Moon and Space Books

I’ve long been fascinated with space; staring up at the twinkling lights above imagining being one of the first people to see them and thinking up stories to explain how they got there, or pondering if there’s anything else alive out there. If I weren’t so darn claustrophobic, I’d be saving up my pennies for one of those tourist trips on a rocket ship so I could voyage into the great unknown and see the stars and planets and swirling, multi-colored universes.

Earlier this year I read a book that shaped much of the rest of my reading for the year, a book I gushed about, foisted on both of my book clubs, and mulled over during many empty moments. And it was all about space!

Fifty years ago the world was in turmoil (sound familiar?) The president saw a need for something to bring the country together, to put a temporary halt to the violence and chaos that were dividing the country, to give us something to work on and root for together. (Yeah, that part doesn’t sound too familiar right now, darnit.) So, he made a bold proclamation that America would be the first to reach the moon. And we were off.

Enter Rocket Men, by Robert Kurson. He starts with a brief re-cap of the tumultuous events around the country and world in 1968, Kennedy’s announcement and the ensuing space race. And then he takes time to introduce us to each of the three men who would make history by venturing to the moon. We get a great glimpse into the lives of the three key players of the Apollo 8 mission (Frank Borman, James Lovell, and Bill Anders), their backgrounds, training, and everything that brought them to be in the right place at the right time. We also get to watch the fledgling organization known as NASA navigate wholly uncharted waters. We cheer along with the rest of humanity (in retrospect) as the men loop around to the dark side of the moon and emerge safely on the other side. And we feel just a little more hopeful about the world and humanity as we view the famous earthrise photo, our first glimpse of the sphere of green and blue that supports life as we know it.

This is the ultimate mix of history, biography, adventure, exploration, and the celebration of the human spirit. I was wowed and amazed at nearly every page. The hubs and I read this one out loud to each other and constantly paused to exclaim over the gall of the people involved. We were amazed over and over again at passages that talked about engineers and mathematicians who had a strictly pen and paper proof of something convince the astronauts to climb into overgrown tin cans and launch themselves into the final frontier where literally no man had gone before, with only mathematical equations to guarantee that they would survive and return safely. And the astronauts’ courage to risk their lives to do it.

If you need a little bit more hope in your lives, I cannot recommend this book enough. And if you love this one as much as I do here are a few others to keep you reading!

Moon and Space Booklist

Fiction Picture Books

Moon by Britta Teckentrup

Mousetronaut by Mark Kelly

The Stuff of Stars by Marion Dane Bauer

Astronaut Annie by Suzanne Slade (see my review here)

Zoom, Zoom, Zoom I’m Off to the Moon by Dan Yaccarino

Mars Needs Moms by Berkeley Breathed

Non-Fiction Books for Kids

The Moon Book by Gail Gibbons

The Darkest Dark by Chris Hadfield

Reaching for the Moon by Buzz Aldrin

A is for Astronaut by Clayton Anderson

A Hundred Billion Trillion Stars by Seth Fishman (see my review here)

Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code by  Laurie Wallmark

Margaret and the Moon by Dean Robbins

Moonshot by Brian Floca

Curiosity: The Story of a Mars Rover by Markus Motum

I Am Neil Armstrong by Brad Meltzer

Earthrise by James Gladstone

One Giant Leap by Robert Burleigh

The Moon by Seymour Simon

Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed

If You Decide to Go to the Moon by Faith McNulty

Non-Fiction Books for Teens and Adults

First Man by James R. Hansen

Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly (MG and Picture book versions also available)

Packing for Mars by Mary Roach

Rise of the Rocket Girls by Nathalia Holt

Cosmos by Carl Sagan

A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking

Death by Black Hole by Neil DeGrasse Tyson

Women in Space by Karen Bush Gibson

Fiction Books for Teens and Adults

The Martian by Andy Wier

Space Case by Stuart Gibbs

See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng

The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

Across the Universe by Beth Revis

The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal

Picture Book Review ~ Bear Snores On

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First SentenceIn a cave in the woods,
in his deep, dark lair,
through the long, cold winter
sleeps a great brown bear.

Said bear sleeps (and snores) through the day and night, through storm and a host of uninvited guests. A tiny mouse stumbles in and builds a fire and is quickly joined by a hare, a badger, a gopher, a mole, a raven and a wren. They share food with each other, pop popcorn, laugh and visit while bear snores on unaware until a rogue pepper flake makes its way to his nose and he sneezes himself awake. I’ll let you read this yourself to find the ending but it’s got a fun little twist, just perfect for preschoolers.

There are a lot of rhyming picture books out there and a lot of them are just mediocre. They look great on the page and even sound good in your head, but when you try to read them aloud the words and rhythms just fail to flow smoothly. Not so with our Ms. Wilson. She has a veritable gift for verse. And she uses some lovely words to do it. Nothing about her vocabulary is trite or tired, another reason why I love her so much. At an age when children are gaining words in their own vocabulary at the rate of +/- 5 or so words a day,  the more rich language they are exposed to the better. So the bear’s cave is also referred to as a lair and a den. The animals ‘pitter-pat,’ ‘creep-crawl,’ ‘sneak-peek,’ and ‘scuttle;’ and they ‘divvy’ up their snacks, in the ‘damp’ ‘dank’ cave. There are also lots of fun action sequences for varying voice volume and pitch. And a host of sequels!

Wilson has a bunch of other titles that are all quite good as well but the bear books are my favorites. There are currently 10 (if I counted right!) with several board book variations and sets available.

Chapman’s illustrations are friendly, the animals at once recognizable for what they are but with a definite cartoonish quality in their faces and posturing—I think little mole is my favorite–(and ability to be friends without eating each other!) Highly, highly recommended!!

 

Bear Snores On Book Review

Bear Snores On

Written by: Karma Wilson

Illustrated by: Jane Chapman

Number of Pages: 32

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2002

Age Range: 2-5

Rating: 5/5

Picture Book Review ~ Musical Biographies part 5

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Folk songs are some the most singable songs out there and I used a ton of them in the classroom when I was teaching. From the more patriotic “This Land is Your Land” to the silly “She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain” and everything in between, the majority of these songs started out much like the spirituals being adopted and adapted by various communities and changing slightly over time. But many of them have been used to convey messages, particularly of a political nature and one of the names most synonymous with this movement is Pete Seeger.

Born in NYC in 1919, Pete was shy but had a love of music and the truth instilled in him from an early age. He protested and attended rallies for the rights of workers during the Depression. He learned to play the banjo and absorbed the folk music he heard at festivals. He dropped out of school to form a band and met Woody Guthrie who let him tag along to some of his concerts and meetings he played at across the country. And did what he could to make a difference. WWII, marriage, civil rights, and various government issues all shaped Pete and Pete shaped those things right back. His discography isn’t extensive, he only released 5 official albums in his lifetime. But his influence is incalculable. And this book does a superb job of showing both pieces of that puzzle.

Pete Seeger book review

Pete Seeger book review2

Stand Up and Sing!: Pete Seeger, Folk Music, and the Path to Justice

Written by: Susanna Reich

Illustrated by: Adam Gustavson

Number of Pages: 32

Publisher: Bloomsbury, 2017

Age Range: 8-12

Rating: 4/5

 

One of my favorite ways to get my students involved was with music. As I mentioned above I sang a lot of folk songs with them particularly. Sometimes we’d just sing a capella, sometimes with a CD accompaniment, and often with the help of a picture book. There are so many great ones out there to choose from I’ll have to dedicate a whole post to them to do it justice but I wanted to leave you with a few to get you started. And add the caveat that kids (little ones at least 🙂 don’t care if you can’t carry a tune. Be enthusiastic, sing out, and they will join in. I promise!

 

This Land is Your Land by Woody Guthrie and Kathy Jakobsen

Yankee Doodle by Mary Ann Hoberman and Nadine Bernard Westcott

The Wheels on the Bus by Jane Cabrera

Down by the Station by Will Hillenbrand

 You Are My Sunshine by Dare Coulter

Down By the Bay by Raffi

Five Little Monkeys by Eileen Christelow

 

Oh, and so many more! Watch for a whole list to come a little later and thanks for joining me this week. I love sharing my favorite books and music with you and when those things overlap it just makes it all that much better. Happy Reading!

 

 

Picture Book Review ~ Musical Biographies part 4

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There probably aren’t many who aren’t familiar with the story of Joshua Bell’s social experiment in the DC metro station. I lived just outside of Washington, D.C. for many years and while I was in the area when this occurred I wasn’t a witness to the performance. I often wonder what my reaction would have been. But just in case you have no idea what I’m talking about, this book is perfect for you!

How often do we stop to really pay attention to what’s happening around us? The answer: not very often. One of the most accomplished violinists in the world decided to see what would happen if he dressed as a vagrant and played music in the busy metro station on a priceless instrument. Of the over 1,000 people who walked by only 7 stopped for more than one minute to listen. He had a little over $30 in his case when he finished. While several people seemed to want to stop they didn’t, yet every child tried to stop. This lovely little book tells the fictionalized account of a boy who was in the metro station that day but, like so many of the other children, was dragged by his mom on their way. All day long the music plays in Dylan’s head and changes how he and his mom see the world.  There’s a note about Joshua Bell and how he and the experiment came to be. And a note from Joshua himself about why he does what he does.

And for those who want to know more, this same creative duo brings to life a short biography of Joshua Bell’s beginnings. In the Dance of the Violin, we see young Joshua determined to play with a real orchestra. He practices a very difficult piece in order to win a contest, but when the day of the contest arrives he makes a mistake. Instead of giving up he asks to start again and plays perfectly and blows everyone away.

There’s another author’s note with this one telling us a bit about what really happened and giving us a little more information about Joshua Bell and his amazing talent.

Man with the Violin Book Review

The Dance of the Violin

Written by: Kathy Stinson

Illustrated by: Dusan Petricic

Number of Pages: 32

Publisher: Annick Press, 2013

Age Range: 4-10

Rating: 4/5

 

The Man With the Violin

Written by: Kathy Stinson

Illustrated by: Dusan Petricic

Number of Pages: 32

Publisher: Annick Press, 2017

Age Range: 4-10

Rating: 4/5

Joshua Bell book review

Here’s a brief clip to give you an idea of what the experiment was like though it only gives you the barest idea of his talent. Look him up and give him a listen if you’re not familiar with him. He’s one of those performers that is unmatched and indescribable.

Picture Book Review ~ Musical Biographies part 3

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I was raised on jazz. I am by no means a connoisseur or well-educated critic but I’ve been surrounded by the sounds from an early age and have had more than a passing exposure to some of the greats (and I’m sure I have great holes in that exposure as well.) But even in the most educated and critical of circles there aren’t many who will deny that Ella Fitzgerald was one of, if not the, best female jazz vocalists. Ever. She’s far and away my favorite and I thoroughly enjoyed reading this first book and learning more about the first lady of song.

When Ella Fitzgerald’s star was just beginning to rise she found herself (and her band) being barred from clubs and performance halls because of the color of her skin. She was about to give up when a benefactor stepped in, bargaining with the nightclub owner to book a week of performances for Ella. She promised to sit in the front row of each performance. The benefactor? Marilyn Monroe. While the two women had never met before, they became great friends and the performance run was a great success.

I absolutely love this story of friendship and standing up for what is right. Marilyn used her influence to make a difference not only for Ella and her band but for the civil rights movement at large. It just goes to show what good can come when we work together! A powerful message that is much needed in a world that seems intent on having us tear each other to pieces.

Bonus. There’s also a brief bio of each woman and a fabulous photograph of the two of them at the back.

Ella Queen of Jazz book review

Ella Queen of Jazz

Written and Illustrated by: Helen Hancocks

Number of Pages: 32

Publisher: Francis Lincoln Children’s Books, 2017

Age Range: 5-12

Rating: 4.5/5

 

My love for Frank Sinatra knows no bounds. Because of my upbringing (see above) I had very different tastes in music than all of my friends. While they had posters of N’Sync and The Backstreet Boys on their walls I had posters of Elvis, The Beatles, and a framed photograph of Frank Sinatra above my bed. I watched all his movies, I bought cheesy memorabilia, ventured to Hoboken, the works. But first and foremost I am in love with the voice.

I had decided I needed to write a kid friendly book about him, but someone beat me to it.  This is the book I should have written but someone beat me to it!  It’s a lovely little recap of the life of the Chairman of the Board. Covering his childhood in Hoboken, his obsession with Bing Crosby, his need to perform, his journey to New York and the recording studio and on into the movies and his influence all around the world, there’s not much they’ve missed. There’s also an author’s note, bibliography, and list of favorite songs for young listeners. And check out the sweet illustrations, and those end pages. *sigh* It’s the perfect introduction to Frank’s world.

Frankie Liked to Sing book review 2

Frankie Liked to Sing

Written by: John Seven

Illustrated by: Jana Christy

Number of Pages: 32

Publisher: Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2015

Age Range: 4-10

Rating: 4.5/5

 

I’m a sucker for brass. But I’m also quite picky about what I like to listen to (and don’t ask me to explain what…I just know it when I hear it!) Trombone Shorty is a more recent addition to my music collection. I don’t love all his stuff across the board. I much prefer his classic jazz/blues sounds to the songs that have more of the r&b bend but boy, oh boy, can he play!

He’s been nominated for a Grammy, has worked with Bo Didlely, Lenny Kravitz, Eric Clapton just to name a few, can also play the trumpet, tuba, drums, and organ, and is a published author! In this delightful autobiography he tells readers how he got his nickname and how music has influenced his life. Bryan Collier’s fabulous illustrations garnered a Caldecott honor and Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award.

His second book, The 5 O’Clock Band, also illustrated by Bryan Collier was released in June of this year.

Trombone Shorty book review

Trombone Shorty

Written by: Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews

Illustrated by: Bryan Collier

Number of Pages: 32

Publisher: Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2015

Age Range: 5-12

Rating: 4/5

 

I’ll leave you with some of Trombone Shorty’s tunes to help you lose a bit of the Wednesday slumps. Enjoy!

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

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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!

Middle Grade Book Review ~ Calling All Minds

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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.

Middle Grade Book Review ~ Bob

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. 

I think if you asked, most adults would confess to having imaginary friends or to knowing someone who had one. But what if those imaginary friends weren’t so much imaginary as simply forgotten? Then you might have a story something like this. Olivia has traveled to her grandmother’s house in Australia for only the second time in her life. She was five when she was first there nearly 6 years ago but she can’t seem to be able to remember anything about that visit. Until she gets to her upstairs room and opens the closet to find Bob.

Bob is a small greenish creature who looks a bit like a zombie and has been dutifully living in the closet since Livy ushered him inside six years ago and promised him she’d be right back. Now that she’s finally returned the two friends have a lot of catching up to do. Slowly things start to come back to Livy and she realizes Bob’s magic both made her forget and is now helping her to remember. But they haven’t been able to figure out just who (or what) Bob is or how to help him get back home (wherever that might be) or how to help her grandmother who is going to lose her farm because of the years long drought they’ve been experiencing. It’s not until Livy and Bob are lead to a well while searching for a neighbor boy that’s gone missing that they find all the answers.

There’s something sweetly magical about this little tale. It feels like it could be loosely based on a folktale but seems to be something original, from the minds of two award-winning authors. I’d love to know more about their process of writing this story. It’s told from both Bob’s and Livy’s points of view so perhaps each took charge of one of the characters. However it came to be its utterly charming and deserves wide readership. Check it out!

Bob book review

 

Bob

Written by: Wendy Mass & Rebecca Stead

Illustrated by: Nicholas Gannon

Number of Pages: 201

Publisher: Feiwel and Friends, 2018

Age Range: 6-10

Rating: 4/5

Looking for more suggestions for books about imaginary friends? Try the brilliantly executed The Adventures of Beekle by Dan Santat, or Patricia Polacco’s Emma Kate.

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Picture Book Review ~ The Rabbit Listened

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The other day I shared a few books that I qualified as “shelf-esteem” books. Those with stories that help to build or encourage a healthy self-esteem in children. There are also tons of books that would qualify as “lesson” books. Some are very pedantic and preachy but the best show by example how to handle situations that come up in every day life. Today’s spotlight is one of the best of the best.

Taylor builds something wonderful but when it gets ruined his friends come by and offer to help. The chicken just knows Taylor wants to talk about it and clucks non-stop but Taylor doesn’t feel like talking. The bear feels angry and starts shouting, the elephant wants to remember exactly the way things were, and each other animal has their own ideas of how to help Taylor cope but he’s not ready to do any of those things. When the Rabbit comes by Taylor doesn’t notice so he snuggles up close to the boy and soon Taylor opens up. He listens as Taylor talks and shouts moves through all his stages of grief and anger and recovery and dreams of the next great thing he plans to build.

This is absolutely the sweetest little story and a great lesson in friendship. So often we figure that our way of dealing with something is the best way rather than really listening to what our friends need. It’s a great reminder for kids and adults alike.

The Rabbit Listened book review

The Rabbit Listened

Written and Illustrated by: Cori Doerrfeld

Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers, 2018

Number of Pages: 40

Age Range: 3-100

Rating: 4.5/5

The Rabbit Listened book review2