If by David J. Smith

The world is so big, I can understand my son not understanding some concepts. I tried to explain the amount of snow that recently covered Buffalo, New York, and he just shook his head. How can he possibly understand the distance to the moon? The extent of the universe?

If by David J. Smith and illustrated by Steve Adams (Kids Can Press, August 2014) is a nonfiction picture book that tries to give kids perspective. By comparing huge concepts to concepts that a child understands, the author makes the things that we cannot quite comprehend a little bit more real. Continue Reading

The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires


The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires (Kids Can Press, April 2014) is a STEM book. (For those not in the “know,” as I was not until recently, STEM is educational slang for something relating to Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mechanics.) A creative girl heads out to make the “magnificent thing,” but cannot seem to get it right for quite a while. Trial and error, experimentation. She keeps going. It is not easy, and finally she succeeds!

I loved how the author-illustrator included multiple pictures per page. You can see the girl’s growing frustration as she works, creates, and starts anew. I also enjoyed how we could see her creations throughout the story, but we could never quite see what she was making until the very end. Her facial expressions can show the reader (and young STEM workers) that creation takes lots of work, lots of mistakes, and lots of concentration. She had a great idea, but it took quite a while to get to her finished “magnificient thing.”

I see lots of educational value in this book for schools, but I also believe it is a strong, fun story with clever illustrations. Non-readers can still enjoy it by reviewing the pictures. This will be a winner with kids, for sure!

Note: I received a digital copy for review consideration.

Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor by Jon Scieszka

Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor by Jon Scieszka (Abrams, August 2014) is a bizarre and amusing story about a boy scientist named Frank Einstein who, with his best friend sidekick and two intelligent robots, is determined to win his science fair project. Of course with a grandfather named Al Einstein (no, not that one but still…), Frank’s project is destined to be the best of them all! Or will it? His arch nemesis is determined to stop him. Continue Reading

The Case of the Vanishing Little Brown Bats by Sandra Markle


The Case of the Vanishing Little Brown Bats by Sandra Markle (Millbrook Press, September 2014) is another fascinating scientific mystery. As with The Case of the Vanishing Tree Frogs, which I read and reviewed a few years ago, Little Brown Bats is about a species of animal that is mysteriously disappearing in the world. In this case, it is the little brown bats of Eastern North America, bats about 5 cm in length, that are awakening from hibernation and dying at an unprecedented pace.Continue Reading