by Jennifer Berne
illustrated by Vladimir Radunsky
At first, it might seem that a story about Albert Einstein might be rather ambitious reading for very young kids. However, as someone who values curiosity and wants to foster that in my kids, I really like this book. It is well written and very appropriate for its intended audience. It introduces young kids to one of the more extraordinary and well-known minds of the last 150 years and encourages curiosity, questioning, imagining, wondering and learning. My kids listened aptly as the book described Albert as a young child who spoke little but was very curious and fascinated by the world around him; as a young adult who continued to question and wonder about light, sound, magnetism, gravity, time and other mysteries; and as an older adult who continued to think, ask questions and seek answers until the end of his life. Briefly, concepts such as atoms and the speed of light are woven into the story - not in a boring, technical way, but rather from a viewpoint of fascination. Those unique physical attributes of Einstein - the long, wild hair, baggy sweater, shoes without socks, and violin in hand - are part of the story as well. The story ends by mentioning that though Einstein helped us understand our universe better, we are still left with many questions...questions which the reader may someday answer themself by "wondering, thinking, and imagining."
by Jeannette Winter
My oldest son, Hopper 1, loves watching nature shows and reading about nature. His career aspirations at this young age include being a "nature tracker." So this book, unsurprising to me, was a hit with him. The story does a good job of introducing the reader to Jane Goodall, starting with her childhood observations of the natural world around her. The story sparked conversations on watching and observing, respect for our natural environment, conservation, and protection of habitats and endangered species. We also watched this video from YouTube with a brief bit about Jane Goodall. There is more information about Jane Goodall's mission on the Jane Goodall Institute website, including information about the Roots and Shoots program, which is the Institute's global youth-led community action program.
by Melissa Stewart and Allen Young
illustrated by Nicole Wong
This book might be a bit wordy for some young kids, particularly if they aren't very interested in the topic, but my kids enjoyed the book and requested that it be reread several times. The book begins by mentioning how chocolate cannot be made without cocoa beans, and then briefly describes what cocoa beans are and how they are prepared for making chocolate. From there, it goes into a tale of interdependence, describing how we cannot have cocoa beans without out a series of other natural factors that play a role in the production of cocoa beans: no cocoa pods without the pollination of cocoa flowers, no cocoa flowers without midges that carry the pollen to other cocoa flowers, no cocoa flowers without cocoa leaves to trap sunlight, no cocoa leaves without lizards that eat the aphids that would otherwise destroy the leaves...and so on, until we get to the role that monkeys play. I like that the book took something that kids are familiar with and (often) like - chocolate - and used it to show the interdependence of nature and to communicate the importance of conservation. Commentary at the end of the book mentioned the recent drastic loss of rain forest habitat and discussed how traditional cocoa farming methods - which do not conserve the rain forests - are much less effective at producing cocoa pods than growing trees within rain forests due to the interdependence previously discussed; it also provided suggestions on "what you can do to help" conserve tropical rain forests. Additionally, we followed up with discussion on how humans actions or events may seem to affect only one aspect of nature, but due to interdependence and its ubiquity, there is usually a ripple effect with far-reaching consequences.
by Kate Messner
illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal
This book follows a year in the life cycle of a garden, focusing on the hidden life of a garden, by telling a story about what is occurring up in the garden and down in the dirt as the various seasons pass. It starts with planning the garden in late winter/early spring and with the worms and insects stirring up the soil. As the book goes along, the garden is cleared, seeds are planted, and plants sprout and bloom, grow in the summer's heat and then are harvested; meanwhile, there is hidden activity that is constantly going on down in/on the dirt. Various critters make cameo appearances, either helping or hindering the garden. At the end of the book, more detail is provided on all of the animals mentioned in the story, explaining whether they are friend or foe to gardeners. This book was an enjoyable read and informational. My kids enjoyed hearing about all the different animals, some of which they were able to relate to from their own experience with our garden this summer. This book was also a good way to review the seasons of the year with my younger son. I would like to also read Over and Under the Snow by the same author, which should be an appropriate story for the coming months.
by Melissa Stewart
by Sarah S. Brannan
This book may not appeal to all young children, as it is informational rather a story. The author describes the various purposes of feathers - from maintaining warmth to sun protection to creating noise to helping birds sink or float - and introduces the reader to birds that use their feathers in the manner described. There are also illustrations and descriptions of the types of feathers a bird may have (down feathers, flight feathers, sensing feathers, etc.). Following our reading of the book, we also discussed what it means to classify and examples of classifications in the book, and then we did a simple classification/sorting activity with some of our toys: we discussed different ways we could classify our toys - by color, by use, by similar features, and so on - and then grouped the toys by those classifications.