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.

 

Posted in Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Tween Reads

The truth about cats and dogs (and gerbils, birds, fish, and other pets…)

Nat Geo Kids is all about the pets these days: they’ve just released Doggy Defenders, a series of books on working dogs, and they’ve also put out some great desk references about cats, dogs, and an Big Book to get younger readers excited about the world of animal companionship. Here’s a glimpse at some of the books out.

Cat Science Unleashed: Fun Activities to Do With Your Feline Friend, by Jodi Wheeler-Toppen/Photos by Matthew Rakola, (Aug. 2019, National Geographic Kids), $12.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-3441-2

Ages 7-12

A companion to last year’s Dog Science Unleashed, Cat Science Unleashed is all about the cats, with a glimpse into cat biology and physiology, cat facts, and cat-tivities to engage the scientists in your life. Eleven kid scientists have tested their cats – you’ll meet them on a spread in the book – and invite readers to join them in discovering how cats see at night and how to discover their favorite smells. Activities include building a hiding spot for your cat’s toys (other than my living room floor? Have to get my kid on that) and making toys to test your kitty’s stalking prowess. There’s a glossary and list of further resources at the end A fun volume, and with a new science fair season on the horizon, this could be a fun way to give your kiddos’ cats the spotlight at school in addition to home.

Cat Breed Guide: A Complete Reference to Your Purr-Fect Best Friend, by Stephanie Warren Drimmer & Dr. Gary Weitzman, DVM, (Sept. 2019, National Geographic Kids), $19.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-3439-9-

Ages 8+

This is a compact, thorough desk reference to cats, perfect for an animal lover, cat fan, and anyone either writing a report about felines or researching a new pet. The guide provides a look at feline history, with a cat family tree, a history of cats and how domesticated cats became household constants, even cat-related superstitions and folktales. There are profiles on more than 60 cat breeds, organized by short hair and long hair breeds, and each profile offers a quick “cat stats” box that provides notes on country of origin, size, coat, grooming, and “catitude”. There are gorgeous photos, fun facts, and general adorableness throughout, plus a section on cat-related careers, a glossary, and further resources. I’m always trying to keep my domestic animals/pets books stocked, so this one will be a nice add to my shelves.

 

Dog Breed Guide: A Complete Reference to Your Best Friend Fur-Ever, by TJ Reser & Dr. Gary Weitzman, DVM, (Sept. 2019, National Geographic Kids), $19.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-3445-0

Ages 8+

A companion desk reference to the Cat Breed Guide, Dr. Weitzman and TJ Reser team up to give readers a comprehensive guide to canines, from their wolfish origins to today’s modern breeds. Organized into 10 sections, dog profiles include full-color, squeal-worthy photos and stats-at-a-glance: country of origin, height, weight, coat, grooming, exercise needs, and K-9 qualities. There are sections on show dogs, canine senses, and how to talk to your dog, and a section on adopting and training a puppy. There’s a glossary and more resources.

Together, the Dog and Cat Breed Guides provide a handy reference for pet and animal lovers.

 

Little Kids First Big Book of Pets, by Catherine D. Hughes, (July 2019, National Geographic Kids), $14.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-3470-2

Ages 4-8

I love the NatGeo Kids Little Kids First Big Book series! There are 17 books in the series now, and they’re great for pre-readers to look through, while emerging readers can more confidently navigate the pages. Words are bold, the pictures are big and bright, and there’s tons of fun facts, quizzes, and info to be found. The First Big Book of Pets is all about our favorite companions, from dogs and cats to birds, reptiles, fish, mice… you name it. Interactive questions throughout the book prompt discussion, games at the end of every chapter help reinforce concepts and give librarians like me an excuse to have fun, pet-related programming, and fact boxes give kids info at-a-glance about different pets. If you know a kiddo who wants a pet, but isn’t quite decided on what pet to get, hand them this guide – it’s geared toward educating kids about different pets’ needs, and our responsibilities to animals once we adopt them. A section for parents includes a recipe for baking dog biscuits, pet jokes and tips and ideas to engage kids about pets. There’s a glossary and list of additional resources. The Little Kids First Big Books are really popular with my library kids, so this one is another win for my shelves.

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

Monstrous brings the science of monsters to you

Monstrous: The Lore, Gore, and Science Behind Your Favorite Monsters, by Carlyn Beccia, (Sept. 2019, Carolrhoda Books), $19.99, ISBN: 978-1-5124-4916-7

Ages 10+

Okay, this is one of the best nonfiction reads I’ve read this summer. Eight movie monsters come together with witty writing, solid science and history, pop culture and myth, and amazing artwork to bring readers the “Science of the Monstrous”. Talk about electricity with Frankenstein’s Monster; whether or not science can make us immortal with Dracula (also, a spirited discussion on sparkly vampires); look at the zombie brain and pack a zombie preparedness kit while reading about zombie viruses; learn about math and whether or not you’re stronger than a dung beetle with King Kong; learn how to avoid – or, failing that, survive – a werewolf attack and read about the science behind the legend of werewolves; check out the ocean zones to figure out where the kraken dwells (and learn whether or not you’re about to be eaten by a giant octopus); talk evolution with Bigfoot while you scan a map of the US to see where your best chance of spotting him is; and, last but NEVER least, find out what kind of dinosaur Godzilla, King of All Monsters, is (hint: the awesome kind).

That’s the short of it. There is so much great stuff in here, I’d be here all day long if I tried to gush about how much I loved this book. I chuckled and snickered out loud behind the reference desk reading it, which brought some of my Library Kids over (the section on Why You Should Never Stress Your Mom Out made them laugh, which garnered a librarian look over the glasses from me). Everything in here is just pure gold, from the timelines like “The Monstrous History of Electricity”, where you learn that Thomas Edison used electricity on dolls to experiment with recorded sound (SO CREEPY), and a real list of radioactive creatures, like the wolves of Chernobyl and the cows of Fukushima. Carlyn Beccia’s writing is informative and whip-crack smart and funny – if I had a book like Monstrous available to me when I was in the middle grades, I’d probably be making freaky dolls talk to people in a lab today. Instead, I’ll figure out how to hold a program to let my Library Kids do it.

My Library Kids love the grossest history and science stuff out there, which I challenge myself to find on a regular basis; one of their favorites is Carlyn Beccia’s They Lost Their Heads!, along with Georgia Bragg’s How They Croaked and How They Choked, so I predict this book will disappear shortly after I say, “Hey, guys! Look what I’ve—“.

Long story short, Monstrous is a guaranteed win for your science collections, your STEM collections, and for your horror/monster/burgeoning goth fans. Check out author Carlyn Beccia’s webpage for more about her books, her art, and her social media links. Monstrous has a starred review from Kirkus.

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 Middle Grade, Non-fiction, picture books

Wonders of Nature opens a museum on your bookshelf!

Wonders of Nature: Exploration in the World of Birds, Insects, and Fish, by Florence Guiraud, (Oct. 2018, Prestel Publishing), $25, ISBN: 9783791373652

Ages 7-11

This book, originally released in French, is a stunning work of art. Inspired by 17th and 18th century natural history artwork, by scientists and explorers who hand-sketched their discoveries, Wonders of Nature is an illustrated “cabinet of curiosities”, as author/artist Florence Guiraud puts it, of the natural world. There are meditations on birds’ plumage and nests; butterflies and bugs’ wings; starfish families, and jellyfish. Seven chapters come together through 2-page spreads in watercolor and sketch artwork to create detailed, breathtaking illustrations of birds, insects, and sea life.

I’ve had the privilege of seeing some 16th and 17th century natural history sketchbooks – by the way, you can, too: the American Museum of Natural History has an online research library with Digital Special Collections, including selections from their Rare Book Collection – and one can easily see how the artwork is inspired by these early natural history explorers and scientists. This is such a great way to get kids interested in natural history; how to interest them in wandering around their local parks, zoos, and museums, notebook in hand, and encourage them to draw their world, their way.

Each section introduces a topic with informative text that entices the reader into turning the page; that turn of the page launches readers into exciting new worlds, with animals they may never have seen before. Each drawing is labeled, helping kids – and adults – expand their world. Each section concludes with a “random directory” that provides further nibbles of information about different fauna, with page references for easy location.

Learn your world, and share it. Wonders of Nature is a solid add to your natural history collections and a great gift for readers who love nature and art. Display and booktalk with Candlewick’s Welcome to the Museum books (Dinosaurium, Animalium, Botanicum, and others).

Posted in Early Reader, Non-Fiction, Preschool Reads

Baby Loves Science – big ideas for little ones

I’m all for introducing science in all its wonderful forms to kids as early as possible, and all about introducing new vocabulary to kids, so science and math don’t scare them as they get bigger. I haven’t read any of the Baby Loves… Science! series by Ruth Spiro and illustrated by Irene Chan, so I started with the two newest books, Baby Loves Gravity! and Baby Loves Coding!

Baby Loves Gravity, by Ruth Spiro/Illustrated by Irene Chan, (June 2018, Charlesbridge), $8.99, ISBN: 9781580898362

Baby drops a noodle, and Puppy gobbles it up. How does that noodle fall? Gravity! Simple enough concept to explain to a toddler, and that’s how Baby Loves Gravity! starts out: simple and relatable. From there, we get a clear explanation of matter, mass, and gravity, and how it works on the sun, moon, and earth’s pull on us here. It’s clear and nicely illustrated, but this is a lot of information, even for toddlers, no matter how simply it’s phrased. I liked the illustrations, was pleased to see a child of color as the star of the show, but would read the beginning and ending, where baby slides down a slide, illustrating gravity, for a toddler STEAM or science storytime. I would rather test this out in a Kindergarten-level science storytime. The board book format makes for easy holding, and the illustrations are large, bright, and easily seen by a circle time group of kids. I could work with a group of kindergarteners, even pre-kindergarteners, in a science workshop using this as a companion text.

 

Baby Loves Coding!, by Ruth Spiro/Illustrated by Irene Chan, (June 2018, Charlesbridge), $8.99, ISBN: 9781580898843

Baby’s playing choo-choo, and wants to add a red car to his train. Let’s follow him as he walks over! Baby Loves Coding features a child of cover on the cover, and is an adorably illustrated, clearly laid out way to introduce coding to kids, but this is also way above a little one’s head. The first few spreads, explaining how baby walks to the toy box, are great – you can get kids up and moving along with you on this one – but the text launches into an explanation of algorithms, programmers, and reading code, and this is just going to lose little ones. The pictures do all the work here, illustrating, with colorful interlocking blocks, how code fits together, like the cars of a train. I do love the explanations and the artwork, and the idea of getting kids up and moving works with CS Unplugged activities I’ve done in my library. I’ve used Code.org’s curriculum; CS Unplugged also has some great lesson plans and printables.

My advice? Use these with your pre-k and Kindergarten science storytimes. They’re great books for the right age.