Tag Archives: STEM

Perfect Pairing of Dual-Story Picture Books

Very few picture books involve two separate stories that meet at some point in the book. Interestingly, I discovered two recently that use this structure, so I couldn’t help but pair them.

 

The Diamond and the Boy: The Creation of Diamonds & The Life of H. Tracy Hall

Author: Hannah Holt

Illustrator: Jay Fleck

Publisher/Date: Balzer + Bray (an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers)/2018

Ages: 4-8

Themes: diamonds; engineering; STEM; innovation; biography

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Told in a unique dual-narrative format, The Diamond and the Boy follows the stories of both natural diamond creation and the life of H. Tracy Hall, the inventor of a revolutionary diamond-making machine. Perfect for fans of Rosie Revere, Engineer, and On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein.

Before a diamond is a gem, it’s a common gray rock called graphite. Through an intense trial of heat and pressure, it changes into one of the most valuable stones in the world.

Before Tracy Hall was an inventor, he was a boy—born into poverty, bullied by peers, forced to work at an early age. However, through education and experimentation, he became one of the brightest innovators of the twentieth century, eventually building a revolutionary machine that makes diamonds.

From debut author Hannah Holt—the granddaughter of Tracy Hall—and illustrator Jay Fleck comes this fascinating in-depth portrait of both rock and man.

Read a review at Picture Books Help Kids Soar and an interview with Holt at The Picture Book Buzz.

 

Naming Liberty

Author: Jane Yolen

Illustrator: Jim Burke

Publisher/Date: Philomel Books/2008

Ages: 6-9

Themes: immigration; Statue of Liberty; freedom

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

A double celebration for Independence Day! In this wonderfully unique book, Jane Yolen and Jim Burke weave two stories at once, as readers see young Gitl in Russia leaving her home for faraway America, wondering what new name she will choose for herself when she arrives, and young artist Frederic Auguste Bartholdi dreaming of a monument he wants to build to honor freedom. It is an arduous journey for Gitl as she and her family travel across land and sea to arrive on this shore, but when she sees the magnificent Statue of Liberty standing in New York Harbor, she knows her name in this great new country must be ?Liberty.

Just in time for Independence Day, Jim Burke’s magnificent paintings capture Yolen’s inspired tale of a girl and an artist and their passionate belief in freedom.

Read a review at Kids Bookshelf.

I paired these books because of their parallel structures.

In The Diamond and the Boy, Holt tells the story of the creation of a natural diamond, from graphite to sparkling gem on the left side of each spread. On the right side, she shares the biography of her grandfather, the scientist and inventor, Tracy Hall, who rose from an impoverished childhood to discover a process of creating man-made industrial diamonds. I love how Holt uses similar adjectives to describe the graphite’s journey to become a diamond and Hall’s life. I also appreciate the terrific backmatter about diamonds and Hall.

In Naming Liberty, Yolen uses the left side of each spread to tell the fictional story of young Gitl and her family as they embark on a journey from a small Russian village to New York City, where they are greeted by the Statue of Liberty. On the right side, Yolen tells the story of Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi and the creation of the Statue of Liberty. In an Author’s Note, Yolen explains that Gitl’s story is based on that of Yolen’s family as well as the immigration stories of other Eastern European Jewish immigrants. She also provides further information about the Statue of Liberty and its creator.

Although The Diamond and the Boy is pure non-fiction and Naming Liberty is only partially true, I think it’s illuminating how telling two stories side-by-side creates a picture book that is more than the sum of its parts.

Perfect Pairing –  Robots at the Beach

It may not be beach weather where you’re at (YET!), but it’s never too early to “think Summer” and think about who, or what, you’ll bring to your favorite beach.

Bitty Bot’s Big Beach Getaway

Author: Tim McCanna

Illustrator: Tad Carpenter

Publisher/Date: Paula Wiseman Books (an imprint of Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)/2018

Ages: 3-7

Themes: robots; making friends; innovation; beach; rhyming

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

The world’s cutest robot goes on a rhyming, deep-sea adventure with two new friends in this sweet and silly companion to Bitty Bot.
Fish and coral. Crabs and snails.
Stingrays, turtles, sharks, and whales. 
Giant squid! A sunken ship!
“Now we’re talking. What a trip!”

Bitty Bot is back—and he is not excited about his family vacation to Botco Bay. Luckily, new friends make everything better. Bitty Bot and his new pals build a submarine using supplies they find at the beach:
Bottles, barrels, buggy, bench, 
hammer, pliers, socket wrench, 
soda cans, a coil of rope, 
drainpipe for a periscope.
Off they go on an underwater adventure!

Read a review at Kirkus Reviews.

How to Code a Sandcastle

Author: Josh Funk

Illustrator: Sara Palacios

Publisher/Date: Viking, Penguin Young Readers (an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC)/2018

Ages: 4-8

Themes: coding; robots; sand castles; beach; STEM

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

From the computer science nonprofit Girls Who Code comes this lively and funny story introducing kids to computer coding concepts.
Pearl and her trusty rust-proof robot, Pascal, need to build a sandcastle before summer vacation is over, and they’re going to do it using code. Pearl breaks the big we-need-a-sandcastle problem into smaller steps, then uses conditionals, loops, and other basic coding concepts to tell Pascal exactly what to do. But building a sandcastle isn’t as easy as it sounds when surfboards, mischievous dogs, and coding mishaps get in the way! Just when it looks like the sandcastle might never work, Pearl uses her coding skills to save the day and create something even better: a gorgeous sandcastle kingdom!

Read a review at Biracial Bookworms.

I paired these books because it’s not every day that you see a robot at the beach! Written in quick-paced rhyme, Bitty Bot’s Big Beach Getaway features a bored robot who uses his skills to build a submarine with friends. In How to Code a Sandcastle Pearl brings her “trusty rust-proof robot, Pascal” to the beach and codes him to build a sandcastle. Written by software engineer/picture book author Funk and filled with coding how-to information (including a terrific Guide to Coding), How to Code a Sandcastle is a Girls who Code Book with a Foreword by Reshma Saujani, the founder of Girls Who Code. Both books involve problem solving, and both are humorous read-alouds.

Looking for similar reads?

See Tim McCanna’s Bitty Bot and Josh Funk’s Albie Newton.