Silly Scientists Take a Peeky at the Solar System by Lindsey Craig. Illustrated by Marianella Aguirre and Ying Hui Tan. Book Review.

This is the second in the silly scientists series wherein Lindsey Craig uses humor to teach children about nature and science. This time the aliens travels through our planetary system. The illustrations are a mixture of wacky drawings and photography from NASA.
The text is written in rhyme such as “Uranus is an ice giant that has a wonky ride. Its seasons last forever since it orbits on its side.” The beat is quite musical.
There is humor in the text as well as the illustrations. For example Jupiter’s red spot is compared to a zit.
The last two pages contain information for parents and older students on our solar system. The best part about this book is that you can also go online and listen to a catchy song with highly professional animation that reinforces learning the planets. It enriches and supplements the text.
Kids who like space and aliens will enjoy this picture book.

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Laura Monster Crusher by Wesley King. Book Review.

This book is suitable for middle-grade to early young adult. This will be a favorite with readers who love fantasy and unusual female heroes.

Laura is a big girl who has been bullied since childhood about her size. Her family moves to a new town and enrolls her in a different school to give her a fresh start. Unfortunately the bullying begins again but this time two other victims befriend her. When Laura fails to stand up for one of them, her new relationship is at risk.

But the real challenge is navigating the secret world Laura can only access through a hidden elevator in her closet. She discovers she is destined to be a monster crusher and without her rising to the challenge, her family, friends, and world are in great danger. Laura, however, is neither athletic nor nimble. Night after night, for this is when she can secretly train, Laura fails to acquire the necessary skills of a monster crusher.

The danger rises to the point of crisis when her beloved blind little brother is kidnapped by the monsters. Betrayed and vastly outnumbered, Laura must pull off a miracle in order to save her family.

The affectionate relationship between Laura and her humorous little brother, her struggle with self-identity and confidence, her desire for friends, and her reluctant courage make her an endearing and interesting hero. An enjoyable read that picks up pace and increases in suspense as it progresses. Although it has a satisfying ending, the danger is still imminent and a sequel or series is possible.

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Bonjour! Let’s Learn French by Judy Martialay. Book Review.

This part textbook part picture book would be an excellent addition to a French Immersion or Core French classroom. It would also be wonderful for a parent to share with a child who is learning French.

While it tells the story a group of children building a sandcastle and a little snail declaring himself king of Le Chateau, the child is exposed to basic French vocabulary.  It employs humor and a bit of drama to old a child’s interest. Also included are list of common words, a skit, information on French culture, a song, and even a section on Monet the artist and a follow-up activity. There is enough information and plenty of activities to make this book a favorite.

The best thing about this book is the site that goes along with it. http://www.Polyglotkidz.Com expands on the information in the textbook. For those of us whose French is less than bilingual, an hour long download is available that gives the correct pronunciation for everything in the book.

I was dismayed to learn “only 25% of public and private elementary schools in the US offer any form of language instruction.” Because Canada is a dual-language country, French instruction begins generally in grade 4 unless you enroll your child in immersion which begins in senior kindergarten. The cultural, mental, social, and economic benefits of second languages are irrefutable. This book would be valuable in any situation working with children 10 years old and under.

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Sunny Days by Jesse Byrd. Illustrated by Anastasia Ku. Book Teview.

This large 8 by 10 inch picture book is printed on sturdy glossy paper. The large format would make it ideal to share with children. The illustrations are double-page spreads featuring an expressive and lovable little girl named Martine.

Martine is a shouter. She is so happy that she inadvertently startles her neighbors with herenthusiasm. In spite of this, she is well-liked. She loves her neighborhood and the people in it. One day disaster strikes when a terrible rain storm damages much of the neighborhood. It loses its beauty and sense of community. People become depressed and isolated.

Martine refuses to succumb to despair. She walks around naming the sunny days the way the meteorologists named the storm. When she tells the barber this, he talks to others and people’s  attitude slowly changes. They begin to prepare their community. Martine helps whenever possible. Then they throw a neighborhood party to celebrate.

Although this is a story of great loss and recovery, the tone is upbeat and funny. There are so many things to discuss especially with regard to attitude, support, and rebuilding. In an era where climate change is bringing wildfires, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, ice storms, and more, this is a timely book to share with children and to remind adults that we are only as strong as we think we are.

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Backyard Fairies by Phoebe Wahl. Book review.

This is a delightful picture book for the imaginative child. There are only a few words on each page; the detailed and intriguing gardens filled with secretive hidden fairies dominate.

If I remember my grammar lessons correctly, the book is written in present perfect tense thereby pulling the reader into the story and engaging them in imaginative response. It is also written in a gentle pattern of rhyming couplets. It begins, ” Have you ever found, while out on your own…/A tiny, magical somebody’s home?”  The illustration shows a little girl examining a tree stump with an opening perfect for habitation.

As the story continues, the little girl searches everywhere for fairies who unknown to her, are within Arm’s Reach. There are also other magical creatures like a rock gnome. The child leaves a gift for the fairies. It vanishes overnight and they give something to her. My granddaughter and I were so delighted to read this part. We have made fairy doors in her garden and done exactly that.

The reader  empathizes with the little girl who, despite her thoroughness and determination, is unable to spot a fairy. She goes to bed wondering if they really exist. During her sleep, fairies fly in with flowers and create a wreath for her head. She wakes up in the morning wearing it.

Phoebe Wahl not only writes her own text but does her own illustrations. They are incredibly detailed and intriguing. This is a special book that your child will ask to hear over and over and never tire of finding all the fairies.

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When by Daniel H. Pink. Book Review.

I am blown away by this book. If you like Malcolm Gladwell’s books such as The Tipping Point, you will love this one. Infinitely readable, insightful, valuable, relevant, and current. It isn’t just about time in the way you’re probably thinking.

Pink examines high and low productive periods in the day, the importance of beginnings, the mid-point slump, the secrets of group timing, and more. The text is relevant to people who work alone or in a group. It has helpful information for educators, executives, students, athletes, lawyers, industrial workers, entrepreneurs, basically everyone. It can show you how to be at your most successful and creative level.

I keep very few books. When I do I tend to dog-ear the pages (gasp) and even occasionally scribble in the margins. I do this because I want to read more about the topic. Pink often refers to specific studies that I would like to research. I folded over 27 pages in this one book. I may use some of these topics in a future blog post as they are relevant to educators and parents.

Needless to say, this is a five-star plus book.

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Don’t Ask a Dinosaur by Matt Forrest Esenwine and Deborah Bruss. Illustrated by Louie Chin. Book Review.

This humorous picture book imagines what would happen if you asked for help with birthday party preparations and participation from dinosaurs. Although this scenario is obviously totally imaginary, the names and illustrations of the dinosaurs are up-to-date and informative. The children’s favorites, like tyrannosaurus rex, iguanadon, and stegosaurus are there, but some may be new to the reader such as deinocheirus, argentinosaurus, and aliopleurodon.

I like the fact that a brother and sister are having a birthday together. They look as though they could be twins. Hopefully this will entice boys to read the book as much as girls. When the children solicit the dinosaurs’ help, they discover that the rezinosaurus cannot blow up balloons without popping them with his long claws and a tanystropheus will become entangled in the decorations due to his long neck. Each page is filled with humorous situations featuring dinosaurs trying to do the impossible.

I was pleased to find a small glossary at the back with an interesting fact or two about each of the dinosaurs. For example, the argentinosaurus was probably the heaviest of all weighing as much as 1500 people.

What makes this a cut above similar books is the tight and inventive rhyming. The reader cannot help but be impressed at Esenwine’s mastery of rhyme and rhythm using long and complex dinosaur names. “Don’t ask an ankylosaurus to come in through the gate or a tanystropheus to help you decorate.”

The illustrations effectively portray the children’s frustration and  laughter at the unfolding disaster. The text is seamlessly superimposed over the full page spreads.

Kids who like Robert Munsch, dinosaurs, or books about party disasters will love Don’t Ask a Dinosaur.

The authors will be interviewed April 25, 2018.

Bloom – A Story of Fashion Designer Elsa Schiaparelli by Kyo Maclear and Julie Morstad. Book Review.

This is a 8X10 picture book that tells the story of a fascinating and unique individual, Elsa Schiaparelli. It begins in early childhood where we learned that Elsa was a disappointment to her parents because they wanted a boy and she wasn’t as pretty as her sister. This compelled Elsa her to examine the concept of beauty.

Her experiences might have crushed her spirit if it had not been for her uncle Giovanni. He was an astronomer and also a dreamer like Elsa. He encouraged her imagination and told her she was beautiful. Elsa took refuge in the world of make-believe. She yearned to become an artist.

As a single mother she realized, “To be an artist is to dream big and risk failure.“ In spite of the unlikelihood of success, she brought her dress design sketches to Paris. Fortunately, she fell in with the most creative and innovative people of her time, including Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso. Although she could neither sew nor knit,  she was able to have her creations made by others and through hard work became an international sensation. She invented the colour shocking pink and her dress designs were like nothing seen before.

The last two pages of the book give more details of her life. It was wonderful to read that she offered high wages and benefits to her employees when she achieved success. Her personal motto was “Dare to be different.”

This would be a wonderful book to read to a child who is labelled as different or not beautiful or too imaginative or a daydreamer. Like Einstein said, imagination is more important than knowledge. Without the Elsas of the world, our lives would be stagnant and dreary.

The pictures in this book have have a stylish quality that suits the topic without being ostentatious. The pictures of Elsa clearly show us her gentle, creative personality and her vulnerable introspection. This success story should encourage children to follow their dreams and never give up.
Highly recommended for children age 6 and up. Even adults will enjoy this wonderful book.
I want to  encourage more books like this so, inspired by Bloom, I’ve created my own award “Fostering Female Fulfillment.” This book is the first recipient.

Morton McMortimer and the Mars Expedition by Franz. Illustrated by Sebastian Caceres. Book Review.

Morton McMortimer is a creative, fearless child who feels disappointed that his nemesis, Priyanka, won first place in the science fair for her trip to the moon. His day is made even worse by being served kale at supper. He decides to build a spaceship and go to Mars. The journey is long and boring and made all the more stressful by the lack of washrooms. When he arrives there, Morton discovers the planet is made of red kale. His father grounds him when he returns home but Morton is still enthusiastic and realizes he could do more wondrous things with a little inventing and imagination.
This story is written in solid rhyme. The rhythm and beat are impressive and interesting words are rhymed or near rhymed such as chillier and familiar, stealthy and healthy, rising and fantasizing, feller and propeller, stowing and going , and worst and reverse. This picture book is for high level readers or for parents to share with young listeners.
Kale seems to be to this generation what spinach was to mine – a healthy food that children resist eating. I was hoping Morton would discover that kale soup or some other dish with kale was good at the end of the story, but he didn’t.
The pictures are bright, lively, and detailed. The book is set up like a graphic novel. Children will love the illustrations.
On the title page, there is a quote, “To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.” -Thomas Edison. This is a terrific reminder to parents to allow their children to engage in imaginative creation using items other than Legos and pre-scripted materials. It is only with junk you can destroy, if necessary, that creation can be unhindered, wildly inventive, and truly original.
Highly recommended.

​ Duck, Duck, Moose by Joy Heyer. Book review.

This is a delightful picture book about missing a friend. Duck is lonely because goose has gone away for winter. The other animals try to cheer him up by engaging him in games such as duck, duck, pig. However duck does not find this enjoyable nor does he like playing with the fish, snakes, porcupine, or moose. After feeling dejected for a while, duck decides a different game might work and so all the animals engage in hide and seek. On the last page, goose returns.
The book is written in rhyme and it holds quite well throughout. I specially enjoyed the onomatopoeia pages where Jack played with each animal. For example, Ooey, Gooey, Icky, Sticky, Quack, Quack, Quack when he was playing with the pig and the fish sounds were Sploosh, Splash, Blub, Glub.
The pictures alternate between full page colour, double page spreads, and single characters on a page but all are sweet, charming watercolors.
My granddaughter found this book very engaging and loved the humorous bits as well as the emotional moments. Highly recommended.