Friday, July 19, 2019

HOW TO CODE A SANDCASTLE by Josh Funk & Sara Palacios – A fun book to introduce kids to coding

It is so great to see a book about coding that tackles a kid-friendly problem. This is another book that would be excellent for a classroom or school library collection. Or maybe even to read during summer camp. The foreword by Reshma Saujani, Founder of Girls Who Code, helps explain why introducing basic concepts of coding to young children helps to prepare them for their future.

Summary from Amazon:

All summer, Pearl has been trying to build the perfect sandcastle, but out-of-control Frisbees and mischievous puppies keep getting in the way! Pearl and her robot friend Pascal have one last chance, and this time, they’re going to use code to get the job done. Using fundamental computer coding concepts like sequences and loops, Pearl and Pascal are able to break down their sandcastle problem into small, manageable steps. If they can create working code, this could turn out to be the best beach day ever!

How to Code a Sandcastle, written by Josh Funk and illustrated by Sara Palacios was published in 2018 by Viking Children’s Books.


Hello, World. I’m Pearl.

It’s the last day of summer vacation.

Which means today is my very last chance

to build a sandcastle!

My Thoughts as a Writer:

The beginning of this story shows all the problems Pearl has met in trying to build a sandcastle—a great set up for the solution of using a robot to help her. I liked the way the story shows Pearl’s reactions to the problems that crop up as she uses the robot.

My Thoughts as an Educator:

The idea of breaking a big problem down into smaller problems to solve is what really came through for me as a key concept in this story. I also really liked the way the book explains concepts such as “loop” and “sequence” in a kid-friendly way. The illustrations are fun and the problems of not giving specific enough instructions to the robot add a lot of light humor to this story.

Ages: 4-8

Grades: K – 3

Themes: coding, problem-solving, sandcastles


Imagine & Draw: Design your own fantastic sandcastle! Draw a picture and include all the features that will make your sandcastle really awesome.

Write: Think about the steps a robot would need to build a tower or bridge. What sequences might you need? What loops could help save on the work? Draw and write to show your steps. Build a model of your design.

STEM: Create a coding game! Design a set of cards to show how the robot would move from the sandcastle to the water to fill the castle moat. What obstacles would be in the way? What directions would the robot need to move?

Monday, July 8, 2019

A WOLF CALLED WANDER by Rosanne Parry – A glimpse of wolf’s perspective on the wilderness

Such an interesting story about wolves! I read this one as an e-book from my local library, but a print copy would be better to fully appreciate the lovely black and white drawings by illustrator Mónica Armiño.

Description from the publisher

This gripping novel about survival and family is based on the real story of one wolf’s incredible journey to find a safe place to call home. Illustrated throughout, this irresistible tale by award-winning author Rosanne Parry is for fans of Sara Pennypacker’s Pax and Katherine Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan.

Swift, a young wolf cub, lives with his pack in the mountains learning to hunt, competing with his brothers and sisters for hierarchy, and watching over a new litter of cubs. Then a rival pack attacks, and Swift and his family scatter.

Alone and scared, Swift must flee and find a new home. His journey takes him a remarkable one thousand miles across the Pacific Northwest. The trip is full of peril, and Swift encounters forest fires, hunters, highways, and hunger before he finds his new home.

A Wolf Called Wander by Rosanne Parry was published by Greenwillow Books in 2019.

Why you want to read this book:

It’s an exciting survival story, told from an animal’s perspective. It was hard to put down this story as I followed Swift through childhood, tragedy and survival without his pack. It was super interested to learn about wolf behaviour as I was reading.  Keep in mind that this story includes realistic details about wolf hunting their prey, for anyone who is squeamish. The wolves are portrayed as living, wild animals—hunting, fighting, sustaining injuries.

I spring to my feet and run. The fire is on my heels, scorching my paws. Fire is above my head, singing my fur.


I begin in darkness, and my nose tells me everything I know.

If you’re a writer…

You might want to study this book to see how to use description and action to create an animal perspective. It’s especially interesting to look at all the sensory details from a wolf point of view! I liked the way the author created a complete world for the wolves by developing their beliefs and thoughts about family and their own culture.  

Our voices bounce off the mountains. They reach for the wolf star.

If you’re an educator…

This book will satisfy the curiosity of anyone interested in wolves! At the back of the book, there’s lots of information about wolves and their habitats, as well as details about how research information on wolves is collected. I was really interested to learn that the story was inspired by the life of a real wolf in Oregon.

Check out another review of this book from a family perspective at Some the Wiser.  

If you’re looking for another great list of middle grade books to read, check out Marvelous Middle Grade Monday on Greg Pattridge's blog.