Books, Science/Math

PPBF: Blue On Blue

blueonbluecover1

TITLE: BLUE ON BLUE

AUTHOR: Dianne White

ILLUSTRATOR: Beth Krommes

PUBLICATION INFO: Beach Lane Books (2014)

ISBN:9781442412675

SOURCE: library

INTENDED AUDIENCE: grades K-3

GENRE: picture book

OPENING and SYNOPSIS:

“Cotton clouds.

Morning light.

Blue on blue.

White on white.”

From the publisher: “Discover the joys of a wild rainstorm in this poetic picture book, illustrated by a Caldecott Medalist.

Join a farming family as they experience the full range of a thrilling seaside thunderstorm—from the wild wind and the very first drops; to the pouring, pouring rain; to the wonderful messy mud after the sun returns!

With gentle, rhyming text and vivid artwork from a Caldecott Medal–winning illustrator, this sublime depiction of nature’s patterns turns a storm into a celebration.”

THEMES/TOPICS: weather

WHY I LIKE THIS BOOK: Dianne White’s rhythmic text builds and bursts just like the thunderstorm it depicts. Beth Krommes’s illustrations add an additional layer to the story, showing the reaction of a girl and farm animals to the storm. Young children will love the rhythm and rhyme. In the classroom, teachers can use the book to discuss weather patterns.

RESOURCES/ACTIVITIES:

You’ll find way more cool books at Susanna Leonard Hill’s “Perfect Picture Books.” Every Friday folks review a host of new books. Join us!

Books

PPBF: PRESIDENT TAFT IS STUCK IN THE BATH

I’m back…..

Ok, maybe you haven’t wondered where I’ve been, but I will tell you anyway. September through November is always my insane time of year between coaching LEGO League, organizing the school Barnes and Noble Bookfair, planning two birthday parties (Minecraft! Cut the Rope!), and making Halloween costumes (ok, just the Minecraft Steve mask). Now I’m planning a Little Golden Books baby shower for my sister-in-law. And those are just all the extracurriculars. Honestly, by the time I get to Thanksgiving, I will feel like I’m on vacation.

So, enough about me. Without further ado, I present my PPBF pick, which has been sitting in my office for over a month.

TITLE:  President Taft is Stuck in the Bath

AUTHOR: Mac Barnett

ILLUSTRATOR: Chris Van Dusen

PUBLICATION INFO: Candlewick 2014

ISBN: 978-0763663179

SOURCE: library

INTENDED AUDIENCE: preschool to grade 3

GENRE: historical fiction picture book

OPENING and SYNOPSIS:

“William Howard Taft was the twenty-seventh president of the United States. He busted monopolies, instituted the federal income tax, and became the only president to also serve as chief justice of the Supreme Court.”

From the publisher:

“‘Blast!’ said Taft. ‘This could be bad.’

George Washington crossed the Delaware in the dead of night. Abraham Lincoln saved the Union. And President William Howard Taft, a man of great stature — well, he got stuck in a bathtub. Now how did he get unstuck? Author Mac Barnett and illustrator Chris Van Dusen bring their full comedic weight to this legendary story, imagining a parade of clueless cabinet members advising the exasperated president, leading up to a hugely satisfying, hilarious finale.”

THEMES/TOPICS: history

WHY I LIKE THIS BOOK: One word: hilarious. Who cares if the story is true? Van Dusen’s images of Taft spilling out over the tub crack me up every time. Don’t believe me?

RESOURCES/ACTIVITIES:

  • Visit the William H. Taft Historic Site in Cincinnati to learn about Taft’s real accomplishments (besides getting unstuck).
  • I feel like this book is begging for a simple machines activity. Can YOU figure out a way to get Taft unstuck? A pulley? A lever?
  • Take a bath. Hopefully you won’t get stuck. Use some bathtub crayons for some real fun.

You’ll find way more cool books at Susanna Leonard Hill’s “Perfect Picture Books.” Every Friday folks review a host of new books. Join us!

Books, Education, Homeschool, Nature, Science/Math

Perfect Picture Book Friday: FROM SEED TO PLANT

Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book Fridays are back. I missed the boat last week, but I wrote my post early this week so I wouldn’t forget.

TITLE: From Seed to Plant

AUTHOR/ILLUSTRATOR: Gail Gibbons

PUBLICATION INFO: Holiday House, 1991

ISBN: 978-0823410255

SOURCE:  library

INTENDED AUDIENCE: ages 5 and up

GENRE: nonfiction

OPENING and SYNOPSIS:

“Most plants make seeds. A seed contains the beginning of a new plant.”

Gibbons moves through a plant’s life cycle, showing children how seeds are formed through pollination, how they are dispersed, and how they grow into new plants.

THEMES/TOPICS: nonfiction, educational, nature, science

WHY I LIKE THIS BOOK: Cooper was working on a plant life cycle project for school this week, and we checked this book out from the library. Gail Gibbons is a nonfiction favorite in our house. She uses beautiful drawings and simple writing to explain science concepts in a way young children can understand.

RESOURCES/ACTIVITIES:

  • The book has a “Seed to Plant” activity in the back using bean seeds. It’s a different take on the classic bean sprout in a baggie activity used in many preschool classrooms.
  • We’ve also done seed collections before to spark discussion about the different types of seeds and how they are scattered. You’ll find that activity…here.
  • Finally, for older students, you can try the plant life cycle project that Cooper’s class did. Students had to collect five different types of seeds and draw or collect pictures that showed the seedling, mature plant, flower and fruit. They had to label each stage, and I had Cooper draw arrows so he could see that the whole cycle is a circle. I’ll blog about our project next week.

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.

Books, Food, History

Review: THERE’S A RAT IN MY SOUP

TITLE: THERE’S A RAT IN MY SOUP: COULD YOU SURVIVE MEDIEVAL FOOD? (Ye Yucky Middle Ages series)

AUTHOR: Chana Stiefel

ILLUSTRATOR: Gerald Kelly

PUBLICATION INFO: Enslow, 2012 (Paperback)

ISBN: 978-0-7660-3785-4

SOURCE: Publisher-provided copy

INTENDED AUDIENCE: Grades 3-5 (Amazon), Grades 5 – 9 (publisher); I think Amazon’s grade-level designation is more appropriate.

GENRE: nonfiction

OPENING and SYNOPSIS:

“Turning a long metal skewer, the cook roasts a whole swan over a blazing fire. For gravy, he mixes the bird’s blood with its heart, liver, and guts. He stirs in pieces of bread and adds some broth. The swan’s skin and feathers are then stuck back onto its body to make it look alive. Dinner is served!”

Enjoy reading about mouth-watering “delicacies” like this roast swan, pottage (think gruel), blackbird-filled pies and more in this delightful romp through medieval cooking. In 48 pages, Stiefel covers royal food and feasts, as well as the peasants’ plight. She also looks at the constant threat of starvation that plagued the people of the Middle Ages.

THEMES/TOPICS: history (European), cookery

WHY I LIKE THIS BOOK: This gross-out books is gobs of fun. Stiefel’s prose is delightfully descriptive. Her conversational and humorous voice truly put the “story” in this history. Yet, at the same time, it’s clear this is a well-researched text. Stiefel includes quotes from people who lived in the Middle Ages, as well as other tidbits, like the shopping list for a 6,000-person feast. Gerald Kelley’s lively illustrations are a perfect match for the text, keeping the book fun and engaging for young readers. You’ll find it hard to put down.

RESOURCES/ACTIVITIES:

Nature

Perfect Picture Book Friday: Swirl by Swirl

Author: Joyce Sidman
Illustrator: Beth Krommes
Publication Info: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Children, 2011
Intended audience: Ages 4 and 8
Genre: nonfiction, picture book
Themes/topics: science, nature
Opening and synopsis: “A spiral is a snuggling shape. It fits neatly in small places. Coiled tight, warm and safe, it waits…”
Spirals snuggle, grow, protect, grasp, move, stretch and reach out to explore the world. In her lyrical book, Sidman shows how this shape appears repeatedly in nature, from calla lilies to shells and galaxies. Her notes in the back explain the strengths of the shapely spiral. Krommes’s bright wood engravings are a perfect complement to the text.
Why I like this book: Melissa Stewart recommended this book on her blog as an example of creative nonfiction that doesn’t necessarily have a narrative. This much-lauded book is a must-read for anyone aspiring to write children’s nonfiction. Sidman is a master of free verse, which makes this book appealing for young readers. And there’s much to learn about this mysterious and fascinating shape. Older readers will enjoy learning about Fibonacci spirals, DNA helix and spiderwebs in the back matter.
Resources: The fantastic blog, The Classroom Bookshelf, has a comprehensive list of activities and further resources for Swirl by Swirl. One of my favorite suggestions is to arm your child with a digital camera and seek out spirals in nature. Sidman’s Teachers page includes a Teacher’s Guide for the book, as well as a poetry kit for use in the classroom.
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.
Books, Geography, Science/Math

Perfect Picture Book Friday: Me on the Map

Author: Joan Sweeney
Illustrator: Annette Cable
Publication Info: Knopf Books for Young Readers, 1996
Intended audience: 3 and up
Genre: nonfiction, picture book (32 pages)
Themes/topics: cartography, maps, geography, nonfiction
Opening and synopsis: “This is me. This is me in my room. This is a map of my room. This is me on the map of my room.” Step-by-step, this young girl shows the reader her room, her home, her street, her city, her state, her country and her planet and how each would appear on a map. This book is a wonderful way for children to learn about their place in the world and how it’s represented in two dimension.
Resources/activities: Taking a cue from the book, children can learn about scale and dimensions by drawing a map of their bedroom or home. For older children, you could use graph paper to teach scale, allowing the child to measure his or her room and pieces of furniture and plotting them on graph paper. You could also challenge a child to draw a map of a location from a favorite book using clues found in the text.
Why I like this book: This book is immensely popular. I had it on hold at the library forever. My five-year-old wanted to renew it as the due date approached, but someone else had already placed a hold on it. Simple language and strong visuals make this an excellent introduction to cartography.
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.
Books, Nature, Science/Math

Perfect Picture Book Friday: Vulture View

Author: April Pulley Sayre
Illustrator: Steve Jenkins
Publication Info: Henry Holt and Company, 2007
Intended audience: Preschool and up
Genre: nonfiction, picture book (32 pages)
Themes/topics: nature, animals, science, natural history
Opening and synopsis:
“The sun is rising.
Up, up.
It heats the air.
Up, up.
Wings stretch wide
to catch a ride
on warming air.
Going where?
Up, up!”
With her signature lyrical style, April Pulley Sayre tackles the seemingly ungraceful topic of turkey vultures. These animals eat what we wouldn’t dare — stinky, rotting meat. In “Get to Know Vultures” Sayre explains the turkey vulture’s important role in breaking down large, dead animals so mice, beetles, maggots and worms can do their jobs and return nutrients to the soil. She also notes areas that budding scientists might want to study when they grow up. For example, scientists know little about how the vultures communicate and what they do in the winter.
Resources/activities: Sayre includes many resources in “Get to Know Vultures,” however her rich Web site provides even more resources. For teachers, she provides appropriate curriculum standards….here. She also recommends the Turkey Vulture Society. You’ll find a turkey vulture dot-to-dot and crossword puzzle on the State of Ohio’s parks page….here.
Why I like this book: One of my favorite nonfiction PB authors, Melissa Stewart, originally recommended this book as an outstanding example of picture book nonfiction. Sayre’s strength is her lyricism, which makes turkey vultures interesting and attractive. And, of course, Sayre’s stellar writing is paired with illustrations by the legendary Steve Jenkins. The duo have created a not-to-be-missed reading experience.
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.
Books, Nature, Science/Math

Perfect Picture Book Friday: Just One Bite

Author: Lola Schaefer
Illustrator: Geoff Waring
Publication Info: Chronicle Books, 2010
Intended audience: Preschool and up
Genre: nonfiction, picture book (32 pages)
Themes/topics: nature, animals, science
Opening and synopsis: ”With just one scoop, a worm can eat… –> . this much dirt (and everything in it)!”
Schaefer and Warning reveal how much nectar a butterfly sips and how much bamboo an elephant bites. They rely upon simple sentences and vivid visuals to show how much 11 animals consume in only one bite. Backmatter includes more detailed discussions of 12 creatures and their eating habits. For example, reticulated giraffes use their sticky saliva to coat thorns making them easier to chew. Komodo dragons can eat up to five pounds of food every minute. That’s a lot of meat!
Resources/activities: This book is a great excuse for a trip to the zoo. Our zoo features komodo dragons; after reading about their insatiable appetites, I was ready to take a peek at them again. If you can’t make it to the zoo, check out National Geographic’s Kids site for more information about animals and their appetites. Finally, the National Science Teachers Association, which selected the book as an Outstanding Science Trade Book, recommends a scaling activity found….here.
Why I like this book: This book is a cross between two of my favorite Steve Jenkins books, Actual Size and Time to Eat. Children find animals fascinating, and this book spurs discussion about animals and their environments.
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.
Books, Nature, Outside, Science/Math

Perfect Picture Book Friday: Bug Shots

Author: Alexandra Siy
Illustrator: Dennis Kunkel
Publication Info: Holiday House, 2011
Intended audience: Ages 6 to 10
Genre: nonfiction, picture book
Themes/topics: science, nature, insects
Opening and synopsis: ”Bugs bite. Some drink blood. Bugs rob. They steal food from gardens and fields. Bugs kill — mostly each other, but also plants, animals, even people sometimes. Bugs destroy. They eat houses, clothes, and furniture. Bugs bug. (Is bugging a crime?)”
In her latest book, Siy invites children to become Fellow Bug Investigator (FBI) agents, surveying page after page of bug “mug shots” (photomicrographs) and learning more about them via their “rap sheets.” Thus informed, Siy encourages  children to deliver a verdict: are bugs good, bad or just plain bugly?
Why I like this book: Siy is one of my favorite nonfiction science writers for children. We love her Cars on Mars book, which chronicled the adventures of Spirit and Opportunity as they roved the Red Planet. She has a snappy, engaging style that ensures her subjects are never boring. With that said, this book would be nothing without Kunkel’s photomicrographs — essentially colorized pictures taken using a scanning electron microscope. Imagine a honeycomb-like grasshopper exoskeleton magnified more than 3000 times. Picture the hairs on a water strider’s legs magnified 2100 times, so you can truly understand how it walks on water. Even my three-year-old wants me to read him this book because the pictures captivate him.
Resources: This would be a great addition to any unit on bugs. Teachers and homeschoolers also can reserve time on the University of Illinois’s BugScope so kids can control the scanning electron microscope on their own while taking a close up look at the bugs they captured.
At home w collect our own bugs and look at them using our 99-cent magnifying glasses (thank you 99 Cent Store). I also bought a bug catcher at Target for a couple of dollars a few weeks ago. This can provide endless hours of entertainment on a nice spring day. A friend introduced me to Insect Lore a wonderful Web sit chock full of fun bug products. We just ordered painted lady larvae. Finally, Penn State has a list of fun bug  sites for kids….here.

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.
Books, Holidays, Nature, Outside, Science/Math

April Fool, Phyllis!

Phyllis in front of an F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter plane
Phyllis in front of an F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter plane

As avid readers of Punxsutawney Phyllis by Susanna Leonard Hill recall, Phyllis predicted an early spring. Bored from all that hibernation, Phyllis decided to take a little trip this year in anticipation of April Fool’s Day, the subject of her newest book.

I am flattered to say that our family was selected as the first stop on Punxsutawney Phyllis’s World Tour to promote  April Fool, Phyllis! We are big fans of her original Groundhog Day story, and her April Fool follow-up continued to delight.

During her less-than-24-hour stop in Southern California, Phyllis received multiple readings. Cooper and Finley read the book for bedtime Thursday night. On Friday, Ms. Dina’s class at Palmdale United Methodist Preschool read the story. The class also helped Phyllis find her way to the sugarhouse using the maze from Susanna Leonard Hill’s site. We also shared the book with some of other friends in the area.

We made sure to snap a few photos of Phyllis alongside some of our more recognizable landmarks: Joshua trees and super fast airplanes. (Important note: Our area is the birthplace of the Space Shuttle and the spot where Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier for the first time. Planes that have flown higher, faster and further are all developed, built and tested here.) Phyllis really enjoyed the trip to the Joe Davies Heritage Air Park where she saw all kind of stealthy aircraft including the SR-71 Blackbird, U-S Dragon Lady, and F-117 Nighthawk. Rumor has it she might have taken the Nighthawk for a spin.

Phyllis loved the Joshua trees.

And now, for a review of the book (drum roll, please!):

Author: Susanna Leonard Hill
Illustrator: Jeffrey Ebbeler
Publication Info: Holiday House, 2011
Intended audience: Everyone!
Genre: picture book (32 pages)
Themes/topics: April Fools Day, nature, weather, groundhogs
Opening and synopsis: ”Phyllis knew everything about the weather. After all, she was Punxsutawney Phyllis, Weather Prophet Extraordinaire! So, when she woke up on April first, the day of the Spring Treasure Hunt, it took only one whiff of the morning air to tell her something wasn’t right.”
All the signs point to a blustery blizzard for April Fools Day. No one believes Phyllis’s prediction that a storm is on its way. When the snow hits during the annual Spring Treasure Hunt, will Phyllis be able to save her cousins?
Why I like this book: Honestly, there aren’t that many April Fools Day books on the market, and with small children at home, I like to celebrate each new holiday and season with a themed book. Beyond its theme, there are several elements to recommend this book. First, its discussion of weather and natural cycles can inspire lessons about how to predict weather, signs of spring and winter and the like. Second, children actually participate in the Spring Treasure Hunt along with Phyllis and her cousins. My three and five-year-old love puzzles and mysteries, and they enjoyed shouting out their guesses to each new clue. Finally, Hill includes a historical note in the back of the book detailing the origins of April Fools Day. As with the best children’s books, I learned something new. I had no idea that April 1st originally was considered New Year’s Day under the Julian calendar. When the Gregorian calendar took root beginning in 1582, New Year’s Day became January 1st. Those who continued to celebrate April 1st as the first day of the new year were considered the original fools.
Resources: Hill includes classroom guides for kindergarten, first and second grade on her Web site. This guides align with many state standards for several subjects. Just for fun, Hill also has a Phyllis paper doll dress up page and a maze worksheet.
And now, we must say “bon voyage” to Phyllis and send her on her way. Next stop….Texas!