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Archive for the month “November, 2014”

Scientists in the Field series

I have the great pleasure of moderating a session at NCTE this coming Friday with two fantastic authors whose books are in the Scientists in the Field series. This series, to me, is the gold standard for non-fiction for children. These two authors, Elizabeth Rusch and Loree Griffin Burns, tackle a variety of topics and have garnered a lot of attention for their efforts. Elizabeth’s Eruption! Volcanoes and the Science of Saving Lives was honored as an  Outstanding Science Trade Book, NSTA/CBC last year. And Loree’s  Tracking Trash: Flotsam, Jetsam, and the Science of Ocean Motion was honored as a Boston Globe-Horn Book Nonfiction Award honor book.

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They each have a new book that they will talk about at NCTE. Elizabeth has The Next Wave: The Quest to Harness the Power of the Oceans and Loree has Beetle Busters: A Rogue Insect ad the People Who Track It. If you want science that will grab your kids and make them want to become scientists themselves, these titles are for you. I think the neatest thing about this whole series is that it makes kids think, maybe for the first time, that being a scientist is something any one of them could do. They may never have thought about it before but after reading these books they certainly will. Ah, the joys of non-fiction!

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Creature Features: 25 Animals Explain Why They Look the Way They Do

I have always said that you can count on Steve Jenkins for truly magnificent non-fiction books. Well, I was wrong. You can depend on Steve Jenkins AND his wife, Robin Page, to create truly magnificent non-fiction books! 🙂

9780544233515_p0_v2_s260x420I was one of the lucky people who got to see Steve Jenkins and Robin Page at the Shenandoah Children’s Literature Conference back in June. I got to hear about how ideas came to them, how they collaborate on the text and the art, and how much fun they have doing it. In this, their latest, they turn to animals whose features have helped them survive over the years in the wild. The format is different from what they have done before. On each page is a creature and a question is posed to it: “Dear mandrill: Why is your nose so colorful?” The answer explains why it is the mandrill boasts all these colors. Can you guess why it does? You’ll definitely have to read this book to find out. Other questions include “Dear pufferfish: you’ve got me worried – are you going to explode?” Do these sound like questions kids would ask. Definitely! The art, as always, is stupendous with Steve’s paper collage. It still blows my mind that his collages look exactly like the animals he is representing. As always there is wonderful back matter that gives children a bit more information (and how to get even more) than what is offered in the text. In this case, the animals are to scale so kids can see if a mole rat is bigger or smaller than a tapir, for example (smaller). It also includes the diets that sustain them and where in the world they are found. I love this book and think that any teacher would want this book in their classroom. It will captivate young readers. Good luck getting them to share! 🙂

Blizzard by John Rocco

John Rocco’s Caldecott Honor winning picture book, Blackout, captured a moment in time when the lights literally went out in New York City and people were forced to interact with one another. Their phones didn’t work, TVs didn’t, and the computers, streetlights, and neon signs just stopped. We’ve lost those evenings on the front porch where people talked and told stories and connected with their neighbors. It took a blackout to have that happen in New York and Rocco’s book celebrated that moment. It’s a wonderful book.

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Rocco’s new one is just as wonderful and it again highlights a specific moment (well, actually a week) when the snow falls up to 4 feet and the town shuts down. The protagonist  moves from sheer bliss that school is closed to being sick of being stuck in the house day after day as the food supplies dwindles. Its such a great tale from a child’s viewpoint. The art is terrific complete with a double gatefold with a map of the trail the boy takes as he ventures out to get groceries wearing tennis rackets as snowshoes. It makes me want to see the snow start falling.

This is a great book to read in class when the first snowflakes fall and the children are looking out the school house windows thinking only of getting out of school early. Pair it with Kevin O’Malley’s Straight to the Pole and Susan Jeffers’ beautifully illustrated version of Robert Frost’s Stopping by Woods On A Snowy Evening to seize the moment and let the kids know you’re thinking of the days when you were the one looking out the window wistfully. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

 

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Mr. Ferris and His Wheel by Kathryn Gibbs Davis, ills. by Gilbert Ford

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I love picture books! Did you know it is Picture Book Month for all of November? It’s true and more info about that can be found at http://picturebookmonth.com. In the meantime, let’s celebrate all things picture book! Hooray!

Mr. Ferris and His Wheel will interest all children who have ever ridden, or even seen, a ferris wheel. Why is it called a “ferris” wheel? Ah, because the mechanical engineer who designed it was named George Ferris. He created this unusual attraction for the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair and it was the hit of the show. It was different in some ways and is more like a cross of what we know as a ferris wheel now and the London Eye. There were glassed-in compartments that held seats which is more like the London Eye that what we’re used to. No one thought Ferris could pull off this enormous feat of engineering. He showed them, didn’t he?

On the downside (and I still love the book) the wonderful illustrations would look so much better if the pages were a bit more substantial and a little glossy. They look kind of dull as it is now. As a reader, I also would have liked to know what happened to the ferris wheel when the World’s Fair closed. Did it remain or was it demolished? Did people continue to ride it?

Despite the limitations noted, it is definitely worth getting. Kids will be so intrigued by it and who knows, they might build one out of Legos. 🙂

Waiting Is Not Easy! by Mo Willems

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Waiting is not easy for any of us but especially for young children. Mo has hit the nail on the head again by capturing a real “problem” little ones have. Elephant & Piggie are hilarious as usual in this outing. Piggie has a surprise for Elephant but can’t give it to him quite yet. True to form, Gerald tries and tries to wait patiently but patient he is not. His frustration buds and ends up emitting some enormous GROANS. When he’s about to explode with anticipation and frustration, Piggie reveals her surprise. All I can say is it is was worth waiting for. Willems is going to end the E&P series before too long and that will be a sad day, indeed.

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