Readers may be on the fence as to whether or not to wish for a teacher like Ms. Spell, but regardless, this may boost...

MS. SPELL

Step aside Ms. Frizzle. The pink-haired Ms. Spell has spelling to teach, and unlike her science-teaching peer, her lessons aren’t particularly calm or disaster-free.

During a brief review before a surprise spelling test, Ms. Spell asks various students to spell some common problem words—“their,” “were,” “two”—which they spell incorrectly. It’s a teaching opportunity, of course, and she follows up with the students by asking them to correctly use the words in sentences, which her magic wand then makes manifest: “A giant chocolate cake is sitting over THERE!” results in an enormous pastry; “These TWO boys are crazy flying monkeys with laser beams shooting out their eyes” yields a particularly exciting transformation. The principal and the word “went” put paid to the magical nonsense, but hopefully the lessons learned will stick with the students, and readers too: the differences among the homophones, the “I before E” rule, and a bit about contractions and silent letters. Long’s digital illustrations add to the zaniness of the classroom situation, especially those monkeys. The endpapers add to the lesson with some commonly misspelled words, steps for studying, memory aids, and a few rules.

Readers may be on the fence as to whether or not to wish for a teacher like Ms. Spell, but regardless, this may boost t-h-e-i-r spelling grades. (Picture book. 7-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8234-3292-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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This may spark a few imaginations, but its lack of directions and the difficulty level of most of the projects—not to...

WHAT CAN YOU DO WITH ONLY ONE SHOE?

REUSE, RECYCLE, REINVENT

Readers learn how to “Reuse, Recycle, Reinvent” what some might call trash into treasures.  

Rhyming poems each introduce a single way to reuse/reinvent something: A toilet becomes a planter, the titular shoe morphs into a birdhouse, a (very large, nonstandard) light bulb houses a fish, and favorite jeans that are holey? They become a new purse. The most creative has to be a table supported by a pitchfork: “If you’re wanting to picnic on uneven ground, / where your table’s unstable or up on a mound, / stop and think! Be creative! The answer’s around.” While cans, wood and wire are both easily found and transformed into musical instruments, not all these projects use such common materials or are as simple to complete: Half of a boat turns into a covered bench, a car becomes a bed, and a grocery cart transforms into a chair. And although it’s neat to see a farmer’s new watering trough (an enormous tire) and a community’s new playground (an old ambulance anchors it), these are not projects that are likely to fire readers up to do similar things. Cartoon spot illustrations share space with photographs of the new inventions, and both are needed to make sense of the poems.

This may spark a few imaginations, but its lack of directions and the difficulty level of most of the projects—not to mention its failure to impart reasons for reducing, reusing and recycling—make this one to skip. (Poetry. 7-10)

Pub Date: July 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-55451-642-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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If this book were a pizza, young readers would gobble down every slice—and demand more for dessert.

IF

A MIND-BENDING NEW WAY OF LOOKING AT BIG IDEAS AND NUMBERS

Continuing his exploration of the mind-expanding possibilities of scale modeling, Smith extends the premise of If America Were a Village (2009) to encompass life, time and the universe.

Following a well-taken note that his comparisons are mostly approximations, the author proposes thinking of Earth’s life span as a month, all wealth as 100 coins and 14 similar transformations designed to make incomprehensibly huge numbers or measurements at least theoretically graspable. The trick doesn’t always work (“If the Milky Way galaxy were shrunk to the size of a dinner plate...,” the visible universe “would be about the size of Belgium”), but it does offer readers a chance to think of time, for instance, in terms of days or minutes instead of millions of years. Better yet, Adams’ painted infographics offer literal visualizations of the planets as balls of different sizes, of where inventions from fire to smartphones would lie relative to one another along a ruler or tape measure, and how many “slices” of our life are consumed in sleeping—if our life were a pizza. In a closing note addressed to adults, the author suggests further scaling and numeracy-building exercises.

If this book were a pizza, young readers would gobble down every slice—and demand more for dessert. (Informational picture book. 7-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-894786-34-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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