Friday, July 9, 2021

7 Days, 7 Books, Day 7. The Big Beach Clean Up by Charlotte Offsay, illustrated by Katie Rewse

Today's books are awesome stories that coincidently plant seeds for STEWARDSHIP.

Kids love being part of the world around them--playing, learning, exploring--and I believe these books show different ways that children can become more involved in it.

In The Big Beach Clean Up by Charlotte Offsay, illustrated by Katie Rewse, Cora is dismayed when her plans to win the sandcastle contest are derailed by too much trash at the beach. Cora finds ways to make her beach better and get the contest back on course.  

What I love about this book is that its theme can be applied to any community or gathering place. Working together to improve our environment is a goal we all share for our home spaces, and this delightful, kid-centric story shows children how and why efforts for cleaning up the outdoors can be done. I highly recommend this book for any family, any classroom, in any region -- beachside or inland, riverside or mountaintop. Cora's voice will connect with and inspire readers everywhere.

Dear Earth, From Your Friends in Room 5
by Erin Dealey, illustrated by Luisa Uribe is a story about children who write to Earth over the course of a year, beginning with their New Year's resolution to help the Earth, and Earth writes back. 

What I love about this story is the simple things that kids (and everyone else) can do toward improving the environment. The text is fun and engaging, with the personalities of classmates and Earth itself shining through in the letters that are exchanged. I highly recommend this book for any classroom or home as a way to mentor monthly goals and activities to make Earth Day an "Every Day" mindset.

She Leads, The Elephant Matriarch by June Smalls, illustrated by Yumi Shimokawara, is a beautifully written story about the elephant matriarch and how she cares for her family. The text is written in a way that I believe young readers can see themselves on the page, as leaders and friends, working together and living side by side in a way that uplifts and inspires. 

When paired with either of the two books above, or even when read independently, I believe She Leads can serve a multitude of purposes: 

engage curiosity to learn more about elephants and other animals, 
propel conversations about how children can be leaders in different roles in their own lives, and 
inspire an appreciation of our connections to all living things in the natural world. 

I highly recommend this book for everyone.

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

7 Days, 7 Books, Day 6. The Most Perfect Thing in the Universe by Tricia Springstubb

We're back from the holiday break with a look at middle grade titles that combine a seamless interplay between story and STEM.

The Most Perfect Thing is the Universe
 by Tricia Springstubb is about a girl named Loah who worries her mother cares more for an endangered bird than her own daughter when she decides to extend her two-month birding expedition in the Arctic even longer. Loah's situation gets worse after her elderly caretakers fall ill, but then Loah finds a new friend named Ellis who needs some saving of her own. The two girls discover ways to not only rescue each other, but also Loah's mother. 

Although the loah bird that is highlighted in the novel is not a real species, the rest of the birds that essentially play as background characters in the book are real, as well as the facts that are woven into the story about them. This beautifully written novel will likely encourage young readers to learn more about birds--nearby and far away.

Song for a Whale
by Lynne Kelly is the story of a deaf girl named Iris who develops a strong connection to a whale that can not communicate with other whales because it is a hybrid of a humpback and blue whale. The unique pitch of its song does not match either species, and therefore, the whale cannot be heard. Because Iris fixes antique radios by touch and feel of the sound vibrations, she wants to use her skills to find a way to play a song that the hybrid whale can hear so that it knows it is not alone. This quest takes Iris on a journey far from home.

What I love about Song for a Whale are the tidbits of information that are knitted into the story, from the nature of sound, to the building of radios and transmission of sound, to ecology of oceans and threats to whales and other marine species. This novel is another engaging story that will inspire readers to forge their own connections with wildlife species.

The next two books in my TBR pile are We Dream of Space by Erin Entrada Kelly and Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds. 

After that, I'll be looking for new STEM-based middle grade novels with boys for main characters. If you have any recommendations, I'd love to hear them.

Happy reading!

Friday, July 2, 2021

7 Days, 7 Books, Day 5. How to Catch a Clover Thief by Elise Parsley

 Today's books are those that pack a surprise in story or structure, which as a reader and writer I find absolutely delightful. These are books that show children how to think outside the box and enjoy the unexpected and then reflect on the path that brought them there.

How to Catch a Clover Thief is written and illustrated by Elise Parsley, and the first lines of this story show it isn't going to follow the typical "How to" structure.  Instead, readers are presented with a scene, a character, and what he wants, while the antagonist watches from the background with a book in hand.

The stems were tall. The leaves were large. Roy couldn't believe his luck--all this clover patch needed were those sweet white blossoms and then he could gobble up his favorite snack. They were nearly ready. He just needed to be patient. 

But as it turns out, being patient is not all Roy needs to do. Roy needs to find a way to outwit the clever rodent named Jarvis. This science teacher's heart soared with the final illustrations and path the story took, because it landed ingeniously and humorously in the lap of STEAM. And interestingly, young readers might go back and see where application of the scientific method lurked in the details all along. This book definitely ought to find its way into every child's hands. 

Turtle in a Tree written and illustrated by Neesha Hudson offers a fun read aloud with two characters who each see something different in a tree and each insist that they are right and the other is wrong. Of course, the twist at the end is clever, satisfying, and funny. Although this story doesn't wave the STEM flag from its cover, it can provide an interesting and unique tool for discussing the process of scientific inquiry and debate in the classroom. But aside from my own educational interests as an educator, Turtle in a Tree is simply plain fun and won't disappoint.

The Safe Return, written by Ashley Wheelock and Arwen Evans and illustrated by Abigail Gray Swartz, offers a surprise in the structure of the book, which in and of itself is STEAM-based in that it offers children an alternative way that a book can be created and enjoyed. The Safe Return offers the same story but illustrated from two different perspectives. Each story is read separately, with the first being read from the front cover and moving toward the middle of the book, and the second being read by flipping the book over and reading forward from the back cover. 

I imagine children will compare each story version and pick out the differences and the reason for the change. I also believe this book is a timely celebration of our world experience. It offers comfort and hope as we begin to shift back to a new normal after going through a pandemic.

With the U.S. holiday weekend of July 4th upon us, I'll pick up with the final two days of book recommendations on July 6th.