Monday, July 22, 2019

Ocean: Secrets of the Deep by Sabrina Weiss, illustrated by Giulia De Amicis

Ocean: Secrets of the Deep by Sabrina Weiss,
illustrated by Giulia De Amicis
What on Earth Publishing, 2019, 72 pages 

What to do on a hot, hot weekend? Go to the ocean, of course. But if you can't get to the actual ocean, reading about it is the next best thing. So, as Sabrina Weiss says in her introduction to Ocean: "Take a deep breath and let's plunge beneath the waves!"

We are taught that there are five oceans in the world, each with its own distinctive characteristics as you go from place to place, but according to Weiss, they are actually connected to each other, forming one huge, global ocean, and holding 96.5% of all the water found on earth. But how much do we really know about the ocean? Not much, it seems.
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Weiss begins her ocean explorations by introducing readers to the five different ocean zones - the sunlight zone, the twilight zone, the midnight zone, the abyss, and hadal zone. Zones are based on depth and the amount of sunlight that reaches them, or doesn't reach them, as the case may be. Weiss describes what is known about each zone, and the names and characteristics of the sea creatures that inhabit each zone.
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From zones, Weiss looks at the ocean's different ecosystems. An ecosystem consists of the living and non-living things needed to support it, including animals, plants, organisms, and soil, plus air, water, rocks, and sunlight. Each element has its own part to play in supporting an ecosystem. Polar seas, coral reefs, deltas, salt marshes, mangroves, and kelp forests are all examined, including the different species that inhabit them.
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I found the sections on Marine Life very interesting. Ocean life is teeming with activity and Weiss gives readers an excellent overview of who's who, where they live and what they eat, and includes information of unusual friendships or schools of fish, because everyone, including fish, knows there's safety in numbers when traveling. Budding marine biologists will discover how marine animals communicate with each other, how to tell the difference between male and female fish, and those sea creatures that are masters of disguise. One thing I discovered is that a symbiotic relationship exists between some species when they visit cleaning stations like coral reefs. They swim in for a cleaning, and other species will pick off and eat parasites, dead skin, algae and slime off that have accumulated on the visitor's body.. It sounds gross but everyone benefits from it, and as Weiss points out, it's like a day at the spa.

It would be irresponsible if a book like this didn't discuss how our ocean is in peril. Pollution, overfishing, climate change, warming water temperatures, dying coral reefs, and an ocean full of plastic are all putting our ocean and the marine life living there in jeopardy. Weiss not only discusses these perils, but she also give some suggestions for how we can all help protect the ocean.

One of the things that makes this book so wonderful to explore are the graphics. Every aspect of marine life is authentically illustrated and identified. The art is as lovely as it is informative, and will no doubt elicit a lot of exploration and conversation.

Another one of the interesting parts of this book is the four-page spread devoted to myths and legends about the ocean, including historic speculation about the whether Atlantis really existed and if it did, where it might have been.
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This is a book that is chockablock with information, but as Weiss concludes, there is so much more to explore, so much more we don't know and maybe, just maybe a young reader out there will be the next person to discover more of the oceans's secrets.

This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was gratefully provided to me by Media Masters Publicity

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Fly Me to the Moon: A Picture Book Roundup That's Out of This World!

There are lots of new books about the moon this year in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. It's hard to imagine what it must have been like for Neil Armstrong, the first and only human to ever be on the surface of the moon for 19 minutes before being joined by Buzz Aldrin. Yet, as momentous an event as the Apollo 11 and the subsequent six others moon landings are, the moon remains a rich source for our imagination, speculation, and even information. Here are some of the new books that my young readers and I read and enjoyed.
Field Trip to the Moon 
written and illustrated by John Hare
Margaret Ferguson Books, 2019, 40 pages, age 4+
If you're looking for a very serious information book about the moon, this isn't it. But if you are looking for a fun story about the moon, look no further that this book. In this wordless story, a class piles into a yellow space bus for a trip to the moon, and yes, one little astronaut lags behind, then goes their own way once they arrive. Quietly drawing in a sketchpad, the child falls asleep and misses the space bus home. Waking up and realizing what has happened, they continue sketching, when suddenly they realize they are not alone. But soon child and moonarians are happily drawing together, until the space bus arrives to take the youngster home. Set against a black background of the lunar sky, this is a delightful, whimsical story. My kids loved it because it was a fun tale that basically reminded them of school, yellow space bus and all. And since it's wordless, there was lots of speculating about what was happening and what could happen. The minimally colorful illustrations are done in acrylics against a grey moonscape, black sky and white spacesuits.  Interestingly, there is no indication as to what the gender of the child is.

The Moon Book: New and Updated
written and illustrated by Gail Gibbons
Holiday House, 2019, 32 pages, age 4+
When my Kiddo was young, and it became apparent that she was probably not going to grow up and become a scientist, science fair time was a bit stressful in my house. When she was in second grade, we used this book to make an informative project about the moon. It obviously wasn't a groundbreaking project, but we both learned a lot. And this book gives a lot of information about the moon: what it is, how it may have come into existence, its orbit, its phases, the difference between a solar and lunar eclipse, how its gravitational pull affects the ocean's tides, and of course, the lunar landings. The writing is clear and simple, and the text, which runs across the bottom of the page, is complimented and enhanced with simple, full-color illustrations that take up most of the page. Back matter includes Moon Milestones, a timeline of moon-related information, and Moon Legends and Stories, most of which will be very familiar to young readers, and finally More Moon Facts, interesting tidbits, such as what a blue and harvest moon are. I am very happy to see that this book has been reissued in an updated and revised edition in time for 50th anniversary of the first moon landing. It will be a welcome addition to any home or classroom library.

Moon! Earth's Best Friend by Stacy McAnulty,
illustrated by Stevie Lewis
Henry Holt & Company, 2019, 40 pages, age 4+
This is the third book in McAnulty's Our Universe series, and I can honestly say, it is every bit as good as the first two books - Sun! One in a Billion and Earth! My First 4.54 Billion Years. This is a playful information book narrated by the moon, who tells us that because earth is never without moon they qualify as BFFs. Kidding aside, there is lots of basic moon information to be found here, I particularly liked how moon differentiated itself as earth's only natural satellite, as opposed to all the man-made plastic and metal satellites "not exactly best-friend material." Distance from earth, phases of the moon, how gravity works on the tides are all covered, as is the weight differences between the two are all covered mixing humor with information. The illustrations, done with color pencils and digital tools, depict earth and moon as two friendly female faces, and are done in the same light-hearted manner as the text. This is a really informative, entertaining moon book with some very interesting lunar facts in the back matter. I shared this with my young readers, who didn't understand everything in it, but certainly began to learn and appreciate the universe around them more.

If You Had Your Birthday Party on the Moon
by Joyce Lapin, illustrated by Simona Ceccarelli
Sterling Children's Books, 2019, 40 pages, age 6+
Birthdays are always fun and what could be better than a birthday party on the moon, after all, one day there lasts 706 hours, compared to earth's mere 24 hour day. After a 3-day ride in a rocket ship to the moon, the birthday child, with friends and dog, arrives. As everyone disembarks wearing spacesuits and party hats, because there is no breathable air on the moon, the first thing they notice is the moon black's sky, and earth shining in the distance. But now let the party begin. No need for a bouncy house thanks to the moon's weaker gravity, partygoers can just jump and slide all over the moon's surface. Playing ball is great - a ball can be hit much higher and further then on earth; the candy and other prizes will fall so slowly from a piñata, you can easily find your favorites before they hit the ground. Explore the moon's craters, make moon dust angels that will last forever, play a game of scavenger hunt for all of the things man has left behind, or collect of moon rocks, but be careful, they will weigh much more on earth than on the moon. And finally, have you cake and pizza inside the rocket before heading home. This is a fun birthday/moon story, but it is also an interesting information book. There are easy to understand explanations about everything that the partygoers see and do on the moon compared to doing and seeing those same things on earth. The earthlings are depicted as very colorful in the cartoon-like digitally created illustrations, and are in sharp contrast to all the greys and blacks of the moon's environment. Back matter includes a Glossary, Selected Bibliography, Suggestions for Further Reading, and internet links of astronauts on the moon.                   

Luna: The Science and Stories of Our Moon
by David A. Aguilar
National Geographic Kids, 2019, 64 pages, age 10+
This is a beautifully put together book that covers just about everything a young reader might want to know about the moon. Beginning with its theoretical creation and evolution, and ending with projects kids can do, including making a 3-D of lunar craters, this book is chockablock with more information about the moon. Each topic is age-appropriately informative and includes full-color illustrations or photographs that compliment the text. I particularly liked that Aguilar covered things like the different names for the moon (supermoon, harvest moon, strawberry moon), and talked about some of the different cultures whose festivals and religious holidays are determined by the moon. Another favorite chapter was on the great hoaxes and other mysteries surrounding the moon, all of which were new to me. I did like that Aguilar invites readers to explore the moon with a telescope, suggesting best viewing times and including a map of the moon to help understand where and what different places on the surface are. This is followed by an in-depth look at the moon's most prominent features. The moon continually fascinates us and this is the kind of book that curious kids will return to again and again, and each time they will find something they didn't notice before, so the in the end, young readers will gain a great deal of new information about the moon and its relationship with earth. This would be an excellent addition to home, school, and classroom libraries, or just a great book for kids interested in space.  

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Blog Tour: The Spacesuit: How a seamstress helped put a man on the moon by Alison Donald, illustrated by Ariel Landy

Watching the first moon landing in 1969 unfolded before our eyes on TV, yet most people probably didn't  think much about all the behind the scenes work that went into making it a success. And one of the most important things was keeping the astronaut who would be first person to step foot on the moon safe.

And if you are going to take a walk on the moon, which has no gravity which means no breathable air, and has extremes of hot and cold temperatures, you want to make sure you have on a spacesuit that can successfully protect you. And for the July 20, 1969 moon walk, it turns out that the proper spacesuit was the work of a dedicated seamstress named Eleanor "Ellie" Foraker.

Ellie loved to sew when she was young, and as an adult, she sewed for a company called Playtex (yup, the bra people). One day, an engineer asked her if she would like to enter a competition to make spacesuits instead of underwear, spacesuits that could go to the moon and back.

Of course, Ellie jumped at the chance, and with the help of her fellow seamstresses at Playtex, they set out to create a winning spacesuit:
The challenge was how to make a soft, comfortable spacesuit? 21 layers of fabric held together with stitches only 1/64th of an inch long and without the benefit of pins to hold it all together is how. A pin hole, after all, could leave an astronaut vulnerable to the moon's poisonous gases. But when the judges received their spacesuit, a zipper was broken. Luckily, the spacesuit was fixed in time.
And yes, Ellie and her team of seamstresses won the competition. Now, when you see pictures of the Apollo 11 astronauts, and there will be lots of them this week, think of Ellie and her team and the hard work that helped make the moon landing possible. Who knew sewing could be so exciting?

The Spacesuit offers young readers an accessible, friendly, and interesting look at one of the things that happens behind the headlines of a historical event, and also manages to put a woman in the spotlight for a change. The simple text and cartoon-like illustrations are clear and straightforward. All the steps that were taken to create the winning spacesuit are nicely detailed from idea to finished suit. Ellie and her team may have had a real advantage because they probably understood the properties of latex better than most after having sewn all that latex underwear for Playtex:
Back Endpaper
The Spacesuit is a great book with lots of interesting facts to be found scattered within the story, as well as the front and back endpapers. There is also a timeline of space travel from its beginning right up to the moon walk, and a glossary of terms used at the end of the book.

The Spacesuit is an inspiring book for young readers which adds to the body of literature about the Apollo 11 moon walk as well as adding to the history of women.

This book is recommended for readers age 5+
This book was provided to me by Myrick Marketing & Media

Meet the creators of The Spacesuit:
About Alison Donald: Born and raised in Ontario, Canada, Alison Donald now lives in Farnham with her British husband and 3 young children.  She works as a Pediatric Occupational Therapist and has over 10 years of experience helping children with special needs reach their potential. Her debut picture book, The New Libearian was previously published in the U.S. by Clarion Books.

About Ariel Landy: Ariel Landy is an illustrator and educator from New York City. Ariel began writing and illustrating stories as soon as she could hold a pencil and she never stopped. She currently lives in Harlem with her boyfriend and their dog, Sid.

Sunday June 14th: Unleashing Readers
Monday June 15th: Publisher Spotlight Blog
Tuesday June 16th: YA Books Central
Wednesday June 17th: Randomly Reading 

Monday, July 15, 2019

Luciana (American Girl: Girl of the Year Book 1) by Erin Teagan

It's been a while since I've read an American Girl book now that all my Kiddos are too old for them, and I don't think I've ever read a Girl of the Year book. We always stuck to the historical stories. So when I realized that we would be celebrating a big historical event this week - the Apollo 11 moon landing on July 20 - I thought this would be a fun book to start the week off.

More than anything, Luciana Vega, 11, wants to be an astronaut and now she's just arrived at Space Camp. Luci has tried for a scholarship to Space Camp three times and finally won thanks to the essay she wrote about planetary geology. But Luci also has something else on her mind besides space - a baby named Isadora. She and her parents are hoping to adopt Isadora, an orphan in Chile, the country where Luci's parents grew up. Naturally, only child Luci worries about whether she will be a good older sister.

At Space Camp, Luci's bunkmates in Habitat 4b are Ella, 11, her younger sister Meg, 9, and cousin Charlotte, 11, as well as Joanna from Germany. There is also a companion boys Habitat. For their week at camp their trainers are Mallory, Alex, and Mallory's robotic dog Orion. Unfortunately, tension between Luci and Ella can be felt immediately, as well as between Ella and James, both highly competitive know-it-alls. But it is Luci who ends up as the team captain for the girls, and James for the boys. Besides space-related activities and exercises, each team will build a robot, complete with daily challenges to win bolts. The idea is accumulate a lot of bolts (which is the point system they use) and the team with the most bolts at the end of the week is the winner.

Unfortunately, Luci didn't read all the material sent to the campers and her impulsiveness causes her team to come in last place in the first challenge. Knowing her teammates are disappointed with her, Luci manages to come up with a plan to build their robot with junk parts that won't cost them any bolts. It's a good idea, and they even find and fix a motor module to build a walking robot. But when the part goes missing, Luci is sure that James took it to set them behind. And the plan she hatches for getting it back leads to disaster for James and his team. Can Luci ever fix the mess she made?

I thought this was a fun, typical American Girl book but I mean that in the best way. Sure, the main character faces challenges, makes mistakes, learns lessons from her mistakes and lands on her feet. Luci's real challenge is to learn how to be a team player and by extension, a good big sister, to think before she acts, and to not ignore preparation materials. Know-it-all Ella is the opposite of Luci and a great foil for her, because she also needs to learn how to be a team player in order to be a good friend. Each girl brings baggage with them and together they help each other become better team players. I actually wish we were given more of Ella's story instead of her merely being a plot device for Luci.

Although this is an introductory story for readers to get to know her, I wish that more of Luci's Chilean background had been included, but that seems to happen in another book. I did love the STEAM aspect of Luci's story and hope it has an influence on girls who might otherwise pass on STEAM-related activities, books, and ideas.

I received this book from Scholastic a while ago and it has been borrowed by three girls already, all of whom said they really enjoyed it, liked Luci as a character, and will read more of her story (and they really, really like the purple streak she has in her hair). I personally never thought much about robotics, other than supporting the kids in my family who are into them, but I did find the robotic element of the story very interesting ( especially Mallory's dog Orion) and I gained a whole new appreciation for robotics.

Although Luciana is 11, I would recommend this book for readers as young as 8 or 9. It's not a complicated story, there's just enough science to ignite curiosity and Luci's challenges and concerns are not specific to Space Camp. And her story is just good summer reading and you don't need to buy the doll to enjoy it.

This book is recommended for readers age 8+
This book was sent to me by the publisher, Scholastic Press

Friday, July 12, 2019

Three for Friday: Power Forward, On Point and Bounce Back by Hena Khan, illustrated by Sally Wern Comport

There is nothing like the comfort that comes from knowing that the character you have just met in a book will be back in subsequent books. One of our favorite series is the Zayd Saleem, Chasing the Dream trilogy by Hena Khan. These three chapter books are wonderful sports stories that are ideal for kids ready to move on from easy readers to longer, more complex stories, or even for reluctant early middle school readers. They are clearly written, narrated in the first person by the protagonist, the issues are age appropriate, and they are diverse. Yes, the Pakistani American Saleems - Baba, Mama, older sister Zara, Naano (grandmother), Nana Abu (grandfather), and Jamal Mamoo (uncle) - are a Muslim family, but this is also a basketball story. The Saleem's culture and religion are a big part of Zayd's family life, and readers are given a nice window into what that is like, but most of the conflicts and challenges he faces are the kind that any kid might be confronted with at that age, both within the family and in the outside world. 

Power Forward by Hena Khan, 
illustrated by Sally Wern Comport
(Zayd Saleem, Chasing the Dream Book #1)
Salaam Reads, 2018, 144 pages
Meet Zayd. He's a fourth grader who loves basketball way more than he loves playing the violin in the school orchestra. And all he really wants is a chance to tryout again for the winning gold team and play his favorite game with his best friend Adam. So when Adam encourages him to skip orchestra practice and practice basketball in the gym instead, Zayd is all for it...until his mother finds out and he is grounded from anything basketball related for two weeks. And that includes the gold team tryouts. Zayd learns an important lesson in this book, but it's not the one you might think it should be. It's even better. There's also a nice story line about Zayd's favorite uncle beginning to think about marriage, an event Zayd has no interest in, but it does present a dilemma for him. If Jamal Mamoo gets married, he'll probably be too busy to hang out, shoot baskets or play basketball video games with Zayd. How can Zayd find the courage to let his family know how he really feels about playing the violin, playing basketball, and possible abandonment by Jamal Mamoo?

On Point by Hena Khan,
illustrated by Sally Wern Comport
(Zayd Saleem, Chasing the Dream Book #2)
Salaam Reads, 2018, 144 pages
Yes, Zayd did manage to get to the gold team tryouts and he's finally part of this winning basketball team. Except, they aren't such a winning team anymore - they've lost their first two games and now Zayd's best friend and teammate is starting to play football with some other guys. Zayd is afraid that Adam may be blaming him for the games the team has lost. When Adam stops coming to practice and playing on the team altogether, Zayd worries that Coach Wheeler will also think that's his fault. But then, Coach Wheeler has him play point guard, Adam's usual position. Not feeling particularly confident in his new position, the team loses yet again. Meanwhile, Jamal Mamoo and the family are busy making wedding plans and Zayd is indeed feeling abandoned by his favorite uncle. These wedding plans offer readers a further window into Muslim culture and religion, but this time with lots of wonderful mouth-watering food descriptions thrown in (which means a trip to Sahadi's in Brooklyn for me). But when Adam has to stay over at Zayd's house, the two friends have a really serious talk. Can Adam help Zayd get past comparing himself on the court to Adam and become a great player in his own right? 

Bounce Back by Hena Khan,
illustrated by Sally Wern Comport
(Zayd Saleem, Chasing the Dream Book #3)
Salaam Reads, 2018, 144 pages
Adam's talk really helped boost Zayd's confidence and he's on fire on the court, thanks also to the new basketball hoop he and his parents went halfsies paying for. Maybe, just maybe Coach Wheeler will name Zayd team captain now. But as the team approaches the end of the season and looks forward to the playoffs and hoped-for-championship, Zayd has an accident on the court and ends up with a severely sprained ankle and no basketball for four weeks. Already feeling sorry for himself, he begins to feel jealous as he watches teammate Sam take over his spot and do a great job. When he starts skipping practice, Baba finally convinces him to start going again. Sitting on the bench, he can see exactly what the team does right and what it does wrong, especially Sam. Can Zayd put team over jealousy and say something to Sam? Meanwhile, Jamal Mamoo's wedding approaches and it is truly a family affair. But when Nana Abu has a heart attack, and falls into self-pity, it takes clever thinking by Zayd and sister Zara to get him up and moving again in time for the wedding. Jamal Mamoo's wedding offers a great introduction to Muslim festivities and traditions surrounding his pending marriage, and shows a family happily involved (maybe too much for Mamoo and Nadia Auntie, his fiancée) in all the preparations and the big day.

I loved this trilogy and was sorry to say goodbye to Zayd and his family. Khan did a great job of seamlessly weaving in so many details about Zayd's life as a member of a Muslim family, while also showing that other aspects of their lives are similar to all families. I especially like how Zayd's budding maturity over the three books was depicted by his ability to incorporate the lessons he learned about good sportsmanship into his life off the court. 

I can't recommend the books in the Zayd Saleem, Chasing the Dream series highly enough.

These books are recommended for readers age 7+
These books were borrowed from the NYPL

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