Friday, April 29, 2016

Take Me Out to the Ballgame!*

Finding engaging nonfiction books for children can sometimes be challenging. Fear not because Sports Illustrated Kids has hit it out of the park with these latest releases ... and just in time for for baseball season! 

Soooo ...  let's play ball!

My First Book of Baseball: A Rookie Book by Beth Bugler and Mark Bechtel. Illustrated by Bill Hinds. Time Inc. Books, 2016. $11.95. For ages 3-6.

Introduce the youngest fans and "wanna be" players to the game with this eye-catching baseball book. Cleverly illustrated with photos of real-life players, children are guided by a humorous cartoon-like youngster through the game from start to finish. Basic facts, such as the object of the game, how points are scored, the roles of the players, and more, are clearly presented. Definitions for terms like "Strike Zone" are woven into the clear and readable narrative. The book's stunning and colorful, two-page spreads make great use of the book's horizontal format and really enhance its accessibility. This is sure to be a "hit" with sports fans young and old. A recommended purchase.

Baseball Then to WOW! The Editors of Sports Illustrated Kids. Time Inc. Books, 2016. $19.95.For ages 6-14.

This fascinating book about the history and evolution of one of America's most popular games is perfectly "pitched" to a wide range of readers and packed with amazing photos, illustrations, timelines, chronologies and tidbits of information. Children will learn about the evolution of the rules, legendary players, the development of the players' uniforms (catcher's mitts were originally fingerless and 1880s players wore ties), and more.

The amazing two-page spreads and succinct writing enable children to take in the information at a glance. Young fans, newcomers, and those who like almanacs and sports records-style books, will spend hours pouring over this amazing book. Reluctant readers are sure to find this engaging and accessible.  Highly recommended!

Thanks to Blue Slip Media  for allowing me to review the books.

*My blog title is taken from that classic American song, Take me out to the Ballgame by Jack Norworth and Albert Von Titzer.

Friday, April 22, 2016

More Books to Celebrate Earth Day

Celebrate Earth Day with Animal Bites, a new nonfiction series for ages 4-8 from Animal Planet and Time Inc. Books.

Can a penguin escape a killer whale? Why doesn’t the Yeti crab need eyes? How does a  reindeer's feet stay warm in the snow? How did the Pompeii worm get it's name?  

Check out the answers to these question (and many more) in Animal Bites, a new nonfiction series for ages 4-8 from Animal Planet and Time Inc. Books. Titles reviewed here are:

Using bite-size pieces of information, striking photographs and illustrations,  children can explore a variety of animals and their environments.  

While differing in coverage, the books share a clever organizational scheme. Each has a multi-colored table of contents, a succinct glossary, and a detailed index. Every chapter uses a color-coded tab matching the color of the chapter title in the table of contents. This coding helps children understand the kind of information found in that chapter and, because of the uniformity throughout the series, is an excellent way to support a young reader’s reading development and comprehension.

Here’s an example:  the "how they live” tab is green and represents information on  " how animals behave and adapt to their environment.” Under this tab in Ocean Animals,  children learn how ocean animals move through water. In Polar Animals, they learn which animals migrate and why. The blue "Big Data"  tab can include brief facts and figures or eye-popping illustrations comparing the sizes of different animals. This kind of organization also helps children understand scientific concepts and see relationships between animals in a shared environment.

The titles include activity and resource pages.

While this series will certainly capture the attention of new and reluctant readers, it’s going to be a hit with all readers and help generate ideas for more in-depth studies.

Thanks to Blue Slip Media for letting me review the books.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Blog Tour: Celebrate Earth Day with Pipsie!

Pipsie Nature Detective: The Lunchnapper by Rick DeDonato and illustrated by Tracy Bishop. Two Lions, 2016. Recommended for ages 3-7.

In their second adventure, Pipsie and her friend,  Alfred the turtle, are off on the  " ...BEST school trip ever ..."  The two will partner up on the “Seven Wonders of Nature” scavenger hunt and try to locate and photograph all seven items on the list (an animal home, animal tracks, etc.). Pipsie and Alfred have just set out  when they realize their lunch is missing. Did a classmate take it? Or one of the forest denizens? Nature lover and detective Pipsie couldn’t be happier:

“Looks like we have a nature hunt AND a mystery to solve! … What could be better than that?”

The search for the  items on their scavenger hunt list leads them closer and closer to uncovering the culprit.  Along the way, Pipsie spots clues such as animal tracks showing a something dragging in the tracks. Could this be the missing lunch? When the tracks lead to a family of beavers, Pipsie uses her knowledge of nature and observation skills to eliminate the beavers as suspects:

“Beavers mostly eat trees and plants! And they weren’t dragging our lunch. Those are the marks their big flat tales make when they walk!”

As Pipsie records the facts in her detective’s notebook, Albert inadvertently gives her the clue she needs to catch the thief, but can they win the scavenger hunt?  

This short story can serve as a guide for outdoor activities on a young child's first family hike or school field trip. It can also be used to introduce mystery as a genre, story sequencing, and the value of journaling (detective’s notebook). Most importantly this book is valuable for demonstrating how children can use critical thinking skills such as cause and effect and observation to solve problems. Visit Pipsie’s website (see link below) for some excellent educational activities.

Bishop’s colorful and spirited illustrations create excitement and add to the fun. Have children check out the end pages which include items needed for the field trip (such as a field guide) and photos of some of the nature objects Pipsie and Albert found on the scavenger hunt (a feather, animal tracks, etc.). Backmatter introduces some fun facts about some of the woodland creatures children see in this story.

Check out the free downloadable activity kit here! Visit for more games and coloring, fun facts, more details about Pipsie and her friends, along with info about the author and illustrator. There’s also a link to Alfred Z. Turtle’s blog!

About the Author and Illustrator

Rick DeDonato started writing and drawing storybooks for his two kids, Alexis and Matt, when they were little. They’re grown now, but Rick is still creating stories. He is the author of Pipsie, Nature Detective: The Disappearing Caterpillar, illustrated by Tracy Bishop. When he’s not dreaming up new adventures for Pipsie, he’s an award-winning creative director in advertising. Born in New Jersey, he now lives in Wilmington, Delaware, with Nancy McAleer; their two dogs, Tugger and Nacho; and their turtle, Alfred E. Turtle.

Tracy Bishop won an art contest in kindergarten, and she’s been creating art ever since. A graduate of San Jose State University, she is also the illustrator of Not the Quitting Kind by Sarra J. Roth and Pipsie, Nature Detective: The Disappearing Caterpillar by Rick DeDonato. She lives in San Jose, California, where she is inspired on a daily basis by her son, husband, and a hairy dog named Harry.

Thanks to Blue Slip Media for letting me review the book and participate in the blog tour.