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StarTalk with Neil deGrasse Tyson
Editor: Shelby Alinsky
Published March 20th, 2018 by National Geographic Children’s Books

Summary: Now abridged for YA audiences, this beautifully illustrated companion to celebrated scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson’s popular podcast and National Geographic Channel TV show is an eye-opening journey for anyone curious about the complexities of our universe.

For decades, beloved astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has interpreted science with a combination of brainpower and charm that resonates with fans everywhere. In 2009, he founded StarTalk, the wildly popular podcast that became an Emmy-nominated talk show on the National Geographic Channel in 2015. Tyson’s pioneering book takes the greatest hits from the airwaves to the page in one smart, richly illustrated compendium for young adult readers. Featuring vivid photography, thought-provoking sidebars, enlightening facts, and fun quotes from science and entertainment luminaries like Bill Nye and Josh Groban, StarTalk reimagines science’s most challenging topics–from how the brain works to the physics of comic book superheroes–in a relatable, humorous way that will attract curious young readers.

Praise: “Most notable throughout the book, as on the original television show, are the connections between science and creativity, art, and wonder. Educational and entertaining, this will engage loyal followers and recruit new fans.”—Booklist

ReviewThis book is everything you would think a book by Neil deGrasse Tyson named after his National Geographic Channel’s late-night talk show and his podcast. Tyson mixes culture, creativity, and science in a fun and interesting way that will suck in readers of all kinds in.

I loved the structure of the book! The mix of Tyson’s answers to science-based questions, fun facts about the topics, extension activities, and all sorts of other fun text features! And the topics are so interesting! Split into space, planet earth, being human, and futures imagined, the text looks at so many interesting topics including going to Mars, evolution, Superman, and Bigfoot!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I love texts like this because they can be used for research or as interest starters or just for fun! This book is perfect for classroom libraries, school libraries, and as a class resource!

Discussion Questions: Almost every page has a discussion question!

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: To learn, Science, Astonomy, Neil deGrasse Tyson

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Be A King: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Dream and You
Author: Carole Boston Weatherford
Illustrator: James E. Ransome
Published January 2nd, 2018 by Bloomsbury USA Childrens

Summary: You can be a King. Stamp out hatred. Put your foot down and walk tall.
You can be a King. Beat the drum for justice. March to your own conscience.

Featuring a dual narrative of the key moments of Dr. King’s life alongside a modern class as the students learn about him, Carole Weatherford’s poetic text encapsulates the moments that readers today can reenact in their own lives. See a class of young students as they begin a school project inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and learn to follow his example, as he dealt with adversity and never lost hope that a future of equality and justice would soon be a reality. As times change, Dr. King’s example remains, encouraging a new generation of children to take charge and change the world . . . to be a King. 

Praise: 

“While the book is accessible as an inspiring primer on social justice and taking action, it also challenges more sophisticated readers to make connections between the art, the text, Dr. King’s life, the civil rights movement at large, and the continuing struggle to affect change . . .This book is sure to spark discussion and empower readers of all ages.” –  Starred review, School Library Journal

“Thoughtful paintings of moving scenes are paired with brief, motivational reflections that evoke all the sentiment and fervor of the American civil rights movement.” –  Foreword Review

“The book manages to make essential lessons in civic responsibility accessible to the very young reader.” –  Booklist

“The historical scenes, painted in Ransome’s signature thick, saturated style, are infused with a powerful sense of narrative.” –  Publishers Weekly

“The use of rich, realistic paintings with pencil detailing for King’s life contrasts with the brighter, simpler drawings for the contemporary children, giving a physical reminder that his work is ongoing.” –  School Library Connection

ReviewI am so happy that a book like this exists! It makes a beautiful connection between King’s history and how the same concepts can (and should!) drive us today. The book is very young kid friendly and is a great scaffold to talk about Dr. King or about kindness; however, it could also be used with older kids to infer and go deeper into the lyrical language Weatherford uses. I also loved how Ransome’s illustrations changed between King’s biography and the more contemporary school narrative.

P.S. As a teacher and a person who believes in kindness and equity and acceptance and friendship, I am so happy to see conversations like this happening so freely now! My students and I speak about injustice and prejudice and equity so often now when it would have been a stigma just a few years ago to even mention race or other social justice issues. It is important to talk about race in a non-prejudicial way with children to allow them to learn and grown and reflect. Sadly, it has been through horrific injustices that has gotten us to this point, but hopefully with our future generations having these types of conversations starting at such a young age, these injustices will stop.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Have students look at each school spread (or split up the spreads between groups of students) and ask them to connect the ideals happening in the spread with something that King spoke about. This idea can also be used with the King spreads because it does not explicitly state what historical event each spread is representing, so students could look through King’s story and try to match each illustration and words with an event in his life.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What was Dr. King’s dream?
  • What are some ways you can fulfill this dream?
  • Although he was speaking of a much larger issue than a classroom, how can King’s ideals be transferred to how we treat each other in the classroom?
  • What events of King’s life were portrayed in the illustrations?
  • What other ways could you BE A KING?
  • Why do you believe the author wrote this story?
  • What is the author trying to teach the reader?
  • How did the author structure the story to reach her purpose and theme?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Stories of MLK, Jr.’s life, Books (historical fiction or nonfiction) about the Civil Rights MovementEach Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson,

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How to Code a Sandcastle
(How to Code with Pearl and Pascal #1)
Author: Josh Funk
Illustrator: Sara Palacios
Foreword by Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code
Published May 15th, 2018 by Viking

Summary: From the computer science nonprofit Girls Who Code comes this lively and funny story introducing kids to computer coding concepts.

Pearl and her trusty rust-proof robot, Pascal, need to build a sandcastle before summer vacation is over, and they’re going to do it using code. Pearl breaks the big we-need-a-sandcastle problem into smaller steps, then uses conditionals, loops, and other basic coding concepts to tell Pascal exactly what to do. But building a sandcastle isn’t as easy as it sounds when surfboards, mischievous dogs, and coding mishaps get in the way! Just when it looks like the sandcastle might never work, Pearl uses her coding skills to save the day and create something even better: a gorgeous sandcastle kingdom!

Kellee’s Review:  Through books like the Secret Coders series, Two Naomis, and now How to Code a Sandcastle, I’ve slowly begun to learn more and more about coding, and I find it fascinating! If I was a kid now, I would be so excited to have books like these to introduce me to coding. How to Code a Sandcastle is special because it takes coding, which is a tool that is primarily not taught until middle school or later, and makes it accessible to younger kids helping them build their coding vocabulary and knowledge at a young age. My son at age 4 now knows a basic idea of what coding is which is such a great foundation! Bravo Josh and Brava Sara for producing such an essential and gosh-darn funny book for kids.

Ricki’s Review: Josh Funk does it again and again and again. He creates highly engaging books that are so teachable! This is my first book in the Girls Who Code series, and it most certainly won’t be my last. It makes coding quite fun and offers an engaging introduction to children. I don’t know anything about coding, and I had fun learning the vocabulary with my son. After we read the book, we went through again and reviewed all of the new words that we learned about coding. The educational value of this book is very high—it is a great first dive into STEM, it could be used to teach step-by-step instructional writing, and it’s an incredible and hilarious read-aloud! Thanks for this wonderful new text for our classrooms, Josh!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Like we shared above, How to Code a Sancastle is a wonderful foundation for learning about coding and would be an awesome read aloud in an elementary classroom as students are first being introduced to coding maybe on the “Day of Code” or before a computer course. It has a lot of introductory vocabulary and ideas that won’t overwhelm young children but will instead make them curious. Alternatively, it is also a great example of step-by-step instructional writing mixed with a hilarious narrative, so it would be a great mentor text for these writings.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Why did Pearl feel she needed to bring Pascal to build a sandcastle?
  • How did Pearl fix mistakes when she made them when coding Pascal?
  • What cause and effect relationships do you see in the story?
  • What problem and solution relationships do you see in the story?
  • How did the author include step-by-step instructions within the narrative while also keeping the story going?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Secret Coders series by Gene Luen Yang, Girls Who Code books, The coding references in Two Naomis by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, Twenty Yawns by Jane SmileyOn Gull Beach by Jane Yolen

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Star Wars Workbooks (Writing, ABCs, Reading, and Math)

and

Summer Brain Quest Workbooks

Published by Workman

Star Wars Workbooks Summary: The Force is strong with this series! Introducing a line of workbooks that marries the iconic popularity of Star Wars with the unique mix of editorial quality, fun presentation, and rigorous educational standards that Workman applied to the BRAIN QUEST Workbooks.

Twelve titles launch the series―three each for Pre-K through 2nd Grade―and dig deep into core subjects, including numbers, ABCs, phonics, and reading readiness for younger grades, and math, reading, and writing for the older ones. The material, which aligns with national Common Core State Standards, is designed to reinforce essential concepts and lessons taught in schools. Any child, not just fans of Star Wars―but yes, those fans will be especially delighted (as will reluctant learners)―will love the “A” is for Anakin approach to phonics. Kids will practice learning numbers by counting and circling X-wing starfighters and clone troopers. Master place values by sorting groups of Wookiees. There are math problems―Yoda is holding 7 lightsabers. 5 of the lightsabers are blue. The rest are green. How many green lightsabers is he holding? And Language Arts―Circle the correct homophone in this sentence: Luke is a Jedi knight/night.

Featuring favorite characters like Luke Skywalker, Queen Amidala, Yoda, and Obi-Wan Kenobi, and other creatures, monsters, Jedi, and Sith, the workbooks are filled with thousands of original illustrations drawing from all six Star Wars movies and the expanded Star Wars universe.

Learn well, you will.

Summer Brain Quest Workbooks Summary (Pre-K to K Summary): It’s time to get ready for school! Now, the series that keeps K–6th graders sharp, active, and curious in between grades is expanding to meet popular demand: Introducing Summer Brain Quest: Between Grades Pre-K & K, covering the summer between Preschool and Kindergarten so 4- and 5-year-olds can get ready for school—and have fun doing it.

Part workbook, part game, part adventure, it’s the interactive book that combines educational activities with indoor and outdoor play—with entertaining and effective results. The pullout map guides kids on a learning quest; to cross the finish line, they fulfill the curriculum-based exercises and customize their path by pursuing the bonus challenges and outdoor activities that excite them most. How about extra counting or reading calendars? A hunt for three-dimensional shapes? Identifying landforms? Or finding words that rhyme? Along the way, they earn stickers for completing pages, tick off an adventure list, and get fresh air with outdoor learning challenges, like writing the alphabet with sidewalk chalk.

Teacher-approved, parent-trusted, and designed to appeal to kids’ natural love of learning and playful curiosity, Brain Questmakes it fun to be smart all summer long!

Ricki’s ReviewMy son LOVES these books. They have made him so excited about reading, writing, and math. I am not a workbook kind of teacher, but these books defy all notions of worksheet and workbook teaching. The Summer Brain Quest books feature a map at the end. As kids finish each page, they earn stickers to go along the map. The books ask them about themselves in the “my world” pages. They make learning very fun. He particularly loves the Star Wars reading book. He enjoys matching the letters to words and circling answers. My son is an outdoors-y kind of kid. He doesn’t enjoy sitting at the table and practicing his reading. Therefore, we do these at night. After we read together, he picks one of these workbooks to do together. We sit on the floor, and he loves it. It extends his awake time, and he loves thinking he is doing something fun to stay up later than his brother. We found the workbooks in the bookstore yesterday, and he was thrilled to see his books on the shelves. We ended up buying other books in the Brain Quest series because he enjoyed them so much. He chose this rather than a new toy! I’ll be purchasing these books for my younger son when he gets a bit older. They are absolutely wonderful and make learning fun! 

Kellee’s ReviewLike Ricki, I am skeptical whenever I see a workbook, but as soon as these arrived, my son became a bit obsessed with “doing his Star Wars letters,” and I just cannot argue with that as Trent is not a sit-and-do-something type of kid. But since the workbook is a mix of writing and activities, it doesn’t seem like work to him but instead is seen as a game. Because of this, I view them more as an activity book than just a workbook. We’ve currently been focusing primarily on the Star Wars activity book because I don’t want to overwhelm him, and it also leaves the Brain Quest for us to do when he is done. (Though, I do LOVE Brain Quest cards. My sister, Natalie, gives them to Trent for his birthday, and we do his “cards” in the car.) Lastly, I want to give a shout out to these helping parents who want to include educational activities at home. I know that even I, as a teacher mom, struggle with figuring out what to do to help my child learn to read and keep learning, and these activity books are perfect!

We Flagged: 

Star Wars “A”

to “Z”

Tracing and Coloring the Number 3

Brainquest “MNO” and “Living Things”

“Summer Brain Quest” map

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

 
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Sticky Facts: What Will You Find?
New York, Construction, Animals
Published: December 12, 2017 by Workman

Summary: Sticky Facts is an innovative, kid-friendly approach to beloved topics for ages 6 and up, featuring a cutting-edge sticker sheet design that allows for text and color images to appear underneath the sticker.

Unlike average sticker books, each sticker page features questions with facts hidden underneath the relevant sticker. Once the sticker is peeled o­ff, the fascinating factis revealed. Activity pages with corresponding prompts are featured next to the sticker pages for readers to use as fuel for sticker landscapes, adding hours of fun to the whole experience!

ReviewWhile the book is marketed for ages 6 and up, my 4-year-old had a blast with these books. I had to read the facts beneath the stickers to him, but he loved peeling them off of the pages and finding their matching places within the book. As a parent, sometimes it gets to the point that I am looking for something new and different, and this clever idea was very impressive to me. The books are well-made and fun. I overheard my son sharing one of the construction facts with a friend at preschool, so it really works! These books make great gifts and add a new twist to kids’ love of stickers.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teachers might group students by interest to allow them to learn and work together on a book of their choosing. This allows students to learn nonfiction facts on a topic that they are interested about!

Discussion Questions: Which was your favorite sticky fact?; What are some new facts that you learned? What kinds of facts are featured below the stickers?

We Flagged: 

Read This If You Loved: Nonfiction; Sticker Books

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**Thank you to Christy at Workman for providing a copy for review**

 
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Polly Diamond and the Magic Book
Author: Alice Kuipers
Illustrator: Diana Toledano
Expected Publication May 1st, 2018 by Chronicle

Summary: Polly loves words. And she loves writing stories. So when a magic book appears on her doorstep that can make everything she writes happen in real life, Polly is certain all of her dreams are about to come true. But she soon learns that what you write and what you mean are not always the same thing! Funny and touching, this new chapter book series will entertain readers and inspire budding writers.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Activities for Polly Diamond include:

Color Poem

On page one, Polly says that her teacher said her color poem was fantastic.

Have your students use the Read. Write. Think. template to create their own color poem.

Template: http://www.readwritethink.org/files/resources/lesson_images/lesson375/PoemTemplates.pdf

Finish her perfect house story

On page 3, Polly is interrupted while writing her perfect house story.

Finish her story with what your perfect house would include.

Wishes

When Polly realizes her book is magical, she thinks of many things she can wish for such as a cell phone, not frizzy hair, more books, a flat screen TV, and world peace.

Using a brainstorming graphic organizer, have your students think of all the things they wish for.

After brainstorming all of their wishes, have them circle your top three.

Using the five-paragraph format for informative essays, have students write explaining their three wishes.

Measuring

For Polly’s grandmother’s recipe for pancakes called for a cup of flour and a cup of milk. Many times, when baking, you do not have what you need to make the recipe, and not just ingredients—you may not have the right measuring cup.

Bring in one cup measuring cups along with 1/4, 1/3, 1/2, 3/4, tablespoon, and teaspoon measuring cups/spoons. Break students into groups and give each group one of each measuring cup/spoon as well as something to measure (water, rice, flour), and have them answering the following questions:

  • If you only had 1/4 cup, how could you get one cup of flour?
  • If you only had 1/3 cup, how could you get one cup of flour?
  • If you only had 1/2 cup, how could you get one cup of flour?
  • If you only had 3/4 cup, how could you get one cup of flour?
  • If you only had a tablespoon, how could you get one cup of flour?
  • If you only had a teaspoon, how could you get one cup of flour?

Favorite words

Polly has a lot of favorite words: words with double letters like doozy and mutli-meaning words like basil.

Have students make a list of three words that they really like.

For each word, they should define it and also explain why they like the word.

When finished, students should do a word meet and greet. Using clock buddies or some other buddy system, have students meet with other students in the classroom and learn about their favorite words. They should add the favorite words they learn about to their list.

Paint names

On page 29, Polly makes up names for paint that describes the color such as muddy pond, lunch bag, and baboon butt.

First, have students look at the colors Polly described on page 29 and find the corresponding color in either a crayon box or a color exploration site online.

Then, have students create color names using imagery. Either have them use the color exploration site online or the colors from Microsoft Word.

Affixes

Show students how there are different word parts (affixes) that can be put together to make new words. They are like puzzle pieces! Share with them the different types of word parts (prefix, suffix, root, and base) and how they fit together.

On page 56, Polly explains how adding un- to the beginning of a word gives it an opposite meaning. The word she uses as an example is unobservant. Share with your students that un- is a prefix that means NOT which does make a word the opposite. Have student brainstorm a list of words with un- at the beginning and define them using NOT as the definition for un.

Extension: dis-, il-, im-, in-, and ir- also mean NOT. Students can also explore words with these
prefixes.

Extension: On page 57, Polly also talks about adding –fully to the end a word to make it bigger,
but it does more than that. Share with your students that –fully is actually a combination of ful, a root word that means full of, and –ly, a suffix that turns an adjective to an adverb, so her example of sorrowfully means full of sorrow (adv).

After showing students how words break apart and how affixes help with word meanings, give students words with un- and –ful (or any other affix you taught) and have them mark the different word parts and define the word.

Coloring Sheets

Coloring sheets can also be downloaded from Chonricle’s website here.

See the Teaching Guide Created by Me (Kellee) for even more activities! 

You can also access the teaching guide through Chronicle’s website here.

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Sports Illustrated Kids: The Baseball Fanbook
Everything You Need to Become a Hardball Know-It-All: Lingo, Trivia, Stats, Skills
Author: Gary Gramling
Published April 3rd, 2018 by Sport Illustrated

Summary: Everything You Need to Become a Hardball Know-It-All!

The next book in the Fanbook series from Sports Illustrated KidsThe Baseball Fanbook has all the nerdy-cool insider knowledge that fans ready for next-level, in-depth stats need to know to impress their friends, family, coaches, and any season ticket holders they may meet. Tailor-made for baseball fanatics ages 8 and up who know the basics of the sport they love, may play it, and are looking to become super fans, this new fanbook is filled with fun trivia, unique lingo, and illustrated behind-the-skills how-to’s. Chapters include Team Tidbits (salient baseball facts about every MLB team), Think Like a Manager (essential strategies to understand), He Reminds Me Of (compares current players to legendary greats of America’s favorite pastime), and much more!

ReviewAs the 2018 baseball season begins, I knew I had to share this book with you all because I love this resource! I saw the The Football Fanbook, and I was impressed by it, but I LOVE BASEBALL! So I am so happy that there is a baseball version now.

Now, please don’t stop here just because I say I love baseball, so you assume you have to love it also to like this book. One of the things I like about this series is that they are written for all levels of fans. Maybe you don’t get why people like baseball? Check out this book to learn why! Maybe you are a player but really want to learn more specifics about the MLB? Check out this book to find out more! Maybe you are a baseball fanatic that lives and breaths the sport? Check out this book to maybe learn some fun facts you don’t know or as just a fun and entertaining read. It really is written in ways that all types of readers will find something in it.

Although this book is aimed for kids in grade 3 and up, don’t let that make you think it doesn’t include detailed information–it does! Each chapter is focused and full of information and photographs. But at the same time, I will say that it isn’t so overwhelming that younger kids will be turned off either. I’ve used parts of it with Trent this year as the season begins, and as we get ready for him beginning t-ball.

I am also impressed by its text structure. It is set up to be a book that could be read in order or jumped around, which is what I think is the best structure for informational nonfiction books because it makes it so any type of reader can grab it and read it how they’d like. The chapter titles are: 1) Know These Numbers, 2) Obscure Facts, 3) Skills to Master, 4) Run a Team, 5) He Reminds Me Of…, 6) Team Tidbits, & 7) Talk to Talk, and they are pretty self explanatory about their content.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Like other topic focused books, the best place for it will be in libraries and classrooms for students to read if they want to. Parts of it could be used for math statistics activities or for sports history lessons or for a research resource; however, primarily it is going to be in kids’ hands being read.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Who is your favorite player? Create your own “Reminds me of…” document.
  • How are statistics such as ERA, WHIP, and batting average determined in baseball?
  • How has the sport of baseball changed over time?
  • Using the “Run a Team” chapter, create your own team. First, create it with known players then work on making a team of players you create.
  • Who is your favorite team? What did they leave out of the team tidbits that you would have included?

Flagged Passages: 

“Chapter 3: Skills to Master

Whether you’re eager to snag an autograph or ready to perfect your slide into second, you need to know how to do things the right way — even eat sunflower seeds!”

“Chapter 5: He Reminds me of…

Your grandparents have déjà vu all over again when they see these modern players on the diamond. Which stars of today play like the stars of yesteryear?”

Read This If You Love: Baseball!, Sports history, Fun with numbers

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