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.

Seashells: More Than a Home by Melissa Stewart, illustrated by Sarah S. Brannen

Published by Charlesbridge

Image result for seashells more than a home amazon

Image result for seashells more than a home brannen

Summary:  How is a shell like an anchor?  A crowbar? A butterfly? The team who brought you Feathers: Not Just for Flying explains how shells serve different purposes for the animals who live inside them.  The pages are designed like pages from a scrapbook, with a paragraph of text accompanied by pictures that look like photographs or sketchbook drawings.  Two pages at the end give more information about five different kinds of shells. Also includes notes from the author and the illustrator, as well as resources for further research.  32 pages; grades K-4.

Pros:  This beautiful science book offers a good introduction to a lot of different types of shells with detailed illustrations that will help kids begin to learn how to identify them.

Cons:  Although I thought Feathers: Not Just for Flying was an equally attractive book, I’ve had a hard time generating any interest in it with kids.

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

Butterflies in Room 6 by Caroline Arnold

Published by Charlesbridge

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Image result for butterflies in room 6 caroline arnold

Summary:  Mrs. Best’s kindergarten class, featured in Hatching Chicks in Room 6, is back, this time hatching butterflies.  The kids are shown observing eggs, caterpillars, chrysalises, and finally, full-grown painted lady butterflies.  They do more than observe, feeding the caterpillars, helping to move them to the cup where they’ll build their chrysalises, and getting to (gently) hold butterflies before releasing them.  Photos and text provide plenty of information about each step in the process. The camera captures kids’ expressions from concentrated attention to wonder to joy on the last page as their butterflies fly away.  Includes a page of questions; vocabulary; and lists of websites and books for more information. 40 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  I’d like to spend a few days hanging out in Mrs. Best’s room.  The kids look like they’re having a ball, and learning about science in the process.  There’s plenty of information about the butterfly’s life cycle; integrating it with a real class makes it accessible to young kids.

Cons:  You just know some kid is going to take the fact that larva poop is called frass and run with it.

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


Daring Dozen: The Twelve Who Walked on the Moon by Suzanne Slade, illustrated by Alan Marks, with an afterword by Alan Bean, fourth man on the moon

Published by Charlesbridge

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Image result for daring dozen

Summary:  Everyone knows the names Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, the first men to walk on the moon, but maybe not Gene Cernan and Jack Schmitt, the last men to do so.  In between were eight more who traveled to the moon between 1969 and 1972. This book has a few pages about each of the Apollo missions, 8 through 17, the astronauts who traveled on them, and what they accomplished on each trip.  The back matter includes an afterword by astronaut Alan Bean; a timeline to the moon from 1958-1972; additional information about the space vehicles used; and a page on each mission with photos, facts, and a summary paragraph.  48 pages; grades K-5.

Pros:  A fascinating look at the men who were well-known in their time, but tend to be forgotten today.  The author reminds readers of the courage it took, and the danger that accompanied all the missions.  She ends the timeline with the present, stating that lunar missions are currently being planned, and that kids may some day walk on the moon.

Cons:  There’s not much background given on the Apollo missions; page 1 begins with Apollo 11’s lunar module approaching the moon.

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



Secret Engineer: How Emily Roebling Built the Brooklyn Bridge by Rachel Dougherty

Published by Roaring Brook Press

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Summary:  Unlike many girls of her time, Emily Warren enjoyed studying math and science.  When she married Washington Roebling, she insisted on joining him on his travels through Europe as he sought ideas to build a bridge from Brooklyn to Manhattan.  Construction began in 1870, with caissons being sunk into the river bottom. Many workers got sick with “caisson fever” from working inside the hot, damp structure, and Washington was afflicted in 1872.  Unable to return to work, he began to rely on Emily to communicate his ideas to the construction workers at the bridge. Eventually, Emily taught herself bridge engineering and began to feel confident enough to add her own ideas.  A week before the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge in 1883, Emily assuaged people’s concerns about its stability by taking the first trip across in an open carriage. Crowds on both sides of the river celebrated the opening on May 24, “never even knowing about the contributions of an insistent woman named Emily Roebling.”  Includes additional information about Emily, a glossary, and a list of additional resources. Photos of the Brooklyn Bridge appear on the endpapers. 40 pages; grades 2-5.

Pros: An inspiring story of a little-known woman who educated herself to be able to play a key role in one of the great engineering feats of her day.

Cons:  I was curious about caisson fever and Washington’s fate, but there was no information about that.

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

The Day the Universe Exploded My Head by Allan Wolf, illustrated by Anna Raff

Published by Candlewick

Image result for day the universe exploded my head

Image result for day the universe exploded my head

Summary:  These poems cover many aspects of astronomy and space travel, including the sun, moon, planets, meteors, black holes, eclipses, stars, rockets, astronauts, and Sputnik. The final piece, “The Day the Universe Exploded My Head” tells readers, “You can learn many facts about space from a book/But nothing’s as real as a firsthand look.”  This poem, like several of the others, is written for multiple voices, with different parts shown in different colors. Includes notes on the poems that give more information about each topic; a glossary of selected space terms; and internet resources.  56 pages; grades 2-6.

Pros:  It’s a fabulous collection of funny and informative poems that will teach kids a lot about space and astronomy.  I particularly liked the poems for multiple verses; they would be fun to do as a classroom performance.

Cons:  It would have been nice to see more information about the different forms of poetry, like the sonnet (or sunnet) that appears on page 1.

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

The Crayon Man: The True Story of the Invention of Crayola Crayons by Natascha Biebow, illustrated by Steven Salerno

Published by HMH Books for Young Readers

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Image result for crayon man salerno

Summary:  Consider the humble crayon.  Seems like it has always been with us, but prior to the 20th century, kids were limited to dull slate pencils.  Along came Edwin Binney, an inventor who loved color. Working with his cousin, C. Harold Smith, he created gray slate pencils, white chalk, and black crayons.  But colored crayons eluded him.  At his secret lab in Pennsylvania, he melted paraffin wax, ground rocks and minerals into powders, and mixed in clay to thicken the substance.  One evening in 1903, Edwin announced that he had successfully made colored crayons. His wife Alice combined the French words craie (stick of chalk) and ola (oily…an oily stick of chalk?  hmmm) to come up with the now ubiquitous Crayola brand.  Fortuitously, crayons were created around the same time that cheap paper became available, and the rest is colorful history.  Includes two pages of photos showing how Crayola crayons are made today (at the Binney-Smith factory in Easton, PA, where I did an internship while attending Lafayette College many moons ago); more information on Edwin Binney; and a bibliography of primary and secondary sources.  48 pages; grades 1-4.

Pros:  Kids will be fascinated to learn how their crayons were invented.  The illustrations of workers covered in color after laboring over pigments all day are fun, and Edwin Binney’s perseverance is a good lesson in not giving up.

Cons:  The origin of the “Burnt Sienna” color name is not revealed.

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

Image result for crayon man This also appears if you do a Google Images search for “Crayon Man”