What do you get when you combine a wildlife researcher’s knowledge with a gripping plot and an admirable and likable protagonist? You get the books in this new series by Alice Henderson, the latest of which is “A Ghost of Caribou.” In each title, she cleverly uses the group noun for the animal that the main character, Alex Carter, is researching. In the first two books in the series, we read about “A Solitude of Wolverines” and “A Blizzard of Polar Bears” and now we learn about caribou in this novel. Personally, in addition to the fine writing and the characters I have come to care about, I love learning about the wildlife. Caribou? I had no idea that we had them in the US until I read this thrilling novel.Continue reading
In her newest novel, “Odder,” we see why children’s writer Katherine Applegate is a Newbery medalist and New York Times bestselling author—it’s because her writing touches readers’ hearts, fills us with emotion, and often shows us a new way of observing the world around us. In “Odder,” we meet a sea otter whose antics fill us with happiness as she dances and twirls and dives joyfully in her ocean environment. At the same time, we glimpse the danger that otters face, and the greater danger that imperiled them in the past—humans. Now, aside from terrible storms, their greatest foes are hungry sharks.Continue reading
Good teachers and librarians know that literature can help inform children about social justice and other issues around the world. And there are many authors and many thoughtful middle grade books that open readers’ minds about such problems. Here are some excellent choices that should be a part of classroom and school libraries.Continue reading
National Geographic Kids creates the kind of nonfiction books that kids of all ages (and adults, too) love to read. They are filled with facts, photographs, maps, charts, and lists, in addition to the nonfiction text features that elementary school students learn about — like table of contents, indexes, glossaries, and pages with more information. In short, they are the perfect vehicle for teaching about nonfiction reading because kids love the content. And as every teacher knows, when the content is engaging and interesting to the reader, kids are able to read higher level material. As an aside, when my six-year-old grandson saw these books, his eyes lit up. “I’m taking these home,” he declared. Music to my ears. From dinosaurs to animals and space, these sturdy, beautifully edited books will have you covered.
“5,000 Awesome Facts (About Animals!)” is organized in an unusual manner. Each double page spread is titled with a number and the subject matter. For example, one such spread is called “35 Witty Facts about Animal Intelligence” and features a big picture of an African gray parrot. Fact number 10 states that “in a study, African gray parrots showed selflessness—one parrot helped another get treats, even if it meant it would get less.” There are facts about dolphins, a beluga whale who could mimic human speech, fish, elephants, and even chickens. Some of the clever groupings include “100 Eye-popping Facts about Animal Vision,” “50 Buzzworthy Facts about Bees, Wasps, and Hornets” and “50 Facts about Animals that Can Take the Heat.” This is a book that will be picked up over and over again, as it’s not a book that will be read straight through. I could envision a teacher using this every morning to share a few fascinating facts with students as an engaging way to start the day.
“Dinosaur Atlas: When They Roamed, How They Lived, and Where We Find Their Fossils” is true to the title and includes a map on many double page spreads. In the table of contents we see that the book is organized perfectly. It starts with “Meet the Dinosaurs” and then has “Prehistoric Planet” which includes sections about the three periods, Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous. Then there is the section “Finding Fossils,” which takes readers to different continents from North and South America to all the other continents except Antarctica. Then, of course, no book about dinosaurs would be complete without information about what happened to the dinosaurs, so three theories are presented: The Asteroid, Volcanoes, and Slow Climate Change. We learn about dino descendants and prehistoric birds. There is a very detailed dino dictionary at the end, listing all the dinosaurs in alphabetical order with pronunciation, meaning, geologic time, where found, length, and group. And like all the information in these books, the careful use of color makes reading and understanding the information simple.
“Can’t Get Enough Space Stuff” states on the cover that it includes “fun facts, awesome info, cool games, silly jokes, and more!” This soft-covered book includes double page spreads that are labeled “From the Field,” which explain different elements of space like black holes, water on Mars, Europa, a planet with two suns, and more. There are pages with space sillies, fun and games, quizzes, and far-out facts. This book is filled with corny jokes like “Why couldn’t the astronaut focus on his book?” Of course — “he kept spacing out.” Some of the information is interesting, like “Astronaut John Young sneaked a corned beef sandwich onto the Gemini 3 mission in 1965.” There are pages labeled “Try it out” with ideas for activities like creating a galaxy mobile. There isn’t a chronology, and it isn’t organized by sections, so kids will enjoy looking randomly at the different pages and activities. It’s another book that they won’t tire of because of the plethora of information it contains.
Please note: This review is based on the final books provided by National Geographic Kids, the publisher, for review purposes.
These three picture books are about the world around us and while two of them focus on our planet and what makes it special, the third book ventures outside our solar system and imagines what might happen if a black hole ended up in a student’s desk.Continue reading
Teachers love using picture books to teach concepts to students from kindergarten through middle school. Picture books are usually easy to understand, and the visuals help all kinds of learners access the information. They can be entertaining as well, so children learn reading is fun, not work. Here are some wonderful new picture books to share with the children in your life.Continue reading
Blake Crouch’s newest novel, “Upgrade,” doesn’t start with a bang but rather a slow, uphill journey that draws us in gradually. But don’t relax, because before Chapter 2 begins, the action ratchets up, and by the end of the second chapter, you’ll find you want to keep reading to find out what happens next — quickly. That level of excitement and wonder continues to the very last page. Crouch is a master at creating stories about fantastic events and the people who are affected by them. There are few real bad guys in this story; instead, there are characters who, because of their arrogance, believe they can save the world.Continue reading
“Every Dog in the Neighborhood,” acclaimed author Philip C. Stead and award-winning illustrator Matthew Cordell’s new collaboration, is much more than it would appear to be by looking at the cover. Yes, it’s about the many and varied types of dogs in a neighborhood, but thinking that it’s “just” a cute book about dogs is doing this magnificent creation a disservice. This is a book that will make children think. In the right hands, it will raise questions that will stretch the brain cells of children from four to fourteen.Continue reading
Picture books aren’t just for little kids. Savvy educators and parents use picture books as a way to share information with kids as old as middle schoolers. Because picture books are fun, quick, and colorful. And like the picture books listed below, they can be filled with information. Reading a picture book about something like, say, mushrooms, just might lead to a curious child’s exploration into the world of fungi. Here are some great choices that might just pique inquisitive minds.Continue reading
I was captivated by the title and the cover of “Wayward Creatures” by Dayna Lorentz. In all honesty, the cover is a bit misleading — the boy does not interact much with the injured coyote, and, very appropriately, they do not become friends. Nor should they. The story of these two wayward creatures, both juveniles of their species, is told in alternating first person narratives. Gabe and Rill are both suffering, each in their own way.Continue reading
I know from my decades of teaching elementary students that using nonfiction picture books is an amazing way to begin discussions of events and people, and to share information with students in an entertaining way that keeps them interested in learning (and reading). Here are some nonfiction children’s books for children of all ages from picture books through some middle grade books and even a young adult choice. All of them would be great picks for gifts for your children, their teachers, or even the school library. This is a long post, but read it through. You’ll be glad you did as there are some fabulous offerings here.Continue reading
It’s not often that a novel can combine thrilling action with fascinating characters and a setting that is depicted so precisely that we shiver while reading about venturing out onto pack ice in Northern Canada. Alice Henderson accomplishes all that and more in “A Blizzard of Polar Bears,” as she shares another adventure for wildlife biologist Alex Carter, who takes a job researching polar bears for a report for Canada’s Ministry of Environment and Climate Change. Her job in Montana working with wolverines has just ended, so this job offer seems fortuitous.Continue reading