Caramel loved everything he read about Mo Willems’ Pigeon and so he was excited to get his paws on a copy of his new adventure: The Pigeon HAS to Go to School! Below he reviews this book, published this summer. As usual Sprinkles is taking notes and asking followup questions as needed.
Sprinkles: So another pigeon story, right?
Caramel: Yes! The pigeon is so funny! Here’s a quote:
“I wish I was a little chick again. A little-itty-bitty-not-going-to-school-baby-waybie pigeon!”
S: So that basically summarizes the book, right? The Pigeon does not want to go to school.
S: Were you also worried about starting school, Caramel?
C: Yes. A little bit.
C: I was nervous because I thought, what if I won’t have any friends?
S: That’s totally natural Caramel. When we go into new places, we might be worried about not knowing anyone. But you did make friends pretty soon, right?
C: Yes! I found a good friend almost immediately. We still play fun stuff together.
S: So the Pigeon does not have to worry, right?
C: No. He doesn’t. School is fun!
S: Would that be what you would tell the Pigeon, that school is fun, so he does not have to worry?
C: Yep. I’d say don’t worry. It’s going to be alright. It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be super duper awesome mega fun!
S: You like school a lot, don’t you Caramel?
C: Yep. I like my friends. I like my teacher. School is a lot of fun. But this year, I’ll probably have a new teacher. So I’m kind of worried. I already miss my old teacher.
S: Yes, your teacher was pretty cool, wasn’t she?
C: She was awesome!
S: I’m sure your new teacher will be awesome, too, Caramel.
C: Yes, I think so, too. I mean, I hope so.
S: Well, so in short we think school is fun. And the Pigeon doesn’t need to worry. What else do you want to say about this book Caramel?
C: This book would be a good book for kids who are starting school and who are a little scared.
S: Yes, Caramel! The Pigeon says all kinds of things that might worry a young child starting school. Like …
“What if the teacher doesn’t like pigeons?”
C: I really like the part where he is talking about heavy backpacks, but my favorite part is when he says:
“The unknown stresses me out, dude.”
S: The unknown can stress us out of course. We can totally see what the Pigeon is talking about, right?
C: Yes. There is a lot of stuff he doesn’t know about school and he is worried. He doesn’t even know if the finger paint will stick to his feathers!
S: Did you ever worry about finger paint Caramel?
C: No! I was worried about making friends and having a nice teacher. Finger paint sounds like fun! But we don’t do it too much in school actually.
S: You did some in preschool, but you might have forgotten. But you still do a lot of fun things at your school, right?
C: Yes, I love my school! It’s the best bunny school in the whole wide world!
S: And hopefully the school the Pigeon is going to is going to be the best school ever for pigeons.
C: Yes. I bet it will. Let us stop here. Readers: stay tuned for more reviews from the book bunnies!
Marshmallow reviews Animal Farm by George Orwell (1945).
Marshmallow found a copy of George Orwell’s classic Animal Farm during her summer break and chose it for her first review of August 2019.
Marshmallow’s quick take: If you like books that are about animals that act and talk like humans, then this might be the book for you.
Marshmallow’s Summary (with spoilers): The animals on Manor Farm gather to listen to the last speech made by Major, an old boar who is about to die. Major says in his speech that man is the real enemy and that if they overthrow the farmer then they can be free. He says that man does not produce anything like milk and eggs, but humans are still the top of the food chain. Three nights later Major passes away.
Soon after, three pigs named Napoleon, Snowball, and Squealer start a rebellion against humans, like Major said. They succeed and eventually overthrow the farmer Jones and his wife. The farmer runs away and leaves the farm to the animals. The animals rename the farm Animal Farm. But Jones does not want to give away the farm. He goes back to the farm to regain the farm. The humans lose and the animals remain the owners of the farm for the time being.
Before the fight, the animals establish a kind of law called The Seven Commandments.
The Seven Commandments
1. Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy. 2. Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend. 3. No animal shall wear clothes. 4. No animal shall sleep in a bed. 5. No animal shall drink alcohol. 6. No animal shall kill any other animal. 7. All animals are equal.
These rules will eventually change and change for the worst.
Animal Farm is a happy place until the leaders start getting corrupted by greed for power and eventually turn against each other. Snowball proposes that they build a windmill to get electricity. Napoleon is against the idea. The two comrades turn against each other. Napoleon trains a few dogs to use as bodyguards and he frightens Snowball away with them. Then he eventually says that he had agreed with the windmill plan the whole time and that he was really just pretending to disagree. Napoleon also says that it turns out the Snowball was allies with the evil farmer Jones. They start to build the windmill. Once they finish the windmill, after a lot of tiresome work, the windmill breaks and Snowball is blamed for the destruction of the windmill.
This is only page 47; the book has 95 pages total. A lot more happens but I think this is enough to give you a taste of what is to come.
Marshmallow’s review: This book is an allegory about how people treat each other when they have too much power. It reminded me of Aesop’s fables where the main characters are animals acting like humans. But this is a much more political story than The Boy Who Cried Wolf.
“It is the history of a revolution that went wrong—and of the excellent excuses that were forthcoming at every step for the perversion of the original doctrine.”
wrote Orwell in the original blurb for the first edition of Animal Farm in 1945.
from the back cover.
As in fables you learn lessons from the story. It seems that pretty much anybody can be corrupted by power. Of course, the silence and cooperation of the farm animals who are all scared of being the next victim of Napoleon’s dogs allow his corruption to grow.
This book is quite pessimistic and does not have a happy end. But maybe we can learn from it some things. All in all I appreciated reading it and will likely read it again.
Sprinkles reviews children’s books about Ada Lovelace and suggests a few other books on women in STEM.
Ever since the launch of the Book Bunnies blog, Sprinkles has been thinking about what she should post here as her first review. Finally she decided to share a review she had written about several books on Ada Lovelace for a different outlet. Below is a revised version of what first appeared as “Reading About Ada: Children’s Edition” in the Association for Women in Mathematics Newsletter (Volume 49 Number 1 (January-February 2019), pages 9-13). This is long and will be the only post for July 2019; the book bunnies will be back with new reviews in August 2019.
We’re living at a time of many opportunities for people who can code. Today children of privilege begin playing with computers as toddlers. Attempts at leveling the playing field can involve coding camps as well as more traditional STEM-focused enrichment activities. Yet the computer science and engineering workforce remains
heavily male-dominated. So proponents of women in STEM
grasp at any loose end they can find to help alleviate the
dearth of female role models. This is why we’re seeing book
after book written about Ada, the first woman who wrote a
computer program. And she is not only the first woman who
did that, but actually the first person ever. A neat win for the
I completely empathize with this desire to share Ada’s story with younger people. And more generally I’m always on the lookout for books that can open up worlds of opportunity for girls of all ages. Hence I appreciated the opportunity to review several recent books on Ada written for the under-ten age group. The first three books I read belong to special series of books intended to encourage children to learn more about scientists and innovators and their contributions:
Ada Lovelace by Virginia Loh-Hagan (my itty-bitty bio)
(illustrated by Jeff Bane)
Ada Lovelace and Computer Algorithms by Ellen Labrecque
(Women Innovators: 21st Century Junior Library)
Programming Pioneer Ada Lovelace by Valerie Bodden
(STEM trailblazer BIOS)
Loh-Hagan’s book is for the youngest in the crowd. The book is narrated through Ada’s perspective and the plain Ada illustration on the cover appears throughout; there is also a range of images from Ada’s life. Though reading a sentence such as “I died in 1852” feels weird, the open-ended questions throughout try to connect the child reading the book (or being read to) to Ada’s story. Though the story is much simplified, perhaps to the extent of not being com- pletely accurate (Ada Lovelace didn’t “invent” the first computer program, she “wrote” it, and Charles Babbage didn’t “invent the computer” as his work didn’t connect with the actual historical development of computers), it is told in an age- appropriate way to inspire and intrigue.
Labrecque’s book presents itself in a similar vein. Printed in a very large font, it could be read out loud with
a new reader, and the occasional prompts to the reader
sprinkled throughout can make this reading session more
fun and engaging. This book goes into more detail about
Ada and her contributions, and the reader is offered a clearer
idea of what her life’s work was about. Several color photos
and images accompany the text and enrich the reading
experience. A few follow-up resources and activities are
suggested, and I could see an enthusiastic parent or summer
camp instructor turning the book into a cool afternoon full
of learning and fun.
At 28+ pages Bodden’s is a book one could (or should!)
find in any school library. This hardcover chapter book
would be a neat resource for elementary school students
trying to learn about Ada and her contributions; it could
also be a great story to share with that special shy niece
interested in mathy stuff. Many images throughout bring
Ada’s story to life. The section titled “Thinking Like a
Man” openly brings up gender issues and could make a
good conversation starter for pre-teens. This, I believe, is the
most detailed and accurate account of Ada’s story for the
Next are larger-format storybook-style books on
Ada. Each of these would be great to read to or together with
a young child; their beautiful illustrations will add much
joy to the experience.
Ada’s Ideas: The Story of Ada Lovelace, the World’s First Computer Programmer written and illustrated by Fiona Robinson
Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine by Laurie Wallmark (illustrated by April Chu)
Who Says Women Can’t Be Computer Programmers? The Story
of Ada Lovelace by Tanya Lee Stone (illustrated by
Ada Lovelace, Poet of Science: The First Computer Programmer by Diane Stanley (illustrated by Jessie Hartland)
None of these goes beyond Bodden’s Programming Pioneer Ada Lovelace in terms of technical details, but the technical details that are included are dispensed in perfectly digestible amounts. This makes the books not only fun to read but also intellectually stimulating. Interestingly, they all seem to be fascinated by nine-year-old Ada’s efforts to design and construct a flying machine; this plays an important role in each of the four books. The sheer beauty of illustration in each book also makes these great gifts for young children and the adults who enjoy reading with them. The expert illustrations range from the realistic (in Wallmark and Chu’s Thinking Machine) to the whimsical (Stone and Priceman’s Who Says Women
Can’t Be Computer Programmers?). Most play with the
contrast of the poet’s imagination with the mathematician’s
strict discipline, and all successfully combine the two in
But what to do with that special little person who read several of these books and wants to know more about Ada? Here let me tell you one thing: Whatever you do, don’t jump into any random book about Ada with your youngster, without first reading it on your own. Otherwise you just might find yourself, like I did, in some very awkward territory, where you need to either explain, or explain away, or simply skip through large portions of exposition, which go beyond PG-13. Yes, Ada’s life is inspiring to children, but it also contains a lot of messy bits for the adults.
Indeed, it saddens me to acknowledge that children only get to hear part of Ada’s story. Ada’s life is complex, and as you immediately discover when you dig into the juicy details, she certainly didn’t do everything right. She was ambitious and confident. She had vision and she had sass. She was also the person who wrote the very first computer program. But Ada is an ideal role model for more than just the above. Yes, she was brilliant. But she was also a failed genius, and this time, she is on our team. Except for her gender, Ada’s story resembles the stories of any of those wild geniuses appreciated not only for their achievements but also for their larger-than-life personalities. And how many such stories do we have with female protagonists? How many others like her can you count? A female genius, who was brimming with potential and yet was mostly misunderstood and unappreciated during her time? An extraordinary figure, one who saw farther than her peers, one who basically squandered her voluminous talents because she was just interested in way too many disparate things?
The standard simplified Ada story tells us that she was a genius who wrote the first computer program. A similarly simplified story could tell us alternatively that she ended up doing nothing impactful, that her work and that of Charles was not what led to today’s computers, so that overall, she was a failure. Another simplified story could badmouth her mothering, her wifely skills, and her “loose attitude” with other men and tell us a tale of immorality in the grandeur of Victorian England. (Valerie Aurora in her amazing talk explores these different stories about Ada and encourages us to accept the complexities of her life instead of trying to fit her into a straitjacket.)
The story most people would choose to tell their children is the first one. However, for those children ready to take on a more complex persona and engage with her fully, some grownup books might help. The one I’d recommend for people who might also enjoy reading along to learn some of the math Ada was engaged in is Ada Lovelace: The Making of a Computer Scientist by Christopher Hollings, Ursula Martin, and Adrian Rice. The authors are historians of mathematics and computer science and have dug deep into the archives and brought us a mathematically rich and yet a most readable account of Ada.
But maybe you don’t want to go there. Then, why not expand your little ones’ horizons and introduce them to other amazing women? Here are three of my other favorites if you want a break from Ada:
Nothing Stopped Sophie: The Story of Unshakable Mathematician Sophie Germain by Cheryl Bardoe (illustrated by Barbara McClintock) – about Sophie Germain
The Girl with a Mind for Math: The Story of Raye Montague by Julia Finley Mosca (illustrated by Daniel Rieley) – about Raye Montague
Counting on Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo 13 by Helaine Becker (illustrated by Dow Phumiruk) – about Katherine Johnson
And for neat collections of short bios, you will not go wrong with either of the two volumes of Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo; if you’re especially rooting for math, don’t miss the second volume, with its portrayal of Maryam Mirzakhani.
Marshmallow reviews Animal Friendship! Collection by National Geographic Kids, a collection of three books in one volume:
Book 1: Best Friends Forever! And More True Stories of Animal Friendships (by Amy Shields)
Book 2: The Whale Who Won Hearts! And More True Stories of Adventures with Animals (by Brian Skerry with Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld)
Book 3: Lucky Leopards! And More True Stories of Amazing Animal Rescues (by Aline Alexander Newman)
Marshmallow has been reading the Animal Friendship! Collection by National Geographic Kids on and off for a couple years now. Finally she is writing about it.
Marshmallow’s quick take: If you like nonfiction books about animals, then this might be the book for you.
Marshmallow’s Overview: This book has three books in one volume:
Book 1: Best Friends Forever! And More True Stories of Animal Friendships (by Amy Shields) Book 2: The Whale Who Won Hearts! And More True Stories of Adventures with Animals (by Brian Skerry with Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld) Book 3: Lucky Leopards! And More True Stories of Amazing Animal Rescues (by Aline Alexander Newman)
In the first two books, there are four stories each, each made up of three chapters. The third book has three stories, each made up of three chapters. That means that there are, in total, eleven stories (all told in a total of 33 chapters) in the collection.
Each story is three chapters long. The stories are all about different animals: there are stories about leopards, apes, dogs, whales, cats, sharks, and so on. In the stories of the first book, there is a friendship between two species of animals that are each unique in different ways. Most stories in the second book are about human interactions with special animals, and the stories in the third book are about people rescuing hurt animals. The stories are all real, and the book contains many colorful photos of the events happening.
Marshmallow’s Review: The book cover says that this book is about “Amazing Stories of Animal Friends and the Humans Who Love Them”. This description is accurate as these are really heartwarming and amazing stories.
This is a great read for people and rabbits who like nonfiction books about animals and people. It contains stories that have characters that are all loyal and kind to their friends or companions.
My favorite book in the collection is Book 1: Best Friends Forever! I like this book because it has my favorite stories. The stories in this book are about animal friendships. The animals are very loyal to their companions who are from a different species, which makes it even more impressive that they are friends. The very first story is about Roscoe the dog and Suryia the orangutan. The second one is about a gorilla named Koko who loves cats. The third story is about a greyhound named Jasmine and the many different animals she becomes friends with. The last story of Book 1 is about Owen the hippo and his friend Mzee the tortoise.
The fact that this book is nonfiction is almost unbelievable since the stories are so unlikely but very cute and adorable. In my opinion this is a very good and well written book.