Bonkers About Beetles

Written & Illustrated by: Owen Davey

For ages: 5 and up

Language: English 

Topics Covered: Nature, Insects, Environment, Life Cycles, STEM.

Summary: Starting with a contents page, this book delves into the exciting and diverse world of beetles.  Bright, colorful illustrations in a very enticing and specific style adorn the pages as the reader learns all about the world of beetles.  Everything is labeled clearly, with pictures big enough to tell the fine details between beetles.  On some pages, specifically “A Way of Life” different terrestrial and aquatic beetles are explained, with another beetle needing to be sorted.  Another pages asks the reader to find a camouflaged beetle on a tree.  This ensures that the information is being taken in by the reader and critical thinking skills are being flexed!  One of the more interesting pages in the book is about fireflies, and their flash patterns.  This entire book is fascinating, with understandable explanations for difficult scientific concepts while at the same time introducing fantastic vocabulary for every budding scientist you know!  In the back of the book are a couple pages dedicated to beetle conservation, as well as a helpful index sorted by beetle family, with the names the beetles featured in the book.  This index has both the scientific classification and common name!

This is one of four books in Davey’s series.  Subjects also covered are cats, sharks, and monkeys.  Filled with fun facts and exciting information about every beetle a person could think of, Bonkers About Beetles is a book that no matter how many times looked through, something new can always be found!

Reflection Questions:

  • Which beetle in the book was brand new to you today?
  • What beetle were you most excited to learn more about?
  • Did anything in the book surprise you?
  • What’s your favorite part of the book?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Design your own beetle! In Davey’s book, there are zillions of patterns, colors, and features.  Think about everything covered in the book, and design your own beetle that could survive anywhere!  Draw a picture, and then go on a “Beetle Walk” around the classroom and see everyone else’s creations.
  • Learn more about beetles in your area, and which ones are native to the environment.  What are some of their adaptations that help them survive?  Are there any beetles that are not native, but were introduced?  How are they impacting the habitats and other creatures around them?
  • Conservation efforts take a lot of hands.  What can you do in your community?  Are there specific beetles or other insects that are more endangered than others?  Find out some easy ways you and your community can help these tiny treasures!
  • Davey has a very specific illustration style.  Try and recreate it, drawing your own comic!

About the Author & Illustrator:

owenOwen Davey is an award-winning Illustrator, living & working in Leicester, UK. He has a First Class BA(Hons) Degree in Illustration from Falmouth University. Davey is a primary Illustrator for TwoDots which has been #1 in over 70 countries, as well as the illustrator of iPad App of the Year 2015 game, The Robot Factory.  His work has been published in every continent except Antarctica, including picture books in UK, America, Australia, Germany, France, The Netherlands, Portugal, China, Sweden, Russia & South Korea!

Spring After Spring; How Rachel Carson INSPIRED the Environmental Movement

Written & Illustrated by: Stephanie Roth Sisson

For ages: 4-8 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Historical Figures, Women in STEM, Activism, Environmental Activism, Trailblazers, Bravery, Courage.

Summary: Rachel is a little girl that LOVES nature.  She loves walking through the woods and listening to all of the sounds that animals create around her.  Birds, frogs, bats, and bugs!  Rachel explores the world around her from every angle, staring at the sky and through a magnifying glass at the earth below her feet.  She draws pictures and dreams of the ocean.  Rachel’s favorite time of year is spring, when the animal sounds are most plentiful!  When Rachel went to college, she was convinced she would be a writer, until she looked through a microscope.  Rachel was blown away by the tiny life contained in a single drop of ocean water, and from then on she was hooked.  Despite never having been to the ocean, Rachel wanted to learn as much as she could, and began to study biology.  She became a scientist gathered information about the ocean, it was her job to swim around underwater and learn!  Rachel also began to write books about the creatures that lived in the sea, and became very well-known.  Around this time, Rachel also began to notice that nature’s voice was going quiet.  Now Rachel had a new task, she wanted to figure out what was happening to the animals that used to be so loud and numerous.

Rachel began to learn about all of the ways scientists were using chemicals to kill bothersome insects, in attempts to help farmers have better crop yields.  These chemicals seemed to be safe, but no one really knew for sure.  Rachel started doing research, and found out that these chemicals were NOT safe, and harmed forest life.  Rachel wrote a book entitled Silent Spring to let everyone know the dangers of using these chemicals.  The book caused a huge stir and Rachel was even invited to speak with President Kennedy about her book!  She was scared, but she did it anyway, just like all those years ago when she began going underwater for her job.  Rachel was incredibly brave, and used this bravery to help let people know the dangers of putting chemicals into the environment.  Because of Rachel’s testimony, some of the most harmful chemicals were banned, and animals began to return to the forest!

This book is a fabulous introduction to environmentalism, and a famous scientist!  It repeatedly introduces bravery, and how bravery doesn’t mean a person isn’t scared when they do something.  In the back there’s an Author’s Note, notes about specific pages with more detailed information, as well as sources for more information.  Would definitely recommend to any group or classroom learning about nature or science!

Reflection Questions:

  • Have you ever listened to the sounds of nature in the forest before?
  • What is something brave that you have done before, just like when Rachel went underwater even though she was scared?
  • What would you like to do when you get older?
  • Do you think it’s important to protect animals and natural habitats like Rachel?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Make your own coffee-can “microscopes” and see what you can find in a nearby pond or puddle.  Draw your view!
  • If you live near a town forest or woods, try taking a quiet nature walk once or twice every season and make notes about what you hear and see.  Compare the notes of different seasons together and see if you can figure out which animals migrate and which ones hibernate!
  • Learn more about what you can do in your community to help nature throughout the year.  It might be making bird feeders to hang up, picking up litter on the bike path, or making sure that signs where animals cross the road frequently are visible from the road.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

A1lskN991IL._UX250_Stephanie Roth Sisson has been a traveler her whole life and these journeys have been physical (actually going places) and imaginative (through wonder and books) .  Both are just as real. Her website is mostly photographs, which bring her adventures to life!

A Stone for Sascha

Written & Illustrated by: Aaron Becker

For ages: 5 and up

Language: English

Topics Covered: Family, POC-Centric Narratives, Loss, Grief, Historical Fiction, Love, Pets.

Summary: This book actually has no words, just pictures.  A family loses their dog, Sascha, just before going on vacation.  While on vacation at the beach, one of the children finds a shiny gold rock.  Suddenly, the reader is transported back throughout history and sees just exactly how the gold rock got into the water.  The gold rock takes many forms and uses throughout history, before finally ending up at the bottom of the sea and being found washed up near the shore.  The gold is then used to decorate the grave of Sascha.

This book is a beautiful reminder of how life cycles keep moving throughout the rise and fall of societies.  Inanimate objects have many lives before coming into ours, and remembering the past can be a beautiful memory.

Reflection Questions:

  • How do you think the main characters feel when they have to go on vacation without their beloved pet?
  • Is it easy to tell what’s happening in the story without words?
  • What’s your favorite moment in time that’s depicted in the book?
  • When is a time that you were grieving, and what made you feel better?
  • How could you help a friend that is feeling sad, or a sense of loss?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Write a letter to someone you miss.  It can be someone that is no longer with you, maybe they moved away or have passed on.  It’s important to release feelings, even if the person the letter is addressed to will never read it.
  • Think about an object you’ve found.  What do you think it’s story is? Draw a comic strip about how the object came to be, and how it got to you!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

Aaron_Becker,_Author_and_Illustrator,_aaron_beckerYears ago, after working as a designer in San Francisco’s dot-com craze, Aaron Becker quit his job and headed to Monterey, California for a children’s book conference. At the time, Aaron had a vague idea of why he thought it’d be fun to write and illustrate books. After presenting some hazy ideas to a guest editor from Candlewick Press, he left the conference content to wander. Aaron traveled. He returned to art school and earned his chops. Aaron worked in the Bay Area with some of his heroes in film design for nearly a decade. But eventually, the children’s book bug returned. This time, Aaron had some real drawing skills and a much greater understanding of why these books might matter. After all, Aaron had his own child by this time, and it was becoming clear to him that there’s no purer form of story-telling for an illustrator than creating their own book full of pictures. Luckily, children seem to like this kind of stuff. And publishers will go along with it as well if the idea is up to snuff. When Aaron’s agent gave him the good news that his first book had a solid offer, the name of the editor sounded eerily familiar. It was none other than the same editor he had met in Monterey nearly fifteen years before.

Aaron now lives in Amherst, Massachusetts where every day, he returns to that place of being a kid again, ready to fly into outer space with a ship of his own design. He’s fortunate to have a job that lets me keep doing this, and would imagine that even in the darkest of his creative slumps, surely this must beat astronaut boot camp.


Written & Illustrated by: Airlie Anderson

For ages: 4-7 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Community, Acceptance, Identity, Friendship, Self-Acceptance.

Summary: This story takes place in a world where there are only blue bunnies (this) and yellow birds (that), the Land of This and That.  Until one day, a self-described ‘both’ hatches.  This little critter is green, with bunny ears and bird wings.  The others tell Both that they can’t be both, so they must be Neither.  Looking sad, they aren’t allowed to join into any of the rabbity games, or birdy activities.  Neither flies away to find Someplace Else to live, at the birds and rabbits suggestion.  Landing in a new place, Neither first spots a purple cat with butterfly wings, and they show Neither around at all of the combination critters that live in the land.  Called The Land of All, many colorful animals are playing games together.  Inviting Neither to play, Neither is still concerned because no one is green, and they still don’t fit in.  “Exactly!” the other animals shout, smiling and happy.  All of a sudden, a blue bunny and a yellow bird call to the group, they are looking for somewhere else to live.  Neither tells the bunny and bird that they told Neither to find Somewhere Else, looking hurt.  In a twist (and a headstand), Neither tells the other animals that everyone is welcome in the Land of All!

This book can be used in so many different scenarios.  Talking about a new student joining the class, talking about exclusion, differences, gender identity, or any situation where someone might be feeling a little different.  Cute, brightly colored illustrations capture how the animals are feeling, helping with mood identification and empathy development for young children by learning to read expressions.  Overall, an adorable book that teaches a great lesson of inclusion and being yourself!

Reflection Questions:

  • How do you think that Neither felt when the other animals told them to go live Somewhere Else?
  • How would you feel if everyone in your community told you that you didn’t belong?
  • How do you think Neither feels when they find the Land of All?
  • How do you feel when people accept and understand you?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Make up your own dual-animal combination!  In the book there are all sorts of creative and unique critters, design one to also live in the Land of All.
  • Neither was afraid they would never fit in anywhere.  Write a “Welcome Guide” for a new student or community member!  Include important information, landmarks, and public transportation information that a newcomer would find helpful.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

1089609668Airlie Anderson is the author and illustrator of Neither, Cat’s Colors, Momo and Snap Are Not Friends, and many other children’s books. Feathers in my cap: the Moonbeam Children’s Book Award, the Independent Publisher Book Award, and the Practical Pre-School Award. Airlie graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design and now live in New Jersey.

Airlie creates her illustrations using gouache (opaque watercolor) on hot press watercolor paper (the smooth kind). Airlie also doodles aimlessly in her sketchbook whenever she can.

Lights! Camera! Alice! The Thrilling True Adventures of the First Woman Filmmaker

Written by: Mara Rockliff

Illustrated by: Simona Ciraolo

For ages: 5-9 years

Language: English, very minor French.

Topics Covered: Historical Figures, Women in Film, Trailblazers, Women Artists.  

Summary: A little girl named Alice loved stories more than anything.  She listened to those around her, and the tales they told her throughout the day.  She read book after book, as many as she could get her hands on.  Terribly, one day, her father’s bookstore got caught in an earthquake, followed by a fire, and then looted by robbers.  Lastly, most terrible of all, her father died.  Alice’s family had no money, so she learned to use a typewriter and set out to find a job to help her family.  When she applied for a job at a camera company, she surprisingly was accepted despite being very young!

One day Alice went with her boss to see a new type of camera, one with a crank that could make the pictures move-they could be played over and over again!  This was a HUGE success, and Alice’s job began selling the cameras.  Alice loved the moving picture cameras, but thought they could be used more creatively than just filming everyday happenings like trains.  What if they could film a story?  Alice began to film short movies, and at first they were just used to demonstrate what the new moving picture camera was capable of.  But eventually, people just wanted to see the films that Alice was creating, they would even offer to pay for them!  Alice began to experiment with playing films backwards, painting the film reel to make it colorful, and experiment with stop-motion animation.  Theatre’s showed her movies, and she was very excited to introduce sound and speaking to these films as well!  She was unstoppable, and moved to America with a young cameraman that she was in love with.

In America, she was confused.  People thought someone named Thomas Edison had invented moving pictures, and Americans had never heard of her!  Americans went to see movies that didn’t even have sounds or color!  Alice got to work, even bringing her baby on movie sets.  She would make very exciting movies with animals, explosives, and rats that rescued leading characters!  Americans began to love her movies.  Until Hollywood took over, and could make fancier movies than Alice.  Even her husband left her for Hollywood, and crowds watching her movies dwindled.  She and her children decided to move back to France, and she wrote a memoir.

This is a hefty book, with many pages.  The words aren’t overwhelming, and the pictures are beautiful.  The story is very detailed, and covers Alice’s life incredibly well.  The “Director’s Cut” in the back of the book provides more historical context about Alice, including that she produced over 700 movies herself, even before her studio went on to produce hundreds more.  She is truly the “Mother of Movies”!

Reflection Questions:

  • Did you know that movies used to not have sound?  Would you like movies as much if they were silent?
  • What is something you really liked about Alice’s story?
  • How would you like to spend your time when you’re grown up, does making movies sound like a fun job?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Learn more about different styles of movie-making.  Animation, stop-motion, silent, the world is your oyster!  Try and experiment with a digital camera, or some other recording device.
  • When Alice moved to America, she was surprised no one had heard of her.  Why do you think that is?  Who are some other trailblazer women that you can learn about, whose stories have been erased from the history books?

About the Author & the Illustrator:

Mara_Rockliff_020715Mara Rockliff has ridden an elephant, swallowed fried grasshoppers, lived on a commune, flown a hang-glider (and crashed), picked coffee beans and fed them to a monkey, peered into a live volcano, watched her toddler soar around a big top in the arms of a Mexican trapeze artist dressed as Spiderman, swum through a pitch-black cave to a tiny and perfect hidden beach, milked goats, skied in the Alps (and crashed), hiked up a glacier and alarmed a moose, torn down a barn, gone to a “sit-up” (a Jamaican wake), hung out with Cambodian monks, pedaled across the Blue Ridge Mountains in a homemade superhero cape, driven a hundred-year-old car (and DIDN’T crash!), woven lots of hammocks, snaked a drain, gazed upon The Garden of Earthly Delights, and danced till dawn. Mostly, though, she spends a lot of time at the computer. In pajamas.

Prairie in MoroccoSimona Ciraolo is a children’s book author. She grew up in Italy and got a degree in animation at the National Film School. She moved to England shortly afterwards and  worked in advertising and feature films. Simona is currently based in London and just completed an MA in Children’s Book Illustration in Cambridge.

Peaceful Fights for Equal Rights

Written by: Rob Sanders

Illustrated by: Jared Andrew Schorr

For ages: 4-8 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Activism, Peace, Community Involvement, Acceptance, Courage, Protesting.

Summary: This book is an alphabetical look at how to peacefully protest.  Non-traditional in it’s setup, this book offers suggestions about everyday activism one can become involved with, and lets the reader know that there’s more to activism than just marching in the streets.  Educate. Encourage.  Be Fearless.  Have Faith.  Inform. Invite. Join others.  Quietly do what’s right.

With beautiful cut paper collage illustrations, these diverse characters embody what activism is and what it looks like on the ground.  Work for it.  Be nonviolent.  Volunteer.  At the back, there is a history of peaceful protests, detailing the Civil Rights movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s as well as some of the most well-known advocates for change, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Cesar Chavez.  After that is an extensive glossary which explains over 30 common activist terms such as vigil, assemble, zealous, mediate, and exemplify.  This book is a beautiful representation of what it means to be an advocate and uplift marginalized groups, as well as teach others to do the same.

Reflection Questions:

  • Have you ever heard of an activist?
  • What do you think are the sorts of things that people stand up for?
  • When is a time that you stood up for something that was right, even if you didn’t see others doing so?
  • What is something you care a lot about?
  • How can you inform others about something you feel passionately about?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Think about an issue that’s important to your community.  How can you be an activist and help create change?
  • As a class, choose a project and write letters to legislators.
  • Make your own paper collage project like the illustrations in the book.  How can you make art with a message, using paper cutouts?

About the Author & the Illustrator:

rob-sanders-67725889Throughout junior high and high school, Rob Sanders had wonderful English teachers who taught him to diagram sentences, speak in public, read the classics, show what he learned in creative ways, and who taught him to write. He wrote letters, poems, stories, plays, radio scripts, and more. Even now those teachers would be considered among the best. He is still reading and writing today. As a matter of fact, every school day he teaches kids about words and books, and stories and writing. Helping his students become strong writers is his favorite thing to do. Now he also writes books. Explore his website and learn all about them!

PortraitJared Andrew Schorr is an illustrator living in Southern California. He specializes in creating detailed work entirely from cut paper. His work has appeared in many publications, as well as in galleries and homes around the world.

In Our Mothers’ House

Written & Illustrated by: Patricia Polacco

For ages: 6-10 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: LGBT Family, Acceptance, Community, Love.

Summary: This story details the family life of Marmee, Meema, and their three children. They happen to be the only family with two mothers on the block, but that’s hardly noticeable to their children.  The two women adopted three children from three different places, and the book details all the ways they create a close-knit community and family.  They sew their own family halloween costumes, put on neighborhood events, and take care of the kids while they’re all sick.  There is one family that doesn’t like them, but the kids can’t put their finger on why.  The reader knows it’s because they’re an LGBT family, but very little attention is paid to the hate.  The house the family lives in is at the center of their lives, even when the kids grow up and move away.  One of the kids lives in it after their mothers pass away.  The strength of love and family runs through this book, keen to highlight the ways in which these women care for their children and support them throughout their lives.

This book is warm, inviting, and portrays a family that values each other and their community above all else.  It focuses on the good, rather than the potential hatred LGBT families can receive from others.  The family is diverse in race, temperament, and careers but that does not stop them from embracing each other and working as a team to put on numerous community events and activities.  A beautiful portrayal of a family!

Reflection Questions:

  • What is special about your family?
  • Why do you think that some people don’t like other families that don’t look like theirs?
  • Would you like to live in the same neighborhood as this family?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Have your own version of one of the events that the family puts on in the book.  Who will you invite?  What do you think will be difficult about planning a large event for your community?
  • Learn about different family structures.  At the base of them all, is love.  Families come in all shapes a sizes, even within your own classroom!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

polaccoPatricia Polacco was born on July 11th, 1944 in Lansing, Michigan. Her mother’s family were Jewish immigrants from Russia and The Ukraine. Her father’s people were from The County of Limerick in Ireland. Both cultures valued and kept their history alive by storytelling.

Patricia is the mother of two grown children; Steven, a tenured professor at Dominican University in San Rafael, California. And a daughter, Traci who has made a career in the medical field and also lives in California. Patricia lives on her farm estate in Union City, Michigan.

Patricia has earned a Bachelors, Masters, and Ph.D. in Art and Art History. She has studied in the U.S., England, France, Russia and Australia. She is a guest lecturer in many universities and has been awarded numerous honorary degrees in Arts and Letters. She has a distinguished record as an international advocate for the rights of children. She has also established literary and art courses of study for young people both nationally and internationally. She has traveled extensively to Russia and has established an art camp in Losovough which thrives today. She has been honored by heads of state both at the Kremlin and the White House.

She is a member of the National First Amendment Rights Coalition and has fought tirelessly for this cause. She is also known as a champion of classroom teachers in our country, a cause sharpened by her association with Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Connecticut as a guest author and artist in residence. The tragic loss of both members of the faculty as well as children on December 14th, 2012 affected her life profoundly. The shock of this event caused her to collapse, be hospitalized and undergo open heart surgery to save her life. The grief of this set her on a path of establishing a series of lectures designed to raise the awareness of the plight of our classroom teachers as well as encouraging students to reach out to each other and include those who are perceived to be “different”. She has also designed an anti bullying campaign that has earned her national recognition. Patricia conducts school visits all over the country. She is known as a natural storyteller and is highly praised for her work with people of all ages.

To date she has written and illustrated over 115 books for children,. She is also a playwright and is in the process of penning for adults. She is a much sought after lecturer and keynote speaker and is considered one of the most inspiring speakers of our time