January 30, 2015

SImple question; difficult answer

Why We Live Where We Live
by Kira Vermond

Why do people live in cities? In the country? On volcanoes or in other dangerous places? Why do we move? Kira Vermond tackles these questions and more in a thought-provoking book that is sure to spark many discussions. Chapters cover the history of cities and the many factors that determine where people settle: close to water or fertile land, in comfortable climates, livable cities, or simply to be close to families. Political or economic reasons are also mentioned, as are human influences that help shape the environment, whether for good or bad.

It just goes to show that a simple question - why do we live where we live - is not so simple after all.

January 28, 2015

The Global Village

If the World Were a Village: A Book about the World’s People
by David J. Smith
illustrated by Shelagh Armstrong

The world is a very big place! As of 2010, its population was over 6 billion and growing. That's a mind-boggling number. But what if you could visit a village of just 100 people? David J. Smith imagines such a scenario, making it easier to present vital statistics on nationality, religion, food, energy, health, and resources. His book helps to foster a sense of world-mindedness and global citizenship in children and tweens.

The text is easily understood; however, the pictures could do a better job of visualizing and complementing the information.

January 26, 2015

Big ideas scaled down

If: A Mind-Bending New Way of Looking at Big Ideas and Numbers
by David J. Smith
illustrated by Steve Adams

Some facts and concepts are so huge, it's hard to wrap your mind around them. David J. Smith takes these hard-to-grasp ideas and shrinks them down to manageable sizes. The 3.5 billion years of life on earth is compressed into one hour (or, to make it even easier, 24 hours), a timeline of inventions is presented on a 36-inch-long tape measure, the amount of water on Earth is represented by 100 glasses of water (of which only one is available to us), and all the wealth in the world is divided up into piles of coins. 

Definitely mind-boggling, Smith's book presents information in a fun, accessible way, helped by Steve Adams' bright illustrations, which reinforce each concept. Useful for home and school, Smith also includes six activities and a list of resources (books, reports, websites) that help make scale meaningful to children.

An excellent book.

January 23, 2015

Math in poetry

Edgar Allan Poe's Pie: Math Puzzlers in Classic Poems
by J. Patrick Lewis

Lewis takes classic poems such as Poe's The Raven, Lewis Carroll's You are Old, Father William, Eleanor Farjeon's W is for Witch, and Shel Silverstein's Boa Constrictor, and turns them into fun and silly parodies with a touch of math thrown in. The calculations are simple enough for even the most math-phobic, with answers appearing unobtrusively on each page. Includes suitably wacky pictures and mini-bios of each poet.

January 21, 2015

Train your eyes to estimate

Great Estimations           Greater Estimations
both by Bruce Goldstone

Ever tried to guess how many jellybeans were in a jar? You were either really close or completely off base. To improve your chances of winning the prize, you need to train your eyes to recognize large numbers. Using a jumbled mix of pencils, candy, beads, cherries, bugs, stamps and toys, Goldstone helps kids visualize what 10, 100 and 1,000 looks like. Then he explains how to estimate amounts using clump counting and box and count techniques. Greater Estimations ups the ante by showing kids how to estimate length, height, weight and volume.

Challenging fun for the whole family!

January 19, 2015

Probability for kindergartners

That's a Possibility! A Book About What Might Happen
by Bruce Goldstone

Goldstone introduces young children to the concepts of possibility, probability, and impossibility in this fun, easy-to-grasp book. The large, colorful photographs and simple interactive games and questions make for a very attractive, understandable book.

January 16, 2015

Technology in everyday life

The Technology Book for Girls and Other Advanced Beings
by Trudee Romanek

Romanek begins the book with a girl named Gina, who's given a school science project topic: advanced technology in our everyday lives. At first, Gina worries that she'll have a hard time finding advanced technologies, but soon discovers the science behind common devices such as remote controls, smoke detectors, hand dryers, bar code scanners, compact discs, touchscreens, endoscopes, and microwave ovens. 

The book succeeds in showing girls the relevance of science and technology in their lives and will hopefully encourage them to explore a technological career.

January 14, 2015

Your inner scientist

Turn it Loose: The Scientist in Absolutely Everybody
by Diane Swanson

In Turn it Loose, author Swanson tries to encourage readers not to let their natural curiosity go to waste. Like the muscles in our bodies, our scientific instincts follow the use it or lose it scenario. So to keep our inner scientist alive, her book features brief profiles of a famous scientist, athlete, artist, or inventor and explains how he/she used scientific thinking to succeed in his/her respective career.

Swanson's suggestions to think scientifically range from the abstract (let your mind overflow with wonder; persist, persist, persist; be patient)  to the concrete (record special observations, design or plan stuff, figure out answers). More specific actions are listed in the "Brainplay" section, which encourage further experimentation and observation. 

The mini biographies are very well done, but the book suffers from a dense text layout and generic pictures. Still, it may encourage kids to keep their curiosity intact.

January 12, 2015

Science whistle-blower

Nibbling on Einstein's Brain: The Good, the Bad and the Bogus in Science
by Diane Swanson

Science affects many aspects of our lives, determining the foods we eat, the medical treatments we follow, or the cars we purchase. However, flawed methods, incorrect analyses, and bogus conclusions are not only misleading, but harmful. This book teaches children to question scientific research and weed out bad science from good science. And since most people  rely on media - television, newspapers, magazines, and most commonly, the Internet - for news about scientific advances, it shows kids how to spot bad science reporting. More importantly, it stresses the importance of logic and critical thinking skills.

It's a lot of information to take in, but Swanson uses clear headings, clever quotes, and end-of-chapter checklists for easy understanding and readability. An excellent book that encourages kids to discover how science really works.

January 9, 2015

Mellow jazz puts babies to sleep

Kind Of Blue and Pink
musical adaptations by Jon Crosse

Jazzy renditions of familiar and traditional songs form the perfect backdrop as parents prepare children for bed. Songs like Mary had a Little Lamb, Baa Baa Black Sheep, and Hickory Dickory Dock are very bouncy, but they soon give way soothing instrumental versions of L'Enfant Dors, London Bridge, Brahm's Lullaby, and Hush Little Baby. There are seventeen songs in all, which comprise over an hour of relaxing, sleep-inducing music. Little ones should drop off well before the end. Parents too will appreciate this stress-relieving album. It's a wonderful way to end the day.

January 7, 2015

Songs for children

Goodnight Songs
by Margaret Wise Brown

Margaret Wise Brown is best known for her spare, simple text, as demonstrated in her bestselling books Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny. She also wrote poetry and songs. Goodnight Songs is a collection of twelve previously unpublished poems that have been set to music by singer/songwriters Tom Proutt and Emily Gary. They turn Wise's words, with its fanciful imagery and repetitive choruses, into soothing, gently rhythmic melodies that will soon have children relaxed and ready for bed. 

Each song is illustrated by a different award-winning picture book artist, often filled with sleepy animals and peaceful scenes. Together, they make the book and CD a lovely gift for baby.

January 5, 2015

Poetry turned into song

Leave Your Sleep: A collection of classic children's poetry
adapted to music by Natalie Merchant
illustrated by Barbara McClintock

Dancing bears and mischievous dogs, blind men and elephants, giants and witches, sailors and equestriennes. These are the some of the whimsical characters that appear in the pages of this poetry collection. The poems, by a diverse array of poets - Robert Louis Stevenson, Nathalia Crane, Ogden Nash, Jack Prelutsky, Edward Lear and Rachel Field to name a few - have been adapted to music by Nathalie Merchant. Comprising a delightful spectrum of folk, bluegrass, blues and jazz, they introduce children to a variety of musical styles that entertain and entrance. A wonderful addition to any music collection.