Sunday, November 27, 2016

Separate is Never Equal

Last blog post, Folks!

Today I'll be reviewing Separate is Never Equal: Syliva Mendez and her Family's Fight for Desegregation. 

Image result for separate is never equalPublication Information: 
Publisher: Abrams
Publication Date: 2014
ISBN: 9781613126332
Lexile Reading Level:
Awards/Recognition: 2015 Pura Belpre Illustrator Honor Book and a 2015 Robert F. Siebert Honor Book.

This narrative nonfiction picture book tells the story of Sylvia Mendez. About ten years before Brown v. Board of Education, Sylvia Mendez and her brothers were citizens of Mexican and Puerto Rican heritage, who spoke perfect English. Their aunt attempted to enroll them in a near by white school with her children, but the Mendez children were denied enrollment and were forced to attend Mexican school which was in a cramped, muddy barn. Sylvia's parents decided to take action and filed a large lawsuit in federal district court against the school. The Mendez family won and helped end school segregation in California.

Related imageSeparate is Never Equal begins with Sylvia's first day attending the formerly all-white school. She is teased by some of the children and when she returns home, asks her mother why she has to go there when she is not welcome and being bullied. Her mother then reminds her of what the family just went through so that she and her brothers could attend. "When she got home that afternoon, she told her mother, Felicitas, what had happened. "I don't want to go to that school anymore, the kids are mean."
"Sylvia," said her mother." ¿no sabes que por luchamos?" "Don't you know that is why we fought?" (pg. 2).

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I really enjoyed this book and it would make a great read aloud for kindergarten-2nd grade or so. When we think of the Civil Rights movement, we don't always think about the segregation problems that other cultures were facing in addition to African-Americans. Sylvia Mendez's story is a great example of what the Hispanic population was also fighting at the time. The illustrations are great, and remind me a little bit of South American/temple art style (not sure where I'm going with this description and it may be just me here). The figures have very curved features, but it's complete two dimensional. None of the characters are ever seen with their face facing forward; only their side profile.

This book is a must-have for the classroom for building a diverse library. It tells the story with details that would matter to a child, meaningful, child-like language.

Monday, November 21, 2016

How to Code: A Step-By-Step Guide to Computer Coding

Today's book is first book I've reviewed so far that wouldn't work well as a read aloud for early elementary/preschool. That's not necessarily a bad thing. How to Code: A Step-By-Step Guide to Computer Coding by Max Wainewright is a procedural nonfiction book that teaches kids how to code using methods such as Scratch, Logo, Python, HTML, and JavaScript. That sounds like a lot of thick reading doesn't it?

It's actually not so bad.

Image result for how to code: a step by step guide to computer coding

Publication Information

Publisher: Sterling Children's Books
Publication Year: 2016
ISBN: 9781454921776
Lexile Level: between 710L - 800L (7-10 year olds)

This book is very well organized into four different chapters. The first chapter introduces Logo and Scratch, which are the easiest of the methods. Python, HTML, and JavaScript don't get introduced until Chapters 3 and 4. Within each chapter is a short introduction, then step by step tutorial that introduces a single concept per two pages (with the book open, the two pages facing you will teach you one concept. If you turn the page, the next two pages are the next concept. ) The book gives plenty of opportunity to practice, and it challenges kids to try to expand on each activity. There's an answer key at the end of each chapter. There's a glossary and an index in the back as well.

Not only is it well organized, but the design is appealing as well. There are several robot characters in the book that use speech bubbles to explain some of the terms. The text is organized into blocks so that way there aren't large chunks of text so it's spread out and easier to read. There are lots of images taken directly from the programs that the book teaches kids to use, so their computer screens would look identical to what is being done in the book. As I went through this book, I used it to teach myself how to use Scratch, which is a program that we'd like to use more often at my library. It was easy for me to have the book open by my computer as I followed each step to make a game. The design is brightly colored, and the background design of each page looks like a circuit board or wires. It's possible that for some children this background might be a bit distracting and too busy on the eyes. However, the steps are numbered, and there are connecting arrows, so that definitely helped me get passed the busy background designs.

I believe the chapters of this book are sold individually, if that is less overwhelming, or perhaps a child only wants to learn Logo and Scratch, or maybe you've got a coder expert who wants to take a stab at HTML and wants to read the more difficult chapters. As a whole though, this book isn't as long or daunting as it sounds: about a 120 pages, but as you can see, the pages don't have an overwhelming amount of text on them. The language is kid-friendly, and it uses real-life situations to explain the concept of coding, such as "Making Breakfast" like in the image to the left.

Books like these are important to notice right now because coding has become very popular in schools, libraries and homes.  As someone who is pretty familiar with basic coding, I believe this book's instruction did a great job introducing certain terms and concepts at appropriate times. For example, it introduced the very basics first, where you label each step, specifically. In the next chapter, it teaches kids how to loop their commands, which means that you can have the same step repeated a certain or infinite number of times, and it cuts down the repetition and saves space in your code. The book explains this concept in every day life, "We use loops in every day life without thinking about it. When your teacher hands out books, he or she says, "Hand out all the books," not, "Hand out this book, then this book, then this book..." and so on! ...We use words like "each" or "every" to give our every day commands -  it's the same as saying "Repeat 20" in a loop." (page 39). I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is trying to learn coding in order to teach it, as well as the curious child or student who would like to use coding for personal or academic reasons.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

Image result for chicka chicka boom boom 

"A Told B and B Told C, I'll meet you at the top of the Coconut Tree." (Martin and Archambault, 1989).

Today's blog post is about a childhood classsic (for me, anyway) Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault, illustrated by Lois Elhert.

Publication Information
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Publication Year: 1989
ISBN: 1442450703
Lexile Reading Level: AD530L
Awards/Recognition: Parent's Choice Award 2003

Written by the author that brought us Brown Bear Brown Bear What do you See? and illustrated by Caldecott Honor Winner Lois Elhert, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom is arguably one of the most well-known alphabet children's book of all time. I remember reading this book all the time growing up as a child, reading it to my students when I taught preschool, and I occasionally read it at story time at work.

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom uses rhymes and simple, bright illustrations to depict anthropomorphized letters (meaning they have human characteristics) as they climb to the top of a coconut tree. Once all the lowercase letters make it to the top, the tree can no longer hold their weight and they all fall down. Their family members (the upper case letters) arrive to help them out and tend their injuries. All of the letters always appear in alphabetical order and the alphabet is gone through twice.

Image result for chicka chicka boom boom

This book is well known for it's rhyming because it's got a jazzy improvisational beat to it as it's read aloud. It's fun and there are so many ways you can put this book to music. Kids can relate to it because the lower case letters act like kids, betting that they can race to the top of the tree.  The back of the book lists all the letters together, both upper and lower case. I think it's great that it's about the lowercase letters and not just the upper. Lowercase is typically the most difficult to learn because of how similar b, d, & p are, as well as many other letters. Having the upper and lowercase letters be portrayed as family members is another way to relate to kids. It makes sense that the lowercase (little) letter has a big Mom, Dad, Brother, or Sister letter that matches.

The letters and the coconut tree, being so simply illustrated are easy to recreate in a classroom or library setting. In my classroom we made a life size coconut tree taped against our wall and whenever we learned a new letter, we'd have a Chicka Chicka Boom Boom parade and chant the famous words as we stuck the letter on the coconut tree. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom teaches letters in a developmentally appropriate way for young children, through music and rhymes, and fun.

Monday, October 24, 2016

LEO the Maker Prince: Journey's in 3D Printing

Today’s blog post is about Leo the Maker Prince: Journeys in 3D Printing by Carla Diana.

Publication Information:
Publisher: Maker Media, Inc.
Publication Year: 2013
ISBN: 9781457183140
Lexile Reading Level: Not available

This narrative and informational book is awesome for any age. The author takes the stage as our narrator, Carla, and describes how she used to be creative as a child but after being misunderstood she gave up her dream to be an artist and became an accountant. One day, while trying to make it home safely during Hurricane Sandy, she runs into this robot named LEO, who fell off of his mail truck and was abandoned. It turns out, LEO isn’t actually a Robot, but instead a 3D Printer. LEO teaches Carla all about 3D printers. How they work, what you can make (ANYTHING!) and what types of 3D printers are out there. LEO prints out anything that Carla can create, and they escape the storm together. In addition, Diana writes a preface at the beginning of the book with more details about the history of 3D Printers and the inspiration behind wanting to write this book.

“LEO was generating amazing heat and precise movements. But to what end? I had no idea. And then, four pools of plastic appeared on the tray. “Sheep feet?!” I exclaimed, as I realized that the black squares matched the bottom view of the sheep I had drawn.” (Diana, 2013).  

Using friendly, conversational language, Diana’s cute anecdotal narrative is jam packed with information about 3D Printing. What is unique about this book is the images inside. It’s partially illustrated, but there are also real photographs of 3D printed objects. Shown below is an illustration of LEO 3D printing a sheep that Carla drew. It clearly depicts how a 3D Printer’s arm melts plastic and moves back and forth across the tray to eventually form a 3D shape.

LEO goes on to tell Carla all about his other 3D printer friends who can 3D print jewelry out of metal, or make games out of 3D printed food, like cheese and chocolate (if you can melt it, you can 3D print with it!)

And yes, to the left, are 3D printed chess pieces made of cheese and completely edible after a good game.

Is there anything that could make this book any cooler? Yes, there is. Every image of a 3D printed object in the book is available to be printed at home or ordered from a 3D printing service. All of the designs of every 3D printed object in the book can be found on the book’s website: This book really wants to inspire kids to become makers and create their own designs. The website also has a section where kids can share what they 3D printed and even though they got the designs from the website, each 3D printed object was given some extra creativity in their own way.

My one main criticism of this book is that it’s very long. It would be a fantastic read aloud of broken up into chunks. I’m not sure if some of the “story” bits in the book are needed, per sey. It’s all great, but things could have been simplified a little bit more without taking away from all of the fun in the book. Overall though, this book could be enjoyed from pre-school through middle school. Honestly though, I think it would even capture the attention of high schoolers and adults.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

And Tango Makes Three

Hi Everyone! This has been a CRAZY week for me (that ultimately ended up with me getting sick! =()  so I'm sorry it's taken me so long to get this up.

My entry today is about And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell.

Image result for and tango makes three
Publication Information 
ISBN: 1481446959
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Publish Date: 2005
Lexile Reading Level: AD720L
Awards/Recognition: American Library Association Notable Children's Book 2006

Banned Book 

This is a really heartwarming and quirky narrative nonfiction book about the true story of how two male penguins at the Central Park Zoo, Roy and Silo, end up hatching and raising a baby penguin together. True to form, it follows the style of a fiction picture book, however, the author's note at the back of the book explains that all of the events are true, and retells the story with some specific detail such as dates, and how exactly Roy and Silo were given the egg.

Image result for and tango makes threeThe book focuses on Roy and Silo's relationship and how they try to copy the actions of other penguin couples, including building a nest, and sitting on a rock every day since they couldn't lay their own eggs. The story goes for the story telling style rather than blunt information. For example, the zoo keeper plays a big role in how Roy and Silo get an egg. In the author's note, it says that the zoo keeper found another penguin couple, who normally can only raise one egg at a time, laid two fertile eggs. The zoo keeper gave the one of the eggs to Roy and Silo. In the story, it leaves out the specifics of how the zoo keeper got the egg, and instead says simply, "He found an egg that needed to be cared for and he brought it to Roy and Silo's nest." I'm not criticizing the book for this stylistic choice, especially since it is explained at the end. In addition, And Tango Makes Three has a bigger message to get across. A message about family. The book ends with zoo-goers seeing Roy, Silo, and little Tango living happily with their fellow penguins, just like any other penguin in the habitat.

Image result for and tango makes threeAll families in this day and age are very unique and come in all shapes, sizes, and combinations. It's important for children to see that there isn't a 'normal standard' for families except that they all love one another. In a school or group setting, we need to make sure all of our students and children feel that they belong, no matter what kind of family they come from. If not, it can lead to bullying,, depression, and a lot of awful things that it makes me tear up reading about. Regardless of my beliefs on some of these issues, I absolutely cannot stand these issues making their way into the hearts of a young child, leaving them feeling like they don't belong. Unfortunately, a lot of books that instill love and respect for 'non traditional' families cause some controversy and I can understand that because of the way I was raised growing up.  And Tango Makes Three has been the number one banned book for several years because it not only shows a 'non traditional' family, but they're animals. Parents can have a big problem with that. However, when I read this book, after the first few pages the focus shifted from Roy and Silo as a couple, to the problem of infertility, which is a very common problem that any couple could face and relate to. Baby penguin Tango needed a family since her biological parents were unable to care for more than one baby at a time. It's ultimately a story about adoption.

I would pair this book with The Family Book, by Todd Parr. This book brings up very diverse families, including same-sex families. While it's gotten some heat from parents and it's been banned in a few places for that reason, it's caused less of a fuss than And Tango Makes Three. That may be because the same-sex couple section only takes up two pages that can easily be skipped by parents who don't want their child seeing it. It delivers the same message that every family is special and all families love one another. I read The Family Book for a story time one time and I was hesitant at first because I was concerned about upsetting people. However, there were a few tenants that I always stand by at my story times, which is what ultimately got me to read it: 1) Everyone is welcome at my story times. 2) I knew for a fact I had some children who attend my story times who have two moms or two dads and I want them to feel included and valued. 3) I work at a public library for pete's sake. I can always stand by intellectual freedom. 4) If anyone really did get mad, I knew my boss would support me and they're free to leave. After that story time, only one family did leave, but they left quietly and I haven't seem them since.

Teacher's should consider books such as And Tango Makes Three and The Family Book because it's important to have these discussions with children about our families and what makes them great.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Oscar and the Bird: A Book About Electricity

Hello everyone!

Today's book is all about Oscar and the Bird: A Book About Electricity by Geoff Waring.

"What's electricity?" Oscar asked. "It's a kind of energy that people use to help things move, make sounds, light up, or heat up," Bird said." (Waring, 2009)

Image result for oscar and the birdPublication Information:
ISBN: 9780763653026
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publish Date: 2009
Lexile Reading Level: AD620L

A "Start with Science" Book

This is an narrative informational nonfiction book that is a part of a "Start with Science" series featuring Oscar the cat, and other animals that help answer his questions about science. Each book covers a different part of introductory science. For example there's also Oscar and the Bat, which is a book about sound, Oscar and the Cricket, which is about moving and rolling. There's also Oscar books about other basic concepts such as light and dark. I chose to focus on Oscar and the Bird because it's a book in this series that I have access to, and it's one that I've started to work closely with as we start our Circuitry activities at my local library.

This is another "Intro to nonfiction" book for youth that poses and answers questions in a instructional way, however using language and vocabulary that is familiar with young children. Waring's illustrations are friendly and curious, but very basic. The pages have a mostly solid, but bright colored backgrounds on the pages, so the characters and the diagrams stick out. Oscar the cat is drawn with very big eyes that make it clear that he is a very curious cat, ready to learn about new things. The examples look realistic, but have minimal detail so that way children have a good visual of the concept being learned. Oscar and the Bird focuses on electricity. Oscar stumbles upon windshield wipers on a tractor and asks the wipers move. Bird swoops in and explains that it's because of electricity, and breaks down the parts of a circuit.

Oscar and the Bird would be a great read aloud accompaniment to a circuitry activity for young children (Pre-K-2nd grade) because one of the key objectives in a basic circuitry lesson is to talk about how electricity works and that you need a power source, conductive materials, and a switch to move electricity around, and finally, a light/motor to create the desired effect. I would recommend it because it reads like a story book, however, there's really not much of a story. There is a fictional cat and a bird, but they're facilitating a discussion and explaining the concept. There's no dramatization and the characters are there to represent a voice that appeals to children. It does the work of providing a child-friendly definition of electrical concepts for us, and gives us more time to have productive discussions with children and applying the story to the rest of the lesson or activity.

The last pages of the book summarize everything that Oscar learned about electricity with visuals/diagrams, and t includes an index of key words. When continuing an activity this would be a great page to reference or blow up on a projector screen to remind children what concepts were introduced in the book.  There is not a bibliography in this particular book in the series, which is a little disappointing. However at the beginning of the book there is a credit to someone from the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education for input and guidance throughout the making of the book so that tells me that some professional advice was sought when putting the book together, which is better than no source citing at all.

I know that this book is a little bit older, however, it was reprinted again in 2011 and that's the current version that's available from Walmart, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other websites. I think it's harder to find in stores, but readily available online. Part of the reason why I wanted to highlight this book is because we are working on developing Circuitry activities at work and we spent quite awhile looking for a quality book that would be good to read aloud to young children to help explain the concept and tie in well with an introductory circuitry activity. Oscar and the Bird completely fits the bill for us because of it's clean illustrations and diagrams and child-friendly language. What I also like about it is that it furthers the discussion and talks about how electricity can be made from other forms of energy such as wind. I'd recommend it for any inquisitive child who likes to ask, "Why?"

Image result for oscar and the bird
"Is electricity helping them move?" Oscar asked Bird. "No," Bird said. "It's the other way around! The wind turns the blades, and the movement makes electricity." (Waring, 2009). 
Image result for little bitsThere are a lot of great activities that allow children to explore circuitry. Such as a Makey Makey or Little Bits. This book would pair well with either of these, perhaps Little Bits more than the Makey Makey. A Little Bits kit includes a battery (that is discussed vividly in the book), magnetic wires, a type of switch (button, switch, dial, slide), and the choice between a light, a buzzer, or a fan. The diagram of the circuit in the book could easily be replicated with the individual pieces of a Little Bits kit and keep the connection and conversation going during an activity where children make their own circuits with Little Bits. Another supplemental activity would be asking children to identify some of their every day objects at home that use electricity.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Finding Winnie

Hope everyone had an amazing labor day weekend! Be warned..Things are about to get cute and cuddly in here! 

Today's entry I'm going to be talking about Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World's Most Famous Bear by Lindsay Mattick, and illustrated by Sophie Blackall.

"There is something special about that bear." He felt inside his pocket and said, "I shouldn't." He paced back and forth and said, "I can't." Then his heart made up his mind, and he walked up to the trapper and said, "I'll give you twenty dollars for the bear." (Mattick, 2015)
Image result for finding winnie
Publication Information: 
ISBN: 9780316324908
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publish Date:Oct. 2015
Lexile Reading Level: AD590L
Awards/Recognition: Caldecott Medal

This is a narrative nonfiction picture book which follows the true story of how a World War One veterinarian, Harry Colebourn, rescues a baby bear that he named Winnipeg, or Winnie for short. This bear is quickly accepted as the mascot in Harry's regiment and trains with the soldiers for the upcoming war. It's a heart-warming and awe-inspiring narrative, so much so that it's hard to believe that it really happened. 

I absolutely love it, and I believe kids who love transportation, teddy bears, Winnie-The-Pooh, and other animals will too. We all grew up over the tale of Winnie-the-Pooh, and this book explains how A. A. Milne became inspired to create our beloved Pooh bear. 

This Caldecott award-winning book is filled with beautiful illustrations, with text that runs along the sides of each page. It's written by the great-grand daughter of Harry Colebourn, and she puts herself in the book telling the story of Colebourn to her young son, Cole. She includes some great details at the end such as a family tree, and images of Harry and Winnie from their time in the army as well as the journal page that Harry wrote in that shows the date Harry bought Winnie from a trapper. There's even a photo of Christopher Robin Milne feeding Winnie with A. A. Milne in the background - real proof for those who find this story hard to believe. 

Harry's Diary, August 24, "Bought Bear $20"

Harry and Winnie, the photo that inspired the pictured statue in Winnipeg and London

This is a cozy companion to read to a child at home, or as a read aloud at school. I would recommend it be read in segments for pre-school age, and maybe even kindergarten because it is a little long for a picture book. This story would also be compatible for first and second grade as they start learning to read on their own - great for practicing reading and comprehension skills. There is a lot of text, however, it's mostly easy to sound out words with a few challenging new words spread out occasionally in the book. 

How the text is oriented on each page.
If I were personally using this in a classroom read-aloud or for a library story time, I would consider omitting the italicized parts. My only criticism is that these italicized parts are just a sentence or two of conversation that happens between Lindsay and Cole that don't contribute much to the narrative and interrupt the story for me. As a read aloud it would also be confusing for the children to be listening about Harry and Winnie and all of a sudden be brought back to present day just so Cole could make a comment about his reaction to what is happening - instead of letting the book do the conversation and reflecting alone, have the conversation with the kids who are listening! Lindsay uses this to teach vocabulary, but this can be incorporated as a teacher led moment with the class during a read aloud - let these vocabulary teaching moments happen naturally and not forced. 

This book is a great introduction to a biography and history lesson for little learners, as it reads like a fictional picture book, however the content is a true story in the words of a direct descendant of the person the book is about. It's appropriate for this age group because it's of a subject matter that kids are interested in; children love teddy bears, pets, and Winnie-the-Pooh! 

As the kids get older this book would be great to open up discussion about World War One, or comparing the difference between what the past looks like, versus today. For example, the soldiers in the book take a large steam boat to cross the ocean, whereas today, we fly in airplanes. Do cars look different? How about how people dressed? Teachers can compare photos of army uniforms today versus uniforms in World War One. There's a great illustration of the regiment getting their photo taken with Winnie - cameras in the past were huge! We take pictures with smart phones and tablets now! This would tie in well with a Veterans Day or transportation themed unit. 

Here are a few Indiana Academic Standards that could be used with this book (I'm just sticking with Kindergarten for the purpose of this post! If you're interested in talking about other standards, let me know!): 

Social Studies, History Standard: K.1.1 Compare children and families of today with those from the past. Example: Compare clothing, houses, and other objects.

English Academic Standards: K.RN.3.1: Identify text features of a nonfiction text (e.g., title, author, illustrations) and describe the relationship between those features and the text in which they appear. 

Finding Winnie would be a great addition to any home or library, as a grown adult I found this story intriguing and fun!