Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Winter Reading 2019 Snowman - Cold = Puddle: Spring Equations

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Looking at this title always brings to mind Olaf from "Frozen" singing about snowmen in summertime. The author has created poetic word equations that are supported by oil and collage illustrations of spring scenes. Additional information is shared in smaller type so that the equations take center stage.

Here is an example from the first spread. "science + poetry = surprise!" is displayed against a snowy landscape with spring flowers peeking through. Below the equation readers see, "Science is why and how a flower grows. Poetry is looking at that flower and seeing a firework. Surprise!" The last spread leaves young readers with the thought, "you + the world = ?"

Back matter includes an author's note, illustrator's note, a discussion of when spring actually starts, and a list for further reading. This is a wonderful book to use as a mentor text in poetry units or a study of seasons. A collaboration with the art teacher would create a opportunity for an art and poetry display and gallery walk. Imagine the possibilities!



I met Laura Purdie Salas at NCTE and she kindly signed a copy of the book for my school library.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Winter Reading 2019 Polly Diamond and the Super Stunning Spectacular School Fair

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This second book with Polly Diamond and Spell. her magical journal, focuses on a school fair with a book theme. Whatever Polly writes in Spell comes true, which leads to some messy situations at the fair. Children become the characters they ask for at the face painting booth,  or the cotton candy Polly calls"Cotton Cloud Candy" begins floating about in small clouds that drift toward the ceiling.

Part of the humor is that Spell takes things quite literally, as you might imagine a book would. So when Polly says that the Book Odyssey is like a roller coaster, Spell turns the display into a real ride. The stories also point out various literary devices and types of wordplay like similes and palindromes. Polly often refers to books she has read, such as How to Train Your Dragon, and a list of Polly's favorite books is included after the story for the reader's easy reference. 

The first book, Polly Diamond and the Magic Spell, came out in May 2018. This second book will come out in May 2019. I read an advance copy the publisher was sharing at NCTE.

Winter Reading 2019 What Is Inside the Box?

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Drew Daywalt, author of The Day the Crayons Quit, has begun a new series featuring the friends Monkey and Cake. In this first book Cake comes to see Monkey and notices that Monkey has a very large box. But what could be inside it? Monkey says that it is a magical cat that disappears when the box is opened. Cake questions this explanation. After several exchanges, Monkey points out that "You can think anything you want about what is inside the box when it is closed." That frees Cake to decide that there is a dinosaur inside.

Just as in the Crayon books, adults will have no trouble finding their own humor in the book. In a scene that will have them thinking back to discussions of Schrodinger's Cat, a labcoated Monkey poses in front of an easel with a sketch and a graph displayed on it. And after the friends leave to go find some pie, they will notice a cat peeking its head out from under the lid of the box. Adults may also worry about the ethics of Cake eating pie (or maybe I am the only concerned about that). 

I picked up an advance copy at NCTE. The book will be published on February 26, 2019 along with book 2, and book 3 is due in September. 

Winter Reading 2019 Cute as an Axolotl

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Jess Keating has added a new title to her nonfiction series, The World of Weird Animals. Readers may already be familiar with the entertaining and enlightening Pink Is for Blobfish or What Makes a Monster? titles already in the series. This time out Keating has been busy "Discovering the World's Most Adorable Animals," as the subtitle announces.

The layout of the contents features a full-page photo of the animal, so that readers can get a good look at each cute creature. The facing page has a paragraph describing the animal and some of its characteristics. Below that is a cartoon depiction with a further point of interest or even a warning ("Watch Out- They Bite!" we learn about the quokka). And a sidebar lists the scientific name, size, diet, habitat, and predators or threats to the creature. This makes it easy to browse with a young animal lover who is only interested in the pictures and maybe a fact or two, or for older readers to take a deeper plunge into scientific details.

For elementary school classrooms and libraries that are searching for more books to satisfy their nonfiction readers, this series is a perfect addition. And for those readers who are willing to branch out into fiction with lots of animals in the stories, direct them to the author's My Life Is a Zoo middle grade series. I met Jess in person at NCTE and she is just as much fun as her books!

 

Winter Reading 2019 Bee the Change: The Big Idea Gang #3

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Friends Deon, Kym, Lizzy, and Connor formed the Big Idea Gang to work on getting a new school mascot back in the first book of the series. Now, in this third outing, Kym and Lizzy visit beekeeper Ozzie and learn about what bees contribute to the world. They would really like to share their knowledge with everyone else at school, but how? As they talk it over with their teacher, she helps them shift their focus to what the students can do to help the bees.

There is plenty of humor, making this a good choice for a class read-aloud, as well as appealing to readers who enjoy school-based stories. For instance, Lizzy jokes about the smoke pot Ozzie uses to calm the bee colony. "It looks like something the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz would wear on his head," she says. "That's me, the wizard of Ozzie!" the beekeeper replies.

As with other titles in this series, this story shows the kids talking things out and coming up with a plan to meet their goals. It also portrays the adults they encounter as helpful and supportive. The kids have a mix of interests and abilities, as well as representing boys and girls and several racial/ethnic backgrounds. Author James Preller (of Jigsaw Jones fame, as well as other titles), has created a fun new series for readers in lower elementary.

I picked up an advance copy at NCTE. This title will be coming out in July 2019.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Fall Reading 2018 Fast Enough: Bessie Stringfield's First Ride

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This imagined incident from the life of motorcyclist Bessie Stringfield plays on her love of speeding along on two wheels and imitates the sort of stories she often told about her own life. The additional information at the end of the story tells of her travels as an adult on her motorcycle, including her career as the only female civilian motorcycle courier for the U.S. military. It also mentions The Negro Motorist Green Book, which was used by "black people traveling in America" to find hotels and other services that were safe for them while they were on the road.

I especially like that the author discusses the discrepancies in Bessie's accounts of her early life and those that are supported by evidence. As he says, "This kind of contradicting information often follows people whose adventures are larger than life."

This is a good book to use for units for Women's History Month, Black History Month, or with guidance lessons on self-esteem and perseverance. It is also a good picture book to put into the hands of young readers who enjoy stories about transportation and people who feel "the need for speed."

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Fall Reading 2018 The Journey of York: The Unsung Hero of the Lewis and Clark Expedition

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"In May 1804 Captain Lewis, Captain Clark, and twenty-eight men set out from St. Louis, Missouri, in three boats with the goal  of reaching the Pacific Ocean. All but one of those men were volunteers. This is his story." So begins this picture book account of the Lewis & Clark Expedition from the viewpoint of York, Captain Clark's slave. The text points out that York had no choice in leaving his family and home, and also does a good job of choosing a few key milestones of the journey to frame the challenges and dangers the men faced. The reaction of the native tribes to seeing someone with skin the color of York's is mentioned, including a chief who called him "Big Medicine." A feeling of sympathy between York and Sacajawea is also described, bringing attention to the similarity between their situations as York learns that the young woman was stolen from her tribe and given in trade to the man who called her his wife.

Several pages that look like very old paper are inserted into the text to hold larger chunks of exposition. The background information included in the introduction tells of President Jefferson's desire for a detailed accounting of the new territory, while the author's note at the end shares facts about the rewards the party received on their return and York's continued enslavement. The illustrations capture the work of building shelters, poling boats, a portage around waterfalls, and the majesty of Mount Hood glimpsed for the first time by the party.

This is a very helpful look at a famous group of men, and one of the often overlooked members of the party. It draws attention to the contributions of York, and also to the way famous men in our country's history used slave labor and indigenous people for their own purposes. A good book to add to units on Westward Expansion, especially for those trying to offer a more balanced picture of what occurred from beyond the European male viewpoint.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.