Mom Read It

If the kids are reading it, chances are I have, too.

Black History Month: Shackles from the Deep, by Michael Cottman February 10, 2017

shackles-from-the-deepShackles from the Deep: Tracing the Path of a Sunken Slave Ship, a Bitter Past, and a Rich Legacy, by Michael Cottman, (Jan. 2017, National Geographic Society), $17.99, ISBN: 9781426326639

Recommended for ages 10-13

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Michael Cottman investigates the wreck of a 17-century slave ship, the Henrietta Marie, and goes on a journey that will take him from the Caribbean islands, where the Henrietta Marie docked to unload hundreds of kidnapped Africans to be sold into slavery, to Africa, to see Goree Island – location of the Maison des Esclaves; House of the Slaves, and the Door of No Return; the last glimpse enslaved Africans would have of their homeland – with his own eyes.

Cottman’s journey is as personal as it is professional. He struggles with anger at the slavers themselves, and with the manufacturers of the shackles, discovered by African-American diver Captain Demostenes “Moe” Molinar, in 1972. Cottman discovers that many of the men behind the Henrietta Marie were members of their parishes, even philanthropists in their own communities, and yet turned a blind eye to the suffering of countless men, women, and children caught up in the slave trade. He wonders if the spouses and children of these men knew that their comfortable lifestyle came at the expense of human misery, and he agonizes as he tries to understand, and forgive.

Adapted for younger readers from Michael Cottman’s 1999 book, The Wreck of the Henrietta Marie, Shackles from the Deep introduces readers to the aftereffects of slavery, centuries later. Entire families have been lost to history; people feel unrooted, to some degree, to this day. Imagine wondering your ancestors endured the brutal conditions of slavery, and never being able to find out the answer? By personalizing his story, Michael Cottman makes this already important book vital reading for middle school students and above.

We are still dealing with the fallout from centuries of slavery. It is personal, and by adding his story to the story of the Henrietta Marie, Michael Cottman invites readers to look at events that may seem so long past through different eyes. What we also get, unexpectedly, is a call to action for young divers of color to continue exploring the waters of our planet to learn more about our collective past, and our future.

An important book for libraries and nonfiction collections, Shackles from the Deep has received a starred review from Booklist. There are four pages of full-color photos; an index, and further resources on deep-water exploration, shipwrecks, and slave ships.

The West Virginia Division of Culture and History has a comprehensive booklet on the Henrietta Marie, from their 2000 expedition at the West Virginia State Museum. It would be an excellent companion to any social studies unit on slavery and an accompaniment to Shackles From the Deep.

 

Time For Kids Presidents is a good desk reference for middle graders January 30, 2017

tfkpresidentsTime for Kids: Presidents of the United States, by Editors at Time for Kids, (Jan. 2017, Time for Kids), $15.95, ISBN: 978-1683300007

Recommended for ages 8-12

Time for Kids’ Presidents of the United States is a slim, backpack and desk-friendly reference guide for middle graders. Loaded with color photos and illustrations, there are facts about the Presidency, branches of government, political parties and why we have them, a spotlight on the First Ladies, and more. Each President receives a brief biography, fast facts, including birth and death dates, political party, Vice President, wife, children, key dates during his administration, and a Did You Know? fact. A 2016 election spotlight and President portrait gallery completes the volume, along with links to the White House website, Presidential homesteads and museums. The volume includes an index.

This is a helpful resource for middle graders – it will help with social studies and current events homework, and provides a quick, easy reading experience by chunking information into readable bites. A good buy for classroom libraries and social studies collections.

 

 

Create your own Scratch games with Scratch Coding Cards! January 18, 2017

scratchcodingcards_coverScratch Coding Cards, by Natalie Rusk, MIT Lab Scratch Team, (Dec. 2016, No Starch Press), $24.95, ISBN: 97-1-59327-774-1

Recommended for ages 8+

Better than flash cards, these Scratch coding cards teach users to design:

  • virtual pets that can eat, drink, and play;
  • games where you can catch things falling from the sky;
  • animated dance scenes with music and dance moves;
  • a bouncing ball game with sounds, points, and other effects;
  • characters that you can dress up with different clothes
  • stories, where you can choose characters, add conversations, and bring your story to life;
  • hide and seek games with characters that disappear;
  • a music program, where you choose instruments, add sounds, and press keys to play music;
  • a game where two characters race one another, and
  • a program that will animate the letters of your name.

Each activity comes with a set of cards, walking users through each action in the process. Every card is fully illustrated and includes screenshots and brief, clear text. I spent the better part of an afternoon creating Pong-type games with my 13 year old when I received my cards to review, and I’m going to start working with my 4 year-old on making up a story using Scratch. I’ve even gushed about these cards to the Collection Development group at my library system, because I love these cards so much.

Librarian or teacher? These cards are a class/program in themselves. Parent, or just interested in learning how to code? You can’t beat these cards for teaching and learning block coding.

 

Science Comics Explores Bats January 16, 2017

batsScience Comics: Bats – Learning to Fly, by Falynn Christine Koch, (Feb. 2017, First Second), $12.99, ISBN: 9781626724082

Recommended for ages 8-13

The latest volume of Science Comics introduces kids to bats. The information is pulled together with a story about a little brown bat whose wing is injured by humans on a nature hike. He’s taken to a rehabilitation center, where he meets bats of different species. Little Brown, as he’s called by the other bats, learns what the other bats eat, how they fly, live, and sadly, how their homes are invaded by humans. The information is comprehensive and there’s a call to conservation and preservation for kids, which I always appreciate.

I enjoy Science Comics because it’s easily an digestible, thorough introduction to a subject that doesn’t talk down to kids, nor does it speak over their heads. The illustrations are interesting and technically on point, and the fictional narrative that ties each volume together is interesting and fun, keeping the reader’s attention. I’ve got every issue of Science Comics (Coral Reefs, Dinosaurs, Volcanoes) so far, and Bats will join them on my shelves. I display mine with related series nonfiction, lest kids worry about a “comic book” not satisfying their research requirements, and I booktalk them every chance I get. If you’re a teacher, have these in your classroom and use them when you cover these topics – your kids will thank you.

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Blog Tour: Twisted True Tales from Science! January 2, 2017

Happy New Year! What better way to kick things off than by talking up a new, cool nonfiction science series?

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Series information:

Title: Twisted True Tales from Science

Author: Stephanie Bearce

Release Date: February 1, 2017

Publisher: Prufrock Press

Did you know that Nikola Tesla invented a death ray gun and was also afraid of women who wore jewelry? How about the Chinese scientists from two-thousand years ago who were trying to create a medicine that would make them live forever but accidentally blew up their lab and discovered gun powder?

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Find out more about the strange history of science in Twisted True Tales from Science, a new non-fiction series that introduces kids to some of the most twisted yet completely true stories from science. These books are perfect for the gross-but-true legends of the Ripley’s Believe-It-Or-Not! stories.

Freaky Facts from Explosive Experiments

Gunpowder was a chemical explosive discovered by the ancient Chinese. But they weren’t experimenting to invent a weapon. They were actually trying to make a medicine that would give their emperor eternal life. Boy – were they surprised when the elixir for life exploded and blew up their laboratory.

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The mission was code named Starfish Prime and it was one of the largest man-made explosions in the history of the world. In 1962 the United States tested a nuclear bomb in outer space. The explosion was so bright that it lit up the sky over Honolulu just like it was the fourth of July. But instead of fireworks, it was a nuclear bomb 100 times bigger than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

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GIVEAWAY for one bundle of the entire Twisted True Tales from Science series (4 books)

Don’t miss your chance to win a bundle of your own Twisted True Tales from Science! Enter a Rafflecopter giveaway today!

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Holiday Shopping: Nature December 12, 2016

First tech, now nature. This latest round of holiday gift ideas looks at science and nature books. These are perfect for the kid who loves to be outdoors and wants to know more about our world and the animals he or she shares it with.

underwater_2Under Earth, Under Water, by Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski, (Oct. 2016, Candlewick Press), $35.00, ISBN: 978-0-7636-8922-3

Recommended for ages 7-12

This book is stunning. It’s two books in one, each examining our worlds just below the surface: water and earth. The illustrations are amazing, and kids will flip as they see the inside of an anthill, take a look at an archaeological dig, check out a history of submarines, or tag along for a tour of the Mariana Trench. I can’t get enough of this book, and kids who love natural science won’t, either. Check out this spread on a Dreadnoughtus schrani!

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aliens-from-earthAliens From Earth: When Animals and Plants Invade Other Ecosystems, by Mary Batten/Illustrated by Beverly J. Doyle, (March 2016, Peachtree Publishers), $16.95, ISBN: 978-1-56145-900-1

Recommended for ages 9-12

Aliens From Earth takes a fascinating look at what happens when animals or plants invade a new habitat, upsetting an ecosystem’s balance. Fire ants, gypsy moths, even the cute little starlings that I see every morning when I head to work are all in here. Introducing an invasive species into an ecosystem unprepared for it can be responsible for the spread of disease, loss of habitat for current inhabitants, and reduction of natural resources for an area. This volume is beautifully illustrated by artist Beverly J. Doyle, whose acrylic paintings make me feel like I’m walking through a museum exhibit as I read. Previously published in 2006, Aliens from Earth is an Izaak Walton League of American Conservation Book of the Year. Give this to kids who are interested in environmentalism, preservation, and conservation.

 

oceanpediaUltimate Oceanpedia, by Christina Wilsdon, (Nov. 2016, National Geographic Children’s Books), $24.99, ISBN: 978-1426325502

Recommended for ages 7-13

Know a kid who would live in the aquarium if she or he could? Fascinated by fish, crazy for sea turtles, smart about sharks? The Ultimate Oceanpedia is the book for them. Stunning photos accompany entries on earth’s oceans, sea life, exploration, weather, the coast, and conservation of our underwater habitats and saving sea life. There are fast facts, stats, food webs, and maps galore. Sections on climate change and offshore drilling take on today’s big issues and present the facts without bias, letting readers form their own opinions. A call to action provides simple ways kids can help make the world a better, cleaner, healthier place to live. A glossary and in-depth resources encourage kids to keep learning and changing the world around them for the better.

These books are all available right now and are dying to go home with you! Shop your local bookseller, or click on over to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million, or Indie Bound to buy.

 

Holiday Book Shopping: Science and Tech

Books make fantastic holiday gifts! Need a stocking stuffer or are stumped by a kid who has seemingly everything? Try one of these!

I am guilty of favoring books in the STEM/STEAM areas, because that’s what I love evangelizing to my own kids and the kids at my libraries. Take a look – you don’t need to be a Stephen Hawking-in-the-making to enjoy these.

scratch-playgroundScratch Programming Playground, by Al Sweigart, (Oct. 2016, No Starch Press), $24.95, ISBN: 978-1593277628

Recommended for Ages 8-12

I love working with Scratch for young coders. It’s all about teaching kids how to computer code using interconnecting blocks of code, and the Scratch program, developed at MIT, is free and available online. Scratch Programming Playground walks kids (and grownups – I used this book extensively while putting together programs for this coming winter) through the process of learning Scratch by making cool games, like Fruit Slicer (a Fruit Ninja clone), Brick Breaker (where my ’80s friends at?), and Asteroid Breaker (Asteroids! Remember that one?). There are tons of full-color visuals and step-by-step breakdowns that will have kids programming in no time. I buy No Starch books for my libraries all the time – they’re great to have on hand.

 

how-things-workHow Things Work, by T.J Resler (Oct. 2016, National Geographic Kids), $19.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-2555-7

Recommended for ages 7-12

Know a kid who’s constantly taking everything apart to see how it works? This is the book for her or him. It’s loaded with gadgets and how they work; fun facts; in-depth pieces on technology and how it works; profiles of scientists and innovators, and yes, experiments that are totally safe to try at home (with adult supervision, please). Learn how a tablet really works, how an aquarium works to keep fish healthy and happy, even how a toilet works, complete with diagram. Design a roller coaster with your kids – it’s easier than you think! Because it’s a NatGeo Kids book, you know the writing is great; it speaks to kids in easy, clear, fun language that educates and never talks over their heads or down to them. The photos are amazing, and the dog on a surfboard (page 131) is worth the cost of the book all on its own.

science-encyclopediaScience Encyclopedia: Atom Smashing, Food Chemistry, Animals, Space, and More!, by National Geographic Kids, (Oct. 2016, National Geographic Kids), $24.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-2543-4

Recommended for ages 8-13

I know, it’s a NatGeo Kids lovefest right now, but it’s well-deserved. The Science Encyclopedia is info-packed with everything kids need to know about physical and life sciences, covering matter, energy, electronics, the universe, and more. There are record breakers, key dates in atomic science, and activities to try at home. Information is presented in 2-page spreads broken out into subject-specific blocks, with stunning photos, fun facts, and hilariously bad jokes (Where does bad light go? A prism!) A glossary, index, and additional resources round this volume out. Fantastic gift for any tween who wants to know more about everything.

 

These are all available now, either in your local bookstore or online through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million, or IndieBound.