Category Archives: Books

Gifts for the Gifted – Sleuth and Solve

 A few years ago, I thought I would help out the parents of my gifted and talented students by writing about some games, toys, or books that I thought might make good purchases during the holiday season.  I called the series of posts, “Gifts for the Gifted,” and I have continued to do it annually on every Friday in November and December.  These gifts are suggestions for any child – not just those who qualify for a GT program. Sometimes I receive a free product for review, but I am not paid for these posts, and I never recommend a product that I wouldn’t buy for my own child.  For past “Gifts for the Gifted” posts, you can visit this page. I also have a Pinterest Board of Games and Toys for Gifted Students. You may notice that I missed 2019, but I’m making up for it this year with a post every Thursday in November and December up until Christmas Eve.

If you know children who love riddles, like the ones on TED Ed, and are about 8 years and up, you might want to consider getting them one of the Sleuth and Solve books (there are two) by Anna Gallo and Victor Escandell. Each book has more than 20 short riddles with fun illustrations and the answer behind a card you can fold down. I have only previewed the one with the black cover (not the History one), so I can’t describe both, but I imagine their format is similar.

The riddles use icons to communicate to the reader whether or not they can be solved using logic or imagination, and there are stars to indicate their difficulty levels (six stars being the most difficult). Some of the riddles are familiar, such as “Crossing the River,” while others are definitely new to me. One feature that I really like is that the book describes how it can be played as a game, encouraging families (or groups in class) to keep track of the cases they solve and how many points they earn for each solution based on the difficulty level. As I mentioned in last week’s gift post, you can really maximize the impact of any gift if you, the giver, play along with the recipient. And, don’t assume you will have to “play dumb.” Some of these riddles are quite diabolical.

I am giving you a link to these books from one of our new local bookstores, Nowhere Bookshop. The store is owned by one of my favorite authors, Jenny Lawson, also known as “The Bloggess.” Unfortunately, their grand opening coincided with the pandemic, so they have only been able to operate virtually. I’d love for you to support them so they will be able to survive and one day open their doors. If you prefer to support another independent bookstore, you can find some on Bookshop.org.

For those who love mysteries and riddles, here is a link to a past recommendation from this series, Invisible Ink books.

Bookmarks: Celebrating Black Voices

As some of you know, I have committed to publishing one post a week dedicated to anti-racism. I want to thank my friend, Callan, for bringing my attention to this week’s resource when she shared it on Facebook. Bookmarks: Celebrating Black Voices is produced by Netflix. The series of short videos (most of them less than 10 minutes) features Black celebrities reading children’s books by Black authors. According to the site, the twelve books “featured in the series were chosen using a social justice education framework that focused on concepts of Identity, Respect, Justice, and Action.”

Marley Dias, a 15 year old young woman who founded #1000BlackGirlBooks, introduces each segment’s guest reader, and has her own episode reading We March by Shane Evans. Marley is an author, herself, having penned the book, Marley Dias Gets It Done, and So Can You, when she was just 13 years old.

As I watched Anti-Racist Baby being read aloud by Kendrick Sampson and The Day You Begin narrated by Jacqueline Woodson (who is also the author of the book), I felt a sense of peace and inspiration. Instead of the anger I have been feeling about recent injustices, I felt motivated to find more ways to make change through kindness and understanding. At the end of her narration, Woodson asks, “What makes you so fabulously different from everyone else you meet?” and it was as though she had gently wrapped a warm blanket around my heart.

Image by Miroslava Chrienova from Pixabay

Along with the videos on the site, you can find book recommendations for different age groups, as well as suggestions for activities and other resources.

Here are my previous anti-racism posts in case you have missed them:

Also, for more amazing anti-racism resources, check out the Live Binder curated by Joy Kirr.

Stamped Digital Reader’s Notebook

UPDATE 7/23/20 – Here is a link to a guide for Stamped.  Also, find out more about author Jason Reynolds in this blog post.

For this week’s post dedicated to sharing anti-racist resources, I am giving you the link to a digital Reader’s Notebook that was tweeted out by Pernille Ripp (@PernilleRipp) today.  This is a Google Slides template created by Jennifer LeBrun to accompany the book, Stamped, co-authored by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi. Stamped is based on Kendi’s book, Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, which Reynolds and Kendi “re-mixed” to create a book with the same information for younger audiences.  If you haven’t had a chance to read Stamped, yet, you may want to try purchasing it from one of these independent, black-owned, bookstores. It is extremely readable, and offers pretty much all of the information about racism that history textbooks completely ignore or wrongly represent to intentionally mislead readers.  The Google Slides template is extremely thorough, and the book along with this notebook and some well-orchestrated discussions would make a fine addition to any middle to high school curriculum.

stamped

 

This post is part of a weekly Black Lives Matter series that I have vowed to include on this blog.  Here are the previous posts:

Also, for more amazing anti-racism resources, check out the Live Binder curated by Joy Kirr.

Girls Garage

I remember when we moved into our first house together, and my husband casually mentioned something about checking the pilot light on our heater.  For some reason, it had gone out, and I was scared to death he didn’t know what he was doing when he brought an open flame near the decrepit appliance sitting in our garage.  Fortunately, we didn’t blow up.  Sadly for him, that was not the end of my ignorance when it comes to home maintenance.

I’ve tried to make up for what I didn’t learn during my childhood – back when anything to do with tools was considered “the man’s job.”  Now it seems like I’m taking apart appliances, drilling something, or sawing almost every week and I play the ignorance card only when it’s a task that seems a bit gross (like changing out a toilet) or potentially life threatening (like fixing the roof).   In the last few years, I’ve attempted to get my daughter involved in these projects, but it hit me early this summer that she hasn’t learned nearly enough before she leaves for college.  I started hyperventilating as I began a mental list of all of the things she needs to has to know before August.

And then the Girls Garage book came out.

Girls Garage is a nonprofit organization that runs a physical space in California where girls learn to build.  Many of their projects are available here to download.  The new hardcover book includes twelve projects that range from building your own toolbox to erecting a stud-framed doghouse.

Also included in the book are simple descriptions of tools, as well as how-to lessons on measurement and handy life skills – like relighting a pilot light.  This would have been a super book for me to receive as a gift when I graduated, or even two years ago when I began to work in a maker space that was carpentry heaven.

To be honest, I’m kind of torn on whether or not I’m going to give this book to my daughter or just keep it for myself.  A family friend gave her a tool set for Christmas, so it does seem like a good gift to add to her pile of  Destination Dorm items.  I’m sure I can muddle along like I always have.  I mean, I already know most of the contents, like how to patch a hole in the wall (p. 226).

Just use toothpaste, right?

Girl with Hammer
Image by Виктория Бородинова from Pixabay

 

Dear Data

This is another example of one of the great internet wormholes that I fall into when I read Twitter.  I was fascinated by a Tweet from Nick Sousanis (@nsousanis), which led me to an amazing book so I could interpret his Tweet, which led me back to the work of his students and a bazillion ways remote learners around the world could have fun with his assignment or other permutations of it.

Let’s start with the book.  Dear Data began as a pen pal project between two information designers on different continents.  As they explain on their website, “Each week, and for a year, we collected and measured a particular type of data about our lives, used this data to make a drawing on a postcard-sized sheet of paper, and then dropped the postcard in an English ‘postbox’ (Stefanie) or an American ‘mailbox’ (Giorgia)!”

Each postcard consists of their data and the explanation of its depiction.  The women chose all sorts of topics to record, such as a week of laughter or a week of complaints.  Though they would be collecting data for the same topic during that particular week, their pictograms would be dramatically different.

They learned a lot from this year-long project, which resulted in a book, a postcard kit, and a journal.  As Giorgia and Stefanie explain in this video, “We learned to pay attention, to live in the present much more, to be more aware of our surroundings, and empower behaviors with new lenses.

So, back to Nick Sousanis, who Tweeted that his visual communications students had come up with their own “Dear Data” projects, and gave examples of some of the results in his Tweet.  I asked Nick if I could share these on this blog and he graciously agreed. (You can click on each picture to enlarge.)

I see all kinds of potential for this with students.  For example, one of the Depth and Complexity icons is “Trends,” and it would be interesting to ask students to analyze one of these postcards, and determine what trends they see.  Using, “See, Think, Wonder” would be a great start. In addition, as Nick found with his class, assigning students to develop their own data sets can invite self-reflection and creativity.

During these unique times, when data has become a fixation for much of the world, students can also examine its importance and reliability.  As the women who completed this ambitious project say in their video, “Finally we both realize that data is the beginning of the story, not the end, and should be seen as a starting point for questioning and understanding the world around us instead of seeing it as the definitive answer to all of our questions.”

(For some other fun ideas for looking at data, check out my posts on Slow Reveal Graphs and What’s Going On in This Graph?)

Makey Makey Book Tasting

So I’m not saying that I decided to follow Barb Seaton (@barb_seaton) because she has a bulldog in her profile picture – but it is definitely evidence that we are kindred spirits.

Since I know there are many librarians who follow this blog, I wanted to share Barb’s recent tweet about a Makey Makey Book Tasting project that she did.

The link to Barb’s Instructables post gives great directions on how you can use Scratch, pressure switches, and a Makey Makey to create an interactive display of book choices for students.

There are many potential students-centered uses for this idea, such as using student-created book blurbs or designing containers for the pressure switches and wires.  Scratch has made it extremely easy in the last couple of years to program for use with Makey Makey, and Barb has a link to a video to help you out in her Instructables post.

Here are some of my other posts on Makey Makey in case you are not familiar with this tool.  And here is a list of my posts on using Scratch and Scratch Jr.  Also, if you don’t follow her already, @gravescolleen is the Queen of Makey Makey projects.  She wrote 20 Makey Makey Projects for the Evil Genius, and works for Makey Makey creating content.