March 5 – It’s International Ideas Month


About the Holiday

The onset of spring with its  wide-open sunny days seems to beckon to us to open our minds to all sorts of new possibilities. Perhaps that’s why International Ideas Month is celebrated in March. This creative holiday invites would-be inventors and clever folk of all stripes to think differently and pay attention to your brainstorms. You never know––there may be a book, a work of art, a new invention, or a solution to a need inside you just waiting to be let out!

I received a copy of The Story of Inventions from Frances Lincoln Books for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

The Story of Inventions: A First Book about World-Changing Discoveries

Written by Catherine Barr and Steve Williams | Illustrated by Amy Husband


It might be said that inventions have been around as long as there was a need. But which invention really got things rolling? That would be the wheel, and that’s where The Story of Inventions begins. The wheel dates back to the Bronze Age––3500 BCE. Laid flat, stone wheels helped potters make pots faster and in different shapes. Wheels for vehicles took longer to be developed.

Once horse-drawn chariots came into being, though, what was one of the first things they were used for? “They bumped across Asia to Egypt, where they carried Egyptian archers into war.” The Romans built roads and suspension and smoothed out the ride. Eventually, rubber tires were invented, highways were built, and tires thick, thin, threaded, large, and small “roll around Earth and rove off-road on Mars.”


Image copyright Amy Husband, 2020, text copyright Catherine Barr and Steve Williams, 2020. Courtesy of Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

Today’s GPS can be traced back to 270 BCE with the invention of the lodestone compass in China. China was also the place where paper had its beginning under a mulberry tree. This first paper, invented in 105 AD, was a messy concoction of mulberry bark mashed up and combined with rags and water. Pressed flat and dried, this early paper was used for wrapping and for writing. Today, of course, paper is used for our newspapers, artwork, and even this book.

Telling time by sundial used to rely on the weather, but as bigger and better clocks were invented—beginning in 725 CE and using some pretty amazing technology—it became easier and easier to make it to school, to the office, to meet friends…. Now there are atomic clocks that, in space, are so accurate they lose “only a second every 15 billion years.” In 850 CE, gunpowder was invented by mistake, but it changed the face of war forever.

Jumping ahead to 1712, “water, wind, and horse power” were replaced when the invention of the coal-powered steam engine revolutionized transportation and how and where people worked. “Today coal and oil still power most electricity on Earth. But these fossil fuels are polluting our skies, so sun, water, and wind are once again being used to help us survive this threatening climate change.”


Image copyright Amy Husband, 2020, text copyright Catherine Barr and Steve Williams, 2020. Courtesy of Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

The invention of vaccinations in 1798, computers in the 1830s, electricity in 1832, the telephone in 1876, the automobile in 1886, and the airplane in 1903, bring us to 1907 and the invention of plastic. With its many traits and uses, plastic “quickly became one of the most useful materials people had ever seen.” But now plastic is “piling up, polluting and poisoning the planet. By recycling and other measures, “we can help wildlife and protect the environment too.”

As World War II raged in 1945, scientists discovered how to split the atom, leading to the development of the nuclear bomb. “Just two nuclear bombs killed hundreds of thousands of people in Japan at the end of World War II. These explosions shocked the world and people everywhere marched for peace to ban the bomb.” Today efforts to keep the world safe from nuclear weapons continues. The relatively recent invention of the internet and today’s focus on nanotechnology are changing the world every day. How will we use them “to care for each other and the planet Earth? One day you may decide.”

A glossary of words used throughout the book follows the text.


Image copyright Amy Husband, 2020, text copyright Catherine Barr and Steve Williams, 2020. Courtesy of Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

Focusing on revolutionary inventions, how they work, and what effect they have had on the earth instead of particular inventors, Catherine Barr and Steve Williams weave together a fast-paced survey of life-changing technologies throughout history. Brief descriptions of each invention follow its trajectory from its development date through improvements over time to today’s version. Fascinating nuggets of information are found within each account and will entice readers to learn more. But this book contains more than just a list of inventions. The thread of a cautionary tale also runs through the text, engaging readers to think not only about how inventions can positively change the world but also to consider their deleterious effects. Highlighting new innovation, Barr and Williams offer the promise of new innovation and invite readers to lend their creativity and voice to finding solutions. 

Through her charming cartoon illustrations Amy Husband takes readers from Bronze Age brick buildings to the surface of Mars, with tours past the Roman Colosseum, down dusty hoof-trodden lanes, along four-lane highways, and even with a pitstop at an electric car charging station. Her ship captains from various eras navigate by the stars, a lodestone, a compass, and GPS. Husband’s detailed images help readers envision early versions of inventions and how they have changed over time as well as the problems that precipitated some inventions. In the case of pollution, plastics, war, and climate change, Husband depicts examples of both the causes and how people are trying to make things better.

Offering a dual way for readers at home and in the classroom to learn about and from inventions of the past and today, The Story of Inventions will spark discussions on and further research into the innovations that have influenced and made modern times.

Ages 5 – 8

Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-0711245365

Discover more about Catherine Barr and her books on her website.

To learn more about Amy Husband, her books, and her art, visit her website.

International Ideas Month Activity


Share Your Bright Idea! Page


Do you sometimes have a lightbulb moment when an idea seems just right? Use this printable Share Your Bright Idea! Page to write about or draw your idea!


You can find The Story of Inventions at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

February 7 – National Periodic Table Day


About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established in 2016 by David T. Steineker, an author, inventor, and – as you might imagine – chemistry teacher at Jefferson County Public Schools in Kentucky. He devised the holiday to honor the work of categorizing the elements begun by John Newlands, who published the first periodic table on February 7, 1863, and continued into the early 20th century as new elements were discovered. While the modern periodic table has undergone few changes since then, new discoveries and different ways of approaching the table may bring fresh changes in the years to come.

Marie Curie (Little People, Big Dreams)

Marie: My First Marie Curie (Board Book)

Written by Isabel Sánchez Vegara | Illustrated by Frau Isa


From the time when Marie was a little girl, she knew she wanted to be a scientist. Marie was very smart. “At school, she won a gold medal for her studies, which she kept in her drawer like a treasure.” Because women were not allowed to go to college in her country, she moved to France to go to the university there. Even though French was not her first language, Marie was soon the top math and science student in Paris.


Copyright Frau Isa, 2018, courtesy of Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

One day Marie met Pierre, who loved science as much as she did. They got married and worked together in their own laboratory, where they discovered radium and polonium. “It was such a thrilling moment for science!” Marie and Pierre even won the Nobel Prize. Marie was the first woman ever to be awarded this honor. When Pierre later had an accident, Marie was left alone to continue their work.


Copyright Frau Isa, 2018, courtesy of Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

All her research and experiments paid off when she was awarded her second Nobel Prize. When war broke out, “Marie’s discoveries were used by doctors to help injured soldiers.” Marie inspired many girls who studied science at her own institute in Paris. Besides science, Marie taught her students that there was nothing to fear, “many things to learn, and many ways to help those in need.”

A timeline and brief, yet detailed biography of her life follows the story.


Copyright Frau Isa, 2018, courtesy of Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

With thrilling recognition that even in the youngest hearts beat future writers, artists, adventurers, designers, and scientists, the Little People, Big Dreams series introduces preschoolers to inspiring women role models. In Marie Curie: Little People, Big Dreams, Isabel Sánchez Vegara reveals the life and work of Marie Curie with straightforward storytelling that illuminates while affirming the intelligence of her young audience. Uplifting, life-determining personality traits that carried Marie over obstacles and to the top of her profession—such as not taking no for an answer, treasuring your accomplishments, working hard, and helping others—are highlighted for little ones to learn from.

Frau Isa’s stylish illustrations in a striking, subdued color palette will entice the youngest readers to listen and learn. While the spotlight is always on Marie, each page also focuses on one or two main images, such as Marie and Pierre’s lab table, a wounded soldier’s X-ray, and Marie holding her Nobel Prize, that help little ones see and understand the important aspects of the story.

Encapsulating both history and the timeless persistence that drives people to achieve their full potential, Marie Curie—available in both picture book and board book editions—is a must for preschool classrooms and would be a rousing addition to home bookshelves.

Ages 3 – 5

Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1847809629 (Picture Book); 978-1786032539 (Board Book)

You can check out more about Isabel Sánchez Vegara on Instagram.

Discover more about Frau Isa and her art on her website.

National Periodic Table Day Activity


Green Pennies Chemistry Experiment


You know what color pennies are! They’re those brownish coins amid all the silver. But what if you could turn those pennies green—like dollar bills? You can with this easy and way cool chemistry experiment!


  • 10 – 12 dull pennies
  • Vinegar
  • Lemon juice
  • Salt
  • 2 small bowls
  • ¼ cup measuring cup
  • 1 teaspoon
  • Paper towels



Experiment 1

  1. Pour ¼ cup vinegar into a bowl
  2. Add 1 teaspoon salt
  3. Mix thoroughly until salt has dissolved
  4. Place a few pennies in the bowl and leave for five minutes.
  5. Take the pennies out and place them on the paper towel.
  6. Let the pennies dry and watch what happens. The reaction becomes more dramatic over time, so check on your pennies at different times throughout the day

Extra Observation:

  1. To see the chemical reaction at work, dip one penny half way into the vinegar/salt solution and wait a minute
  2. Lift the penny out of the solution and see the result


Experiment 2

  1. Fold a paper towel to several thicknesses and place in bowl
  2. Place a few pennies on top of the paper towel
  3. Pour enough vinegar over the pennies to saturate the paper towel
  4. Wait two to three hours and see what happens
  5. You can leave the pennies in the bowl and continue to add vinegar as the paper towel dries. Flip the pennies over to create a chemical reaction on both sides


Experiment with other acids, such as the lemon juice.

Why do the pennies turn green?

Pennies are made of copper. The vinegar and salt solution helps the copper react with oxygen in the air to form the blue-green patina of malachite on the surface of the penny. This chemical reaction is called oxidation. You can see the same green color on other things made of copper like plumbing pipes and many statues—even the Statue of Liberty!

If you’d like to record your observations of your pennies like a chemist does, download and print this lab sheet.


You can find Marie Curie (Little People, Big Dreams) at these booksellers

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

You can find the board book edition, Marie: My First Marie Curie here

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

YouPicture Book Review

December 16 – It’s Read a New Book Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the glassmaker's-daughter-cover

About the Holiday

With so many gift-giving opportunities this month, December is the perfect time to discover new books for any age! The delight, wonder, and shared experiences of great books is one of the best presents you can give. This month visit your local bookstore and pick out a special book for the loved ones on your list. (And don’t forget to treat yourself!)

The Glassmaker’s Daughter

Written by Dianne Hofmeyr | Illustrated by Jane Ray


Have you heard about the wondrous city built on water? “Its palaces floated like birds in nests on the the sea and its lamplight danced like fireflies across the ripples.” In one of these beautiful buildings lived Daniela, the glassmaker’s daughter. You might think that Daniela would be happy to be surrounded by so much loveliness, but instead she spent her days staring glumly into the canal. Her father, wanting his daughter to be happy, offered a glass palace to the person who could make his daughter smile.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the glassmaker's-daughter-venice

Image copyright Jane Ray, 2017, text copyright Dianne Hofmeyr. Courtesy of Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

Right away he had his glassmakers begin construction. “They blew and pulled and pinched the molten glass into sliver-spun walls with pineapple-topped turrets and winged-dragon doors.” Soon people where coming from all over to try to make Daniela smile. First was Maestro Barbagelata, who could breathe fire, swallow swords and snakes, and do tricks on a tightrope. But his performance just made Daniela “gloomier than ever.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the glassmaker's-daughter-glum

Image copyright Jane Ray, 2017, text copyright Dianne Hofmeyr. Courtesy of Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

Next the mask maker Donna Violetta Rufina Zangara arrived with a carriage full of masks made with jewels, birds’ eggs, shells and pearls, and peacock feathers. But Daniela was not enticed by these masks; in fact, they made her “glummer than ever.” Leonardo Leonino Grandi brought his fierce lion, which instead of amazing Daniela caused Leonardo to topple from his gondola into the water. “But even this didn’t bring a smile to Daniela’s lips.”

So many tradespeople, performers, tricksters, and adventurers were sure that they could make Daniella smile, but none of them succeeded. Daniela’s father was at a loss. But down in a corner of the glassmaker’s workshop Angelo thought he knew just what to do. He “longed more than anyone to make Daniela smile.” As he removed the hot glass from the furnace and began blowing it, he whispered, “‘Flux and fire.’” As he laid the glass flat and spread slivers of silver mercury on the surface, he chanted, “‘Mercury and tin,’” As he smoothed the slivers, he said, “‘Foiled and finished. And polished thin,’” When he finished “he sang his secret song again.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the glassmaker's-daughter-glass-palace

Image copyright Jane Ray, 2017, text copyright Dianne Hofmeyr. Courtesy of Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

The other glassmakers scoffed when Angelo told them he was making something that would make Daniela smile. But with his gift carefully wrapped, Angelo went in search of Daniela. When he found her and she saw the glass in his hand, she rejected his gift. But Angelo told her to “‘Look again, Principessa. This is no ordinary piece of glass. It’s different. Look into it.”

Daniela did as she was told, and when Angelo asked her what she saw, Daniela described “a creature with a mouth like an upside-down slice of lemon and the eyes of a cross dragon.” She thought it was the funniest face she had ever seen. And right before her eyes, the face changed. The lips turned up and the eyes began to shine. “Daniela burst out laughing.” As she laughed, the newly made glass palace began to splinter and crack until the “entire palace fell to smithereens.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the glassmaker's-daughter-sword-swallower

Image copyright Jane Ray, 2017, text copyright Dianne Hofmeyr. Courtesy of Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

Daniela’s father promised to build Angelo another palace if he would only tell him how his “magic glass” had made his daughter smile. But Angelo told him that Daniela had changed herself. “‘My glass only reflects what’s already there,’” he said. “‘Happiness is inside all of us. You only have to discover it.’” Daniela agreed, and laughed once more as she peered into the glass. The sound of her laughter set every bell in the city ringing. Men, women, and children began to laugh with her. They danced and played. Even the Grand Doge emerged from his palace to join in the celebration.

So if you hear the bells of Venice ringing, you know that Daniela is laughing, and if you “peep into a looking glass,” you will most likely see a smile on your face too.

A brief and fascinating history of glassmaking and mirror making precedes the story.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the glassmaker's-daughter-mask-maker

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the glassmaker’s-daughter-sword-swallower

Written in the style of classic fairy tales, Dianne Hofmeyr’s story has a very contemporary message—one that is a timely reminder and allows young readers to embrace their power to determine their own happiness. Children may smile at the various attempts to please Daniela, but they—like Angelo—will also appreciate and understand that Daniela was searching not for outward but inward happiness all along.  

Jane Ray’s lush illustrations mirror the colors and atmosphere of Venice, as the performers don carnival masks and costumes, gondolas are poled along the canals, and the dark glassmaker’s workshop glows with molten glass. The delicate and lovely glass palace depicted at the beginning of the story shatters into shimmering shards in a two-page spread which makes dazzling use of iridescent paper accents. This stunning image is a beautiful metaphor for Daniela’s warmth breaking through her seemingly cold and fragile exterior when she finally smiles and laughs.

Ages 4 – 8

Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1847806765

Discover more about Dianne Hofmeyr and her books on her website

Learn more about Jane Ray, her books, and her art on her website.

Read a New Book Activity


I Love to Read Coloring Page


If you love books as much as this little bookworm, you’ll like coloring this printable I Love to Read Coloring Page!

Picture Book Review