The best picture book biographies introduce readers to people who they might not learn about in textbooks. A great example is Bloom: A Story of Fashion Designer Elsa Schiaparelli by Kyo Maclear and illustrated by Julie Morstad.
Born in Rome, Italy, Elsa Schiaparelli felt her family preferred her older sister. In fact, she thought she was ugly and when she was seven she covered her face, ears, nose, and mouth with flower seeds in an effort to make herself more attractive. All the seeds did was make her sick, but it showed how she could think outside the box. After she grew up, Elsa used her creative spirit to design beautiful, innovative clothing that turned the fashion world of Paris on its ear.
For the most part, Kyo Maclear’s first person text is enjoyable and informative. Julie Morstad’s gouache, watercolor and pencil illustrations are a perfect reflection of Elsa Schiaparelli’s artistic and creative talent. They aren’t static, but zoom in and out in scale. The focus moves from close up of faces to a panorama of the night sky and back again.
Like a fresh flower, Bloom is a delight to behold. It is sure to inspire young readers to try their hands at clothing design.
See Wrapped in Foil blog for suggested activities to accompany Bloom.
For the next month or two at Wrapped in Foil blog we’re going to be sharing some of the excellent children’s books nominated for Cybils awards.
Let’s start out with Counting on Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo 13 by Helaine Becker and illustrated by Dow Phumiruk.
Katherine Johnson was a gifted mathematician who was denied a high school education where she lived because of her skin color. Her father decided to move the family to another town where there was a school she could attend. Through persistence and hard work Katherine ended up working for NASA, where she performed the many complicated calculations needed for successful space flight.
This is the kind of biography that makes you want to stand up and cheer at the end. Helaine Becker does a wonderful job of summarizing Katherine Johnson’s life, distilling it to the essentials needed for a picture book. It’s delightful how she plays with Katherine’s love of counting by repetition of the phrase “count on me” through the text.
Dow Phumiruk’s digitally-created illustrations are both warm and finely detailed. They capture the tone of the book beautifully.
Counting On Katherine ticks all the boxes for a picture book biography because it reveals the life of an amazing woman set to the backdrop of her time in history. It is a moving story that will encourage young readers to dream big and follow their passions, no matter what the obstacles. Check out a copy today!
Today at Wrapped in Foil we’re featuring Super Cats: True Stories of Felines That Made History by Elizabeth Macleod.
In this middle grade title, Elizabeth MacLeod delves into the history of cats, including how cats were treated as gods in ancient Egypt. Next she explores cultures that considered cats to be bad luck versus cultures that considered cats to be good luck. She suggests that superstitions against cats in Europe from the 1300s to 1700s may have made the Black Death plague much worse because removing cats allowed mice and rat populations to explode. (The Black death is carried by rodent fleas.)
In addition to being popular pets, cats can be much more. The author reveals some true stories of cat heroism, such as a cat famous for tracking down fish smugglers, two cats that detected electronic bugs in a Dutch embassy in Russia, and therapy cats that save lives. She also has some stories about how cats inspired their owners, from sparks from his cat motivating Nikola Tesla to study electricity, to composers stimulated to write cat-themed music.
Intermixed with the stories are interesting facts about cats, for example how far they can leap or tidbits about different breeds. The back matter includes a timeline of famous cat lives, suggestions for places to visit, and sources for more information.
Super Felines is a “purrfect” choice for young cat owners and others who would like to learn more about these amazing animals. Cuddle up with a copy today!
And, be sure to visit Wrapped in Foil for a complete review and activity suggestions.
Today at Wrapped in Foil we rave about the new picture book biography Imagine That!: How Dr. Seuss Wrote The Cat in the Hat by Judy Sierra and illustrated by Kevin Hawkes.
To set the stage, Judy Sierra describes what kids might have been doing in 1954. Then, using just the right rhythmic tone, she reveals how Dr. Seuss began writing The Cat in the Hat that year. Next comes the central message: given the struggles Dr. Seuss had writing the book using a limited vocabulary list, he could have easily given up. Instead he persevered, dug deep into his creative toolbox, and ultimately was successful. It is an important message delivered with a light touch.
The text isn’t the whole package. Kevin Hawkes’s illustrations are delightful as well, paying playful homage to Dr. Seuss’s style.
The bottom line is Imagine That!: How Dr. Seuss Wrote The Cat in the Hat is simply a picture perfect picture book biography. Check out a copy today.
And check out the review at Wrapped in Foil for more details and suggestions for related activities.
Today we are excited to feature Fine Art Adventures: 36 Creative, Hands-On Projects Inspired by Classic Masterpieces by Maja Pitamic and Jill Laidlaw.
Fine Art Adventures focuses on 18 well-known classic works of art. Children learn about the background of the art and artist, and then have their choice of hands-on activities to explore related art concepts and techniques.
As Mike Norris, staff educator at the Metropolitan Museum for Art says:
…the genius of this book is that each activity — designed for the skills of children aged between six and eight — extends logically from the original artwork, no matter what its medium, providing refreshing insights about painters and painting.
The projects range from creating a Pointillist artwork using paints and a toothbrush, to making a shoebox diorama to accompany Henry Rousseau’s Surprised!
One question you might have is whether this book is for adults or children. The brilliance of Chicago Review Press books is that, with their easy-to-read and easy-to-use format, they work for both. The suggested age range is 6 and up.
Fine Art Adventures is a great resource for either school or home use. The best part is no experience is needed!
Stop by Wrapped in Foil blog for the full review and an art activity suggestion to accompany the book.
On Wednesday last week (September 6, 2017), the sun produced an unusually large solar flare. This flare results in an increased likelihood of auroras lighting up the night sky here on Earth. To learn more about how this works, let’s look at the timely middle grade book Stories of the Aurora: The Myths and Facts of the Northern Lights by Joan Marie Galat and illustrated by Lorna Bennett.
As the title suggests, Stories of the Aurora is a combination of science and folklore. On the folklore side are legends from Inuit, Norse, Greek, and other cultures. On the science side, readers learn about the Earth’s magnetic field, how the auroras form, how they behave, and the environmental effects of auroras.
It’s a surprisingly informative mix. For example, on page 18 we learn that the Sami (also called Laplanders) call the aurora “The Light You Can Hear.” This might not make sense until the sidebar on page 30, when we learn people for centuries have reported hearing crackling and hissing sounds during bright auroras. In 2012 scientists were able to verify the sounds and lights were related and began to piece together how they are created.
Auroras making sounds is just one of the cool things readers will discover in Stories of the Aurora. This award-winning title will surely light up the faces of youngsters interested in finding out more about their world.
For the full review and activity suggestions, see Growing with Science blog.
50 Cities of the U.S.A.: Explore America’s Cities With 50 Fact-Filled Maps by Gabrielle Balkan and illustrated by Sol Linero is a fun new book coming out in September. Let’s take a look at what’s inside and focus on one of the featured cities, Tucson, Arizona.
This book gives information-packed tours of fifty prominent cities from throughout the United States. Each city is presented in huge two-page spread (the book is an extra-large 11 inch x 13.4 inch format).
For each spread, the location of the city is given on a map in the upper right hand corner. Interesting historical information, places to see, and famous citizens of that city are scattered over the pages. If that wasn’t enough, the illustrator has included fun visual searches to some spreads, plus the author gives recommendations for children’s books set in each city.
From airplane museums to majestic saguaros, there’s a lot to see and do in Tucson. Want to learn more? Check out the full review at Wrapped in Foil blog.
50 Cities is a great book to have on hand if you’re planning a trip, moving to a new place, or studying the geography and history of the United States. It’s the kind of reference book kids will return to again and again.
Over at Growing with Science blog today we are featuring The Hidden Life of a Toad by biologist and photographer Doug Wechsler.
Many books feature what we commonly call frogs, but hardly any concentrate on their less colorful, bumpy cousins the toads. The Hidden Life of a Toad brings deserved attention to these fascinating creatures. In addition to filling a neglected niche, the book has a great deal more going for it.
First of all, Wechsler went to great lengths to capture high quality images of every step in the toad life cycle, and his photographs are stellar. You can read about what he did to take the photos in the back matter.
Next, as a biologist, his facts are impeccable.
Finally, what is even better is that he has studied children’s literature and his writing is spot on, too. It is full of lively verbs.
One embryo wiggles.
It jiggles about.
The main text concentrates on toad development and life cycle. Back matter is filled with supplemental information, including a glossary, toad facts, and suggestions for helping toads.
The Hidden Life of a Toad delivers all you can ask for in nonfiction and more. Share it with a budding naturalist today.
See Growing with Science for related activity suggestions.
This week at Wrapped in Foil blog we have another new picture book for National Poetry Month, Feel the Beat: Dance Poems that Zing from Salsa to Swing by Marilyn Singer and illustrated by Kristi Valiant.
You can tell from the title right off the bat this is going to be a fun and upbeat book. Who doesn’t like to dance? But Feel the Beat is also full of surprises.
First of all, we expect poems to have a distinct rhythm. Prolific author Marilyn Singer takes things a step further and incorporates the beats of the particular dance she is highlighting into the poem about it.
The second surprise: The copy I found at the library has a CD in the back with the poems read by the author. They are set to appropriate music for each dance. What a treasure!
The illustrations are fabulous. They are so energetic that they bounce off the page. Each captures the flavor of the dance it portrays without being too busy or visually overwhelming.
Do you want to use the book to teach about different cultures? There are historical and cultural notes about each dance in the back matter.
In conclusion, you’ll want to pick up Feel The Beat for Poetry Month and then enjoy it throughout the year.
Today at Wrapped in Foil blog we are highlighting the children’s picture book biography Stand Up and Sing! Pete Seeger, Folk Music, and the Path to Justice by Susanna Reich and illustrated by Adam Gustavson.
Why read about Pete Seeger? First of all, he was a popular musician. Many people have heard — or even sung — Pete Seeger’s folk songs. In addition he was a social activist, invested in making a difference. For example, Seeger joined Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during protests in Alabama. It was a time when simply performing on the same stage with African American singer Paul Robeson made him a target of violence. By taking chances, however, he helped make changes.
It is clear author Susanna Reich is passionate about her subject. She explains her feelings of personal connection in the “Author’s Note” in the back matter. She lives in the Hudson Valley near where Pete Seeger lived and attended many of Seeger’s concerts. Although she’s a big fan, when she started writing this book she probably had no idea how timely it would be.
Stand Up and Sing! is a rousing tribute to a popular folk singer. It is sure to appeal to young musicians and history buffs, alike. Time to sing its praises.
For related activity suggestions and more information, be sure to visit Wrapped in Foil.