Books

Perfect Picture Book Friday: COUNT ON CULEBRA

Author: Ann Whitford Paul
Illustrator: Ethan Long
Publication Info: Holiday House, 2008
ISBN: 978-0823421244
Source: Library copy
Intended audience: ages 4 and up
Genre: picture book (fiction)
Themes/topics: Friendship, language learning
Opening and synopsis: ”Iguana stumbled on a stone.
‘OWWWWWWWWWWW!’ she cried.
Tortuga poked out of his shell. ‘What’s wrong?’”
Iguana stubs her toe on a rock. There is no way she can make her cactus butter candies now. But Culebra has a plan that will have her feeling better in no time. But the friends will need un rolling pin, dos kettles and much, much more.
Why I like this book: I normally feature nonfiction books on Perfect Picture Book Fridays. However, this series has become quite popular in our house, and this book is the hands-down favorite. My three-year-old thinks Culebra’s antics are hilarious. He loves to count along in Spanish too. I appreciate the fact that the Spanish words are woven seamlessly into the text. Children can decipher the meaning from the text itself, though a glossary is included.
Resources/activities: 
  • Find Ann Whitford Paul’s classroom activities here.
  • The book itself has a recipe for dulces made with butter, peanut butter, graham crackers and powdered sugar. Yum!

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, History, Homeschool

Perfect Picture Book Friday: Tutankhamun

Author/Illustrator: Demi
Publication Info: Marshall Cavendish, 2009
ISBN: 9780761455585
Source: Library copy
Intended audience: ages 9 and up
Genre: nonfiction, picture book (64 pages)
Themes/topics: Egypt, mummies, world history
Opening and synopsis: ”King Thutmose IV, who ruled from 1419 to 1386 BCE, was the great-grandfather of King Tutankhamun. As a young prince, Thutmose IV had many brothers and half-brothers who wanted to seize the throne.”
Illustrated with stunning images, this book places King Tut in his cultural and religious context. Demi tells of Tut’s ancestors, his life and tomb. Tut emerged as pharaoh at an interesting time in history. Inspired by Thutmose IV’s vision, Tut’s father, Akhenaten, did away with worship of traditional Egyptian gods in favor of monotheism. When Tut came to power, political strife ensued as two regents wrestled for control. After Tut’s death, his ultimate successor tried to erase Tut’s family from history forever. But he couldn’t destroy Tut’s hidden tomb.
Why I like this book: As obsessed as my three-year-old is with mummies, we actually knew little about King Tut’s life. Although the story line is far too advanced for preschoolers, Demi’s images can be appreciated by all ages. She’s gilded many of the images, conveying the wealth of ancient Egypt and the pharaohs.
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.

Books, Science/Math

Perfect Picture Book Friday: THE MIGHTY MARS ROVERS

Author: Elizabeth Rusch
Illustrator: NASA!
Publication Info: Houghton’s Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-547-47881-4
Source: Library copy
Intended audience: ages 9 and up
Genre: nonfiction, picture book (80 pages)
Themes/topics: Mars, space, science
Opening and synopsis: “Are Martians real? As silly as it may seem, this question has driven Mars exploration for decades. People all over the world yearn to know: Is there life on Mars? If not, has there ever been life on Mars?”
As part of the “Scientists in the Field” series, Rusch follows the development of the Spirit and Opportunity Mars rovers, as well as their years of exploration on Mars.
Why I like this book: Other wonderful books about the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity exist, notably Alexandra Siy’s CARS ON MARS. However, Rusch focuses much of her book on the team behind the Spirit and Opportunity Mars rovers. She shines the spotlight on Steven Squyres, the principal science investigator, who dreamed up the rovers as “rolling geologists.” It was Squyres’s sheer grit and determination that brought this mission to fruition, after NASA turned down his proposals for eight years. Rusch shows how scientists see the rovers as extensions of themselves on Mars, truly as “scientists in the field.” Rusch also previews the Curiosity rover, which landed on the Red Planet last month, kicking off a planned two-year mission.
Resources/activities: NASA has some incredible Web sites, games and resources for all things Mars.

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, History, Homeschool

Perfect Picture Book Friday: Mummies, Pyramids, and Pharoahs

Title: Mummies, Pyramids, and Pharaohs

Author/Illustrator: Gail Gibbons

Publication Info: Little, Brown and Company, 2004
Intended audience: preschool and up
Genre: nonfiction picture book
Themes/topics: ancient Egypt, geography, world history, civilizations
Opening and synopsis:
“One of the world’s oldest continuous civilizations began about five thousand years ago, in the land of Egypt. For the next three thousand years the Egyptians were ruled by kings called pharaohs. While he was in power, each pharaoh was believed to be Horus, the son of the great sun god, Re.”
Gail Gibbons provides an age-appropriate overview of ancient Egypt including social structure, religious customs, and, of course, mummies.
Why I like this book: Have I mentioned that my three-year-old is obsessed with mummies? Our visit to The Getty Museum, with its Roman mummy in April made an impression, and we’ve been reading books about mummies ever since. Gibbons’ book, which we’ve read approximately 100 times, is the clear favorite. Gibbons is a prolific nonfiction writer. Her picture books are perfect for preschooler audiences.
Resources: This book is a wonderful way to explore ancient Egypt. Online resources abound, so here’s just a few. The British Museum has wonderful mummy collection. Check out the museum’s young explorers’ online explorer to learn more about ancient Egypt. National Geographic has a lesson plan for grades three through five, here. The site also has fun games, including “Tomb of the Unknown Mummy Game.” Kids become Egyptologist to explore the tomb and solve the mystery. The site also has a Day in the Life brainteaser/quiz game for children. Scholastic boasts several lesson plans with Egyptian themes. For grades six through twelve, educators can find lesson plans on PBS. Really, opportunities to extend the learning from this book abound.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book Friday will be on hiatus until September 7. I’ll be taking a bit of a blog-cation over the next month, but I’ll return with more book reviews in early August.
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, Science/Math

Perfect Picture Book Friday: Seeing Symmetry


Author/Illustrator: Loreen Leedy
Publication Info: Holiday House, 2012
Intended audience: Grades 1-3  (NOTE: Meets Common Core math standards for Grade 4.)
Genre: nonfiction picture book
Themes/topics: math
Opening and synopsis:
“Butterfly wings have it. Triceratops had it. The word MOM has it.When you know what to look for, it’s easy to start…seeing symmetry.”
Symmetry is all around us: on our bodies and in plants, animals, the alphabet, art and more. Leedy’s dynamic illustrations make it easy for students to “see symmetry” on the page and in their world. Check out her book trailer:
Why I like this book: Symmetry is a math concept you have to see to believe. Leedy’s images clearly show both line and rotational symmetry and help students understand key concepts like “line of symmetry” and “asymmetrical.” Her backmatter is extensive and includes notes, activities, a glossary and an explanation of why symmetry is something students should know.
Resources: Seeing Symmetry includes two activities in the backmatter. There are instructions for making a Symme-TREE by folding paper in half and drawing a tree along the fold line. Students can cut out and decorate their tree for an example of line symmetry. She also has instructions for making a paint blot picture by putting blobs of paint on a sheet of paper. Children fold the paper in half one way and then the other to complete the picture. Leedy also has a wealth of resources (many free) on her TeachersPayTeachers Web site.
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, Science/Math

Perfect Picture Book Friday: Mission: Addition

Author/Illustrator: Loreen Leedy
Publication Info: Holiday House, 1997
Intended audience: Kindergarten – Grade 2
Genre: nonfiction picture book
Themes/topics: math
Opening and synopsis:
“It was a stormy day, and Miss Prime’s classroom was dark.
‘I’m going to show you just the facts — the addition facts.
Suppose you’re a detective and you find two fingerprints, then you find three more.
Here’s how you write the addition fact with numbers:
2 + 3 = 5’”
 Miss Prime’s class solves all kinds of addition problems, from adding up how many pets they have to summing their restaurant bills.
Why I like this book: Loreen Leedy makes math fun. Here’s the proof: my 5-year-old has requested Mission Addition over and over and over again. And seeing math as fun rather than a slog is a good thing. A recent study showed attitude — yours and your child’s — plays a major role in how successful your children are at math. See Annie Murphy Paul’s column about the study by Andrew Martin of the University of Sydney. With that in mind, I am always on the lookout for fun math books like Leedy’s as well as those of David Schwartz and Ann McCallum.
Resources: On Leedy’s site, she recommends having children add up all the living creatures in their homes, for example family members and pets. You could also replicate some of the activities from the book. Draw a picture  and encourage your children to write a word problem based on the picture. Then solve it. Or help your children weed out old clothes and toys and host a garage sale. Let them add up how much they make from their sales. Leedy also has a handout with Mission Addition activities available on her site (NOTE: It also includes activities from her other early books).
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, Science/Math

Perfect Picture Book Friday: Dinothesaurus

Author/Illustrator: Douglas Florian
Publication Info: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2009
Intended audience: Ages 6+
Genre: nonfiction picture book
Themes/topics: dinosaurs, poetry, natural history
Opening and synopsis:
“The dinosaurs
First lived outdoors
During the time Triassic.
While most died out,
Some came about
Later in the Jurassic.”
In a twist on traditional dinosaur books, Florian gives us poems about Stegosaurus, Triceratops, T. Rex and other childhood favorites. And he couples his poems with fanciful illustrations that show the dinosaurs’ personalities and unique traits. Troodon, the smarty pants of the bunch, is pictured with a graduation cap, for example. He also includes a comprehensive glossary, selected bibliography and list of dinosaur museums and fossil sites.
Why I like this book: Douglas Florian is a new favorite. I’m always fascinated by authors who produce creative nonfiction, or in layman’s terms, nonfiction that’s not boring. And he’s really funny. He guest posted on Katie Davis’s blog, where he encouraged poets to employ bad spelling and grammar if it’s funny and to make up words, hence “dinothesaurus.” His poems are catchy. You might just find yourself chanting, “Triceratops./Try-scare-a-tops./Try-wouldn’t-want-to-dare-a-tops.”
Resources: Honestly, there’s no shortage of dinosaur resources available. A visit to a local natural history museum would be a nice tie-in.  National Geographic Kids has a wealth of dinosaur information, including Creature Features about dinosaurs and this brainteaser quiz. Also, you could try conducting your own dinosaur dig and make your own fossils. Grab some small, plastic dinosaurs (you can usually find these at Joanne’s or other craft stores). Hide them in the sand box and give children shovels and paintbrushes to dig for the dinosaurs. Once you’ve found them, follow these instructions to make your own fossils using clay and plaster of paris.
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

Perfect Picture Book Friday: BOY + BOT

Astute Creating Curious Kids readers know that I typically review nonfiction books each Friday. However, I was lucky enough to win a copy of Ame Dyckman’s first picture book, BOY + BOT, on Tara Lazar’s blog. After reading our new book to more than 20 children over a couple of days, I knew I had to review it for Perfect Picture Book Friday.
 
Title: BOY + BOT
Author: Ame Dyckman
Illustrator: Dan Yaccarino
Publication Info: Knopf Books for Young Readers, April 10, 2012
Intended audience: Ages 3 through 5
Genre: picture book
Themes/topics: friendship
Opening and synopsis: ”A boy was collecting pinecones in his wagon when he met a robot.
‘Hi!’ said the boy. ‘Want to play?’
The robot blinked. ‘Affirmative!’”
This is a tale of an unlikely friendship — boy and bot — and how they both care for each other in their own way. When bot’s power switch gets turned off, boy thinks he’s sick. When boy goes to sleep, bot thinks he’s ill. The boy feeds bot applesauce; the bot feed boy oil. The boy reads the bot a story book; bot reads the boy an instruction manual, and so on until both are healed.
Why I like this book: I recently read this book to a preschool class of both boys and girls, and both were captivated. This book’s brief text and bright illustrations –by none other than Dan Yaccarino — are perfect for story times or reading at home over and over again.
Resources: Have children imagine what they would do with a robot friend if they had one. What would they play? How would they make their robot friend feel better if he was sick? Using the story framework, older children could rewrite the story with their own words and images.
Making robots out of cardboard boxes is also fun, though you could also do it with a paper bag. Cut a slit up the center of the box or bag, so it opens like a vest. Cut holes for the head and arms. Decorate with dials, switches and gauges made of cardboard, crayons, marker, etc. You also can make mini recycled robots out of toilet paper rolls and pipe cleaners, which I described in our Earth Day post.
 
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, History

Perfect Picture Book Friday: The Story of Salt

Illustrator: S. D. Schindler
Publication Info: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2006
Intended audience: Ages 7 and up
Genre: nonfiction, picture book
Themes/topics: world history, economics
Opening and synopsis: “It began a few years ago with a rock I bought in a small mountain town in Spain. The rock had pink surfaces with streaks of white and brown. Though it was not a diamond or an emerald or a ruby, it was beautiful. Yet it was only salt.”
Are you ready to learn about the rise and fall of world civilizations? Then follow the salt trade through the ages, for he who controlled the salt, controlled the world. Salt built the Great Wall of China; during the Tang dynasty, half of the Chinese government’s funds came from salt. Mahatma Gandhi’s symbolic Salt March spurred Indian independence. And even in the United States, many towns were settled close to sources of salt.
Why I like this book: As a college history major, I love well-written hi-“stories,” especially those with such a narrow focus but broad historical impact. Kurlansky originally wrote “Salt: A World History” for grown ups in 2003, which I haven’t read….yet. However, for upper elementary, this is a fantastic story of how trade, commerce and the wrestle for resources lie at the center of so many wars and power struggles.
Resources: Eat a meal featuring salt-cured foods and discuss how salt allowed people to preserve food and travel far from home to trade. Think cheese, sauerkraut, pickles, ham, bacon, salt fish. You can make your own pickles using several recipes, but here’s one from Alton Brown at The Food Network. You could try your hand at making your own salt from seawater or saltwater you’ve prepared. Just pour it in a shallow bowl or plate and place it in the sun for several days. The GastroGnome has a stove-top recipe here. In my experience, children love mummies, and salt was vital to the mummification process. Discovery Kids has a mummy-maker game 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

Children’s Books: Perfect for Any Occasion

Children’s Book Week Poster by David Wiesner

It’s Teacher Appreciation Week. Mother’s Day is around the corner. It’s Children’s Book week. What do all these holidays have in common? How about books, the perfect gift for just about any occasion? (I should note that the other all-purpose gift is chocolate.)

First, the fabulous graphic designer Carter Higgins put together this beautiful testament to moms and reading together just in time for Mother’s Day. This video will make you cry, so grab a kleenex. Wouldn’t a beautiful basket of books, perfect for snuggling or reading together, make a beautiful Mother’s Day gift? Or perhaps the busy mom needs a few paperbacks and some quiet time to read alone (with chocolate, or course).

As for teachers, I recently was reminded of the power of books when Finley’s Mommy and Me teacher broke down over Love You Forever by Robert Munsch. I knew in that instant I would find her a couple of perfect picture books for her Teacher Appreciation gift. If you are looking for a great list, look no further than author Susanna Leonard Hill’s site.

Finally, it’s Children’s Book Week, a literacy event established almost 100 years ago. Check out the site for author and illustrator events around the country. The celebration runs until May 13th.

With all this book mania, I’m curious, do you have a favorite book to give as a gift? What books are on your wishlist?