Wednesday, March 29, 2017

WILD & WONDERFUL WEDNESDAY: Crow Smarts/Insects/The Hidden Life of a Toad


One of the biggest differences between humans and animals is the ability to understand the idea of “If I do X, Y might happen.” New Caledonian crows seem to possess the intelligence to understand this “causal” concept. Why do crows have this ability? What does the crow know and what does it tell us about brain size, the evolution of intelligence, and just who is the smartest creature on the planet? In the latest addition to the Scientists in the Field series, the creators of The Frog Scientist take us to a beautiful Pacific island, where a lively cast of both crows and scientists is waiting to amuse and enlighten us.


This entry in the Scientists in the Field series tells of the work of Dr. Gavin Hunt as he studies the crows that live in New Caledonia out in the Pacific Ocean, just north of New Zealand.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the work Hunt is doing and the intelligence of these birds.  I definitely finished this book with a great appreciation for the cleverness of crows.  Interesting discussions about the use of tools and problem solving among different species including humans, chimpanzees, and crows provided some interesting food for thought. The gorgeous photographs add such a great touch to this informative and fascinating book.  This is another great addition to one of my all time favorite series.


Popular science writer Sneed B. Collard III gets creepy-crawly with many different kinds of insects, detailing their habitats, defense systems, communication techniques, and mating rituals. Colorful, closeup photos are paired with a kid-friendly narrative that boasts humor and accessible explanations about beetles, spider wasps, moths, and more.


I am not particularly a bug person.  In fact, I prefer to avoid them whenever possible.  But I found this book rather informative and entertaining as well.  I haven't read any of Collard's books before now so I didn't realize his tendency to include snide, funny comments in his text.  Here's an example:  "The housefly often spits out digestive juices to first dissolve the food, then sponges it up.  I'd think twice before sharing your milkshake with one" (25).   The book has a comment like that on about every page which keeps you awake and smiling while reading about insects.  Since the topic is a rather enormous one, Collard keeps to generalities while giving plenty of examples of each of his specific comments.  The photographs do a nice job of connecting to the text showing some of the different insects mentioned in the text.  The captions help explain why the photograph was included.  With a striking cover and full of fascinating information about insects this book is a must have for young insect aficionados.


In jaw-dropping photos, Doug Wechsler captures the life cycle of the American toad from egg to tadpole to adult. To get these images, Wechsler sat in a pond wearing waders, went out night after night in search of toads, and cut his own glass to make a home aquarium. The resulting photos reveal metamorphosis in extreme close-up as readers have never seen it before. 

Budding naturalists will be transfixed by this unprecedented peek into the secrets of tadpole transformation.


I've never actually realized everything involved in a tadpole becoming a toad/frog.  So for me, this book was fascinating.  Clearly the author/photographer spent many hours looking for and taking pictures of the American toad.  It was also fun to read about the process of getting the photographs.  The short text, divided chronologically, makes for a great read-a-loud, and the photographs are amazing.  The book takes the reader from the first hatching to the next egg laying, including reproduction.  The reproduction section is handled very professionally and factually.  The information at the end includes additional facts about toads, saving toads, and getting the photos. I especially loved the photo of the toadlet next to a dime that demonstrates just how small it is.  The book also includes websites and books that children can use to learn more about the topic.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

EARLY CHAPTER REVIEWS: Princess Cora and the Crocodile/A Case in Any Case/Bruno/Yours Sincerely, Giraffe



A Newbery Medalist and a Caldecott Medalist join forces to give an overscheduled princess a day off and a wicked crocodile a day "on." 

Princess Cora is sick of boring lessons. She's sick of running in circles around the dungeon gym. She's sick, sick, sick of taking three baths a day. And her parents won't let her have a dog. But when she writes to her fairy godmother for help, she doesn't expect help to come in the form of a crocodile, a crocodile who does not behave properly.


What do you get when you combine a Newbery Medalist and a Caldecott Medalist?  You get a book that is an absolute delight from beginning to end.  That cover alone is bound to make the book fly off the shelf.  And the story and illustrations inside do not disappoint.  When Princess Cora is born, her parents are overwhelmed by the responsibility of teaching her how to rule a kingdom, so they go completely overboard.  Princess Cora spends her days either bathing (3 times a day is barely enough according to her nanny), learning about ruling a kingdom with the Queen (from the most boring books ever written), or exercising in the basement with the King.  Every time she tries to object, she's told that's she being inappropriate or given the 'disappointed face'.  Finally, in desperation, Cora writes to her fairy godmother asking for a pet dog.  The next morning, a pet has arrived, but it's not at all what Princess Cora expected: it's a crocodile.

At first Princess Cora is disappointed, at least until the crocodile dawns one of her dresses and claims that he can take her place.  Cora is so desperate that she agrees as long as the crocodile promises not to bite anyone, and makes the crocodile a wig from her nanny's mop.  The ridiculous nature of a crocodile taking the place of a young girl is what makes this so funny, especially since the nanny, Queen, and King don't notice at first they are so lost in their routines.  Naturally, when the switch is noticed things go dreadfully (and hilariously) wrong.  Meanwhile, Cora is having a delightful time climbing trees, wading in streams, and stepping in cow manure (yuck).  But when she returns to the castle she finds things in a tizzy and has to find a way to put things back together without things going back to the way they were.  The illustrations are delightful.  That crocodile in a much too small dress is classic.  This is delightful ode to the fairy tale genre while still addressing a common modern day problem of being too busy.  One of my favorites of the year so far.  I'll be cheering for this one come award season.


Bruno, the cat in the checkered cap, takes life as it comes. When it's too rainy to go outside, he rustles up an inside picnic with his friends. When he meets a fish swimming in the air, he follows it. Why not! When the canary forgets how to sing and can only speak gibberish, Bruno helps out.


To be honest, I didn't enjoy this book as much as I would have liked.  Bruno is a fun character with his blue cap and nice house.  He has friends and some simple adventures.  The first story about a peculiar day in which he meets a flying fish and his horse friend, Ringo walks backward every where was especially silly.  But the story about the stupid day and some other episodes of name-calling didn't strike me as particularly good examples of how to talk about your friends.  Admittedly, Bruno's friends don't always play nice and are rather selfish at moments, but still, the name-calling rubbed me the wrong way.  Other than that though the book was cute.  I really liked the illustrations, especially of Bruno's home, it looked nice and cozy (at least until the dreadful Gerard came to visit).  And I appreciated Bruno's kindness to the rather confused canary whose statements don't make any sense whatsoever. It may also be that with this book being originally published in French, it doesn't click with my American tastes.  Give this one to young readers who are ready for something a bit different than they are used to.


The third and final book in the much-loved Detective Gordon series by one of Sweden's top children's writers.


I am sad to say that this is the last book in the Detective Gordon series.  I've quite enjoyed this series.  Both Detective Gordon and his Police Chief Assistant Buffy are endearing characters who work hard to serve the animals in the forest, even when they are scared.  Currently, Gordon is on vacation, which may or may not be permanent, but he is discovering that he misses his old job, so he starts visiting the police station at night to see what's going on.  Buffy however only sees dark shadows and hears scrabbling noise which badly frightens her.  So she seeks her old friend's assistance in solving the case.  When he goes with her to the station, just as he's about to tell her that he's the nighttime visitor, they get interrupted by two young animals going missing from the local kindergarten class.  Working together once again, the two police officers finally realize what they've been missing.  Adorable illustrations, along with short chapters, and interesting, but not really scary mysteries make this series perfect for 2nd and 3rd graders that aren't quite ready for more intensive mysteries.  A delightful series from beginning to end, one I'm sad to see end.


Giraffe is bored, as usual. He'd love a friend to share things with. So he writes a letter and sends it as far as possible across the other side of the horizon. There he finds a pen pal, Penguin. 


I wasn't really into this book until Giraffe started trying to understand what Penguin looked like based on the descriptions in his letters.  Black and white, no neck or all neck, feathers, small wings, and a beak are the descriptors that Giraffe and Pelican use to build Giraffe a penguin costume.  I had to laugh out loud when I saw the end result.  This book is definitely different in tone and style than I am used to, but it's sweet and amusing, even laugh-out-loud funny at some points.  The whole story begins when Giraffe, who is bored, decides to write a letter for Pelican (who starts a delivery service because he is bored) to deliver over the horizon.  Pelican finds Seal who delivers the letter to Penguin, who gets all the mail in the Whale Sea.  While the concept of sending and receiving mail might be a little more old-fashioned than a lot of kids are used to, this is a great way to introduce them to the delights of receiving mail, and one way to overcome boredom.  Delightful, easy read that is sure to make most children (and adults) smile.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

PICTURE BOOK REVIEWS: Waiting for Pumpsie/Malala/Princess and the Peas


In 1959 the Boston Red Sox was the last team in the Major Leagues to integrate. But when they call Elijah "Pumpsie" Green up from the minors, Bernard is overjoyed to see a black player on his beloved home team. And, when Pumpsie's first home game is scheduled, Bernard and his family head to Fenway Park. Bernard is proud of Pumpsie and hopeful that this historic event is the start of great change in America. 

This fictionalized account captures the true story of baseball player Pumpsie Green's rise to the major leagues. The story is a snapshot of the Civil Rights Movement and a great discussion starter about the state of race relations in the United States today.


I've been reading a lot about the Civil Rights Movement these days.  It's a rather heavy topic, but an important one.  But one wonders sometimes, how to take about these kinds of issues with younger children.  Books like this one can help.  While the main character is fictionalized, the events at the heart of the story are not.  

Bernard loves his Boston Red Sox.  And he loves the chance to see them play at Fenway Park one time each year.  Even if a white fan tells them to shut up, and a policeman tells them to learn to behave.  In 1959 Boston, racism still exists.  But Bernard's parents encourage him to hope for change, to look forward to the day when a Negro ball player will step up to bat for the Red Sox.  As with many young people, Bernard has a hard time being patient, as do many children.  But when the day finally comes, Bernard, his family, and many others are thrilled to be there.  The beautiful illustrations show the strong emotions that Bernard and his family experience as they wait for the day that someone who looks like them can play for their favorite team.  This book makes for a relatively gentle introduction to racism and the efforts to combat it for the youngest readers as well as an ode to America's favorite pastime.


Malala Yousafzai stood up to the Taliban and fought for the right for all girls to receive an education. When she was just fifteen-years old, the Taliban attempted to kill Malala, but even this did not stop her activism. At age eighteen Malala became the youngest person to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her work to ensure the education of all children around the world.

Malala's courage and conviction will inspire young readers in this beautifully illustrated biography.


Malala Yousafzai is a remarkable young lady, whose story has touched the hearts of many.  As a result there are a number of books available about her, which is great, the world needs to know about people like Malala, who risk so much to fight for what they believe in.  This picture book biography gives a brief introduction to this young Noble Peace Prize winner.  The text works well for younger children (1st and 2nd grade) but also has enough information to intrigue older children as well.  The illustrator clearly thought through what to put in her illustrations that is truthful and yet child appropriate and I believe she succeeded.  Even the scene where Malala gets shot isn't too graphic, but it is a part of the story.  I appreciated how clearly and succinctly the text explains Malala's experiences and beliefs. I absolutely loved the back matter which is full of photographs, quotes, a map of Pakistan, a timeline, and information about the work that Malala continues to dedicate herself to.  This is a fabulous picture book biography about a brave young woman and her cause.  One quote that I particularly loved was as follows: "With guns you can kill terrorists; with education you can kill terrorism."  What profoundly powerful words!  Would that the world would listen to this!


In this adaptation of The Princess and the Pea, Ma Sally cooks the best black-eyed peas in Charleston County, South Carolina. Her son, John, is a highly eligible bachelor, and three local women vie for his hand in marriage by attempting to cook as well as Ma. At the last minute, a surprise contestant named Princess arrives at the door. Princess and John are well-matched, but Princess has her own ideas. When told she has won John's hand, she asks him to scrub the pots and pans before she'll give him an answer. Her answer, it turns out, is that she wants to spend some time getting to know John first. 

Backmatter includes an author's note and a recipe for Princess's Black-eyed Peas.


I can honestly say that I've never read a version of The Princess and the Pea quite like this one, and that's a good thing.  As the author mentions in her author's note at the end of the book, the classic fairy tale doesn't make a whole lot of sense, I mean whose sensitive enough to notice a pea (undoubtedly smashed) under a whole heap of mattresses.  In this version of the story, the author has set the story in the south (I heard a southern accent in my head throughout the whole story, it just seemed to fit) during the 1950s.  Ma Sally's son John wants to get married, but Ma Sally refuses to let him marry just anyone.  In fact, she won't let him marry anyone who can't cook as well as she can.  So she invites any marriageable ladies who wish to try for John to come to her house to cook black-eyed peas.  The three local girls don't do so well, but the new girl in town, Princess, cooks like a dream.  The thing that I especially loved was how Princess doesn't agree to marry John right off, she wants to see what he brings to the table, which I thought was brilliant.  It isn't particularly fair, after all, for her to do all the accommodating.  This book would make for a great book to compare to some of the many classic and fractured versions of the story.

Monday, March 20, 2017

NONFICTION MONDAY: Shackles from the Deep/The March Against Fear

Source: Media Masters Publicity


A pile of lime-encrusted shackles discovered on the seafloor in the remains of a ship called the Henrietta Marie, lands Michael Cottman, a Washington, D.C.-based journalist and avid scuba diver, in the middle of an amazing journey that stretches across three continents, from foundries and tombs in England, to slave ports on the shores of West Africa, to present-day Caribbean plantations. This is more than just the story of one ship it's the untold story of millions of people taken as captives to the New World. Told from the author's perspective, this book introduces young readers to the wonders of diving, detective work, and discovery, while shedding light on the history of slavery."


Many ships have sunk into the ocean over the years, but the Henrietta Marie carries special significance because of what she carried inside her hull in the years before her sinking.  The Henrietta Marie was a slave ship, used to transport people into slavery and away from their homes on the West African shore.  This book though is more about the experiences of the author, journalist Michael Cottman, as he learned about the ship's origins and travels.  While there is little hope of discovering the specific individuals who sailed as slaves on the Henrietta Marie, Cottman still feels the connection to his own ancestors as he travels to England, Africa, and Jamaica, following the long distant travels of the ship.  This reads a lot like a memoir as Cottman documents his thoughts and feelings as he visited the different locations of significance to the building and sailing of this slave ship.  Reading this book reminded me of my own ancestors and how I feel when I visit places they've been, and how I would like to one day visit some of the other places of significance to them.  I appreciated the inclusion of a few photographs, it helped make the text seem more real, more would have been nice though.


James Meredith's 1966 march in Mississippi began as one man's peaceful protest for voter registration and became one of the South's most important demonstrations of the civil rights movement. It brought together leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. and Stokely Carmichael, who formed an unlikely alliance that resulted in the Black Power movement, which ushered in a new era in the fight for equality.

The retelling of Meredith's story opens on the day of his assassination attempt and goes back in time to recount the moments leading up to that event and its aftermath. Readers learn about the powerful figures and emerging leaders who joined the over 200-mile walk that became known as the "March Against Fear."

Thoughtfully presented by award-winning author Ann Bausum, this book helps readers understand the complex issues of fear, injustice, and the challenges of change. It is a history lesson that's as important and relevant today as it was 50 years ago.


Ann Bausum has told a powerful story about an event I knew next to nothing about, the 1966 March Against Fear, begun by James Meredith and his followers, finished by Martin Luther King Jr., Stokely Carmichael, and other heavyweights of the Civil Rights Era.  But unlike the second march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, this march did not go off without a hitch.  There were a lot of problems, including disagreements between the leaders, local Mississippi police who were reluctant to provide protection and cities that refused to let the marchers use public land in any way.  James Meredith's original intent: demonstrating that a black man could legally walk from the north part of the state all the way to the state capital, Jackson, was soon left by the wayside, as the march instead became an opportunity to get people registered to vote.  And Stokely Carmichael used it as a chance to introduce the term 'black power'.

Whatever Carmichael's intent, the term 'black power' did not go over so well with the media and many whites.  Unfortunately for Carmichael, the term seemed to conjure visions of riots and blacks wresting power from whites, which scared a lot of people.  King and others did their best to soften Carmichael's rhetoric, but the damage had already been done and a lot of the good will that the march had generated fizzled away.  This book provides not only a look at a specific series of events, including the sometimes violent response, but it also looks at the changes that the Civil Rights Movement was experiencing along the way.  I learned a lot from this book.  The book shows that history is rarely smooth sailing, but full of bumps and storms with a few calm patches mixed in.  I appreciate Bausum's efforts to share this important event with young readers, the opportunities presented here for discussion and teaching are numerous.

Friday, March 17, 2017

FANTASTIC FRIDAY: Dragonwatch by Brandon Mull


In the long-awaited sequel to Fablehaven, the dragons who have been kept at the dragon sanctuaries no longer consider them safe havens but prisons, and they want their freedom. The dragons are no longer our allies...
In the hidden dragon sanctuary of Wyrmroost, Celebrant the Just, king of the dragons, plots his revenge. He has long seen the sanctuaries as prisons, and he wants nothing more than to overthrow his captors and return the world to the Age of Dragons, when he and his kind ruled and reigned without borders. The time has come to break free and reclaim his power.

No one person is capable of stopping Celebrant and his dragon horde. It will take the gathering of the ancient order of Dragonwatch if there is any chance of saving the world from destruction. In ancient times, Dragonwatch was a group of wizards, enchantresses, dragon slayers, and others who confined the dragons into sanctuaries. But nearly all of the original Dragonwatch members are gone, and so the wizard Agad reaches out to Grandpa Sorenson for help.

As Kendra and Seth confront this new danger, they must draw upon all their skills, talents, and knowledge, as only they have the ability to function together as a powerful dragon tamer. Together they must battle against forces with supernatural powers and breathtaking magical abilities.
How will the epic dragon showdown end? Will dragons overthrow humans and change the world as we know it?


I have been eagerly awaiting this book since I first heard about it.  The original Fablehaven series is among my favorite books of all time, so I was thrilled to get my hands on this sequel series.  And I was not at all disappointed.  Kendra and Seth are the same great, if sometimes annoying (Seth) characters as they were previously.  But now they face a new set of challenges.  After defeating the demons in the Fablehaven series, Kendra and Seth now join the battle to stop the dragons from escaping their refuges.  Together they have the power to resist dragon fear, this unfortunately makes them the best candidates to take over as the caretakers of Wyrmroost.  But despite their experiences and the growth they've undergone, their still young and inexperienced, and they have to face off with the king of the dragons.  With the help of Grandpa and Grandma Sorensen, Mendigo (repaired), as well as some new friends, Seth and Kendra have to stop the dragons from escaping into the world which they long to dominate.  I really enjoyed reading this book as it's full of excitement, fabulous world-building, and interesting characters.  Seth is still his impulsive, adventurous self and Kendra is still the law-abiding, helping person she has always been.  The only thing that made me sad reading this is that I will have to wait a year to read the next book.



Pay tribute to your favorite dragons! Send us a photo on social media and Brandon Mull may pick YOU as the fan most “Decked Out for Dragonwatch”!
If you love dragons, gather together your best dragon gear and unleash your imagination by creating a space in your home, classroom, library, or local bookstore that pays tribute to all your favorite dragons from Fablehaven and anywhere else in the universe.
Take a picture of your “Decked Out for Dragonwatch” space and send it to us via social media. Brandon Mull will choose the best, most creative spaces from submitted entries, and we’ll send those lucky fans and autographed copy of Dragonwatch plus a copy of The Caretaker’s Guide to Fablehaven and Fablehaven Book of Imagination.
See the website for the five ways to enter and the official rules:

Thursday, March 16, 2017

SERIES THURSDAY: March by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell


Congressman John Lewis (GA-5) is an American icon, one of the key figures of the civil rights movement. His commitment to justice and nonviolence has taken him from an Alabama sharecropper’s farm to the halls of Congress, from a segregated schoolroom to the 1963 March on Washington, and from receiving beatings from state troopers to receiving the Medal of Freedom from the first African-American president.

Now, to share his remarkable story with new generations, Lewis presents March, a graphic novel trilogy, in collaboration with co-writer Andrew Aydin and New York Times best-selling artist Nate Powell (winner of the Eisner Award and LA Times Book Prize finalist for Swallow Me Whole).

March is a vivid first-hand account of John Lewis’ lifelong struggle for civil and human rights, meditating in the modern age on the distance traveled since the days of Jim Crow and segregation. Rooted in Lewis’ personal story, it also reflects on the highs and lows of the broader civil rights movement.

Book One spans John Lewis’ youth in rural Alabama, his life-changing meeting with Martin Luther King, Jr., the birth of the Nashville Student Movement, and their battle to tear down segregation through nonviolent lunch counter sit-ins, building to a stunning climax on the steps of City Hall.

Many years ago, John Lewis and other student activists drew inspiration from the 1950s comic book "Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story." Now, his own comics bring those days to life for a new audience, testifying to a movement whose echoes will be heard for generations.


Lewis's life reads like a novel, but its real.  This graphic novel provides a powerful account of the beginning of Lewis' involvement with the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.  While I'd read about some of these events, somehow, the first person account brings it to life like no other book I've ever read.  Frankly, some of the things that Lewis and his colleagues faced made me sick.  And never having faced this sort of thing myself, it's hard for me to comprehend such prejudice and the actions that accompany it.  The graphic novel format works particularly well for a story like this one as the illustrations are particularly powerful, especially in black and white.  There are no extras here, no fluff, just a powerful story told in a straightforward manner.


The #1 New York Times bestselling series continues! Congressman John Lewis, an American icon and one of the key figures of the civil rights movement, continues his award-winning graphic novel trilogy with co-writer Andrew Aydin and artist Nate Powell, inspired by a 1950s comic book that helped prepare his own generation to join the struggle. Now, March brings the lessons of history to vivid life for a new generation, urgently relevant for today's world.

After the success of the Nashville sit-in campaign, John Lewis is more committed than ever to changing the world through nonviolence - but as he and his fellow Freedom Riders board a bus into the vicious heart of the deep south, they will be tested like never before.

Faced with beatings, police brutality, imprisonment, arson, and even murder, the young activists of the movement struggle with internal conflicts as well. But their courage will attract the notice of powerful allies, from Martin Luther King, Jr. to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy... and once Lewis is elected chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, this 23-year-old will be thrust into the national spotlight, becoming one of the "Big Six" leaders of the civil rights movement and a central figure in the landmark 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.


I thought the first book in this series was powerful, but this book is even more powerful.  Reading about the Freedom Riders and the things they experienced in standing up for their rights left me stunned.  I knew about some of this, but seeing it in the illustrations just brought it home strongly.  The story is told so well and the contrast between Lewis's presence at Obama's inauguration and the brutality that he faced as a young man with his colleagues is a powerful one.  That doesn't mean I would hand this to young readers however.  I'd say middle school at the youngest.  The story includes insulting prejudicial language and some graphic violence, which couldn't be told any other way since its the truth.  The inclusion of Lewis' original speech made for an interesting comparison between what he planned to say and what he ended up saying.  His original speech was definitely fiery but not necessarily helpful, the few tweaks that were made, made the speech all the more effective.


Welcome to the stunning conclusion of the award-winning and best-selling MARCH trilogy. Congressman John Lewis, an American icon and one of the key figures of the civil rights movement, joins co-writer Andrew Aydin and artist Nate Powell to bring the lessons of history to vivid life for a new generation, urgently relevant for today's world.


After reading this, I can very easily understand why it won so many awards.  This book tells a powerful story, but not necessarily an easy one to read, which is why I wouldn't hand it to anyone under the age of 12-14.  This book takes up where the second book ended, continuing Congressman John Lewis's story of the events leading up to the second Selma to Montgomery March and the passing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  The combination of text and visuals makes this a particularly emotional read.  Even though I was aware of some of what happened during the Civil Rights struggles of the 1960s, seeing it visually represented, and hearing John's story told so well, made it more impactful.  This is a story of courage, and hope, and passion, but it's also a story of fear, and anger and violence.  Some of the awful language and graphic violence is hard to take, especially with the marchers refusing to fight back. But I've long believed and this series has cemented that belief, that it was the nonviolent approach in the face of often brutal violence and hatred, that finally carried the day. An amazing end to an amazing series that documents a time in the United States history that needs to be remembered, especially since the journey continues today.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

WILD & WONDERFUL WEDNESDAY: Mapping my Day by Julie Dillemuth


Flora loves drawing maps and uses them to tell us about her life! Mapping My Day introduces spatial relationships and representation: where things and places are in relation to other things. This book intends to show readers how maps can convey information, inspire children to draw their own maps, and introduce basic map concepts and vocabulary. Spatial thinking is how we use concepts of space for problem solving and is shown to be a key skill in science, technology, engineering, and math. Includes a "Note to Parents and Caregivers" with extra mapping activities.


Julie Dillemuth was mystified by maps until she figured out how to read them and make them, and it was a particularly difficult map that inspired her to become a spatial cognition geographer. She lives with her family and writes children's books in Santa Barbara, California, where the west coast faces south. Visit her at her website:

Check out the fun activity pages on Julie’s website, and at:

Flora loves to draw maps.  It all started the day she buried her treasures in her yard to hide them from her little brother and had to draw a map to find them again.  Flora introduces us to a day in her life.  Each part of her day includes a map.  There's a map of her house, her backyard, the way to school, the playground, and her aunt's dog obstacle course.  It was fun to read about Flora's day and then see it diagrammed on the map.  Each map also introduces one important aspect of maps such as a compass rose, a scale, and landmarks.  At the end, the author has included suggestions for a bunch of activities that parents or teachers can do with children to help them learn about maps.  This is a fun way to introduce children to the concepts related to spatial relationships as well as a great starting point for learning to use and create maps.

INTERVIEW w/ Julie Dillemuth

*What led you from geography to writing children's books?  (Note: I'm a geography major also, but my love of books and reading lead me to become a librarian, but my love of geography seeps through in themes like "Read Around the World")

In graduate school for geography, I was fascinated with research about the ages at which children can understand spatial concepts like maps or imagining things from another perspective. And I also learned that we don’t really teach kids about spatial thinking like we teach them reading and math. Of course, some parents and teachers do — they are really into maps, puzzles, and other spatial activities. But there’s a big variation in kids’ exposure to spatial concepts. About seven years ago, kinda out of the blue, I had an idea for a story for babies that was full of prepositions and other positional language, and it occurred to me that fun, engaging books with spatial thinking themes could help promote these skills. I thought of more story ideas, and then realized I’d better figure out how to write for kids! I joined the immensely supportive Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), and began going to workshops and taking writing courses. The more I got into it, the more I loved writing picture books, and I knew I wanted to make it my career. I’m encouraged that so many people recognize the value of teaching spatial thinking skills to kids, and I’m happy that I can use my expertise in such a unique way.

*What do you enjoy most about maps and mapping?

My first real interest in maps and mapping was as an archaeology major in college. Before that, on road trips when I was little the road atlas was always within reach, but I didn’t pay much attention. In college we mapped our archaeological site with a plane table and alidade (really old school!) as well as with more modern surveying instruments. And I did projects combining historical maps with satellite imagery, which was really exciting. I love old maps of places I know—it’s neat to see what’s different now.

But USING maps to get around was a completely different story. I have a terrible sense of direction, and I used to hate trying to find my way with maps. Without fail I would get lost, and that’s an awful feeling. But that’s actually what led me to study spatial cognition and how people use maps—I wanted to know why I got lost and disoriented so easily, and why I found maps so frustrating. To my surprise, in the course of researching maps and how people interact with them, I got so much better at using maps myself and staying oriented! Now I look forward to exploring new cities, I know how to prepare for a new trip before I get in the car, and I’m confident in using maps.

I think what I appreciate most about maps (and of course there are so many kinds of maps), is that they show you a bigger area than you can see from where you’re standing. And that’s a pretty powerful perspective.

*What does a spatial cognition geographer do?

What’s great about geography (as you know, being a geography major!) is that it’s anything that has to do with the interaction of people and the earth. Geography is everywhere! Cognitive geography is an intersection of psychology and geography (and other disciplines), concerned with how people think, learn, and problem solve with regard to physical or virtual space. So spatial cognition topics include things like finding your way, using maps, spatial abilities, how we talk about space with language, architectural design, virtual and augmented reality, visualizing things that are to too small, too large, or too hidden to see, reading diagrams, and the list goes on. There’s a lot of opportunity for research in these areas, since there’s so much about the mind that we still don’t know or fully understand. The more we discover about spatial cognition, the more we can apply that knowledge to designing things more effectively, whether it’s a navigation system, a building, a virtual environment, etc.—and the better we can teach spatial skills and improve our spatial abilities.


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