Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Thank a Farmer - a review, 9.05.23

If you ask young readers, "where does your food come from?"... the most likely answer will be "the grocery store"!  The idea that the food we buy starts somewhere else is a bigger thought to think about!  And where does most of that food come from?  A farmer!

Thank a Farmer by Maria Gianferrari
Thank a Farmer
written by Maria Gianferrari
illustrated by Monica Mikai
published by Norton Young Readers

Maria Gianferrari goes back and makes young readers think about all of the food that the farming industry gives us and how it might be harvested.  On each layout, Gianferrari asks about a specific food and then in poetic form, explains to young readers how the food is picked and harvested and brought about to eventually landing on their plate!  With 2-page layouts featuring brightly illustrated pictures by Monica Mikai, young readers will absorb so much information between the illustrations and the lyrical words.  I love the vocabulary that is woven throughout the story.  Some of my favorites:  hopper, tubers, punnet, pods, chaff.

There are so many science related texts, I love that this one relates to the social sciences.  Perfect if you're studying rural/suburban/urban or wants and needs or economics!  This is a book I can see fitting in with your discussions.  And while you may think you would only use this book for discussions of rural/farming locations, there is discussions in the book about how farming does occur in urban locations too.  Rooftops, hydro-aero-aquaponics, school yards, and city lots are all mentioned!

I also like how the story turns the table and shares what farmers are thankful for.  From bees to weather to people and machines.  It's a good way to show young readers that we all rely on people and animals and electronic things to help the world go 'round!

I highly recommend this story to be on classroom and library shelves!  It's a book that young readers will reach for because of the information and bright illustrations.  And it's a text that teachers can easily incorporate into the curriculum!

If you would like to add a copy to your library, check out the giveaway below!  Maria Gianferrari and publisher Norton Young Readers have offered a copy of Thank a Farmer to a lucky reader.  Enter by Tuesday, September 12th to win! (US addresses only).

Maria Gianferrari has two connections to farming: she is descended from a long line of dairy farmers in Emilia-Romagna, Italy whose cows provided milk to make the region’s famous Parmigiano Reggiano cheese; she also grew up in New Hampshire, down the street from Barrett’s Farm and across the street from a maple sugar house where cotton-candy scented clouds filled the air. She now lives with her family in Massachusetts.

Monday, August 7, 2023

Cover reveal - Octopus Acrobatics

The ocean and all of its living things fascinate so many of us.  It's another whole world there with so many mysteries and undiscovered life!  So when author Sue Fliess asked if I wanted to do a cover reveal of her upcoming book, Octopus Acrobatics, I jumped at the chance!  I'm a big fan of Sue's books.  The way she uses poetic form and non-fiction facts in her books about the world around us make for perfect read alouds.  Some of my very favorites are Rumble and Roar: Sound Around the World, Cicada Symphony, and Flash and Gleam: Light in Our World.  And if you haven't checked out her "Kid Scientist" series (where she introduces young readers to different scientific occupations), don't wait any longer!  Make sure you find them right away!
Now, Sue is diving into the ocean (yup, planned that one) and is introducing us to an amazing sea creature, the octopus!  And without further ado, just take a look at this cover!

And look at the wraparound cover!!

We have just a bit to wait for it, but you can make sure you have it at publication time by preordering now HERE!  It makes anticipating spring time a little sweeter!

More about author Sue Fliess:  Sue Fliess ("fleece") is the award-winning, bestselling author of over 50 children's books including Cicada Symphony, Sadie Sprocket Builds a Rocket, How to Trap a Leprechaun, Mary Had a Little Lab, Rumble and Roar, the Beatrice Bly's Rules for Spies series, the Kid Scientist series, and more. Her books have received honors from SCBWI, been named to ALA Notable lists, and have been used in school curricula and museum educational programs. Fliess's titles have been featured on Reading Rainbow Live and included in Dolly Parton's Imagination Library in the US and Australia. She's a member of SCBWI & Children's Book Guild of DC. She visits elementary schools and does speaking engagements and lives with her family and two yellow labs in Virginia. Visit her at www.suefliess.com.

Monday, July 24, 2023

You and the Bowerbird, a review - 7.24.23

The architect starts building his home.  He goes for grandeur, knowing one day this is the place he will eventually bring his mate.  Designing, planning, decorating... the architect works hard to make his place a true work of art.  Just when a lady friend shows some interest, pirates show up!  Stealing, pillaging, damaging, and breaking everything down, the architect must begin again.  Building, looking for those perfect accent pieces.  Of course, he has an audience watching his every move.  Maybe this time his lady friend will stay and be most impressed with his hard work.
Sounds like the premise to the latest Netflix show, right?  Nope, just the daily life of a satin bowerbird!

You and the Bowerbird by Maria Gianferrari
You and the Bowerbird
written by Maria Gianferrari
illustrated by Maris Wicks
published by Roaring Brook Press
publishes August 15th

In Maria Gianferrari's latest book, we get a glimpse at how hard a satin bowerbird works on his home, or bower.  He truly is an architect as he scouts the area for just the right pieces to design his home.  Something that surprises me is the male bowerbird makes his bower on the forest floor, not in a tree!  Better to place all of his found treasures!  And he especially needs a welcome mat.  Not one ordered from Amazon, but something blue, something found.  Perhaps a feather or sock!  But once the bower is created, the satin bowerbird always has to be on the lookout for pirate birds who are out to steal some of his treasures!  It really is rough out in nature!  These birds are found in Australia.  Even if they aren't local, they are fascinating birds to learn about!

Maris Wicks' illustrations are bright, bold, and will catch a young reader's eye, just like the color blue attracts a male satin bowerbird!  At times, Wicks' gives us the perspective of a young birder looking through binoculars at these fascinating creatures.  Other layouts have a couple of frames that give it more of a notebook feeling.  Of course if you peek under the book jacket you'll find the book looking like a composition notebook, which goes along with the observation and note-taking the young girl seems to be doing.

The text is full of vibrant verbs that so many of Gianferrari's books contain.  I always feel like I could act out her stories with her playful words.  With words like inspect, steals, scours, snatches, and pillages, you can't help but wiggle in your seat as you read this exciting story!

This is a must have book for your science units that talk about animal instincts, habitats, and traits.  The bowerbirds and their habits are so unique, I know young readers will want to know more about them!

About author Maria Gianferrari:
Maria Gianferrari lives in Massachusetts and loves bird-watching from her kitchen window while drinking her morning cup of tea. She has written more than a dozen books, including Coyote Moon, Hello Goodbye Dog, Hawk Rising, and most recently Bobcat Prowling. Her next title with Roaring Brook Press is To Dogs, With Love, which releases in December.

Would you like to have a copy of this book for your library?  Macmillan Publishing has generously offered a copy for giveaway for one reader (US addresses only).  Winner will be selected on July 31st!  For an extra entry, visit @readingthroughtheages_ on Instagram!

Monday, June 12, 2023

Sora's Seashells - a review 6.12.23

 A beautiful intergenerational story that helps young readers understand gifts and giving from the heart.

Sora's Seashells by Helena Ku Rhee
Sora's Seashells
written by Helena Ku Rhee
illustrated by: Stella Lim with Ji-Hyuk Kim
published by Candlewick Press

Summary:  Young Sora is at the beach with her Halmoni, who is visiting Sora and family.  Sora and Halmoni visit the beach to collect shells.  Upon leaving, Sora watches Halmoni leave a gift - a perfect shell they had found - on a bench for someone to find.  Sora is confused why they would leave such a perfect shell for someone else.  Halmoni explains that "It's a gift... for anyone who sees its beauty."  Sora ponders this for some time.  Eventually Halmoni returns to South Korea and Sora starts kindergarten.  At school, Sora is teased for her name being different and she is bothered by it.  But eventually, she receives even worse news, Halmoni has passed away.  Sora's grief is evident and she goes between sadness and anger and even mixes feelings between Halmoni's passing and what has been happening to her at school.  Once her parents hear what has been happening at school, they explain the meaning of her name - in Korean, her name means "seashell".  Sora learns that it was Halmoni's idea to name her that because "a perfect shell is like receiving a wonderful gift."  Sora and her parents return to the beach and Sora collects more shells.  She brings them to school and explains to the other students the meaning of her name.  Sora passes out a seashell to each classmate, including the ones who had been teasing her.  The students have a new understanding of her name and give her compliments.  The story ends full circle with Sora leaving the final shell on the bench for a gift.

My thoughts:  This is such a beautiful story.  I think it will be hard for any reader to finish this story without their heart growing just a little bigger.  I love the inter-generational storyline and seeing how close Sora and Halmoni are, even though they live far away.  I did not know Halmoni was going to pass, which took me a bit by surprise.  Having lost my grandmother this past year, that part hit me kind of hard!  But I love that Halmoni's wise words about gifts and the beauty of them lives on within Sora.  I think the idea of gifts is a great topic to explore with youngsters today.  It's so easy to think about gifts as being wants instead of the idea that gifts are something we share and pass on to make the heart happy in other ways.
This story also discusses the way children can handle an idea when it's something different or uncommon.  Too often when children see something that is different, in this case a name, the initial reaction is to tease and laugh.  Unfortunately this really is something that has to be addressed in school and to teach youngsters how to appreciate the unknown instead of just reacting to a difference.  I love how the author connected Sora's name to the bigger idea of the story.
The illustrations in this book are stunning.  The soft watercolors evoke emotion throughout the story and the ocean pictures even create movement.  They really stand out throughout the reading of the book.

Thank you to Barbara at Blue Slip Media for the review copy!

I have no doubts you'll want a copy of this book for your library!  Thanks to Candlewick Publishers, I have a copy to giveaway (open to US and Canadian addresses).  Enter soon, the winner will be drawn June 20th.  Get more entries on my Instagram account - @readingthroughtheages_

Let's get social!  Find everyone:


Blue Slip Media: @blue_slip_media 

Candlewick: @candlewickpress 

Helena Ku Rhee: @helenakurhee 

Stella Lim: @stellalim_art

Ji-Hyuk Kim: @ji_hyukkim

me: @readingthroughtheages_


Blue Slip Media: @blue-slip-media 

Candlewick: @CandlewickPressBooks

Helena Ku Rhee: @HelenaKuRhee


Blue Slip Media: @blueslipper & @barbfisch

Candlewick: @Candlewick

Helena Ku Rhee: @HelenaRhee

Stella Lim: @StellaLim_art

Ji-Hyuk Kim: @hanuol

me: @knott.michele


Candlewick: @candlewickpress

me: @readingthroughtheages

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Middle Grade books that build stamina, part 3 - 4.18.23

It's time for the next roundup of middle grade novels that are perfect lengths for readers who are growing stamina or just looking for a shorter read.
I've written about these books and if you would like additional suggestions, check out:

And now on for some more books to add to your shorter books recommendation list!

The Button Box
The Button Box
by Bridget Hodder and Fawzia Gilani-Williams
139 pages
Cousins Ava and Nadeem are having a rough time at school with one other student, in particular.  This student is making fun of their cultural and religious backgrounds.  Ava is Jewish and her cousin Nadeem is Muslim.  It's through the wise words of their Granny Buena and her magical button box that gives Ava and Nadeem new ideas and perspective in how to solve their problem.
Granny Buena sets up the mysterious button box by sharing a piece of a story about one button in particular.  All of the buttons in the box have stories, but this one is personal since it came from a long-ago relative.  But when Ava holds the button and it seems to come alive in her hand, Ava and Nadeem know there is more to this box.  While Granny goes to take a "nap", the cousins find the button and it whisks them back in time.  There, they meet their relatives and help them with a special refugee.  Along the way, the cousins learn it's the differences among them that can actually bring them together.
I really liked the historical aspect of this novel and the magical adventure the main characters get to go on together.

Just Right Jillian
Just Right Jillian
written by Nicole D. Collier
224 pages
I fell in love with this one more and more as I continued to read it.  Jillian has anxiety and being in situations where she has to think on her feet are very stressful.  She wants to participate in a school trivia contest, and she knows she is up to the task, but will her anxiety cooperate?  This story features a wonderful teacher who sees Jillian's strengths and what is stopping her from achieving her goal.  With nudges from her teacher, support from her family, and some unhatched chicks in her classroom, they give her the strength to keep pushing on.
The page length is perfect for this story and it will appeal to young readers.  I have found this one to be a great story to book talk and use for a First Chapter Friday reveal! 

Fenris & Mott by Greg Van Eekhout
Fenris and Mott
written by Greg Van Eekhout
195 pages
A story based on Norse mythology, this one features Mott, a girl living in CA, and Fenris, a wolf pup that is featured in mythological stories.  When Mott rescues little Fenris from a recycling bin, she first confuses him for a sweet little puppy.  But when mythological characters start showing up and natural catastrophes seem to be happening all around them, Mott finds herself in a fast adventure to save Fenris... and the world!  
I love the Marvel movies, so this one was fun to read about some of the Asgardian places and characters.  Before starting the book, I had no idea it was going to be based on mythology, so that was a fun surprise!  A short, quick read, perfect for mythology and adventure fans, who aren't quite ready for the longer Rick Riordan stories.

Time to Roll by Jamie Sumner
Time to Roll
written by Jamie Sumner
197 pages
This follow-up to Roll With It, starts right back up with Ellie and her friends and family.  Ellie's mom has just married her gym teacher and are about to set-off on an extended honeymoon.  Ellie's father, who hasn't always been the most supportive of dads, and his family are moving in to stay and bond with Ellie.  But having not been around Ellie much, there are a few things that make Ellie feel in the way.  Of course, Mema and Grandpa aren't too far away and provide comfort and support.  Which is good because Ellie needs to borrow $75 to enter a pageant that she doesn't want to tell anyone about in order to support her BFF, Coralee.  And that's how her summer is filled, with pageant "fun" with Coralee and their manager/friend, Bert.  
I loved the ending of this story because that's when some great lessons are learned.  From Ellie speaking up for herself and her identity, to her growing in her relationships with her friends and her family - lots of heartwarming parts!
Fans of Roll With It will be glad to join up with Ellie, and while this is a sequel, it can be read as a standalone.  Readers will identify with Ellie and love watching her grow throughout the story.

Hope you found some new books for your readers!  Part 4 will be here soon!

Thursday, April 13, 2023

Chef Edna - a review, 4.13.23

Take one look at the cover of this book and you'll know what you are in for.  Clearly we see a picture of Chef Edna and look where her hands are placed - one at her stomach and one at her heart.  In between the two is a large family gathered around a table enjoying a meal together.  We already know we are going to celebrate great food and how it brings us together!

Chef Edna by Melvina Noel
Chef Edna: Queen of Southern Cooking, Edna Lewis
written by Melvina Noel
illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera
published by Cameron Kids

This picture book biography celebrates Chef Edna Lewis.  She grew up in a town that was founded by her grandfather and his friends shortly after they won their emancipation from slavery.  Edna grew up with family all around her and they all worked together growing their food and animals on their farm.  Edna learned all of her cooking secrets from her mother - from baking the best biscuits to how to know when a cake is done cooking.  Edna ventured from home to New York City where she worked many jobs, eventually working her way up to being an executive chef.  Edna went back and forth from NYC to her hometown of Freetown, but her cooking became so popular, she honed her craft in NYC.  
I fell into Edna's story as soon as I sat down to read.  Author Melvina Noel has beautifully crafted a story that instantly makes the reader want to meet Chef Edna, mostly to try her delicious food!  My mouth was watering the entire time I was reading!  Beautifully illustrated by Caldecott Honoree and Coretta Scott King Honoree, Cozbi A. Cabrera, I think this may be her best work, yet!  The vibrant colors made the food illustrations pop and the reader will really want to dive in for some good food!
This picture book is a must have for your collection!  In the backmatter, author Melvina Noel says, "while researching lesser-known African Americans who have had a positive impact on society, I learned about Edna."  This book spotlights an amazing African American and the joy she has brought to so many people through her spirit and talent.  This is a perfect American to spotlight when reading picture book biographies!
Be sure to take the time and appreciate the book jacket, endpages, and front/back cover.  The artwork is stunning!
Today would have been Edna's 107th birthday!  Happy Birthday, Edna!  We'll have a slice of cake in your honor.
Be sure to find this book on its book birthday, Tuesday, April 18th.

Meet the author and illustrator:

Melvina Noel loves to write and to bake cakes. Thanks to Edna, she listens to her cakes to tell her when they are done.  Chef Edna is the debut picture book for Melvina Noel, a Virginian like Edna Lewis.

Instagram: @melvinawrite4you

Cozbi Cabrera is an award-winning illustrator whose gorgeous books-including Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks, published by Abrams-have garnered a Coretta Scott King Honor as well as a Caldecott Honor for illustration. She lives in Illinois. Visit her website: cozbi.com.

On Instagram and Twitter: @cozbi

Publisher info:

Website: Cameron Kids

Instagram: @cameron_kids

Facebook: Cameron Kids

Thank you to Barbara for sending the review copy!

Instagram: @blue_slip_media

Facebook: Blue Slip Media

Would you like to win a copy of Chef Edna?  Publisher Cameron Kids has donated a copy to giveaway to a blog reader (US addresses only)!  Winner will be selected on April 20th.

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Being a Cat - review 4.11.23

From the creators of Being a Dog: A Tail of Mindfulness, readers get to enjoy a new story about another furry friend!

Being a Cat: A Tale of Curiosity
written by Maria Gianferrari
illustrated by Pete Oswald
published by HarperCollins

Maria Gianferrari takes a deep dive into the world of felines in this delightfully wordy book!  And when I say wordy, I don't mean long and lengthy.  I am referring to the wonderful word choice that bounces, leaps, and pounces throughout the book.  For example, one of the first ways these feline friends are described is as being "watching, wondering, wandering".  Don't you love that language?  The way Maria plays with words throughout the text and finds just the perfect ones in the right spot is a gift for readers.  Told in lyrical lines, the words put the story in motion and the illustrations by Pete Oswald helps them dance!
Being a Cat is a love letter to felines and captures the essence of... well, being a cat!  Following a cat and its human, the reader moves, plays, explores, and of course, naps, with the cat.  If you've ever wondered what it's like to be a cat, Maria gives us a perfect view with this book!  The readers gets to see many sides and traits of one feline friend as Maria captures being a cat.  From its playful side to its sleepy side.  From its preening to its loving.  From its mischievous side to its sweet side!
I love how Maria has chosen to include some additional information about cats in the backmatter.  Readers can learn more about cats and their unique abilities, from their whiskers to their claws!  Have you ever wondered what a cat is trying to say to you?  Maria also gives us some information about how cats communicate in the backmatter!  
No doubt cat enthusiasts will smile and notice familiar habits from their own feline companions in this delightful story!

Vocabulary activity:
Now that it's springtime and April (National Poetry Month!), go outside and observe!  Find an animal and observe what it does. 
  • What do you notice about its habits?
  • What words can you use to describe it?
  • What ways does it move?
  • What do you think your animal is thinking?
Write a poem about your animal using all of your observations!

More about Maria Gianferrari:  Maria Gianferrari is a picture book reader/writer, tea-drinker, dog-lover, and birdwatcher. Maria writes books that honor our bonds with creatures both domestic and wild, and that celebrate the wonders of the natural world around us. Curiously, though an unabashed dog lover, this is Maria’s third book featuring cats as main characters, most recently Bobcat Prowling, as well as Officer Katz and Houndini. She lives in Massachusetts with her inquisitive scientist husband. You can learn more about Maria at her website: www.mariagianferrari.com.

Would you like to own a copy of Being a Cat?  Thanks to the generosity of author Maria Gianferrari, I have one to offer for giveaway!  Enter by April 18th for your chance to win a copy (US addresses only).