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The Atlas of Monsters: Mythical Creatures from Around the World
Creators: Sandra Lawrence and Stuart Hill
Published April 23rd, 2019 by Running Press

Summary: A whimsical and imaginative catalog of fantastical beasts and creatures of myth and legend from around the world-complete with a code that needs cracking to uncover the mystery of the monster atlas!

One day a collection of very old maps is found in a dusty library. They show where in the world monsters and creatures from mythology and folklore can be found. According to the notes left with the maps, they were made by Cornelius Walters, an intrepid explorer from the 15th century. But did Walters really make these elaborate maps, or is it all a hoax? The librarian who discovered them is not certain . . . and what are the strange messages in a cryptic code that Walters records in his ship’s log? The codes throughout, once cracked, may indeed lead to something sinister that will happen should the atlas ever be published!

This is a gorgeously illustrated and comprehensive catalog of monsters, beasts, and mythical creatures from around the globe, with an easy-to-read format and incredible detail on each spread. It is many things, all at once:

  • A reference guide: Grouped by continent, this illustrated atlas lists and defines magical creatures from folklore around the world. Readers will find creatures from stories they’ve heard–like leprachauns, manticores, zombies–and learn about lesser-known creatures like the squonk, the tatzelwurm, and the fengu.
  • A journal: Presented as a record created by a fifteenth-century voyager named Cornelius Walters, the book includes Cornelius’s personal anecdotes about encountering monsters during his journey.
  • A mystery: The book also includes notes from a librarian who supposedly found the atlas and is trying to figure out whether Cornelius was making up stories for the monsters…or whether monsters are real.
  • A code: A mysterious code appears on each page and is referred to by both Cornelius and the librarian, encouraging readers to crack it…before it’s too late.

For kids (and adults) who love mythology, the supernatural, mysteries, or code-breaking, this whimsical blend of folklore and fiction provides both a joy and a surprise on every page.

About the Creators: 

Sandra Lawrence is an author and journalist. She is the author of two middle grade history books: Grisly History: Death and Destruction and Grisly History: Trials and Treachery. She lives in London, England.

Stuart Hill is an illustrator and designer. He is especially interested in printed textures, hand-lettering, and map illustration. He lives in England.

Review: This book is really everything that the summary states. It is fascinating! And beautiful! There is some humor because of the voyager’s anecdotes and the librarian’s notes, too, which is always nice. And the addition of the code adds an interactive element to the text. Highly recommended for any teacher teaching mythology or any traditional stories with monsters/creatures.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This text would be perfect for teaching and discussing the Literacy.RL.9 standard which discusses how modern texts uses traditional text. Using The Atlas of Monsters, students can get an introduction to allusion around a discussion of where they have heard of the monsters before. And this is just the beginning! It would be so much fun to make your own Atlas of Monsters!

Discussion Questions: 

  • Find the clues throughout each page, and crack the codes in the book.
  • How many different points of view are shared in the book? How does this affect the reading experience?
  • Pick one of the creatures and do further research and create a longer profile about them.
  • Before reading about one of the continents, do your own research and try to predict which mythical creatures will be mentioned.
  • What are some similarities/differences between what you knew about ____ and what is in the text?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Mythology, Cryptozoology, Folklore, the supernatural, code breaking

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**Thank you Running Press Kids for providing a copy of the book to review!**

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The Story of Rock
Published: May 7, 2019 by Silver Dolphin Books

Summary: 1…2…3…4! Let’s rock and roll, babies!

From Elvis Presley to Beatlemania, from Janis Joplin to David Bowie—rock has transformed through generations while ringing true with passionate sound. Rock along with the greats in this delightful baby book that introduces little ones to the rockers that started it all!
Parental Advisory: May cause toddlers to play the air guitar with adorable frequency.

My Review: Last night, my husband was reading to my son, and he asked me to bring this book from downstairs. It’s a great, enjoyable book to read and entertained both my 2-year-old and my 5-year-old. I liked how I could cater my reading differently to each of them. For my 5-year-old, I was able to show him pictures of the bands online and talk about the evolution of rock. For my 2-year-old, I was able to talk about music and instruments. We played sample music of many of the bands and had a lot of fun. I could see this working well in the classroom setting. Students might create their own Story of _________ books for children. It teaches excellent skills of summary, synthesis, and brevity.

The Story of Rap
Published: May 7, 2019 by Silver Dolphin Books

Summary: Lay down a baby beat and learn all about the history of rap!

From Grandmaster Flash to Kendrick Lamar, rap has shaped generations and brought a voice to the voiceless. Bop along with the greats in this adorable baby book that introduces little ones to the rappers that started it all!
Parental Advisory: May cause toddlers to develop excessive amounts of swagger.

My Review: I will admit that I know a lot less about rap than I know about rock, so reading this book was a different experience. I knew many of the names but had less background information to share with my children. So together, we looked up the musicians to read and learn more about them together. It was fun to learn more about a music genre that I am less familiar with. This is another book that would pair well with a student assignment to create their own Story of _________ books for children. I love nontraditional synthesis assignments.

Wild Bios: Frida Catlo
Published: January 8, 2019 by Silver Dolphin Books

Summary: Frida Catlo was one purr-fect painter!

Meet one of history’s greatest figures in this adorable board book with an animal twist! Famous Meowxican painter Frida Catlo was a pioneer for female artists. She always painted from the heart, even in the face of health problems and personal struggles. With hilarious puns and colorful illustrations, this book brings Frida’s legacy to life for babies and parents alike!

My Review: Ahh, how I love Frida Kahlo. This book made me chuckle a bit. I will admit that I read it to my kids the first time without any of the cat references, but then I went through and read it again with the cat jokes. I wanted them to get a sense of Frida (who they are unfamiliar with) before they considered the cat jokes. This would make for a really fun classroom book. I can envision students enjoying a project that asks them to create their own Wild Bios for a person in history.

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The Undefeated
Author: Kwame Alexander
Illustrator: Kadir Nelson
Published April 2, 2019 by Versify

Summary: The Newbery Award-winning author of The Crossover pens an ode to black American triumph and tribulation, with art from a two-time Caldecott Honoree.
Originally performed for ESPN’s The Undefeated, this poem is a love letter to black life in the United States. It highlights the unspeakable trauma of slavery, the faith and fire of the civil rights movement, and the grit, passion, and perseverance of some of the world’s greatest heroes. The text is also peppered with references to the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, and others, offering deeper insights into the accomplishments of the past, while bringing stark attention to the endurance and spirit of those surviving and thriving in the present. Robust back matter at the end provides valuable historical context and additional detail for those wishing to learn more.

Ricki’s Review and Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This is an incredibly powerful book. I loved seeing the poem (which was previously performed) turned into a picture book. The book touches upon many critical topics for youth to consider across time and place. It offers a strength that makes readers want to jump from their chairs to support the message of the text. This is a must-read. Teachers might use this book in classrooms by asking students to select a page that they find to be particularly inspiring. Then, they might research individuals who reflect the undefeated-ness that they see on the pages. This might devolve into research projects that explore the “faith and fire,” as quoted from the book summary, that students see across time, space, and place.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How does this book make you feel?
  • What do you perceive to be the author’s and illustrator’s purpose(s)?
  • What similarities and differences do you see across the pages?

Read This If You Love: Out of Wonder by Kwame Alexander; We March by Shane W. Evans; Freedom Summer by Deborah Wiles; The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson; Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer by Carole Boston Weatherford

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If da Vinci Painted a Dinosaur
Author: Amy Newbold
Illustrator: Greg Newbold
Published October 2 2018 by Tilbury House Publishers

GoodReads Summary: In this sequel to the tour de force children’s art-history picture book If Picasso Painted a Snowman, Amy Newbold conveys nineteen artists’ styles in a few deft words, while Greg Newbold’s chameleon-like artistry shows us Edgar Degas’ dinosaur ballerinas, Cassius Coolidge’s dinosaurs playing Go Fish, Hokusai’s dinosaurs surfing a giant wave, and dinosaurs smelling flowers in Mary Cassatt’s garden; grazing in Grandma Moses’ green valley; peeking around Diego Rivera’s orchids in Frida Kahlo’s portrait; tiptoeing through Baishi’s inky bamboo; and cavorting, stampeding, or hiding in canvases by Henri Matisse, Andy Warhol, Frida Kahlo, Franz Marc, Harrison Begay, Alma Thomas, Aaron Douglas, Mark Rothko, Lois Mailou Jones, Marguerite Zorach, and Edvard Munch. And, of course, striking a Mona Lisa pose for Leonardo da Vinci.

As in If Picasso Painted a Snowman, our guide for this tour is an engaging beret-topped hamster who is joined in the final pages by a tiny dino artist. Thumbnail biographies of the artists identify their iconic works, completing this tour of the creative imagination.

Ricki’s ReviewAfter I read this book, I texted Kellee, “I LOVE THIS BOOK!” We received this a couple of weeks ago, and my son and I have read it several times. I missed If Picasso Painted a Snowman, but I plan to get it for my son for the holidays. I love how much learning is packed in this book. After we turned the pages, my son and I looked up the artists to learn more about the artists, their style, and their famous paintings. For me, this picture book will always rank among my favorites because it offers so much educational potential. This is one that I’d use with high schoolers and college students, as well. If you don’t own this book, I recommend it highly. It’s phenomenal.

Kellee’s Review: If I thought the Newbolds hit the height of fun art picture books with If Picasso Painted a Snowman, but they continued the brilliance with their newest If da Vinci Painted a Dinosaur. What I love about the Newbolds’ books are that they are so beautifully done in both art and informational narrative, and it is done in a way that is entertaining and also teaches about some amazing artists. What surprised me about this newest is that there are even more truly abstract and modern art pieces, more than the first book, and the diversity of the artists represented were expanded to show the talent around the world and in different cultures. I can’t wait to see what they are going to do next!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This would be a great book to use in interdisciplinary ways with an art classroom. Students might research an artist, pick a theme, and create their own “If ______ painted a _______” book. It could be bound and kept in the classroom.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How do the dinosaurs differ across the pages? What do you notice about the different artists’ styles?
  • Which dinosaur was your favorite? Why?
  • After reading the back matter, which artist would you like to learn more about?
  • Compare and contrast “regular” dinosaurs which each dinosaur in the book. What do you notice that is the same and/or different?

Flagged Spread: 

Read This If You Love: Art!; If Picasso Painted a Snowman by Amy & Greg Newbold; Biographies of artists such as The Noisy Paintbox by Barb RosenstockViva Frida by Yuyi Morales, Sandy’s Circus by Tanya Lee Stone, A Splash of Red by Jennifer Fisher Bryant; The Dot by Peter H. ReynoldsLinnea in Monet’s Garden by Christina Björk; Seen Art? by Jon Sciezska; The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew DaywaltPerfect Square by Michael Hall; My Pen by Christopher Myers, Paint Me a Picture by Emily Bannister, Mini Museum Series

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**Thank you to Casey at Media Masters for providing copies for review!**

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Where’s the Architect?: From Pyramids to Skyscrapers: An Architecture Look and Find Book
Author: Susanne Rebscher; Illustrator: Annabelle von Sperber
Published October 23, 2018 by Prestel Junior

Summary: This wonderfully illustrated and captivating introduction to the wonders of architecture will have young readers poring over each spread and learning as they go.

From the top of China’s Great Wall to the base of the Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx, this journey through the world of architecture stops in nearly every continent and travels through centuries. Annabelle von Sperber populates her dynamic and intricate double-page spreads with many details and a hidden architect or important figure on every page that kids will have fun trying to locate. Along the way they’ll learn about the iron workers who built the Empire State building, how many bulbs it takes to light the Eiffel Tower, where the royal jewels are kept at the Tower of London, and why there is so much red and yellow in Beijing’s Forbidden City. Young readers will find themselves fully immersed in this large format book while learning about the incredible architectural wonders that continue to amaze us today.

Review: My son and I absolutely loved this book. It is oversized with giant illustrations, and we spent much time on each spread. The pages feature magnificent works of architecture from the past (and currently existing in the present). In most of the drawings, the architecture is in the process of being built or was recently built, so the book leads readers into a historical time period. We learned so much from this book, and I loved all of the new-to-me facts about the famous architectural structures. My son loved looking and talking about the buildings, and he enjoyed doing the search-and-finds on each page. It is a wonderful book that would be a great resource for classrooms.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teachers might ask students to work in groups to pick a page that is particularly compelling for them. They can research more about the structure and the time period to understand context and explore historical aspects of the architecture that interest them.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Which architectural design is most interesting to you? Why do you find it to be interesting?
  • Which facts surprised you?
  • Do you notice differences in the architecture throughout time?
  • Which structures are close to you? Which are far away?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Interactive search-and-find (seek-and-find, look-and-find) activity books filled with educational information

Recommended For: 

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

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Smithsonian Exploration Station: Solar System

Summary: Take a trip into the stratosphere with Smithsonian Exploration Station: Space! With informative text and full-color photographs, young astronomers will learn about the intricate makeup of our solar system as well as distant galaxies and constellations. The 56-page fact book combined with the sticker sheet, space figurines to play with, and the glow-in-the-dark stars make this space experience interactive and engaging.

Includes a 56-page fact book, 30 stickers, 22 glow-in-the-dark stars, and 2 figurines (astronaut and rocket).

ReviewI love book kits. There is something about them that makes me feel warm and fuzzy. My almost 5-year-old loves them just as much. Opening the box is like opening a world of fun. We were thrilled to receive this kit, and it didn’t disappoint. My son played with the rocket and astronaut figurines as we read the book together. The rocket and astronaut touched every page of the book! After we read about each part of the solar system, he affixed the appropriate sticker on his poster. He’s very much looking forward to sticking the glow in the dark stars on his ceiling! Parents will love these kits. The interactive learning component is wonderful. I intend to purchase several other kits from this company!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teachers might purchase 1-2 kits each of the Smithsonian Exploration Station series. These include the Human Body, World Atlas, and Human Body. They can be found here. Students can select the kit that is most interesting to them and engage in an inquiry unit on the topic. These kids would be very fun to use in small groups!

Discussion Questions: 

  • What did you learn as you did the activities?;
  • What parts of solar system do you find most interesting? Why?;
  • How do the different parts of the solar system together?

We Flagged: 

The kit!

The full-sized poster! Notice the grayed out planets. The stickers match these and make for a great interactive reading experience!

Read This If You Loved: Any nonfiction books about the solar system; interactive books and kits (like this one about the human body)

Recommended For: 

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

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Gods and Heroes
Author: Korwin Briggs
Published August 21, 2018 by Workman

GoodReads Summary: Meet the Original Superheroes.

Before there was Batman, Wonder Woman, or Black Panther…there was Indra, Hindu king of gods, who battled a fearsome snake to save the world from drought. Athena, the powerful Greek goddess of wisdom who could decide the fate of battles before they even began. Okuninushi, the Japanese hero who defeated eighty brothers to become king and then traded it all for a chance at immortality.

Featuring more than 70 characters from 23 cultures around the world, this A-to-Z encyclopedia of mythology is a who’s who of powerful gods and goddesses, warriors and kings, enchanted creatures and earthshaking giants whose stories have been passed down since the beginning of time—and are now given fresh life for a new generation of young readers.

Plus, You’ll Learn All About:
Dragons: The Hydra, St. George’s Dragon, and the Australian Rainbow Snake
Giants: Grendel, Balor of the Evuil Eye, Polyphemus, and the Purusha with the thousand heads
Monsters: Manticore, Sphinx, Minotaur, Thunderbird, and Echidne, mother of the Nemean lion that nearly killed Heracles
Underworlds: Travel to Hades, Valhalla, and the Elysian Fields

Review: I always enjoy Workman books. The offer nonfiction information in a way that is fun and engaging. My four-year-old loved this book (even though most of it was a bit over his head). I’d recommend this book for the targeted audience (grades 3-7), but I think younger and older kids would really enjoy it (I know I did!). There are a diverse set of gods and heroes within this story, and they don’t originate from one culture, which I liked a lot. My son seemed to love the Greek/Roman gods the most, so those are the ones that we’ve read so far. We read about a different god/hero each night, and we’ve been going strong for about two weeks. We look forward to reading these stories each night. It makes for a fantastic bedtime routine.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teachers might ask each student to pick a different god or hero and present it to the class. I’d encourage students to choose a god/hero that interests them, and I think this onus would help students get excited about their presentations!

Discussion Questions: Which heroine/hero did you enjoy the most? Why?; Did you notice any similarities across cultural heroes? Differences? Which hero would you want to learn more about?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Mythology, Gods, Heroes, History

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Diana at Workman for providing a copy for review!**

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