October 31, 2017

Earth! My First 4.54 Billion Years

Title: Earth! My First 4.54 Billion Years

Author: Stacy McAnulty
Illustrator: David Litchfield
Publisher: Henry Holt, 2018
Editor: Sally Doherty
Book Type: Fiction
Ages: 4-8
Theme: Earth, Space

Opening Lines:

Hi! My name is Earth.
Some people call me Gaia, the World, the blue marble, or the third planet from the sun.
You can call me Planet Awesome.

Synopsis (from Amazon website):

Prepare to learn all about Earth from the point-of-view of Earth herself! In this funny yet informative book, filled to the brim with kid-friendly facts, readers will discover key moments in Earth’s life, from her childhood more than four billion years ago all the way up to present day. Beloved children’s book author Stacy McAnulty helps Earth tell her story, and award-winning illustrator David Litchfield brings the words to life. The book includes back matter with even more interesting tidbits.

Activites:

Why I Like This Book:

A brilliant approach to a topic that has been written about many, many times. The author cleverly portrays Earth with a child-like persona which is warm and inviting and most importantly relatable for young readers. The reader learns about Earth’s siblings (other planets in the solar system), friends (Moon), favorite activities (spinning and circling the Sun).

Not to worry there is also something for the adult reader too. Check out this funny pun which is a nod to parenting.

“I don’t remember what it was like to be a baby. Who does? But I’ve been told I was a hot mess.
Explosive. Gassy! Very cranky.”

There is a wonderful timeline with major events (presence of air, insects, dinosaurs, flowers, homo sapiens) shown against a ruler to help the reader get a grasp of the massive time scale.

The book does touch on the rough times Earth has had with asteroids, volcanoes, and ice ages. While it can seem scary, the author does a good job of reassuring the young reader that Earth is still the same on the inside and continues on. The book ends on a note of environmentalism.

The art is cute and inviting with bold colors. It is rendered through a combination of pencils, ink, watercolor paints, and digital art tools.

There is additional backmatter regarding the continents, the location of Earth in space, and the five major extinctions and a bibliography.

A great book for a preschool, lower elementary, or home library.

Find Earth! My First 4.54 Billion Years at the following spots:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Goodreads
ISBN-10: 125010808X
ISBN-13: 978-1250108081

Disclosure: I received my copy of this book from the publisher. This review nevertheless reflects my own and honest opinion about the book.

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September 16, 2017

Amazon Books at Santana Row

amazonbooks

Tonight I stopped by the new Amazon Books store at Santana Row in San Jose, CA. It was PACKED. Wall-to-wall people. The front part of the store had the Alexa device and other Amazon tech gadgets. I made my way to the children’s section at the back of the store.

Kids were sitting on the floor, between aisles reading. *love*

antleredshipMy favorite part of the bookstore was that all the books were FACE OUT. So so nice to see all those beautiful covers. But in a small store having books face out, comes at a steep price — lack of breadth. The majority of books were either classics or bestsellers. Most books were published at least two years ago. There were a small handful of newly published books. I was pleasantly surprised to see my agency mate’s newly released PB The Antlered Ship.

It will be interesting to see if the bookstore changes anything up to cater to the diverse, reading people of the Bay Area or if it continues just carrying best-selling books from their website.

For now, Amazon Books is a good place to go if you want to grab a bestseller at a great price. (Amazon Prime members get to pay online prices.) But if you are looking for anything else, I’d suggest driving down a mile to that much larger bookstore.

September 8, 2017

It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk

Title: It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk

Author: Josh Funk
Illustrator: Edwardian Taylor
Publisher: Two Lions, 2017
Editor: Marilyn Brigham
Book Type: Fiction
Ages: 4-8
Theme: Fractured Fairytale

Synopsis (from Amazon website):

Jack is not fond of the bossy narrator of his fairy tale! When Jack is told to trade his beloved cow Bessie for some magic beans, throw the beans out the window, climb the ENORMOUS beanstalk that sprouts overnight, and steal from a GIANT, he decides this fairy tale is getting out of control. In fact, he doesn’t want to follow the story line at all. Who says Jack needs to enter a life of daring, thievery, and giant trickery? He takes his story into his own hands—and you’ll never guess what happens next!

With laugh-out-loud dialogue and bold, playful art (including hidden fairy tale creatures for kids to find), this Jack and the Beanstalk retelling will have children rolling with laughter till Bessie the cow comes home.

Activities:

  • Pinterest board full of Jack and Beanstalk related crafts and activities.

Why I Like This Book:

A hilarious fusion of a modern boy in a classic fairytale. The use of meta makes this a stand-out book in a saturated genre. Brilliantly clever!

The smart book design clearly depicts the three voices.

  • Narrator’s story voice in old font.
  • Narrator to Jack in bold font.
  • Jack’s dialogue – to the narrator, to himself, to other characters in the story – in bubbles.

Jack is a boy with modern sensibilities and complaints. I loved Jack’s dialogue since in some ways it voices the thoughts and feelings of today’s young reader. From Jack’s adoration to his pet cow Bessie to his attempt to negotiate with the narrator regarding the size of the beanstalk.

While Jack’s attitude is whiny in the first half, it serves him well in his dealings with the giant leading to a revamped ending that is wonderfully unexpected and satisfying. Be on the lookout for cameos from Cinderella and other popular fairytale characters.

A fun read for all ages!

Find It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk at the following spots:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Goodreads
ISBN-10: 1542045657
ISBN-13: 978-1542045650

This review is part of Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book series. Visit her site to see the other books recommended.

Disclosure: I received my copy of this book from the publisher. This review nevertheless reflects my own and honest opinion about the book.

August 17, 2017

Far Apart, Close in Heart

Book Review: Far Apart, Close in HeartTitle: Far Apart, Close in Heart

Author: Becky Birtha
Illustrator: Maja Kastelic
Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company, 2017
Book Type: Fiction
Ages: 4-8
Theme: Coping, Prisoner Families’

Synopsis (from Amazon website):

Children can experience many emotions when a parent is in jail or prison. They may be angry, sad, lonely, or scared. Sometimes friends act differently toward them. Sometimes the children begin acting differently too. In this important book, young readers will learn that even when it feels like nothing can get better again, there are ways they can improve their circumstances. Sending letters, talking to a trusted grown-up about their feelings, and even visiting a parent in jail or prison can help keep a parent close in their hearts. Use this title as a helpful tool to start a conversation with any child in this situation and to remind them they are not alone.

Why I Like This Book:

A good book is one that moves you. One where you come out knowing more, having a greater understanding and more empathy than from before. This is one of those books.

This book covers a topic that isn’t widely discussed but is deeply important to those affected – the feelings and experiences of children of incarcerated parents. According to the backmatter there are more than 2.7 million children in the United States that have a parent in prison. This book is a mirror for them to know that they are not alone.

After reading this book, I became aware of the confusing feelings a child with an incarcerated parent might have. On one hand the child loves the parent that has cared for them, but on the other hand, the child hears messages that bad people go to jail. This book thoughtfully comes from the viewpoint that the issue isn’t about whether the parent is good or bad, but rather that the parent broke the law.

The book started off a bit too direct for my taste, but as I read I got pulled and moved to the point of tears by the end. As I read the different vignettes, my heart hurt a little more for the things these children could not take for granted that so many us can. The vignettes start by exploring the confusion, loneliness of having a parent in prison, to how that could affect the child outside the home, to showing a child how they can get help.

I love that the author used different ethnicities and genders for the children and incarcerated parents giving it a broader audience but more importantly not stereotyping any particular ethnicity.

This book is a great tool to use as a conversation starter. The backmatter is helpful for the adult caregivers and educators by providing additional resources and tips.

Find Far Apart, Close at Heart at the following spots:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Goodreads
ISBN-10: 0807512753
ISBN-13: 978-0807512753

August 3, 2017

She Persisted

She Persisted by Chelsea Clinton. A wonderful, engaging, accessible book for elementary aged children.Title: She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World

Author: Chelsea Clinton
Illustrator: Alexandra Boiger
Publisher: Philomel Books, 2017
Editor: Jill Santopolo
Book Type: Non-Fiction
Ages: 6-10
Theme: Persistence, Feminism, Activism

Synopsis (from Amazon website):

Chelsea Clinton introduces tiny feminists, mini activists and little kids who are ready to take on the world to thirteen inspirational women who never took no for an answer, and who always, inevitably and without fail, persisted.

Throughout American history, there have always been women who have spoken out for what’s right, even when they have to fight to be heard. In early 2017, Senator Elizabeth Warren’s refusal to be silenced in the Senate inspired a spontaneous celebration of women who persevered in the face of adversity. In this book, Chelsea Clinton celebrates thirteen American women who helped shape our country through their tenacity, sometimes through speaking out, sometimes by staying seated, sometimes by captivating an audience. They all certainly persisted.

She Persisted is for everyone who has ever wanted to speak up but has been told to quiet down, for everyone who has ever tried to reach for the stars but was told to sit down, and for everyone who has ever been made to feel unworthy or unimportant or small.

With vivid, compelling art by Alexandra Boiger, this book shows readers that no matter what obstacles may be in their paths, they shouldn’t give up on their dreams. Persistence is power.

This book features: Harriet Tubman, Helen Keller, Clara Lemlich, Nellie Bly, Virginia Apgar, Maria Tallchief, Claudette Colvin, Ruby Bridges, Margaret Chase Smith, Sally Ride, Florence Griffith Joyner, Oprah Winfrey, Sonia Sotomayor—and one special cameo.

Activities:

  • Check out this wonderful extension activity by Book Nerd Mommy. Have a child create a mini-biography by drawing another figure from history and adding a paragraph about how that person persisted.
  • Visit the Mighty Girl Books page to find other wonderful titles to encourage and inspire.

Why I Like This Book:

A timely, engaging book about 13 women who “persisted” through history against the status quo to pursue their dream for what they believed.

The opening spread invites the reader into the book with a portrait of each of the future biographies to come. The book starts with well-known women such as Harriet Tubman to lesser known women such as Virginia Apgar, to modern day women such as Oprah Winfrey and Sonia Sotomayor.She Persisted - Flowering Minds Book Review - opening spreadWhile history can be dry, these short 1-paragraph mini-biographies are perfect for engaging readers. The book contains women across different races, though my astute nine-year old noticed there were no South Asians. I replied that our history in the United States has been relatively short so maybe in another generation or two we’ll see more South Asians being celebrated in the media. I did wonder why there were no Chinese/Japanese – Americans since they have been in this country for much longer.

This book opens the doors to numerous conversations about persistence, race, feminism and more; that is where I think the real magic lies with this book.

The publisher recommended age is 4 to 8 years, however, I would say it is a bit older. Kids who can already recognize at least 4 to 5 women will have an easier time of staying engaged. The use of the phrase “she persisted” in each mini-biography helps to hold the stories together.

She Persisted - Flowering Minds Book Review - Sally Ride

The watercolor and ink art contributes a soft inviting feel for each story. The quotes by each famous woman were fun to read. One of my favorites being Sally Ride’s “Young girls need to see role models in whatever careers they may choose, just so they can picture themselves doing those jobs someday. You can’t be what you can’t see.

The only thing missing from this book was a reference page with other recommended titles to read. This book was done so well that I wanted to immediately know what else was out there. Missed opportunity.

Good for home and school libraries. Best read together with an adult.

Find She Persisted at the following spots:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Goodreads
ISBN-10: 1524741728
ISBN-13:  978-1524741723

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