Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Opportunity, the Mars rover who charmed a planet

Hello, Opportunity: The Story of Our Friend on Mars, by Shaelyn McDaniel/Illustrated by Cornelia Li, (Sept. 2022, Page Street Kids), $18.99, ISBN: 9781645674696

Ages 4-8

The true story of Opportunity, the Mars rover who captivated watchers on Earth, is the star of this picture book biography. Author Shaelyn McDaniel begins with a story of how humans set and achieved exploration goals: humans wanted to go to the sky, so we did. We wanted to go to the moon, so we did. But when we wanted to go to Mars, it was a little too far away, “so we sent a friend instead”. Opportunity , built by scientists, went into space and spent 15 years on what was originally 3 month mission, but a storm hit the planet, draining the rover’s batteries and shutting her down. McDaniel humanizes Opportunity with phrases like “Oppy called home often” and “she sent selfies so we would know she was okay”; as Opportunity shuts down, scientists sent a lullaby – “a kiss from her friends on Earth”. It’s an emotional moment, made more poignant by Cornelia Li’s digital illustration of a satellite broadcasting colorful musical notes into space. Much of the illustration is orange-red tinged, with and there are genuinely breathtaking moments as Opportunity roves the Red planet, groves digging into the ground and layered dunes. Endpapers show Mars from the Earth’s point of view and Earth from Mars’s point of view, and back matter includes more information about Opportunity. A bibliography is available via QR code. Hello, Opportunity will endear the rover to a new generation of sky-watchers who may be inspired to find her on Mars one day. A sweet storytime addition to your space collections. A downloadable activity kit includes games and the opportunity to send a postcard to Opportunity.

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

New LEGO Mindstorms books from No Starch Press!

If you have tinkerers or a robotics league in your community, you may already be familiar with No Starch Press and their solid LEGO Mindstorms catalog. I’m a No Starch fan and regularly buy their computing books for both my kids and adult collections, but their Mindstorms books really are worthy of their own shout-out. I’ve used them in my own library when I had a robotics league, and they were a tremendous help to me and my team as we navigated getting the machines built and running. There are two new Mindstorms books coming out that are worth a look for your shelves.

Getting Started with LEGO® MINDSTORMS: Learn the Basics of Building and Programming Robots, by Barbara Bratzel & Rob Torok, (Oct. 2022, No Starch Press), $19.99, ISBN: 9781718502420

Ages 12+

Anyone embarking on LEGO Mindstorms robotics will find Getting Started with LEGO Mindstorms an essential reference to have on hand. Written with a friendly, easy-to-follow voice, the book provides information you and your readers will need to build your first robot, work with the Mindstorms app, and troubleshoot and refine your robots as you go. The book covers sensors, remote control, sound, light, and movement. Are you new to programming? The book introduces readers to Word Blocks, a visual programming language based on Scratch and is very user-friendly. If you’ve never delved into robotics, DON’T PANIC: this is a supremely intuitive guide that’s meant to foster an interest in programming, building, and working with LEGO Mindstorms robots. You and your readers are safe in Barbara Bratzel’s and Rob Torok’s capable hands.

 

Mastering LEGO® MINDSTORMS: Build Better Robots with Python and Word Blocks, by Barbara Bratzel & Rob Torok, (Oct. 2022, No Starch Press), $19.99, ISBN: 9781718503144

Ages 12+

You want your readers to expand their expertise on LEGO Mindstorms. Mastering LEGO Mindstorms will get them there. Moving up from basic Word Blocks programming, Mastering LEGO Mindstorms expands robotics builders’ skills by introducing Python language programming, letting users write text-based code. There’s still how-tos on designing and building, with expanded programming techniques to encourage the casual builder to grow their schools and move toward more sophisticated robotics engineering. There are chapters on gears and mechanisms, moving gyro sensors, and games and “Ultimate Challenges” to test your engineers’ mettle. Photos are incredibly helpful and the informative text is as supportive as it is educational. Bratzel is an elementary school STEM educator and Torok is a secondary STEM educator; both are Mindstorms educators who explain robotics in a way that respects the reader while challenging them.

Getting Started with LEGO® MINDSTORMS and Mastering LEGO® MINDSTORMS are excellent additions to your STEM/STEAM collections. If you have robotics leagues or maker labs in your community, they are essential. 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Over and Under the Waves explores the ocean

Over and Under the Waves, by Kate Messner/Illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal, (Sept. 2022, Chronicle Kids), $18.99, ISBN: 9781797203478

Ages 4-7

Kate Messner and Christopher Silas Neal’s latest Over and Under story explores the ocean ecosystem. Narrated in the first person by a child while out rowing with their family, we encounter sea lions sunning on the rocks, birds soaring overhead, and a mother and baby otter cuddling among the kelp. A glimpse below the water reveals an entirely different, bustling world: shimmering fish and bristly urchins; lurking eels and drifting jellies, and a giant surprise! There’s a sense of wonder in Messner’s storytelling, beautifully translated by Neal, who creates spread after spread of mixed media realistic ocean life. The family is present only to help place the reader in the story; nature takes center stage, with the human characters occasionally appearing from the side of the spread, or from far above to provide perspective. Endpapers show sea stars, fish, and shells in white silhouette across a field of deep blue. An author’s note describes Messner’s inspiration for the tale, and an “About the Animals” section provides a brief informational paragraph on each animal in the story. Recommended books and websites direct readers to further reading. A thoughtful meditation on the ocean, and an excellent addition to both this series and STEM/STEAM and nature collections.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

STEAM-pressed flipped fairy tale: Jo Bright and the Seven Bots

Jo Bright and the Seven Bots, by Deborah Underwood/Illustrated by Meg Hunt, (Sept. 2022, Chronicle Books), $17.99, ISBN: 9781452171302

Ages 4-7

The creators of fun flipped fairy tales Interstellar Cinderella and Reading Beauty are back with a fun tinkering tale that will be popular in STEM/STEAM storytimes, fairy tale storytimes, and any time. Jo Bright is a tinkerer with a talent for building bots despite the selfish queen not sharing her supplies. Even Mirror-bot knows the score, telling the queen that “your bots are great, ’tis true, / but Jo Bright has become / a better bot-builder than you”, sending the queen into a tizzy and getting Jo dropped off by a dragon’s lair. Turns out, the vegetarian dragon took to the woods to escape the queen, too, and bonds with Jo, who creates seven bots to keep the lonely dragon company. When the queen discovers that Jo is still the superior bot-maker, she takes things even further! Mixed media illustrations are just plain fun, with adorable robots, diverse and interesting background characters, and a likable blue-haired heroine with a talent for creating. Endpapers add a little extra fun to the story. The rhyming verse is easy to read and makes for a lively readaloud. Pair this one with Ashley Spires’s The Most Magnificent Thing (2014) for a fun STEAM story, and leave out some LEGOs for post-storytime play.

 

Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction

NatGeo Kids adds some Bling to our collections

Bling! 100 Fun Facts About Rocks and Gems, by Emma Carlson Berne, (Jan. 2022, National Geographic Kids), $4.99, ISBN: 9781426338908

Ages 7-9

Bling!, Nat Geo’s Level 3 Reader on rocks and gems is chock-full of fun facts and incredible photos. The 100 Fun Facts series is another one of those NatGeo Kids home runs for my library shelves; the Easy Reader format is familiar to kids, and the layout that pairs photos with quick, easy-to-digest information attracts my library kids to these books. These are great for booktalking trivia, too: Did you know that silver is used in medical bandages to prevent infection? Or that you could buy a jelly bean-sized bar of gold for about $50? Little facts like that while I’m booktalking grab kids’ attention, and NatGeo Kids makes it easy for me to grab those fast facts. Bling! makes the STEM connection with facts about the Egyptian pyramids, erosion and rock formations, and a section on plate tectonics. Phonetic spelling throughout helps readers with new vocabulary words. All 100 facts get a roundup at the end of the book, and there is an index. Display this with NatGeo’s The Book of Bling (2019) and some callout facts for an eye-catching display.

Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction, picture books

I’m a Neutrino – great for science storytimes

I’m a Neutrino: Tiny Particles in a Big Universe, by Dr. Eve M. Vavagiakis/Illustrated by Ilze Lemesis, (March 2022, MIT Kids Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781536222074

Ages 7-9

If you enjoy Chris Ferrie’s Baby University books, and Ruth Spiro and Irene Chan’s Baby Loves Science board books, you’re going to flip for I’m a Neutrino, a rhyming science tale by a Cornell physicist and her illustrator mother. I’m a Neutrino  introduces burgeoning young scientists to the neutrino: “I am a particle, like electrons and light / I can pass through you without stopping my flight!” The neutrinos, depicted as bright, colorful, spiky-headed little beings, adventure throughout the story, dancing and playing across the cosmos as a diverse group of kids and adults try to unlock their mysteries. The rhyming text informs with a playful tone, and the accompanying illustrations make science exciting and fun while adding new science terms to readers’ vocabularies. A “Know Your Neutrinos” section in the back matter identifies and gives a little more factual information about the neutrinos we encounter in the story.

There isn’t a glossary of new words in this volume, so consider making some flash cards to hand out, to help readers navigate these new words. You can find more about neutrinos at Kiddle and Academic Kids.

This is the first collaboration between Dr. Vavagiakis and MIT Kids and a natural progression for readers who started reading science board books like Chris Ferrie’s and Ruth Spiro and Irene Chan’s series as toddlers and preschoolers. Great for a science storytime, Junior Discovery Club, or STEM class.

Visit Eve Vavagiakis’s webpage for more about her research and mentoring.

Posted in Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Animals, Animals, Animals! Books for everyone!

I’ve got a bunch of great animal books, courtesy of NatGeo Kids, to talk up today, so sit back and start your program and collection planning!

Can’t Get Enough Shark Stuff: Fun Facts, Awesome Info, Cool Games, Silly Jokes, and More!, by National Geographic Kids, (May 2022, National Geographic Kids), $14.99, ISBN: 9781426372582

Ages 7-10

The latest NatGeo Kids offering fits perfectly with the CSLP “Oceans of Possibilities” Summer Reading theme, and it’s a good add to your collections and programming. Filled with fun spreads and facts, quizzes, and experiments, this is part workbook (remind kids that we don’t write in library books!), part STEM/Discovery Club handbook, and part primer on sharks for shark fans. A glossary “Catch and Match” game challenges readers to match terms with their definitions and a “Find Out More” section offers resources for further reading and a list of scientists and researchers who contributed to this volume. Over 250 color photographs show a variety of sharks, many labeled with names. A great resource to create shark-related scavenger hunts, trivia programs, and science projects for the summer and beyond.
Don’t forget that Shark Week starts on July 24th! STEAMsational has some great Shark Week activities that I want to try out with my Queens Kids (my affectionate term for my library kiddos); TeachersPayTeachers has some great freebies, too, including these coloring sheets courtesy of The WOLFe Pack; these Facts vs. Opinion cards from A Classroom for All Seasons would make for fun trivia or debate programs, and Simply Learning Life’s Feed the Shark Counting Game is a quick and fun printable for busy bags.

Critter Chat, by National Geographic Kids, (May 2022, National Geographic Kids), $9.99, ISBN: 9781426371707

Ages 8-12

If animals used social media, it would probably look like this amusing digest from NatGeo Kids. Using imagined screenshots, webpages, and social media accounts like “Llamazon”, “Dolphinstagram”, and “Yowl”, Desert_long-eared_bat reviews the Algerian Desert (5 stars – “…everything I could ever want in a dining establishment! It’s hot, it’s dry, it’s sandy, and it’s packed with scorpions”) and Upside_down_jellyfish posts selfies from the Caribbean Sea. Animals chat to one another via “Critter Chat”, and Animal Influencers spotlight famous animals like Fiona the Hippo, Punxsutawney Phil, and Brigadier Sir Nils Olav, the only penguin who’s also a knight. Hashtags and selfies communicate fun facts about animals, habitats, and more. It’s a fun way to learn little tidbits about animals, and perfect for middle graders to relax with and enjoy. Great for trivia and a side project – ask readers what they think animals would post to social media!

TeachersPayTeachers has fun social media templates that your kids can customize to make their own Critter Chats: here’s one from ZippaDeeZazz, and The Cute Teacher has phone screen layouts.

 

 

Little Kids First Nature Guide: Bugs, by National Geographic Kids, (May 2022, National Geographic Kids), $9.99, ISBN: 9781426371493

Ages 4-8

Great for younger nature fans, the Little Kids First Nature Guide: Bugs introduces little learners to all sorts of bugs. Full-color photos are labeled and accompanied by easy-to-read and understand facts, scientific terms, and diagrams. Spreads on insect life cycles of demonstrate a photo-by-photo, step-by-step explanation, using photos of different bugs. Profiles on ants, bees, beetles, and other bugs give readers a close-up look at different insects, with facts and related (but not the same!) bugs. Fun activities like Hide-and-Seek and Move Like a Bug! encourage readers with extension activities, and a glossary of terms keeps all that new vocabulary on hand. The flexible binding is made of sturdy cardboard and will hold up to many, many nature walks. Fully indexed for easy reference. A fun, informative guide for preschoolers and early school-age kids.

Education.com has fantastic butterfly activities you can download and print for free; ditto for sheets on bugs in general. There are some adorable activities on Pocket of Preschool that you can do on a budget.

 

 

Little Kids First Big Book of Baby Animals, by National Geographic Kids, (March 2022, National Geographic Kids), $14.99, ISBN: 9781426371462

Ages 4-8

The Little Kids NatGeo Kids books are adorable, aren’t they? I’ve got a bunch here at my library, and my now 10-year-old loved them when he was in Pre-K and Kindergarten. (As he’s 10, he is no longer a “little kid”, as he tells me. Often.) The Little Kids First Big Book of Baby Animals contains over 120 pages of squeal-worthy color photos of baby animals with their families. You pull this out and show it to your kids – library or otherwise – and you will have a roomful of little ones in the palm of your hand. And when you tell them things like a panda cub’s cry sounds like a human baby’s cry? Or that a hippo can’t swim yet, so it gallops underwater? They will tell you ALL about their favorite animals, and the cute things that the animals in their lives do, so get ready to have the best, cutest conversations about baby animals. Fun facts and thought-provoking questions run throughout the book, and text is larger in size, making it easier and less dense for younger kids and emerging readers. A map of the world at the end of the book is color coded to show where animals referenced in the book live, and parent tips help caregivers extend the knowledge from the book into the real world. There is a glossary of terms, a list of additional resources, and a full index. Add this book to your animals collections.

123Homeschool4me has some free printables where kids can match baby and adult animals and learn the terms for different baby animals.

 

 

Little Kids First Board Book: Birds, by National Geographic Kids, (March 2022, National Geographic Kids), $7.99, ISBN: 9781426371448

Ages 0-3

I love NatGeo Kids’s First Board books! They’re so bright and cheery, and the photos and activities are perfect for engaging littles during a lapsit storytime. The latest is Birds, and contains 12 spreads with color photos of different birds. Each spread has a simple, one-sentence factual statement and a colorful callout fact about birds, and each picture is labeled with the name of the bird in a colorful box with bold black lettering. Names of birds and key phrases get a nice, colorful font that sets them off from the rest of the text. A final spread invites readers to try different activities to identify six featured birds: “Tap the toucan’s beak. / Flap your arms like the eagle.”

This is the seventh Little Kids First Board Book. It’s a great series for beginning learners, with sturdy cardboard to hold up to many circs and readings. NatGeo Kids has a birds website where learners can watch videos, see maps, and learn facts about 24 different birds, presented in alphabetical order. Also check out their Strange Birds website for photos of more feathered friends.

Happy Hooligans has a great list of 25 bird crafts for little ones that are easy on easily done on a budget.

 

National Geographic Readers: Mythical Beasts: 100 Fun Facts About Real Animals and the Myths They Inspire, by National Geographic Kids, (Jan. 2022, National Geographics Kids), $4.99, ISBN: 9781426338939

Ages 7-10

Unicorns, dragons, and krakens all have one thing in common: they’re mythical creatures with origins in very real history. NatGeo Kids’s Mythical Beasts is a Level 3 Reader, good for most readers ages 7-10, that provides 100 facts on real animals and the myths they’ve inspired or are named for. A helpful key to NatGeoKids’s leveling system is right on the back cover, and I like using the 5-finger rule for choosing a book when I do my Readers Advisory. The book is organized into 3 chapters and two 25 Facts spreads that give readers the roundup on history’s mysteries: mermaids were most likely manatees, who have fishy tales but can turn their heads from side to side like humans; the giant Kraken was most likely a giant squid. Using research and the fossil record, color photos and illustrations, NatGeo Kids author Stephanie Warren Drimmer takes kids through the process of figuring out why ancient people mistook a distant ancestor of the elephant was mistaken for a cyclops, and how dinosaur fossils led folks to believe that they discovered proof of dragons. We get some modern-day mythical behavior, too: the basilisk lizard can run across water, and adult jellyfish can age in reverse and regrow into adults again, like the phoenix’s power to be reborn (sans ashes, though). The back matter rounds up all 100 facts across a spread (and makes for great trivia questions).

Fun for a STEM/Discovery Club, fun for collections. And you can extend the activity with mythical creature-inspired crafts. Give kids a manatee coloring page and let them create mermaid friends. They can create a giant squid of their own, or try their hands at this fun paper roll squid craft. Make a handprint unicorn and give it a narwhal friend.

 

Posted in Fiction, Middle Grade

STEM Smart: Izzy Newton and the S.M.A.R.T. Squad

Izzy Newton and the S.M.A.R.T. Squad: Absolute Hero, by Valerie Tripp/Illustrated by Geneva Bowers, (Oct. 2021, National Geographic Kids), $7.99, ISBN: 9781426373039

Ages 8-12

Izzy Newton, Allie Einstein, and Charlie Darwin are best friends starting Atom Middle School together, when they discover that a friend of theirs who moved away is back! Marie Curie doesn’t seem as friendly as she was when the girls were besties, and she’s got a new friend, Gina Carver, who seems equally standoffish. When the air conditioner in their middle school shows no signs of letting up, the group have to put their science-loving brains to work to figure out how to keep themselves, and the rest of the school, out of deep freeze. Izzy and her friends are all named after scientific icons (you’ll learn more about them in the back matter), and each girl has an interest in an area of science similar to their namesakes. Middle-grade subjects like friendship and working out differences are familiar for readers, and the story examines how misunderstandings arise when people assume and don’t speak to one another. The air conditioning mystery is a science problem that needs to be solved; something the girls do through the scientific method, detailed throughout the story. The pace and dialogue are light and smart, and black and white illustrations run throughout. Back matter includes explanations of scientific terms and profiles of women scientists mentioned in the novel. Absolute Hero – a play on the scientific term “absolute zero” – is the first book in the Smart Squad series, with an additional novel, Newton’s Flaw, available now, and another, The Law of Cavities, coming in October. Visit the Smart Squad webpage for free, downloadable Readers and Educators Guides. Absolute Hero was originally published in hardcover in September 2020.

The S.M.A.R.T. Squad series is shaping up to be a fun STEM-related series for middle graders. Pair with Kate Biberdorf’s Kate the Chemist series.

 

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 picture books

Happy Book Birthday to I Love Strawberries!

I Love Strawberries!, by Shannon Anderson/Illustrated by Jaclyn Sinquett, (Apr. 2022, Feeding Minds Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781948898065

Ages 4-8

Jo is a young girl who LOVES strawberries; so much, that she wants to grow her own. Can she convince her parents that’s she’s responsible enough for the task? Told through Jo’s journal entries and narration, this fun STEM story is perfect for springtime reading. Jo is an immediately likable and funny narrator who goes from adding red marker lines on her face in an attempt to look older in a flash to a thoughtful strawberry farmer who journals her process, from planting grass seeds for her rabbit and raising money for her strawberry plants to protecting her fledgling strawberry crop from “bird attacks” and using her newly grown fruit in recipes. She’s enterprising, growing a small business out of her flourishing strawberry plants, and she may have a new plan for the next year. A fun, informative story with a biracial main character and a step-by-step process in growing and maintaining one’s own food. Green endpapers feature burgeoning strawberry plants, and back matter includes information on growing strawberry plants and pest management. The I Love Strawberries! page on Feedings Minds’s website is loaded with free downloadable goodies, including coloring pages and an educator’s guide.

If you have the budget for it, consider a fun grab-and-go planting project – it doesn’t have to be strawberries! Include a little notebook so kids can journal their progress like Jo does!