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11 Experiments that Failed

January 31, 2012

11 Experiments That Failed
written by Jenny Offill & Nancy Carpenter
Schwartz and Wade, 2011
picture book

This book will interest your kids in science, and make you want to pull your hair out! Our heroine tries 11 unusual experiments, each going through the entire scientific process. Let me give you an example:

Question: Can a live beaver be ordered through the mail?

Hypothesis: A live beaver can be ordered through the mail.

What You Need: Five-dollar bill, envelope, stamp

What to Do:
1. Fill out mail-order beaver form.
2. Attach five-dollar bill.
3. Place form in stamped envelope.
4. Mail.

What Happened:
Allowance withheld until further notice.
House declared No Beaver zone.

You can imagine the illustrations showing these steps, right? Super funny!

How about this Hypothesis: Yodeling makes time go faster.

or this Question: Will a piece of bologna fly like a Frisbee?

or this Question: Can a washing machine wash dishes? (What Happened: Ran away to live in bathroom.)

Book Play: Make up your own experiments – and go through the same scientific process of hypothesis and discovery.



This is my last post for Colorado Parent Magazine. Thank you for reading and for reading books to your kids. 

I will still be blogging at Imagination Soup. Please stop over and say hello. 

Best wishes,

Melissa Taylor

Suffrage, Cows and Taxes

January 19, 2012

The Taxing Case of Cows
a True Story about Suffrage

written by Iris Van Rynbach and Pegi Deitz Shea, illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully
Clarion Books, 2010
non-fiction picture book

Sisters, Abby and Julia Smith, live in the late 1800s when it still wasn’t legal for women to vote. Because of this, they refuse to pay  property taxes. The town takes their cows to sell at auction to pay for their back taxes. But, the sisters still refuse to pay. At the auction, the sisters buy back the cows cheap.  Back and forth go the cows over the years. The sisters tour the U.S. giving speeches about women’s rights.

It’s a simple, clear story line which gives the reader a good understanding of these two determined, heroic women.

BOOK PLAY: Learn about Amendment 19.

Bumblebee Boy Loves Imaginative Play

January 15, 2012

The Amazing Adventures of Bumblebee Boy
written by David Soman and Jacky Davis
Dial Book for Young Readers, 2011
picture book

I love, love, love this book about Sam, an imaginative boy who is “bum ba bum bumm” — Bumblebee Boy! And he fights pirate Greenbeard in a terrible battle but, “I can play too?” asks little brother, Owen.

Owen cramps Sam’s imaginative life. Big time. Bumblebee Boy files alone to fight the fire dragon and then,”I play now?” Owen interrupts.

Bumblebee Boy must stop the people-eating circus lion. Wait, someone is rubbing the lion’s tummy. And it’s Owen!

Will Bumblebee Boy ever need a sidekick?

Cool Animal Names

January 8, 2012

Cool Animal Names
written by Dawn Cusick
Imagine Books / Charlesbridge, 2011

Get ready for some crazy animals . . . I’m loving this book and imagine that kids all over the world would love it, too.

How about Tigers? You can discover amazing tiger named animals: Tiger Snakes, Tiger Salamanders, Tiger Pythons, Tiger Eels, Tiger Sharks, Tiger Snails, Tiger Bengal Cats, Tiger Tarantulas, Tiger Swallowtails, Tiger Beetles, and more.

Or how about Fish? Learn about the Cowfish, the Squirrelfish, the Zebra Lionfish, Porcupinefish, Dog-Faced Pufferfish, Frogfish, Hawkfish, Scorpionfish, Raccoon Butterflyfish, Rabbitfish, Pigfish, and more.

Colorful photographs will draw in readers as they discover the most wild and wacky animal names.

Simple, Engaging Book about Measurement

January 4, 2012

How do you Measure Length and Distance?
written by Thomas K. and Heather Adamson
Capstone Press, 2011
non-fiction picture book

Rarely do you see a non-fiction book so engaging! How do you  Measure Length and Distance? uses full page color photographs and minimal text. It works so well, you won’t feel like you’re learning something.

“Sue’s flower is growing.

How tall is it? How can seh tell?

She needs a way to measure.

Is ti the size of her foot?

No her foot is too big.”

The photograph shows the plant and the foot.

Later in the book, inches and feet are introduced. We measure a guinea pig, a dog, a car, the depth of a swimming pool. In other words, perfect kid-related things.

BOOK PLAY:  First use your foot to measure length. Try the length of the room, the car, or a bed. Then, use a penny to measure smaller things. Try a pencil, a hand, or a book. finally, try a ruler and measure small things like a penny, a paper clip, or a plate.

The Sloth in the Pop Up Forest

January 2, 2012

Wake Up Sloth!
written by Sophie Strady, illustrated by Anouck Boisrobert and Louis Rigaud
Roaring Brook Press, 2011
pop-up picture book

A sloth sleeps in landscape of verdant trees which pop up on the first page. Turn the frame around the page to continue the story and each turn shows less of the trees and more white space where the bulldozers have been.

Only one tree is left.
Soon there will be none.
Wake up, sloth!
Run away! Run!

The next page is white with a tab. A man comes. He brings seeds and plants and soon little seedlings push up through the soil. Pull the tab and you’ll see green shoots pop up.

The sloth and the forest return in a gorgeous display of trees, plants and birds.

It’s a hopeful story, and a work of paper-art.

Jo MacDonald Saw a Pond

December 26, 2011

Jo MacDonald Saw a Pond
written by Mary Quattlebaum, illustrated by Laura J. Bryant
Dawn Publications, 2011
picture book

A naturalistic twist on Old MacDonald, Jo MacDonald saw a pond with . . .

reeds (swish-swish)

fish (blurp-blurp)

a frog (croak-croak)

ducks (quack-quack)

bird (scree-scree)

raccoon (chat-chat)

and more pond wildlife.

With soft watercolor pictures, this book is a gem and a great introduction to a pond habitat.

The Gift of Myrrh from The Wise Man

December 19, 2011

The Third Gift
written by Mary Sue Park, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline
Clarion Books, 2011
picture book

Newbery author, Linda Sue Park, tells us the story of a boy who follows his father in order to learn his trade. The trade? Gathering resin, myrrh, from the correct trees.

One day, three strangers in brightly colored robes, ask to see his father’s “tears” of myrrh, they’re searching for the third gift for a special baby. A special baby who they’ve traveled far to meet. Can you guess the other gifts the men already have? Gold and frankincense.

The earth-colored, realistic illustrations capture the tender relationship between father and son. When we discover their importance in a larger historical story, we’re even more captivated. The story ends as the wise men near Judea on their camels.


Colorado Picture Book Authors Disrespected By Barnes and Noble

December 12, 2011

I spent last Friday afternoon visiting with a delightful and talented group of Colorado picture book authors at the Colorado Boulevard Barnes and Noble in Denver. Colorado. The women included:

Denise Vega who writes books including Build a Burrito, a counting book in English and Spanish and Grandmother, Have the Angels Come? 

Linda Ashman who published three new picture books this year, 12 Days of Christmas in Colorado, No Dogs Allowed! and Samantha on a Roll.

Kathleen Pelly whom you’ll know from her picture books, Raj the Bookstore Tiger, Magnus Maximus, A Marvelous Measurer, Inventor McGregor, and The Giant King.

Caroline Stutson, picture book author of Cats’ Night Out, Pirate Pup, Night Train, and others.

Jessica Swaim who writes poems and picture books – Scarum Fair is her book of poems and her picture books are The Hound from the Pound and Nate by Night.

Marjorie Blain Parker another fantastic writer and author of Mama’s Little Ducklings, A Paddling of Ducks, Your Kind of Mommy and Jasper’s Day, and more.

I felt so honored to spend time with these creative women but I must tell you, these women’s talents were completely devalued by Barnes and Noble! Not only did they cram these six authors and their books at one eight foot table, they were located in the back of the store on a Friday afternoon and got minimal traffic. Okay, pretty much no traffic. I mean, who promoted this event? It was such a waste of these authors’ time! Plus, the store didn’t even have ONE of Marjorie’s books. And she called ahead to be sure there were books in stock. How can you invite an author to do a book signing and have none of her books?

Shame on you Barnes and Noble. You want book sales – and could have made money with these authors but you didn’t do your job to promote the event. No wonder book sales are down — certainly incompetent business practices and unmotivated, inept employees aren’t helping your sales any. (Could you have at least given Marjorie a gift card for her time and inconvenience of attending an event without a single book of hers? P.S. I asked an employee and she offered Marjorie drink at Starbucks. Lame.)

Remember that picture book authors depend on you, the readers, to buy their books. So, readers, please visit these Colorado authors’ websites and buy a book or three. This supports our local economy and gives your kids good books. And don’t buy the books at Barnes and Noble if you can help it. They don’t deserve your patronage. Neither does Amazon for that matter. But, buying books somewhere is better than not buying them at all.

Thanks for supporting these authors. I hope someone from Barnes and Noble reads this and gives these ladies an apology. They deserve as much.

~ Melissa

Chanukah Lights, a Pop-Up Work of Art

December 4, 2011

Chaunakah Lights
by Michael Rosen and Robert Sabuda
Candlewick, 2011
picture book, pop-up
This book is a work of art! Beautiful doesn’t even begin to describe the sensations and feelings this paper art evokes in the reader.

Chanukah Lights is about the history of the Jewish people as they search for a homeland and rebuild their communities told through the lens of Chanukah, the Festival of Lights.

As you might notice from the white pop-up imagery, the book focuses on light and different historical settings where Jews celebrate the light like an Israeli kibbutz, a refugee ship, and desert tents. Each two-page spread contains a hidden menorah for readers to find.

The author, Michael Rosen, writes, “The lights of the menorah are not meant to provide illumination. They aren’t meant to see by; they are to be seen themselves . . . by those in the house, and by all those passing by.”

Watch the YouTube book trailer of Chanukah Lights.

Don’t miss this amazing book for your family’s collection. It’s truly stunning.

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