Out of the Blue: How Animals Evolved from Prehistoric Seas by Elizabeth Shreeve, illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon

Published by Candlewick

Out of the Blue: How Animals Evolved from Prehistoric Seas: Shreeve,  Elizabeth, Preston-Gannon, Frann: 9781536214109: Amazon.com: Books
Out of the Blue: How Animals Evolved from Prehistoric Seas: Shreeve,  Elizabeth, Preston-Gannon, Frann: 9781536214109: Amazon.com: Books

Summary:  Which two are the most closely related: hippo, dolphin, shark?  That question is asked before the title page; the text goes back to the beginning of life on earth to find an answer.  Each two-page spread shows animals for a geologic period, with several sentences of text telling what happened during this time.  The final three (Paleozoic Era, Mesozoic Era, and Cenozoic Era) are covered on two pages and take us up to the present, where we learn how the hippo and dolphin are related.  “Always changing.  Always evolving.  From out of the blue…and back again.”  Includes a list of sources.  32 pages; grades 1-5.  

Pros:  An excellent introduction to geological history and evolution.  Kids will enjoy poring over the illustrations of so many interesting creatures from so many different time periods.  A first-rate science book.

Cons:  It’s pretty challenging to cover the history of life on Earth in just 32 pages, and I can’t help thinking a little more back matter could have added more substance.

I Do Not Like Yolanda! by Zoey Abbott

Published by Tundra Books

I Do Not Like Yolanda: Abbott, Zoey: 9780735266513: Amazon.com: Books
I Do Not Like Yolanda – A Picture Book About Facing Your Fears – Mutually  Inclusive

Summary:  The narrator enjoys writing letters, loves stamps, but does not like Yolanda.  She writes to her pen pal in Sri Lanka, her grandma in Washington, DC, and her friend who moved to Uganda.  She does not, however, write to Yolanda.  Turns out Yolanda is a post office worker, and the girl has had some bad experiences with her.  Once, she spent an hour drawing a picture on her envelope, only to have Yolanda slap a postage label across it.  Another time, she dropped some change that Yolanda was giving her and didn’t have enough money to buy her stamps.  One day, she gathers up all her lucky charms and goes to the post office, hoping to get anyone but Yolanda to wait on her.  But wouldn’t you know it, Yolanda is the only one working.  So she tries something new: she asks Yolanda how her weekend was.  And Yolanda tells her.  She made the meal from Babette’s Feast, and it was delicious.  The girl realizes she has all kinds of questions about the meal as she walks away, and resolves to get in Yolanda’s line next time so she can ask them. 44 pages; grades K-3.

Pros:  Another picture book celebrating letter-writing and the postal system.  This one has an important message about confronting your fears, especially those around other people, and how sometimes we mask those fears by deciding not to like someone.  Definitely a fun conversation starter.

Cons:  It seemed unlikely that this girl would be captivated by a meal that included turtle soup, caviar, and rum sponge cake. 

On the road

I know it’s been quite a year for many of us, and I am no exception. As I wrote last spring, my job was eliminated due to budget cuts. I got that news on Monday, March 9, and the schools closed that Friday. A few months later, I was hired to be the librarian at Rebecca M. Johnson, an elementary school in Springfield, Massachusetts that hadn’t had a librarian in years. It’s been an interesting year of buying books, inventorying the collection, weeding, and trying to connect with students and teachers remotely.

On the home front, I recently sold my house and will be moving to another town in July, where I’ll go from solo home ownership to sharing an apartment with two housemates. I’m excited about the changes, and am looking to celebrate both them and my recent Covid vaccination (I received my second Pfizer shot on April 1) by traveling this summer.

Which brings me to the real reason for this post. I’m pretty flexible about my travel plans, and would enjoy meeting new people and doing some library consultation. Are you interested in chatting with me about your school, public, or classroom library? Send me an email at akidsbookaday@gmail.com to let me know what you have in mind, and I will see if I can come up with a travel itinerary to include meeting you.

P.S. – Someone just emailed me and asked me what kind of consultation I have in mind. Here’s how I replied: I don’t really have an agenda about consultations…just looking to travel and meet people.  I’ve worked in 11 school libraries over the years, and have helped teachers weed and reorganize classroom libraries, so I’d be happy to visit your library, talk to you about what’s working and not working, and possibly share ideas about changes, suggestions for the collection, etc.

Also, this is definitely unpaid consulting. Although if you want to take me to lunch, I won’t say no.

Cars, Signs, and Porcupines! By Ethan Long

Published by Henry Holt and Co.

Amazon.com: Cars, Signs, and Porcupines!: Happy County Book 3 (Happy  County, 3) (9781250765987): Long, Ethan, Long, Ethan: Books
Cars, Signs, and Porcupines! | Ethan Long | Macmillan

Summary:  It’s a beautiful, bustling morning in Happy County, and the animals are ready for a busy new day.  Community helpers are around to take care of the county, a job that includes chasing down a herd of playful porcupines.  There are street signs around to help everyone find their way, with explanations of what the different signs mean.  Cars, trains, and airplanes move the animals around the county, and allow readers to explore roads, airports, and waterways.  As the sun sets at the end of the day, the porcupines are back at Pauly and Polly’s Porcupine Playland, and the Happy County residents are ready for a relaxing evening.  48 pages; ages 3-6.

Pros:  Fans of Richard Scarry’s Busytown will enjoy this series (this is book 3) which, like Scarry’s books, is a visual feast of quirky characters engaged in interesting activities.  There’s also an educational element in each book; in this case, it’s teaching about signs and directions.  Fun for the whole family.

Cons:  The characters are introduced on the front endpapers, which of course means I couldn’t see them all in my library book.  By now, I’m sure you know how I feel about that.

A Shot in the Arm! (Big Ideas That Changed the World) by Don Brown

Published by Harry N. Abrams

A Shot in the Arm! (Hardcover) | ABRAMS
Bound To Stay Bound Books, Inc. - Bookstore

Summary:  Lady Mary Wortley Montagu narrates this graphic history of vaccines from the early 18th century.  After losing a brother to smallpox and becoming scarred by the disease herself, she was determined to protect her children from it.  Living in the Ottoman Empire with her family, she heard of a procedure that involved introducing some matter from a pox sore into a cut on a person’s arm.  She decided to have the procedure done on her son, and when she returned to England, on her daughter.  Princess Caroline, future Queen of England, got wind of this, and began her own series of experiments which eventually popularized the procedure in Great Britain.  From there, Lady Montagu continues the story of vaccines against various diseases: measles, mumps, polio, and, of course Covid.  The narrative ends in November of 2020 as Covid vaccines are being developed and tested: “The world holds its breath…and hopes.”  Includes a timeline; additional information on Mary Wortley Montagu; a lengthy bibliography; an author’s note; and an index.  144 pages; grades 3-7.

Pros:  I looked for an interview of Don Brown to see if he began work on this book before or after Covid, but couldn’t find one.  Either way, this book could hardly be more timely.  It does a great job of explaining the science in an understandable way, coming down firmly on the side of vaccination while acknowledging those who fear it with a certain degree of sympathy.  (Although I did love page 67 showing 19th-century British anti-vaxers saying things like, “I heard the doctors are wrong!” and “I don’t like the government telling me what to do!”).    The back matter makes this an excellent research tool.  

Cons:  This book is billed as #3 of 3 in the Big Ideas That Changed the World series.  I do hope that doesn’t mean it’s the last one.

What the Kite Saw by Anne Laurel Carter, illustrated by Akin Duzakin

Published by Groundwood Books

What the Kite Saw - Kindle edition by Carter, Anne Laurel, Duzakin, Akin.  Children Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.
What the Kite Saw: Carter, Anne Laurel, Duzakin, Akin: 9781773062433: Amazon.com:  Books

Summary:  When the narrator’s town is occupied, his brother and father are taken away, and a curfew is imposed each night.  He witnesses tanks rolling down his street and soldiers shooting at someone who breaks curfew.  He and his friends can gather in the park for an hour each day.  One day, he gets an idea that he shares with his friends.  Back home, he makes a star-shaped kite, and that night, he flies it from his rooftop.  Soon other kites are flying in the sky.  But not for long: soldiers fire on the kites and shoot them down.  That night the boy tells his mother and sister a story about what the kite saw as it flew high above their city.  Includes a two-sentence author’s note stating that the story was inspired by Palestinian children but could take place any place that children love to fly kites and are threatened by war.  32 pages; grades 2-5.

Pros:  A timely story of hope during a grim time.  The drab illustrations through most of the story contrast with the colorful ones when the boy and his friends gather in the park and fly their kites.  This could lead to some thoughtful discussions with upper elementary and middle school kids.

Cons:  Most recommendations I saw started at ages 4 and 5.  I’d be hesitant to put it in the picture book collection for preschool and primary ages.

Bubbles…Up! By Jacqueline Davies, illustrated by Sonia Sánchez

Published by Katherine Tegen Books

Bubbles . . . Up!: Davies, Jacqueline, Sánchez, Sonia: 9780062836618:  Amazon.com: Books
Bubbles . . . Up!: Davies, Jacqueline, Sánchez, Sonia: 9780062836618:  Amazon.com: Books

Summary:  A girl shares her day at the pool with poetic second-person narration: “Your friends circle up/Dunk and splash/Bump and crash/Laugh and laugh/Duck–and up!”  Her mom and younger brother are peripheral characters as she imagines a magical undersea world.  A brief thunderstorm clears the pool, but after it passes, the girl is off again.  There’s no end to the fun in sight, as the last page shows everyone floating on a giant inflatable ring.  32 pages; ages 3-8.

Pros:  An energetic summer slice-of-life, with both the text and illustrations celebrating the fun of a day at the pool.

Cons:  My fingers and toes feel pruney.

Something’s Wrong! A Bear, a Hare, and Some Underwear by Jory John, illustrated by Erin Kraan

Published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Something's Wrong! | Jory John | Macmillan
Something's Wrong! | Jory John | Macmillan

Summary:  Ever have one of those dreams where you suddenly realize you’re only wearing your underwear (or worse)?  Jeff the bear’s about to leave his house, and he can’t figure out what’s wrong.  He ate breakfast, he watered  his plant, he took a bath, he tried on his gift from his grandma…. Readers will notice right away what the gift was, but off Jeff goes into the forest, where bug-eyed animals ask “Why is that bear wearing underwear?” as he walks away.  Jeff tries to move forward confidently, but can’t help feeling that something is amiss.  Finally, he goes to his best friend, Anders the rabbit, who tells him what’s up, then addresses all the animals in the forest about it.  A little reverse psychology takes care of everything, and Anders tells him, “Good friends are like good underwear, Jeff.  They’re reliable and they’re supportive.”  40 pages; ages 3-8.

Pros:  Put this book on display before a first grade class comes into the library, and if it’s still there when they’re lined up to leave, start checking for pulses. Would pair well with Who Wet My Pants? in a “bears in compromising positions” story hour.

Cons:  It’s like a nightmare come true.

Ways to Grow Love: A Ryan Hart Story by Renée Watson, illustrated by Nina Mata

Published by Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Ways to Grow Love (A Ryan Hart Story Book 2) - Kindle edition by Watson,  Renée, Mata, Nina. Children Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.

Summary:  Ryan Hart is back in a story that mostly takes place during the summer between fourth and fifth grades.  Her mom is pregnant and money is tight, so the family has a low-key summer highlighted by visits to the library, a day at the amusement park, and a three-day church camp for Ryan and her older brother Ray.  Ryan enjoys hanging out with her best friends KiKi and Amanda, but isn’t as happy when Amanda’s new friend Red joins them.  When she asks her grandmother what to do, Grandma tells her that she’s like a rose who sometimes has to use her thornier nature to protect herself.  This advice serves Ryan well when she and her friends get into trouble for a camp prank that backfires and Red refuses to take responsibility.  By the end of the book, Ryan is enjoying (for the most part) fifth grade and gets to welcome her new baby sister…Rose.  192 pages; grades 2-5.

Pros:  This sequel is every bit as good as the first.  While Watson doesn’t shy away from some of the difficulties the Harts are facing, the perspective is all Ryan’s and focuses on her warm, loving family and the fun she has with her friends.  I would love to see some Newbery recognition for a book like this that is geared toward younger kids.

Cons:  I can’t find any word on book 3, but surely we’ll get to hear more about fifth grade?

How to Build an Insect by Roberta Gibson, illustrated by Anne Lambelet

Published by Millbrook Press

How to Build an Insect - Kindle edition by Gibson, Roberta, Lambelet, Anne.  Children Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.
How to Build an Insect: Gibson, Roberta, Lambelet, Anne: 9781541578111:  Amazon.com: Books

Summary:  Readers learn about insects’ body parts as a young artist works on creating one.  First comes the head, followed by the thorax and the abdomen.  Decisions are made about a skeleton, legs, and wings.  Then the senses are considered: eyes, ears, a mouth, and antennae.  Decorations like hair and horns are the final touch before the insect is given a place to live and a snack, at which point the artist declares the work done.  Includes a two-page labeled illustration of an insect, a glossary, and instructions for building an insect model.  32 pages; grades K-4.

Pros:  An engaging way to learn about insects, with large, colorful illustrations and text that reads like a conversation between the narrator and the artist.  A perfect example of blending art and science.

Cons:  Kind of an anti-climactic ending.