Everyone is busy getting ready for the baby; making things, buying things, preparing a room, but try as she might, Loretta can’t seem to make the perfect gift. When Baby Gabe is born, Loretta feeds with him and plays with him; she adores him and he has the biggest smiles for her. At Gabe’s first birthday party, Loretta is sad that she doesn’t have a gift for him yet, but when he falls and hurts himself, Loretta knows just what to do. Turns out, love is the best gift of all.

This gentle story is a sweet way to show kids that the best gifts aren’t bought; they’re already with us. Loretta’s capacity to love Gabe, to make him smile and laugh, and to comfort him, is a gift that means more to him than any toy that will break or be forgotten. The story delivers this message in the most loving of ways, while showing readers about the exciting preparations made for a new baby: the room decorating, the knitting, the collection of family photos, even wrestling with putting together the crib. Getting ready to welcome Gabe involves the whole family. Loretta’s parents makes the wonderful statement that “Babies are a celebration… of love. Of Life. Of hope”, and Loretta’s first response is to look at her aunt’s belly and wonder if all of that and a baby could fit in one belly? It’s an adorable and perfectly childlike reaction.

The artwork is warm, with earthy shades of green, orange, and muted, darker colors; there are some great textured patterns that make me think there may be some collage here. The illustrations give a comfortable, close feel to the story.

Loretta’s Gift is a nice addition to New Baby collections, and a good big brother/sister/relative gift idea.

 

How to Cook a Princess, by Ana Martinez Castillo/Illustrated by Laura Liz, Translated by Ben Dawlatly (Aug. 2018, nubeOCHO), $16.96, ISBN: 9788494692642

Recommended for ages 7-10

Dark fantasy fans with a morbid sense of humor, this one’s for you. No handsome princes are saving the day here: he’s likely to end up in a stew or as a side dish (with frog legs, to be precise). Gingrich the witch is famous for her recipes, and she dishes all here, where she cooks up the best of fairytale royalty. You’ll learn what kitchen utensils are best (a cage should have 12 padlocks and 2 chains, to prevent sneaky princesses from escaping) and how to trap a princess; there are recipes, like the Snow White Stew, which also gives a shout-out to the dwarves for their skill in rearing organic, free-range princess; and there are tasty treats, like little pigs, fairy godmothers, Puss in Boots, and, yes, Prince Charmings. It goes without saying that this hilarious book is best served with a side of tongue in cheek. The pencil artwork is loaded with gasps from horrified – or, really, more very annoyed – princesses and dark shades. This is a book of fairy tales for kids who don’t think they like fairy tales. Booktalk this one with The Lunch Witch graphic novels. How to Cook a Princess was originally released in Spanish in 2017.

 

A Place for Pluto, by Stef Wade/Illustrated by Melanie Demmer, (Aug. 2018, Capstone), $15.95, ISBN: 978-1-68446-004-5

Ages 5-8

Pluto is a happy little planet; he’s one of the famous Nine and life’s all good until the day the news breaks: he’s not a planet anymore. He’s confused and sad, and wanders around the universe trying to figure out where he fits in: can he be a comet, like his buddy, Haley? How about a meteoroid or an asteroid? Just when Pluto doesn’t think he fits in anywhere, he meets a whole new group of friends who are just like him: the dwarf planets! This book is just adorable, and it’s my son’s favorite of the BookExpo 2018 haul. It’s a smart approach to explaining Pluto’s history to readers, with a timeline (1930 – Pluto’s a planet! 2006 – Nope, it’s not!) and information on what makes Pluto, Ceres, Eris, Makemake, and Haumea dwarf planets, as opposed to part of the Big Nine. With an upbeat messages about identity, acceptance, and friendship, and adorable artwork, this is a must-add to your planet books. (We sing They Might Be Giants’ “How Many Planets?” planet song – modified to include all the dwarf planets, Haley’s comet, and a few galaxies – at home, after reading this one.)

 

 

The Truth About Dinosaurs, by Guido van Genechten, (Aug. 2018, Clavis Publishing), $18.95, ISBN: 978-1-60537-423-9

Ages 5-10

A chicken walks readers through its family history to prove that they are descended from dinosaurs. Family resemblances include has similar feet and feathers, in addition to that whole egg-hatching business. Presented as a family album, The Truth About Dinosaurs is a fun introduction to dino science for readers, with an accessible illustration of evolution from dinosaur to modern-day birds, and ends with the chicken hatching a rather large dino egg. Guido van Genecthen uses earth tones and his cartoony look to make non-threatening dinosaurs, and the green chicken is an amusing host to the book. The scrapbook features BC dates when showing off the “family photos” throughout history, and each dinosaur’s weight appears on tags that look like amusement part tickets. It’s a cute, additional add for your dino collections.

 

Maximillian Villainous, by Margaret Chiu Greanias/Illustrated by Lesley Breen Withrow, (Aug. 2018, Running Press Kids), $16.99, ISBN: 9780762462971

Ages 5-8

Poor Maximillian Villainous! He’s from a long line of villainous monsters, but he doesn’t have it in him to be mean. He always finds a way to make up for things his family does, like giving Santa Claus the keys to the family car when his father stole Santa’s sleigh, or sending Mother Nature to a spa when his mother stole her powers. But when his family threatens to get rid of his pet bunny – it’s not a suitably villainous sidekick – he promises to succeed at three evil tasks to make things right. He’s got to steal something; make someone cry, and gain fame by being devious. What his family doesn’t realize is how open to interpretation that is! Maximillian Villainous is a sweet story about being true to oneself, accepting who you are – even if that’s different from how those around you think you should be – and the wonderful power of kind acts. The storytelling is light and plays with interpretation, and the artwork reminds me of Richard Scarry’s bold colors and big facial expressions. Pair this one with Mo Willems’ Leonardo the Terrible Monster for some monsters that aren’t really very monstrous.

 

That’s a taste of what August has in store. What books are you excited for?

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

Discovering Mars: The Amazing Story of the Red Planet

mars

Discovering Mars: The Amazing Story of the Red Planet, by Melvin Berger and Mary Kay Carson (Aug. 2015, Scholastic), $5.99, ISBN: 9780545839600

Recommended for ages 7-11

This updated edition of Discovering Mars features a new cover and updated information and discoveries about the Red Planet. Recognized as an exemplar text by the Common Core State Standards, this latest version of the book includes the Mars Curiosity Rover’s mission and detection of organic compounds on the planet, leading to increased discussions about whether or not Mars had the ability to sustain life at one point.

Other topics covered include early theories about Mars, including the ancient Romans, who named the blood-red planet after the god of war and the vocabulary mixup between English and Italian that had some people thinking that the dark lines visible on the planet’s surface were man-made waterways!

We’ve also got a history of NASA’s Mars research and the future wish list for further research and discovery on the planet. I’m thrilled with this updated edition of Discovering Mars – make sure you keep a copy handy in your home or school library, and give your kids money for this one at the next Scholastic Book Fair.

 

 

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

Our Moon gives us a new look at an old friend

our moonOur Moon: New Discoveries About Earth’s Closest Companion, by Elaine Scott (Feb. 2016, Clarion Books), $18.99, ISBN: 9780547483948

Recommended for ages 10-13

You may have heard the old myth about the man in the moon, or even that the moon was made of green cheese. Did you hear about a Chinese princess named Chang-o or a rabbit, though? Those ancient Chinese stories are only the beginning of what I learned from Elaine Scott’s Our Moon: New Discoveries About Earth’s Closest Companion.

 

Our Moon is a great biography about our one and only satellite, Luna. The Moon. We get her all of her numbers: size, speed, temperature; we learn in depth about her phases, and her origin story. Ms. Scott gives us a history of lunar research and exploration, from the Turkish philosopher Anaxagoras’ ideas about moonlight being a reflection of the sun’s light back in the 5th century B.C.E. to the modern lunar landings and space travel. The book is loaded with photographs and quick facts that make for easy reading. A glossary breaks down terms used in the book, and there are resources for further reading, both on- and offline.

This is the book I’d have wanted in my astronomy library when I was a kid. It’s a great library purchase and a great home library purchase. Our Moon will be available in February, 2016, but you can pre-order it from Amazon.

Elaine Scott is an award-winning nonfiction author of children’s books. Her author website includes information about her books, honors, and school visits.

Posted in Non-Fiction, Tween Reads

How to Make a Planet makes astronomy accessible – and awesome – to middle graders

how to make a planetHow to Make a Planet, by Scott Forbes/Illustrated by Jean Camden. Kids Can Press (2012), $17.95, ISBN: 9781894786881

Recommended for ages 8-12

How to Make a Planet takes the best part of an astronomy textbook and makes it accessible to middle grade students. Written as a how-to-guide to making your own planet, Scott Forbes breaks down the entire process of Earth’s formation, from the Big Bang through to the arrival of… well, us. Mr. Forbes writes about quarks and neutrons, the periodic table of elements and continental drift, all in a way that neither speaks down to his audience nor bores them. Accompanied by Jean Camden’s fun illustrations, including kids working on their planetary masterpiece and bike riding across the solar system, with giant insects, dinosaurs and more, there is always something exciting to read and see. A running “Time Check” box contains information bullets describing what’s happening at different intervals in the Earth’s creation. There is an Amazing Facts page, glossary and index.

This book is a great resource for teachers and librarians to have available in classroom, school, and public libraries. It’s a great way increase science literacy and interest younger readers in the sciences.

 

 

 

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