Perfect Picture Book Friday: ZERO THE HERO

TITLE: ZERO THE HERO

AUTHOR: Joan Holub

ILLUSTRATOR: Ton Lichtenheld

PUBLICATION INFO: Henry Holt / Christy Ottaviano Books, February 2012

ISBN: 978-0805093841

SOURCE: Library

INTENDED AUDIENCE: 6 and up, but my four-year-old things this is hilarious

GENRE: picture book (fiction)

OPENING and SYNOPSIS: “Unlike most numbers, Zero believed himself to be a hero. He just needed a chance to prove it.”

From the publisher: “Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada. That’s what all the other numbers think of Zero. He doesn’t add anything in addition. He’s of no use in division. And don’t even ask what he does in multiplication. (Hint: Poof!) But Zero knows he’s worth a lot, and when the other numbers get into trouble, he swoops in to prove that his talents are innumerable.”

THEMES/TOPICS: math, counting

WHY I LIKE THIS BOOK: Rarely do my boys find a book to be laugh-out-loud funny. This book has a lot going for it — a caped superhero, a fight with the Roman (numerals), comic-book comedy and lots of puns. We can’t read this at naptime or bedtime without having a 10-minute conversation about math. In fact, Finley (age 4) walked out of his bedroom after I put him to bed last night to let me know that 1+0 = 1. I am buying this book.

If you need more convincing, check out the book trailer.

RESOURCES/ACTIVITIES:

  • The publisher has a teacher’s guide on its Web site.
  • BainPop has this helpful lesson on addition and subtraction, which includes zero’s special properties.
  • The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics uses macaroni to explore math concepts including our hero, Zero.

Every Friday bloggers review “Perfect Picture Books.” Find a complete list of book reviews organized by topic, genre and blogger at author Susanna Leonard Hill’s site.

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It’s #GivingTuesday

On the heels of Black Friday and Cyber Monday comes #GivingTuesday, an effort to remind us to be charitable this holiday season. Giving to others is an important message for children, especially this time of year when they are bombarded with TV commercials and toy catalogs. (Though I have to admit even I have fun looking at those toy catalogs.)

Our boys each get an allowance, with a portion going to saving, spending and donating. A lot of their donations go to church, but there is still plenty in their piggy banks to do some holiday giving, especially if my husband and I match their funds. I’m not sure what they’ll decide to do: buy a toy for a toy drive, donate for a holiday meal at the food bank or something that they come up with on their own. I’ll keep you posted.

I’m still open to ideas. Do you include giving as part of your holiday routine? If so, where do your children enjoy giving?

Review: THE LUCKY BASEBALL

Author: Susanne Lieurance
Publication Info: Enslow, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-7660-3311-5
Source: Publisher-provided copy
Intended audience: grades 3 through 6
Genre: historical fiction, chapter book (160 Pages)
Themes/topics: World War II, baseball, Japanese Internment
Synopsis: Harry Yakamoto lives a normal life in Seven Cedars, CA, until his family is interned in Manzanar, a Japanese internment camp. Baseball becomes is preoccupation and salvation during the many years his family lives in the camp.
Why I like this book: I’ve always been fascinated by Manzanar. Driving past it, there is no sign that it was home to thousands of Japanese-Americans who were held against their war during World War II. I’ve also found Manzanar to be a fascinating topic because it’s rarely discussed. Lieurance’s expertly told story provides insight into the harsh conditions of Japanese internment camps. Her plot is transporting and her characters well-developed. Children will enjoy Harry and his passion for baseball without realizing how much they are learning. As usual, Enslow provides backmatter explaining the real history and providing links to further reading.

Thankful turkeys

My little turkeys are thankful for many things this year: mostly LEGOs, chocolate and their stuffed animals. Sigh. At least they are honest.

In an effort to infuse some gratitude into the Thanksgiving season, we built these “thankful turkeys” out of pinecones. We will add a new feather each day (for five total) with things we are thankful for.

To build these turkey’s here’s what you’ll need:

  • Pinecone
  • Construction paper: brown, orange, red
  • School glue
  • Black marker
  • Googlie eyes (optional)

Here’s what you do:

  • Cut turkey body by tracing a figure eight on the brown construction paper. Make the lower circle (body) larger than the upper circle (head).
  • Using orange paper, cut a triangular beak. Cut a couple of oval-shaped orange feathers while you are at it.
  • Using red paper, cut a waddle. Cut a couple of red feathers too.
  • Glue waddle, then beak to the turkey’s head. Add eyes using marker or googlie eyes if you have them.
  • Write things you are thankful for on each feather, one item per feather.
  • Lay pinecone on its side. Glue turkey body to short, pointy end of the pinecone. Glue feathers to wide base of pinecone.

These make a great centerpiece. We’ll be using them to decorate the kids’ table. Now if only we can get some non-material items listed on those feathers…

Perfect Picture Book Friday: The Beetle Book

TITLE: THE BEETLE BOOK

AUTHOR/ILLUSTRATOR: Steve Jenkins

PUBLICATION INFO: Houghton Mifflin, April 2012

ISBN: 978-0-547-68084-2

SOURCE: Library

INTENDED AUDIENCE: 4 and up, though this is more appropriate for elementary-school students

GENRE: picture book (nonfiction)

OPENING and SYNOPSIS: “Line up every kind of plant and animal on Earth … and one of every four will be a beetle.”

Beloved author/illustrator Steve Jenkins crafts an encyclopedic book about beetles.

THEMES/TOPICS: science, beetles, bugs/insects

WHY I LIKE THIS BOOK: Steve Jenkins’s illustrations reveal the beauty and diversity of the humble beetle. Unlike many of his other books, there is no narrative line, and he does not rely on layered text. This is a book to be savored, one spread at a time rather than read all at once.

RESOURCES/ACTIVITIES:

Every Friday bloggers review “Perfect Picture Books.” Find a complete list of book reviews organized by topic, genre and blogger at author Susanna Leonard Hill’s site.

Secret San Diego … with Kids part 1

USS Midway

San Diego Zoo? Check.

San Diego Air and Space Museum? Check.

Beach? Of course!

LEGOLand? Love it!

The San Diego area is a short drive away from us, so we visit at least once a year. On this visit, we decided to check out a couple of destinations off the beaten path. I’ll review them over the next couple few days.

First up, is the USS Midway. This was hands down my favorite part of the trip. I thought we would spend a couple of hours aboard this post-World War II aircraft carrier. Wrong! We stayed aboard for more than four hours. Our ticket included  an audio tour, and we followed the green, family-friendly path.  We had picked up a Junior Pilot Program worksheet, and the boys had to answer questions at several stops along the way to earn their Midway pilot’s wings.

We had a fascinating glimpse into life aboard this “city at sea.” We learned that water is so scarce aboard ship, that seaman take a two-minute “Navy shower.” We learned that just one link of the anchor chain weighs 130 pounds. And we learned that the it took 6 galleys (kitchens) and 10 tons of food daily to feed the 4,500-member crew.

The boys got to try their hand at tying knots. They tested out the bunks, called “racks.” They even had a visit to the ship’s jail, called the brig. They also “flew” a variety of aircraft that once called the Midway home.

Just a few thoughts for family visits. First, only the flight deck and stroller deck are stroller accessible. Below deck is a series of narrow passageways, stairs and “knee knockers” — raised thresholds. Our four-year-old did fine, but this may be tough for younger children. Children have to be five for the audio tour. Fortunately, the audio clips were short, so we were able to share with our four-year-old. Also, only older children are allowed on the bridge. Our four-year-old did not make the cut, but our six-year-old did. I am guessing most five-year-olds would probably be tall enough for the tour.

After our ramblings, we headed over to Seaport Village for an ice cream. It was just a short walk away, and a wonderful way to end a fun day.

PiBoIdMo: The Nonfiction Perspective

My PiBoIdMo Notebook

It’s PiBoIdMo! In layman’s terms, that’s Picture Book Idea Month, brought to you by children’s author Tara Lazar. The challenge involves coming up with one picture book idea each day for the month of November. It’s a fun way to get your creative juices flowing and hopefully come up with a few executable (is that a word?) picture book ideas.

I have a special notebook I’m using. My friend Sheyla bought this for me when I decided last year to write for children. Each day’s idea gets its own page, so I can do a bit of research and flesh out the ideas when I have time. I already have one I’m pretty excited about. Perhaps I’ll make it my 12 x 12 manuscript for the month.

Honestly, I am hardly ever short on ideas. It’s often a case of too many ideas and too little time. I have to sift through my ideas and see which ones I can execute and which ones have a wide enough audience.

Even though I write nonfiction, I bet many of my ideas come from the same places as those of fiction writers. Here are some places I’ve found ideas:

  • Books (mostly nonfiction). My very first children’s book idea came from a footnote in PACKING FOR MARS.
  • Articles: newspapers, magazines, online. The truth is often stranger than fiction. A capybara loose in a waste water treatment plant once inspired a piece.
  • My kids. Sometimes it’s things the things they say. Sometimes it’s the way I have to explain things to them when they ask, “Why?” or “How?” Children are an endless source of inspiration.
  • Fiction picture books. Today’s idea came when my six-year-old cuddled in my lap. (He is so big!) It reminded me of the classic picture book, LOVE YOU FOREVER, which was a recent topic of discussion among some 12 x 12 writer friends. A few more things fell into place, and voila!
  • Museums and other cultural institutions. I’m a real tourist. When we visit somewhere, I take as many pictures of the exhibit signs as I do of my family. There are always interesting tidbits I can mine for ideas later. Which reminds me, I have a few pictures from this summer that I haven’t looked at…

I’m curious, if you are a fellow writer, where do you get your ideas?

Perfect Picture Book Friday: ON THE MOON

TITLE: ON THE MOON

AUTHOR: Anna Milbourne

ILLUSTRATOR: Benji Davies

PUBLICATION INFO: Usbourne, 2006

ISBN: 978-0794506179

SOURCE: Personal library

INTENDED AUDIENCE: 4 and up (Publisher), but I think children as young as 2 would enjoy this.

GENRE: picture book (fiction)

OPENING and SYNOPSIS: “The Moon is very, very far away. What do you think it would be like to go there?” A young girl takes a trip to the Moon in this fantastic journey.

THEMES/TOPICS: space exploration, moon, astronauts, solar system

WHY I LIKE THIS BOOK: Although this book is fiction, the author intersperses lots of facts into the narrative. For example, telling children how long it would take to reach the Moon and sharing about the atmosphere (no air here!). I also appreciate that this book is appropriate for the youngest readers. Even a toddler who can recognize the Moon in the sky would enjoy this simple tale.

RESOURCES/ACTIVITIES:

Every Friday bloggers review “Perfect Picture Books.” Find a complete list of book reviews organized by topic, genre and blogger at authorSusanna Leonard Hill’s site.