Guest Review: Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly, Illustrated by Laura Freeman

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Guest Reviewer: Kayla, UCF Elementary Education Student

Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race
Author: Margot Lee Shetterly
Illustrator: Laura Freeman
Published

Summary: Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden were good at math…really good.

They participated in some of NASA’s greatest successes, like providing the calculations for America’s first journeys into space. And they did so during a time when being black and a woman limited what they could do. But they worked hard. They persisted. And they used their genius minds to change the world.

In this illustrated picture book edition, we explore the story of four female African American mathematicians at NASA, known as “colored computers,” and how they overcame gender and racial barriers to succeed in a highly challenging STEM-based career.

About the Creators: 

Margot Lee Shetterly is the author of  Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race (William Morrow/HarperCollins). Shetterly is also the founder of The Human Computer Project, an endeavor that is recovering the names and accomplishments of all of the women who worked as computers, mathematicians, scientists and engineers at the NACA and NASA from the 1930s through the 1980s. Shetterly is a Virginia native, University of Virginia graduate, an entrepreneur, and an intrepid traveler who spent 11 years living in Mexico. She currently lives in Charlottesville, VA.

Originally from New York City, Laura Freeman now live in Atlanta with her husband and their two children. Freeman received my BFA from the School of Visual Arts and began her career working for various editorial clients. She has illustrated over thirty children’s books, including Hidden Figures written by Margot Lee Shetterly, the Nikki & Deja series by Karen English and Fancy Party Gowns by Deborah Blumenthal. In addition to illustrating books and editorial content, Freeman’s art can be found on a wide range of products, from dishes and textiles to greeting cards.

Review: This book was a gem to find. I didn’t really know the story of how NASA got the skills to make it to space when planning the exploration. I was very intrigued when I read the story of these four African American women who were mathematical geniuses. These women were around during the segregation era but that didn’t stop them from doing what they loved even through tough times. In this picture book I was able to explore their story and how they made everything possible to help NASA put the first man into space. I also really like the message of women entering a career we only see men in but overcoming gender and racial barriers will allow any women to be successful in her career.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book can be used in many ways. We can use in social studies when talking and exploring segregation and how these women overcame a lot of obstacles to help NASA but men into space. We can also speak about STEM based careers and how difficult it was for many women to enter science or engineering jobs or schools because it was considered a “mans” job. This book will allow many children to see that hard work and dedication pays off. We should follow are dream and work hard and overall, not let any obstacle allow us to fail.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How did these 4 women make NASA hire them to work on the program to allow humans into space?
  • Was it easy for these women to get into school or even work for NASA? Why?
  • Who would you identify more with Dorothy, Mary, Katherine or Christine?
  • Descried how the segregation affected Black people?
  • What two major obstacles did Dorothy Vaughan face to become a computer at the Langley Laboratory?
  • Using the timeline in the book what were the most important events in the story?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Counting on Katherine by Helaine Becker, Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed

Recommended For: 

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Thank you, Kayla, for your review!

Guest Post: Classroom Uses for Dragons in a Bag by Zetta Elliott, Magnificent Makers: How to Test a Friendship by Theanne Griffith, Polly Diamond and the Magic Book by Alice Kuipers, and Sisters of the Neversea by Cynthia Leitich Smith

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One of the assignments during my Spring Children’s Literature course at UCF was creating a mini-teaching guide for the books we read for book clubs. We started with picture books for practice then students created them in their book clubs each week. The course was structured by genre as were the book clubs.

Today, I am happy to share the classroom uses and discussion questions found by my UCF Elementary Education students about fantasy novels.

Dragons in a Bag
Author: Zetta Elliott
Published October 23rd, 2018 by Random House

Summary: Jax is left by his mom to an old lady by the name of Ma. Jax later finds out that Ma is a witch who has 3 dragon eggs that hatched. They need to return the eggs because they won’t survive in the regular world due to lack of magic. They go to portals through time that takes them to the time of dinosaurs. Along the way, Jax meets his grandfather who also knows magic, and has him return two of the dragons to the magic council but accidentally left one left behind so he returns to the regular world. He forces his mom and the witch to hash out their problems.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: When using fantasy in the classroom it is always a good way to spark your students’ creativity. This source could be used as a creative writing prompt to boost off their creativity of the story: Conduct an activity based upon the book like have them write a short story about what they would do if they were in Jax’s shoes and have them draw pictures of dragons, name them, and design the dragons how they would like them to be pictured.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What was Jax’s first impression of Ma?
  • How do you think Jax will return the last dragon to the magic council?
  • Who do agree with and why? Ma who wants to keep the world of magic separate or L. Roy who wants magic to come back to earth.
  • Why do you think Jax decided to open the window for the squirrel?
  • What were 2 things the dragons were not allowed to have?
  • When you first hear the word apprentice what comes to mind?  Did you have the same thinking as Jax?
  • How does the story tie in with real-life scenarios with the fantasy?
  • Who are the most influential character apart from Jax?
  • When do we see the change of events come in play throughout the story?
  • When reading the book your imagination goes wild,in what other circumstances does your mind go other places when reading this story?

Recommended For: 

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

Summary: Pablo, Violet and Deepak are three friends who get sucked into a telescope and must play science games to come back and play again. Deepak is the new kid who makes Pablo jealous with his presence. Throughout the book, the team works together and build their friendship to complete the games.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: The book could be used as a classroom read-aloud over the course of a few days or a week.  Due to the science elements, this book would be a good way to start off science discussions in the classroom. For example, the second chapter includes the students learning about food chains. This book is perfect to make connections back to science.

Discussion Questions: 

  •   Why do you think Pablo was jealous of Deepak?
  •   What were some of the challenges they had and what did they have to do?
  •   Why do you think Pablo, Violet, and Deepak were chosen for the Maker’s Maze?
  •    What do you know about producers, consumers, decomposers, and scavengers?
  • What were your favorite aspects of science that you learned from the book?
  • What type of emotion did the characters experience in the book?
  • When Deepak arrived to class, what did Pablo notice about him?
  • How does Pablo overcome is jealous toward Deepak?
  • Toward the end of the book why did they relate their friendship to the ecosystems?

Recommended For: 

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Polly Diamond and the Magic Book
Author: Alice Kuipers
Illustrator: Diana Toledano
Published April 22nd, 2018 by Chronicle Books

Summary: Polly Diamond is a little girl who receives a magic book that lets her bring to life the things that she writes and draws. She has a little sister who she doesn’t like very much and a brother on the way. Polly loves to write, she writes lists and stories and anything that she thinks is worth writing. When she starts writing in her magic book she realizes that the book can talk back to her. She writes to her book and comes up with lists and stories to write. She realizes that whatever she writes in the book comes to life when she writes about making a ladder to paint her room and the books on the floor magically move to make a ladder. The book tells her that is what she’s for and Polly quickly learns she can do anything she writes. She makes herself invisible and her sister into a banana. But she realizes that the book is taking everything she says literally. When she writes about eating a club sandwich the book gives her two slices of bread with a bat in between because it took the definition of a club literally. She told the house to fix up the carpet and turn her room into an aquarium. But the carpet was on the ceiling and fish were swimming around her room. She then realizes that everything she wrote was crazy and tries to put the house back to normal because she can’t even recognize it anymore. She fixes it just in time for her parents to come home with her new baby brother. At the end of the story she gives the book a name, Spell. And looks forward to writing and drawing another day with her new book, and friend Spell.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Polly uses and explains words like metaphor, affixes, alliteration, and hyperbole.  This is a great opportunity to talk about these definitions, make lists of words and phrases that relate to these words, and do activities where the students use metaphors, alliteration, homophones, homonyms etc.  It seems like a useful book to have in a first grade classroom and use with a higher level reading small group or a second grade class.    It could also be used as a read aloud, again discussing the key words and their meanings, then practicing using those skills.  There is a lot of use of imagery in this book as well as understanding literal meaning and how words matter.

After reading the text, students can respond to the story by engaging in a free write activity after they finish the reading. As a teacher, we could set a timer for five minutes and ask the students to write continuously about their thoughts on the book, good or bad, and afterwards, go over it as a small group.

Discussion Questions:

  • Polly had many favorite words throughout the book, what are some of your favorite words and why?
  • Make a list of activities you would do to have a Super-Fantastic-Day.
  • In the book, Polly writes down what her dream bedroom would look like. If you could have your dream bedroom, what would it look like?
  • When Polly writes in the magic book, she learns that she needs to write clearly and use as much detail as possible. What are some important rules to follow when writing so people can understand your message clearly?
  • When Polly is playing hide-and-seek, why does she become invisible?
  • Imagine the turquoise notebook has changed your house like Polly’s. Please write a short story explaining what your home looks like in order to get it back to normal.
  • How does Polly feel having to share a room with her little sister when her brother is born?
  • If you had a magic notebook that could bring three things you wrote about to life, what 3 things would you write or draw and why?
  • Polly loves words with double letters like “Dizzy.” List 5 words you can think of that have double letters.
  • Polly loves alliteration.  That’s when  two or more words in a row begin with the same letter.  What alliterations can you think of?

Recommended For: 

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Sisters of the Neversea
Author: Cynthia Leitich Smith
Published June 1st, 2021 by Heartdrum

Summary: This book is a tale about three children, Lily, Wendy, and Michael. Their parents, Mr. Darling and Ms. Florene Roberts-Darling are separating, splitting the family between two different locations.  The night before Wendy and Mr. Darling are supposed to leave, the children are visited by a boy named Peter Pan and Belle. Stories of pirates and merfolk persuade the children to follow Peter Pan and Belle off to a mystical land called Neverland.  Upon arriving the children are separated and discover once you arrive you can never leave.  The children meet merfolk, pirates, native children, the lost, and fairies in a desperate attempt to figure out how to get home.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book will be great for a read aloud, book club, or close reading because it involves a lot of higher level vocabulary than some students may currently be reading at and it has long sentences and dialogue which again, some children could struggle with. These classroom uses would allow for discussions.

Geography could also be tied in because students could illustrate and demonstrate caves and waterways the Merfolk might have dwelled in. They also could show their knowledge of what an island like Neverland might have, and include what trees they think the lost boys were living in.

And, of course, it could be looked at versus Peter Pan as it is a retelling.

Discussion Questions: 

  • If you were a character in this book, who would you be and why?
  • If you were to create a different ending, How would it go?
  • Why do you think Mr. Darling and Ms. Florene wanted to separate?
  • What was your favorite part of the book?
  • What were some challenges that the children had to face or overcome?
  • Why do you think Peter Pan and Belle appeared?
  • Why do you think it was hard for the lost boys to remember who they are?
  • Why do you think Peter Pan never wanted to grow up?
  • Why do you think Belle brought Peter Pan to the island?
  • Why do you think the crocodile made a TikTok sound?
  • Does this book remind you of any other children’s stories?  If so why?

Recommended For: 

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Lettuce Get in Trouble by Linda Kuo, Illustrated by Mariana Rio

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Lettuce Get In Trouble
Author: Linda Kuo
Illustrator: Mariana Rio
Co-Authors: Cynthia Benjamin & Paula Rees
Published May 17th, 2022 by Center for Design Books

Summary: Sara Little Turnbull was a designer, an observer, a mentor, and not afraid to cause a little trouble while making the world a better place. As a global traveler, she made connections between people and found wonder in the everyday objects they hold dear.

As a very petite female designer in the world of large men, Sara used her unique perspective and curiosity to design a wide range of revolutionary products–from facemasks to cookware to astronaut suits–and to encourage others to see the world through new eyes. Sara was a mentor to designers of all ages and in Lettuce Get in Trouble, she helps children understand the basics of design: observing the world around them, asking questions, and trying out new things. One day, the Ministry of Food asks Sara Little to convince the children to eat more vegetables. Instead of offering a stern lecture, however, Sara Little brings her young friends to her Little Lab to explore the colors and shapes of food and why we eat anything at all. Together they design a grand event, inviting children to gather, play, and design tasty new creations.

Sara Little Trouble Maker Series Information: New Children’s Picture Book Series Introduces Young Readers to the Basics of Design by asking “Why?”

Lettuce Get in Trouble is the first volume in the Sara Little Trouble Maker series from Center for Design Books—a children’s picture book that teaches the basics of design in a way that is easy for young readers to understand. Inspired by a little-known but influential designer, Sara Little, Lettuce Get in Trouble helps children learn to problem-solve by observing the world around them, asking great questions, and trying out new things.

“Sara wears many hats and one tiny upside-down clock on her black turtleneck. She is always asking a lot of questions.”

Why?

In Lettuce Get in Trouble, we meet Sara Little, a troublemaker of the best sort; she asks great questions starting with Why? Sara looks at the world a little differently than other adults—by doing so, interesting problems and the need for design solutions come her way. This first story focuses on Sara’s design influence with new foods and is set in her beloved city of New York. One day, the Ministry of Food asks Sara Little to convince the children to eat more vegetables. Instead of offering a stern lecture, Sara brings her young friends to her Little Lab to explore the colors and shapes of food and why we eat anything at all. Together, they plan a grand event, inviting children from around the world to design fresh, tasty creations. “The children will cook, and we shall allow them to play with their food!” says Sara. Will the leader of the Ministry of Food be happy? Will the children learn to love veggies?

“Good design solves problems and also makes the world more beautiful and fun.”

Through experimentation, discovery, and planning, Sara teaches children that “good design solves problems and also makes the world more beautiful and fun.” In Lettuce Get in Trouble, the children—and designers of all ages—learn to make their world a better place by being curious, ‘taking the time to see’ and not being afraid to cause a little trouble.

“When you take the time to see, the wonders become commonplace, and the commonplace become wonders.”

About the Real Little Sara: Sara Little (1917-2015) was a designer, teacher, and observer not afraid to cause a little trouble while developing innovative solutions to fulfill our basic needs. As a global traveler, she made connections between people and found wonder in the everyday objects, tools, and rituals their cultures hold dear. As a very petite female designer in the world of large men, Sara used her unique perspective and curiosity to design a wide range of revolutionary products—from medical masks which inspired the N95 to cookware to astronaut’s spacesuits—and encouraged others to see the world through new eyes. This first story reflects Sara’s influence on the American lifestyle by promoting casual dining with buffets and finger foods.

About the Creators: 

Linda Kuo designs products for children and loves creative storytelling. She has a BFA from Parsons School of Design in New York and an MFA from Stanford University, where Sara Little mentored her. Sara often said, “Design is to create order.” Linda practices Sara’s teaching in all her projects as the Design Director at Pottery Barn Kids & Teen, headquartered in San Francisco, and serves as a board member of the Center for Design.

Mariana Rio is an award-winning illustrator and educator in Porto, Portugal. She graduated in Communication Design from the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Porto. With over a decade of experience, she is happy to spend her days creating characters and visual narratives for publishing houses and institutions worldwide. Her illustrations have been featured in the Bologna Children’s Book Fair exhibitions. Mariana is always eager to learn, and she found Sara Little’s legacy a huge inspiration. Find more at: www.marianario.com

The Sara Little [Turnbull] Center for Design Institute is a non-profit (501c3) in Seattle, WA, with a mission to educate and enhance the public’s knowledge of design and further the education of under served women and girls. Profit from the book series will support that work.

Review: Lettuce Get in Trouble is such a great inquiry book! It shows the importance of asking questions, asking more questions, pushing boundaries, and never letting someone judge you by their assumptions.

I found the collage-esque and colorful illustrations mixed with the multi-format of the picture book just so much fun to read and as unique as its subject. It also has such a quick pace that could have been detrimental but instead kept the reader wanting to move forward to see what Sara is going to tackle next.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I think the first thing I would do with this book is start with the WHY and have students come up with their own questions then find answers. Use Sara Little’s inquiry to inspire their own inquiry. There are also other mentor opportunities such as answering Sara’s questions and having students write a letter that they would have written to Sara.

Also, there is so much to learn about Sara Little Turnbull. She changed our world yet is too unknown. Students can use this book/series as a jumping off point to learning about her career and inventions. After reading the book, students could be grouped and each group assigned one of her designs/inventions to research and share.

Learn more about Sara Little at The Center for Design, the Sara Little Troublemaker website, or this Fortune article about her for Women’s History Month.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What did Sara do differently than others at the Ministry of Food?
  • What traits does Sara have that made her such a great designer and thinker?
  • What did Sara’s mom do to help her become the inquisitive thinker she was?
  • What questions do you have like Sara?
  • How did Sara think about food differently than others?
  • Why did the Center for Design decide to start a series inspired by Sara Little?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Nontraditional picture book biographies

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Claire McKinney PR for providing a copy for review!**

National Geographic Kids’ Mythical Beasts: 100 Fun Facts About Real Animals and the Myths They Inspire by Stephanie Warren Drimmer & Bling!: 100 Fun Facts About Gems by Emma Carlson Berne

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Mythical Beasts: 100 Fun Facts About Real Animals and the Myths They Inspire
Author: Stephanie Warren Drimmer
Published January 4th, 2022 by National Geographic Kids

Summary: Calling all fans of unicorns, dragons, sea monsters, and other mythical creatures! Discover 100 marvelous facts that add to the magic in this new reader for fluent readers.

Key features include:

  • Expert-vetted text appropriate for ages 7 to 9
  • Brilliant and eye-catching National Geographic images
  • 100 fun facts spread throughout the book
  • A fact roundup at the end of each book for kids to review what they’ve learned

Packed with weird-but-true facts and tons of info, this Level 3 reader explores animals that are mistaken for mythical creatures, critters that are almost too weird for reality, and other creatures with incredible abilities. Learn all about these amazing, unbelievable, and downright fantastical beasts!

About the Author: STEPHANIE WARREN DRIMMER writes books and magazine features for kids about everything from the strangest places in space, to the chemistry of cookies, to the mysteries of the human brain. Drimmer has a degree in science journalism from New York University, but she thinks she likes writing for kids because she’s secretly still one herself.

Bling!: 100 Fun Facts About Gems
Author: Emma Carlson Berne
Published January 4th, 2022 by National Geographic Kids

Summary: Get ready to be dazzled by some of the shiniest, most colorful, useful—and even dangerous—rocks, minerals, and gems on the planet! In this Level 3 reader, discover fascinating facts about the incredible rocks and minerals under our feet and deep in Earth’s crust. Budding geologists will love reading about how rocks form, learning the names and features of the coolest rocks and minerals, and exploring rare and beautiful gemstones.

Key features include:

  • Expert-vetted text appropriate for ages 7 to 9
  • Brilliant and eye-catching National Geographic images
  • 100 fun facts sprinkled throughout the book*
  • A fact roundup at the end of each book for kids to review what they’ve learned

Packed with weird-but-true facts and tons of cool info, this Level 3 reader explores the incredible world of geology.

About the Author: EMMA CARLSON BERNE writes juvenile, middle grade, and YA fiction and nonfiction for both educational and trade publishers. She has worked on projects with Disney/Lucasfilm Press, American Girl Publishing, Simon & Schuster, Scholastic, Sterling Publishing, Capstone, Rosen, and Alloy Entertainment. Berne lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, where she is the writer-in-residence for the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.


About the Series: This high-interest, educationally-vetted readers series features magnificent National Geographic images accompanied by text written by experienced, skilled children’s book authors. Each reader includes a glossary and interactive features in which kids get to use what they’ve learned in the book. Level 1 readers reinforce the content of the book with a kinesthetic learning activity. Level 2 readers feature slightly higher-level text and additional vocabulary words. Level 3 readers have more layers of information to challenge more proficient readers. For emerging readers, the Pre-reader level introduces vocabulary and concepts, and the Co-reader level provides a collaborative reading experience.

Review: I am such a fan of National Geographic Kids’ books. They do such a great job with engaging material that is perfect for the audience they are aimed for. With these Fact Reader Level 3 books, I really loved the mix of chapters with expository text mixed with text features that add to the text as well as fact lists that will make sure the reader leaves with fun facts to share. Everything that is shared in the books are so interesting and will definitely grab the readers attention. For example, in Bling!  we learn about rocks and minerals in space, different types of rocks, the oldest rocks, difference between rocks and minerals, and geology & archaeology information. Mythical Beasts includes mistaken identities, strange animals that are hard to believe, and animals with mythical powers. Both books are great nonfiction texts that are going to find so many early elementary readers!

Discussion Questions: 

  • How does the table of contents and index help you when reading a nonfiction book?
  • What text features did you notice throughout the book? How did they add to the book?
  • What facts did you learn from the book? What was your favorite fact you learned?
  • What else would you like to learn about the topics?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Geology, Archaeology, Animals, Mythology, Nonfiction

Recommended For: 

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

Lizzy and the Cloud by The Fan Brothers

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Lizzy and the Cloud
Creators: Terry Fan & Eric Fan
Publishing May 3rd, 2022 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Summary: The tale of a young girl who cares for her pet cloud as it grows.

It’s a little out of fashion to buy a pet cloud, but Lizzy doesn’t mind. She’s not looking for a big one or a fancy one, just one that’s right for her. And she finds it in Milo.

Soon, she’s taking Milo out on walks with her family, watering Milo right on schedule, and seeing Milo grow and grow. But what happens when her pet cloud gets too big for Lizzy to handle?

About the Creators: 

Terry Fan received his formal art training at Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto, Canada. His work is a blend of traditional and contemporary techniques, using ink or graphite mixed with digital. He spends his days (and nights) creating magical paintings, portraits, and prints. Terry is the cocreator of The Night Gardener, It Fell from the Sky, and Lizzy and the Cloud. Born in Illinois, he now lives in Toronto. Visit him online TheFanBrothers.com.

Eric Fan is an artist and writer who lives in Toronto, Canada. Born in Hawaii and raised in Toronto, he attended the Ontario College of Art and Design, where he studied illustration, sculpture, and film. He has a passion for vintage bikes, clockwork contraptions, and impossible dreams. Eric is the cocreator of The Night GardenerIt Fell from the Sky, and Lizzy and the Cloud. Visit him online TheFanBrothers.com.

Review: With the Fan Brothers, readers have come to expect poetic words and illustrations, and they do not disappoint with Lizzy’s story. Just like my favorite Fan Brothers’ book, The Barnabus Project, I found myself falling in love with the characters because their personality jumps off the pages. Although the words are sparse, they are specifically chosen and when teamed up with the beautiful illustrations, the story has so much more depth than you may realize at first glance. For example, I think the ending of this book is something that could be used to talk about so many tough subjects, and it is done in a respectful, positive, and approachable manner. Another winning picture book from the Fan Brothers!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I see this text being used interdisciplinary in reading, science, and art. It will make a wonderful read aloud! The story and illustrations work beautifully together and there are some great discussion questions that can be used with the book. I’d then use the book in science to discuss the science of clouds–Milo will be a great cloud example! Finally, students could draw their own cloud balloons! You can even through in some SEL talking about tantrums and letting go.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What does it tell you about Lizzy that she didn’t care what was popular?
  • Why do you think Lizzy wanted an ordinary cloud and not one of the animals?
  • What do you think would be the biggest problem would be if you had your own cloud?
  • How did Lizzy and Milo work together to make their friendship work?
  • How did Milo change? Why?
  • Why did Lizzy have to make the choice she did at the end of the book?
  • What theme do you believe the authors were trying to convey with the ending?
  • Do you think Milo changed Lizzy? How so?
  • How did the illustrators use color and shading to convey mood?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Books by The Fan Brothers, Matthew Forsythe, Sophie Blackall, Oliver Jeffers, Brian Floca, Liz Wong

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Simon & Schuster for providing a copy for review!!**

Only One by Deborah Hopkinson and Chuck Groenink

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Only One
Authors and Illustrator: Deborah Hopkinson and Chuck Groenink
Published April 5, 2022

Summary: This lyrical, environmentally focused picture book showcases the unique beauty of our one and only universe–its galaxies, stars, and planets–as well as our one and only Earth and the precious life it contains.

Join one girl as she leads her friends to a tree-planting ceremony. Along the way, she explains in simple language the value of the universe and Planet Earth. Readers will see the Big Bang, the Milky Way, all the planets in the solar system, as well as Earth’s atmosphere, and the life within it: its oceans, trees, bugs, and seven billion human beings. Finally, the girl and her friends plant a tree–doing one small thing to help their one special planet.

Both informative and inspiring, here is a beautifully written and gorgeously illustrated science picture book about our universe that will encourage young readers and listeners to protect and preserve the environment.

ReviewThe cover drew me right in, and I was NOT disappointed! I loved how this book offered a wide scope of topics within space, science, and the environment, yet it felt very connected by a common theme. This is my book of choice for Earth Day (and every day!). It captured the attention of all three of my own children, who each have different interests. I’ve read it so many times in the last week (to whichever child is requesting it) that I am starting to memorize it! I love how it talks about space, the stars, the Big Bang—yet it also talks about caring and tending for Earth and working together.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I would love to see kids create a spread that could be added to Only One. Maybe, for instance, they might write a spread about protecting water or perhaps they might choose an aspect of space that is of interest. Whatever the choice, they could research the topic before they create their spread. The teacher could post them to a bulletin board or bind them together in a book.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What did you learn?
  • Which spreads were most inspiring to you, and why?
  • What is the “Only One” in this book, and why does it matter so much?
  • What is your role in protecting the Earth?

Flagged Spreads:

 

Read This If You Love: Science, Space, Earth! My First 4.54 Billion Years by Stacy McAnulty; You Come to Earth by Sophie Blackall

Recommended For: 

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

Breaking Through the Clouds: The Sometimes Turbulent Life of Meteorologist Joanne Simpson by Sandra Nickel, Illustrated by Helena Perez Garcia

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Breaking Through the Clouds: The Sometimes Turbulent Life of Meteorologist Joanne Simpson
Author: Sandra Nickel
Illustrator: Helena Perez Garcia
Published March 8, 2022 by Abrams

Summary: An inspiring picture book about the meteorologist whose discoveries helped us understand how weather works. When Joanne Simpson (1923-2010) was a girl, she sailed her boat beneath the puffy white clouds of Cape Cod. As a pilot, she flew her plane so high, its wings almost touched them. And when World War II began and Joanne moved to the University of Chicago, a professor asked her to teach Air Force officers about those very clouds and the weather-changing winds.

As soon as the war ended, Joanne decided to seriously study the clouds she had grown to love so much. Her professors laughed. They told her to go home. They told her she was no longer needed. They told her, “No woman ever got a doctorate in meteorology. And no woman ever will.”

But Joanne was stubborn. She sold her boat. She flew her last flight. She saved her money so that she could study clouds. She worked so hard and discovered so much that—despite what the professors said—she received a doctorate in meteorology. She was the first woman in the world to do so.

Breaking Through the Clouds tells the story of a trailblazing scientist whose discoveries about clouds and how they work changed everything we know about weather today.

Praise: “An energetic, compassionate examination of a determined researcher who left her mark on the field of atmospheric sciences.” — Publishers Weekly

About the Author: Sandra Nickel says that story ideas are everywhere; you just have to reach out and grab them.  She holds an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her first book, Nacho’s Nachos: The Story Behind the World’s Favorite Snack, was awarded a Christopher Award and was a Golden Kite Award finalist. Sandra lives in Chexbres, Switzerland, where she blogs about children’s book writers and illustrators at whatwason.com. To learn more, visit https://sandranickel.com/.

Twitter:  @senickel
Facebook: @sandranickelbooks
Instagram: @sandranickelbooks

Review: I love learning about the women in our history that have broken through barriers to make it so we are where we are today with women’s rights, and there are so many and so many wonderful stories to tell–I am always so happy when I find a new one, and this one is a gem! Joanne Simpson is so kick butt! She not only broke barriers, she smashed them, jumped in a plane, and then broke through the clouds (hence the title!). It was so wonderful learning about her and how she stuck it to the men and showed what a phenomenal person she was.

Nickel does a fantastic job balancing Simpson’s story as a meteorologist with her story of the sexism she faced during her education and working. We learn about how she used the traits that others saw as negative, like stubbornness and focus, to take the world by storm. Along with the colorful, page-filling illustrations, this book is beautiful, educational, and inspiring.

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Read This If You Love: Picture book biographies, especially about science, weather, or women’s history

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