Friday, August 13, 2010

Author Dawn Menge Visits WITS Podcast to Discuss New Queen Vernita Book

Please tune in to our podcast today as WITS team member Sarah Moore welcomes children's author Dawn Menge to the podcast to discuss the third release in her Queen Vernita series, Queen Vernita Meets Sir HeathyBean the Astronomer.

In this new book, Queen Vernita continues her tradition of welcoming a friend to her home every month and then learning a new fact or experiencing a new adventure on every day of the week. Her guests are young and old, male and female, and of various races and physical abilities. This time around, they are joined by Sir HeathyBean and Cora the Teacher to learn some exciting details about the universe that surrounds us. And as always, readers will enjoy gorgeous illustrations on every page.

During the interview, Dawn will be discussing what it was like to work with her brother, Heath Rhodes, as co-author on this project, why she chose to focus on astronomy for this third installment, and the messages she hopes readers will take away about learning and friendship.

Click here to listen... to the entire interview!

Queen Vernita Meets Sir HeathyBean the Astronomer can be purchased at

Title of Document: Book Review
Book Title: Queen Vernita Meets Sir HeathyBean the Astronomer
Author: Dawn Menge
ISBN: 978-1-4327-3120-5
Genre and Target Market: children; fiction
Publication Date: 2010

Book Review by: Sarah Moore

Just earlier today, I sat riveted to a documentary on The History Channel that charted the presumed future of the sun. I watched a demonstration of how the gases that comprise this large star will eventually expand, consuming the Earth and other planets along the way, and then how all of the matter of the universe will explode under the force of a “dark energy” that has yet to be fully understood. I was fascinated by every moment of the program, and found myself imagining a class of children learning this exact same information. Would they find these details as amazing as I do? How can we help to encourage a desire to learn more about the expanse that surrounds us, as there is still so much more to know? In her newest addition to the Queen Vernita series, Queen Vernita Meets Sir HeathyBean the Astronomer, author Dawn Menge offers us one great tool that I believe will get children excited about space and astronomy.

For readers who are not already familiar with Queen Vernita, she is a character created by Menge to teach children about the months of the year and the days of the week through repetition, beautiful illustrations, and visitors whose personalities are pulled from the author’s own life. Each month, Queen Vernita welcomes a new friend to spend time with her and the readers learn what the two do or learn every day of the week. In Queen Vernita Meets Sir HeathyBean the Astronomer, the Queen invites Sir Heathybean and Cora the Teacher to stay at her home for an entire year and teach her and her friends about some of the heavenly bodies that surround us. Each of the nine planets, the sun, the moon, and asteroids and comets receives focus in the book.

What I love about Queen Vernita Meets Sir HeathyBean the Astronomer, and all of the books in the Queen Vernita series, is that Dawn Menge displays a contagious excitement for learning in each of her characters. They love spending time with Queen Vernita as they explore Venus or the sun or a comet, and each page ends detailing ways in which the learning will be extended when that month’s visitor returns home. This desire to discover is particularly important given the diversity of people who come to visit Queen Vernita. Males, females, the young, the old, and those who were born with physical or mental challenges—all are welcome and treated with respect and high expectations. I also enjoy the fact that the details included in this book go beyond the basic facts you would be expected to know on a fourth or fifth grade exam. For example, young readers will learn that Mars is called the Red Planet due to the iron oxide present on its surface and that the temperature in the center of Jupiter might be as high as 43,000 degrees Fahrenheit!

I had the opportunity to read Dawn Menge’s first Queen Vernita book, Queen Vernita’s Visitors, more than two years ago and became a fan immediately. All of her books are now regular parts of the bedtime reading routine in my house, per request of my preschool daughter. While my young girl enjoys the calendar repetition and the illustrations now, these books will only continue to grow with her as she understands more the higher-level details provided on each page. With the newly-released third book in the series, Queen Vernita Meets Sir HeathyBean the Astronomer, Menge continues to offer the quality writing and attention to detail that her previous books provided and adds wonderful facts about a subject in which we really need to get more young people excited. This book is one that I recommend for every home collection and school library!

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