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

Recommended For: 

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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!**

New and Update Gail Gibbons Books: Galaxies, Galaxies! and The Planets

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Galaxies, Galaxies! (Third Edition)
Author and Illustrator: Gail Gibbons
Published December 12th, 2023 by Holiday House

Summary: Learn about the newest discoveries in the Milky Way and beyond in this updated edition from nonfiction master Gail Gibbons.

Planet Earth is in the Milky Way Galaxy, the cloudy band of light that stretches clear across the night sky. How many galaxies are there in the universe? For years astronomers thought that the Milky Way was the universe. Now we know that there are billions of them. Gail Gibbons takes the reader on a journey light-years away.

This updated edition vetted by an expert introduces young readers to our own galaxy the Milky Way and beyond. Learn how ancient people invented the telescope and began studying the Milky Way to the modern technology astronomers use to study other galaxies.

Gail Gibbon’s easy-to-read text and clearly labeled illustrations welcomes young readers to learn how telescopes work, about the different types of galaxies, how many galaxies we know of today, and more.

The Planets (Fifth Edition)
Author and Illustrator: Gail Gibbons
Published December 12th, 2023 by Holiday House

Summary: A new edition of a nonfiction favorite for more than 20 years from science writer Gail Gibbons, updated with the latest discoveries in space exploration.

From the burning surface of Venus to the freezing darkness of Neptune, Gail Gibbons takes children on a tour of our solar system—which are very different from each other in size, shape, orbit, and even weather.

Since its original publication in 1993, The Planets has been a home and classroom staple for introducing our solar system to the youngest readers. With her signature blend of clear, bright illustrations and accessible text, Gail Gibbons takes readers on a tour of our planetary neighbors, near and far.

This updated edition brings the latest scientific understanding of the planets of our solar system to young readers. The bodies in our solar system are named, described, and illustrated in clear, well-labeled spreads that give a strong sense of shape and scale to our skies.  Each entry is full of intriguing details about their composition, behavior, and moons.

About the Author: Gail Gibbons has been described as having a face that holds wonder like a cup.” It is out of this natural curiosity for how things work and how things are made that she has based a successful career as an author and illustrator of children’s books. From life on a fishing island (Surrounded by Sea) to the history and makings of kites (Catch the Wind.’), she has taught children – and adults – about the inner workings of things and places in our environment.

As a child growing up in Chicago, Gail was always asking how does that work?” She created her first picture book at the age of four. It was four pages long and bound together with yarn. Recognizing Gail’s artistic talents, her kindergarten teacher alerted Gail’s parents to it, and Gail began taking art lessons. Soon thereafter she started writing her own stories. After high school graduation Gail attended the University of Illinois where she studied graphic design. Upon graduation she went to work for a small TV station doing graphic work and later moved to New York City where she worked on ” Take a Giant Step” the children’s show that was the forerunner to PBS’ “The Electric Company.” The children that participated in the show were the first to suggest that Gail should create children’s books. And that is exactly what she did.

Gail Gibbons’s books are particularly accurate because she goes right to the source when researching a topic. She has been on the seventeenth floor of a skyscraper in progress, has spoken with truck drivers about the workings of their rigs, has dismantled every clock in her home, and would have donned scuba diving gear to research a sunken ship had the sea waters not been too turbulent. Gail says “I had a lot of ‘whys’ when I was a child. I guess I still do.”

Gail Gibbons and her husband divide their time between a landlocked house in Vermont and a house surrounded by sea off the coast of Maine.

Review: These two texts are telescopes into outer space. They take the reader on a journey filled with extensive information about the planets within our solar system (in The Planets) and extensive space (Galaxies, Galaxies!). I am so glad that they updated these two texts because with discoveries changing all the time, it is important to have the most up to date scientific and technological information in nonfiction books for our young learners; it is obvious that Gail Gibbons and Holiday House both know this is a priority. Another asset of these books is that the text is definitely informative but told in a way that even our youngest learners will understand and learn and older learners will also grow in their knowledge. They are both great nonfiction texts for elementary school.

Tools for Navigation: These books will be wonderful additions to any lesson about planets, outer space, and galaxies. They are a great supplement for any teacher or parent wanting to teach about these topics.

Flagged Spreads: 

The Planets

Galaxies, Galaxies!

Read This If You Love: Learning about space

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Holiday House for providing copies for review!**

Discussion Guide for Futureland: Battle for the Park by H.D. Hunter

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Futureland: Battle for the Park
Author: H.D. Hunter
Published: November 8th, 2022 by Random House Books for Young Readers

Summary: When an extraordinary flying theme park arrives above Atlanta, one boy must stop a sinister force from stealing the park’s tech and taking over the world.

Welcome to the most spectacular theme park in the world.

Everyone wants a ticket to Futureland, where you can literally live out your wildest dreams. Want to step inside your favorite video game? Go pro in a sports arena? Perform at a real live concert? Grab your ticket and come right in.

Yet with all its attractions, Futureland has always just been home to Cam Walker, the son of the park’s famous creators. And when Futureland arrives at its latest stop, Atlanta, Cam is thrilled for what promises to be the biggest opening ever. . . .

But things aren’t quite right with the Atlanta opening. Park attractions are glitching. Kids go missing. And when his parents are blamed, Cam must find the missing kids and whoever’s trying to take down his family . . . before it’s too late.

Discussion Questions: 

Please view and enjoy the discussion guide I created for Futureland: Battle for the Park:

You can also access the educators’ guide here.

Recommended For:

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Apart, Together: A Book About Transformation by Linda Booth Sweeney & Ariel Rutland

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Apart, Together
Author: Linda Booth Sweeney
Illustrator: Ariel Rutland
Published October 17th, 2023 by Balzer & Bray

Summary: This bold, surprising picture book demonstrates the magic of everyday transformations (and introduces cause-and-effect) for the youngest readers.

What happens when 1+1 equals . . . something other than 2?

Apart, blue is blue and yellow is yellow . . . but together they make green. Bees and flowers together make honey. Soap and water become foam!

With playful art and a simple, lyrical structure, this picture book is a delightful read-aloud and the perfect way to talk about all the wonderful ways that, so often, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

About the Author: Linda Booth Sweeney is a writer, educator, game maker, and trampoline jumper who writes fiction and nonfiction for children and adults. Her picture books include Monument Maker: Daniel Chester French and the Lincoln Memorial, When the Snow Falls, and When the Wind Blows. She lives in Boston, MA. You can visit her online at lindaboothsweeney.com.  

Review and Tools for Navigation: This picture book seems simplistic, but its underlying lessons are so much more complex than at first glass. The book’s creators definitely have created something that is accessible for so many ages of readers and will lend itself to read alouds and lessons.

This text has so many discussion opportunities. It looks at cause & effect; science including animals, plants, & pollination; primary/secondary colors; team work; and baking! It is also a wonderful mentor text for students to create their own apart & together spreads, including illustrations.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What other items can you think of that are different when they are apart versus when they are together?
  • How are some apart, together examples, like the soccer one, different than the others, like the paint one?
  • What other colors combine to make another?
  • What else do bees and flowers combine to make?
  • What else do seed, soil, sun, & water combine to make?
  • What else do flour, eggs, & sugar combine to make?
  • What else do bricks & blocks combine to make?
  • What else can players combine to do?
  • What else do soap, hands, & water combine to make?
  • What else do twigs, feathers, & love combine to make?

Flagged Spreads: 

Read This If You Love: Simplistic picture books that teach big lessons

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Spark Point Studio for providing a copy for review!**

Author Guest Post: “Big Problems and Small Fascinations” by Olivia A. Cole, Author of Where the Lockwood Grows

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Big Problems and Small Fascinations

School requires a lot from young people. Focus, sitting still, hands to yourself, social skills. (This doesn’t end with elementary school. Middle school? For sure. High school? Yep!) This is all hard enough – particularly if you won the neurodivergent lottery – and then you have to throw the whole “actual learning” thing on top too: the math and the science and the history. Oh, and homework! Don’t forget homework. (I’m admittedly sad that the “no homework” movement seems to have lost steam in the last year.)

Where is the space for special interests?

This isn’t a write-up about kids being swamped by “activities” starting in kindergarten. It’s not about how college prep seems to start earlier and earlier in a country where college isn’t free. It’s not even about overwork and burnout.

It’s about small fascinations.

In Where the Lockwood Grows, Erie Neaux isn’t tied up with swimming practice. Rather, she and the other young people in the town of Prine are struggling under the yoke of child labor, although of course no one is calling it that. It’s called survival. (Which at least is more noble than the current justifications.) Erie (and the other children who have no choice but to do the dangerous work in the trees that keeps their town running) wakes up before dawn to finish their work, after which they go to school for a few hours, where most of them are too tired or stressed to pay much attention to what they’re expected to learn.

Erie spends most of the time either daydreaming or flipping through an old encyclopedia of entomology, studying the many strange bugs and their attributes contained in the pages. She applies her knowledge as best as she can in the tiny, insulated town of Prine, admiring the dustnose beetles and other local insects.

But when she and her sister discover the truth about what keeps the people of Prine in the dark, their adventure takes them to the city of Petrichor, where Erie’s world finally opens up. Along the way, she’s taken to the Bug Yard, a place where other bug-lovers have developed their fascinations with insects and turned them toward solutions to climate and waste problems. (Awesomely enough, these imaginings aren’t science fiction!) In the end, Erie’s fascination with bugs that she nurtured in her sparse spare time plays a big part of saving the day.

Capitalism has a way of wringing every drop out of a day. Adults feel it when we don’t even have time for a hobby. (Or worse, when we try to turn hobbies into streams of income.) Children feel it when between school and homework there’s none of their day left empty for daydreaming.

In Where the Lockwood Grows, the lockwood blocks the stars that Erie’s mother says her children need to dream. What about us? What do we need to dream? Our Earth has big problems that need big solutions, born from creativity and innovation, from small fascinations that grow into resolutions. How will they be born if we don’t have time to dream?

Published August 15th, 2023 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

About the Book: Twelve-year-old Erie has never lived life fully in the sunlight. After destructive wildfires wreaked havoc on the world around her, the government came up with a plan—engineer a plant that cannot burn. Thus, the fire-resistant lockwood was born. The lockwood protects Erie and her hometown of Prine, but it grows incredibly fast and must be cut back every morning. Only the town’s youngest and smallest citizens can fit between the branches and tame the plant. Citizens just like Erie.

But one evening, Erie uncovers a shocking secret that leads her to question the rules of Prine. Alongside her older sister, Hurona, she’ll journey from the only home she’s known and realize that the world is much more complicated than she’d ever imagined.

About the Author: Olivia A. Cole is a writer from Louisville, Kentucky. Her essays, which often focus on race and womanhood, have been published in Bitch Media, Real Simple, The LA Times, HuffPost, Teen Vogue, Gay Mag, and more. She teaches creative writing at the Kentucky Governor’s School for the Arts, where she guides her students through poetry and fiction, but also considerations of the world and who they are within it. She is the author of several books for children and adults. Learn more about Olivia and her work at oliviaacole.com and follow her on Twitter @RantingOwl.

Thank you, Olivia, for this food for thought and reminder that it is okay to allow kids to focus on their loves and passions!