Friday, November 16, 2018

To the Moon and Back - a review

By Buzz Aldrin and Marianne Dyson
Illustrated by Bruce Foster
National Geographic, 2018

In this gift-worthy, sturdy, pop-up book, middle-grade space enthusiasts will find a wealth of little-known details, personal remembrances, and photos from the quest to land men on the surface of the moon. In addition, the science and engineering is explained clearly and simply.

Buzz Aldrin begins with the start of his NASA career as an astronaut in the year 1963.  He then chronicles the successes and failures of the many Gemini, Soyuz, and Apollo missions that preceded the famous voyage of Apollo 11.

Tucked within the pages and pop-ups, are pull-out sections titled Space Race and Aldrin Family Reflections.  The pop-ups, created by paper engineer, Bruce Foster, include (among others) the Saturn V rocket which pops out to a height of over one foot, a lunar module, and the deploying parachutes of the lunar capsule's splash landing.

One section titled, "Saved by the Pen," includes this recollection:

     "After 21 hours on the moon, it was time to go. But the ascent engine's arming circuit breaker was broken off!  If we didn't find something to replace the pin, the engine wouldn't start.  We'd be stuck on the moon.
     Armstrong and I looked around.  We found a felt-tipped pen that fit into the slot. Problem solved!"

After reading To the Moon and Back, you will have a greater appreciation of what is often described as one of humanity's greatest feats of engineering.  The beautiful photos, pop-ups and a build-your-own lunar module are just icing on the cake.

Buzz Aldrin finishes his account with a query,

"Will we celebrate Apollo 11's 100th anniversary under the pink skies of Mars?"
He hopes so.  And perhaps it will be a woman who first steps on the red planet. I hope so.

In 2013, I was lucky enough to meet Buzz Aldrin.  He was very friendly, and let me touch him—the closest that I will ever come to outer space. 
© L Taylor

   My copy of To the Moon and Back was provided by the book's publicist.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Carlos Santana Sound of the Heart, Song of the World - a review

Carlos Santana: Sound of the Heart, Song of the World
By Gary Golio
Illustrated by Rudy Gutierrez
Christy Ottaviano, 2018

"Autlán de Navarro, Jalisco, Mexico
     It's 1947, in a town with only dirt roads and mud houses.
     There are no electric lights, but electricity crackles in the air as a child is born—a little boy whose aunt calls him cristalino, someone clear and bright, destined to make a mark in this world. 
     The boy's name is Carlos Santana, and his mark will be made with lightning, 
on the ears of the wind!"

A fitting beginning to a book about one the world's most unique and innovative guitar players.  As with all of the text in the book, the above is printed in a small font, nestled artfully against the dreamy, surrealist, mixed-media illustrations by the renowned, Rudy Gutierrez.  All of the images are double-spreads. Though the book chronicles Santana's life only through his boyhood in Mexico, the artwork is a mix of Mexican influences and those of the psychedelic era in which Carlos Santana came to great fame in the U.S. This perfectly complements  the narrative, which highlights Carlos' greatest influences—his family and the music of Mexico, and his stirring connection with American blues. Carlos Santana Sound of the Heart, Song of the World is an inspiring and uplifting picture book biography for older reader.

Cue up some Santana on your Spotify account and enjoy! Peace.

You know it's a cool book when it's covered on WMMR out of Philadelphia.  Listen to an interview with author Gary Golio that aired on WMMR in October.

View four interior spreads from Carlos Santana: Sound of the Heart, Song of the World at the publisher's website.

My copy of Carlos Santana: Sound of the Heart, Song of the World was provided by the publisher.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Standing Up For Each Other

In the wake of the mass murder at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, the Association of Jewish Libraries has created a series of book lists for young readers.  Their hope is "to grow readers' understanding of the Jewish religion and its people."

The first list in their Love Your Neighbor series is "Standing Up For Each Other." A PDF version of Love Your Neighbor Book List #1: Standing Up For Each Other is available at this link.

I have not read every book on the list, but I can say that The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz (Candlewick, 2015) and Emma's Poem: The Voice of the Statue of Liberty by Linda Glaser and Claire A. Nivola (HMH Books, 2010) are two of my favorites.

I encourage you to explore the AJL book list and to make every effort to incorporate these and other diverse books into your classrooms, story time programs, and interactions with your own children.  The more we explore the lives of people from other cultures, the more we discover our commonality.

An article describing the inspiration and creation of the Love Your Neighbor book list project may be found at Tablet Magazine.

Friday, October 26, 2018

All About Bats - a review

All About Bats
by Caryn Jenner
DK Publishers, 2017

This time of year, teachers and librarians are often frustrated by the fact that many of the good Halloween books have already been checked out of the library.  If you need another book to complete your Halloween story time, All About Bats is a good addition.  The photos are big, uncluttered images of real bats, and the text is simple enough for three-year-olds.  Here is the text from a double-spread "chapter:"

Bat Wings

There are many kids of bats.  They all have webbed wings and furry bodies.
You can have fun and do a bit of learning in Halloween story time, too!

See more Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math book reviews at the STEM Friday blog

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

There's a Dinosaur on the 13th Floor - a review

There’s a Dinosaur on the 13th Floor
Illustrated by Kevin Hawkes

A smartly dressed bellhop, old-fashioned phones, and the slicked back hair, pince-nez, and bow-tie of Mr. Snore set up the retro atmosphere of this book on the first pages.  Mr. Snore’s immediate need is also quickly apparent,

“Welcome to the Sharemore Hotel,” said the bellhop.
“You must be Mr. Snore. Let me show you to your room.”

“The sooner the better,” said Mr. Snore.
“I am very” —YAWN—“sleepy.”

But, alas, Mr. Snore is destined to have a long night before he finally finds a place to rest his head—and his hysterically large nose!  On each floor, Mr. Snore finds himself  paired with an unsuitable roommate, prompting continued calls to the ever-cheerful bellhop.

The generous 10x11 size of this book is the perfect showcase for this delightful high-rise hotel and its unusual occupants.  Over-the-top illustrations are a perfect complement for often understated, but droll dialogue,

“How do you feel about bees?” asked the bellhop.
“The same way I feel about spiders,” said Mr. Snore. 
“Please skip the sixth floor.”

The expressions of creatures and humans are priceless, popping in bright acrylics and ink.  Even with the spoiler in its title, There’s a Dinosaur on the 13th Floor will still surprise you!  

My copy of There's a Dinosaur on the 13th Floor was provided by LibraryThing Early Reviewers.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Paul and His Ukulele - a review

As a ukulele-playing librarian, I would be remiss if I didn't have a post about this new release from Ripple Grove Press.
(Spoiler alert, I couldn't resist)

Paul and His Ukulele
By Robert Broder
Illustrated by Jenn Kocsmiersky

With charming watercolor illustrations by Jenn Kocsmiersky, Paul and His Ukulele follows Paul, a gentle and lanky fox, from childhood to adulthood, from mountains to cities— accompanied all the way by his music and his ukulele,

"Pick. Pluck. Strum."
At its essence, Paul and His Ukulele is a love story.  Paul is in love with his music, and, with the help of

"a happy bit of happenstance,"

the singer, Clementine, in whom he finds someone to share his love in their new store, Mi & Uke.


Enjoy the trailer. 😊

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Fire prevention books, songs and activities

I'm a little late with this post, Fire Prevention Week was last week, but perhaps you'll bookmark this for next year.  I  was asked to provide a storytime on fire safety for a preschool class of 3-year-olds.  Here's what I went with:

These nonfiction titles are suitable for young listeners:

If you're reading with slightly older kids and want to add a bit of bilingualism, you can't go wrong with:

  • "Hot or Not" game - I can't remember where I got this idea, but you can make it whatever you'd like—felt board, magnet board, group activity, etc.  It has the added bonus of having a rhyming name.  I never miss a chance to point out something fun while learning, so we say it all together and note that it rhymes, "Hot or Not."
  • "Hurry, Hurry, Drive the Fire Truck" action song - just check online and you'll find a version that suits you. This is a good chance to get those wiggles out.

To the Moon and Back - a review

To the Moon and Back: My Apollo 11 Adventure By Buzz Aldrin and Marianne Dyson Illustrated by Bruce Foster National Geographic...