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Kids Book Review – Three Picture Books for the Fourth of July

CELEBRATING INDEPENDENCE DAY

WITH A ROUNDUP OF PICTURE BOOKS

 

 

A IS FOR AMERICA
A BabyLit Book

Written and illustrated by Greg Paprocki
(Gibbs Smith; $9.99, Ages 0-3)

I’m a big fan of the BabyLit series and I especially like their alphabet primers, A is for America being no exception. It’s full of simple, relatable examples yet sophisticated with its retro-style art and bonanza of bright colors and detailed scenes.

Paprocki has assembled a pleasing assortment of Independence Day and overall America-themed illustrations including E is for Eagle and M is for Mount Rushmore. Of course it makes sense to share F is for Fireworks but I was pleasantly surprised by the inclusion of Q is for Quill as we see John Hancock writing his easily identifiable cursive signature on the Declaration of Independence.

Playful and pertinent, this charming 32-page board book serves not only as an alphabet primer but as a terrific way to acquaint little ones with our country’s history. From the first colonies to the transcontinental railroad when east met west, from the pilgrims to George Washington, A is for America honors our nation’s past and what it means to us now.

Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

 

MY FOURTH OF JULY
Written by Jerry Spinelli
Illustrated by Larry Day
(Neal Porter Books; $18.99, Ages 4-8)

My Fourth of July is a joyful look at Independence Day through the eyes of an excited little boy. The holiday tale unfolds with the lad still in his pajamas, something I found so sweet, watching the parade passing by from his screen door then even joining in as shown on the cover. My town has a Memorial Day parade but if it had one on the Fourth of July it would be just like this one, full of kids on bikes carrying pinwheels or waving flags and generally having tons of fun. In fact, we even have a big park where many celebrations take place around the gazebo or bandshell just like in Spinelli’s story.

The boy’s in a hurry to get to the park so the family can claim a picnic table, another thing I could relate to! There are hot dogs galore on the grill and all the other mouth-watering food we associate with Independence Day. This imaginary, small town USA has a flag-draped train that passes through (like a scene out of the film Oklahoma) as well as face painting, organized games, a talent show and a concert at the park. Written as a warm, happy slice of life story with little to no obstacles (unless getting a prime picnic spot counts), Spinelli’s picture book celebrates family, community and tradition. It’s wonderful when everyone makes their way to the baseball field to watch the fireworks with Day’s ebullient illustrations depicting the magical display and the emotions it elicits as the day’s festivities come to an end. If you love a feel good picture book that feels both nostalgic and new at the same time, this one’s for you.

  • Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

 

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE AMERICAN?
Written by Rana DiOrio & Elad Yoran
Illustrated by Nina Mata
(Little Pickle Press; $17.99, Ages 4 and up)

Calling yourself an American is more than watching fireworks on the Fourth of July, or eating fast food. It is believing that all people are equal as told by Rana DiOrio along with debut children’s book author, Elad Yoran, in the forty-page picture book, What Does it Mean to be American? Colorful, feel good illustrations by Nina Mata beautifully convey the many different aspects the authors address. Teachers and parents alike will enjoy this upbeat social studies lesson that educates young children on the importance of being grateful and that dreams can come true by working hard because all Americans have the freedom to choose whom we love, what we believe, what we do, and where we live.

 

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What Does it Mean to be American? written by Rana DiOrio and Elad Yoran with illustrations by Nina Mata, Little Pickle Press ©2019.

 

The story begins with an interracial couple and their daughter traveling through the desert surrounded by cactus, mountains and a clear blue sky in a van packed with suitcases. The opening sentence is the question, What does it mean to be American? In the array of artwork, we see the young girl smiling as she attends a half Jewish wedding ceremony; she salutes a woman in military gear; and in another she hugs an older former military man seated in a wheelchair. Being American means having access to abundant natural resources so we see the child walking in the great outdoors, enjoying time in nature while holding her mother’s hand, a reminder to be grateful all year for her family’s many blessings.

 

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What Does it Mean to be American? written by Rana DiOrio and Elad Yoran with illustrations by Nina Mata, Little Pickle Press ©2019.

 

As the reader turns the page, our character sees people from all countries working in America and learns to appreciate that people from all kinds of backgrounds have something to offer her, whether it’s playing a game of chess or exercising with an elder in the park. As the little girl sits on her father’s shoulders, he tells her about people in the past who had the creativity to invent new things and that she should be proud of all that Americans have accomplished, yet humble about all we still need to learn. The illustrations take us back to the invention of the computer and the automobile, but also remind us that women fought for their right to vote.

This vital story that every parent must take time with their young kids to discuss, reminds us to become our best self, but that we also have an obligation to help others (something children can NEVER  hear enough of!) With mindfulness lessons on the importance of being present mixed in with a rich lesson in our American history, readers learn that the greatest nation in the world can always be better!

In addition to loving the message throughout this book, I got excited reading the back matter. Writers Rana and Elad share that their intention for writing the story was to encourage adults in children’s lives to start meaningful conversations about what it means to be American. With a fabulous history lesson reminding readers what our forefathers wrote in the Declaration of Independence to a guided list of questions to continue the conversation with young and older children alike, we are reminded about all the amazing people who made America what it is today.

This is a great read for teachers who can jump start a discussion with these initial questions, and then lead into so many other topics. Bravo to the writers who said, Being American means welcoming people from other countries and helping them learn what it means to be American … and appreciating that our differences make us kinder, smarter, healthier and stronger. Don’t miss the other great books in the What Does It Mean to Be …? series.

Reviewed by Guest Reviewer Ronda Einbinder
Ronda is a teacher/writer who worked for Irvine Unified School District assisting students in grades K-6. She is also a 500-Hour Registered Yoga Instructor, teaching yoga and mindfulness both publicly and privately. Previously, she was a writer and publicist for ObesityHelp magazine and non-profit medical facilities.

 

Click here to read last year’s Fourth of July book reviews.

 

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Not an Exact Science

9781423624554_p0_v1_s260x420A Young Scientist’s Guide to Faulty Freaks of Nature ($14.99, Gibbs Smith Publishing, Ages 9 and up)) is not like most science books you’ve seen for kids. This particular book teaches children that scientists do make mistakes, that we can all learn from them, and  that in fact some are actually very interesting indeed!

The book starts with a little bit of cheeky humor, which just made me want to dive in and read more. There are four chapters including Fascinating and Fearful Discoveries, Catastrophic Chemicals, Agricultural Fiascoes and Man Versus Nature. Each of these chapters has pages with different topics, many with titles so catchy that you cannot wait to read them. Try these on for size: Neanderthal, Not a Dumb Brute After All, The Worst Scientist in the Word Ever, A Poop and a Pee Makes Nice Coffee and Attack of the Blob – Seriously Slimy Sea Snot.

Okay, I know you’re dying to know about the Poop and a Pee topic, so I’ll give you a hint: It’s all about animal poop and their “uses,” and yes, it’s a bit gross and a lot funny. There’s even a poop bomb in that explanation.

Throughout the book are directions to 20 fun science projects kids can do at home like Make Your Own Sea Snot and Make Disappearing Messages. These activities are each followed by Science Factoids that essentially explain why the experiments works. There are also some simple, fun illustrations by Andrew Brozyna and so much fascinating scientific information.

What I love most about this book is the writing style of author James Doyle. He has a clever way of writing with great humor while also truly educating readers about scientific facts they will not likely learn in school.  It’s wonderful that he touches upon the mistakes of past scientists, because mistakes are all a part of the learning process. It teaches young readers that it’s better to try and make an error than it is to do nothing. (Even Einstein made an error in one of his theories.) Another excellent aspect of this book is that basically every type of science is touched upon from chemistry and biology to physics and geology plus everything in between. Doyle is actually a geography teacher at a college in Belfast, Ireland and obviously is a very curious and knowledgeable nerd with a terrific sense of humor – and I mean that in the best possible way. I bet he’s an awesome teacher!

In the back of the book you’ll find websites and books for kids to check out to learn more. This will come in handy because after reading this fun science book, I’m sure your child will be even more curious about science and will want to read more. As I’ve said so many times before, we need more scientists in the world. Getting kids interested from a young age is the best way to ensure we’ll lure them in.

-Reviewed by Debbie Glade

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Doodle Days Are Here!

DoodleI absolutely love to doodle – when I’m on the phone, listening to a lecture or when I’m a passenger in the car or on a plane. Somehow, I always manage to put a lot of hearts into my doodles. I wonder what that means?

Scientific research proves that doodling helps people learn faster by helping them concentrate better and retain more information. Doodle Your Day ($16.99, Gibbs Smith Publishing, Ages 8 and up) written by Anita Wood and illustrated by Jennifer Kalis provides children with the essentials they need to doodle their way into creativity. Anita has written many other doodle and journal books for kids.

What you’ll love about this meaty 225-page book is that it is chock full of templates that will get your children thinking and creating in ways that are so fun they will never even suspect they are actually learning anything. Each page has a title, some clever art work and plenty of space for your young reader to doodle away. Here are just a handful of the hundreds of doodle pages in this book:

  • This is What I Had for Lunch Today (with an illustration of a big empty plate to fill in)
  • Step in a Puddle and Splash Your Friend Day (with an illustration of 2 large rain boots to decorate)
  • Wacky Word of the Day (to use in a sentence and also illustrate)
  • Opposite Day (with space to write something with the opposite hand you usually write with)
  • National Gumdrop Day (with space to doodle a gumdrop family)
  • Find a Jigsaw Puzzle Piece and Glue it Here (then draw more pieces around it)
  • Babe Ruth Day (eat a Baby Ruth and glue the wrapper to this page)
  • National Hamburger Day (fill in the illustration of a bun)
  • Fight Procrastination Day (list tasks you always put off doing)
  • What Kind of Bird are You? (draw it)

There are so many imaginative pages in this book (a doodle for every day of the year in fact), enough to keep readers very busy. This is the kind of book your  child will get so much use out of and when he or she finally finishes every page, will cherish as a sort of drawing and writing journal to look back on for years to come. So the next time you see your child doodling, rather than asking him to pay attention, buy him this most creative and interactive book and encourage him to doodle away.

Reviewed by Debbie Glade

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