October 13 – National Fossil Day

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About the Holiday

Did you know that some fossils date back to 4.1 BILLION years ago? Just think of that the next time you’re feeling a little bit old (or so recommends the website National Today). Today we celebrate National Fossil Day to recognize the importance (and, well, awesomeness) of paleontologists, geologists, and fossils in providing us with information on the history of our earth and those who have inhabited it before us. ​National Today provides some further information, with a timeline of fossil history, and fun facts like this one: The highest amount ever paid for a dinosaur fossil was $8.3 million (they named it “Sue”).

To celebrate National Fossil Day, check out National parks near you, learn more about fossils, do something to help protect the earth, read some books about evolution—like Chicken Frank, Dinosaur!—or visit the National Parks page for more information and resources on how to celebrate our geologic heritage.

Thanks to Albert Whitman & Company for sharing a copy of Chicken Frank, Dinosaur! with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Review by Dorothy Levine

Chicken Frank, Dinosaur!

Written by S.K. Wenger | Illustrated by Jojo Ensslin

 

If you ask Chicken Frank he’ll tell you, “I’m a dinosaur! Cluckity-roar!” But the other barnyard animals aren’t so sure. Everyone is puzzled by this evolution thing Frank keeps talking about (“Evo-what?”). Chicken Frank tries to explain, “Evolution! Change! Change happens over time so we can survive.” He takes a stick and draws lines of lineage, connecting crocodiles to plant-eating dinosaurs and eventually birds. “From a dinosaur. See?” But the other animals don’t see it: “I see a chicken who was a chicken five minutes ago,” a sheep says. “I see a chicken who’s been a chicken since he hatched,” a pig chimes in.

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Image copyright Jojo Ensslin, 2021, text copyright S. K. Wenger, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Chicken Frank then presents different types of evidence to try to convince the farm that birds evolved from dinosaurs. He points out his feet look like those of T. rexes, to which another chicken looks at the readers and says, “More like T. crazy.” Frank explains that feathers evolved from dinosaur scales, and that both dinos and chickens had little tails when they were embryos. Other animals start wondering if they come from dinosaurs, since they have tails too. So, in a last straw attempt, Chicken Frank returns to his mud lineage map once more.

He shows how fish, amphibians, reptiles and mammals come from different branches in the evolutionary tree. Birds, however, branch off from reptiles. Nobody is convinced, and pig, sheep, and horse turn their attention to pretending to be unicorns with carrot horns instead. But then, the results from Frank’s DNA test arrive. The data shows Chicken Frank has a reptilian cousin: Crocodile Ike.

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Image copyright Jojo Ensslin, 2021, text copyright S. K. Wenger, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Chicken Frank decides to send a post card to his cousin Ike inviting him to come for a family reunion, much to the dismay of everyone. A crocodile and a chicken in the same place? Seems like a recipe for disaster…and maybe some chicken franks too. And while Crocodile Ike and his mom are first tempted to gobble Frank up, they take some time and study his charts. And, to everyone’s surprise, they get it! “One of us isn’t a dinosaur… But we’re both Archosaurs! KINGS of the dinosaurs! Roar!” Ike tells Frank. Ike’s mom wonders who else they may be related to, so Frank starts a letter to an even further distant cousin—the sharks!

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Image copyright Jojo Ensslin, 2021, text copyright S. K. Wenger, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

They all decide to take a trip to the aquarium, where the pig, sheep, and horse are delighted to find “a swimming unicorn!” (a narwhal), and Crocodile Ike exclaims, “family!” Chicken Frank happily agrees and adds, “Ours is the very best.”

The story is followed by five informational sections: “What Is DNA?”, “What Is Evolution?”, “Is Chicken Frank Really Related to T. rex?” “Similarities Between Dinosaurs, Chickens, and Alligators”, and “Frank’s Glossary of Favorite Animal Groups” Each of these sections provide in-depth scientific explanations for those who want to know a bit more about how it all works. S. K. Wenger masterfully explains each of these concepts at an advanced level that is clear to read and understand for readers of a wide range of age and abilities.

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Image copyright Jojo Ensslin, 2021, text copyright S. K. Wenger, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

A joyous read, with important concepts about evolution scattered in with the fun. This comic-style picture book will have kids laughing out loud at the farm animals’ speech bubble puns and jokes. S. K. Wenger (and Chicken Frank) explain concepts of evolution in easily digestible terms for readers of all ages. The story is quick-paced and intriguing, with distinct characters and a quirky humor. A must-read for all kids, especially those with a fondness for dinosaurs.

The story would not be nearly as fun or educational without Jojo Ensslin’s colorful, cartoon-like drawings. As Chicken Frank explains his evolutionary reasoning, Ensslin depicts the ideas clearly and closely juxtaposed. For example, when Frank talks about how his feet match those of a T. rex, kids see both feet on the same page. Likewise, a scaled dinosaur and an ancient bird are portrayed on the same blackboard.

Later, when Ike receives the postcard from Frank in a muddy swamp, swarming with crocodiles, and calls out, “Does anyone know a cousin named Frank?” little speech bubbles with “Nope!” scatter the swamp, prompting kids to join in. In a carved-out corner, a close-up view of Ike and his mom show their evil plans to crash the reunion with some chompers. The facial expressions of each of the animals add to their characters and the humor of the story. Many carefully placed illustrative details add to the plot in meaningful and silly ways, such as, the DNA Test Kit shown the page before the story begins and the large bone Chicken Frank stores in his coop; the illustrations and text come together to create a read-aloud that is enjoyable to all.

Creative nonfiction at its best, Chicken Frank, Dinosaur! is both a hilarious story and a highly engaging way to explain evolutionary science in a way kids will respond to and remember. Sure to spark an interest in further science learning, the book is highly recommended for home bookshelves and a must for school and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 7

Albert Whitman & Company, 2021 | ISBN 978-0807511411

Discover more about S. K. Wenger and her books on her website.

To learn more about Jojo Ensslin and view a portfolio of his illustration, animation, and woodcout work, visit his website.

National Fossil Day Activitycelebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-chicken-frank-dinosaur-national-park-service-dinosaur-coloring-pageDinosaur Coloring Pages

 

Enjoy these four dinosaur coloring pages from the National Park Service’s free prehistoric coloring book in honor of National Fossil Day!

Dinosaur Coloring Pages

For more, you can download the whole coloring book from the National Park Service here.

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You can find Chicken Frank, Dinosaur! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

October 7 – It’s National Book Month

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About the Holiday

This month-long holiday was established to get families excited about reading. As the weather turns cooler and activities turn indoors, reading together is a wonderful way to spend time laughing, learning, and making memories. Small children love being read to—and so do older kids! Sharing board books, picture books, and chapter books with younger readers opens up new worlds of imagination, feelings, and discovery. Taking the journey of a novel, graphic novel, or biography together with tweens and teens can provide inspiring, emotional, funny, and bonding moments that last a lifetime.

Thanks to Millbrook Press and Barbara Fisch at Blue Slip Media for sharing a copy of Who Is a Scientist? for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Who Is a Scientist?

By Laura Gehl

 

Do you love science and think that maybe you’d like to be a scientist when you grow up? But do you also love to dance or surf to paint or bake? Maybe you like to play soccer or ride a motorcycle or you’re considering getting a tattoo like your mom or dad and you think that none of those are things a scientist would do. Maybe you think of scientists as a little bit stuffy with their white coats and endless graphs. Well, think again!

In Who Is a Scientist? Laura Gehl introduces you to fourteen scientists who smash those ideas. And what’s more they’re involved in some pretty fascinating and life-changing sciences and projects that you may never have heard about before but that may inspire you. For example, you’ll meet Isha M. Renata López who works as a meteorologist but “also loves to dance, play volleyball, and eat chocolate.” What’s great about her job? She alerts people to changes in the weather, and when a big storm, blizzard, hurricane, or tornado is coming, she works with emergency crews, the media, and the local government to make sure everyone knows so they can stay safe.

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“Jagmeet Kanwal studies bats and zebrafish to help figure out how the human brain makes decisions.” He’s also working to discover “how our brains allow us to hear different types of sounds.” He’s hoping to be able to “help people with depression, Parkinson’s disease, and memory loss.” What else does Jagmeet like to do? He’s also a painter and nature photographer.

If you like math, you may want to become a mathematician like Mark Lewis, who studies operations research during work hours and enjoys playing basketball in his off time. This kind of science “uses math to help business make good decisions” that affect consumer, such as how long people wait in line, how much items cost, and how transportation can move faster.

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Perhaps you’re interested in health and medical research like Tishina Okegbe whose work makes sure that mothers, babies, and children in Africa and Asia “have access to high-quality health-care services. In her free time, Tishina likes “visiting new places, belly dancing, and eating pizza and ice cream.”

Whether you’re interested in food systems and farming, how the brain works, the environment, space, dinosaurs, or computers, the scientists will inspire you to enjoy all of your passions. In fact, the extracurricular activities you enjoy the most may just lead you to a career you’ll love. The definition of who and what a scientist is broad and exciting as you’ll see when you meet these men and women who are changing the world while being themselves.

Back matter includes a QR code that readers can scan to view a video in which each profiled scientist introduces themselves. There’s also a flow chart that can lead kids to the type of scientist they might want to be or at least research further based on their interests.

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Laura Gehl’s engaging and inspiring look at a variety of scientists and their disciplines will get all kids excited about the wide range of work going on around them and the people who make it happen. Her profiles of these thinkers, activists, and active members of their communities show kids that they don’t need to be defined only by their career and that scientists—who are needed now more than ever—are a diverse group and welcoming to all. Each profile is accompanied by photographs of the scientist in their lab or other work environment as well as action shots of them enjoying their off time in their favorite pursuits.

A smart, inviting, and educational introduction to the people who are helping to make the world a better place through science and other STEM-related fields, Who Is a Scientist? is sure to inform readers on the wide-range of specialized work that falls under the umbrella of science and spark their interest in learning where they may fit in. The book is highly recommended for home bookshelves and is a must for classroom, school, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 9

Millbrook Press, 2021 | ISBN 978-1728441085

Meet the scientists in this Who Is a Scientist? Book Trailer!

One Question with Laura Gehl

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Laura Gehl is the author of more than a dozen books for children, including One Big Pair of Underwear, Except When They Don’t, the Peep and Egg series, and the Baby Scientist and Brilliant Baby board books. In addition to being an author, Dr. Gehl has a PhD in neuroscience and is the mother of four children. She lives with her family in Maryland. 

You can connect with Laura on her Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Hi Laura! I loved reading your book and getting to know some of the scientists working today. I also enjoyed seeing how some of their other interests are reflected in their work while others are great ways to relax and play—definitely something kids can relate to!

I was wondering if or how a previous job (or jobs) has influenced your writing and the kinds of books you write. 

I used to work in a neurobiology lab, and I also used to teach science. Both of those jobs made me want to write books about science and scientists! When I taught science, I realized that very few kids had met a real scientist or had read about any scientists more recent than Albert Einstein or Marie Curie. Flash forward twenty years and my new photo-illustrated picture book Who Is a Scientist? features fourteen real scientists working today in different fields from astronomy to entomology to paleontology. While the book talks about the fascinating work these scientists are doing, it also talks about the other things the scientists love…like dancing, soccer, junk food, watching movies, and playing with their pets. I hope this book helps kids realize that scientists are just like them—curious people with lots of different passions who like to ask and answer interesting questions.

Thanks, Laura! Through your books you’ve found a perfect way to share your love and knowledge of science with kids! I wish you all the best with Who Is a Scientist?!

You can find a Teacher’s Guide to Who Is a Scientist? and her other books on Laura Gehl’s website here.

National Book Month Activity

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Static Electricity Experiment!

 

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

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

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

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

CRAZY HAIR

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

HANG A BALLOON

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

BEND WATER

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

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You can find Who Is a Scientist? at these booksellers. Due to shipping delays, preorders are now being taken.

Amazon | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

August 31 – It’s National Inventor’s Month

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About the Holiday

Established in 1998 by the United Inventors Association of the USA, the Academy of Applied Science, and Inventors’ Digest magazine, this month-long holiday celebrates the imagination and talent of individuals who dare to think differently and create new products, services, and ways of doing things that make a positive contribution to the world. To join in, enjoy your favorite new inventions, and if you harbor dreams of being an inventor—on a large or small scale—look for opportunities to share your ideas.

Who Invented This? Smart People and Their Bright Ideas

Written by Anne Ameri-Siemens | Illustrated by Becky Thorns

 

When you jump in the car or turn on a lamp, the idea that these were someone’s inventions (and even the names Henry Ford and Thomas Edison) may flash through your mind. But what about when you slurp up delicious Raman noodles, watch your pet fish through the aquarium glass, or squeeze out the last bit of toothpaste in the tube? In Who Invented This? Anne Ameri-Siemens introduces young readers to the brilliant minds behind some of the things we use every day.

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Image copyright Becky Thorns, 2021, text copyright Anne Ameri-Siemans, 2021. Courtesy of Little Gestalten.

Take bicycles, for instance. You’ve probably seen pictures of those old bikes with a huge front wheel and a tiny back wheel. Was this the first bike? Not at all! Ameri-Siemens reveals that the first bicycle—called a “running machine”—had two wheels but didn’t have pedals. Invented by Karl von Drais in 1817, it had a steering bar in the front and was powered by the rider sitting on the seat and “running along the ground.” It may seem comical, but this invention led to more and more improvements until Pierre Michaux designed the first bike with pedals in the 1860s. You can read about all of the advancements in bikes and the other products it inspired too.

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Image copyright Becky Thorns, 2021, text copyright Anne Ameri-Siemans, 2021. Courtesy of Little Gestalten.

As long as we’re talking about things that transport people here and there, have you ever thought about what drivers did before there were modern traffic lights? While the idea of indicating “stop” and “go” in red and green is universal across the world, the use of yellow for the transition came later from American policeman William Potts. “The first traffic lights in the world were built in London in 1868.” But they weren’t automatic. A policeman standing in the road had to move arms up and down to regulate the flow of traffic. “At night the arms were lit up in red and green.” Readers will find out more about how traffic lights progressed as well as how the timing of stop and go is controlled.

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Image copyright Becky Thorns, 2021, text copyright Anne Ameri-Siemans, 2021. Courtesy of Little Gestalten.

Sometimes inventors get their ideas from nature—this is called bionics—and kids will learn how George de Mestral was ingeniously inspired by those sticky burrs that cling to socks to create a product most of them use all the time. There are other everyday products that are so important that they were invented long, long, long ago. One of these? Toothpaste! While Washington Sheffield invented the first smooth paste in 1850 by adding glycerin to the powder then used—“a mixture of pumice stone, powdered marble, grated oyster shells, ashes, peppermint oil or sage, and some soap power”—and his son realized the toothpaste could be packed in tubes like artists’ paints instead of sold in foil bags, prehistoric humans also brushed their teeth. Kids will be fascinated to learn more about the history of this morning and nighttime routine and even examples from the animal kingdom.

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Image copyright Becky Thorns, 2021, text copyright Anne Ameri-Siemans, 2021. Courtesy of Little Gestalten.

Readers will be excited to learn about these inventions and many more that make up the fabric of our everyday lives and were conceived by talented inventors, scientists, and engineers. Some are the result of teamwork while some are the product of many years spent alone in a laboratory or even simply chance. In all, kids learn about 34 inventions that fall into diverse categories from transportation to communications, clothing to food, music to science and high-tech marvels.

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Image copyright Becky Thorns, 2021, text copyright Anne Ameri-Siemans, 2021. Courtesy of Little Gestalten.

Anne Ameri-Siemens’ conversational and engaging text will captivate readers interested in learning about how the world they know came to be. Ameri-Siemen’s storytelling beautifully balances the scientific and personal details of each invention to deliver compelling profiles. Interesting asides on each page reveal more about the inventions and the people who created them.

Accompanying each subject are Becky Thorns’ eye-catching illustrations that depict not only the invention but its creator or creators as well as how it is used or where it can be found. Thorns also employs clever ways to connect images on a page-spread that reinforcing their purpose and history. Each page spread offers plenty of ideas to spur research projects or extended lessons for classrooms and homeschoolers.

Packed with information on products, ideas, world-changing inventions, and the brilliant minds behind them, Who Invented This? Smart People and Their Bright Ideas will fascinate kids and spark an interest in further research, science, engineering, and technical studies. The book is highly recommended for young inventors, history buffs, and other creative thinkers as well as for classrooms and school and public library collections.

Ages 9 – 12 and up

Little Gestalten, 2021 | ISBN 978-3899551334

To learn more about Becky Thorns, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Inventor’s Month Activity

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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!

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You can find Who Invented This? Smart People and Their Bright Ideas at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

August 10 – Celebrating Inventors Month with Laurie Wallmark

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Award-winning author Laurie Wallmark has written picture-book biographies of women in STEM fields ranging from computer science to mathematics, astronomy to code breaking. Her books have earned multiple starred reviews, been chosen as Junior Library Guild Selections, and received awards such as Outstanding Science Trade Book, Cook Prize Honor, and Parents’; Choice Gold Medal. She is a former software engineer and computer science professor. She lives in Ringoes, New Jersey. (Photo credit Jeanne Balsam)

You can connect with Laurie Wallmark on her website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Thanks so much, Laurie, for stopping by to celebrate Inventors Month with me! Since this holiday recognizes innovators of the past and present, it seems a  perfect fit for your books that teach kids about amazing women whose inventions or inventive ways of thinking have changed our understanding of math, computers, communications, and even secret codes. 

Your love for these subjects and depth of research lead to compelling biographies. Reading them, I’ve often wondered whether a previous job has influenced your writing and the kinds of books you write. 

For many years I was a software engineer and, after that, a computer science professor. Not surprisingly, my first two women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) picture book biographies were about computer scientists, Ada Lovelace and Grace Hopper.  

The same love of math and science that led me to these careers also led me to want to encourage children’s interest in these fields. And what better way to do this than through books? I now have three more picture book biographies of women mathematicians and scientists out, the latest being Code Breaker, Spy Hunter: How Elizebeth Friedman Changed the Course of Two World Wars, with two more on the way.  

But it’s important not to fall into a rut in your writing, so my next title, coming out in October, is Dino Pajama Party. Because of my interest in STEM, people have asked me if it’s nonfiction. Um, no. But who knows? Maybe reading a fun, rhyming picture book about dinosaurs will encourage a child to grow up to be paleontologist. 

I’m sure readers are as thrilled as I am to hear that you have two more STEM-related books coming out! I’m really looking forward to seeing who they’re about! And what could be better than dinosaurs partying in pajamas?! What a terrific way to send little one’s off to bed.

The Latest Books from Laurie Wallmark

 

I’m excited to share a little bit about Code Breaker, Spy Hunter: How Elizebeth Friedman Changed the Course of Two World Wars and Dino Pajama Party.

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Code Breaker, Spy Hunter: How Elizebeth Friedman Changed the Course of Two World Wars

Written by Laurie Wallmark | Illustrated by Brooke Smart

 

In Code Breaker, Spy Hunter: How Elizebeth Friedman Changed the Course of Two World Wars, readers open the cover to an intriguing question: “Could it be? Had enemy spies sneaked into the United States?” World War II was raging, but the United States had not yet joined the effort. And yet the “FBI had intercepted hundreds of coded messages from a secret base in New York.” The problem was no one could read them. Who did the FBI turn to? Elizebeth Smith Friedman, who broke the codes, discovered a cadre of Nazi spies, and provided the evidence “to send thirty-three German spies to prison.”

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Image copyright Brooke Smart, 2021, text copyright Laurie Wallmark, 2021. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Elizabeth’s career in code breaking began in an unusual way: through her love of Shakespeare. In 1916, she met the eccentric George Fabyan, who was trying to prove that Francis Bacon was the true writer of Shakespeare’s plays. He hired Elizebeth to “find secret messages Bacon had supposedly hidden in the plays. But the more she explored the plays, the more convinced she became that there were no hidden messages.” In 1917, with the US involved in World War I, Fabyan asked Elizebeth and her now-husband William Friedman, who was also an expert at secret codes, to establish “the country’s first code-breaking unit, the Riverbank Department of Cyphers….”

In 1921, they helped soldiers send sensitive intelligence from the field by devising a complex code that would use only pencil and paper instead of the Army’s cumbersome machine. During Prohibition, they helped stop smugglers and Elizabeth created the Coast Guard’s first code-breaking unit. With America’s entry into World War II, it was Elizabeth who figured out how to defeat the Germans’ powerful code-making machine, Enigma, which “saved thousands of lives and shortened the war by many years.”

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Image copyright Brooke Smart, 2021, text copyright Laurie Wallmark, 2021. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Compelling and wonderfully detailed, Laurie Wallmark’s biography of Elizebeth Friedman immerses children in the world of war-time spies, where cracking codes equaled saved lives and battles won. Wallmark’s storytelling reads like a thriller and is sprinkled throughout with quotes from Elizebeth that give kids a sense of her personality and the demands of her career. By including several cases Elizebeth was instrumental in solving, Wallmark provides readers with historical context on the broad range of nefarious activity that relied on secret codes. This informs children’s knowledge of today’s uses of encryption as well as of international spy networks. Each page is a celebration of Elizebeth’s talent, intelligence, and accomplishments, and her incredible story will enthrall readers.

Brooke Smart’s watercolor and gouache illustrations offer enticing glimpses into the past while following Elizebeth as she meets George Fabyon who shows her around his museum-like house while carrying a small monkey on his shoulder, establishes the United States’ first code-breaking unit, testifies in court, and thwarts the Nazis’ war plans. Interspersed with Smart’s realistic depictions of Elizebeth’s life are images in which lines of coded messages snake across the page, giving readers a look at the kinds of unreadable text Elizebeth and her teams cracked. 

Ages 7 – 11

Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2021 | ISBN 978-1419739637

Discover more about Laurie Wallmark and her books on her website.

To learn more about Brooke Smart, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Inventor’s Day Activity

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Code Breaker, Spy Hunter Activity Kit

 

Secret fun is at your fingertips with the Code Breaker, Spy Hunter Activity Kit, which is full of codes kids will love learning, using, and sending! It’s available for download from the Abrams Books website here:

Code Breaker, Spy Hunter Activity Kit

You can find Code Breaker, Spy Hunter at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from 

Bookshop | IndieBound

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Dino Pajama Party

Written by Laurie Wallmark | Illustrated by Michael Robinson

 

Jazzy dinos have a fun day singing, dancing, and making music, boogying to a funky beat. But once the sun goes down, bedtime calls! Perfect for story time or bedtime, this playful read aloud goes from rollicking to restful. 

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Image copyright Michael Robertson, 2021, text copyright Laurie Wallmark, 2021. Courtesy of Running Press Kids.

Laurie Wallmark’s infectious rhymes will have kids stomping, jiving, and roaring along with Michael Robinson’s colorful, pajama-clad dinosaurs that shake their claws, strum guitars and toot horns, and show their pointy white teeth through big grins. As nighttime falls and the dinos trudge home, tired and yawning, readers will find themselves yawning and ready for bed too. 

Ages 4 – 8

Running Press Kids, 2021 | ISBN 978-0762497751

To learn more about Michael Robertson, his books, and his art, visit his website.

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Dino Pajama Party Activity Kit

 

Have dino-sized fun with the Dino Pajama Party Activity Kit available for download from Laurie Wallmark’s website here:

 Dino Pajama Party Activity Kit 

You can preorder Dino Pajama Party at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, preorder from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Check out these other books by Laurie Wallmark!

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Picture Book Review

July 21 – Ask an Archaeologist Day

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About the Holiday

Coming in the middle of the Council of British Archaeology’s Festival of Archaeology, which runs from July 17 to August 1, #AskAnArchaeologistDay gives anyone with a question about archaeology a chance to post their question on Twitter and get an answer. Begun in 2018, Ask an Archaeologist Day has been a huge success with people from all over the world participating. The theme for this year’s Festival of Archaeology is “Exploring Local Places” and encourages people to discover the archaeology all around them, by exploring their area, learning about the past, and discovering stories about the people who founded it as well as those who live and work there now. To learn more about the Festival of Archaeology, the Council of British Archaeology, and the Young Archaeologist’s Club for ages 8 to 16, visit the CBA website

Thanks to Abrams Books for Young Readers for sending me a copy of When Sue Found Sue for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own.

When Sue Found Sue: Sue Hendrickson Discovers Her T. Rex

Written by Toni Buzzeo | Illustrated by Diana Sudyka

 

Sue Hendrickson was an expert at finding things. The lure of buried or lost treasures kept her busy in her hometown of Munster, Indiana. “Born shy and incredibly smart,” Sue devoured books, discovering everything she could about the things that interested her. One of her favorite places was the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. There, she reveled in the treasures others had found and dreamed of the day when she could “search the wide world for hidden treasure on her own.”

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Image copyright Diana Sudyka, 2019, text copyright Toni Buzzeo, 2019. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

When she was seventeen, Sue began her life of treasure hunting, joining teams that searched for sunken boats, airplanes, and even cars. She went to Dominican amber mines looking for prehistoric butterflies and deserts of Peru searching for whale fossils. Finally, she headed to South Dakota to dig for dinosaurs.

She spent four summers unearthing duck-billed dinosaurs, using more and more delicate tools to expose the bones. But near the end of her fourth summer, “Sue Hendrickson felt pulled to a sandstone cliff far off in the distance.” When she had the opportunity, she took her golden retriever and hiked the seven miles to the rock.

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Image copyright Diana Sudyka, 2019, text copyright Toni Buzzeo, 2019. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Walking around the perimeter, she noticed what looked like bones lying on the ground. When she looked up, she was astonished to see “three enormous backbones protruding from the cliff.” The size told her they must be from a Tyrannosaurus rex. Sue hurried back to her campsite and told her team the exciting news. They “immediately named the dinosaur Sue the T. rex.”

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Image copyright Diana Sudyka, 2019, text copyright Toni Buzzeo, 2019. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

It took five full days for the team to expose the skeleton. Then they mapped the location of each bone, photographing and drawing them. At last they began removing them, and after three weeks the bones were trucked to the Black Hills Institute. Eventually, Sue the T. rex was moved to the Field Museum in Chicago. If you visit the museum today, you will see Sue towering over you. “She is the world’s largest, most complete, best-preserved Tyrannosaurus rex fossil discovered so far”—discovered by a woman who was born to find things.

An Author’s Note about Sue Hendrickson and the battle over which institution would display the T. rex skeleton as well as resources for further study and a photograph of Sue the T. rex follow the text.

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Image copyright Diana Sudyka, 2019, text copyright Toni Buzzeo, 2019. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Toni Buzzeo’s inspiring story of how Sue Hendrickson discovered the most complete and best-preserved T. rex fossil delves into more than the finding and excavating of the skeleton. Buzzeo also emphasizes Hendrickson’s personality and long-held love of treasure hunting, qualities that informed and aided her career choice. Readers who also harbor dreams outside the mainstream and have a steady focus will find much to admire in Buzzeo’s storytelling and Sue’s example. Kids will be awed by Sue’s early treasure-hunting exploits and fascinated by the painstaking process of unearthing fossils. When Sue follows her intuition to the cliff—without explanation or facts—readers will be reminded that they can rely on their own curiosity, experience, and ideas to carry them forward. With nods toward the value of teamwork and sprinkled with Sue’s own words about her moment of discovery, the story exposes the bones of a life well-lived and points children in the right direction.

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Diana Sudyka opens the story of Sue Hendrickson with a lovely collage of the treasures she found and studied as a child and that led to her life-long love of discovery. As Sue grows, she visits the Field Museum, with its exhibits of a Triceratops and Hadrosaurus. Fast-forward several years and she’s swimming in a sea dotted with colorful coral toward an old sunken ship. But the centerpiece of the story takes place in the South Dakota hills, the layers of rock painted in stripes of earthy brown, rust, rose, and ivory. As the team works late nights to excavate the bones, a T. rex constellation appears above the team in the starry sky, urging them on. A two-page spread of how Sue the T. rex fossil appeared in its entirety in the ground is sure to elicit plenty of “Wows!,” and a rendition of Sue on exhibit in the Field Museum will no doubt inspire some travel wishes.

A book about a modern-day scientist that will engage and inspire children with scientific aspirations of their own as well as a celebration of individuality and big dreams and a must for dinosaur lovers, When Sue Found Sue would be a T. riffic addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2019 | ISBN 978-1419731631

Discover more about Toni Buzzeo and her books on her website.

To learn more about Diana Sudyka, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Dinosaur Day Activity

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Hatch Your Own Dinosaur Eggs

 

Think there are no more dinosaur eggs to be found? Think again! You can make your own with this easy craft that will have you hatching some T.-rex-size fun! All you need are a few simple ingredients!

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Supplies

  • Old clothes or apron
  • Large box of baking soda (makes between 6 and 8 eggs)
  • Food coloring
  • Water
  • Plastic dinosaur toys
  • Bowl
  • Fork
  • Spoon
  • Wax paper
  • Baking sheet
  • Foil
  • Vinegar
  • Spray bottle (optional)
  • Plastic or metal spoon, stick, popsicle stick, or other implement to chisel with
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Spray the egg with vinegar to hatch your dinosaur

Directions

  1. Wear old clothes or an apron
  2. Cover work surface with wax paper, parchment paper, newspaper, or other protection. Food coloring can stain some surfaces
  3. Pour baking soda into the bowl
  4. Add drops of food coloring in whatever color you’d like your eggs to be. The eggs will darken when baked.
  5. Mix in the food coloring with the fork. You may want to use your hands, too
  6. When the baking soda is the color you want it, begin adding water a little at a time
  7. Add water until the baking soda holds together when you squeeze it in your hand
  8. When the baking soda is the right consistency, spoon some out into your hand or onto wax paper
  9. Push one plastic dinosaur into the middle
  10. Cover the dinosaur with more of the baking soda mixture
  11. Carefully form it into an egg shape
  12. Repeat with other dinosaurs
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Chisel the egg open to hatch your dinosaur

To Bake the Eggs

  1. Set the oven or toaster oven to 200 to 225 degrees
  2. Set the eggs on a baking sheet lined with foil
  3. Bake the eggs for 15 minutes, check
  4. Turn the eggs over and bake for 10 to 15 more minutes
  5. Remove from oven and let cool

To Hatch the Eggs

  1. Eggs can be hatched by chiseling them with a spoon, stick, or other implement
  2. Eggs can also be hatched by spraying or sprinkling them with vinegar

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You can find When Sue Found Sue: Sue Hendrickson Discovers Her T. Rex at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

July 19 – Celebrating the Perseid Meteor Showers with Sandra Nickel

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Sandra Nickel says that story ideas are everywhere; you just have to reach out and grab them.  She holds an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her first book, Nacho’s Nachos: The Story Behind the World’s Favorite Snack, was a Golden Kite Award finalist. Sandra lives in Chexbres, Switzerland, where she blogs about children’s book writers and illustrators at whatwason.com.

You can connect with Sandra on Her website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Hi Sandra, thanks so much for stopping by to talk about your latest picture book The Stuff Between the Stars, the beauty of summer nights, and your favorite childhood memory!

My favorite summer memory from my childhood is lying on a blanket at night and watching the shooting stars. Everything about it screams “childhood summer” to me. Warm nights. Fireflies. Grass pricking through the blanket. Late-night snacks. Pillows outside. The whole family together. Getting to stay up until midnight. And the incredible magic and wonder of shooting stars lighting up the sky. Each individual aspect is imbued with summer. But when you put them all together and add to the mix that it only happened once each August, it holds an incredibly vibrant and loved spot in my childhood memory box.

This year’s Perseid meteor shower—because in fact those shooting stars are shooting meteors—will be from July 17th to August 24th, with peak meteors expected to be around August 12th. For childhood memory-building, the must-haves are blankets, insect spray, a light-free yard, and late-night snacks. That said, a little preparation on your part will add richness and new discoveries to the experience.

The meteor shower is a great time to learn constellations. Why not brush up on those mythological pictures in the sky to prepare for the big night? There are many children’s books about constellations. One of my favorites is National Geographic’s classic Zoo in the Sky: A Book of Animal Constellations.

Gazing at the night sky is also a great time to open up your young stargazer’s mind. During school visits while talking about The Stuff Between the Stars and Vera Rubin, I show students this picture and ask what they see. If you’re not in a rush, take a moment and look.

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Credit: skysafariastronomy.com

What do we see?

The Moon

Stars

That bright spot is Venus

We see the stars because they burn. They are making their own light, like a summer campfire does. We see the moon because it reflects light from the biggest star around, the Sun. The same goes for the planets, like Venus. They reflect the Sun’s light.

So, we see the Moon, stars, and planets. And that’s pretty much all we see in the sky, right? But what’s there that we are not even thinking about? What are we looking right past?

Everything that doesn’t shine.

Before Vera Rubin, we thought, if it doesn’t shine, there’s nothing there. It’s empty space. And that’s the idea that Vera proved wrong. All that dark in the night sky makes up most of the universe. It’s filled with stuff. And that stuff is called dark matter. Not because it’s something scary, like turning to the Dark Side in Star Wars. It’s dark matter only because it doesn’t make its own light like stars or reflect light like planets.

Now, we still don’t know what dark matter is made of because we can’t see it or smell it or hear it. However, we know what it does. It has gravity. It has pull. And it holds the stars in galaxies together so that we can enjoy them on summer nights with family and friends.

With the end of July approaching, why not gather blankets, insect spray and your favorite late-night snacks to enjoy the meteor shower? It’s a wonderful way to fill a childhood memory box—and maybe even your adult one too.

What a wonderful, unforgettable way to spend a summer night! Thanks so much for sharing your memories as well as your love for the mysteries of our universe.

About the Perseid Meteor Showers

 

Active between July 17 and August 24 in the northern hemisphere, the Perseid meteor shower lights up the sky, thrilling astronomers and casual observers alike. The Perseids are particles released from comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle when it interacts with our atmosphere. They get their name from the fact that the radiant (its point of origin) is located near the constellation of Perseus. The best time to view the showers is after midnight around 2:00 a.m., but they may be seen as early as 10:00 p.m. The best place to observe them is in an area with low light pollution. This year the Perseids reach their peak on the night of August 11 – 12.

NASA describes the Perseids as “very fast and bright meteors [that] frequently leave long “wakes” of light and color behind them as they streak through Earth’s atmosphere. They’re also known for their fireballs, which are larger explosions of light and color that can persist longer than an average meteor streak. The Perseids are one of the most plentiful showers, with 50-100 meteors seen per hour.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-stuff-between-the-stars-cover

The Stuff Between the Stars: How Vera Rubin Discovered Most of the Universe

Written by Sandra Nickel | Illustrated by Aimée Sicuro

 

From the time she was a little girl, Vera Rubin had been fascinated with the night sky. As she gazed through her bedroom window, she saw when “the stars were stirring, and something bright stirred in Vera too.” She began studying everything she could about the stars, planets, and how they interacted in the night sky. She even made her own telescope from a cardboard tube and a lens.

At seventeen Vera began attending Vassar College as the only astronomy major in her class. Here, she could use the school’s telescope whenever she wanted. As a young astronomer she presented her idea that “galaxies rotated around a center in the universe like the Big Dipper circled the North Star.” But when she presented her conclusions at a meeting of America’s top astronomers, they told her her ideas were “outlandish” and “ridiculous.” 

As a young mother, Vera worked on another question that interested her. She wondered if galaxies were scattered haphazardly or whether there was “a pattern to where they spun.” After many late nights doing calculations, Vera determined that galaxies were “clumped together like dew drops on a spider’s web.” This was a major discovery; one that earned her a doctorate in astronomy, but America’s top astronomers continued to ignore her.

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Image copyright Aimée Sicuro, text copyright Sandra Nickel. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

While her children were growing up, Vera began teaching astronomy at colleges in Washington D.C. Other astronomers began hearing about her and wanting to know more about her ideas that had been dismissed in the past. More than anything, Vera wanted to view the sky from the observatory at the Carnegie Institution in the California mountains. She wanted this so much that she went to the Carnegie Institution and asked for a job. After she explained her work and theories to the other scientists, they gave her a job. Here she studied the “slow-moving stars at the edges of the galaxies.”

Vera next studied the Andromeda Galaxy and was astounded to discover that the stars at the edge of the galaxy didn’t move slower for being far away from its center of gravity; they moved at the same speed. She determined from this as well as from studying 200 other galaxies that there was something unseen at work between the stars. Vera believed this was “dark matter” and presented her findings to other astronomers. This time they listened, making her a prominent light in her beloved field.

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Image copyright Aimée Sicuro, text copyright Sandra Nickel. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Sandra Nickel’s straightforward and comprehensive storytelling gives kids a well-rounded view of Vera Rubin’s life as she doggedly pursued a career in astronomy despite all the naysayers and snubs along the way and made an astounding discovery that still baffles scientists today. Nickel does an excellent job of explaining the complex ideas Rubin studied, theorized on, and wrote about, allowing readers to fully understand her impact on the field of astronomy and our understanding of the universe. 

Through Aimée Sicuro’s mixed-media illustrations, readers follow Vera Rubin as she matures from a curious child who loves watching the night sky to a college student to a mother to an astronomer making discoveries that changed the way scientists understood the universe. Her detailed images give kids visual representations of Rubin’s work and ideas. The final image of a group of children gazing up at the night sky as a shooting star flashes by offers an inspirational quote from Vera Rubin.

Ages 6 – 9

Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2021 | ISBN 978-1419736261

Discover more about Sandra Nickel and her books on her website.

To learn more about Aimée Sicuro, her books, and her art, visit her website.

You can find Curriculum Guides and Activity Sheets for kids on Sandra Nickel’s website.

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Kids will love Sandra’s other book, Nacho’s Nachos: The Story Behind the World’s Favorite Snack, illustrated by Oliver Dominguez!

Ages 6 – 11

Lee & Low Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1620143698

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You can find The Stuff Between the Stars at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

June 15 – It’s National Shark Week

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About the Holiday

It’s Shark Week – one of the most anticipated holiday’s of the year! Kids and adults are fascinated by these denizens of the deep, and especially the Great White, which sports fearsome teeth and intimidates with their imposing size. But there are many more sharks in the sea – about 500 species! – and they are an important part of the world’s ecosystem. If Shark Week is your favorite week of the summer, you’re no doubt enjoying a full schedule of shark-related shows on the Discovery Channel. To learn more information about sharks, including statistics from this year’s coastal shark survey, a chance to cast your vote for “freakiest shark,” a line-up of top videos, and more, visit the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Shark Week page. To celebrate sharks and the wonders of the ocean every day, you’ll want to put today’s book at the top of your reading list.

Thanks to Joan Holub for sharing a copy of I Am the Shark with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own. I’m excited to be teaming with Joan in a giveaway package that kids will love. See details below.

I Am the Shark

Written by Joan Holub | Illustrated by Laurie Keller

 

Great White Shark is excited to introduce himself, especially since he is “the GREATEST SHARK in this book.” But a voice contradicts Great White. Who begs to differ? It’s Whale Shark, and she loses no time in demonstrating why she is “the greatest shark in this book” due to her enormous size, which can’t be matched anywhere in the undersea world. And if that weren’t enough, she adds this bite: “Compared to me, you are small.”

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Image copyright Laurie Keller, 2021, text copyright Joan Holub, 2021. Courtesy of Crown Books for Young Readers.

But Great White takes it in stride. If he isn’t the greatest shark, that’s okay because being the smallest has some pretty great perks too. So he’s in the middle of a “smallest shark” victory dance when a voice calls out, “No, you’re not.” It seems there’s a much smaller shark in the sea—Dwarf Lantern Shark, who, besides being the tiniest shark has a rather enlightening ability too. After the long take down from Whale Shark, this time Great White pivots quickly, thinking about how “smart and curious” he is. Could he be “the smartest shark in this book?”

Well, that would be a no. Hammerhead Shark has that one nailed down as well as a unique view of their colorful world. This time, Great White is a little intimidated. “Whoa!” he exclaims. “How can I top that?” But being smart (just not as smart as Hammerhead), Great White has another idea. This one, though, is quashed just like the others in a sneak attack. Turns out Great White isn’t the best hunter, the oldest, or even the “fishiest” shark in this book.

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Image copyright Laurie Keller, 2021, text copyright Joan Holub, 2021. Courtesy of Crown Books for Young Readers.

Undeterred, Great White decides to do a little research in other books to “figure out the greatest thing about [him]. He learns all about his different body parts and even shares a labeled diagram (on graph paper and everything) with you. And he doesn’t stop there. He’s discovered all sorts of awesome facts about their skeletons, senses, teeth, skin, and other cool tidbits that he lets you know about. Great White could probably go on and on, but suddenly there’s a “snack alert” and all the sharks take off at top speed after their prey. Great White’s fast! He’s in the lead! Great White’s the fast..est… “Crumbs.” Great White’s passed up by a faster shark. Who is that anyway?

By this time Great White is feeling pretty down in the dumps. “Maybe I should change my name to Just-Okay White Shark or Not-So-Great White Shark,” he bemoans. But then Dwarf Lantern Shark swims up to him and enlightens him with some perspective and sage advice: “Just be happy being you.” Great White takes it to heart. In fact, it helps him think of a new, can’t-miss quality that finally gives him a “GREATEST in this book” status.

Backmatter includes more details on the eight sharks introduced in the story as well as books and links about sharks for kids wanting to learn more.

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Image copyright Laurie Keller, 2021, text copyright Joan Holub, 2021. Courtesy of Crown Books for Young Readers.

Kids are always fascinated by the superlative—the fastest, the biggest, the smallest, the silliest, the best—and Joan Holub makes superlative use of this fact in her highly entertaining and educational romp. As Great White goes on a rollercoaster of emotions, one moment thinking he’s the best at something while the next moment having his hopes dashed, readers learn eye-opening details about eight sharks, described in engaging ways that will wow kids. Great White’s boundless optimism is infectious while setting up his disappointment for maximum comic effect. Kids will eagerly await the chance to chime in on the “No, you’re not.” asides that are sure to bring plenty of giggles. But this story isn’t all about sharks. Holub masterfully weaves in an important message for kids about self-acceptance, true happiness, and finding their unique qualities and talents.

Laurie Keller uses her prodigious talent for humor in her up-close images (and is there any other way kids would want to see them?) of these competitive sharks. Loaded with attitude, each shark swims onto the pages to demonstrate their “greatest” trait in ways that will stick with kids and have them excited to learn more. Expressive faces and silly antics add personality and laughs to each page spread. Keller’s vivid, textured, and collage-style illustrations are eye-catching, and funny details, such as Tiger Shark’s tattoos, chain bangle, band-aid, and gold tooth, will have kids lingering over the pages. While they’re there, they’ll want to keep a look out for the Dwarf Lantern Shark who finally lets Great White in on a great secret.

Full of facts, action-packed, and loaded with laughs, I Am the Shark is creative non-fiction at its GREATEST. Kids who love learning about sharks, nature, and the ocean or who just love a fantastic read will want to sink their teeth in this charmer. I Am the Shark is a can’t-miss must for homes, classrooms, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Crown Books for Young Readers, 2021 | ISBN 978-0525645283

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Joan Holub has authored and/or illustrated over 150 children’s books, including the Goddess Girls series and the Heroes in Training series (with Suzanne Williams); the New York Times bestselling picture book Mighty Dads, illustrated by James Dean; Little Red Writing, illustrated by Melissa Sweet; and Zero the Hero, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld. Her board & novelty books include This Little Trailblazer and Fa la la Llama. Joan adores line dancing to the Jaws theme, reading Sharkspeare, and vacationing in Finland.

You can connect with Joan Holub on Her website | Instagram | Twitter

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-laurie-keller-headshotLaurie Keller is the author and illustrator of many books, including The Scrambled States of America, Potato Pants!, Arnie the Doughnut, Do Unto Otters: A Book About Manners, the Adventures of Arnie the Doughnut chapter book series, and We Are Growing!, part of the Elephant & Piggie Like Reading! series and winner of the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award. When Laurie isn’t busy making books, she enjoys playing the banjo, traveling, cross-country skiing, and splashing in Lake Michigan, where as far as she knows, there is not a single shark.

You can connect with Laurie Keller on Her website | Instagram | Twitter

Shark Week Activity

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Fin-tastic Shark Fun

 

Your kids can make a splash during Shark Week and all year around with this easy-to-make craft! 

Supplies

  • 2 pieces of 8.5 x 11 gray card stock paper
  • Ribbon
  • Tape
  • Scissors
  • Pencil

fin outline white

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Directions

  1. Tape the top of the two pieces of paper together
  2. Fold them back together
  3. Measure an inch up from the bottom of the papers (the un-taped side) and trace a straight line across both papers
  4. Trace a shark fin outline onto your paper. The shark outline should stop an inch above the bottom
  5. Cut out the fin on both pieces of paper. If you should cut through the tape, re-tape the tops together
  6. Fold along the lines of both papers so the folds face towards each other.
  7. Tape the folds so the fin becomes a triangle
  8. Cut two slits parallel to the folded lines
  9. Thread ribbon through slits

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You can find I Am the Shark at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review