Trillions of Trees: A Counting and Planting Book by Kurt Cyrus

Published by Henry Holt and Co.

Trillions of Trees: A Counting and Planting Book: Cyrus, Kurt, Cyrus, Kurt:  9781250229076: Books
Trillions of Trees | Kurt Cyrus | Macmillan

Summary:  When the narrator’s sister calls the nursery to order “a trillium, please”, the worker there hears “a trillion trees”.  Before long, the first installment–a thousand saplings–is delivered to their house.  The whole family races to plant the trees all over town, identifying many of them as they go.  Exhausted, they return home, only to face the next delivery arriving.  40 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  This follow-up to Billions of Bricks has the same fun rhyming text and big numbers incorporated into the story.  There’s some good information on trees here as well as plenty of humor tied to the impossibility of the family’s tree-planting situation.

Cons:  The lack of back matter about trees and/or large numbers.

Grasping Mysteries: Girls Who Loved Math by Jeannine Atkins

Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers (Released August 4)

Thanks to Atheneum for providing me with a digital copy of this book to review. Grasping Mysteries: Girls Who Loved Math ...

Summary:  As she did in Finding Wonders: Three Girls Who Changed Science, Jeannine Atkins has created biographical novels-in-verse about seven women who used math to excel in their chosen careers.  She starts with Caroline Herschel (1750-1948), who helped her brother William (discoverer of the planet Uranus); she eventually received a salary from the king of England for her work and was awarded a gold medal from the Royal Astronomical Society.  Other subjects include nursing trailblazer Florence Nightingale; inventor Hertha Ayrton; undersea mapmaker Marie Tharp; sociologist Edna Lee Paisano; NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson; and astronomer Vera Rubin, the second woman to receive the Royal Astronomical Society’s gold medal (in 1996, a mere 168 years after Caroline Herschel got hers).  Woven into the narratives are messages about the importance of math and of women pursuing math-related careers. Includes additional information and a selected bibliography about each subject.  320 pages; grades 5-8. 

Pros:  A great addition to both poetry and STEM collections, these stories are told with lyrical language and close attention to detail that brings the subjects to life.  The importance of math in a wide variety of fields is emphasized, along with the struggles that each woman had making her voice heard in male-dominated fields.

Cons:  This seems like it might have a limited audience; the stories may be more suitable to a class assignment than something middle school kids would pick up on their own.

If you would like to pre-order this book from the Odyssey Bookshop, click here. 

Fix That Clock by Kurt Cyrus

Published by HMH Books for Young Readers

Image result for fix that clock cyrus

Summary:  As construction workers head to an old clock tower to restore it to its former glory, they discover that rats and bats have made their homes among the rusted gears and rotting boards.  They get to work, doing their best to work around the animals.  Math makes several appearances in the story: “Seven steps upon a stair,/Six are tangled, one is bare./Five are red. Two are green./Four are thick and three are lean.”  The clock slowly comes back to life, and the animals scramble when the chimes sound. But the thoughtful workers haven’t forgotten about them: they use scraps of wood to build homes for them on the outside of the clock tower. 40 pages; ages 3-8.

Pros:  Just as he did in Billions of Bricks, Kurt Cyrus uses energetic rhymes and detailed illustrations to bring a construction project to life.  Numbers, shapes, and other mathematical concepts are woven effortlessly into the text.

Cons:  I can’t help thinking those animals might not enjoy living right up against a chiming clock.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

I’m Trying to Love Math by Bethany Barton

Published by Viking Books for Children

Image result for im trying to love math amazon

Image result for im trying to love math amazon

Summary:  When an unnamed narrator declares their dislike of math, a purple three-eyed alien tries to show how interesting and useful it is.  “I know I’m not alone here. 4 in 10 Americans hate math,” claims the narrator. Alien: “Did you just use math to explain how much you don’t like it?”  It then goes on to show how math is used for things the narrator finds enjoyable, like baking cookies or making music. Math is a universal language and gives us a set of rules for measuring, traveling, and using money.  When the kid realizes they already love math, the alien’s job is done, and he returns home…to Planet Homework. 40 pages; grades 1-3

Pros:  A fun way to introduce the different ways math is used in everyday life.  It could serve as a springboard to get kids thinking about other areas where they use math.

Cons:  Those who truly struggle with math are not likely to be convinced by the arguments put forth here.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.


I wrote a book!

Remember the book A Wonderful Year by Nick Bruel?  Me neither.  It was the first book I reviewed on this blog on February 20, 2015, and I don’t think I’ve looked at it since.

Three days later I posted a review for The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, a book I still book talk many times a year and count among my favorite books of all times.

That’s the way it goes with reading.  Some books are just more memorable than others.

So when I realized that I’ve published almost 1,400 reviews, I decided it was time to do some weeding.  In a week or so, I’m going to take down the reviews from 2015 and 2016.  In preparation for this,  I’ve gone through all the books I’ve written about and picked out the ones I feel have stood the test of time.

I’ve compiled them into a book called Hit the Books: The Best of Kids Book A Day, 2015-2018.  There are about 150 books included; each entry has the summary I wrote on my blog and why it was included on the list.  They’re divided into eight sections: picture books, early readers, early chapter books, middle grade fiction, graphic novels, poetry, biography, and nonfiction.

I also put together ten lists of “Read-Alikes” from the books I’ve reviewed on the blog.  So if you have a fan of Diary of A Wimpy Kid or Raina Telgemeier, you can get some ideas for other books they might want to try.

Let me know if you find this book helpful.  Who knows, I may put together a second edition in another year or two!

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

Nothing Stopped Sophie: The Story of Unshakable Mathematician Sophie Germain by Cheryl Bardoe, illustrated by Barbara McClintock

Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Image result for nothing stopped sophie mcclintock

Image result for nothing stopped sophie mcclintock

Summary:  Growing up during the French Revolution, Sophie Germain faced a number of obstacles to a career in mathematics.  Girls received little education, and Sophie’s parents tried discourage her late-night studies by taking away her candles and warm clothing.  She was undaunted, though, and they finally realized there was no way to stop her from studying math. When she grew up, she corresponded with other mathematicians under a pen name, but they tended to lose interest when they discovered she was a woman.  She kept studying any way she could, and when the Academy of Sciences offered a medal worth 3,000 francs to find a mathematical formula that would predict patterns of vibration, Sophie was determined to find a solution. It took her several years, but in 1816, she became the first woman to win a grand prize from the Royal Academy of Sciences.  Her work helped other mathematicians and engineers build modern skyscrapers, including the Eiffel Tower. Includes additional information about Sophie and the problem of vibration she solved. 40 pages; grades 2-5.

Pros:  Perseverance is the theme of Sophie Germain’s story, and readers will enjoy learning of her eventual success in the face of daunting obstacles.  The illustrations do an amazing job of incorporating numbers and mathematical formulas into Sophie’s world.

Cons:  I really didn’t understand the vibration problem that Sophie was working on.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

How Many Guinea Pigs Can Fit on a Plane? Answers to Your Most Clever Math Questions by Laura Overdeck

Published by Feiwel and Friends

Summary:  From the creator of the Bedtime Math books and website comes this collection of questions submitted by real kids and answered using math.  The answer to the question in the title is found using the dimensions of a guinea pig, calculating how many could fit in one cubic foot, then showing how many cubic feet are in a 747 jet.  And that would be 472,500 guinea pigs.  The cute and eye-catching illustrations of guinea pigs show their measurements in all directions.  There’s even an interesting non-math fact thrown in (guinea pigs prefer company so much that in Switzerland it’s illegal to own a single pig).  Questions are divided into five chapters: Animal Math, Nature Gone Wild (“Which wind blows faster, a tornado or a hurricane?”), Math for Your Mouth (“How much food do we eat every day?”), Your Life in Numbers (“When will I be a billion seconds old?”), and Earth and Friends (“How many soccer balls will fit inside a hollow Earth?”).  The final section, “Now Do It In Your Head!” shows some tricks for quick mental math calculations.  144 pages; grades 2-6.

Pros:  Kids will be drawn into this book by the questions, and even those who claim to dislike math will follow along with the calculations to see how to find the final answer.  Check out the website ( for more mathematical fun.

Cons:  I wish there were more awesome kids’ math books like this being published.

Math Lab for Kids: Fun, Hands-On Activities for Learning with Shapes, Puzzles, and Games by Rebecca Rapoport and J. A. Yoder

Published by Quarry Books

Summary:  37 labs in nine chapters introduce a wide variety of mathematical topics, such as geometry, topology, fractals, and graph theory.  Each chapter begins with a “Think About It” question to be considered before diving into the labs.  Each lab includes a materials list, a boxed math fact, instructions, and diagrams.  The activities seem like simple games, puzzles, and craft projects, but don’t be fooled, constructing with toothpicks and gumdrops can lead to a greater understanding of antiprisms and Platonic solids.  In the authors’ introduction, they state that the activities have been tested on kids ages 6-10, but can be enjoyed by middle school students, high school students, and adults.  Back matter includes pull-outs to use with a few of the labs, hints and solutions for many of the labs, and an index. 144 pages; grades 2+

Pros:  “Mathematicians play,” the authors state in their introduction.  If you think you hate math, or you know a child who hates math, this book may be just the remedy.  Every activity looks like fun and is simple to set up, yet leads to a mathematical way of looking at the world.  The colorful photos of kids engaged in the activities and the simple, clear diagrams add to the fun.

Cons:  My neighbors may call for reinforcements when I head outside with five feet of string, two broomsticks, and some chalk to draw a giant ellipse in my driveway.

1 Big Salad: A Delicious Counting Book by Juana Medina

Published by Viking 

Summary:  The numbers from 1 through 10 are explored with the ingredients of a salad.  Each page has the numeral (1) and the word (one), along with an animal created from a fruit or vegetable.  There’s one avocado deer with a big brown nose made from the pit, two radish mice, three pepper monkeys, and so forth.  The produce has been photographed, then embellished with black line drawings to create the animals.  One big delicious salad is shown at the end, with a recipe for dressing on the very last page.  32 pages; ages 3-7.

Pros:  The graphics jump off the page in this fun introduction to both numbers and healthy eating.

Cons:  Will preschoolers want to eat those cute tomato turtles?

Billions of Bricks: A Counting Book about Building by Kurt Cyrus

Published by Henry Holt and Company 

Summary:  A man, woman, and boy start building on the first page with bricks…two, four six.  People and bricks multiply with dizzying speed from there until the end of the book: molding and baking the clay to make bricks, mixing mortar, and building, building, building.  Schools, malls, government buildings: all are built with millions and billions of bricks.  Finally, at the end, “The work is nearly done, the cleanup has begun, let’s count the bricks we didn’t use, all together—one!”  32 pages, ages 4-8.

Pros:  Kids will love the catchy rhymes and the intricate illustrations showing many different people building immense structures with bricks.  While not a counting book in the traditional 1-2-3 sense, teachers can use it to introduce counting by two’s, five’s, and ten’s.

Cons:  Some child labor laws were undoubtedly violated in these pages.