April 29, 2016

Poetic forms

A Kick in the Head: An Everyday Guide to Poetic Forms
poems selected by Paul B. Janeczko
illustrated by Chris Raschka

Poems come in many forms, from couplets to limericks or sonnets to ballads. In this book, Janeczko and Raschka introduce readers to these and other poetic forms, playfully explaining how they are constructed. The selected poems are spirited and fun to read; Raschka's watercolour and cut-paper pictures add a whimsical touch.

Creatively inspiring.

April 27, 2016

Word pictures

Wet Cement: A Mix of Concrete Poems
by Bob Raczka

Concrete poems, or shape poems, uses words to form pictures. Raczka is very clever at this, creating pictures with letters and pictures with words. The letter t almost floats off the page in his first poem, takeoff, while below, the words soar up and down in the jetstream. Orbiting is arranged in a circle, corners is written like a maze as a mouse hunts for the cheese, and the words in icicles hang from the top of the page. Fun to read, they'll have kids reading forwards, backwards, or upside-down!  

Highly recommended.

April 25, 2016

Poetry to discover

Knock at a Star: A Child's Introduction to Poetry
edited by X. J. Kennedy and Dorothy Kennedy

The variety of poems showcased in this collection is excellent for introducing children to the wonders of poetry. Organized into four sections - what do poems do, what's inside a poem, special kinds of poetry, and do it yourself - it offers comments, insights, and ideas to look for in the poems that are presented. Each section is further organized into subsections such as poems that tell stories or share feelings, images or word play, limericks, songs, and haiku, and how to encourage a liking for poetry.

A pleasure to read and enjoy.

April 22, 2016

The meaning of Passover

Wonders and Miracles: A Passover Companion
written and compiled by Eric A. Kimmel

Many books about Passover focus solely on the Seder meal without going into too much detail about each ritual. Some parts are left out, such as the story of the five rabbis, the story of Elijah, and the story of Miriam. 

Kimmel's Passover Companion uses stories, poetry, songs prayers and recipes to interpret the meaning behind each sedar ritual. The history of Passover is further illuminated by details from medieval texts, reproductions of significant paintings, and photos of Judaic artifacts. 

Elegantly presented, this handsome book makes the holiday relevant and understandable to all.

April 20, 2016

Jewish holidays

Jewish Holidays All Year Round: A Family Treasury
by Ilene Cooper
illustrations by Elivia Savadier

Throughout the year, Jewish families celebrate many holidays. This book, produced in association with The Jewish Museum in New York City, is a good way to learn more about these special days and why they are significant. The meanings behind each holiday is explained, along with the ways in which the holiday is observed, both at home and in the synagogue. Crafts and recipes are included. The instructions are not always simple, but they are good for families to do together. Illustrated by playful pen-and-ink drawings and artifacts and photographs from The Jewish Museum, the book serves as an apt reminder of Jewish history for Jewish young people and as a useful introduction to Jewish holidays to others.

April 18, 2016

Celebrate Passover

Passover: Festival of Freedom
by Monique Polak

Orca Book Publishers is launching a new series of books about cultural traditions. Called Orca Origins, it aims to introduce children to cultural beliefs and practices from around the world. The first book in the series is about the Jewish festival of Passover. 

Author Monique Polak describes what Passover means to her and how she and others celebrate it. She discusses the significance of the seder meal and the ways that Jewish families fulfill the obligation to do good. Personal stories lend weight to the holiday and help show its importance to those who celebrate it. With recipes and photos, this is an excellent way to showcase the diversity of our world.

April 15, 2016

A healthy world needs trees

Deep Roots: How Trees Sustain Our Planet
by Nikki Tate

Trees are essential in maintaining healthy ecosystems around the world. Divided into four chapters titled after the four elements - earth, air, water, fire - Deep Roots describes how trees clean soil, slow wind, create rain, and enrich soil.

Facts are presented in a clear, straight-forward tone that is highly readable and entertaining. Tate's anecdotes about her relationship with trees adds to the book's pleasure, as do the beautiful photographs. 

Part of the Orca Footprints series. 

Highly recommended.

April 13, 2016

The boreal forest

Cool Woods: A Trip Around the World's Boreal Forest
by Jane Drake & Ann Love
art by Andrew Kiss

The boreal forest, sometimes called taiga, stretches across most of North America from Labrador to Alaska. Boreal forests also cover much of Siberia, Russia, Finland and Sweden, as well as parts of Norway and Scotland.

Cool Woods is a wide-ranging look at these forests from the plants and animals who make the forests home, to the people who live and work there. Interspersed with descriptions of nature activity are indigenous stories and myths, which lend the book an otherworldly air, tempered with sobering accounts of the destruction humans inflict on the sensitive ecosystem. Lest readers succumb to despair, each chapter includes ideas for protecting the forest.

Ethereal full-color paintings introduce each section with a few smaller paintings thrown in. The rest of the illustrations consist of less-detailed black-and-white sketches, which are not as attractive.

All-in-all, the book is a good introduction to the boreal forest, though the mix of fact and fiction makes for an uneven tone.

April 11, 2016

Love trees

Branching Out: How Trees Are Part of Our World
by Joan Marie Galat

Without trees, we would not have paper, houses, furniture, fruit, or maple syrup! Without trees, animals would not have shelter, food, nests, or water. Branching Out takes a close look at eleven different trees like banyan, baobab, scotch pine, or downy birch. Clear photographs showcase each tree, followed by text describing the tree's usefulness to people and animals. With maps, interesting tree facts, and conservation advice, readers will come away with more appreciation for trees.

April 8, 2016

Baseball top ten

Full Count: Top 10 Lists of Everything in Baseball
compiled by Sports Illustrated Kids

Top ten lists are pretty much ubiquitous, yet extremely popular. Throw in baseball statistics and you have a winner! Kids will love poring over this collection of facts and the action-packed photographs as well. The top ten rankings include:

  • hardest throwers
  • single-game performances
  • most intimidating
  • minor league team names (Savannah Sand Gnats!)
  • baseball movies (no Bull Durham?!)
  • facial hair
  • legendary home runs
  • mascots
  • lineups

April 6, 2016

Coaching youth baseball

A Young Baseball Player's Guide to Fielding and Defense
by Don Oster & Bill McMillan

Veteran youth baseball coaches Oster and McMillan, both with over 20 years experience, provide a handy resource for players, coaches, and parents. They clearly explain the defensive role of each player and offer understandable tips toward skill development. 

Of course, a book isn't a substitute for practice! To that end, the coaches provide a number of catching, throwing, and fielding drills that should turn any young player into a confident athlete. 

Good defense needs good offense! So pitchers and hitters are not left out. Oster and McMillan produced guides for them too!

April 4, 2016

Eclectic baseball trivia

Baseballogy: Supercool Facts You Never Knew
by Kevin Sylvester

An infographic-styled book filled with little-known or diverse facts about baseball, this is a browser's delight. Kids will love regaling others with mind-blowing trivia like:

  • baseballs used to contain fish eyes 
  • teams used to sell seats right on the field
  • a player was injured after biting himself!

Sylvester also includes interesting stats about ticket prices, player nationalities, salaries, pitch speed, and unbreakable records.

Appealingly visual and entertaining, this book is a winner!

April 1, 2016

Build simple machines!

The Kids' Book of Simple Machines
by Kelly Doudna

A terrific book; this is a fun-filled way to get kids interested in engineering. It'll also make them comfortable using tools. The writing is very clear and informative, and the step-by-step instructions are easy to follow. The colorful pictures are very helpful, not only in illustrating the projects, but in helping kids recognize the simple machines they may use everyday. Spotlights on key inventions like scissors, pinball machines and elevators are concise and interesting. The book ends with instructions on how to make a basic Rube Goldberg machine.

A great book to jump-start budding inventors. It may even have them clamoring for their own maker spaces! 

Highly recommended.