May 20 – World Bee Day

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About the Holiday

Today is World Bee Day! These top-notch pollinators work hard to transport pollen from one flower to the next, so that plants can make their seeds, grow fruit, and launch the next generation of plants! In a larger sense, they keep the world spinning smoothly, by helping plants grow. World Bee Day was created by Slovenian beekeeper Bostjan Noc, president of the Slovenian Beekeepers Association, who first proposed the idea to the United Nations in 2014. The international holiday is meant to show appreciation for bees and other pollinators, and to acknowledge that some bee species are endangered. Make sure to respect and celebrate our bee friends today by reading books about bees, planting a pollinator garden, or installing a sustainable beekeeper. Visit https://www.worldbeeday.org/en/ and http://pollinator.org to learn about the importance of bees and the holiday. To summarize: bee friendly and keep reading.

Thanks to Millbrook Press for sharing a copy of How to Build an Insect for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own.

Review by Dorothy Levine

How to Build an Insect

Written by Roberta Gibson | Illustrated by Anne Lambelet 

 

Have you ever wondered how to build an insect? Well, wonder no longer! Get ready to discover the world of creepy-crawlies with this hands-on, information-packed, quirky instruction-book! Ready to begin? First, gather your supplies. Got your “HEADS” jar? Great! Nearly every living creature has a head, and each one has a head that’s just right for them. So, pick a head from the jar and let’s get building. Next add a thorax and an abdomen to your creation. “What else should we add?” you may wonder. “What about bones like ours? Should we give it a skeleton? No. There isn’t any room for big bones inside a small insect. An insect has its skeleton on the outside. It is called an exoskeleton. The exoskeleton keeps the inside stuff in and the outside stuff out.” 

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Image copyright Anne Lambelet, 2021, text copyright Roberta Gibson, 2021. Courtesy of Millbrook Press.

After the correct number of legs and wings go on, the critical (and funky) five senses are added. “How will our insect see? Let’s give it some eyes! How many? Two? Guess again. Five!” The fun facts continue as sensory elements are added. Did you know, “An insect can have its ears anywhere”? This is “music to my knee ears!” a grasshopper chirps in, adding a comedic flare.

Finally, after adorning insects with “hair, or horns, or spikes, or spots” the builder is instructed to finally give their creation “a place to live and a snack.” The completion of the insect and its release into its habitat is followed by an detailed spread of a fly up close that contains further information about different insect body parts. The book also includes a glossary and information on how to create critters out of art materials and recycled parts.  

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-how-to-build-an-insect-heads

Image copyright Anne Lambelet, 2021, text copyright Roberta Gibson, 2021. Courtesy of Millbrook Press.

The young narrator of How to Build an Insect leads readers on a journey of how to build an anatomically correct insect, with a new body part detailed on each spread. Readers will learn about comparative anatomy, what exactly classifies an insect as an insect, and how insect bodies compare to those of humans and other animals. With intricate illustrations detailing bug bits and parts, leaves, berries, skeletons, exoskeletons and a map of “how to” instructions, the book reads like a super-cool science scavenger hunt. The how-to pages are filled with scientific vocabulary that allows readers of all ages to learn the names of insect body parts, from thorax to mandibles, proboscis, cerci, spiracles, and more. 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-how-to-build-an-insect-abdomen

Image copyright Anne Lambelet, 2021, text copyright Roberta Gibson, 2021. Courtesy of Millbrook Press.

Roberta Gibson cleverly constructs a creative non-fiction storyline jam packed with enchanting scientific facts. Gibson pulled from her knowledge working as an entomologist and research specialist in crafting this fantastic premiere nonfiction picture book. Her well-crafted writing puts complex terms into digestible and interesting explanations that are accessible for kids and adults alike. The writing is snappy, humorous, educational and engaging, featuring silly insect dialogue, and questions bolded for readers to ponder. What more could one possibly ask for?

Anne Lambelet’s masterful illustrations not only provide visually entertaining content to accompany the story, but also provide further information and humor for curious, detail-oriented readers. Insects watch as a brown-skinned, unseen narrator assembles their own insect in their very own science learning space. Sometimes the insects pop in with silly dialogue or engage in human activities, all while maintaining their scientifically accurate appearances. The artwork matches the narrator’s curiosity and close attention to detail perfectly, while maintaining a funky, beautiful art style that is consistent throughout. Spreads are backed by beautiful bursts of purples and greens and feature labeled insect and human anatomy charts; intricate bug- and art-making tools are scattered throughout.

How to Build an Insect is a perfect book for science lovers, outdoorsy individuals, bug enthusiasts, and worm savers of all ages! Also, a good read for those who are less insect-lover-inclined to learn more about how these creatures are not all that different from us humans. A worthwhile addition to libraries, classrooms, and home collections. 

Ages 5 – 9

Millbrook Press, 2021 | ISBN 978-1541578111

Discover more about Roberta Gibson and her books on her website.

To learn more about Anne Lambelet, her books, and her art, visit her website.

World Bee Day Activities

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Bee an Insect Lover Activities

 

Enjoy these fun and creative How to Build an Insect Activities and Experiments from Millbrook Press!

How to Build an Insect Activities

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-how-to-build-an-insect-pollinators-poster

Download this Pollinators and Agriculture Poster that artfully teaches about how pollinators work in harmony with agricultural landscapes.

Pollinators Poster

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-how-to-build-an-insect-cover

You can find How to Build an Insect at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

to support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

April 26 – National Audubon Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-birds-explore-their-extraordinary-world-cover

About the Holiday

Today’s holiday honors John James Audubon, who was born on this date in 1785. Audubon was a French-American ornithologist, naturalist, and painter who traveled across America, documenting the birds he found in his detailed illustrations of them in their natural habitats. Audubon’s greatest work was The Birds of America, which is considered one of the finest ornithological works ever completed. This book contains more than 700 North American bird species with 435 hand-colored, life-size prints of 497 bird species. The Audubon Society is a far-reaching organization dedicated to conservation and education and is actively involved in issues that threaten bird populations. To learn more about the Audubon Society and its work, visit the organization’s website.

To celebrate today’s holiday, take a walk in your area or even your backyard and take special note of the birds you see. If you’d like to attract more birds to your backyard, consider hanging a bird feeder or making a temporary feeder from a pinecone, peanut butter, and seed as in the activity below. 

Thanks to Bloomsbury Children’s Books for sending me a copy of Birds: Explore their extraordinary world for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Birds: Explore their extraordinary world

Written by Miranda Krestovnikoff | Illustrated by Angela Harding

 

To love birds is to marvel over everything about them from their smooth gliding flight and beautiful songs to their colorful plumage and intricate nests that protect fragile eggs from the elements and predators. With a stunning number of species, birds are found around the world and living in every kind of climate. In Miranda Krestovnikoff and Angela Harding’s eye-catching compendium, readers learn about seven families of birds – birds of prey, seabirds, freshwater birds, flightless birds, tropical birds, tree dwellers, and passerines. 

Each chapter opens with general facts on the behavior, anatomical features, and habitat that determine the order in which a bird is categorized. Integrated with this information are descriptions of specific birds within the order. In the section on Birds of Prey, for instance, readers learn about sparrowhawks; fish-eating ospreys; and golden eagles, which can “spot a rodent from over a mile away and a rabbit from nearly double that distance.” Children also learn about extreme birds of prey: the fastest, largest, smallest, tallest, and baldest and how their distinctive feature helps them thrive. Kids also discover how they “can tell when each species of owl prefers to hunt by looking at the color of its eyes.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-birds-explore-their-extraordinary-world-owls

Image copyright Angela Harding, 2020, text copyright Miranda Krestovnikoff, 2020. Courtesy of Calkins Creek.

The next chapter takes readers to coastal areas to learn about the seabirds that scour the water from the sky, searching for food and waders, that are found along the water’s edge and “feed on the variety of high-protein invertebrates that lie hidden in the mud.” Children learn about the birds that populate warmer waters, such as blue-footed boobies, terns, and frigatebirds as well as those who survive in colder waters, such as gulls, and kittiwakes. Readers will also find a fascinating description of the gannet and learn how it can safely “dive into the sea at speeds of 60 miles an hour from an impressive height of up to 100 feet” to feed.

From sea birds, readers move on to freshwater birds like ducks, swans, grebes, and Canada geese. Even the bright flamingo is here with its distinctive scoop-shaped beak that is “uniquely designed to be used upside down and helps them to filter out tiny brine shrimps and blue-green algae from the water, which, when digested, give them their pink color.” The flamingo isn’t the only bird with an unusual way to acquire their prey, and kids will discover the clever ways pelicans, herons, and kingfishers (which use “objects such as sticks, feathers, and even discarded popcorn as lures”) find food.

And then there are the “more than 50 bird species across the world [that] stay firmly on the ground (or on water)” or just “choose not to fly very often.” These flightless birds include kiwis, kākāpōs, southern cassowaries, ostriches, and Penguins. Penguins vary in size, from the “little penguin (also known as the fairy or blue penguin)” which comes to shore to nest only at night and stave off predators with their oversized voices, to the emperor penguin. Occasional fliers include great bustards, domestic chickens, and tinamous.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-birds-explore-their-extraordinary-world-penguin

Image copyright Angela Harding, 2020, text copyright Miranda Krestovnikoff, 2020. Courtesy of Calkins Creek.

When you hear about extravagant birds, you most likely think of tropical birds. “Rainforests are packed with a range of incredible species with dazzling plumage and bizarre courtship displays.” Readers will learn about the appearance and mating rituals of scarlet macaws, Raggiana birds of paradise, and the Andean cock-of-the-rock. A detailed description of the bowerbird and the male bird’s careful and artistic nest (or bower) building is funny, poignant, and even a little bit human. Then readers are treated to some tropical bird extremes: smallest bird, longest bill, and smelliest as well as a poisonous species and one that makes its own musical instrument.

Of course, woodlands are the home of many bird species, and in the chapter on Tree Dwellers, readers learn about acorn woodpeckers and great hornbills that use trees for food and shelter; tawny frogmouths and potoos that use trees for camouflage; and nuthatches, greater honeyguides, and yellow-bellied sapsuckers, which find all the food they need among the bark, leaves, and branches of trees.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-birds-explore-their-extraordinary-world-chickens

Image copyright Angela Harding, 2020, text copyright Miranda Krestovnikoff, 2020. Courtesy of Calkins Creek.

Next up are passerines, or perching birds, which make up the “largest group of birds, with over half of all known species falling into this category.” Corvids, a group that includes the common raven, crows, magpies, and rooks, are considered to be the most intelligent birds. “These birds have a remarkable ability to solve problems in order to find food, in some cases performing better than young children or chimpanzees!” Readers will be impressed with their tricks and clever use of tools (that even include cars). Children learn about cooperative breeders, which rely on their extended family to help raise the young from year to year. Passerines also include many of the garden birds we find in our backyards and which fill the air with song. Readers discover facts about blue tits, robins, and finches in this section.

The next sections give detailed and interesting information on the features we most associate with birds: their feathers, beaks, eyes, nesting habits, eggs, migration patterns, and birdsong. The book ends with perhaps the most adaptable birds in the world: those that make their homes on glaciers, mountain tops, and in the Arctic snow as well as urban birds, which live among people in crowded cities, nesting on tall cathedrals and skyscrapers and foraging for food in garbage cans and on the street.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-birds-explore-their-extraordinary-world-woodpeckers

Image copyright Angela Harding, 2020, text copyright Miranda Krestovnikoff, 2020. Courtesy of Calkins Creek.

For young ornithologists, Miranda Krestovnikoff, a wildlife expert, offers a compelling, eye-opening, and accessible introduction to a wide variety of birds, placing them in their natural environments and revealing intriguing facts and tantalizing tidbits that inform and will spark a continued interest in learning more about the world’s feathered creatures. Krestovnikoff’s engaging writing style will captivate readers and keep them turning the pages to discover birds that are both familiar and new to them. The comprehensive nature of the book allows kids in all parts of the world to learn more about their native birds while creating a global connection with these most recognized and widely distributed creatures.

Accompanying Krestovnikoff’s text are Angela Harding’s beautiful linocuts that depict birds in mid-flight, capturing prey on land and water, engaging in mating rituals, and building and protecting their nests and young. Harding’s use of natural colors and exquisitely etched landscapes set off each bird in breathtaking illustrations that invite readers to linger to enjoy their full impact. Each illustration is captioned with the bird’s species.

A gorgeous and educational book that readers of all ages will love dipping into again and again, Birds: Explore their extraordinary world is a must for bird lovers and highly recommended for home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 7 and up

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2020 | ISBN 78-1408893913

Discover more about Miranda Krestovnikoff and her books on her website.

To learn more about Angela Harding, her books, and her art on her website.

National Audubon Day Activities

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-beautiful-birds-word-search

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!

cpb-bird-feeder-i

Pinecone Bird Feeder

 

Pinecone bird feeders are quick to make and great for your backyard fliers. The combination of peanut butter, lard, or vegetable shortening and a quality seed mixture provide birds with the fat and nutrition they need to stay warm and healthy during the winter.

Supplies

  • Pinecones
  • Peanut butter, vegetable shortening, or lard
  • Birdseed
  • String
  • Knife or wooden spreader
  • Spoon

Directions

  1. Tie a long length of string around the middle of the pinecone
  2. Spread the peanut butter, vegetable shortening, or lard on the pinecone
  3. Sprinkle a thick coating of birdseed on the pinecone, pressing it into the covering so it will stick
  4. Tie the pinecone feeder onto a tree branch or other structure
  5. Watch the birds enjoy their meal!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-birds-explore-their-extraordinary-world-cover

You can find Birds: Explore their extraordinary world at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

April 21 – It’s Global Astronomy Month

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About the Holiday

Instituted by Astronomers Without Borders, a group who sees in our shared sky an opportunity to create “a global community that appreciates, studies, and shares the wonders of the universe, to broaden perspectives, transcend borders, and improve lives,” The group’s goals are twofold: to inspire and empower a worldwide community of astronomy enthusiasts and educators through astronomy-related programs and to cultivate a diverse, international community dedicated to sharing the Earth’s resources equitably. To try to accomplish these goals, Global Astronomy Month brings people together with arts activities, parties, and special events. To find resources, such as April sky maps in English and Spanish, and more information on how you can participate, visit the Astronomers Without Borders website.

The Little Spacecraft That Could: New Horizons’ Amazing Journey to Pluto and Arrokoth

Written by Joyce Lapin | Illustrated by Simona Ceccarelli

 

As the little spacecraft blasted away from the launch pad on January 19, 2006, she thought that her name—New Horizons—“was a brave-sounding name. And you had to be brave to fly to the edge of the solar system.” New Horizons was on her way to Pluto—the first spacecraft to do so. Zooming through space, her engines dropped away in stages. Free of these engines the little spacecraft, “no bigger than a small piano… streaked through space at more than 10 miles per second.”

While she soared, New Horizons wondered what she would find when she finally reached Pluto. She knew that everyone was counting on her to provide answers about this mysterious planet. People had a lot of questions, and New Horizons had a lot of time to ponder them. In fact, it would take her “nearly 10 years to reach Pluto.” Things were going well for New Horizons. She was on track and jogging along at 36,000 miles an hour… but then on August 24, 2006, astronomers decided Pluto wasn’t big enough to be considered a planet and demoted it to dwarf planet status.

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Image copyright Simona Ceccarelli, 2021, text copyright Joyce Lapin, 2021. Courtesy of Sterling Publishing.

Planetary scientists didn’t and don’t agree with this change, and New Horizons? She just wanted to complete her mission, and she had to concentrate on what came next—meeting up with Jupiter at just the right time to take advantage of this giant planet’s gravitational pull to speed up her trajectory toward Pluto. Carefully, New Horizons got into position. She sped faster and faster and was flung into space, heading toward her destination at “nearly a million miles per day.”

Now and for the next eight years, New Horizons would fly on autopilot while she took a well-deserved nap that would conserve fuel as well as her computers and instruments. Periodic wake-ups by the scientists on Earth made sure everything was going well. Finally, on December 6, 2014 it was time for New Horizons to wake up and go to work. She wouldn’t be landing on Pluto but doing a “flyby” 7,800 miles away from the surface of Pluto. At this distance the photographs she took would be clear and her other instruments for listening, smelling, feeling, and measuring other aspects of Pluto and its atmosphere would work too.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-little-spacecraft-that-could-robotic

Image copyright Simona Ceccarelli, 2021, text copyright Joyce Lapin, 2021. Courtesy of Sterling Publishing.

New Horizons couldn’t wait to get started and began snapping pictures “from half a million miles out.” What people saw when she sent back her photos “sent the internet on fire.” It appeared that Pluto was holding a white heart—a valentine for Earth. “Everybody loved the dwarf planet with a heart!” This heart is actually a glacier made of nitrogen, which on Pluto’s cold surface forms ice instead of gas like on Earth

On July 14, 2015, New Horizons at last reached her optimal distance, and what wonders she uncovered! Towering ice mountains, valleys deeper than the Grand Canyon, “‘ice blades’ the height of New York City skyscrapers,” and “‘ice volcanoes’…that spew out icy slush instead of lava.” This was only the beginning of what scientists discovered. Measurements also showed that Pluto was larger than was thought—bumping it up “from second-largest dwarf planet to the largest.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-little-spacecraft-that-could-control-room

Image copyright Simona Ceccarelli, 2021, text copyright Joyce Lapin, 2021. Courtesy of Sterling Publishing.

New Horizons also took pictures and measurements of Pluto’s moons and, after snapping one last picture: Pluto “‘crowned’ with the hazy blue glow of its atmosphere” while lit from behind by the Sun, New Horizons was off for Arrokoth, an object in the Kuiper Belt that hadn’t even been discovered when she blasted off from Earth all those years ago. A billion miles later, New Horizons reached Arrokoth on January 1, 2019. New Horizons continues to send information about this fascinating body, and because she’s still so “robust…her team wants [her] to visit an even more distant Kuiper Belt world in the 2020s. No one doubts she can do it.

In addition to the story about New Horizons’ journey, each page contains illustrated insets with detailed facts and information about the New Horizons spacecraft, Pluto, our solar system, how the planets were named, and more.

Back matter includes a timeline of New Horizons’ journey, an extensive glossary, a list of books for further reading and research, and a list of internet resources where readers can see videos and learn more about New Horizons and her mission.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-little-spacecraft-that-could-pluto-heart

Image copyright Simona Ceccarelli, 2021, text copyright Joyce Lapin, 2021. Courtesy of Sterling Publishing.

Joyce Lapin’s thrilling true tale of New Horizons’ mission to Pluto and beyond lends pep and personality to this little spacecraft that the world watched blast off with the heart and anticipation of a parent sending their child off on their first day of school. Her engaging storytelling helps kids understand and appreciate the magnitude of New Horizons’ flight and all it has accomplished. Lapin’s clear descriptions of the various stages of the mission, scientists’ expectations, and the tricky maneuvering necessary to put New Horizons at the right place at the right time are delivered smoothly and concisely.

Scientific vocabulary and definitions are woven seamlessly throughout, enhancing the reader’s understanding without their losing any of the suspense. Kids will identify with the childlike nature of New Horizons’ confidence in herself and commiserate with her dismay when Pluto is demoted. Readers will cheer on this little spacecraft as her mission is expanded and will be excited to learn more about what New Horizons has already discovered and what she will find in the future.

Simona Ceccarelli’s illustrations are nothing short of phenomenal. Photographic in detail, Ceccarelli’s vibrant images take kids from the launchpad with the fiery rocket boosters produce clouds of smoke as the spacecraft climbs into the sky, into outer space, where they see how the engines disengaged to set New Horizons free to navigate past Mars, pick up speed from Jupiter (shown in its colorful, striped glory) and rocket past Saturn (the rocky debris of its icy rings clearly visible) to become just a dot in the black sky.

Ceccarelli also takes readers into the control room where graphs, screens, coordinates, and more line the walls and computers stand side-by-side on the desks and carefully observed by the mission’s directors. Images of the heart on Pluto include internet snapshots that will remind some readers of how the world reacted to the first images sent back by New Horizons.

The final images of Pluto, showing a landscape of ice blades, deep canyons, mountains, and swirling patterns of color and then backlit by the Sun, are breathtaking. The spacecraft itself is lightly anthropomorphized with expressive eyes and mouth and cable-thin arms. Drawn from all sides, the images of New Horizons give kids a good a look at this amazing spacecraft.

A sensational achievement in presenting the scientific and human accomplishments involved in the New Horizons mission as well as an exhilarating overview of our solar system, The Little Spacecraft That Could would be a stimulating addition to science units for elementary and high school students to spark a love for astronomy, engineering, research, and other related subjects. The book will be a favorite and is a must for home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 7 and up

Sterling Children’s Books, 2021 | ISBN 978-1454937555

Discover more about Joyce Lapin and her books, visit her website.

To learn more about Simona Ceccarelli, her books, and her art, visit her website

Global Astronomy Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rocket-to-the-moon-tic-tac-toe-game

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

 

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

SUPPLIES

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

DIRECTIONS

To Make the Rockets

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

To Make the Capsule

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

Print the Moon Game Board and play!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-little-spacecraft-that-could-cover

You can find The Little Spacecraft That Could at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

April 14 – It’s Global Astronomy Month

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

About the Holiday

Instituted by Astronomers Without Borders, a group who sees in our shared sky an opportunity to create “a global community that appreciates, studies, and shares the wonders of the universe, to broaden perspective, transcend borders, and improve lives,” Global Astronomy Month brings people together with arts events, parties, and special events. To find resources, such as April sky maps in English and Spanish, and more information on how you can participate, visit the Astronomers Without Borders website.

Thanks to Abrams Books and Blue Slip Media for sending me a copy of The Stuff Between the Stars for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own. I’m excited to be hosting a giveaway of the book. See details below.

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

Written by Sandra Nickel | Illustrated by Aimée Sicuro

 

Vera had always been fascinated with the night sky. As she gazed up 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.

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

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

While at Vassar, she fell in love with Robert Rubin, a mathematician. They married and soon Vera was going to have a baby. During her pregnancy, she explored an idea she had: “was it possible that galaxies rotated around a center in the universe like the Big Dipper circled the North Star?” By the time her son was born, Vera decided she was right. Vera presented her conclusions at a meeting of America’s top astronomers. They thought her ideas were “outlandish” and “ridiculous” and told her so. “Vera felt like the smallest, slowest star on the edge of their galaxy” and wondered if she’d “ever really be an astronomer.”

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

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

After Vera had a baby girl, she decided to concentrate on a new question that she thought would be fun. She wondered if galaxies were scattered haphazardly or whether there was “a pattern to where they spun.” After many months of staying up late into the night 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. Instead of criticizing her, America’s top astronomers ignored her.

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

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

Vera had two more children, and as her family grew she dreamed of observing galaxies from a mountaintop like the senior astronomers and watch gravity work within galaxies. She began teaching astronomy at colleges in Washington D.C., and other astronomers began hearing about her and wanting to know more about her ideas that had been dismissed in the past. More than ever Vera wanted to view the sky from an observatory in the mountains—one like the Carnegie Institution had in the California mountains.

One day she went to the Carnegie Institution and announced that she would like a job there. When the director and other scientists learned about her work and theories, they were so impressed that she landed a job. While the other senior astronomers worked on other questions, Vera studied the “slow-moving stars at the edges of the galaxies.”

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

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

In Arizona Vera studied the Andromeda Galaxy and the stars on its outside spiral. What Vera found was astounding. Instead of moving slower at the edges of the galaxy because of waning gravity from the center, these stars moved at the same speed. She remembered that earlier astronomers had theorized about a mysterious, unseen “dark matter” with its own gravity that “might be at work in the universe.”

Vera believed dark matter “could fill the space between the stars.” In fact, she was sure it was there by the way the stars moved. Once again, when Vera revealed her findings, most astronomers didn’t want to believe it. They didn’t want to believe that all this time they’d only been studying a small fraction of the universe. After Vera studied two hundred more galaxies, the astronomers had to agree that she was correct. At last “Vera was no longer at the edge of astronomy, she was at it’s very center.”

Backmatter includes an Author’s Note detailing more about Vera Rubin’s work, a timeline of Rubin’s life, resources on quotes found in the text, and a selected bibliography.

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

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. Rubin’s inspirational example will resonate with young readers and give them a pathway to accomplishing their own goals. 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. Nickel’s lyrical prose is also sprinkled with metaphors that link Rubin’s feeling and life changes to the night sky she loved to observe.

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, including a complex mathematical calculation she works on while her family sleeps and her idea that galaxies were clumped together. Depictions of the Palomar Observatory will thrill space buffs and show readers why Rubin so wanted to study the sky from a mountain top. 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.

A superb biography that will inspire and nurture young minds, The Stuff Between the Stars is highly recommended for home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 6 – 9

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

Discover more about Sandra Nickel and her books on her website. You can also find curriculum guides and activity sheets to download on her site.

You can connect with Aimée Sicuro on Instagram.

Watch the book trailer for The Stuff Between the Stars!

Global Astronomy Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-astronomy-coloring-page-telescope    celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-astronomy-coloring-page-kids

Explore the Galaxies Coloring Pages

 

Indulge your love of star stuff with these printable coloring pages!

Looking through the Telescope | Studying the Stars | Milky Way Dot-to-Dot

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

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

 

April 5 – National Dandelion Day

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About the Holiday

As warm weather and spring rains begin preparing the ground for grass, flowers, and gardens, there’s another distinctive sprout that appears early – and often. Of course, it’s the dandelion! With its sunny flowers and fly-away seeds, this little plant is part of spring and summer landscapes around the world. The dandelion is far from just a weed, however. In fact, the dandelion is technically an herb and has many health benefits. Dandelion leaves can be used in salads, soups, and teas, and they provide aid with regulating blood sugar, wound healing, gastrointestinal problems, and even vision. Known for its healthy properties since 659 BCE, the dandelion is a staple for many global cultures. To celebrate, check in your favorite grocery store or farmers market for dandelion leaves and try a new recipe! Here are ten delicious-looking dishes from Kitchn!

Thanks to Sleeping Bear Press for sharing a copy of Little Dandelion Seeds the World for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Little Dandelion Seeds the World

Written by Julia Richardson | Illustrated by Kristen Howdeshell  and Kevin Howdeshell

 

A little girl in a South African city finds a dandelion growing in a crack in the sidewalk. She blows on the fluffy head and “swish, swirl, one hundred seeds fly.” One seed flies to an African plain, where it drops into the grass, roots, and grows. “The flower fades. Fluff puffs. POOF!” and a breeze carries one hundred seeds into the air past an elephant and her baby.

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Image copyright Kristen Howdeshell and Kevin Howdeshell, 2021, text copyright Julia Richardson. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

One seed takes a ride on a cheetah’s ear until it is caught by the wind again and finds itself in Asia. Here it roots and grows. When the flower turns to fluff, a curious panda gives it a swat and “swish, swirl, one hundred seeds fly.” One of the seeds gets lifted up in a cyclone and deposited “far, far away…in Australia.”

Here a kangaroo, hopping along, jumps on the plant, now just a fuzzy ball. Seeds take to the air, dancing on the breeze. One seed circles over a sailboat and latches onto the pantleg of a boy standing on the bow. When he disembarks, he takes the seed with him up, up into the hills. The seed jumps off and “a little dandelion blooms in North America.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-dandelion-seeds-the-world-europe

Image copyright Kristen Howdeshell and Kevin Howdeshell, 2021, text copyright Julia Richardson. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

This little plant meets up with a skunk and a bird, and a seed wings its way to South America. Disturbed by a snake slithering by, the puff explodes, sending its seeds every which way. “One little seed slips into the sea, far, far away.” Riding on the current it finds a rock to cling too. “Down with a root. Up with a shoot. A little dandelion blooms in Antarctica.” Another dandelion’s life begins. Finally, with the flick of a seal’s tail, the seeds scatter, one “parachuting. Pirouetting” into Europe, where the familiar, graceful dance continues.

Backmatter includes an illustrated world map that shows the route of the dandelion seeds and approximate landing sites on each continent and an Author’s Note about how dandelions grow and reseed themselves as well as a question to spark discussion.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-dandelion-seeds-the-world-map

Image copyright Kristen Howdeshell and Kevin Howdeshell, 2021, text copyright Julia Richardson. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Julia Richardson’s lyrical descriptions and repeated phrases invite kids to follow dandelion seeds as they travel the world. Richardson’s engaging storytelling will keep kids guessing as to where the seeds will travel next while teaching them about the ingenuity and resilience of nature. The global aspect of the story reminds readers that we are all connected through common experiences, the plants and animals with whom we share our planet, and our responsibilities for conservation.

Through Kristen and Kevin Howdeshell’s bold textured illustrations, readers travel the world with tiny dandelion seeds from the sunbaked African savanna, where cheetahs and elephants roam to a verdant bamboo forest, where a panda almost walks off the page to play with the dandelion, to the lush hills of a coastal town and beyond. In each place local children interact with their environment, giving readers a feeling of inclusion too.

An eye-catching and lyrical introduction to nature science that will spark enthusiasm for learning not only about dandelions but about how all plants grow and thrive, Little Dandelion Seeds the World would be a high-interest addition to science, geography, and social studies lessons for classrooms and homeschoolers as well as to public library collections.

Ages 5 – 8 

Sleeping Bear Press, 2021 | ISBN 978-1534110533

Discover more about Julia Richardson and her books on her website.

To learn more about Kristen Howdeshell and Kevin Howdeshell, their books, and their art, visit their website, The Brave Union.

National Dandelion Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-dandelion-seeds-the-world-coloring-page

Little Dandelion Seeds the World Activity Pages

 

Grab your crayons and pencils and have fun with this printable coloring page and word search puzzle from Sleeping Bear Press!

Little Dandelion Seeds the World Activity Pages

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-dandelion-seeds-the-world-cover

You can find Little Dandelion Seeds the World at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

March 29 – It’s International Ideas Month

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About the Holiday

The onset of spring with its  wide-open sunny days seems to beckon to us to open our minds to all sorts of new possibilities. International Ideas Month also invites would-be inventors and clever folk alike to think differently and pay attention to your brainstorms. You never know – there may be a book, a work of art, a new invention, or a solution to a need inside you just waiting to be let out! 

“Smelly” Kelly and His Super Senses: How James Kelly’s Nose Saved the New York City Subway

Written by Beth Anderson | Illustrated by Jenn Harney

 

James Kelly had a super sensitive nose. It seemed that there was nothing he couldn’t smell: “rats in the shed. Circus elephants a mile away. Tomorrow’s rain.” While this was interesting, James wished he had a different “super power,” one that would get him noticed. When James was older, he moved to New York and set out to find a job. But lots of jobs—like working at the fish market, the butcher shop, or the sanitation department—were just too stinky.

Then James “heard a rumble below the sidewalk and peered through the grate. The damp air bristled with mystery.” James descended below the street and discovered the subway. Here “a nick, a crack, a break, a spark could wreak havoc.” Down here, James Kelly sniffed out water and gas leaks and other problems then led repair crews to the spots. People were so impressed that soon he had “a new name: Smelly Kelly. James began studying about new equipment that could help him.

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Image copyright Jenn Harney, 2020, text copyright Beth Anderson, 2020. Courtesy of Calkins Creek.

The subway wasn’t the only place having trouble with bad odors. At the Hotel New Yorker, a mysterious leak was causing guests to flee and the staff to hold their noses. Everyone blamed the subway, so the hotel manager called for Smelly Kelly. James could smell the leak, but he couldn’t pinpoint where it was coming from. Using a bit of his new equipment, though, the break in the pipes exposed itself. James had found his calling.

Next, people began complaining about “toilets flushing steam” at the 42nd Street men’s room. He followed the pipes and finally found the cause, but Smelly Kelly realized that “sniffing wasn’t enough.” He needed to be able to hear problems too. But that would require a different kind of equipment—something “like a telephone or stethoscope.” James Kelly tinkered and experimented until he had created just what he needed. Every day, Smelly Kelly rid the city of leaks, toxic spills, and clogs—most unassociated with the subway at all. But one danger did lurk among the tracks: the electricity of the third rail.

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Image copyright Jenn Harney, 2020, text copyright Beth Anderson, 2020. Courtesy of Calkins Creek.

One night his phone rang. It was an emergency—a “tar-like smell” was coming from underground. Smelly Kelly took one whiff and proclaimed, “‘Gasoline. One spark from the third rail and we’re all history,’” he warned. The station was evacuated and the trains slowed. Then Kelly went to work until he found the leaking storage tank. It took ten hours to make the city safe, and when it was Smelly Kelly was hailed as a “superhero.”

Smelly Kelly’s days were always different and often surprising. Once, he unearthed long-buried elephant manure, but his most dramatic save happened the day a man fell from the platform onto the tracks just as a train rolled into the station. That time Kelly’s sense of smell couldn’t help him, but his courage could. James Kelly crawled under the train car and pinned the unconscious man down and away from the electrified rail. Slowly, the train backed up over them, and when it was clear, James and the man got up. Everyone cheered. That day James Kelly discovered his real superpower: “the force that pushed him…to study, invent, and risk his life. His special power was inside.”

Backmatter includes two Author’s Notes, one revealing more about James Kelly, and the second explaining more about the research that went into writing the story. There is also a section on the tools Kelly used and some fascinating facts about what lies beneath New York City’s streets. Children will also find books and websites for further reading and a bibliography.

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Image copyright Jenn Harney, 2020, text copyright Beth Anderson, 2020. Courtesy of Calkins Creek.

Kids will marvel at Beth Anderson’s biography of James Kelly, his super-sensitive nose, and the New York City subway. As readers learn about James Kelly’s unique abilities, they also discover facts about the ever-growing city of the early to mid-1900s. Anderson’s suspense-filled storytelling will keep kids riveted to the action and keep them guessing at where the smells come from. Kelly’s ingenious inventions and uses of new equipment will impress future engineers and other creative kids. Anderson’s unifying theme reminds readers that everyone has the power to use their particular talents to make a difference.

Jenn Harney’s engaging illustrations capture the details and personalities of this quirky biography while also giving kids an underground tour of New York City. Kids will be fascinated to see the dark tunnels of the subway system, crowded with a maze of pipes and wiring over which James Kelly kept constant vigil. The foul aromas that lead Kelly to leaks, dangerous conditions, and other problems waft through the tunnels in ghostly green swirls. With his prominent nose, black jacket, and fedora perched on his red shock of hair, James Kelly looks like the detective he was, and his facial expressions reveal not only the strength of the odors he discovered but also the pride he took in his work.

A unique and intriguing addition to history, science, and STEM lessons for classrooms and homeschoolers as well as a captivating read for home story times, “Smelly” Kelly and his Super Senses is highly recommended for home, school, and pubic library bookshelves

Ages 7 – 10

Calkins Creek, 2020 | ISBN 978-1684373994

International Ideas Month Activity

CPB - Nose Smelling Clipart

 

It makes sense to learn about your senses! Follow your nose to fun and discovery with these two activities!

  1. Can you guess each smell in this scent-sational experiment from KidsHealth?
  2. Paint your next picture with kool-smelling watercolors with this Scratch-and-Sniff activity from Learn Create Love!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-smelly-kelly-cover

You can find “Smelly” Kelly and His Super Senses at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

March 24 – It’s Women’s History Month

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About the Holiday

From its beginning as a single-day observance in 1911 in Sonoma, California, the celebration of women’s achievements and contributions throughout history grew to a week-long event in 1980 and finally to encompass the entire month of March in 1987. During this month we remember the trail-blazing women of yesteryear who used their creativity, intelligence, and perseverance to promote rights for women while contributing their own innovations to science, art, social reform, medicine, and other disciplines as well as today’s pioneers who carry on their legacy and make our world a better place. Today, we feature a book about a woman who revolutionized virology and medical research, connecting the past and the present. To learn more about the holiday, visit the National Women’s History Museum website and check out their resource toolkit.

June Almeida, Virus Detective! The Woman Who Discovered the First Human Coronavirus

Written by Suzanne Slade | Illustrated by Elisa Paganelli

Growing up in Glasgow, Scotland, June Almeida loved school. After class she couldn’t wait to share what she’d learned—especially science subjects—with her mother, father, and little brother, Henry. When June was ten, however, her life changed when Henry became sick and passed away. Throughout elementary school and into high school, June loved studying science, especially biology in which she learned about the cells in the body and their functions. “June was so enthusiastic about science, she won the top science prize at school.”

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Image copyright Elisa Paganelli, 2021, text copyright Suzanne Slade, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

But science wasn’t the only thing June loved. She had lots of friends, was an avid reader, and became an excellent photographer. Whenever she was out with her camera, “she noticed small details, and her keen eye helped her create stunning photos.” June dreamed of attending college, but the jobs her father and mother held did not pay enough, and when June was sixteen, she dropped out of school to get a job to help pay the bills. June wanted to make a difference, “so she applied to work at the nearby hospital” and was hired as a lab worker. Here she learned how to examine cells with a microscope. “Her findings helped doctors treat patients.”

When June was twenty-two, she and her family moved to London. She got a job in a hospital lab and also met and married an artist named Henry. June and Henry moved to Canada, where she quickly found a job at a “new research lab in Toronto.” In this lab, June worked with an electron microscope that could magnify things 25,000 times and produced detailed pictures of the samples being studied. These photos “were helpful. But it was hard to tell which tiny blobs were viruses and which were cells.” June thought she could improve on the photos.

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Image copyright Elisa Paganelli, 2021, text copyright Suzanne Slade, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

June knew that in the body antibodies would surround viruses as they worked to fight it. June wondered if by introducing antibodies to her samples, scientists would be able to determine the virus from the cells. June’s idea worked. The scientists were astonished. Because of June’s innovation, they now had clear pictures that would help them study and combat viruses.

After June took time away from work to have a baby in 1960, she returned to her research and often lectured about her work. She was recruited to work at a hospital lab in London, so she and her family moved once again. At the time, a researcher named David Tyrrell had been trying to identify a virus that had affected a young boy. Could it be a new virus? He was hoping that June could help.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-june-almeida-virus-detective-hospital

Image copyright Elisa Paganelli, 2021, text copyright Suzanne Slade, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

When June received the sample, she knew that “since it was an unknown virus, there were no antibodies to help find it.” But she was an expert at using another method that might work. Carefully, June implemented the intricate steps. Then she put the sample under the microscope and scanned the picture. “June was stunned.” Each virus blob was encircled by tiny dots “like a crown. ” She had seen this twice before when looking at viruses from sick animals. She had written a paper on it, but it had been rejected by other researchers because they thought her pictures were just blurry and not those of a new virus.

June presented her findings to doctors who agreed with her discovery. They decided to name the new virus coronavirus, after the Latin word for crown, corona. June and David then published a paper telling other doctors and researchers about the new virus. Following this discovery, June continued to study viruses, such as hepatitis B and HIV. Her pictures of these viruses helped researchers develop medications that could “block them from making people sick.” Even after she retired, June never lost her love of learning, teaching herself to play the flute, about antiques, and how to use a digital camera to continue creating incredible photos.

Backmatter includes more about June Almeida and her life’s work, an illustrated timeline of her life, and a selected bibliography.

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Image copyright Elisa Paganelli, 2021, text copyright Suzanne Slade, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Suzanne Slade’s compelling biography of June Almeida gives context for and insight into the research and discovery of the coronavirus and informs present-day events and breakthroughs. Slade’s fluid storytelling clearly reveals Almeida’s intelligence and passion for science as well as her determination to use her skills to the betterment of society. Kids will be astounded that June was able to begin her career at the age of sixteen, and that her beloved hobby of photography became a career that changed medical research. Slade’s sprinkling of personal details about Almeida’s life creates a well-rounded understanding of this influential woman.

Through Elisa Paganelli’s realistic and detailed illustrations, children have the opportunity to see a researcher at work in world-class laboratories. Readers will be especially impressed by images of the electron microscope and how Almeida improved the photographs these powerful machines produced. Children familiar with the shape of the coronavirus will be interested in seeing the faithfully reproduced photographs and how the virus got its name. Kids will also enjoy seeing illustrations of Almeida’s family life, including her daughter Joyce, who is herself a doctor.

An inspirational and fascinating biography of a woman with a very innovative mind, June Almeida, Virus Detective! will thrill children interested in science, medicine, and the arts. The book would be an impactful addition to STEM and STEAM lessons. It is highly recommended for home libraries and is a must for school and public library collections.

Ages 6 – 9 

Sleeping Bear Press, 2021 | ISBN 978-1534111325

Discover more about Suzanne Slade and her books on her website.

To learn more about Elisa Paganelli, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Women’s History Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-microscope-coloring-page          celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-microscope-wordsearch-puzzle

Take a Closer Look Coloring Page and Word Search 

You can examine the parts of a microscope with this printable word search puzzle and coloring page.

Take a Closer Look Word Search Puzzle | Take a Closer Look Word Search Solution | Coloring Page

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-june-almeida-virus-detective-cover

You can find June Almeida, Virus Detective! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review