Escargot by Dashka Slater

We’ve had a few children’s books featuring French over the years, so of course we were delighted by Escargot by Daska Slater and illustrated by Sydney Hanson. It has a sprinkling of French phrases and a charming French feel.

Escargot is a treat because the main character, a snail named Escargot, speaks directly to the reader. He explains he has two goals:  To be the reader’s favorite animal and to go visit the salad at the back of the book. Neither work out quite as he expects.

You can find out all about what happens in this reading by Sophia:

Escargot is absolutely adorable and the message of trying new things is a laudable one. Check out a copy today. C’est magnifique!

Check out a bit more information about snails at Growing with Science blog.

Midnight Teacher #kidlit for Women’s History Month

For Women’s History Month, let’s take a look at the fantastic new historical fiction picture book, Midnight Teacher: Lilly Ann Granderson and Her Secret School by Janet Halfmann and illustrated by London Ladd.

What do you do if you find hints that there’s a fascinating person in history, but you can only find a few tantalizing mentions of her existence? What if the person’s name changed in the records, making it nearly impossible to get more information? If you are Janet Halfmann, you don’t give up.

Janet Halfmann followed the thread through history by tracing ancestral records. Once she contacted Lilly Ann Granderson’s descendants, she was able to pull together more of the story. This book is the result of persistent sleuthing and it paid off. Although this had to be a work of historical fiction because of the scarcity of details, Janet Halfmann built it on a solid foundation of historical fact.

Why did Halfmann want to tell this story so much? As an enslaved woman growing up in the 1820s and 1830s, Lilly Ann Granderson wasn’t allowed to learn read. Regardless, when her master’s children played school she joined in and used an old speller to teach herself. Later, she shared her learning with many other slaves. She held school at midnight so the owners wouldn’t find out, at the threat of a painful punishment if she were caught. She knew the ability to read was important enough to risk the consequences and she was dedicated to learning. She stood up and made a difference in the lives of those around her, and those who came after.

Adding tension to the story, London Ladd’s acrylic illustrations give just the right touch of drama. Check out his artistic process, starting from rough sketches. He even acts out the scenes and takes photographs of himself to help capture the mood.

Midnight Teacher would be perfect for Women’s History Month, but it also would be great for reluctant readers who might just be inspired to try harder by Lilly Ann Granderson’s dedication to education. Pick up a copy to share today!


Age Range: 7 – 10 years
Publisher: Lee & Low Books; Illustrated edition (February 13, 2018)
ISBN-10: 1620141639
ISBN-13: 978-1620141632

Disclosures: This book was provided electronically by the publisher for review purposes. 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.

Rocket Shoes: #Kidlit Picture Book with STEAM Potential and More

Today we’re featuring a fantastic new picture book, Rocket Shoes by Sharon Skinner and illustrated by Ward Jenkins.


José works hard to buy a pair of special rocket shoes. They are a blast to wear. His neighbor thinks they are too dangerous, however, and talks the mayor into banning them. When the same neighbor gets into trouble during a snow storm, will José break the rules and put on his shoes to save the day?

Author Sharon Skinner is serious about promoting children’s literature. In addition to being the awesome Regional Advisor for our local SCBWI AZ, she also teaches writers through the Writer in Residence programs at local libraries. When she’s not helping adult writers, she’s doing story times for kids. With a GPC, a BA in English, an MA in Creative Writing and a Poetic License, she knows her stuff.

That’s why it’s not surprising that this book has it all. It features diverse characters, the text is full of action verbs and catchy rhymes, it has just the right touch of humor, readers learn about conflict resolution in a lighthearted way (not at all pedantic), plus there’s plenty of potential to tie-in STEAM activities. What more could you ask for?

Rocket Shoes is such a fun book that it will fly off the bookshelf. Share a copy with a young reader today!

Suggested STEAM Activities:

At a recent library program, Sharon showed the kids how to make air-powered rockets using drinking straws.

Buggy and Buddy has instructions. It requires a disposable pipette bulb and a drinking straw, tape, scissors, and paper.

  • NASA has a an extensive list of rocket-related lessons sorted by age. See the K-5 list.
  • The Jet Propulsion Laboratory also has lesson suggestions, including a K-2 lesson on measurement called “Rockets by Size.”
  • Another version of a “Soda-Straw Rocket” that doesn’t require a pipette bulb

Age Range: 5 – 9 years
Publisher: Sterling Children’s Books (October 3, 2017)
ISBN-10: 1454921528
ISBN-13: 978-1454921523

Disclosures:  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.

#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.