Friday, October 29, 2021

Need Something Fixed?

The Girl Who Could Fix Anything: Beatrice Shilling, World War II Engineer 
by Mara Rockliff; illus. by Daniel Duncan 
48 pages; ages 5-9
Candlewick, 2021  

theme: Engineering, women in science, biography 

Beatrice Shilling wasn’t quite like other children. She preferred tools to sweets.

Because tools can take things apart. They can put things together. They can fix things that are broken.

Beatrice wanted to be an engineer, and was fortunate to meet a mentor who encouraged her to study at the university. Where she wasn’t quite like the other students. And when she graduated, there weren’t any jobs for women engineers. But finally, one company gave her a chance. Which was a good thing, because she figured out how to solve a serious problem with fighter planes.

What I like about this book: I am always looking for books about women in STEM fields – and engineering is one of those fields where women are underrepresented. I also love reading stories about strong girls who solve problems. Plus, there is back matter: more juicy details about Beatrice’s life. And – the end pages are wonderful ~ diagrams of engine parts and bolts and other fun things.

Beyond the Books:

Make a tool kit. An unused tackle box or lunch box work well. Here are the basics you’ll need: safety goggles, a variety of screwdriver sizes in both flat and Phillip’s head, a hammer, needle nose pliers, wire cutters, tweezers, and a crescent wrench. Also a plastic tray for collecting screws and washers while working on a project – we use take-out containers.

Take apart some things that no one is using. Some fun things to take apart are old computer keyboards, old computer mouse, broken electronic toys, toaster, radio, VHS or DVD player, old printer. Make sure you remove batteries and snip off the cord before unscrewing the first screw. For safety reasons, don’t take apart anything with glass, sharp edges, or tubes that can break.

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, October 22, 2021

It was a dark and zombie night...

Return of ZomBert (The Zombert Chronicles) 
by Kara LaReau; illustrated by Ryan Andrews 
160 pages; ages 8-12
‎ Candlewick, 2021

This is the perfect time of year to settle in for a Halloween read. The wind is blowing through the trees, and limbs are squeaking and scratching against the house. Something, somewhere is moaning, and … what’s that tap-tap-tapping noise at the window? Pull up the quilt, grab your mug of cocoa, and lean in for the continuing tale of … ZomBert.

In a certain corporate headquarters on the edge of town, all was quiet. 

Plans are being hatched. Evil plans. Plans to kidnap a certain cat who, though once stray and straggly, now spends his days dozing in Mellie’s room. Now Mellie has to earn money to pay back her parents for vet care and the cat’s other adoption-related expenses. But Mellie is reluctant to take on yard work for Mrs. Witt, known to some as “the Candy Witch”.

Turns out Mrs. Witt has lots of old science stuff from back when she and her husband owned a confectionary shop, back before YummCo bought the company and changed the recipes. Now, YummCo is so large they influence the town – and their newest event is a harvest festival with a pet contest and parade. 

Then people start acting weird – they can’t seem to get enough of YummCo foods, and they act like … zombies?  Mellie and her friends – and ZomBert the cat – are determined to uncover the mystery. Things don’t go as planned, people end up in the wrong place, and cats go missing.

It's a fun story to read. But like YummCo products, this book seems a bit light on the nutrition and destined to get you hooked so you’ll read the next book. Plus this reader wants to know: why didn't Millie follow the clue?

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, October 15, 2021

What's Buried in Your Backyard?

The Deepest Dig 
by Mark David Smith; illus by Lily Snowden-Fine 
32 pages; ages 3-7
Owlkids, 2021 

theme: mammoth, bones, STEAM

Caden found something in the backyard.

It was as long as a fence post. It was as hard as a stone. It pushed up through the soil like a root. But it wasn’t a stone or a root or even a fence post. It was definitely a treasure, said his neighbor, Martha. But no one else believes Caden about his treasure. If it was a treasure, we could go traveling, says mom. If it was a prehistoric animal, I’ll eat my hat, says Caden’s science teacher. But Caden, with Martha’s help – and her truck and winch – pull up the bone. Then more. And soon an entire skeleton which Caden tries to assemble in increasingly funny ways.

What I like about this book: It’s a fun take on finding bones in your backyard. And I love the nonchalance of Caden’s parents. I like that Martha has the truck and encourages Caden to dig deeper. And I really like that the story is based on a real event: a farmer in Michigan discovered mammoth bones in his soybean field. What I would have liked even better was if there had been back matter. 

Beyond the Books:

Find out more about the discovery of mammoth bones in the farmer’s field. Here’s an article from the Detroit News. What other articles can you find about people discovering mammoth – or even dinosaur – bones in their backyards?

What does a mammoth site look like when scientists are digging? Check out this video of University of Michigan paleontologists.

Are mammoths ancient relatives of modern elephants? Here’s one article that compares the two. If you can, visit elephants at a zoo and make your own observations.

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, October 8, 2021

Charlie & Mouse with new adventures

Charlie & Mouse Lost and Found 
by Laurel Snyder; illus. by Emily Hughes
52 pages; ages 6-9
Chronicle Books, 2021

This is book 5 in this wonderful chapter book series. I’ve got to tell you, I love Charlie and Mouse. Even though they are brothers, they treat each other with tenderness – well, some of the time. In this book the four chapters may look like independent stories, but they are leashed together. There is a sweet story about a missing blanket (referred to as “he/him”) and Charlie and Mouse go on a blanket hunt. They go on errands with mom – which, if you remember your younger childhood, were Not Fun. I vaguely remember trips to the bank (there were deposit slips to write on!) and grocery stores…

… but Charlie and Mouse find a lost dog. Can we keep him? they ask. You think you know how that ends, but author Laurel Snyder turns it into a story of care. And then there is the dog that finds them. 

What I like about this book: Short, simple language, sweet. Some observations about the Charlie and Mouse series: each book has four chapters (or stories) and total word count for the books range from 950 – 1100 words. Not only are they great stories for newly independent readers, they are good mentor texts for writers interested in early chapter books.

You can find my reviews of earlier books here on the blog.
Charlie & Mouse Even Better (2019) is here 

Charlie & Mouse Outdoors (2020) is here.

Thanks for dropping by today. Review copy provided by the publisher.

Friday, October 1, 2021

A Boy, a fox, and a forest fire

The Fox and the Forest Fire 
by Danny Popovici 
44 pages; ages 5-8
Chronicle Books, 2021

theme: animals, forest fire

I wasn’t sure I’d like my new home.

When a boy moves from his home in the city to a new house in the woods, he wonders whether he will ever like it. It’s too quiet at night; too loud in the morning, and bugs fly into his mouth when he’s hiking with mom. But over time he discovers things that he does like, and makes friends with a fox. Then disaster strikes: a forest fire. The boy and his mom have to evacuate ~ but where do the animals go?

What I like about this book: What looks like a simple story has layers: a house, the woods, the trees and plants, the animals living in the woods. Everything is connected, even if you don’t see those connections. Given the fires this summer, this is a timely book. The author, at one time, was part of a forest firefighting crew, and he writes about that and the impacts of wildfires in the back matter.

Beyond the Books:

The western part of the US has seen lots of wildfires this summer. You can find out more about wildfires here.

If you were a forest animal, what would you be? Where would you hide – or go – during a wildfire? Here’s an article about animals and the fires in California this summer.

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.