I often pick up books at the library simply because they have that enticing yellow “new” sticker on them. I’m not sure exactly what drew me to “The Branch” by Mireille Messier and Pierre Pratt, but this is a wonderful book to share.
What is extraordinary about this book is that it shows a special multi-generational friendship between the little girl and her neighbor, and it encourages children to up-cycle a cherished item by turning it into something else.
When an ice storm snaps a small girl’s favorite branch from the tree in her yard, she’s crestfallen. The girl’s mom says it’s just a branch. But not to her! “That was the branch I sat on, jumped from, played under. It was my castle, my spy base, my ship . . .” Luckily, her neighbor Mr. Frank understands. He says the branch has “potential.” “What’s potential?” she asks. “It means it’s worth keeping.” And so, with imagination and spirit, and Mr. Frank’s guidance and tools, the girl transforms the broken branch into something whole and new, giving it another purpose, and her another place to treasure.
Sibling love. Or rather, that constant scream a parent hears through the house – “Mommmmm!” If you have more than one child, there are bound to be times when you hear your children screaming at each other, unable to get along for one reason or another. Louis Thomas offers a great idea in his new book, Hug it Out.
My younger daughter asked me what kind of books I like to read most the other day. She asked if I liked fiction, realistic fiction, or non-fiction. I had to think about that question for a while because I really had a hard time making a decision. I realized that these days, I seem to be drawn to realistic fiction. I blame the NC Battle of the Books for that and a slew of really amazing realistic fiction books both aimed at younger and more mature audiences. That said, books are still about escapism and fun, which is why I had a blast reading the new book, The World’s Greatest Adventure Machine, by Frank L. Cole.
Book Description (from publisher)
An adventure novel about four lucky kids and a mysterious, but thrilling ride for fans of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or Jurassic Park! Continue reading →
I am in the midst of getting ready for a book fair so I have been going through all of my books for Usborne Books and More (disclaimer – I am an Independent Consultant with UBAM). Because I’ve been making piles and packing up all of my baby and toddler books, E has been able to go through some of the other ones that she had sort of forgotten about. Her discovery of our Lift-the-flap series is an example of why these books simply rock.
Our Lift-the-Flap books are a great way to teach children factual information while completely engaging them. E discovered two of the Questions and Answers series books and first read through them completely and then felt the need to ask us all of the questions. She got me last night with the book on time and sat at the table this morning quizzing her father on science knowledge.
There is such a wealth of information in these books and it is presented in such a marvelous way. What is also cool is that when kids get excited enough to share these books with their parents we often learn things ourselves!
The funny thing is that there is a definite push to have kids be reading informative texts, but in kindergarten and first grade they really still have to be lured into the subjects. There are times when they are going to gravitate to a specific non-fiction topic and might want to read a full book on it, but when they are just discovering all that there is to know, these books are a wonderful overview filled with amazing knowledge.
There are not a lot of books that we come across that talk about Buddhism. I was instantly intrigued by The Sweeper, a new book written and illustrated by Rebecca Hazel, that illustrates the importance of mindfulness.
Inspired by Buddhist tradition, this original story tells how Padme, a young servant girl, meets the Buddha as she is sweeping her master’s house. When she laments that she is so busy that she would never have time to meditate, the Buddha gives her the instruction to “sweep and clean.” This simple mindfulness practice transforms Padme’s life, and when she encounters the Buddha many years later, he teaches her how to send compassion out to others. Continue reading →
I’m a sucker for a book about a library. So for today’s non-fiction picture book challenge I give you the book The Man Who Loved Libraries: The Story of Andrew Carnegie, written by Andrew Larsen and illustrated by Katty Maurey.
Larsen gives young readers a very brief introduction to the rags to riches story that was Andrew Carnegie. They quickly learn that he was born in Scotland in a poor family. When things became too difficult in Scotland, they made the journey to America to try their luck. Andrew worked hard always trying to be the best at whatever job he was doing. He became a messenger, taught himself how to operate telegraph equipment, and worked long hours.
He loved to read, but at the time there were no public libraries and books were expensive, so he rarely got the chance. Fortunately for Carnegie, a local businessman in Pittsburgh owned his own library and opened his doors to others on Saturday afternoons. The more Carnegie read, the more he learned. Continue reading →
So starts the comical book “Sticks ‘N’ Stone ‘N’ Dinosaur Bones” written by Ted Enik and illustrated by G.F. Newland. This unusual book looks at the actual Bone Wars that took place in the late 1800s between O. Charles Marsh and Edward D. Cope.
I had no idea that there was such a competitive nature between paleontologists, but apparently it was quite a big deal. With a hats off to Dr. Seuss, Enik tells the story of how these men used any means necessary to have the biggest discoveries in finding dinosaur fossils and even resorted to crime and outright lies.
I would have loved to see more talked about the actual dinosaurs and discoveries they found, but this book was about the ridiculous desire to one-up the other. The two men got so caught up in their desire to be famous that they forgot about the science of what they were supposed to be doing. As a media student, it quickly reminded me of yellow journalism, and my husband pointed out that it was fake news.
This book is a must for the dinosaur lover and a great read-aloud. I could definitely see how this would get a classroom of kids talking about fact and fiction, competition, and the importance of fair play.
*** I read a digital copy of this from NetGalley in return for my honest review. All opinions are my own.
Back in June, I finally read Jason Chin’s beautiful work Grand Canyon. I was completely blown away by his illustrations and methods used to capture a child’s attention and teach them a wealth of information on the Grand Canyon. When I learned about the other titles he has written, I decided that I had to gather them up to see what there was to learn. Not surprisingly, his other books were just as beautiful and just as important for young researchers, adventurers, explorers, and inquisitive minds.
Island – A Story of the Galápagos is a fascinating look at the evolution of the Galápagos Islands and of the animals who lived there. Chin, in his remarkable way, takes the reader from birth to death of an individual island in a manner that is both entertaining and educational. Continue reading →
Thank you so much to the author for providing #KidLitExchange with a finished copy of this book for review purposes! All opinions are my own (as always).
Back in April I discovered the Branches books published by Scholastic. These great books are a way to bridge the gap between leveled readers and chapter books. Or as my new 1st grader likes to say, these books are like picture books and chapter books smashed together! So when author Amy Marie Stadelmann sent copies of her series Olive & Beatrix to the KidLitExchange I jumped at the opportunity to check them out.
The Olive & Beatrix books focus on twin sisters Olive & Beatrix. Olive is “ordinary” and loves science, nature, and exploring. Her sister, Beatrix, is less than ordinary as she was born at midnight on a full moon and is therefore a witch. She has a brain full of tricks and uses her magical powers to play pranks on Olive and her best friend, Eddie.
These books arrived at our house on Saturday and by Sunday evening, E had read them both at least 2 times. Olive & Beatrix is a really fun series. There is a touch of mischievousness, a dash of science, and a balance of true sisterhood battles and friendship. Beatrix tends to take the easy way out by using her magic, but in the end, it is usually a combination of magic and science needed to solve the problem at hand. Even though the sisters look at life differently, they have to work together to make things work.
Book #1 is “The Not-So Itty-Bitty Spiders” in which Olive and Eddie attempt to prank Beatrix with a bucket of spiders and it back-fires on them when the spiders get into her growing potion. When the spiders escape out of their house, the three friends have to figure out what to do. When their first plans don’t work, some scientific thinking helps solve the problem.
Book #2 is “The Super-Smelly Moldy Blob.” In this book, Olive is tired of Beatrix always managing to win the science fair due to an unfair use of magic. She and Eddie come up with great entries, but a battle between the twins over which table to set up on ends in both of their projects falling to the floor and turning into a super-smelly moldy blob that starts oozing through the school swallowing up everything in its path. Once again, the twins and Eddie use a combination of magic and scientific know-how to stop the blob and get everything back in order.
These books are perfect for emerging readers, specifically those in kindergarten through 2nd grade. By combining a slightly longer story with a load of really fun pictures, kids just want to read them. There is a real sense of accomplishment for struggling readers and a lot of color and action for reluctant readers. As with all Branches books, there is also a page in the back with comprehension questions to help they understand what they are reading and to start talking points for parents. Our school and public libraries need to have more of these books available for our emerging readers.
At the beginning of summer one of our local libraries held an event where the children saw books about fairy and gnome houses and then were able to make them themselves. It was a marvelous activity that really got their creative juices flowing. The houses were made with all natural items and intended to be left in the green areas behind the library. My daughter teamed up with a friend and they came up with a wonderful little house hidden under a miniature weeping willow-like tree.
Of course seeing them do this project, especially sponsored by the library, got the wheels spinning about all of the cool books out there that talk about fairies and encourage kids to use their creativity while still living in a world where fairies really do exist.
An ideal place to start learning about building a fairy house is in Tracy Kane’s book, Fairy Houses. This sweet story is about a little girl who spends the summer building fairy houses in Maine in the hopes of catching a glimpse of a fairy. The only rule in the woods where she is building is to not use artificial or living materials, much like the rules when we were building. As the little girl builds and adds to her house, you see how all of the animals are lured to it. The fairies leave her a note about how special her house is for that very reason. The back of the book gives ideas about what to use every season to make a fairy house.
In true Pinkalicious style, the “I Can Read” series offering of Pinkalicious Fairy House shows the magic of fairies seen through the eyes of a true believer but is shorter and easier for a younger reader to follow than Fairy Houses. In this book, Pinkalicious believes that fairies come into her yard and sprinkle fairy dust to make the plants grow. She longs to see the fairies so she and her brother build them a house. While she never actually sees fairies, as a true believer, she catches glimmers of light in the morning sky and believes they are fairies. A great encouragement for younger girls to build their own fairy houses.
I don’t normally review craft books, but since I’m talking about the idea of making fairy houses, this seemed appropriate. Fairy World Crafts, by Kathy Ross, is a great book that is absolutely do-able (said the very not crafty person). Staying with the theme of fairy houses, this book shows step-by-step instructions on things like toadstools, snail friends, fairy log houses, and a leaf table and bed.
The Hidden Folk, by Lise Lunge-Larsen, is a wonderful collection of stories about fairies, dwarves, gnomes, selkies, river sprites, and other hidden beings. As Lunge-Larsen explains, “for as long as there have been people, there have been stories about beings whose presence we feel but cannot see.” An excellent addition to books about fairies and other magical beings with an international point of view.
Most of the time we think of fairies as sweet little sprites. But many cultures tell stories of fairies who are not so sweet and instead are rather quite mischievous. Heather Forest retells an old Scottish story in The Woman who Flummoxed the Fairies that my 6 year old absolutely adores. In this story, the fairies come out at night and dance on dinner tables and feast on the crumbs people leave behind. But the fairies are never given a chance to taste the crumbs from the bakerwoman’s cakes because they are always eaten down to the last bite. The king hatches a plan to trap the bakerwoman in the fairy world, but she has a few tricks up her own sleeve. A fun story that kids love.
Too Many Fairies, by Margaret Read Macdonald, also looks at the idea that fairies might look sweet and innocent, but are not always so in real life. An old woman hates cleaning her house, but when fairies come to help her, she gets more than she bargained for. A great story showing the other side of fairies as well as highlighting that it is better to look on the bright side than to constantly complain.
Finally, for a true story about fairies, check out Shirley Raye Redmond’s Fairies! A True Story. This book tells about how different cultures all have different stories about fairies and how they each do different things. Over time, many people have told stories about actually seeing fairies, but most of these have been pranks. The second half of the book deals with the most famous fairy prank. In England in 1917, two cousins took pictures of themselves with cutout paper fairies. By moving the fairies while they were taking the pictures, it looked like they were real. This is a very interesting look at a make-believe subject and how it has permeated our history for so long. (Apparently this was also made into a movie in 1997)
My daughter and her friend had an absolute blast with the craft at the library. Here are some photos of them getting down to business, their finished product and one of the other houses made that day.