Monday, April 25, 2016

Bucky and Stu vs. the Mikanikal Man

Bucky and Stu vs. the Mikanikal Man
written and illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright
2015 (Nancy Paulsen Books)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

"Wait a minute! We've pledged to protect our town. Protect our planet-"
"And our favorite TV show."

Box Man. Phat Tyre. Trash Man. Hose Nose. These are some of the foes that Bucky and Stu face in the backyard. In their battle to save the planet and their favorite TV show, these hometown heroes show ingenuity and bravery against the spare part scoundrels. After a successful morning, Bucky reveals a secret to Stu. He and his Uncle Ernie have been building the behemoth Mikanikal Man. All he lacks is a Bio-Mechanical Nuclear Power Pac, so there is little chance he will actually come to life. With a nod to Doc Brown, a lightning strike brings the energy needed for the Mikanikal Man to come to life. Bucky and Stu engage the metal monster, but with little progress. The end seems near (think Batman TV show endings) until the Mikanikal Man shows a human foible that is very near and dear to Stu's heart and stomach. Foe becomes friend and the planet gains another dedicated defender.

People complain that our current video game generation doesn't engage in imaginative play. They need to visit an elementary school playground. Imagination abounds with role playing all over the place. Bucky and Stu will fit right in with any primary classroom. My class enjoyed the comic book panel artwork and the superhero tensions that come with it.  If you're looking for a book to model how to use quotation marks, this book would be a good pick. Another lesson could be how to incorporate plot twists in your writing. Celebrate imagination and a can-do spirit by bringing Bucky and Stu to your class.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Animal Bites: New Series from Animal Planet

Animal Bites
written by Laaren Brown
2016 (Animal Planet)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

All life in the ocean is connected. Tiny plankton are the most plentiful ocean food, and are eaten by bigger creatures. Animals are at the top of the food web aren't hunted-they do the hunting. 

A new book series from Animal Planet features animals and their habitats. The first two books detail the lives of ocean and polar animals. There are several aspects of these books that will delight young readers, parents, and teachers. A beautiful two page photographic spread of an animal greets the reader first. This is what you would see in a high-end coffee table book. One unique part of these books is the use of colorful tabs as a guide. The tabs are easily located on the top right side of each spread. Categories include close-ups of animals, data, similarities and differences, and how people interact with animals and their habitats. Where They Live is one tab that begs particular attention because it highlights useful text features such as charts and maps. In Ocean Animals, this is a two page chart of the different levels of the ocean such as the sunlight zone and the twilight zone. Photographs of animals that live in these zones are present with factoids interspersed. Polar Animals has maps of both the Arctic and Antarctic Circles in conjunction with factoids and several photographs. Another favorite section of mine was The Stackup. Several varieties of a particular animal are stacked so readers can compare size and talents. Penguins (chinstrap, macaroni, adelie, gentoo, king, and emperor) are stacked in Polar Animals while whales (beluga, gray, sperm, fin, and blue0 are stacked in Ocean Animals. This would be a great place to practice using organizers like a chart or a Venn Diagram.

With an abundance of luxurious photographs and tons of fun facts, you would think these books are going to be expensive. On the contrary, they are reasonably priced at $12.99. I would have expected a price tag much higher for coffee table-like books that clock in at 80 pages. I could see them being a big hit at a book fair. As a teacher of K-2 writing, I would use this as a mentor text for nonfiction writing. If you are going to tackle projects like All About booklets, this is a good place to talk about and model formatting. Check out these cool activities that you can use with this book:

Your animal lovers (and that would be all of your students) will quickly dive into this exciting new animal series.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Wee Gallery Books

2016 (QEB Publishing)
Source: Review copies provided by the publisher

When you are a parent or grandparent, you want to flood your toddler with books. They need to be colorful, cute, and have interesting textures. I'm holding Pets slide and play board book right now. I like the contrast between the bright blue and the black and white. I'm sure someone has done research and found out that this combination of colors is attractive to toddlers. Opening the book, I read three clues about the pet on the left side of the spread. The right side is an illustration with slides. You can go up and down and make different versions of the picture. These slide and play books are fun and a perfect size for a toddler. 

Now your toddler has grown into a kindergartner or a first grader. They love to count, draw, and play games. The Playgroup activity books will be a big hit with them. There is a WIDE variety of activities in this book. Math activities including counting and drawing patterns. Activities that ask the reader to find the differences and several mazes as well. A five to six year old will really enjoy this book. I would buy it for a kid getting ready for a long car trip or as a stocking stuffer. 

Check out the Wee Gallery website for many more cute activity books.