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Code Breaker, Spy Hunter: How Elizebeth Friedman Changed the Course of Two World Wars
Author: Laurie Wallmark
Illustrator: Brooke Smart
Anticipated Publication: March 2, 2021 by Harry N. Abrams

Goodreads Summary: Decode the story of Elizebeth Friedman, the cryptologist who took down gangsters and Nazi spies.

In this picture book biography, young readers will learn all about Elizebeth Friedman (1892-1980), a brilliant American code breaker who smashed Nazi spy rings, took down gangsters, and created the CIA’s first cryptology unit. Her story came to light when her secret papers were finally declassified in 2015. From thwarting notorious rumrunners with only paper and pencil to counter-spying into the minds and activities of&; Nazis, Elizebeth held a pivotal role in the early days of US cryptology. No code was too challenging for her to crack, and Elizebeth’s work undoubtedly saved thousands of lives. Extensive back matter includes explanations of codes and ciphers, further information on cryptology, a bibliography, a timeline of Elizebeth&;s life, plus secret messages for young readers to decode.

About the Creators: 

Award-winning author Laurie Wallmark has written picture-book biographies of women in STEM fields ranging from computer science to mathematics, astronomy to code breaking. Her books have earned multiple starred reviews, been chosen as Junior Library Guild Selections, and received awards such as Outstanding Science Trade Book, Cook Prize Honor, and Parents’; Choice Gold Medal. She is a former software engineer and computer science professor. She lives in Ringoes, New Jersey. You can find her at lauriewallmark.com. On Twitter: @lauriewallmark, Facebook: @lauriewallmarkauthor, Instagram: @lauriewallmark

Brooke Smart loves telling stories through her illustrations, especially stories about brave women from history. She has always loved to read, and growing up she could be found nightly falling asleep with a book on her chest. Illustrating books as a professional artist is a lifelong dream come true. She is living the busy, tired, happy, wonderful dream in Salt Lake City, Utah, with her husband, their three kids, and their naughty cat named Sunshine. Learn more about her at brooke-smart.com. Instagram: @bookesmartillustration

Ricki’s Review: This book is packed with information! I wasn’t familiar with this Women in STEM series, and now I feel like I need to get all of the books! The book has a great complexity—from the way in which the story is told in an engaging way that draw readers in to the way the illustrations and text are laid on the page. Typically, I give books away after I read and review them, but I am going to have a hard time parting with this one. Elizebeth Friedman’s bravery is simply awe-inspiring. She is a true heroine who needs to be named more frequently in history. Get this book. You truly won’t be disappointed.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book begs to be read in literature circles with other books about heroes/heroines, women in STEM, or powerful people in history. It would ignite powerful conversations about the characteristics of historical and contemporary heroes and heroines.

Check out the Code Breaker, Spy Hunter book page, where you’ll find a trailer, cool activity sheets, and more!

Discussion Questions: 

  • What is one intentional choice the author made in telling this story?
  • What are the qualities of a hero? Who are some historical and contemporary heroes who inspire you?
  • What are some of the pivotal moments in Friedman’s life story? How did she change the world for the better?

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Other Books by Laurie Wallmark: Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code; Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine; Hedy Lamarr’s Double Life: Hollywood Legend and Brilliant Inventor; Numbers in Motion: Sophie Kowalevski, Queen of Mathematics

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**Thank you go Barbara at Blue Slip Media for providing a copy for review!**

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The Stuff Between the Stars: How Vera Rubin Discovered MOST of the Universe
Author: Sandra Nickel
Illustrator: Aimée Sicuro
Publishing March 2nd, 2021 by Abrams Books for Young Readers

Summary: An inspired biographical picture book about a female astronomer who makes huge discoveries about the mysteries of the night sky and changed the way we look at the universe.

Vera Rubin was one of the astronomers who discovered and named dark matter, the thing that keeps the universe hanging together. Throughout her career she was never taken seriously as a scientist because she was one of the only female astronomers at that time, but she didn’t let that stop her. She made groundbreaking and incredibly significant discoveries that scientists have only recently been able to really appreciate—and she changed the way that we look at the universe. A stunning portrait of a little-known trailblazer, The Stuff Between the Stars tells Vera’s story and inspires the youngest readers who are just starting to look up at the stars.

About the Creators: 

Sandra Nickel says that story ideas are everywhere; you just have to reach out and grab them.  She holds an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her first book, Nacho’s Nachos: The Story Behind the World’s Favorite Snack, was a Golden Kite Award finalist. Sandra lives in Chexbres, Switzerland, where she blogs about children’s book writers and illustrators at whatwason.com. To learn more, visit https://sandranickel.com/.

Twitter:  @senickel
Facebook: @sandranickelbooks
Instagram: @sandranickelbooks

Aimée Sicuro is an illustrator, picture book maker, and surface pattern designer who received a BFA in Illustration from Columbus College of Art and Design. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and young sons. Visit her website to learn more.

Twitter: @aimeesicuro
Instagram: @aimeesicuro

Praise: 

“This engaging biography will appeal to budding scientists, particularly those with a penchant for sky searching.” – Kirkus Reviews

“A truly beautiful story of perseverance and passion.” – Booklist

Review: I love learning about amazing women. At the same time, I think it is so sad that these same women aren’t already being taught in schools. Whenever dark matter is discussed, why isn’t Vera Rubin’s story delved into?! It should be. She was someone that should be admired and learned from. Her grit to overcome the blatant sexism in her field is just so tough to even wrap your brain around. These female pioneers deserve all of the name yelling from the hill tops we can give them. 

For that reason, I am so thankful for this book. I did not know about Vera Rubin. Nickel’s story did a wonderful job of intertwining Rubin’s personal story, professional story, and pure passion into a narrative that taught me about her and about space. I also loved the illustrations and the design of the book. Sicuro’s use of darkness and light & spacing were so thoughtful, and I loved the mix between the realistic and the scientific in illustrations. 

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Add in Stuff Between Stars to your Amazing Women in Science text set then use the text set in a lit circle to discover and explore the amazing women scientists picture book biographies that are out there for kids! (Although there still aren’t enough, but it is vastly improving!)

I also think that this book really pushes the idea of passion projects. Everyone dismissed Vera and didn’t nurture her love of science and astronomy. Yes, she overcame, thankfully, but just imagine if just one teacher had told her to just learn everything she could and truly nurtured that love?! Let’s aim to be that educator more!

Post will soon be updated with the curriculum guide for this book!

Discussion Questions:

  • How did others’ criticisms affect Vera? 
  • In the 3rd spread below, how did the author use color to bring across the author’s point? 
  • What challenges did Vera overcome to still become an infamous astronomer? 
  • Why do you think Vera’s work is less known than other astronomers? 
  • Why did Vera have to be so blunt about wanting the job at the Carnegie Institute? What would have probably happened if she was not? 

Watch for: In Celebration of Women’s History Month, Publishers Weekly will be featuring Sandra Nickel and Laurie Wallmark. We talk about science, curiosity, and the importance of picture books about women in STEM. Look for our ‘In Conversation’ on March 8.

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Book Trailer: 

Read This If You Love: The Leaf Detective by Heather LangMarjory Saves the Everglades by Sandra Neil WallaceHidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly, Shark Lady by Jess KeatingGrace Hopper by Laurie WallmarkAda’s Ideas by Fiona RobinsonWho Says Women Can’t Be Doctors? by Tanya Lee StoneMe…Jane by Patrick McDonnell  

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**Thank you to Abrams Books for Young Readers for providing a copy for giveaway!**

 

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The Leaf Detective: How Margaret Lowman Uncovered Secrets in the Rainforest
Author: Heather Lang
Illustrator: Jana Christy
Published February 9th, 2021 by Calkins Creek

Summary: Meg Lowman was determined to investigate the marvelous, undiscovered world of the rainforest treetops. Meg’s perseverance and creativity allowed her to achieve this goal, but when this fantastic ecosystem started to disappear, Meg needed to act quickly.

Meg Lowman was always fascinated by the natural world above her head. The colors, the branches, and, most of all, the leaves and mysterious organisms living there. As a scientist, Meg set out to climb up and investigate the rain forest tree canopies– and to be the first scientist to do so. But she encountered challenge after challenge. Male teachers would not let her into their classrooms, the high canopy was difficult to get to, and worst of all, people were logging and clearing the forests. Meg never gave up or gave in. She studied, invented, and persevered, not only creating a future for herself as a scientist, but making sure that the rainforests had a future as well. Working closely with Meg Lowman, author Heather Lang and artist Jana Christy beautifully capture Meg’s world in the treetops.

About the Creators: 

Heather Lang loves to write about real women who overcame extraordinary obstacles and never gave up on their dreams. Her award-winning picture book biographies include Fearless Flyer: Ruth Law and Her Flying Machine.

Jana Christy currently lives in the Berkshire Mountains in Massachusetts. She is the illustrator of various titles, including I’m the Big One Now!: Poems about Growing Up. Visit janachristy.wixsite.com/illustrations.

Review: Heather Lang does an amazing job of the layering in this book ensuring to include many different aspects of Margaret (Meg) Lowman’s life including her passion for the environment, challenges of being a woman in the sciences in 1970s and the barriers that came with the institutional sexism, and someone wanting to be innovative yet being shut down left and right.

The narrative of the story is written in beautiful verses mixed with direct quotes from Lowman and extra side bar notes that includes facts and information that help drive the biography. And finally the illustrations, filled with vibrant blues and greens, bring the story and setting to life for the reader.

The back matter includes an author note sharing about Lang’s interest in Lowman and about meeting and interviewing her, and it includes photos of Lowman and Lang! This shows the reader Lang’s research methods and how the quote throughout the book are primary sources.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: 

Publisher-provided Educator Guide:

Flagged Passages: 

View two spreads from the book by visiting the publisher’s page:

Book Trailer: 

Read This If You Love: Marjory Saves the Everglades by Sandra Neil Wallace, The Blue Giant by Katie Cottle, Over and Under series by Kate Messner, Swimming with Sharks by Heather Lang, Me…Jane by Patrick McDonnell, The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau by Dan Yaccarino, The Tree Lady by Joseph H. Hopkins

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**Thank you to Boyds Mills & Kane for providing a copy for review and giveaway!**

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Sloth Wasn’t Sleepy
Author: Kate Messner
Illustrator: Valentina Toro
Published: January 12, 2021 by Sounds True

Goodreads Summary: For any child having trouble getting to sleep, the most lovable animal in the rain forest is here to help.

One night at bedtime, Sloth wasn’t sleepy.
“What if I worry when I try to fall asleep?” Sloth said.
“Ah … worries,” Mama said. “We will have to let them go.”

A tough day, a bad dream, a scary noise … these are just a few of the things that can keep kids wide awake and frightened after dark. But Mama Sloth knows the secrets for calming worried minds and getting to sleep—and as she shares them with her daughter, young readers will learn valuable relaxation skills that last a lifetime.

Sloth Wasn’t Sleepy does more than provide a sweet bedtime story—kids will join Sloth to learn mindfulness practices such as “shrinking down” fears in their mind and calming their body through breath and simple visualizations. Kate Messner’s beautiful book helps parents and kids relax into dreamland with a sense of peace, safety, and belonging.

Ricki’s Review: This book is simply magical. Since moving to Colorado, I have understood the value of mindfulness. My kids do meditation at night, and it has really helped their sleep. This book is going to be so helpful to facilitate the process. The charming illustrations drew my attention immediately, and my kids were giggling as we read the book. The words feel carefully and intentionally placed, and they soothed me, as the reader, too! I plan to gift this book to my younger sons’ teachers to use before naptime.

Kellee’s Review: My son is definitely afflicted with a large imagination, specifically when it comes to bedtimes and fears. Reading about Sloth’s worries and her mom’s advice on how to overcome this anxiety is something I will definitely be bringing up whenever these fears erupt at bedtime. I think many kids will find solace in these routines that Mama Sloth set up for Sloth in the story–between the relaxing onomatopoeias, the deep breathing, and the visualization, the story definitely brings a calm over the reader. And to add to this feeling is the adorable and cool-colored illustrations that just tie it all together.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Implicit in this book is a description of anxiety. A common manifestation of anxiety comes with nighttime worrying. I’d love to use this book in literature circles centered around mental health, or in a way that allows children to think about the ways in which they negotiate feelings of worry and anxiety.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What interrupts Sloth’s desire to rest?
  • How does Sloth work to go to sleep?
  • How can you adjust your own habits to improve your sleep?
  • What worries do you have? Shrink them, lay it on a leaf, and set it free.
  • When else could you use a breathing technique like the one Mama Sloth taught Sloth?

We Flagged: “‘Sometimes,” Mama said, “I like to pretend I’m a tree. Drinking up breath from my roots to my crown, from my toes to the top of my head. Would you like to try that, too?'”

You can also check out:

Read This If You Loved: Sloth Wasn’t Sleepy by Frann Preston-Gannon; Sparky by Jenny Offill, “Slowly, Slowly, Slowly” Said the Sloth by Eric Carle, Dinosaur Farm by Frann Preston Gannon

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**Thank you to Samantha at Sounds True for providing copies for review!**

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Who Loves the Dragon?
Author: Bianca Schulze
Illustrator: Samara Hardy
Publishing February 16, 2021 by Clever Publishing

Summary: In this interactive follow-up to Don’t Wake the Dragon, our beloved Dragon is wide-awake and preparing to celebrate one of the kingdom’s most important events of the year: the annual Friendship Festival! It’s a time for everyone to gather and have fun, all honoring their meaningful friendships. But on the day of the feast, the cooks are called away to cater to the Queen and the knights must report for special duty in the Enchanted Forest. With everyone gone, Dragon is upset and worried that this year’s Friendship Festival is doomed. Could they be planning something special for her? And in the meantime, can you help cheer her up? With colorful and humorous illustrations throughout, this read-aloud picture book encourages kids to interact with the text on every page. Young readers will love waving to characters, blowing kisses, dancing, and more on this fun ride alongside Dragon and her adorable friends in this delightful story that will beg to be read again and again.

About the Author: Bianca Schulze is the founder and editor of The Children’s Book Review – a resource devoted to children’s literature and literacy. Bianca is also the bestselling author of 101 Books to Read Before You Grow Up, an Amazon “Book of the Month” in 2016. She is a reader, reviewer, mother, and children’s book lover. Born and raised in Sydney, Australia, Bianca now lives with her husband and three children near Boulder, Colorado.

About the Illustrator: Samara Hardyis the illustrator of Don’t Wake the Dragon and Who Loves the Dragon?. An experienced illustrator and designer, she has created artwork for clients across the globe for greetings cards, stationery, homewares, children’s books, and much more. She lives in Surrey, England.

About the Publisher: Clever Publishing was founded in 2010 with the purpose of changing children’s lives for the better. We create a world full of fascinating experiences for families through our books, games, sets, and series. Focusing on Pre-school and Edutainment, we’ve developed a wide range of innovative formats with modern teaching techniques. Kids love to read, touch, and play while learning, so our program includes products for all ages, including box sets; board books; puzzle books; learning flash cards; interactive coloring, activity, and word play formats; and boards games for the entire family. Our dream team – more than 100 employees worldwide – have a comprehensive understanding and knowledge of children’s books. With this expertise, we present products that are fun, entertaining, and vibrant. We are modern and educational and strive to always emphasize the importance of first experiences. We connect to the needs of busy parents and aim to enrich the time spent with their children. Our goal is to make children – as well as their parents happy!

Review: Interactive books are a favorite in our household, and the Dragon books do not disappoint in getting the reader involved with the story. In the second Dragon book, the Dragon is so sad because the friendship festival is happening, but none of her friends are around. Luckily, the reader is there to make her day better!

The activities the reader does with the dragon are great because they are all things that could be used in real situations of sadness or loneliness such as counting to ten slowly, positive words, and exercise.

On top of the fun story and interactive aspect, the illustrations are delightful! So colorful and full of life! I truly hope there are more Dragon books in our future!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Who Loves the Dragon? activity booklet –> Download for free and print here

Discussion Questions: 

  • What do you do when you are feeling upset?
  • What type of dance did you dance for Dragon?
  • What friends would you bring to the Friendship Festival?
  • Put your hand on your heart and tell yourself something kind about yourself–something you love about yourself.
  • What is your favorite joke?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Dragon books; Interactive books such as There’s a Dragon in Your Book by Tom Fletcher, Don’t Push the Buttonby Bill Cotter, I Say Ooh You Say Aah by John Kane, and Push Here by Hervé Tullet

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**Thank you to the author and publisher for providing a copy for review!**

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First Day of Unicorn School
Author: Jess Hernandez
Illustrator: Mariano Epelbaum
Published January 1st, 2021 by Capstone Publishing

Summary: Milly is incredibly excited to go to Unicorn School, a school that accepts only the best and the brightest. There’s only one problem: she isn’t a unicorn! She’s a donkey in a party hat. Milly first feels uncomfortable but eventually learns that she and the others at the school have more in common than it might have seemed.

About the Author: Jess Hernandez is a writer, librarian, teacher, and all-around word girl. When not being used as a human canvas for baby food art, she writes books for kids. Her debut book, FIRST DAY OF UNICORN SCHOOL, illustrated by Mariano Epelbaum, came out in Jan. 1, 2021 from Capstone. Sometimes she writes essays, poems, and short stories for grown-ups, too. Jess lives in a very small, very LOUD house in Washington with her husband, their three children, a blind Labrador, and seven chickens.

Review: This book is so relatable! Everyone has those first day jitters when they are about to start at a new school, no matter how excited they are, so Milly and the reader will definitely have something in common. And just like Milly, the reader probably realized that although everyone is different at their school, they all are awesome and fit in in their own way at school.

In addition to the story, I really liked the fun colors of the illustrations, and Milly is so expressive!

Trent’s Review: I really liked it because I love animals and it was funny when they all revealed the truth showing their fake unicorn horns and manes. In the end, Milly found the truth everyone and the school became for all animals, so Milly fit in.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: As an educator, Jess created extension activities to go with First Day of Unicorn School!

Coloring Pages

Lesson Plans

And Jess does online visits with schools or groups! https://www.jesshernandezwrites.com/school-visits

Discussion Questions: 

  • What was Milly so worried about when she first got to the school?
  • Why did Milly want to go to unicorn school?
  • How did the author use word play when having the different animals speak?
  • Why did Milly turn around right before she almost left the school?
  • Have students draw their own “unicorn” (any animal with a fake horn and hair!)
  • How were all the animals at the school the same? Different?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Thelma the Unicorn by Aaron Blabey, Kevin the Unicorn by Jessika Von Innerebner, Danbi Leads the School Parade by Anna Kim, Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten by Laura Purdie Salas

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**Thank you to the author and Capstone for providing a copy for review!**

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Eyes that Kiss in the Corners
Author: Joanna Ho
Illustrator: Dung Ho
Published: January 5, 2021 by HarperCollins

Summary: This lyrical and stunning picture book tells a story about learning to love and celebrate your Asian-shaped eyes, in the of spirit of Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry

A young Asian girl notices that her eyes look different from her peers’. They have big, round eyes and long lashes. She realizes that her eyes are like her mother’s, her grandmother’s, and her little sister’s. They have eyes that kiss in the corners and glow like warm tea, crinkle into crescent moons, and are filled with stories of the past and hope for the future.

Drawing from the strength of these powerful women in her life, she recognizes her own beauty and discovers a path to self love and empowerment.

This powerful, poetic picture book will resonate with readers of all ages and is a celebration of diversity.

Ricki’s Review: This book is beautiful and poetic. You could give it to any reader of any age, and they would be captivated by how beautifully it is conceived, constructed and delivered. The lyrical lilt of the words as it is read aloud are captivating. I found myself pausing at the end of reading each page to take in the beauty of the author’s language. Ahh, and the illustrations! The cover is just a teaser for the stunning pictures within this book. I am really excited to gift this book to friends and family. It exemplifies the beauty and power of pictures books. I plan to read it aloud to my YAL class next semester. This book just hit the shelves, and I expect it to be very popular.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teachers can use this book to offer students examples of figurative language. Often, figurative language can feel forced, but here, it flows magically with the storyline. I found that reading this book inspired me to want to write!

“Mama’s eyes that kiss in the corners and glow like warm tea

crinkle into crescent moons…”

Discussion Questions: 

  • How does the author use figurative language effectively?
  • What do you believe to be the author’s and illustrator’s message? How do they convey this message?
  • Who does the main character draw strength from? Who do you draw strength from?

Flagged Spread:

Image from: https://www.joannahowrites.com/eyes-that-kiss

Read This If You Love: Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry; Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Maillard; A Big Mooncake for Little Star by Grace Lin

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**Thank you, Keely, from SparkPoint Studio for sending a copy for review!**

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