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My students love the Weird but True books by National Geographic, but one thing they don’t like about the books are the lack of information found in the books. Because of this, as we chatted in class, we decided to make a class “Weird But True” presentation with not only the weird and true facts but with extra information and sources! 

All three of my classes all worked in the same Google Slides presentation and built this amazing document of fascinating facts: 

Weird But True
Please view the Google Slides presentation to see the extra information in the Speaker Notes.

This was such a fun and interesting project! It made students check on facts, learn about reliable sources, and learn all sorts of interesting and fun facts!

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The Remember Balloons
Author: Jessie Oliveros;  Illustrator: Dana Wulfekotte
Published: August 28, 2018 by Simon & Schuster

Goodreads Summary: James’s Grandpa has the best balloons because he has the best memories. He has balloons showing Dad when he was young and Grandma when they were married. Grandpa has balloons about camping and Aunt Nelle’s poor cow. Grandpa also has a silver balloon filled with the memory of a fishing trip he and James took together.

But when Grandpa’s balloons begin to float away, James is heartbroken. No matter how hard he runs, James can’t catch them. One day, Grandpa lets go of the silver balloon—and he doesn’t even notice!

Grandpa no longer has balloons of his own. But James has many more than before. It’s up to him to share those balloons, one by one.

My Review and Teachers’ Tools for NavigationThis book is beautifully conceived. James’ grandpa has colored balloons that represent his favorite memories. Some of these memories begin to slip away, and James cannot catch them as they fly into the sky. Soon, his grandpa starts forgetting who James is, too. I read this in my son’s new school’s library and had to work very hard not to hold back tears. It is a stunning story, and I think it will resonate with both adults and children. This book allows for rich discussions of senility and Alzheimer’s Disease.

As I read this with my son, I was compelled to have him draw his own balloons to represent his favorite memories. While he drew his balloons, I drew a balloon of a shared memory at the same time. Teachers might have students cut balloons out of colored paper and ask students to create a giant bulletin board filled with their memories together.

This is a great text to teach the concept of the extended metaphor.

Discussion Questions: How does James feel when his grandpa starts to lose his balloons?; What memories would make up your own balloons?; What is a metaphor? How are the balloons a metaphor?

Flagged Spreads: 

Read This If You Loved: What a Beautiful Morning by Arthur A. Levine; Forget Me Not by Nancy Van Laan; The Memory Box by Mary Bahr, Still My Grandma by Veronique Van Den Abeele, Really and Truly by Emilie Rivard, Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge, written by Mem Fox, What’s Happening to Grandpa? by Maria Shriver

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From an Idea to… is a new nonfiction biography series that takes young readers into the world of entrepreneurship through the stories of how our favorite companies came to be. Each book begins with the founder as a child and brings kids through the journey of starting a company from an IDEA to one of the biggest brands in the world. From an Idea to… reveals fun facts about the brands we love, introduces new business terms in easy-to-understand definitions, and includes humor on every page with graphic novel-like black & white illustrations from C. S. Jennings.


Author: Lowey Bundy Sichol
Illustrator: C.S. Jennings
From an Idea to Disney and From an Idea to Nike Published February 12, 2019
From an Idea to Lego and From an Idea to Google Published July 9, 2019

From an Idea to Disney: How Branding Made Disney a Household Name Summary: From an Idea to Disney is a behind-the-movie-screen look into the history, business, and brand of the world’s largest entertainment empire. With humorous black & white illustrations throughout, learn about the company behind the world’s favorite mouse, Mickey!

“I only hope that we never lose sight of one thing—that it was all started by a mouse.” —Walt Disney

Today, the Walt Disney Company is the biggest entertainment company in the world with theme parks, TV shows, movie studios, merchandise, the most recognizable cartoon character in the world, Mickey Mouse. But a long time ago, brothers Walt and Roy Disney started out with just an idea. Find out more about Disney’s history, the business, and the brand in this illustrated nonfiction book!

Find out what Walt first intended to name his famous mouse. (Hint: It wasn’t Mickey!)Discover behind-the-scenes magic of how Walt Disney World is run.Explore the ways the Disney expanded its brand from a little mouse into media, merchandise, and more!

From an Idea to Nike: How Marketing Made Nike a Global Success Summary: From an Idea to Nike is a fully-illustrated look into how Nike stepped up its sneaker game to become the most popular athletic brand in the world. Humorous black & white illustrations throughout.

Ever wonder how Nike became the athletics empire it is today? From an Idea to Nike digs into the marketing campaigns and strategy that turned this running-shoe company into the outfitter for many athletes as well as the iconic American brand. With infographics and engaging visuals throughout, this behind-the-scenes look into the historical and business side of Nike will be an invaluable resource for kids interested in what makes this business run.

Find out where the name Nike came from and how the famous swoosh became the signature logo.Learn about the company’s first marketing campaign with a star athlete. (Hint: It wasn’t Michael Jordan!) Explore the ways Nike expanded marketing from running to basketball, soccer, golf, and beyond!

From an Idea to Lego: The Building Bricks Behind the World’s Largest Toy Company Summary: For fans of the successful Who Was series, From an Idea to Lego is a behind-the-bricks look into the world’s famous toy company, with humorous black & white illustrations throughout.

Today, LEGO is one of the biggest toy companies in the world, but a long time ago, a Danish carpenter, Ole Kirk Christiansen, started with just an idea. Find out more about LEGO’s origins, those famous bricks, and their other inventive toys and movie ventures in this illustrated nonfiction book!

Find out the origin the name “LEGO.” (Hint: it combines two Danish words) See how LEGO grew from a carpentry shop to a multi-platform toy company.Discover how LEGO bricks are made and how they came up with their design.

From an Idea to Google: How Innovation at Google Changed the World Summary: From an Idea to Google is a behind-the-computer-screen look into the history, business, and brand of the world’s largest search engine. With humorous black & white illustrations throughout, learn about the company that even earned its own catchphrase: Google it!

Today, Google is the number one internet search engine and the most visited website in the world. But a long time ago, two college friends, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, started out with just an idea. Find out more about Google’s history, the business, and the brand in this illustrated nonfiction book!

Find out where the name “Google” came from. (Hint: It involves a LOT of zeros!)

Discover how Google became the fastest and most popular internet search engine of all time.

Explore how Google transformed from a tiny startup (in someone’s garage!) into one of the most powerful companies in the world.

About the Author: Lowey Bundy Sichol is the author and creator of From an Idea to…, the world’s first business biographies for kids. She is also the founder and principal of Case Marketing, a specialized writing firm that composes MBA case studies for business schools. Her MBA case studies have been published by Pearson and are read by business school students all over the world.

With over 20 years combined experience in marketing, brand management, and writing, Lowey is the force behind the From an Idea to…, a movement that introduces business and entrepreneurship to children. Lowey received her MBA from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth and her BA from Hamilton College where she played varsity softball and women’s rugby. When she’s not writing, you can find her throwing a ball, shooting hoops, or along the shores of Lake Michigan with her husband, three children, and two big goofy dogs who like to climb trees. Look for her online at loweysichol.com.

Praise:

“Inspirational Fare.”  – Kirkus Reviews

“This enjoyable informational text is a great purchase for schools.” – School Library Journal

“Inspiring, honest and interesting. From an Idea to… books are the kind of books that create young entrepreneurs and inventors. It clearly illustrates the road to success, the good and the bad. Kids will be inspired to believe that anything is truly possible. They will also learn that things will not just be handed to them. Rather things they really want will take work, will be earned and that in the end all that hard work and perseverance will pay off! I love this series SO much!” – Mrs. Mommy Book Nerd Book Reviews

“There was much to love about this book! While there are books that are in the “Who was/ What was” series, this series is a wonderful concept in bringing biographies and business thinking together. … With simple language, a manner of story telling approach almost, the author introduces concepts of grass-root marketing , patents, market research and innovation.” – StackingBooks.com

“Young readers, especially those who have an entrepreneur spirit, will enjoy reading.” – Kristi’s Book Nook

“This is a fun, informative series that introduces young readers to the world of business, entrepreneurship, and marketing through easily understood and nicely presented concepts and the exciting histories of some of the biggest companies in the world.” – Word Spelunking Blog

”If you have nonfiction readers that have an interest in how business or brands work, stick a toe into the water and put a few of these into your collection.” – Mom Read It blog

“A fast and informative read, From an Idea to Nike would be a great fit for middle-graders who are interested in Nike, biographies, business, and pop culture. Even kids marginally interested in any of these topics will likely find the book to be accessible and engaging.” – Glass of Wine, Glass of Milk blog

“Nonfiction can be so fascinating. I really enjoyed this one (From an Idea to LEGO) and would recommend it to just about anyone and everyone…. This book goes beyond that simple story of how it came to be. It also includes plenty of informational text that focuses on business and economics.” – Becky’s Book Blog

“I learned a lot about businesses and marketing from these books but it was in a FUN way! I love books where you can learn in a fun way.” – Studio B on YouTube

“With From an Idea to… Lowey Bundy Sichol has brought all her years of experience writing case studies and text material for the world’s biggest selling MBA marketing textbook, Marketing Management, to bring to life business for an entirely different audience – kids!  Lowey knows what makes companies tick and how they became successful and she shares those lessons in a fun and engaging way to little budding entrepreneurs and our next generation of business leaders.  Lowey makes learning about the potentially complex world business informative easy and enjoyable for kids.” – Kevin Lane Keller, E.B. Osborn Professor of Marketing, Tuck School of Business, Dartmouth College

“Lowey’s research is impressive and her clear, engaging style perfectly explains to young readers the stories of these companies. She describes the creative process as well as the business principles involved in the creation of America’s most successful companies. Her “Fun Facts” and the abundant illustrations will further engage readers. From an Idea to… will be a welcome, enjoyable addition to books on business for young people, and will also serve to inspire the nation’s budding entrepreneurs and future business leaders.” – Cynthia Richey, 2013 recipient of the Distinguished Service Award, from the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC)

Review and Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This series will be perfect to add to nonfiction collections for teachers of middle grade readers! Fans of the “big head” biographies will really love this new series that focuses on businesses and their successes in the same informative and entertaining way. These books will definitely influence our future entrepreneurs and has a great focus on STEAM and business ed. A must purchase for classroom, school, and public libraries!

One way that I see this book being used in the classroom is lit circles/book clubs because students could be grouped to read one of the books in the series then create a presentation to share what they learned about the company.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What do all four companies have in common when it comes to becoming successful?
  • What do all four founders have in common when it comes to founding a successful company?
  • How did ____ change the industry they are part of?

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**Thank you to Media Masters Publicity for providing copies for review!**

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5 Worlds #3: The Red Maze
Author: Mark Siegel and Alexis Siegel
Illustrator: Xanthe Bouma, Matt Rockefeller, Boya Sun
Published May 7th, 2019 by Random House Books for Young Readers

Summary: In book 3, Oona Lee is determined to light Moon Yatta’s beacon and continue her quest to save the galaxy. But reaching the red beacon means navigating an impossible maze of pipes and facing devious enemies at every turn. Luckily, her friend Jax Amboy has returned from his adventures transformed! Now he must confront the owner of his former starball team, a ruthless businessman who will stop at nothing to get his best player back on the field . . . and who can grant them access to the beacon. Meanwhile, Oona and An Tzu find a mysterious rebel leader and release a surprising power within Oona’s magic. Will they make it in time to stop the evil force seeking to rule the 5 Worlds?

About the Creators: 

Praise: 

Review:

If you have not read the first two books in this series, stop reading. Go get them. And read them. Then come back. 🙂 It is worth it I promise! Here’s my review of book one: http://www.unleashingreaders.com/?p=13265.

As for book 3, The Red Maze, it starts off with a bang as we learn what happened to Jax as he recaps for Oona and An Tzu. The trio are on their way to Moon Yatta to complete their mission of lighting the red beacon. It jumps right into where book 2 left off.

Like the others, the story is full of adventure, battles, betrayal, surprises,

I love the underdog trio that are fighting to save the world. They are fearless and so empathetic, putting their lives on the line to save all. An Tzu is especially interesting as we are still looking for a reason for his rare disappearing illness.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Use The Red Maze to ask some very deep analysis and reflective questions to your students (see below). The story can also be easily connected to significant historical events.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How do you truly destroy evil?
  • What can you compare the corporation takeover on Moon Yatta to here in America?
  • How does the removal of laws protecting the environment affect the world?
  • What can you compare the shapeshifters being banned to in history?
  • What would you be willing to do to save the world?
  • How can pressure affect performance?
  • What makes something alive?
  • What are examples of people ignoring evil to help reach their own wants in history like what happened in The Red Maze?

Flagged Passages: 

First, view these amazing animation test for the series:

These definitely show the brilliance of the creators!

Read This If You Love: The first 5 Worlds books, the Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi, Mighty Jack series by Ben Hatke, Zita the Spacegirl series by Ben Hatke, The Time Museum series by Matthew Loux

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**Thank you to Mark Siegel and Random House for providing a copy for reivew**

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National Geographic Kids: Little Kids First Big Book of Science
Author: Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld
Published April 4th, 2019 by National Geographic Kids

Summary: What is science? What do scientists do? This lively reference book answers these questions and many more, all while introducing kids to the amazing things that scientists study: animals and plants, oceans and space, earthquakes and volcanoes, sound and light, inventions, and more!

Make sure kids’ first experience of the wonders of science is a thrilling eye-opener with this fun reference book. Fun activities, games, and simple experiments encourage interactive learning, showing kids that anyone can use scientific observation and experimentation to be a scientist and discover new things. With bright images and age-appropriate text, this book inspires kids to be curious, ask questions, and explore the world around them. And, maybe even grow up to be a scientist one day, too! Topics touched on include astronomy, botany, paleontology, malacology (that’s the science of clams, snails, and other animals with shells!), zoology, and more.

Inside you’ll find:

  • More than 200 incredible photos
  • Age-appropriate explanations of the things that scientists wonder about and learn
  • Questions and activities in each chapter that encourage interactive learning
  • Simple text for reading aloud or for beginning readers, and fun facts on every page
  • Parent tips that extend the experience beyond the book

About the Author: Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld was a children’s book editor for more than 10 years before becoming a full-time writer. She has published more than 60 books for children, most about animals and natural history.

Other National Geographic Kids Little Kids First Big Books:

 

Review: National Geographic Kids books are such amazing resources for kids and adults! I just love reading through the books because I always learn something, too, and the images are beautiful. And as a mom, I love reading it with Trent because he adores science and the books are such an inquisitive conversation starter. As a teacher, I can see so many ways that this book could be used in an elementary classroom. It is just a perfect triad!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: The book is made to be used with children when discussing science. There are a plethora of ways to use it! The book speaks for itself:

Additionally, the parent resources in the back are amazing for home and classroom! Here are some examples of the hands-on science discussions/activities for adults to do with kids in the “Parent Tips” section (just a summary):

  • Egg, Plus Heat (Chemistry): Looks at how heat changes the egg.
  • Moon Shapes (Astronomy): Lunar calendar
  • House of Blocks (Engineering): Make the most stable structures.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What is a hypothesis?
  • What is a Control?
  • What are the different branches of science?
  • Why do we get vaccinations?
  • What are the different kinds of animals?
  • What is an ecosystem?
  • What are the three different states of matter?
  • What moves faster: light or sound?
  • Word play with the glossary!

Some of the Interactive Questions from throughout the book

  • If you could spend a day with one of these scientists, who would you choose?
  • Which part of the body would you like to learn more about? Why?
  • Can you name three ways you look different from when you were a baby?
  • What wild animal would you most like to study? Why?
  • Which ecosystem would you most like to visit? Why?
  • How many ocean animals can you name?
  • If you could travel to another planet, which one would you choose?
  • What would you like to invent?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Science!

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

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Is 2 A Lot? An Adventure with Numbers
Author: Annie Watson
Illustrator: Rebecca Evans
Published June 4th, 2019 by Tilbury House Publishers

Summary: Two is not a lot of pennies, but it is a lot of smelly skunks. Ten is not a lot of popcorn pieces, but it is a lot of chomping dinosaurs. One thousand is not a lot of grains of sand, but it is a lot of hot air balloons!

While Joey’s mom explains the context of numbers in vivid ways, Joey’s imagination transforms their ordinary car ride into a magical odyssey through a land of make-believe.

Is Two a Lot? is a wonderfully charming and authentic exchange between mother and child. Annie Watson’s story makes numbers tangible, and Rebecca Evans’s illustrations bring them to life.

About the Author: Annie Watson (Flagstaff, AZ) is proud of the meaningful work that she does as a high school English teacher, and she feels balanced whenever she can get outside and find time to write. She finds daily joy in reading bedtime stories, and she looks forward to her family’s next adventure to the bookstore, museum, or beach. She and her husband and two children enjoy the beautiful mountains, sunflowers, parks, community events, and pizza places in and around Flagstaff.

About the Illustrator: Rebecca Evans worked for nine years as an artist and designer before returning to her first love: children’s book illustration and writing. Her children’s books include Someday I’ll Fly; Friends in Fur Coats; The Good Things; The Shopkeeper’s Bear; Naughty Nana; Amhale in South Africa; Mei Ling in China; Tiffany in New York; Masterpiece Robot; and Finding the Speed of Light. She lives in Maryland with her husband and four young children, shares her love of literature and art regularly at elementary schools, teaches art at the Chesapeake Center for the Creative Arts, and works from her home studio whenever time permits. Rebecca’s own boundless imagination enjoys free reign at www.rebeccaevans.net

Praise: “A picture book that accurately depicts how children think about numbers and values in a fun and engaging way.

Readers will want to count the number of skunks, cowboys, and other imaginative creatures and objects Joey and his mother discuss throughout the book, and they will enjoy seeing various characters from the places they visit pile into the trunk of the station wagon.

Children who are learning the meaning of value and numbers will both learn from this book, with its whimsical examples of what “a lot” means, and find much to enjoy.” – Kirkus Reviews

Review: Trent loves books like I do, but he really is more of a science and math kid than I was (am!), so whenever we can combine the two in fun ways, the book is a favorite in my house. This also shows the engagement opportunities with a book in a classroom.

I love that the story is a conversation between a mom and her son. It reminds me so much of so many conversations I’ve had in my car with Trent. I really promotes the inquisitiveness of kids which is something I think we all need to keep promoting.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Trent actually had a hard time grasping the concept that is being discussed in the book, so it would be an amazing math activity to turn the conversations into manipulatives and bring the numbers to life!

Discussion Questions: 

  • When is ___ (#) a lot? When is it not?
  • How many pieces of sand are on a beach?
  • How many bones are in your body?
  • Why do skunks spray?
  • How many types of dinosaurs were there?
  • How many kids fit in a bus? A double-decker bus?
  • How do hot air balloons work?
  • What questions do you have that you would like answered?
  • Look at the illustrations and how all of the things mentioned throughout come together, and write your own narrative telling the story about what happened.

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Math, Inquiry

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Moon! Earth’s Best Friend
Author: Stacy McAnulty
Illustrator: Stevie Lewis
Published June 11th, 2019

Summary: From writer Stacy McAnulty and illustrator Stevie Lewis, Moon! Earth’s Best Friend is a light-hearted nonfiction picture book about the formation and history of the moon—told from the perspective of the moon itself.

Meet Moon! She’s more than just a rock—she’s Earth’s rock, her best friend she can always count on. Moon never turns her back on her friend (literally: she’s always facing Earth with the same side!). These two will stick together forever. With characteristic humor and charm, Stacy McAnulty channels the voice of Moon in this next celestial “autobiography” in the Our Universe series. Rich with kid-friendly facts and beautifully brought to life by Stevie Lewis, this is an equally charming and irresistible companion to Earth! My First 4.54 Billion Years and Sun! One in a Billion.

About the Author: Stacy McAnulty is the author of several picture books, including Earth! My First 4.54 Billion Years, illustrated by David Litchfield; Sun! One in a Billion, illustrated by Stevie Lewis; Excellent Ed, illustrated by Julia Sarcone-Roach; and Beautiful, illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, three children, and two dogs.

About the Illustrator: Stevie Lewis spent four years working in animation and now creates art and illustrates children’s books, including Sun! One in a Billion, written by Stacy McAnulty, and Lost in the Library, written by Josh Funk. Stevie lives on the road, furthering her passion for climbing, art, and the outdoors. She gathers inspiration from a variety of places, be it climbing in the high desert in central Oregon, hiking in the wilderness of Alaska, or sharing laughs with fellow travelers around a campfire.

Praise: “Perfect for children—and grown-ups—who have questions about the greater universe.” —Booklist on Moon! Earth’s Best Friend

A Junior Library Guild Selection

Review: I cannot rave enough about this book and the series it is a part of. And as a mom of a kid who adores space, I have read quite a few nonfiction space books, but there are no others like McAnulty and Lewis’s books. There are a few reasons why these books, including Moon!, stand above and beyond others:

  • Humor! You cannot help but giggle when Moon says something funny or cute.
  • Narration! It is awesome having the Moon (or Earth or Sun) narrate the book. It being in 1st person adds to the narrative.
  • Voice! It is so fascinating how McAnulty changes her voice in each of the books. If I read one aloud to Trent without saying which book it was, he would know because of how the characters talk.
  • Interesting! McAnulty does a great job sharing foundational knowledge as well as some unique facts.

View our reviews for the first two Universe books, Earth! and Sun!, also.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: The ideas we shared for the other Universe books would definitely book for Moon! also, so check out the other posts linked above, but now that we have three Universe books, there is now the opportunity to do activities will all three books! The options I think of are:

  • Like a jigsaw! Split your class into three groups, and each group reads and discusses one of the books. From the book, they create a handout to share the information that they learned. Then make new groups with 3 students: one from each book’s group. They will then share what they learned with their new group.
  • Split up the class into three groups (one for each group) and have the group read the book and create a readers theater of the book.
  • In-class book clubs! With them being picture books, you can split into three groups and rotate them through all three books. Have students create a one pager sharing what they learned (independently or as a group) or have them write discussion questions and discuss them or give questions to have them discuss.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How did the Moon come to be?
  • Why is Moon capitalized but moon isn’t?
  • How does the author use the narrator’s voice between the three books? How do the voices differ?
  • What reasonings does Moon give for why she’s Earth’s BFF?
  • What new information did you learn about the Moon?

Our Universe Series Book Trailer: 

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Universe books by Stacy McAnulty, The Sun is Kind of a Big Deal by Nick Seluk, Once Upon a Star by James Carter, Space Encyclopedia by David AguilarYou Choose In Space by Pippa GoodhartA Big Mooncake for Little Star by Grace Lin, Star Stuff by Stephanie Roth Sisson

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**Thank you to Macmillan for providing a copy of the book for review!!**

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