Ramblings · Themed Books

Nonfiction Picture Books for Kids

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Last year, I attended an SCBWI nonfiction conference and learned quite a bit about writing nonfiction books for children.

This year, I’m excited for the opportunity to attend another SCBWI Adventures in Nonfiction conference featuring Senior Editor Carolyn Yoder and authors Jacqueline Briggs Martin and Miranda Paul.

Adventures in Nonfiction Part 2

You can find more information about the upcoming nonfiction conference on the SCBWI Iowa website here. Registration is now open for it!

Just like I did last year, I decided to read some books written by the authors who will be presenting at the conference. Even though Jacqueline Briggs Martin and Miranda Paul have published many books, these are the books I was able to check out from my local library.

Nonfiction Books by Jacqueline Briggs Martin

Jacqueline Briggs Martin will be discussing picture book biographies at the conference. Here are some of the nonfiction picture books written by her that I was able to find at my local library.

Alice Waters and the Trip to Delicious (Readers to Eaters, 2014)

This is a picture book biography about Alice Waters who was on a mission to make delicious meals to share with others using fresh foods. She started Chez Panisse, had the opportunity to cook for a U.S. president, won the James Beard Award for “Outstanding Chef of the Year”, started the Edible Schoolyard Project, and wants others to learn about growing fresh food for themselves.

Chef Roy Choi and the Street Food Remix (Readers to Eaters, 2017)

This is a picture book biography about Chef Roy Choi who calls himself a “street cook”. Roy Choi was born in Korea but has spent most of his life in Los Angeles. Searching for his path in life wasn’t easy for him, but he finally discovered his passion and joy by cooking for others out of a truck. His Korean barbecue in a taco was a success! He started Kogi, opened cafes, and opened a soulful fast food restaurant called Locol. He wants to show others the deliciousness of cooking with love.

Creekfinding: A True Story (University of Minnesota Press, 2017)

This is a true story about a man named Michael Osterholm who was on a mission to find a creek that had been covered with fields in Iowa. Through much work, dedication, and time, he was finally able to restore the creek. Now, instead of a field, the creek is flowing and filled with lots of wildlife.

I found it interesting that this true story took place less than an hour away from where my family once lived.

Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table (Readers to Eaters, 2013)

This is a picture book biography about Will Allen who went from playing professional basketaball in Belgium to becoming a farmer in the middle of the city of Milwaukee. He started Growing Power farm, and he now grows many fruits and vegetables, raises red wigglers, and shows others how they can farm in cities. Thousands of people each year continue to visit his farm in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to “tour the greenhouses, watch goats, snack on greens, and go home planning to start a farm on a city lot, rooftop, or abandoned highway.”

This was another book that I found interesting due to the location of the story because I lived in southeast Wisconsin for quite a few years and was just in that area again recently.

Snowflake Bentley (Houghton Mifflin Company, 1998)

This picture book biography is about photographer Wilson Bentley (who became known as “Snowflake Bentley”) who lived from 1865 to 1931. He was intrigued by snowflakes and wanted to find a way to capture their beauty to share with others. His “parents spent their savings and bought the camera” Wilson Bentley wanted in order for him to pursue his dreams. Through a lot of patience, dedication, and creativity, Wilson Bentley discovered ways to capture the beauty of snowflakes on film. He enjoyed showing others his photographs and even had a book published with his snowflake photos.

The book states: “By 1926 he had spent $15,000 on his work and received $4,000 from the sale of photographs and slides.” That seemed like a lot of money for 1926, so my daughters and I Googled what that would be equivalent to in 2019 dollars. According to this inflation calculator, $15,000 would be equivalent to $217,070.34 and $4,000 would be equivalent to $57,885.42.

My family also watched this Youtube video after reading Snowflake Bentley to see some of Wilson Bentley’s beautiful snowflake photographs. It is quite amazing what he was able to do with the technology of that time!

The Chiru of High Tibet (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2010

This is a true story about trying to save the chiru species. Chiru are animals that “look like antelope” and live in “the northern plains of Tibet”. They had once been very plentiful in that area but their population was significantly depleted when people started killing them to make shawls. For many years, no one knew where the chiru birthing ground was located. A man named George Schaller and four mountain climbing men took the initiative and (more than) one journey to find the location and ask the Chinese government to protect that land from hunters.

Nonfiction and Informational Fiction Books by Miranda Paul

Miranda Paul will be talking about creative nonfiction and informational fiction picture books at the upcoming conference. Here are the nonfiction and informational fiction picture books by her that I was able to find at my local library.

Adventures to School: Real-Life Journeys of Students from Around the World (Little Bee Books, 2018)

This nonfiction picture book written with Baptiste Paul describes the journeys children from thirteen different nations must take in order to get to school along with additional information about each of the nations.

It’s amazing to read what some of these children must endure in order to get to school. My daughters are truly blessed to be able to simply walk down the stairs to start school each morning.

Are We Pears Yet? (Roaring Brook Press, 2017)

This is an informational fiction picture book. Two pear seeds perform a play about the life cycle of pear seeds. The young pear seed is eager to become a pear but learns it first needs soil, rain, sun, and long naps (more than 2 years of naps) to grow into trees at which point the pear seeds need a costume change. Pears finally appear on the trees and an x-ray reveals two pear seeds within one of the pears. Extra facts about pears are given at the end of the book.

Nine Months Before a Baby is Born (Holiday House, 2019)

This picture book told in a poetic style goes through the process of a baby forming and growing before birth. Backmatter offers more information about the different stages of development.

One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia (Millbrook Press, 2015)

This nonfiction picture book tells the story of how a young woman named Isatou Ceesay took the iniative to make Njau, Gambia beautiful again after plastic bags had accumulated in the area causing unwanted water, mosquitoes, disease, and dying goats. With help from some other women, the bags were cleaned and transformed into beautiful hand-crocheted purses, which could be sold to others.

Water is Water: A Book About the Water Cycle (Roaring Brook Press, 2015)

I found this book in the fiction section at my library, but it is informational since it discusses the water cycle in poetic form. The backmatter found at the end of the book offers additional information about water including words like evaporation, condensation, precipitation, seepage, and more.

Fun Fiction Picture Books by Miranda Paul

Here are the some fun fiction picture books written by Miranda Paul that I found at my local library.

10 Little Ninjas (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2016)

Told in the same fashion as “10 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed”, this picture book has 10 little ninjas, 9 tiny astronauts, 8 rapid racers, 7 prowling tigers, 6 rowdy cowboys, 5 hungry reef sharks, 4 thirsty firefighters, 3 quiet pirates, 2 sleepy dragons, 1 little cuddlebug, and finally 10 sleeping kids.

The Great Pasta Escape (Little Bee Books, 2017)

This fiction picture book filled with humor and pasta puns is about noodles in a factory that were content following the rules until they discovered they were made to be eaten. After examining all of the evidence and confirming this was true, they strategized an escape plan together.

Mia Moves Out (Alfred A. Knopf, 2018)

Mia decides the obvious solution to her brother taking over her room is to move out. So, begins her journey of finding a new place to stay. The bathroom, basement, and cupboard prove to be bad choices. She finally finds a place she likes but realizes it’s missing something (really someone – her brother). That’s when she comes up with the idea of creating a fort for her and her brother to enjoy together outside.

Trainbots (Little Bee Books, 2016)

This rhyming picture book is about trainbots becoming hero-bots to get rid of the evil badbots, so they can deliver toybots to kidbots. How a-bot that description?

Reading all of these books makes me really excited for the upcoming SCBWI Adventures in Nonfiction Conference. Which book is your favorite?

Ramblings · Writing Appearances

How to Make Math Memorization Fun

If you are looking for a resource filled with advice on how to teach reading, writing, and math for preschool through high school, make sure to download From ABCs to SATs: The 3 Rs and Everything in Between. It is FREE!

One of my writings entitled Math Memorization Fun was published in this supplement. This particular article discusses 14 different “math-tastic” activities to make memorizing math facts fun using supplies you probably already have at home.

Get Your Copy of The Old Schoolhouse's From ABCs to SATs supplement

Click here for tips on how to make math worksheets fun.

You may recognize the racing cars tip from a post I had published on Hands On As We Grow entitled Simple Number Line Car Race to Teach Math.

Race Car Math

A separate section in the article includes a couple of ways to use cards to teach simple math skills. Recently, I was visiting family and learned a math card game called 99 (from an 8 year old), which wasn’t included within this article.

To play the game, each player is dealt seven cards (which he or she can look at but not show others). The remaining cards are placed in a stack face down in the middle of the players.

The whole point of the game is to add (and subtract) the numbers on the cards from each player’s hand as they are laid face up in the middle. Whichever player lays the card to get exactly 99 wins the game. Each of the numbered cards are worth the number they have on them, the Aces are each worth 1, and the Jacks, Queens, and Kings are each worth 10.

The player to the left of the dealer lays one of their cards face up next to the stack of cards in the middle. As players lay the cards, they add the points together. For example, if player one lays a 6, the total is 6. Then player two lays a Queen, the total is now 16 (6 +10). Player three lays a King, the total is now 26 (16 + 10). The only time the numbers are not added is when a 10 is laid. If a 10 is laid, then players must subtract 10 points from the total score.

Each time a player lays a card, they must draw a new card so they always have 7 cards in their hand. Play continues until one player reaches exactly 99 with a card he or she lays.

I think the kids have so much fun playing it that they don’t even realize they are practicing adding and subtracting!

Do you have any fun tips on how to practice math?


Journals · Ramblings

Adventure Writing Prompt Journal Proof Has Arrived

The Adventure Writing Prompt Journal proof has arrived!

I ended up changing quite a bit of the interior design since providing a sneak peek of the adventure writing prompt journal, and I am really excited how the interior turned out (even though there are some things I will update before publishing).

I’m not completely satisfied with the front cover because of the shadow from one of the suitcases. (Of course the actual cover won’t say “Not for Resale” on it.)

Adventure Writing Prompt Journal Sneak Peek

I like the back cover, though. I may try to figure out a way to switch the front and back cover suitcases before publishing it. Definitely something I’ll have to experiment with.

Adventure Writing Prompt Journal Sneak Peek

The page for the journal owner’s name remained the same. There is a Table of Contents to easily find each of the 52 adventures.

Adventure Writing Prompt Journal Sneak Peek

There is a letter to the adventure writer that includes a total of 11 writing tips. I did find a few things on these pages that I am going to change before officially publishing.

Each of the 52 pictures for the writing prompts is on a full page.

Adventure Writing Prompt Journal Sneak Peek

Each of the 52 writing prompts has two pages for the writing prompt and lines to write.

A map watermark is on all of the pages that don’t include a picture. I was concerned the watermark was going to be too distracting, but it is subtle enough that I don’t think it is. I’m really glad I was able to figure out how to include it on the pages.

Adventure Writing Prompt Journal Sneak Peek

The back has a section called “Riveting Words to Use” for vocabulary words.

Adventure Writing Prompt Journal Sneak Peek

There’s also a section for the journal writer to write a little bit about his or herself.

Adventure Writing Prompt Journal Sneak Peek

I need to make some changes and reupload the files before The Adventure Writing Prompt Journal can be published. I hope to have it published in the near future.

What is your favorite adventure?


Crafts and Projects · Jobs of a Preschooler · Ramblings

Hands-On Science: Raising Butterflies

(This post contains affiliate links, which means I may make a small commission at no extra charge to you if you click on a link and make a purchase. Thank you!)

A couple of months ago I mentioned how it can be fun to find butterflies and moths while out on a walk.

Today, I thought it would be fun to talk about a hands-on experience to teach your “little scientists” more about caterpillars and butterflies. Raising your own butterflies!

Jobs of a Preschooler- I'm a scientist...

I have used caterpillars purchased from Insect Lore twice now, and we have had positive results both times. (You can find more information about Insect Lore here if you are interested.)

If you do order through Insect Lore, you will receive a butterfly net (which you can use multiple times), a voucher code for caterpillars, and instructions. Once the caterpillars are ordered, they are shipped in the mail to your location. There may be an additional charge to receive the caterpillars.

The caterpillars arrive in a small cup with “food” on the bottom. They stay inside of the cup, eating and growing. Eventually, they form a chrysalis (moths form cocoons) on the top of the cup on an insert. Once all the caterpillars have turned into chrysalises (also known as chrysalides), you must carefully remove the insert and secure it to the top of the butterfly net with a safety pin.

Then, you wait until the painted lady butterflies emerge. Here you can see the insert hanging on the top of the net with some of the butterflies emerging.

butterflies emerging from chrysalis

Here is another picture taken after some of the butterflies have emerged.

butterflies emerging from chrysalis

The second time we did this, the butterflies laid (super tiny) eggs, and we had a bunch of teeny tiny caterpillars shortly after. Although this isn’t a great picture, all of those little lines are teeny tiny caterpillars.

teeny weeny caterpillars

When we were releasing the butterflies, one of them landed on my daughter’s finger.

painted lady butterfly

If interested, ask your local nature center if they offer some kind of a Monarch Butterfly program. You may be able to help tag butterflies, release butterflies, and possibly even take home a caterpillar to raise.

I have talked to some people who have raised monarch caterpillars and then released them as adults with tags. One book my daughters and I have enjoyed looking through that talks about raising monarchs is How to Raise Monarch Butterflies: A Step-by-Step Guide for Kids by Carol Pasternak.

More information about tagging monarch butterflies can also be found on Monarch Watch here.

I took the picture below at a monarch butterfly program my daughters and I attended. I enjoyed watching the caterpillars munching away at the milkweed.

monarch caterpillars on milkweed

What will you learn today?


Ramblings · Writing Appearances

Way to Keep Gift Cards Organized

My family rarely eats out, but when we do, we often end up at Culver’s. As a result, I have learned some money saving tips for eating out at Culver’s. I wrote about those tips in a guest post for Money Saving Mom, which has been published.

If you are interested in learning how you can save money on your visits to Culver’s, you can check out the guest post entitled 6 Ways to Save Money at Culver’s.

If you are not familiar with Culver’s, you may not know what Free Scoop coupons or Scoopie Tokens are (which I mentioned in the tips). So, here is a picture.

They are on the side of the bag of every kid’s meal at Culver’s. The Free Scoop coupon can be used for a free scoop of custard immediately, or it can be saved for a future visit. It’s nice to be able to go for a small treat every now and then and not have to pay anything out of pocket, so I like to save these.

I also hold on to the Scoopie Tokens because ten Scoopie Tokens equals one free kid’s meal.

In the post for Money Saving Mom, it also says my family uses money set aside for the restaurant gift cards. What it didn’t say is that the money set aside is really cashback bonuses from our credit card.

My husband and I use our credit card for every purchase that can be put on the credit card. With that being said, we stay within budget and pay it off as soon as we get the bill. Neither of us are big spenders, so we aren’t really tempted to spend all kinds of money on useless items. We have never had a late fee, interest payment fee, or any other fee associated with credit cards. We also do not spend money simply for the cashback bonuses – that would be really stupid!

This past year while we were on vacation was actually the first time we spent money at a restaurant in years without using cashback bonuses. Before that, we didn’t go out to eat unless we had cashback bonus money or gift cards to use to pay for our meals.

For a while, I kept gift cards and restaurant coupons in an envelope that stayed in the center console of our car. After a while, it made more sense to keep the envelope in my purse so that it was always with me.

Unfortunately, envelopes tend to fall apart rather easily.

So, I recently decided to upgrade. I purchased the Karlling Slim Minimalist Soft Leather Mini Case Holder Organizer Wallet for 20 Credit Cards.

It’s available in dark blue, pink, orange, green, and black. I chose black. Although I haven’t had it for very long, I do like it.

It’s small and fits in my purse easily, hopefully will last longer than an envelope, and holds all of my gift cards (and Culver’s coupons).

I wrote the total amount remaining on each of the gift cards on the front of them with permanent marker. I hope to continue to update the totals as needed using a permanent marker, so I can easily see how much I have available on them.

The card holder also snaps shut, so the gift cards and coupons can remain in it without getting lost. I chose to put the gift cards in alphabetical order, which makes it easier to find exactly what I am looking for!

Although, it may be a pain having to move them around when I use them or get new gift cards – I guess I’ll see how well having them in alphabetical order works.

Do you have any tips on how to keep your gift cards organized?