#PictureBook Review: Water Is Water by Miranda Paul

#PictureBook Review: Water Is Water by Miranda Paul

Water Is Water: A Book About the Water CycleWater Is Water: A Book About the Water Cycle by Miranda Paul

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Publisher: Roaring Book Press

nonfiction, picture book, storytime

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

I LOVE THIS BOOK! With beautifully simple rhyme, Paul takes readers through all of the different phases of water from ice to steam to snow melting in the spring. Chin’s illustrations are gorgeous taking us through the seasons with fog in the autumn, a frozen pond in the winter, and (my favorite two-page spread) looking for shapes in the clouds at sunset.

The last four pages give further information about water giving examples from the book. They show us that water is everything giving percentages of how much of something is made up of water. For instance, earthworms are 80% water and an oak tree is about 75% water. They show that water is everywhere covering 71% of the Earth’s surface. Finally they show that water is important so we should conserve it as much as possible as we can only drink less than 1% of the water on Earth.

This would be a great storytime book with lots of opportunity for call-and-response from preschool age kids. As you are about to turn the page saying unless, ask them to give some ideas as to what will happen to the water next. And then you could easily demonstrate different phases of water after reading for some STEM activity, too.

Such a wonderful introduction to this concept. I cannot recommend this book enough!

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#PictureBook Review: Toys Meet Snow by Emily Jenkins

#PictureBook Review: Toys Meet Snow by Emily Jenkins

Toys Meet Snow: Being the Wintertime Adventures of a Curious Stuffed Buffalo, a Sensitive Plush Stingray, and a Book-loving Rubber BallToys Meet Snow: Being the Wintertime Adventures of a Curious Stuffed Buffalo, a Sensitive Plush Stingray, and a Book-loving Rubber Ball by Emily Jenkins
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade Books

picture book, winter, mock-caldecott 2016

Summary
Lumphy, the stuffed buffalo, StingRay, the plush stingray, and Plastic, the rubber ball, are sitting on the windowsill watching the first snow of the year. They try to understand what they are seeing. StingRay is poetic comparing the snow to a blanket of peace and the snowflake to a ballerina dancing through the air. Plastic is the intellectual explaining that snow is rain that freezes when it gets cold enough.

They venture out into the snow to examine it more closely. They build a snowman and make snow angels. They find icicles and frozen puddles before watching the sun set. Their day of adventure comes to an end in their warm and dry house.

“Outside, the tiny ballerinas have made a blanket of peace over the world. The strawberry-syrup sun has gone down. And yes, the world is sweet.”

My Thoughts
I really loved this book. I am unfamiliar with the other books in the Toys series and can’t wait to check them out!

Jenkins and Zelinsky truly capture the curiosity and awe of a child seeing their first snow. I really appreciate the balance of StingRay’s flourid descriptions of the beauty of the snow and Plastic’s more concrete information. At the end of the day, we see that the ground can be covered with frozen water AND a blanket of peace. There is something magical about watching it snow!

I can see sharing this at storytime with another winter theme book and then having some STEM related activities on the science of snow. Here are a couple of ideas:

How Animals Stay Warm With Blubber

Leak-proof Plastic Bag:

Bottom Line
This is a great book to share as we come closer to winter!

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#PictureBook Review: The Little Shop of Monsters by R.L. Stine

#PictureBook Review: The Little Shop of Monsters by R.L. Stine

The Little Shop of MonstersThe Little Shop of Monsters by R.L. Stine
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company

picture book

Summary
If you are brave enough, head to the Little Shop of Monsters. It is the best place to get your monsters. They have stinky, smelly monsters, sticky and icky monsters, squeezer and teaser monsters, and piggler-giggler monsters! But before you go, you should really know… you don’t choose your monster. A monster chooses YOU!

My Thoughts
R.L. Stine and Marc Brown teaming up is like 20-year-ago Katelyn’s dream team. And it even works well today! As an animated picture book reader, this is a really fun title to share with children. There is a lot of opportunity to interact with your audience and really ham it up… holding your nose when talking about the stinkiest, pukiest, rottenest, yuckiest monsters; tickling the Tina-not-ticklish monster, and wiping the sneek off of the pages after we encounter the friendly Sneezer monster.

My only issue with this book is some of the language. At times, Stine-being-Stine suggests the monsters will jump out and eat you or might have eaten your friend that lives next door. I had to intentionally smooth over those passages by making sure to use a light, silly voice so as not to actually spook anyone. That said, over all Stine (and thankfully Brown’s illustrations) do a great job at making the word “monster” more silly than scary!

Bottom Line
Those that enjoy the classic Monster At The End of This Book, will really love Little Shop of Monsters! This would be a great title to share in storytime for a monster theme or around Halloween. Such a lot of fun!

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#PictureBook Review: Finding Winnie by Lindsay Mattick

#PictureBook Review: Finding Winnie by Lindsay Mattick

Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World's Most Famous BearFinding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear by Lindsay Mattick
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company

picture book

Summary
A mother tells her son Cole the story of Canadian veterinarian Harry Colebourn who got called to serve in World War I. He purchased a bear cub for $20 that he named Winniepeg after his hometown. He and the rest of his regiment called her Winnie for short and quickly welcomed her to their ranks.

After sailing from Canada to England, Harry was called to fight and reluctantly took Winnie to the London Zoo. What could be seen as the end of the story is, in fact, the beginning of another, very well-known story. While at the London Zoo Winnie became friends with Christopher Robin Milne, son to Alan Alexander Milne who, of course, gave us the beloved character Winnie-the-Pooh.

As it turns out, Harry Colebourn is the great grandfather to the mother telling the story. Her son Cole was named after Captain Harry Colebourn.

My Thoughts
I really love Sophie Blackall’s illustrations that accompany this remarkable story! The two-page spread showing the ships sailing across the Atlantic was striking, differing greatly from Blackall’s soft pastels with a bright red sunset sky. I particularly liked the family tree included showing how the author of the book, the mother telling the story to her son, fit into the story. The last few pages of the book appear as the pages of a family photo album showing real photographs of Harry Colebourn, Winnie with Harry and the soldiers, and a scanned page from his diary where he wrote, “Bought bear $20.”

I really loved that author Lindsay Mattick was able to show this important family story being passed down to her son, but something about the execution felt jerky and unnatural to me. I wish that could have been done differently somehow.

In addition to giving great backstory, Finding Winnie provided many opportunities for discussion on other big topics. We talked about reality vs stories. Since my children know Milne’s story so well, it was great to talk about how real life inspired that story. It also provided an opportunity to talk about family relationships and our ancestors. One of the illustrations showed a line of men marching in the rain holding guns. This got a lot of questions and it was even an opportunity to discuss wars and guns.

Bottom Line
Finding Winnie provides a lot of discussion opportunities and those who love Milne’s silly old bear will really enjoy this book.

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Book Review: When I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds

Book Review: When I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds

When I Was the GreatestWhen I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers

YA, realistic fiction

Ali is a good kid living on a rough block. He stays out of the bad stuff, helping his mom who works 2 jobs with his younger sister and being trained to box by their family friend, Malloy. He has two friends, brothers nicknamed Needles and Noodles. The stories behind their nicknames are pretty interesting parts of the plot that I don’t want to give away here.

The three friends get their big break, an invitation to one of the hottest parties in their neighborhood. While there, a misunderstanding escalates quickly requiring Ali to put practice his boxing skills. The friends have to deal with wounds, both physical and emotional, when dealing with the aftermath of that night.

I picked this up as part of a YA for Adults Book Club through my local library. While a slow read at times, this book provides a brief glimpse into the life of an urban black teen… the troubles and the realities they face. Unless that is your existence, it can be difficult to understand or empathize. Ali’s parents, though both very distant, play a huge role in Ali’s life. Despite their situation, his parents have clearly given him a good foundation to know better than to get into some of the bad things that surround him. And as we discussed in book club, it is interesting how big his parents’ role is considering in many YA books the parents are barely part of the story.

I am really glad I got to know Jason Reynolds here and hope to pick up his newest book, The Boy in the Black Suit.

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Book Review: Vampies Don’t Wear Polka Dots by Debbie Dadey

Book Review: Vampies Don’t Wear Polka Dots by Debbie Dadey

Vampires Don't Wear Polka Dots (The Adventures of the Bailey School Kids, #1)Vampires Don’t Wear Polka Dots by Debbie Dadey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

publisher: Scholastic

middle grade fantasy

A class of third grade students at Bailey Elementary School are getting a new teacher after they ran off Mrs. Deedee. They get Mrs. Jeepers, an woman from Romania that wears a strange green brooch that seems to glow when she rubs it. Over the course of the book, the students learn more about her which makes them question whether or not she is a vampire. But surely not, right? I mean, vampires don’t wear polka dots.

As I have recently said, I am getting to know several middle grade series that I am aware of but haven’t read before. This beginning of the Bailey School Kids series was… fine. There is nothing really remarkable going on here but for a child who loves a series, familiar characters, mystery, and fantasy, they will probably gobble this up.

My main problem is that it includes stereotypes. Romania is a real country with people that probably want to be known for more than Dracula and their “strange accent”. I have been looking at books for kids with an eye on diversity and representation and that really stuck out to me and made me uncomfortable. So while this series might be alright for some, I might try to find a good middle grade series that does a better job in that regard. I remember really loving Sachar’s Wayside books when I was young and wondered how those would read to me today as I attempt to examine through a diversity lens. Would those be a good alternative, although there are fewer books to the series? Perhaps I should revisit those soon!

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Book Review: Dinosaurs Before Dark by Mary Pope Osborne

Book Review: Dinosaurs Before Dark by Mary Pope Osborne

Dinosaurs Before Dark (Magic Tree House, #1)Dinosaurs Before Dark by Mary Pope Osborne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

publisher: Random House

middle grade fantasy

Obviously aware of the Magic Tree House series, I hadn’t actually read any of them until now. I am visiting several popular middle grade series that came after the time I would have read them as a youth.

Brother and sister, Jack and Annie, discover a mysterious tree house filled with books. After looking at a book about dinosaurs and casually making a wish, they are whisked away to the prehistoric past. They use the book they found to learn about all of the dinosaurs they encounter. After being spotted by a Tyrannosaurus rex, they figure out how they got there and are able to quickly get back to their own time.

I found the first in this series enjoyable. I didn’t feel any gender stereotypes were used here, the sister often showing more bravery than her older brother. I love that it puts an emphasis on books as a tool for learning, enjoyment, and adventure. It is an exciting way to introduce a subject (in this title it is dinosaurs, but in the next it is the Middle Ages) to new readers. I plan to read more into the series to see if this holds true.

MagicTreeHouse.com offers lots of bonus material such as games and resources for teachers and parents. There are often nonfiction titles to accompany the titles in the fictional series providing more information on each subject.

This hefty series is incredibly popular and has a big following. I look forward to getting more familiar with it so that I can recommend these to our eager, new readers.

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