Else B. in the Sea: The Woman Who Painted the Wonders of the Deep by Jeanne Walker Harvey, Illustrated by Melodie Stacey

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Else B. in the Sea: The Woman Who Painted the Wonders of the Deep
Author: Jeanne Walker Harvey
Illustrator: Melodie Stacey
Published June 4th, 2024 by Cameron Kids

Summary: Else B. in the Sea is a poetic picture book biography about a daring and pioneering woman artist that combines themes of art and science from author Jeanne Walker Harvey and illustrator Melodie Stacey.

Else Bostelmann donned a red swimsuit and a copper diving helmet and, with paints and brushes in hand, descended into the choppy turquoise sea off the coast of Bermuda. It was 1930, and few had ventured deep into the sea before. She discovered a fairyland six fathoms below the surface—fantastic coral castles, glittering sunbeams, swaying sea plumes, and slender purple sea fans. And fish! Flashy silverfish, puckering blue parrotfish, iridescent jellyfish.

Else painted under the sea! She painted what she saw with her own eyes, and, back on land, she painted the never-before-seen deep-sea creatures described by world-renowned scientist William Beebe on his momentous 1930s bathysphere expeditions for the New York Zoological Society’s Department of Tropical Research. It was a daring and glamorous adventure and a dream come true for Else B., who shared this new, unfathomable world with humankind.

About the Creators: 

Jeanne Walker Harvey is the author of many picture books, including Boats on the Bay, as well as the well-received picture book biographies Ablaze with Color: A Story of Painter Alma Thomas (winner of the 2022 Northern California Book Awards – Children’s Literature Younger Readers and Jane Addams Children’s Book Award finalist), Dressing Up the Stars: The Story of Movie Costume Designer Edith Head, and Maya Lin: Artist-Architect of Light and Lines (a NSTA Best STEM Book of the Year). She lives in Sonoma, California. For free downloadable activities and more, visit her website,  jeanneharvey.com.

Melodie Stacey is a fine artist and illustrator whose work can be found in the picture book Beautiful Useful Things: What William Morris Made. She lives in Brighton, UK.

Instagram
Jeanne Walker Harvey: @jeannewharvey
Melodie Stacey: @melodiestacey
Cameron Kids/ABRAMS Kids: @cameron_kids and @abramskids
Blue Slip Media: @blue_slip_media

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Jeanne Walker Harvey: @JeanneWHarvey
Melodie Stacey: @Melodiestacey
Cameron Kids/ABRAMS Kids: @abramskids
Blue Slip Media: @blueslipper & @barbfisch

Pinterest
Jeanne Walker Harvey: @JeanneWalkerHarvey

Review: I love learning about new people (to me) from history that expand my knowledge of the world. Else is such a cool character and to know she is a real person makes it even more intriguing and amazing. Else is definitely a person whose story should have already been told, and I am so glad that Harvey and Stacey are telling it now.

Like Harvey has done in all of her picture book biographies that I’ve read by her, she expertly mixes narrative and nonfiction to ensure the book not only teaches the reader about the person but also entertains and keeps attention along the way. This is so important to ensure that readers will gravitate towards hearing this story with a side effect of learning about an amazing person, in this case Else.

Stacey’s illustrations take Harvey’s words and make them sing off the page with illustrations that range from full page to small additions, keeping the eyes from ever wanting to stop exploring the art, just like Else explored the sea.

Tools for Navigation: There is so much to do in conjunction with this book in the classroom! After reading the book aloud, I would then make sure to read the author’s note and dive deeper into:

  • Deep sea creatures and what has changed in our knowledge of them since Else’s time.
  • How color changes when light is removed, including the underwater color spectrums.
  • Why women scientists were excluded normally during Else’s time and how including them affected how others viewed the expeditions that Else was part of.
  • How paint and salt water interact and trying to paint under water!
  • Other woman who took first steps that need to have their story told.
  • The science behind bioluminescence.
  • The math of the ocean.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How do you think Else’s childhood and roadblocks early in her life affect her?
  • What does Else’s idea to practice painting the “ocean firsthand” and “descending as far as she could by herself” tell you about the type of person Else was? How about her ability to learn to paint underwater?
  • How has scuba gear changed over time?
  • Why did William Beebe have to kill animals to allow them to be studied/painted? What are your thoughts on this?
  • How did Else’s paintings of Beebe’s discoveries give “people a way to escape their worries”?
  • Why do you think Harvey wanted to tell Else’s story?

Flagged Spreads: 

Read This If You Love: Picture book biographies, Science, Ocean creatures

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

The Dinosaur in the Garden by Deb Pilutti

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The Dinosaur in the Garden
Author & Illustrator: Deb Pilutti
Published May 21st, 2024 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

Summary: After waiting millions of years, a T Rex thinks a curious girl might just find the clues he left behind, making his story part of hers.

It’s been millions of years since this dinosaur has been so excited. There’s a girl—a curious girl—exploring the land right where he used to live!

Will she be the one to find the clues he left millions of years ago?

Could she be the one to bring his story back to life?!

This lyrical picture book captures the vastness of geologic time while also showing how close the traces of the distant past can be—as long as we are curious enough to look.

Praise: “The author of 2020’s clever and engaging Old Rock (Is Not Boring) tackles the theme of geologic time from another angle. . . [The book] ends with an enticing invitation to join in dinosaur research and study. . . An engaging suggestion that hints of the past are there for the finding, if we will but look.” —Kirkus

About the Author: Deb Pilutti wrote and illustrated Old Rock (is not boring)Ten Rules of Being a SuperheroBear and Squirrel Are Friends, and The Secrets of Ninja School, and illustrated Idea Jar by Adam Lehrhaupt. Deb lives with her husband and their border collie, Wilson, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @dpilutti.

Review: Deb Pilutti, like she did in Old Rock, does a great job giving voice to things that may not usually be heard. I think we often hear from dinosaurs living in their own time, but not often do we hear from a dinosaur from the past; this is how the creator takes her book to the next level–this isn’t just another dino book! She also is great at creating really entertaining picture books with a scientific element, and although the messages of the book are clear, she does this without turning the book into a didactic narrative. Another really fun read by Deb Pilutti!

Tools for Navigation: This is a wonderful interdisciplinary text! It will make a great read aloud and will lend itself to amazing visual literacy analysis, but it also is a jumping off point for a lesson about dinosaurs!

First, I would use the book to have students look at different characteristics of the dinosaurs introduced and why the characteristics are what they are.

Second, I would have the students see if all of the dinos included are from the same time period and make a timeline of when they lived.

Third, I would change the conversation to talking about fossils and paleontology, utilizing some of the author’s notes in the back. (Also, it would be fun to look at if there are any fossils that have been found in your area!)

Fourth, I would would use our unnamed protagonist to start a conversation about what each student wants to be when they grow up (and maybe have them find a book connected to that career).

Discussion Questions: 

  • How does the creator show you in the images when the dinosaur is alive versus when it is not?
  • What other clues do you pick up in the images that aren’t in the words?
  • Which dinosaur in the book is your favorite?
  • How are the dinosaurs the same? Different?
  • How did the dinosaurs become extinct?
  • How did the fossil in her backyard influence our protagonist?

Flagged Spreads: 

Read This If You Love: Dinosaurs, science

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Aubrey at Penguin Young Readers for providing a copy for review!**

Author Guest Post: “Soil Science” by Peggy Thomas, Author of The Soil in Jackie’s Garden

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“Soil Science”

As a kid, I loved to dig in the garden. And I still do. But it wasn’t until I heard the statistic – that one tablespoon of healthy soil contains more living organisms than there are people on Earth – that I felt compelled to write a story about the importance of soil.

Healthy soil is everything! Just think about it. Everything we eat comes directly or indirectly from the soil. Most of the things we use every day can be traced back to the soil. Yet many of us walk along never realizing the magic happening under our feet.

In THE SOIL IN JACKIE’S GARDEN, which is structured like the classic “The House That Jack Built,” the main character and her friends follow the soil cycle as they plant a seed, watch their plants grow, and harvest the results. But the story doesn’t end there. To be part of the cycle, Jackie composts the scraps, returning nutrients back to the soil.

More than anything, I hope the book inspires kids to dig deeper, get their hands dirty, and feel connected to the world around them. To get them started, here are a few activities to pair with different sections of the story:

  1. This is the soil in Jackie’s garden…

By making SOIL SLURRY, you can find out what kind of soil you have in your garden. With nothing more than a glass jar, some soil and water you’ll separate soil particles into layers of sand, silt and clay.

  1. These are the worms – squirrrm, that stir the soil in Jackie’s garden.

This activity comes from Maine Agriculture in the Classroom. Make an EARTHWORM HABITAT and watch how these amazing creatures aerate and feed the soil.

  1. This is the stem, long and lean…

In CELERY SCIENCE you’ll witness the amazing capillary action that moves water and nutrients up and down a plant stem. All you need is a stalk of celery, water and food coloring.

  1. These are the leaves, shiny and green…

How do plants breathe without lungs or a nose or a mouth? They have tiny pores in their leaves called stomata, and in this super easy exercise you’ll be able to see how plants take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen. BREATHE IN!

  1. This is the compost created by critters…

Follow Jackie’s lead and become part of the soil cycle.

With MAKE A MINI COMPOSTER you’ll be able to see the transformation as invisible microbes break down organic material and turn it into plant food just in time feed your Spring flowers.

Published May 29th, 2024 by Feeding Minds Press

About the Book: Perfect for National Learn About Composting Day, The Soil in Jackie’s Garden introduces budding gardeners to the magic happening in their very own backyard with beautiful visuals that open vertically to showcase the secrets beneath the surface of the soil. Follow Jackie and her diverse group of friends as they meet pollinators, measure progress, and patiently wait for their sweet snack to grow. But it doesn’t stop there — the soil is packed with critters creating compost for next season’s seeds!

Written in the cumulative style of “The House that Jack Built,” the catchy alliterations and engaging illustrations are interwoven with scientific facts that teach young readers about the life cycle of a plant, the natural processes that create new soil, and the importance of composting for a sustainable garden.

About the Publisher: Feeding Minds Press is a project of the American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture. The mission of the Foundation is to build awareness and understanding of agriculture through education. The goal of Feeding Minds Press is to publish accurate and engaging books about agriculture that connect readers to where their food comes from and who grows it. Learn more at feedingmindspress.com.

About the Author: Peggy Thomas is the author of more than twenty award-winning nonfiction books for children including Hero For the Hungry: The Life and Work of Norman Borlaug, illustrated by Sam Kalda, and Full of Beans: Henry Ford Grows a Car, illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham, which earned the AFBFA 2020 Book of the Year Award. When not in her garden, Peggy is most likely speaking with students about sustainability and food security or researching her next true story. Learn more about Peggy at www.peggythomaswrites.com.

The illustrator of The Soil in Jackie’s Garden is Neely Daggett. She lives with her husband and three children in tree-filled Portland, Oregon. Making picture books is her passion, but Neely also loves to work in her garden, take her dog Luna on long walks, and visit the Oregon coast with her family. You can find more of Neely’s work at www.neelydaggett.com.

Thank you, Peggy, for these fun activities to bring Jackie’s garden into the classroom!

Review with Educators’ Guide for The Incredible Octopus by Erin Spencer

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The Incredible Octopus: Meet the Eight-Armed Wonder of the Sea
Author: Erin Spencer
Published: April 16th, 2024 by Storey Publishing

Summary: Packed with mesmerizing undersea photography, this book invites kids to explore the fascinating behavior and intelligence of this remarkable creature of the deep.

The Incredible Octopus combines amazing photos with in-depth facts to get kids aged 7 and up excited about octopuses and the underwater world in which they live. Readers are introduced to the fascinating biology of the octopus, from its 3 hearts and 9 brains to suction cups and how they work, and learn all about what it’s like to be an octopus: how they use camouflage and ink, what they eat, and how they reproduce (nests and eggs!). The book also explores the  intelligence and playfulness of this animal—and, of course, the famous stories of octopuses who escaped their tanks. Readers will meet 13 different species of octopuses and find out what makes them unique, from the most venomous and best disguised to the deepest and coldest. They’ll also get a glimpse into exciting octopus research, technology inspired by octopuses, and ways to help conserve our oceans.

About the Author: Erin Spencer is the author of The Incredible Octopus​ and The World of Coral Reefs. She is a marine ecologist and National Geographic Explorer whose articles, photos, and videos of marine life have been featured in National Geographic, PBS, CBS Sunday Morning, and in publications of Ocean Conservancy. She is an avid public speaker and has presented to National Geographic, the World Bank, MCON, and TEDx, as well as many school groups. Originally from Maryland, she now lives in South Florida where she studies great hammerhead sharks and their prey for her PhD.

Review: The octopus is truly incredible, and this book is a fantastic introduction to everything about these amazing animals. The book really does touch on a little bit of everything you’d want to know about octopuses with a text structure that makes sense: going from the biology of the octopus to their life, specific examples, and people & octopuses. I also think the author was very smart with their writing as well–while much of it is traditional informational nonfiction, the author included narrative elements, text features, and interviews to make the reading interesting in a whole other way.

I learned so much about octopuses, and they really are fascinating. I was sitting at my son’s karate dojo while I read, and I kept sharing facts with my husband and friend because I just was blown away by so many things in the book. I think a nonfiction book making me want to share things is one of the greatest compliments you can give!

This nonfiction book is a great one to read from front to back but is also one that can be perused by your nonfiction skimmers.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: 

Please view and enjoy this curriculum guide from the publisher.

You can also access the educators’ guide here.

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Speck: An Itty-Bitty Epic by Margaux Meganck

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Speck: An Itty-Bitty Epic
Author & Illustrator: Margaux Meganck
Published

Summary: Everything and everyone has a place in the universe, but for a little speck, lost at sea, it will take an extraordinary journey to find it.

Deep in a tide pool, too small to see,
Thousands of tiny specks go forth.
Each one searching
for a place to stay, and grow, and thrive…

The little speck does not know what it is, only that it wishes to find out. And so it embarks on a journey across the sea. From sun-flecked surf to darkest depths, past schools of fish, storm-tossed ships and hungry eels…. Until, at last, it finds exactly what it was looking a place to belong.

In vivid watercolor paintings, Margaux Meganck brings this tale to life, seamlessly shifting perspective to show how even the tiniest creatures—every barnacle, every child, every star in the sky—contributes to something greater than itself.

 “A poignant, reflective story that’s every bit as relevant to children as it is to adults. . . . Deeply moving.” – Kirkus Reviews (starred)

About the Author: Margaux Meganck spends her days dodging raindrops and drawing from her imagination in beautiful Portland, Oregon. Her author-illustrator debut, People are Wild, received two starred reviews and was named a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year. Her illustration work has earned multiple accolades. Speck is the second book she has both written and illustrated. To learn more, visit margauxmeganck.com.

Instagram:
Margaux Meganck: @margauxmeganck
Knopf/Random House Children’s Books: @randomhousekids
Blue Slip Media: @blue_slip_media

Facebook:
Margaux Meganck: N/A
Random House Children’s Books: Random House Children’s Books
Blue Slip Media: @blue-slip-media

Twitter/X:
Margaux Meganck: @Margaux Meganck
Random House Children’s Books: @randomhousekids
Blue Slip Media: @blueslipper & @barbfisch

Review: This beautiful book is two fold. First, it is a fantastic ocean journey of a speck as it carried along the current and through the ocean, past so many creatures, and to its forever home. The journey is told in poetic verse that will be a great read aloud. Second, it is a story about being lost and figuring out where you fit in the best. Meganck brilliantly combined these two purposes. And the illustrations are another level of the book. They complement the lyrical tale of the speck’s journey, showing the reader all of the sea creatures and ecosystems within the ocean. This is a wonderful book.

Tools for Navigation: Because this book has a science and an social emotional learning aspect, it would be a wonderful inclusion into a classroom or library program because it can lead to all sorts of conversations including journeying into the ocean (pair with other ocean books, listed below) and then move to the theme and how the speck’s journey is an extended metaphor for our life.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What creatures did the speck encounter along its journey?
  • Why do you think the author titled the book an “epic?”
  • What lesson can you take from the speck into your life?
  • Based on where the speck ended up, what sea creature was it?
  • What other specks are there in the sea?
  • How is the speck’s journey similar to life?

Flagged Spreads: 

Read This If You Love: Puff: All About Air by Emily Kate Moon, Whale Fall: Exploring Ocean-Floor Ecosystem by Melissa Stewart, Kind by Jess McGeachin, In the Night Garden by Carin Berger, The Universe in You: A Microscopic Journey by Jason Chin, Over and Under the Waves by Kate Messner

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

The Wonderful Wisdom of Ants by Philip Bunting

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The Wonderful Wisdom of Ants
Author & Illustrator: Philip Bunting
Published March 19th, 2024 by Crown Books for Young Readers

Summary: Take a peek under the rock, and discover what we can learn from the world of the ant, in this delightful blend of nonfiction and inspirational humor by author-illustrator Philip Bunting!

There are ten quadrillion ants in the world, and yet I bet you never thought they could teach you anything. But these tiny creatures can do big things when they work together–just like people!

With his signature humor and graphic illustrations, Philip Bunting delivers facts, laughs, and heart all in this special book that teaches that the answers to many of life’s biggest questions can be found in your own back yard (once you’re ready to look).

★ “This overview of ants combines cleverly designed graphics and a funny text to convey major concepts about the familiar insects.” —The Horn Book, starred review

About the Author: Philip Bunting is an author and illustrator whose work deliberately encourages playful interaction between the reader and child, allowing his books to create a platform for genuine intergenerational engagement and fun. Philip’s books have been translated into multiple languages and published in over thirty countries around the world. Since his first book was published in 2017, Philip has received multiple accolades, including Honors from the Children’s Book Council of Australia and making the list for the Kate Greenaway Medal in 2018. He lives with his young family on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. Visit his website: philipbunting.com.

Instagram:
Philip Bunting: @philip.bunting
Random House Children’s Books: @randomhousekids
Blue Slip Media: @blue_slip_media

Facebook:
Philip Bunting: N/A
Random House Children’s Books: Random House Children’s Books
Blue Slip Media: @blue-slip-media 

Twitter/X:
Philip Bunting: N/A
Random House Children’s Books: @randomhousekids
Blue Slip Media: @blueslipper & @barbfisch

Review: This book is a joy! Anyone who has read a book by Philip Bunting knows that his work excels at bringing play into the reading to make the book a bit silly, interactive, and full of informational magic. The Wonderful Wisdom of Ants is the same. I loved the little jokes throughout the book that will definitely get readers giggling, the illustrations are just so playful and perfect for the book, and I learned so much about ants! It definitely is a multi-purpose book, for pleasure and for learning, which will be a winning read aloud!

For more about the book and to hear from the author, visit his interview, “Using Well-Placed ‘Humour’ as a Trojan Horse for Information,” on Fuse 8.

Tools for Navigation: There is so much in this book that is PERFECT for science which makes it an amazing cross-curricular tool. My first though is I think it would be awesome to see students use this book as a mentor text to create their own book about another insect which would include research, science, creative writing, and visual art.

The vocabulary in this book is wonderful as well, both when it comes to science and just tier 2 words such as nuptials, mandibles, reproduces, fragrant, and more.

Oh, and math, there is something here for you too! When looking at the number of ants, it compares human vs. ant weight which would be a fantastic math problem!

Discussion Questions: 

  • If there are ten quadrillion ants in the world and 8 billion people in the world, and they weigh about the same, how much do each set weigh?
  • Do you think the queen is the most important ant in the colony?
  • Why are ants so important for the world?
  • What can we learn from ants?

Flagged Spreads: 

Read This If You Love: Informational books with humor

Recommended For: 

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

There’s No Such Thing As Vegetables by Kyle Lukoff, Illustrated by Andrea Tsurumi

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There’s No Such Thing As Vegetables
Author: Kyle Lukoff
Illustrator: Andrea Tsurumi
Published February 27th, 2024 by Henry Holt and Co.

Summary: A hilarious new picture book that exposes vegetables for what they truly are—leaves, roots, flowers, and stalks—by National Book Award Finalist and Newbery Honor winner Kyle Lukoff, perfect for fans of the Our Universe series.

Chester plans to have a salad for lunch, but in order to do that, he’ll need vegetables. So, off he goes to the community garden, except he quickly learns that he won’t be dressing a salad anytime soon. Instead, the vegetables start dressing him down. According to them, “vegetables” don’t exist!

I know what you are thinking: What the bell pepper? Vegetables are totally real! But here’s the thing: Kale is just a leaf, broccoli is a flower, potatoes are roots, and celery…well, stalks. Thanks to a lively, sassy cast of talking “veggies,” Chester learns a valuable lesson about categories and how they shape our understanding of the world.

With a slyly informative text and illustrations that will crack readers up, the schooling in There’s No Such Thing As Vegetables will be easy to digest and is a total treat.

About the Creators: 

Kyle Lukoff is the author of the Newbery Honor-winning, National Book Award finalist, Too Bright to See, the Stonewall Award winner When Aidan Became a Brother, among other titles for young readers. While becoming a writer, he worked as a bookseller and school librarian. He lives in Philadelphia, and hopes you’re having a nice day. (kylelukoff.com)

Andrea Tsurumi(they/them) is an author, illustrator and cartoonist originally from New York who now lives with their spouse and dog in Philadelphia. A gigantic text and image nerd, they studied sequential storytelling for an English BA at Harvard and an illustration MFA at the School of Visual Arts. While working in publishing for several years, they dove into their two big loves: indie comics and children’s books. Their first book, Accident! was an NPR Great Read and their second book, Crab Cake, won the Vermont Red Clover Book Award. When they’re not inventing croissant-based animals, they like reading about ordinary and ridiculous history. (andreatsurumi.com)

Review: This book IS slyly informative, and I love it! What seems at the surface like a silly book about vegetables setting a young child straight about their really identities is actually a look into scientific classification. The book definitely will bring the giggles while also getting kids thinking about what makes something what it is called. This book is a must have for classrooms and libraries as it is a great read aloud and will move perfectly into an educational discussion, especially when the author’s note is added to the read aloud.

Tools for Navigation: This book is perfect for talking about classifications–both scientific and social. I can imagine it being used in a life science class mostly because they could start with the vegetable extended example and expand from there. Though within the book, the vegetables also share money, countries, and words as examples of social constructed categories, so these would be fascinating to extend into math/economics, history/geography, and language arts.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Are there vegetables?
  • Who decides what something is classified as?
  • Why are fruits real but not vegetables?
  • How would you define a vegetable? Do you think Chester’s definition is correct?
  • What other things are classified certain ways but you aren’t sure why?

Flagged Spreads: 

Read This If You Love: Humorous picture books that also educate

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Nicole Banholzer PR for providing a copy for review!**