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

#SummersCool: Art and Architecture, Music, and Science

The latest edition of #SummersCool is here! Get ready for a full day of fun!


Build a Castle, by Paul Farrell, (April 2020, Pavilion Children’s Books), $19.99, IBN: 9781843654469

Ages 7+

Way too much fun, this box of 64 slotted cards let kids build castles with all the details: heraldry, arches, arrow-slit windows, flags, and more. Brightly colored in reds, blues, and yellows, with bold black outlines, kids can read up on different architectural features and get an idea of the basics from the included foldout sheet, and let their creative energy take them wherever they want to go. I worked on these with the Kiddo, and he ended up incorporating his Lego bricks and minifigs to come up with a fantastic spread that covered our dining room table. The box is just the beginning – print out some paper knights, draw some dragons, and have a great time!

Turn it Up! A Pitch-Perfect History of Music That Rocked the World, by Joel Levy, (Dec. 2019, National Geographic Kids), $19.99, ISBN: 978-1426335419

Ages 8-12

From the earliest music to K-Pop, Turn It Up! is a comprehensive guide to the history of music and its influence on the world. Six sections organize music into time periods, beginning with the earliest instruments, including wind instruments played on crops, and string instruments handed down from the gods. Isn’t It Romantic? introduces readers to orchestras, operas, and Classical and Romantic music’s origins in the 18th ad 19th centuries. Thoroughly Modern Music explores the 20th century, and the changes to music brought by the emerging film and radio industries; All-American Sound is all about the American sound of Jazz and Blues, influenced by African culture. Play it Loud covers protest music, the British invasion that brought the Beatles to American shores, and the distinctive style of 1970s rock. Pop Goes the Music is about pop, punk, rap, and hip-hop. Spotlights on instruments, musical terms, superstars of the music world, and notes about essential pieces of music give readers a well-rounded backgrounder in music history. There’s a timeline, glossary, further resources list, and index to complete this volume. Let your kids create a Spotify playlist with music they like; create one for them.


Extreme Ocean: Amazing Animals, High-Tech Gear, Record-Breaking Depths, and Much More!, by Sylvia A. Earle and Glen Phelan, (March 2020, National Geographic Kids), $12.99, ISBN: 9781426336850

Ages 8-12

I love NatGeo’s animal compendiums, and Kiddo does too – he usually runs off with mine as soon as they arrive! After retrieving Extreme Ocean from his bookcase, I was able to sit down and see what deep sea explorer Sylvia A. Earle had to say about some of her ocean explorations. Filled with colorful, vibrant photos, Extreme Ocean is all about the oceans that cover over 71% of our world: and the dangers they face. The information is organized into five chapters: Blue Heart of the Planet is about the ocean itself; Life Beneath the Waves is about ocean life; Going Deeper, Staying Longer covers exploration, and An Ocean in Trouble and How to Save an Ocean is a call to action for readers to educate themselves about dangers like pollution and overfishing, and what scientists and conservationists are doing – and what readers can do – to turn the tide in our favor. Extreme sections in each section look at major happenings, from tsunamis to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a polluted area of the Pacific Ocean that may measure as large as the state of Alaska. There are experiments for kids to try at home, and Who’s Who callout boxes bring readers’ attention to different ocean dwellers to discover. There’s a glossary, list of resources, and an index. A great companion to NatGeo’s Ultimate Oceanpedia and Captain Aquatica’s Awesome Ocean, and a book kids will love.


Acadia Files: Book Four, Spring Science, by Katie Coppens/Illustrated by Holly Hatam, (March 2020, Tilbury House Publishers), $13.95, ISBN: 978-0-88448-604-6

Ages 7-11

The fourth book in Acadia’s Science Notebook series is all about Spring! This season, Acadia investigates dinosaurs, meteors, and mass extinctions. She also looks at parasites, ticks, and the diseases they can spread, including Lyme disease and malaria. She also looks through her previous seasons’ notebooks and puts together her inquiries from all four of them, to give herself – and readers – a rounded, holistic understanding of the natural world. This is such a great intermediate STEM/STEAM series for kids; it’s part science, part chapter book, with a handwritten, journal feel throughout that should inspire some of your kiddos to start their own journaling. I fall back on this one quite often because it’s so easy. Kiddo and I used this as a guideline to make our own journal and had a great time wandering our neighborhood to fill it up. Enjoy a chapter read and activity in the video below.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Miss Pinkeltink’s Purse holds a lot of love!

Miss Pinkeltink’s Purse, by Patty Brozo/Illustrated by Ana Ochoa, (Dec. 2018, Tilbury House), $17.95, ISBN: 9780884486268

Ages 4-7

Miss Pinkeltink has a ginormous purse that knocks people down and causes general mayhem, but she’s always got something to give: some tape to repair a bike wheel, a comb, or a rake; anything to help someone out. When Miss Pinkeltink’s purse is empty, she’s filled with the wonderful feelings of sharing. Miss Pinkeltink is homeless, and beds down on a park bench, or on the grass at night, her pink cape as a blanket and her purse for a pillow; Zoey, one of the kids Miss Pinkeltink’s generosity touched, spies her outside her window one night and determined to do something. She gathers the town together to give Miss Pinkeltink new things for her purse, one by one, leading up to a lovely final gift for her purse: a home.

This is an earnest, sweet introduction to the concept of homelessness and taking action for younger readers. The rhyming text introduces ideas in a simple, softened light; the bright daytime colors and expressive characters convey a sweet, if slightly dizzy, older woman who will give her last possession away – even if it it a bone, to a cat – with patchworked, layered clothing, who looks like she could be someone’s grandmother. Zoey, a brown-skinned girl, gets her town behind the effort to help Miss Pinkeltink out; the town is a multicultural mix of families and individuals. It’s a simple, warm-hearted story about how a group of people can come together to take care of someone less fortunate, and a good way to start a discussion about homelessness, empathy, and taking positive action. The back matter includes links to organizations, created by young people, to raise money to help and house the homeless. There are also tips for positive action, from fundraising to volunteering.

Miss Pinkeltink’s Purse is a strong addition to empathy collections and would be a good readalike for fans of Maribeth Boelts’ books and Lois Brandt’s Maddi’s Fridge.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Encouraging words for kids: Have I Ever Told You?

Have I Ever Told You?, by Shani King/Illustrated by Anna Horvath, (Jan. 2019, Tilbury House), $14.95, ISBN: 9780884487197

Ages 4-7

Framed within a repeated question – Have I ever told you? – kids receive strong, loving encouragement and life lessons with this picture book. The reader wants their little ones to know that they can be anything they want to be in this world; that they are special and unique, and that they must be kind. There are looks at the sillier sides of life that we love so much – “Have I told you that I love the way you get food on your forehead when you eat?” – and share moments that assure our kids that we will always make time for them: “Have I told you that taking care of you and protecting you is the most important thing I do?” “Have I told you that if you hear a word that makes you uncomfortable, you can ask me what it means and we can talk about it?” There are reminders to treat others with respect and kindness, and to stand up for others being picked on, and reassurances that disagreements are okay, disrespect is not.

I really enjoyed the artwork in Have I Ever Told You?, which focuses on hands: small hands within larger hands; holding hands; hands using sign language; hands wearing puppets, hands waving hello. It creates a safe space, a loving, comforting space for readers, and really drives home the comforting, loving messages contained within the pages. The mixed media artwork features swirls, little animals and gadgets, communicating feelings and featuring hands of all colors. This one is a lovely storytime book and a very nice addition to your empathy collections. If you have kids who loved Hands Can in their storytimes when they were younger, this is a wonderful next step.

Have I Ever Told You? received an Indie Excellence Award and a Next Generation Indie Book Award.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Mother Earth’s Lullaby sings us all to sleep

Mother Earth’s Lullaby: A Song for Endangered Animals, by Terry Pierce/Illustrated by Carol Heyer, (Oct. 2018, Tilbury House), $17.95, ISBN: 9780884485575

Ages 3-6

A gentle rhyme set to painted illustrations of animals parents (including humans), Mother Earth’s Lullaby leads readers through bedtime in nature. Beginning and ending with a human mother and her two children (and cat), reading a bedtime story on the couch, spreads show different animal parents with their babies: panda and cub cuddle in bamboo leaves; a condor lies over its chick; polar bear cubs cuddle on their mother in their den; owlets take refuge in a tree. But for the humans, each group of animals depicted is endangered.

The story doesn’t really focus on endangered animals, per se; it’s up to readers and educators/caregivers to explain that these animals are endangered. The story suggests that even endangered animals feel safe in their dens while they sleep, next to their parents, who care for them and keep them safe. The paintings are realistic and will appeal to readers, and the rhyme, while not always even, makes for sweet bedtime reading. Back matter includes descriptions of each featured animal, a word on endangered animals and how readers can help with recovery efforts. This one is a nice additional purchase for storytime books.

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

Dinosaurs books for the arts and sciences!

The 50 State Fossils: A Guidebook for Aspiring Paleontologists, by Yinan Wang/Illustrations by Jane Levy, (Sept. 2018, Schiffer Publishing), $18.99, ISBN: 9780764355578

Ages 7-12

You know that states have their own flags. You probably even knew that states have their own trees, foods, and animals, but did you know that most states have their own fossils? It’s true! 50 State Fossils give readers a state-by-state look at each one. Maryland’s state fossil, for instance, is a Sea Snail, while Michigan’s is a Mastodon – a mammal similar to elephants and mammoths. Some state fossils are plants: Oregon’s is a Dawn Redwood, while North Dakota’s is Shipworm-Bored Petrified Wood. Each entry includes a photo and illustration of the fossil (or proposed fossil, for those states that don’t have a state fossil); a state map with a designated area where fossils can be found in that state; and a brief notation on the fossil: when the fossil dates from, when it was designated a state fossil, scientific names, and a paragraph or two about the fossil.

The State Fossils are the meat of the book, but this slim volume is packed with information for budding paleontologists: there are sections on how fossils form, how a state fossil is designated, dating fossils and the geologic time scale, and taxonomic rank.  There’s a glossary, a state-by-state breakdown of where to see fossils, and further reading. Endpapers are a colorful mix of various flora and fauna that can be found in the book.

50 State Fossils is one of those books a kid will carry to the museum to refer to while wandering through exhibits (I know I used to) and makes for a great book to give dino fans. It’s a nice add to nonfiction collections and a good gift idea.


If da Vinci Painted a Dinosaur, by Amy Newbold/Illustrated by Greg Newbold, (Oct. 2018, Tilbury House), $17.95, ISBN: 9780884486671

Ages 4-8

This follow up to 2017’s If Picasso Painted a Snowman is an enjoyable look at dinosaurs and art history. The hamster guide is back, escorting readers through an art gallery of different artists’ takes on dinosaurs, from a da Vinci-esque Virtruvian Dino, through Katusushika Hokusai’s giant wave (with dinosaurs wave surfing), and itty bitty dinosaurs hiding in Diego Rivera’s lilies. Who would da Vinci really paint, though, if he were painting dinosaurs? Why, Dino Lisa, of course! Readers are encouraged to copy a page sporting a blank easel and make their own dinosaur artwork, and featured artists get capsule biographies at the end, along with the dinosaur species designated to their paintings. A word from artist Greg Newbold encourages readers to draw, explore, and have fun on their own artist journeys. Endpapers inspired by Henri Matisse’s paper cutouts lead the reader in and usher them out, hopefully with a head full of ideas.

This book is just too much fun! It’s a great way to introduce art and science to kids, and begs for a program where kids can learn about artists and create their own dinosaurs. I’d have used this in my art storytime, for sure. (So maybe I need to dust that storytime off and revisit it.) Booktalk and feature in an art storytime with Lucy Volpin’s Crocdali; David Wiesner’s Art & Max; My Museum by Joanne Liu, and Henri’s Scissors by Jeanette Winter. This one’s an absolute add to collections.

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade

Get some Autumn Science in with The Acadia Files

The Acadia Files, Book Two: Autumn Science, by Katie Coppens/Illustrated by Holly Hatan, (Sept. 2018, Tilbury House Publishers), $13.95, ISBN: 9780884486046

Ages 7-10

Part science journal, part chapter book, The Acadia Files is a planned 4-book series that introduces readers to 10-year-old Acadia Greene, who loves science and investigating. She often goes on adventures with her best friend, Isabel, her dog, Baxter, and her science teacher Mom. Autumn Science, the second book in the series, is a 5-chapter book where Acadia works on conservation and environmentalism, learns about frogs, and why leaves change color. She also learns about the water cycle in a chapter called, “Drinking Dinosaur Pee” – yes, my friends, think on that for a little bit! – and discovers the International Date Line and figures out time zones in “What Time Is It?” Finally, the bane of the cooler weather – cold season – gets its due in “The Germ War”, which explains the importance of washing one’s hands and other ways to stay healthy.

Each chapter can be read as a standalone adventure. Full color illustrations throughout give a journal-type feel to the book, including “entries” made by Acadia; there are washi-taped photos and data jotted down in the pages, experiments, new science vocabulary words, and each section ends with further questions to discuss in a “Things I Still Wonder” list. A section on “further exploration”includes links to all topics covered in the book. Endpapers look like a molecule party gone wild, and the cover looks like a decorated cardboard cover. Readers with even a passing interest in science should gobble this one up, and I’d love to see science programs (program in a book!) in libraries use this book to create some STEM fun – there will be four books in the series, after all; one for each season! Which reminds me… I think a “Dinosaur Pee” program would do GANGBUSTERS here at my library. Excuse me while I go make some plans…

Give this to your readers who liked Lucy’s Lab. Display with… what else? Science Comics!

Author Katie Coppens is a science educator. You can visit her author website to learn about author visits and see more of her books.

Posted in picture books

Henry is Kind encourages acts of kindness

Henry is Kind: A Story of Mindfulness, by Linda Ryden/Illustrated by Shearry Malone, (Oct. 2018, Tilbury House Publishers), $16.95, ISBN: 9780884486619

Ages 5-8

Henry is a young boy whose teacher, Mrs. Snowden, assigns a Kindness Project. The students have to illustrate a kind act they’ve done for someone – or something – that week. Henry’s friends all do wonderful things, like cleaning up litter, setting the table, and giving balloons to siblings, but Henry is upset because he can’t think of a single kind thing he’s done. Luckily, his friends are all there to remind him about the kind things he’s done for them, like reaching books on high shelves, sharing snacks, and talking to a new student. Mindfulness and heartfulness educator Linda Ryden’s story speaks to younger kids that may not always recognize the everyday ways they demonstrate kindness to one another. Henry is Kind encourages kids to seek out ways to be mindful and kind to one another while recognizing that even the seemingly smallest acts are meaningful, remembered, and appreciated.

Shearry Malone’s illustrations are soft and expressive, featuring a comfortable classroom decorated with encouraging slogans like, “You could play with someone who looks lonely”, “Plant kindness and gather love”, and my favorite, “Don’t believe everything you think”. There is diversity among the kids and teacher.

An author note at the end offers ways to encourage mindfulness and heartfulness, and includes a list of additional resources to explore. It’s a bit word-heavy for younger independent readers, but this would be a nice mindfulness/kindness storytime selection or book discussion choice for a school-wide reading. Author Linda Ryden’s Peace of Mind website offers training for educators and caregivers and a Peace of Mind curriculum series. Videos help show kids how to engage in mindful breathing. Kiddie Matters has a free kindness scavenger hunt printable that lets kids check off acts of kindness as they complete them. With World Kindness Day happening on November 13, this is a great book and activity to keep in mind.