Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

The Great TBR Catchup continues: STEM concepts for Kids

I’m still working my way through the Great TBR Catchup, so I appreciate everyone’s patience, if you’ve sent me a book and have been waiting for me to post about it! I’m a one-woman operation, and I read everything I receive, so sometimes, my eyes are bigger than my sense of reality: everything just sounds amazing, I wish I could read them all at once.

Having said that, let’s take a look at some fun STEM concept books for kids!

The Book of Wrong Answers, by Penny Noyce/Illustrated by Diego Chaves, (Dec. 2020, Tumblehome, Inc.), $17.95, ISBN: 9781943431618

Ages 5-7

This very sweet book about STEM concepts stars an Gigi, inquisitive young girl and her humorous brother, Diego. As they go about their day, she asks her brother questions about the world around them; he responds with funny, exaggerated responses: “Where do tadpoles come from?” “They fall inside raindrops. Then they grow into frogs”; “Why does Felicity [the cat] purr?” “She’s restarting the motor in her chest”. The warm artwork shows a close pair of siblings enjoying each other’s company; the answers are teasing and funny, and quite inventive. Diego’s explanations are illustrated in amusing style, with children floating away from their parents, colorful pixels floating off a TV screen, and people wearing magnetic shoes as they stick to the bottom of the Earth. Colorful fonts let readers move easily between the dialogue between brother and sister; Gigi’s sentences are in red, Diego’s are blue. Back matter includes explanations about the real science behind Gigi’s questions. Great for a Kindergarten or first grade classroom.

 

Sometimes We Do, by Omo Moses/Illustrated by Diego Chaves, (Sept. 2019, Tumblehome, Inc.), $16.95, ISBN: 9781943431472

Ages 3-6

Math educator Omo Moses creates an affectionate family story with some math thrown in for extra fun. A young boy named Johari gets his dad out of bed early to make pancakes for breakfast and play with trains. As Dad cooks, he models great behavior for parents, asking Johari math-related questions about the meal: “How many blueberries you got?”; “Do you want THICK [pancakes] or THIN ones?”; “More milk or more flour?”, all reinforcing for Johari – and our readers – ideas about size, number, amount, and recipes. Johari imagines his responses to his father, giving us a forest of pancakes and blueberries, a tiny Johari lifting the lid off a jar of Grandma’s secret ingredient, and riding life-sized trains in the house. Mom and younger sister Kamara wake up and join the breakfast discussion, and Johari and Dad head out to play, where we get more discussion about Grandma’s special ingredient: love. Warmly illustrated by Diego Chaves, Sometimes We Do shows a family of color enjoying some together time, with easy-to-read dialogue; each family’s speech is rendered in a different color to help kids determine who is speaking: Johari’s sentences are green; Dad’s are blue, Mom’s are black, and Kamara’s are pink. What a great way to bring early math concepts to everyday interactions – it makes math so accessible to our little learners! Back matter includes Grandma’s recipe, a helpful math tip, and illustrated “math words” that come up in the story.

See a video with Omo Moses, where he talks about math and Sometimes We Do, on Tumblehome’s website. And check out this great Tweet from Cambridge Dads, spotlighting a StoryWalk that featured Sometimes We Do! You can also visit Mr. Moses’s organization, MathTalk, here.

Luna’s Yum Yum Dim Sum, by Natasha Yim/Illustrated by Violet Kim, (Dec. 2020, Charlesbridge), $6.99, ISBN: 9781623541996

Ages 3-6

I went a little berserk on Charlesbridge’s Storytelling Math debut at the end of last year, you may remember – they’re great books for a variety of ages, teaching concepts and diversity as they go. What’s not to love? Think of Luna’s Yum Yum Dim Sum as a new generation’s The Doorbell Rang by Pat Hutchins. Luna’s the birthday girl, so her parent take Luna and her two brothers to a dim sum restaurant for her birthday dinner. One of Luna’s pork buns falls on the floor, and now she and her brothers have to figure out how to split the remaining ones equally. How do three people divide five buns so no one feels left out? The dialogue is great here, as the kids come up with defense on why he or she should get the greater part of the share. It’s playful and fun, with a glimpse into Chinese culture, using Chinese vocabulary and the zodiac, and starring a biracial Chinese American family. A section on Exploring the Math offers tips for engaging kids and refining their math skills.

Publisher Charlesbridge offers a Luna activity kit in both English and Chinese.

 

Posted in Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Escaping Greenland: The #WonderListAdventures continue

Escape Greenland (The Wonder List Adventures #2), by Ellen Prager, Ph.D./Illustrated by Tammy Yee, (Apr. 2021, Tumblehome Learning), $13.95, ISBN: 978-1-943431-70-0

Ages 9-13

The second book in Dr. Ellen Prager’s new Wonder List Adventures takes siblings Ezzy and Luke to the next stop on their mother’s “Wonder List”: Greenland. The siblings and their father, who are visiting the places their mother wanted them to see for her when she passed away. After visiting the Galápagos Islands and finding themselves in the middle of a poaching ring in Escape Galápagos (2019), they’re hoping for a calmer vacation in Greenland. No such luck, my friends. Dr. Skylar, Ezzy’s and Luke’s dad, is called away to help out an injured researcher, just as the siblings overhear a plot to attract tourism by speeding up the melting of a glacier and find themselves in some very unfriendly company! In between once-in-a-lifetime adventures like seeing humpback whales breach (and being under them when they’re eating!), playing with puppies and getting a ride from sled dogs, they’re on the run from some pretty scary bad guys. Dr. Prager creates likable, interesting characters and uses her wealth of knowledge about marine science and climate change to put readers in the middle of the story with them. Settling her stories in incredible locales, she encourages environmental awareness by creating a love for the natural wonders of our planet and by spotlighting the very real types of people who would wreak ecological havoc through illegal and shady business practices, Dr. Prager sets readers’ sights on the big villain: personal gain.

The Wonder List Adventures is a good series to recommend to your Nat Geo Explorer Academy readers and your Carl Hiaasen readers. And fans of her previous series, Tristan Hunt and the Sea Guardians, will love the little Easter Egg she put in there!

 

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

#SummersCool Math books that your kids will love! Honest!

I do not take Math lightly. It’s one of those subjects I have endless admiration for, and way too much fear of. I encourage my kids, and my library kids, to love Math. Embrace Math, run to Math and dance in a field of flowers with it: you get my drift. It’s too late for me, go… go forth and calculate, my children.

So, when I was invited to review two Math books, I was a little terrified. Cool Math? Geometry is as Easy as Pie? I broke out in a cold sweat just thinking of them. I needn’t have stressed. These books are SO much fun (and tasty, as you’ll see). C’mon, join me for an exploration of Math.

 

Geometry is as Easy as Pie (Pieces of Cake series), by Katie Coppens, (March 2020, Tumblehome, Inc.) $17.95, ISBN: 978-1-943431-52-6

Ages 8-12

I know Katie Coppens as the author of the Acadia Files series (I’ve got a writeup about the latest one coming), but she writes about Math, too! Her first book, Geology is a Piece of Cake is a companion of sorts to her latest, Geometry is as Easy as Pie, and it’s an oh-so-yummy way to learn about angles, polygons, and symmetry. Katie Coppens uses pie to explain geometry, but she goes above and beyond the usual “look at this pie chart and imagine it’s a piece of pie” business. She BAKES PIES to illustrate the seven fundamental concepts of geometry. With direct, parent- and child-friendly explanations (she is an English and Science teacher), she discusses mathematical concepts, including calculating radius and diameter, and – naturally – she devotes time to talk about pi (π). You’ll feel a rumbly in your tumbly as you look through her lovely photographed pies; you may want to get a shopping lists together, too, because she includes recipes. Geometry includes pie-centric review questions and a photo gallery of “Just Desserts”, making this a phenomenal way to spend the summer learning math and baking with your kiddos. Yum.

 

Cool Math: 50 Fantastic Facts for Kids of All Ages, by Tracie Young & Katie Hewett, (March 2020, Pavilion Books), $14.95, ISBN: 978-1-84365-448-3

Ages 11+

Geared more toward middle and high schoolers Cool Math (originally released in the UK as Cool Maths, because they can even make Math sound cooler than we do) is so much more than a rundown of 50 Math facts for kids. Think of the NatGeo digest books on weird stuff, silly stuff, cool facts, and add Math to it. That’s Cool Math. With a cover that looks like chalk board gone wild, and with page backgrounds like chalk board, graph paper, and lined paper, this is the notebook your cool nerdy friend would have put together with all their doodles during the school day. Tips and tricks make your life easier throughout the book, like how to multiply by 9 on your fingers. IT WORKS. I tried it. Remember PEMDAS and FOIL? They almost gave me a nervous breakdown in 8th grade, but they’re here in this book, and they’re not as terrifying any more. Real-life tips, like the Super Speedy Recipe Converter and How to Tip put an end to questions like, “When will I ever need this in my life?”

A smart, witty, companion to keep handy, Cool Math takes a lot of the fear out of Math and makes it… dare I say… pretty cool.

 

Disclaimer: I’ve received copies of each of these books from the publisher/their publicists in exchange for a review.

Posted in Adventure, Fiction, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction, Tween Reads

Ellen Prager’s got a new Conservation Adventure: Escape Galápagos!

Escape Galápagos, by Ellen Prager, (Oct. 2019, TumbleHome Learning), $13.95, ISBN: 9781943431557

Ages 8-12

I am so excited! I loved Ellen Prager’s Tristan Hunt and the Sea Guardians series (2015), so when she emailed me and told me she had a new book coming out, and wanted to send me a copy, I fangirled (just) a lot. I loved her combination of action/adventure and conservation in the Tristan Hunt books, so I dove into Escape Galápagos with glee; Dr. Prager is a scientist and an author, so she creates exciting stories and backs everything up with science and an understanding of nature and marine life, plus a genuine love and concern for our world that becomes contagious.

Escape Galápagos introduces readers to tween Ezzy Skylar, her younger brother, Luke, and their father, Dr. Skylar. Ezzy and her family are still reeling from their mother’s recent death, but their dad is determined to keep his promise: to take his children to all the places on his wife’s “wonder list”. First up: the Galapágos Islands. The problem? Ezzy is not a fan of animals out in nature. They’re too… wild. So a vacation roaming around in the Galapágos, with all its wild beauty and animals who just wander along freely, makes her very nervous. She won’t have long to worry about that, though; she’s got bigger problems when their cruise ship is hijacked by animal poachers. Ezzy, Luke, and Aiden, another boy on the cruise with his family, have to use their wits work together to save themselves, their families, and the animals on the Isabela Island.

Escape Galápagos is an exciting story with a conscience. As with the Tristan Hunt books, Dr. Prager shines a light on the villains we don’t always get to read about: those people whose main purpose is to get rich at the expense of the planet and its resources: in this case, the animals of the Galapágos. It’s a brilliant way of bringing conservation issues to light and making readers aware and engaged. Ezzy is a likable character who has to dig deep and overcome her fears and discomforts (which include tortoise poop. A lot of tortoise poop) to help save her father. Luke, her younger brother, is an interesting character to watch; he reminds me of Tristan Hunt, and I wonder (okay, I hope) if he has a similar “gift” to Tristan and his fellow Sea Guardians. How fantastic would it be if this were to take place in the Tristan Hunt universe?

In short, Escape Galápagos is a great new adventure for your realistic fiction readers and your fantasy readers that like reality-based fantasy. If you have any of Dr. Prager’s nonfiction books, display them and talk them up! Dr. Prager includes some real vs. made-up facts at the end of the book, which could make for a fun book discussion activity/Discovery Club activity.