Since 2012 when it first released its Batman-themed sets, LEGO, a contraction of leg godt which means “play well” in Danish, have offered fans construction sets related to the popular superheroes so they can learn to read and follow instructions and develop their fine motor skills as they make the intricate models from the movies, then use their imagination to build new stories and adventures with their creations.
Beginning with a visual timeline of releases this guide to the minifigures, vehicles and sets of the Marvel multiverse offers lots of background information about the characters including Spider-Man, The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy and others, it culminates in a behind-the-scenes chapter which features concept art and an interview with the LEGO Marvel creative team.
Like its predecessors that have been linked to popular movies and characters, this is a book that will have young fans poring over it, talking about what they are discovering, wanting to learn more and reading to do so- engaging in all those behaviours that show that print offers them something and that reading for pleasure is a worthwhile thing to do. Guaranteed to hook young reluctant readers, appeal to more independent fans and even offer suggestions for the Christmas stocking as each model has details of its release date, set number, and the number of pieces and minifigures that come with it. There is even a Iron Man minifig included!
Not so long ago, the word ‘stem’ referred to the major vertical shoot of a plant that bears buds and shoots with leaves and with roots at its lower end to anchor it. (It had other meanings too, but that’s the one with which primary school kids were most familiar.) Now though, in schools it more commonly refers to the interdisciplinary approach to teaching Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths, thus bringing these topics and their vocabulary into the realm of even our youngest students.
So words like ‘hypothesis’, ‘viscosity’ and even ‘yangchuanosaurus” now roll off tongues as a matter of course, and concepts such as inertia, electromagnetism and bioluminescence sit alongside the more traditional ones of the primary classroom like photosynthesis, evaporation and metamorphosis. But sometimes such words are easier to say than understand so this encyclopedia explains 100 words that are common to young scientists, arranged in alphabetical order and each with its own page so there is space for illustrations and text so the meaning and the concept’s application is clear. To make it even easier, there is a contents page, an both an index and glossary so navigation is simple if the reader is looking for a specific term.
But as well as being a ready reference in itself, it just begs to be a model for students to build their own definitions and explanations. Imagine the power of a Word Wall that has more than just vocabulary, one that is built and added to at point of need, written and illustrated by the students themselves. Maybe even extending the Word Wall to a display of working models so that as well as the science there are also the technology, engineering, and maths aspects that can be exploited. And who wouldn’t want to watch an episode of Lego Masters and try to explain the STEM as well as the story?
Books like this that actively engage readers in building on them are essential tools in the kits of teachers, libraries of schools and bookshelves of families. This one is a must-have.
The fun that can be had with a cardboard box is only limited by the imagination and sisters Mila and Ivy have plenty of that. Mila is a cardboard design engineer and as well as the usual stacks, cars, tunnels and hats, she takes things further to build robots, zoos , roller coasters and the best time machine ever. Currently she is designing and constructing a cupcake catapult Ivy but things change when Ivy destroys their project, making cardboard confetti instead. Mila is devastated and wants nothing more to do with Ivy. Mila continues to engineer – alone. But something is missing. Maybe Ivy was making cardboard confetti for a reason. So how do sisters rebuild their relationship while engineering their next ultimate cardboard creation?
Building on the theme of girls can do anything, and reminding them that no field of endeavour is off-limits because of gender, readers can have fun dreaming of something spectacular they could make with a cardboard box and then draw up plans, gather materials, experiment and document their work as they build not only learning a lot about the design process but also how to deal with their frustration when things don’t work out and developing patience and resilience as they solve the problems. Perhaps there is a better solution than making cardboard confetti.
It is also a story of the inevitable clashes in the sister-sister relationship that opens the door to discussions about the reader’s relationships with their siblings, the range of emotions including frustration, heartbreak, stubbornness, and determination as they eventually reconcile and understand that such ups and downs are normal. That no matter how pesky little sisters can be (says the grandmother of two, five years apart) that there is always a special bond and as they grow up, the age difference becomes less.
Big machines fascinate little kids and this sequel to Roadworks and Demolition fills the bill perfectly as it follows the process of constructing a building using repetitive text and onomatopoeia which just invite the reader to join in.
Fill the holes. Fill the holes. Let the concrete drop. Spread it fast before it sets… sloosh, slosh slop.
But the best part is the final reveal of the building that is being constructed – one that opens doors for everyone!
Little people love stories and they learn to talk and read by listening to them and then reading them for themselves, especially those in board book format that withstand little hands. It is a critical part of the development of early reading behaviours and to have one that will inspire them to seek out even more to read, is just perfect!
On the surface, this looks like a how-to guide to creating illustrations using collage, a technique defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “A piece of art made by sticking various different materials such as photographs and pieces of paper or fabric on to a backing”. Created by Jeannie Baker whose collage masterpieces have fascinated readers in all her works including Where the Forest Meets the Sea and Window, the reader is led through various sections that explore and explain such things as the tools to be used, the materials that lend themselves to being used and even a page that challenges the reader to identify a variety of those materials.
But to me, its power lies in its introduction. Ms Baker shares how even examining paint that has dried and weathered fascinated her, and how its cracks and layers told her so much about the story of the object it was adhered to. Each was another story in its history and made her curious and she would carefully collect a piece to add to other pieces that would help tell a similar story. She finds the materials for her work everywhere, both natural and manmade, and she has become more and more observant of the things that make up this world and how they can be used together to create something new and equally wondrous. And as she says, the purpose of the book is to inspire the reader to be and do the same – to look more closely, to discover “secrets and gems”, to think about them beyond their original purpose or state, and to create more and different magic with them.
As young children move through the natural stages of creating pictures, they get to one where their creation must be lifelike and when it doesn’t meet their expectations, that’s where their artistic abilities stall. They are so dissatisfied with their efforts they tell themselves they can’t draw and the negative self-talk takes over. But, as Ms Baker points out, “When you work in abstract, you don’t have to worry about how things ‘should’ be done -it allows for you to be far more creative and free. There are no right or wrong answers: nothing is ‘bad, just trust your instincts and PLAY!”
By offering the reader ideas for starting their own collage and sharing samples of her work by putting the individual found pieces into a pleasing arrangement, this book should kickstart those who have stalled off in a new direction, encouraging them to pay closer attention to the shapes, colours and textures of the world around them, as well as sending them back to Baker’s earlier works to examine them in closer detail.
In the breakneck speed that our children seem to lead their lives, anything that gives them cause to pause, stop, look and wonder, perhaps even create, has to be a positive influence. There is tremendous scope to use this as the centrepiece of a group activity in the library, with children invited to bring in suitable materials and arrange them in interesting ways – rather like the group jigsaw but much more creative because there is no “right way.” Get started with the Teachers Resource Kit and worksheets.
She also talks to the ABC about her long career, her love of collage and her passion for the environment here.
Since 2006 when it first released its Batman-themed sets, LEGO, a contraction of leg godt which means “play well” in Danish, have offered fans construction sets related to the popular superheroes so they can learn to read and follow instructions and develop their fine motor skills as they make the intricate models from the movies, then use their imagination to build new stories and adventures with their creations.
This visual guide to the minifigures, vehicles and sets of the Superhero world offers lots of background information about the characters culminating in a behind-the-scenes chapter which features concept art and an interview with the LEGO DC Super Heroes creative team.
Like its predecessors that have been linked to popular movies and characters, this is a book that will have young fans poring over it, talking about what they are discovering, wanting to learn more and reading to do so- engaging in all those behaviours that show that print offers them something and that reading for pleasure is a worthwhile thing to do. Guaranteed to hook young reluctant readers, appeal to more independent fans and even offer suggestions for the Christmas stocking as each model has details of its release date, set number, and the number of pieces and minifigures that come with it. There is even a Yellow Lantern Batman included!
Whether the little fingers of our youngest readers are making a sun clock, weaving paper, floating boats to escape sharks or concocting chocolate chunk cookies, as well as the fun there is also science involved. Whether the final product works because of energy, temperature, strength, aerodynamics, or the combination of molecules, simple science is behind many of the common craft activities that children love to create.
So in this new release from DK, Jane Bull has taken some of these popular projects and explored not only the steps involved in making something from start to finish, but has also explained the science behind each one.
From making a beautiful ice lantern that could grace the Christmas table, to a balloon that doesn’t pop to investigating how beans know which way is up, there are 20 different activities that will young minds occupied and, in some cases, mesmerised, as they are fascinated by the “magic” while they learn to follow procedural texts. Guaranteed to engage is the popular grass-head figure made by putting some grass or wheat seeds into a piece of stocking or kitchen wipe, filling it with potting mix and securing it tightly before putting it wick down into a jar of water. Draw a face with permanent markers and place on the classroom window-sill. Your young scientists will make a beeline for theirs each morning to see if it has started to sprout hair, and having competitions to see whose will grow the longest! (Can you tell I’ve done this once or twice or more in my 45 years in schools?)
Learning science through play from an early age using easy-to-find materials opens up so much of the world for the young child, and with a simple equipment list, clear step-by-step instructions, lots of photographs and the simple science explanations this is a book that should be in every school collection, available on the makerspace table and also in Christmas stockings for a child’s personal library this year.
Listed firstly by the type of project and then by the movie, young readers can easily find their favourite and soon find themselves making Elsa’s sparkly cape, Buzz Lightyear’s Wings, Cinderella’s pumpkin carriage, Belle’s book garland or even doing the boogie with Baloo. Each activity is related to a character from the movie, has a list of the equipment needed, if any, and clear step-by-step instructions so that young readers can follow the steps independently. There are templates, tips, tricks and explanations and the typical DK layout makes it accessible to all ages and abilities, although some may need adult assistance.
Each activity provides a procedural text to follow, which could be used as a model for students to create their own, while others like the parachuting soldiers from Toy Story offer science to be explored and explained.
With so many activities, this one book could form the basis of your STEM and craft curriculum for the year, while being the perfect addition to the family entertainment library as the long summer holidays loom. No computer screens required!
In 1932 and facing the Great Depression which was engulfing the world, Danish master carpenter Ole Kirk Kristiansen closed his carpentry business and turned his attention to making wooden toys for children. Fifteen years later, after World War II and all its development with technology and materials, particularly plastic, Kristiansen purchased an expensive plastic injection-moulding machine and his wooden toys were now made of plastic. Using a name that is a contraction of leg godt which means “play well” in Danish, the LEGO group was established and by 1954, the idea of building bricks that locked together firmly so they were stable but which also came apart easily was launched with the Town Plan range of construction sets. Finally, in January 1658 the block was perfected, the patent lodged and the rest, as they say, is history.
And it is the history of that block from its evolution as a plan for a toy that could be used to build virtually anything to that realisation that is the focus of this fascinating new release, marking the 60th anniversary of the building block as we know it.
Driven by the belief that children and their development mean everything and that this must pervade everything that is created, and based on the principles that the system must
provide unlimited play opportunities
be for girls and boys
inspire enthusiasm in all ages’
be able to be played with all year round
provide endless hours of healthy, quiet and safe play
inspire imagination, creativity and development
be topical and provide add-on value for preceding products
those initial town construction sets have evolved into a world of designs and models that span buildings, characters, transportation, books, movies, furniture, fabric, licensed merchandise, even theme parks! That journey is traced in full colour photographs, easily-accessible text and the signature DK layout making this a dig-and-delve must-have in any LEGO fan’s collection or any library whose clients are LEGO fans. Every page has something to pore over, wonder at and learn, making it perfect as a shared conversation book so important to emerging readers.
Something particularly special for the Santa Sack for any age!
If your foot has ever found Lego in the night and you hate it, this might restore your faith…
Puffin the architect has designed some stunning homes for some fastidious clients, having to take into account their particular needs. For instance, Platypus the baker’s riverbank home needed “lots of clever cupboards full of flour, salt and yeast” while Giraffe the gardener needed “a rolling outdoor tub on wheels for soaking aching necks”.
But her new clients are the most discerning and needy of all, for they are her own children and all they want is a puffin cottage. Can she deliver?
This is an intriguing, engaging and very clever book on as many levels as there are in Puffin’s designs.
Firstly, all the illustrations of the different homes are presented as cross-sections, a technique which not only allows a peek inside to show all the details but which also appeals enormously to young readers who feel as though they are inside the house and can search for all the things in the text. The text itself is also very clever as it builds through the story. Each successive client wants what the previous clients have had – clever cupboards; furniture that folds away; a tunnel system; a pulley-operated rack; a skylight;, a rolling, outdoor paddling pool… but also something extra specific to their needs. And so the text builds over each spread with each device then being customised to fit the client’s particular demands. And if that is not enough, it is all in rhyme making for an absorbing read that holds the reader’s attention. What more could the pufflings actually want that their mother hasn’t already included in other designs?
A peek inside….
With so much interest in designing and making and appraising the results as we encourage our students to be creative and think laterally, this is a book that could be used in so many ways within the curriculum. Children could be encouraged to choose another creature and consider their needs so they could then design a home for them; they could investigate the purpose and construction of cross-sections and how to draw and label them; or they could explore other books where the text is cumulative.
Different, distinctive and a valuable addition to your collection.