Tag Archives: kate messner

Math and science are SOOOO much fun

9781452107141_lifetime_norm_1What’s not to love in a book with appendices titled:  the animals (yes!), I love math (yippee!), and what is an average (woo hoo!)??  This book is a dream for young animal nerds.  I got stuck on the page about female red kangaroos birthing 50 joeys in a lifetime while flipping through it on break.  I had to go show my co-worker, who then noticed the page on seahorses.  We love seahorses!  And the male seahorse will carry and birth 1,000 baby seahorses!  Zounds.  (Did you see how I left out that last exclamation point?  I’m trying to be more subdued in my enthusiasm these days. Ha.)

The art is perfect for this kind of book.  You find yourself wondering if Christopher Silas Neal really drew 1,000 seahorses — probably, but I’m not sure I’m up for actually counting them.  I will leave that wonderful job to a few nerdy 8 year olds I know.  And then, THEN, you get to the bonus section where you learn how Lola Schaefer figured out the averages for these animals and how she loves math, and–THIS IS VERY EXCITING—there are even a few math problems for the reader to try.  Oh my goodness!!!

Three exclamation points later, here I am.  A fun book for kids with super art, interesting facts to learn and share, and groovy math brain work?  It makes me want to do a little research on my own and come up with my own animal math problems.  So much to do.  Work, wover and under pondork, work.  Think, think, think.  Play, play, play.  Fun, fun, fun.

(A note: this is not a new book, just new to me!  For a new book also illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal, see Over and Under the Pond by Kate Messner & CSN.  The Over and Under books are all wonderful looks at what happens above and below us in nature — in the dirt, in the snow, and also in the water)

Lifetime: the amazing numbers in animal lives by Lola M. Schaefer and Christopher Silas Neal


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Why we all need The Seventh Wish

seventh wishLet’s just start here…I work in a library, so I’m a little sensitive about censorship.   I follow Kate Messner, because I’ve liked her work in the past.  When I saw that her author visit to a school had been cancelled after the administration decided they hadn’t had enough time to prepare the kids (or parents) for the fact that her new book mentions heroin– although they seem to have had access to the book for months–my radar started buzzing.

Still, I thought I’d wait and see what I thought after I read the book.  (It’s alarming how many people are willing to make judgments about books without actually reading them.)  So when a copy popped up on my hold shelf, I brought it home and dove in.

Here’s what I think now.  We all need this book, although it might not appeal to every reader at every moment in time – like any other book.   Charlie Brennan is a regular kid who happens to come across a fish that grants wishes.  A little magical realism leads to unpredictable results.  As we read along, we also learn about some of the problems Charlie’s older sister is having.  Eventually her sister ends up in treatment.

So there we are.  It’s hard to read about what happens when heroin takes over your life, both for Charlie’s sister and the rest of the family, but Kate Messner handles it with honesty.  You don’t get the worst you might imagine, but she still conveys how destructive and consuming someone else’s addiction can be.  Charlie struggles in the way that kids really do struggle when their family is compromised by an addiction. She resents her sister’s problems taking more of her parents’ time.  She doesn’t tell her friends at first, because she feels a little ashamed it’s happening in her family.  Shouldn’t this kind of thing happen to other people?   Her parents don’t know how to fight it and wonder what they did wrong.  That all really happens.  I know this, because I’ve seen it in families fighting substance abuse myself.

I understand a parent’s desire to protect their child and an administrator’s fear of upsetting parents.  However, what kind of world do we live in?  Look around.  Whether it’s mass shootings, gangs, homelessness, child abuse, violence against women, poverty, lead poisoning, job loss – it’s all there in front of kids, as is substance abuse.  To think that we can protect kids from an awful world by not writing or reading about it is naïve.  Do we really think they don’t know what’s going on?

Kids who live with any of these things – heroin abuse in their families included – need to have stories which help them process what is happening.  The kids whose friends’ families are struggling also need it, as do the kids who are lucky enough to not have to experience it in any way.

When I was a kid, I heard adults debate whether  writers should create books for kids which dealt with divorce or job loss, because those topics were thought to be too dark for young readers.  Did it mean no one got divorced or lost a job?  Of course not!  Developing empathy for others is an important part of finding your place in the world.  Having a story like this gives all kids a way to figure out how they see the world, and that is very much needed right now.

Read this book and see what you think.  I think it’s awesome.

The Seventh Wish by Kate Messner

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4 for the garden lover

CuriousGardenCover I was telling someone about Peter Brown’s The Wild Robot–an excellent read which I can’t seem to shut up about these days—and I started thinking about The Curious Garden, a picture book of his from some time ago.   That steered me to thinking about other picture books about gardening, which led me to making a list.  It doesn’t include some classics, I know, but while the onions are starting to peek out of the ground and the lettuce is popping up, these are good ones for a little spring book party. Enjoy!

  • The Curious Garden by Peter Brown. I’ve read this one to many different ages of kids, and I always enjoy it.  (They do, too.)  In addition to the message about taking care of the world and making it beautiful with plants, you can talk about how the alittle honeybeert moves the story along, moving it from a dark, gray world to a light-filled one.
  • Little Honey Bee by Jane Ormes.
  • Counting in the Garden by Emily Hruby/Patrick Hruby. Both are counting books with a lot going on beyond the words.  Little Honey Bee is filled with the color and action going on as spring arrives and everything outside seems to be in motion.  (The flaps open to reveal more things to count as you go.)  Counting in the Garden shows what’s going on above and below the dirt level with bright and cheery flowers, vegetables, butterflies, and other things.CountingInTheGarden_cover_2048x2048 (2)
  • Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt by Kate Messner/Christopher Silas Neal. This one also shows life above and below ground, although you’re traveling through the seasons in this one.   It’s less about one time of year than the whole cycle of life, but it would work well for any season you’re talking about with kids.  upitgaditd-lge
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