#kidlit Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus Tackles Prickly Topics

Author Dusti Bowling is currently the Writer in Residence at Tempe Library. So, of course I had to read her most recent middle-grade novel, Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus. I’m so glad I did!


Thirteen-year-old Aven Green was born without arms, but her parents have always encouraged her to be independent and have a can-do attitude. It was no problem in her old school in Kansas where she had many good friends. When her family moves to Arizona, however, she has trouble being accepted. That is until she meets Connor, who has Tourette’s and can relate to being treated as an outsider. Together they investigate the strange events going on at Stagecoach Pass, the has-been theme park where Aven’s parents work.

Sprinkled throughout the text are blog posts Aven writes to keep in touch with her former friends. The posts are funny and poignant, plus reveal the main character’s innermost thoughts and feelings in a way that is organic and not contrived. For example, her list of the twenty worst things about not having arms in Chapter 30 is packed with self-effacing humor and honesty. It encapsulates her frustration at not being able to help her friend in the way she would like.

Aven Green is an amazing character. The way Dusti Bowling describes her life is so sensitive and at the same time so realistic. It’s no wonder that the awards and starred reviews are piling up, including a 2017 middle-grade fiction finalist in my favorite contest, Cybils.

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus successfully tackles some pretty prickly topics. It is a wonderful choice for lovers of middle grade fiction of all ages.

Age Range: 8 – 12 years
Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: Sterling Children’s Books (September 5, 2017)
ISBN-10: 1454923458
ISBN-13: 978-1454923459

Looking for more children’s books set in Arizona? See our growing list at Reading Through the States.

#Kidlit Book Love: @Cybils Winners Announced

What a month for children’s books. The American Library Association Youth Media winners were just announced. Now it is time for the Cybils winners for 2017.

In October each year the Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Awards (Cybils) group gathers nominations for the best reads from the previous 12 months. The nominees are organized by age level/genre, and evaluated by judges who are dedicated book bloggers. Today the winners in each category were announced.

For Elementary Nonfiction, the winner is:

Hatching Chicks in Room 6 by Caroline Arnold

What can you say, except awww?

Age Range: 3 – 7 years
Publisher: Charlesbridge (January 10, 2017)
ISBN-10: 1580897355
ISBN-13: 978-1580897358

The winner for Middle Grade Nonfiction is:

Two Truths and a Lie: It’s Alive! by Ammi-Joan Paquette,‎ Laurie Ann Thompson and illustrated by‎ Lisa K. Weber

Out of three stories presented, two are true and one is a lie. Use critical thinking and research skills to figure out which is which. Fun!

Age Range: 8 – 12 years
Publisher: Walden Pond Press (June 27, 2017)
ISBN-10: 0062418793
ISBN-13: 978-0062418791

Time to go check out the winners in the rest of the categories!

 

 

 

STEM Friday: Physical Science for Kids @NomadPressVT

Four titles in the Picture Book Science series by Andi Diehn and illustrated by Shululu (Hui Li) coming out March 1, 2018:

Energy, Forces, Matter, and Waves will appeal to the young reader who loves to learn about words. Andi Diehn has a BA in English and an MFA in Creative Writing, so her approach is to make vocabulary shine. The titles start with a lively poem to introduce the topic. Next, the author shows how words can have one or more meanings in everyday usage. Finally, she exposes readers to the more specific definitions of the terminology as it is used in the physical sciences and delves into the concepts.

The creative and textured illustrations  by Shululu (the pen name of artist Hui Li) add just the right amount of fun to every page.

“Try This” sidebars with instructions for simple hands-on activities are included in each book to encourage children to explore the concepts further.

Specific details for each book:

Energy: Physical Science for Kids (Picture Book Science)

This book explains what energy is through numerous examples, such as chemical energy, heat energy, electrical energy, and light energy.

What deserves a gold star:  Encourages the reader to think about whether plants — which don’t move around — need energy, and if so, where do they get it if they can’t eat?

Age Range: 6 – 9 years
Publisher: Nomad Press (March 1, 2018)
ISBN-10: 1619306417
ISBN-13: 978-1619306417

Forces: Physical Science for Kids

Readers explore the concepts of gravity, friction, and magnetism.

What deserves a gold star:  The concept that forces can work against each other.

Age Range: 6 – 9 years
Publisher: Nomad Press (March 1, 2018)
ISBN-10: 1619306387
ISBN-13: 978-1619306387

Matter: Physical Science for Kids

  An opportunity missed:  On page 16, the discussion of states of matter suggests water disappears when it evaporates. A better explanation would be it changed state from liquid to a gas.

What deserves a gold star:  Air is made up of matter, even though we don’t see it.

Age Range: 6 – 9 years
Publisher: Nomad Press (March 1, 2018)
ISBN-10: 1619306441
ISBN-13: 978-1619306448

Waves: Physical Science for Kids (Picture Book Science) by Andi Diehn and illustrated by Shululu (Hui Li)

Relates the physical waves that we can see to light, microwave, and radio waves.

What deserves a gold star:  Comparing the motion of a wave to a crowd in a stadium doing “the wave.” That example is an excellent way to allow children to understand that the water in a wave isn’t moving sideways across the surface, but is simply traveling up and down in place.

Age Range: 6 – 9 years
Publisher: Nomad Press (March 1, 2018)
ISBN-10: 1619306352
ISBN-13: 978-1619306356

Overall, this series would be perfect for children who are struggling to understand scientific vocabulary or wanting a quick introduction to the physical sciences.

For hands-on science activities to accompany each of the books, see our sister blog, Growing with Science.

Disclosures: These books were provided for review purposes by the publisher. I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at not extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

Come visit the STEM Friday blog each week to find more great Science, Technology, Engineering and Math books.

#ReadYourWorld Personalized Bilingual Book from @TimTimTomBooks

This Saturday, January 27, 2018, is Multicultural Children’s Book Day. Be sure to check out all the fabulous sponsors and activities surrounding the event in the links below the “I am a Multicultural Children’s Book Day Blogger” button.

The celebration is designed to highlight multicultural children’s books. Today we have a bilingual personalized book for children from TimTimTom Books. The title I received is an underwater adventure called Leah and the Dolphin, with “Leah” being any child’s name you choose. The story is by Saskia Reusens and illustrated by ‎ Katrien Van Schuylenbergh.

When families speak two languages or are trying to learn two languages, it can be hard to find appropriate picture books to read. These books fill that gap because they are available in any two of nine different languages:  Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Chinese (Simplified or Traditional). You can also personalize the gender, appearance/skin tone, and write your own dedication message. I chose English and Traditional Chinese for the book our family received.

The story is about the main character’s adventure underwater. When she goes to the big pool all by herself for the first time, the main character doesn’t know what to expect. What she finds in the water will delight imaginative youngsters.

The illustrations are bright, with lots of fun things to discover in each spread. The personalized main character is featured prominently, which will make the child feel like he or she is right in the middle of the action.

This video shows how the personalizing works:

There is a lot to like about these books. They are bound with a sturdy hardcover, so will likely last for years. We were pleased to see the stories are not merely translations, but are retold to sound authentic in both languages. They also begin with a letter to the child, engaging them from the start.

Because each book is personalized and must be printed on demand, the customer support is critical. Based on my experience, the process of picking out details I wanted for the book was easy and straightforward, and the customer service from TimTimTom books was outstanding.

If you are looking for a special bilingual book to share with a child, TimTimTom Books are the way to go. They would make excellent gifts for any special occasion.

Suggested activity:

Want to learn more about marine animals? Check out a related STEM post at Growing with Science.

Multicultural Children’s Book Day (1/27/18) is in its 5th year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Our mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in home and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators.

Current Sponsors:  MCBD 2018 is honored to have some amazing Sponsors on board.

2018 MCBD Medallion Sponsors

HONORARY: Children’s Book Council, Junior Library Guild

PLATINUM:Scholastic Book Clubs

GOLD:Audrey Press, Candlewick Press, Loving Lion Books, Second Story Press, Star Bright Books, Worldwide Buddies

SILVER:Capstone Publishing, Author Charlotte Riggle, Child’s Play USA, KidLit TV, Pack-n-Go Girls, Plum Street Press

BRONZE: Barefoot Books, Carole P. Roman, Charlesbridge Publishing, Dr. Crystal BoweGokul! World, Green Kids Club, Gwen Jackson, Jacqueline Woodson, Juan J. Guerra, Language Lizard, Lee & Low Books, RhymeTime Storybooks, Sanya Whittaker Gragg, TimTimTom Books, WaterBrook & Multnomah, Wisdom Tales Press

2018 Author Sponsors

Honorary Author Sponsors: Author/Illustrator Aram Kim and Author/Illustrator Juana Medina

Author Janet Balletta, Author Susan Bernardo, Author Carmen Bernier-Grand, Author Tasheba Berry-McLaren and Space2Launch, Bollywood Groove Books, Author Anne Broyles, Author Kathleen Burkinshaw, Author Eugenia Chu, Author Lesa Cline-Ransome, Author Medeia Cohan and Shade 7 Publishing, Desi Babies, Author Dani Dixon and Tumble Creek Press, Author Judy Dodge Cummings, Author D.G. Driver, Author Nicole Fenner and Sister Girl Publishing, Debbi Michiko Florence, Author Josh Funk, Author Maria Gianferrari, Author Daphnie Glenn, Globe Smart Kids, Author Kimberly Gordon Biddle, Author Quentin Holmes, Author Esther Iverem, Jennifer Joseph: Alphabet Oddities, Author Kizzie Jones, Author Faith L Justice , Author P.J. LaRue and MysticPrincesses.com, Author Karen Leggett Abouraya, Author Sylvia Liu, Author Sherri Maret, Author Melissa Martin Ph.D., Author Lesli Mitchell, Pinky Mukhi and We Are One, Author Miranda Paul, Author Carlotta Penn, Real Dads Read, Greg Ransom, Author Sandra L. Richards, RealMVPKids Author Andrea Scott, Alva Sachs and Three Wishes Publishing, Shelly Bean the Sports Queen, Author Sarah Stevenson, Author Gayle H. Swift Author Elsa Takaoka, Author Christine Taylor-Butler, Nicholette Thomas and  MFL Publishing Author Andrea Y. Wang, Author Jane Whittingham Author Natasha Yim

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also works tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts HERE.

TWITTER PARTY Sponsored by Scholastic Book Clubs: MCBD’s super-popular (and crazy-fun) annual Twitter Party will be held 1/27/18 at 9:00pm.

Join the conversation and win one of 12-5 book bundles and one Grand Prize Book Bundle (12 books) that will be given away at the party! http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/twitter-party-great-conversations-fun-prizes-chance-readyourworld-1-27-18/

Free Multicultural Books for Teachers: http://bit.ly/1kGZrta

Free Empathy Classroom Kit for Homeschoolers, Organizations, Librarians and Educators: http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/teacher-classroom-empathy-kit/

Hashtag: Don’t forget to connect with us on social media and be sure and look for/use our official hashtag #ReadYourWorld.