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Archive for the category “Non-Fiction”

Eye to Eye: How Animals See the World by Steve Jenkins

You’re probably sick of me writing still another great review of a Steve Jenkins book. Well, too bad, I say! This recent book looks at the eyes of creatures we know of (in some cases) but have never looked carefully at. It’s all about using our eyes, isn’t it. As usual, Jenkins uses paper collage to illustrate his strong text and, as usual, I am blown away but how amazing his art is.

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In Eye to Eye, he tells the reader that there are four kinds of eyes at the outset which allows children to put each eye in the book into context. He provides a close up view of the eye on each page but also provides a collaged image of what the whole creature looks like. I love the design of the book – each page is consistent in its design and is appealing throughout. He focuses (no pun intended) on eyes in this book and in a way that is really compelling to children. There is abundant backmatter that scientists-to-be will pore over. It’s that kind of book. I swear you can never go wrong with a Jenkins book and this new one makes my point perfectly.

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!

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! 🙂

The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion and the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming

I visited Russia last summer and got to see firsthand the opulence in which Nicholas and Alexandra lived their lives. Of course, they were so isolated from the people they were governing that the widespread starvation and deprivation went unnoticed by them. Sound ripe for rebellion? Candace Fleming has outdone herself with this book – and that’s saying something!

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The cover photo is such a lovely portrait of the Tsar and his family. Not too long after this photo was taken the whole family came to a horrific end. Stories and lore have sprung up around this family since their deaths in 1918 due, in part, to the secrecy around their deaths. The family had been exiled to a remote village the year before and it was there, after some time, they were executed. In Fleming’s book we learn how they were killed, where they were buried, how they were found, and where they were finally buried. All but two of them, that is. It seemed two of the girls were missing. Did they escape? Did Anastasia get away and live her life in another country?

This book is an extraordinary story and it is done justice here. Not all non-fiction is written truly as a story but Fleming is the master of that. All of her books read beautifully. This one is especially marvelous because all th elements of a good read are there: murder, intrigue, power, and well-drawn characters. And all of it is true. Teachers who cover Russian history, this is the book for you.

Oh, and how about Rasputin? Holy man or scoundrel? You’ll be able to tell one from the other once you have read this book. It’s the best non-fiction I have read so far this year.

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