Books I Grew up on: Braden Hancock

Books I Grew up on is a blog series featuring guest bloggers who discuss reading in their childhoods: the books they loved, the paths they found to developing a love for reading, and how reading helped them become who they are today! Today’s Books I Grew up on guest blogger is computer scientist and machine learning PhD student at Stanford, Braden Hancock. 

 

Where did you grow up? What was it like growing up there?
I grew up in the suburbs of southwest Ohio. It’s a magical place that nails perfectly (in my opinion) the balance between living too far apart from other people (total farm land) or on top of each other (sprawling apartment complexes of Manhattan). Evenings were spent at the ball field, the park, or playing outside in the yard.

What role did books have in your childhood? 
With 9 kids in the family who (almost) all loved to read, we kept the library busy. My mom had two separate library cards (since each card has a max item limit of 50 books), so we would get somewhere between 50 and 100 books each week. If you read through your allotted books too quickly before library day (usually Tuesday if I recall correctly), you’d end up reading the encyclopedia or your siblings’ books while you waited for a chance to refill.

How did you first develop a love for reading?
It’s hard to remember the beginning. It was just always there. I think it helped that my older brother really enjoyed reading. I saw how much he liked it, and that made me want to read the books he was so enjoying. And then my younger brother saw the books that I was enjoying, so he wanted to read them. And then our younger sister saw him…

What was your favorite book as a child? Why?
I really enjoyed the Bailey School Kids books when I was in young elementary school; I think I was very proud that I was reading “chapter books”, and mythical/folk creatures (vampires, leprechauns, werewolves, witches, frankenstein, etc.) are so much fun as a little kid. Good fodder for the imagination.

What is your favorite children’s book now? Why?
Now I enjoy the Olivia books when I read them to my 2-year-old daughter. They’re good books for kids—nice pictures, simple words, clear story—but they have all sorts of fun hidden gems for the parents, too, that make them fun to read.

What advice would you give to young readers?
Redwall. Such a good series. Look forward to the day that you can start reading the Redwall books.

 

ABOUT BRADEN
Braden is a computer scientist working with artificial intelligence at Stanford. Right now he’s trying to write programs that will let us teach computers just by talking to them instead of typing into them. We can already control some computers with voice, but we don’t yet have very good ways of teaching them new things with voice. He’s excited to change that!


CheMystery Goodreads Giveaway

We are giving away 5 copies of CheMystery on Goodreads and we would love one of our followers to win a copy! To enter, just click on the link below. Happy contesting!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

CheMystery by C.A. Preece

CheMystery

by C.A. Preece

Giveaway ends September 15, 2017.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway


Free Bookmarks for Summer Reading

Ah, summer. It’s a time of picnics, sunshine, swimming, and play. But for those who love books, it’s also a time of reading, where those extra hours of play can be spent in the company of a good book. Especially for those young readers out there, we at ThunderStone Books hope that you carve out a portion of your summer vacation to enjoy some interesting characters and engaging plots as you get lost in good books.

To help you in your quest to make this summer one that is adequately flavored with some delicious reads, here are some bookmarks from our favorite books (we’re biased; we know). Feel free to print these, share them, and use them to mark your place in your summer reading adventures.

Happy summer reading from ThunderStone Books!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Download the bookmarks

 

 


Microbes: A Microbiology Picture Book

All around us there are organisms that are invisible to the naked eye, organisms called microbes. You can learn all about microbes in the adorable new picture book Microbes by Amy Gallagher. ThunderStone Book is proud to announce that this creative look at microorganisms is coming to a store near you in November!

Today we welcome Amy Gallagher, author of Microbes, to tell us more about herself and her upcoming book.

 

About Microbes

 

 

Microbes is a fun and educational book on microbiology. It gives an overview of six different types of microbes, including bacteria, viruses, fungi, algae, protozoa and archaea. I combine easy-to-understand, digestible information with playful, zany characters that represent different microscopic organisms. My intentions for this book are to engage the reader’s attention, spark their interest in science, and make learning an overall positive, enjoyable, and enlightening experience.

 

 

 

The idea for Microbes

My attention into microbiology was first caught upon a visit to the Grant’s Museum of Zoology in London. This museum contained an amazing vast collection of 20,000 microscope slides, representing tiny creatures that make the majority of life.

I began reading further into the wonder of the microscopic world, especially microbiology. During my research, I noted many books and websites using very dull, black and white, accurate illustrations or plain photographs to offer a visual insight into this secret universe. As a practising children’s illustrator, I wanted to breathe life and excitement back into this subject, and came up with the idea to produce a fun and educational book around Microbiology.

 

What is your favorite type of microbe?

My favourite type of microbe is archaea. They are amazingly resilient organisms that can withstand and thrive in extreme environments. There is much still unknown about archaea, yet I look forward to scientists unearthing more fascinating facts and interesting information!

 

How did you become an illustrator/author?

I’ve been working as a freelance illustrator since university, yet I’ve been creative and handy with a pencil from a very young age. After graduating university with a degree in Illustration & Visual Media in 2015, it felt natural to continue with my creative path. I’ve been producing children’s illustration, design, greeting cards and comics since graduating in 2015. After creating Microbes in the same year, it’s been a goal of mine to share it with the world, and fulfil my desire to make learning a more fun experience for children. I am thrilled that Thunderstone Books share the same ethos and are excited by the book as much as I am. It’s spurring me on to continue as a illustrator, and I plan to write and illustrate more fun educational books for young audiences!

 

What are your favorite picture books?

I love children’s books that possess a strong message, contain distinctive beautiful illustrations, and aren’t afraid to tackle taboo subjects or cheeky humour. One of my favourite books growing up was a book called The Story of the Little Mole who knew it was none of his business.

It follows a grumpy mole on his quest to find out who did their business on his head. I’m also a huge fan on Tove Jansson’s Moomin books.

 

 

Tove Jansson is my favourite children’s author and illustrator. Her precious books cover themes of family, nature, adventure, philosophy and also subtly tackles difficult subjects such as loss, gender, and sexuality.

 

 

 

What advice would you give to young readers?

Don’t stop reading! Literature enriches and expands your mind! It can be enjoyed in different mediums such as paperbacks, e-readers, newspapers, magazines, blog posts, comics and graphic novels. I understand that young readers have a pressure to mature into reading material with less and less pictures, and heavier on words. Not that that is necessarily a bad thing, but the combination of word and art can support each other, and can make the material more engaging. Therefore having time for both types of material should still be encouraged, shared and enjoyed!


Under the Microscope: Hair

It’s a hairy situation we are examining today (see what I did there?) because the focus of this “Under the Microscope” post is hair. Hair is an interesting thing. Even the word is strange because if you have one, it is a “hair” and if you have several, they are “hairs.” But if you are talking about a whole head-full, then it becomes “hair” again.

 

Head hair

This is a close-up look at head hair. Did you know that on average, humans have 100,000 hair follicles on their heads? A follicle is the pocket in your skin out of which the individual hairs grow. Interestingly, the number of hairs on your head depends in part on the color of your hair. On average, blondes have the most hairs on their heads (an average of 146,000 hairs), while redheads have the fewest hairs on their heads (an average of 86,000 hairs).

The hair in this picture comes from the head of a person with brown hair. However, you may notice that not all of the hairs look the same shade of brown. In fact, there are many hairs that are even blonde or reddish in color!

Beard hair

This picture is of beard hair. The images of the head hair and beard hair come from the same person and this person has head hair and beard hair that are both brown. However, there are many men who have head hair that naturally grows in one color and beard hair that naturally grows in another color! Why? Well, there are two types of pigment that determine hair color: eumelanin (black or brown) and pheomelanin (blonde or red). In different parts of the body, there will be different colors and textures of hair, which is why beards sometimes have different textures and colors than hair on the head.
Notice as well that you can see a sharp, straight edge on the end of the hair in this picture. This is because this person shaves his beard with a razor regularly. So that is what gives the hair the straight edge.

 

Arm hair

This final picture is of arm hair. There is not a straight edge on these hairs because they have not been cut with a razor like the beard hair. In both the beard and arm hair images, you can see the textures of the skin cells behind them. Skin is a discussion for another week, but skin certainly does look interesting under a microscope!

 

 

 

 

If you want to view hair under your own portable microscope, you can purchase one here.


Books I Grew up on: Kayla Hoffman

Books I Grew up on is a blog series featuring guest bloggers who discuss reading in their childhoods: the books they loved, the paths they found to developing a love for reading, and how reading helped them become who they are today! Today’s Books I Grew up on guest blogger is kimchi business owner and entrepreneur Kayla Hoffman. 

 

Where did you grow up? What was it like growing up there?

Morgan Hill, CA. It was fun. I lived thirty minutes away from the beach which was one of my favorite places. I was lucky to be able to do a lot of awesome activities with my family quite often such as camping, boating, snowboarding, going to the beach, going to Oakland A’s games, and hiking.

 

What role did books have in your childhood? 

Where the Red Fern Grows and Peppermints in the Parlor. Though the first sort of destroyed me as a child, I LOVED listening to my mom read to my sister and I. I remember when I started reading on my own I would hide a flash light in my bed and secretly read under my covers until I fell asleep. I caught on to reading really early so I was able to enjoy books my whole life. My mom was a huge part of getting me interested in books!

 

What was your favorite book as a child?

That is a tough one….As cliche as it is, I cannot imagine my life without having read the Harry Potter books. Those really were a huge part of my life and throughout different ages. I think there was something really inspiring about Harry, Ron, and Hermione. There were traits in each of them that I admired and their friendship was pure. I loved the magic and the storyline of overcoming evil.

What is your favorite children’s book now?

This book is mainly for babies but I LOVE King Baby. It is so funny and so simple. Everything in the book is true, even though it is outrageous. I laugh every time I read it.

 

What advice would you give to young readers?

Keep reading. Even when books are more boring, it is a skill and hobby that will make you smarter and happier. Movies are wonderful, but there is nothing like having an adventure of epic proportions within your own mind. It can really make you feel like anything is possible.

 

ABOUT KAYLA

Kayla owns a kimchi business called Yummchi and sells products at farmers markets in Salt Lake County, Utah. Yummchi was started last year and Kayla and her team are currently working on adding new, exciting products to their product line. She says the business has been fun and opened many doors for her and her family. To learn more about Yummchi, check out the Yummchi website.


Books I Grew up on with Travis Hancock

Books I Grew up on is a blog series featuring guest bloggers who discuss reading in their childhoods: the books they loved, the paths they found to developing a love for reading, and how reading helped them become who they are today! Today’s Books I Grew up on guest blogger is digital marketer, game maker, and entrepreneur Travis Hancock. 

20150712_175223Where did you grow up? What was it like growing up there?

I grew up in the southwest suburbs of Ohio. I loved it! Good schools, nice people, a beautiful autumn and all 4 seasons. I also liked that Ohio felt like it was in “the middle” of the country and so my family could easily take trips to just about anywhere.

What role did books have in your childhood? 

Books were a huge part of my life. My siblings and I seemed to always be leaning against the side-rests of our couch taking up 2 or 3 cushions while diving into a book. We looked forward to weekly trips to the library, and of course to free pizza and toys from the Book-It program or the latest library reading program. Reading was magical.

How did you first develop a love for reading?

Honestly, I don’t remember ever developing a love for reading. It just seemed to always be there, thanks to the culture my parents created in our house. Reading was simply something that we did and that we enjoyed. My mom made sure that the library box was always overflowing with options. She did a great job in making sure we always had a dozen new, exciting books within reach.

What was your favorite book as a child?

I know it’s cliche, but it’s pretty hard to say anything but Harry Potter as the favorite. Those books were just so magical and impossible to put down! I also really loved the Redwall series. Brian Jacques did an incredible job creating a whole universe full of legends and lore, language, food, culture, etc, similar to the way that Tolkein did for Lord of the Rings.
t-sleep-on-couch-9-05

What is your favorite children’s book now?

I always look back fondly on the Bailey School Kids series, and I still will read pages here and there when I come across one.

What advice would you give to young readers?

Young readers are so blessed to not be so picky or time-constrained when it comes to reading. It seems like adults just don’t prioritize reading like young readers do. So just keep at it! Keep reading as a priority now, and as you grow older. The benefits of reading can’t be overstated – it helps you learn, expand your mind, relate to others, and develop other innovative ideas.

ABOUT TRAVIS

One of the “other innovate ideas” that reading has led Travis to is the creation of board games! His company, Facade Games (facadegames.com) launched a game called “Salem” last year and it’s now played by thousands of people across the world. For all you book lovers out there, “Salem” is not only a fun game to play, but it comes in a beautiful box that looks like an antique book. Also look out for his next game, “Tortuga 1667”, in January 2017.

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Magical Christmas Picture Books

Merry Christmas from ThunderStone Books! As the holiday approaches, some of the members of the ThunderStone Books team talk about their favorite Christmas picture books. Curl up with one of these under the light of the Christmas tree, hot cocoa in hand, for a wonderful addition to your Christmas season.

Debbie’s Pick

Father Christmas by Raymond Briggs

fatherchristmas

 

“Personally, I thoroughly enjoy Raymond Briggs’ portrayal of Father Christmas as it is far from ‘the norm’ that we are used to. There is no magic workshop, no elves and certainly no jolly laughter. Father Christmas is shown to be from more humble beginnings. He lives alone in a small house with his cat and dog while his 2 deer live in stables outside. He dreams of being on the beach sunbathing and can’t wait for the stress of Christmas to be over. His reaction to the difficulties of being Father Christmas (flying in bad weather, getting gifts to those who live in unusual places like a lighthouse, being covered in soot) generate a sympathetic reaction from the reader. It makes Father Christmas much more relatable in comparison to the magical and lively interpretation we are so used to.”

 

Chris’s Pick

Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer

reindeer

“This has always been my favorite because I was able to connect with several of the characters because they were outsiders and I have always felt different from everyone else. Rudolph with his nose, Hermey the elf who wants to be a dentist, and the highlight for me was the island of misfit toys; a cowboy that rides an ostrich sounds pretty awesome to me.”

 

Robert’s Pick

The Best Christmas Book Ever by Richard Scarry

richardscarry

The Best Christmas Book Ever is one of the Christmas picture books that I read most as a kid. It is a collection of short Christmas stories all revolving around the city of Busytown. The thing I like most about this book is that the book is about a community during the Christmas season and to me, Christmastime is all about community. The Christmas season brings people together and inspires a connectedness with each other that is not as strong at other times of the year.”

 

Rachel’s Pick

The Amazing Christmas Extravaganza by David Shannon

shannon

“In my opinion, David Shannon is a master of storytelling and illustration. When I was young, each night during December, my mom would gather me and my sisters and we would read Christmas stories by the light of the Christmas tree. One of our favorites was The Amazing Christmas Extravaganza, the story of a man who took his desire to put more Christmas lights on his house to the extreme and who lost the meaning of Christmas because of that. It’s a touching story with a sweet ending and every time I see extravagant displays of Christmas lights, I think of that book.”

 

Merry Christmas! Which Christmas picture books are your favorites?

 


Homemade Gifts for Your Favorite Bibliophile

Design your own book cover of your bibliophile’s favorite book.

For a while, Penguin had a series of out-of-copyright books that had blank covers so that people could design their own covers, which was a brilliant idea! Unfortunately, the series is no longer in print, but that does not mean that you can’t give your favorite bibliophile a book with a custom cover. Pick your bibliophile’s favorite out-of-copyright book (a good resource is Project Gutenberg) and then design your own cover for it. If you know a bit about bookbinding, you could print the book and bind it yourself, but there are many self-publishing venues such as CreateSpace or Lulu through which you could also publish your gift.

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Create a mini version of your bibliophile’s favorite book.

Why is it that mini versions of things are so adorable? If you can find the text for an out-of-copyright book that your favorite bibliophile loves, then printing it and folding it as a mini version can be a lot of fun. This is easiest to do for very short books (such as picture book length) where you can print sixteen mini pages per one A4 or letter size page (click this link to learn more about printing and folding). You can give the mini book to your favorite bibliophile as is or you could tie a string to it, making the mini book a Christmas tree ornament!

 

Design bookmarks.

The key to making homemade bookmarks that don’t look cheap or homemade is to be creative. Go beyond printing words or images on cardstock and think outside the box. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Think different format. Instead of doing a traditional long, rectangular bookmark, create corner bookmarks, perhaps bookmarks look like monsters or animals who are eating the pages.

Think texture. Utilize fabric, ribbon, tassels, beads, bows, and other textual elements to make your bookmark unique.

Think personalized. The best bookmarks are ones that speak to your friend specifically. Utilize quotes from your bibliophile’s favorite book or shapes, designs, and references from things they love. For example, if your bibliophile is fascinated with Scotland’s Loch Ness Monster, maybe you create a Nessie bookmark!

5035228601Make book page roses.

What book lover wouldn’t appreciate a bouquet of roses made from book pages? Visit your local thrift store to purchase some old books from which you feel comfortable tearing pages. With scissors and a little bit of glue from a hot glue gun, you can create some beautiful paper roses. The flowers pictured here were made from sheets of music, but book pages would be made in a similar way. You can see a great tutorial on book page roses here.

Devise a hollowed-out book.

If you want to help your favorite bibliophile fulfill his or her lifelong dream to feel like a spy (let’s be honest, who doesn’t want to feel like a spy?), then you can do so by creating a hollowed-out book. Use hot glue to glue two books together, one on top of the other, and then open the front cover and use a sharp knife to cut out a large hole in the middle of the two books. For fun, you might consider stashing a small water gun in the hole before shutting the cover, wrapping it, and surprising your favorite bibliophile.


The Gift Guide for Science Lovers

It’s that time of year when you are trying to decide the perfect gift for loved ones. If one of those loved ones is a science enthusiast, then we have some ideas that will not break your budget but will be perfectly science-y.

 

  1. usb_microscopeUSB Microscopes.

Microscopes are a lot of fun, but are not usually very portable. However, USB microscopes are lightweight and small. You simply plug the microscope into your laptop and start looking at the world up close and personal! If you are planning on giving this as a Christmas gift, make sure to order early so that your USB microscope arrives in time. Free shipping when you order microscopes from ThunderStone Books!

 

  1. Gallium.

Gallium is an element that has a melting point of 85.58 degrees Fahrenheit. That means that gallium will start to melt if you hold it in your hand for a little while. If you want to really have some fun, buy your friend some gallium and a spoon mold; then your science-lover can put the gallium in the spoon mold and then use the gallium spoon to stir hot liquid and watch it melt!

 

  1. cover_2eoeoutlineScience Books.Elements of Evil notebook cover.indd

One of the best things about Christmas vacation is that there is finally some down time for reading and so a science book could be the Christmas gift that keeps your science-lover occupied all Christmas vacation. If you are looking for science books for adults, here are some of our favorites:

  • The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean
  • What If? by Randall Munro
  • Hyperspace by Michio Kaku
  • Six Easy Pieces by Richard Feynman

If you are looking for science books for kids, it is good to choose something with experiments that can be performed at home (and make for exciting Christmas vacation activities). Check out Elements of Evil and the corresponding Your Elements of Evil Notebook because it is full of codes, wacky experiments, and supervillainy. What young science enthusiast can resist that?

 

  1. Makey Makey

This little device turns ordinary objects into touchpads and combines them with the internet. Last year for Christmas, ThunderStone Books co-founder Robert Noorda used his Makey Makey to play the song “Jingle Bells” with people. He gave several wires to family members to hold (the wires were connected to the Makey Makey) and then by tapping the heads of family members, Rob could play the song. It was a blast! You can visit http://www.makeymakey.com/ for more information.

 

  1. Invisible Ink

There are two things that would be easy to do with invisible ink as a gift. For one, you could make an invisible ink kit for your science-lover. The great thing about such a kit is that you only need regular household items like lemon juice, Q-tips, grape juice, baking soda, and containers (depending on what kinds of invisible ink you are making). Another idea is to make your own invisible ink and use it to write a series of letters as a gift. Make sure to give your science-lover instructions about how to read the messages!