Ada’s Ideas

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Image Credit: Abrams Books for Young Readers (Abrams), Fiona Robinson

I love that the cover says “the World’s First Computer Programmer” which establishes the fact that Ada Lovelace was and always will be a big deal.

We’ve been blessed with quite a few recent picture books (all written and illustrated by women) about Ada Lovelace. I’ve already reviewed Ada Byron Lovelace and The Thinking Machine which is also very good and pairs well with this book.

Ada Lovelace grew up in her mother’s world of numbers and manners. She had a strict academic regimen and was expected to stick to it. Luckily, she was rich and grew up during the Industrial Revolution where she was distracted by modern technology. Ada started to invent things with her mathematical and imaginative mind! Unfortunately, she became very seriously ill with the measles but when she recovered years later, she was a teenager and was allowed to bloom in society. She met the inventor Charles Babbage who became a good friend and introduced her to his invention, The Difference Engine, which was like a large calculator.

This machine and the design for  The Analytical Engine would change her life. Babbage’s Analytical Engine is considered to be the world’s first computer design and Ada worked on the algorithms for the punch cards to be used in the machine. She programmed the machine using Bernoulli numbers! Ada had the imagination and forward thinking to see a world of potential in Babbage’s invention; she saw endless possibility in programming.

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Image Credit: Abrams Books for Young Readers (Abrams), Fiona Robinson

If there was one thing I’d change about this book, it would be how Ada’s parents’ relationship is described. From what I understand, Lord Byron could be very uncaring and at times abusive to his wife. Reading this book, one would think that Lord Byron was simply “wild” and Anne Isabella Milbanke much too proper, strict and overprotective of Ada.

The illustrations in this book are gorgeous. Robinson’s art is detailed, delicate and fanciful. I can’t imagine how many hours she spent painting and cutting paper to create the 3D images. I love how light the watercolors are on the paper and how much depth she achieves by propping up and layering the cut-outs. My favorite spread is of the giant cotton mills with smoke streaming out of them against a blotchy gray sky. So pretty!

Ada’s Ideas is a beautiful tribute to Ada Lovelace’s life and will definitely inspire young children to dream high. Whether you dream in words, numbers or paints & scissors, let your mind soar and discover what you’re capable of!

P.S. I love the punch cards on the end papers, the cover of the book and on the title page! So cool. 🙂

 

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Girl Power, Friendship, Mathematics, Biography, History, Math History, Girls in Science/STEM, Computer Science, Computer Programming, Determination, Dreams, Curiosity, Inquisitive Minds, Victorian Era, Imagination
Book Info: Ada’s Ideas by Fiona Robinson, 2016 Adams Books for Young Readers (Abrams), ISBN: 9781419718724

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Toys Meet Snow

ToysMeetSnow

Image Credit: Schwartz & Wade Books (Penguin Random House), Emily Jenkins/Paul O. Zelinsky

It’s starting to get cold out where I am and though I’m not a fan of cold weather, I can’t deny how beautiful snow looks as it blankets the earth.

Toys Meet Snow celebrates the wonder of curiosity and play. It’s both simple and complex with excellent characterization. First, we’re introduced to our characters; Lumphy, a stuffed Buffalo, StingRay, a plush stingray and Plastic, a rubber ball. Their Little Girl has left for winter vacation and they’re staring out the window in wonder at the first snow of the season. Teamwork gets them out the door and into the snow (not before taking the necessary protective measures of course!).

We get to see the personalities of each toy and Jenkins writes the story so that it’s easy to anticipate their reactions on each spread, which can be great for children who’re learning to read (the predictability in story format). Lumphy is very inquisitive, StingRay is poetic and visual and Plastic is all about the facts! They study the snow, ask questions and make a snowman. Plastic even gets a special boost of self confidence before heading back in for the day.

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Image Credit: Schwartz & Wade Books (Penguin Random House), Emily Jenkins/Paul O. Zelinsky

 

I like the way Emily Jenkins writes. There’s a quirky cuteness to this story. Her writing pairs well with Zelinsky’s soft, beautiful digital illustrations. My favorite spread is the one where the toys leave indentations in the snow to make snow angels! It’s fun to guess which toy made which angel. With glittery snow on the cover, you’re ready to dive into a winter story, but you’ll find that it’s quite warm. 🙂 Toys Meet Snow is a large book with wide beautiful spreads. The blustery white snow covers the pages and you’ll feel like you’re out with the toys, on an adventure. Can you tell how much I love the illustrations?The red strawberry syrup sunset is lovely and so is this book. Check it out and enjoy!

 

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Friendship, Learning, Curiosity, Inquisitive Minds, Learning, Relationships, Action/Adventure, Snow, Animals, Personalities, Read Aloud, Play
Book Info: Toys Meet Snow by Emily Jenkins/Illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky , 2015 Schwartz & Wade (Penguin Random House), ISBN: 9780385373302

Before After

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Image Credit: Candlewick Press, Anne-Margot Ramstein/Matthias Arégui

Before After is a neat book that can be enjoyed by people of all ages; it works just as well as a gift for an inquisitive child as it does sitting on a coffee table. It’s a very conceptual book in that there are no words and only sets of illustrations that show before…then after. Some of the sets of illustrations work together to tell a short story, and we might see a image later in the book that we saw before. Most of the images are connected in some way and this is the beauty of the book! Creating a story. It’s great for storyboarding and sparking imaginative thinking; who do you think ate all this cake and why? Why’d they leave one piece?

Image Credit: Candlewick Press, Anne-Margot Ramstein/ Matthias Arégui

Image Credit: Candlewick Press, Anne-Margot Ramstein/ Matthias Arégui

Some before and afters span a few hours, others thousands of years!! One of my favorite sequences is Octopus -> Ink. Carrier Pigeon -> Feather for a quill which sits in the ink. Quill and ink -> Typewriter. Carrier Pigeon -> Letter ready to mail. Airplane jetting off (from a city we’ve maybe seen before?)

Ramstein and Arégui’s digital illustrations are beautiful with clean lines and a wide range of colors. I like how striking they are with an outline of color that makes the images pop. They do an amazing job of storytelling and help the reader to think about beginnings, endings, the sequence of events, results, processes, building up and tearing down, time and life and death. Whew that’s a lot for one book right? Before After is pretty amazing and very worth experiencing.

 

Recommended for: All ages
Great for: Animals, Colors, Storyboarding, Storytelling, Imagination, Discussion, Time, Process, Imagination, Inquisitive Minds, Wordless
Book Info: Before After by Anne-Margot Ramstein & Matthias Arégui, 2013 Candlewick Press, ISBN: 9780763676216

Joshua by the Sea

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Image Credit: Orchard Books, Angela Johnson/Rhonda Mitchell

I first discovered this sweet little board book at my bookstore, sitting outside in the bargain bins. It celebrates a black family’s day at the sea. I’m so happy to see the main character is a black boy because it’s still a rare thing to see in picture books.

In Joshua by the Sea, Joshua introduces himself as a boy who loves the sea and all its wonders. He happily plays with his toys in the sand and also introduces readers to his family as they relax and enjoy the beautiful day. He goes exploring with his big sister and also explores on his own, running happily through the water. My favorite page is the last one where Joshua gazes off into the sunset, his day at the sea coming to an end.

Mitchell’s watercolor illustrations are beautiful. She paints crisp blue foamy waters, white sea gulls and a beautiful rosy sunset. It’s easy to see why Joshua loves the sea. Your toddler or baby will enjoy looking through this book with its simple text, story and beautiful images. If you enjoy this book, there are a few more books in this series; Joshua’s Night Whispers, Mama bird, Baby Birds and Rain Feet.

Recommended for: Babies and Toddlers
Great for: Family, Sea, Vacation, Friendship, Adventure, Inquisitive Minds, Diversity, We Need Diverse Books, African-American
Book Info: Joshua by the Sea by Angela Johnson/Illustrated by Rhonda Mitchell, 1994 Orchard Books, ISBN: 9780531068465

Ace Dragon LTD.

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Image Credit: Candlewick Press, Russell Hoban/Quentin Blake

This US re-issue of Ace Dragon LTD. (originally published in the UK in 1980) is right on time. A clever story filled with quirky writing, it fits right in with our 2015 picture book sensibilities.

In Ace Dragon LTD., John, equipped with his sword on his belt, discovers a manhole-like cover in the ground that says Ace Dragon LTD. After stomping three times, a voice answers his many questions. We find out that LTD. means limited, which means that someone can only do some things, not all. Ace Dragon tells John all the things he can do (like breathe fire and fly) and invites him to go flying BUT, John has to fight him. They meet up, and after proper introductions, fight. John wins best of three and they go adventuring! Ace is a pretty special dragon; maybe he’s not as limited as he thinks.

Hoban and Blake are quite a team in their storytelling/illustrating capabilities. The illustrations are perfectly suited to the story. John is an inquisitive little boy with wild orange hair and Ace Dragon is just the right amount of fierce and friendly; he’s wearing red Wellingtons for goodness sake! 🙂  Quentin Blake’s signature scratchy style with ink and muted watercolors makes for great visual storytelling. Looking for a great adventure and friendship story? Read Ace Dragon LTD.!

 

Recommended for: All ages
Great for: Fantasy, Friendship, Dragons, Animals, Inquisitive Minds, Action/Adventure, Humor
Book Info: Ace Dragon LTD. by Russell Hoban/Illustrated by Quentin Black, 2015 Candlewick Press, ISBN: 9780763674823