## Gifts for the Gifted – The Book of Perfectly Perilous Math

If you’ve got a kid who’s advanced in math and/or a middle school student who loves math, this book just might be an excellent gift. The Book of Perfectly Perilous Math, by Sean Connolly, has 24 “Death-Defying” Challenges for young mathematicians, and the humor with which it’s written is perfect for this age range.

This book is yet another winner that I would have loved to use in my classroom. Posing witty math problems such as, “The Pit and the Pendulum” and “Buried Alive?” The Book of Perfectly Perilous Math categorizes the challenges by your chances of survival. “You Might Make It” problems address Common Core Standards for Grade 5, “Slim to None” are the Grade 6 problems, and “You’re Dead” challenges include Grade 7 standards. If the reader wants some hints, Euclid always has some sage advice to offer, and the solutions are broken down so you can see the type of thinking needed to solve the problem. In addition, there is a “Math Lab” recommended for each problem that gives instructions for creating a hands-on method of seeing the challenge in action. To make the book even more enjoyable, there are amusing illustrations throughout.

Can you avoid death by a giant blade or vexed parents? Will you be able to save Dr. Grog from an untimely demise due to a Brazilian wandering spider’s bite? Only your persistence and mathematical prowess can help you to escape each dangerous situation.

Rather than just handing the book to your gift recipient, I would sit down with them and challenge them to a duel of the wits for each death-defying situation, so you can model the enjoyment of trying to work out a perplexing problem. Don’t worry if you don’t remember middle school math; your opponent will be even more thrilled if they outwit you!

And if you are looking for more entertaining math activities, don’t forget about Math with Bad Drawings by Ben Orlin, one of last year’s recommended gifts!

This week’s addition to the list is going to appeal to those who find coloring to be a great self-care solution. But it quite literally has a bit of a twist. Spiroglyphics, by Thomas Pavitte, is a an activity book full of spirals. Each page initially looks dizzying and completely like the other pages in the book — until you begin to fill in the spirals. Using a felt-tip pen, choose an end and begin coloring in the spiral. Follow it all of the way to the middle, and take a look at your masterpiece. It will still look like a circular labyrinth. But as you start working your way back from the middle to the outside, a magical picture begins to emerge. With seemingly no rhyme or reason, the spirals you’ve colored combine with the negative space to reveal a picture.

I don’t really understand how it works, but the process is satisfying. Pair it with listening to some music or a podcast (in my case, it was, “My Favorite Murder” but I probably wouldn’t recommend that for young children), and you’ve got a relaxing way to spend an hour with a truly fascinating product at the end.

There are several different Spiroglyphics activity books to choose from. The one that I tested out is the “Animals” version. It includes 20 different full size (12×12 in.) perforated pages of animals, which can be torn out. If you like these kinds of challenges, you should take a look at some of the other unique activity books offered by Thomas Pavitte, including Querkles and 1000 Dot-To-Dot books.

It’s hard to suggest an age-range for this gift. No reading is necessary, but it definitely requires concentration and a certain allegiance to coloring inside the lines. While the latter is not something that I regularly preach, straying a lot from the spirals is not going to give you the enjoyment of finally discovering the subject of your picture.

If you’re thinking of buying this for your classroom, the perforation makes it great for you to pass out pages to individual students or keep at a station for fast-finishers. Each one does take some time to complete, so you will need a place to store works-in-progress. Some other ideas would be to give them to students as they listen to a podcast in class, and/or to assign them to research or write about their picture when it eventually appears.

I actually know many adults who enjoy coloring, whether digitally or physically, to help them to relax, so this could also work for grown-ups or even as a white elephant gift.

Whenever possible I like to link to independent toy stores and bookstores. Here is a link to one of our local stores, Nowhere Bookshop, for some Spiroglyphics books you can order through Bookshop.org.

Check back in next Friday for another recommendation!

## The Fantastic Bureau of Imagination

I love the entire concept of the newest book from Brad Montague, The Fantastic Bureau of Imagination. Montague, if you recall, was the creator of the Kid President web series, and also wrote the book, Kid President’s Guide to Being Awesome, with his Kid President brother-in-law, Robby Novak. Brad and his wife, Kristi, have a creative studio called Montague Workshop, and they worked together to create The Fantastic Bureau of Imagination.

Here is the description you will find on your favorite book site:

The recommended reading age is 4-8 years old, but as most educators know, picture books can be used with any age group — even high school. The clever story and illustrations will certainly appeal children and adults. There are also some resources for discussion and creative thinking provided here.

I don’t have to stretch my imagination one bit to picture this story coming to life on the big screen one day. But in the meantime, treat your students and/or families to this sweet book and recruit some more special agents for the cause 🙂

## Dig It! Archaeology for Kids

I was recently given the opportunity to review a nonfiction book by Caitlin Sockin, Dig It! Archaeology for Kids. The title is scheduled for release on April 25, 2023, but you can pre-order it now. The recommended reading age window is 10-16, and I feel like that’s absolutely on target. If you teach or parent children in grades 4 and up who have shown the slightest interest in archaeology, this 100 page book will become an indispensable resource for them. Of course, history, geology, and art play big roles in the study of archaeology, so devotees to those topics will also find many rewards when reading this book.

Writing nonfiction for kids is an especially challenging task as the author needs to develop a format that will deliver facts while maintaining the reader’s engagement throughout the book. Sockin achieves this by perfectly blending photographs and illustrations with fascinating information that will intrigue even well-read amateur archaeologists. Thoughtfully broken into bite-sized pieces, the material in Dig It! combines details of the work of archaeologists with tantalizing examples of some of the most famous archaeological sites discovered around the world. Readers can digest the book in small sections, or devour it from cover to cover in one session. Unlike a dry textbook, Dig It! is equally rich with both information and entertainment.

Although 10-16 year olds may be the ideal readers of Dig It!, I think adults will also find the book absorbing. Though I’m not an expert on archaeology by any means, I approached reading the sample with the idea that a children’s book about the subject would not teach me many new things — and was delighted to find out that I was wrong. For example, I had no idea that there is a Woodhenge in England in addition to Stonehenge, or that the clues that archaeologists look for include artifacts, features, and ecofacts. (By the way, Dig It! does a good job of explaining new terms in layman’s language on the pages the words first appear, and also has an excellent glossary at the end.)

Throughout the book you will find questions that prompt curiosity and QR codes that can be scanned to visit interactive websites related to archaeology. In addition, there are recommended additional resources that can be done in school or at home, such as science experiments, models, and games. I like the sections that suggest career options for people interested in archaeology and outline why archaeology is important so that readers can envision how something they might currently view as a hobby can actually transform into a meaningful career for them.

How do you get children to enthusiastically read nonfiction books about dusty relics of the past? Ask Caitlin Sockin, because in Dig It! she has cracked the code.

Teachers: Get the free educational guide, created by Deborah Lee Rose, for Dig It! here!

## Coming Up in January, 2023!

I’ve just updated my January/Winter Holidays Wakelet — which means that there are a few more new links you can find and some outdated ones that I’ve deleted. It includes resources for MLK Day, Lunar New Year, and Holocaust Remembrance Day. The Holocaust Remembrance Day is a new column that I just added. One of the resources I added to that column is a picture book called, Bartali’s Bicycle. This was one of the Texas Bluebonnet Books for which I had the opportunity to write curriculum for a local school district, and it really made an impression on me when I read it. It is the true story of the heroic Italian cyclist named Gino Bartali, who secretly saved countless lives during World War II. Students will be amazed by his daring and innovation, and you can find a link to a discussion guide on the author’s website.

Also, just a reminder that I’m scheduled to present at TCEA in San Antonio with Amy Chandler (Assistant Director of Gifted and Talented in North East Independent School District) on January 30th, 2023, on Digital Differentiation. We’d love to see you in person!