Monday, February 25, 2013

Twelve Kinds of Ice

Twelve Kinds of Ice
by Ellen Bryan Obed; illustrations by Barbara McClintock
64 pages, ages 6 & up
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2012

One winter I remember grabbing skates and kids and heading over to my friend Raili’s. After days of rain, the run-off had flooded her field and a couple days of very cold temperatures had turned the surface hard and glassy. We skated up and down the gentle swells… who knew you could skate uphill?

We haven’t had any freezes like that lately – our winters seem to be warming up – so it was with great pleasure and anticipation that I snatched Twelve Kinds of Ice from the “just arrived in the mail” satchel and started reading.

“The first ice came on the sheep pails in the barn – a skim of ice so thin that it broke when we touched it.” First ice is special – it covers the mud puddles at the bottom of the road and tricks kids who are waiting for the school bus into testing it – and heading to the school office for a pair of dry socks.

Second ice…. you can pick that out of the tops of the pails “like panes of glass,” writes Ellen Obed. Third ice you can hit with the rake handle and it won’t break. There’s field ice and stream ice, black ice, garden ice and best of all – hockey ice.

Obed describes ice season through a series of vignettes, which Barbara McClintock accompanies with pen-and-ink drawings that add a touch of nostalgia. This is a fun book to read, especially when paired with hot cocoa and fuzzy slippers. Longer than a traditional picture book, but not quite a chapter book… lyrical and literary to the last ice.

Review copy provided by the publisher.

Friday, February 22, 2013

You are Stardust

You Are Stardust
By Elin Kelsey; illustrated by Soyeon Kim
32 pages, ages 4 and up
Owlkids Books, 2012
Theme: our connection with nature.

“You are stardust,” writes Elin Kelsey. “Every tiny atom in your body came from a star that exploded long before you were born.”

But we are connected to nature in other ways, too: the water we drink has been cycling from earth to sky and back again, quenching thirst for millions of years. We learn to talk the same way birds learn to sing, grow fastest in the summer (like the weeds), and shed out hair just like our animal friends. We are all connected, and we are all stardust.

What is neat about this book are the illustrations. Korean artist Soyean Kim built three-dimensional dioramas, and then photographed scenes from them to illustrate the book. You can watch the process here.

I also like that Elin Kelsey sees her book as a way to link kids with nature. “I hope this [book] gets covered with grass stains – carted outside to be read in a tree…” she writes. In an essay she confirms that, while her book is based on current science, she’s hoping that sharing it will lead to those “ magical, exploratory conversations that happen when life pauses for a moment and you find yourself curled up with your little one, sharing a book rich with ideas.”

Like other educators, Kelsey is concerned that children are becoming too wired up and digitally connected. “Early childhood is as a time to form deep connections with the natural world,” she explains. “Each time you stop to watch a bug make its way across a city sidewalk you reinforce the magical ties we share with other species.”

Beyond the book: There are so many possible art connections. Why not make your own 3-D diorama? Or collect some leaves, twigs, and other natural materials and use them to create a self-portrait?
Create a “kid’s bucket list” of things you and your kids want to do before they turn twelve. Here are some ideas to get you going: throw snow, go sledding, look inside a tree, raise a butterfly … there are so many ways to turn off the screen and connect with the world.
 This post is part of STEM Friday round-up. It's also part of PPBF (perfect picture book Friday), an event in which bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's site. She keeps an ever-growing list of Perfect Picture Books. Review copy provided by publisher.

Monday, February 18, 2013

A History of Ice

ICE! The Amazing History of the Ice Business
By Laurence Pringle
80 pages; ages 8-12
Calkins Creek, 2012
When you want something cold to drink, you open the fridge. But what did people do before refrigerators were invented? Rural folks could store potatoes and carrots in cool root cellars, or chill perishable foods in a river or spring. But how did city-dwellers keep their meat and milk from spoiling?


Back in the 1800’s ice was a big business. Hundreds of people would show up at a lake to harvest the ice – and the best ice was 10 inches thick. Lawrence Pringle gives us a glimpse into a very cool business, one with its own tools and skill set. There were men who sawed the ice, men who hauled the ice, men who packed it between layers of sawdust in insulated houses that would keep it through the summer months, and men who delivered 25-pound blocks up three flights of stairs to apartment iceboxes.

Pringle accompanies his tale with photos of ice saws and tongs – who knew there were so many kinds? And he describes ice riots caused by warm winters, when the lakes didn’t freeze. It was those warm winters that drove the invention of more reliable refrigeration.

Altogether a fun read for a winter day. This is part of the Nonfiction Monday round-up, hosted today by Roberta over at Wrapped in Foil. Review copy provided by publisher.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Glamorus Glasses

Glamorous Glasses
By Barbara Johansen Newman
32 pages; ages 4 - 8
Boyds Mills Press, 2012

“I have a best cousin named Joanie. Mom has a best sister named Tessie. We are all best friends, and we do everything together.”

So when Joanie needs glasses, Bobbie goes along to help her pick out a pair. There are so many cool styles and colors that Bobbie decides she needs a pair too. When mom says no, Bobbie comes up with ways to “prove” she needs glasses. Meanwhile, Joanie hates wearing them… and what results is a comedic switcheroo.

Theme: friendship

Beyond the book: If you don’t wear glasses and really want some cool specs, go find some at yard sales. You can always take out the lenses and decorate the frames. And check out the activities Barb has at her website.

This review is part of PPBF (perfect picture book Friday), an event in which bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's site. She keeps an ever-growing list of Perfect Picture Books. Review copy provided by the publisher.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Up Above, Down Below

Up Above and Down Below
Written and illustrated by Paloma Valdivia
32 pages; ages 4-6
Owlkids Books, 2012

It’s winter in my part of the world; summer on the other side. I dress in snow pants and boots; kids “down under” can get away with T-shirts and shorts. I’ve often wondered what it would be like to spend some time on what – to me at least – seems like the bottom of the world. It’s so ocean-y, full of islands and rain forests and veld. And I wonder: what would the world look like if I turned my map upside down?

Author-illustrator Paloma Valdivia does that for me, and more.

“In the world, there are different kinds of people,” she writes. “Some live up above and some live down below.” The folks living on the top think the ones below are different, and the ones living down below think the people living up above are different. And they all dream of flying…

… but if they did, how would they know who belongs where? Valdivia accompanies her spare text with stylized, but equally spare, illustrations that draw readers into the two different-but-not-so-different worlds of up above and down below. This is a fun book, but what I really like are the maps she’s put on the endpages! It’s enough to make one apply for a passport…

Review copy provided by publisher.