Friday, October 30, 2015

The Problem with NOT Being Scared of Kids

The Problem with NOT Being Scared of Kids
by Dan Richards; Illus. by Robert Neubecker
32 pages; ages 4-8
Boyds Mills Press, 2015

themes: friendship, fitting in

The problem with NOT being scared of kids is ... they don't want to hang out with us.

And that's a problem, especially for a monster who is tired of being "it" all the time and wants to have a friend. And things get really personal around the holidays - especially Halloween!

What I like about this book: it really hits the heart of what it means to want a friend. I particularly love the spread showing a group of monster buddies holding a study session with their books on how to make friends. And it shows the unbridled joy of meeting that one person who doesn't care what color you are, that you have tentacles instead of hands, or that your hair is always in your eyes.

Beyond the Book: There are so many fun books about monsters, and this is the perfect time to read a bunch. Check out The Monster Who Did My Math, The Monstore, and The Problem with Not Being Scared of Monsters - plus any other cool books you find at the library, like Where the Wild Things Are.

Be a Friend to someone who is new to your school or neighborhood. What do you need to do to "be a friend"? What do you do when you want to be friends with someone?

Make a friendship bracelet. All you need is some embroidery floss or crochet thread or thin yarn, and then follow these directions. Have fun!

Do something fun with your friends. Maybe rake leaves into a pile and jump in them. Or bake some cookies.

Make some monster masks and have a wild rumpus!

Today is 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 BooksReview copy from the publisher.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Freedom's Price ~ Blog Tour

Freedom's Price (Hidden Histories)
by Michaela MacColl & Rosemary Nichols
288 pages; ages 9-12
Calkins Creek, 2015

Freedom's Price is the second book in the Hidden Histories series, and it's every bit as good as the first. In this one, authors Michaela MaColl and Rosemary Nichols dive into the history of the Dred Scott decision and pre-Civil War America. It's a coming-of-age story about a young girl, and maybe a young nation as well.

Eleven-year-old Eliza Scott hates doing laundry. She wants more out of her life than to lug smelly shirts to the river's edge and scrub them... day after day after day. She's tired of being in limbo - not a slave, but not quite free. And she's really tired of living in the town jail wile waiting for the court to decide her family's status.

Her father, Dred, has sued for freedom, and until the court decides their fate, he and his family live in a gray zone. As long as they remain on this side of the river, in this town - they are safe... unless they're kidnapped and sold into slavery. But there are unscrupulous people... and Eliza learns that "almost free" isn't "free", and freedom is no guarantee that one will be accorded respect and civility.

What I like about this book are the questions it raises about race, society, and whether our society has progressed from those pre-Civil War times. I like the way the authors worked in the cholera epidemic and the St. Louis Great Fire of 1849. I also love that there is back matter about the Dred Scott decision. While the book is fictional, the story is true: Dred Scott did sue for freedom and won. That decision was overturned by the US Supreme Court - a decision that not only lit the fuse for the Civil War, but provided the underpinnings of the 14th Amendment: that all persons born or naturalized in the United States are citizens. You can read more about Dred Scott here and here.

This book - this series - is a great way to sneak in history for kids who love stories but "hate" history. It's also a great way to slake the thirst of kids who love history but think they don't like fiction. If I had stars to give out, I would.

Today is Marvelous Middle Grade Monday and we're hanging out with other MMGM bloggers over at Shannon Messenger's blog. Hop over to see what other people are reading.  Review copy provided by publisher.

Friday, October 23, 2015

This ORQ. (he say "ugh!")

This ORQ. (he say "ugh"!)
by David Elliott; illus by Lori Nichols
40 pages; ages 4-7
Boyds Mills Press, 2015

This Orq.
He cave boy. 

You met him earlier this year. He still live in cave. He still carry club, not wear shoes. But this time Orq have problem: bully.

Bully name DORQ. Dorq big and hairy. And mean. Mom say (of course) ignore him and he go away. But that not work.

So Orq come up with plan. He fight back. He lose. Fighting back not work with bully. Orq get very angry. Angry enough to bash rocks. And Orq come up with something better than fighting. But me not give away secret - except to say it have something to do with bison burgers. And cave moms everywhere telling kids to be careful with rocks.

This book go well with nonfiction books about woolly mammoths and other ice age beasts. Also survival guides that teach you how to make bow drills or use flint and steel. Review copy from publisher.

Monday, October 19, 2015

A Tower Of Giraffes

A Tower of Giraffes: Animals in Groups
by Anna Wright
32 pages; ages 3-7
Charlesbridge, 2015

What do you call a bunch of geese hanging out at the park next to the river? A gaggle, says Anna Wright. Animals can live in large social groups or small families, but no matter how many are in a group, each species lives in a unique social order.

She writes about their social lives in this book of collective nouns. Squirrels hang out in "scurries", and when danger threatens, they whistle out a warning to their buddies. They scurry away, and you realize that's how they got their name.

Wright collects a bunch of the best collective nouns (question: what do you call a bunch of collective nouns, anyway?). For example: a flamboyance of flamingos, a romp of otters, a parcel of penguins. I've learned that I have a mischief of mice in my basement, and the correct name for my friend's collection of hedgehogs is prickle.

The names are fun, and the tidbits about their social lives are cool - but what really drew me to this book are the illustrations. They are mixed media with fabric, feathers, wallpaper.... they are fun, fun, fun! Especially the sheep, who look like they are made from bits of sweater, and the peacocks with real peacock feathers.

So, what do you call a book that combines great science and imaginative art? STEAM. So go ahead. Pull out some field guides and your basket of scraps, and have fun creating your own artsy animals. And if you're looking for more collective nouns for animal groups, check out this post on Archimedes Notebook.

Today we're joining the roundup over at the Nonfiction Monday blog where you'll find even more book reviews. Review copy provided by the publisher.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Oscar and the Very Hungry Dragon

Oscar and the Very Hungry Dragon
by Ute Krause
40 pages; ages 4-8
North-South, 2010 (English translation)

I love tales of dragons, so I just had to read this one. Even if it has been on shelves for a few years.

The story begins before the title page...
"Imagine a very dangerous dragon. Like this." Only... five times as dangerous and wa-a-ay bigger... and now, once you've imagined it, you can turn the page.

Traditionally, every year, the people feed the Very Hungry Dragon a princess. But this year the kingdom is all out of princesses. So the people do what people in all sorts of books do: they hold a lottery.

Oscar's name is chosen, and he heads up the tall, tall mountain to the dragon's lair. But Oscar has no intention of becoming a meal. First, he tells the dragon that he's too small to eat, and needs fattening up to make a real meal. When the dragon wants to see if Oscar's getting plump, the kid borrows a trick from "Hansel & Gretel". Of course, fattening up means that Oscar needs to cook, so he writes out shopping lists for the dragon. I don't want to spoil the ending except to say it is FUN! and it reminds me a lot of Patricia Wreade's "Dealing With Dragons".

Review copy provided by the publisher.

Monday, October 12, 2015

The Wolf~Birds

The Wolf~Birds
by Willow Dawson
40 pages; ages 5-8
Owlkids Books, 2015

Deep in the wild winter wood, two hungry ravens huddle together, waiting for their next meal. Running through the snow below, a pack of wolves chases their next meal.

This is a story of survival in the winter woods. Hunting is hard work, and the hunters come up empty-handed, and even lose a member of the pack in the process. But when the ravens and the wolves team up, they both feast.

The book is based on scientific data and anecdotal reports from Aboriginal hunters, and explores an ecological relationship that could be thousands of years old. After all, ravens are called "wolf birds" for a reason. Lyrical, spare text is paired with acrylic paintings to tell the story. What I like is that there is enough room within this tale for readers (and listeners) to ask their own questions: what happens to a predator injured during the hunt? What happens if they return home with no food? Why do some animals help others of a different species?

Today we're joining the roundup over at the Nonfiction Monday blog where you'll find even more book reviews. Review copy provided by the publisher.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Bear Can Dance!

Bear Can Dance!
by Suzanne Bloom
40 pages; ages 3-7
Boyds Mills Press

theme: friendship, talents

I love Bear and Goose - they are "splendid friends indeed"... and this book includes their best buddy, Fox. And they're bound to have fun, if only Bear can figure out what it is he can do.

I wish I could fly?
Why, Bear?
So I could swoop and glide and feel the wind in my fur.

Bear can't fly, but Fox is certain that he could - if only he had the right equipment. And if he does the right moves. And with the help of his friends.

It turns out that Bear can fly - just not the way Goose and Fox imagined!

What I like LOVE about this book: I love the way Suzanne Bloom can tell a story using a combination of dialog-only text and wondrous illustrations. I love the creative ways Fox and Goose try to get Bear to fly. I love that Bear finds a way to fly with feet on the ground. And I love the endpapers where Goose and Fox are dancing the (what else?) Foxtrot....

Beyond the Book:
If you were going to teach Bear how to fly, what would you do? What does it take to fly? Can you get that whooshy feeling doing other things? When you're swinging, or sledding down a hill, do you feel like you're flying?

What animals fly? Birds fly, but there are other animals that fly about, or glide. Think about mammals, fish, amphibians and reptiles, and insects. How do they flit/ fly/soar/glide through the air?

What is that funny suitcase-looking thing that Bear is playing music on? If you have one, listen to a recording. If not, see where you can find one: a museum? A thrift shop? Take a close look. How do they work? If you're not sure, read this.

Dance to some music. Can you swoop and glide like Bear? Does it almost feel like flying - but with your feet on the ground?  

Today is 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 BooksReview copy from the publisher.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Exploring Nitty Gritty Planet Earth with the Dirtmeister

Dirtmeister's Nitty Gritty Planet Earth
by Steve Tomecek
128 pages; ages 8-12
National Geographic Kids, 2015

If you want to know all about rocks, minerals, fossils, earthquakes, volcanoes - and even dirt - then dig into this book. Chapters begin with some cartoonish introductions and then delve into the science of.... our planet.

Steve Tomecek, aka "the Dirtmeister", is a geologist who studies the blood and guts - er, the strata - of the Earth. He begins at the most logical place: wa-a-ay back when the earth was nothing more than spinning dust.

To get a feel for how geologists "tell time", he takes us on a field trip down the Grand Canyon, where we can see layers and layers of sedimentary rock laid down over the eons, and explains how scientists use radioactive decay to determine the age of rocks. In addition to learning about the innards of the Earth we also learn about the bling: the minerals and gems and shiny metals that can be found within the crust. Plus the volcanoes and erosion and plate techtonics.

Scattered throughout the pages are "Dirtmeister nuggets - bits of info that add to our understanding of geology - and short bios of scientists who've studied the earth. Like the guy who discovered that the continents are not staying put, but are drifting about.

For teachers & homeschoolers, there's a page at the back that lists STEM science standards, and for everyone there's a handy index. (I love indexes!)

Today we're joining the roundup over at the Nonfiction Monday blog where you'll find even more book reviews. Review copy provided by the publisher.

Friday, October 2, 2015

999 Frogs... and a Little Brother

999 Frogs and a Little Brother
by Ken Kimura; illus. by Yasunari Murakami
40 pages; ages 4-8
North/South Books, 2015

theme: friendship

It was spring. At the edge of the big big pond, 999 tadpole brothers were playing together.
999 tadpoles were doing well.
998 tadpoles sprouted legs.

So... when the other tadpoles use their froggy legs to frog-kick across the pond, one little tadpole is left behind. And when they use their skinny froggy arms to swim, that last little tadpole is left behind. And when they lose their tails and JUMP! JUMP! JUMP! out of the pond, the last little tadpole watches them go.

And then he hears a tiny voice calling "Big Brother!" It is a young crayfish, and the two of them form a strong amphibian-crustacean brother bond. Which lasts as long as it takes for mama crayfish to find her lost baby.

What I like about this book: The wonderfully simple illustrations of frogs. And crayfish. And the big bad snake. (Did I neglect to mention the snake? ooooh.... he's hungry and loves to eat frogs.) I like stories about unlikely heroes, and people (or frogs) pulling together to help save someone from certain death and ingestion. And it reminds me a whole lot about the story of people trying to pull a humongous turnip out of the garden. Plus 999 is a really big number.

Beyond the book: It's the wrong season to find tadpoles, but you just might find some frogs making a last-minute dash to a wintering spot. Snakes and crayfish will be settling in for winter, too - at least here in the northern hemisphere.

What sort of frogs live near you - and where do they go in the winter? We have wood frogs around these parts. They hibernate in the winter. Draw a picture of a frog that lives in your area.

Why don't frogs freeze in the winter? They turn into "frogcicles". Learn more here and here. How cold does it get where you live? Maybe you can put up an outdoor thermometer on your porch and write down the temperatures every day.

Listen to some frog songs. When the frogs stop calling, you can click here to listen to an hour of frog choruses.

Play Leap Frog with some friends.

Today is 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 BooksReview copy from the publisher.