Books

Book List: Inspiring Independent Thinkers

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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!

Ten Fabulous Fall Titles

Each month we like to provide you with a timely booklist to inspire daily reading at home.  This month we focus on fun fall books.  Between falling leaves and ripening pumpkins, what’s not to love about autumn?  Visit your local library or click the book images below to find these titles that your children are sure to love.

 

Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf, by Lois Ehlert

This book by Ehlert is simple but provides gorgeous illustrations and informational text for our youngest children.  Perfect for toddlers and primary students, Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf details the life of a tree.

 

The Pumpkin Book, by Gail Gibbons 

Gibbons is known for creating books that draw children in with beautiful illustrations and clear, factual information.  The pumpkin book does not disappoint!  It covers such information as types of pumpkins, the process of planting, growing, and harvesting pumpkins, the parts of a pumpkins seed, history of this amazing squash, and so much more.

 

The Reasons for Seasons, by Gail Gibbons 

Once again Gibbons delivers a perfect book for Montessori (and all) children.  She uses clear, bright diagrams and short but accurate paragraphs to explain why certain regions of the earth experience four seasons.  

 

Yellow Time, by Lauren Stringer 

“Yellow time comes before white time.  Every time.”  Stringer uses words and images alike to paint a picture of the final days of fall.  The variety of color among the leaves has gone, along with many of the animals.  The ones that are left are so busy preparing for winter that they don’t notice the beautiful yellow that remains.  That is, except for the crows.

 

Apple Cider-Making Days, by Ann Purmell, illustrated by Joanne Friar 

This wholesome tale follows two children as they pick apples to be made into cider on the family farm.  Readers learn about the process via this charming realistic fiction, and several pages of interesting cider facts follow the story.

 

Autumn is Here!, by Heidi Pross Gray

Young children will enjoy chiming in with the alternate pages of predictable text.  Between exclamations of “Autumn is here!” Gray inserts classic hallmarks of the season, such as the potential futures of acorns and the busy work of squirrels.  Her whimsical watercolor paintings that illustrate the pages are a perfect fit.

 

Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn, by Kenard Pak 

In this charming book a young girls is taking a walk through her town and nearby woods on a crisp fall day.  She greets the plants and creatures she passes; they, in return, return her greeting and explain the changes they are undergoing during autumn.  

 

Autumnblings, by Douglas Florian

Florian writes poetry that is silly, surprising, and teaches us new things.  While he has books (with really cool collage and paint illustrations) on a variety of subjects, Autumnblings is all about fall.  This book would be best enjoyed by children in kindergarten and lower elementary, and covers a wide range of topics from apple picking to trick-or-treating to baseball.

 

Fall Walk, by Virginia Brimhall Snow 

This book is a unique two-in-one.  The story takes readers on a walk through the woods with a grandmother and her grandchildren.  On each page a different tree is introduced, along with a detailed picture displaying the shape of the tree’s leafs.  This compliments the Montessori botany work beautifully.

 

Squirrels Leap, Squirrels Sleep, by April Pulley Sayre, illustrated by Steve Jenkins

Few things delight children in quite the same way as squirrels.  They always seem to be having fun scampering around or furiously preparing for winter.  This book lets children in on all the action as it describes the many tasks of this familiar neighborhood mammal.

 

We hope you enjoy our fall book suggestions.  Let us know if you have any favorites that were not included on this list, and happy reading!

Author Spotlight: Grace Lin

So it’s halfway through the summer and you’ve been enjoying lots of reading time with your kids.  You’ve been through all their favorites in the bookcase - many, many times.  Looking for some new ideas?

Grace Lin is a Newbery-winning author whose work appeals to children of all ages.  Read on for a partial list of her books that will pull your family out of a book rut and provide hours of reading enjoyment!

(Click on the book image to go to the book's page on Amazon)

Picture Books

The Ugly Vegetables

A child admires the flowers in her neighbors’ gardens, while wondering why her mother insists on growing veggies that look so different than everyone else’s.  When harvest time rolls around she realizes the beauty in diversity and how a delicious pot of soup can bring people together.

 

Dim Sum for Everyone!

The bright illustrations and minimal text in this story will appeal to preschoolers and new readers.  A child describes the magic of going out to eat dim sum, and how special it is to share a meal with family.

 

Kite Flying

A family works together to make and fly a kite.  While the story honors the Chinese tradition, it is relatable for any family who likes to fly kites.  Much like Dim Sum for Everyone!, the pictures and short text make this book ideal for preschoolers and early readers.

 

Lissy’s Friends

Being the new girl at school can be pretty lonely.  Lissy decides to solve her problem by creating a tiny friend using origami.  Her collection grows quickly and brings her much needed joy.  Eventually, she is able to share her love of origami with her new human friends.

 

Early Readers

Ling and Ting: Together in All Weather

Ling and Ting are twin sisters who take readers through their fun, silly, and relatable lives in this early reader series.  From thunderstorms to rainbows to selling lemonade, the girls have fun together in all seasons.

 

Ling and Ting: Twice as Silly

Ling and Ting take readers through six ridiculously silly stories, including high hopes for planting jelly beans and devising intricate plans to pick the apples from the top of a tree.

 

Ling and Ting: Share a Birthday

Of course the twins share a birthday, but they love sharing lots of other things, too!  This book begins with a tale of two pairs of shoes and takes readers through the fun of birthday cake, shopping, gifts, wishes, and a special story at the end.

 

Ling and Ting: Not Exactly the Same

While Ling and Ting are alike in almost every way, they are not exactly the same.  This book takes readers on yet another series of silly adventures.

 

Chapter Books

Year of the Dog

This is Grace Lin’s first book featuring a character named Pacy and her family and friends.  The book begins with Pacy and her family working to prepare for their Chinese New year celebration.  It is the year of the dog which Pacy’s mom describes as a good time to find oneself.  Throughout the rest of the story readers follow along as Pacy does just that.  As with many of her other books, Lin manages to blend cultural traditions with modern family lives.

 

Year of the Rat

The Pacy series continues as Lin crafts books based on her own childhood experiences.  Pacy is not feeling as lucky as she did in Year of the Dog, as she deals with her best friend moving and struggles to work toward her goals to be a writer and illustrator.  As with many of her books, Grace Lin tells many stories within this story, layering traditional tales within modern realistic fiction.

 

Dumpling Days

This third installment in the Pacy series has readers traveling to Taiwan as Pacy and her family prepare for her grandmother’s birthday.  Pacy continues to navigate her way through new cultural traditions and life experiences.  As with the other books in the series, nurturing relationships is an underlying theme.

 

Novel

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon

This novel will transport older readers to a world of fantasy.  Min Li embarks on a journey to meet the old man of the moon in hopes of asking him how she might change her family's’ fortune.  Throughout her journey she meets an array of fascinating characters - including forming a friendship with an unconventional dragon - and learns more about herself than she ever dreamed she might.

 

Grace Lin has written and illustrated many other books.  We hope this list will help you and your family discover a new author for everyone to enjoy!

 

Summer Reading List

Summer is here!

This may mean the end of school for the year but that shouldn’t mean a break from reading.  Reading, and being read to, is critically important for children’s language development.  Reading to infants and toddlers gives parents a chance to model our spoken language.  Preschoolers and kindergarteners are learning about sounds and words; your reading aloud to them will help them delight in the magic of the written word, eventually leading them to begin decoding for themselves.  As children get older, it is important for them to spend time reading independently, but reading together can continue on into the preteen years (and perhaps beyond!)  Children appreciate spending time with their parents, and there’s something special about slowing down and enjoying a book together.  

Read on for some fun summer suggestions. (Click on the book images to go to that book's page on Amazon)

 

Should I Share My Ice Cream? By Mo Willems

Really, anything by Willems is sure to be a hit.  While he is best known for his series of books about keeping a mischievous pigeon out of trouble, his Elephant and Piggie series is very popular with early readers.  In this delightful tale, elephant Gerald contemplates the pros and cons of sharing his ice cream with his best friend, Piggie.  The twist ending is a sweet surprise.

 

Cocoa Ice by Diana Karter Appelbaum, illustrated by Holly Meade

Cocoa Ice is the story of two young girls who live in very different climates.  One child helps her family harvest and prepare cocoa beans to eat, sell, and trade.  The other child watches as ice is cut into large blocks and loaded onto a schooner that heads to the tropics.  While the children never meet, they are connected by their curiosity about each other as well as their love of the sweet treat, cocoa ice.

 

The Relatives Came, by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Stephen Gammell

This book will be loved by anyone who has ever had a house full of relatives.  The character’s family comes to visit from out of town, and while life may feel a little cramped, the time spent together in the hot summer sun makes it more than worth it.  The illustrations are wonderful, but even the words themselves create a vivid visual.

 

Fireflies! by Julie Brinckloe

At first glance this book tells a story that so many of us have experienced as a child: the joy of running outside on a warm summer night to catch fireflies in a jar.  While that simple theme is the main plot, the character’s internal experiences offer great opportunities for discussion with children.  Parents may want to note that on one page the child misuses a pair of scissors without his mother’s permission to cut holes in the lid of the jar.  At the end of the book, he is also confronted with the challenging decision about what to do with the fireflies as their blinking light begins to fade within the jar.  (Spoiler: he makes the right choice and releases them!)

 

Bailey Goes Camping by Kevin Henkes

This book will be especially appealing to younger siblings.  Bailey’s older brother and sister are gearing up for a camping trip, but Bailey doesn’t get to go because he’s too young.  Luckily his parents have some ideas to help him have his own camping experience.

 

Watermelon Day by Kathi Appelt, illustrated by Dale Gottlieb

Jesse can hardly wait to take a bite of sweet, cool, refreshing watermelon.  All summer long she watches as the melon grows larger in the garden.  When her father finally decides it’s ripe enough to cut off the vine, she must wait all day while the melon cools in the chilly water.  Her family gathers for a summer celebration, capped off, off course, with a delicious treat.

 

Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey

Sal and her mother head out to pick wild blueberries one warm summer day.  On the other side of the hill a mother bear and her cub are doing the same.  The two youngsters wander off, meet up with the wrong mothers (much to the mothers’ surprise!), and eventually find their way back.  This book will charm parents and make little ones giggle.

 

One Morning in Maine by Robert McCloskey

Sal (from Blueberries for Sal) is a little older in this story, but she brings readers on a journey that many children (and their parents) will be able to relate to.  Sal wakes up with her first loose tooth one morning, and while she initially upset she quickly becomes excited at this sign that she is growing up.  Sadly, she very literally loses her tooth, and spends the day learning

 

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

This award-winning title is definitely for older kids (10 and up).  It is lyrically written and follows three sisters through their experiences during the summer of 1968 when they leave Brooklyn to visit their estranged mother in Oakland, California.  Williams-Garcia’s historical fiction delves into difficult subject matter such as reconnecting with an absent parent and the racial struggles during that time period.

 

National Geographic Kids National Parks Guide USA Centennial Edition

Planning a family trip to one (or more!) national parks this summer?  Pick up this guide for your kids and they can help plan, as well as get excited to learn about and visit these amazing resources!