Posted in Intermediate, picture books, Preschool Reads, Uncategorized

Books About Nature to Brighten Your Spring

It’s time for a roundup! This time, we’ve got nature books to enjoy now that the Spring weather finally looks like it’s going to stick around. Get comfortable by your favorite tree, or sit in the warmth of the sun, and enjoy some of these Spring-y books.

Be Thankful for Trees : A tribute to the many & surprising ways trees relate to our lives, by Harriet Ziefert/Illustrated by Brian Fitzgerald, (March 2022, Red Comet Press), $19.99, ISBN: 9781636550206

Ages 4-8

This is a fantastic way to introduce younger readers to all the great ways people and animals depend on trees! A rhyming tale expounds on the seven big things trees provide: food; comfort; music; art; recreation; home, and life. Colorful illustrations shows trees in nature, and how they’re used in day-to-day life, from providing a forest full of animals with food, to a kitchen table seating a family for dinner; from a child playing a piano, to a bird feeding her babies high up on a branch. Each area opens with a repetitive question and answer: “Would life be satisfying/good/possible without trees? It would not!” During a read-aloud, it’s the perfect opportunity for interaction; invite your littles to tell you what they think. The verse reminds also readers that trees are essential to life on earth, and the man-made disasters that threaten them, like deforestation and forest fire; Ziefert encourages readers to “explore a cool forest with its pine-scented breeze” and to “remember forever, BE THANKFUL FOR TREES!”. Playful, cheery color illustrations add to the fun verse, and golden leaves pop from the blue endpapers, really making this a wonderful book for early childhood natural science readalouds.

Author Harriet Ziefert has written hundreds of children’s books. You can see more of illustrator Brian Fitzgerald’s work at his website.

Visit Red Comet’s book detail page for a free, downloadable Teachers Guide. TeachersPayTeachers has a wealth of free learning activities about trees. I really like the idea of adopting a “class tree” and journaling observations over the course of a school year, as Robynn Drerup’s class has. Amanda Whitaker also has a fun tree journal for kids. Our Time to Learn’s Tree Animals Coloring sheet is great to hand out after a readaloud.

Firsts and Lasts: The Changing Seasons, by Leda Schubert/Illustrated by Clover Robin, (March 2022, Candlewick Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781536211023

Ages 4-8

Every season comes with its own unique firsts and lasts. Leda Schubert and illustrator Clover Robin beautifully capture these moments in Firsts and Lasts: The Changing Season. Organized by season, the book offers gentle observation designed to provoke memories and warm feelings as we follow family through the year: Spring is the last time they (and we) wear snowsuits and build snow forts, but it’s the first time they see new grass, and wash the car; in the Fall, it’s the last time for things like going to the ice cream stand, but it’s the first time for seeing wooly caterpillars and jumping in leaves. Cut paper illustrations add a playful whimsy and the colors capture the feelings for each season; crisp winter skies and warm autumn leaves; bright spring flowers and lush summer landscapes. It’s a wonderful illustration of the transition nature – and people! – go through from season to season, and offers opportunities for kids to share their observations on seasonal change.

First and Lasts has a starred review from The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books.

KB3Teach has a fun Seasons Cut and Paste activity on TeachersPayTeachers that nicely extends this book. Teresa Tretbar’s Amazing Literacy has seasonal coloring pages and posters for you to hand out, too.

Olaf Hajek’s Fantastic Fruits, by Olaf Hajek (Illustrations) and Annette Roeder (Text), (Apr. 2022, Prestel Junior), $19.95, ISBN: 9783791375069

Ages 6-9

Olaf Hajek has made beautiful art from vegetables and flowers; now, fruit gets the Hajek treatment in Olaf Hajek’s Fantastic Fruits. Annette Roeder returns to provide fun and interesting profiles on 25 fruits, like the pomegranate, also known as the “apple of discord” that was created, according to Greek myth, by an angry goddess of strife and discord; the banana, whose curve is slowly being bred out of the fruit in order to make for easier stacking; and the fig, whose juice can help against insect bites. Factual information on each fruit’s countries of origin, and other names and varieties of each fruit run across the bottom of each profile, and – as we’ve come to expect from Hajek – colorful, stunning portraits are the star of the show in this oversized volume. A fox and a woman collect orange juice from giant fruits hanging from a tree in one painting; another woman serves cherry cake to a young boy and a bird as cherries hang from a tree and provide a headdress; a porcupine carries a gigantic blackberry and raspberry on its back through a field. Hajek’s playfully surreal artwork is sure to catch eyes and make new fans as they pore through the pages of this gorgeous book. Great for art sections and 634 sections (fruits, naturally!).

Visit Olaf Hajek’s illustrator webpage for more of his work.

 

What’s Cooking in Flowerville? Recipes from Balconies, Rooftops, and Gardens, by Felicita Sala, (Apr. 2022, Prestel Junior), $14.95, ISBN: 9783791375182

Ages 6-10

Flowerville is a bustling, multicultural neighborhood where everyone loves to grow and share food! Beginning in April, the book takes readers through the year, month by month, with Flowerville citizens tending to their plants: in April, Maria chops down her asparagus spears; in July, Ramon tests the floating ability of a cucumber as his parent waters the plants. Each month features a new recipe, made with ingredients shown in the artwork. In July, we get creamy tzatziki sauce; in November, roasted beet dip. Warm and colorful artwork shows families and friends sharing food and friendship, and gardening tips and recipes make this a handy gardening guide for families and classes. Pair with Francine Sala’s What’s Cooking at 10 Garden Street and Cynthia Cliff’s Pie for Breakfast for a worldwide trip for the palate.

Felicita Sala’s webpage has more of her illustration work, and a link to her food illustration is a must-see.

 

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

Two books for dinosaur fans!

I’ve got two fun books for dinosaur fans: one fiction, one non-fiction, both adorable.

I Am Hatzetgopteryx (I Am Preshistoric), by Timothy J. Bradley, (Nov. 2021, Arbordale Publishing), $10.95, ISBN: 9781643518213

Ages 3-7

Look at that brilliant beak! Look at that impressive wingspan! I Am Hatzetgopteryx introduces readers to a pterosaur they may not have heard of – yet. Everyone knows pterodactyls, but Hatzegopteryx is a more recent discovery (2002). I Am Hatzetgopteryx is an early reader that uses repetition and simple, factual sentences to teach readers about this pteranodon. A Hatzegopteryx chick hatches and goes through life, flapping and leaping, dodging and chasing, giving readers a glimpse into the prehistoric world. Artwork is colorful and the Hatzegopteryx’s bright orange and black beak jumps off the page, as does the pteranodon’s often colorful prey.

The For Creative Minds supplement is available on the book detail page at Arbordale’s website, as are quizzes. The book is available in English and Spanish, and is the companion book to I Am Allosaurus, the first book in the I Am Prehistoric series.

There are some good Hatzegopteryx resources available for readers who want to learn more. Check out Earth Archives, and Planet Dinosaur’s wiki page dedicated to the pterosaur.

 

Never Teach a Stegosaur to Do Sums, by Rashmi Sirdeshpande & Diane Ewen, (Jan. 2022, Kane Miller), $12.99, ISBN: 9781684643424

Ages 3-7

Imagine what would happen if you could teach a dinosaur to do math? The little girl who almost caused a dinosaur uprising by teaching a T. Rex to read is back with a new dinosaur friend in a companion book to Never Show a T. Rex a Book (2021). Here, she teaches a stegosaurus to do math, leading to delicious baked goods, coding, even building a rocket ship to go to the moon! But wait! What happens when you can do math so well that you accidentally create a possible robot uprising? Never Teach a Stegosaur to Do Sums is a celebration of all things mathematics, with fun illustration details including cameos from our T. Rex friend and his storybook. The cartoon artwork portrays a young girl of color exploring all the things math lets you do, with exciting moments like opening a book and unleashing a whirlwind of numbers, pie charts, and bar graphs; unlocking codes and recipes; engineering bridges, and building rockets and robots. A poster of NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson graces the girl’s bedroom wall, and rocket ship curtains frame her window; a dinosaur blanket covers her bed. The light, fun storytelling inspires kids to love math by illustrating its presence in our everyday lives. Pair with its companion book or with another fun dinosaur, like my old friend Dexter T. Rexter, for a fun dinosaur storytime: and don’t forget the Laurie Berkner soundtrack (and book)!

 

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 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 Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Board books make great stocking stuffers!

They’re portable, they’re sturdy, they fit in a stocking as easily as they do a purse or a toddler’s hands: board books are great gifts!

The Sun Shines on the Sea, by Michael Slack, (Sept. 2021, Candlewick Press), $9.99, ISBN: 9781536215694

Ages 3-5

The gentlest way to introduce the concept of the food chain to preschoolers, The Sun Shines on the Sea is a lift-the-flap board book that lets the flaps do the talking. While the sun shines on the sea, phytoplankton grow, and hungry krill snack on the phytoplankton as they soak up the sun, and that’s where the flaps take over: the story makes reference to a predator moving, swirling, and gliding past, and flaps reveal what’s in their bellies: “A shoal of fish swirls around the krill”, and a flap reveals a krill in a fish’s tummy. The story is factual, easy to understand, and begins and ends with the sun shining on the sea. The digital artwork is colorful, the sea life are kid-friendly, and the flaps are sturdy.

If you’re using this in an underwater story time, this is a great time to sing “Slippery Fish” and use some flannels. I really like this recycled cardboard aquarium craft, and you can easily make it a grab and go. Don’t have a cheese box? Trim some cardboard from cereal boxes, glue into a circle, and back it with construction paper.

 

Where’s Brian’s Bottom? A Veeeerrrry Long Fold-Out Book, by Rob Jones, (Oct. 2021, Pavilion), $9.95, ISBN: 9781843654667

Ages 0-3

Weiner dog fans will love this hilarious fold-out book. Brian is a dachshund who can’t find his bottom! Readers can help him as they unfold the book to search through five rooms, meeting a variety of Brian’s acquaintances to help with the search. The concertina book folds out into over 6 feet of Brian, and takes readers through different rooms of the house, his body streeeeetching along the way. Kids can identify different rooms, animals, and sounds, and repetitive questions invites readers to chime in. The endpaper at the front of the book features a wall of framed photos – Brian, naturally, takes up two frames – with animals that readers will meet during the course of the story. Each side that folds out tells a different story: one takes place during the day, one at night, with different events that you can invite readers to tell you about. The bold, cartoon artwork is eye-catching, and readers will love discovering something new with every turn of the flap. Absolute fun.

Where is Brian’s Bottom? is the first in a board book concertina series from Pavilion; I’ll be keeping an eye out for more.

 

 

 

Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth, by Emily Haynes & Sanjay Patel, (Aug. 2021, Chronicle Books), $8.99, ISBN: 9781797212524

Ages 3-5

I was so excited to see a board book release for one of my favorite picture books, Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth! The story of how Hindu god Ganesha and the poet Vyasa create the great epic, The Mahabharata, translates beautifully to board book. The illustrations are colorful, vibrant, and eye-catching; the storytelling pace works in this format, and the author’s note at the end explains the story behind the story: how Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth isn’t a literal retelling of the classic legend, but more of a kid-friendly reimagining that kids can relate to, like breaking a tooth on a jawbreaker sweet and learning to channel a meltdown into something more productive.

Publisher Chronicle has a Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth activity kit, with a coloring sheet and fill-in-the-blank epic poem.

 

 

Dog’s First Baby, by Natalie Nelson, (Oct. 2021, Quirk Books), $9.99, ISBN: 9781683692799

Ages 2-5

Told from a dog’s point of view, Dog’s First Baby is a board book with a fun spin on things as a family dog discovers someone new joining the household: a baby. Dog isn’t sure whether or not to be thrilled with this latest development, as baby’s front paws pull his ears and hurt; with time, though Dog sees that maybe the two aren’t so different after all: they both howl; they both like to play tug-of-war; they both enjoy a good stretch, and baby sure likes to share food, and, as Dog says, “I admire this”. A great book for new parents who may be getting ready or are in the early stages of introducing a new baby and a dog, Dog’s First Baby embraces the chaos of those early months: Baby dropping food all over the floor (which Dog happily cleans up); Baby and Dog howling and wailing together; Baby attempting to ride Dog; Baby and Dog making messes together. The book also captures those moments that are worth every mess: Baby asleep on Dog’s flank; the two sitting in a chair together, and Dog’s quiet presence whenever Baby is near, whether they’re walking together or sleeping in the same room. Deep, rich colors and textured lighter colors make this a beautiful book to look through.

Quirk and Natalie Nelson have a companion book, Cat’s First Baby, coming in March 2022. I can’t wait! In the meantime, this is a perfect storytime book and gift book. There’s a free, downloadable activity kit available, too.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Spotlight on small press and self-published books!

Beautiful, Wonderful, Strong Little Me!, by Hannah Carmona Dias/Illustrated by Dolly Georgieva-Gode, (Nov. 2019, Eifrig Publishing), $9.99, ISBN: 978-1632331694

Ages 4-7

A rhyming story that celebrates multicultural diversity, Beautiful, Wonderful, Strong Little Me! stars Lilly, a young girl with dark skin, curly hair, freckles and full lips. She’s strong, she’s smart, she’s funny, and she’s friendly – but she doesn’t look like her friends, and she’s tired of being asked where she’s from. She’s no puzzle to be solved! She tells her friends she’s proud of who she is, but what she looks like is only a small part of that: she’s courageous, funny, resilient, and kind. And that is perfect! The joyful rhyming text is filled with a sense of play, self-respect, and self-love. The artwork is cartoony and cheery, with a diverse group of friends playing together on each spread. An author’s note encourages readers to come up with adjectives for themselves, and provides a framed space for a self-portrait.

A fun readalike to books like Karen Beaumont’s I Like Myself! and Grace Byers’s I Am Enough.

 

 

Goldilocks and the Six Simple Machines, by Lois Wickstrom/Illustrated by Nicole Hehn, (Jan. 2020), $12.99, ISBN: 978-0916176457

Ages 4-7

Everyone knows the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, but what would have happened if Goldilocks had come in and started fixing things up in the Bear home? If Goldilocks had poured the precise amount of milk into the porridge to cool things off; fixed a wobbly table leg and squeaky chair? Would the Bears still be angry? (I would; I mean, she broke into their house.) If the bears discovered a sleeping Goldilocks in their beds, how would they move her to wake her up and thank her for all the repairs? In this STEM take on the classic story, Lois Wickstrom’s Goldilocks uses six simple machines: wheel and axle, an inclined plane and wedge, a screw, lever, and pulley, to show how Goldilocks was able to make life a little easier for the bears. The Bear family is gracious and Goldilocks is sweetly helpful in this retelling. The font design is exaggerated to add a dimension of fun to the story, but they can distract. The artwork could use a little finesse, but overall, a fun book to read in STEM classes and for STEM storytimes.

There are some great fairytale STEM projects available online, and the Goldilocks story has given rise to several. There’s a lesson plan available from the Utah Education Network; Teach Beside Me has a fun STEM project, as does Momgineer. Teachers Pay Teachers has a cute STEM project, where kids can make a latch for the three bears’ door.

 

Daisy and Friends: Outside Our Window, by Barbara J. Meredith/Illustrations by Kalpart, (Oct. 2018, Strategic Book Publishing & Rights Agency), $11.50, ISBN: 9781949483574

Ages 3-6

The third in a series of books about a cat named Daisy and her three dog friends, Daisy and Friends: Outside Our Window is all about the changing seasons. Phrased like a rhyming game, Daisy and the dogs each start with the phrase, “Looking out our window, what do we see?” Answers reflect those flora, fauna, and weather that map to different seasons: Butterflies, hummingbirds, and bumblebees welcome the spring; squirrels and chipmunks gathering acorns and seeds give hints that fall is on the way. Short, rhyming sentences, consistent question and answer patterns, and plenty of sight words give burgeoning learners a lot to enjoy and see here! The digital artwork is playful, and the dialogue between Daisy and her dog friends makes for good readaloud material, especially if you have a volunteer who’s comfortable reading! There are four Daisy and Friends books available: Daisy and Friends: Waiting for the School Bus was published in August!

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Humor, Intermediate, Middle Grade

Jim Benton is back with a twofer: new Franny K Stein and Attack of the Stuff!

I have a special place in my heart for Jim Benton, and not just because Happy Bunny made me chuckle back in the day. The Franny K. Stein books were my eldest’s first favorite book series, and my Kiddo is discovering his graphic novels now (he LOVED Clyde). My about-to-be-a-high-school-senior (sounds nicer than “the middle child”) always got a kick out of My Dumb Diary, a series my library kids also devour. Mr. Benton’s rep got in touch with me and offered me a copy of his newest graphic novel, Attack of the Stuff, which I’ve read with the Kiddo and am eternally grateful.

Attack of the Stuff, by Jim Benton, (May 2020, Papercutz), $14.99, ISBN: 978-1-5458-0499-5

Ages 7-11

Bill Waddler is a simple duck trying to live his life. He works in a hay store that doesn’t seem to get a lot of customers, and he’s harassed day and night by the stuff that surrounds him in his home: his toilet has aspirations to show biz; his blanket isn’t ready to go to bed when Bill is, and his alarm clock is annoyed at having to get up so early. One day, Bill decides he’s had enough, and heads out to the woods to live a quiet life, just as the rest of the world falls into chaos. The Internet has decided to stop working, and the world needs someone who can communicate with it, and who better than the duck who can talk to stuff? This is Bill’s moment to shine, if only everyone else will take him – and the Internet’s demands – seriously.

This is the kind of surreal comic book storytelling that the kids in my library would love. Jim Benton goes way out there for Attack of the Stuff, but it’s funny in its lunacy! His artwork is immediately recognizable, and so is the humor. It’s bright, fun, and with an enduring sense of snark that keeps kids coming back for more. My kiddo loved it.

 

Franny K. Stein: Recipe for Disaster, by Jim Benton, (July 2020, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers), $15.99, ISBN: 9781534413405

Ages 7-10

Can you believe this is Franny’s ninth adventure? I, for one, am so happy that she’s back with new books: my library kids check the first 8 out all the time, and have asked me when more are coming. Now, I have something to tell them! Franny rescues an old furnace from the trash bin and creates a robot that just wants to make kids happy. To help out the art and music bake sale, she puts the robot to work baking, but the eager to please robot creates THE MOST DELICIOUS MUFFINS ON EARTH. Suddenly, all the kids want to do is eat muffins. Schoolwork, interests, everything is tossed aside. Nothing exists except for the muffins. It’s up to Franny to save the day… but those kids at school can be very persuasive.

There’s so much great humor in this series, and this story is rife with Invasion of the Body Snatchers vibes while poking fun at bake sale culture. Franny and Igor, her canine (ish) assistant, are a hilarious twosome. Black and white illustrations throughout the book give readers a birds-eye view into an innocent fundraiser spinning out of control. A welcome addition to the Franny K. Stein series, I’m happy to recommend Recipe for Disaster to my kiddos.

There are some Franny printables and lesson plans on Teachers Pay Teachers, all at varying prices. I also did a “mad science” search on TpT which yielded some fun freebies, like free mad science clip art and mad scientist crazy hair headbands. Print some, share them, and encourage your kiddos to unleash their inner mad scientist!

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 Fiction, Middle Grade, Middle School, Science Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads

Happy Book Birthday to A Time Traveler’s Theory of Relativity – and an author tour calendar!

A Time Traveler’s Theory of Relativity, by Nicole Valentine, (Oct. 2019, Carolrhoda), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1-5415-5538-9

Ages 10+

Twelve-year-old Finn’s twin sister, Faith, drowned when they were three years old. His mother up and left Finn and his father a few months ago. As his father loses himself in his academic research, Finn clings to science for a concrete hold on life, and relies on his friend, Gabi, to be his steadying constant. But one night, his grandmother tells him a secret that throws everything he’s ever known – everything he’ll ever know – into chaos: the women in Finn’s family are Travelers; women who can travel through time, and each generation is more powerful than the last. Finn’s mother didn’t leave him. She’s traveling through time trying to put things right, and she needs Finn to find her and help her, leaving him a portal for him to Travel through. He has to be careful about who he can trust, though; there are people who don’t have his family’s best interests at heart, which could lead to disastrous consequences. Can Finn put his faith in something he’s never been able to believe in before, and embrace the unknown, the abstract, in order to save his family?

Theory is a story of grief and loss, with hope and the courage to believe in a bigger worldview. Filled with plot twists and shifts that make this a good read for science fiction and fantasy fans, and readers who are ready to take a step into a bigger world, we meet Finn, is a solidly constructed character with a tragic backstory. Finn can be the reader’s entry point into the story, giving us a character who’s haunted by loss and cleaving to science: dependable, real. But when you think about it, physics is a pretty abstract science; there’s an entire branch of physics dedicated to theoretical study, and time travel theories abound when discussing quantum physics. That Finn chooses physics as his scientific field of choice is an interesting one, and shows that he’s willing to reach beyond the concrete… maybe. Gabi, Finn’s best friend, is Puerto Rican and mentions that she and her mother have had friction in the past being “newcomers” to their town, and not only because they haven’t spend their entire lives there. She’s ready to face anything with Finn. Other characters – mostly Finn’s extended family – have bits and pieces of backstory that unfold throughout the story, making them interesting and slightly mysterious. A good read for book clubs, Theory comes with some discussion questions at the end; the questions are also available through the publisher’s website, as is a chapter-by-chapter educator guide.

Give Theory a shot, and hand it to your sci-fi and fantasy readers for sure. Give it to your realistic fiction readers that are ready for a good time-traveling mystery, too. Booktalk it with A Wrinkle in Time, which also touches on the mechanics of time travel and science, or Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me; a great example of using time travel within a compelling realistic fiction setting.  A Time Traveler’s Theory of Relativity is a Junior Library Guild selection.

Want to meet author Nicole Valentine? She’s on tour!

Nicole Valentine (https://www.nicolevalentinebooks.com/) earned her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts and teaches writing workshops at the Highlights Foundation in Honesdale, PA. As the former chief technology officer at Figment.com and Space.com, Nicole loves science and as a writer enjoys pondering the times when science falls short of explanation and magic has room to sneak in. When not engaged in fictional world-building, Nicole can often be found with a hawk on her arm. A Time Traveler’s Theory of Relativity is her debut novel. She lives in Pennsylvania with her family. Twitter: @nicoleva IG: @nicolevalentine

Blog: https://steamg.org/

Posted in Conferences & Events, Early Reader, Graphic Novels, Intermediate, Non-Fiction, Non-Fiction

Kevin McCloskey, Giggle & Learn, Ants and Pigeon Poop: It’s all good here!

Kevin McCloskey is one of my favorite graphic novelists. What does he draw, you ask? Spidey? The Avengers? X-Men?

Nope. He creates science graphic novels for the little ones, examine such subjects as snail goo, pigeon and worm poop, and foot-long goldfish. Sometimes, he paints his pictures on recyclable grocery bags, because he believes in recycling. Most importantly, he creates nonfiction that speaks to young learners in a way that engages their minds and their funny bones, talking about the funny, gross, and awesome parts of nature and making them equally… amazing.

Ants Don’t Wear Pants!, by Kevin McCloskey, (Sept. 2019, TOON Books), $$12.95, ISBN: 9781943145454

Ages 4-7

Who here hasn’t been told, “You have ants in your pants!” while growing up? With that phrase, Kevin McCloskey sets readers off on the study of ants: biology and physiology, life cycle, food, kinds of ants, and what they eat. The book is loaded with fun facts and illustrations, like the one of an ant bench pressing an apple, combined with a picture of a child lifting a car, to bring home the fact that an ant can lift up to 50 times its own weight, and what that would mean to us human folk. The front endpapers have hundreds and hundreds of ants, with one magnified under a magnifying glass, greeting readers and inviting them to come and learn. This is the newest in Kevin McCloskey’s Giggle and Learn series of graphic novels for young learners, published by TOON, and I love it. My kiddo’s first McCloskey book was We Dig Worms (2015), which I read to him when he was barely out of the toddler years, and he loved it, because the material is accessible and fun. A lesson plan is coming soon!

 

The Real Poop on Pigeons!, by Kevin McCloskey, (Sept. 2019, TOON Books), $6.99, ISBN: 9781943145430

Ages 4-7

Originally published in 2016, The Real Poop on Pigeons! is coming to paperback. When a man sitting on the park bench starts shooing pigeons away, a group of children, dressed as pigeons, show up to school him – and us readers – on pigeon history – they carried the first airmail! – and biology, breeding, and pigeon milk. (Read the book. You can’t buy this in Stop & Shop.) There are some great pigeon family tree revelations here, like the fact that the Dodo was a member of the pigeon family. A three-foot pigeon! Ever wonder why you haven’t seen a baby pigeon? Read the book! The Real Poop on Pigeons is yet another win from Kevin McCloskey, and another win for young readers.