Modern Art Adventures for Everyone

Are you ready to “spring” into some art projects? Modern Art Adventures: 36 Creative, Hands-On Projects Inspired by Artists from Monet to Banksy by Maja Pitamic and Jill Laidlaw is a perfect resource for doing just that!


Modern Art Adventures is like a hands-on children’s art museum. It features art history, examples of artwork of famous artists to study, and 36 fresh and imaginative  hands-on projects to take learning to another level.

As a former Art Masterpiece volunteer, I love this book. Maja Pitamic and Jill Laidlaw are experienced art teachers and writers. Their real life experience is evident throughout the book. These are projects that could be easily carried out at home, in the classroom, or in an after school program setting. They require art supplies, but most of them are easy enough to find. Even the larger grocery stores are carrying and array of art supplies for kids these days.

The bottom line is every child deserves to be exposed to art and Modern Art Adventures is a wonderful way to accomplish that. Pick up a copy and help youngsters start producing their own masterpieces today!

We have more details and a shamrock art activity for St. Patrick’s Day inspired by the book at Wrapped in Foil blog.

Fatal Fever


Fatal Fever: Tracking Down Typhoid Mary by Gail Jarrow. (Calkins Creek, 2015).

Right from the start, this medical history grips the reader and won’t let go. This book tracks down typhoid fever outbreaks, explaining how they started and why they were so devastating. Typhoid fever is a serious disease and it caused many deaths, especially of young people. In a time before antibiotics, there was little that doctors could do beyond managing the symptoms of the disease as it ran its course.

Gail Jarrow does a great job of presenting Typhoid Mary and explaining why it was so important that she be quarantined while also showing Mary Mallon’s side of it. She was an immigrant to this country, distrustful of authority figures that had a history of taking advantage of immigrants, and she didn’t understand how she could carry a disease when she had never been sick!

Read my full review at


From Bulb to Tulip

From Bulb to Tulip (Start to Finish)
by Lisa Owings (Author)

Booktalk: How do onion-shaped tulip bulbs become the beautiful blooms in your garden? Follow each step in the process—from planting the bulbs to caring for the flowers—and see it for yourself!

In spring, the tulips sprout.

The tulips sprout when the weather gets warm enough in the spring. Green leaves emerge from the pointy tips of the bulbs. They slowly push up through the soil.

Nonfiction Monday

It’s Nonfiction Monday!

See more booktalks at the Booktalking #kidlit blog.

Copyright © 2015 Anastasia Suen All Rights Reserved.
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Who Was Here?: Discovering Wild Animal Tracks

Who Was Here?: Discovering Wild Animals
written and illustrated by Mia Posada
2014 (Millbrook Press)
Source: Orange County Public Library

A hunter traveling by full moon’s glow
left paw tracks in fresh forest snow.
Racing through the night with its pack
chasing its prey, teeth bared in attack

Who Was Here? is a combination of poetry and informational text that focuses on animals and the tracks that they leave behind. Featured animals include camels, snakes and wolves. In each section, a quatrain contains clues as to what animal made the tracks. Readers have to turn the page to see if their prediction is correct about the animal. What they will find is a paragraph of informational text. I like the abundant use of vivid verbs in the quatrains. A great activity for a classroom would be to use the poetry for shared readings. With the emphasis on informational text in the Common Core, this is a way for primary classrooms to sneak in extra nonfiction. Another strong feature of this book is the geographic spread of featured animals. All continents with the exception of Antarctica are featured. It would be fun to pin tags of animal locations on a world map.

With Who Was Here? as inspiration, you could use a foot template and have students write an informational text about themselves on one side. On the other side of the foot, a poem could be written.

I like books that invite the reader to actively participate and this book certainly does this by looking for a prediction. The animal lovers in your class, and that would be everybody, will enjoy Who Was Here?.

Remarkable Pioneers in Anna Lewis’s ‘Women of Steel and Stone’

Women of SteelIn celebrating Women’s History Month, I thought it fitting to feature a non-fiction title about some seriously smart, capable, amazing women. Anna M. Lewis’s Women of Steel and Stone: 22 Inspirational Architects, Engineers, and Landscape Designers (Chicago Review Press, 2014) spotlights 22 women who were pioneers in their chosen, male-dominated fields. Spanning from the 1800s to current times, these stories explore the childhood passions, perseverance, and creativity that carried these remarkable women through daunting challenges all the way to the top of their professions.

A few favorites of mine were profiles of Julia Morgan, who built “America’s Castle” in San Simeon, California, for William Randolph Hearst; Emily Warren Roebling, who took over the role as chief engineer on the Brooklyn Bridge after her husband’s illness; and Marion Mahony Griffin, known as Frank Lloyd Wright’s “right-hand man.”

Read the interview with Anna over at


Earmuffs for Everyone!



Earmuffs for Everyone! How Chester Greenwood Became Known as the Inventor of Earmuffs by Meghan McCarthy. (Simon & Schuster, 2015.)

On the surface, this may look like a straightforward biography of the inventor of earmuffs, but Meghan McCarthy takes this book to the next level, investigating why Greenwood is credit with the invention and explaining how easy it is for facts to be lost or misinterpreted in history. These concepts come across in the simple text and are expanded in the substantial author’s note where McCarthy provides more detail about how she searched for information as she researched this book.

Oh, I do love me some Meghan McCarthy! Read the full review (including readalikes!) over at my blog

Books to Share for Pi Day

Next Saturday is Pi Day!

What is Pi  Day?  Pi Day is celebrated on March 14 (3/14) as a fun way to commemorate the mathematical constant π, or 3.14… This year Pi Day will be even more memorable because on 3/14/15 at 9:26:53 a.m. and p.m. the date and time will represent the first 10 digits of π!

One way to celebrate Pi Day is to bake a pie decorated with a π symbol and share it. This year, why not pull out some middle grade children’s books about pi and share those as well?

Our first title is Piece of Pi: Wit-Sharpening, Brain-bruising, Number-Crunching Activities with Pi by Naila Bokhari and illustrated by S. O’Shaughnessy (2005). Not only does this book explain what pi is and how it came about, it also has some great hands-on activities to help students learn how to apply it.


Why Pi? by Johnny Ball (2009) is not just about pi, but is a general history of math. It covers how humans have used numbers and measured things from the past all the way to the present. This is a follow-up book to the award-winning title, Go Figure, by the same author, which contains information about why all the world’s phone numbers appear in pi.


Finally we have Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi by Cindy Neuschwander and illustrated by Wayne Geehan (1999), which is not technically a nonfiction title. It does, however, explain what pi is in a memorable and concrete way, so let’s let it slip in for Pi Day.

When Sir Cumference turns into a dragon, can his family and friends use math to save him?


You may want to visit Wrapped in Foil blog for more Pi Day book suggestions and a video, and/or Growing With Science blog for Pi Day activity ideas.

Wangari Maathai: The Woman Who Planted Millions of Trees, by Franck Prévot (ages 7-12)

Wangari Maathai won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her work helping women throughout Africa planting trees to improve the environment and their quality of life. As we celebrate Women’s History Month, I am excited to share this new picture book about her struggles and accomplishments with my students.

Wangari Maathai
The Woman Who Planted Millions of Trees
by Franck Prévot
illustrated by Aurélia Fronty
Charlesbridge, 2015
Your local library
ages 7-12
*best new book*

Maathai’s political activism shines through in this biography, in her determination to reverse environmental damage caused by large, colonial plantations and empower local villagers–especially women–to improve their local conditions.

This biography allows students to develop a deeper understanding of the political, economic and social structures Maathai stood up against. I love being able to share with students the value of reading more than one book on a subject, seeing how different authors draw out different details. I would start by reading Seeds of Change, by Jen Cullerton Johnson, and watching a short video on Maathai. If you build background knowledge, students can then dig into statements such as this:

“The government officials who built their fortunes by razing forests try to stop Wangari. Who is this woman who confronts them with a confident voice in a country where women are supposed to listen and lower their eyes in men’s presence?”

Definitely add this new picture book biography to your collection as you celebrate Women’s History month.

Read my full review at Great Kid Books.

Why’d They Wear That? by Sarah Albee

Why'd they wear thatLynn: In her introduction to Why’d They Wear That?: Fashion as the Mirror of History (2015), Sarah Albee notes:

Fashion really is the mirror of history (as Louis XIV is thought to have said), a visual way to describe a society, and this has been true ever since the moment someone slapped on a fig leaf.

She goes on to say that up to 80 years ago, what people wore announced social status, reflected expectations of behavior, population levels and even how much leisure time they had. Some fashions were even life threatening. Even today, whether we care about fashion or not, what we wear makes a statement….(snip)

….This large colorful book is packed with wonderful illustrations that make it a visual delight. Well-designed and eye-catching sidebars add fashion-related items that broaden the story, touching on the original method of dry cleaning, when women started wearing underwear, or how clothing was fastened (before 1330 you had to be sewn into your bodice every day!). This lively book is wonderful for reports, straight-through reading, or browsing. Don’t let it slip away!

Cindy: History teachers need a copy of this in their classrooms to consult throughout their curriculum! For instance, a double-page spread about the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire has a section with an illustration explaining “What is a shirtwaist?” It also includes another inset about the 2013 Bangladesh clothing factory building collapse that killed hundreds of workers, despite an earlier inspection that declared the building unsafe…(snip)

…Readers will appreciate Albee’s humor, too. In the 1953 section about the advent of polyester that gave way to the horrible fashion trend of the leisure suit, her caption reads: “Because of its molecular structure—strong but elastic—polyester can spring back into shape after wear and look just as awful as when new.”

The final section asks the reader “What Can You Do?” and offers suggestions on looking at labels, making good choices, and being prepared to answer questions from your grandchildren. “You’ll have some explaining to do!” she warns, next to a photo of sagging jeans! Love it.

Check out our whole post about this book at the Bookends Blog post.

Nonfiction to Share for Geisel’s Birthday

As you probably know, today (March 2, 2015) would have been Theodore Seuss Geisel’s 111st birthday. It is also National Education Association’s Read Across America celebration to promote literacy. At Wrapped in Foil blog we are pulling out some titles from the Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library to share for this special day.

The Cat in the Hat might not be the first character to come into mind when you think of nonfiction, but he should be.  The Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library mixes the fun cartoon characters and rhyming text of classic Seuss children’s books with well-researched, high quality nonfiction. It is a winning combination!

The series has been running for some time, so it is easy to find a title interesting to young readers. Here are two recent examples:

Can you see a chimpanzee

In Can You See a Chimpanzee?: All About Primates by Tish Rabe, and illustrated by Aristides Ruiz and Joe Mathieu, the Cat in the Hat takes Sally and Nick to Africa and Asia where they discover primates ranging from tiny tarsiers to giant gorillas.

out of sight till tonight

Inside Out of Sight Till Tonight!: All About Nocturnal Animals, also by Tish Rabe, young readers will discover some commonly-known nocturnal animals, such as bats and owls, as well as some lesser-known species such as kiwi birds.

Do you have a favorite in the Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library series? Will you be sharing it with young readers today? Stop by Wrapped in Foil and let us know.