Books to fuel summer learning

LOOK TO THE STARS, by Buzz Aldrin, paintings by Wendell Minor, Putnam, $17.99; ages 6-10.

Children today have known about space exploration for all of their lives. I vividly remember sitting in front of the television set on the night of July 20, 1969, when astronaut Neil Armstrong took one small step and walked on the moon. Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, the book’s author, was also on that mission and followed Armstrong onto the moon’s surface. He not only talks about that experience but also the events leading up to the famous journey and information about the space program.

ONE GIANT LEAP, by Robert Burleigh, paintings by Mike Wimmer, Philomel, $16.99; ages 5-8.

This is the account of man’s first walk on the moon, starting as the Eagle (the moon lander) separates from spaceship Columbia. Everyone on earth awaits those now famous words,"The Eagle has landed,” and watches as the two astronauts, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, make their way down the ladder. Burleigh helps the reader understand the excitement of this mission as well as the emotions the astronauts experience with the challenges of separation and meeting up again with the space ship.

THE BOXCAR CHILDREN GRAPHIC NOVELS, created by Gertrude Chandler Warner, adapted by Shannon Eric Denton, illustrated by Mike Dubisch, Whitman, $6.99; ages 6-9.

I want children to use their imaginations and create their own pictures of the stories they read. However, I realize there are times when children have trouble and a graphic novel can be a valuable asset. Originally published in 1942, the story deals with the Aldens, four orphan children who find a boxcar to live in and how they survive. There are six graphic novels available in this series. Children can read them at a much younger age, and I hope it creates an interest for them to want to read the more detailed longer version.


You don’t have to rely on the weather for these plants, just a window that gets sun and water as needed. All the supplies are in the box for a child to grow three mint-family plants: lemon, spearmint and cinnamon. Directions, background information about herbs and suggested recipes for their use are enclosed.

I MADE THIS FOR YOU!, Chronicle, $12.95; ages 5-10.

Children have the opportunity to draw pictures and write a message in this spiral-bound book. Ideas for pictures lend themselves to summer activities such as a carnival ride, picnic and beach. This will serve as a great record for Show and Tell when school begins again in the fall or can be a wonderful present for a grandparent for the holidays.

THE IMAGINARY GARDEN, by Andrew Larsen, illustrated by Irene Luxbacher, Kids Can, $16.95; ages 4-8.

Theo loved to sit in the yard at Poppa’s old house and have him tell her about his garden. Now Poppa has moved to an apartment and the balcony is too windy for a garden so Theo suggests they create an imaginary garden. They plan the garden together and Poppa buys a blank canvas. Page by page, as the ideas develop, the garden grows. When Poppa goes on vacation, he asks Theo to take care of the garden. She adds the surprising finishing touches.

YES DAY!, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld, HarperCollins, $14.99; ages 4-8.

In every month of the calendar, there are special days designated for special celebrations. What child wouldn’t have fun adding one day a year to the calendar as Yes Day? That’s what the boy in the story is celebrating. Some of his choices include pizza for breakfast, ice cream, lunch outside, a friend over for dinner and staying up late.

Judy Belanger is Chicago Parent’s children’s book reviewer and a retired elementary learning resource center teacher with four grandchildren. She continues to substitute in grades K-6.

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