August 27 – National Just Because Day

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About the Holiday

Doesn’t that sound refreshing? A whole day devoted to doing things “just because.” As the school year starts up again and the less structured days of summer fade, it’s fun to contemplate what you can do just because you feel like it, it makes you happy, or it’s something nice you want to do for someone else. With no expectations, no directions, and no nagging deadlines, today’s holiday lets you be the captain of your actions and fate! So get out there and do that thing! You might surprise yourself and others—just like the little girl in today’s book!

Sleeping Bear Press sent me a copy of Junk: A Spectacular Tale of Trash to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m excited to be partnering with Sleeping Bear Press in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Junk: A Spectacular Tale of Trash

Written by Nicholas Day | Illustrated by Tom Disbury

 

Sylvia Samantha Wright was awesome at finding stuff. In fact, “on Monday, she found some leaky tires. And some tangled ropes that were underneath the leaky tires. And some old wood that was underneath the tangled ropes that were underneath the leaky tires.” She brought it all home in her wagon and stored it in the garage. When her father wanted to know “‘Why?,’” she told him that she had a plan.

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Image copyright Tom Disbury, 2018, text copyright Nicholas Day, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

On Tuesday, Sylvia found a half-used pack of gum and added it to her stash. Her brother thought it was time for “‘another sister.’” On Wednesday, when Sylvia showed the Mayor the busted pipes, old motors, and empty paint cans she had collected, the Mayor was a bit skeptical about Sylvia’s project. Her next acquisition was a whole wagonload of “polka-dotted party hats from a store that was getting out of the polka-dotted party hat business.” On her way home, Sylvia ran into old Ezekiel Mather, who rarely spoke or smiled. Ezekiel appreciated the hats in Sylvia’s wagon, though, and wanted to know what she was working on.

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Image copyright Tom Disbury, 2018, text copyright Nicholas Day, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Sylvia had to admit that she didn’t quite know. That’s when Ezekiel smiled and said, “‘That’s the best part. The part before you know.’” On Friday, Sylvia and Ezekiel found a dumpster full of half-rotten bananas. Sylvia didn’t know what she’d do with them, but they excited her nonetheless.

On Saturday everything changed. “The water tower sprung a few leaks,” and while the Mayor was setting up buckets to catch the water, she was washed downstream sitting on the playground’s tire swing. Then the main power line crashed, cutting out the security system at the zoo’s “Larger-Sized Animal House.” Out walked an Asian elephant, three hippopotamuses, a group of orangutans, and some capybaras.” On their way through town the elephant pulled up the flag pole—with the Mayor attached.

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Image copyright Tom Disbury, 2018, text copyright Nicholas Day, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

On Sunday, Sylvia went to the Mayor with her wagons loaded with junk and offered her help. “‘I’ve got this,’” she said. And she did! She fixed the water tower, redesigned the power system, and built a new and improved playground. And what about the zoo animals? It seemed a dumpsterful of half-rotten bananas was just the thing to entice them back home. There was just one thing left in Sylvia Samantha Wright’s wagon: polka-dotted party hats. What were those for? “‘For the party, of course.’”

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Image copyright Tom Disbury, 2018, text copyright Nicholas Day, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Nicholas Day’s witty, sequential story is a spirited tribute to those who can see the potential in even discarded things. Sylvia’s confident answers to people’s questions of “why?” will cheer both those children and adult readers who have a secret (or not-so-secret) stash of objects waiting for just the right project. As Sylvia amasses a seemingly disparate array of junk, readers’ suspense will grow as they wonder just how she’s going to use it all. As the out-of-her-depth mayor relinquishes control to Sylvia, kids will cheer as Sylvia Samantha Wright knows all the right solutions.

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Image copyright Tom Disbury, 2018, text copyright Nicholas Day, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Tom Disbury’s charming cartoon-style line drawings instantly make Sylvia a heroine for her astute junk plucking and her plucky can-do attitude. Images of her growing piles of junk will intrigue children, and illustrations of the Mayor riding the rapids on a tire, flailing on a floating log, and clinging to the flag pole add classic slap-stick humor to the story. Those with an artistic and/or a scientific bent will be fascinated with depictions of Sylvia’s ingenious inventions and innovations.

Sure to spark an interest in creativity, experimentation, building, and inventing, Junk: A Spectacular Tale of Trash would be a lively addition to STEM lessons in the classroom as well as a humorous and inspiring read at home.

Ages 5 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585364008

Discover more about Nicholas Day and his writing on his website.

To learn more about Tom Disbury, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Junk: A Spectacular Tale of Trash Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Sleeping Bear Press in this giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Junk: A Spectacular Tale of Trash Giveaway written by Nicholas Day | illustrated by Tom Disbury

To be entered to win, just Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet a giveaway tweet during this week, August 27 – September 2. Already a follower? Thanks! Just retweet for a chance to win.

A winner will be chosen on September 3.

Giveaway open to US addresses only. | Prizing provided by Sleeping Bear Press.

National Just Because Day Activity

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Recycled Crafts & Inventions

 

Look around your house or classroom. Are there boxes, cups, bottles, and other doodads that could be repurposed or reimagined? You bet! Collect as many of these items as you want and put your imagination to work. You’ll be amazed at what you can create—just because!

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You can find Junk: A Spectacular Tale of Trash at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

August 11 – Play in the Sand Day

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About the Holiday

Is there any better way to spend a summer day than playing on a sandy beach? That wet, compact surface is perfect for running on, digging in, and of course building sandcastles with. And the soft, dry areas? Their great for setting up chairs or blankets and wiggling toes in. Whether you head out to the ocean, a lake, or even a secluded river bank, don’t forget to pack a pail and shovel for some family fun!

How to Code a Sandcastle

Written by Josh Funk | Illustrated by Sara Palacios

 

It’s the last day of Pearl’s summer vacation, and she’s hit the beach with her parents. Her goal is to build a sandcastle. It’s not like she hasn’t tried on other beach days, but there was always something that destroyed it. There was the frisbee that landed on top of it, then a surfer glided right into it, and another girl’s dog, Ada Puglace, thought it needed a moat. But today, Pearl brought her robot, Pascal, to build her sandcastle.

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Image copyright Sara Palacios, 2018, text copyright Josh Funk, 2018. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

As Pearl explains, “He’ll do whatever I tell him—as long as I tell him in code. It’s not a secret code—it’s special instructions that computers understand.” Pearl points out the perfect spot on the beach for her sandcastle and tells Pascal to build it. But Pascal doesn’t move. Pearl realizes that she must break down the one big request into smaller problems for Pascal to solve. Easy-Peasy, Pearl thinks.

The first problem Pearl gives Pascal is: “find a place to build.” First Pascal travels out to sea, but Pearl tells him they must build on land. So Pascal rolls out into the parking lot. Hmmm…that’s not right either. Pearl decides she must be “very specific with my instructions.” When she tells Pascal to “find a flat spot on sand that isn’t too close to the water,” he marks an X on a perfect sandy spot. Great!

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Image copyright Sara Palacios, 2018, text copyright Josh Funk, 2018. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

The second problem Pearl gives Pascal is to “gather up sand.” She’s learned to be very particular in her instructions, so she gives her robot a three-step process: “Fill the pail with sand, dump the sand on our spot, pat the sand down.” This works just right, so Pearl continues telling Pascal the directions, until she grows tired of speaking.

There must be a better way, Pearl thinks. How about a loop? Pearl directs Pascal to “loop through this sequence,” and just like that Pascal is off and rolling and Pearl gets to relax. A while later, Pearl discovers that Pascal had built a pyramid-high pile of sand, so Pearl tells him to stop. Next, they will “shape and decorate the castle.” Pearl comes back with pretty seashells to add to the castle, while Pascal brings back the lifeguard—in his chair. Pearl orders Pascal to bring back something smaller. When he comes back with a crab, she tells him it must be something that doesn’t move, and when he shows up with a baby’s pacifier, Pearl knows she must do a better job of explaining.

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Image copyright Sara Palacios, 2018, text copyright Josh Funk, 2018. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

She decides to give him “if—then—else” instructions. With these detailed directions, Pascal returns with a shell and some seaweed. Finally, it’s time to shape the castle. They use their buckets and hands to build a beautiful castle that even has a turret. The shells, rocks, and seaweed are the perfect finishing touches. With the castle finally finished, Pearl runs off to get her toys.

But when she gets back, Pearl discovers that the rising tide has washed their sandcastle out to sea. And to make matters worse, Ada Puglace is back to add another moat. Hmmm… a moat? Pearl thinks. That’s what she needed the first time. Pearl really wants to rebuild, but it took her half a day to make the first one. Then she realizes that the code is already written. All she has to do is use it again. In no time a new sandcastle stands gleaming on the beach.

There’s just one more problem to solve. Quickly, Pearl gives Pascal a new looped sequence to dig the moat. Now it’s time to play—or “code an entire kingdom!”

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Image copyright Sara Palacios, 2018, text copyright Josh Funk, 2018. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

A Foreward written by Reshma Saujani, the founder of Girls Who Code, introduces readers to this organization that is “working to close the gender gap in technology” and get girls of all ages excited about coding and future opportunities in science and technology. 

Pearl and Pascal’s Guide to Coding with brief discussions of Code, Sequence, Loops, and If-Then-Else follows the text.

With his infectious enthusiasm and talent to reach kids in new and innovative ways, Josh Funk, a computer programmer by day and super writer by night, is a perfect guide to the joys of coding for young learners. Taking kids out to the beach for a bit of sandcastle building—an endeavor that is often fraught with dangers—is a terrific way to show the procedures and power of coding. Pearl’s initial missteps in programming Pascal provide laugh-out-loud moments while also demonstrating that computer programs work with precise instructions. Her inexperience but quick learning will give readers confidence in their own abilities to code and where to look for problems if their program does not run as smoothly as they’d like. When high tide washes Pearl and Pascal’s sandcastle out to sea, readers may groan in empathy, but the opportunity to do it all again—only bigger and better—will make them cheer.

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Image copyright Sara Palacios, 2018, text copyright Josh Funk, 2018. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

Sara Palacios’s golden beach is a wide-open and inviting platform to introduce the world of computer programming to young readers. Sunny and enthusiastic, Pearl, in her heart-shaped sunglasses, is persistent and smart in figuring out just how to make Pascal do what she wants. Pascal is a round, rolling cutie, perpetually happy to perform its duties. Series of panels and speech bubbles depict each instruction Pearl gives Pascal, clearly showing readers how coding and a computer’s response to its instructions work. Sequence loops are cleverly portrayed with typeface that creates a circle around Pearl’s floating ring and later around the trench that will surround the castle and become the moat. The final image of Pearl and Pascal celebrating their successful day together is powerful encouragement that a new day of girls and women in technology and science is on the horizon.

Coding a Sandcastle is a motivating combination of lighthearted fun and accessible education that will encourage girls—and boys—to get involved with computer coding just for their own enjoyment or as a future profession. It’s a must for school media and computer class libraries, and with this book on home bookshelves, kids won’t want to just play on the computer—they’ll be asking to program too.

Ages 4 – 8

Viking Books for Young Readers, 2018 | ISBN 978-0425291986

Discover more about Josh Funk and his books and find lots of fun activities to do too on his website.

To learn more about Sara Palacios, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Play in the Sand Day Activity

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Personalized Painted Pail

 

A trip to the beach or park isn’t complete without a pail to collect shells, seaweed, sea glass, pebbles, sticks, nuts, or other things in. But why should all the cool stuff be on the inside? With this craft you can decorate your pail to show your unique personality!

Supplies

  • Plastic or metal pail
  • Craft paint in various colors
  • Crystal Clear Acrylic Coating, for multi-surface use
  • Paint brush

Directions

  1. Paint designs on the pail
  2. When paint is dry spray with acrylic coating to set paint
  3. Let dry

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You can find How to Code a Sandcastle at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

July 20 – National Moon Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday celebrates July 20, 1969, the day when astronauts first walked on the moon. Six hours after landing on the moon with his fellow astronauts, Neil Armstrong climbed down the ladder and stepped onto the moon’s surface. Watched by millions of people on TV, this monumental human achievement ushered in the technical advancements we enjoy today. To celebrate, why not share that historic moment with your child and read up on the people who helped make that mission possible—like the subject of today’s book!

Margaret and the Moon: How Margaret Hamilton Saved the First Lunar Landing

Written by Dean Robbins | Illustrated by Lucy Knisley

 

“Margaret Hamilton loved to solve problems.” When she looked around, she saw many things that made her wonder “why?” Instead of going with the status quo, though, she came up with her own answers. Some things she questioned were why girls didn’t play baseball and why there were so few women doctors, scientists, judges and other professionals. So Margaret joined the baseball team and studied “hard in every subject at school—reading, music, art, and especially mathematics.”

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Image copyright Lucy Knisley, 2017, text copyright Dean Robbins, 2017. Courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers.

From her father who was a poet and philosopher, Margaret learned about the universe. She wanted to know “how the planets moved, when the galaxies formed, and why the stars shone.” She loved to gaze “at the night sky in wonder.” She especially wanted to know more about the moon—how far away is it? How many miles is its orbit around the Earth? What is its diameter?

In school, Margaret found it fun to solve “harder and harder math problems” in algebra, geometry, and calculus. “And then she discovered computers!” She realized that she could use computers to solve so many of her questions about the universe. She began writing code and called herself a software engineer. After starting with simple mathematical problems, Margaret moved on to writing code that “could track airplanes through the clouds,” predict the weather, and perform functions they never had before.

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Image copyright Lucy Knisley, 2017, text copyright Dean Robbins, 2017. Courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers.

In 1964 she joined the team at NASA that was working on sending astronauts to the moon. In writing her code, “Margaret thought of everything that could happen on a trip to the moon.” What if the spacecraft went off course or lost power? What if one of the astronauts made a mistake? Margaret wrote code that could solve all of these problems and more. Soon Margaret was leading a team of her own as “Director of Software Programming for NASA’s Project Apollo.”

She was instrumental in helping Apollo 8 orbit the moon, Apollo 9 hook up with another ship in space, and Apollo 10 come “within nine miles of the moon’s surface.” When NASA was ready to land people on the moon, Margaret wrote the code. She thought of every problem that could arise and included a solution. The printout of her code stood taller than she was.

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Image copyright Lucy Knisley, 2017, text copyright Dean Robbins, 2017. Courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers.

On the day of Apollo 11’s launch, Margaret was in the control room while the world watched on television. It took four days for the spacecraft to reach the moon. Finally, the lunar module, Eagle, separated and was ready to make the landing. But just as it was about to descend, an astronaut flipped a switch that sent the Eagle’s computer into overload.

Had Margaret “prepared for this problem? Of course! Margaret’s code made the computer ignore the extra tasks and focus on the landing.” Slowly the Eagle approached the surface of the moon and touched down. “The Eagle has landed!” Neil Armstrong announced to an amazed audience. In NASA’s control room, everyone cheered. “Margaret was a hero!”

An Author’s Note with more information about and photographs of Margaret Hamilton follow the text.

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Image copyright Lucy Knisley, 2017, text copyright Dean Robbins, 2017. Courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers.

With excellent examples from Margaret Hamilton’s childhood and adult life, Dean Robbins presents an accessible and compelling biography that reveals, from the beginning, Margaret’s curiosity, confidence, and convictions. Robbin’s focus on Margaret’s hard work, her excitement at discovering computers, and her leadership at NASA creates a narrative that is inspirational for all children. His emphasis on positive, affirming events in Margaret’s life is welcome, allowing girls and boys to realize that through dedication and self-assurance, they can achieve their goals just as Margaret—a superb role model—did.

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Lucy Knisley’s bright, supportive illustrations, full of thought bubbles of Margaret’s ideas and wonderings, give readers the kinds of details that will spark their imaginations and help them understand and appreciate Margaret Hamilton’s many gifts and expertise. Images of mathematical problems give way to lines of code, helping children see the connection between what they’re learning at school and future careers. Kids interested in space exploration will be enthralled with the illustrations of the NASA control room and lunar launches.

For kids interested in computer science and other sciences, biographies, and history, Margaret and the Moon is an excellent addition to home as well as classroom and school libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-0399551857

Discover more about Dean Robbins and his books on his website.

To learn more about Lucy Knisley, her artwork, books, and comic, visit her website.

You can launch your own Tic-Tac-Toe Game with this set you make yourself! With just a couple of egg cartons, some crayons, and a printable game board, you’ll be off to the moon for some fun! Opposing players can be designated by rockets and capsules. Each player will need 5 playing pieces. 

National Moon Day Activity

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Out-of-this-World Tic-Tac-Toe Game

SUPPLIES

  • Printable Moon Tic-Tac-Toe Game Board
  • 2 cardboard egg cartons
  • Heavy stock paper or regular printer paper
  • Crayons
  • Black or gray fine-tip marker

DIRECTIONS

To Make the Rockets

  1. Cut the tall center cones from the egg carton
  2. Trim the bottoms of each form so they stand steadily, leaving the arched corners intact
  3. Pencil in a circular window on one side near the top of the cone
  4. Color the rocket body any colors you like, going around the window and stopping where the arched corners begin
  5. With the marker color the arched corners of the form to make legs
  6. On the cardboard between the legs, color flames for blast off

To Make the Capsule

  1. Cut the egg cups from an egg carton
  2. Color the sides silver, leaving the curved section uncolored. (If your egg cup has no pre-pressed curve on the sides of the cup, draw one on each side.)
  3. Color the curved section yellow to make windows
  4. With the marker, dot “rivets” across the capsule

Print the Moon Game Board and play!

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You can find Margaret and the Moon: How Margaret Hamilton Saved the First Lunar Landing at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

July 17 – National Yellow Pig Day

The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdős by Deborah Heiligman and LeUyen Pham picture book review

About the Holiday

Today’s holiday isn’t really about the color yellow or about pigs—it’s about math! Who knew? Well, plenty of people, actually! Mathematicians, college professors, and students spend the day celebrating the number 17 with special problems and yellow pig cakes, songs, parades, and more. The holiday was established in the 1960 when two Princeton University students, David Kelly and Michael Spivak began obsessing over the number 17. And the yellow pig? One story say it’s a reference to David Kelly’s collection of yellow pigs while another goes that the two concocted the idea of a yellow pig with 17 toes, teeth, eyelashes, etc. To celebrate, study up on the prime number 17 and have some more math fun!

The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdős

Written by Deborah Heiligman | Illustrated by LeUyen Pham

 

In Budapest, Hungary a boy is born who loves math. His name is Paul Erdős and he lives with his mother, who loves him “to infinity” just as Paul loves her. When she goes back to work as a math teacher, she leaves Paul with Fräulein, his nanny. Fräulein loves rules and tries to get Paul to sit still, eat all his lunch, take a nap—to obey. But Paul hates rules.

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Image copyright LeUyen Pham, 2013, text copyright Deborah Heiligman, 2013. Courtesy of usmacmillan.com.

At three years of age he teaches himself to count the days until his mother will be home with him 100 percent of the time. Knowing the number makes Paul feel better as his head is constantly full of numbers and what they can do. One day when he is four years old, he meets a woman and asks her two questions—what year she was born and at what time. When the woman tells him, it only takes him a moment to reveal how many seconds she has been alive.

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Image copyright LeUyen Pham, 2013, text copyright Deborah Heiligman, 2013. Courtesy of usmacmillan.com.

He continues to play with numbers, learning more and more about the various types. He decides he will be a mathematician when he grows up. When Paul is old enough to go to school, he once again encounters rules he can’t abide. His mother decides he will be schooled at home, and even though this means more time with Fräulein, Paul considers it the better option.

There’s just one thing – while Paul thinks about numbers, Fräulein and his mother do everything for him. At meals they cut his meat and butter his bread; they dress him, and tie his shoes. When he becomes a teenager, he goes to high school and meets other kids who love math. He and his friends spend all their time doing math and by the time Paul is 20 he is famous around the world for his math equations.

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Image copyright LeUyen Pham, 2013, text copyright Deborah Heiligman, 2013. Courtesy of usmacmillan.com.

There’s just one problem – even as an adult, Paul is so focused on numbers and math that he still doesn’t know how to do basic things for himself. When he is 21 he’s invited to go to England to work. At his first dinner there he stares at his bread and he stares at his meat. What is he supposed to do? With a little experimentation, he figures it out, but he also figures out that he sees the world in a different way.

He doesn’t want a normal life with a family and a house and a regular job. He designs for himself a very unusual lifestyle. Everything he owns fits into two suitcases, and with a little money in his pocket he flies from city to city to do math. He knows so many mathematicians that wherever he goes they invite Paul to stay with them. These families take care of Paul just as his mother and Fräulein had! They do his laundry, cook his meals, and pay his bills.

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Image copyright LeUyen Pham, 2013, text copyright Deborah Heiligman, 2013. Courtesy of usmacmillan.com.

But even so, everyone loves “Uncle Paul!” He brings people together and shares his knowledge. His work in mathematics has given the world better computers, better search engines, and better codes for our spies to use. He was so admired that even now people represent their relationship with Paul by giving it a number – the “Erdős number.” Paul was a unique person who counted numbers and people as his best friends and experienced the world in a way that added up to a very special life.

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Image copyright LeUyen Pham, 2013, text copyright Deborah Heiligman, 2013. Courtesy of usmacmillan.com.

Reading Deborah Heiligman’s The Boy Who Loved Math is a liberating experience. Her biography reveals not just what Paul Erdős did, but the quirky genius he was. It also honors all the people around the world who embraced his personality, allowing Erdős to focus on the work he was born to do. Heiligman’s engaging patter, full of interesting anecdotes, humor, and personality, is storytelling at its best and provides an absorbing look at a very unique life.

LeUyen Pham’s illustrations perfectly complement the text, exposing Erdős’s chafing under rules, his delight in math, and his development from youth to old age. Each fascinating page cleverly represents the way Erdős saw the world as numbers, equations, and geometric shapes appear on buildings, domes, and even in the very air! The text too is infused with numerals and mathematical symbols (“Paul loved Mama to ∞, too!), making this a prime book for any math lover!

Ages 5 – 9

Roaring Brook Press, 2013 | ISBN 978-1596433076

Discover more about Deborah Heiligman and her books on her website.

To learn more about LeUyen Pham, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Mathematics Awareness Month Activity

CPB - Math Mystery Phrase

Totally Cool Mystery Phrase! Puzzle

 

What plus what equals an equation that can’t be beat? You and numbers, of course! Complete this Printable Totally Cool Mystery Phrase! puzzle to discover a coded sentence! Here’s the Solution!

The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdős by Deborah Heiligman and LeUyen Pham picture book review

You can find The Boy Who Loved Math at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

July 8 – Math 2.0 Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday celebrates the merging of math and technology together as the foundation of most of the things we use every day, such as computers, phones, tablets and other electronics. Math and technology are also employed by architects, scientists, researchers, and manufacturers. Math 2.0 Day was established to bring together mathematicians, programmers, engineers, educators, and managers to raise awareness of the importance of math literacy at all levels of education.

 

Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race

Written by Margot Lee Shetterly | Illustrated by Laura Freeman

 

“Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden were good at math…really good.” The United States was involved in World War II, and Dorothy wanted to help the war effort by working for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics to make planes faster, stronger, and safer. Developing new airplanes required lots of tests at the Langley Laboratory in Virginia. Today, we use computers to do the kinds of math needed, “but in the 1940s computers were actual people like Dorothy, Mary, Katherine, and Christine.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hidden-figures-the-true-story-of-four-black-women-and-the-space-race-dorothy

Copyright Laura Freeman, 2018, courtesy of lfreemanart.com.

Even though Dorothy was a woman and an African-American in the segregated South, Dorothy did not think her dream of getting a job was impossible. After all, she was really good at math. She applied and was hired as a computer. At Langley, whites and blacks worked in different buildings and had separate facilities. After the United States won the war, Dorothy stayed on to create better aircraft.

Now America and Russia were in competition to build the best airplanes. This required more math, more tests, and more computers. Mary Jackson was hired at Langley to test model airplanes in wind tunnels. Mary had her sights set on becoming an engineer, but most of the engineers were men. To prepare, Mary needed to take advanced math classes, “but she was not allowed into the white high school where the classes were taught.” Mary didn’t take no for an answer. She got special permission to take classes, got good grades, and “became the first African-American female engineer at the laboratory.”

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Copyright Laura Freeman, 2018, courtesy of HarperCollins.

In 1953 Katherine Jackson was hired for a team who tested airplanes while they were in the air. Her work was to analyze turbulence to make planes safer in dangerous gusts of wind. She wanted to go to her team’s meetings, but she was told by her boss again and again that it was impossible; women were not allowed to attend meetings. At last her persistence paid off, and she became the first woman to sign one of the group’s reports.

When machine computers were installed at Langley in the 1950s, they were faster than the human computers but made many mistakes. “Dorothy learned how to program the computers so they got the right answers and taught the other women in her group how to program too.”

In 1957 Russia launched a satellite into space, ramping up the competition with the United States. Now “the United States started building satellites to explore space too,” and the name of the agency was changed to the National Aeronautics and Space Agency or NASA. Then President John F, Kennedy set a goal of sending a man to the moon. First, however, there would need to be many experiments, new space craft, and tests to send astronauts into orbit. This meant more people who were good at math would be needed.

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Copyright Laura Freeman, 2018, courtesy of lfreemanart.com.

When the first manned space flight was planned, Katherine calculated the trajectory that would take John Glenn into space and bring him home again. In 1967 Dorothy Darden came to work at Langley. She loved electronic computers and wanted to become an engineer. “Her first job was to help with NASA’s mission to the moon.”

When Neal Armstrong stepped onto the moon’s surface for the first time on July 20, 1969, he said it was a giant leap for mankind. “It was also a giant leap for Dorothy, Mary, Katherine, Christine, and all of the other computers and engineers who had worked at the lab over the years.” The moon landing was just the beginning. NASA engineers were already dreaming of trips to other planets and super-fast spacecraft. And although it would be hard and require a lot of numbers, “Dorothy, Mary, Katherine, Christine knew one thing: with hard work, perseverance, and a love of math, anything was possible.”

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Copyright Laura Freeman, 2018, courtesy of HarperCollins.

Margot Lee Shetterly brings her compelling story Hidden Figures to children in this exceptional picture book that skillfully reveals the talents and dreams of Dorothy, Mary, Katherine, Christine as well as the work atmosphere and social injustices of the time period. While acknowledging the struggles and obstacles the four women faced, Shetterly keeps her focus on the incredible achievements of these brilliant women and the positive changes and opportunities for others they created. Brief-yet-detailed descriptions and explanations of math, science, and computer terms flow smoothly in the text, allowing all readers to understand and appreciate the women’s work.

As Dorothy, Mary, Katherine, Christine each begin their work at Langley as young women, Laura Freeman establishes their dreams and their particular field of expertise through richly colorful illustrations that highlight the schematics, tools, equipment, and models they used. In one particularly affecting spread, Dorothy, Mary, Katherine, and Christine go off to their offices on the left-hand side, and their white counterparts head out to theirs on the right-hand side while the blueprint of their building lies under their feet. Dorothy, Mary, Katherine, and Christine’s clothing is also mirrored in color by the women on the other side of the fold. Period dress and electronics show progression through the years, and kids may marvel at the size of early computers. The final image of Dorothy, Mary, Katherine, and Christine as older women is moving and inspirational.

Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race is an outstanding biography of four women who contributed their gifts for math as well as their self-confidence not only to science but to dreamers in their own and future generations. The book would be a stirring choice for classroom and home libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

HarperCollins, 2018 | ISBN 978-0062742469

Discover more about Margot Lee Shetterly and her books on her website.

To learn more about Laura Freeman, her books, and her art, visit her website.

International Women’s Day Activity

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Women in STEM Coloring Book

 

Discover five women who broke barriers  and made important contributions to the science, technology, engineering, and math fields in this printable  Women in STEM Coloring Book created by the United States Department of Energy.

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You can find Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race at these booksellers

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

 

Picture Book Review

May 30 – 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.

Albie Newton

Written by Josh Funk | Illustrated by Ester Garay

 

Albie Newton was something of a prodigy. As a tyke, he retrofitted his stroller into a racecar, tried counting to infinity, and “learned to speak a language almost every week: / English, Spanish, Hindi, Klingon, Gibberish, then Greek.” When he moves to a new town and a new school, his classmates are excited to meet him. Albie is also revved up to start making friends, and he has a plan he thinks the other kids will love.

But as they all settle in to work, “the students noticed Albie was a whiz. / Albie wrote a sonnet while they took a spelling quiz.” During art class, the kids were likewise astounded (and a little dismayed) when, while they scribbled, drew swirls, and made handprints, Albie painted like Van Gogh. When free time rolled around, and some kids played dress up, Albie “sifted through the trash,” to build a science lab, leaving a mess for Arjun to clean up.

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Image copyright Ester Garay, 2018, text copyright Josh Funk, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Then things began to disappear. “Hamilton the hamster tried to run but had no wheel. / Albie needed extra sprockets made of stainless steel.” While Sona and Shirley created paper masks, the glue went missing, and Albie “didn’t even ask.” The wings from Dave’s propeller plane were suddenly broken off, and reading time became impossible when “booming pandemonium descended on the school.” Albie, though, intent on his invention, didn’t notice the trouble he was causing or the crowd of angry kids rushing to complain.

Before they could reach Albie, though, Shirley stopped them, saying “‘maybe Albie didn’t know. Let’s look at what he made.’ Curious, the children headed straight to where he played.” When they say all the inventions Albie had made, they stopped and stared. Albie had made the class a gift—a spaceship, and with the push of a button, an amazing time machine!

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Image copyright Ester Garay, 2018, text copyright Josh Funk, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

With his inimitable style, Josh Funk creates a rambunctious tale of invention and creativity, but one that also has a deeper message about the way some kids see the world and communicate with peers and others. In the first pages, readers are introduced to the precocious Albie, who from birth has demonstrated a talent for learning and doing. When he enters a new school, however, his single focus doesn’t translate into the kinds of social interactions his classmates are used to. Albie gathers materials for his present unaware of the mayhem he’s causing, just as the other kids are unaware of Albie’s real goal. Only Shirley is sensitive to the idea that Albie may not be causing havoc on purpose but for a purpose. Her calming defense of Albie allows the other kids to see Albie in a new light and appreciate his gift—and his gifts.

While Funk’s rhyming verses are focusing on Albie and his actions, Ester Garay’s bright illustrations depict the other kids’ reactions to his talents and also his disruptions. A first hint at how Albie fits in with his new class comes as the kids welcome him with cheer and smiles. Instead of facing them to accept the welcome, Albie is faced away from them, happily imagining the gift he will make for them.

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Image copyright Ester Garay, 2018, text copyright Josh Funk, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Throughout the day, Shirley follows Albie, and as she watches and wonders, her facial expressions demonstrate dismay at some of Albie’s antics but also a growing understanding and acceptance. Garay captures the close camaraderie of a preschool or kindergarten classroom, and her close-up view of Albie toiling away on his invention will have readers eager to see the result. The reveal of Albie’s spaceship time machine and the final spread of the kids frolicking on a distant planet with the likes of Freda Kahlo, William Shakespeare, Amelia Earhart, and a helpful dino, are sure to produce some oohs and ahhhs.

Albie Newton is a doubly impactful story that would be a welcome addition to home and, most especially, classroom bookshelves. It can be read as a boisterous story of innovation for lively story times, but it also provides adults and children an opportunity to discuss the ideas of social interaction and various personalities. Most children know someone like Albie who as naturally quiet, on the spectrum, or singularly focused on one area or another, communicates and socializes differently than others. Reading Albie Newton can help kids better understand different behaviors and, like Shirley, become more sensitive to all their classmates and friends.

Ages 5 – 9

Sterling Children’s Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1454922582

Discover more about Josh Funk and his books as well as find fun activities and lots of resources on his website.

To learn more about Ester Garay, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Check out the Albie Newton book trailer!

Get Caught Reading Month Activity

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Initial Bookends

 

You can keep your books neat and tidy on the shelf with this easy-to-make bookend that displays your talents and personality!

Supplies

  • Wooden letter block in the child’s first initial or both initials
  • Chalkboard paint
  • Chalk
  • Paint brush

Directions

  1. Paint the wooden letter with the chalkboard paint, let dry
  2. With the chalk, write words that your think best describe you on the letter
  3. Display your letter on your bookshelf!

April 14 – National Look up at the Sky Day & Interview with Astronaut Clayton C. Anderson

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Today, I’m honored to speak with retired astronaut Clayton Anderson about a pivotal childhood moment that inspired his life’s work, the challenges of being an astronaut, and his most vivid memories from space.  

What inspired you to make the journey to become an astronaut?

It was Christmas Eve, 1968.  I was nine years old when my parents put my brother and sister and me on the floor in front of a black-and-white TV around midnight. We sat on an old throw-rug gifted from our grandmother to watch humans circumvent the moon for the first time in human history. As I watched the control center team and listened to the flight director bark out commands, I was enthralled. “I need a Go/NoGo for the trans-lunar injection burn… FIDO? GO!  Retro…? GO!  Surgeon…? GO!  GPO…? GO! The entire team was GO! The craft disappeared behind the moon, leaving me to enjoy the rapid-fire chatter no more. It was simple static on our TV… for about 15 minutes. Then, after a couple of non-answered calls from the Houston CAPCOM to the Apollo 8 crew, I heard the quindar tone (famous “space-beep” you hear on TV), and the first words from the Apollo 8 commander, Frank Borman: “Houston, Apollo 8. Please be informed there is a Santa Claus!” That’s all I needed. The bit was set in my mind that one day, I would become a United States Astronaut.

How did your perspectives change while on the International Space Station?

I am a man of faith. Seeing our earth from orbit did allow me to have the “orbital perspective” so many astronauts speak of. However, while I totally agree that this perspective changed my outlook and my willingness to do better with trying to protect and preserve our “spaceship earth,” it strengthened my faith in God much more. The earth and those of us privileged to be on it, is not random. There is a reason why Sir Isaac Newton discovered gravity and invented calculus. There is a reason why Albert Einstein was able to derive the Theory of Relativity. While I am unable to truly explain my rationale, I believe that there is a higher power. A power that created this universe and gave humans an adaptable brain. That incredible gift will continue to enable us to uncover the secrets of the universe, continuing to strengthen my faith.

What was a big challenge you faced during your career?

The dream of flying in space as an American astronaut was something I pursued for many years of my life. To have finally been selected and given that opportunity is incredible. Yet having the “best job in the universe” is not without difficulty. For me, it was family separation. I love my wife and kids more than anyone… on or off the planet.  To have to be separated from them for months at a time was extremely difficult, especially given their ages (6 and 2) when I began my training. It got easier as they grew older, but it didn’t assuage my guilt very much. While I lived my dream, they sacrificed greatly, and I will spend the rest of my life trying to repay them.

What is your best memory from being in space?

It must be my first spacewalk. Poised above the opened hatch, floating in my spacesuit while looking into the abyss of darkness created by the sun’s travel behind the Earth, I was calm. I watched ice crystals fly from behind my suit (they were created by my sublimator… or air conditioning unit) into the total black void of space. The slight pressure still available after the depressurization of the airlock was “pushing” the crystals into the vacuum of space. I was entranced just watching them sail by. When I finally came back to reality—buoyed by the Mission Control call to exit the airlock—I paused for just a moment to contemplate what was happening. The only thought going through my mind was that “…I was born to be here, right now, in this special place, doing this.”

Seeing my hometown from space…for the very first time, is a very, very close second. On that day, when I expected to excitedly capture photos of my Ashland, Nebraska, I had everything prepped and ready to go. Equipment was strategically placed around the U.S. Lab module’s earth-facing window, cameras were Velcroed securely to the wall, with timers set to remind me when to get into position. Finding my home on earth—without all the wonderfully placed lines, borders, squiggly river italics, and large stars designating capital cities—was tougher than I imagined. But when I finally found success, and saw Nebraska rolling into view by virtue of a big gray splotch known as Omaha (and a smaller gray splotch further southwest called Lincoln), the south bend of the Platte River was the last valid vision I had. When I saw my home, nestled there where the river bent, the place where I was raised and where many of my family and friends still reside, I took not a single photo. I simply broke down and cried. Overcome by the incredible emotions of floating weightlessly, as an American astronaut flying 225 miles above the exact spot where I was born and raised, having first dreamed of doing exactly that, was simply too much for me. So, I did what seemed to come to me naturally.  I wept.

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and memories of your incredible career. I wish you all the best with A is for Astronaut and all of your future endeavors as you inspire children and adults to always reach for the stars.

About Clayton C. Anderson

Retired Astronaut Clayton Anderson spent 167 days in outer space, having lived and worked on the International Space Station (ISS) for 152 days and participated in nearly 40 hours of space walks. With a strong belief in perseverance and the importance of STEAM as part of every child’s education, Astronaut Anderson brings his “out of this world” insight to issues faced by children, parents, and educators. 

You can connect with Clayton Anderson on:

His website: astroclay.com | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter. For speaking events and appearances visit www.AstronautClayAnderson.com

You can find A is for Astronaut at these booksellers:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound | Sleeping Bear Press

National Look up at the Sky Day Review

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday hopes to inspire people to slow down and enjoy life’s simple pleasures—like gazing up at the sky and really seeing the beauty that’s there. Throughout the day and night, the sky presents an ever-changing world of color and motion, depth and light. It’s a work of art like no other.  Ever since the earliest times, people have been fascinated with the sky, directed by the stars, and questioning of what lies beyond. Today, we also celebrate those poets, mathematicians, scientists, and especially the astronauts who have explored the sky and brought all of its wonders a little closer.

Sleeping Bear Press sent me a copy of A is for Astronaut to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m also thrilled to be partnering with Sleeping Bear Press in a giveaway of a signed copy of A is for Astronaut and a tote bag. View details below.

A is for Astronaut: Blasting Through the Alphabet

Written by Astronaut Clayton Anderson | Illustrated by Scott Brundage

 

There are some books that just make you say “Wow!” when you open the cover. A is for Astronaut is one of these. Leafing through the pages is like stepping out into a clear, starry night, visiting a space museum, and letting your own dreams soar all rolled into one. When you settle in to read, you discover that each letter of the alphabet introduces both poetry and facts to enthrall space lovers.

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Image copyright Scott Brundage, 2018, text copyright Clayton C. Anderson, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

To get things started, “A is for Astronaut, / the bravest of souls. / They fly into space / and assume many roles. / They pilot, they spacewalk, / and they even cut hair. / But seeing Earth from our orbit— / that will cause them to stare!” A sidebar reveals more about astronauts—even astronaut nicknames!

“B is for Blastoff, a powerful thing! / When those engines are fired, it’ll make your ears ring.” And did you know that two and a half minutes after blastoff, the engines are cut off and everything begins to float? Pretty amazing! Blasting through the alphabet we come to G, where readers learn about our Galaxy that is “shaped like a spiral filled with billions of stars.”

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Image copyright Scott Brundage, 2018, text copyright Clayton C. Anderson, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

How are astronauts able to walk and work in space? “Space Helmets are crucial and H is their letter.” At K kids meet John F. Kennedy, who helped develop the space program, and L is for the Landing that brings astronauts back to Earth. M is for Meteors with their very long tails, and N, of course, is for NASA, which was formed in 1958 with a “goal to better understand our planet and solar system.”

How do astronauts do that? “Working outside in space is sure to impress. / We call it a Space Walk, and its letter is S. / Floating weightless, with tools and a bulky white suit, / we can fix and install things—it’s really a hoot!” And there’s also V for  “Voyager, two NASA space probes. / They are still sending data, / having long left our globe.”

At Z, time is up—that’s Zulu time and “our reference to England, when London’s clocks chime. / As we fly ‘round the Earth, folks must know our day’s plan, / so we all set our watches to match that time span.” 

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Image copyright Scott Brundage, 2018, text copyright Clayton C. Anderson, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Both children and adults who have an affinity for space travel and all things related to astronomy will want to dip into A is for Astronaut again and again. With his wealth of knowledge and engaging voice, astronaut Clayton Anderson presents a book that will have readers starry-eyed and full of the kinds of facts and tidbits that answer questions and spur further discovery. A is for Astronaut can be read through from A to Z for its vivid poetry or explored in small chunks to absorb the fascinating facts included with each letter—or both. Expertly written for kids of all ages, Anderson’s A is for Astronaut is a stellar achievement.

Scott Brundage’s incredibly beautiful and detailed illustrations will thrill space buffs and serious scientists and engineers alike. Readers will love meeting astronauts tethered to their ship while working in space, experiencing the vibrant, mottled colors of a darkened sky or distant planet, and viewing the technological marvel that is the NASA control room. With the precision of a photograph and the illumination of true artistry, Brundage’s images put readers in the center of the action, where they can learn and understand more about this favorite science.

A is for Astronaut is a must for classroom, school, and public libraries and would be a favorite on home bookshelves for children (and adults) who love space, technology, math, science, and learning about our universe.

Ages 5 – 10

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585363964

Discover more about retired astronaut Clayton Anderson and access resources on his website, or follow him on Facebook | Twitter | or Insta. For speaking events and appearances visit www.AstronautClayAnderson.com

To learn more about Scott Brundage and view a portfolio of his publishing and editorial work, visit his website.

Visit Sleeping Bear Press to learn more about A is for Astronaut

National Look up at the Sky Day Activity

 

Show your excitement about all things space-related with these fun activity sheets from Astronaut Clayton C. Anderson and Sleeping Bear Press! 

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A is for Astronaut Fill in the Blanks

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A is for Astronaut Vocabulary Sheet

 

Picture Book Review