Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Brainstorm 195: Inspirational Kindness Reads

The holidays are approaching, and I thought it would be a great time to share some books on kindness. Sometimes, the best thing you can give to the people around you is a kind word or a kind action. Enjoy some inspirational stories of kindness for readers young and old.

Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller, ill. by Jen Hill
A little girl ponders what it means to be kind and how to be kind in various situations. She further wonders what would happen if everyone was kind...could it change her school, the community, the world?

Target Readers:

  • Read Aloud Fans, Kids Looking for Practical Examples of How to Be Kind, Picture Book Readers

Belinda the Unbeatable (Game for Adventure) by Lee Nordling & Scott Roberts
Belinda is motivated to win musical chairs, but she also has enough heart to help out a little girl who is struggling...unlike some others who are selfish.

Target Readers:

  • Imaginative Readers, Graphic Novel Fans, Wordless Book Fans, Competitive Kids, Lower Grade Readers

Boxes for Katje by Candace Fleming, ill. by Stacey Dressen-McQueen
Right after WWII, a young girl named Katje in Olst, Holland receives a package through the Children's Aid Society from a young girl in Indiana named Rosie. When Rosie receives Katje's thank you letter and hears how much the chocolate, socks, and soap meant to Katje and how she shared it with others, Rosie decides to send more. And each time she sends something, Katje shares it with her family and neighbors. What starts with one box for one girl, soon becomes life-saving boxes for a whole town from another town across the Atlantic. The people of Olst are so thankful, but what can they send the kind people in Indiana in return?

Target Readers:

  • Inspirational Story Fans, History Buffs, Fans of Stories Inspired by Real Life, Picture Book Readers

Do Unto Otters: a Book about Manners by Laurie Keller
When otters move in next to Mr Rabbit he gets worried about how they will be as neighbors. Mr. Owl encourages him to treat them like he wants to be treated. Mr. Rabbit thinks through how he would like the otters to treat him and comes up with a great guide to being a good neighbor, friend, and world citizen.

Target Readers:

  • Humor Fans, Animal Lovers, Little Citizens & Neighbors (or Anyone Who Has to Interact with Other People), Picture Book Readers

The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa, translated by Stephen Snyder
The story of a math professor who has lost the ability to retain new memories since a car accident in 1973, the young woman who comes to be his housekeeper, and the ways that she, her 10-year-old son, and the professor are all changed by their interactions.

Target Readers:

  • Contemporary Fiction Fans, Feel Good Story Fans, Math Nerds, Nonromantic Story Fans, Quick Read Fans, Books in Translation Fans, Adult Readers

I am Kind by Suzy Capozzi, ill. by Eren Unten
A little girl shares ways that she is kind to her family, friends, and strangers.
This book includes quite a number of different examples of being kind, some of which take a lot of planning and others which are quite simple. The end challenges readers to think of three ways they can be kind.

Target Readers:

  • Kids Looking for Kindness Ideas, Conversation Starter Story Fans, Little Citizens & Neighbors, Leveled Reader Fans, Picture Book Readers

I Walk with Vanessa: a Story about a Simple Act of Kindness by Kerascoët
A wordless story about a girl who witnesses another girl being bullied and comes up with a great idea of how to help, by walking with her to school.

Target Readers:

  • Kids Who Witness Bullying, Adults Who Want to Talk to Kids about Bullying (a discussion guide is included), Inspirational Story Fans, Wordless Book Fans, Picture Book Readers

If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson
A rabbit and mouse plant some seeds and eagerly reap the fruit, but they learn the hard way about the benefits of sharing and kindness. A beautifully-illustrated story with a fantastic message about patience and the blessings of kindness.

Target Readers:

  • Animal Lovers, Art Lovers, Patience & Kindness Learners, Picture Book Readers

The Lion and the Mouse and the Invaders from Zurg (Far Out Fables) by Benjamin Harper, ill. by Pedro Rodríguez
Thunder the Lion leads the resistance against the invading Zurg forces and seems to be the unbeatable local hero. Daisy Mouse wants to join the resistance but Thunder just laughs at her and considers even eating her. She pleads with him to let her go for one day she may be able to help him. Though laughing at the idea, Thunder lets her go. Then the Zurg forces capture Thunder and put him in an impenetrable prison. It seems all hope is lost, or is it? A very imaginative scifi retelling of Aesop's Lion and the Mouse fable that probably will resonate more with modern middle graders than the original.

Target Readers:

  • Science Fiction Fans, Fable Fans, Animal Lovers, Triumphing Kindness Story Fans, Graphic Novel Fans, Reluctant Readers, Quick Read Fans, Middle Grade Readers

The Quiltmaker’s Gift by Jeff Brumbeau, ill. by Gail de Marcken
A very greedy king finds out that there is a quiltmaker in his kingdom who just gives away beautiful quilts to other people, and he is hurt that he has never received one. He demands that she make him one of her beautiful quilts. The wise quiltmaker takes the opportunity to require payment in rather unique methods and teaches the king valuable lessons on the joys of blessing others and being unselfish. The king must give things away from his hoarded treasures, and each time he does so, she will add a square to his quilt. The king’s heart changes dramatically in the process, and in the end, he learns to joyfully give until he cannot give any more. The pictures are beautifully captivating and the message against materialism is wonderful.

Target Readers:

  • Inspirational Story Fans, Art Lovers, Long Picture Book Fans, Picture Book Readers

The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen
Jessica is a runner. She lives to feel the wind in her face and the thrill of crossing the finish line. So losing a foot in an accident feels like the end of the world. In fact, she sometimes wishes she could trade places with the girl who died in the accident and possibly had it easier. But in the midst of despair and grief, Jessica's family and best friend Kayley will NOT give up on her or let her wallow in grief. Once Jessica gets out of the hospital, Kayley practically drags her out of the house and back to high school, even though Jessica is scared of how people will look at her now. But being different turns out a great way to find out who really cares about the real her, like her track team that gives her an unexpected dose of hope by deciding to try and raise $20,000 for a special running leg so Jessica can someday live that running dream she has every night. And there's also Rosa, a math whiz and super wise friend who happens to have cerebral palsy, and who ashamedly, Jessica had always totally ignored before the accident. Beyond learning some important things about herself, Jessica realizes that people like Rosa and herself want to be known and loved for who they are, not for their conditions, and she decides to use the platform her accident has given her to raise awareness of this in her town.

Target Readers:

  • Inspirational Story Fans, Sports Story Fans, Fans of Stories about People Overcoming Hurdles, Contemporary Fiction Fans, Young Adult Readers

Shelter by Céline Claire, ill. by Qin Leng
Two strangers appear in the woods one night as the residents scurry to prepare for the coming storm. It seems no one has room or food to spare for the strangers. But when one of the resident families has a catastrophe and ends up out in the storm themselves, will the strangers be willing to do them a good turn? A rather poignant look at how we treat others, especially in moments of crisis. Are we willing to share and reach out in kindness, or do we get selfish? And do we treat others the way they’ve treated us, or the way we wish they’d treat us?

Target Readers:

  • Animal Lovers, Fans of Books in Translation, Art Lovers, Graphic Novel Fans, Conversation Starting Story Fans, Picture Book Readers on up

Silent Days, Holy Night by Phyllis Clark Nichols
Julia is getting ready for a Christmas gala at a big mansion in West Virginia. And as she gets ready, she reminisces about how she came to this point. It all started 16 years ago when she was 10 and she first met the owner of this mansion. Mr. Lafferty was nothing more than a town legend when she met him. Rumors were he was an ogre who lived in a haunted house or something similar. So Julia is shocked to learn that her father is Mr. Lafferty II’s attorney, as her grandfather was attorney to Mr. Lafferty I. Julia does not meet an ogre when she has to accompany her father to the house because of the family’s car schedules. This girl with endless questions meets a man who is deaf and confined to a wheelchair but secretly has been the town’s greatest benefactor for years. Through Julia’s father he keeps tabs on who in town needs help and makes it happen, all anonymously. He also makes amazing bird sculptures and he is thrilled when Julia plays the piano because he can feel it if he touches the instrument. And it evidently brings back happy memories. Julia decides then and there she wants to get to know Mr. Lafferty more and find a way to thank him for all he has done for others without spilling the beans about his secret generosity. As older Julia continues to prepare for the party, she walks through memories about how that initial meeting with Mr. Lafferty, the months immediately following, and the first Christmas soon after that changed many lives dramatically.

Target Readers:
  • Christmas Story Fans, Time-Slip Story Fans, Inspirational Story Fans, Heart-Warming Intergenerational Relationship Fans, Middle Grade through Adult Readers (Marketing of this book is aimed at adults, but big chunks of the story are told from 10-year-old Julia's perspective so it feels like a mix of adult and middle grade story.)

Thank You, Omu by Oge Mora
Omu makes a pot of red stew and sets it to simmer for dinner. The delicious smell wafts out her window and beckons to many people in her neighborhood. The kindly Omu always shares with those who are drawn to her door, but when it comes time for dinner, her stew is all gone. What will Omu eat?

Target Readers:

  • Beginning Readers, Inspirational Story Fans, Multicultural Community Story Fans, Foodies, Picture Book Readers

The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden (Vanderbeekers, #2) by Karina Yan Glaser
When beloved neighbor Mr Jeet has a stroke, the Vanderbeeker kids try to think up something nice they can do for Mr Jeet and Miss Josie. Miss Josie is always talking about how that abandoned lot by the church would make a great community garden. With permission from the pastor, the kids start secretly cleaning up the abandoned lot. But while they are doing that the pastor is called out of town and Mr Huxley seems to be trying to sell the lot. Will all their hard work be for nothing, and will Mr Jeet ever get well enough to enjoy it?

Target Readers:

  • Sibling Story Fans, Friendship Story Fans, Contemporary Fiction Fans, Feel Good Story Fans, Middle Grade Readers

Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell
A little girl and a little wolf lost in the snow find and help each other.
This is a sweet story of one act of kindness being returned for another act of kindness, even though the two parties are supposed to be enemies.

Target Readers:

  • Feel Good Story Fans, Animal Lovers, Snowy Story Fans, Mostly Wordless Book Fans, Picture Book Readers

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Brainstorm 194: Time-Slip Books

Just in the past year or so I’ve become aware of the time-slip sub-genre. (Well, I didn't know it had a specific name before this year.) It’s a name for that genre of books that go back and forth in time but don’t involve time travel. Usually there’s some element to the story or a mystery that carries across the multiple time lines. The sub-genre seems to be becoming more popular, and I like that it often reveals masterful writing as an author takes disparate times, people, and even places that eventually weave together in some brilliant way to make the story one cohesive whole. If you like reading about people in all sorts of different time periods, a variety of locales, and enjoy watching authors bring things together in amazing ways, this might be your new favorite sub-genre. Or maybe it already is.

Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan
Friedrich is a boy with a birthmark in 1930s Germany, Mike is an orphan in Pennsylvania in the 1930s, Ivy is a girl in Fresno, California in 1942 caught in the middle of racial injustices. One thing unites all of the stories, a single harmonica that moves from one person to the next and brings hope, and eventually to one owner, a saved life.

Target Readers:

  • Historical Fiction Fans, Light Fantasy Fans, Music Lovers, Human Rights Advocates, Middle Grade Fiction Readers

A Fine Dessert: Four Centuries, Four Families, One Delicious Treat by Emily Jenkins, ill. by Sophie Blackall
Readers watch as four families in 1710, 1810, 1910 and 2010 make blackberry fool. The methods of getting the ingredients, whisking the cream and cooling the treat vary over time along with the dress and location of the families, but the basic treat and enjoyment of it remain the same.

Target Readers:

  • Compare/Contrast Practicers, Foodies, History Buffs, Fans of Family Stories, Picture Book Fans

The Lost Castle (Lost Castle, #1) by Kristy Cambron
In present time, Ellie Carter is watching her last family member succumb to old age and Alzheimer's. Her beloved grandmother who raised her has become more restless of late and Ellie is trying to figure out why. During Ellie's visit, a photo is found in a book. A photo of her grandmother and a man Ellie's never seen before in front of a castle. The back of the photo says Loire Valley, France 1944. Ellie is shocked she's never heard of her grandmother being in France during WWII, let alone this man who is not her grandfather. She immediately goes to France to see if she can find answers that will give peace to her grandmother and answers to her.
Aveline Sainte-Moreau prepares to meet her fiancé, the heir to the Duc et Vivay, as the Third Estate rumbles revolutionary tides across France. Even though women aren't supposed to even know politics or economics exist, Aveline has been too interested for her own good. She hopes her future husband will appreciate her interests more than her father. But is that too much to hope for? And as a member of the Second Estate, is her family safe anywhere in France?
Viola Hart can no longer stand by idly while she watches the Nazis bomb her British home city, so she signed up with SOE and months later finds herself a fugitive in Nazi occupied France. She stumbles into the Loire Valley starving and exhausted, looking for food and accidentally meets Julian, a member of the local French Resistance.
As the stories of Aveline, Vi, and Ellie spin out and come together, one character remains central, a castle in the Loire Valley.

Target Readers:

  • Historical Fiction Fans, Contemporary Fiction Fans, Clean Romance Fans, Christian Fiction Fans, WWII Story Fans, French Revolution Story Fans, Grandmother/Granddaughter Story Fans, French Setting Fans, Adult Fiction Readers

Refugee by Alan Gratz
Josef is a Jewish boy about to turn thirteen in 1930s Germany. When his father gets a chance to be released from a concentration camp if he'll leave the country immediately, his mother pounces on the opportunity and books the family passage on the MS St Louis bound for Cuba.
Isabel is a tween girl in 1994 Cuba. When her father is targeted after a riot, he must leave the country during the window Castro has given people to leave if they want. The entire family decides to try for Florida with their neighbors in a boat Isabel's friend Iván has made with his father.
Mahmoud is a tween boy in Aleppo, Syria in 2015. When a drone strike destroys their apartment building, his family decides this is no kind of life any more and they should go north through Turkey to Germany before they are all dead in the never-ending war.
Readers follow all three young people and their families as they risk life and limb to find a place where they can be free and safe.

Target Readers:

  • Historical Fiction Fans, Contemporary Fiction Fans, Human Rights Advocates, Thriller Fiction Fans, Upper Middle Grade Readers (on up)

Skylark and Wallcreeper by Anne O’Brien Carelli
It's November 2012 in Queens, New York and Lily, though just 12, is helping with the evacuation of her grandmother's retirement home as Hurricane Sandy causes waves to pound in through the 1st floor of the building. Relocated to the Armory in Brooklyn, Lily convinces her mom to let her stay and help her grandmother and the other residents. During the move her Granny handed her a fancy old pen and told her to keep it safe. The pen went missing while Lily went out looking for food for the residents, and now she's trying to track it down because her Granny keeps talking about it and saying it needs to go to Marguerite. But who is Marguerite? Meanwhile, flashbacks to Brume, France in 1944 share Granny's exploits as a 12 year old girl herself during WWII. She was recruited as a messenger for the French Resistance, dubbed Wallcreeper for her bird-like climbing skills, she was joined in her dangerous assignments by another girl, Marguerite, whose codename was Skylark. The stories of three brave 12 year olds who rise to the occasion to help out their communities in times of trouble.

Target Readers:

  • Historical Fiction Fans, Contemporary Fiction Fans, WWII Story Fans, Disaster Survival Story Fans, Everyday Hero Fans, Mystery Fans, Grandmother/Granddaughter Story Fans, Middle Grade Fiction Readers

Whose Waves These Are by Amanda Dykes
In 2001, Annie Bliss gets a message that something has happened to her beloved great-uncle Bob. Decades ago Uncle Bob made all the difference in her life when her parents were both deployed at the same time one summer. He really helped her find who she was. So Annie rushes from Chicago to the small harbor town of Ansel-by-the-Sea in Maine to find out what is going on. She finds Bob in a medically induced coma recovering from a bad fall. While waiting for him to recover enough to come out of the coma, she tries to figure out what the deal is with all the rocks in boxes in Uncle Bob's closet and boat house. There's a man visiting the house daily proclaiming her Uncle Bob is going to be honored for his poetry at a festival (and she hasn't ever known him to write poetry, hasn't heard of his so-called famous poem, and this guy misguidedly scheduled the poetry festival for the same day as the Lobsterfest in town). And while she's in Ansel-by-the-Sea with time to kill, maybe Annie can finally figure out what drove her father and Uncle Bob to stop speaking. And as if that isn't enough mystery for one visit, she's also trying to figure out who this Jeremiah Fletch guy is who has been taking care of Uncle Bob's house and is obviously close to her great-uncle.
In 1944, twins and best friends Roy and Robert Bliss are torn apart by the war. Roy may be minutes older, but he has always felt that Robert was the heroic one ever since he saved his life in a storm. Though Roy has a wife and a baby on the way, he refuses Robert's offer to answer the draft in his place. He wants his chance to be a hero.
When storms arise and hearts break, people in every time have the choice of how to respond. Will they turn to the dark or embrace light and hope despite the heartache?

Target Readers:

  • Historical Fiction Fans, Touching Story Fans, Christian Fiction Fans, Family Story Fans, Maine Setting Fans, Mystery Fiction Fans, Clean Romance Fans, Adult Fiction Readers

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Brainstorm 193: It's Not Too Late for Nonfiction November Reading

November is typically a month when many readers decide to hunt down some nonfiction. And though it is all about alliteration, Nonfiction November, any reason is a good reason to read, right? If you still want to get in some nonfiction reading but are looking for something you can finish in these last 2 weeks of the month, I have some quick nonfiction reads for you. To help narrow my choices, I decided to not include any biographies since I've done separate Brainstorms on that genre. I'm listing the books below by their target age audience, but several of these have mass appeal beyond their target boundaries. For example, the animal photos in Vanishing would be fascinating to a lower grade readers, and adults who have never really grasped Einstein's theory or relativity may find A Black Hole Is Not a Hole eye-opening. Feel free to read beyond your age group. Click on the book titles to see my full reviews.

Adult Nonfiction

Cook Korean!: a Comic Book with Recipes by Robin Ha
This is 80% cookbook in a very attractive and creative format, and 20% info on Korean culture/food with actual graphic novel/comic strip pages.

Target Readers:

  • Curious Readers, Foodies, Culture Studiers, Graphic Novel Fans

Random Illustrated Facts: a Collection of Curious, Weird, and Totally Not Boring Things to Know by Mike Lowery
Just what it sounds like, a compendium of random facts about history, animals, food, science, and every day things presented like in an illustrated journal.

Target Readers:

  • Bite Size/Short on Time Readers, Graphic Novel Fans, Curious Readers

Seeing Flowers: Discover the Hidden Life of Flowers by Teri Dunn Chace, photos by Robert Llewellyn
Teri Dunn Chace and Robert Llewellyn take readers on a tour of the various flowering plants and the characteristics of the most common families with lively informative text and incredible photographs. Yes, this is a hefty book, but it is mostly lustrous photographs. And you can pick how much or how little of the text you want to read.

Target Readers:

  • Photography Fans, Art Lovers, Flower Lovers, Botany Nerds, Casual Gardeners

Vanishing: The World’s Most Vulnerable Animals (Photo Ark) by Joel Sartore
The third book in the Photo Ark project which aims to document living creatures of animals on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List before they disappear. The book both educates on what is causing various animals to become more endangered, what works to help bring them back from the brink, what anybody can do to help make a difference, and bring these animals that need saving to life for readers in vivid photographs. This book focuses on looking at animals that are Ghosts (believed to have recently become extinct or at least extinct in the wild), Disappearing (critically endangered species), Fading (those listed as endangered on the red list), and the Dimming (which highlights vulnerable species, especially those whose numbers have dropped quickly or are success stories of rebounding). Each section starts with 2-4 pages of text and then is primarily full-page photographs of animals with short captions. Occasional quotes from those on the front lines of conservation activities are interspersed. And each chapter highlights one issue that is threatening the numbers of multiple species. All of the Photo Ark books are amazing. And mostly photos, so they are fairly quick reads.

Target Readers:

  • Photography Fans, Animal Lovers, Science Buffs

What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe
If you need to give your mad scientist a little air time, then this is the perfect book for you. It's like Mythbusters on steroids. All the craziest science questions you can think of that Mythbusters could not hope to answer without endangering the entire human race, those are the questions that Munroe explores, attempts to answer with the help of serious mathematical prowess, heavy science know-how, humor, and a touch of just the right kind of slightly-disturbing imagination. Oh, and stick figures to help illustrate. It's a great way to give the science mind a mental workout, and the body a laughter-induced core workout. If you've ever wondered what would happen if all the rain in a thunderstorm came down in one drop of water, or what would happen if you pitched a baseball at 90% the speed of light, this is a book that just might save your life by answering those deep burning questions and reducing the temptation to figure them out by experimentation...which could turn out really, really badly. (If you like this one, Munroe just released his 2nd book How To where he discusses extremely creative ways to do things like move houses (jet engines) or keep ants out of your kitchen (lava moats).)

Target Readers:

  • Science Nerds, Math Buffs, Humor Fans, Closet Mad Scientists, Imaginative Readers, Curious Readers

Young Adult Nonfiction

Ain’t Nothing But a Man: My Quest to Find the Real John Henry by Scott Reynolds Nelson with Marc Aronson
Nelson shares how he was researching the men who worked on the railroad, and that led him to start looking for the real John Henry. There were enough details consistent throughout the various version of the song that suggested people were singing about a real man. He shares about his research process and what he eventually uncovered about a man who worked the railroad named John Henry.

Target Readers:

  • Those Studying Researching, History Buffs, Curious Readers, John Henry Legend Fans, Music Lovers, Curious Readers

Go: A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design by Chip Kidd
Chip Kidd provides an easy-to-read (and understand) guide to the basics of graphic design, how it works on our minds, and what we should be aware of in both seeing it and creating it. At the end of the book are several graphic design project ideas for beginners.

Target Readers:

  • Art & Design Lovers, Psychology Studiers, Curious Readers, Smart Consumers

Spooked!: How a Radio Broadcast and the War of the Worlds Sparked the 1938 Invasion of America by Gail Jarrow
Jarrow relates how the War of the Worlds radio adaptation came about in 1938, how the radio crew thought it was going to bore the audience to tears, how the public responded to the broadcast (both positively and negatively), and then how the actual history of the reaction to this event itself became a piece of fake news and was misrepresented for many years.

Target Readers:

  • History Buffs, Drama/Literature Buffs, Those Building Skills to Spot Fake News, Curious Readers

Stronger Than Steel: Spider Silk DNA and the Quest for Better Bulletproof Vests, Sutures, and Parachute Rope (Scientists in the Field) by Bridget Heos, photos by Andy Comins
Goats who produce spider silk? Sounds like something out of a sci-fi book, but Bridget Heos takes reader to meet real live goats with spider silk proteins in their milk and the scientists behind this genetic research. Along the way, readers get to learn about DNA, genetic engineering, spiders, the ways spider silk could benefit society at large, debates about genetically modified organisms, and some other real, live sci-fi-ish creatures.

Target Readers:

  • Biology Studiers, Biology Teachers, Informed Consumers, Curious Readers

Treaties, Trenches, Mud, and Blood (Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales) by Nathan Hale
Nathan Hale gives a broad sweeping overview of the Great War with different animals representing each country. Due to the grand scheme of the tale, Hale only focuses on the main things that led to war and the most important battles.

Target Readers:

  • WWI Studiers, History Buffs, Graphic Novel Fans, Reluctant Nonfiction Readers

Middle Grade Nonfiction

Beneath the Waves: a Journey through the World’s Oceans by Lily Murray, ill. by Helen Ahnpornsiri
Learn about creatures that live along the coast, in tide pools, near the shore, and in the deep ocean. There are lots of books on ocean life out there. This distinguishes itself because of Helen Ahpornsiri's amazing, beautiful, unforgettable artwork. She uses all natural materials to make collages that become the ocean life featured. Seaweed becomes lines and anemones, coastal flowers make patterns on fish and birds, and your eyes will not want to stop looking at this beautiful book.

Target Readers:

  • Animal Lovers, Art Lovers, Curious Readers

A Black Hole Is Not a Hole by Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano, ill. by Michael Carroll
A crash course in astronomy, the theory of relativity, and really dense matter broken down in such a way that anyone 10 to 100 should be able to understand the concepts.

Target Readers:

  • Astronomy Studiers, Science Teachers, Science Nerds, Curious Readers

Sandwiches!: More Than You Ever Wanted to Know about Making and Eating America’s Favorite Food by Alison Deering, ill. by Bob Lentz
Sandwiches is part infographic guide to the history and fun facts of food you happen to find between two slices of bread and part cookbook. The book is divided into five sections, from easiest to assemble at level one to sandwiches that require some prep work in level five. Kitchen safety instructions are provided as you go along with ideas of ingredients to swap out in various sandwiches or dares to try some more out there ingredients on a select few sandwiches for the brave. Whether you’re hungry for knowledge or hungry for a meal, this is a fantastic book to satisfy those cravings. And it is insanely popular with the students at our school.

Target Readers:

  • Foodies, Graphic Novel Fans, Curious Readers

The Story of Salt by Mark Kurlansky, ill. by S.D. Schindler
Kurlansky gives kids a whirlwind history of salt's importance on earth, from the ways it determined top empires to how it impacted the diets of civilizations, and even how it permanently changed our vocabulary.

Target Readers:

  • History Buffs, Foodies, Science Buffs, Linguist Buffs, Curious Readers

The Trash Revolution: Breaking the Waste Cycle by Erica Fyvie, ill. by Bill Slavin
Informs kids where the products they buy come from and what they cost in terms of hydrocarbons, water waste, etc. in production and then where they usually go when thrown away and how (or if) they break down. Cutting edge ideas of how to make things better for the world are introduced, as well as practical alternatives to use the Earth’s resources in wiser ways.

Target Readers:

  • Science Studiers, Ecology Buffs, Ecology/Environmental Science Teachers, Those Wanting to Be Smarter Consumers, Community Activists, Curious Readers

Lower Grade Nonfiction

The Airport Book by Lisa Brown
A family of four is headed to their grandparents' house and are travelling by plane. The little boy explains what to expect when you go to the airport and travel by plane. A fantastic book to get little ones ready for air travel.

Target Readers:

  • Little Travelers, Curious Readers, Kids Who Want to Know How Things Work

Her Right Foot by Dave Eggers, ill. by Shawn Harris
A short history of the design and construction of the Statue of Liberty, as well as a look at the symbolism of the various parts of the statue, particularly of her right foot which is in mid-step.

Target Readers:

  • US History Studiers, Art Symbolism Studiers, New York City Travelers, Those Studying Views on the Immigration/Refugee Debate, Curious Readers

Raindrops Roll by April Pulley Sayre
Close-up photographs and rhyming text illuminate raindrop activities before and after rain. Further notes in the back of the book dig deeper into the science of water.

Target Readers:

  • Science of Water Studiers, Puddle Stompers, Poetry Fans, Photography Fans

The Secret Life of the Red Fox by Laurence Pringle, ill. by Kate Grachinsky
Follow a vixen for one year to find out about the life cycle, habits, and habitat of the red fox. Gorgeously illustrated.

Target Readers:

  • Animal Lovers, Life Cycle Studiers, Art Lovers, Curious Readers

Water Land: Land and Water Forms around the World by Christy Hale
Die cut pages help illustrate different land form and bodies of water names for children. This was quite cleverly done. A pond on one spread becomes an island on the next spread. A straight of water becomes an isthmus, and kids get clear pictures of these different names for bodies of water and landforms. In the back of the book is a big foldout showing the locations of examples of all of these things in the world.

Target Readers:

  • Geography Term Learners, Clever Book Fans, Map Lovers, Curious Kids

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Brainstorm 192: The new beginning chapter book duos

It used to be that Dick & Jane, Little Bear & his Mother, and Frog & Toad had a corner on the market for friendly duos who’d usher kids into the broader reading world with the first chapter books littles could read on their own. Then came a new wave with Mr Putter & Tabby, Henry & Mudge, and Judy Moody & Stink joining the ranks. Today’s generation has a few more duos to usher them into the chapter book world, and I thought I’d introduce you to some of them. To make it to this list the duo has to have multiple books out, have entered the book world in the past decade, and have books that feature multiple little stories or chapters. (And for those who are wondering, that’s why Elephant & Piggie didn’t make the list. Their books all have just one story and no chapters.) Clicking on the series title will take you to my review of the duo's first book. And if you notice shiny stickers on the covers of several of these titles, that's because many of these series have won at least 1 Theodore Seuss Geisel Award or Honor (some are more modest and aren't showing theirs off). It's a lesser-known ALA award specifically for beginning reader books.

Bink & Gollie series by Kate DiCamillo & Alison McGhee, ill. by Tony Fucile
Bink and Gollie are two girls very different in personality and height, but they are great friends. They have imaginative adventures that are still based in reality. There are 3 books in the series. They are each big on attractive illustrations, with just the right amount of words to get the story across (and make readers crack up) without overwhelming beginning readers.

Target Readers:

  • Contemporary Fiction Fans, Humor Fans, Beginning Chapter Book Readers

Charlie & Mouse series by Laurel Snyder, ill. by Emily Hughes
Charlie and Mouse are two brothers who are also great friends and have adventures in their neighborhood and with family. There are currently 3 books in the series with a 4th coming out in 2020. The books feature vocabulary that is fairly simple with the occasional challenging name. The illustrations are charming and the adventures somewhat humorous everyday events kids will easily grasp.

Target Readers:

  • Contemporary Fiction Fans, Touching Story Fans, Humor Fans, Brother Story Fans, Beginning Chapter Book Readers, Picture Book Fans (their books look like picture books more than readers), Lower Grade Readers

Fox & Chick series by Sergio Ruzzier
Fox & Chick are the most recent duo to break into the beginning chapter book world. They just arrived in 2018 and their 2nd book came out this year. In this comedy duo, Fox is the straight man and Chick is the source of the punch lines. Chick doesn't always think things through, and the results are entertaining for the reader while Fox just calmly carries on. They are a little bit like Abbot and Costello for a beginning reader audience (though the target audience likely will have no idea who those two are). Definitely entertaining and a little different from any other beginning reader duo. You almost get the feeling that these two aren't necessarily best friends but that Fox is very patient and allows Chick to hang around.

Target Readers:

  • Dry Humor Fans, Art Lovers, Animal Lovers, Beginning Chapter Book Readers, Picture Book Fans (their books also look more like picture books than readers)

Ling & Ting series by Grace Lin
Ling & Ting are Asian American twins who look the same, but are different. They have 4 books out and are aimed at readers ready for their very, very first chapter books. Each one is only about 48 pages long so they can easily be read in one sitting.

Target Readers:

  • Twin Story Fans, Diverse Character Fans, Easiest Chapter Book Readers, Cute & Silly Story Fans, Contemporary Fiction Fans

Narwhal & Jelly series by Ben Clanton
Narwhal and Jelly are like a graphic novel marine version of Elephant and Piggie for lower grades. The illustrations are simple but cute and emotive. The plots aren't super complicated, but are fun and things kids will identify with, and overall, they're super delightful. So far there are 4 books in this series.

Target Readers:

  • Animal Lovers, Graphic Novel Fans, Reluctant Readers, Beginning Chapter Book Readers, Lower Grade Readers

Snail & Worm series by Tina Kugler
A friendly duo with laugh out loud antics. Snail is delightfully oblivious, and Tina Kugler is brilliant with his lines. Kids may miss the full humor (though they'll definitely get enough), but adult readers should get even more. Which is really important when adult readers have to last through multiple re-readings. The illustrations are done in panels, so it is kind of a graphic novel. And the illustration style is quite fun. So far these two creepy crawlies have 3 books out.

Target Readers:

  • Beginning Readers, Friendship Story Fans, Humor Fans, Animal/Creepy Crawly Lovers, Adults Desperate for a Little More in the Books They Read Aloud, Graphic Novel Fans, Picture Book Fans