When children are starting to learn about the sun, moon and planets, there are not a ton of books that really engage them. So I was very excited when I was able to get a hold of an advance copy of If You Were the Moon by Laura Purdie Salas and illustrated by Jaime Kim.
At first glance, this book looks like a simple bedtime story in fiction format. But once you get past the first spread the entire book is filled with fascinating facts about the moon! A little girl looks up at the moon one night and wishes that she could “do exactly nothing, just like you.”
The moon responds by telling her all of the various things he does. Each page has a really basic explanation of the moon’s role with supplementary blocks of text in a different font that give the reader detailed facts.
So between the text and the outstanding illustrations, a young mind will understand that the moon impacts Earth’s balance, that while it appears to glow it is really “catching” and “throwing” light from the sun, and that its gravity is what creates the tides in our oceans.
The moon also is important to a lot of different animals and cultures. Nocturnal animals use the moon as an alarm clock. Sea turtle hatchlings need the light of the moon to guide them to the ocean. In terms of people, not only has the moon inspired great works of art, but farmers across the globe have used moon phases to guide their seasons and the race to put a man on the moon challenged our space program.
There are also silly items like the fact that the moon spins like a ballerina making a full turn every 27 days or that it wouldn’t be very good at playing dodgeball because it never gets out of the way of meteorites that crash into it.
This is a really wonderful book to share with a young child to get them more interested in astronomy and science. It is also still good for an older child to comprehend some of the more confusing aspects of the moon. There really are not a wealth of great books that engage children on this subject, so this is a welcome addition.
Every Wednesday I try to post a non-fiction picture book as part of the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy. There are truly so many amazing nonfiction picture books being published these days, it can be hard to contain myself sometimes. Make sure to check out Kid Lit Frenzy and the linked blogs to find some more fabulous books!
Yesterday was Benjamin Franklin’s birthday and my daughter’s kindergarten class has been focusing on inventors and inventions because of it. When we think of inventors, we often think of older white men with crazy hair. But there were a lot of amazing inventions created by children and young adults, male and female, black and white.
Since it was Ben Franklin who got me thinking about this, I did find three very different books about him and his work. For a true biography on the great Ben Franklin, David Adler’s A Picture Book about Benjamin Franklin is a great start! This book focuses less on his inventions and more on the man himself. Some of Franklin’s inventions are cleverly interspersed as he created them with the reasons why he invented them as well.
In Now and Ben: The Modern Inventions of Benjamin Franklin, Gene Barretta highlights a large number of Franklin’s inventions. What makes this book extra interesting is how Barretta juxtaposes how we use these inventions in the current day to when Franklin was creating them. A great way to show the impact that Benjamin Franklin has had on all of us.
Alan Schroeder brings us an unusual look at Benjamin Franklin and his inventions in Ben Franklin: His Wit and Wisdom From A-Z. A very interesting way to learn more about this amazing inventor and founding father.
Emphasizing the power of perseverance, The Inventor’s Secret: What Thomas Edison Told Henry Ford, by Suzanne Slade, alternates between the lives of two inventors, beginning with Thomas Edison, who was 16 years Henry Ford’s senior. Many of Edison’s major inventions are touched on, and young Ford is portrayed as curious as to the secret of Edison’s success. Ford continues to work on developing engines and designing cars and finally seizes the opportunity to meet Edison in person. The two go over Ford’s designs, and Edison urges the younger man to “keep at it!” With that, Ford discovers that “he’d known Thomas’s secret all along!”—a realization illustrated with a light bulb over Ford’s head.
Want a quick, fun rundown of a ton of inventors? That is what you get in So You Want to be an Inventor?, by Judith St. George. This colorful book reminds young minds that they “don’t have to have white hair and wrinkles to be an inventor” and then it gives them a slew of examples. The book features some of the world’s best-known inventors-Thomas Edison, Benjamin Franklin, Eli Whitney-as well as lesser-known geniuses like Georges de Mestral (inventor of Velcro), Wilhelm Roentgen (inventor of X rays), and Hedy Lamarr (inventor of a system that became the basis for satellite communication). One page highlights that not all inventors are men and focuses specifically on female inventors. Also highlighted is the fact that some inventors work alone while others work as teams and that one great invention can often lead to another. The bottom line is that your invention could change the work, you just have to take the risk.
Inventions often come out of a specific need. Such was the case for Louis Braille. When we think about famous people who are blind, the first name that usually pops into people’s heads is Helen Keller. But we also need to give credit to young Louis Braille, who invented the Braille alphabet, allowing visually impaired people to read. Six Dots, by Jen Bryant, excellently tells the story of how Braille lost his sight at 5, his constant desire to still be able to read, and his creation of the Braille alphabet. A fascinating read.
Most kids know the thrill of soaking someone with a water gun, or being soaked themselves, so reading about the guy who invented them is an enticing subject. But Whoosh! is more than just a story about how super soakers were invented. Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions, by Chris Barton, tells of a young boy fascinated with how things worked and who loved to create. It tells of the successes and failures that all inventors deal with. It illustrates how unusual it was for an African-American team to win a major science fair at the University of Alabama in 1968. And then it shows how Lonnie Johnson came up with a great idea that got rejection after rejection until he finally had success. A true story of perseverance and innovation.
There are a ton of female inventors out there, but they don’t get the same kind of recognition that men do. In Marvelous Mattie: How Margaret E. Knight Became an Inventor, Emily Arnold McCully tells the story of Margaret Knight, aka Mattie, who was a brilliant woman who lived from 1838-1914, during the height of the industrial revolution. Her father’s toolbox and her sketchbooks of ideas were her salvation during a very rough childhood of poverty. When she was a child, no one felt that a woman could have an inventive mind, but she always saw ways to improve things. She probably saved many lives by creating a safety device for looms and was the brains behind the flat-bottomed paper bag. When a man tried to steal her invention before she could get it patented, her methodical notebooks and determination proved to a judge that a woman could and did invent the new bags. This book is a wonderful story that children can relate to and it helps them comprehend the struggles that Mattie and every woman went through so many years ago.
In Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine, by Laurie Walmark, girls can see the story of the woman credited with creating the first computer language, way before the actual invention of computers. While she didn’t code in the way that we thing of the terms now, she realized that a machine to solve complex equations created by a fellow inventor could not actually run without a detail set of instructions. By using his notebooks and her knowledge of mathematics, she left her mark on the history of computer science.
A final fascinating story is that of young Wiliam Kamkwamba told in The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind. This is the picture book version of the autobiography written by Kamkwamba. When a terrible drought struck William Kamkwamba’s tiny village in Malawi, his family lost all of the season’s crops, leaving them with nothing to eat and nothing to sell. William began to explore science books in his village library, looking for a solution. There, he came up with the idea that would change his family’s life forever: he could build a windmill. Made out of scrap metal and old bicycle parts, William’s windmill brought electricity to his home and helped his family pump the water they needed to farm the land. This is a wonderful way to bring a current story to a younger audience.
While I have focused on nonfiction picture books about inventors, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the outstanding books by Andrea Beatty. Rosie Revere, Engineer, Ada Twist, Scientist, and Iggy Peck, Architect are three of our favorite books and such a wonderful way to show children that they should follow their dreams and believe in themselves. For more information on these books and a few other fiction titles, check out the post I wrote last year.
I have been encouraged by the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy to post about a nonfiction title each week. My goal is to post these books every Wednesdays. Please check out Kid Lit Frenzy for an amazing resource of nonfiction picture books.
There was a time when we had no technology and people had more time to explore the world around them. That’s when some of our most amazing scientific discoveries occurred. What is amazing is that many of these discoveries were made by women and young girls. I love the notion of encouraging our boys and girls to explore the world around them. I have watched as my younger daughter is fascinated with the natural world around her. Until they started building on the lot across the street from us, she was known to spend large chunks of time making up her own world and seeing what there was to see in her own personal forest. Much of our focus these days seems to be about encouraging children to create the next computer breakthrough, but there is still a world of nature around us for them to explore.
Maria Merian was one of the first naturalists to study animals that underwent metamorphoses. One that she was particularly taken with was the butterfly. In Margarita Engle’s beautiful book, Summer Birds: The Butterflies of Maria Merian, children can learn about the work she did to advance our knowledge of the life cycle of the butterfly. At the time that she lived (late 1600s), it was the common belief that insects like butterflies came from mud, as if by magic, and were therefore also seen as evil. At the tender age of 13 Maria secretly studied caterpillars and butterflies. She watched as caterpillars were born from eggs laid by butterflies, that each caterpillar ate specific types of leaves, and that after creating and resting in a chrysalis they would emerge as butterflies. She documented everything that she saw and wanted to publish her findings so that people would stop calling them evil. The book is quite simple in its story, but astonishing in all that this young girl accomplished at a time when it was possible to think that butterflies were something to fear.
Another woman who made a huge difference in how we consider our environment was Rachel Carson. In Rachel Carson and Her Book that Changed the World, by Laurie Lawlor, we are introduced to young Rachel and her passion for studying wildlife. Rachel Carson once wrote,”Once you are aware of the wonder and beauty of earth, you will want to learn about it.” From a very early age, she loved being exploring the outdoors and while at college preferred the local natural history museum to parties and dances. While at college she also came home to rural Pennsylvania and saw pollution impacting her once pristine landscape and wound up studying biology to learn all that she could about plants and animals. She had great struggles being a female scientist during the Depression, but she always found a way to persevere. Her biggest contribution to our society was in the publication of “Silent Spring,” a book that made specialists and the layperson more aware of the dangers of chemicals on our natural surroundings, and how the pervasive use of chemicals could pollute our environment. This book does an awesome job of showing how she got to the point of writing that book and encouraging kids to be aware of the world around them and protect it.
Kate Sessions was also a woman who loved natural science in a time when that was highly unusual. Her story gets told in The Tree Lady: The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed a City Forever, by H. Joseph Hopkins. The Tree Lady tells the story of how Kate Sessions always loved getting her hands dirty, studying science, and from a very young age was completely enamored with trees. Kate was the first woman to ever graduate from the University of California (my alma mater) with a science degree in 1881. She had grown up in Northern California surrounded by trees and lush nature, but after college moved to San Diego, which was void of trees. She left her job as a teacher and became a tree hunter trying to find trees that could grow and thrive in San Diego’s dry climate. She not only discovered trees and brought them to San Diego, but she helped encourage those living in the area to plant the trees themselves. Her biggest achievement was the work that she did in the City Park.
All along, Kate Sessions believed that San Diego had the potential to become a beautiful desert oasis. She believed in herself and in her dreams and through hard work and determination, her dreams became reality. The illustrations in this book are the perfect companion to the moving story.
I love finding new non-fiction picture books to encourage my girls to learn and grow. I find a number of them as part of the non-fiction picture book challenge hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy. I haven’t done a great job of staying on top of this challenge, but that doesn’t keep me from trying to be a part of it. Check out the posts on her site.
For a long time we’ve really focused on the books that J has enjoyed reading. Now that E is in kindergarten and her reading has grown by leaps and bounds, I felt like I should include some of the items that she is picking out and bringing home.
In E’s class they are allowed to pick a book for whatever level they are at and we are supposed to read it together. After she can read it with me or her father, she brings it back to class, reads it with her teacher and picks out another book. What I have been fascinated by is that the last number of books that she has chosen have all been non-fiction texts about animals. We had dolphins, sharks and the latest was polar bears.
Getting kids hooked on non-fiction at an early age is really important. We start them out on all kinds of stories, but as they grow and start to develop their own passions, non-fiction texts get them more involved with the subjects that intrigue them. We’ve always known that E had a love of all things fashion, music, and art, but I was actually shocked when she started bringing home books about wild animals.
Follow the Polar Bears was one of our books from last week. This is a simple story that talks about two polar bear cubs and things they do as they are just starting out in life. The pictures are the main focus, but there are simple words with rhymes that help it move along.
Some of the words were challenging for E, but she learned a lot about the polar bear and enjoyed watching the cubs grow.
These books along with the Step into Reading non-fiction titles are a great jumping off point for young readers. I didn’t get my post up on Wednesday, but I’m still going to include this in the non-fiction picture book challenge. Check out Kid Lit Frenzy for more outstanding titles!
Ada Marie Twist, named after Ada Lovelace and Marie Curie, is a precocious little girl who doesn’t speak until she is 3 when she comes right out with full sentences. I actually grew up with a young boy like that, and it is amazing how some children just observe the world around them and hold off on speaking until they really have something to say. For Ada Marie, she had a scientific mind from an early age and when she started talking, it was to ask “Why” everything around her worked the way that it did.
With brilliant rhymes that keep the story flowing in a sing-song manner, Ada discovers the world around her. When she is confronted by a horrific smell one day, which happens to come from her brother’s sweaty socks, she feels a compelling need to understand what the source of the smell was and how our sense of smell even worked. “A mystery! A riddle! A puzzle! A quest! This was the moment that Ada loved best.” Whether working through the problem by experimenting on things around her or writing out questions that led to other questions and possibilities, Ada scientifically explores the things that intrigue her.
This books is loved in our house by our soon to be 6 year old as well as our 9 year old. Heck, this 40-something momma loves it! This book champions girl power and exploration. It supports women in scientific roles. It supports the idea of never giving up and finding new ways to problem solve. Many also love the fact that Ada is a girl of color. Ada may never find the source of the stink, but her family supports her efforts and she continues to discover new things. Whatever your reasons for loving it, this is a book to be enjoyed over and over again!
It’s Wednesday and that means non-fiction picture book day. When I manage to get myself organized, I try to participate in this great link-up of resources organized by Alyson Beecher of Kid Lit Freenzy.
This week, I’m sharing the book How the Dinosaur Got to the Museum. In this book, acclaimed author/illustrator Jessie Hartland presents the fascinating 145-million-year journey of a dinsoaur: a Diplodocus longus, from its discovery in 1923 in Utah to its arrival in the hallowed halls of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.
Many of us have been to large science museums and seen dinosaur bones taking up large spaces. But how did they get there? That’s what this book aims to explain to children in a style that is similar to “this is the house that Jack built.” This allows Hartland to take a very complicated process and makes it simple for a child to understand.
Hartland starts the book out with a lot of factual information about the mighty Diplodocus who lived millions of years ago. The dinosaurs died during torrential flooding and their bones were buried deeper and deeper under layers of sand and silt. The world continues to move around them and 145 million years later, the diplodocus and the ancient river bed is finally exposed.
After the initial information dump, we then get into the story of how the dinosaur’s bones were found. First the Dinosaur Hunter got involved, then he called the Paleontologist, who brought in the Excavators and so on and so forth until the skeleton is put together back at the museum and put on display so that people can come and visit it and learn about animals that lived so many years ago.
I thought this was a great way to explain something to children that seems so complicated. Now, whenever we see a dinosaur skeleton at a museum, we will have a much better idea of all of the steps involved to bring it there and all of the people involved.
Like many great non-fiction picture books, this book also features a great spread of dinosaur information at the back of the book for young minds who want to delve a little deeper.
It’s Shark Week and non-fiction picture book Wednesday. My girls have never been overly excited by sharks. Dolphins? Absolutely. Sharks? Not so much. Actually, J has been completely fascinated with marine biology for years, but more as a general study. So I wanted to put together a list of ocean themed books that actually made more sense for us. There is a little bit of something for everyone here.*
Picture Books and Flap books for the Younger Readers
Shine-a-light Secrets of the Seashore – The Shine-A-Light books are amazing. Each page asks the child a question and you hold a the page up to a light (or shine a flashlight) and discover the secrets hidden withing. In this book, spot the tiny shrimps hiding in the sand, see a shy crab underneath a rock and watch a jewel-like anemone open its tentacles in this beautiful book of nature’s hidden habitats. Great for ages 4-8.
How Deep is the Sea? – Have you ever wondered how deep the sea is? Pipkin the Penguin wants to know just that. With the help of a friendly seal, a big blue whale and a salty sea dog in a yellow submarine, Pipkin learns that the sea is very deep indeed! A VERY long poster at the back of the book shows just how deep the sea is – and how far Pipkin would have to travel to get so deep.
Under the Sea – Have you ever wondered what’s under the sea? Dive beneath the waves and discover bustling fish, a singing whale and twinkling creatures of the deep.
Big Book of Sea Creatures – Open the huge fold-out pages to discover all kinds of magnificent sea creatures, from the leatherback sea turtle to the great white shark and the biggest animal on Earth – the mighty blue whale. Each page is full of stunning illustrations to pore over, showing the biggest, smallest, longest, fastest, oldest and most ferocious ocean creatures.
Lift-the-flap Sharks – Sharks aren’t just scary fish with pointy teeth. Lift the flaps in this richly illustrated book to meet gentle giants, fierce hunters, beady-eyed baby sharks and the weird, weedy woebegone.
Lift-the-flap Under the Sea – The sea is full of surprises, so come on in and take a look. You’ll find amazing wildlife, from a fish that change its shape, to deep-sea shockers that light up in the dark. You’ll discover even more behind the seaweed and the rocks — lift the flaps to see.
Fact Based Books for the elementary aged reader
What’s Under the Sea – Shipwrecks, fish, whales and sharks, tunnels, cables and coral reefs – these are just some of the topics in this bright, colorful book. With maps and pictures, it shows the seas of the world and their wildlife, and describes how the sea provides us with fish and minerals. Diagrams and cutaway pictures show an oil rig, diving gear, submarines and other equipment for exploring the seabed, and explain how they work.
Under the Sea (IR) – What lives at the bottom of the sea? What does a shark really eat? How does a sea horse swim? In this book you’ll find the answers and lots more about the fascinating things which live under the sea. A perfect intro for ages 5-7.
See Under the Sea – Explore the world beneath the sea, from coral reefs teeming with jewel-bright fish to the icy waters of the Arctic. Lift the flaps to peer inside shipwrecks and gaze into the dizzying depth of dark trenches at the very bottom of the ocean. Aimed at readers 7+.
Sharks (IR) – What do sharks like to eat? Which shark glows in the dark? And why do some sharks never stop swimming? You’ll find out the answers and lots more fun facts in this shark-infested book. This book is aimed at readers 6+ but is a wonderful addition to a preschool class when read by the teacher.
Sharks (Discovery) – The Discovery series takes the knowledge up a level with 64 pages of information vs 32. This vividly illustrated guide gets up-close and personal. Learn what drives sharks into “”feeding frenzies” and more. Great for readers 8+.
First Coloring Book: Under the Sea – A fun coloring book for young children full of exciting sea creatures to color. Lively underwater scenes include sharks, dolphins, turtles and lots of different fish. With colored backgrounds allowing children to concentrate on coloring the shapes. Contains two pages of stickers to add to the pictures.
1001 Things to Spot In the Sea – Brimming with things to find, count and talk about, this charming picture book provides hours of puzzle-solving fun. Readers will delight in discovering the secrets of the sea. Great for kids 5+
Shark Excavation Kit – Inside is a complete skeleton of a Megalodon that is encased in a clay rock, and you must carefully excavate or “dig” the bones out with the tools provided.
Fiction for older Shark Enthusiasts
Shark Bait -Action has a new hero – Sam Fox! With a talent for attracting danger, Sam Fox is an expert at getting himself into (and out of) the most extreme situations. When Sam and his friend are swept off the coast of the Great Barrier Reef, Sam must fight to keep them alive. As night falls over the ocean, the underwater predators start moving in?
This series has a strong appeal with a courageous young hero and exotic settings and has non-stop action and short chapters which will engage reluctant readers.
This is my weekly contribution to Kid Lit Frenzy’s awesome non-fiction picture book challenge. Check out the link-up for tons of other super titles.
*These books can be purchased in my Usborne Books & More page. If you are interested in learning about Usborne and Kane Miller books or if you would like to host an online Facebook event to discuss how to raise readers and promote literacy in your home while earning FREE books for your own home library, please send me a note at booksmykidsread at gmail dot com.
As the mom of two girls, finding things to encourage them to persevere regardless of the challenges they face is incredibly important. When children are in school they learn all about the famous inventors Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, Benjamin Franklin and so on. Very few students today can name female inventors, but they do exist. Last month was International Women’s Day and much was said about the fact that while we are encouraging our kids to be inventors and scientists, they still don’t get to see a lot of women in history who stepped outside of the box.
Of course, we have found a slew of books on this subject, but I know that I’m not exactly normal when it comes to finding kids books, so for anyone looking for ways to encourage the dreamer in your daughter, take a look at these and check out the post I wrote a year ago encouraged by the same event.
Rosie Revere, Engineer, by Andrea Beaty could quite possibly be one of my favorite books. This is the story of Rosie Revere who dreamed of becoming a great engineer. “Where some people see rubbish, Rosie sees inspiration.” Rosie loves to invent things, but after an uncle laughed at one of her inventions, she became afraid to show anyone anything. When her great-great-aunt Rose (Rosie the Riveter) comes for a visit and mentions a life-long dream of flying, Rosie sets out to create a flying machine for her. It hovers for a moment and then crashes and Rosie again feels like a failure. Her aunt Rose, on the other hand, sees her invention as a marvelous success because you can only fail if you quit. This is a great book to encourage experimentation and to remember to believe in yourself.
I’m super excited that Andrea Beaty’s newest story Ada Twist, Scientist, is available for pre-sale (she also wrote Iggy Peck, Architect). According to the description on Amazon, Ada has a boundless imagination and has always been hopelessly curious. Why are there pointy things stuck to a rose? Why are there hairs growing inside your nose? When her house fills with a horrific, toe-curling smell, Ada knows it’s up to her to find the source. Not afraid of failure, she embarks on fact-finding mission and conducts scientific experiments, all in the name of discovery. But, this time, her experiments lead to even more stink and get her into trouble!
Inspired by real-life makers such as Ada Lovelace and Marie Curie, Ada Twist, Scientist champions girl power and women scientists, and brings welcome diversity to picture books about girls in science. Touching on themes of never giving up and problem solving, Ada comes to learn that her questions might not always lead to answers, but rather to more questions. She may never find the source of the stink, but with a supportive family and the space to figure it out, she’ll be able to feed her curiosity in the ways a young scientist should.
In the same vein of creating new things, we also love The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires. This is the story of a little girl and her dog who love to do things together. One day, she gets a marvelous idea to make the most magnificent thing. She knows just how it will work and starts drawing up plans and then she gets to work in front of her house and starts to build. She figures that building it will be easy-peasy, but it’s not. She tries over and over again and just can’t get it right. She gets frustrated and then even gets mad. Her dog convinces her to go for a walk and it manages to clear her head and by the time she gets back, she has figured out exactly how to build her project. This book is awesome in its display of perseverance and creativity.
For real-life stories about actual inventors, there are few marvelous sources. First, to show the full spectrum of inventors is the amazing book The Story of Inventions. Now I will admit, that I am an Usborne Books consultant, but we purchased this book way before I got involved and my older daughter just ate it up! Toasters, toilets and televisions, computers, cars and chocolate bars, flying machines and even your jeans. All these everyday things and many more are only here because someone bothered to invent them. This book reveals the real-life stories and bright sparks behind dozens of brilliant inventions. What is extraordinary about this book is that it is immensely readable. It also does a wonderful job of including female inventors right alongside all of those important male inventors. You can check it out here.
Similarly, there is a great book called Girls Think of Everything, by Catherine Thimmish. As this book starts, “In kitchens and living rooms, in garages and labs and basements, even in converted chicken coops, women and girls have invented.” Here, young minds can see some of the amazing things that women have invented over the years. Many inventions evolve out of general curiosity, but some out of need and some happy accidents. From the Apgar score of measuring crucial aspects of a newborn baby’s health to chocolate chip cookies, windshield wipers to liquid paper, women have invented some pretty amazing things.
This book also encourages young minds to create things themselves by highlighting some inventions by younger people. In the 1970s a 10 year old girl invented a “glo-sheet” so she could write in the dark. In 1994, it was the inquisitive mind of an 11 year old that created the no-spill feeding bowl that so many parents now use. This book was written in an incredibly engaging way, encouraging all would be inventors to dream big.
Girls Who Rocked the World, by Michelle Roehm McCann and Amelie Welden, was a favorite of J’s a few years back. This book is intended for upper elementary and middle school aged kids and introduces them to a number of influential women who each rocked the world in their own way, from Joan of Arc to Coco Chanel. One thing that is extra special about this book is that the women included each first started to impact the world while they were in their teenage years or younger! Personal aspirations from today’s young women are interspersed throughout the book, which also includes profiles of teenagers who are rocking the world right now. This book can show young minds that it’s never too soon to start making a difference.
Marvelous Mattie, by Emily Arnold McCully truly is marvelous. Margaret Knight, aka Mattie, was a brilliant woman who lived from 1838-1914, during the height of the industrial revolution. Her father’s toolbox and her sketchbooks of ideas were her salvation during a very rough childhood of poverty. When she was a child, no one felt that a woman could have an inventive mind, but she always saw ways to improve things. She probably saved many lives by creating a safety device for looms and was the brains behind the flat-bottomed paper bag. When a man tried to steal her invention before she could get it patented, her methodical notebooks and determination proved to a judge that a woman could and did invent the new bags. This book is a wonderful story that children can relate to and it helps them comprehend the struggles that Mattie and every woman went through so many years ago.
In Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine, by Laurie Walmark, girls can see the story of the woman credited with creating the first computer language, way before the actual invention of computers. While she didn’t code in the way that we thing of the terms now, she realized that a machine to solve complex equations created by a fellow inventor could not actually run without a detail set of instructions. By using his notebooks and her knowledge of mathematics, she left her mark on the history of computer science. The book is also important, as discussed in this recent post, because it again talks about the struggles that she went through simply because she was an intelligent woman.
The children today are our hope for the future. We educate them with books and with love and support. These are great books to add to any library.
I often find out about great non-fiction texts from bloggers who participate in Kid Lit Frenzy’s non-fiction picture book challenge. Check out her website for a ton of great resources!
To all of the future inventors, I leave you with this marvelous song from Zootopia about the importance of making mistakes in order to make it just right.
J has long had a fascination with astronomy and studying planets. This year, it turns out that they are also studying planets a ton in school. So when I was offered a copy of Buzz Aldrin’s new book from National Geographic Kids called Welcome to Mars: Making a Home on the Red Planet, I jumped at the chance to add it to our library. Then I was at the library yesterday and found the book You are the First Kid on Mars, by Patrick O’Brien. It is amazing that they are really taking it to the next level with these books and allowing people to truly consider what life would be like on another planet.
In Welcome to Mars, Buzz Aldrin challenges curious kids — who he refers to as “Generation Mars” — to think about the faraway red planet as a possible future home for humans (National Geographic Children’s Books, September 2015, ages 8-12). What will your new home look like? How will you get there? What will you eat for breakfast? Buzz is passionate about making traveling to and living on Mars a reality and encourages young scientists, engineers and astronauts to not just reach for the stars, but to join him on this journey to build a permanent home on Mars.
Aldrin manages to write the book in a way that is really accessible to young scientists. With bright graphics, hands-on science experiments, handy timelines and content that showcases the history of inter-planet travel as well as the future, this book is a must for kids who want to know more.
The first half of the book focuses on the history of space travel and knowledge. Aldrin of course has a large amount of experience with space travel, and he talks about what it is like to travel in space and the costs involved. Young scientists learn the history about how people have studied space over the years and how they managed to make maps of distant planets. Aldrin explains who major players were in Mars discoveries and how the various forms of exploration have happened.
The second half of the book becomes the “what it” portion. Aldrin discuss how long it would take to travel there, the difficulties of landing and the challenges to going back to Earth. Throughout this section, kids are also presented with the real life issues of what life on Mars entails, such as the need for space suits, but also talks about how to turn some of the challenges into benefits – like turning sunlight into electricity.
J has really enjoyed reading this book and brought it in to school when they were working on planets.
In Patrick O’Brien’s book, You are the First Kid on Mars, he takes a lot of the same information and puts it into a different package. While Aldrin’s book is a great resource for older kids who are able to read through a lot of details, O’Brien’s book shortens the information down to a really cool picture book.
In First Kid on Mars, you get to imagine yourself actually flying to Mars from a space station. It takes a really long time to get there, so the ship has rooms with everything you need and it spins to make it feel like you have gravity. Once you’ve landed, the book takes you through a wide variety of aspects of what life on Mars would be like and what kind of scientists would be doing work there. A big job is searching for Martian life, but not the little green men kind, more the kind of microscopic life that would require a microscope to see.
The book also touches on a number of aspects of the history of getting to Mars. For example, in the picture below, the Mars explorers find the remains of the Pathfinder named Soujourner Truth that landed on Mars in July 1997 and communicated information back to Earth until September 1997 when the batteries failed.
In beautiful pictures, that are often a rusty tint due to the dust you would find on Mars, you can imagine what life would be like. From the whirlwinds to greenhouses and the robots that help do a variety of jobs on the planet.
Both of these books are an excellent way to get kids excited by the notion of space travel and exploration. There are also a number of really wonderful quotes about science and imagination that encourage kids to use their imaginations and make the discoveries of the future.
This post is part of my contribution to the Kid Lit Frenzy Non-Fiction Picture Book Challenge. We’ve really been getting into non-fiction books and I love challenging myself to write about them more frequently. Check out the link for some other truly amazing non-fiction picture books.
Today is Earth Day. A day for us to collectively demonstrate our support for environmental protection. It has also become a day where we are able to teach our children that we are all responsible for this earth and that we all need to take care of it. This isn’t the one day a year that we protect our earth, but it is a good day to get kids started on a lifetime of protecting the earth and making good choices about products they use and practices they put into place.
There are tons of books out there celebrating the earth. This grouping is just eight that we happen to enjoy and have relatively easy access to. If you have others that are favorites, we are always happy to see those added into the comments section so that this can be a place for people to come back to when looking for earth day appropriate titles.
We are Extremely Very Good Recyclers – In this edition of the wonderful Charlie and Lola series, Lola learns about recycling. When Lola tells her brother that she is going to get rid of her excess stuff, Charlie suggests that she recycle them instead. Since Lola doesn’t know what recycling means, Charlie explains that it is “a way that people can reuse old things in a different and new-ish way.” As with all of the Charlie and Lola books, Charlie does a great job explaining new ideas to Lola. Lola gets excited about recycling and passes that on to her friends. In the end, they are all able to do another wonderful thing for our earth – plant a new tree.
The Lorax – An Earth Day classic, originally published in 1971. Dr. Seuss does so many things right in this book it is hard to know where to start. He begins with a desolate, run-down bleak landscape and then as he explains that long, long ago things were much different, you are presented with gorgeous, bright imagery. As the Once-ler’s business grows the Lorax shows the repercussions of each act until there is nothing left for the Lorax to protect. Then Dr. Seuss makes sure that his readers know it is their job to help protect their earth with the quote that we all now know – “UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
How to Help the Earth – by the Lorax – While we’re on Dr. Seuss’s Lorax, after the movie came out in 2012, a slew of new books based on the character emerged. I purchased this one for a story time on Earth Day and it features the Lorax explaining about landfills and smog and what we can do to reduce our environmental footprint. While it isn’t the classic Dr. Seuss book, it is a great way to help kids understand what they can do.
Why Should I Recycle? – For the younger set, Jen Green has written a great book that explains what recycling is and why we should do it. By giving concrete examples of how new things can be made from recycled goods, kids can understand the value of recycling. While it doesn’t show the larger concept of protecting our earth, it is a great place to start.
Earth Day – Hooray! – For the slightly older crowd, this book is a fun mixture of pitching in for your neighborhood, factoids of information about the environment and a mathematical challenge that runs throughout the book. A group of kids is trying to clean up a local park and realize that if they recycle the cans they find in the park, they can turn them in for money and purchase flowers to plant and spruce the park up a bit. They realize that a few kids can’t do it on their own and in a wonderful show of leadership and the value of team-work decide to get their entire community involved.
A Tree is a Plant – From the wonderful “Let’s Read and Find Out Science” series, that teaches children about trees and how they grow. Not necessarily an “Earth Day” book, but it is always important to bring up the scientific aspect of trees.
We Planted a Tree – This book is a simple poem that is illustrated to show two very different families from very different parts of the world (New York and Kenya), planting trees and then watching them grow. As the trees flourish, so do the families. The book also travels around the world showing many different cultures enjoying the beauty and beneficial aspects of trees – green leaves that cool us as well as the world, clean air, and food. It shows how planting a tree can impact the growth of other plants that nourish us as well. “We planted a tree, and that one tree made the world better. We planted a tree, and that one tree helped heal the earth.” Simple. Beautiful. Perfect.
A Tree is Nice – As I had discussed back in my post for Tu B’Shevat, this classic picture book touches upon the innate beauty of a tree and the many things that trees are able to give us and the world around us. At the very end of the book it gently persuades the reader to plant trees and watch them grow.
I covered many books back in January when I wrote about Tu B’Shevat, the Jewish holiday that celebrates the trees. All of those books are also wonderful for Earth Day although Happy Birthday, Tree! stands out due to it’s repeated efforts to give back to the trees and protect the environment. The book begins and ends with a beautiful tree showing ways to help the earth.