October 13 – Celebrating the Book Birthday of Grace Lin’s Storytelling Math Books

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About the Holiday

Today I’m excited to introduce the new Storytelling Math initiative by Charlesbridge with four board books by Grace Lin. Storytelling Math offers books that celebrate children using math in their daily lives as they play, build, collaborate, compromise, and discover the world around them. Each story features characters of color who are empowered to solve problems, enjoy activities, and help out using their knowledge of and experimenting with math. Free downloadable hands-on activity kits are available for each book on the Charlesbridge website. Sharing these joyful stories with your littlest ones and older kids will make them eager to explore, use, and learn more about math every day. You can learn more about Storytelling Math on the Charlesbridge website. And watch this space for more reviews of Storytelling Math books from your favorite authors!

Storytelling Math: Math, Diversity, and the Power of Story was developed with Marlene Kliman at TERC—a nonprofit dedicated to STEM education—under a grant from the Heising-Simons Foundation.

Thank you to Charlesbridge who sent me copies of Grace Lin’s board books for review consideration. All opinions about the books are my own.

What Will Fit?

By Grace Lin

 

Olivia is at the farmers’ market ready to find a fruit or vegetable that will fill her basket just right. The small beet she tries just rolls around in all the empty space. An apple is bigger, but still too small, and a zucchini doesn’t fit any way Olivia tries. After trying another vegetable that isn’t quite right, Olivia spies a display she thinks might just work. “Hmm…how about a pumpkin?” she thinks. She looks them over, chooses one, and puts it in her basket. “Yay! Just the right size!” she exclaims.

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Copyright Grace Lin, 2020, courtesy of Charlesbridge.

Following the story, adults and children can explore math with the included discussion on how kids develop spatial sense. Learning how shapes fit together in different ways is an important concept in science, math, and everyday life. Then Douglas Clements, Kennedy Endowed Chair in Early Childhood Learning, executive director of the Marsico Institute for Early Learning and Literacy, and Distinguished University Professor at the University of Denver, introduces activities that adults can share with kids to build their spatial awareness. Doing puzzles together, matching pairs of socks, shoes, or other items, and fitting a toy to a box are just a few ideas to try. Using special words – such as above and below, inside and next to, and up, down, and between – while doing daily activities teaches kids about positions, orientation, and other special relationships.

Age Birth – 2

Charlesbridge, 2020 | ISBN 978-1623541255

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The Last Marshmallow

By Grace Lin

 

The snow is deep and Olivia and Mei have just come in from building a snowman. They slip out of their boots and warm coats. It’s a perfect time for mugs of hot chocolate—with marshmallows! They make two cups of cocoa and get out “three big marshmallows.” Olivia dunks one marshmallow in her cup. Mei floats one marshmallow in her cup. “There’s one left! Who gets it?” The girls gaze at the marshmallow and think. “I know!” Olivia says. “Pull!” Now the third marshmallow is shared by both Mei and Olivia. “Hooray! Yummy cocoa for both of us!”

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Copyright Grace Lin, 2020, courtesy of Charlesbridge.

“Exploring the Math” back matter reveals that even the youngest children have a sense of what is fair, even before they can count. Sharing can help kids “begin to develop real-world understanding of division and fractions.” Early childhood expert Douglas Clements also provides several Try This! activities to engage children in sharing even and odd numbers of items with two and three people. He reminds adults to listen to a child’s reasoning on how they share and why to discover what they think is fair.

Age Birth – 2

Charlesbridge, 2020 | ISBN 978-1623541262

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Up to My Knees!

By Grace Lin

 

It’s springtime and Mei is planting seeds. With “dirt, water, sun, and time, what will happen?” Soon a plant sprouts! The little stem with its two leaves is just poking out of the ground. Mei notices that “it’s as tall as my toe.” She gives her plant “more water, more sun, more days” to grow. It continues to climb past her knees to her waist. Later, Mei measures her plant again. She reaches out her arm and sees that “it reaches my shoulders!” What does summertime bring? A sunflower that is taller than Mei!”

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Copyright Grace Lin, 2020, courtesy of Charlesbridge.

“Exploring the Math” paragraphs discuss how “young children learn about measurement as they compare the sizes of things around them.” Comparing things to their own bodies helps children make sense of using rulers and yardsticks as they get older. Early childhood expert Douglas Clements presents ideas for encouraging children to measure and compare items in relation to their own knees, arms, hands, etc.; compare lengths; and explain how they can tell, for instance, that a “cracker is wider than their hand.” He also reveals examples of vocabulary words that allow kids to think more deeply than simply “big’ or “small” about items and their measurement or size.

Age Birth – 2

Charlesbridge, 2020 | ISBN 978-1623541231

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Circle! Sphere!

By Grace Lin

 

Manny, Olivia, and Mei are going to blow bubbles! First they stir up soapy water and get three wands. Manny’s wand is a circle, Olivia’s wand is a triangle, and Mei’s wand is a heart. Manny swishes his wand in the soapy water and blows. “My bubble is a ball—a sphere!” he exclaims. Next, Olivia dips her wand into the soapy water and blows through her triangle wand. “What shape will her bubble be? Another ball!” Perhaps Mei will blow a different shape. Come and see! So many bubbles float in the air! Mei, Olivia, and Manny chase after them. Clap…clap…clap. They “Pop! Pop! Pop!”

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Copyright Grace Lin, 2020, courtesy of Charlesbridge.

“Exploring the Math” back matter reveals how children learn about shapes as they explore everyday objects, such as boxes, tubes, and balls. “These kinds of experiences give children a hands-on foundation for later study of geometry.” Douglas Clements then gives parents and caregivers ideas for activities they can do with their children to enhance their math learning of shapes and how they are used. Clements also encourages adults to talk with their children about shapes and provides vocabulary that will give them the words to express their understanding and thinking about shapes.

Ages Birth – 2

Charlesbridge, 2020 | ISBN 978-1623541248

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At their core, each of these board books by beloved author Grace Lin are sweet stories of three friends having fun throughout the year and exploring life through common experiences, which, just as in real life, hold organic connections to math concepts so important to understanding our world. Adults will love sharing these charming books that blend straightforward ideas with lyrical rhythms that will captivate little ones, make them giggle, and entice them to try filling a basket, blowing bubbles, planting seeds, and eating a marshmallow or two (adults will want to get in on that action too!) all while developing an awareness for relationships that will translate into a stronger understanding of math as they grow older, begin school, and proceed through the grades.

Lin’s brightly colored illustrations and adorable depictions of Olivia, Mei, and Manny playing, reacting, and spending time together will enchant little readers. As the three kids ponder dilemmas, readers can clearly see their intelligence and musings in their thoughtful faces. The images are also infused with the excitement of learning and discovery. The page spreads in each book incorporate other aspects of math as well, such as patterns, matching, and shapes plus opportunities for counting, talking about colors, and engaging with science.

Outstanding books to give as gifts for baby showers, new babies, or special events, What Will Fit?, The Last Marshmallow, Up to My Knees!, and Circle! Sphere! would make an often-read and -used set for home bookshelves and are musts to enhance any school and public library board book collection.

You can learn more about the Storytelling Math Books and find downloadable Activity Kits on the Charlesbridge website.

Discover more about Grace Lin and her books on her website.

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You can find The Last Marshmallow at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

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You can find Up to My Knees! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

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You can find Circle! Sphere! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

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You can find What Will Fit? at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

October 12 – It’s National Book Month

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About the Holiday

When children hear, see, and live what’s in the news, they want to know more about the whos, whys, and hows—and they want to know what they can do. Through picture books, middle grade novels, and young adult novels young readers and adults find ways to understand, interpret, and discuss issues in the world today. Many books from picture books on up inspire readers to stand up for others, be a friend, use their talents to help those in need, and make a difference in their own unique way. This month gives readers a great opportunity to discover books that can answer questions, empower children, and make the world a better place for them to grow up in.

This Little Scientist: A Discovery Primer

Written by Joan Holub | Illustrated by Daniel Roode

 

Like the best school career day ever, ten of history’s and today’s greatest scientists line up in front of the chalkboard to talk about their work. First they reveal that secret to their success—the scientific method: “Asking why. Then making a guess. Asking how. Then proving with tests.” First up is Sir Isaac Newton, who discovered gravity. Little ones will learn that he also found the color spectrum and “figured out three rules for how objects move.”

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Image copyright Daniel Roode, 2018, text copyright Joan Holub, 2018. Courtesy of Little Simon, Simon & Schuster.

Next to take center stage is Maria Sibylla Merian, a painter who through her art explained wonders of the insect world, including “how caterpillars turn into butterflies through a change called metamorphosis.”

Even the youngest readers may recognize Albert Einstein with his disheveled white hair. They’ll be amazed to learn that he devised a formula to explain how “energy and mass are the same thing in different forms.” He also found that nothing is faster than the speed of light.

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Image copyright Daniel Roode, 2018, text copyright Joan Holub, 2018. Courtesy of Little Simon, Simon & Schuster.

Katherine Johnson can look back on a stellar career as a mathematician who “solved hard math problems on paper” before computers were used “so that space heroes like John Glenn could safely orbit the Earth.” Kids who love animals will want to meet Jane Goodall who “studied chimpanzees / and made friends with them / among Africa’s trees.” And starry-eyed kids who look to the skies will want to hear about Neil deGrasse Tyson, the director of the Hayden Planetarium who “helps us understand / how our universe works / and how it began.”

Four more scientists step up to tell their stories. To close out the book, little readers will find a double-spread portrait gallery of seventeen more, complete with one-sentence descriptions for their contribution. Readers will find that the final frame has been left open for… them?

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Image copyright Daniel Roode, 2018, text copyright Joan Holub, 2018. Courtesy of Little Simon, Simon & Schuster.

Joan Holub distills the scientific method and the biographies of ten influential scientists into short, clear nuggets of information that even the youngest readers can appreciate. A four-line rhyming verse introduces the scientist on the lefthand side while one or two facts on the right-hand side expand on their work. The engaging tone and variety of sciences and scientists represented will entice discoverers-in-the-making to learn more.

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Image copyright Daniel Roode, 2018, text copyright Joan Holub, 2018. Courtesy of Little Simon, Simon & Schuster.

Daniel Roode cartoon-inspired but readily recognizable portraits of each scientist will charm readers as each is portrayed working with the subject of their experiments or set on a backdrop of their specialty. Clothing and hairstyles give kids a sense of each scientist’s place in history. Roode’s vibrant colors and dynamic illustrations in addition to the bright smile each scientist wears celebrates the sciences while applauding the discoveries made by women and men dedicated to advancing knowledge and creating the future.

For little ones who are curious about the world around them and how it works, This Little Scientist: A Discovery Primer, part of the This Little series, which includes This Little Explorer, This Little President, and This Little Trailblazer, is a smart, innovative choice for home, classroom, and public library shelves.

Ages 3 – 5

Little Simon, Simon & Schuster, 2018 | ISBN 978-1534401082

Discover more about Joan Holub and her books on her website.

National Book Month Activity

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Experiment!

We all know that cooler weather means shock season will soon be here. But you don’t have to wait until the fuzzy socks and fleecy blankets come out to have some fun with static electricity. Using a blown-up balloon can be a dramatic way to show kids what’s going on with the electrons that are at the center of this phenomenon.

Babies and young children should be supervised by an adult while playing with balloons.

How does it work? Static electricity is generated when there is an excess of electrons on one object giving it an electric charge. These electrons are attracted to an object with fewer electrons and will jump to it when placed close by.

How do you produce static electricity? Just rub the blown-up balloon on your shirt, on your hair, on a blanket or other surface. Then try these experiments!

CRAZY HAIR

Generate static electricity on a blown-up balloon then hold it near your hair and watch it go a little crazy!

HANG A BALLOON

Generate static electricity on a blown-up balloon and gently place it on the wall and watch it hang all by itself.

BEND WATER

This bit of balloon magic will amaze you! Generate static electricity on a blown-up balloon. Turn on a faucet to a thin stream of water. Hold the balloon near the stream of water and watch it bend toward the balloon. 

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You can find This Little Scientist: A Discovery Primer at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review