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Magnificent Makers: How to Test a Friendship
Author: Theanne Griffith
Illustrator: Reggie Brown
Published May 19, 2020 by Random House Children’s Books

Summary: BOOM! SNAP! WHIZ! ZAP! The Magnificent Makers series is filled with science, adventure, and characters that readers will love!

A modern-day Magic School Bus for chapter book readers!

Violet and Pablo are best friends who love science! So when they discover a riddle that opens a magic portal in the Science Space at school, they can’t wait to check it out! Along with their new classmate, Deepak, the friends discover a magical makerspace called the Maker Maze. It’s a laboratory full of robots, 3D printers, an antigravity chamber, and more. Doors line the walls of the makerspace, with a new science adventure waiting behind each one.

Ricki’s Review: I think I’ve recommended this book to about fifteen people since we’ve read it. I really admire the way in which Griffith incorporates science in such a fun way. The book almost feels interactive. I am going to admit that I, an adult, learned some cool science information as we read this one. We read this book with our virtual book club of kids, and they all loved it. It was very easy to host discussions, and the kids were very animated as they talked about the sections that they loved most. This is a great early chapter book series that is going to be well-loved by teachers. The interdisciplinary nature of the text makes it very easy to teach. We will definitely be getting the next book in the series.

Kellee’s Review: As a mom of 1st grader who loves to read, we are always looking for new early chapter books that will grab his attention and this book is everything we could want. First, it is relatable. The dynamics between the three characters are accurate and just on point. It also deals with real feelings like jealousy and competitiveness. Second, it is about science! Trent is definitely a science loving kid, and adding some science into his books makes him love them more. Third, it is a reflection of the real world (even though they travel to another dimension) because there are a diversity of kids and adults both in looks and behavior. We have already gone to buy the next three in the series, and we cannot wait to see what adventure happens next!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book offers many questions that can lead to inquiry and many topics that can be explored further by kids. Teachers might ask students to select a topic in science and write a fictional story about it. This would require some research and thinking about how information is presented in fiction.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What was your favorite aspect of science that you learned from the book?
  • What emotions did the characters experience in the book? Have you been in situations where you’ve felt these emotions?
  • What could you research from this book to learn more (e.g. robots, 3D printers, an antigravity chamber, the ecosystem)?

Flagged Passage: “Producers, consumers, decomposers, oh my! All are necessary for an ecosystem to survive. Most animals are __________. Living things, beware! If ____________ disappeared, we wouldn’t have fresh air. And without ______________, nature’s garbage would be everywhere! Solve this riddle to enter the maker maze” (p. 11).

Read This If You Love: Science books, early chapter books, interdisciplinary learning

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Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast in Short & Sweet
Author: Josh Funk
Illustrator: Brendan Kearney
Publishing September 1st, 2020 by Sterling Children’s Books

Summary: Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast are back with a twist: they’ve been transformed into small children. Now it’s a race against the clock to turn our favorite duo into grown-ups again!

Lady Pancake is aching; Sir French Toast’s looking pale. Could they be going . . . STALE? Maybe a visit to Professor Biscotti’s lab for her despoiling procedure will help. But instead of beautifying them, Biscotti accidentally transforms the two treats into toddlers! Frightened of the now gargantuan (to them) Baron von Waffle, the mini breakfast foods scamper off on an adventure in the fridge, visiting everywhere from the Bran Canyon to Limes Square. Will Baron von Waffle and Professor Biscotti figure out a way to turn them back into a grown Lady and Sir? Or will they stay short & sweet forever?

In this fourth Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast adventure, Pancake and Toast fear they are going stale and visit Professor Biscotti, whose faulty gadget transforms them into toddlers, sending them on an adventure in the refrigerator.

Our reviews of:
Book One
Book Two
Book Three

About the Creators: 

Josh Funk is the author of Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast, followed by its sequels The Case of the Stinky Stench and Mission Defrostable, as well as Albie NewtonHow to Code a SandcastleLost in the Library, and more. He lives in Concord, MA. Visit him online at joshfunkbooks.com or on Twitter at @joshfunkbooks.

Brendan Kearney is also the illustrator of the first Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast; its sequels The Case of the Stinky Stench and Mission Defrostable; and Bertie Wings It. He lives in St. Albans, UK.

Book Trailer: 

Kellee’s Review: I think the best review I could give of this book is the joy that it brings my son. I wish you all could have seen his face when I told him I was going to read another Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast book. That face truly says it all! When we finished, and he loved it so much, I asked him if he would help me review it. Here are his thoughts:

What was your favorite part of this book? I love that they go to the library because kids do love libraries and books.

Why do you like the Lady Pancake and French Toast books? They are all funny when everyone goes on an adventure. I like the illustrations and the words. Both. I like that it rhymes. And the illustrations look funny. I just like everything.

This is who these books are for, so I think his words speak volumes!

As for me, I adore this series too! And I always am so impressed that Josh Funk is able to create such a rhythmic rhyming prose–it blows me away and shows his pure rhyming genius. This story was extra wonderful because we got to see little Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast who were so cute!

Ricki’s Review: These books are truly among my very favorite to read aloud. I read them often with kids, and they are a real crowd-pleaser! Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast in Short & Sweet is another masterpiece that will be so useful to teachers and parents everywhere. Reading it brought me so much joy.

The pictures and words pair beautifully to personify the food. I could see kids having fun creating their own personified food stories and using this book as a mentor text.

Right now, we all need humor. Both my kids and I laughed as we read this one, and I am so glad that it is out in the world. I am very grateful for Josh Funk and Brendan Kearney for bringing such cheer to my days.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Josh Funk’s books are instant mentor texts for rhyming and rhythm. Take a spread and have students mimic his rhyming and rhythm using their own characters. Or in general you can use his texts to discuss these as his rhythmic and rhyming texts are some of the best!

Discussion Questions: 

  • What other picture books could you rename with food puns?
  • If you were writing a Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast story, where would you have them visit in the refrigerator?
  • Why was Baron Von Waffle so upset by the Lady Pancake’s and Sir French Toast’s reaction to him?
  • How did Baron Von Waffle save the day twice?
  • There are some other characters in the book that are not named–what would you name them?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast books, Rhyming texts, Funny books,

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Visit all of the Stops on the Short & Sweet Virtual Book Tour to not miss out on any reviews or goodies!

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**Thank you to Josh Funk for providing a copy for review!**

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Our World: A First Book of Geography
Author: Sue Lowell Gallion; Illustrator: Lisk Feng
Published: July 15, 2020 by Phaidon Press

Summary: A read-aloud introduction to geography for young children that, when opened and folded back, creates a freestanding globe

Children are invited to identify and experience the Earth’s amazing geography through rhyming verse and lush illustrations: from rivers, lakes, and oceans deep, to valleys, hills, and mountains steep. Secondary text offers more detailed, curriculum-focused facts and encourages readers to consider their own living environments, making the reading experience personal yet set within a global backdrop. This informative homage to Earth is sure to inspire readers to learn more about their planet – and to engage with the world around them.

ReviewOh, how I love this book! It is very cleverly designed. My sons have decided that they will alternate having it in their rooms each week, so it was a hit in my household. The book opens to form a globe! The information within the book is educational for both kids and adults. For instance, I learned about the different temperatures of deserts. Very cool! The book is marketed to ages 2-5, but my almost 7-year-old found it fascinating and learned new information (as did I!). I think other elementary schoolers would also really enjoy this book.

Each page features a theme of information and artworking, like a living environment or the rivers, lakes, and oceans. It’s packed with interesting facts on the thick, sturdy board book pages. This book would make a great gift to a teacher or child. I recommend it highly!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teachers could pair this book with a unit on geography. Students might each take a different page and research further the topic of the page. Alternatively, kids might design their own three-dimensional books using this one as their mentor text. For instance, they might design a book based on a planet or some other theme. I am hoping for more books in this style!

Discussion Questions: Which was your favorite page? Why? What did you learn on the page? What other information could you research about the topic?; How do the pages work together to teach us about our world?

We Flagged: 

Read This If You Love: Any nonfiction books about the geography and our world; interactive books

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**Thank you to Wendy Kitts and Frannie Gordon for introducing me to this book and providing a copy for review!**

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Build a Castle: 64 Slot-Together Cards for Creative Fun
Author: Pail Farrell
Published: April 7th 2020 by Pavilion Children’s

Summary: Turrets, ramparts, windows, walls, and more–create your own medieval masterpiece with the first in a new series of graphic-designed building cards.

This pack contains sixty-four cards (4 x 2¾ inches) of a variety of graphic designs. Clever paper engineering allows you to slot the cards together, building up and out in whichever way you like! Also included is a short ten-page booklet, with descriptions of the card designs and suggestions of stacking methods. The instructions tell you how to build a castle, or you can let your imagination run riot and design your own!

Renowned illustrator Paul Farrell has designed these cards in his bold, colorful graphic style–turning the image of a castle into a work of art.

ReviewBuilding, building, building. My three kids love to build. I am always looking for something new and different. When I heard about Build a Castle, I knew it would be a huge hit in my house, and (spoiler alert), it was.

The cards come in a thick cardboard box that is very inviting. The pictures on the cover give kids ideas (if they need a sort of mentor text to get started.

I was pleasantly surprised by the long informational guide within the box. It provides a lot of neat details for kids to read and learn all about castles. I found it cool, myself, even though I know I am not the target audience. I suspect other adults will find joy in this box.

Here’s a closeup of one of the informational sections about castles. Younger kids might slot the castle together haphazardly, but older kids would enjoy choosing intentionally the placement of the items of their castle. For instance, a battlement might be better placed at the top of the castle to allow for safety from invaders from far away!

Building!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This would make for a great classroom station. Or perhaps teachers would enjoy using it for fast finishers or for a free learning time slot. My son says that his classroom as a free learning time, and everyone fights over the iPad. Build a Castle would be a great competitor for the iPad. I know that my kids would enjoy building a castle just as much as using the well-loved tablet.

Discussion Questions: What did you learn as you did the activities?; What parts of the castle do you find most interesting? Why?; How do the different parts of the castle together?

Cool Video to Show How It Works: 

Read This If You Loved: Any nonfiction books about castles; interactive books and kits; legos; building; architecture

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**Thank you to Casey at Media Masters Publicity for providing a copy for review**

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Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten
Author: Laura Purdie Salas
Illustrator: Hiroe Nakata
Published July 14, 2020 by Two Lions

Summary: Clover Kitty does NOT want to go to kittygarten! Although she might like a friend to play with, kittygarten feels overwhelming for a sensory-sensitive kitty like Clover. And when she arrives, it is exactly as she fears: her classroom is too loud, the lights are too bright, and everyone comes too close. So Clover throws a fit…and decides to quit kittygarten. But when a classmate comes to check on her, she begins to reconsider. Maybe it’s time for Clover to give kittygarten another chance.…

Laura Purdie Salas is an award-winning author of more than 125 books for children, including her recent books Snowman – Cold = Puddle: Spring Equations, illustrated by Micha Archer, and Lion of the Sky: Haiku for All Seasons, illustrated by Mercè López. Her books have received such honors as Bank Street College of Education’s Best Books for Children, IRA Teachers’ Choice, the Minnesota Book Award, and NCTE Notable book. Laura went to kindergarten in Florida and now lives in Minnesota. She hates crowds and knows a good friend makes everything better. Learn more about the author at www.laurasalas.com. Twitter: @LauraPSalas
Facebook: @LauraPSalas

Hiroe Nakata grew up in Japan and moved to the United States when she was sixteen. She is a graduate of the Parsons School of Design. Artwork from her first picture book, Lucky Pennies and Hot Chocolate, was chosen for the prestigious Society of Illustrators Annual Exhibition. Since then, she has illustrated numerous books for children, including her recent titles, Baby Builders, written by Elissa Haden Guest, Baby’s Blessings, written by Lesléa Newman, and One More Hug, written by Inside Edition’s national correspondent Megan Alexander. Hiroe vividly remembers her daughter’s struggles in kindergarten and is happy to report that, at fourteen, her daughter excels in school and plays in the school band.
Instagram: @hiroenakata

“Young readers will identify with Clover’s feelings about starting school or any new adventure… A perfect story to share at the beginning of the school year.” —School Library Journal

“Salas shapes a read-aloud that will spark conversation with first-timers who are sensitive to stimulus, while Nakata humorously conveys the resolute feline’s emotions in expressive watercolor images.” —Publishers Weekly

Ricki’s Review: This book is so charming. It is the perfect back-to-school book for cat-loving kids (and non-cat-loving kids, too!). I read this book to my 3yo and 6yo who are entering preschool and first grade, and the book brought both of them joy. The book brought back memories for me—I was also a kid who faked sick because I didn’t enjoy school when I was in elementary school. Clover’s actions likely replicate those of millions of kids, and the book offers opportunities for conversations with kids about pushing forward despite discomfort. There’s so much to love about this book. The illustrations made me smile, and they beautifully portray the emotions of the characters. The language flows well, which makes for a very enjoyable read-aloud. Literary elements are packed within the pages, which makes this book very teachable. We’ll be rereading this one often, and we will definitely pull it out the evening before school begins!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I highly recommend this one for the first, second, and third day jitters. Students will be captivated by the story, and they’ll find much to love in the animals of the book. Clover won my heart, and I know she’ll be popular among kids, too. Teachers might also point out the personification and the figurative language as they read. Check out the book trailer, activity sheets, and more at https://laurasalas.com/clover/.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How does Clover feel on the first day? The second day?
  • How do Clover’s emotions shift in different moments of the story?
  • Have you ever felt this way about a new situation? What did you do? What can you learn from Clover?

We Flagged: 

Read This If You Love: The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn; Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney; Stella Luna by Janell Cannon; In My Heart by Mackenzie Porter; Back to School Books; Cats

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

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Lulu the One and Only
Author: Lynnette Mawhinney
Illustrator: Jennie Poh
Published June 9th, 2020 by Magination Press

Summary: Lulu loves her family, but people are always asking

What are you?

Lulu hates that question. Her brother inspires her to come up with a power phrase so she can easily express who she is, not what she is.

Includes a note from the author, sharing her experience as the only biracial person in her family and advice for navigating the complexity of when both parents do not share the same racial identity as their children.

Praise for Lulu the One and Only! ★“All children will benefit from this pitch-perfect discussion of race, identity, complexity, and beauty.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred)

About the Author: Lynnette Mawhinney, PhD, is associate professor in the department of curriculum and instruction at the University of Illinois at Chicago helping to prepare future urban teachers for the classroom. She’s written several academic books and articles. LULU THE ONE AND ONLY is her first children’s book. Dr. Mawhinney is biracial, like her character Lulu, and an expert on teaching diverse populations and in urban environments. She lives in Chicago. To learn more, and to download a curriculum guide, visit her website: https://www.lynnettemawhinney.com/for-children.

About the Illustrator: Jennie Poh was born in England and grew up in Malaysia (in the jungle). Pen and paper by her side at all times, she loved drawing princesses and writing stories. At the age of ten she moved back to England and trained as a ballet dancer. After failing her art A-level, Jennie decided the art world was definitely for her so she studied fine art at The Surrey Institute of Art & Design as well as Fashion Illustration at Central St. Martins. Jennie lives in Surrey, England.

Review: Representation matters, and I am so happy that Lulu is out in the word for the readers who need her to relate to and those who need her to learn about others. As Dr. Mawhinney shares in the Author’s Note, there are complexities of being a biracial child because their parents may not “understand the perspective of their children, and sometimes mixed-race children can feel alone in their experiences.” Lulu has her brother in the story to help her with THAT question, and now readers have Lulu if they don’t have a Zane. The book is also great for readers of any race to have an example of biracialism in a book.

Aside from the importance of the book and the brilliance that Dr. Mawhinney dealt with introducing Lulu’s race, it is also a well crafted book. I love Lulu’s voice–I could hear her talking to me as I read. I also liked the resolution because it was a great example for children.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Dr. Mawhinney has a Curriculum and Activity Guide for Lulu the One and Only! 

Flagged Passages: 

Watch the fun book trailer!

Read This If You Love: Hair Love by Matthew Cherry; The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson; Dear Girl by Amy Krouse Rosenthal; I Am Enough by Grace Byers; I Am Perfectly Designed by Karamo Brown; Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell

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**Thank you to Blue Slip Media for providing a copy for review and giveaway!**

 
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Paint By Sticker Kids: Dinosaurs
Published July 21, 2020 by Workman Publishing Company

Summary: Create pictures of 10 awesome dinosaurs… with stickers!

Step 1: Find the sticker
Step 2: Peel the sticker
Step 3: Place the sticker

…and watch your dinosaur painting come to life!

Includes everything you need to create ten sticker paintings on sturdy stock––plus, all the pages are perforated, making it easy to tear out each finished work to frame and share.

Features fascinating dinosaur facts on the back of each painting!

Ricki’s Review: This book is a gift to parents. I mean…kids! My 6-year-old spent three hours (no lie) working on three of these. It teaches him to focus, and it is helping him improve his fine motor skills. My 3-year-old, who is almost 4, finds it a bit more difficult. He can place the stickers, but he has trouble with the numbers and peeling the stickers off. I would say the sweet spot for this book would start at about 4.5 years old and continue up through adulthood. I am tempted to buy the adult version for myself, but the kid version would bring just as much joy. As a child, I loved paint by number, and this is paint by number without the mess! I offered to buy paint by number for my 6-year-old, but he said he preferred this sticker version and that it was more fun. 

Above, you can see the three pages that took my 6-year-old three hours to complete. He wanted to do a fourth, but I told him to take a break! We’ll definitely be buying the kids some of the other Paint by Sticker books for holidays. 😉

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This is a great book to teach numbers. There are about 60 stickers on each page, and finding the stickers allows children to look at the numerical order of the stickers. My 6-year-old chose to go in sequential, increasing order, so it reinforced his number sense. (My 3-year-old preferred to peel stickers at random, but he was still forced to think about how the numbers were structured.) I could easily see this book at a freetime station or in a fast finishers bin. The pages easily perforate!

Read This If You Love: Interactive activity books filled with fun and educational activities; paint by number

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**Thank you to Workman Publishing for providing a copy for review!**

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