Friday, January 31, 2020

Of Owls and Mice

Today I’m sharing two books from Dawn Publications: one about an owl, one about a mouse. The themes: birds, invention, and imagination.

Silent Swoop: An Owl, an Egg, and a Warm Shirt Pocket
by Michelle Houts; illus by Deb Hoeffner
32 pages; ages 4-8
Dawn Publications, 2019

In the dark of night, no one saw the Great Horned Owl glide over the coal yard.

But the next morning the workers found her eggs, so they called Walter. He tucked the eggs in his shirt pocket and carried them to the bird sanctuary where he placed them in an incubator. Eventually one of the eggs hatched into a fluffy, downy owlet. Coal, the owl, became an ambassador for the bird sanctuary.

What I like about this book: This is a sweet story of love growing between a tiny owl hatchling and the man who saved her. And the kids and grandparents she met. I like the language. After Walter puts the eggs in the incubator he watches. He wonders. He waits. We get such a good feeling of time passing slo-o-owly. I like the “explore more” pages at the back. More information about Great Horned Owls. More about the man who saved the owl. More about nests and eggs, about writing and finding facts. And plenty of STEM activities and resources for curious kids.

Scampers Thinks Like a Scientist
by Mike Allegra; illus. by Elizabeth Zechel
32 pages; ages 3-8
Dawn Publications, 2019

The vegetable garden was the place to be. It was where every mouse in the valley went to chat and dance and laugh and play.

Until the owl arrived. The mice moved elsewhere – except for Scampers. She hid in the garden watching the owl. Why was the owl so still? Maybe it’s not even a real owl – but how could the mice find out?

What I like about this book: I like that Scampers is curious enough to ask important questions, such as: is the owl alive? She is inventive enough to come up with ways to test the garden owl. And, she realizes that her scientific knowledge is important to share with the community. And of course I like the “explore more” pages: ways of thinking like a scientist, more information about owls and mice, and a quartet of STEM activities.

Beyond the Books:

Do you have owls living in your neighborhood? How would you find out? You could listen for owls at night (here’s an article with owl calls), and you could read more about owls to learn where they like to live. Some even live in cities.

Learn how to think like a scientist. It means honing your skills of observation, asking questions, playing around with some experiments, and recording what you find out. Read more here.

Today we're joining Perfect Picture Book Friday, an event where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website. Review copies provided by the publisher.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Great books for Ocean-Dreaming

Since all the water around my house is frozen, I’m dreaming about oceans. Fortunately I found a couple of books in my basket that will feed my fantasy.

Theme for today: water, oceans, ocean animals

This Is a Sea Cow 
by Cassandra Federman
32 pages; ages 5-7
Albert Whitman & Company, 2019

This is a Sea Cow. “Hello! I prefer Manatee, please.”

Written in the style of a school report, this book attempts to lay out the facts about sea cows manatees. But the subject of the report Is. Not. Pleased. with the report, and refutes what she perceives as unflattering comments. For example, the kid writes that sea cows eat grass like cows do. “I’m not a lawnmower,” Manatee retorts, clarifying that she dines on seagrass.

What I like about this book: I love the sassy manatee who makes sure she corrects the record with respect to how cool manatees really are.

I like the facts that are thrown in, comparing manatees to sharks, and I like that the text is written in pencil-like font on wide-ruled paper. Illustrations are crayoned in. AND – there is Back Matter! Three pages of manatee facts including how you can adopt a manatee. I love that the story begins – and ends – on the endpapers.

Hey, Water! 
by Antoinette Portis
48 pages; ages 4-8
Neal Porter Books, 2019

Hey, water! I know you! You’re all around.

From faucet to sprinkler, rain to snow, a girl named Zoe explores water. Water can be a lake or steam, dew on a leaf or tears. And it’s all around us. Illustrations are done with brush and sumi ink, and then digitally colored.

What I like about this book: The text is simple and supported with the wonderfully textured illustrations. And there’s Back Matter! On one page, Portis shows the forms water takes: solid, liquid, and gas. On another, she provides an easy-to-follow map of the water cycle. There’s a section about things we can do to conserve water, and resources to explore.

And one more, for the littles to dive into:

National Geographic Kids Little Kids First Board Book Ocean
26 pages; ages 4 - up
Publisher: National Geographic Children's Books (October 29, 2019)

Just a fun little book, filled with verbs for tots to learn: race, play, swirl, twist, and more. The last spread provides a “can you find?” challenge.

Beyond the Books:

You can learn more about manatees here, and find webcams to watch your favorite manatees here.

Become a Water Saver. Check out this list of things you can do, and choose one to do this week.

Today we're joining Perfect Picture Book Friday, an event where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website. Review copies provided by the publisher.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Warrior Queens

Warrior Queens: True Stories of Six Ancient Rebels Who Slayed History 
by Vicky Alvear Shecter ; illus by Bill Mayer
160 pages; ages 9 - 12
Boyds Mills Press, 2019

The ancient queens Vicky Shecter writes about didn’t go looking for trouble. Trouble came looking for them – usually invaders who wanted their land and riches. But these ladies pushed back. Hard. “They fought in chariots, on ships, and even on elephants,” writes Shecter.

So who were these queens? One was Hatshepsut, a powerful female pharaoh who ruled Egypt about 3500 years ago. Married at 13, widowed by 16, she proved to be a plucky leader – and one who kept the economy strong by building roads and monuments. And, when required, went to war to strengthen the borders of her country.

About 1400 years later, Amanirenas ruled a powerful African kingdom in Nubia (what’s now Sudan), just south of Egypt. Queen Amanirenas ruled a rich land, where women were respected and had power. Then Roman emperor Caesar Augustus invaded Egypt. Seeking even more treasure, the Romans attacked five Nubian cities. Queen Amanirenas was not amused. She led her warriors on a counterattack, taking back her cities and destroying Roman military outposts as well.

Eighty years later, in ancient Britain, Queen Boudicca led a rebellion against the Roman army. Her Celt tribe had been living in uneasy peace with the Romans, but when Boudicca’s husband died, the Romans stomped into her village. They wanted everything – money, food, horses. When Boudicca challenged them, they dragged her into the village center and whipped her. As the Romans destroyed Celtic culture, Boudicca planned her attack. She and her blue-painted warriors swarmed the biggest Roman city. They freed the slaves, looted the city, and left nothing but smoldering rubble. She went on to destroy an entire Roman legion and burn Londinium to the ground.

Shecter includes plenty of sidebars on topics ranging from forensic anthropology to religion and ancient medicine. Each chapter includes chapter notes that fill in the details. Back matter includes endnotes, a bibliography, and index.

Thanks for dropping by today. On Monday we'll be hanging out at Marvelous Middle Grade Monday with other  bloggers. It's over at Greg Pattridge's blog, Always in the Middle, so hop over to see what other people are reading. Review ARC provided by the publisher.

Friday, January 10, 2020

A Stone Sat Still

A Stone Sat Still
by Brendan Wenzel
56 pages; ages 3-5
Chronicle Books, 2019

theme: nature, perception

A stone sat still / with water, grass, and dirt
and it was as it was / where it was in the world.

The stone was dark, light, smooth, rough, red, green, purple, blue – at least to the different animals that come upon the stone. Each perceives the stone based on how they interact with it.

What I like about this book: I love how Brendan Wenzel looks at a stone from so many points of view. For an ant following a pheromone trail, the stone is part of a map. For a tiny red mite surrounded by a slimy snail trail, the stone becomes a maze. I like how time passes, and the stone – once a landmark for migrating birds – is worn by age, surrounded by water, adopted by an ocean.

Beyond the Books:

Find a rock or stone on one of your travels. Maybe it is in a park, or your back yard. Sit with that stone and explore its texture, its size. If it is big, are there small creatures climbing on it? Are lichens or plants growing on it?

Get to know the rocks in your backyard. Here’s a good place to start.

Today we're joining Perfect Picture Book Friday, an event where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website. Review copy provided by the publisher.