Shark Lady: Eugenie Clark

Today’s book is a new picture book biography of Eugenie Clark. Clark was a trailblazing scientist who left a grand legacy to science.

Eugenie was discouraged from going into a scientific career, but was unwilling to give up her love of the oceans. Eugenie specifically loved sharks, but did advance the study if other species of fish. She even discovered three new species early in her career: the Red Sea sand diver, the barred Xenia pipefish and the volcano triplefin. 

Her scientific discoveries did not stop there. She discovered that sharks were able to stop moving to rest, dispelling the myth that they must keep moving to stay alive, and that they could be trained like a dog and would remember that training for up to two months. She also discovered a rare six-filled shark.

I learned all of these facts about Eugenie from this book, but there are other books about her:

 Eugenie Clark died in 2015 at the age of 92. You can learn more about her at the website


Even famous people start out small.

I’m not joking. Did you know that Thomas Edison fed someone worms once?

It’s true! He thought that worms might be what gave birds the power of flight. While it was a good observation that birds eat worms and are able to fly, it wasn’t one of his best theories on how to imbue humans with the power of flight.

It’s true, Martin Luther King, Jr. was a kid once and he did regular everyday kid things. One thing he never did though was respond to violence with more violence.

This fun new series of narrative nonfiction biographies is by Mark Weakland. I have them on my purchase list for the upcoming school year and I’m hoping to read the other two books here at the public library.

I have heard about Amelia’s rollercoaster, I think in Brad Meltzer’s Ordinary People Change the World Series, but I have not heard about Wilma playing basketball.

These books have nice illustrations and are easy to read and understand. I think they will go over well with my K-4 audience. I plan to put them with the biographies but here at the public library, they are in the picture books.

Not so spooky zombies and vampires!

Kids have really gotten desensitized to horror imagery. It’s visible in so many places. Zombies sell for Visine, Dr. Scholls and Sprint, to name a few, so it’s impossible to keep them away from your kids 100%.

So rather than freak out, why not find a fun age-appropriate zombie for your child? This post is actually more for girls, but I’m not ruling out boys who may enjoy ballet.

Kristyn Crow has some cute spooky-themed stories and three about Zombelina. Her story is told in rhymes with cute illustrations by Molly Idle.

I would read these to ballet loving girls, maybe to give myself a break from Monster High obsessed kids. I found another fun series about a ballet loving vampire:

This series by Anne Marie Pace looks so cute! I love LeUyen Pham’s illustrations. It’s going to be a Disney Junior show do it must be wholesome.

There are other stories out there that appeal to kids who like some traditional themes, like ballet, and nontraditional themes like zombies and vampires. I’d be willing to bet that it suits a lot of parents as well. I would rather read monsters than ballet, but if they make my kid happy, I’ll gladly take them together.


June Sparrow and the Million Dollar Penny

While looking for brand new fiction on our library’s eBook site, I came across a cover with a cute illustration of a girl and her pet pig.

Intrigued, I looked at the description and it compared the book to Because of Winn Dixie and Three Times Lucky, two of my all time favorite middle-grade books. And really, who can resist a pig in a top hat and cape??

June is an orphan, but luckily she was left her parents’ entire fortune and lives an amazing, if solitary, life in New York City with her miniature pig named Indigo Bunting.

Life is turned on it’s ear on June’s 12th birthday. Her fortune has been lost by the executor of her parents’ estate and she must move to South Dakota to live with an aunt she’s never even met!

I could not pass up an opportunity to read a book that takes place in South Dakota. Red Bank, the town June lives in, is fictional. The only place Google came up with when I searched for it is a campground in the Black Hills called Redbank Campground. The town in the story is close to Sioux Falls and the Black Hills are on the opposite side of the state.

June is sure she belongs in New York and after finding her mom’s penny book, she’s positive she can make it happen. 

I haven’t finished the book yet, but I’m enjoying it enough that I’m hoping for a series about June. In fact, I kind of hope she finds the million dollar penny and instead of moving back to New York, uses it to help Red Bank and her aunt. We’ll just have to see…


Claude and Sir Bobblysock

My librarian friend has asked me to help her out reading books that are on the nominee list for the Prairie Pasque and Prairie Bud Awards. I grabbed a couple to try out.

I really liked Claude In the Country. Claude is a very dapper dog who lives with Mr. and Mrs. Shinyshoes and enjoys daily adventures with his best friend, Mr. Bobblysock (he’s literally a sock.) I think Claude may be from England, there is just something European about the book.

This fun adventure on the farm with Mrs. Cowpat was a very fun story. It’s perfect for an emergent reader who enjoys cute illustrations.

There were some moments in the book that I thought may have been jokes for the parents, but overall, it is a series I’d buy for the school.

I believe there is also a new book in the set where Claude goes to sea. I think I’ll discuss this set in the What’s New In Children’s Lit class in teaching as well. 


Dragons Love Tacos

Really, it should be common knowledge by now that dragons love tacos (watch out for that spicy salsa though!) We have talked about the first of Adam Rubin’s hilarious book before:

Today, though, I’m super excited to share the next book in this series:

Sometimes when you have something really great and you love it so much, you over use it and then there’s a shortage. Fossil fuels come to mind but the sad truth is that this time, is tacos that we’ve run out of!

What’s a dragon to do?!? How about we jump into a time machine and go back to our super amazing taco party? Its a perfect idea but we need to  make sure we get there before the dragons accidentally eat the spicey salsa. 

Good thing we can go back a little further and try again. And again. Be careful not to put spicey salsa in the time machine’s engine! What? Now dragons love diapers? Now tacos love dragons? Finally! We’ve saved a taco and kept the dragons from eating it, can one taco save the world?

We’ll plant a [taco] tree and have tacos forever. The dragons will be so happy.

After all, dragons love diapers. I mean, tacos. Dragons love tacos.

These are the layouts from the end of the book. You may notice an all-star group of taco lovers:

  • Abraham Lincoln 
  • Amelia Earhart
  • Jimi Hendrix
  • Ghandi
  • Frankenstein
  • Cleopatra 
  • The Stinky Cheese Man (look that one up.)
  • The racoon from Rubin’s book Secret Pizza Party
  • The robot from Robo-Sauce, also by Rubin 

The Tinderbox

I’ve read a few of Hans Christian Andersen’s stories before and they are not sweet, flowery books. The Little Match Girl its the saddest Christmas story ever, The Ice Queen is one dark lady (kids never want to hear that she is who Elsa from Frozen is based on), and The Little Mermaid dies at the end of her story.

I picked up The Tinderbox because of those freaky dogs on the cover. The children’s librarian I am assisting this summer had not read it either. I think I may have read a version of it by an amateur author, but it wasn’t kid friendly.

In the story,a soldier coming home from war meets a witch who offers him all the riches he can carry if he will go into an underground hall and bring her back a tinderbox that her grandmother left down there the last time she went below ground.

This illustrator its amazing! Look at the detail!

The Witch tells him that he will meet three dogs with giant eyes but gives him a means to get around them.

He looks really constipated or like he’s getting his temperature taken at the vet!

The soldier does as she asks and fills his pockets with all the gold he can carry. She demands the tinderbox, but the soldier isn’t stupid and realizes it must be special. He kills the Witch and takes the tinderbox along with the gold. 

He isn’t overly intelligent though, and manages to spend all of his gold. Down to nothing, he decides to light the candle in the tinderbox. He is amazed to discover that when he strikes the flint, the first of the giant-eyed dogs magically appears. Two strikes brings the second dog , three the third, four strikes brings all three and best of all, they can grant wishes!

The story gets weird here. There is a beautiful princess secreted away in the city and he longs to see her. He had the dog  abduct her while she sleeps so that he may kiss her. This continues and the king and queen try frantically to stop it. Finally, the soldier is discovered and arrested.

On the day he is to be hanged, the soldier’s last request is to smoke a pipe one last time. He strikes the tinderbox four times to summon all three dogs and sics them on the royalty in the crowd and kills them! He is then (Good knows why) declared the new king and marries the princess.

Don’t get me wrong, many old fairy tales seem unbelievable to modern people, but this one was out there. I think it’s an interesting idea, but I’m not sure about the whole kidnapping/murder thing–I have reservations about a lot of old stories in their original form in fact. 

Keep in mind it may be necessary to pre-read stories to make sure they don’t have details in them you aren’t willing to share with kids–like Rapunzel getting pregnant with twins, or Cinderella’s stepsisters curling off parts of their feet to make the glass slipper fit. Fairytales can be brutal.


Red: the true story of Red Riding Hood

Today’s book is actually the third book in a series by Liesel Shurtliff. The first book was Rump: the true story of Rumpelstiltskin.

I read this book back in the summer of 2013 – before I started at the school. I cannot begin to say how much I loved it. Rump is an orphan living on the Mountain in a Kingdom where names hold your destiny, but what kind of destiny can a name like Rump give you? Rump’s adventure through a fairytale land won’t be easy, but with help from his friend Red, he may find his true name and destiny. You thought you knew how this story goes, but you may be surprised at who the villains of this story are. 

Jack is like any other boy, except that he sees his father stolen by a giant. Jack isn’t going to sit and mope, he’s going to rescue his father, no matter what! Unfortunately, his little sister has tagged along for the adventure. We learn that for Jack, the land of the giants its the land where Rump comes from. Can ones so little change the world?

I’ve been waiting to read this book for quite awhile. It came out in March but I ran out of money to buy it at school. I’m lucky that the public library had a copy for me to borrow. I read it in one evening! We met Red in the first book, Rump, and her story picks back up after Rump has left the Mountain. In fact, everyone has left because the gold mines are empty. Red loves her granny more than anything and so when Granny gets sick, Red is willing to do anything to save her.

There were a lot of great fairytale references woven into the story. Granny, or the Witch of the Woods, has the given name Rose Red. Her sister, Snow White, married a prince enchanted into a bear years before. (This it’s not the same Snow White who lived centuries ago in the Kingdom.) As Red ventures out into the forest, she is followed by a wolf and an annoying blonde called Goldie–yeah, that Goldie. In this story we meet an enchanted beast, dwarves, and a huntsman. Red must make unlikely allies and defeat more than just a monster to fulfill her quest.

One of the best parts of this book was Red’s refusal to bend to a preordained destiny. I got a lot of great quotes from this book but here is my favorite:

I disliked the idea that I couldn’t determine my own future. I wanted to decide for myself how things would go for me…I was going to give destiny a good punch in the face.

Overall, Red, along with the reader, learn that facing our greatest fears will reveal our greatest power. Shurtliff wrote this book at the end of her own grandmother’s life, and her love is clearly evident in this wonderful story.

…I’d stay alive through others, and we’d never really go away. We’d just all grow together, like a forest, like the world, changing seasons and living on and on and on.

Shurtliff could easily continue this series, a there are no shortage of characters who need their true story told. I think Goldie should get her own book. Red’s personality reminded me of my older daughter and Goldie reminded me of my younger daughter. Their interactions were just perfect. The most unlikely people end up being the most important in our lives.


Fuzzy Mud

One of my job perks this summer is getting to help with clubs – Lego Club, Cooking Club, Crochet Club, Coding Club and the Tween Book Club. One of the girls who comes to multiple clubs was adamant that I read this month’s book, Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar.

I’ve discussed other Sachar books before, Wayside School. I also love his book Holes, but Fuzzy Mud very different from them. It has a menacing feel to it, so this book is geared more towards 5-7 grade students.

The story is set in a private school in Pennsylvania. Tamaya is a 5th grader, Marshall is a 7th grader and Chad is his bully. Marshall leads Tamaya through the woods one day so that he can avoid a fight with Chad. Chad finds them, and to help Marshall, Tamaya grabs a handful of a strange tar-like mud that has a fuzz of moss on top, and shoves it into Chad’s face.

The story progresses quickly from there. Tamaya developes a strange rash on her hand that keeps spreading and Chad goes missing. There are transcripts from a environmental hearing where the safety of a new alternative fuel is being debated spread between the chapters. The fuel uses a genetically modified slime-mold for energy. Is it safe? What if it wasn’t contained? What if there was a leak into the surrounding countryside? 

Sachar has also put in clues as to how quickly the problem is progressing. The chapter headings show an illustration that might just be a Petri dish. For Chapter 1 there is a single dot in the dish. As the story progresses, it begins to look more and more like this:

The ergonym in the biofuel doubles every thirty-two minutes. As the story builds towards its climax, we also see simple math equations:

2 x 1 = 2

2 x 2 = 4

2 x 4 = 8

It doesn’t take long for the equations to create very high numbers.

2 x 67,108,864 = 134,217,728

2 x 134,217,728 = 268,435,456

Tamaya, Marshall and Chad are in grave danger and no one knows it. The kids have to overcome all of their fears to make it through.


Science Comics

I really like to learn new things. I’m fabulous at trivia. I soak facts up and secret them away in the books and crannies of my brain, and I’m always looking for more.

I learned the coolest facts about bats this weekend, thanks to a great series of graphic novels called Science Comics.

Did you know bats are extremely important in pollination? Trees and plants who only bloom at night can’t rely on bees, so they rely on nectar drinking bats. Fruits like mango, guava, bananas, durian and cocoa rely on bats too. And guess who is responsible for replanting trees by pooping after eating…that’s right, bats.

I was astounded to learn that bats have this awesome leg tendon that automatically tightens when the bat hangs upside down. The bats use more energy to let go then they do to hang because of it! And speaking of their anatomy, they are more closely related to primates then rodents! They have a thumb, something almost all animals besides primates lack.

But I didn’t just read about bats this weekend, I also read about dinosaurs.

This book was told in a neat way. As the information about dinosaurs was collected, each “generation” was positive that they knew everything and they were 100% sure of it. Of course, as new specimen are found and the ways scientist study those specimen becomes more high-tech, we are constantly changing what we thought we knew about ancient life.

I knew that coprolites (fossilized dinosaur poop) existed but I did not know that originally they were thought to be bezoar stones from the stomach. And who knew the idiocy that competition caused in the men looking for fossils! Two feuding paleontologists were know to purposely plant false fossils to discredit each other’s work and weren’t above dynamiting fossil beds to keep each other from making finds.

The book does a great job explaining how the different dinosaur families are divided, how they probably evolved and furthered other sciences. It is because of dinosaur fossils that we understand plate tectonics.

The series has quite a few titles:

I have read Coral Reefs: Cities of the Ocean but I don’t own the other books. I plan to buy them all and get anything forthcoming. They are published by First Second Books, the same company that publishes the Olympians series.

Ok, saving the best for last, here is a page of Dinosaurs: Fossils and Feathers that explains the different ways Dinosaurs may have died to later become fossils.

Look at that first panel with the T-Rex and the Stegosaurus. Now imagine the “Aw yeah!!” in a voice like Flava Flav. LOL!!