A Fantastic Non-Fiction Series for Readers

A couple of months ago I had the opportunity to review Kid Artists… by David Stabler. I was so excited to find a captivating non-fiction chapter book for upper elementary and middle school aged readers. I was even more delighted to learn that there were more books in the series which includes Kid Presidents* and Kid Athletes*. 

Each book features true tales from a famous person’s childhood making it easy for readers to relate to them and deeply humanizing these important figures who would go on to become famous athletes of presidents. Readers do not need to know much about the person before reading the chapters. Instead of being grouped chronologically, they are grouped by a theme that connects them.

For example, read about Barack Obama’s experience being the new kid in town. He left his home in Hawaii as a young boy to live in Indonesia with his family. There he had a pet gibbon, a type of ape, that ate peanuts from his hand. As a kid, he had to adjust to many changes living in his new home in Indonesia and he faced a significant amount of bullying for looking different and not speaking the language. The chapter teaches about overcoming obstacles, standing up for yourself and encourages kids to become resilient.

  Though I am not a huge sports enthusiast, there are certain times that I am absolutely captivated by sports, including the Summer Olympics. I have a big fan of gymnastics and always amazed by the focus and dedication of the youngest athletes to their sport and art. Kid Athletes is perfect for readers who love sports and for those who have specific athletes they admire. I was obviously drawn to the chapter about Gabby Douglass, the first African American gymnast to win an individual all-around gold medal during the 2012 Olympics.

Her chapter is featured in the section of the book called Family Matters, which explores the important role family played in the childhoods of a group of athletes. As a young child, Gabby demonstrated an early aptitude for gymnastics which led to her joining a gymnastics gym with rigorous instruction and training. Here she encountered bullying due to discrimination and faced many racist remarks from her peers.

Gabby struggled to keep this to herself and it ended up impacting her performances. Meanwhile, her coaches accepted mediocrity at best from her and did not push her to excel in the way that she was fully capable. When she finally was able to connect with a coach who believed in her, she gained the courage to stand up for herself and her gymnastics career skyrocketed.

Each chapter of David Stabler’s books is carefully crafted in a way that is engaging and informative. Each has an important lesson that the readers can take away and apply to his or her own life. Doogie Horner’s illustrations add an element of comedy and help the reader envision what is happening in the text. The partnership between author and illustrator is perfect and I can’t wait to see what else this series has in store!

Click here to purchase a copy of Kid Presidents and Kid Athletes (affiliate links).

*I received complimentary copies of these books in exchange for my honest review.

 

The Grandest Canyon

Grand Canyon by Jason Chin is a phenomenal non-fiction picture book packed with the history and science behind the formation of one of the seven wonders of the world. More than just a large whole in the ground, the Grand Canyon is home to many different types of plants and animals. In fact the conditions vary so much from level to level of the canyon that each layer sustains a different type of plant and animal life entirely! How cool is that?

Jason Chin tells “the story” of the Grand Canyon as a father and daughter pair embark on a camping trip. Diagrams are great text features in helping the reader better understand complicated scientific concepts including erosion.

This book includes flashbacks in time so the reader can better understand how the Grand Canyon was formed by the movement of different bodies of water over time. For example, this illustration accompanies the description of what the Grand Canyon would have looked like 1.2 billion years ago when the only things living on Earth’s surface were tiny microbes. This mud would eventually transform into a layer of rock that became part of the canyon.

Grand Canyon is packed with many different lenses through which the reader can learn about this amazing natural phenomenon.  Jason Chin leaves us with a breathtaking four-page spread of the Grand Canyon that adds to the awe and wonder he inspires throughout the book.

Click here to purchase a copy of Grand Canyon (affiliate link).

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1596439505/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1596439505&linkCode=as2&tag=g505-20&linkId=288c64b0ee4ab7b68c0510fbb97797de

*I received a complimentary copy of Grand Canyon in exchange for my honest review.

The Power of Change

Allan Drummond’s Pedal Power is a non-fiction picture book that tells the story of how Amsterdam became the cycling capital of the world. This is a wonderful example of cause and effect or problem and solution text structure which is clear for readers from the onset.

When I travelled to Amsterdam while studying abroad in Spain many many years ago, I was taken aback by how prominent cycling was in this gorgeous European city. Pedal Power captures the energy of bikes buzzing down the wide streets.

Back in the 1970s Amsterdam’s streets were dominated by vehicles. Many beautiful buildings were being torn down to make room for wider streets and tunnels to accommodate all the traffic. The streets became too dangerous for cyclists. Young moms decided to take a stand. Led by Maartje Rutten, the dialogue about making the streets safe for everyone was ignited. People began congregating and protesting in conventional and more creative ways.

Overtime, they saw the impact of their protesting and change started to happen. Pedal Power encourages readers to not settle for the status quo but to take a chance and speak up for what you believe in. In this case, Maartje Rutten and a group of young mothers and children came together to make a change that impact not only their community but set an example for many big cities across the world.

Click here to purchase a copy of Pedal Power (affiliate link). 

*I received a complimentary copy of Pedal Power in exchange for my honest review.

 

 

Preparing to Celebrate Earth Day

I love books that teach kids about the Earth, nature and its creatures. Hopefully exposing them to fiction and non-fiction books that teach us about the Earth from a young age will create a generation driven to saving what we have so effortlessly destroyed over time.

Ella Bailey’s books One Day on Our Blue Planet… in the Savannah and One Day on Our Blue Planet… in the Antarctic are a perfect celebration of animals in their habitats.

In One Day on Our Blue Planet… in the Savannah young readers spend a day with a playful young cub learning and exploring life in the desert. From spending time with its family to finding trouble around every corner, this picture book is a celebration of life in an African desert. The illustrations are highly detailed and captivating, inviting the youngest of readers to engage in a conversation about what they see. One Day on Our Blue Planet… in the Savannah is the perfect book for budding animal and nature enthusiasts.

One Day on Our Blue Planet… in the Antarctic learn all about an Adelie penguin chick as she prepares to leave home and sets out to sea. The reader tags along as the penguin swims, finds food to eat and avoids danger. This is another stunning celebration of a rich habitat. The illustrations are filled with blues and whites and movement that captures the energy of life in the Antarctic.

Stay tuned for some additional picture books to help us celebrate Earth Day, which falls on April 22, 2017.

Click here to purchase a copy of One Day on Our Blue Planet… in the Savannah and One Day on Our Blue Planet… in the Antarctic.

 

 

The Challenge of Sounding it Out

I was immediately drawn to Phoebe Sounds It Out by Julie Zwillich when I read the synopsis. This is the perfect book for any child whose name isn’t easy to pronounce or to spell. My husband’s last name is 13-letters long and contains several silent Hs. It’s very rare for someone to pronounce it correctly. I cannot help but worry how our daughter will respond when posed with the challenge of spelling her last name when that time comes. I think Phoebe Sounds It Out will be the perfect addition to her library to encourage her to try her best.

When Phoebe’s teachers announce that the class will be practicing writing their names, Phoebe does her best to avoid the task. She sees her name which has been stitched onto her backpack by her mom, but that name starts with a P and she knows her name starts with the “Fff” sound. She figures that her mom made a mistake.

Phoebe’s teachers encourage her to try her best and to sound it out. The classroom environment is one that allows her to take risks and to try her best as she stretches out the letter sounds and slowly writes each letter. Her efforts are celebrated and her work goes up on display along with all her classmates’.

Phoebe Sounds It Out is a wonderful picture book for reluctant writers. It encourages kids to take risks and to take pride in their work. The illustrations by Denise Holmes perfectly capture the mood of the story, from Phoebe’s nervousness to the calm energy in the classroom. This book is relatable and accessible to readers of all ages.

The Caterpillar Corner and Owlkids Books have partnered in a very special giveaway of Phoebe Sounds It Out. For additional details please click here.

Click here to purchase a copy of Phoebe Sounds It Out (affiliate link).

*I received a complimentary copy of Phoebe Sounds It Out in exchange for my honest review.

When Small Gestures Become Great Gifts

Sidewalk Flowers was conceived by Jon Arno Lawson and beautifully illustrated by Sydney Smith. This picture book is a wordless wonder. A young girl dressed in a red is walking along the busy sidewalks with her distracted father.

The young girl is curious. While those around her are focused on where they are going, she notices the smallest of details. She suddenly she discovers two small yellow dandelions growing in between the cracks of the sidewalk and so she picks them. As they continue walking together she picks many different types of weeds and wildflowers, creating a beautiful bouquet in her hands. On their way through the park, the father and daughter pass a dead bird. She is compelled to leave some flowers to honor the small creature. Then slowly, she gives away the rest of the flowers. From a man sleeping on a bench to a neighborhood dog.

Sydney Smith’s pen and ink illustrations are composed primarily of white, black and grays. At first the girl’s jacket and the flowers are simple splashes of color, but each time she gives her flowers away, more color is added to the world around her. The story is told using a series of panels with varied perspectives.

Sidewalk Flowers is a stunning book that invites the reader on a journey along with a humble and empathetic protagonist. We are encouraged to slow down and notice our surroundings. We are inspired to be intentional in our actions and kind to others.

This picture book is perfect readers ages 3-10. Younger readers will enjoy looking at the beautiful illustrations and talking about what is happening in the story. Older readers can explore the more complex social issues that arise across the pages as well as the author and illustrator’s craft moves. What I love about wordless books like Sidewalk Flowers is that they are accessible to all learners.

 

 

The Moon and Me

The Moon and Me is based on a song by Rush Cumming and produced into a board book by his family as a special tribute to him. The story is about adventure and companionship between a fox and the moon. The Moon and Me explores transitions and loss in a subtle yet moving way. It shows the reader that wherever he or she may go, the moon will always be there shining down on him or her.

The tone of this book is quiet and somber at times, though it ends on an optimistic and playful note.

Though the underlying message of The Moon and Me is complex and explores important life issues, this story also makes a gentle story as part of a bedtime routine. It may also be a great book to accompany a child who is preparing to spend time away from home, at a sleep over or with family.

Click here to purchase a copy of The Moon and Me (affiliate link).

*I received a complimentary copy of The Moon and Me in exchange for my honest review.

 

 

A Perfectly Moving Book About Loss

 

  My Yellow Balloon by Tiffany Papageorge is a wonderful and touching picture book about loss, portrayed through the experience of a young boy losing his beloved yellow balloon. The story is set in the 1930s, a carnival comes to town and young Joey sees a balloon man selling balloons. The beautiful mass of balloons hover in the air, mesmerizing the young boy. Unable to select one, the balloon man picks a yellow balloon for the young boy and ties it to his wrist.

The yellow balloon becomes Joey’s companion, joining him on his various adventures. Then one day, the unexpected happens. The balloon slips off of Joey’s wrist. He has no choice but to watch helplessly as his friend and companion floats up and up, away from the young boy. He is devastated. All color drains from the illustrations to help convey the intensity of his sadness.

Across the following pages, he experiences a range of emotions from anger to sadness. But in his dreams, Joey and his balloon are reunited.

Time passes slowly and Joey goes from missing his balloon all of the time to a lot of the time and some of the time. The ending of the story is precious and powerful. Though Joey is never reunited with his yellow balloon, he learns an invaluable lesson about transition and loss.

My Yellow Balloon is an incredible picture book that tackles such an important social issue in a way that is accessible for kids. There are not many books that deal with loss in a way that is easy for all young readers to relate to.

The Caterpillar Corner had the opportunity to speak with Tiffany Papageorge about her book My Yellow Balloon, a conversation which left us in complete awe of a book we already fell in love with. Each detail of the illustrations is carefully crafted, and plays as important of a role in the story as the text itself. For example, the change in the color palette of the illustrations reflect Joey’s innocence at the beginning of the story and later validate the importance of his experience toward the end. Another example includes all of the toys in his dream are found in different scenes of the book, with the exception of the pink unicorn.

In speaking with Tiffany Papageorge, we talk a lot about the power of loss to transform us as individuals. This lesson comes across in such a sophisticated way through the pages of My Yellow Balloon.

Click here to purchase a copy of My Yellow Balloon (affiliate link).

For more information about Tiffany Papageorge, including her in-school programs, please visit her website.

A Beautiful, Multicultural Coloring Book

Careers for Little Sisters is a very special coloring book that features realistic and inspirational career possibilities for young girls. It encourages young children to imagine their ideal jobs, from video game designers to doctors. Each page includes a short description that introduces the different job in an enthusiastic and accessible way. The pages reflect minority women in important, powerful roles, bringing multiculturalism to coloring books.

The Caterpillar Corner had a chance to chat with Melissa Del Toro Schaffner, creator of Careers for Little Sisters. Check out her answers to some of our questions below:

How did you come up with the idea for Careers for Little Sisters?

“Careers for Little Sisters” was born from a conversation I had with my mother back in 2015. Mom and I were marveling about the fact that many young girls spend their time coloring books about princesses, and pretending to be something that they most likely could not be as an adult. We were also amazed by the scarcity of realistic materials advertised for little girls (especially minority children) to color and dream about their futures. When we color, our imaginations take over and we dream about possibilities.

How did your own experiences growing up influence your decision to create Careers for Little Sisters?

Growing up a little Puerto Rican child in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood in Pittsburgh, PA, I had no idea what possibilities were out there for me when I “grew up”. The only role models I truly looked up to in my life were my mom and dad. When faced with the decision to choose a college and a major at seventeen years old, I felt I only had two options – be a teacher like mom or an engineer like dad. I choose electrical engineering.

Why was it so important to you to create Careers for Little Sisters?
I created this series to explain a wide variety of careers children can consider when they grow up, and what kinds of people might like that particular kind of work. I also wanted to feature beautiful minority women in various occupations not normally held by women, let alone women of color. I believe it’s important for our future as humanity to encourage children to become exactly who they came here to be, and give them permission to dream BIG goals for themselves.  It doesn’t matter if you don’t see anyone else like you doing something you want to do. I’m so grateful for having parents and friends who supported my vision to enter a field (engineering) that still, in 1991, was predominantly white and male. I enjoyed a long career in a field I never could have dreamed I was capable of doing because I was not naturally good at math.
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Careers for Little Sisters in Spanish is also now available in Spanish.

Click here to purchase a copy of this wonderful coloring book (affiliate link).

 

The Journey

There has never been a more timely and relevant book that Francesa Sanna’s The Journey. It’s a powerful and moving picture book that captures the experience of a refugee family trying to find a new safe place to call home. The illustrations capture the emotional setting perfectly and help readers of all ages imagine how difficult this journey truly is.

Told in first person, The Journey, is about a young girl whose family used to do ordinary things like go to the beach every summer. But a war began and their lives changed forever. Everything became darker and more difficult, which is captured by the drastic change in the color scheme of the illustrations.

The mother begins to prepare her children to leave their home and everyone they know behind in search of a safe place. She maintains an optimistic tone and even presents it to them as an adventure.

The family quickly learns, “The further we go… the more we leave behind.”

When they finally arrive at the border, there is an enormous wall. They face many obstacles and hardships, yet they persevere. Surrounded by the scary and unfamiliar, the mother comforts her children and keeps them safe in her embrace.

The Journey takes the reader on the journey of uncertainty and danger that many refugees face today. It is an invaluable story of hope even during the darkest of times that will inspire empathy and compassion in young readers.

This book is perfect for readers ages 5-10. It explores important social issues including war, family and loss.

Click here to purchase a copy of The Journey (affiliate link).

*I received a complimentary copy of The Journey in exchange for my honest review.