there is the Moon,
cold and quiet,
no air, no life,
but glowing in the sky.
there are three men
who close themselves
in special clothes,
in heavy gloves,
in large, round helmets.
It is summer here in Florida,
hot, and near the sea.
But now these men are dressed for colder, stranger places.
The walk with stiff and awkward steps
in suits not made for Earth.
This outstanding book tells an amazing story, reads like poetry, is full of interesting facts, and is beautifully presented. It is not a short book, but reading it aloud is a pleasure.
Author: Brian Floca
Illustrator: Brian Floca
My brothers and sister and I grew up on a farm of steep, wooded hills and fields with rocks as big as your head. There was work enough on that farm to keep us busy all year long from dawn till dusk.
On winter nights, as the wind whistled ’round the house and snow piled up against the windows, our mother told us stories of how our Scottish ancestors left their rocky farms to journey to America for a better life.
We thought of the rocks here, of Vermont’s long, bitter winters, and of the hundreds of trees that had to be cut down to make a farm, and my brothers would say, “Why’d they ever move here?”
Then they’d argue about where they wanted to move to when they grew up.
“Think of all the things you’d miss,” I told them.
“Miss?” they said. “What would we miss?”
For the rest of the book, the author and her brothers provide points and counterpoints of the difficulties and joys of farm life. It sounds incredibly difficult and wonderful and very exotic to us suburbanites. The author ends by noting:
A few cousins moved away, to New York and Michigan and even one to Africa, but my sister, brothers, and I, and most of my cousins, are still here, sugaring and haying and cutting wood. We also cross-country ski and canoe and gather together to eat, laugh, and tell stories. And no one talks about leaving.
Author: Natalie Kinsey-Warnock
Illustrator: Mary Azarian
Posted in Non-fiction, Picture Books
Tagged Animals, Christmas, farm, food, From Dawn till Dusk, immigration, Machines, Mary Azarian, Natalie Kinsey-Warnock, out of print, USA
This book doesn’t have many total pages, but it is enormous (well over a foot tall and almost a foot wide), heavy, and attractive. It very well designed; filled with interesting flaps, pop ups, puzzles, and avian tidbits; and recommended for kids large enough to pick it up easily and treat it gently.
Author: Bernadette Gervais and Francesco Pittau
Illustrator: Bernadette Gervais and Francesco Pittau
Visualizing a million, billion, or trillion (or other concepts like compound interest and the metric system) isn’t easy, unless you read this fun series of books.
For example, a tank big enough to hold a million goldfish would be big enough to hold a whale. A tank big enough to hold a billion goldfish would be as big as a stadium. And a tank big enough to hold a trillion goldfish would be as big as a city harbor. (Keeping in mind a tank should hold one gallon of water for every one inch goldfish!)
Steven Kellogg’s cheerful illustrations keep things light, bright, and engaging. How Much is a Million? is our favorite of the series.
Author: David M. Schwartz
Illustrator: Steven Kellogg
Posted in Non-fiction, Picture Books
Tagged A Reading Rainbow Selection, Animals, David M. Schwartz, Diverse Books, How Much is a Million?, I read this as a kid, If You Made a Million, Millions to Measure, science, series, Steven Kellogg
Abraham Lincoln was a doting, devoted, and devastated father. This work of historical fiction focuses on his relationship with two of his four sons. Willie narrates the first half of the book (this narration is partially based on a 200-word fragment by the historical Willie; all of the events in the book are historically accurate). When Willie dies at age eleven, partway through his father’s term of office, the narration is taken over by his younger brother, Tad. (The Lincolns had already lost another son, Eddie, at the age of three, while Lincoln was practicing law in Springfield, Illinois.) The book ends as the Civil War ends, before Lincoln’s assassination. (The book does not go on to note that Tad outlived his father, but died at age eighteen and the Lincolns’ only surviving son, the one Lincoln had the most distant relationship with, then arranged to have his mother committed to a psychiatric hospital.)
While this is clearly not the happiest of stories, Lincoln loved his wife and their boys very much and his (over?) indulgence of his boys and joy in their company make this a very accessible, warm book. It is memorable too; my oldest drew Lincoln (complete with this stovepipe hat and beard) and one of his sons in response to an end-of-the-school-year question, along with the following explanation: “My favorite social studies is Aedrham Lingkne. Cus he is vary nice to his cids and evry oun eles!”
Author: Rosemary Wells
Illustrator: P.J. Lynch
This is a wonderfully written and illustrated book about the greatest magician ever. Harry Houdini, born Ehrich Weiss, used books, his imagination, and pure grit to lift himself (and his entire family) out of anonymity and poverty into lasting, world-wide renown and wealth.
We came upon this book because I read The Houdini Box to my oldest and he wanted to know the real story behind the story. The boys love this real rags-to-riches tale and are fascinated by Houdini’s tricks, especially his escapes. Their favorite escape may be how Houdini would jump (handcuffed!) off bridges in front of huge (nonpaying) crowds, free himself underwater, and swim to safety (and sell out all his remaining performances in the area). As the book puts it, if you saw this, “You remembered it for the rest of your life.”
Author: Kathleen Krull
Illustrator: Eric Velasquez
Layers upon layers of scientific information are presented in this series through eye-popping pop ups (each double page spread has one big pop up, plus lots of smaller ones hidden in mini-attached pages). It is perfect for kids who love animals and science (and have learned to be gentle with delicate books).
Author: Matthew Reinhart
Illustrator: Robert Sabuda
Posted in Non-fiction, Pop Up Books
Tagged Animals, Encyclopedia Prehistorica: Dinosaurs, Encyclopedia Prehistorica: Mega-Beasts, Encyclopedia Prehistorica: Sharks and Other Sea Monsters, Matthew Reinhart, New York Times Best Illustrated Book, New York Times Notable Children's Book, Robert Sabuda, science, series
Ms. Frizzle, who may be the coolest teacher ever, has a magic school bus which takes her (sometimes reluctant) class on incredible trips. They travel on the ocean floor; get lost in the solar system; have an electric field trip; explore in the time of the dinosaurs; and go inside the earth, a bee hive, a hurricane, the human body, and the waterworks. Yet they are always back before the end of the school day without anyone knowing of their adventures.
These books are well designed and fun to look at, are packed (packed!) with scientific information, and have fun stories too (with the exception of Lost in the Solar System, which has a truly annoying guest student as a major focus–I avoid that one whenever possible). I expect that, once the boys get older, they will enjoy reading all of the dialogue boxes and side notes that I usually skip in the interest of time. Their favorites are: Inside the Earth, Inside a Bee Hive, Inside a Hurricane, In the Time of the Dinosaurs, and At the Waterworks.
Author: Joanna Cole
Illustrator: Bruce Degen
Posted in Non-fiction, Picture Books
Tagged A Reading Rainbow Selection, At the Waterworks, beach, Bruce Degen, In The Time of the Dinosaurs, Inside a Beehive, Inside a Hurricane, Inside the Earth, Inside the Human Body, Joanna Cole, Lost in the Solar System, Magic School Bus, On the Ocean Floor, school, science, science fiction, series, The Electric Field Trip
Tommy knew he wanted to be an artist when he grew up.
He drew pictures everywhere he went. It was his favorite thing to do.
His friends had favorite things to do, too. Jack collected all kinds
of turtles. Herbie made huge cities in his sandbox. Jeannie,
Tommy’s best friend, could do cartwheels and stand on her head.
But Tommy drew and drew and drew.
This book is a great portriat of a young artist (“Tommy” is Tomie de Paola himself) and a very different time. The boys really enjoy this book. Highlights are Tommy’s joy in the sixty-four colors found in a large Crayola box (they agree that gold, silver, and copper crayons are especially exciting) and they are always amazed that each first grader in Tommy’s is given one (and only one!) precious piece of paper for art class.
In the final page of this book, a grown-up Tommy is sitting in his studio. Pictures from some of his most famous books (many of which the boys recognize) are on the wall. Tommy drew and drew and drew…
And he still does.
Author: Tomie de Paola
Illustrator: Tomie de Paola
This quiet book tells gestation/birth/baby stories for many different animals, ending with one human baby:
You rode curled beneath your mother’s heart,
growing and growing. You floated in a salty sea, waiting
and waiting. Waiting for us who were waiting for you.
“We’re ready,” we said. And you were ready too.
So you squeezed out, wailing.
My toddlers thought babies were interesting. That tendency, combined with the interesting details on the various animals and gentle pictures, ensured this cozy book kept their attention during the board book years.
Author: Marion Dane Bauer
Illustrator: JoEllen McAllister Stammen