Friday, April 24, 2020

Adventure! Danger! and totally true

Into The Clouds: The Race to Climb the World’s Most Dangerous Mountain
by Tod Olson
288 pages; ages 10-14
Scholastic Focus, 2020

All they needed were three good days. Three days without winds strong enough to blow them off the mountainside… Three days of weather clear enough to see the route between their lonely tents and the top of the second-highest mountain on Earth. 

But on the afternoon of August 6, 1953, Charlie Houston knew the odds of getting those three days were slim. This was not his first attempt to summit K2, the second highest peak in the world. It was a craggy peak located on the border of China and Pakistan, about 900 miles northwest of Everest. Formidable and unforgiving of mistakes.

The first time Charlie climbed K2 was in 1938. His mission: to discover a route that would allow climbers to make it to the summit the following year. The next year, Fritz Wiessner set off with an expedition to conquer the peak. But mistakes and ego resulted in tragedy.
credit: SY; CC BY-SA 4.0

And now, fifteen years after his first attempt, Charlie was once again trying to find a route to the top. But a vicious storm and sudden illness puts the expedition on the edge of disaster. What began as a quest reach the summit turned into a rescue mission.

Into the Clouds is a tale of adventure, for sure. You will find yourself pulling on a sweater or heating up a mug of tea to drink as you read – because it is cold on that mountain! But Tod Olson examines a philosophical divide in the climbing community. Is a climbing expedition the means to allow an individual to reach the top to mark a personal triumph? Or is climbing, as Charlie believed, a team effort? A “fellowship of the rope” that understands no single person can reach a summit without the team.

Olson tells the stories of three expeditions and climbing rivalry. Fortunately, you won’t need crampons or an ice ax to enjoy this adventure; Olson has done the hard work of pounding in the pitons and setting a guide rope. All you have to do is enjoy the story. Be forewarned: it is page-turning nonfiction and a story you will not want to put down, so make sure you have adequate provisions before setting off on this adventure.

If you like nail-biting nonfiction adventures, check out Olson’s LOST series. Last winter I posted a review of Lost in the Antarctic, a tale of Ernest Shackleton's 1914 expedition.

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. ARC provided by Blue Slip Media.

Friday, April 17, 2020

My Brother the Duck

My Brother the Duck
by Pat Zietlow Miller; illus. by Daniel Wiseman
40 pages; ages 3 - 5
Chronicle Books, 2020

theme: siblings, STEAM, problem-solving

I’m Stella Wells, fledgling scientist.

Like scientists everywhere, Stella notices things. And the thing she notices is that her baby brother might be a duck! When mom came home from the hospital she held something wrapped in a blanket. It was yellow and its nose was flat and broad. But was her brother really a duck? Stella needs to do more research; collect more facts.

What I like about this book: I love how Stella conducts her research. She constructs a hypothesis, collects evidence (data), and even consults an expert. As she explains, “scientists can’t just wing it. They have to gather facts.”

I love the illustrations, with notes full of data tacked everywhere. Definitely a must-read for new big brothers and sisters.

I managed to catch up with Pat for One Question:

Sally: What ways do you use science in your life? Or do you just "wing it"?

Pat: Like Stella in My Brother The Duck, I always think research is required. I'm naturally curious, and I spend a lot of time looking into why things happen or the history behind them or how things work. I don't conduct science experiments very often, but I do a lot of reading and researching and learning. And that helps me tell better stories. For this book, I had a lot of fun watching science experiment videos on YouTube to see what experiments a kid could do at home. And, I learned a lot about ducks – including this cool fact that’s not in the book:  a group of ducks is called a raft, a team, or a paddling.

Beyond the Book:

Learn how to identify ducks living in your town. Here's a chart to help you out.

Use books or the internet to discover some fun duck facts. Here's one resource to check out.

Play a duck puzzle with this word ladder - click here for a free downloadable puzzle.

Sing along with a duck song! This is one I learned as a kid.

Pat is a member of #STEAMTeam2020. You can find out more about her at her website.

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.

Friday, April 10, 2020

A Basketful of Board Books

For for some reason a whole bunch arrived in my mailbox this spring, so I declare today Board Book Day! But definitely a day to not be bored.
  themes: animals, creativity

Animals in the Sky by Sara Gillingham
Phaidon Press, 2020

Did you know there are animals in the sky? If you’re a star watcher, you do. After all, the Big Dipper is part of a huge, sky-inhabiting bear! But there are so many other animals up in the sky. This book introduces young children (and their parents) to a sky-dwelling rabbit, the lion, fish, dog, an eagle, and a wolf. Like other board books, the pages are thick and durable, with a clue on the left side of the spread and the constellation on the right. But, surprise! The page folds out to reveal how the star pattern fits into the imagined animal. Can there be back matter in a board book? Sure – the last page unfolds to show even more sky animals, including one of my favorites, the Scorpion.

Who Loves Books? by Lizi Boyd
Chronicle Books, 2020

If you like to read – and who doesn’t? – you won’t be surprised to learn that animals love to read, too. At least in this book. Squirrel delivers books to fox, butterfly, and others from the Book Boat. But what makes this book fun to play with is that some pages are divided so that you can flip the flaps and create new combinations of who’s reading and who’s waiting for a book delivery. Those flippy flaps make for a book that stretches nearly twice as tall as a normal board book – a small price to pay for interactive pages to engage fidgety readers.

 ABC Dance! An Animal Alphabet 
by Sabrina Moyle; illus. by Eunice Moyle
Workman Publishing, 2020

“Aardvarks arrive with a band of baboons…” and by the time you turn the page I guarantee your toes will be tapping. This is the perfect book to encourage youngsters (and us oldsters) to shake our boots with newts, rock out with rhinos, and slide with sloths. Dust off your dancing shoes and get ready to dance your way from A to Z. Bright, cartoony illustrations will encourage you to get your silly on.

Wild Animal Sounds
National Geographic Kids, 2019

Snort like an elephant, sing like a frog… each page introduces animal sounds. Filled with wonderful photos of animals and fun facts, this book will have you talking like the animals in no time at all. It’s a great way to spend a rainy spring day – and pairs well with dancing like animals, too! The back spread features a matching game.

Your Nose! by Sandra Boynton
Workman Publishing, 2020

Of course there’s a Sandra Boynton book in my basket! How could there not be? This is a wild little love song about all types of noses, but especially the noses you know best. And yes – it IS a song… you can listen to it here.

Beyond the books:

Find animals in the sky. If you don’t have a sky map available, check out this link.

Learn some wild animal sounds. Here’s a fun video of wild animals with the sounds they make.

Put on some music and dance like an animal. Make a list of some animals from A to Z and then try moving the way you imagine they’d dance. Who knows? You might come up with some excellent dance moves!

Make your own board book. Here’s an excellent tutorial, but don’t worry if you don’t have all the “right stuff”. Be creative and improvise! I plan to use up those cereal boxes that have been accumulating behind the recycling box – and some paper bag strips to connect the boards.

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 publishers.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Python Catchers!

Python Catchers: Saving the Everglades 
by Marta Magellan; illus. by Mauro Magellan
32 pages; ages 8 - 12
Pineapple Press, 2020

theme: environment, snakes

Be careful in there! I know the Everglades is your home, but there is a reptile in there that eats rabbits.

When Burmese pythons invade the Everglades, they gobble up just about everyone: otters, bobcats, raccoons, and even alligators! Wood Stork is on a mission to show Marsh Rabbit why the Everglades aren’t safe anymore – and what scientists are doing in an effort to restore balance.

Told from the point-of-view of the wood stork, we learn how the pythons got to the everglades and the damage they are doing to the environment.

What I like about this book: The dialog between Wood Stork and Marsh Rabbit is fun, and the spreads feature a mix of photo and illustrations. I really like the back matter that lists what you can do to keep invasives out of the environment. Plus there’s a page that focuses on invasive species and the cascading effects they can have in a food web.

I caught up with Marta by email to ask her One Question ~

Sally: How did you come to write the book from the wood stork’s point of view?

Marta: I wanted to use two cartoon animals to tell the story so that it would be more attractive to children, rather than a textbook-style explanation of the invasion. I wanted two native animals who are vulnerable to the python invasion. At first I thought of a fox (one of the animals disappearing from the Everglades) because mammals always look cute in children's book illustrations. The stork, while really "cute," is the only stork that breeds in the United States. For a long time it was listed as an endangered species. In contrast to the stork’s informational approach, the marsh rabbit makes comments that children might be thinking. Sometimes it makes silly comments (like eating carrot pizza) to bring some lightness into what in essence is a pretty grim subject!

Beyond the Books:

Meet some of the Everglades residents. Head out on this video tour with National Geographic.

Take a 3-minute tour of Everglades National Park. Video here.

Read more about pythons in this Smithsonian article.

Make your own Burmese python. You can make one out of accordion folds, or make a paper chain snake, or you can cut a spiral from a paper plate to make a snake.

Marta is a member of #STEAMTeam2020. You can find out more about her at her website.

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.