Trucks, Tractors and Cars – A Transportation-Themed Picture Book Roundup

Posted on

TRUCKS, TRACTORS AND CARS:
A PICTURE BOOK ROUNDUP

 

race-car-dreamsRace Car Dreams
Written by Sharon Chriscoe
Illustrated by Dave Mottram
(Running Press Kids; $16.95, Ages 2-6)

A little race car settles down after a long, tiring day in this new going-to-bed book for little ones into all things automobile. It’s a quick read with approximately 200 words but it’s packed with cuteness! Adorable illustrations accompany the quiet rhyming text as the race car gets ready for bed and has sweet dreams. I’d highly recommend this book as a fun alternative to any animal-themed bedtime books. It’s sure to be a much requested going-to-bed story.

 

with-any-luck-ill-drive-a-truckWith Any Luck, I’ll Drive a Truck
Written by David Friend
Illustrated by Michael Rex
(Nancy Paulsen Books; $16.99, Ages 3-5)

This is a clever, witty book written from a young boy’s perspective about when he learned how to operate several trucks and big machines. It’s hilarious how the author gets you believing that at such a young age, this boy is using a cement mixer, backhoe, 18-wheeler … you name it and this boy has probably operated it! You come to find out they are all toy trucks he’s operated and his room is like a parking lot, but when he grows up he’d love to drive a truck. Great rhyme teaches about various large trucks, and wonderfully bold and bright illustrations make this book one of my new favorites!

 

 

Duck on a Tractorduck-on-a-tractor
Written and illustrated by David Shannon
(The Blue Sky Press/ Scholastic; $16.99, Ages 4-8)

Duck gets on a tractor, after all he rode a bike before! After pressing a few petals and trying various things he turned a “shiny little piece of metal by the steering wheel.” Pretty soon all the farm animals are hopping on for the ride, saying their regular animals sounds by thinking something different. The animals end up going onto the main road past the diner and it’s such a sight to see that nobody can quite believe all those animals are on a tractor. Yet once the diner crowd goes outside there’s no trace of the animals. The farmer must have just left the tractor on! Another great book from David Shannon with spectacular illustrations that are sure to enthrall kids ages 4-8.

 

  • Reviewed by Lucy Ravitch

Outdoor Math: Fun Activities for Every Season by Emma AdBåge

Posted on

OUTDOOR MATH:
FUN ACTIVITIES FOR EVERY SEASON
Written and illustrated by Emma AdBåge
(Kids Can Press; $15.95, Ages 5-8)

 

Outdoor Math cover image

 

I am so glad I had the chance to read Outdoor Math and have only positive things to say about it. This delightfully illustrated book is super fun and packed with hands-on activities that focus on going outdoors and playing. The book starts off with an introduction to numbers 0-10 with real world examples, then there are numerous math activities for each season of the year, followed by a brief explanation and examples of plus and minus, then multiply and divide. There’s even some science that can be learned especially when engaging in the seasonal-themed activities.

 

Outdoor Math Pg 11

Outdoor Math: Fun Activities for Every Season, written and illustrated by Emma AdBåge, Kids Can Press ©2016.

 

The majority of the book is divided into the four seasons, each with five to seven outdoor math activities so the book provides year round entertainment and education. All of the activities listed looked interesting so of course I had to try a few. My daughter and I enjoyed bouncing a ball for a minute. She was so good at bouncing the ball it was hard to keep track, but we managed to count 135 bounces in one minute. Then we played Tic-Tac-Toe from the book’s Autumn section. We had such a good time playing with our placeholders–seedpods and bits of mulch. After three tied games, I was the lucky winner!

 

Outdoor Math Tic Tac Toe photo by L. Ravitch

Photograph of Outdoor Math inspired activity – Tic Tac Toe by Lucy Ravitch ©2016.

 

The counting and tossing outdoor activities are sure to be a hit with kids even as young as three years old. I felt the rest of the activities could work for almost any age. There are timed activities with counting, as well as activities with maps and shapes, and some games that require coordination. What I love about the book is how many of the activities have kids exercising while they’re doing a math skill. Outdoor Math: Fun Activities for Every Season gives great examples of educational play with simple rules for young kids.

 

Image of Outdoor Math Winter Math Activity Pg 17

Outdoor Math: Fun Activities for Every Season, written and illustrated by Emma AdBåge, Kids Can Press ©2016.

 

Although I live in sunny southern California where it’s summer almost all year long, the activities can be done anywhere. The book is a wonderful STEM resource because it’s easy to substitute objects depending on the time of year and where you live. For example, Pine Cone Math where you collect pine cones can be substituted with shells, rocks or toys instead. I feel confident recommending Outdoor Math as it’s a terrific book for kids and their parents/teachers/grandparents that’s certain to get everyone moving outside while doing math activities. It goes to show that math is all around us and almost any activity can be a math activity! Thank you Emma AdBåge for making a playful and hands-on book for kids.

After playing Outdoor Math, your kids might just find other ways to incorporate math into play too. I was surprised and happy to see my kids making designs from the objects we used. In fact, as you can see below, there is even math to be found in neat designs!

 

Image of Outdoor Math nature inspired design by L Ravitch

Photograph of Outdoor Math inspired activity – design from nature by Lucy Ravitch ©2016.

 

  • Reviewed by Lucy Ravtich

Funny Food Made Easy Puts Creative Meals at Your Fingertips

Posted on

Funny Food Made Easy:
Creative, Fun, & Healthy Breakfasts, Lunches, & Snacks
by Bill and Claire Wurtzel
(Welcome Books; $19.95)

 

Funny Food Made Easy: Creative, Fun, & Healthy Breakfasts, Lunches, & Snacks book cover

 

 

Funny Food Made Easy is an entertaining book and sure to be one for both the coffee table and kitchen table! It’s beautiful and fun at the same time. I must say that Bill and Claire Wurtzel are extremely creative with simple ingredients. They can make broccoli look like a poodle dog or fried eggs with cheese look like a cute couple holding hands. They show you how you can make whimsical items and people out of cut watermelon or pineapple as well as oatmeal with a bit of raisins and sliced apples. They offer plenty of suggestions for variations but show a lot of step by step instructions too. Basically the title says it all.

I recently had some of my kids’ friends over and these 7-10 year olds were having the best reactions with the book. They would say, “Oh, that’s so cool!” one minute, to “Eww, I don’t think I want to eat that, but it looks neat,” to “I wish I could make that!” Sometimes they just laughed out loud delighting in devouring page after page of neat faces and food art displayed in this extremely original book, a companion to the always popular Funny Food from 2012. It was such fun to watch the kids enjoying the book so much!

Funny Foods Made Easy has very simple and healthy ingredients and the authors have put a lot of time and attention into detail. They have suggestions and instructions how to have your own funny food workshop and it seems like a great idea for kids and their parents. While you may remember your parents telling you not to play with your food, this book encourages lots of play with food. After seeing the array of all you can do with your meals and snacks, you may never look at toast the same way again!

  • Reviewed by Lucy Ravitch

 


Peg + Cat: The Pizza Problem by Jennifer Oxley and Billy Aronson

Posted on

PEG + CAT: THE PIZZA PROBLEM
Written and illustrated by Jennifer Oxley and Billy Aronson
(Candlewick Entertainment; $12.99, Ages 3-7)

Peg and Cat: The Pizza Problem book cover

 

Peg + Cat: The Pizza Problem is another wonderful book from the creators of the popular educational PBS show, Peg + Cat! You don’t need to be familiar with Peg + Cat to enjoy this book because their characters shine through in the text and illustrations.

Peg and her cat open up Peg’s Pizza Place and are excited to serve the first customers when she gets an order for half a pizza among the orders of whole pizzas. At first she doesn’t know what half a pizza is, but luckily her friends come and help her realize that half a pizza is just one pizza cut down the middle, a semi-circle. Peg and Cat continue to fulfill new orders and provide entertainment for the customers, but then there is a dilemma! Peg gets four more orders and there’s only enough ingredients to make two and a half pizzas. Luckily, some of the orders were for half pizza pies, so she just might have enough to satisfy everyone.

Peg + Cat: The Pizza Problem is a terrific book for kids ages three through seven who will appreciate the bright and cheerful illustrations while learning helpful math concepts.  The story really had some good twists and turns, so much that it kept me engaged because I wasn’t sure what was going to happen next. I’m always happy to see math concepts being introduced and taught in real-to-life scenarios so kids can grasp the concepts easily. I also enjoyed the part where Peg got so stressed and had to be reminded to count down from five to one to calm down–an important lesson kids and adults both need.

Thank you Jennifer Oxley and Bill Aronson for your great work with Peg + Cat! We look forward to what other fun math related books you create.

Download an activity kit here.

Read Lucy’s review of Peg + Cat: The Race Car Problem here.

 

  • Reviewed by Lucy Ravitch

 

 

 


ABCs of the Web and Web Design for Kids

Posted on

We’re Talking All Things Web Today
With ABCs of the Web & Web Design for Kids

 

Math maven Lucy Ravitch is back to share two books about the web which she says are sure to be a hit with parents who want their youngsters to be “in the know” with the computer world and what makes it tick.

ABCs of the Web book coverABCs of the Web, written by John C. Vanden-Heuvel, Sr. and Andrey Ostrovsky, MD, with illustrations by Tom Holmes ( Little Bee Books; $8.99, Ages 4-8), has recently been released as a board book and it’s brilliant! The sturdiness of the pages is ideal for the age group geared for this primer. The catchy rhythm that goes along with it reminds me a bit of Dr. Suess’s ABC book. Just listen…

A is for Anchor tag
Attach with A.
Explore with A.
What begins with A?
Anchor tag brings elements together for a day.

I think it’s a wonderful idea to teach kids at an early age. In its clever approach, the book teaches the basics of a lot of internet lingo and elements. It would be an interesting activity after reading the book to go on the web with your child and look up examples of some of the alphabet letters presented. Even if the child doesn’t understand all the terms, the book is laid out in such a fun way with simple and sleek illustrations I feel kids will ask for it to be read again and again. In fact, it even kept me engaged as a parent! Using such simple words, the authors did a great job of teaching complex topics. Though it’s recommended for ages 4-8, I think you could even introduce this book to younger children.  Concepts are: Domain, Elements, Function, Google, HTML, Internet, JavaScript, Keyword, Link, Mozilla, Node.js, Open Source, PHP, Query, Ruby, SEO, Tag, URL, Virus, WordPress, XML, YouTube, and Z-index.

Web Design for Kids book coverAfter reading Web Design for Kids: Coding for Kids Series, also written by John C. Vanden-Heuvel, Sr., with illustrations by Cristian Turdera (Little Bee Books; $8.99, Ages 4-8), I’d say this 2.0 Geeked out Lift-the-flap edition is more suited for a bit of an older child than the previous title. While it has fewer pages than the other, the pages are more text heavy and the lift-the-flaps seem suited more for an older kids who will be more careful not to pull too hard. Topics included are HTML, CSS, and Javascript. They are each briefly explained and creatively illustrated along with several elements taught within those topics.

Since there is a lot of information in the book, perhaps it should be taken a couple of pages per sitting (even though your child will probably want to lift every flap). My four-year-old daughter enjoyed the pictures and wanted to go much faster than I could read all the information as she was busy flipping open the flaps. I thoroughly enjoyed Web Design for Kids and frankly learned a lot of info myself. While my techie oriented family found the book fun, I recognize it may not be for every child. If your child likes nonfiction books and learning new things though, this is definitely a fab find. Overall, both books are clever and engaging, providing an entertaining and educational way to talk about the elements of the world wide web and web design.

  • Reviewed by Lucy Ravitch

A Roundup of TanTan Publishing Math Concepts Picture Books

Posted on

A ROUNDUP OF TANTAN PUBLISHING
MATH CONCEPTS PICTURE BOOKS
featuring:

Could You Lift Up Your Bottom?,
Math at the Art Museum, and Ruffer’s Birthday Party

 

cover_Could-You-Please-Lift-up-Your-BottomThe first book in my roundup is called Could You Lift Up Your Bottom? by Hee-jung Chang with illustrations by Sung-hwa Chung. (TanTan Publishing; $16.95)
This book piqued my interest with its funny title, so I chose to make it my first read of the three math stories books I received. It has a relatively simple story of a frog whose hat has blown away and an elephant who sits on it. Stubborn and greedy Elephant will not move one inch, demanding different shaped food to eat. Frog fulfills the elephant’s requests in hopes that Elephant will lift up his bottom and get off of the hat. Love it! Eventually Frog is able to get Elephant to eat part of a honeycomb in a beehive. He then runs off due to the bees going after him. Could You Lift Up Your Bottom? reminded me a bit of Jon Klassen’s, I Want My Hat Back but teaching shapes along the way. The illustrations are unique and should appeal to kids because they can duplicate the simplistic art style. This book would be a good one to borrow from a library or have in a classroom. It has some nice information and suggested activities in the back of the book as well.

Understanding math concepts
Shape and space
Explaining the basic concept of space and three types of plane figures: triangle, quadrangle (tetragon), circle

 

cover_Math-at-the-Art-MuseumNext, I read Math at the Art Museum by Group Majoongmul and illustrated by Yun-ju Kim. (TanTan Publishing; $16.95)
This picture book is about a boy visiting an art museum with his family. The museum is having a special “Discover Math in Art” exhibit. Numerals, colors, shapes, direction, perspective, symmetry, and time are discussed as the family looks at different paintings from Seurat, Picasso, Degas, and more. I found this to be an enjoyable read that would engage children 4-9. In addition to liking the story, kids would like looking at the artwork presented in the book. Again, the publisher gave information in the back matter with suggestions for activities, but my favorite part was this quote, “Because math is not a field that deals only with numbers and calculations, it’s important to encourage children to look for and learn from mathematical concepts in unexpected places, including in artwork.” I wholeheartedly agree–we should be showing children that math is all around us and isn’t just a stand alone subject to be shared only in school. I’m happy to discover these kid-oriented math stories that strive to make math concepts accessible to all.

Understanding math concepts
Patterns and problem solving
Introducing mathematical concepts that are found in our surroundings to give children a fresh perspective on math: math in art

 

cover_Ruffers-Birthday-PartyMy final read from this group of books was Ruffer’s Birthday Party by Soon-jae Shin and illustrated by Min-jung Kim. The concepts emphasized are addition and subtraction, but a lot of other math concepts were shown in this book! I know kids will love it with the hands-on math examples. Ruffer is Nora’s pet dog and it’s his birthday in four days. They make invitations (to three friends and their pets–which they have to add up since they want to give an invitation to each of them), count down to the birthday party, bake a special cake (and since they are short on eggs they have to buy more at the store), they go to the store for last minute items (and there is a sale so we have to figure out the full price minus the discount and eventually figure out the total of the sale). Then, at the party Ruffer gets presents (and makes a chart to organize them–bones, stuffed animals, and balls) and everyone plays a ring toss game (in two teams with a few simple rules). It’s a fun read for kids who already love birthday books too!

Understanding math concepts
Numbers and operations
Dealing with operations with mathematical signs (÷, ×, +, -): addition and subtraction

 

  • Reviewed by Lucy Ravitch

Coding Games in Scratch Guide & Workbook

Posted on

Coding_Games_in_ScratchCodinginScratch_Games_Workbook

LET’S GET KIDS CODING IN SCRATCH

Coding Games in Scratch:
A Step-by-Step Visual Guide
to Building Your Own Computer Games 

by Dr. Jon Woodcock
(DK; $19.99, Ages 9-12)

Coding in Scratch: Games Workbook 
by Dr. Jon Woodcock
(DK Workbooks; $5.99, Ages 9-12)

 

“I was so excited to review Coding Games in Scratch: A Step-by-Step Visual Guide to Building Your Own Computer Games and the handy workbook, Coding in Scratch: Games Workbook, both by Dr. Jon Woodcock,” says GRWR’s math maven, Lucy Ravitch!

My kids have been tinkering around with Scratch since they were about 6-years-old. For those unfamiliar with Scratch, it’s a free visual programming language that comes from MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). You can find out more about it at www.scratch.mit.edu. Anyone can create stories, games, and animations and share them. Plus, you can download it onto your computer or play connected to the Internet.

I decided to start with Coding in Scratch: Games Workbook first. Reading through it, I became more familiar with how the games are supposed to work. There are handy arrows to all the parts you see on your screen as well as detailed instructions. This is really helpful for kids or adults who are not apt to explore all the buttons. In a way, I think both the Coding in Scratch: Games Workbook and Coding Games in Scratch: A Step-by-Step Visual Guide to Building Your Own Computer Games are also terrific or adults to read so they know what their kids are doing when they play and how they can assist if needed.

 

ScratchInt2

Interior image from Coding Games in Scratch: A Step-by-Step Visual Guide to Building Your Own Computer Games by Dr. Jon Woodcock, DK Books ©2015.

 

I had never played with Scratch before, but as I used both the book and workbook to make the suggested games, I learned a lot! The great thing about these books as well as Scratch is that readers see how it applies so many math concepts with the simple coding!

YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki has said, “Learning to code makes kids feel empowered, creative, and confident,” and I agree. After following the directions and learning how to make a sample game, I wish I’d had more time to tinker around with it and make my own creative game or animation. You might think that making a computer game is not a good use of time (I know I’ve been guilty of this), but after seeing all the math and logical thinking that goes into making a complete game in Scratch, I can tell you it is an educational and helpful exercise. I found it interesting that many of the big names in the computer industry – Jobs, Wozniak, and Zuckerberg – all made computer games as children.

In the book, Chapter One covers computer games: the various types of games, what makes a good game, and how coding works. Chapter Two talks about getting Scratch, either onto your computer or playing online, along with a tour of what the basic screen and controls look like. Chapters Three through Ten are directions for games that you can make. Chapter Eleven explains what can be next for you and your programming child, followed by a Glossary and Index.

 

ScratchInt1

Interior image from Coding Games in Scratch: A Step-by-Step Visual Guide to Building Your Own Computer Games by Dr. Jon Woodcock, DK Books ©2015.

 

I went ahead and made the first game in Chapter Three and just in that first game alone I learned how to:
– assign sound effects
– put the code directions for the sprites (characters) using if-then blocks and repeating blocks
– pick a background
– make sprites, name them, and move them in different directions (using degrees of rotation)
– add chance (assign it to pick a random number between 1 and 6)
– use the coordinate system along the x and y axis (including negative numbers)
– create variables for sprites, and
– run the complete project and check for bugs (mistakes in the program)

I noticed that as the chapters progressed the games got a bit more complex, even though they’re all actually simple games. If you use this book, it can expedite the learning curve for making your own games. You’ll also discover all the intricacies that Scratch games have to offer. My 10-year-old and I started to do another chapter and it was a fun activity to do with him. It’s amazing to see how fast children learn how to use the program.

After reviewing the Coding Games in Scratch: A Step-by-Step Visual Guide to Building Your Own Computer Games and Coding in Scratch: Games Workbook, I’d easily recommend getting both. Though the publisher’s recommended age for these books is ages 9-12, in my opinion even younger children would enjoy it. The book is extremely helpful to accelerate the learning of what fun, creative games you can make in Scratch, and the workbook makes sure you know the terminology and applications of the components of Scratch. I hope your children enjoy coding and that you can join them in discovering how fun and educational it is to create computer games!

Read more here about why kids should code.

 

  • Reviewed by Lucy Ravitch