The Invisible Alphabet by Joshua David Stein

3 stars Children’s

This book is very creative.  By itself, I don’t think the book is a hit but grouped with other books, I liked it.  I think by itself, it’s boring and I don’t think most young children will find it appealing yet if you group this book with other ABC books or other black/white books or other books with a theme, you’ll have something.  On the other hand, older teens might like the book and find it humorous.   

The author created this ABC’s children’s book with mainly black and white illustrations.  Adding just a bit of orange color to each illustration, the author gives each letter of the alphabet at least one page in this book.  The words selected for each letter are what sets this book apart from other ABC books, as his concepts are centered around “gone.”  Whether that be physically gone, permanently gone, or just the concept of being gone, something on the page is missing.  N is for Nothing and that blank page says it all.  S is for Secret and by the look on the children’s faces on this page, that secret was a good one.     

While flipping through this book, I thought of a great activity to use with this book.  How about having your students/child create their own ABC book, using the opposites of this book. This would be a fun, entertaining challenging for you also as there are plenty of different words you could use for each letter in this book.  Example: O if for Out in this book. For your own book, you could use P is for Plenty, E is for Enough, T is for Too much, etc.  I think this would be an interesting activity for an extension on this book. 3 stars.   

The Bat Book by Charlotte Milner

5 stars Nonfiction

I’m not bat savvy so I needed this book.  I thought I knew a few things about them and I knew I had some “deceptions” about them but now, I feel knowledgeable.  In our neighborhood at night, you can see a few bats soaring in the sky come dusk.  I’m grateful that they’re eating the insects yet, I’m also thinking how dirty those little guys are and how I don’t want them to get tangled up in my hair.  At least now, after reading this book, I feel educated and grateful that they picked our air space to do their hunting.

I have to share this eye-opening moment for me first.  I never realized that bats pollinate. Bees, yes but bats?  It makes sense but I never really thought about it until I read about it in the book.  A few pages were focused on this topic and I guess looking back over the years, pollination was always about bees and birds. 

I enjoyed this book immensely as I do with most DK books.  The paper is the thick matte finish which compliments the illustrations/text.  I think the paper provides a richness to the book and will hold up better over time.  The illustrations are fantastic, with their convincing drawings that pull your eyes in to pagefuls of helpful information.  I liked the contrasting text colors and the use of graphs, text boxes, and the how everything is labeled and arranged. 

I found plenty of information inside this book which was presented in an easy-to-read format.   From different types of bats and their body types, to why they are so important, to myths about them, the author gives us plenty to think about.  A great book! 5 stars    

The Bee Book by Charlotte Miler

5 stars Children’s Nonfiction

Let’s talk about bees.  What do you really know about bees and what do you think you know about bees?  I think that most people know that bees make honey and that there’s a queen bee, a drone bee and worker bees in a hive.  Did you know that there’s hundreds of drone bees in a hive and that they only live a few weeks?  Did you know that the queen bee typically lives 5 years and that she’s the mother to most of the bees in the hive? I thought the worker bees were busy, but the queen bee, she lays about 2,000 eggs a day!  Welcome to just one page inside this fantastic book by Charlotte Milner.  With the bee population dwindling, reading about these fascinating creatures made me realize just how important they really are. 

With bright colorful illustrations this book is full and I mean, full of information!!  Upon opening the book, there is a Table of Content which consists of a list of comments or questions pertaining to bees with a corresponding page number.  Thumbing through the book, I love just looking at all the different illustrations on the pages and reading the text that accompanies them.  Some of these are just fast-facts about bees and some provided more detailed reading but they’re not long reports on bees that slow me down or overwhelm me.  At the back of the book, there’s a great index too.  Did I mention how wonderful the illustrations are and how bright and colorful the pages are?

I can learn about pollination, why pollination is important, what a honeybee is, where honey comes from, and tons of information on the honeybee’s hives.  I can learn about the different types of bees that are needed inside a hive, why the bee population is dying and what I can do to help the bees survive.  I can also read about bee swarms which sound like a horrible thing but according to the brief summary, they usually aren’t.

This is a wonderful book.  It’s a book worth keeping and definitely, one worth sharing.  I’m sure that everyone will learn something from this book unless of course, you’ve been studying bees for years.  So, where does a honeybee store the nectar that it collects before he goes back to the nest?  How many eyes does the honeybee have?  Why does he have so many?   Can the female honeybee sting you?  Better get reading to find these answers.

2 x 2 = Boo! A Set of Spooky Multiplication Stories by Loreen Leedy

4 stars Nonfiction Picture Book

 A cute picture book about math featuring some Halloween characters.  I liked the way the math facts are presents in the book, the repetition of the same number so the child can see a pattern taking place and I liked how the illustrations reinforce that same scenario.  I like how each chapter is devoted to one specific number.   The way that the characters try to explain multiplication is not confusing but give the reader a visual, a number sentence and an explanation.   Great illustrations also.   This book only covers the multiplication facts from 1-5 so don’t expect something like 1 x 7 because the highest this book covers is 5 x 5.  This is not a scary book, if you are worried about that.

Growing Up: Caterpillar to Butterfly by Stephanie Fitzgerald

5 stars Children’s Nonfiction

I have no idea why my library chose to put this book under the Easy section of the children’s library.  This is definitely a non-fiction book with a capital N and I will definitely bring this to their attention.  There was a lot to love about this children’s nonfiction book and being a newly butterfly nature lover, I’m all over this book.

Within the past couple years, we have planted butterfly bushes and have witnessed the lifecycle of the monarch butterfly firsthand.  I can tell you; this has been a truly remarkable and rewarding experience.  I never thought in my 50+ years of life, I would be having sleepless nights over aphids and buying ladybugs in the mail but now, I can say I have.   I like to find children’s books that talk about incredible process as I think children need to understand this process and if possible, witness this journey firsthand, as it’s part of nature unfolding.

I liked that this book is 32 pages of some incredible illustrations and the variety of text fonts makes this book fun to read.  The book begins with a Table of Contents listing exactly what you’re going to be reading about, from what a butterfly is, to the life cycle of the butterfly, to butterfly facts, and a glossary and an index in the back.  The text is big and bold and the illustrations give great captions of interesting information. 

This is one book that can be used as a great reference over and over again as you learn about butterflies and one that will never get old.    This is definitely one that you need to get a hold of and read – I highly recommend it!

” A caterpillar has 4,000 muscles in its body. People have about 650.”

“Threats to the butterfly change depending on the stage of its life cycle.”

Kate the Chemist: The Awesome Book of Edible Experiments for Kids by Kate Biberdorf,

4.5 stars nonfiction children’s

I was all excited about another Kate, the Chemist book but I felt confused as I looked inside to see what types of experiments, she was featuring this time.  I hoped it wasn’t filled with slime recipes but I wasn’t expecting tomato sauce, chocolate chip cookies, defrosting berries, and creating pretzels bites.  Perhaps the title of the book threw me off and reading her last book which had another edible experiment.  To me, these weren’t experiments, they were recipes that turned into experiments based on how you went about preparing them. 

Don’t get me wrong, this is not a horrible book, it’s just that I was expecting something totally different.  This book focuses on why something works in a recipe.  While doing this, it also provides alternative methods (more experiments) to achieve this result.  Take for example the Banana Bread Experiment.  To make great banana bread, you usually need overripen, sweet bananas, but what if you only have yellow bananas?  Kate has an experiment for this recipe that has the reader doing 3 different methods for ripening your yellow bananas, so you can make the bread.  You’re recording your results as you perform the 3 different experiments. Once you get your results, you can continue on with the rest of the Banana Bread Experiment.

For each of the chapters, Kate provides a brief note about the project, a messiness level (most were 2 out of 3), a list of materials needed, whether you need: oven mitts, latex gloves, an adult, wonderful step-by-step instructions with fantastic illustrations, a What Do You Think? Section, and a How It Works: section. 

Each chapter is its own experiment (recipe).  I can’t say enough about how organized and detailed each chapter is.  That is what I love about Kate’s books, she is very detailed-oriented.  The illustrations are in color and the directions are detailed, with easy-to-understand language.   The What Do You Think? section asks the reader a handful of thought-provoking questions about what they have done and has them think about what might happen had they done something else.  I really enjoyed the How It Works section as it goes into detail about why this experiment does its job.  This section is quite lengthy which is why I like it also.  This section is not a bunch of scientific words but it explains the science behind why the reaction occurred which might be overwhelming to some young readers.  You could have an older individual read this section and explain it to a younger child so they could understand it.    

I liked reading why these experiments worked as I found it interesting and cooking can be fun, if you make it fun.  I feel that some children will be like me and be shocked when they open the book and see what each chapter is about.  I’m afraid they will see the book as a cookbook and they’ll want to pass on it while others will love it.  If you haven’t seen Kate before, I suggest you check her out.  She’s on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and online.  This is a great book; I just wished the title was something else.  4.5 stars

Outside Art by Madeline Kloepper

5 stars Children’s Picture

Art is in the eye of the beholder.  I remember hearing this when I was young and finally, someone explained this simple, complex statement to me. It has stuck with me ever since because it says so much with such few words.  These are the words that came to mind when I read this book. Everyone makes art in their own way. A baby can make art and so can a senior citizen.  It’s in its interpretation, that we label things art. 

As Pine Martin watches the Human inside and outside its log nest in the woods, doing odd things, Pine Marten tries to find the meaning behind them. I enjoyed Pine Marten’s view of the human world: “plucking the string-log to make noise” and “using mud to make a water holder” to refer to the playing of a guitar and to using a clay pottery wheel. It was a refreshing way to look upon the world that we live in.  When he watches the Human “putting colors on a board using a furry stick,” he’s confused. 

Chickadee explains what he has heard the Human is doing and how it refers to Art and he explains what he thinks Art is.  Soon, a variety of animals arrive one-by-one to give their own opinion of what Art is and how it relates to the Human’s activity.  I thought this was clever and I liked how the house cat got in on the action and tried to outsmart them all.  I said tried……. Is the Human the only one who can create Art?

The illustrations are beautiful and creative a peaceful feeling to the book.  There are many interesting ideas that come out of this book and ways that you can engage children using this book.  I think this book is good for children beginning around 6 years of age based on the concept, content, and language.  I really enjoyed it.    

Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera

5 stars Children’s Nonfiction

I am in awe! This book is breathtaking! As a nature lover, I am fascinated about the world around me and as I read about Apis, I was glued to this book. As Apis made her made into the world, her journey was just beginning. Each page of this book, brought new experiences and I was exhausted just reading about everything that she did. Only days old and she was working non-stop.

Image result for free honey bee  images

I learned a great deal about the Short Life of a bee and my mood quickly changed as the I got the end of the book. I liked how the author presented the information with facts and comments in a story-like narration. The illustrations are bright, engaging, and bigger than life. At the back of the book is a diagram of a honeybee with its different parts highlighted and there’s also a section about helping honeybees, facts about honeybees, online and books about honeybees. I highly recommend this book as I can’t stop thinking about this book!

Two Dogs on a Trike by Gabi Synder

5 stars Children’s picture book

How hilarious! I’m still laughing about this one! This counting picture book is so cute and fun! I don’t know where to begin on this review as there were many things that stood out in this book. I’ll begin by saying that I had to read this multiple times. Just reading it once doesn’t do this book justice, you have to stop and savor the illustrations. I compared the illustrations which made the book more hilarious. I’ll definitely have to get this one to read to my grandchildren.

When dog spies the gate open, he goes for it and he escapes out of the yard. Dog thinks he’s being sneaky, going undetected, yet we spy cat, watching him out the window drinking her coffee. Dog jumps on the back of a trike which is driven by a poodle who has also escaped and now, we have “two dogs on a trike.” As we turn the page, this duo now jumps on a scooter being driven by another escaped dog which makes “three dogs on a scooter.” I loved watching the dog’s actions and their faces as they continued on their way. They were having the time of their life, even the dog wearing the lamp shade. It makes me laugh now, just thinking about it. The story gets even better because I haven’t mention who else is in the picture. Cat. Leaving her coffee and house slippers behind, Cat has been trailing the dog and all of his buddies since he left the yard. It was a hoot to see Cat, in her own various means of transportation secretly spying on the dogs as he makes his journey in various mode of transportation too.

Each step of dog’s journey, another dog is added until the count gets up to ten and then, the story reverses and it counts back down. It’s more than a counting book, it’s a fun adventure!

I loved the energy and creativity that was put into this book. I couldn’t help laughing at the dogs while they were on their journey and then, seeing cat who was spying on them, not that far away. When the book starts counting backwards, the reactions from the dogs have changed. Comparing the same numbers from counting up to counting down was entertaining and comical. I have to thank the author for leaving the ending of this book open. I really like it when an author sets up a book and then leaves something for the reader to ponder that’s not a huge cliffhanger.

I really enjoyed this book! I think children will love this book also. I can also think of many applications of how to build off this book at home or in the classroom. From having your child come up with their own numbers book based on this concept, to having your child finish the book where the author left off, to having a child use different modes of transportation or animals. This was a super book!!

Here is the author being a Special Guest Stay at Home Storytime Reader at the Corvallis-Benton County Public Library and reading Two Dogs on a Trike: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bcymc9JbfVo