Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Earth: We’ve only got one.

What do you do when you have some really cool, new, science-y stories? You put together a supercool Science Storytime!

Only One, by Deborah Hopkinson and Chuck Groenik, (Apr. 2022, Anne Schwartz Books), $17.99, ISBN: 9780399557033

Ages 4-8

A young girl talks to her friends and family about the story of the universe from the Big Bang to the development of our big blue dot, planet Earth, and how it evolved to sustain life. As the narrative progresses, we see that she’s leading her group to a tree planting event. Only One is perfect Earth Day reading, filled with interesting observations about the formation of the universe and the planets, and about our own planet’s uniqueness and ability to host a multitude of diverse life forms: “But though there are seven billion of us, / we are unique, / with bodies, brains, fingerprints, / and feelings of our own”. Arcylic, ink, and Photoshop illustrations beautifully bring the story to life, bringing the girl’s story to life through vivid word balloons and showing the group small against the giant scale of a forest, the clouds, and the atmosphere; pulling back, a spread shifts to show a diverse group of people coming together to plant trees against a forest shore. Additional resources guide readers to more information about caring for our planet and about climate change. A lovely reminder that we have one planet and to be mindful stewards, while empowering readers to take action. Miss Becca’s Classroom on TeachersPayTeachers has a free downloadable climate change activism activity that would make a good display piece or storytime handout for readers in grades K-2.

 

Posted in Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Tales from the TBR: The Mutant Mushroom Takeover

The Mutant Mushroom Takeover, by Summer Rachel Short, (Sept. 2020, Simon & Schuster), $17.99, ISBN: 9781534468658

Ages 9-12

Science thriller meets low-level horror in this first-person narrated middle grade novel. Magnolia is an aspiring naturalist who lives in Shady Pines with her older brother and grandmother after their father loses his job and has to move to another state to find work. Her best friend, Nate, is an aspiring YouTuber conspiracy theorist. The two head to Old Bell’s farm to investigate possible paranormal activity, only to stumble on something far more insidious: giant, bio-luminescent mushrooms, and Old Man Bell, who collapses after catching the kids on his property. Old Bell’s mysterious last words are unsettling enough, but Maggie’s brother, his friends, and her Shady Pines neighbors start acting strangely, prompting Maggie to start doing some investigating into the possible mutant mushroom takeover. Maggie is a smart, fully realized character; Nate is largely played for laughs as her foil, but this is the first “Maggie and Nate Mystery”, and I’m looking forward to seeing both characters develop in future adventures. There’s delightfully creepy and gross moments, filled with freaky mushroom spores, giant spiders, and bat guano, for starters. An author’s note touches on the facts inspiring the fiction and makes for a great STEM discussion book.

Visit author Summer Rachel Short’s webpage for a Mutant Mushrom Takeover discussion guide, and to read about the next Maggie and Nate mystery coming next year!

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Environmentally savvy storytelling: Moles Present The Natural Tolls of Digging Holes

Moles Present The Natural Tolls of Digging Holes, by Springer Badger, (Nov. 2021, Page Street Kids), $17.99, ISBN: 9781645672876

Ages 4-8

Already updating your Earth Day collections? Take a look at this rhyming tale about the holes we dig, as a group of moles illustrate the different reasons we dig: some are for fun, like to create sandboxes; some are helpful, to use as bathrooms; some are to explore and discover, like archaeologists do. But some are to put stinky or poisonous things, and sometimes, we dig too deeply, which can cause other problems. A smart, humorous rhyme pairs with amusing artwork that lets us look at what’s going on underground, from zombie moles to a school of fish panicking as one of their own nips onto a fishing pole; signage like “Brutish Petroleum” and “Exxoff” are wink to adults who will recognize gas and oil companies. An environmental call to action that younger readers will love. Make sure to have copies of the activity kit available to hand out (print on the other side of scrap paper!)

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

Honest History gives middle graders new perspectives

Publisher Gibbs Smith hit shelves in August with two history titles that are great gift ideas and lots of fun for your nonfiction collections: History is Delicious, and History is Inventive.

History Is Delicious, by Joshua Lurie/Illustrated by Laura Foy, (Aug. 2021, Gibbs Smith/Honest History), $19.99, ISBN: 9781736191903

Ages 8-12

History is Delicious is a colorful, tasty trip across world history through cuisine. Food plays a part in the cultural fabric; influenced by native cultures and colonialism, the book illustrates how food brings us all together. Organized into sections highlighting the Americas, Europe, Ethiopia (and their coffee breaks!), and Asia, sections include histories of each cuisine, etiquette tips for dining across cultures, popular and “must try” dishes, and a recipe for each region. Colorful illustrations make this attractive and accessible to kids everywhere.

 

History is Inventive, by Brooke Knight/Illustrated by Sophy Smith (Aug. 2021, Honest History/Gibbs Smith), $19.99, ISBN: 9781736191927

Ages 8-12

Next up, we’ve got History is Inventive, a look at inventions and their inventors that changed the world. Straightforward sections organize inventions into timeframes like “Inventions from Long Ago”, “Inventions from Not As Long Ago”, and “Inventions from Not Long Ago” to group inventions going from ancient ideas like gunpowder (9th century AD), to the piano (17th century), to wi-fi (1940s). There’s a section on famous inventors like Charles Drew, the first African American doctor to earn a Doctor of Science from Columbia University, and creator of blood banks. A “Fun Stuff” section gives readers the background and lists of materials needed to make a version of Galileo’s telescope. “Thinking it Over” sections after every profile offer thought-provoking questions. Colorful illustrations, great pacing and layout, and hands-on activities make this another great book to have in your history and STEM collections. I am looking forward to seeing what more Honest History books are coming down the pike!

Posted in Non-Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads, Young Adult/New Adult

LEGO Mindstorms books? Gotta go with No Starch Press!

The LEGO MINDSTORMS Robot Inventor Activity Book : A Beginner’s Guide to Building and Programming LEGO Robots, by Daniele Benedettelli, (Nov. 2021, No Starch Press), $34.99, ISBN: 9781718501812
Ages 9+
I love No Starch Press for my computer and tech books. They find the best writers and illustrators to communicate tech concepts to everyone, from kids to grownups. Their manga guides to the sciences are great for my YA collection, and they move: as soon as I show a teen The Manga Guide to Calculus, I feel like I’ve done my good deed for the day. So when someone from No Starch asked me to look at the LEGO Mindstorms Robot Inventor Activity Book, I jumped! We had a robotics program at my last library, and I’m hoping to get a program going here if I can get some grant money, so a No Starch library of LEGO Mindstorms books would be a nice part of my grant.
Daniele Benedettelli delivers. He’s collaborated with LEGO Group to help develop and test LEGO MINDSTORMS, including the software for the LEGO MINDSTORMS Education EV3 set, has written several LEGO Mindstorms books. and has a YouTube channel with tutorials and experiments.
Written for beginners – no, honest – this book includes seven projects to get you up and running. Use the Robot Inventor set and the companion to to build bots like a magical monster that can answer written questions AND eat paper, a working electric guitar, or a remote-controlled transformer car that will have kids channeling their inner Optimus Prime. Pages are filled with color photos and step-by-step instructions on building and programming your robots using the Mindstorms app. Benedettelli communicates clearly and with helpful, informative detail, and clear color photos will help even the most confounded of learners .(That would be me. I’m the confounded learner.) Helpful tips and ideas abound in callout boxes. Fully indexed.
If you’re building a Mindstorms/robotics library, this is an essential book to have, especially if you haven’t run a robotics league before. Good luck!
Posted in Non-Fiction, picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

A Laura Gehl two-fer!

I love Laura Gehl’s books: from Peep and Egg to One Big Pair of Underwear and beyond, her stories have been hits at my storytimes and they’re just fun to read. Now, I’ve got some nonfiction by Laura Gehl to rave about that’s every bit as fun and unputdownable as her fiction is. Join me!

Odd Beasts: Meet Nature’s Weirdest Animals, by Laura Gehl/Illustrated by Gareth Lucas, (Nov. 2021, Abrams Appleseed), $8.99, ISBN: 9781419742224

Ages 2-4

A very happy book birthday to Odd Beasts! This rhyming board book introduces readers to some of nature’s wildest citizens: an armored pangolin, a frog with see-through skin, and a fish that weighs a ton are just a few of the animals waiting inside. This board book has back matter: two spreads include photos of each animal mentioned, with a brief factual paragraph. The artwork is incredible, offering colorful illustrations of each of the eight animals; they’re the perfect mixture of kid-friendly, expressive illustration and realism, making this a book readers will pick up and enjoy again and again. Sturdy pages hold up to multiple readings and definitely pass the “mom’s bag” test; I carried this one around with me for a couple of weeks. Great for an animal storytime.

Visit Laura Gehl’s author webpage for more info on her books, and great educator/caregiver resources, including coloring sheets for Odd Beasts!

 

Who Is a Scientist?, by Laura Gehl, (Oct. 2021, Millbrook Press), $9.99, ISBN: 9781728441085

Ages 4-9

Scientists are people, too! Who Is a Scientist? humanizes the science providers by providing profiles on 14 different scientists; who they are, what they study and do, and what they like to do when they’re not science-ing. Isha is a meteorologist who studies the weather, and also enjoys dancing, playing volleyball, and eating chocolate. She’s photographed dancing in a flowing red skirt on one page and operating a weather balloon on another. Names appear in bright colors to personalize each scientist, and fun photos like Isha’s show readers that scientists like karate, surfing, cooking, and painting: just like they do. Each descriptive paragraph explains what the scientists study, introducing them to fields like astronomy, neuroscience, and mechanical engineering. The group is diverse, and really encourages kids to see themselves in this book, offering a QR code to learn more about the scientists, and a flow chart to help guide readers to a field of study that may be right for them, based on their own interests. What a great way to inspire the next generation of scientists, right? Who Is a Scientist? makes science playful and fun, like it should be. A guide to phonetic pronunciations at the end of the book help readers learn to pronounce Laura Gehl’s name, and the names of each scientist.

Visit Laura Gehl’s author page for a Who Is a Scientist? educator’s guide.

Posted in Early Reader, Intermediate, Non-Fiction, Non-Fiction

Jurassic Pets! Dr. Dean Lomax and Mike Love gives us Preshistoric Pets

Prehistoric Pets, by Dr. Dean Lomax/Illustrated by Mike Love, (Sept. 2021, Templar), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536217148

Ages 5-9

Cat people all know that our little furballs think of themselves as savage, saber-toothed tigers on the hunt, whether they’re stalking a daydreaming dinosaur or a dust bunny. But did you ever imagine what your guinea pig’s ancestors may have looked like? Paleontologist Dr. Dean Lomax has you covered. Prehistoric Pets looks at the evolution of seven favorite kinds of pets: guinea pigs, parakeets, corn snakes, cats, goldfish, dogs, and horses. Using the fossil record to trace each pet’s lineage, Dr. Lomax goes back through the family trees of each of these popular pets to give us an idea of their prehistoric parentage. That chatty parrot likely descended from the Velociraptor; your corn snake can trace its heritage back to the giant Titanoboa. Each spread folds out into a pop-up gatefold, with the prehistoric beast rising up from the pages. Loaded with facts about both the modern animal and its primeval counterpart, and filled with colorful artwork, this is a home run for your prehistory collections. Display and talk up with one of my favorite read-alouds, Steve Jenkins’s Prehistoric Actual Size. The pop-ups are going to seal the deal for readers on this book – get a couple if your budget permits.

 

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

Starting off Earth Day right!

Earth Day is coming at the end of the month, so expect to see lots of books about our big blue dot here over the next few weeks. Today, I’m starting with the earth – the ground itself – and what it gives us.

A World of Plants by Martin Jenkins & James Brown, (March 2021, Candlewick Studio), $25, ISBN: 9781536215328

Ages 7-10

The latest in the “A World of…” series from Martin Jenkins and James Brown is all about plants. Organized into 30 areas and fully illustrated with 2-color artwork and infographics, this oversized book covers plants from seed to bloom; how they spread, who eats them and who they eat; plants that thrive in different habitats, and more. A Plants in Peril section covers conservation and environmental awareness, with an eye to different plants that are threatened, overharvested, and facing habitat destruction.  A section on symbolic plants discusses the link between religion and nature. Fun facts abound: learn your climbing plants, for instance, by identifying which are twiners, which are tendrils and leaf twiners, which are clingers, and which are hook climbers. How do plants defend themselves? A World of Plants goes beyond thorns and looks at the dumb cane, a plant that accumulates needlelike crystals that can pierce an animal’s mouth, or the passionflower, whose leaves mimic dots that look like butterfly eggs, so butterfiles will pass them by. A World of Plants is a nice addition to a beautiful nonfiction series. Sample a chapter at publisher Candlewick’s website.

 

Fungarium (Welcome to the Museum), curated by Katie Scott and Ester Gaya, (April 2021, Big Picture Press), $35, ISBN: 9781536217094

Ages 8-12

Another good nonfiction series, Welcome to the Museum, introduces its newest wing, Fungarium. It’s all about the mushrooms here! Organized into four galleries, readers will get the full scoop on Fungal Biology, Fungal Diversity, Fungal Interactions, and Fungi and Humans. Fungi get a pretty bad rap (myself included: not a mushroom fan), but this book seeks to clear up a lot of issues people have: without fungi, there would be no coffee, tea, or chocolate, which is reason enough for me to fully support my local mycologist. Beautiful scientific illustration brings the diversity of these organisms to life on the page, and detailed keys to each plate provide helpful information at a glance. Entries on each section in the galleries give readers plenty of information to get them started on learning about fungi, from what’s growing on that tree we pass on the way to school every morning to what’s in cans at the grocery store. Worried about what not to eat? The section on Poisonous Fungi makes sure you know how to identify a Death cap, False morel, or Destroying angel. If that’s too much of a turn-off, head over to Wonder Drugs and learn how fungi are also the source of many modern medicines, including that wonder drug, penicillin. Fully indexed, with a list of further resources and brief bios on the curators behind the book, Fungarium is a nice addition to the Welcome to the Museum series. Publisher Candlewick has a sample chapter available for viewing.

Fungarium has starred reviews from Booklist and Kirkus.

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, picture books, Preschool Reads

Indie author/publisher spotlight!

I’m back with more independently published authors! You’ve seen them here before: both Lois Wickstrom and Riya Aarini have been kind enough to share their books with me in the past, and I’m happy to feature more of their books today. Let’s see what Carefree Ollie and Alex the Inventory are up to, and meet some new friends along the way.

How to Make a Flying Carpet, by Lois Wickstrom/Illustrated by Janet King, (November 2020, Independently Published),  $24.99, ISBN: 978-0916176778

Ages 7-11

Alex is a girl who likes science and likes repurposing broken things, so when a frog magnet falls from her refrigerator and breaks, she sees opportunity. Taking the magnet, she discovers that she can rescue her father’s key from the heating vent where it fell, and she can make paper clips dance. She begins experimenting with the magnets to find out what else she can do, and when she discovers a cache of magnets in the garage, she gets an idea… can she use the repelling powers of magnets to make a real flying carpet? Filled with fun and easily creatable experiment with magnets, How to Make a Flying Carpet is a fun STEM/STEAM story that will work really well with a science club/Discovery Club. The illustrations help kids visualize how to work with magnets, especially in a household setting: super-helpful these days, when finding things around the house is the best way to keep kids busy during remote and blended learning days! Alex’s interest in learning and in expanding the scope of her experiments will motivate kids to dig deeper and embrace the fun in learning. If you’re interested in more magnet experiments, Babble Dabble Do has four easy magnet experiments that you can easily do with household items or with a quick trip to the 99-cent store.

Visit author Lois Wickstrom’s website, Look Under Rocks, for more information about her books, including What Do the Plants Say?, her first Alex the Inventor story.

 

Ollie’s Garden (Carefree Ollie #3), by Riya Aarini/Illustrated by Virvalle Caravallo, (Nov. 2020, Independently Published), $15.99, ISBN: 978-1735347325

Ages 6-10

Carefree Ollie has to negotiate between bickering groups of animals in his garden kingdom in his latest adventure. The orange ladybugs won’t let the red ladybugs near the daisies; frogs are chasing toads away from the water because they “ribbit” while toads “croak”; chipmunks and squirrels are quarreling over their tails. With Ollie’s garden kingdom in chaos, it’s up to him to stop the fighting and help bring peace, tolerance, and understanding to the kingdom once more.  A sweet parable on equity, diversity, and inclusion, Ollie’s Garden is a good way to approach embracing our differences and how those differences make us wonderful. Digital artwork is kid-friendly and colorful, and the storytelling is a good starting point for your own discussions about how diversity makes us stronger.

Education.com has some great activities on diversity, including a Kindergarten lesson plan on Appreciating Diversity, a second grade lesson plan on Appreciating Diversity and Differences, and a Welcome All activity for Kindergarten and first graders that helps develop an appreciation for differences and building social awareness.

 

Sam and Sophie, by Kerry Olitzky/Illustrated by Jen Hernandez, (March 2021, Higher Ground Books & Media), $12.99, ISBN: 978-1949798838

Ages 3-7

Sam has just become a big brother to baby sister Sophie, but he’s frustrated. There doesn’t seem to be much time or energy left over for him, and he’s not happy with all the attention baby Sophie is getting. But when Baby Sophie gets sick, Sam finds himself worrying and trying to make her happy and feel better. A moving story that grows from the Jewish tradition of planting a tree when a new child is born, Sam and Sophie includes back matter on the tradition and on trees, people, and their relationship to God. Mixed media artwork has a manga influence. Sam and Sophie is a good book to begin a talk on sibling jealousy and how to navigate complicated feelings that arise when a new baby arrives.

Posted in Early Reader, Non-Fiction, Preschool Reads

#HomesCool Pop Up Books for Little Learners

Twirl Books is releasing incredible new books for little learners. I was thrilled to receive a big box of their new and upcoming books, and I’ve loved everything I’ve read so far. This post looks at two pop-up nonfiction titles for preschoolers that are going to love. Make space in your easy nonfiction and board book libraries: Twirl is taking over.

The Pop-Up Guide: Space, by Sophie Dussaussois/Illustrated by Charline Picard, (March 2021, Twirl Books), $16.99, ISBN: 9791036325199

Ages 3-5

A pop-up guide to space is just what the budding astronomer ordered! Ten spreads open up to reveal 3-D starscapes, our solar system, the lunar landing, the International Space Station, and more. Brief paragraphs provide a factual overview of each spread, and pictures are labeled to increase readers’ science vocabulary, with terms and proper nouns including “observatory”, “centrifuge”, “Buzz Aldrin”, and “Curiosity rover”. Illustrations are colorful and informative, with detail to engage readers. The pages are sturdy, but you’ll want to buy a copy to keep in reference to be on the safe side. Elastic bands on the corners of the front cover make for a nice hands-free reading experience, letting kids examine every inch of the illustrations on each spread. I can’t wait to see what other Pop-Up Guides Twirl has planned!

 

Ultimate Spotlight: Rain Forest Animals, by Sandra Laboucarie/Illustrated by Émilie Lapeyre, (March 2021, Twirl Books), $16.99, ISBN: 9791027608775

Ages 4-7

The Ultimate Spotlight series from Twirl is also has pop-up panels, but adds other interactive features like lift-the-flaps, movable tabs, and turn-the-wheel. Five spreads take readers through a rain forest, where they can see a 3-D representation of the layered forest, from ground up through emergent layer; play hide and seek with camouflaged denizens of the forest; meet animal families; discover gliding animals and see how they move, and explore a foldout visualizing of the rain forest by day and at night. Animals are clearly labeled and brief, factual sentences provide exciting new facts for animal fans. Pages will hold up to a lot of reading, but I’d consider a backup copy if your budget allows. I’d also reinforce the spines of both books with library tape if you have it; these are going to be heavily circulated. Illustrations are colorful, with the vibrant colors of the rain forests and its citizens nicely represented. Kids are going to love this and the other books in the Ultimate Spotlight series: Savanna Animals, Dinosaurs, Firefighters, Trains, and Astronauts.