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

 

December 12 – Celebrating Read a New Book Month with STEM

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About the Holiday

Today and tomorrow I will be celebrating Read a New Book Month with books that present the excitement and wonder of science through familiar activities and objects. Introducing young children to the way things work in nature and through engineering helps them make sense of what they see and experience in their everyday life. Books like these make great gifts not only for science buffs but for all kids!

Physics Animated

Written by Tyler Jorden | Illustrated by Elsa Martins

 

From that moment when Isaac Newton was hit on the head by a falling apple, people have been fascinated with physics. In this clever and interactive board book, young readers can learn about Newton’s three laws of physics through wheels to spin, tabs to pull, and elements to push that introduce “big words” and other vocabulary that budding scientists will be proud to learn. Examples for each law come straight from a child’s day of play or experience to make them easily understood. Children will also be able to apply the knowledge they gain within these pages to other activities they perform every day.

Readers meet Isaac Newton as “a man who liked to watch the world around him. He noticed that everything could be explained by three simple laws.” While Newton ponders, he gazes out of a window where children can move a wheel to make birds fly in the air and fish swim in a lake. Newton’s first law—inertia—is introduced with a simple sentence that “an object will stay still unless something pushes or pulls on it.” Accompanying this explanation is an image of a boy kicking a ball to his dog. A wheel allows children to move the ball from the boy to the dog.

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Image copyright Elsa Martins, 2019, text copyright Tyler Jorden, 2019. Courtesy of Familius.

The second part of the law of inertia, which states that an object in motion will keep moving until something stops it, is demonstrated through a tab that moves a sliding sled with two little girls aboard into a fluffy snowbank. For Newton’s second law—force = mass x acceleration—kids help out a bicycle rider, and the force of gravity is accomplished as kids pull a dropped ice-cream scoop toward the ground.

How can we stand firmly on the floor or ground? That question is answered by Newton’s third law that states “when you push on something, it pushes back just as much.” So when we stand on the floor, “our feet push on the floor, and the floor pushes back on us.” Examples of this law are buoyancy, centrifugal force (for which readers push the wheel to send two roller coaster riders around the loop-de-loop), centripetal force (demonstrated with a swing that kids can push back and forth), lift, and thrust. Thrust is depicted with a rocket ship blasting off into space. As readers pull up on the tab to launch the rocket, they’re sure to feel their own scientific understanding soar.

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Image copyright Elsa Martins, 2019, text copyright Tyler Jorden, 2019. Courtesy of Familius.

Tyler Jorden’s easy-to-understand definitions of Newton’s laws are just right for readers learning vocabulary that will help them to recognize their own activities as they play and work around the house as well as to comprehend these scientific concepts when they get to school. When terms and ideas like these are introduced at an early age, they can become as familiar as actions, such as push, pull, drop, and slide, that they describe. Jorden’s pages give adults excellent examples to begin discussions and of these concepts that can lead to fun, hands-on learning.

Elsa Martins’ colorful interactive illustrations take kids out to the park, a snow-covered hill, a bike trail, a schoolyard, a lake, an amusement park, and into the sky where they can make the natural forces and Newton’s laws work for themselves. Martins’ choices of images allow for in-depth discussions as readers pull and push the wheels and tabs. For instance, the biker who accompanies Newton’s second law can “pedal” faster or slower depending on how quickly the tab is pulled, letting kids and adults talk about things such as the rate of pedaling, if the rider was carrying a heavy backpack, and if the biker was going up or down a hill. The adorable children on each page make for fun friends to join on this scientific exploration.

As enjoyable and entertaining as it is educational, Physics Animated will get young readers excited about learning and make them proud to know about such “grown-up” topics. (They even get to drop that apple on Isaac Newton’s head!) Sure to spark lots of experiments, the book would be a wonderful addition to home, classroom, and public library collections. 

Ages 4 – 7

Familius, 2019 | ISBN 978-1641701327

To learn more about Elsa Martins and view a portfolio of her art, visit her website.

Read a New Book Month with STEM Activity

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Get Moving with Newton’s Laws! Word Search Puzzle

 

Find the seventeen words associated with Isaac Newton’s Three Laws of Motion in this printable word search puzzle.

Get Moving with Newton’s Laws! Puzzle | Get Moving with Newton’s Laws! Solution

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You can find Physics Animated at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

February 7 – National Periodic Table Day

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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!

Supplies

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

Directions

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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

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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

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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.

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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