We are jumping back into the new year with school visits! This past Wednesday, February 9, the Curiosity Cruiser team visited Cimarron Elementary in Katy, Texas to give away books to the students there. In total we gave away 126 books to both Pre-K and Kindergarten grade children.
Visiting a school is a special event, where each child may come aboard our Curiosity Cruiser vehicle and explore the many titles we have to giveaway. This Super Library on Wheels is a state-of-the-art mobile library that seeks to inspire children all over Houston to develop a love of reading and gain access to great books and opportunities- leading to lifelong learning and the ability to reach their fullest potential.
On Wednesday, each child came aboard and picked out one book. Children can pick whichever book catches their eye or, if they need help picking, our cruiser team will suggest a few titles that may be of interest to them.
One of the main things the Curiosity Cruiser does is give away free books to the kids who stop by to say hi. With at least a hundred different titles, it can be overwhelming and hard to pick out the perfect book, so the Cruiser Team decided to give a few book suggestions for kids and parents alike. Check out what everyone picked and what they had to say about it! The list does starts with suggestions going from youngest to oldest, with special Graphic Novel and Spanish book reviews at the end. All books reviewed are also available through Harris County Public Library, so if you cannot make it out to the cruiser, feel free to stop by your local branch and request a copy for check out! You will find that a lot of these books have more to a series or more by the author if you enjoy them!
Board books are short books made of cardboard to withstand the behaviors (chewing, drooling, hard page turning) of babies and young toddlers. The illustrations are usually bright and colorful to pull your young one’s attention.
First, I would like to state the link will take you to a different book titled “Grump Monkey”, this is because board books tend to be shorter versions of longer Picture Books. HCPL does not currently have the board book version of this book, but they do have the full-length picture book available for check out. It is just as good as the board book; the only difference is that it is a little longer and might be better suited for preschoolers.
Somedays are just not our best days, but that is okay. We don’t always have to be super happy; we can have “off” days too. In this book, a little monkey is having a grumpy day and nothing seems to make him happy. He gets angrier the more people try to help him be happy. Eventually everyone leaves, and he starts to feel sad from loneliness. In the end a friend joins him, not to do anything, but just sit with him so he isn’t alone. This doesn’t make the monkey happy per say, but it does make him feel better that he doesn’t have to be alone while having his feelings. I like the concept of this book, because it does teach us that someday just are not happy days and that is okay. It is okay to have other feelings and we should be allowed to express those feelings in the proper manners. Friends do not always have to be there to make you smile, but instead should be there to provided company for you no matter what the situation is.
The illustrations in the book are cute and simple. When the little monkey is expressing emotion, his face takes up the whole page with a bright colored background to help children find focus on the monkey emotion. I like simplistic illustrations in these types of books, as it does not overwhelm the little ones with too much detail going on and they focus more on the story.
Picture books tend to be referred to as “everybody books” as they are enjoyable to everyone. They are best used, however, for story time with preschool children and up until the child starts to read on their own.
Math teachers are evil. Everyone knows this. None eviler than Mrs. Fibonacci. She’s cast a curse on you. Now everything is math! Shirts? Math. English?? Math! PIZZA??? MATH!!! Sports, pies, space, math-math-math. Even cupcakes aren’t safe. What’s a kid to do when you’re cursed with a math problem?
Sometimes you just have to trick your kids. They’re stubborn, they don’t want vegetables, they want fries. So, what do you do? You cut the carrots into fry shapes. Your child isn’t interested in math. What do you do? You give them a book about breaking the curse of math. Math can be tricky for anyone; however, Math Curse sidesteps this by applying math in fun and interesting examples. Math Curse also gives you and your child the opportunity to find the answers, and break the curse, together! Check out Math Curse and any of our hundreds of books from your friendly neighborhood Curiosity Cruisers!
Early Readers are designed to help children who are starting to read to expand and improve those skills. There are different levels, as your child improves, the books increase in difficulty. They usually involve limited word counts per page and fun illustrations to help the child with story comprehension.
This early reader is a level one, meaning only a couple sentences per page, big illustrations with text to help build better comprehension.
The bear family makes a visit to the local museum, but their trip turns out to be anything but local. Doctor Bear takes them on a trip around the world in his “Anywhere-Anyplace” machine. Throughout the story you go to different countries and contents to some of their most renowned sites. Learn about some of the biggest features of each of these places, with cute illustrations and quirky remarks. Enjoy pointing out the different climates, animals, and cultures that appear throughout the pages. This is a story that should interest any kid while providing the first steps to learning about some of the most remarkable places on earth. If you want to start teaching your child about various places, this is a terrific book to get the base introduction to the concept.
Beginning Chapter Books
Beginning Chapter Books are short chapter books designed for newly independent readers. They are the perfect transition books from Early Readers to chapter books. Each book has several short chapters and has several illustrations throughout the story.
I had heard of the legend of Flat Stanley ever since I was in first grade when my classroom got a curious letter in the mail. It was a drawing of Flat Stanley mailed to us from Florida. We took a picture with him, drew our own Flat Stanley’s and mailed ours on to another class in North Carolina.
School kids have been mailing their own Flat Stanley character to different schools, friends, and families all over the world since 1995 when a schoolteacher in Canada started the Flat Stanley Project. So naturally I was curious what the original story was about and how Stanley was flattened!
It turns out that poor Stanley Lambchop had a giant bulletin board fall on him while he was sleeping, and it flattened him into a one-half inch thick pancake of a boy. He could slip under doors and into sewer grates easily. It was just like an old cartoon!
Now as for how Stanley came to be mailed all over the world, that started when he wanted to visit his friend in California, but a plane ticket was too expensive. So, his father had the bright idea to mail Stanley in a big, long envelope instead. He made it there and back and showed that the Post Office was amazing at its job. Afterwards, Stanley went on all sorts of adventures and now has 15 books written about him.
Middle Grade Chapter
As suggested by the heading, these books are written with our middle graders in mind. Their concepts and writing styles are more ideal for children who have proved they can read completely on their own (although words occasionally come up in books that I even need a dictionary for ha-ha). These books will have few to no illustrations, but their stories dive deeper than those of a Beginning Chapter Book.
Renowned children’s author Rick Riordan is adored for his mythology-based series. So, when children everywhere clamored for stories about different mythologies, he created an imprint in which diverse authors would create new worlds for readers to dive into.
My favorite of these is the Pandava Quintet by Roshani Chokshi. The Pandavas, great heroes of Hindu mythology, have reincarnated countless times. And for the first time—the five legendary brothers reincarnate as girls. Their reincarnations start hero-ing early because Aru Shah accidentally woke up the Sleeper while trying to get out of lie in front of her classmates.
Considering the Sleeper is prophesized to destroy the world, this is very bad. And it’s up 12-year-old Aru to make it right, with the help of her soul sister Mini and a pigeon. Aru Shah and the End of Time is a blast to read and a great match for any fantasy lover.
Young adult novels are geared towards high schoolers and older. These books may have content not suited for children of a younger demographic. At this point children are reading fully independently.
Luka Kane is a 16-year-old teen that’s been locked up inside The Loop, a torturous and lonely prison for anyone under 18, for a little over two years. Set in a distant future where an AI named Happy rules technology, Luka finds himself living out the days in isolation and fear. Inmates are put through harsh medical enhancement trials for the sake of the more privileged on the outside, and each night they partake in a “harvest” where the AI takes energy from them and uses that to power the prison.
To pass the time Luka comes across old-fashioned books given to him by the warden and watches the nightly scheduled rain fall. Soon his routine is disrupted by talks of war from the outside world among Luka’s other inmates. Power outages, deep rumblings, and mysterious happenings cause the prison to go offline, allowing Luka and the others to finally escape the treacherous place. But is Luka Kane ready to face what may lurk outside of The Loop? Was it better to have just stayed inside…? Fans of series like the 5th Wave and Maze Runner will come to really enjoy this sci-fi thriller.
Graphic novels are today’s version of a comic book. Dynamic illustrations with dialogue bubbles and the works. These are a particular favorite of independently reading children. We have Graphic Novels from Beginning Chapter through Young Adult.
Suggested Age: Varies- See following review for the book level and follow the book level standard age suggestion
The Okay Witch is written and illustrated by Emma Steinkellner. This graphic novel tells the story of thirteen-year-old Moth Hush as she struggles with making friends and ignoring bullies. However, an additional wrench is thrown into her life when she suddenly starts unintentionally using magic! What unfolds is Moth’s journey of self-discovery as she learns the history of her family of witches and challenges the old and problematic traditions against her lineage in Founder’s Bluff, Massachusetts.
This is by far my favorite new book we have for our Cruiser giveaways! I have a soft spot for witch stories, and this definitely filled that and then some. Moth is not perfect, she struggles with feeling insecure in her identity and family, with magic throwing an additional wrench into things. By the end of this volume she is able to work through some of these issues, but like everyone, nothing can be covered with a band aid and labeled “fixed”. This is something that, even as an adult, I struggle with a lot! Thus, it is so refreshing to see this kind of anxiety acknowledged- not every issue and struggle we face can just go away forever, and that’s okay. Like Moth and her family, it takes time to heal and continual work to make a difference and heal.
The cultural heritage of Founder’s Bluff definitely mirrors that of Salem, Massachusetts and the “witch hunts” that took place in America and Europe. If you are interested in that history, it is explored here and expanded upon to reflect some of the contemporary issues facing young people today. This is especially true in regards to the leaders of Founder’s Bluff targeting people like Moth and her family because of their differences. Steinkellner tackles the toxic cycle of marginalization and privilege throughout The Okay Witch- but to avoid too many spoilers, you should give this one a read to see what I mean.
Overall, The Okay Witch is a fun and spooky magical coming of age story that focuses not only on how we can grow as individuals, but also work together to create a future everyone can look forward to and grow.
The Cruiser and HCPL also have a wide range of Spanish books for all age levels!
Suggested Age: Varies- See following review for the book level and follow the book level standard age suggestion.
Celebrated author Mo Willems first splashed into the world of children’s literature with Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! This Spanish translation of Willem’s work follows the titular Pigeon who dreams of driving a bus and thinks they have a shot now that the driver has left.
Little does the Pigeon know that you, the reader, have been left in charge of the bus! Now you’re the one the Pigeon has to convince! When gentle wheedling and sly tricks fail, the clever Pigeon tries different means of persuasion, offering a variety of rewards, ranging from 5 bucks to their friendship.
This book is a great, amusing read, and although the reader must always say no, it’s fun to watch the Pigeon try to drive the bus.
WOW! What a great batch of books! Find these and tons more on the Curiosity cruiser or from your local library! Thank you for reading, and we hope to see you soon!
Curiosity Cruiser is a state-of-the-art mobile library that provides Houston children with access to books and exciting educational programs that integrate reading with science, math, technology, writing, and the arts.