A Bobby-Dazzler of a Book by Janet Halfmann

Ever wanted to visit Australia? Now you can travel in your imagination with the new picture book, A Bobby-Dazzler of a Pouch! by Janet Halfmann and illustrated by Abira Das.

The story revolves around a real life problem:  how do joeys (baby kangaroos) find their mother’s pouch when they are in a big hurry? With the help of friends, the joey comes up with a unique solution. Along the way, the reader meets common Australian animals and plants like brush-tailed possums and beautiful box mistletoe flowers, as well as gets a brief introduction to Australian vocabulary.

The well-researched back matter includes fun facts about kangaroos, a glossary of Australian words, and a list of the Australian animals and plants introduced in the book.

Janet Halfmann has written many popular children’s books on a variety of topics, but A Bobby-Dazzler of a Pouch! is special to her because it was one of the first fiction picture book manuscripts she wrote when she started out — over twenty years ago. Read about the inspiring details of its eventual road to publication in an interview at Write Now! Coach.

A Bobby-Dazzler of a Pouch! would be perfect to accompany a trip to Australia, to pull out when doing a geography lesson about Australia, or even to prepare for a trip to a local zoo that features Australian animals. Jump into a copy today!

Related activities:

Check out another Australian animal, the adorable small kind of wallaby known as the Quokka.

 

Paperback: 38 pages
Publisher: Pen It! Publications, LLC (May 21, 2020)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 195126312X
ISBN-13: 978-1951263126

Two New Children’s Books for Plastic Free July

With so much going on in the world these days, it can be hard to keep up. For example, did you know about the Plastic Free July challenge?  Because many people consider trips to the beach this month, it is a great time to think about protecting our oceans by reducing the amount of plastic we use.

To help introduce children to the problem of plastic garbage in the ocean, we have two new books.

The Blue Giant

First up is the informational fiction picture book, The Blue Giant by Katie Cottle.

Meera and her mom are the the beach when a giant blue form rises out of the ocean and asks them for help. When they suit up and go into the water they see how much garbage is floating in the ocean and  how it affects the animals who live there.  Meera and her mom want to help, but is it too big of a problem for them to make a difference?

In the same style as her previous book, The Green Giant,  it is Cottle’s vivid and imaginative illustrations that really make the story come alive.  She also mentions concrete ways to help, such as picking up trash on the beach and reducing the amount of single-use plastics we buy.

The Blue Giant is perfect for children interested in oceans and in helping our planet. Dive into a copy today!

Age Range: 3 – 6 years
Publisher: Pavilion Children’s (June 9, 2020)
ISBN-10: 1843654458
ISBN-13: 978-1843654452

Plasticus Maritimus

To  explore the topic more deeply, we have an equally imaginative young adult title Plasticus Maritimus: An Invasive Species by Ana Pêgo, Isabel Minhos, and illustrated by Bernado P. Carvalho, coming out September 8, 2020.

 

Marine biologist Ana Pêgo grew up playing on the beach in Portugal. As she began to notice more and more plastic garbage in the water and on the shore, she decided to treat it like an invasive species and study it. She even dubbed the garbage a pseudo-scientific name:  Plasticus maritimus.

Regardless of the made up name, the text is a serious look at a serious problem. First the authors introduce the topic with a “field guide” to plastic, including how it impacts the ocean. Next up is an in depth look at what plastic is, including a timeline of plastic production and the different types. Did you know cigarette buts contain plastic in the filters and are the most common form of litter?  Ever hear of nurdles? You will learn all about them.

The final sections are an extensive, practical look at what we can do about the problem. In the back are resources for finding out more.

The illustrations are largely colorful pencil drawings, which might give the impression that this book is for a younger audience.  The text and the smattering of full color photographs are spot on for the young adult crowd.

Plasticus Maritimus: An Invasive Species is for teens who love the ocean and are interested in protecting it. It is a handy reference that readers will want to return to again and again. It would also be an awesome resource for research papers or persuasive essays. Look for it in September.

Age Range: 12 – 18 years
Publisher: Greystone Kids (September 8, 2020)
ISBN-10: 1771646438
ISBN-13: 978-1771646437

STEM Friday #Kidlit Numbers in Motion

 

 

Today’s picture book biography puts the M in STEM:  Numbers in Motion: Sophie Kowalevski, Queen of Mathematics by Laurie Wallmark and illustrated by Yevgenia Nayberg.

 

Laurie Wallmark specializes in biographies of women in STEM and for this book she has chosen a lesser-known subject for much-deserved recognition.

Sophie Kowalevski grew up observing the pages of calculus problems her father had used to paper her bedroom walls. The desire to understand the intriguing symbols propelled her to study advanced math. Later she became a prominent mathematician — the first to earn a doctorate at an European university — and professor in a time when women weren’t even allowed to enter many college campuses. Sophie broke down barriers for women who came after her.

Public domain image from Wikipedia.

Why Sophie?

In a recent interview, author Laurie Wallmark mentioned that she looks for two criteria when considering a subject for a picture book biography. First, she looks at how much material is available for research. In this case Laurie found a rich source of information because Sophie Kowalevski wrote extensively, including about her own life in her own words. Laurie found so many facts that there are four full pages of back matter,  which spills over into the end papers.

Next Laurie looks for hooks that will make the subject’s life interesting to young readers. She realized that Sophie’s work using mathematics to describe the motion of spinning tops would be fun and understandable to non-mathematicians. She was right!

Illustrations

Sophie grew up in Russia. Yevgenia Nayberg was a perfect choice to illustrate her life because she studied art in Russia. She uses a light touch with Sophie’s life, then makes Sophie’s math vibrant. In one scene the tops look like they are going to spin right out of the book. Her approach makes sense because those were the things Sophie cared the most about.

Numbers in Motion will inspire budding mathematicians and historians alike. Readers will likely end up wanting to learn more about this remarkable woman. Investigate a copy today.

Related:

For a STEM activity to accompany the book, make or find tops and play with them.

This video shows how to make a simple top with a CD and a marker. Hacks:  try to find markers with a rounded tip and the better you balance it, the better it will spin. If your marker is narrow, fill the gap by rolling tape around it as evenly as possible. No clay? Hot melt glue will also work to hold the marker in place, although it is a more permanent solution.

You can also decorate it (another video). Or if you have the DIY gene, try more methods to make spinning tops.

Visit our growing list of children’s books about women who count at Science Books for Kids.

 

Age Range: 8 – 12 years
Publisher: Creston Books (March 3, 2020)
ISBN-10: 1939547636
ISBN-13: 978-1939547637

Come visit the STEM Friday blog each week to find more great Science, Technology, Engineering and Math books.Opens in a new window Note: this is a new link as of 1/2019.

Alphamaniacs Rule the Word

Today we have a tribute to word players and geniuses, Alphamaniacs: Builders of 26 Wonders of the Word by Paul Fleischman and illustrated by Melissa Sweet.

Writers and poets often play with words in creative ways, but Paul Fleischman has gathered a collection of examples of people who have pushed the language envelope into other realms.

Examples:

1. Creative Translations from Sight to Sound

Young scholars have spent long hours translating Latin text into English, so imagine their delight to discover some Latin words sound enough like English words to write prose that means one thing in Latin and a totally different thing in English when read aloud. This is called Dog Latin (link to Wikipedia page).

2. Concrete Poetry Makes Images

Mary Ellen Solt and other poets have used letters  and words to make visual art. Search for examples of Mary Ellen Solt’s concrete poetry, like a poem about forsythia shaped like a forsythia bush or a zinna.

Intrigued at the possibilities? The collection includes:

  • The developer of stylometry or the use of computers to analyze writing style to establish authorship for anonymous works
  • A man who wrote an entire novel without using a single letter e
  • An obsessive designer of fonts
  • The man who created a new language called Esperanto

Plus many more.

As an added benefit , the illustrations are by the innovative Melissa Sweet. The collage mixture of art and word is its own contribution.

Fleischman has assembled an astonishing set of examples. The books is easily browsable and introduces fascinating subject matter. The only shortcoming is that because of the sheer number of different people he covers, he can’t delve deeply into any one topic. Each one receives only a light, breezy mention. Time and time again I wished the descriptions gave more details. Let’s face it, any one of these could be a topic for an extended essay or even a book on its own. It does help he provides references for “Further Entertainment” in the back matter. I wish a glossary had been included as well.

Overall, Alphamaniacs is the perfect choice for mature middle graders to young adults who have a fascination with words and languages. Who knows what it might inspire from future word players.

Related activities:

1. Take some poetic license.

My family has been creating poems and riddles based on car license plates for years, but it turns out we weren’t the first. Daniel Nussbaum has translated well-known stories using records of vanity plates in his book PL8SPK.

 

If you spend way too much time in the car, you probably see vanity license plates every day. Here’s a challenge: Use license plates to inspire haiku-like poems. You can add words if you choose.

For example, these actual vanity plates:

  • LEOPARD
  • FLAWLESS
  • SILENCE

can be rearranged to become the poem

Flawless leopard
Stalks its prey
Silence

In a similar theme, the license plates

  • X3X
  • ANCHOVY
  • FORTUNA

with a little “poetic license” become:

Three anchovies
Four tuna
X anchovies
X tuna

Think about it.

One day I saw these two in the same parking lot:

  • 1Run100
  • GOOD4EWE

I run 100 K
Good for you

That is a a nicer pair than:

Be a duck…
Kabob

UBETCYA

 

To accompany:  Alphamaniacs: Builders of 26 Wonders of the Word
Age Range: 12 – 16 years
Publisher: Candlewick Studio (April 14, 2020)
ISBN-10: 076369066X
ISBN-13: 978-0763690663

Disclosure: The book was provided by my good friend Cassie. Also, 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 no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

Looking for more children’s nonfiction books? Try the Nonfiction Monday blog.