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Barb Rosenstock

Barb Rosenstock photo

Dive into History with Otis & Will Discover the Deep

 

“How come you write about famous people?” asked a third grader.

 

There I stood at another school visit stumped by a young person asking a question I’ve heard over and over again. You’d think that by now, since I write picture book biographies, I’d have a handy answer. But each time, that “fame question” throws me. I guess it’s because I don’t choose my subjects because they’re famous.

 

Instead, I’m drawn to stories about people who’ve changed history. For me, history has never made sense as a series of facts or dates (which I still rarely remember!). Instead, I tend to agree with the quote attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson, “There is properly no history, only biography.” In my books, I try to show students that history, whether in science, politics, or the arts, is made by regular people. People who pursued a dream or a skill in a deep way—not because someone forced them, not because they wanted to be popular; but usually just because they were curious and liked the work. In other words, the young Abraham Lincoln didn’t know he was gonna be ABRAHAM LINCOLN. He was just Abe, that tall kid; the one who loved to read and made friends easily.

 

This view of history holds true for my new book, Otis & Will Discover the Deep: The Record-setting Dive of the Bathysphere, illustrated by Katherine Roy. It’s the story of how mechanical engineer, Otis Barton, and natural scientist, William Beebe, worked together to create the bathysphere—the first submersible craft that took human beings into the deep ocean.

 

William Beebe is well-known in scientific circles, but hardly a household name; and Otis Barton’s name is kind of off-the-grid all together. I didn’t know about either man ahead of writing the book. Instead, a few years ago, I read a small news item that used the word “bathysphere,” which I’d never heard, and became fascinated with the men who built it. I learned that Otis Barton started as a curious kid who built homemade diving equipment to see deeper into the ocean. And Will Beebe was so in love with nature’s mysteries that once he dove into the ocean for the first time, he never studied anything else.

 

Early on in the research of Barton and Beebe’s amazing adventures, the universe cooperated. My generic request to the Library of Congress website happened to be answered by a librarian, Constance Carter, who’d been Beebe’s assistant in the 1950’s. Photos, film, diaries, and archives were uncovered. There were historical accounts of at least nineteen bathysphere dives over four years. The challenge became how to winnow that much information into one picture book story. I decided to concentrate on a single bathysphere dive in June, 1930—the first time Otis and Will saw the deep ocean they’d dreamed of visiting since they were kids.

 

These childhood dreams drove Otis and Will to great discoveries. To satisfy their own questions, they struggled with scientific and mechanical problems. Most impressively, they put their lives on the line over and over again. Otis and Will became the first to see what lived below the ocean’s light level, or as the book’s refrain puts it, down, down, into the deep.

 

So, are Otis and Will famous? Well, none of the Kardashians have to worry that Otis Barton or Will Beebe will ever have more Instagram followers. At least not yet. But I hope you will agree that Otis and Will are better than famous; they are important.

 

And from now on that’ll be my answer. I don’t write about “famous people.” I write about “important people.” Why? Because each child is important and deserves role models with the same questions, curiosities, and feelings. Because each student is history’s future.

The End of the Wild

The End of the Wild coverThe End of the Wild

By Nicole Helget

Genre: Juvenile Fiction

Curriculum Subject: Family Life: Cooking/Food, Family Life: Parents/Siblings/Babies, Guidance/Health: Death, Personal Development: Loss, Personal Development: Self-Discovery, Science: Environment

Grades: 3-7

 

Download Educator Guide

 

Eleven-year-old Fern’s rundown home borders a pristine forest, where her impoverished family hunts and forages for food. It’s also her refuge from the crushing responsibility of caring for her wild younger brothers and PTSD-stricken stepfather. But when a fracking company rolls into town, Fern realizes that her special grove could be ripped away, and no one else seems to care.

 

Her stepfather thinks a job with the frackers could help pull the family out of poverty. Her wealthy grandfather–who wants to take custody of Fern and her brothers–likes the business it brings to his manufacturing company. Facing adversity from all sides, can one young girl make a difference in the fate of her family and their way of life?

 

PRAISE

A 2018 Charlotte S. Huck Award Honor Book
NSTA-CBC 2018 Outstanding Science Trade Books
for Students K-12
NSTA-CBC 2018 Best STEM Trade Books for Students K-12
★ “An uncommonly fine account of perseverance and understanding in the face of adversity.” —Booklist

 

★ “Fern’s first-person voice is completely convincing. Her vocabulary and phrasing is rural Midwestern, and her imagery comes from the natural world she loves. The sense of place is palpable. The author demonstrates the poverty of Fern’s family and friends (including a Muslim family from Somalia) with telling detail, and the tension and action arise naturally…  This nuanced take on a pressing issue is an important one. Middle-grade readers will find much to think about in this beautifully written story.” —Kirkus

 

★ “Helget confronts substantial subjects like poverty, environmentalism, and mental illness, injecting humor and hope to provide balance. Without lecturing, she encourages readers to be thoughtful and curious.” —Publishers Weekly

CatStronauts

Catstronauts: Mission Moon coverCatStronauts: Mission Moon

By Drew Brockington

Genre: Juvenile Fiction

Curriculum Subject: Adventure: Animals, Adventure: Science Fiction, Graphic Novels: Space/Air Travel, Humor: General, Science: Astronomy/Space/Aviation

Grades: 1-5

 

Theme Song LB School Podcdast

CatStronauts, you are needed!

 

When the world is thrust into darkness due to a global energy shortage, the Worlds Best Scientist comes up with a bold plan to set up a solar power plant on the moon. But someone has to go up there to set it up, and that adventure falls to the CatStronauts, the best space cats on the planet! Meet the fearless commander Major Meowser, brave-but-hungry pilot Waffles, genius technician and inventor Blanket, and quick thinking science officer Pom Pom on their most important mission yet!

 

 

CatStronauts: Race to Mars coverCatStronauts: Race to Mars

By Drew Brockington

Genre: Juvenile Fiction

Curriculum Subject: Adventure: Animals, Adventure: Science Fiction, Graphic Novels: Space/Air Travel, Humor: General, Science: Astronomy/Space/Aviation

Grades: 1-5

 

Fresh off of their heroic mission to save the world, the CatStronauts–Major Meowser, Pom Pom, Blanket and Waffles–are taking a well deserved victory lap. Parades and fancy awards dinners are the new norm!

 

But around the world, other cat space programs are watching–in particular the CosmoCats, the first cats to go to space! With national pride and scientific research on the line, the world’s space programs rush to be the first cats to Mars, and the CatStronauts are starting months behind! Can they catch up and prove their first mission was no fluke?

The Darkest Dark

Darkest Dark coverThe Darkest Dark

By Col. Chris Hadfield

Illustrated by The Fan Brothers

Genre: Juvenile Fiction

Curriculum Subject: Science: Astronomy/Space/Aviation, Personal Development: Self-Discovery

Grades: PreK-3rd

 

Inspired by the childhood of real-life astronaut Chris Hadfield and brought to life by Terry and Eric Fan’s lush, evocative illustrations, The Darkest Dark will encourage readers to dream the impossible.

 

Chris loves rockets and planets and pretending he’s a brave astronaut, exploring the universe. Only one problem–at night, Chris doesn’t feel so brave. He’s afraid of the dark. But when he watches the groundbreaking moon landing on TV, he realizes that space is the darkest dark there is–and the dark is beautiful and exciting, especially when you have big dreams to keep you company.

 

PRAISE

★ “The idea that a famous astronaut was once afraid of the dark may win some recalcitrant bed-goers’ hearts, and readers with dreams of space travel will jump at this.” —Publishers Weekly

 

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NanoBots

Nanobots coverNanoBots

By Chris Gall

Genre: Juvenile Fiction

Curriculum Subject: Personal Development: Sports/Teamwork/Competition, Adventure: Science Fiction, Personal Development: Responsibility, Personal Development: Individuality

Grades: Pre-K-3rd

 

Educator Guide

 

A boy inventor creates the ultimate in high-tech superheroes that could one day save the world–but they have some smaller problems to take on first! NanoBots are tiny. They’re almost too small to see, but they can each do a unique and important job: Medibot makes sure their Inventor never catches a cold…. Chewbots gobble up that gum the Inventor trampled into the carpet… Binobot scans the scene of a crime for clues the Inventor could never see… and Seekerbots explore to meet microscopic new creatures.

 

These bots and their high-tech friends sure make the inventor’s life easier, but when the most AWESOME robot in town is in real trouble, they must band together and prove that sometimes the SMALLEST helpers can be the BIGGEST heroes! Includes fun facts about real nanotechnology in the backmatter.

 

PRAISE

★ “Gall leads fans of his Dinotrux into microscopic realms, where industrious crews of tiny robots, produced by a proud young basement inventor, are fanning out to clean up messes, gather knowledg, protect, build, and repair. Each bulbous, anthropomorphic NanoBot has a specialized task…  Carted off to a science fair, the tiny Bots all feel “pretty small” next to the other exhibits, but get a chance to shine when the giant robot next booth over starts to fall apart. NanoBots to the rescue!” —Booklist

 

★ “Gall introduces miniature robots with infinite potential for adventures on and off the page…  Gall’s precise illustrations, metallic palette, and ready-for-action heroes should captivate the imaginations of mechanically minded readers, as will closing notes about real-life uses of nanotechnology.” —Publishers Weekly

 

★ “Exploding with energy and humor, Gall’s zoomed-in digitally created artwork conveys each miniscule machine’s personality and functionality. An author’s note introduces the science of nanorobotics and potential applications of devices with capabilities similar to the characters introduced here. A pleasing amalgamation of imagination, STEM concepts, and superhero-style storytelling perfect for group reads and small group sharing.” —School Library Journal

 

VIDEO

City Shapes

City Shapes

By Diana Murray

Illustrated by Bryan Collier

Genre: Juvenile Fiction

Curriculum Subject: Family Life: Daily Life and Play, Language Development and Reading: Concepts, Family Life: Neighbors/Neighborhoods

Grades: Pre-K-3rd

 

Educator Guide Author Essay

 

From shimmering skyscrapers to fluttering kites to twinkling stars high in the sky, everyday scenes become extraordinary as a young girl walks through her neighborhood noticing exciting new shapes at every turn. Far more than a simple concept book, City Shapes is an explosion of life. Diana Murray’s richly crafted yet playful verse encourages readers to discover shapes in the most surprising places, and Bryan Collier’s dynamic collages add even more layers to each scene in this ode to city living.

 

PRAISE

★ “Rhyming text and brilliant multimedia collage combine to follow a girl’s journey through her beloved city. Part concept book, part love letter to urban beauty, Murray and Collier’s collaboration highlights an African-American girl’s observations about the many shapes she sees in and around her city…  Collier fills every page, allowing art to take up entire double-page spreads, and his distinctive collage technique is particularly well-suited to highlighting the shapes named by the text. He also pushes well beyond merely visually reiterating the items the text lists, and the result is a seamless interdependence of art and text that will allow readers to find the named items while also providing ample visual interest to reward poring over the illustrations. A visual feast of cityscape shapes. ” —Kirkus

 

★ “Readers are encouraged to view the city as a kaleidoscope of shape and color in this rhyming tour provided by a young girl on the sidewalk and a pigeon soaring above…  Youngsters will eagerly identify squares, rectangles, triangles, circles, ovals, diamonds, and stars in the busy spreads as well as complete each rhyme to reveal the targeted shape…  Children will enjoy studying the illustrations to identify the various shapes as well as the scattered collage photos of greenery, people, buildings, and cars.” —School Library Journal

Awesome Dawson

awesome dawsonAwesome Dawson

by Chris Gall

Format: Picture Book

Curriculum Subjects: Adventure: Superheroes/Villians, Personal Development: Lessons, Science: Inventions

Grade: PreK-1st

 

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EVERYTHING CAN BE USED AGAIN!

 

That’s Dawson’s motto. He collects junk that people throw away and turns it into something STUPENDOUS. But when Dawson uses his skills to create a machine to do his chores for him, he discovers he might have invented something a little too… AWESOME. Can he stop the rampaging robot before it destroys the entire town?

 

Chris Gall inspires kids to reuse, repurpose, and recycle in this inventive adventure about a boy superhero who turns trash into treasures–and saves the world while he’s at it!

 

PRAISE

“Gall’s busy, saturated spreads…[result] in vibrant imagery that is both slick and homespun, like Dawson’s own creations….Superheroes, recyclers, and inventors unite!” – Booklist

 

“This is action, adventure and imagination with a positive message.” – Kirkus Reviews

 

“[Will] inspire children to stretch their imaginations. Chris Gall delivers an action-packed story.” – Library Media Connection

 

“Gall make[s] full use of his skill for drafting the sort of straight-from-kids’-dreams machines he showcased in Dinotrux and Revenge of the Dinotrux.” – Publishers Weekly

 

“Aspiring young inventors will enjoy identifying the assorted thingamabobs strewn throughout the pages…. A rollicking read.” – School Library Journal

The Rookie Bookie

rookie bookieThe Rookie Bookie

by L. Jon Wertheim & Tobias Moskowitz

Genre: Juvenile Fiction

Curriculum Subject: Family Life: Jobs/Finances, Personal Development: Sports/Teamwork/Competition, Personal Development: Responsibility, Sports: Football

Grades: 3 & up

 

Educator Guide

 

Using the tips, truths, and stats they explore in their New York Times bestseller Scorecasting, two dads pack super sports savvy and important math and financial concepts into a fun and heartwarming first novel for kids.

 

New kid Mitch Sloan wants to fit in, but his nerdy love of statistics and making money isn’t winning him any friends in his sports-loving town–until he finds the perfect way to attain instant popularity. But running a football betting ring at school eventually turns sour, and Mitch loses the only real friend he’s made. He’ll have to win her back by using his brainpower for good and helping the school football team achieve victory–if they’ll listen to the advice of a former bookie!

 

PRAISE

“A rare offering for both the sports enthusiast and the kid who is always picked last for the team. ” — Booklist

 

“Wertheim and Moskowitz, the writing team behind Scorecasting, create a relatable protagonist in Mitch and a fun venue for readers to learn a bit about business, football, and math…  This story hits its mark and should intrigue readers with information about how number-crunching can make an impact on the gridiron.” — Publishers Weekly

 

“This is a cleverly written story, with an astute take on what makes middleschoolers tick. Strong supporting characters, and a good balance of tension and humor keep the pages turning. While there is a lot of academic content woven into the story—financial literacy, statistics, logic, even a little Shakespeare—it is not heavy-handed. It’s all explained in a simple, engaging way, sure to appeal to readers not totally smitten with sports or math. Wertheim, an editor for Sports Illustrated, and Moskowitz, a professor of finance, have combined their fields of expertise, resulting in a thoughtful and highly entertaining read.” — School Library Journal

Me…Jane

Me…Jane

By Patrick McDonnell

Genre: Picture Book

Curriculum subjects: Self-Discovery, Individuality, Careers

Grade: PreK-1st

 

Download Educator Guide

 

In his characteristic heartwarming style, Patrick McDonnell tells the story of the young Jane Goodall and her special childhood toy chimpanzee named Jubilee. As the young Jane observes the natural world around her with wonder, she dreams of “a life living with and helping all animals,” until one day she finds that her dream has come true.

 

One of the world’s most inspiring women, Dr. Jane Goodall is a renowned humanitarian, conservationist, animal activist, environmentalist, and United Nations Messenger of Peace. In 1977 she founded the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI), a global nonprofit organization that empowers people to make a difference for all living things.

With anecdotes taken directly from Jane Goodall’s autobiography, McDonnell makes this very true story accessible for the very young– and young at heart.

 

PRAISE

A 2012 Caldecott Honor Book

A Charlotte Zolotow Award Winner

A New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book

 

★ “This remarkable picture book is one of the few that speaks, in a meaningful way, to all ages.” –Booklist

 

★ “McDonnell’s book is… inspirational.” –The Horn Book

 

★ “Children will appreciate McDonnell’s original format and take heart that interests logged in their own diaries might turn into lifelong passions.” –Kirkus Reviews

 

“McDonnell’s concentration on [Goodall’s] childhood fantasies carries a strong message to readers that their own dreams – even the wildly improbable ones–may be realizable, too.” –Publishers Weekly

 

“[A] tender homage… engaging… an appealing and satisfying introduction to a well-known scientist and activist.” –School Library Journal

Ship Breaker

Ship Breaker

By Paolo Bacigalupi

Genre: Science Fiction

Curriculum subjects: Science Fiction, Survival, Character Development

Grade: 9-12

 

Download Educator Guide

 

A gritty, high-stakes adventure set in a futuristic world where oil is scarce, but loyalty is scarcer.

 

In America’s Gulf Coast region, grounded oil tankers are being broken down for parts by crews of young people. Nailer, a teenage boy, works the light crew, scavenging for copper wiring just to make quota-and hopefully live to see another day.

 

But when, by luck or by chance, he discovers an exquisite clipper ship beached during a recent hurricane, Nailer faces the most important decision of his life: Strip the ship for all it’s worth or rescue its lone survivor, a beautiful and wealthy girl who could lead him to a better life….

In this powerful novel, Paolo Bacigalupi delivers a thrilling, fast-paced adventure set in a vivid and raw, uncertain future.

 

PRAISE

Winner of the 2011 Printz Medal

 

“Vivid, brutal, and thematically rich, this captivating title is sure to win teen fans for the award-winning Bacigalupi.” – Booklist