January 13 – It’s International Creativity Month

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About the Holiday

Are you an artist, a writer, a decorator, a chef? How about a floral arranger, a woodworker, a fashion designer, or a gardener? Inside almost every heart lies a desire to create. Whether you use your ingenuity in your job or as an escape from the routine, this month celebrates all that is innovative. Sometimes this comes not only in making something you can see or touch but in a new thought or a novel way of solving a problem—as seen in today’s book!

I received a copy of Hedy Lamarr’s Double Life for review consideration. All opinions are my own.

Hedy Lamarr’s Double Life: Hollywood Legend and Brilliant Inventor

Written by Laurie Wallmark | Illustrated by Katy Wu

 

In 1938 people were lining up to see Hedy Lamarr in her first English-language movie Algiers. Hedy was the talk of Hollywood, and journalists and photographers captured her every move—almost. What movie-goers and the press didn’t know was that Hedy Lamarr was also a brilliant inventor. Instead of attending fancy celebrity parties, after a long day on the set, “Hedy hurried home to work on her latest invention. Her brain overflowed with idea after idea for useful inventions.” While she never tried to sell her ideas—like the collar to help find lost pets or the “flavor cube that changed plain water into soda”—she designed and redesigned them to perfection.

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Image copyright Katy Wu, 2019, text copyright Laurie Wallmark, 2019. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

But how did Hedy get her start? She was born in Austria and as a child took apart mechanical objects just to see how they worked. Hedy’s father also loved science, and he encouraged his daughter to hold onto her dreams. In addition to science, Hedy loved movies and would use her dolls to reenact the scenes she saw.

When she got older, Hedy got a job as a script girl and then worked as an extra in a movie. She loved acting and once said, “‘I acted all the time…. I was a little living copybook. I wrote people down on me.’” While playing the lead in a stage play, the Hollywood producer Louis B. Mayer saw her and offered her movie contract. Hedy moved to America. It only took her six months to land a starring role in Algiers. After that she starred in many movies with some of the most famous actors and actresses. 

By now, the world was at war. One day, Hedy met George Antheil, a former weapons inspector who now composed music. Hedy remembered a “discussion she had overheard back in Europe about a problem with the guidance system for torpedoes. The guidance system couldn’t prevent the enemy from jamming the weapon’s radio signals” and sending it off course. She learned from George Antheil that the US Navy had the same problem.

They decided to team up to see if they could figure out a solution. Hedy was also an accomplished pianist, and she and George often played musical games on the piano. Once, while they played the same song in different octaves, Hedy had a brainstorm for building “a secure torpedo guidance system.” At the time, torpedo guidance systems only worked if the ship launching a torpedo and the torpedo were on the same frequency.

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Image copyright Katy Wu, 2019, text copyright Laurie Wallmark, 2019. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Hedy thought that if the ship and the torpedo could switch between a series of different frequencies, the enemy would be foiled. “Hedy called her discovery ‘the hopping of frequencies.” Working together, she and George devised a way to implement Hedy’s idea. When they presented their idea to the National Inventors Council, they were told the “idea had ‘great potential value.’”

There were still some issues to overcome to make the system automated, but Hedy and George answered those too. They applied for a patent, and a year later on August 11, 1942 it was granted. When they gave the idea to the United States Navy, “Hedy was proud her frequency-hopping idea might help America win the war.” But embroiled in the middle of the conflict, the Navy didn’t have “the time or money to implement a new system….”

Hedy, who still wanted to help America defeat the Nazis, was undaunted. She helped raise 25 million dollars by selling war bonds and volunteered at the Hollywood Canteen, where servicemen soon to be deployed gathered. Hedy went on to make more than twenty movies and continued to work on her inventions.

In the 1980s, the US Navy declassified Hedy’s frequency-hopping technology, meaning anyone could use it. Because the patent had long-ago expired, no one needed to give Hedy and George credit for the idea. “Companies raced to include frequency hopping in their own devices.” In 1997, Hedy and George were finally recognized when they “received the Pioneer Award from the Electronic Frontier Foundation for their significant contribution to computers.”

A timeline of Hedy Lamarr’s life, a description of how Hedy and George’s frequency-hopping technology worked, additional resources for further reading, and a list of Hedy’s movies follow the text.

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Image copyright Katy Wu, 2019, text copyright Laurie Wallmark, 2019. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Laurie Wallmark knows how to weave a riveting tale that draws readers in to the lives of fascinating and scientifically minded women throughout history. Her detailed biography of Hedy Lamarr will wow kids with the twists and turns of how a vital feature of the electronics they use every day came to be. A history not only of this famous woman but of the times and policies that denied Hedy Lamarr the recognition and profits she deserved, the story is sure to spark plenty of discussion. The inclusion of a few of Hedy’s ingenious ideas as well as quotes on acting, inventing, and her views on life give children a glimpse into the mind of this unique woman.

Katy Wu takes readers back to the 1940s with her stylish illustrations reminiscent of magazine images of the time that depict both Hedy’s glamourous and inventive sides. Even as Hedy steps out of a limo to the glare of flashbulbs, acts under stage lights, and watches movies thrown by a projector’s beam, she’s dreaming of going home to work on her inventions in the light of a desk lamp. When the story turns to Hedy’s frequency-hopping idea, Wu clearly portrays the problems with the torpedo guidance system and the way single-frequency and multiple-frequency communications work. The way player pianos were controlled and how Hedy and George Antheil used this idea is also well portrayed. The final images of people using Hedy’s technology today lets kids fully understand the impact that Hedy Lamarr has had on their lives.

An important story about an extraordinary woman, Hedy Lamarr’s Double Life: Hollywood Legend and Brilliant Inventor will inspire children to follow and accomplish all of their dreams. The book will spur creative thought across subject matter and would be a motivational addition to home, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 5 and up

Sterling Children’s Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1454926917

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

To learn more about Katy Wu, and view a gallery of her book and art, visit her tumblr.

International Creativity Month Activity

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National Archives Coloring Book of Patents

 

The people at the National Archives of the United States in Washington DC chose some of their favorite patents from the past to share with you as a coloring book. As you have fun coloring these pages full of ideas, let yours fly too!

Click here to get your printable National Archives Coloring Book of Patents

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You can find Hedy Lamarr’s Double Life: Hollywood Legend and Brilliant Inventor at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

January 8 – COVER REVEAL! Winged Wonders: Solving the Monarch Migration Mystery

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Winged Wonders: Solving the Monarch Migration Mystery

Written by Meeg Pincus | Illustrated by Yas Imamura

 

For hundreds of years as butterflies with orange-and-black wings as intricate as stained glass came and went in communities across North America, many people wondered “Where are they going?” In 1976, this question was finally answered—it was the Great Monarch Butterfly Migration! Each year, people discovered, millions of monarchs flew thousands of miles from Canada to a roosting place in the Sierra Madre mountains in central Mexico.

Winged Wonders: Solving the Monarch Migration Mystery reveals the diverse community of people who worked together to track the butterflies and find their migration path. Through vibrant illustrations, readers are taken on a journey following the monarchs and meeting the people they encounter along the way.

Backmatter includes an Author’s Note explaining more about the Monarch Migration as well as information on ways that readers can help sustain the Monarch population, making Winged Wonders a stirring book to share with nature lovers, young conservationists, backyard gardeners, and students in STEM/STEAM-related lessons.

When a book is this intriguing, you just can’t wait to see it! But before I reveal the cover of this book, which KIRKUS—in their starred review—calls “riveting” and “a fascinating and inspiring STEAM-driven tale,” let’s chat with author Meeg Pincus and illustrator Yas Imamura who have brought this extraordinary story to kids.

Meet Meeg Pincus

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Meeg Pincus is a children’s author and speaker who loves telling stories about real people who have helped others, animals, and the planet. She lives in San Diego, California. To learn more about her and her books, visit her website.

 

 

 

 

Winged Wonders: Solving the Monarch Migration Mystery presents such a fascinating way to look at monarch butterflies. Can you describe the story a little and talk about what inspired you to write it from this perspective?

Thank you, Kathy! Well, I got sucked into the history of the mysterious monarch migration several years ago when I took my kids to see a movie about it at our San Diego science museum’s amazing domed IMAX theatre. (I went back two more times!) I originally started researching a person on the 1970s tracking team for a picture book biography, but then a series of events led me to rethink that. I came to realize that an even more interesting approach was a collective one. It took many people to put the pieces together of this great “discovery”—from scientists to citizen scientists to everyday folks paying attention to nature—and that’s an important lesson for kids. So, using questions, my story takes kids on a journey to meet different people who each played a part, large or small, in solving the great monarch mystery. Then, it comes back around to asking kids what part they might be able to play in keeping the (now threatened) monarchs alive today.

How did you go about researching this story?

To get information on the people involved in tracking the migration, I collected every primary source I could, from articles they wrote to interviews they gave (so, words from their own mouths) and photos of them during that time. I also found secondary sources—articles about the monarchs’ roosting place “discovery” in the 1970s as well as a whole book about all the drama in the world of monarch science (who knew?!). By the way, I use the term “discovery” in quotes because it’s important to realize that there were people in Mexico who knew the whereabouts of the monarchs’ remote roosting place for generations. I also turned to the citizen science organization Monarch Watch, at the University of Kansas (descended from the original tracking team), for information as well; and we were fortunate that one of their experts agreed to serve as the book’s fact-checker.

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This is the 1976 National Geographic issue that broke the story of the Great Monarch Migration, with a story by the main scientist credited with the “discovery.”

What was the most surprising thing you learned while writing Winged Wonders?

Honestly, it was that drama in the world of monarch research. There’s been competition over who gets credit for what, over the sharing (or not sharing) of information, etc. For me, this was actually all the more reason to focus my picture book not just on one person but on how it takes a lot of people working together to further scientific knowledge—and protect species.

This gorgeous cover is just a peek at Yas Imamura’s illustrations. Can you give readers a taste of what they have to look forward to? Do you have a favorite spread?

Oh, we could not have asked for more gorgeous and spot-on illustrations than what Yas created for this book! The whole team at Sleeping Bear Press has been thrilled with her vibrant images, which feel both 1970s and totally today, all at once. I like so many, it’s hard to pick just one—I love how she shows the monarchs flying through Dia de los Muertos celebrations, to them roosting in the trees of central Mexico, to the diversity of citizen scientists she created. I think readers are going to just eat up her illustrations!

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Image copyright Yas Imamura, 2020, text copyright Meeg Pincus, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

On your website, you talk about your work as a Humane Educator. Can you describe Humane Education and its goal? Does being a Humane Educator influence your writing? In what way?

Sure! Humane education teaches about making conscious choices that help people, animals, and the planet. It focuses on empathy and compassion as means to taking action for a more humane, healthy, and just world. I found humane education when my kids were very young and it just brought together all my values and studies. So, I trained with two nonprofit organizations (The Institute for Humane Education and HEART) and started going into local classrooms as a humane educator to do lessons with the kids. As part of my lessons, I decided to read the kids picture book biographies about real people who’ve made a difference for people, animals, and the planet. I fell in love with these books, and realized they also perfectly brought together my background of 20+ years writing/editing nonfiction and my work in humane education—so, I decided to dive into writing them myself as my next career step as nonfiction writer/humane educator!

You also talk about teaching children to be solutionaries. I love that term! Would you define what a solutionary is? You also say that you now write “solutionary stories.” How does Winged Wonders fit into that description and how do you hope the book will influence young readers?

I love the term, too! I got it from my training in humane education. The full definition of a solutionary is “a person who identifies inhumane and unsustainable systems, then develops healthy and just solutions for people, animals, and the environment.” I simplify it for younger kids (I like to use the idea of “solutionary super powers” that we all possess to help others!). Kids really embrace being problem-solvers for people, animals, and the planet. As in Winged Wonders, I focus my books on solutionary people, ideas, and issues—ways people are helping, or can help, create that healthy, kind, and just world for all. I hope my books help inspire kids to find whatever issue affecting people, animals, or the planet sparks their own inner fire and then use their own unique talents and ideas to make a positive impact on it.

One last thing: We’re doing a special Winged Wonders Pre-order Offer with San Diego indie bookstore, Run for Cover—a signed hardback copy with a solutionary sticker and monarch bookmark—which can be sent anywhere in the U.S.

You can connect with Meeg Pincus on

Her website | Facebook | Twitter

Meet Yas Imamura

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Yas Imamura is an illustrator, graphic designer, and owner of the stationary company Quill & Fox. She grew up in Manila, Philippines, and now lives in Portland, Oregon. Discover more about her work on her website.

What about this story particularly resonated with you?

What I love most about the story is the community aspect to the monarch search—how every person from all walks of life came together in shared curiosity and helped get to the bottom of the monarch mystery.

Can you describe the process for creating and choosing this beautiful cover?

I started with a few sketches, focusing in different imagery. Some early concepts honed in on the monarch butterfly, some with playing on the mystery of their flight. But eventually I ended up emphasizing the people in the story as well, as they play such a huge part in tracking the monarch migration.

Many of your stationery products from your company Quill and Fox as well as your other illustration work incorporate nature themes. What is it about nature that inspires you?

What inspires me most about nature is how incredibly challenging it is for me to really capture. It can be simplistic and incredibly mercurial at the same time, which I think is the beauty of it. As an artist, I feel like I’m always trying to climb that hill.

What kind of research did you do to bring this story to life?

Researching this book was a lot of fun. I was fortunate enough to be given a lot of take-off point resources that I built from. I looked up Catalina’s story a lot to gain insight on her character, her clothes, the era. The movie Flight of the Butterflies also inspired me greatly in pushing the narrative visually. There was so much color to the whole story as we trace the journey of these butterflies, and I really wanted to incorporate all that.

What feelings from the story did you most want to express in your illustrations? What do you hope readers will take away from them?

I want to evoke a sense of fascination and curiosity for these butterflies. And that perhaps learning about the incredible journey and impact of the monarch butterflies could lay the groundwork for us, as caretakers of nature, to give respect and reverence for even the smallest members of our ecosystem.

What do you love about being a picture book illustrator?

Seeing readers, young and old, pour over the pages that I’ve illustrated, especially when they’re reading it to someone else, will never, never get old. It’s the ultimate payoff for me.

You can connect with Yas Imamura on

Her website | Instagram | Instagram: Quill and Fox | Twitter

Thanks so much Meeg and Yas! I’m sure readers are as excited to read Wings of Wonder: Solving the Monarch Migration Mystery as I am! We might have to wait a little bit longer until the book releases in March to read it, but we don’t have to wait any longer to see the stunning cover! 

And now I’m thrilled to reveal…

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Winged Wonders: Solving the Monarch Migration Mystery Giveaway

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

  • One (1) copy of Winged Wonders: Solving the Monarch Migration Mystery, written by Meeg Pincus| illustrated by Yas Imamura 

Here’s how to enter:

  • Follow Sleeping Bear Press 
  • Follow Celebrate Picture Books
  • Retweet a giveaway tweet
  • Bonus: Reply with your favorite kind of butterfly for an extra entry (each reply gives you one more entry).
  • This giveaway is open from January 8 through January 14 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on January 15. Prize book will be sent from Sleeping Bear Press in February.

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

To learn more about Winged Wonders: Solving the Monarch Migration Mystery and other marvelous books from Sleeping Bear Press, visit their website.

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You can preorder Winged Wonders: Solving the Monarch Migration Mystery from these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound |Run for Cover

Picture Book Review

 

December 30 – It’s the Christmas Bird Count

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About the Holiday

Concerned with declining bird populations, ornithologist Frank M. Chapman suggested a new holiday tradition—a Christmas Bird Census that would count birds instead of hunting them. The first census took place on December 25, 1900. On that day, twenty-seven birders, centered mostly in northeastern North America, counted 90 species of birds. The tradition has grown tremendously from those humble beginnings. Today, tens of thousands of volunteers throughout the Americas brave all types of weather to conduct the count, which helps conservationists and scientific organizations create strategies for protecting the health and habitats of bird populations. The Christmas Bird Count is now held from December 14 through January 5. To learn more or to get involved yourself, visit the Audubon website.

The Atlas of Amazing Birds

By Matt Sewell

 

If you have a budding ornithologist in the family, they will be awed by Matt Sewell’s gorgeous compendium of more than 150 birds from around the world. Organized by continent—Europe, North and Central America, South America, Antarctica, Oceana, Asia, and Africa—each chapter begins with a green watercolor map of the area delineated into the countries within its borders and includes a short introduction to the size, climate, surrounding oceans, and number of birds found there.

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Copyright Matt Sewell, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

The first stop on this ornithological tour is Europe, where readers discover first the European roller, a lovely species with a cyan body and rust-and-blue-mottled wings that summers in Southern Europe and the Middle East and winters in Africa. This bird’s beauty belies the less-than-attractive way they have for protecting themselves as chicks in which “they can vomit a foul-smelling liquid over themselves to keep predators at bay.”

The European golden-plover chick—a little fluff of green and white that blends in with its mossy surroundings—takes a different tack: By looking like “a small clump of cotton balls flecked with gold leaf, it is possibly one of the cutest chicks out there.” With its speedy wingbeats, the European golden-plover also claims another mark of distinction as the “genesis for the idea for the book of Guinness World Records.”

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Copyright Matt Sewell, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

North America and Central America are home to more than 900 species of birds. Many are as colorful as a child’s painting, including the Montezuma oropendola, painted bunting, indigo bunting, and the resplendent quetzal, which boasts an iridescent blue tail that can reach over 2 feet long. Unique among birds is the common poorwill, a North American nightjar, which besides being nocturnal, “is possibly the only bird that hibernates.” Mottled gray and brown, the common poorwill perfectly blends into rocky crevices. “It has a low odor so it cannot be detected by predators, and it can descend into a sleepy torpor for months.”

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Copyright Matt Sewell, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

South America, with its vast expanse of land and variety of climates hosts “more than 3,400 known species of birds, more than any other continent.” With that many different types of birds, South America offers ornithologists a full range of species to study from familiar faces, such as the hyacinth macaw and the keel-billed toucan, to truly wondrous creatures, such as these: the sunbittern, which upon opening its wings presents a frightening “mask” of markings to scare away predators; the white bellbird, which has a single wattle above its beak that can be inflated to appear much like a unicorn’s horn; and the oilbird, which you cannot be faulted for mistaking for a bat as it “breeds and roosts in the totally dark interiors of caves,” uses echolocation to navigate here, and flies at night. Among the other weird and distinctive birds of this region is the hoatzin, “known as the reptile bird” because it “dates back 64 million years, which is roughly when all the big land-based dinosaurs disappeared.”

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Copyright Matt Sewell, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

Oceania, comprising Australia, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji, and New Zealand, provides shelter to “some of the most brilliant and flamboyant birds in the world….” These include a variety of birds-of-paradise, each of which sport colorful and intricate features that would look just as at home on ornaments and party favors. One of the most unusual birds may be the multi-talented superb lyrebird. Not only does the male possess fabulous peacock-like tail feathers that seem part quill-pen, part feather duster, it is a master mimic. “It can imitate just about any other bird it hears, as well as other sounds, such as chainsaws, telephones, barking dingoes, roaring cars, and crying babies—often repeated one after the next.”

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Copyright Matt Sewell, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

Combined, Antarctica, Asia, and Africa also give homes to more than 6,000 species of some of the most adorable, beloved, brilliant, and extraordinary birds in the world. Readers will meet penguins and birds with vibrant blocks of color as sculpted as any stained-glass window—such as the Malabar trogon of India and Sri Lanka, the Himalayan monal, and Ruspoli’s turaco of southern Ethiopia.

They’ll also get to know towering birds, such as the secretarybird and the ostrich, and formidable-looking creatures, such as the marabou stork and the shoebill. To tie up this description that barely scratches the surface of all that bird-lovers will learn, I present the common tailorbird of tropical Asia—a clever and industrious little warbler that sews leaves together to create a cup of a nest that it lines with cobwebs to further confound predators.

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Copyright Matt Sewell, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

Matt Sewell knows just how to entice young readers with engaging, humorous, and insightful text that provides a robust and individual introduction to each bird as well as their status in the world. Every entry is accompanied by brilliant watercolors that highlight each species’ spectacular, surprising, and sometimes even seemingly Dr. Seussian plumage. Dipping in and out of the pages will inspire children and adults to learn more about birds, geography, and how they can become stewards for our feathered friends.

The Atlas of Amazing Birds is highly recommended for bird and nature lovers and would make an excellent addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 5 – 10

Princeton Architectural Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-1616898571

To learn more about Matt Sewell, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Christmas Bird Count Activity

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Beautiful Birds Word Search Puzzle

 

It’s fun to watch for different kinds of birds when you take a walk or in your own backyard. Can you find the names of twenty types of birds in this printable Beautiful Birds Word Search Puzzle? Here’s the Solution!

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You can find The Atlas of Amazing Birds at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

December 13 – Celebrating Read a New Book Month with STEM

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About the Holiday

Today I’m featuring two books that bring the world of big machines down to size for little readers. Being introduced to the various parts of favorite machines and what they do can spark a life-long interest in engineering and its many applications!

The Book of Flying Machines

By Neil Clark

Readers join Clever Cogz and his sidekicks, Nutty and Bolt, as they get up-close to airplanes, hot air balloons, helicopters, supersonic jets, and the latest technological advances to fill the skies. Little ones who love air travel or just watching planes soar through the clouds learn all about the “clever parts” that allow these machines to ascend, fly, descend, and land.

After defining the engine, cockpit, fuselage, tail, rudder, wheels, and fins, Clark presents a closer look at the wings, with all of their moving parts “that work together to control the speed and direction of the plane.” But how does a plane stay in the air? Kids discover that a wing’s special shape allows air to travel “faster over the top than it does underneath,” and that “the slow-moving air under the wing creates a force called lift.”  Clever Cogz reveals that “lift is the force that keeps an aircraft in the air.”

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Copyright Neil Clark, 2019, courtesy of QEB Publishing.

Now that the plane is in the air, how does it move forward? Working together, the engine and the propeller use air to create thrust, and budding engineers get to see just how this works. Next, children get to join Nutty and Bolt in a hot air balloon ride and discover how pilots use the science of hot air to make the balloon rise. They also learn the names of the various parts of these beautiful machines that make them work—and allow them to come back down.

No one can resist watching a helicopter hover overhead, and its ability to “take off and land without a run-up” makes it very useful in emergency situations. Readers get to learn about the engine, the landing skids, the rescue hoist, and the two rotors that provide the power for this unique machine while Bolt comes to Nutty’s aid on his sinking boat. Kids fascinated by speed will love learning about the various types of jets that “travel at supersonic speeds—faster than the speed of sound” and the definition of Mach 1, against which they can compare the speed of jets that fly at Mach 3.3, 6.7, and even 9.6.

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Copyright Neil Clark, 2019, courtesy of QEB Publishing.

Of course, kids are familiar with drones, so they’ll be eager to discover how three different types—one that can even predict storms. Finally, flying here and there powered by a jet pack may seem like science fiction, but “real ones have been built for the army, for astronauts, and for spectacular stunt shows,” including the Bell Rocket Belt, which can fly up to 60 mph (95 kmph) and the Jetman, invented by Yves Rossy, that can fly at 100 mph (160 kmph). Along the way, bits of trivia about the history and facts of air flight give kids even more information. A short quiz on the last page lets readers show off what they’ve learned.

Ages 5 – 7

QEB Publishing, 2019 | ISBN 978-0711243446

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The Book of Diggers & Dozers

By Neil Clark

 

Clever Cogz, Nutty, and Bolt are back in this book all about working machines. From backhoe loaders to excavators to bulldozers to the giants and the latest tech wonders, Neil Clark takes readers above and below ground to see how these machines work. Take a moment to get to know the intricate parts of a backhoe, which can lift the weight of three cars with its front loader and dig deep holes with its hydraulic-powered bucket in the back. The spinning seat in the cab makes it easy for the operator to do both jobs! What are hydraulics? Dog Clever Cogz, Nutty, and Bolt demonstrate the concepts on a backhoe and with a water gun.

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Copyright Neil Clark, 2019, courtesy of QEB Publishing.

Little ones know tractors belong on farms, but they’ll be surprised at how many jobs they can do using different attachments. There’s even a hole digger that makes planting trees much easier. The excavator may be best known for the tracks that wrap around sprockets and allow it to move over bumpy ground, but its bucket deserves some attention too. It has “an extra part called a thumb” that “turns the bucket into a giant claw, perfect for grabbing things.” Did you know that there are “new, electric powered excavators that will help keep our planet clean?”

The tallest machines are cranes—and “the biggest mobile crane is over 800 feet (245 m) high.” Nutty tells kids “that’s as tall as 50 giraffes standing on top of each other!” A crane’s height and power help it move objects too heavy to move any other way. When roads need fixing and repaving, it’s time to break out the road roller. These useful machines have been around since 1800, when horses pulled them. The steamroller was invented in 1865, and the diesel-powered version came along in 1950. The new road rollers are electric and better for the environment.

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Copyright Neil Clark, 2019, courtesy of QEB Publishing.

Fans of the bulldozer will see what a powerhouse this machine really is. With high tracks to allow it to travel through muddy ground, a ripper that claws at the ground and breaks up big lumps of earth, and a blade that can push piles of rock or sand or even knock down a building, the bulldozer is multi-functional. Whoa! Have you seen the Bagger 293? “It’s the biggest digger in the world” and its bucket wheel can dig “240,000 tons of coal a day.” It’s so big that it requires as much electricity as a whole town and needs 5 people to control it. Today, robot diggers controlled remotely, such as sensors, demolition bots, and the XE15R, are also taking on tasks in dangerous, tight, or other situations. A final quiz lets children review what they’ve learned.

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Copyright Neil Clark, 2019, courtesy of QEB Publishing.

Neil Clark’s fascinating looks at aircraft and the biggest machines will delight vehicle lovers of all types. His straightforward text is accessible for all ages while introducing children to vocabulary and concepts that empower them to understand the workings of not only these big machines but smaller, everyday machines as well. Loaded with information and hosted by charming characters who lend a bit of humor to the pages, Clark’s books are wonderful for dipping into again and again.

Clark’s vivid illustrations clearly mark and define the parts of each machine and demonstrate how these work together to power the machine and allow it to perform its job. Nutty and Bolt are there to translate some of the concepts into ideas kids are already familiar with (for example, Nutty wears big shoes to demonstrate the function of a backhoe’s stabilizers). Similarly, Clark incorporates easy-to-understand graphics to explain scientific concepts like air flow and the clustering of hot and cold air molecules. Boxed information and speech bubbles add interest to the pages. One even invites kids to a “where’s Waldo” type of hunt for Nutty and Bolt near a jumbo jet.

Terrific books for introducing all children to machines, how they work, and the science behind them, The Book of Flying Machines and The Book of Diggers & Dozers would be valuable additions to home, classroom, and public library collections. Check out the other books in the series: The Book of Cars and Trucks and The Book of Space Rockets.

Ages 5 – 7

QEB Publishing, 2019 | ISBN 978-071124341

Read a New Book Month with STEM Activity

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Big Machines Coloring Pages

 

Children can have fun coloring and adding their own touches to these printable pages.

Airplane | Hot Air Balloon | Digger | Crane

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You can find The Book of Flying Machines at these booksellers

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-the-book-of-diggers-and-dozers-cover

You can find The Book of Diggers & Dozers at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

December 12 – Celebrating Read a New Book Month with STEM

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About the Holiday

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

Physics Animated

Written by Tyler Jorden | Illustrated by Elsa Martins

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ages 4 – 7

Familius, 2019 | ISBN 978-1641701327

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

Read a New Book Month with STEM Activity

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Get Moving with Newton’s Laws! Word Search Puzzle

 

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

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

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You can find Physics Animated at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

October 16 – National Fossil Day

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About the Holiday

Welcome to the 10th anniversary of National Fossil Day! Today’s holiday puts a spotlight on paleontology and its value in the scientific community and for education. The day raises awareness of the importance of preserving fossils for future generations. This year also marks the 100th anniversary of the establishment of Grand Canyon National Park, a treasure for scientists and nature-loving visitors alike. To celebrate today and Earth Science Week all this week, visit a natural history museum, learn more about the prehistory of your area, or read up on fossils and prehistoric creatures. You can learn more about today’s holiday and find resources, including Junior Paleontology Activity Books to download, on the National Park Service Website.

Everything Awesome about Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Beasts!

By Mike Lowery

 

If there’s one thing kids can’t get enough of, it’s dinosaurs. And if there’s one thing Mike Lowery knows, it’s how to wow kids. The mash-up of the two has resulted in a wild and wacky book “that’s totally loaded with info, weird facts, and jokes that you will dig!” There are even dinos at the ready to point out these awesome puns. And these facts aren’t just presented like some old, dried-up report, the whole book—every page—is full of eye-popping illustrations and cool typography that will keep kids reading and reading and learning (and, oh yeah, having T-rex size fun).

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Copyright Mike Lowery, 2019, courtesy of Orchard Books.

What kinds of things will kids learn? First, there’s a completely captivating prehistoric timeline that lays out the different eras and depicts some of the creatures and vegetation that existed in each. Like jellyfish during the Paleozoic Era, horsetails plants and dicynodonts during the Triassic, stegosaurus and cycads in the Jurassic; bees, birds, and flowering plants along with velociraptors in the Cretaceous; and finally, woolly mammoths and us during the Age of Mammals. Along the way there were also several extinction events. And this all comes even before the Table of Contents!

While kids chew on the fact that “some giant dinos ate up to 12,000 pounds a day,” they can dip into Part One—What Is a Dinosaur? Here, they’ll learn stuff like where the word “dinosaur” came, who coined it, what “prehistoric” means, and who “were some of the first people to keep written records.” They’ll also get to know some animals that weren’t dinosaurs and how dinosaurs are defined. Of course, there are some dino jokes to keep kids chuckling while they read.

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Copyright Mike Lowery, 2019, courtesy of Orchard Books.

Part Two reveals a short history of the earth as well as lots and lots about each era and representative creatures. After learning just how old Earth is, kids will be interested in a Quick Fact about one Jeremy Harper who counted to one million live on the internet. How long did it take him? Longer than you might think. Have you ever tried smooshing the whole history of the earth into just 24 hours? Mike Lowery did and it’s fascinating! Kids will also discover how Earth formed and about early signs of life.

What was going on in the Paleozoic Era? The haikouichthys (one of the first animals to have a skull), tiktaalik (a land and sea creature), and the meganeura (a giant dragonfly) can tell them. It was also the time of the Permian Period, when some pretty weird reptiles roamed the earth and some way-unusual marine life swam the seas. Then came “the Great Permian Extinction” that led into the Mesozoic Era, “aka the age of reptiles.”

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Copyright Mike Lowery, 2019, courtesy of Orchard Books.

Here, kids learn about the development of dinosaurs, non-dino animals, and bugs. If you think a few stormy days are bad, imagine living during the Triassic Period, when “it once rained for two million years.” What do you wear in weather like that? A “Jurassic parka,” of course. Next up is the Jurassic and then the Cretaceous periods and their gigantic creatures of the land, ocean, and sky.

In Part Three readers get to meet the dinosaurs up close and personal (well, not too close). They’ll learn what dinos really ate, how they really sounded, and this delectable fact: “More time passed between stegosaurus and T. rex than the time between velociraptor and microwavable pizza!” And while kids are digesting that, they’ll want to watch out for the gigantic sauropods (who grew that big partly because “they didn’t chew their food…. Mammals don’t get as big as the sauropods, in part, because chewing requires a lot of energy.” Kids will see who won the “smartest dino award” and who was unfortunate enough to win “the, um, not-so-smartest dinosaur award.” They’ll also learn about horned dinos, armored dinos, fast dinos, and “the weirdest lookin’ dino.”

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Copyright Mike Lowery, 2019, courtesy of Orchard Books.

Part Four talks about the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event and various theories that have been floated throughout the years. Part Five takes kids on a hunt for bones and other fossils and reveals how paleontologists study them. Part Six offers a tour of post-dinosaur beasts, and Part Seven invites kids to learn how to draw dinosaurs. That’s followed up by a Dino Field Guide, an illustrated list of dinos organized by time periods, and to round it all up, Lowery includes a few more irresistible dinosaur jokes.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-everything-awesome-about-dinosaurs-t-rex

Copyright Mike Lowery, 2019, courtesy of Orchard Books.

Mike Lowery’s free-wheeling sense of humor, on exhibit in both his text and illustrations, will have kids laughing and learning billions of years’ worth of scientific facts. Funny asides by dinosaurs who just want in on the action put a spotlight on major events and conditions on Earth. Boxed and highlighted facts reveal the science of paleontology and provide explanations of dinosaur and prehistoric animal behavior and comparisons on size that will resonate with kids. Lowery imbues each of his creatures with personality while staying true to their nature and body type. Simply said, if there’s something you want to know about prehistoric creatures, dinosaurs, and the times they lived in, it’s in this book.

A must for home, classroom, and public library collections, you’ll want to put Everything Awesome about Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Beasts! on your shopping list for kids, teachers, and anyone who loves science, dinosaurs, and entertaining ways to learn or teach.

Ages 7 – 10 and up

Orchard Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1338359725

Discover more about Mike Lowery, his books, and his art on his website.

National Fossil 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 Everything Awesome about Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Beasts! at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

September 25 – National Math Storytelling Day

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About the Holiday

National Math Storytelling Day was established in 2009 by Maria Droujkova, founder of The Natural Math Community at Naturalmath.com, and her daughter to encourage people to share the joys of math with children through stories and games. Having fun with math is one of the best ways to get kids excited about learning and working with this most important subject. Celebrate today with math stories that involve patterns, spatial relations, quantities, logic, puzzles, and numbers. You can even sing math songs and tell math jokes! You’ll find lots of resources for Math Storytelling Day and every day on the Natural Math website.

How to Code a Rollercoaster

Written by Josh Funk | Illustrated by Sara Palacios

 

Pearl and her robot Pascal are ready to enjoy a day at the amusement park. Pearl can’t wait to ride the Python Rollercoaster, and after she buys her tokens she decides to map out the perfect day at the park. With so many games and rides to line up for, Pearl thinks using code—“a set of instructions that computers understand”—will be the best way to go about it. She has ten tokens for the day, and can keep track of how many uses and has left “by using a variable,” which is like a “container…that holds information.” Pearl names her variable MyTokens, and they’re off and running. (Lucky for Pascal, robots ride for free!)

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Image copyright Sara Palacios, 2019, text copyright Josh Funk, 2019. Courtesy of Viking.

When they get to the Python Rollercoaster, the line snakes far into the park, so they head for the Ferris wheel. Pearl loves Ferris wheels and thinks once around isn’t enough. Each trip around costs one token, so Pearl codes a LOOP to “subtract 1 token from MyTokens” each time they “start a new ride.” After three times around, they get off and consider checking out the line for the Python Coaster again. But what will they do if it’s still too long? Another variable can solve that problem.

This one Pearl names ShortLine. She gives it a value of true or false and uses “an if-then-else to decide what to do next.” So, “IF ShortLine is True THEN we’ll ride the Python Coaster ELSE we’ll do something fun on the map,” she explains to Pascal. When they get to the rollercoaster, ShortLine is False and the line is still long, so they ride the log flume. Pascal reminds Pearl that they have six tokens left. They check the IF-THEN-ELSE again and again and again and take a trip on the train, play a target game, and twirl in the teacups.

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Image copyright Sara Palacios, 2019, text copyright Josh Funk, 2019. Courtesy of Viking.

After a stop at Reshma’s ice cream stand and a delicious treat, Pearl and Pascal check the Python again. Finally, ShortLine is True. But it takes two tokens to ride and Pascal tells Pearl she has only one token left. Just then Pearl sees a sign offering a way to win a free token. All they need to do is find special stars around the park and figure out a secret password. Pearl knows she can use another variable to solve the puzzle.

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Image copyright Sara Palacios, 2019, text copyright Josh Funk, 2019. Courtesy of Viking.

Pearl and Pascal retrace their steps and find the stars along the way. But the letters don’t spell anything. Suddenly, Pearl understands that they need to put the “letters into the correct sequence to figure out the secret password…just like how code needs to be in the proper sequence to work correctly.” Once they know the password, they’re psyched for the thrills and chills of the Python Coaster.

Back matter includes Pearl and Pascal’s Guide to Coding, which gives more information on the terms found in the story. A foreword written by Reshma Saujani, the founder of Girls Who Code, invites readers to learn more about the organization and welcomes children to the world of coding.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-how-to-code-a-rollercoaster-using-tokens

Image copyright Sara Palacios, 2019, text copyright Josh Funk, 2019. Courtesy of Viking.

To kids’ delight Josh Funk’s Pearl and Pascal are back in another coding adventure—this time at the Gigaworld Amusement Park. They’re excited to ride the Python rollercoaster, but the super long line gives them a chance to code a day of fun in the rest of the park. Young coders and would-be coders will love joining these two best friends on favorite rides as they learn procedures that make programs run smoother and help determine various outcomes. Pascal is as literal as ever, leading to some funny moments of misunderstanding. Funk also includes some nods to his computer programmer day job for eagle-eyed readers. Pearl’s enthusiasm for using code to navigate the park is infectious and will entice kids to explore the world of coding either just for fun or as a future career.

You can almost smell the popcorn and hear the squeals of joy emanating from Sara Palacios’ pages as Pearl and Pascal run through their day at the amusement park. From the Ferris wheel to the log flume to the teacups and the midway, Palacios’ colorful and action-packed illustrations put readers in the center of the fun. Through Pascal’s display function, Palacios clearly labels the variables, values, and loops used during the day as well as the token countdown that leads to the secret code scavenger hunt. Readers will definitely want to return to the first page and read the book again to find all of the lettered stars themselves.

Pearl’s passion for coding and Pascal’s responsiveness is sure to inspire children to explore the wonders of coding and computer science. As part of the Girls Who Code program, the book is especially designed to encourage girls to get involved in computer programming and STEM. How to Code a Rollercoaster is a rousing choice for home, classroom, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Viking Books for Young Readers, 2019 | ISBN 978-0425292037

Discover more about Josh Funk and his books and find a treasure trove of resources on his website.

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

Math Storytelling Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-totally-cool-mystery-phrase-puzzle

Totally Cool Mystery Phrase Math Puzzle

 

There’s no mystery to how fun math can be! Use the numerical clues in this printable Totally Cool Mystery Phrase Math Puzzle to discover a hidden message! Add the numbers under each line then use that number to find the corresponding letter of the alphabet. Write that letter in the space. Continue until the entire phrase is completed.

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You can find How to Code a Rollercoaster at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review