November 30 – It’s Picture Book Month

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About the Holiday

For little learners, picture books provide one of the best ways to interact with facts about all kinds of subjects. Loaded with illustrations or photographs that let kids see exciting and beautiful details, nonfiction picture books bring to life science, history, biographies, nature, and so much more of the world around us. This month, take a look for nonfiction picture books about your child’s passions to add to your home library.

Seeing Stars: A Complete Guide to the 88 Constellations

By Sara Gillingham

 

If you have a young astronomer in the family and are looking for a book that will make their eyes twinkle like stars on a clear, dark night, Sara Gillingham’s magnificent guide to all eighty-eight internationally recognized constellations is a must. Combining information on how and where to find each constellation, the fascinating stories and/or myths surrounding them, and stylistically gorgeous illustrations, Seeing Stars offers children and adults not only a resource to use when stargazing, but a sit-down-and-explore beauty to enjoy any time.

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Copyright Sara Gillingham, 2018, courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Seeing Stars opens with brief and illuminating discussions on what constellations are, who invented them, using asterisms and brightest stars to find a constellation, which constellations are visible when and where, and the art of stargazing.  A chapter on the ancient constellations takes in the signs of the zodiac (I’m an Aquarius and learned that the famous water carrier of the sign is none other than Ganymede, who in ancient Greece was “considered the most beautiful man alive…. One day, in the middle of a quiet life tending sheep, Ganymede was snatched by an eagle and taken to Zeus” who put him to work as “the official cup-bearer to the gods.”).

In this section, readers will also find the constellations created from “well-known stories, characters, animals, and sacred objects” as well as the  heroes and gods of Greek mythology. Here, readers learn about Hydra, the water snake. Hydra, the largest constellation, covers one fourth of the sky in a “twisting line” that at one end curves inward to make a “small irregular polygon” that serves as the serpent’s head. She was “so wretched that even her breath could kill someone,” and was vanquished by Hercules in the second of his labors. Pegasus, Persius, Ursa Major and Ursa Minor, and Orion are just a few of the other well-known figures from the ancient world.

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Copyright Sara Gillingham, 2018, courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Next, come the modern constellations mapped by European explorers and named for exotic and even mythical creatures in the late 1500s and 1600s. One of these early astronomers was Elisabeth Hevelius, considered to be one of the first female astronomers. Colorful birds of paradise inspired these stargazers to name a small cluster of stars that “make a line with a narrow V on the end, much like the point of a beak” Apus (from the Greek word apous or “footless”), after some European navigators believed the birds had no feet.

What constellation outlines an animal with a “long neck like a camel and a body that is covered in ‘spots’”? Camelopardalis, of course! Or you may be more familiar with this animal’s more common name: giraffe. Chameleons, doves, dolphinfish, cranes, lizards, lions, and lynx also appear in our skies but there’s room, too, for the more whimsical, like Monoceros – or unicorn – and the phoenix.

Modern constellations also pay homage to invention and discovery. These include Caelum, the chisel, named for an engraver’s tool invented in the 1600s to “carve fine lines into printing plates” for book production; Circinus, the compass; Microscopium, the microscope; Telescopium, the telescope; and Pictor, the painter’s easel.

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Copyright Sara Gillingham, 2018, courtesy of Phaidon Press.

A Resource section provides information on tools for stargazing, eight circular maps that chart the constellations seen from the northern and southern skies over three-month increments throughout the year, an illustrated guide to asterisms, resources for further reading, and an extensive glossary and index.

Each constellation is highlighted with a two-page spread. The left-hand page is attractively divided into four sections that provide an image of the constellation created from lines connecting stars in three different sizes that indicate their brightness, tell where the constellation is found and it’s proportion to other constellations, a circular map that spotlights the constellation among others nearby, and a paragraph on the story or myth surrounding the constellation. On the right, the image of the god, animal, or object that inspired the constellation floats on a midnight-blue background and contains within it the stars that make up the constellation connected to show its shape. The brightest star in the constellation is highlighted.

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Copyright Sara Gillingham, 2018, courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Sara Gillingham’s writing style is knowledgeable and entertaining, opening up the world of astronomy to experts and novices alike with the kind of storytelling that captivates while it teaches.

Special mention must be made of the dazzling cover and dust jacket, which together recreate the depth of the night sky. The shimmering gold cover, splashed with the image of the Milky Way, shines through the tiny laser-cut “stars” on the deep blue dust jacket, making a stunning and interactive introduction to this well-crafted book. Kids will love finding and naming the constellations they see on the cover after reading about them inside.

Perfectly conceived and executed, Seeing Stars is a book the whole family can enjoy and will spark many trips outside to gaze at the stars with new interest and understanding. The book would make a much-cherished gift for astronomers, armchair stargazers, space buffs, and those who love mythology and history. It’s a terrific addition to home, classroom, and public libraries and would be just as at home on the coffee table as on the bookshelf.

Ages 8 – 12 and up

Phaidon Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-0714877723

Discover more about Sara Gillingham, her books, and her art on her website.

Picture Book Month Activity

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Read the Stars Word Search Puzzle

 

Sometimes the constellations can seem hidden among all the other stars. Can you find the names of eighteen constellations in this printable Read the Stars Word Search Puzzle?

Read the Stars Word Search Puzzle | Read the Stars Word Search Solution

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You can find Seeing Stars: A Complete Guide to the 88 Constellations at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

May 26 – It’s Get Caught Reading Month

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About the Holiday

Get Caught Reading Month was established in 1999 by the Association of American Publishers to encourage people of all ages to read more. Authors, illustrators, celebrities, athletes, and others participate by sharing pictures of themselves reading an old favorite or new book on social media. Schools, libraries, bookstores, and community venues hold special programs throughout the month. For more information and to find resources, visit the Get Caught Reading website.

Boats Are Busy

By Sara Gillingham

 

In Sara Gillingham’s beautiful collection of the various kinds of boats that sail our lakes and oceans, she introduces kids to ships, their purpose, and the meaning of maritime flags that captains use to communicate with each other. First up is the Tugboat that helps other ships when they cannot move on their own. Next is the Sailboat. “Sailboats are patient. They wait for the wind to blow their sails and move them in the right direction. If it’s a windy day, they’ll sail away!”

Cargo Ships are the strong movers of the sea that transport goods from place to place and country to country. The crews of Fishing Boats catch delicious food for us to eat. They have lots of equipment on board to bring fish in. The Aircraft Carrier’s so large, they are “like floating airports” where planes take off and land. Some boats even move underwater. These are Submarines. “Submarines are sneaky…. Shhhhh, they’re hiding!”

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Copyright Sara Gillingham, 2018, courtesy of Phaidon.

A long time ago wooden Clipper Ships sailed the seas carrying goods and even pirates. Today, they are  as “floating classrooms.” These Research Vessels “are made for studying different parts of the ocean so that we can understand more about fish or plants or the bottom of the sea.” Many people like to spend their vacation on the water on a Cruise Ship. These enormous ships are like little cities, with bedrooms, restaurants, pools, games, and places to relax.”

Readers also learn about Car Carriers, Ferries, Oil Tankers, Police Boats, Rescue Boats, and Diving Boats. Each boat also flies a maritime flag so that children can learn which ones mean yes and no, signal left and right turns, warn of fishing nets or divers in the water, direct others to stop and listen, say Hello, warn of dangerous cargo, indicate the boat is not moving, signal reversing, tell other boats to stop, and tells that the boat will soon be leaving port.

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Copyright Sara Gillingham, 2018, courtesy of Phaidon.

Sara Gillingham’s welcoming and conversational descriptions will excite kids who love modes of transportation and/or the sea as they learn a few facts about each boat. Her engaging rhythm and well-chosen vocabulary will appeal to a wide range of readers. The text elevates her target audience, understanding toddlers’ and preschoolers’ thirst for learning. After reading Boats Are Busy, kids are sure to happily recognize different boats and be able to recount their new knowledge. Gillingham’s boldly colored pages spotlight each boat with realistic details that clearly show young readers its shape and purpose. Crew members and passengers working and enjoying each vessel also demonstrate the scale of the boats.

Docking Boats Are Busy on home or classroom bookshelves will delight little ones. This sturdy board book also makes a terrific take-along for the beach and other outings.

Ages 2 – 5

Phaidon, 2018 | ISBN 978-0714876719

Discover more about Sara Gillingham, her books, and her art on her website.

Get Caught Reading Month Activity

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Tugs to the Rescue! Matching Puzzle

 

The ships below need help. Match each tug to a ship in this printable Tugs to the Rescue! Matching Puzzle?