Monday, April 22, 2024

THOMAS JEFFERSON'S BATTLE FOR SCIENCE: A Picture Book Review and Giveaway

Beth Anderson is no stranger to my blog. Her outstanding nonfiction biographies find little-known stories within a historical character's well-known life. Thomas Jefferson's Battle for Science: Bias, Truth, and a Mighty Moose! (Calkins Creek, 2024) is her latest contribution to her other great curriculum resources for grades 2-5. The engaging illustrations by Jeremy Holmes amplify the text and pull readers of all ages into the book.



REVIEW

The book opens with illustrations of the animals, plants, and geographical formations that Jefferson studied. The text reads, "Young Thomas Jefferson measured his world." He collected fossils and bones. "The power and majesty of nature called him to question, experiment, and explore." He was quite certain it was all peaceful and measurable until he read Count Georges-Luis Lecleric De Buffon's encyclopedia of the natural world.



The battle began.

Buffon declared that the new world was swampy, cold, and lacked magnificent animals like lions and elephants. He wrote that bears were smaller and wolves were puny. Jefferson read,


"Suddenly science wasn't certain or peaceful."

The War of Independence erupted and Jefferson focused on his role as the Virginia representative to Congress. But inside of him, his own battle raged. He asked questions about Buffon's "facts." Most of all, he wanted to know how the French naturalist could write about America without ever traveling here! He compiled evidence to disprove Buffon's conclusions and wrote his own book--Notes on the State of Virginia! (His only full-length book published in his lifetime.)

He packed his bags and went to France to present his arguments and evidence to Buffon. After months of waiting to hear from Buffon, they agreed to meet in person. Now, the battle began in earnest!



Without including spoilers, I'll just say that Thomas Jefferson's Battle for Science lets the reader see how despite setbacks, Jefferson fought his battle for truth and facts. 

In the end,



IN TIME, new truths overshadowed Buffon's biased ideas. The land that Thomas loved wasn't a terrible, unhealthy place. It wasn't better or worse than the Old World. JUST MEASURABLY DIFFERENT.
 

BACK MATTER

The Author's Notes, Timeline, and Bibliography are all worth reading. I loved the endpapers that Jeremy Holmes created from footprints of animals that Jefferson observed. 

The discussion guide can be found here.

YOUTUBE VIDEO


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GIVEAWAY

If you are interested in winning this book, please leave me a comment by April 25. U.S. addresses only. Teachers, home school educators, and librarians get two chances. If you share this on social media or sign-up to follow my blog you'll get an extra chance too.



Friday, April 19, 2024

BEN AND SCOUT: A Review by Guest Blogger, Janelle Ekpo

REVIEW

Ben and Scout by Denise Minnerly is the story of two dogs that are best friends and are always together, despite the greatest olds. It is a story about loss written for young children. 

Ben is old and sick. Scout is young and has only a superficial understanding of Ben’s condition, so when Ben dies, Scout struggles with great loss. Will he ever see his best friend again? Is Scout all alone? In the story, Scout struggles with depression and anxiety: he eats less, and he begins to shed a lot. Then Scout starts having dreams about Ben. In them, Ben says that he will always be with him, and this encourages Scout. Soon his hair grows back - the same color as Ben’s hair was. And he sees it as a confirmation that Ben is still in his heart.

Loss is real. Anxiety and depression - the after-effects of loss - are also very real. Ben and Scout does a nice job of introducing young children to these difficult concepts. The illustrations are also well-done and fun. They are simple and reinforce the ideas in the book.

Denise with her rescue darling, Scout. Check out the color
variation on Scout's back. Scout lost his hair in grief over Ben's passing. 
But when it grew back, it was Ben's color!


ABOUT THE BOOK

Ben & Scout is inspired by Denise’s pets and their enduring love for one another. It’s so painful to lose a pet we cherish and books that discuss these topics can become part of the healing process. This book is serving an animal rescue project, Pilots to the Rescue. Forty percent of the total book sales will be donated to helping rescues find their forever home.

ABOUT JANELLE EKPO


I’m a sophomore from South Carolina who is passionate about Christian fantasy, realistic fiction, and writing. I often help students with their papers and write book reviews to encourage people to read quality books. I’m working on growing my personal library!






DO YOU WANT TO BE AN ARC READER?

If you are interested in being an ARC (ARC = advanced reader copy) reader like Janelle, then I have books for you! My publisher, Monarch Educational Services, invites you to read their K-12 clean-reads books before they come out. If you feel that the books merit it (and we hope you do!) they ask that you post your positive review on Goodreads and Barnes & Noble. Save the review and when the book is published you can share it on Amazon too. 

Interested? Go to https://bit.ly/ARCMONARCH to sign up!

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

"BUILDING" BOOKS + 4 Giveaways

 

Talking Story is live! Here is your chance to not only win LET'S BUILD A TRAIN or PRAIRIE BOY but also A GRAND IDEA by Megan Hoyt and NICK AND TESLA by Bob Pflugfelder.



You can access the newsletter here. Read Megan Hoyt's backstory for her picture book about Grand Central Station, find other book recommendations, and discover how to build a roller coaster!

If you're a home school educator or librarian tell me in the comments and I'll enter your name twice! U.S. addresses only. Giveaway ends April 20. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Building Picture Books

 Did I hook you with that title? Did you think this blog post was going to be about how to create a picture book? Homonyms can be clever--and difficult for English language learners! 

In this case, I'm using "building" as an adjective. The spring issue of Talking Story is coming out next week and Rebecca Wheeler and I are featuring books that are about building. We have four great giveaways and I'm introducing two of them here.


LET'S BUILD A LITTLE TRAIN (Sleeping Bear Press: 2022)

This informative yet entertaining picture book written by Julia Richardson and with colorful illustrations by Ryan O'Rourke is for the youngest reader in your home or school. Children will enjoy the simple rhyme, rhythm, and "Chugga Chugga Choo Chooo" which they can chime in with. 

Although the characters and some of the tools are contemporary-looking, the book shows the steps for building a 19th-century steam engine. It begins with this page:


The book shows the men and women who helped build it, some of their tasks, and the different parts of the steam engine. 



The engine pulls a beautiful train as it moves through the countryside.


Two pages of back matter show the history of steam trains, how they work, and photographs that define some of the words used in the book.

Young builders and their teachers and parents will enjoy reading this STEM book together. Writers, you will want to study this book for word choice, structure, and the framework of the story!




PRAIRIE BOY (Astra Publishing: 2019), written by Barb Rosenstock and perfectly illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal is about architecture, history, and dreams. It will educate and inspire an older audience than Let's Build a Little Train; I would recommend it for ages 5-9. 

Frank Lloyd Wright is a name familiar to many of us. Although adults might know him as a famous architect, this childhood-adulthood picture book shows readers (and the adults who read it to them!) what events inspired Wright's famous career. 

As you read this opening, consider Rosentock's use of verbs, alliteration, and shapes, AND how she shows the growth and personality of a young boy in one very tight paragraph:

FRANK WRIGHT TOOK HIS FIRST BREATH ON THE WISCONSIN PRAIRIE. He crawled in the paths of brush-footed butterflies and toddled through waves of tall grass. He skipped past oval milkweed sees, six-sided honeycombs, and trying-face badgers, growing into the kind of boy who wondered...
     
HOW DO BROWN FIELD ANTS
   HIDE IN WHITE QUEEN ANNE'S LACE?

WHEN DOES THE HARVEST MOON
   CHANGE SHAPE?

WHAT MAKES THE PRAIRIE
   FEEL LIKE HOME?

 

Frank moved five times in seven years and yearned for the "shapes of the heartland." His mother bought him a set of Froebel blocks which fascinated him as he discovered how shapes were connected to one another.

His mother bought him more blocks.

 
As a teenager, Frank began to dream.



He moved to Chicago, studied architecture, and watched as fancy houses went up on flat prairie lots. They reflected Greek Revival, Victorian, and Italian architecture.  Everyone liked them, except Frank.


He wanted to design new kinds of homes that fit new American families. So, that's what he did.


"Like magic, he shook dozens of shapes from his shirtsleeves- ovals, hexagons, triangles, cubes, spheres, and cylinders... He called the Prairie Houses...and spun the shapes he loved into America's homes."

The back matter includes photographs of several famous Frank Lloyd Wright buildings and the plans for Fallingwater; a famous home in Mill Run Pa. 


If I were using this book in the classroom, I would not only ask students to look for figurative language, but I would ask them to cite instances where the text emphasizes shapes. What a wonderful way to pay tribute to an architect who loved shapes. 

GIVEAWAYS!


I am giving away both of these books next week through Talking Story. I'd love it if you subscribed to this quarterly newsletter. You can use the QRC code below or click here to subscribe. If you leave me a comment below, please let me know which book you prefer. If you leave a comment through the newsletter, I'll enter your name twice. As always, if you are an educator, librarian, or a new subscriber to my blog, you will earn an additional chance. U.S. addresses only. The giveaway ends April 20. Make sure you leave your email address if you are new to my blog.









Friday, April 5, 2024

UPCOMING EVENTS!

Here are some upcoming writing events that might interest you or the teen in your life.

Ten Steps on Your Path to Publication

When I moved to Matthews, NC a few years ago I was delighted to discover Matthews Christian library walking distance from my home. Of course, I introduced myself to the librarian, Tiffany Slack, and told her about my passion for books and writing. 

Recently, Tiffany contacted me and asked if I would be willing to participate in their 25th anniversary celebration. She asked if I would talk about getting published since many of their patrons ask about that.

It just so happened that had been my topic at a recent workshop for a library in the Charlotte Mecklenburg system, and so I replied with a proposal.

And just like that, this is going to happen in May!



                                        🖊🖊🖊🖊🖊

WOW! A Week of Outstanding Writing


Do you have a tween or tween who loves writing? In June I will lead a fun writing camp for kids. Please pass this information along to teachers or parents who know a child who might love learning more about writing a short story. I'll use activities from my book, Teaching the Story: Fiction Writing in Grades 4-8.


                                        🖊🖊🖊🖊🖊

Writing Christian MG or YA Fantasy

If you dream of writing middle-grade or young-adult fantasy, the virtual Write2Ignite Master Class still has a few spots open. For an interview with speaker Amy Earls, click here


Questions about any of these events? Feel free to email me.

Congratulations to Marci Whitehurst who won a copy of Linda Phillips' book, CRAZY.




Friday, March 29, 2024

YOU CAN SEE IT HERE FIRST -- A COVER REVEAL of the RE-RELEASE OF CRAZY by Linda Phillips

 It is always an honor for me when an author allows me the privilege of sharing the cover of their book with the world. This time, I'm giving you a first peek at my friend Linda Phillips' new cover for the re-release of her YA novel, CRAZY


Isn't it stunning?

It's hard to believe that this poignant novel about mental health, family relationships, and art has been out for ten years.  Here is the review that I posted in June 2014. 

Recently I chatted with Linda on why Eerdmans decided to re-release CRAZY and her hopes for the book.


GIVEAWAY & PREORDERS

CRAZY won't be coming out until July but I'm starting the giveaway today. Linda will send a copy of her book to one fortunate reader when it comes out. Leave me a comment by March 27 and I'll enter your name. If you are new to my blog, please leave your email address; U.S. address only. Teachers, librarians, and home educators get two chances. 

If you want to make sure you get your own copy of this gut-wrenching peek into what life is like living with a bipolar parent, you can preorder CRAZY here:



Friday, March 22, 2024

PUSH-PULL MORNING: Dog Powered Poems About Matter and Energy

I wouldn't have believed that a book about matter and energy would be read by the picture book crowd, except that my third-grade and kindergarten grandkids are studying physics at school right now. Go figure. At their age, I would have had no idea that a catapult uses a fulcrum---or even what a fulcrum was--let alone build one for a class project! 


Eleanor's 3rd-grade catapult
(with some help from her dad).


Her younger brother, Caleb,
enjoyed the catapult too.

But I digress. PUSH-PULL MORNING (Astra Books for Young Readers, 2023) written by Lisa Westberg Peters and illustrated by Serge Bloch is a fun-filled exploration of physics for young readers. And because the narrator's new dog is the star of the show, even kids who might not gravitate to science will be won over too. After all, who can resist a book with a dog that is physics-friendly? 




REVIEW

Using the unique vehicle of poetry, Lisa Westberg Peters tackles ideas that aren't easy to explain. 

Take the concept of Matter that is shown in the first poem, "Stuff in Common." The narrator comments on the fact that although he is different than his new pet, his dog's wet nose, floppy ears, and clicky claws are all made of

zillions of wiggly molecules and

jillions of jiggly atoms.

Me too!

My new dog and I 

are made of the SAME

wiggly-jiggly stuff.


From there, the reader discovers the Phases of Matter.



A dog is the perfect way to illustrate the concept of Motion. Whether she is chasing a squirrel, running back and forth, or panting and pretending not to care about the squirrel, the "Dog in Motion" poem says it all. 

Similarly, a dog clearly demonstrates the concept of Force in "Push-Pull Morning."  How?  Think about how your dog pulls on her leash to go outside or to greet another dog; how your dog has to be pushed inside the vet's office and how she pushes against your leg when she wants attention.

Clever, huh? 

There are poems about inertia (picture a dog who'd rather nap than go for a walk); gravity (will a dog go down a playground slide?); magnetism (a dog contemplates how a bone can be stuck to the refrigerator door); energy, friction, and electricity.



My generous dog

gives me electrons 

on cool, dry days.

She rolls around on the carpet

Her fur picks up electrons

until she is extremely negative.


Using activities that are familiar to young children and with the help of a super-smart, friendly dog, Lisa Westberg Peters brings physics into the realm of common everyday experiences. 

All I can say is that I would have liked my high school Chemistry and Physics classes if I'd had this book as a youngster. I'm thankful--and a bit jealous--of my grandkids!

CURRICULUM RESOURCE

It probably goes without saying that PUSH-PULL MORNING will be a fantastic STEM supplement in kindergarten through third-grade classrooms. In addition, Lisa has ideas for combining science with poetry on her website. Since the concepts are not the easiest ones to master, the book would also be useful in middle school classrooms. Thanks to my friend, Linda Phillips, a former middle school teacher for pointing that out!

I am sorry but there's no giveaway this time. As you might have predicted, this book found a home in my grandkids' growing library.

Congratulations to Emily Weitz who won The Human Body: An Alien's Guide.

Don't forget to check out the other MMGM books featured on Greg Pattridge's blog!







Friday, March 15, 2024

THE HUMAN BODY: AN ALIEN'S GUIDE: A Graphic Novel Review by Guest Blogger Brooke Leela-Ann White

The human body… more like the heroic body!


The Human Body: An Alien’s Guide, written by Ruth Redford and illustrated by Leandro Cunha, is a graphic novel about human biology. This book features two aliens, Zag and Zog, who go on an adventurous mission to learn about the human body. 

I read it to my 5-year-old brother, Noah-Austin.



 REVIEW


I recommend this book for kids in grades 3-4 since it is interesting, fun, and an easy read. Zag and Zog break down the human body into percentages:




The alien has three big eyes and the other guy looks like an oval!”- Noah-Austin White

The aliens fly through seven systems of the body on their spaceship.

In the skeletal system, the curious aliens learn about the bones of the body, cartilage, how bones can heal themselves, and the joints' functions. 

I taught Noah-Austin about his funny bone.


In the muscular system, Zag and Zog learn about the different types of muscles and their location.


 

Why is an alien in the body? They should be on the moon right now!”

- Noah-Austin White

 

Zog talks like an alien: "That’s it? Do they ever just feel zorpy?” he says when the two learn how many muscles the face uses.

The two aliens discover the nervous system and learn about electric signals sent to the brain notifying the brain what action it needs to perform. They also discuss how nerves are needed in different places for different movements.

In the circulatory system, these cool little monsters learn about blood, blood cells, germs, blood vessels, arteries, the heart, and blood clots.

 

The cells mistake them for enemies and start to attack them! Luckily, the extraterrestrials escape. 


In the immune system, they learn about oxygen, carbon dioxide, lungs, mucus, viruses, and, infected cells. But real trouble awaits in the digestive system. 


“The stomach mush looks like poop.”-Noah-Austin White


In the digestive system, the one-eyed and three-eyed aliens are educated about the process of how the body digests food, the small intestine, the large intestines, feces, heartburn, stomach ache, urination, infections, and lots more! Then, the aliens start to get trapped by the stomach acid made when the human experiences heartburn, but they find a way out (phew!) without any chaos, or digestion drama in the mix.


      Why does he have so many arms?” Noah-Austin asked.


Lastly, in the endocrine system, the spacelings learn about puberty, hormones, the pituitary gland, the pineal gland, the parathyroid, the thymus gland, the pancreas, the adrenal glands, and the thyroid glands. I had no idea these were such things--I can’t even pronounce them! The octopus-like aliens also discover how emotions affect hormones.


I find this story fascinating because the facts are formatted in a way that’s easy to understand. This story differs from other biology books because it is a graphic novel and kid-friendly. I also enjoyed how in each system the aliens don’t only learn about the parts of the body, but they also have an adventure/exploration!


I recommend THE HUMAN BODY: An Alien's Guide to any kid who wants to learn about human biology. I love this book because it helped me learn a lot of important information quickly. The illustrations helped me better understand what the parts of the body look like, and the cartoony art style gave it a fun feel. 



Brooke Leela-Ann White is an 11-year-old 5th grader who lives in Charlotte, North Carolina. She has written two books, “ Cupcake the Lying Unicorn” and “Cookie Cat and the Tagalongs”. When Brooke isn’t reading or writing you’ll probably spot her sewing, scootering, swimming, or studying. This is Brooke’s fourth book review, She has been dreaming about becoming a book reviewer ever since she could read!


GIVEAWAY

If you are interested in adding this book to your home or school library, leave me a comment by March 19. If you are new to my blog, make sure you leave your email address. If you are a new subscriber to my blog or an educator or librarian, I'll put your name in twice. 


Don't forget to check out Greg Pattridge's great MMGM blog every Monday!  

THOMAS JEFFERSON'S BATTLE FOR SCIENCE: A Picture Book Review and Giveaway

Beth Anderson is no stranger to my  blog . Her outstanding nonfiction biographies find little-known stories within a historical character&#...