Sunday, February 9, 2020

STEAM Sunday: Monsters Love Colors

When I was a joint MakerSpace teacher + librarian, I loved using books as my jumping off points for MakerSpace lessons. Books are my comfort zone, and reading a book aloud to start a lesson is a great way to introduce a concept and get everyone on topic. These "lessons" don't have to be done for an entire classroom, and don't even have to be done the way I outline them here, but I thought it would be something fun to share.

Piggybacking off the last STEAM Sunday: Mix It Up! is another color mixing lesson with Monsters Love Colors by Mike Austin. I used this with Early Childhood students, ages 3-6, because it's a bit sillier and younger than Mix It Up! I'm sure it could be adapted to be used with older students, but since Mix It Up! worked so well with older kids, I didn't worry about aging this title up.


Monsters Love Colors is a fun, silly way to incorporate a little movement ("Mix, dance, and wiggle!") into a read-aloud before you get your lesson started. Since we had done the Mix It Up! lesson with colored water the week before, students already knew color mixing basics. That's just one reason I loved that this title was more fun - they had a good time wiggling and sharing their knowledge, and it was also an engaging refresher course.

For this hands on activity, there was a plate of paint at each work station: red, blue, and yellow. I originally did this lesson in Fall, so the challenge was to take those three colors and paint "Five Little Pumpkins" (which we read in library that week - tying it all together!). This meant they had to make orange and green. It was a lot of fun to see students draw their own pumpkins and then color them in. 

There are a lot of challenges you can do with color mixing that don't depend on a season, so have fun thinking up things students can draw that require purple, orange, and green paint.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Dear Universe by Florence Gonsalves

Thanks to KidLitExchange and Little Brown Young Readers for sharing Dear Universe by Florence Gonsalves. This book publishes on 5/12/2020, and I love that it’s going to come out right around graduation season, since finishing high school is such a poignant plot in this book.


Chamomile is counting down the days to prom - and the window for her boyfriend to ask her is dwindling. She tries not to think about it too much, and it’s not hard, because all her friends are looking forward to the senior volunteer trip to Nicaragua. The trip isn’t really on Cham’s radar, because she hasn’t finished her college admissions essay, which is a requirement to go. Cham isn’t even sure she’ll go to college in the fall - she’s too worried about her dad, whose disease is progressing quicker than anyone thought it would.

Cham is determined to keep her home life separate from her school world. She’s constantly pleading with the universe to help her pull it off, but she knows she can’t keep it up forever.

This story makes the reader incredibly invested in Cham’s life - or lives, as she’d prefer to have it. Some of the sentences made me gasp because they capture being seventeen so perfectly - on the brink of a huge life transition, with the world ready for you, while also fearing what might come next.


Getting real for a minute: Sometimes I feel jaded when I read YA books because the romance is so hopeful and pure, it makes me roll my eyes - even though I remember that’s how it was. Or the teens have all the talent in the world if they just stand up to their parents to go after their dreams - but some real kids don’t have that, they’re just average and can’t recognize any outstanding skills in themselves. This book, on the other hand, is the most REAL YA book I’ve read in awhile, that reminds me of my (eons ago) high school self and my friends, and the teens I recently got to know at the library. There’s a bit of romance, but it’s not all happy. There’s a lot of struggle, but it’s real. There’s a lot of true uncertainty and emotion expressed honestly. And there is so much hopefulness and fear that you’ll remember being seventeen in the best way possible.

Friday, January 31, 2020

Bookish Gifts: Mix It Up!

I always try to give a book to young kids, and I love finding the perfect toy or activity to go with the book to show children that reading is fun. I started with my nephew when he was little, and I still have so much fun picking a book that's just right for the child (because you always get the book first!) and then finding something that goes perfectly with the story.

Writing the last STEAM Sunday post about Mix It Up! reminded me of bookish gifts I gave out soon after leading these lessons in MakerSpace. The children loved the interactive story, and when my son and I were invited to birthday parties of a few of these students, I knew I wanted to help them remember that fun and have it at home (without creating a lot of prep and a crazy mess for parents)!


I paired this book with watercolor paper and a palette of basic colors so kids could mix it up on their own. It's a fun way to tie the interactive book to an activity they can do over and over again (and it's just a perk that they'd remember my class lesson, too!).

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

This Is My Brain in Love by I. W. Gregorio

Thanks to KidLitExchange and Little Brown Young Readers  for sharing This Is My Brain in Love by I.W. Gregorio. This book will be released April 14, 2020, so get excited! This is one you won't want to miss.


Jocelyn Wu has always helped out in A-Plus Chinese Garden, her family's restaurant. She and her little brother help cook, serve, clean up, roll silverware, and more - all while juggling their schoolwork and social life. Well, at least now Jos has a social life. It took her awhile to make friends in her small, homogeneous town, but now she has a best friend, Priya, and they spend all their free time making movies. When news breaks that the family's business is failing, Jos begs her dad to let her help revive the restaurant. She's determined to build a social media presence and bring in more customers. Her dad grudgingly agrees, and even lets Jos hire an intern.

Enter Will, a journalist-in-the-making who needs a summer job. He doesn't know what to expect, but he's good at coding, so Jos immediately hires him for the restaurant. Will has to push past his anxiety to help the business, but he doesn't mind, because he's finding he likes Jos as more than just a coworker. The more they work together, the more Will notices that Jos seems to have some mental hindrances. He tactfully tries to express his concerns, but even though she knows something is wrong, too, Jocelyn isn't receptive. She can't afford to admit defeat on any front - not with her family's livelihood and her budding social life at stake.

This Is My Brain in Love is told in two distinct voices. Will and Jocelyn are relatable and honest, and the way they talk about mental health is needed. The storylines are interesting and engaging while still being realistic - there aren't unrealistically high stakes or a glossed-over happy ending. But mental health is handled in a way where readers will understand the story and develop empathy, or they will see themselves in the characters and know what steps can be taken to get help - and that it's ok to want and need that help. 

I.W. Gregorio is a founding member of We Need Diverse Books and has previously published None of the Above, which is another must-read!

Sunday, January 26, 2020

STEAM Sunday: Mix It Up!

When I was a joint MakerSpace teacher + librarian, I loved using books as my jumping off points for MakerSpace lessons. Books are my comfort zone, and reading a book aloud to start a lesson is a great way to introduce a concept and get everyone on topic. These "lessons" don't have to be done for an entire classroom, and don't even have to be done the way I outline them here, but I thought it would be something fun to share.


Herve Tullet makes amazing interactive books that I love reading aloud in storytimes and library classes, and I really enjoyed using Mix It Up! in MakerSpace last year. Color mixing is a great way to kick off art lessons, and if your supplies are limited, it's also a great way to show students they can make their "limited" colors go a lot further!

After experiencing the book together, I got out colored ice cubes. In clear cups, I had students tell me which colors to mix together, and guess which color they would melt together to make. You can also quiz them by asking "What cubes do I need to pick to make orange?"


For individual work, we had three cups of water at each work station, and three empty cups. I put drops of food coloring in each water cup - red, blue, and yellow. Students used eyedroppers to pull colored water and mix it into the empty cups. They had sturdy watercolor paper they could drip water on to make beautiful abstract works of art.


The idea, of course, was for them to make their own hues of orange, purple, and green, but the younger students really enjoyed making their own brand new colors. A way to keep this as a creative learning experience is to have them name their new colors and explain how they made it, as best they could. For example: "I made orablue, by mixing a little bit of red, a little bit of yellow, and even more blue."

I used this lesson for Early Childhood, Lower Elementary, and Upper Elementary students. There was a bit of a mess with all age groups, but I think there's a good way to use this with younger children and not worry about the mess. For Toddlers, you can put paint in ziploc bags and let them literally mix it up! Put red paint in the right side of the bag, blue paint on the left side, place the bag flat on a table, and let the kids smush the color together! Same with blue and yellow, and red and yellow.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

A Girl, A Raccoon, and the Midnight Moon by Karen Romano Young, illustrated by Jessixa Bagley

Happy Book Birthday to A Girl, A Raccoon, and the Midnight Moon by Karen Romano Young, illustrated by Jessixa Bagley! Special thanks to Chronicle Kids Books for sending me a copy! Don't worry - you can get your magic little paws on a copy today.


Pearl was born in the library, and has grown up in the same branch. It's where she goes after school, where her mom works, and where all her (adult, librarian) friends are. When Pearl discovers the library's statue of Edna St. Vincent Millay has been beheaded, she lets out a scream that sets off a chain of events. Some are good, like a potential new friend who's actually Pearl's age. Some are bad (besides the beheading itself), like the library possibly being shut down due to budget restrictions.

Pearl knows the library is worth saving, even if the adults who work there don't think it's possible. She has passion for books and the building itself, and she if she gets a little help from some magical raccoons, Pearl thinks she can make a difference.

This is a great book for anyone (of any age!) who loves adventure and fighting for what they believe in. Especially if they believe in books and libraries!


The writing style is very innovative, and was fun to see in a middle grade book! Informative footnotes, interesting and funny sidebars, and gorgeous illustrations. The magical realism was so perfectly done, I'm pretty sure I believe that what was presented (no spoilers!) is real. Read it for yourself and let me know what you think about that hint of magic.