A Book List for Budding Botanists

Where would we be without plants?  Botany is a major area of study in the Montessori curriculum, and children everywhere are fascinated by the magic of seeds, flowers, and growing plant life.  Interested in finding some books to support this learning?  Check out these ten titles and let us know what you think! (Click on the book images to go to that book’s Amazon page)


The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle

Against all odds, a tiny seed travels and grows to become a gorgeous flower.  This delightful children’s classic covers factual topics within a storytelling format.  Though many seeds may set out on their journey, few grow to complete their life cycle.  


My Garden by Kevin Henkes

A little girl daydreams as she helps her mother in the garden.  She imagines that in her garden, she wouldn’t have to worry about rabbits eating the lettuce because the rabbits would chocolate and she could eat them.  The tomatoes would be as big as beach balls and the carrots would be invisible (because she doesn’t like carrots).


From Seed to Plant by Gail Gibbons

This fantastic nonfiction text helps children understand the basics of seeds and flowers.  It’s bright illustrations, clear diagrams, and informative text covers topics like the parts of a flower, pollination, how seeds travel, and the stages of growth.


How a Seed Grows by Helene J. Jordan, illustrated by Loretta Kropinski

This sweet book shows two children as they plant a dozen bean seeds and observe throughout their growth.  While the book gives clear directions on how to repeat the experiment, children can learn a lot just from reading.  If you would like to follow along with the steps, gather some bean seeds, a bit of soil, and a dozen egg shells.


The Magic School Bus Plants Seeds by Joanna Cole, illustrated by Bruce Degen and John Speirs

Fans of the Frizz won’t be disappointed with this title!  The class has grown their own garden and goes on an adventure, with the bus first turning into a ladybug to get an up-close look at a flower.  They then shrink down to the size of a grain of pollen, hitching a ride on the leg of a bee and traveling down a pollen tube to learn how seeds are made.


Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney

A book that may inspire both you and your child, Miss Rumphius is a classic that everyone should read.  Little Alice grows up, travels the world, comes home to live by the sea, and sets out to do the most difficult thing of all: do something to make the world more beautiful.  Almost by accident she discovers that planting lupine seeds around her town is just the act of beauty she had been searching for.    


Gregor Mendel: The Friar Who Grew Peas by Cheryl Bardoe, illustrated by Jos. A. Smith

For children in upper elementary, middle school, and perhaps even beyond, this picture book tells the story of how humble friar Gregor Mendel founded our scientific understanding of genetics.  Using pea plants, Mendel discovered how traits play an important part in biology.  While the importance of his work was not recognized until after his death, it played a major part in our understanding of the world.


A Weed is a Flower by Aliki

This book begins by describing the unfortunate beginnings of Carver’s life, including being born into slavery and taken by night raiders.  Following abolition, Carver lived with his former owners for a number of years, and it was during this time that he cultivated a love for plants.  His curiosity and desire to further his education led him to work hard throughout his life, eventually becoming a professor at the Tuskegee Institute.  It was here that Dr. Carver learned much about plants and attempted to impart his findings on the farmers of Alabama.  He advocated for crop rotation as a means of long-term soil care, and studied crops such as sweet potatoes and peanuts to find ways to make them more useful and appealing to farmers and consumers.


Who Was Beatrix Potter? by Sarah Fabiny

Did you know that Potter not only wrote charming children’s books, but she was also a conservationist?  During a time when women’s studies in science were not taken seriously, Potter worked to find ways to make her findings heard.  She adored animals and plants, and strove to find ways to preserve nature for generations to come.


Treecology by Monica Russo, photographs by Kevin Byron

Detailed, informative, and engaging, this book delivers a combination of facts and activities that children can try to learn about trees.  It received an honorable mention for the National Outdoor Book Awards and was named a 2017 Outstanding Science Trade Book for Students K-12.  While all children will enjoy this book to some extent, those who are in grades 3 and above would likely get the most out of it.


As always, we would love to hear your feedback after reading some of these books.  We would also love to hear about any others you think should be on the list!  Happy reading!

Author Spotlight: Mo Willems

Mo Willems: you either already know and love this author, or you know and love this author’s work and just don’t know him by name.  Best known for his creation of an ornery but lovable pigeon, Willems has written far too many books for us to list all of them individually here.  So, if you and your family are looking for a new author/illustrator to love, look no further! Click on the book images to go to that book’s page on Amazon.

The Pigeon Series

It’s rare to meet a parent who is not familiar with this character, but if you’re not, you’re in luck!  Pigeon (like many children) has strong feelings about what he wants to do in life.  He also has a keen sense of fairness, and often thinks life isn’t fair for him.  Children relate joyfully to this small blue bird who just wants to experience the world on his own terms but is often told he cannot.  There are nine books in this series, but we will highlight a couple of our favorites here:


Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! by Mo Willems

After a bus driver parks and needs to step away for a few minutes, our friend the pigeon begs the reader to let him drive.  He pleads, bargains, and tries every strategy he can think of to sway our minds (obviously without any luck).


The Duckling Gets a Cookie!? by Mo Willems

Sweet, charming Duckling is given a cookie as a treat.  Pigeon, of course, is exceedingly jealous and is quite vocal in expressing his feelings.  Duckling patiently lets Pigeon speak, and near the end of the story offers to give the cookie to Pigeon (though not for the reason you might think!).


The Knuffle Bunny Series 

Many children have a stuffed animal that is special to them, and Trixie is no different.  The child in the stories is named after Willems’ own daughter, Trixie, who adores her stuffed rabbit: Knuffle Bunny.  This three-book series grows along with Trixie, but you might want to start with the first book:


Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale by Mo Willems

Trixie is a toddler who has not yet started to talk.  Waving goodbye to Mom, she and her dad take a walk to the local laundromat.  It is here that Trixie’s dad mistakenly tosses Knuffle Bunny, Trixie’s beloved stuffed rabbit, into a washing machine.  She doesn’t have the words to tell him what’s wrong, so she expresses her strong feelings like any toddler would: with increasing intensity!  The pair arrive home and Mom notices the missing Knuffle Bunny, which sends Trixie and Dad back to the laundromat.  The ending is what you might expect, but with a fun twist!


The Elephant and Piggie Series

Piggie and Elephant Gerald are the best of friends.  In this 25-book series, the pair dialogue their way through exactly the types of scenarios children are faced with each day.  Here are just a few:


Are You Ready to Play Outside? by Mo Willems

Gerald and Piggie have big plans for a day of playing outside.  As Piggie imagines all they might do and they go to head out, raindrops begin to fall.  Luckily, elephants are good friends who have a knack for making rainy days fun.


Should I Share My Ice Cream? by Mo Willems

While he is alone one hot day, Gerald buys himself an ice cream cone.  Just as he is about to take his first bite, he wonders if he should find Piggie to share it with her.  This sets off a chain of thoughts in his mind, alternating between generous and self-serving.  As with many of Willems’ books, the ending is not what readers might expect!


Waiting is Not Easy! by Mo Willems

Piggie has a special surprise to share with Gerald.  Unfortunately, patience is not a characteristic Gerald has fully developed just yet.  Piggie is gentle and encouraging as the two wait for time to pass and the surprise to reveal itself.


Cat the Cat Series

These books are perfect for new readers or for babies and toddlers who love being read to.  Simple text, simple illustrations, and loveable characters grace the pages of these four books.  Here are a couple we enjoy:


Cat the Cat, Who Is That? by Mo Willems

In this introductory book we are introduced to Cat the cat and all her animal friends.  Their names are quite predictable as one might imagine, and young children love the patterned text.


Time to Sleep, Sheep the Sheep! by Mo Willems

With minimal text and adorable illustrations, Cat the cat and her friends get ready for bedtime.  They smile joyfully as Cat reminds them to get ready, and respond by brushing their teeth, taking a bath, gathering bedding, and so on.


Solo Books

Willems has lots of non-series books as well.  While, again, there are far too many to list here, check out these favorites!


Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed by Mo Willems

In Naked Mole Rat’s world, everyone is naked all the time.  Secretly, he adores wearing clothes of all kinds.  When the other mole rats discover this, the whole community is faced with change.


Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs by Mo Willems

In this ridiculous twist on the classic Goldilocks tale, the dinosaurs are intentionally trying to lure a tasty child into their home.  Luckily, this (pluckier version of ) Goldilocks figures out their plan in the nick of time.


That Is NOT a Good Idea! by Mo Willems

A mischievous fox invites an innocent goose to dinner.  Written and illustrated in a style similar to an old silent film, our goose heroine proves she’s not nearly as naive as we feared.


Nanette’s Baguette by Mo Willems

If your child loves fresh bread, independence, or words that rhyme with baguette, this one is for them!  Nanette’s mother sends her off to the bakery for first time by herself to buy a baguette, but who among us can resist the delectable smell of a freshly baked loaf? (Certainly not Nanette!)


***Special insider’s secret: The Pigeon appears in every single one of Mo Willems’ books.  Sometimes you have to look very closely, but it can be quite a fun game for children!  Enjoy!

Book List: Women’s History Month

March is Women’s History Month, and it seems as fitting a time as any for us to share this book list.  These ten titles highlight some of the amazing contributions women have made throughout the course of history, often working to overcome great obstacles.  Whether you read them to your daughters or your sons, we hope you will find a story that resonates, sparks their imaginations, and gives them a little glimpse of what their own lives might become.


Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison

Striking a balance between widely recognized and lesser known influential black women, Harrison has crafted a beautiful book for children.  The pictures will appeal to all children, but the text is best suited to those aged eight and up.  Forty women are featured, including Zora Neal Hurston, Gwendolyn Brooks, Ella Fitzgerald, Ruby Bridges, Oprah Winfrey, and many more.


I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsberg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy, illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley

Boys were expected to grow up, go out into the world, and do big things.  Girls?  Girls were expected to find husbands.  Ruth’s mother disagreed. With the support of her family and her own tenacious spirit, little Ruth grew up to become the strong woman we know today as Justice Ginsburg.


Who Was Rosa Parks? by Yona Zeldis McDonough, illustrated by Stephen Marchesi

The ‘Who Was’ series is well-loved by elementary-aged children across the country.  In this book, Zeldis McDonough details the life of civil rights activist Rosa Parks, famous for her refusal to change her seat on an Alabama city bus.  Her actions sparked a boycott that lasted for more than a year and were a major contribution to the work of ending segregations.


Counting on Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo 13 by Helaine Becker, illustrated by Tiemdow Phumiruck

Children love to be able to relate to people in books.  Counting on Katherine begins by giving readers a glimpse into the mathematician’s childhood, as a kid who loved to count, was fascinated by the universe, and did well in school.  This book tells how she went on to combine her passions while working for NASA, eventually saving lives and making history.


I Am Sacagawea by Brad Meltzer, illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos 

Meltzer’s ‘I Am’ series appeals to children who love graphic novels and biographies.  Recommended for children ages 5 and up, this book has a way of telling the story of Sacagawea without ignoring some of the unpleasant facts but is done in a way that is appropriate for young children.  


A is for Abigail: An Almanac of Amazing American Women by Lynne Cheney, illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser

A is for Abigail is a beautifully illustrated book full of influential American women from a wide variety of backgrounds.  Scientists, athletes, artists, politicians are among the many women celebrated in this sweet picture book. 


Malala’s Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai, illustrated by Kerascoët

The only autobiography on the list, Malala’s Magic Pencil was penned by the Nobel Peace Prize Winner herself.  Malala takes readers on a journey through her experiences, first imagining how she might make her life better, then coming to a realization that real action was needed.  While she once wished for a magical pencil, she grew to discover the power in her own writing.  She voiced her support for women’s rights, education, and peace in her home country of Pakistan as it was being controlled by the Taliban.


Shaking Things Up: 14 Young Women Who Changed the World by Susan Hood

Each page of this book features a poem about an influential woman, and each mini biography features a different illustrator.  The world-changing women include: Nellie Bly, Frida Kahlo, Maya Lin, and Angela Zhang. 


Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed, illustrated by Stasia Burrington

Honoring the first African American woman to travel in space, Ahmed and Burrington have created a beautiful picture book about the life of Mae Jemison. Young Mae shares her dreams with her encouraging parents, later to have them dismissed by her white teacher and classmates.  Mae’s own determination, combined with the unwavering support of her family, led her to achieve her dreams and chance history.


When Marian Sang: The True Recital of Marian Anderson by Pam Munoz Ryan, illustrated by Brian Selznick

Marian Anderson had the kind of voice that one is lucky to hear once in a lifetime.  Her talent was recognized early on, though she struggled to find a teacher and to sing in certain venues because of her race.  She defied the odds, brought people together, and eventually went on to achieve her own personal singing dreams.


We hope you and your children will find these books inspiring.  Let us know if you have others to recommend!

Book List: On Kindness

We are just around the corner from Valentine’s Day!  Before we dive into paper doily cards and candy hearts let’s take a moment to think about the reason we celebrate: love.  And what better way to experience love on a daily basis than to live a life of kindness?  Your children learn kindness by watching others, including their friends, their teachers, and you.  When we take the time to have conversations about the importance of kindness, children understand that it’s something we value.  This month’s book list includes ten titles that will help you get started.  Enjoy!


The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney

This wordless book (aside from a few beautifully illustrated sound words) is a retelling of the classic Aesop fable.  The majestic and powerful lion shows mercy on the tiny and unassuming mouse, who later returns the kindness.  Children and adults appreciate this classic and gorgeous rendition.  


The Three Questions by Jon J. Muth

Based on the classic tale by Leo Tolstoy, a small boy is searching for the answers to his three questions.  What is the best time to do things?  Who is the most important one?  What is the right thing to do?  His own journey leads him to the answers, which are of course, based in being kind and present in the moment.


Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Christian Robinson

CJ is a bouncy young child who is traveling across the city with his grandmother one Sunday.  A bit annoyed that they must ride the bus instead of hopping into a car, he is full of questions which his grandmother patiently answers.  CJ learns many things and meets many different people before arriving at their final destination: a soup kitchen where he and his grandmother will help people less fortunate than themselves. 


The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

Many of us are familiar with Silverstein’s timeless treasure of a book.  While the tree in the story is exceedingly kind to the boy, this is a good book to teach children about the limits of kindness.  We can be kind to others without putting our own happiness and well-being at risk.


Stand Tall, Molly Lou Mellon by Patty Lovell, illustrated by David Catrow

Molly Lou Mellon’s buck teeth, short stature, and deep voice may not be what many consider to be the standard of perfection, but Molly’s grandmother has instilled a strong sense of positive self-esteem in the young girl.  When Molly moves away and is teased by another child in her new school, fierce determination and pride in her unique qualities help her shine through the challenge.


Have You Filled a Bucket Today?: A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids by Carol McCloud, illustrated by David Messing

This beloved book encourages readers to visualize a bucket that we all carry around with us.  When the bucket is full, we feel happy and content.  When we are sad, lonely, or upset, the bucket may be empty.  The story talks about different ways our actions can affect one another, either emptying or filling each other’s buckets.  This book also helps children understand that negative actions that may empty a bucket, such as teasing, are not permanent or definitive of who we are.  There is always room for us to grow and love others.


A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams

A little girl tells the story of working toward a simple yet special goal in the aftermath of an apartment fire.  All the family’s belongings were destroyed, and while their neighbors and friends donated what they could, something important was missing: one soft, comfortable chair for her to share with her mother and grandmother.  The three save every coin they are able in a large glass jar, until they are finally able to make a trip to the furniture store together.


Should I Share My Ice Cream? by Mo Willems

One hot day, Elephant Gerald hears the enticing call of Ice Cream Penguin.  He happily purchases a cone, but just before he takes his first bite, he thinks of his best friend, Piggy.  Would Piggy want some of his ice cream?  Should he wait and share?  Would she ever know if he ate it without her?  His big heart wins the internal battle, but there is a twist ending.


Leonardo, the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems

Willems says this tale is written for those as young as 3 and as old as 36, but frankly, we think those age limits could be extended a bit.  Leonardo wants nothing more in life than to scare the tuna salad out of someone, but he doesn’t seem to be able to.  He finally finds some success, but might he discover that friendship is a lot more satisfying?


We hope you and your family enjoy these books about kindness.  Please let us know what you think, and if there are any others you think we should add to the list!

Book List: The Passing of Time

As we welcome a new year we thought it would be the perfect time to share a book list about the passing of time.  Throughout human existence we have generated ways to record time, and while many of our earlier innovations are no longer used, the old has been blended with the new.  Most children are curious about time, yet it can be a tricky subject to comprehend for younger ones.  Check out our list for some helpful suggestions.


About Time: A First Look at Time and Clocks by Bruce Koscielniak

This fabulous book teaches children about the history of timekeeping.  Throughout time, humans have needed to track the passing of time and have discovered many creative ways of doing so.  This book is sure to delight children in the elementary grades and beyond.


The Reasons for Seasons by Gail Gibbons

Gibbons writes books for children that are beautifully illustrated, clearly written, and tend to mesh very well with the style of Montessori education.  The Reasons for Seasons can be appreciated by younger and older children; it contains simple text that explains the science behind our seasons.  It differentiates between the Northern and Southern hemispheres and teaches kids about solstices, equinoxes, and why the Earth’s axis plays an important role.


I Had a Favorite Dress by Boni Ashburn, illustrated by Julia Denos

We believe that representation matters, and having children’s books that feature children of color is a good thing for all kids.  This is a fun days-of-the-week book in which the main character begins by telling readers about her favorite dress that she wears each Tuesday, which happens to be her favorite day of the week.  One day she discovers the dress is too small, but her creative mother transforms the dress into a shirt that the girl then wears every Wednesday.  That is, until it no longer fits...


A Second, a Minute, a Week with Days in it: A Book About Time by Brian P. Cleary, illustrated by Brian Gable

The title of this book says it all: it’s a simple and straightforward explanation about simple units of time.  The illustrations help give children a clear visual representation of these abstract concepts.


The Story of Clocks and Calendars by Betsey Maestro, illustrated by Guilio Maestro

Like Koscielniak’s book, The Story of Clocks and Calendars fills the important role of teaching children about the history of time.  Maestro details the differences in calendars from different societies, along with descriptions of various types of clocks.


Chicken Soup with Rice by Maurice Sendak

“In January it’s so nice while slipping on the sliding ice to sip hot chicken soup with rice.  Sipping once sipping twice sipping chicken soup with rice.”  This classic Sendak book will help young children learn the names of the months while being delighted by his poems and illustrations.


Thirteen Moons on Turtle’s Back by Joseph Bruchac and Jonathan London, illustrated by Thomas Locker

A young Abenaki child is treated to a lesson and storytelling from his grandfather.  The grandfather explains that just as there are thirteen scales on the old turtle’s back, there are thirteen moons during the year.  This book honors the Native American tradition of storytelling, and each page teaches about a different nation’s moon story.  This book would be best appreciated by elementary-aged children.


When the Moon is Full: A Lunar Year by Penny Pollock, illustrated by Mary Azarian

Another book about the Native American lunar year, the illustrations in this book make it come alive.  Poetry and tradition guide the reader through twelve moons.  While older children would likely enjoy this book, it easily appeals to younger children as well. 


A Child’s Calendar by John Updike, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman

Updike’s poems carry readers through the months of the year, highlighting seasons, holidays, and favorite childhood pastimes.  A Child’s Calendar is a Caldecott Honor Book.  


Me Counting Time: From Seconds to Centuries by Joan Sweeney, illustrated by Annette Cable 

As a child prepares to celebrate her seventh birthday, she pauses to think about time.  This story is relatable, informative, and entertaining for kids.  Written at about a second-grade reading level, the content would be best enjoyed by children ages 4-7.  They will learn all about units of time, from a second to a millennium.


We hope you and your family enjoy these books.  Let us know what you think!

Book List: Inspiring Independent Thinkers


As parents and educators, we want the best for our children.  We want them to be happy, to feel the joy of learning, and to live rich lives.  Many of us value creativity and innovation, and we admire the great thinkers throughout history.  This often leads us to wonder how we might instill similar values in our own children.  How do we cultivate independent thought?  One way to start is by teaching them about people who have changed the world for the better.  Read on for a list of books you might enjoy together. (Click on the book image to go to the book’s page on Amazon)


Timeless Thomas: How Thomas Edison Changed Our Lives, by Gene Barretta

Thomas Edison was arguably one of the influential inventors of modern times.  Often credited with inventing a refined, marketable version of the incandescent light bulb, he also worked to create batteries, movie cameras, and record players.  This book is geared toward elementary children but could be enjoyed by both younger and older students as well.


Darwin and Evolution for Kids, by Kristan Lawson

This multifaceted book covers biographical information related to Darwin beginning with his childhood, but also touches on a variety of content areas including botany, geography, history, and genetics.  This book gives information while also detailing 21 fun explorative activities for kids. 


Leonardo da Vinci: A Nonfiction Companion to Magic Tree House Merlin Mission #10: Monday with a Mad Genius, by Mary Pope Osborne and Natalie Pope Boyce, illustrated by Sal Murdocca (fact tracker series)

The Magic Tree House series is wildly popular with older primary and elementary aged students.  While the original series has elements of history blended with fantasy, the fact tracker series is completely nonfiction.  For extra fun, pair this book with Monday with a Mad Genius!  Learn all about the fascinating man that was Leonardo da Vinci.


William Shakespeare & the Globe, by Aliki

Beloved author and illustrator Aliki brings us a book to learn about one of the world’s most famous playwrights.  Recommended for children in kindergarten through elementary, this book details the life of Shakespeare through the building of the modern Globe.  This gorgeous book will entertain kids and the adults who read with them.


Abe Lincoln: The Boy Who Loved Books, by Kay Winters, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter

It’s not often that biographies take the time to revel in the childhood of a famous figure.  This book does just that, giving kids a chance to relate to one of the greatest political figures in the history of our nation.  Parents will love that Abe loved books!  The books he read shaped him into the courageous man he became and led him to make decisions that would prove to change the course of history.


Who Was Gandhi? by Dana Meachen Rau, illustrated by Jerry Hoare

Long after his death, Gandhi remains a symbol of peace around the world.  Children will learn about his fight against discrimination and attempts to dismantle India’s caste system.  This book is part of a large series of popular biographies for kids, so if your family likes Who Was Gandhi? know that there are plenty more to explore!


Marie Curie (Little People, Big Dreams), by Isabel Sanchez Vegara, illustrated by Frau Isa

Available in hardcover and board book versions, this book appeals to toddlers as much as it does to second graders.  Charming illustrations accompany simple yet informative sentences, with the aim to inspire youngsters to break boundaries and follow their dreams.


Nelson Mandela, by Kadir Nelson

Kadir Nelson’s book has received the Coretta Scott King Honor award.  It tells the story of an inspired boy who worked his whole life to create a more just and equitable world for all people.  This is a tale that clearly illustrates the difference one person can make.  We may have to work hard and endure sacrifices, but Mandela persevered and stood firm in his convictions, leaving the world a better place.


What’s Your Angle, Pythagoras? by Julie Ellis, illustrated by Phyllis Hornung

Is your child enamored with math, geometry, and solving problems?  This cute book might be just the one for them.  Join young Pythagoras as he considers different ways to solve real problems, and how math can be applied to help the process along.


The Remarkable Benjamin Franklin, by Cheryl Harness

Not many people can be expert candle makers, printers, and political activists simultaneously.  Introduce your child to the marvelous Ben Franklin with this factual book that is perfect for kids in grades 2-5.


What other famous independent thinkers should be on this list?  Happy reading!