Sunday, March 4, 2018

Winter Reading 2018 Iqbal and His Ingenious Idea


Many students in the United States have participated in a science fair, but how many of them choose a project that will actually impact their own lives? In this story set in Bangladesh, Iqbal decides to create a smokeless stove so that his mother and younger sibling will not have to breathe in smoke from the cook fire all day during the monsoon season. With the help of his teacher, he finds some article online about various options for his stove, then takes them home and builds a solar cooker with his sister's assistance.

The story offers many options for discussion. There are science topics like health concerns, sustainability, and recycling. The story also mentions cultural aspects of life in Bangladesh such as Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr, and foods like semai, as well as the customs of women doing the cooking and gathering the firewood. And there are guidance topics such as concern for others and the environment, problem-solving, and cooperation. Whether a class was studying green energy sources, other cultures, or character education, this book could be used as a great read-aloud.

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

Winter Reading 2018 Scientist, Scientist, What Do You See?


Chris Ferrie (author of books such as Goodnight Lab and Quantum Physics for Babies), has created another instant classic. Modeling his book on Brown Bear, Brown Bear, Ferrie takes readers through a roll-call of famous scientists. A dozen distinguished figures from Charles Darwin to Katherine Johnson are shown. Iconic equipment or calculations are placed within the illustrations, such as Einstein's "E=mc2" or George Washington Carver's peanut plant. Science geeks may notice that Curie's page shows two Nobel prize medals, Grace Hopper's computer has a moth fluttering nearby, or that Ada Lovelace is "writing computer code for thee." 

A section "About the Scientists" shares details about the most notable contribution of each figure. It is gratifying to note that there is a diverse mix of men and women, as well as racial and ethnic backgrounds represented in the scientists included in the book. The "little scientists" that Katherine Johnson sees looking at her are also included in the back section. Speaking directly to the readers, the text states, "You can be the next person to change the world."

This is a fun book for science-minded parents to read with their youngsters, but also would make a wonderful introduction to a unit on famous scientists. Perhaps with a biography project to research one of the figures mentioned in the book?

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

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Winter Reading 2018 Girl with a Camera: Margaret Bourke-White, Photographer: A Novel


This fictionalized account of Margaret Bourke-White's life is full of interesting tidbits of history. Her choice of college is determined by which schools accept women, and which of those schools have arrangements with other colleges that allow their students to take classes at these partner schools. The choice of herpetology for her course of study went against the common expectations for women in those days, as did her later change to photography. Reading of her efforts to break into the field, the way in which she was treated as a young girl who didn't know her own mind or what she was doing, creates a frustration that is a pale reflection of what she herself must have felt. 

Despite all the odds against her, Margaret did manage to become a recognized photographer. Along the way she saw and documented many important pieces of history. Her photo of the building of the Fort Peck Dam was used as the cover of the first issue of Life magazine, but also showed the New Deal at work. She captured the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, the Louisville flood, Josef Stalin, the factories of Soviet Russia, faces of the US South under Jim Crow, and World War II. The descriptions of what she had to do to be in position for those events is a testimony to determination. And that doesn't take into account the personal side of her life, which was also full of drama.

Meyer's use of material from Margaret's autobiography, some of her personal papers, and other sources has insured that the main facts are correct and that the flavor of Margaret's personality comes through clearly.

For those interested in the world during the 1920s and 30s, or in fascinating women who stand up to the pressures of society and pursue their dreams, this is a wonderful choice. Highly recommended for middle school and up.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Winter Reading 2018 Monsters Beware (Chronicles of Claudette #3)


Claudette continues to yearn for adventure. After her previous battles with giants and dragons, she is more determined than ever to win fame and glory with her courage. The Marquis who rules Mont Petit Pierre does not approve of Claudette's behavior or her influence on his own daughter, Marie. When Claudette manages to be chosen for the Warrior Games, the stakes are very high. Either she wins, or she has to dress as a little lady and give up her wooden sword and Marie will be sent away to boarding school. The home team has got to win! But something is going on with the Games. Teams keep disappearing, and there's something fishy about the team from the sea kingdom (yes, pun intended). Can a princess in training, a great cook, and a tiny warrior with a wooden sword actually win the Games and defeat any trickery?

In this fantasy adventure suitable for all ages there is plenty of action, humor, and surprises to keep readers turning the page. Claudette's single-minded focus on winning, even in the crazy competitions of the Warrior Games will have readers shaking their heads. Hunting for truffles? Milking cows and churning your own butter? What sort of warrior activities are these? And if the Games are safe, then where are all the missing competitors? She may be tiny, but she is mighty and then some. You have to read all about Claudette's latest feats.

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

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Winter Reading 2018 The Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters: The Uncanny Express


The Bland Sisters are very...well...bland. They enjoy tepid tea, plain oatmeal, and watching grass grow. They live in the town of Dullsville. They darn socks to earn money. These are not daredevils by any means. And yet they have survived being kidnapped by pirates. So there may be more to them than meets the eye. When they receive a letter from their parents asking them to meet their aunt at the train station, they dutifully get to work straightening the house and even round up a wagon to help fetch the luggage. But they are swept aboard the train by a mysterious woman named Magique, who says they are her new magic act assistants. While they try to straighten out the case of mistaken identity, the train gets underway and then Magique vanishes! What are they supposed to do? With the help of Inspector Fromage, the girls begin questioning the other passengers and searching for clues. What they find is very surprising, almost as amazing as the train being trapped on the rails by a truck of marshmallow fluff. (Never heard of that happening before, have you?) 

Surrounded by strangers who all seem to be keeping secrets, far from home and their darning, will these two young ladies ever find out what happened to Magique - where there Aunt Shallot is - and manage to make their way back home again? 

For middle grade readers who enjoy mystery and adventure, the Bland Sisters offer a pair of protagonists that are comfortable and easy to identify with. I read an ARC provided by the publisher for review purposes.

Winter Reading 2018 Road Whiz

Want a winning combination of story elements? How about a retired greyhound, her adopted family, and a chance for a teen to win a racing trophy? Jamie's father is often away on business trips, leaving Jamie and his mother feeling lonely and sad. His father pushes Jamie to try team sports, but while he is away on another trip, Jamie and his mom begin running. It is a way to pass the time and keep them both from being couch potatoes and eating junk food. When they enter a marathon, they discover that they enjoy the motivation of competing and decide to continue with the races. 

At the same time that Jamie is dealing with his absentee father, he is also having a major growth spurt and enduring the teasing of his classmates, especially Chan. But one good thing does happen at school, a representative from an adoption group brings Road Whiz to visit the students. Whiz and Jamie bond, and Jamie goes home to convince his mother to adopt the greyhound. Maybe the retired racer can help Jamie train for the competition?

There are many themes to consider as readers make their way through the story - growing up, dealing with teasing, how it feels to have an absent parent (for whatever reason), coping with depression, sports and sportsmanship, pet adoption... just to name the more prominent ones. Author Darcy Pattison keeps the story realistic and balances the various components nicely.

Readers who enjoy sports stories and realistic fiction of school, family, and growing up will want to give this book a try. I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.