Friday, June 25, 2021

Layla and the Bots return ... to make CUPCAKES!

Cupcake Fix (Layla and the Bots #3) 
by Vicky Fang; illus. by Christine Nishiyama 
80 pages; ages 5-7
Scholastic (Branches), 2021

I love books that incorporate STEAM elements in an organic way. So, when Vicky told the STEAM Team group that she had a new Layla & the Bots coming out this summer, I could not wait to read it. Fortunately for me, Vicky sent me an arc to satisfy my STEM-y sweet tooth.

Layla is a rock star, performing in a band with her bots. She is also an inventor, and in each book in the series, she uses her engineering and technical know-how to solve a problem. In this book she’s invited to perform at the community center grand opening. But the people in charge of the event are worried they won’t get the crowd they’re hoping for.

Food always brings people together. But what kind of food? Layla decides she needs a survey. 

What I like about this: a survey is a great way to collect information (data). But it’s not useful unless you have a way to analyze that information. So we get to see Layla graph survey results. This is cool – and is something any kid old enough to read this book can do. Heck, my kids were collecting data and graphing M&M colors at this age. (“Mom… we need another bag of M&Ms!”)

Once they discover that folks like cupcakes, the obvious next-step is to design and build a machine that bakes cupcakes and frosts them. 

The machine works! But… the first person to test it asks it to do something unexpected. And that causes problems which must be fixed before the grand opening. The clock is ticking … can Layla and the Bots debug the code and fix the machine in time?

Another thing I like: The problem that’s posed is how to build a machine that allows for personal choice in the baking, frosting, and decorating of cupcakes. Maybe it will get some kids wondering how decisions are made.

And – at the back there’s a Build Your Own activity. Not a cupcake machine – that would be too hard! But a fun extendable grabber arm.

On Wednesday I chatted with Vicky about why she’s so keen on integrating technology, engineering, and coding in her kid’s stories. Check it out at the GROG blog.

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 author.

Friday, June 18, 2021

Homer on the Case


Homer on the Case 
by Henry Cole 
144 pages; ages 8-12
Peachtree, 2021

After meeting Homer, you’ll never look at pigeons the same way again. Sure, he’s a homing pigeon – but he’s a homing pigeon who’s taught himself to read. What? You think pigeons can’t read? You’d be wrong… back in 2016 a scientist demonstrated that pigeons can recognize words. And they can do math, too.

Unlike lab pigeons, Homer taught himself to read by using the Dick Tracy comics and local news in the papers used to line his cage. So when people start losing jewelry in the park, Homer reflects on what Dick Tracy would do. He observes, watches, trains his mind to remember the traits of suspects.

The crime spree gets personal when Otto’s grandfather loses his gold pocket watch. Fortunately, Homer has friends who can help – an Amazon parrot named Lulu and a park pigeon named Carlos. With advice from Dick Tracy, Homer and Lulu crack the case. Now all they need to do is get their humans to climb down the storm drain into the underground tunnels. There’s just one small problem: Homer and Lulu need to figure out a way to communicate with their humans. 

What I like about this book: There are heroes and villains – but even the bad guys aren’t all bad. And the ways Homer tries to get messages to his human, Otto, are … creative. Just take a minute to think about how you might communicate something important to another species if you don’t speak the same language – and they think of you as a “cute pet.”

This is a great book for kids who like animal stories, for kids who like STEM, for bird-lovers of all feathers, and for kids who believe that comic book superheroes have wisdom to share.

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 copy provided by the publisher.

Friday, June 11, 2021

Catching up on picture books


These picture books somehow managed to evade review over the past year, and I’m not sure how. After all, the book basket isn’t that big! Both were published by Chronicle in 2020.

theme: family, friendship, read-aloud

For the youngest listeners (from 3-5):
Mabel: A Mermaid Fable, by Rowboat Watkins 

What was weird about Mabel wasn’t her mustache.

Turns out her entire family had mustaches. Nope, having a mustache wasn’t the problem. NOT having one was! Poor Mabel. She tried to make a mustache out of everything she could think of – but no luck. And then she meets a friend – an octopus named Lucky who fit his name except for one thing… he didn’t have eight legs. That didn’t matter to Mabel. They had fun together, playing and exploring and doing the things friends do.

What I like about this book: The idea of mustaches on merfolk is funny, the problem with being the odd one out isn’t. I love Mabel’s attempts at creating a mustache, and her easy acceptance of Lucky. And I love the illustrations. But I mostly love the way she learns to accept herself. 

Oh, and I love the nudibranchs, too.

For the “older” crowd (5-8):
Everyone’s Awake, by Colin Meloy; illus, by Shawn Harris 

The crickets are all peeping.

It’s time for folks to be sleeping, but in this house, Everyone’s Awake! Dad is baking bread. The mice are playing cards. Mom’s tap-dancing and brother’s juggling kitchen plates.

What I like about this book: It’s fun to read aloud, with rhymes and humorous happenings. The pages are bright, with simple, bold illustrations. And as the night goes on, the attempts to stay awake get crazier and crazier.

Beyond the Books:

You may not find any mermaids in the ocean, but you will find nudibranchs, or sea slugs. Learn more about them here. The photos are stunning.

If you’re planning to stay awake all night, make sure you have some games to play. Here are six games and all you need is one deck of cards.

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.