Building for Summer

Summer is a great time for children to stretch their imaginations and construction skills by building forts and clubhouses. The new picture book Let’s Build by Sue Fliess and illustrated Miki Sakamoto celebrates those impulses.

let's build

Sue Fliess has made a name for herself through fast-paced,  rhyming picture books for the youngest readers.

Raise the walls up!

hoist that beam.

Real construction

takes a team!

Dreaming of building a fort yourself? Visit Wrapped in Foil blog for the rest of the review and some suggestions.


Pure Grit – a review for Memorial Day

Although Pure Grit has been featured on this blog before, today is a perfect day to revisit it, and offer some useful links.


Farrell, Mary Cronk. 2014. Pure Grit: How American WWII Nurses Survived Battle and Prison Camp in the Pacific. New York: Abrams.

Mary Cronk Farrell’s latest book chronicles the actions of Army and Navy nurses serving in the Phillipines during WWII. Although amazingly, none of the nurses perished during their harrowing years on the forward battle lines and in prison camps, their service to their country and the fighting men was nothing short of heroic.

Pure Grit is a narrative nonfiction account, told with compelling human details. Photographs, quotes, correspondence, newspaper accounts, maps and military records were combined to create a gripping story that breathes new life into a little-known story that is fading from our collective memory. Farrell was very fortunate to have interviewed the last surviving nurse of the seventy-nine who were taken as POWs by the Japanese.

Containing a Foreward, Introduction, Glossary, List of Nurses, Select Timeline, Endnotes, Bibliography, Web Sites for More Information, Acknowledgments, Image Credits and an exhaustive Index, Pure Grit could easily be considered a scholarly treatise on the topic — but Farrell has chosen to present her topic in a manner that simply cannot be ignored: a compelling story with personal and human details that will appeal to anyone over age 12, with even a passing interest in history.

Links of interest:


As you enjoy today’s kick-off to the summer season, perhaps celebrating with friends or family or enjoying a well-deserved day off from work, consider participating in the National Moment of Remembrance.

From the U.S. Dept. of Veteran’s Affairs:

…in December 2000, the U.S. Congress passed and the president signed into law “The National Moment of Remembrance Act,” P.L. 106-579 …

The National Moment of Remembrance encourages all Americans to pause wherever they are at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day for a minute of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to the nation.

See all of my reviews at Shelf-employed.


If You Were Raised by a Dinosaur

If you were raised by a dino

Imagine! Publishing, 2010 80 pages; ages 6 & up

If you’re looking for something for older readers, this is a good resource – and it’s written and illustrated by people steeped in science. The first chapter introduces the science of paleontology and some insight into how scientists determine whether a dinosaur walked on two feet or four.

Chapter two poses a question: what came first, the dino or the egg? Of all the things scientists know, or surmise about dinosaurs, the one fact they all agree on is that dinosaurs hatched from eggs. And those eggs came in a range of sizes and shapes- some were a foot long and ten inches wide, others only an inch long. The next chapter asks whether dinosaurs were good parents. Some dinos protected their young from predators; some brought food back to the next for their hatchlings. Parental care in dinosaurs is one of the “hot” topics these days, as scientists uncover evidence that babies had no teeth – so someone had to feed them. And Massopondylus babies started out walking on four legs before they eventually learned to walk on two.

One chapter focuses on T. rex, comparing skeletons of youngsters against adults. Turns out humans share some similarities with this dinosaur: both species take about the same amount of time to mature from juveniles to adults, and hit a growth spurt near 12 years of age. The book ends with a chapter about the future of paleontology, a pronunciation guide, and a useful index.

Nonfiction Monday

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Copyright © 2014 Sue Heavenrich All Rights Reserved. Site Meter


King George: What Was His Problem? The Whole Hilarious Story of the American Revolution

King GeorgeKing George: What Was His Problem? The Whole Hilarious Story of the American Revolution. Written by Steve Sheinkin. Illustrated by Tim Robinson. Square Fish (an imprint of MacMillan Publishers), 2009. 208 pages. Publisher recommends for ages 10 and older. ISBN: 9781596435186.

Sheinkin tells the story of the American Revolution in a fun and funny way. He uses anecdotes and stories that don’t make it into history textbooks, for example he writes about the night Benjamin Franklin and John Adams shared a bed. That night Adams wanted to close the window in the room because he was afraid of catching a cold. Franklin told him to leave the window open or they would suffocate and launched into a lecture about what causes colds, a lecture that soon put Adams to sleep. In that story, Franklin and Adams become real people, not just names to memorize.

The book is made up of short chapters that cut back and forth between battles in the North and battles in the South. The chapters also cut between the political actions of the American Congress and the war. And we see Benjamin Franklin beseeching the French government to enter the war on behalf of the Americans. We also find out that when Franklin arrived in France the British were afraid he would stretch a chain from Calais to Dover and administer an electric shock to Britain that would be strong enough to overturn the island (this anecdote had me laughing out loud).

In the very beginning of the war, at the battle in Lexington, the reader sees both the British commander and the American commander telling their troops not to fire. Yet someone fired. Both sides said it was the other side. “So no one takes credit for ‘the shot heard round the world’ — the first shot of the American Revolution.”  Throughout the book Sheinkin includes both the American and the British perspective in this way.

The irony of the Declaration of Independence declaring all men are free and endowed with unalienable rights, while many of the signers owned slaves, is addressed in a short chapter.

Many, many quotes are used and it’s fun to see who said what.

At the back of the book there is extensive reference material.

The details keep the narrative moving, but by the end of the book I was impressed by my increased understanding of the timeline of the Revolution. Sheinkin is paying attention to the big picture as well as the details.

I had a great time reading this book. I also learned (or maybe re-learned) a great deal about the American Revolution.

Blog Reviews:

Becky’s Book Blog
A Fuse #8 Production
The Literate Mother
Red Hot Eyebrows

Professional Reviews:


Nonfiction Monday

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Read more reviews of mine at Kid Lit About Politics.

Great Men and Women in the History of Medicine

Angus, David. 2013. Great Men and Women in the History of Medicine. Read by Benjamin Soames. Naxos Audiobooks.

It is a shame that this compendium of influential people in the history of medicine is not available in print or e-book format.  It would be a great reference for students doing research or biography reports.  Don’t let the audio book format deter you, however.  As I wrote in my review for AudioFile Magazine (linked below), Benjamin Soames conveys a fascination for his topic that is infectious! (pun intended)

Some of the people featured in Great Men and Women in the History of Medicine include:

Hippocrates, Galen, Hildegard of Bingen, Ibn Sina, Al-Razi, Andreas Vesalius, William Harvey, Edward Jenner, Crick and Watson.  You may not know their names, but their discoveries have benefitted you.  I’m not sure of the best audience for this book, but I can tell you that I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Read my review of  Great Men and Women in the History of Medicine for AudioFile Magazine here.

Listen to an audio sample of Great Men and Women in the History of Medicine here.

You can find all of my reviews at Shelf-employed
Copyright © 2014 L Taylor All Rights Reserved..



Newest in the Scientists in the Field Series: Park Scientists

At Wrapped in Foil blog, we have the newest arrival in the Scientists in the Field Series:  Park Scientists: Gila Monsters, Geysers, and Grizzly Bears in America’s Own Backyard by Mary Kay Carson and with photographs by Tom Uhlman.


For Park Scientists, Mary Kay Carson explores the science being carried out in three of our national parks:  Yellowstone National Park, Saguaro National Park, and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. In addition to following the work of some typical university researchers with advanced degrees, Carson also introduces park rangers who are geologists and high school students who participate in citizen science. After reading this book, young people will realize that there are any number of ways to get involved in science.

Let’s not forget the illustrations in the book. Tom Uhlman’s gorgeous photographs make the reader want to jump into the car and go to a park. The book also has numerous maps, such as one that shows the location of all national parks, as well as maps of the parks that are highlighted. The illustrations also include visual representations of data, such as what grizzly bears eat throughout their active months.

Because Scientists in the Field has been such a popular and long-running series, it is easy to become blasé about the individual books as they come out. Ignoring this title would be a mistake, however, because Park Scientists has a lot to offer. The timing of the release is perfect to catch the interest of youngsters who are headed out to take a vacation at a national park this summer. Get this book in their hands and it is likely they will be inspired to do some science, too.

The Dumbest Idea Ever

Dumbest Idea Ever
Title: The Dumbest Idea Ever
Author: Jimmy Gownley
ISBN: 9780545453462
Pages: 236 pages
Publisher/Date: Graphix, an imprint of Scholastic Inc., c2014.

At the local elementary school in the town where I work, each student has a yearlong assignment to read a set number of books of different genres, with biographies/autobiographies always being a tricky one to find for students. Author of the Amelia Rules graphic novels presents an autobiographical account of his coming of age and becoming an artist. Jimmy Gownley is on the top of the world, attending school with his friends, and scoring points both in the classroom and on the basketball court as their high scorer. After spending weeks out of school and missing his championship basketball game (his team loses in the final minute) due to first chicken pox and then pneumonia, Jimmy’s grades start slipping. But Jimmy is more concerned working for months on his first effort as a comic book writer and illustrator. When he shows it to his friend though, he realizes that his piece of art is a piece of junk. Will he ever get anything right again?

If you are at all familiar with the Amelia Rules series, you’ll recognize the artwork and color scheme, but author Gownley adds something to it. When character Jimmy is sick, the illustrations turn gray and washed out, and they don’t turn bright and bold again until he enters the comic book shop for the first time, resulting in a Oz like page turn when the curtain is pulled back in a colorful landscape of possibilities. During a visit to a museum, the characters interact with famous paintings that are imitated really well. A flashback sequence featuring a childhood friend is rendered like the old Archie comics, with beige-yellow backgrounds interacting with the present day scenes. It’s done really well.

To see a list of some other autobiography options and my one minor complaint, check out the full review at Challenging the Bookworm.


Flight of the Honey Bee

Flight of honey beeA honey bee tackles different jobs over her short lifetime: she cleans the hive, babysits larvae, helps build and guard the nest, serves as scout and harvests food.

“This is the story of a scout…” begins Raymond Huber. “Scout has spent her whole live in the crowded hive. Now it is time for her to fly out and explore the world – time to search for flowers from which to collect pollen and nectar for food.”

We follow Scout as she picks up scents with her antennae, dodges a hungry blackbird, and finds shelter from a sudden storm. Finally she makes it home and dances her dance to tell her sisters where to find the best nectar and pollen.

If you’re looking for some hands-on STEM activities, check out Archimedes Notebook.

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Copyright © 2014 Sue Heavenrich All Rights Reserved. Site Meter


World War I for Kids: A History with 21 Activities

World War I for Kids: A History with 21 Activities
by R. Kent Rasmussen (Author)

Booktalk: It has been 100 years since the start of the “Great War.” The hands-on activities in this book can help students understand life during World War I, a war that eventually involved all of the world’s superpowers.

Snippet: Soldiers stationed at the front spent only a small part of their time in actual combat. In fact, it was not unusual for individual soldiers to spend several months on the western front without seeing an enemy soldier. This is not to say that they were necessarily safe when not fighting. They might not see an enemy when they were on the front lines, but if they climbed out of their trenches, unseen enemies were likely to spot them, with lethal consequences.

Nonfiction Monday

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See more booktalks at the Booktalking #kidlit blog.

Copyright © 2014 Anastasia Suen All Rights Reserved.
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The Girl from the Tar Paper School

Girl from Tar Paper SchoolThe Girl from the Tar Paper School: Barbara Rose Johns and the Advent of the Civil Rights Movement
by Teri Kanefield
56 pages; ages 10 – 14
Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2014

There are so many excellent nonfiction books this year – and this is just one of ’em. In 1950, fifteen-year-old Barbara Rose Johns was a high school junior with a problem to solve. She and her sister and all her friends attended the high school for black students located in the next town. The school was a too-small brick building with temporary classrooms built on to accommodate the large number of students. Those “temporary” classrooms were, writes Teri Kanefield, “made of wood covered with a heavy paper coated with tar.” The kids referred to them as “chicken coops”. The problem, as Barbara Rose Johns saw it: they weren’t temporary.

The roofs leaked. They had no heat except for tiny wood stoves – and students had to wear hats and scarves to class. When Barbara told her teacher that she was “sick and tired” of the second-class school, her teacher challenged her to do something about it. But what could a kid do?

Barbara led her classmates in a strike – a peaceful boycott meant to draw attention to the appalling conditions at the school. There is a wonderful chapter in the book that details the strike, and subsequent chapters that tell about the Civil Rights movement that came on the heels of Barbara’s boycott and Brown v Board of Education. The book is rich with photos and back matter that includes authors note and a Civil Rights timeline.

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Copyright © 2014 Sue Heavenrich All Rights Reserved. Site Meter