PlayShifu’s Plugo Letters, Count, and Link

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I am extremely excited to share this virtual-hands on learning system with you because my kids love it. Plugo offers a variety of learning options, and I elected to get their Letters, Count, and Link package. I chose the Letters kit by itself, and it came with a very high quality gameboard and alphabet kit (a lot of letters and a display that allows the app to read the letters). I also chose to get the Count and Link dual package, which also came with the gameboard, a three-spiked device named Spike, a lot of numbers that fit on spike, and magnetic patterned tiles for building. All of the materials are very well-made, and the app is very easy to download and follow (my three-year-old, for instance, figured it out immediately).

One thing I love about this system as opposed to other similar systems is that it adapts to the child’s age level. Each of my children have a profile with their grade level noted, and the app saves their progress.

I also like how well-made the product is. The magnets are strong, and the system feels very sturdy. My three-year-old has dropped several of the activity kits a few times, and they are still doing well.

Below, I share more details about each of the systems, all of which I recommend highly. As a family who is home for the summer (we’ve canceled all summer camps), this is what we’ve needed. The kids used to beg me for television, which we only use as a real treat, but now they beg me to play Plugo. This is much, much more exciting than their workbooks, and they love to engage in the varied games that each of the system offers.

Plugo Letters

An alphabet kit that goes beyond word-building. Develop grammar concepts like verbs, vowels, synonyms & more. Learn to spell & use new words through story-based games.

  • 5 story-based games in the app
  • 250+ challenges and puzzles
  • Age-adaptive challenges, PreK to Grade 5
  • Skills: language development, comprehension, storytelling

I love how my kids use this system and are reading and developing their language without even knowing it. I can hear them whispering the words as they sound them out. I see them trying out different vowels and experimenting with words.

Here, my 6-year-old spells out words along his pathway.

I thought my 3-year-old would be too young for the game, but sure enough, he played for almost an hour (when I cut him off).

The games are fun, and it goes all the way up to fifth grade. This is going to be a learning system that grows with our kids, and I am glad that they are learning letters and words through story. Rather than a video game, the app is more of a narrative that kids follow and stop at selected points to interact with the story using the letter tiles. If they get tired of a story, there are other games within the app to play!

Plugo Count

Traditional math made fun with an innovative hands-on approach. Plugo Count reinvents math with engaging stories that help kids understand and fall in love with numbers.

  • 5 story-based games in the app
  • 250+ challenges and puzzles
  • Age-adaptive challenges, PreK to Grade 5
  • Skills: math (+ – x /), problem-solving, logical reasoning

I love, love, love how this system adapts to the age level of the child, too. My 6-year-old loved playing the games and using operators like addition and subtraction. The repetition of the addition phrases is helping strengthen his memory of common equations. He goes through the story and learns math through authentic examples. I am looking forward to him being able to try out the multiplication and division operators in the future.

When my 3-year-old asked to play Count, I hesitated because I didn’t think he’d be able to play it. Imagine my relief when he started playing and the game asked him to count items in the story and complete the missing number (3, 4, 5, ___). I think about all of the worksheets within workbooks that ask kids to do these same skills, but with Count, he is able to count images that go along with a story. This feels more authentic and exciting!

Plugo Link

Classic building blocks meet modern digital play with Plugo Link! Build and balance the magnetic blocks in real world to solve exciting engineering puzzles on the screen.

  • 5 story-based games in the app
  • 250+ challenges and puzzles
  • Age-adaptive challenges, PreK to Grade 5
  • Skills: engineering, analytical thinking, creative design

My kids are Lego lovers. They could sit at the table for hours with a new Lego kit. So it comes as no surprise that they are obsessed with Link. In the image above, you see my 3-year-old linking up gears to complete an animal. In another game in the app, for instance, He is figuring out how to build pipes to prevent water from flowing out. Older kids can play a game like a word search to connect letters to make words with the patterned tiles. The kids absolutely love Link and enjoy all of the different building games.

Among Letters, Count, and Link, do I have a favorite? No. All three feel very educational and offer something different that is valuable for a child. It would be like asking me if I wanted my kids to attend math, reading, or engineering class. We’ve had a lot of fun with all three of the systems, and we recommend them all. For parents who are looking for more learning options and for parents who are looking to engage kids with hands-on learning, Plugo offers a fun and exciting option that kids will love.

From a teacher perspective, these systems would be really great options for learning stations and fast finishers. I would be really, really excited to see them in my kids’ classrooms because they offer a kinesthetic approach to learning.

**Thank you to PlayShifu for providing Letters and Count for Review!**

Best Learning’s iPoster My WORLD Interactive Map

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Best Learning’s iPoster My WORLD Interactive Map is a “beautifully illustrated large floor map for kids, great for interactive lessons in school or at home. Explore and discover the world with your fingertips!

The smartest way to learn the world which includes 92 countries, capital cities, flag, population, languages spoken, important landmarks, fun facts with 4 challenging quiz modes.

Learn over 1,000 facts about the world we live in!

Capital & Country – Learn about each country and its capital cities with quiz.

Flag – Learn about each country’s flag with quiz.

Population – Learn about the population of each country.

Language – Learn about the languages spoken in each country.

Landmark – Learn about the important landmark or monument of each country with quiz.

Fun Fact – Learn a fun fact of each country with quiz.

  • Family Choice, Mom’s Choice Gold Metal & Tillywig Brain Child Award Winner 2018! The most valuable interactive touch activated talking map.
  • Learning has never been so much easy and fun. Hang on a wall, play on the floor or use as a colorful play mat.
  • Learn capital cities, countries with their flags, population, languages spoken in each country, important landmarks, fun facts with volume control.
  • Skills learned include concentration, earth science, memory, problem solving, geography and environment.
  • Requires 3 AAA batteries (included); intended for Preschoolers and early learners of ages 5 and up.”

Ricki’s Review: We received this map a few weeks ago, and my kids take it out to explore again and again. I love how it isn’t just a simple, straightforward map with just countries. The different settings allow kids to explore more about our world. For instance, my older son seems to gravitate towards learning the country names, capital cities, and landmarks, yet my younger son is fascinated with the flags, and he regularly puts the map on the flag mode.

When we first opened the map, all three boys were interested. They learned to take turns learning about the countries. The baby is only included in this picture because as you see, he prefers to push everything at once.

Here, my oldest son clicks on the flags to learn about the countries they come from.

And here, the kids take turns trying to identify the correct country in a fun quiz.

We plan to move the map to the wall this week, and we are happy that it will be something that the kids can keep referring to. I can’t count the number of times that one of them asks something like, “Where is XXXX country, city, or monument?” The map will offer a fun way to not only identify the location but to also learn more about the countries as they pop up in teachable moments.

Kellee’s Review: This map is endless entertainment and information! For those of us who have inquiry-driven kids, the freedom of the map and plethora of information just lends to their natural curiousity. So often I would get questions about a setting of a book or movie or just a random country that he heard somewhere, and now we can visit the map to find the country and learn all about it.

Trent is a fan of landmarks. He can tell you where the Eiffel Tower, Statue of Liberty, Pyramids of Giza, etc. are, so he immediately gravitates towards learning about them with the map. And he just adores quizzes and will relisten to information and retake quizzes until he knows things by heart and will randomly share information with strangers. He says that this is his favorite part: “I love that the map tells you what the place is and tells you everything about the place.” It is all of the interesting information that keeps him gravitating towards it.

While Ricki loves that it isn’t just a simple map, I understand what she means, but I love that in the end it is still a map. Although there are some graphics, it isn’t overwhelming, and we can still use the map as a map also. I love that something that Trent goes back to over and over is fun and educational!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This map would be a beautiful addition to classroom walls. It offers so much more than a simple, paper map, and it allows kids to learn more about our world. We would recommend using velcro strips to hang this map on classroom walls to allow kids to pull the map off of the wall and bring it to their seats for further investigation.

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**Thank you to Best Learning for providing maps for review!**

Book Reader Animal Kingdom from Best Learning

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Book Reader Animal Kingdom is an interactive book reader for children to learn about 12 animals through 27 book pages about their appearance, behaviors, habitats and much more! Filled with playful melodies, friendly voices, and interesting sounds of animals and nature! Also comes with Quiz mode for those up for a challenge to keep them enthusiastic and learning at the same time!

  • Family Choice & Tillywig Parents’ Favorite Products Award Winner 2018! An interactive book reader for children to teach 12 animals about their appearance, behaviors, habitats and much more!
  • Simply press the paw down against the page as it reads aloud the contents.
  • Comes with a true and false quiz mode for those up for a challenge to keep them enthusiastic and learning at the same time.
  • Skills learned include animals, memory, dexterity, motor functions, concentration and problem solving.
  • Requires 3 AAA batteries (included); intended for preschoolers and early learners of ages 3 years and up.

Ricki’s Review: About twenty minutes after my 3-year-old started playing with this book, I messaged Kellee because I had to share about it. I wrote, “The Animal Kingdom book is SO COOL. He’s been playing with it for twenty minutes and hasn’t let his older brother have a turn. It would be so good for classrooms, too. It teaches reading comprehension really well!” Within about five minutes, Kellee had ordered one for her son, too. Although I was supposed to be reviewing this book alone, Kellee is joining me because she loved it just as much.

(This is how my 3yo started the book—he immediately placed it on the ground to start reading.)

This is a book (and product) worth sharing about. As you can see in the video above, the pages offer fascinating facts about animals, and the reader is clear and easy to understand. My kids listen intently to the reading, and they are always excited to take the true/false quiz to test their listening skills. Soon, my six-year-old will be able to easily follow along as she reads aloud. My three-year-old typically guesses the answers to the quiz (the concept of true/false is still a bit confusing for him), and my six-year-old is able to practice his listening and reading comprehension skills independently. The both love this product equally, despite their different reading abilities. Even my one-year-old gets a kick out of pushing down the reader to get her talking!

(20 minutes later…)

(I kid you not, 20 minutes after that…)

My three-year-old spent almost an hour with this book and even moved to a comfier spot. It is a favorite in our toy room (they consider it to be a toy!). We’ll be gifting this book to friends. (And I plan to write an email begging Best Learning to produce more of these books.)

Kellee’s Review: Like Ricki said, she shared with me how informative and engaging this book was, so I immediately jumped on and bought one for Trent. Trent adores animals but is more interested in watching documentaries and shows about them than reading about them (he is a fiction loving reader), but this book defies his normal interests, and he loves learning everything he can about each of the animals in the book. He’ll re-listen to pages, redo the quiz, and look back at the images over and over. This book is a hit in our household (it is in the living room because he keeps grabbing it to bring out here as a choice activity), and I, like Ricki, look forward to sharing as a gift and hoping for Best Learning to make more readers like this.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: ELA teachers focus on reading, writing, speaking, and listening (among the obvious other things like thinking). This is a beautiful example of a book that teaches listening. It would be a great learning tool to place at an independent or group station for reading comprehension. Alternatively, it could also be used for fast finishers. Even adults will find joy in this book.

Additionally, it would be a great mentor text for early education animal research projects. Students can emulate the format of a spread about an aimal of their choice.

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**Thank you to Best Learning for providing a copy of Animal Kingdom for review!**

Osmo’s Genius Starter Kit: Math, Spelling, Problem Solving, Creativity, and More!

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Osmo is an add on for your tablet (iPad or Fire) that brings digital learning to life! The Osmo Genius Starter Kit (from Tangible Play, Inc.) comes with materials for 3 of their different apps and with the Osmo stand and reflector, there are 2 other apps availabe to play without any materials.

Osmo knows kids learn by doing, so each game uses physical action. Whether it’s arranging tangrams, zooming number tiles around, or even freehand drawing, Osmo sees and reacts to every real-live move. Users will receive real-time feedback which lets kids learn through experimentation in a stress-free environment.

To date Osmo has been named one of Time Magazine’s Best Inventions, is a Parents’ Choice award winner, a winner of the prestigious Oppenheim award, and a 2016 finalist for Toy of The Year.

Tangram Demo: https://assets.playosmo.com/videos/games/tangram/tangram-demo-loop.webm

Words Demo: https://assets.playosmo.com/videos/games/words/words-demo-loop.webm

Numbers Demo: https://assets.playosmo.com/videos/games/numbers/numbers-demo-loop.webm

Newton Demo: https://assets.playosmo.com/videos/games/newton/newton-board-demo-loop.webm

Masterpiece Demo: https://assets.playosmo.com/videos/games/masterpiece/masterpiece-demo-loop.webm

Kellee’s Review: What I love about Osmo is that it takes technology and adds kinesthetic aspects to it. It is truly the best of both worlds. This combination of hands-on learning and technology is how we are going to prepare our students for their life journey.

Trent loves Osmo because he thinks everything about it is fun. Even when there is a challenge, he faces it, figures it out, and moves forward because of the engagement he has for the activities. And if it gets too tough, the app is intuitive and helps him out when needed.

It is hard to pick his favorites apps. I think Masterpiece and Newton would be what he picked first to play, but he wouldn’t argue about playing any of them.

Masterpiece shows his paper on the screen and an outline of what he wants to draw. It can be from their gallery, online, or even a picture he took. Then he can look at the screen and follow the lines. He loves drawing, so him loving Masterpiece makes so much sense.

As for Newton, which is a problem-solving physics platform. I found it to be extremely difficult, so I was pleasantly surprised that Trent loved it so much. He figured out so many creative ways to solve the puzzles, past the drawing that it initially instructs the user to do. It was fascinating watching him! (Please note: the Osmo whiteboard in the image is not from the Genius Starter Kit. Trent loved the starter kit so much, we bought other games and it came with another game; however, any white board or paper would work for Newton.)

Words is at this point a bit easy for him, but I know there are ways to up the difficulty, but he is really enjoying it and getting used to searching for the letters, so I don’t want to frustrate him.

Numbers starts with addition which is perfect for Trent and lets him practice his number skills in a low-stakes, fun environment. He is a math fan, so this is another favorite app.

Tangrams is probably the one he struggles with the most. When the tasks get more difficult and do not show which shapes go where, Trent has trouble visualizing which are correct (but I’m the same way, so maybe like mom, like son).

And like I mentioned above, we loved Osmo so much, we’ve purchased other kits which Trent have all enjoyed also! I highly recommend Osmo to parents and teachers as an extension to other learning.

Ricki’s Review: Kellee did an amazing overview of each of the games within the kit, so I will offer more of a holistic overview and perspective from two different kids’ age levels. We have been staying at home pretty much exclusively for three months. My kids are in need of something different. My 3yo is able to read simplistic books and words, and my 6yo is reading fairly fluently now. They are tired of workbooks, they are tired of any book that looks like an early reader, and they are looking for something more interactive. Osmo is the answer.

The kids beg me to play with it during the day. We are pretty strict about screentime in our house, but the Osmo is so interactive that it doesn’t feel like screentime to me. As a parent, it feels remarkably guilt-free as the kids cheer and play the games together.

What intrigues me the most is that Kellee’s son, who is the same age as Henry and has similar interests, has different favorite games than my son. (Although, truly, my kids love ALL of the games.) Tangrams is both of my kids’ favorites. It seems to come naturally to them (which surprises me because I am not very good at spatial recognition). Masterpiece is the hardest for them, and I wonder if they will progress more with it with some time. Regardless, all of the games are huge hits, and they want to play all of them every time they play with the Osmo.

Here, you see my 6yo cheering wildly for himself while he plays numbers. When he met his teacher for a small math group at the end of the school year, she spent a lot of time decomposing numbers. As a parent, I have been focused with addition, subtraction, and number sentences. I hadn’t realized how much decomposing numbers helps their math sense. Osmo’s Numbers does just this. My son is breaking down numbers and figuring out how they work. Using this game in repetition will surely help his math abilities.

Not pictured: the INTENSITY of this shot. Here, the boys are playing two-player Words. They are each tossing letters into the center and hoping to guess the spelling of the word. For the 6yo, it is conscientious. He is able to consider which vowels are the right fit. For the 3yo, it is a lot of guesswork. He focuses on the first and last vowels. The middle is still confusing, as is suspected. I stress here that despite the 3yo being outside of the age level, he is still able to have fun and try out words, which is fun and exciting for him (and for me!).

And lastly, I share a picture of the boys playing Newton together. (Kellee highlights Tangrams and Masterpiece above.) I said earlier that Tangrams is my kids’ favorite, but now I wonder if their favorite might also be Newton. Gosh this game is so fun. They are considering gravity and physics. The game forces them to problem solve. If they mess up, they might slide the paper a little bit.

If you are on the fence, we recommend the Osmo highly. The kids have been having a BLAST, and it makes learning really fun. As an educator who doesn’t believe much in worksheets, this is a phenomenal system that has brought a lot of joy to our house.

The kids have been making big plans for which kits they are going to put on their wishlists for birthdays and holidays! I am very intrigued by the Pizza kit, so that might be next!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: We highly recommend Osmo for centers in classrooms. There are ways to set up multiple profiles which will make it so students can each have their own progress and with the hands-on + technology, students will have so much fun while learning!

Here are the subjects that the Genius Starter Kit compliments:

  • Math: Tangram and Numbers
  • Reading: Words
  • Handwriting: Masterpiece
  • Science: Newton
  • Basic geography (maps): Masterpiece
  • Spatial relationships: Tangram

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**Thank you to Tangible Play, Inc. for providing starter kits for review!**

From an Idea series by Lowey Bundy Sichol

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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?

Recommended For: 

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

How to Code a Sandcastle by Josh Funk

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

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

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

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

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

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

Discussion Questions: 

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

Flagged Passages: 

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

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Landscape with Invisible Hand by M. T. Anderson

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Landscape with Invisible Hand
Author: M. T. Anderson
Published: September 12, 2017 by Candlewick

Summary: National Book Award winner M. T. Anderson returns to future Earth in a sharply wrought satire of art and truth in the midst of colonization.

When the vuvv first landed, it came as a surprise to aspiring artist Adam and the rest of planet Earth – but not necessarily an unwelcome one. Can it really be called an invasion when the vuvv generously offered free advanced technology and cures for every illness imaginable? As it turns out, yes. With his parents’ jobs replaced by alien tech and no money for food, clean water, or the vuvv’s miraculous medicine, Adam and his girlfriend, Chloe, have to get creative to survive. And since the vuvv crave anything they deem “classic” Earth culture (doo-wop music, still-life paintings of fruit, true love), recording 1950s-style dates for the vuvv to watch in a pay-per-minute format seems like a brilliant idea. But it’s hard for Adam and Chloe to sell true love when they hate each other more with every passing episode. Soon enough, Adam must decide how far he’s willing to go – and what he’s willing to sacrifice – to give the vuvv what they want.

Review: 

  • Futuristic, dark satire that is an unusual, intelligent social commentary
  • Forces readers to think deeply about their personal, social, and political lives
  • Somewhat non-linear story with an interesting layout: each chapter has a title that corresponds with the artwork created by the main character
  • Stylistically, Anderson chooses every word with intention. The text is a 149-page novella that features chapters that can be taught instructionally as vignettes.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation:  Teachers might ask students to begin by looking closely at the text for short passages that they find particularly interesting or inspiring. Students might write a one-pager that a) unpacks the passage they chose, and b) examines the passage through the lens of a topic that they find particularly interesting and relevant. For example, they might connect a passage to the following topics which are relevant in the text:

Art

Automation

Capitalism

Classism

Economy

Entrepreneurship

Existentialism

Extraterrestrial Life

Health Care

Immigration

Love

Politics

Poverty

Sickness

Nostalgia

Unemployment

After the students have written several one-pagers and explored a variety of topics, they might select one topic that interests them most. They can research scholarship about the topic and look across the entire text for relevant passages.

Sample research paper topics:

Examining economic disparities and classism within Landscape with Invisible Hand

Finding the soul: M.T. Anderson’s treatment of love and art in Landscape with Invisible Hand

Discussion Questions: Do you think M. T. Anderson had a purpose for writing this text?; What kind of social commentary does this text offer?; What does it tell us about love? Society? Humanity?; How does Anderson use art to enhance the story?; How is the text structured? How does this enhance your reading?

Flagged Passage: “We are tiny figures, faceless, pointing at wonders, provided for scale, no lives of our own, surveying the landscape that has engulfed us all.”

Read This If You Loved: Feed by M. T. Anderson; Books by Scott Westerfeld; The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer

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Thank you, Candlewick!

RickiSig