Archive for ‘Books by Topic’

September 11, 2015

Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine – plus Giveaway!

Growing up I was a math and science girl. I completed two degrees in engineering and my day job is in the computer industry. It is my pleasure to bring to you today’s book review about Ada Lovelace. Ada is recognized as having created the first algorithm (“computer program”) to be carried out on a mechanical machine. Can you believe it the first programmer was a woman! What is sad is that even though I studied computer programming, I had never heard of Ada Lovelace until a few years ago when I saw a Google Doodle about her. I am thrilled to see this children’s biography about her life and contributions and hope it will inspire today’s girls.

Check-out my interview with author Laurie Wallmark.

Ada coverTitle: Ada Lovelace and the Thinking Machine

Author: Laurie Wallmark
Illustrator: April Chu
Publisher: Creston Books (October 13, 2015)
Book Type: Non-Fiction
Ages: 6-10
Themes: Women in Science, Mathematics

Opening Lines:

Ada was born into a world of poetry, but numbers, not words, captured her imagination.

Her mother, Lady Byron, had a passion for geometry. In fact, her nickname was “The Princess of Parallelograms.”

But her famous father dominated the household. Beloved for his Romantic poems, Lord Byron was a celebrity throughout the world.

Synopsis (from Amazon’s website):

Ada Lovelace, the daughter of the famous romantic poet, Lord Byron, develops her creativity through science and math. When she meets Charles Babbage, the inventor of the first mechanical computer, Ada understands the machine better than anyone else and writes the world’s first computer program in order to demonstrate its capabilities.


Why I Like this Book:

A story about one girl’s love for numbers. Numbers were Ada’s friends, they kept her occupied and engaged. They even kept her mind sharp when she temporarily blind due to illness. The author beautifully shows us Ada’s inquiring nature as she progresses from sketching models for flying machines to computing the wings’ power, leading her to eventually collaborating with Charles Babbage on the Analytical Engine. Unfortunately this complex machine was not completed so Ada never got to see her program run but her influence lives on in modern computing.

I was surprised to learn that she was the daughter of the famous poet, Lord Byron, and that her mother loved geometry. I was also intrigued by the fact that there were women that studied math, such as Ada’s tutor Mary Fairfax Somerville. You just don’t learn about women in scientific pursuits for that time period in general history courses. While we do see Ada’s mom encouraging her in analytical thinking, the disparaging opinions of the Nanny give the reader a sense of what was considered appropriate pursuits for girls.

The pencil and paper drawing with the lush digital coloring are gorgeous. I do like the subtle shows of humor by the artist such as the cat hiding in Ada’s bag or the frog in the bathroom. Ms. Chu has elegantly captured Ada’s inquisitiveness and love for science. On one spread Ada is looking at a flock of birds taking flight and the bird that is right over her head is drawn as a mechanical bird, showing us Ada’s curiosity. Click here to see the mechanical bird image plus others from the book.

A detailed author’s note, timeline, and bibliography will help facilitate further investigation. This book is good for use in upper elementary classrooms.


For a chance to win this book, leave a comment. Deadline to enter is Thursday, September 17th at 9pm PST. Winner will receive the book at time of release in October. Contest is only open to residents of the U.S. and Canada.

Find Ada Lovelace and the Thinking Machine at the following spots:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Goodreads
ISBN-10: 1939547202
ISBN-13: 978-1939547200

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 a digital review copy of this book from the author. This review nevertheless reflects my own and honest opinion about the book.

August 27, 2015

Mummy Cat

Can’t believe summer has come to an end. Hope you have had a great one. Here is my final classroom pick for this month. Here are the other classroom picks from this past month. Water is Water, It’s a Seashell Day, Nature Books for the Classroom, and Marvelous Cornelius.

I’ve got a lot more new titles to tell you about in the Fall. Stay Tuned!

mummy_catTitle: Mummy Cat

Author: Marcus Ewert
Illustrator: Lisa Brown (interview at 7 Imp’)
Publisher: Clarion Books, 2015
Book Type: Fiction
Ages: 4-8
Themes: Ancient Egypt, Mummies, Cats, Friendship


And one cold night, each century,
he gets up, and he checks to see

if she’s come back, his loving friend …
so that this lonely time can end.

Synopsis (from Amazon’s website):

Mummy Cat prowls his pyramid home, longing for his beloved owner. As he roams the tomb, lavish murals above his head display scenes of the cat with his young Egyptian queen, creating a story-within-a-story about the events of centuries past. Hidden hieroglyphs deepen the tale and are explained in an informative author’s note.



  • Informational website for kids on everything Ancient Egypt
  • National Geographic Kids website with fast facts on Ancient Egypt, plus more in-depth links on pyramid building, hieroglyphs, and mummification.
  • Printables coloring sheets, word searches, and mazes.
  • Pinterest board – links to crafts, printables, books, games, and more.


Why I Like This Book:

In a market filled with all sorts of friendship stories (realistic, imaginary creatures, animal stand-ins), this story of a cat and her beloved queen truly stand out. This is a tender friendship story set against the backdrop of Ancient Egypt. Readers will get a taste of Egyptian life, rituals, afterlife, mummification, and art. This dynamic duo has made learning about history and cultures engaging and heartfelt. Perceptive readers will be rewarded with extra story information when they decode the hieroglyphs. The extensive back matter can be used as a good starting point for learning more about Ancient Egypt.

Check-out this behind the scenes look

MUMMY CAT at the following spots:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Goodreads
ISBN-10: 0544340825
ISBN-13: 978-0544340824

August 12, 2015

Nature Books for the Classroom

Welcome back for another classroom pick. Today is a lovely series from author Dianna Hutts Aston. A lady who I have personally met and radiates inner beauty just as her books do.  Be sure to check-out last week’s picks for the classroom Water is Water and It’s a Seashell Enjoy!

Science Book Collage


Author Dianna Hutts Aston and illustrator Sylvia Long have created a series of gorgeous science books. The author’s captivating language pulls the reader through the story while the watercolor and ink art challenges the reader to linger just a little longer and soak up some facts. A wonderful combination. These books don’t feel like typical science books, they feel like a work of art trying to capture the beauty of nature. These books are good to have in a home or classroom library, where a kid can hunker down with it and become engrossed.

An Egg is Quiet – Introduction to the vast and amazing world of eggs.

A Seed is Sleepy – Informative look at the intricate, complex, and often surprising world of seeds.

A Butterfly is Patient – Introduction to the world of butterflies. From iridescent blue swallowtails and brilliant orange monarchs to the worlds tiniest butterfly (Western Pygmy Blue) and the largest (Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing), an incredible variety of butterflies are celebrated here in all of their beauty and wonder.

A Rock is Lively – Fascinating world of rocks. From dazzling blue lapis lazuli to volcanic snowflake obsidian, an incredible variety of rocks are showcased in all their splendor.

A Nest is Noisy – Gorgeous and informative look at the fascinating world of nests. From tiny bee hummingbird nests to orangutan nests high in the rainforest canopy, an incredible variety of nests are showcased here.

Common-Core aligned teacher’s guide for all five books.

Here are some interior images.


From a NEST IS NOISY. Click for a larger view.


From a ROCK IS LIVELY. Click for a larger view.


Find these Dianna Aston & Sylvia Long science books at the following spots:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Goodreads


Disclosure: I received a review copy of A Nest is Noisy from the publisher Chronicle Books. The other titles I have purchased or borrowed from the library. This review reflects my own honest opinion about the book.

August 6, 2015

It’s a Seashell Day

Today I’m back with another pick perfect for classrooms. Also check-out my previous review about the wonderful non-fiction title Water is Water: A Book About the Water Cycle. See ya next week for more great titles for the classroom. Enjoy!
seashellTitle: It’s a Seashell Day

Author: Dianne Ochiltree
Illustrator: Elliot Kreloff
Publisher: Blue Apple Books, 2015
Book Type: Fiction
Ages: 3-5
Themes: Seashells, Beach

Opening Lines:

When the sun peeks up over the bay,
Mommy tells me, “It’s seashell day!”

I rush down the path, over the dune.
Salty breeze blows. We’ll be there soon!

Synopsis (from Amazon’s website):

Sunny-as-a-summer-sky rhymes chronicle a mother and son sharing a day of sand digging, seashell collecting, and seashore exploring. Kids will learn about a variety of shells and count along with the boy as he totals up his collection, puts his shells away, and then drifts off into a well-earned bedtime. A spread of seashell facts caps off the story.


Why I Like It:

A charming book to use at the beginning of the school year when kids recap their summer holidays. A young boy and his mother go down to the beach to explore and collect shells. The story is told is simple rhyming couplets with dialogue mixed in. I particularly enjoyed the voice of the little boy as it rings true of his age. “Go away, wave, so I can dig!” Kids will learn about seashells and enjoy counting the variety of seashells as the boys collects them and then makes a display for them at home. The final spread also has some fast facts about mollusks – the soft-bodied animals that wear their skeletons on the outside as seashells.

The simple text is complemented by the bright-colored yet soft-featured cut paper collages.


One of my favorite spreads is near the end when they return home with a sunset casting shades of orange all around. To see more interior spreads click here.

A good book to use in a preschool classroom, followed up by some seashell sorting or crafts.

Find IT’S A SEASHELL at the following spots:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Goodreads
ISBN-10: 1609055306
ISBN-13: 978-1609055301

August 4, 2015

Water is Water: A Book About the Water Cycle

Hope your summer has been relaxing and enjoyable. Can’t believe kids’ school starts in less than three weeks. In light of that I will be reviewing fiction and non-fiction books this month that can be used in classrooms. Enjoy!

water_is_water Title: Water is Water: A Book About the Water Cycle

Author: Miranda Paul (interview)
Illustrator: Jason Chin (interview)
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press, 2015
Book Type: Non-Fiction
Ages: 4-8
Themes: Water Cycle, Seasons, Weather

Opening Lines:

Drip. Sip.
Pour me a cup.
Water is water unless…
it heats up.

Whirl. Swirl.
Watch it curl by.
Steam is steam unless…
it cools high.


Synopsis (from Amazon’s website):

This spare, poetic picture book follows a group of kids as they move through all the different phases of the water cycle. From rain to fog to snow to mist, talented author Miranda Paul and the always remarkable Jason Chin (Redwoods, Coral Reefs, Island, Gravity) combine to create a beautiful and informative journey in this innovative nonfiction picture book that will leave you thirsty for more.



  • The Classroom Bookshelf – Lessons on written responses, visual narratives, finding rhymes, the hydrologic cycle, drama, and more are available for grades PreK-5.
  • Sally’s Bookshelf – Questions and Water Mapping activity for kids / STEM Friday


Why I Like It:

I love this book for oh so many reasons. This is a MUST HAVE for any home or school library. I predict this book will become a mainstay. Here are my reasons why.
– It’s creative non-fiction book about the water cycle!!
– And it’s in rhyme with great page-turns. Picture book writers pay attention, the “unless …” is a great cliff-hanger to get the reader to turn the page.
– The watercolor and gouche illustrations are gorgeous and beautifully capture the wholesome and simplicity of kids playing outdoors. (see more inside pages here) The art reminds me of growing up in rural Pennsylvania. I can almost smell the fresh air of spring or the icy chill of winter as I look at the illustrations.
– Aurally pleasing rhyme with kid engaging visuals – a perfect combination to enrapture young minds.
– Extensive backmatter to complement lesson plans on the water cycle.


Find WATER IS WATER at the following spots:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Goodreads
ISBN-10: 159643984X
ISBN-13: 978-1609055301

Disclosure: I received an advanced reader copy of this book from the publisher Roaring Brook Press. This review nevertheless reflects my own honest opinion about the book.


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