Field Trip to the Moon by John Hare

Published by Margaret Ferguson

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Image result for field trip to the moon john hare

Summary:  At the start of this wordless picture book a school bus approaches the moon, and a group of space suited kids and adults head out to explore the surface, peering into craters and jumping over chasms.  One child hangs back, eventually propping herself up against a rock and using crayons and a pad of paper to sketch the Earth. She nods off, waking up to a deserted moon and a glimpse of the flying bus in the black sky.  With nothing else to do, she gets out her art supplies again. As she draws, a group of blobby gray aliens surround her to watch. They’re intrigued with the colors, and when she offers them crayons, they use them to decorate the gray moon rocks and each other.  When the bus reappears, they scatter. An adult comes out and hugs the child, then insists she clean the drawings off the moon rocks. The two go off to board the bus, as alien hands holding crayons rise out of the moon’s surface to wave goodbye. 40 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  This ode to imagination stands out from the plethora of moon books being published this year in honor of the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing.  There’s plenty to see on each page, yet the story is straightforward enough for kids to understand (something I sometimes struggle with in wordless books).

Cons:  What teacher doesn’t take attendance when the kids get back on the bus?

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

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Birds of a Feather: Bowerbirds and Me by Susan L. Roth

Published by Neal Porter Books

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Summary:  What does collage artist and illustrator Susan Roth have in common with the bowerbirds of Australia?  For starters, they are both collectors who like to use their collections in unusual ways. They both work in small spaces.  No two compositions are the same. And they both hope their finished works are greater than the sum of their parts. The comparisons are, not surprisingly, illustrated with collage art.  The last few pages give more facts about bowerbirds and how they work; how Susan works; and expanded information on how they are the same. Includes a photo of a bowerbird and a bibliography.  40 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  The illustrations in this book are gorgeous and unique, and the unusual comparison could be used as an inspiration for kids to find ways they are similar to other animals.

Cons:  It’s a little anthropomorphic to speculate what bowerbirds hope about their finished works.

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Grandpa Cacao: A Tale of Chocolate from Farm to Family by Elizabeth Zunon

Published by Bloomsbury

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Summary:  While a little girl and her father make a chocolate cake, her dad reminisces about his life in Ivory Coast, growing up on a cacao plantation.  He explains how the cacao beans were grown, and how the whole village helped out during harvest time. When the beans were sold, the family would go to the market to buy food, school supplies, and fabric to make clothes.  Just as the timer rings to let them know the cake is done, the doorbell sounds as well. When the girl opens the door, it’s Grandpa Cacao! He has come for a visit and to meet his granddaughter for the first time. Includes an author’s note with more on the history and science of chocolate, as well as a chocolate cake recipe.  40 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  Chocolate lovers will find it interesting to learn how their favorite treat is produced, and will get an interesting glimpse of life in Ivory Coast.  The beautiful illustrations are done in two different styles to show the past and present, as explained in the author’s note.

Cons:  The chocolate industry is not always quite as idyllic as it is portrayed here; the author’s note includes information on child and slave labor that has been used to produce cacao.

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My Papi Has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero, illustrated by Zeke Peña

Published by Kokila

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Summary:  When Papi comes home from work, his daughter rushes to greet him, two helmets in her hand.  It’s time for them to climb on Papi’s bright blue motorcycle and go for a ride. Together, they zoom through the streets of their city, noticing what’s new with familiar landmarks, waving to friends and family, and outrunning chasing dogs.  There are a couple stops along the way–at Don Rudy’s Raspados, which is unfortunately closed and at the construction site where Papi works to see the new houses going up–but mostly they stay in motion. At the end, they come back home again, and are rewarded with a visit from Don Rudy, who has taken his raspados on the road. Includes an author’s note about her own experiences riding behind her father in Corona, California. Simultaneously published in Spanish as Mi Papi Tiene Una Mota. 40 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  Part family story, part love letter to Corona, California, kids who loved wheeled vehicles will enjoy reading about Daisy’s tour of the city.

Cons:  It would have been nice to have a Spanish/English list of the Spanish words that are included in the text.

If you would like to buy the English version of this book on Amazon, click here.

If you would like to buy the Spanish version of this book on Amazon, click here.

Sweeping Up the Heart by Kevin Henkes

Published by Greenwillow Books

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Summary:  Amelia isn’t expecting much from her spring vacation week–as usual, her distant father is working, and her pleas to go to Florida have fallen on deaf ears.  She decides to hang out at the clay studio the first day, where her passion for sculpture helps her forget about her troubles. When she gets there, she meets Casey, the owner’s nephew, who is spending the vacation with his aunt while his parents try to salvage their marriage.  Casey and Amelia start hanging out at the coffee shop, making up stories about the people they see through the window. When a woman resembling Amelia appears, Casey plants the idea that she might be Amelia’s long-dead mother. The vacation week turns out to be different–and better–than Amelia expected as she enjoys her new friendship, embraces her art, and meets a woman who will change her future.  192 pages; grades 4-7.

Pros:  This spare, beautifully-written story will resonate with many tweens, as Casey and Amelia deal with familiar issues around families and friendship.  A possible Newbery contender.

Cons:  I find this kind of book–where most of the action is internal–difficult to book talk, yet I know many kids in my school would enjoy it.

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

Shouting At the Rain by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Published by Nancy Paulsen Books

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Summary:  Delsie is looking forward to her annual summer reunion with her best friend Brandy, who spends summers on Cape Cod where Delsie and her Grammy are year-round residents.  Things seem normal at first, but there’s a new girl in town, and slowly Brandy starts spending more and more time with Tressa, who turns out to be a classic mean girl. Lonely and humiliated, Delsie finds herself hanging out with Ronan, a new boy living with his fisherman father.  She learns that Ronan, like Delsie, has been abandoned by his mom. As their friendship grows over the course of the summer, they learn to value each other and their families–both blood relatives and friends who feel like family. By the end of August, Delsie feels strong enough about herself and those who love her to be able to stand up for herself and appreciate true friendship.  288 pages; grades 4-6.

Pros:  Fans of Fish in a Tree will rejoice to see a new book by Lynda Mullaly Hunt and will find many connections and lessons in Delsie’s story.  The descriptions of summer scenes on the Cape feel very real, as do the changing friendships and relationships with family members.

Cons:  Delsie sometimes felt wise beyond her years, and as the story went along, there were a few too many “teachable moments” where she or another character imparted some life lesson.

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We Are the Change: Words of Inspiration from Civil Rights Leaders with an introduction by Harry Belafonte

Published by Chronicle Books

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Summary:  “So long as we have enough people in this country willing to fight for their rights, we’ll be called a democracy.”  This quote from American Civil Liberties Union founder Roger Baldwin appears on the dedication page (the book is dedicated to the ACLU) and sets the tone for the book.  16 children’s book illustrators have each chosen a quotation to illustrate that captures the spirit of human rights, along with text explaining their choice. The last several pages include brief biographies of each illustrator.  48 pages; grades 2-7.

Pros:  A beautiful collection of inspiring quotes and art that could serve as a springboard for students to choose their own favorite quotations and illustrate them.  This would make a nice graduation gift.

Cons:  Sometimes the text appeared before the illustrations; other times it was after.  I found this format a little confusing.

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