The Wacky & Wonderful World Through Numbers, written by Steve Martin, Clive Gifford, and Marianne Taylor
illustrated by Andrew Pinder
first published in Great Britain 2013; first U.S. edition 2015 by Barron’s Educational Series, Inc.
Okay: What are the dimensions of a cube that you could make by putting together all the gold that has been discovered in the world?
Not sure? Try this:
What percent of a whale’s milk is made up of fat?
How many pounds of beef went into Lady Gaga’s famous meat frock?
Care for history?
In miles per hour, what was the speed at which two jousting knights clashed?
Yes, all this and a few thousand more fascinating facts and figures can be at your fingertips in this one snazzy volume! Bright,stylishly illustrated pages will scoop you into categories from Ancient Rome to Circus Feats, Super Sports to Making Music. (Please note that my blog illustrations are not from the book.)
Give it to your middle-grade fact hounds to gobble up. Take it on a long car ride and have a blast quizzing one another. It’s a super fun way to occupy down-time for folks ages 9 to Grandpa. 128 pages.
I’m slowly easing into normal life after an extraordinary couple of weeks in Scandinavia. One of the highlights was the breathtaking scenery of Norway.
It’s hard to imagine living amid that kind of gorgeousness and not being tuned in to the natural world. Yet there is wonder and beauty everywhere, and today’s books entice us to get outdoors and marvel at what surrounds us.
Water is Water: A Book about the Water Cycle, by Miranda Paul, illustrated by Jason Chin
published in 2015 by Roaring Brook Press
This title is getting many vigorous nods of approval in the children’s lit world, and for good reason: It’s beautiful and brilliant.
Miranda Paul has pared down her clever text to a point of remarkable simplicity. Her sparkling narrative, infused with zesty words, curious questions, and surprising twists at every page turn, effortlessly engages us as it brings us full circle through both the water cycle and the seasons.
Jason Chin’s fabulous paintings take this short text and dress it in beauty, life, gleeful play, and community, with the glories of each season spread out before us at every turn. I adore the array of outdoor activities these children are busy about!
Several pages further explain the fascinating facts about water we’ve just glimpsed. The main text is accessible to ages 2 and up; the end matter is suited to early elementary kids. I love this book! Do take a look.
In the Canyon, by Liz Garton Scanlon, illustrated by Ashley Wolff
published in 2015 by Beach Lane Books
The young girl in this story has her hiking boots on and her Tilley hat smartly perched on her head. She’s set to hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, and we get to experience the trail along with her!
The long trek down, down, down, meanders past unusual plants and animals, switchbacks through brightly-hued layers of rock, until finally it reaches the Colorado River at the very bottom.
Ashley Wolff’s bold, sun-baked block prints are the stars of the book. I love the heat and strength of these illustrations which really usher us into this unusual world. I’ve hiked this trail, and felt transported there through Wolff’s radiant artwork, which as always has tremendous child-appeal.
Thanks to Liz Garton Scanlon for letting this pip-squeak hike such a doozy of a trail and treasure that wilderness experience even as she returns to the city. Ages 2 and up, with added notes about the canyon’s flora and fauna for slightly older children.
The Singer in the Stream: A Story of American Dippers, by Katherine Hocker and Mary Wilson, illustrations by Katherine Hocker
published in 2015 by Yosemite Conservancy
This little bird, whose feet as you can see, are not webbed, swims underwater!
The American Dipper was John Muir’s favorite bird, and he learned to look for it near waterfalls and rushing rapids, “flitting about in the spray, diving in its foaming eddies, whirling like a leaf…“
Learn about this feisty, sweet-singing bird who weaves mossy nests the size of volleyballs, always near a stream. Watch the chicks hatch, take their first terrified leap out of the nest, and learn to dive underwater for the waterbugs they love to eat.
There’s gobs of information in the end pages about Dippers, the process of studying them undertaken by the author and illustrator, and John Muir’s fascination with them. I’m not sure how easy it is to locate this book, but it’s a fine glimpse of nature study that inspires us to look more carefully at what’s in our own back yards.
Ages 6 and up.
Posted in fiction, non-fiction, picture books | Tagged american dippers, birds, book reviews, children's literature, conservation, grand canyon, hiking, nature, picture books, water, water cycle, wilderness | Leave a Comment »
I’ve got three gems today, and then I’m checking out for awhile. On my way to Scandinavia for a few weeks!!
This is Sadie, by Sara O’Leary, illustrated by Julie Morstad
published in 2015 by Tundra Books
This author-illustrator team from Canada creates quiet beauty with every collaboration. I am over the moon with this latest story of dear little Sadie and her splendid imagination.
Meet her in this charming book, swimming in the freshness of simplicity, the elegance of innocence, the expansiveness of imagination.
Everything you want to express about children engaged in real play is here, in brief, pleasant lines, and delicious illustrations. Ages 2 and up.
The Kind-hearted Monster: Two Classic Stories written and illustrated by Max Velthuijs
first published in Switzerland in 1973; this edition published in 2015 by NorthSouth Books
Max Velthuijs was one of the Netherland’s most illustrious children’s illustrators and if you have never met his work, just take a peek at this re-issued set of monstrously-wonderful stories. You’ll understand the love in about a second.
You see, the illustrations do not reside on the pages! They burst out of them! They reach out and grab you and pull you, quite happily, right into the story! So bold and disarming and magnificent!
Mervyn is a kind-hearted monster who is initially feared by the townspeople. Watch how misperceptions are set aright, and how peace and kindness win out over violence and fear. Rugged, rambunctious action full of tenderhearted kindness. A complete delight for ages 4 and up.
The Golden Plate, written and illustrated by Bernadette Watts
published in 2014 by NorthSouth Books
And now — one of the loveliest of British illustrators with a new treat for us.
Bernadette Watts is known for her fairy tale illustrations and she brings the same qualities of delicacy and warmth, charm and softness, to this thoughtful story of wrongdoing and restoration.
Isobel and Elisabeth are close friends. Both have doll’s houses, but Elisabeth’s is ever so much grander than Isobel’s.
One day as Isobel plays with Elisabeth’s dolls, a worm of envy creeps into her heart. A tiny golden plate decorating the dolls’ kitchen shines so temptingly, and in a wink, Isobel slips it into her pocket.
Such a bitsy thing, yet it weighs on Isobel like a rhinoceros necklace. Read her story, watch her regain her footing and soak up the joy of a clear conscience and a loving friend. Ages 4 and up.
Hope you find your way to all three of these gems!
Posted in fiction, picture books | Tagged Bernadette Watts, book reviews, children's literature, friendship, honesty, imagination, kindness, make-believe, Max Velthuijs, peace-making, picture books | 2 Comments »
How about you? Has school begun in some form for you or your kids? I find it interesting that our calendars seem to revolve around education schedules more than the seasons…something to ponder.
Anyway, here are five lovely books celebrating learning and life:
When the little one is left at home…
Maple & Willow Apart, written and illustrated by Lori Nichols
published in 2015 by Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin
When big sister Maple starts school, Willow, the younger, is left behind. Normally these two are peas in a pod, so …what will become of Willow?
Maple lands home each day overflowing with enthusiastic stories about her day and her new friends.
But what is this? Willow has also made a new friend: Pip. He’s such an interesting fellow, and Willow and Pip have such intriguing playtimes, that it is Maple that feels the left-out blues.
There’s a sweet resolution to this warm story. Sisterly love and Willow’s magnificent imagination are the stars here, tenderly told and illustrated with beauty and charm. Ages 2 and up.
When your family doesn’t do school the usual way…
The Year I Didn’t Go to School, written and illustrated by Giselle Potter
published in 2002 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
When Giselle Potter was seven years old, instead of going to school, she and her family launched off on a marvelously unconventional year: touring Italy with their Mystic Paper Beasts puppet theater.
Giselle’s childish journal illustrations engage us immediately on the end papers in this creative account of that almost-fantastical time in her life — setting up on the streets of Florence, donning monkey and panda costumes, sleeping in the big caravan truck, meeting new people, eating new things, speaking a new language.
It’s a thoroughly enjoyable narrative of what we might learn by plunging into a new, impossible adventure, illustrated in Potter’s quaint paintings that remind me a bit of Maira Kalman’s work. Read and chat together about this one, with ages 4 and up.
When your skin color bars you from school…
With Books and Bricks: How Booker T. Washington Built a School, written by Suzanne Slade, pictures by Nicole Tadgell
published in 2014 by Albert Whitman & Company
When Booker Washington was a young slave child, he first glimpsed the “strange lines on the blackboard” that the white children were somehow learning to read, and he fell in love with learning.
But it was against the law for Booker to learn to read. This is still mind-blowing, people.
Even after the American Civil War ended, when Booker was 9 years old, he still had to work backbreaking hours to help his family survive and the local schools still would not admit any non-white students.
Booker T. Washington was a determined person if ever there was one, though, and this story tells how he persevered to achieve his own education, then made the enormous efforts necessary to provide quality education for others. A fabulous piece of our history, well told, with handsome, evocative watercolor illustrations, for ages 5 and up.
When the craziest things conspire to make you late for school!
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to School, by Davide Cali and Benjamin Chaud
published in 2015 by Chronicle Books
If you’ve ever been attacked by evil ninjas on the way to the bus stop, or sidetracked by Little Red Riding Hood who needed help finding her grandmother’s house…
…or if Bigfoot stopped you and asked you to snap a photo of him…
and thus were late to school…and had to explain these things, then you will sincerely sympathize with the young lad in this book. Preposterous and sunny and funny, for ages 4 and up. The brainchild of two French illustrators, this follows their other equally crazy title, I Didn’t Do My Homework Because…
When you have to build your own school…
Rain School, written and illustrated by James Rumford
published in 2010 by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Journey to Chad in this vibrant story as the children of one village and their indomitable teacher begin the school year by building their school.
Making mud bricks, building mud desks, drying them in the hot sun, thatching the roof, until finally, finally it’s time to take their seats and begin learning.
The school year is over when the rains begin again, making the gardens grow, yes, but also washing away roof and walls and desks…until the next school year, when they will begin again.
A fantastic glimpse of life for children elsewhere, briefly told and richly illustrated in hot desert colors. Ages 4 and up.
Posted in fiction, non-fiction, picture books | Tagged book reviews, Booker T. Washington, Chad, children's literature, discrimination, education, humor, imagination, italy, picture books, school, siblings, slavery, unschooling | 3 Comments »
I know, I know. School days approach.
But while summer lasts, lets soak up some more hammock-in-the-shade reading, blanket-on-the-lawn reading, campfire-under-the-stars reading about…
…what’s wondrous at nighttime
Sun and Moon, written and illustrated by Lindsey Yankey
published in 2015 by Simply Read Books
Lindsey Yankey is a dream of an illustrator (check out her website here) and her recent work in Sun and Moon will enchant you!
When Moon tires of his “lifetime in darkness” and wishes to swap places with Sun, Sun wisely challenges him to take one, last, close look at all things night-ish before making such an irrevocable step. Turns out, nighttime is pretty darn cool. It’s a gorgeous book to share with ages 2 and up.
…weirdly wonderful ocean dwellers
The Most Amazing Creature in the Sea, by Brenda Z. Guiberson, illustrated by Gennady Spirin
published in 2015 by Henry Holt and Company
Just who is the most amazing creature in the sea? That’s for you to judge after being introduced to this fascinating set of contestants.
From the Box Jellyfish — a brainless creature with 24 eyes and millions of highly toxic stingers — to the Ocean Sunfish — a fish as heavy as a rhinoceros! Plus creatures with names like Wolffish and Vampire Squid! Every one of these fellows offers plenty of reasons to recommend itself for your vote. Brief, vivid descriptions combined with Spirin’s amazing artwork tantalize readers age 4 or 5 and up.
…an unfortunate incident between Beatrix Potter and a guinea pig
Beatrix Potter & the Unfortunate Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig, by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Charlotte Voake
Available Feb. 2016 from Schwartz & Wade Books
This one’s not available yet, but put it on your Valentine’s wish lists.
It seems that while young Beatrix loved animals, and loved to paint animals, she did not necessarily have a green thumb when it came to caring for them. When she borrows a neighbor’s guinea pig, disaster strikes.
Read this charming tale, based on a true incident, and you will learn something new about Miss Potter and get some golden advice to boot. A lovely, informative Author’s Note is included, and the illustrations are by Charlotte Voake. Enough said. A gem for Potter-lovers, ages 4 and up.
…Jane Addams’ compassionate work
The House that Jane Built: A Story about Jane Addams, by Tanya Lee Stone, illustrated by Kathryn Brown
published in 2015 by Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt and Company
I have been missing a good children’s bio of Jane Addams, and here comes this gem.
From childhood, Addams was determined to live “right in the midst of horrid little houses” in order to better care for those in need. In 1889, her dream began in earnest when she purchased Hull House in Chicago. This beautifully-written introduction to a woman of compassion begs to be shared with kids ages 5 and up. Friendly, warm illustrations embrace us on every page. Highly recommended.
…about magic words
Please, Mr. Panda, written and illustrated by Steve Antony
originally published in the UK in 2014; first American edition published in 2015 by Scholastic Press
Panda has a trayful of scrumptious, tantalizing doughnuts. He’s offering them to folks he meets, one after another.
But when they respond with, “Give me the pink one!” or “I want them all!” Panda changes his mind. What’s the magic word Panda is looking for? I bet you can guess. A simple, bright, and funny politeness exercise for ages 2 and up.
…about the happiness of sharing
Bernice Gets Carried Away, written and illustrated by Hannah E. Harrison
published in 2015 by Dial Books for Young Readers
Bernice is having a miserable day. She’s at a festive party, but everything’s going wrong. She’s the only one with no frosting rose on her piece of cake. The only one to get prune-grapefruit soda rather than strawberry-melon.
When Bernice decides to grab some happiness for herself, she gets way more than she bargained for! Her clever and kind solution wins the day for all her friends, as well as herself. Delightful story, with Hannah Harrison’s trademark darling animals and brrring!-bright colors.
…about a hermit of a bear and his pesky neighbors
Those Pesky Rabbits, written and illustrated by Ciara Flood
published in 2015 by little bee books
Bear is quite happy living a quiet life on his own.
When a perky family of rabbits moves in next door, though, his serenity is over! Will Bear be able to resist the intrusions of his sociable neighbors? Or will they win his heart? It’s a similar flavor to the Bear and Mouse stories from Bonny Becker — charming, funny, and heartwarming. Just right for ages 2 and up.
…about a poet named e.e. cummings
Enormous Smallness: A Story of E.E. Cummings, by Matthew Burgess, illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo
published in 2015 by Enchanted Lion Book
So…do you know what the e.e. stands for?!
Or when and how he got his start in poetry?
Did you know young Cummings had a snug treehouse or that he started his freshman year at Harvard before he turned 17?!
Check out this snappy, vivid, brief biography leading us from Cummings’ rich childhood, through his experiences during World War I, his connections with the avant-garde, and the groundbreaking experimentation he brought to poetry. Strikingly illustrated by the talented Kris DiGiacomo, this one’s for ages 7 or 8 and up. I hope it garners some awards.
…about animals and counting and the number 8
8, An Animal Alphabet, written and illustrated by Elisha Cooper
published in 2015 by Orchard Books
I love Elisha Cooper’s watercolor work.
Here he turns his talents to an alphabet-counting mashup. Each letter gets a pageful of animals, and on every page, one of those animal appears eight times.
Why 8? Well, you’ll have to read the book to find out! Lots of fun plus gobs of new animals to meet and interesting facts about them in the back pages. Ages 2 and up.
…about a search for the right underwear
Polar Bear’s Underwear, by Tupera Tupera
originally published in Japan in 2012; first American edition in 2015 by Chronicle Books
Oh dear! Polar Bear can’t find his underwear! Never fear, Mouse will help him.
Is it this snazzy, stripey pair?
Nope. Those belong to zebra.
Cheerful, die-cut pages reveal quite a zingy batch of undies as this duo search for the missing pair. Where will it be?! Would you like to wear a pair of jolly undies, too?! Which are your favorite?
It’s quite the summer for underwear books, I guess. If you have small fry in the Graduating From Diapers stage, perhaps this funny, sunny Japanese import will suit you to a tee!
Posted in fiction, non-fiction, picture books, poetry | Tagged alphabet books, animals, Beatrix Potter, book reviews, children's literature, compassion, e.e.cummings, friendship, Hull House, Jane Addams, moon, nighttime, ocean creatures, picture books, poetry, politeness, sharing | 2 Comments »