Rocket Says Look Up! by Nathan Bryan; illustrated by Dapo Adeola

Rocket Says Look UpRocket Says Look Up! by Nathan Bryan; illustrated by Dapo Adeola. 2019. Published by Random House.

Brief summary: A young girl’s enthusiasm of seeing a meteor shower that night spreads to others in the neighborhood. As night comes, Rocket(named after a rocket that was shot into space the day she was born) goes to the park with her brother who is always looking down on his phone. He turns his phone off and looks up to see the meteor shower dart across the sky. The two share the moment with each other while drinking hot chocolate.

Comments: I thought this would be a good book of introduction for the primary students about the sky. The Farmers Almanac site has a schedule of meteor showers. Wouldn’t it be fun  to send home a note in December or winter break for the students to think of each other while looking up at the sky for a scheduled meteor shower on Dec. 13/14 or Dec. 22?


Dancing Through Fields of Color: The Story of Helen Frankenhaler by Elizabeth Brown; illustrated by Aimee Sicuro

Dancing Through Field of ColorDancing Through Fields of Color: The Story of Helen Frankenhaler by Elizabeth Brown; illustrated by Aimee Sicuro. 2019. Watercolor, ink, and charcoal pencil. Published by Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Brief summary: Young Helen enjoyed mixing her watercolors in nontraditional ways. In art class at school, she was able to follow the rules of how to draw and paint to please her teachers but she wished for more. She was able to follow the rules  in order to study art in college. She moved to New York where she created paintings where colors overlapped. She met the famous Jackson Pollock who was known for for his art in  the abstract expressionist movement. She began to experiment with the “soak stain” method of pouring paint onto the canvas.

Comments:  There is a quick biographical sketch, timeline, author’s note, quotes and sources, select bibliography, and poured paint/soak-stain activity. I think the activity would be perfect to do outdoors during the end-of-the-year field day or such when the students are already wet and messy.


Hildegard of Bingen: Scientist, Composer, Healer and Saint by Demi

Hildegard of Bingen: Scientist, Composer, Healer and SaintHildegard of Bingen: Scientist, Composer, Healer & Saint written and illustrated by Demi. 2019. Published by Wisdom Tales. 

Brief summary: Hildegard (1098-1179) was born in Mainz, Germany. As a child, she had “lights”, sometimes called visions of Heaven, at times when she closed her eyes. She was also able to predict the future. All of this gave her terrible headaches in which her parents thought it would be better for her to go the Benedictine Cloister of Mount St. Disibod where people who saw God could go and pray. As she was being educated, she proved to have an astonishing intelligence. She was able to compose the music after hearing the performance one time.

At eighteen, she became a nun and was later elected Abbess. She became  known for her visions. She told them to a nun and monk who began to  write them down in a book called Know the Ways of God. At 53, she finished her book and became famous. She and her nuns moved to a town near Bingen where she became Hildegard of Bingen. Hildegard wrote five more books after age 65. She also wrote 77 symphonic songs. In her 60s and 70s, she toured around Germany organizing and reforming monasteries as she preached and healed. She was declared a saint in 2012.

Comments: This woman was amazing! I recommend this book  for sacred and secular libraries. She is an example of how one person can make  a difference. I was impressed how Hildegard started her writing career in her fifties. After researching her a bit on the internet, I was surprised and pleased to see that her teachings are still being recognized and followed.


Unicorn Day by Diana Murray; illustrated by Luke Flowers

Unicorn DayUnicorn Day by Diana Murray; illustrated by Luke Flowers. 2019. Sketched and painted in Photoshop. Published by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky.

Brief summary: There is a big unicorn party celebrating Unicorn Day where there are only three rules to follow: show off your horn, fluff up your hair, and have fun. All the unicorns are dancing and singing and having fun in ways that one would think a unicorn would. Cupcakes and glitter are everywhere. In the middle of all of the celebrating, one of the party attendees  turns out to be a fake. The party momentarily stops until the unicorns decide what to do.

Comments: I can imagine this book going out so much in a library that multiple copies will be needed. The illustrations are large and colorful. The end pages are covered in cupcakes. A very silly and frivolous book.

What a fun book to read on April 9th–Unicorn Day.



The Bluest of Blues: Anna Atkins and the First Book of Photographs by Fiona Robinson; illustrated by Fiona Robinson

The Blues of BluesThe Bluest of Blues: Anna Atkins and the First Book of Photographs by Fiona Robinson; illustrated by Fiona Robinson. 2019. “Montages of pencil drawings, watercolor paintings, vintage fabrics and wallpapers, wood veneers, and photographs.” Published by Abrams.

Brief summary: Anna and her father press flowers and collect  insects in Kent, England sometime in 1807. John Children has only one child, Anna, and is determined to give her the best education possible by home schooling her, since girls rarely went to school especially to learn about science.

Anna grew up to become a botanist often sketching her own specimens. Her father translates French scientific journals to English and needs 250  illustrations for a series he just finished called Lamarck’s Genera of Shells. Anna illustrates the various shells.

Anna marries and moves to London. Anna wants to attend the Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge but women are not allowed. Her father shares the lectures with her. She wants to find a way to share her knowledge of the extensive herbarium she has collected. She is given membership to the Royal Botanic Society in London during 1839.

In 1841, Anna and her father learn how to take photographs. They visit Sir John Herschel where he shares how he has discovered the cyanotype print that does not need a camera to make a quick image in blue (due to the chemicals used). Anna decides to use this method and creates a book of her seaweed* which is completed in 1843. Her father shares her books with several of the scientific museums.

Comments: The color of this book and its pages are all done in blues. The end pages have labeled cyantypes of various plants.  In the back of the book, there is an author’s note, instructions of how to make your own cyanotype, bibliography, institutions holding Anna’s Cyanotypes, acknowledgements, illustration credits, and a detailed explanation of the mediums used for the book.

This book could be used for biography reports, a science and art class collaboration(students collecting specimens and then making their own cyanotype), and Women’s History Month in March.

Personal note: As I am reading this book, I am reminded of how unique it was for Anna to have a father who valued the intellect of his daughter and educated her to become a  botanist. Even with all of her work with creating and recording her specimens in several books of cyanotypes, she is not given due credit. She wrote a biography about her father and a book titled Photographs of British Algae. She did not use her name but her initials A.A. which were taken for many years as “anonymous author.”

I paused and thought several times during this book of how many other women with wonderful scientific minds were ignored during this time period because of the  prejudices towards women.

*Note: The author does not know for sure what the subject matter was for Anna’s first cyanotype.

Carter Reads the Newspaper by Deborah Hopkinson; illustrated by Don Tate

Carter Reads the NewspaperCarter Reads the Newspaper by Deborah Hopkinson; illustrated by Don Tate. 2019. Mixed media. Published by Peachtree Publishers.

Brief summary: Carter G. Woodson was born in 1875 and grew up hearing about his family’s history.  He reads the newspaper to his family and learns about the world. He works as a farmer, garbage collector, and coal miner. He opens his house to the other miners filling it with books and newspapers. He reads the newspapers aloud to those who cannot read.

After mining for three years, he moves home and starts high school finishing it in two years at age 22. He goes to college to become a teacher. He continues his formal education earning a PhD in history from Harvard University.  In 1926, he is able to create Negro History Week to be the second week of February to mark the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. He sends out pamphlets and puts notices in newspapers about it as a way to talk about and preserve African-American history. Today, we celebrate Black History Month in February thanks to Carter Woodson’s efforts.

Comments:  There are internet and print resources listed in the back along with an author’s and illustrator’s note. The back of the book also has a timeline of his life and a list of quotations. I would introduce this book at the end of January as an introduction for Black History month.

Follow That Bee!: A First Book of Bees in the City by Scot Ritchie; illustrated by Scot Ritchie

Follow That BeeFollow That Bee!: A First Book of Bees in the City by Scot Ritchie; illustrated by Scot Ritchie. 2019. Artwork is done digitally. Published by Kids Can Press.

Brief Summary: Mr. Cardinal keeps beehives in his backyard in the city. He invites Martin and his friends over to the backyard where they learn what bees need to thrive. They help plant a variety of flowers that bees like and learn how pollinators move pollen around. The children learn about how natural honeycomb  is made and the ones Mr. Cardinal has in his yard.  One of the children gets stung by a bee and is shown how to take out the barbed stinger. They are told what happens to the bee.  The students are shown how to wear protective gear and smoke the bees to get the honey to sell at the farmer’s market.

Comments: Great bee basics with many nonfiction text features such as a map, labeled diagrams, bold words, and pictures with captions. The back of the book includes directions of how to make a bee bath and a “words to know” section.

The narrative was on the left side with  two paged layouts.

I thought it was funny how calm the child was when Mr. Cardinal took the stinger out of foot. I’m sure young readers will share about their experiences with bee stings.

Sign Off by Stephen Savage; illustrated by Stephen Savage

Sign Off by Stephen SavageSign Off by Stephen Savage; illustrated by Stephen Savage. 2019. Published by Beach Lane Books.

Brief summary: This is a wordless book that takes the reader around town looking at street signs when someone is looking and then what happens when no one is around. The figures go off the signs and end up together to create another day of living on the signs.

Comments: So clever. I will never be able to look at a road sign in the same way after reading this book! The illustrations are of two page layouts with large, bold colored illustrations. There is a note on the copyright page  explaining that the signs in the book(many we see in our neighborhoods) were mainly created by Cook and Shanosky Associates(graphic artists).

I would use this book at the beginning of the school year and talk about the signs we see around the school. Why do we need these signs? Students could create their own signs on paper or online.

My Heart by Corinna Luyken; illustrated by Corinna Luyken

My HeartMy Heart by Corinna Luyken; illustrated by Corinna Luyken. 2019. Water-based inks and pencil. Published by Dial Books for Young Readers.

Brief summary: A young child shares in lyrical prose how her heart feels differently  in various instances. Sometimes, it feels open; sometimes closed. No matter how it is on a certain day, she accepts it with love.

Comments: The simple wording has complex meanings that could spark a conversation of how one feels on various days or in certain situations. I would use this as a read aloud when someone’s feelings are hurt or having a bad day.  This book gave several visual examples of the emotions one may have which I believe a child could relate to and figure out what is being felt.

This book’s theme explores how to accept how your heart if feeling and to remember it can be different tomorrow.

There are only three colors used: yellow, black, and white.

My Papi Has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero; illustrated by Zeke Pena

My Papi has a MotorcycleMy  Papi has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero; illustrated by Zeke Pena. 2019. Mix of hand-painted watercolor texture. Published by Kokila.

Brief summary: Daisy Ramona loves it when her Papi comes home from work to take his daughter on a motorcycle trip through their neighborhood. Daisy points out all of the highlights injecting many of the Spanish words for those special places in her life. They are disappointed to see that one of their favorite places has gone out of business. They continue waving to neighbors including her grandparents as they head to the job site where her father has been helping to build a new house. They turn to drive back home to find  her brother and Mami are waiting to share a surprise that completes the ride.

Comments: This book is based on the author’s own bike rides with her father when he came home from work, and  they would drove around Corona, California.  The illustrator was able to successfully caption the love and admiration of the daughter towards her father, the colors and characters of the neighborhood, and the fun they had driving around on the motorcycle. Beautifully done!