Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Tales from the TBR: Detectives, Nightmare Bugs, Fetching Cats, Cities, and Geraldine!

I know, it’s been a month. Crazy, right? It’s one of those moments when you just don’t realize how fast time goes until you realize… well, how fast time goes. But let’s jump right back in, since I’ve got a stack of books to talk about and some cool library programs to share. Let’s start with the books. Here’s a round-up.

The Upside Down Detective Agency, by Ellie Hattie/Illustrated by Brendan Kearney, (Aug. 2022, Kane Miller), $14.99, ISBN: 9781684644148

Ages 4-8

Welcome to Super Sleuth HQ! Meet Stella and Stan, two crime-solving sloths who may look similar but who have different personalities that will help readers tell them apart. A famous race car driver gives them a big case, and they need help from the reader to solve it! With interactive prompts and visual clues throughout, this fun book combines an entertaining story with a seek-and-find activity to keep readers engaged and sharpening their observation and problem-solving skills. A variety of colorful landscapes take readers to a race car garage, a lavish mansion, and a race track; friendly anthropomorphic animals stand shoulder-to-shoulder with people, and the villain sports a monocle. Endpapers show Stella, Stan, and the key to the mystery. I’d love to see Stella and Stan solve mysteries in different locales!

There are some fun seek and find worksheets available through TeachersPayTeachers, for an extension activity. This springtime sheet from Casey Wiggins is great for younger readers; The Speech Owl has an 18-card set to create a fun inferencing game.

The Nightmare Bug, by Hillary Daecher/Illustrated by Angie Hohenadel, (Sept. 2022, Schiffer Kids), $16.99, ISBN: 9780764364310

Ages 4-8

A child learns to confront their nightmare in this rhyming story. Every time the child is in the middle of a wonderful dream, the Nightmare Bug shows up and ruins it! Mom lets her little one in on a secret: she used to have a Nightmare Bug, too, but she learned how to conquer it: with a hug. As the child goes back to sleep, they take two stuffed friends in for company and wait for the Bug to show up. Black backgrounds set the nighttime tone for the story, allowing bold, colorful artwork to pop off and emphasize surrealist dreamscapes; Hohenadel plays with negative space, letting the inky Nightmare Bug form as a planet or a wrapped piece of candy. Sharp-eyed readers will enjoy keeping an eye out for the bug; invite them to let you know when he’s near! Daecher tells a soothing bedtime story and teaches a valuable “hurt people hurt people” lesson by showing readers that the best way to defeat a fear is not only to confront it, but embrace it. A good choice for collections dealing with bedtime fears.

Want a good extension activity? Have construction paper around and invite kids to create their Nightmare Bugs. Use black construction paper and scissors for bigger kids, or colorful construction paper and crayons for littler creators. Try giving the kids some chalk and let them create surrealist, dreamlike creations.

 

Fetch Cat, Fetch!, by Charles Ghigna/Illustrated by Michelle Hazelwood Hyde, (Sept. 2022, Schiffer Kids), $14.99, ISBN: 9780764364600

Ages 4-7

Father Goose is at it again with this hilarious story about a little girl trying to teach her cat some new tricks… and the cat, who just wants to nap. Told in 3-word repetitive phrases: “Here, Cat. Here!”; “Speak, Cat. Speak!”, and “Dance, Cat. Dance!”, an adorable little girl attempts to get her cat to jump rope, climb a treehouse, take part in a tea party, and a number of other laugh-out-loud scenarios. Hazelwood Hyde’s illustration captures the spirit of the story, showing an enthusiastic child and a poker-faced cat determined to ignore her. Families with pets will likely see themselves in this story, especially when the little girl, tired from a day of playing with her reluctant companion, gives Cat the one command she expects him to follow, with amusing results. The girl’s dramatic body language communicates the frustration of a playmate who won’t join the game, and the cat’s determination to remain at rest will appeal not only to families with pets, but for every parent who’s wondered when their Kiddo’s battery will run down. An adorable story that makes for an amusing readaloud and a great choice for emerging readers to try on their own.

Visit Charles Ghigna’s website for more information about his books.

 

 

 

If You Were a City, by Kyo Maclear/Illustrated by Francesca Sanna, (Oct. 2022, Chronicle Books), $16.99, ISBN: 9781452155197

Ages 3-6

A delightful celebration of cities and how they form – and are formed by – the people who live in them, this rhyming exploration invites readers to imagine what they would be like if they were a city. Colorful, vibrant illustrations show a variety of city settings with a diverse group of citizens at work and play, and each city has its own personality: “shiny, glassy, sleek and tall”; “wooden, squat, and nicely small”; a library shows a group of readers dreaming of cities that come from the mouth of a storyteller, and an explorer discovers Central American-looking pyramids in a “lost city”. The cities thrive with action, their societies interacting peacefully together. Verses prompt readers to consider the neighbors we share our space with, “leav[ing] them room for nest and lair”, a brown-skinned girl holding a fox safely in her outstretched hand as a monkey swings on her foot. As the story moves toward a close we see children creating their cities, using their own bodies to connect the pieces: arms connected to become a bridge; holding up a platform with buildings; covering a roof (maybe a library?) with a book. An uplifting, hopeful vision of who we can become. Endpapers feature a series of snowglobes with cities inside. An excellent storytime choice and a great STEAM storytime book: invite readers to create their own cities with blocks, construction paper, and soft toys.

 

Geraldine and the Rainbow Machine, by Sol Regwan/Illustrated by Denise Muzzio, (Nov. 2022, Schiffer Books), $16.99, ISBN; 9780764364396

Ages 4-8

One of my favorite tinkerers is back! In Geraldine’s fourth adventure, she works to create harmony among her classmates when a new friend arrives at school. Hamid arrives from Pakistan and Geraldine immediately befriends him, but not everyone is as kind or welcoming. Frustrated by insensitive playground antics, Geraldine tinkers up a rainbow machine to show her classmates that everyone has something interesting about them; and when you combine the colors of the rainbow, they all blend together. There are lovely moments of kindness here, from Geraldine gently relocating a spider family taking up residence in one of her bowls to her statement regarding the Rainbow Machine: “When you spin it really fast, the colors all blend together. I think it shows that our differences don’t matter”. The class, delighted at Geraldine’s hands-on device, enjoys their differences and their similarities, and celebrates their uniqueness. Endpapers display a rainbow coming from what looks like one of Geraldine’s journals, the Rainbow Machine sketch laid open for readers.¬†Regwan manages to keep the STEM/STEAM theme of the Geraldine series while delivering heartfelt story about acceptance and friendship. A good book to consider for SEL collections.

Posted in picture books

Gizmo Girl Geraldine is back, and taking a stand against bullies!

Geraldine and the Anti-Bullying Shield, by Sol Regwan/Illustrated by Denise Muzzio, (March 2020, Schiffer Kids), $16.99, ISBN: 9780764361135

Ages 5-8

The Gizmo Girl’s third adventure has her joining forces with her friends to stand up against Jimmy, the school bully. He’s making everyone miserable, and Geraldine plans to teach him a lesson using her inventor skills! Culling bits of technology and supplies from her home and her friends’ homes, she invites everyone over where they construct the Anti-Bullying Shield: a shield with mirrors on its front, and an old cell phone on the back, so show Jimmy what he looks and sounds like when he’s at his meanest! Will Jimmy see how mean he looks and sounds, and change his ways? Geraldine is a smart kid who uses her STEM/STEAM skills to solve problems, and her idea to stand up against a bully by showing him what other kids see is a smart way to turn the tables. She also encourages her friends to stand together, forming a united front against the bully. Adults are ready to help out here, as Geraldine’s dad assists with the bully shield construction and a teacher takes a walk with Jimmy to help him work through whatever could be causing him to act out.

There are many anti-bullying resources available to share with kids and caregivers alike. KidPower.org and StopBullying.gov are both excellent resources, and this Edutopia article has more information and links available.

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.