Picture Book Review ~ Musical Biographies part 2

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase.   

Blues and Jazz are kissing cousins in the music world. With roots in Africa and branches stretching from New Orleans to Chicago and everywhere in between there’s a special flavor and feeling in each musician’s take depending on where they’re from, who their influences are, the year they were born and more. Since it began primarily with slaves there were a lot of local influences that stayed local for the first little while until recordings became easier and outsiders began to take notice.

Today we’re spotlighting a few of the early (but by no means earliest) pioneers of the blues and jazz music scene.

Born near the Mississippi Delta in 1915, McKinley Morganfield, was immersed in the blues from an early age. His Grandma Della had other ideas for how she wanted to him to live his life, “but Muddy was never good at doing what he was told.” Eventually he left the racially segregated south and his life as a share-cropper and migrated to Chicago where he soaked up the jazz, bebop, and blues. He fought his way to a recording contract and became influential to everyone from the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and more.

The text has chunks of rhythmic repetition interspersed with the story. The illustrations are rough, earthy, and brimming with life just like the music and musician they are portraying. There’s an author’s note, a bibliography, and further listening list for readers who want to know more.

Muddy Waters book review

 

Muddy: The Story of Blues Legend Muddy Waters

Written by: Michael Mahin

Illustrated by: Evan Turk

Number of Pages: 32

Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2017

Age Range: 6-10

Rating: 4/5

Muddy Waters is one of those people you know, even if you don’t know you know them. Modern musicians continue to be inspired him or by those who were inspired by him. Here’s one of his own and one by Son House who came a bit earlier and was one of his inspirations. (Shout out to my friend Katie who introduced me to Son House several years ago. He’s become a repeat player on many a playlist in my world!)

 

Women didn’t always get a public voice in music outside of church settings. And they didn’t often get a chance to be leaders or headliners on their own. Lil Hardin Armstrong did it all.

Born in Memphis in 1898 she played her mother’s organ and took lessons from a young age, including playing for her local church. Her mother insisted on the classics but Lil was more influenced by W. C. Handy and other jazzy neighbors. She earned a spot as a piano player in the New Orleans Creole Jazz Band and migrated north to Chicago where she met Louis Armstrong. Together they wrote songs, played music, and formed their own band. Later she toured in Europe, designed clothing, opened a restaurant, and eventually died doing what she loved best, playing music.

Excellent back matter includes a little more about Lil, a list of songs to listen to, photographs, a timeline, author’s note, bibliography, and more. I’d heard of Lil Armstrong, knowing her as the wife of jazz great Louis Armstrong, but hadn’t realized she was a jazz great in her own right. I loved learning more about this amazing powerhouse of a woman.

Born to Swing book review

Born to Swing: Lil Hardin Armstrong’s Life in Jazz

Written by: Mara Rockliff

Illustrated by: Michele Wood

Number of Pages: 32

Publisher: Calkins Creek, 2018

Age Range: 6-10

Rating: 4/5

We’ll keep on trucking through the years to another jazz legend tomorrow. Hope to see you then!

 

Picture Books about Growth Mindset

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase.   

There’s a lot of talk right now about growth mindset. I know it’s been a big focus in the schools, many adopting curricula to specifically teach it to their students. For anyone unfamiliar with the idea you can visit this website for more info.

But the brief rundown is that there are two basic outlooks to learning and failure. With a fixed mindset, the individual believes that intelligence is predetermined and set. You are either smart or stupid and no amount of work will change that. (High IQ? Awesome, you win. Lower IQ? You will never catch up or be as successful.) Therefore when they fail or face setbacks they take on a defeatist attitude, giving up, knowing that there’s nothing they can do about it, and that it just reinforces what they already knew. Studies are showing that teacher/parent reactions can contribute to the fixed mindset as well. Praising a child for being ‘smart’ rather than for ‘working hard’ or even trying reinforces the idea that it’s not within their control.

With a growth mindset, however, the learner recognizes that while they may begin at a certain point they can get better if they put in effort, practice, and keep at it. This isn’t just for book learning but for physical skills like sports, painting and so forth. Failure is more often looked at as a stepping stone to success rather than the end product (think of  Edison’s famous quote about finding 10,000 ways that don’t work.)  There’s more to it than just that, obviously  but that’s the gist.

As an adult, I’ve dealt with some of my own struggles with growth mindset often as a side effect of depression. I have not done a ton of study on this so I don’t know how the overlaps affect each other and if they can even be grouped together…the chemical imbalances of depression don’t follow the rules of everything else so it may be trying to compare apples and oranges. But the results are the same; a feeling of discouragement and hopelessness and “why bother.” So, reinforcing a growth mindset, even in adults, can only be helpful.

That said, I want to highlight a few books today that demonstrate and reinforce a growth mindset. I’m sure this is a topic I’ll revisit as time goes by so if you’ve got favorites please mention them in the comments below. I’d love to have a massive list to reference and share with you all!

After the Fall book review

After the Fall by Dan Santat–After Humpty Dumpty falls from the wall he gives into the fear of heights and failure and misses out on so many of the things he used to love. But he’s determined, eventually, to do something and that changes everything. This one is my absolute favorite. I don’t know how many times I’ve read it and yet I still get a little teary when I get to the last spread!

What Do You Do With a Problem? by Kobi Yamada–Looking closely at a problem can reveal something altogether different than what you at first assumed. Look for the rest in the series (What Do You Do With an Idea?, What Do You Do With a Chance?)

The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken–I’ve spotlighted this one before but I absolutely love the idea that our “mistakes” can be turned into something beautiful. And this shows the process, step by step. It’s gorgeous. (Beautiful Oops is another great one along the same lines.)

The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes by Gary Rubenstein–A young girl who never makes mistakes, finally makes one, a big one, in front of everyone.  Learning to laugh at herself makes all the difference.

The Thing Lou Couldn’t Do by Ashley Spires–An otherwise brave adventurer faces a task she’s never tackled before and finally convinces herself she doesn’t want to rather than try. After going through various emotions she decides not to let the task defeat her.

A Whistle for Willie by Ezra Jack Keats–This simple classic shows the joy of persevering.

How To Catch a Star by Oliver Jeffers–This one is all about dreaming big and thinking outside the box. Both important skills in developing a growth mindset.

The Dot and Ish by Peter Reynolds–Both of these similar art tales show the value in ignoring the naysayers and trusting in yourself. With a little encouragement and effort anything is possible.     *I’m a day late and a dollar short on this but September 15th is actually International Dot Day… “a global celebration of creativity, courage and collaboration.” You can join the community of thousands of others around the world in a host of activities or celebrate on your own. Check out their website for more information.

 

There are so many great resources for helping us all to be successful people. Don’t forget to share a few of your favorites in the comments!

50 Books for Back-to-School

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.  

In addition to all the books I’ve already shared this week, I’m excited to share with you  50 more of my favorite back-to-school reads for all ages. This is by no means a comprehensive list, just some of the standouts over the last few years.  Some are dealing directly with first days of school (whether it be in a pre-school or kindergarten setting for the very first time or a new school or grade for older students) while some are focusing on the ins and outs of a classroom setting, friendships and social skills, and the unique dynamics of social hierarchies withing a school. And all are simply great books! 🙂

50 Back to School Books

Kindergarten Specific

Countdown to Kindergarten

Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten

Kindergarten Rocks

On the First Day of Kindergarten

Adventure Annie Goes to Kindergarten

Kindergarten Diary

Jake Starts School

First Day Jitters

The Kissing Hand

Wemberly Worried

Llama Llama Misses Mama

 

Picture Books

I Walk With Vanessa

Sumi’s First Day of School Ever

My Teacher is a Monster

The Name Jar

My Best Friend is as Sharp as a Pencil

The Art Lesson

Thank You, Mr. Falker

Rain School

The Teacher From the Black Lagoon

Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story From Afghanistan

This Is the Way We Go To School

The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade

Miss Nelson is Missing

The Invisible Boy

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way To School

 

Chapter Books/Middle Grade

Lola Levine is Not Mean

Justin Case: School, Drool, and Other Daily Disasters

Frindle

Gooney Bird Greene

Sideways Stories from Wayside School

The One and Only Stuey Lewis

Wonder

Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things

Stuart Goes to School

Gertie’s Leap to Greatness

The Stars Beneath Our Feet

Real Friends

Wolf Hollow

 

Young Adult

The Hate U Give

I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You

Stargirl

Homeroom Diaries

Anna and the French Kiss

Drama

Speak

Extraordinary Means

Words on Bathroom Walls

Challenger Deep

The Fall

 

Have I missed any of your go-to’s? Be sure to share them in the comments below! Happy Reading!

 

YA Back to School Read ~ We Are All Made of Molecules

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.     

There aren’t many traditional back-to-school tales for young adults. So I decided to focus on some of the tough topics and social skills teens face instead. (There are, however, a ton of new-kid-at-school tales and boarding school adventures (for MG too.) Tune in next week for a grand list of my favorite school books for a few suggestions to get you started.)

Stewart, 13, is at a loss. His mom has passed away and it seems his hopes for a sister to round out their family just aren’t going to come to pass. But then his dad tells him they’re moving in with Caroline, the woman he’s been dating recently, and her daughter, Ashley. So even though he has to change schools, leave the only home he’s known (and all the memories he built there with his mom) and work through all the adjustments with his therapist, maybe things won’t be so bad.

Ashley, 14, isn’t exactly thrilled when her dad announces he’s gay and her parents get divorced. To make it worse, her dad is living in the guest house in the backyard and her mom’s new boyfriend and nerdy son are moving in. But she will not let any of them ruin her standing on the school social ladder where she mostly reigns supreme.

Told in alternating chapters from the two points of view we see the turmoil of two very different kids trying hard to fit in and find their way in their new realities. Stewart is a little more easy-going and genuine, getting the brunt of Ashley’s anger and hurt thrown his way but as things progress he proves his mettle to her (and everyone else) as they work through some brutal issues at school and home.

There’s a lot going on here (bullying, theft, underage drinking, death, learning differences, peer pressure, sexual orientation, divorce, prejudices, just to name a few) but it happens naturally and seamlessly and never seems heavy or preachy. You love, hate, pity and admire each of the characters in turn. There are moments of humor that make you laugh out loud and moments that make you think (and if you’re a baby like me, you’ll probably even tear up a bit!)

Molecules book review

We Are All Made of Molecules

Written by: Susin Nielsen

Number of Pages: 248

Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books/Random House, 2015

Age Range: 12-15

Rating: 4/5

Back to School Picture Books

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.  

As we head back to school we often focus on those going for the very first time. Pre-schools are pretty ubiquitous these days but kindergarten is still a big step; often the first time that kids are gone every day, sometimes for a full day including lunch and naps. It seemed appropriate to start our lists out with a book focusing on this important milestone.

Planet Kindergarten book review

A nameless explorer is preparing for his biggest mission yet, a journey to Planet Kindergarten. His parents help him gather supplies, get a check-up and assure him he is ready so off he goes!  His new commander (teacher) and crew (fellow students) have to work together to meet the objectives of the flight plan (daily schedule) and test all the equipment before lunch, naps, and the end of the mission.

Failure is not an option, so with a positive attitude and a little hard work he finds a way to succeed and even continues training to return again the next day.

A mixture of fantasy and reality play out in this fun tale that kids will enjoy with bright, busy graphic illustrations to capture every reader’s imagination.

 

Planet Kindergarten

Written by: Sue Ganz-Schmitt

Illustrated by Shane Prigmore

Number of Pages: 32

Publisher: Chronicle Kids, 2014

Age Range: 3-7

Rating: 4/5

And if you enjoy this one, there’s a second in the series, Planet Kindergarten: 100 Days in Orbit, as well.

Schools First Day of School book review

I don’t know that anyone else has ever written a first day of school story from the point of view of the school (though a few of my favorites feature teachers and faculty that are reluctant to start a new year.) This one is a subtle delight and pulls off the feat quite nicely.

A new building built over the summer is cared for by a kindly Janitor who does his best to explain to the school just what a school actually is. The school is a bit nervous to be filled with children and when the first day arrives there are children everywhere.  It’s more than the school knows quite how to handle though it enjoys watching the kids explore the playground and learn. It’s disheartened to overhear a couple of kids complain that they hate school and its nerves set off the fire alarm by mistake. But for the most part the day passes uneventfully and when the janitor returns that afternoon the school decides it would probably be okay if the janitor invited everyone back again tomorrow.

Children’s own fears about starting a new school or going for the first time are lovingly portrayed by the anthropomorphized school. And the childlike illustrations show the basic ins and outs of a school day from a few perspectives. Kids will appreciate and relate to both.

 

School’s First Day of School

Written by: Adam Rex

Illustrated by: Christian Robinson

Number of Pages: 32

Publisher: Neal Porter/Roaring Brook Press, 2016

Age Range: 3-7

Rating: 4/5

This is My Home This is My School book review

Another subject that doesn’t get quite as much play as it probably should is homeschooling. What if your home and school are the same place? Jonathan Bean tackles that very topic in his great little autobiographical (ish) picture book.

A typically busy day of homeschooling is slightly frenetically illustrated from sun up to sun down. The boy narrator explains how his mom is his teacher (dad plays a role too, teaching shop and acting as phys ed coach), and all the rooms (and his yard) are classrooms. They go on field trips, visit the library, eat in the cafeteria, have show and tell, and do homework just like everyone at a school would.

The best part is an author’s note follow-up that tells the reader about his experiences being homeschooled and includes pictures of his family’s school in action. For those of you who homeschool it’s a wonderful resource for making connections to someone else’s school experience.

 

This is My Home. This Is My School

Written and Illustrated by:  Jonathan Bean

Number of Pages: 32

Publisher:Farrar Straus Giroux, 2015

Age Range: 4-8

Rating: 4/5

 

Who have you got headed back to school this year? How are you helping them prepare for the big day?

Picture Book Review ~ The Street Beneath My Feet

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. 

When I was little I used to spend hours poring over the illustrations in the books on our shelves.  Some of my favorites were the Richard Scarry books with all their little labeled worlds filled with intricate details and happenings in every nook and cranny of the page. I also loved to look through the various National Geographic resources my parents had bought through the years, especially the atlases. We had books showing pictographs of every country’s revenue, imports and exports, flags, national symbols and so on. There was one that had cellophane overlays showing either the cities and landmarks or the natural topographical features over the outlines of the countries or showing relative sizes of the various planets, moons, and constellations within the solar system. I was entranced by this huge world of ours and how vastly different (or similar) places so far from each other could be. I think that’s probably where I first got the travel bug thought I didn’t recognize it as such at the time.

If you’ve got any readers in your house who can relate to my description above then you’ve absolutely got to get your hands on this book. From it’s gorgeous embossed cover to the flipped layout to the inside-out and back again format there’s a lot to take in and hours’ worth of discussion and study to be had.

We start out with a young child walking along the city street wondering what’s happening below him, just out of sight. The illustrations lead us down through a maze of sewer pipes and storm drains, electric cables and phone wires down to the bugs, rats, and microorganisms that make up the first layers of topsoil. Then we venture farther down on our own archaeological dig past bones and coins and pottery. Next there’s discussion of the various layers of clay, rock (igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic all get their chance to shine), coal, caves with underground water, until we make it to the earth’s core.

Then our pages start folding the other direction (take a look at my post on Instagram for a better idea of how this works) and we head back out from earth’s fiery center to learn in more detail about minerals, fossils, the dinosaurs, and how plants and other creatures use the soil. When we make it back above ground we can see how the things happening beneath us can affect the world we see around us.

There’s so much here it’s almost impossible to take it all in in one reading, making it an ideal one to re-visit before a trip to the museum or a rock collecting adventure. Perfect companions for Over and Under the Pond by Kate Messner, The Skies Above My Eyes by the same duo, or Zommer’s Big Book of Bugs or Big Book of Beasts.

The Street Beneath My Feet

The Street Beneath My Feet

Written by: Charlotte Guillain

Illustrated by: Yuval Zommer

Number of Pages: 20

Published by: words & pictures/Quarto, 2017

Age range: 4-10

Rating: 5/5

Street Beneath My Feet detail

Picture Book Review ~ What If

What If

What If?

Written by: Samantha Berger

Illustrated by: Mike Curato

Number of Pages: 32

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Age Range: 4-10

Rating: 5/5

A young artist is compelled to create, drawing and writing everything her heart and mind can conceive. But what if her pencil disappeared, how would she create then? She’d fold her paper until she’d found a way to make her stories appear. And what if the paper was gone too? Well, she’d find another way to tell her stories and create something for the world to see. She takes us through 8 or 9 other options including sculpting, singing, dancing and simply holding everything in her mind. But she knows no matter what she’ll always find a way to create and tell her story.
The powerful message is told in simple rhyming couplets and the illustrations are stunning. But I absolutely loved the note from the author and illustrator about how the story came to be. A flood forced Berger to evacuate her apartment and she was unable to create the way she usually did and she had to think outside the box using found objects and unconventional tools to make her art. This experience is replicated in the book and inspires the creators in us all to keep creating!
This is the perfect vehicle for beating off any summer boredom. Grab your favorite child and all the goodies you can find (head outside, raid the craft room, the world is your oyster!) and start creating whatever strikes your fancy. And I’d love to see your results. Post them down in the comments for us all! Happy reading/creating!
What If book review

Adult Non-Fiction Book Review ~ The Devil in the White City

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.  
As a teacher I was constantly guiding kids to make connections while they were reading. You can connect the text to yourself, other books, or the world around you. Does the book remind you of something you’ve seen or somewhere you’ve been? Something you’ve experienced? Another book you’ve read or movie you’ve watched? A good connection can make any book stay with you for a lifetime and can be key to making a child into a life-long reader. This is the glory of bookclubs and discussions, fandoms, alternate adaptations and more. Your connections being shared with others strengthens the initial connection and helps you to internalize the story, themes, sympathize with the characters and more.
.
As an adult with an absolutely horrid memory when I can make connections with a book it helps it stick in my brain a bit longer which is always a plus. One of my favorite ways to make connections is to see the location or subject in person if possible. (An excuse to travel…never a bad thing, right?)
.
Several years ago I read The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson with a bookclub and was enthralled by the way he told the parallel stories of the architecture, organization, and creation of the vast modern fairgrounds for the 1893 Chicago Columbian Exposition and the tale of H.H. Holmes, a young doctor, psychopath and serial killer. The advancements and transformation of a swamp to the brilliant White City juxtaposed with the dark, seedy underbelly of those same advancements is masterfully handled and kept me riveted from first page to last. It was one of the books I convinced my husband to read with me after we got married and he was just as enthralled. So much so that when we had some frequent flier miles to use up we planned a trip to Chicago to see the buildings, grounds, and history first hand.
.
We spent several days wandering the city, eating amazing food and catching a performance of Hamilton (which was also absolutely amazing, and lead to an interest in the founding fathers and other book readings…the best connections tend to lead to more connections!) But we made a point to visit the fairgrounds (the only original building left has become The Museum of Science and Industry) and study the work of the architects who were so influential to the area.
Museum of Science and Industry
Frank Lloyd Wright spent the first part of his career in the Chicago area and worked with Daniel Burnham (the architect of the Flatiron Building in New York and architect of many of the exposition buildings) who worked with Frederick Law Olmstead (designer of Central Park and planner of the exposition) to bring the fair to life.
Frank Lloyd Wright Robie House
These amazing stairs are located in The Rookery, a building designed by Burnham where Wright worked for years.
Stairway in Rookery
We also sampled the brownies at the Palmer House hotel. They were created there under the direction of Bertha Palmer to be served at the exposition. She wanted a portable snack that women could eat with their gloves on. Deliciously chewy topped with cherry ice cream! (Other foods that were introduced at or evolved from the fair include Cracker Jacks, Shredded Wheat, pancake mix, chewing gum, Cream of Wheat, and Vienna Beef hot dogs.)
Palmer House brownie
It was a fascinating time and an even more fascinating book. I highly recommend both the book and the city! And I’d love to hear about your own book connections and field trips!
Devil in the White City book review

The Devil in the White City

Written by: Erik Larson

Number of Pages: 447

Publisher: Crown, 2003

Age Range: Adult

Rating: 5/5

Young Adult Book Review ~ Truly Devious

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.   

When I was working at the library I spent a good part of my day reading the new books that came in in order to be able to recommend them to patrons. I breezed through multiple picture books a day and then at least one middle grade and one young adult book each week besides taking books home for my personal reading. I wish I had that kind of time to devote to reading these days but no such luck. And unfortunately it’s been the young adult books that have slipped by the wayside. And with the diminished numbers I’ve not found as many amazing books to shout about. But this one redeemed everything. I couldn’t put it down.

In 1936, Albert Ellingham’s wife and daughter disappeared from the millionaire’s lavish mountaintop retreat and private school in Vermont. His wife’s body was eventually found but not before he’d paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in ransom. His daughter remains missing and while someone confessed there were too many questions left unanswered and the case remains cold to this day.

Enter Stevie Bell, high school junior, who has been admitted to the Ellingham academy because of her obsessive interest in the case and in studying detective work. Her classmates are equally focused on their various pursuits; an artist who’s spent the bulk of her life in a commune, an internet video star, an inventor/engineer, an author and more. But they’re not all the innocent students they’d like each other to believe and when one of them ends up dead Stevie is forced to question her instincts and everything she thinks she knows.

Told in alternating chapters between Stevie’s day in/day out routines at school and flashbacks to the events of 1936 I was riveted from page one. Be warned, there is no conclusion in this volume. This is the beginning of a trilogy so you’ll have to wait (but hopefully not too long!) before getting all the answers.

Truly Devious book review

Truly Devious
Written by: Maureen Johnson
Number of Pages: 416
Publisher: Harper Collins/Katherine Tegen Books, 2018
Age Range: 12+
Rating: 4.5/5

Middle Grade Book Review ~ Calling All Minds

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.  

Temple Grandin book reviewLast week I had the great opportunity of hearing Temple Grandin speak at our local library. She’s an absolutely amazing individual with so many experiences that she has used to influence the world around her in positive ways. (Anyone unfamiliar with her, please check out her website. But a quick run-down: she was born in 1947, is on the autism spectrum and has gone on to revolutionize autism awareness, humane livestock handling and more.) She’s recently published a children’s book and has been touring to promote it.

I wanted to include the book review with the presentation highlights and now that I’ve finished reading it here are the takeaways.

First of all, watching/hearing her speak you get a great feel for who she really is.  She’s got a no-nonsense approach to her speaking that makes her message seem all the more genuine, and she was truly passionate about it. She reiterated the idea that we (society, parents, schools) need to do away with labels. Labels get in the way of who kids really are and what they need. People like Einstein, Henry Ford, and Steve Jobs were most likely on the spectrum but because they weren’t given labels that got in their way they were each able to eventually succeed. Today kids are labeled in an effort to get them what they need but it’s often the opposite that happens. The labels become their identities and those identities are limited and handicapping.

She also talked a lot about screen time and other daily habits. Kids spend so much of their day in front of screens or being told what to do that they are missing out on opportunities to explore the world around them. They need to be given exposure to arts, technical classes, music, tools, and more so they can find out what interests them and explore how to incorporate those interests into their lives. They need to be given responsibilities, taught patience and how to work (think paper routes and dog walking.) They need to be allowed to tinker and build and experiment and fail and try again. Problem solving is becoming a lost art.

She encouraged kids who are lonely or being bullied to find groups with shared interests. She encouraged the adults to make changes one home, classroom or school at a time and then start a local movement writing and sharing what happened and what worked. I think everyone left feeling optimistic about the future and how they could help.

Her enthusiasm is infectious but if you don’t have a chance to see her in person you can watch some of her TED talks, or the fantastic HBO movie based on her life, or read her book!

The book is part memoir, part science text book, part how-to manual encouraging it’s readers (geared to an upper middle grade but really anyone can benefit) to dig in, experiment and create something. She begins talking about her own experiences, her frustrations in school, her different ways of seeing things, her supportive teachers and family members that all encouraged her to invent things that made her life a little bit easier. From there she gets into the scientific background of the subject and then the hands-on how-to for the reader to experiment for themselves.  For example, in her chapter on paper she gives you a brief history of the invention and uses of paper, the printing press, typewriters, scissors, and crayons, and biographical sketches of Gutenberg, Fibonacci, Christopher Sholes (who patented the ‘typewriting machine’) and more. She’s got diagrams and photographs of the machines and processes and instructions for making your own paper, cutting paper snowflakes, growing crystals, building a kaleidoscope and making a water bomb (essentially a paper water balloon.) And that’s just chapter one!

It’s well organized, informative, fascinating and chock-full of fabulous ideas. You could easily formulate a summer school or home school science curriculum around the book and have more than enough information to keep you busy for months! And because there’s a little something for everyone (science, history, social studies etc.) you’ll be hard pressed to find a reader who won’t enjoy it. Highly recommended!

Calling All Minds book review

Calling All Minds: How to Think and Create Like an Inventor

Written by: Temple Grandin

Number of Pages: 228

Publisher: Philomel/Penguin Random House, 2018

Age Range: 8-14

Rating: 4.5/5

 

Check out this past post for another great book about Temple Grandin.