My 7 year old son is really into the solar sytem right now. He loves reading about all the planets and his favorite is Saturn. He actually did a google search and discovered that there was a fiction story called Saturn for my Birthday. So, we had to go on a search at one of our local book stores and to the library to find the book. We didn't have much luck.
So, back to searching the internet again. This time, I found the publishing company which is Sylvan Dell Publishing. I contacted them to request the book to review and they very kindly sent it to me. Before I move on to the review of this wonderful book, I would like to tell you that Sylvan Dell Publishing has many more amazing science, math & nature themed stories for children and you really should check out their website. There are also teaching activities to supplement each story on their website. I was so impressed with their site! They have the perfect books for my son who loves Science.
Saturn for my Birthday by John McGranaghan and Illustrated by Wendy Edelson is a delightful story about a young boy named Jeffrey who wants Saturn for his birthday and all of Saturn's moons too. It is such an imaginative, creative story that also includes real solar system fun facts and Saturn fun facts. I think my son loved imagining that Saturn could be wrapped up in a blanket and all the moons could be in the little boy's room. There is even an Edible Rings activity at the end.
This is a perfect bedtime story and a must have for all public libraries. I know that I will be sharing the information with our local library in hopes that they will have the book there. It is so much more than just a picture book and the illustrations are amazing too.
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Feathered Quill Book Review
Jeffrey smiled as he came into the kitchen where his father was at the espresso machine. The curly mopped pair were surrounded by animals, including a white cockatoo that had settled in on his Dad’s shoulder. Birthday time was coming up and much to his father’s relief, he didn’t ask for another pet, but what he did want just about took the curl out of his Dad’s hair. The animals scattered, milk flew up in the air and peas scattered across the table when Jeffrey said that he wanted “Saturn!” Yes, yes, yes! He wanted not only Saturn, but “all forty-seven” moons that surrounded the planet.” That wasn’t asking for much, and of course the planet would have to be ordered immediately to get there any time soon.
Mrs. Cassini had told the class all about the planet and because it was “800 million miles” away it was going to take a while. Jeffrey had all kinds of plans for Saturn, a planet he knew all about. It was very cold at “about 200 degrees below zero,” but he had plans to warm it up. He imagined he could put the planet in the tub and wash the rings, he decided Saturn could light up his room at night, he could put Titan, the “biggest moon” beside his bed . . . yup, he had big plans for Saturn. He imagined he could take it to school, but his Dad interrupted his thoughts, by saying, “Jeffrey, Saturn is not a toy. It’s a planet.” Jeffrey began to stomp his foot and pout. Would he be able to get Saturn or was he going to have to get something else he didn’t want?
This delightful tale is a wonderful way to gently absorb factual material on a planet without having to memorize facts. The beautiful, colorful supporting illustrations meshed perfectly with the text and were excellent visual aids to the story. For example, while Jeffrey was telling his Dad about the major moons, Titan, Pandora, Calypso, Janus, Tethys, and Mimas, the reader can figure out the largest to the smallest by putting on their thinking caps. This book is very vibrant and alive and shouts out at the reader just asking to be read time and time again. In the back of the book there is a section on “Solar System Fun Facts,” “Saturn Fun Facts,” a section discussing the planet’s size, additional assorted facts, and a recipe for “Edible Rings.” Additional teaching/learning resources for this book can be found on the Sylvan Dell Publishing website.
Quill says: For a fun, factual, and fascinating learning experience about Saturn this is one book you can count on for an enjoyable reading experience!
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Learning Magazine’s Teachers Choice Award Feedback 2010
“I shared this book as a read aloud first as we studied our Solar System unit; however the students chose this book to read independently when it was placed in my feature books section of the classroom. The book was very interesting to the children. It was kid friendly and all reading levels enjoyed it. The students were able to retain much of the information about the planet from the book. Many of the student commented that they really liked it, and they learned a lot. They inquired about books on the other planets. I personally loved how the facts were written in to the story.”
“This book is great to use in several different ways. It is great as a read loud to the entire class while doing a unit on space. It can also be read independently, so the child can gain more info as he/she reads the side captions. Being able to use it in several ways makes it worth more than the average book. The pictures held the interest of the class as it was read aloud. The book was kid friendly, and interesting to all reading levels. This book is appropriate for any age as a teaching tool or as a book read for pleasure.”
“I would recommend this to be used as a read aloud and as reference material. My students all did planet reports, and many of the facts about Saturn they could have gotten from this book. The students enjoyed Jeffery as the main character. It was a well written book. Science and research would be the two main skills that you could teach with this book. This book incorporates science into the classroom. It includes information in the back of the book to incorporate the information in this book across the classroom in most areas of the classroom. It encourages the use of imagination in children. I would recommend this product.”
“I recommend using this book for group time to read aloud to the children. It could be incorporated into a lesson about planets and science. I found this product to be interesting. It was easy for the children to follow what was going on in this book. It was kid friendly with the pictures that it included and the ideas the children come up with. It was short enough to hold the children's attention. The information encouraged the children to use their imagination. Once I read the story to the class they wanted me to read it a second time. The book was simple to read and easy for the children to understand the concepts of the book. I would recommend this book as a resource to be read to the children in a preschool classroom. I would also recommend it to a kindergarten classroom for independent reading. The book is interesting and holds the attention of the reader and/or the listener of the story."
National Writing for Children Center - July 24, 2009
Jeffrey doesn’t want much for his birthday. It’s not another pet, he assures his dad. In fact, he’ll settle for Saturn and its forty-seven moon! No problem, right? But since Saturn is 800 million miles from the Earth, they need to get it ordered right away because it might take a while to get to him.
He’ll take great care of Saturn, Jeffrey says. He’ll wrap his planet in a blanket and sit in front of the fireplace while watching the science channel because Saturn is used to a 200 degrees below zero temperature. He’ll give it a bath to keep it clean. He’ll let the moons light up his room at night. He’ll give names to the moons that only have numbers. He’ll even share some of Saturn’s rings with his friends and his teacher!
Of course, Dad has to explain to Jeffrey that Saturn can’t possibly fit inside their house. It’s nine times bigger than the Earth. And no, one of the moons won’t work either. Jeffrey must choose something from planet Earth — something that can fit inside their house.
A puppy named Saturn!
Has Dad been had?
Author John McGranaghan has created a delightful book with numerous facts about Saturn cleverly woven into this story about a young boy who asks for a most unusual birthday gift. He’s learned all about Saturn at school, and he tries to convince his dad that it will be the perfect present, especially since he’s been told he doesn’t really need another pet. And the whimsical illustrations by Wendy Edelson are colorful and fun—adding much to this wonderful story!
Children will be introduced to the second largest planet in the solar system in a creative way, and after reading this humorous tale, they’ll probably want to dig a little deeper and learn more about Saturn. And as always, Sylvan Dell includes a section at the end of the book called ‘For Creative Minds’ with optional fun facts and activities. You can also find more links, activities, and quizzes for this book and other titles at www.sylvandellpublishing.com.
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Pennsylvania School Library Association - Nov 2008
What an excellent and innovative book!!! A must have for every library. Classroom teachers could use this clever book to introduce the solar system and specifically the planet Saturn. The “For Creative Minds” facts located at the back of the book is a great introduction to the concepts of the solar system and includes many interesting facts about Saturn. The book is targeted for the K-3 audience but I think older students in grades 4-6 would appreciate the book as well. As a school librarian, I am a big believer in using picture books as curriculum tie-ins in the classroom. There is no better way to grab the attention of students, at any age, than through the use of a very informative and crowd appealing picture book! The illustrations compliment the story and bring the author’s words and information to life. Thank goodness the author’s son really wanted “Saturn for his Birthday” bringing this interesting book to fruition. - Lanore Spearing, School Librarian and Library Consultant
Epinions.com - Oct 2008
Magical charm is the heart of John McGranaghan's book, Saturn for My Birthday, but the charm comes from Wendy Edelson's illustrations as well as the author's delightful birthday story. Everyone is happy including the multiple pets and Saturn.
Saturn for My Birthday is the brainstorm birthday request of young Jeffrey; he considers it over a wanting another pet. They certainly don't need any more-I lost track after counting two bassets, two cats, mouse, parrot, frog, golden retriever, and corgi. Young Jeffrey now wants Saturn to add to his collection of pets. He has plans for Saturn and is quick to justify his request to his dad.
~ Since Saturn is a cold planet (nearly 200 degrees below zero) he will wrap it in a blanket and let it rest on a towel in front of the fireplace and TV.
~ Later, since he learned Saturn could float he'll let it soak in the bathtub.
~ He will reduce his electricity use by letting the 47 moons light his bedroom at night and he'll give names to the moons that only have numbers.
~ Of course he'll be generous and share the rings with his classmates since Saturn has lots of rings, but his best friend will get one of the larger rings to roll around the schoolyard and his teacher will get three.
~ Finally he promises to take care of Saturn since it's a very old planet and could be fragile.
Dad, on the other hand, is a little overwhelmed by this request and proceeds cautiously with counter logic-the stuff parents do. When Jeffrey announces his birthday request at breakfast dad was drinking some milk-kids will love the milk squirting out of dad's nose. But dad says that
~ Saturn is millions of miles away (Jeffrey advises he had better hurry and order Saturn cause shipping could take a while.)
~ Saturn is really cold and almost 900 miles away from the sun.
~ Saturn won't fit in the tub.
~ It's not a toy, it's a planet, and it's the second biggest planet in the solar system.
Jeffrey works out a compromise that worked for this reader.
John McGranaghan gracefully integrates facts about the planet Saturn and its rings into this charming children's book. The facts were verified by NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Lawrence Dewarf, Astronomy Professor at Villanova University. Parents and teachers need not worry about this colorful picturebook appealing to children--the text and images will be enjoyed by young readers of ages four to seven or eight.
About the Illustrator
Wendy Edelson has just become my new favorite children's book illustrator. (Take a look and see what I mean: http://www.wendyedelson.com/.) Her imagination and visions inject magic into each watercolor. They have detail but they contain elements of fantasy. She works with pencil to create elaborate drawings and then paints with watercolor occasionally using different media such as colored pencils and pastels. (She illustrated a pop-up book on Lighthouses I would dearly love to get my hands on.)
Everyone is smiling and cheerful in this father and son story, even at the moment Jeffrey realizes his stubborn body language won't get him the birthday present of his dreams. The richness of this illustrator's work is obvious on every page but particularly when Jeffrey fantasizes Saturn in front of the fireplace and again when he's outside looking at the night sky with dad and all of their pets. Yes, the pets are present on every single page, but with so many they sort of have to be.
This is an educational book as much as a charming father/son book.
Saturn for My Birthday was released by Sylvan Dell Publishing June 2008 and like all of their books it offers solid science and teaching resources. They make online resources available at no cost for teachers or parents at http://www.sylvandellpublishing.com/. The final five pages provide "For Creative Minds" education reproducible activities (at their website). This includes Solar System Fun Facts, Saturn Fun Facts, Math Activities (Saturn's Sizes, Temperature, Density, and Distance) and an introduction to Saturn's Moons and Rings.
Resources that assist teaching with this book includes: For Creative Minds, Teaching Activities (art, science, math, reading), quizzes, alignment to standards, and related websites. Sylvan Dell's related websites are always reliable. They carefully select age and content appropriate resources and update as necessary. This particular selection offers Kids' pages in addition to curriculum resources with teaching activities and statistics. One, Welcome to the Planets: Saturn, really does have valuable pictures with descriptions that assist first through third grade teachers with teaching an unfamiliar topic. (I know from experience, being a natural history person, how difficult some science topics can be. My challenges were dinosaurs and astronomy.)
Young learners will enjoy this because of Jeffrey's unrealistic wish, his fantasies, and the cheerful illustrations and pets. (Edelson has a way with basset hounds.) The only traditional pets missing are perhaps rabbits and lizards. Teachers will appreciate John McGranaghan's skillful integration of science into fiction and in my opinion every elementary library should have this unusual book. Quality fiction books for the early elementary grades that integrate astronomy into fiction are rare and this one is a gem.
My thanks to Sylvan Dell Publishing for allowing me to provide an honest review of this book.
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2009 IBPA Benjamin Franklin Award Judge Comments - June 2009
“Interesting topic. Likely to entertain but also teach readers about the solar system.”
“Very cute and quite creative book that combines humor, science, and imagination.”
Library Media Connection - 2009
It is this publisher’s mission to create books that are exciting to read while also containing cross-curricular content. In this particular book, facts about Saturn are woven seamlessly into the text. However, the story itself falls flat in characterization and the believability is not there. Jeffrey appears to be about five years old, but knows way too many facts, including names of the numerous Saturn moons. The facts and activities at book’s end are a more appropriate venue for specific facts, and teachers will appreciate these add-ons. The illustrations throughout are fun, though the scale of Saturn will confuse children about the size of Saturn sitting on the couch with the size that is explained in the text.
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The Planetary Society-October 2012
Author John McGranaghan's second entry in this list, another story that delivers lots of facts about Saturn with the silliness. It's a relief to have a fact-filled book that doesn't start with Mercury and work predictably out to Neptune. A boy tries to convince his Dad to get him Saturn (and all its moons) for his birthday, explaining all the fun things he could do with it ("I'll make up names for the moons that don't have them yet!") and what good care he'd take of it (he can bathe it in the bathtub, he says, because it would float). Back pages include a few facts and fun activities. I think I'll make the Saturn's-rings ice cream ring with my kids...
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Armchair Interviews - June 2008
The cover art of Saturn for my Birthday is delicious! Kids are going to be drawn in and will be entertained while their sharp little eyes devour the scene.
Jeffrey’s birthday is looming and he’s decided that he wants Saturn for his birthday present. Yes, that Saturn—the planet. Oh, and he wouldn’t mind having its forty-seven moons. He’s going to take good care of Saturn and will share the rings with his friends. It will be oh, so much fun to have Saturn for his very own. But since Saturn is millions of miles away, Dad had better get right on it, because it will take an awful long time for the planet to arrive!
Join Jeffrey and live his delightful fantasy about owning Saturn for his very own planet. And when you’re done with Jeffrey’s story, turn the page and see the Solar System Fun Facts. They will surprise the young reader and maybe some of us older folks too. Then take your young reader to the publisher’s web site (see below) and click on the book’s cover to find all the wonderful supplemental materials.
I always say Sylvan Dell Publishers have the best children’s book and Saturn for my Birthday is no exception. The stories are entertaining and educational in a subtle way. The illustrations are always exceptional and the illustrations are delightful. They’re detailed and bright and cozy. They make your heart sing and the reader longs for the blazing fire, a soft sofa and your own Saturn wrapped in a blanket lounging with you (see the book for this scene).
Armchair Interviews says: Perfect for the family library and a must have for schools and public libraries.
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National Space Society - Oct 2008
Saturn for my Birthday by John McGranaghan, illustrated by Wendy Edelson, is a delightful picture book that will introduce children to one of our solar system's most beautiful worlds. With this book, the publisher, Sylvan Dell, adds to their list of lavishly illustrated humorous picture books on various science topics. This book, similar to the others I've seen, includes an activity that parents and kids can do together. They deserve high marks for their efforts to encourage science learning through playful stories, fact pages, and activities.
This book's premise is simply stated in the title: a child asks for Saturn for his birthday. Anticipating his father's objections, the boy carefully explains his plans to take proper care of Saturn. From one silly spread to the next, the boy details how he will wrap the planet with a blanket (Saturn is really cold!), give it a bath (Saturn floats!), and always put it away when he's done playing with it. Along the way, the boy parrots information about the planet that he's learned from his teacher (Mrs. Cassini), such as how far away it is (so Dad needs to order it right away), and that it has lots of moons and rings.
It is hard to critique the science in this book because so much of it is tongue-in-cheek! Though I applaud the style and love the illustrations, I am a little concerned that the children may remember the boy's humorous misinterpretations of the facts instead of the actual facts — which are clearly explained in the appendix of the book. For example, the boy says he won't need any night lights because he will place Saturn's moons around his bedroom. (Mythology buffs will enjoy the subtle humor here such as Tethys by the fish tank and Janus above the door!) The appendix states: "The moons don't make their own light but they 'glow' by reflecting the light from the sun — just like our moon does." This is correct, but not many young children know what this means. They may think the moons are like those phosphorous stars that charge up in the light and glow on their ceilings. To make it clear that the moons will not glow, I suggest parents explain that they are made of rock and would not glow in the dark.
Another possible misunderstanding that the book reinforces multiple times is the idea that the rings are solid. In all the illustrations, Saturn's rings are shown as solid — the TV remote sits on them in one. The boy gives them away to friends at school where they are used as a hoola hoop, bracelet, and earrings, for example. The artist did compensate somewhat for this by adding little drips and crystals of ice here and there, and also was careful not to show the rings attached to the planet. The appendix states: "The rings are not solid. In fact, they are floating pieces of ice and rock that are 'held together' by the gravity from both Saturn and its many moons." This is correct, and hopefully would allow the parent to explain that the rings go around like adults, children, and dogs running around a track, with the near ones going around faster, and none of the individuals being attached to each other. But the activity that follows, making edible rings, once again reinforces the idea that the rings are solid. The activity makes a ring out of ice cream and nuts. It is great that the children will understand that the rings would melt here on Earth — but I bet most of them will be left with the impression that they are solid and rotate like a hoola hoop.
The book includes an out-of-date list of the moons of Saturn, and the promotional material highlights it by saying "Jeffrey wants Saturn for this birthday, and he wants the moons, too — all 47 of them!" The total currently stands at 60, not 47. The number does not appear in the main text, only in the appendix, where the author wisely added "and scientists keep finding more." The appendix lists 34 named moons and 13 unnamed ones. The current list includes 52 named moons and 8 unnamed ones. One moon was discovered in 2005, 8 in 2006, and 4 in 2007, with many of them receiving official names in April 2007. It is unclear why the author used data from 2004. Perhaps the educators at NASA/JPL, who are acknowledged in the book as having fact-checked it, did their check back in 2004 and the book was delayed. I recommend the National Space Science Data Center, maintained by NASA Goddard, as a good source for parents who want the latest list (see Saturnian Satellite Fact Sheet), or a simple search of press releases via Google. However, the number of moons does not play a major role in the story, and is likely to keep changing, so no real harm is done by having an old number.
Another minor issue with the moons is the relative sizes shown in the bedroom scene. While it is obvious that the illustrations are not to scale, it would have been fairly easy to show Calypso and Atlas much smaller than the others, and that those moons and Janus are not round. In reality, Titan is about 5 times bigger than Tethys, Mimas is about half the size of Tethys, and Janus about a fifth the size of Tethys. Atlas and Calypso are 30 times smaller than Tethys. Unfortunately, no clarifying information on their shape and sizes is included in the appendix.
Overall, this book left me smiling and wanting to get a copy to share with my preschool nephews. I highly recommend Saturn for my Birthday as a playful and engaging book for young children and their parents to enjoy together.
- Marianne Dyson
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Also available here.
Reader View Kids - Dec 2008
Reviewed by Madeline McElroy (age 7.5)
This is an easy book to read and very funny. Jeffery told his Dad that he wanted Saturn for his birthday. When he told him, his Dad was drinking milk and it squirted out of his Dad’s nose. That was the funniest part of the story! The silliest part of the story is when Jeffery was dreaming that he gave Saturn a bath in the bathtub! I thought this was a really neat thing to want for your birthday. If I could have Saturn for my birthday, I would want it too! I learned a bunch of facts about Saturn that I didn't know before from this book, “Saturn for My Birthday” by John McGranaghan. I really liked the artwork; it had a lot of details and was very colorful. I liked all the animals and the Cockatoo with his funky “hair style.”
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Children's Literature Comprehensive Database - Aug 2008
Jeffrey makes up his mind. He wants Saturn as a present for his birthday, and he won’t take no for an answer. Throughout the tale, Jeffrey tells Dad about the special things he has learned about Saturn from his teacher. Dad espouses his own knowledge about Saturn. In their back and forth banter, a plethora of information is presented to reader/listeners of this book. All facts come across in an entertaining manner. Jeffrey imagines snuggling up with Saturn to watch TV, gently scrubbing Saturn in the bathtub, taking it to bed, and taking it to school where he can share Saturn’s rings with his classmates and teacher. Lively illustrations enhance the solid text. They are humorous and contain so much that they will be looked at again and again. Jeffrey’s pets are pictured often and they, too, add to the illustrations. This book is an excellent supplement to science lessons regarding space and planets. Creative Minds activities follow the text. They contain more facts and an easy-to-make recipe for edible Saturn rings. - Nancy Attebury
The Reading Tub - July 2008
Summary: Dad is happy to hear that Jeffrey doesn't want another pet. He has an even better birthday idea. He wants Saturn. Thanks to Mrs. Cassini, his teacher, he knows about Saturn and all of the things he'll need to do to take care of this gift. So, can Dad get Saturn? This picture book combines information about Saturn with a story about wishes.
Type of Reading: bedtime story, anytime reading, family reading, playtime reading, read aloud book, early reader
Recommended Age: read together: 4 to 8; read yourself: 7 to 10
Age of Child: Shared with nearly 7-year-old girl.
Little Kid Reaction: Our daughter loved this story. Birthdays are a favorite subject, Saturn's rings are rainbow colors, and Saturn and its moons all had faces. We read this a few times, and she thumbed through it by herself, too.
Big Kid Reaction: This is a truly clever story. The author did a wonderful job overlaying science facts in a light-hearted, non-technical story. The illustrations are wonderful, and the two-page spread of father and son pointing to the stars is just beautiful. Although this rated out as a 3.1 reading level (which sometimes happens with picture books), our rising first grader was able to recognize a lot of words and participate in reading.
Pros: Kids will enjoy the humor and learn some great facts about the solar system in this picture book that plays on their favorite things: pets and birthdays.
Borrow or Buy: Borrow, at least. If you have an elementary-aged child who is fascinated by planets and stars or Saturn specifically, you will want this book. This is great for home and classroom use.
Educational Themes: Use this book as the first step to going outside and stare at the stars, visiting your local planetarium, or finding a star-watching group in your community. Pick another planet, collect some facts about it, and then decide how you would "care" for it. You'll find additional information about the solar system in the For Creative Minds section of the book and ideas on the Sylvan Dell website, too.
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In the Pages - Aug 2008
John McGranaghan's Saturn for my Birthday is SO fun. Little Jeffrey wants Saturn for his birthday - oh yes, and the moons too - make that all 47 of them!!! I love it that they are not all for him though - he will gladly share them with his friends, teacher, etc! There are great facts in here on Saturn and the Solar System - don't miss this one! The magnificent illustrator on this one is Wendy Edelson - she has her own unique style and it is superb!
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The Reading Tub - June 2008
Sylvan Dell creates some wonderful science-oriented stories for kids. Another creative way to get science into kids and kids into science! Thumbing through the book, you'll find some brightly colored illustrations, each so unique you could tell your own story without reading a word.
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