Perfect Picture Books for Science Homeschooling

When you think of teaching science, you might imagine dry, boring textbooks. And if you unexpectedly find yourself homeschooling this year, you might be less than enthused about teaching those.

Luckily for you, your local library is chock full of gorgeous, engaging STEM picture books. These books are perfect for early elementary schoolers and also have great read-aloud qualities for preschoolers. If you have older kids, consider using an engaging picture book to ignite interest in a topic before delving deeper into the details.

I firmly believe that picture books are for everyone from babies to adults. Jeopardy! champion James Holzhauer used them to prep for his historic winning streak. And these books are not only informative, but beautifully written and illustrated pieces of art.

Here are a few of my favorites…

Water is Water by Miranda Paul and Jason Chin

Read the full review here.

Gravity by Jason Chin

Read the full review here.

Giant Squid by Candace Fleming and Eric Rohmann

Read the full review here.

Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera by Candice Fleming and Eric Rohmann

Read a full review here.

Wood, Wire, Wings: Emma Lilian Todd Invents an Airplane by Kirsten Larson and Tracy Subisak

Read a full review here.

Volcano Rising by Elizabeth Rusch and Susan Swan

Read a full review here.

Wait, Rest, Pause: Dormancy in Nature by Marcy Flinchum Atkins

Read a full review here.

Being Frog by April Sayre

Read a full review here.

Review: Mootilda’s Bad Mood

I am this cow. She is me. We are one. And we are in a bad moooooooood!

Mootilda’s Bad Mood by Corey Rosen Scwartz and Kristi Call, illustrated by Claudia Ranucci is out September 1st!

Mootilda’s Bad Mood by Corey Rosen Scwartz and Kristi Call and illustrated by Claudia Ranucci comes out September 1st, and I may need all the time between now and then to list all the things I love about it.

The rhyme rolls off the tongue. The puns are hilarious. The story is quick and fun; full of emotion and action.

Despite Mootilda’s titular bad mood, I can’t read a page of this book without smiling. And there’s this:

This is a BIG mood.

This refrain is irresistible. If you can read this without moo-ing, I will award the highest award of the Order of Seriousness because is this seriously silly stuff. My two-year-old mooed with delight. My four-year-old giggled. They both mooed for the next twenty minutes.

Which was great because I could do the dishes in peace. Cheapest babysitting I’ve found in years.

In all seriousness, I love this book (if you can’t tell). It’s 32 pages of perfect rhythm, rhyme, and fun. And let’s not forget the bright and beautiful illustrations! They’re just as packed with fun and emotion as the text.

Underneath it all, there’s a wonderful theme of acknowledging and honoring your emotions. Even if you need to moo to do it! This book is a surefire way to get out of a bad moooooooooood!

Mootilda’s Bad Mood is available for pre-order here! It’s perfect for fans of Click, Clack, Moo, Little Blue Truck, and laughing in general.

Review: Two Tough Trucks Get Lost

Need some good news? Two Tough Trucks has a sequel! And, it’s coming out in less than a month. WOO-HOO!

Last year, I wrote about the delightful Two Tough Trucks as a zippy and fun addition to the back-to-school genre. That its sequel, Two Tough Trucks Get Lost(written by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca J. Gomez, illustrated by Hilary Leung), would come out during this strange back-to-school season seems like fate.

Two Tough Trucks Get Lost echoes the zooming language and playful illustrations of its predecessor, while showing Rig and Mac dealing with fear and complex emotions as they get lost in the desert.

The “Vroom! Zoom!” refrain is a hit in this household.

The book is just as fun for preschoolers as the first with great language, intrigue, and the beautiful backdrop of the American Southwest. But the book also has unexpected depth.

It opened a conversation with my preschooler about his fears (and who doesn’t have some of those right now?). I loved that both Mac and Rig, who are coded as male, are unabashedly afraid and concerned for each other while still being “tough.” Male characters, especially vehicles, still rarely cry in children’s books. I appreciated how Mac and Rig modeled expressing emotions in healthy ways.

We’re all feeling a little lost these days, aren’t we?

In this back-to-school season when there isn’t much to go back to, we’re all feeling a little lost. Seeing two tough trucks find their way home was a comfort and a joy to my truck-loving boys.

Two Tough Trucks Get Lost is out September 1st from Orchard Books/Scholastic. Find your copy here!

And keep your eyes on this space! Next week, we’ll be featuring another fun and fabulous read from Corey Rosen Schwartz that will have you mooing in delight!

Don’t miss this one!

Review: HELP WANTED: MUST LOVE BOOKS

It’s a strange time right now. There’s uncertainty and anxiety and cabin fever. And, in difficult times, there are stories. Stories can entertain, transport, and comfort. And, picture books, in particular, foster closeness between reader and listener, parent and child.

That’s why I’m highlighting a fabulous new picture book, which is itself an ode to books and the beauty of a bedtime story. HELP WANTED: MUST LOVE BOOKS by Janet Sumner Johnson and illustrated by Courtney Dawson is a perfect read for your favorite bookworm.

HELP WANTED: MUST LOVE BOOKS is a new release from Capstone Publishing.

First a summary:

Shailey loves bedtime, especially reading with her dad. But her dad starts a new job, and it gets in the way of their bedtime routine. So Shailey takes action! She fires her dad, posts a Help Wanted sign, and starts interviews immediately. She is thrilled when her favorite characters from fairytales line up to apply. But Sleeping Beauty can’t stay awake, the Gingerbread Man steals her book, and Snow White brings along her whole team. Shailey is running out of options. Is bedtime ruined forever?

This picture book has loads of humor with unexpected and fun twists on familiar stories. Kids will love guessing who’s going to apply to be Shaileys reader next and what havoc they might wreak. Dawson’s playful art complements Johnson’s clever text, giving the story a light and fun feel (and who doesn’t need that right now?).

But, in the end, it’s the story’s heart that makes it an instant bedtime classic. Because, in the end, there’s no replacing Dad at bedtime. There’s no replacing the coziness of reading with someone you love. And, in difficult times, there’s no replacing the closeness between reader and listener, parent and child.

So grab a copy of HELP WANTED: MUST LOVE BOOKS here and enjoy a heartwarming story in difficult times.

Stay safe and healthy, friends!

Nonfiction Picture Book Perfection: WATER IS WATER

This is the third in my series of nonfiction picture book reviews (read the first and second) that explores what makes outstanding nonfiction. Have a nonfiction picture book you love? Let me know in comments!

WATER IS WATER (written by Miranda Paul and illustrated by Jason Chin) is a book that I beg my children to read–not that they object. It’s the kind of book that amazes me with its simplicity and poetry. The kind of book I wish I wrote.

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Photo credit: my four-year-old.

WATER IS WATER follows the water cycle. It has a wonderful concept, built-in tension for every page turn, perfect rhyme, and a satisfying conclusion (not always easy to pull-off in nonfiction). It is simple, but never simplistic–a great feat for a picture book in my opinion.

Each part of the water cycle is described with kid-relatable examples that celebrate the simple joys of childhood. I love that Paul has taken a science concept and turned it into something familiar and wondrous, beautiful and inviting.

Jason Chin’s art adds an entire storyline that is exclusively told in the illustrations, which perfectly compliments Paul’s sparse poetry.

This book is one my toddler begs for again and again (and he’s not my bookworm child) and one I adore reading.

 

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Nonfiction Picture Book Perfection: GRAVITY

This is the second in my series of nonfiction picture book reviews (read the first here) that explores what makes outstanding nonfiction. Have a nonfiction picture book you love? Let me know in comments!

My four-year-old loves asking questions. Right now, everything is “why?” Or “what does that mean?” He particularly loves asking the definitions of little words like “if” or “unless.” And let me tell you–defining the connecting words is hard. Like the proverbial fish defining “water,” I struggle to relate the simplest concepts because they simply are.

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So, when I read Jason Chin’s GRAVITY, I was impressed. Gravity itself is much like the air we breathe. It’s omnipresent, taken for granted. But Chin describes it beautifully by leaning into its simplicity.

A talented (and celebrated) author-illustrator, Chin lets the art do much of the talking. Many of the spread feature more illustrations than words and plays with the idea of what would happen without gravity. I particularly enjoy that he incorporates a copy of the book itself into the art.

Though the text itself is sparse, ample backmatter provides a more scientific grounding on the subject.

Nonfiction Picture Book Perfection: GIANT SQUID

Opening GIANT SQUID (written by Candace Fleming, illustrated by Eric Rohman) is a revelation. It’s beautiful. It’s strange. It delights in the beautiful strangeness of this world we live on. And one beautifully, strange creature in particular. This creature is, of course, the titular Giant Squid.

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GIANT SQUID is lyrical, but it’s lyricism always clarifies, never confuses. It expertly uses backmatter to leave the main text free to follow its theme–in this case, mystery. I adore picture books that explore nature while illuminating a theme, and this is the best example I’ve come across.

Because the theme, the subject, the lyricism, and the art work so well together, the overall effect is breathtaking. The reader in immersed in the mystery of this strange, beautiful creature. And left wanting to know more–the starting point of all good science.

Preschooler-Approved Picture Book: EVERYONE LOVES A PARADE*

New year, new books! (hooray!)

If EVERYONE LOVES A PARADE* written by Andrea Denish and illustrated by Guilherme Franco is any indication (debuting April 28th), 2020 will be a fabulous year for picture books.

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This story’s heart lies in its refrain: everyone loves a parade–or at least almost everyone (if you want to know what the asterisk is for, you’ll have to read it yourself.)

The word everyone is at the heart of this inclusive story. Propelled forward by strong, visual language, EVERYONE LOVES A PARADE* marches through nine kinds of parades–from military homecoming to Chinese New Year to LGBTQ+ pride. 

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That the last parade is Fourth of July seems fitting because this book–like America at its best–is proudly pluralistic. Not a melting pot, but a place where each individual can be celebrated for who they are.

Older kids and educators will enjoy the book’s backmatter, which details each celebration. Younger kids (like mine) will enjoy the joyful art, zippy verse, and, well, the parades.

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Like a parade itself, this book leans into a musical cadence and is energetic from start to finish. Unlike a parade, its’s over too soon and leaves you wanting more.

Check out the book trailer on YouTube, and pre-order EVERYONE LOVES A PARADE* (out April 28th from Boyd Mills Press) at Amazon or Barnes and Noble!

Last-Minute Holiday Gift: THE PENCIL EATER

Are you staring down December with a few question marks left in your holiday shopping list? THE PENCIL EATER by Stacey Corrigan and Steve Page might be just the ticket for any teachers, homeschoolers, and pencil-losing students in your life!

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I haven’t had much reading or writing time lately, thanks to moving over a thousand miles. But when I unpacked my kid’s books in our new house, his first request was THE PENCIL EATER.

So, what makes this book so awesome?

Teachers and parents have long pondered: where on earth are all our pencils going?  This story offers a delightfully, unexpected answer–told from the perspective of the long-suffering pencil-munching monster itself.

If you’ve ever wondered (and, really who hasn’t?) the lengths such a monster will go to in order to steal your pencils, you will wonder no longer. The story follows the Pencil Eater through the many dangers of pencil-poaching until at least it reaches a satisfying (and delicious) ending.

This book has kid-appeal for days, thanks to Corrigan’s fun text and Page’s lively art. Each page turn offers an exciting new scene for kids to sink their (metaphorical) teeth into.

So, if you’re still looking for the perfect gift for a special teacher, homeschooler, or student in your life, look no further. THE PENCIL EATER is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Spooktacular Read: SPOOKY AND THE GARGOYLE

When the air turns crisp and leaves begin to fall, it’s time to add some spooky to your (and your kids’) reading diet. Teresa Traver’s charming picture book, SPOOKY AND THE GARGOYLE is just the ticket.

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It follows the unlikely friendship of a white cat named Spooky and a gargoyle named Eben. Despite her name, Spooky isn’t fearsome. In fact, she’s often fearful. But with some help from Eben, she finds her inner spookiness and helps a friend along the way.

I love how this book approaches issues surrounding fear, which are front of mind for many kids this time of year. Spooky and Eben’s friendship is a gentle one. Spooky is not ridiculed for being a scaredy cat; she’s encouraged. She’s aware of her smallness, but Eben never underestimates her. The book models how kids can support one another in the context of a fun and engaging story.

SPOOKY AND THE GARGOYLE makes a great read for classroom, homeschoolers, or even preschool-aged kids. The lovely quality of the writing and fun illustrations keep the younger set engaged.

Discussion questions and activities are available here.