Posted in Animal Fiction, Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Humor, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Tween Reads

Holiday Gift Guide: Books Kids Like!

I’m one of those people that believes there’s a book for every person, every occasion. I’m a firm believer in the five laws of library science, after all, and three of those are: “Books are for use”; “Every book its reader”; “Every reader his or her book”. This is very serious business.  So here’s a humble little gift guide for those of you who may want to give a book (or three), but not sure what to give to whom.

For the graphic novel reader who’s a little quirky and fun…

Anna & Froga: Completely Bubu, by Anouk Ricard,
(Sept. 2017, Drawn & Quarterly), $19.95, ISBN: 978-1-77046-292-2
Good for readers 10-13

This collection of comics from French author, artist, and animator Anouk Ricard stars a little girl named Anna, and her group of animal friends: Froga, the frog; Christopher, the worm; Ron, the cat, and Bubu, the dog. The book collects five previously published comics and one new story; each vignette running about 6 pages. Some vignettes end with a two-page final spread to deliver one last laugh, some run the whole 6 pages as a strip, but every little episode in Completely Bubu is loaded with kooky, smart humor. Upper middle graders and middle schoolers will get some good laughs out of this group, and so will you. “Bubu’s Vacation” will make you laugh out loud if you’ve ever considered (or maybe have) lying about going on vacation just to get some peace and quiet, and “The Garage Sale” will crack you up… and maybe, eye some pen caps.

For the kid who needs to know EVERYTHING. Right now.

Time for Kids: The Big Book of How, by James Buckley, Jr.,
(Oct. 2017, Liberty Street), $19.99, ISBN: 9781683300106
Good for readers 8-12

If you know a kid that has the Wikipedia app loaded and ready to go; takes things apart to figure out how they work, or just wants to know why, The Big Book of How is the gift to give. With 11 sections, covering Animals, Technology, Space, Science, Sports, and more, this book carries over 1,000 facts (see the cover?) that kids wants to know. Each section hands readers the reins by offering a How To just for them: learn how to make a paper airplane or a camera obscura; find out how to launch a rocket or grow salad on a windowsill. There are amazing photos and fast facts, Did You Know? boxes and infographics, making this a desk reference that will get read and loved.

For the sports fan who already knows all the stats…

Sports Illustrated Kids All-Star Activity Book, by James Buckley Jr.,
(Nov. 2017, Liberty Street), $9.99, ISBN: 978-1-68330-773-0
Good for readers 8-13

Your sports fan knows all the box scores and stats, but has she or he ever done a Williams Sisters connect-the-dot? Or created his or her own James Harden beard? You can do that and more with this activity book – covering all the major sports, with additional sections for the Olympics and All-Stars, kids can match soccer team jerseys to their players, create their own Olympic logo, and zip through an NHL word search. There’s even a NASCAR coin flip game in here for Race Day fans. Fun facts and great photos make this a great stocking stuffer.

For the time-traveler and history buff…


The BlastBack! series, by Nancy Ohlin/Illustrated by Adam Larkum and Roger Simó, (little bee)
Good for readers 7-10

The BlastBack! series is nonfiction that kids devour. It’s like the Time Warp Trio wrote books after each of their adventures. Each book covers a period in time, giving readers the full scoop: religion and mythology, history, aftermath, all written with respect for the younger reader – parenthetical explanations of terms and facts; callout boxes that look deeper into key people and moments; selected bibliographies at the end of each book. Black and white illustrations and maps throughout keep readers turning pages. There are 10 BlastBack! books now, and I hope we get some more to fill up my series nonfiction section. They’re just good reading.

For the kid you hand your phone to when you can’t figure out an app…

Coding iPhone Apps for Kids: A Playful Introduction to Swift, by Gloria Winquist and Matt McCarthy/Illustrated by Keiko Sato,
(May 2017, No Starch Press), $29.95, ISBN: 978-1-59327-756-7
Good for readers 10+

I love No Starch Press and their tech books for kids. Coding iPhone Apps for Kids is a detailed, but highly readable, introduction to Swift, the language used mobile apps that run on Apple devices. The book walks readers through every step of the process, from the basics of learning how to code, installing Xcode (the code editor), storyboarding, adding art and sound effects, testing, and finally, running the app. (I’m leaving a lot of steps out of the process, but that’s why I don’t write books on creating apps.) There are full-color illustrations, screen shots, and lines of code to guide readers and important troubleshooting tips and tweaks along the way. An appendix and index round out this insanely helpful book that would make a lovely gift wrapped up with a copy of Girls Who Code. Just sayin’.

For the kid who loves infographics… or really likes Seek and Finds…

The Big History Timeline Wallbook, by Christopher Lloyd and Patrick Skipworth/Illustrated by Andy Forshaw,
(Sept. 2017, What On Earth Books), $19.95, ISBN: 978-0-9932847-2-4
Good for readers 6-14

What did we do before infographics? So much info communicated in little bites of space, fully illustrated and eyecatching; it’s a wonderful thing. The Big History Timeline Wallbook isn’t quite an infographic, but it does come with a 6-foot timeline of the universe – from the Big Bang to our Present Day – that you can detach and hang on your wall. There’s even a cute little pocket, holding a magnifier, that you can use to read the itty bitty text on the poster. Hey, there’s a lot of history to chronicle; sometimes, font size has to be sacrificed.

The Wallbook Chronicle is an 18-page “glorious gallop through fourteen billion years of big history”: printed to look like a newspaper, articles include major world events with bylines and dates, like the “Solar System origins clouded in swirls of gas” article by the astronomy editor from Paris, 1796 and the geography correspondent’s 1806 article on Lewis and Clark completing their transcontinental trek. A letters section from “would-be readers down the ages” has commentary on events including the sacking of King Tut’s tomb and the fire-bombing of Tokyo in 1945; a quiz tests readers’ mettle. There are three Timeline Wallbooks available: Big History, Science, and Nature; all developed in conjunction with the American Museum of Natural History. Definitely a fun gift choice.

 

More gift ideas to come! I hope this helped fill in a few check boxes on your holiday lists.

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Posted in Guide, Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Tween Reads

Create your own Scratch games with Scratch Coding Cards!

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.

Posted in Fiction, geek, Guide, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Tween Reads

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.

Posted in gaming, geek, Guide, Non-Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads

Minecraft teaches kids Python, empowers future programmers

minecraftLearn to Program with Minecraft, by Craig Richardson (Dec. 2015, No Starch Press), $29.95, ISBN: 9781593276706

Recommended for ages 10+

The kids in my library are obsessed with Minecraft. From 2:30 on, as the kids storm the beachhead that is my children’s room, I hear shouts of, “Don’t touch my skin!”; “GET THE CREEPER! GET THE CREEPER!”; “OMG, get away from the Enderman!”; and “DIAMONDS!” I see the potential of Minecraft, and how it can be a fantastic tool to teach kids to create online worlds. I also, as a children’s librarian and mom of three boys, know that for the most part, they want to kill creepers and each other in some kind of 8-bit battle royale more often than not.

Books like Learn to Program with Minecraft are my gateway drug to programming with these kids. First, I get the fiction in (the GameKnight999 series by Mark Cheverton is available in English and Spanish, and they fly off my shelves), then I introduce coding programs like the Hour of Code, to show them how playing their game actually teaches them the building blocks of coding programs and apps of their own. Finally, I use part of my book-buying budget to buy coding nonfiction to keep around. I love DK’s coding books; those are especially great for my younger coders. My older kids need a little more, though, to keep them interested. That’s where the No Starch Books come in.

No Starch has great programming books for kids and teens, and Learn to Program with Minecraft is a solid addition to middle school and YA collecctions. A heads-up: you have to download Python to work with this book, but it’s a free programming language. Don’t be scared! The book will guide you along your Python/Minecraft journey, with screenshots and step-by-step bullets points that make creating much less stressful.

The book will help you create mini-games within Minecraft, take you on an automated teleportation tour around your Minecraft world, and teach you to make secret passageways. You’ll learn to make lava traps and cause floods, but be a good Minecraft citizen: no griefing.

I don’t quite have the Minecraft skills for this just yet, but I’m confident in my crafters here – I’ll be investing in this for my summer crowd, especially since we’ll be running a Google CS program here in a couple of months. Get kids to love programming, and watch what they come up with. I’m pretty psyched.