Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Monday, May 27, 2013

A Reason to Read: Linking Literacy and the Arts by Eileen Landay and Kurt Wootton

A Reason to Read: Linking Literacy and the Arts
by Eileen Landay and Kurt Wootton
Harvard Education Press. 2012
ISBN: 9781612504605
I requested a copy of this book from the publisher.

Every once in awhile we need to read a book that invigorates our creativity. 

How well, or how poorly, a child does in school affects their future. If you dream of creating a classroom or library where students develop a stronger sense of self and a deeper passion for learning, but aren’t sure where to begin, read A Reason to Read: Linking Literacy and the Arts. Based on their 'Performance Cycle' taught at the ArtsLiteracy Project at Brown University, founders Eileen Landay and Kurt Wootton explain techniques they've developed over the years and how to implement them.

A Reason to Read outlines steps for educators, using literature and acting, to create a fun and stimulating environment for learning. 'The Performance Cycle' offers teachers and learners a shared approach and a common vocabulary. The goal is to design environments that help students develop receptivity, focus, effort, and the ability to think, learn, create, and reflect.

'The Performance Cycle' is a series of interconnected steps that, when pulled together, have proven to stimulate a students desire to learn. 

Each of the eight chapters explains the different phases of the Cycle. The overall tone is definitely geared towards educators, but even those unfamiliar with the educators language will find the book an interesting and thought provoking read. The authors say in their epilogue that,  

we want to challenge the seemingly relentless press towards uniformity that appears to be winning the day in education circles. As an alternative, we want to propose that educators seek a balance between uniformity and diversity, between establishing fixed learning standards and honoring the innovation,exploration, and unique context that marks every classroom environment.

Landay and Wootton's book is for professional development. It will give those who work with children of all ages some very important and useful tools to make learning fun.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Common Core IRL: In Real Libraries- Frogs!

We are excited to launch Common Core IRL: In Real Libraries, a new series with Kid Lit Frenzy, Great Kid Books, and 100 Scope Notes. Today we're exploring several books about frogs written for a range of readers. Our goal is to help libraries build their nonfiction collections as they support teachers in the implementation of the Common Core State Standards. Head over to these blogs to read all of today's reviews:

The Frog Scientist
Scientists in the Field series
by Pamela S. Turner
Photographs by Andy Comins
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2009.
ISBN: 9780618717163
Grades 4-6

The reviewer borrowed a copy of the book from her school library.

The Scientists in the Field series has made a name for itself as quality nonfiction for middle grade readers. In The Frog Scientist, readers are introduced to Dr. Tyrone Hayes, a charismatic biology professor at UC Berkeley. Pamela S. Turner takes readers into the field as Tyrone and his students catch leopard frogs from a pond in Wyoming. Tyrone is an amphibian expert, and he's testing his theory about how atrazine (a pesticide used in the U.S.) affects the development of frogs. Tyrone's research takes him from the pond into the lab where he and his students care for tadpoles and dissect frogs to examine under a microscope.

Turner incorporates sensory details and dialogue into the narrative to make the science story a pleasing read.

"This corner of Wyoming seems untouched by humans. The water, air, and sweet-smelling grass are abuzz with life. You wouldn't know it, but even in a place like this there can be pesticides that can harm wildlife" (p. 3).

Throughout the book readers are asked to ponder questions and think like scientists as Tyrone searches for answers to how pesticides affect frogs and toads. When the samples from the study are analyzed, the results are "puzzling" which shows readers that science isn't black and white. Often scientists must make adjustments to their theories and try again. The author also provides readers with the pros and cons for using pesticides on crops; this could lead to some thoughtful discussions and debates with students.

Stunning, close-up photographs of amphibians with detailed captions make this book a perfect blend of informational text and visuals. Back matter includes a glossary, a page identifying different species of frogs, a list of websites and selected bibliography.

The Frog Scientist would make an interesting read aloud with a fourth grade class or an independent read for fifth and sixth grade students. The structure and ideas presented in the book connect to the following Common Core State Standards:

6.RIT.6 (Informational Text)
Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text and explain how it is conveyed in the text.

6.RIT.8 (Informational Text)
Trace and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, distinguishing claims that are supported by reasons and evidence from claims that are not.

Pair this book with The Case of the Vanishing Golden Frogs to compare/contrast environmental and human impact on two different species of frogs.

Reviewed by Cathy

The Mystery of Darwin's Frog  
by Marty Crump
Illustrations by Steve Jenkins and Edel Rodriguez
Boyds Mill Press, 2013.
ISBN: 9781590788646
Grades 4-6

I checked out a copy of this book from my local public library.

Frogs! Some are harbingers of spring (spring peepers), while others keep us company during the hottest part of summer ‘ribbiting’ in slimy ponds(bull frogs). According to an article in National Geographic Extreme Explorer (Mar2010, Vol. 3 Issue 5, p2-9) there are over 5400 kinds of frogs which can be found all over the world, as long as they have access to water. (After all, they are amphibians!)

Usually, frogs deposit their jelly-like eggs in water. They hatch into tadpoles and within a few weeks those tadpoles grow four legs and lose their tails. (Remember Swimmy by Leo Lionni?)  

But did you know there is one frog where the male swallows the tadpoles and keeps them inside his vocal sac until they come crawling out, fully developed? 

Sound weird? In The Mystery of Darwin’s Frog, behavioral ecologist Dr. Marty Crump, Ph. D. tells of the story of a very unusual frog that lives in the forests near Valdivia, Chile.

Rhinoderma darwinni, the Darwin’s frog, was first recorded by Charles Darwin on his now-famous voyage on the HMS Beagle from 1831 to 1836. Darwin saw an unusual frog with a flap of skin on its nose in December 1834, while on the island of Lemuy in southern Chile. A few months later, in February 1835, Darwin sees the same frogs, but this time in a ‘thick & gloomy forest near Valdivia, Chile.’ Darwin described these frogs as “very pretty & curious.” This unusual frog was given its name in 1841. 

Crump takes us on a 175-year journey and describes in very simple, straightforward language how scientists finally discovered that it is the father, not the mother, who incubates the polliwogs until maturity. The story doesn’t end there. Now Darwin’s frogs, and many others, are being threatened by extinction because of a killer fungus: Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, or Bd. Bd was first discovered by scientists back in late the 1990s and scientists know of no way to rid environments of Bd. 

The book is handsomely illustrated with photos, and illustrations by award-winning artist Steve Jenkins, and Cuban-born artist, Edel Rodriguez. The book ends with a glossary, books and websites and a bibliography to learn more, an author’s note, and index. The Mystery of Darwin’s Frogs is an excellent example of quality nonfiction for children.

Place The Mystery of Darwin’s Frog in a display with other nonfiction titles: Growing Frogs by Vivian French, Red-Eyed Tree Frog by Joy Cowley, Face to Face with Frogs by Mark W. Moffett, The Case of the Vanishing Golden Frogs: a scientific mystery by Sandra Markle, and Frogs by Nic Bishop.

Fiction: Tuesday by David Wiesner, 999 Tadpoles by Ken Kimura, the Frog and Toad books by Arnold Lobel, Froggy books by Jonathan London, Green Wilma by Tedd Arnold, In Memory of Gorfman T. Frog by Gail Donovan, The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester by Barbara O’Connor, and The Frog Princess by E.D. Baker. 

Reviewed by Louise

Monday, May 20, 2013

New Series Coming Soon...

We are excited about a new project we have in the works with Kidlit Frenzy, Great Kid Books, and 100 Scope Notes. Read Mary Ann Scheuer's introduction to our new series, and be sure to check back on Wednesday, May 22nd to read the reviews.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Warning: Adorable Animals! A review of A Little Book of Sloth

A Little Book of Sloth by Lucy Cooke  
Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2013.
ISBN: 9781442445574
Grades K-4

The reviewer borrowed a copy of the book from her library.

Are you looking for a way to draw more readers to the nonfiction sections? All you need to do is put A Little Book of Sloth on display, and the readers will flock to the 600s. We've had it available in the collection a short time, and children and adults stop what they are doing and come running (or briskly walking) when they see the book.

What makes A Little Book of Sloth so appealing? First, it's about sloths. Who can resist these slow-moving, unique creatures? Also, the book is full of colorful photos of sloths living in Slothville, a preserve for injured sloths located in Costa Rica. Sloths are pictured relaxing in buckets, hanging from trees, cuddled up with stuffed animals, and eating vegetables from plates. These up-close photos take up most of the page and are accompanied by a just the right amount of text for an independent reader. Readers will find the narrative writing and author's voice engaging as they learn about the daily life and habits of sloths in the sanctuary.

In a conversational tone, Cooke tells the stories of individual sloths and the circumstances that brought them to Slothville.

"If hugging were an Olympic sport, then Ubu would be a gold medalist, but he wasn't always so strong. As a baby, Ubu lost his grip on his mother and fell. When he hit the ground he hurt his spine, and now his back legs don't work. But plenty of physical therapy has given the paraplegic baby sloth the upper body strength of a champion wrestler."

A Little Book of Sloth is not the type of book students would read for research projects. There is not much back matter except for a link to the Slothville site and a note from the author about the sloth sanctuary. The purpose of the book is reading for pleasure, and it will hopefully serve as a "gateway book" to other nonfiction titles such as Knut: How One Little Polar Bear Captivated the World, Owen and Mzee: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship, or Kakapo Rescue: Saving the World's Strangest Parrot.

Watch "A Bucket of Sloths" video filmed by Lucy Cooke.

Monday, May 13, 2013

From the Backlist -- Dogs on Duty by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent

Dogs on Duty : Soldiers’ Best Friends on the Battlefield and Beyond
By Dorothy Hinshaw Patent
Walker & Company. 2012
ISBN: 9780802728456
Grades 2 – 5
To write this review, I checked a copy of the book out of my local public library.

Dogs are man’s best friend. We’ve reached for the tissues when reading Finding Zasha (Barrow), Cracker! : The best dog in Vietnam (Kadohata), Letters from Wolfie (Sherlock), and Eyes of the Emperor (Salisbury). 

In Dogs on Duty, Dorothy Hinshaw Patent goes one step further to fill us in on just how much we've depended on a dog's special senses during wartime and what it takes to turn a lovable, playful puppy into a canine commando that will faithfully serve in every branch of the military. We learn which breeds have traits best suited to the job, the training process, and the final placement as a Military Working Dog(MWD). (Not all dogs become a MWD). 

What do they do as a Military Working Dogs? They jump out of aircrafts and float to earth in a parachute, sniff out explosives, find hidden illegal weapons and drugs, and help find dangerous land mines. They may wear cooling vests and goggles if working in a desert, heavy assault armor for protection in battle, or booties to protect their feet from cold and ice. Small dogs are used in submarines.  And when the mission is over, they comfort their handlers with a lick and a warm snuggle.

The straightforward text is complimented by color photos that capture the dogs at work and play.  Sidebars give more details about some special dogs. In one heartbreaking sidebar we learn about Afghanistan War Hero Hound, Eli.Eli accompanied Marine Corps LCpl. Colton Rusk in Afghanistan. While at work in a dangerous area of Afghanistan in December 2010, Colton was shot and died. The Marine Corps decided to retire Eli, even though he was only four years old, so that Colton’s family could adopt him. Eli provides a loving bridge between Colton and his grieving family.

What I found hard to comprehend was the vast number of dogs used. By late 2011, United States forces had 2,700 dogs on active duty. The training facility at Lackland Air Force Base (TX)is expecting to train around five hundred dogs a year, with no end in sight. The goal of the puppy-raising program there is eventually to provide about 30 percent of US MWD’s. Where do the other dogs come from? Lackland staff travel throughout the US and Europe to find young dogs with the right traits for military careers to join the Lackland puppies for training.

Included are websites and books for further reading, a glossary, index, and a list of sources used by the author.

Though sobering in its subject, Dogs on Duty will complement any display about working animals or books about war.

Friday, May 10, 2013

From the Backlist- Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman

Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman 
by Marc Tyler Nobleman
illustrated by Ross MacDonald
Knopf, 2008.
ISBN: 9780375838026
Grades K-5

The reviewer borrowed a copy of the book from her school library.

Superman has been in the news recently. 2013 marks the 75th anniversary of the comic book superhero, and Man of Steel, a new Superman movie, is scheduled to open in theaters on June 14. While Superman fans anxiously await for the movie to premiere, it's the perfect time to read Boys of Steel by Marc Tyler Nobleman.

The narrative nonfiction picture book follows the lives of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, co-creators of Superman. The two friends grew up in Cleveland during the Great Depression. Jerry was a reader, a dreamer and a writer while Joe was a budding artist. Together the pair created a new kind of superhero.

"This hero would be an alien. Not a slimy green giant with two hundred eyes who prowled the moon and snacked on astronauts. Rather, an alien who protected humans. An alien who even looked human. An alien who came from far away and now lived on Earth. The real Earth, the Great Depression Earth."

When the Superman comic was published in 1938, it "was an instant hit." It's evident that Nobleman did his homework for this book. Selected sources are included on the copyright page, and all dialogue used in the story came from interviews with Joe and Jerry. Nostalgic watercolor illustrations reflect the 1930s setting. MacDonald effectively weaves comic book elements into the illustrations.

Readers should be sure to read the author's note. Nobleman details a lengthy story of how the co-creators of Superman sued DC Comics for rights to Superman. Jerry and Joe lost their court case, and "their names were removed from Superman comics." The battle for the rights to Superman and a percentage of the profits dragged on for decades.

Librarians looking to attract more readers to nonfiction should add Boys of Steel to their collections. Fans of comics, young and old, will be quick to scoop up this treasure.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Tito Puente: Mambo King Rey del Mambo by Monica Brown

Tito Puente: Mambo King * Rey del Mambo
A bilingual picture book by Monica Brown; Illustrated by Rafael Lopez
Blue Slip Media. 2013
ISBN: 9780061227837
Preschool to Grade 4
Upon request, the publisher sent me a copy of this book for review.

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, clap your hands for Tito Puente…

Brown and Lopez (Pura Belpre Honor winner My Name in Celia: the life of Celia Cruz Me llamo Celia: la vida de Celia Cruz) have again created a wonderful tribute to a famous Latin American. In this colorful, and very festive bilingual picture book biography readers will learn about the man considered the ‘Godfather of Salsa” and the “King of the Mambo” -- Tito Puente.  

Born Ernest Anthony Puente Jr. on April 20, 1923, in Spanish Harlem in New York City, the young Tito was making music before he could walk. He would bang on pots and pans making so much noise that his neighbors said, “Get that boy some music lessons!” 

¡Tum Tica! ¡Tac Tic! ¡Tum Tic! ¡Tom Tom!

During World War II, Tito was in the Navy. He joined the ship’s band and learned to play the saxaphone and write music. After the war, Title went to the Juilliard School of Music and dreamed of having his own band.

And, he did have his own band—The Tito Puente Orchestra and he made music with Celia Cruz, Santana, and La Lupe.

Lopez uses bold colors to create large, double-page paintings. In every one we see the hyperactive Tito constantly in motion. Whether he was playing stickball, blowing on the saxophone off the bow of the ship while in the Navy or banging his timbales in his orchestra, Tito was a man in perpetual motion. The book dares readers to sit still. But you just can’t!

¡Tum Tica! ¡Tac Tic! ¡Tum Tic! ¡Tom Tom!  

The book concludes with a brief recap of Puente’s life (he died June 1, 2000), and a sample of a simple rumba beat that is traditionally played with these three instruments: the bongos, the congas, and…the timbales, of course! (A set of Tito’s timbales is on display in the Smithsonian)

A must for any collection. 

¡Tum Tica! ¡Tac Tic! ¡Tum Tic! ¡Tom Tom!

Watch the bilingual book trailer for Tito Puente. 
For more information on Tito, listen to Jazz Profiles on NPR.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Nonfiction News

A number of nonfiction articles and news items have caught our attention recently. 

Marc Tyler Nobleman, author of Boys of Steel and Bill the Boy Wonder, wrote an interesting article for the May/June issue of Horn Book: "Danger! Dialogue Straight Ahead." Nobleman coins the term "nonfictionesque" as he examines how authors use dialogue in nonfiction texts. When we review books for The Nonfiction Detectives blog, we look closely at the dialogue used as well as the source notes. We hope many publishers read Nobleman's article and make sure authors have the space they need to cite their sources in nonfiction books.

Margie Culver shares her admiration for illustrator, John Hendrix, on the Nerdy Book Club blog. Hendrix has illustrated a number of picture books including Nurse, Soldier, Spy: The Story of Sarah Edmonds and A Boy Called Dickens.

The 2013 Green Earth Book Awards were announced earlier this year, and two books we reviewed last year won. Citizen Scientists by Loree Griffin Burns won a Green Earth Book Award in the Children's Nonfiction category, and Moonbird by Phillip Hoose won in the Young Adult Nonfiction category.

Marc Arsonson examines close reading and "rereading" of nonfiction texts and the Common Core State Standards in the "Consider the Source" column for School Library Journal. Arsonson asks librarians and teachers to think about the nonfiction books in our collections. He challenges readers by asking: "Can you point to a single book, a paragraph, or a chapter in a nonfiction book that you can highlight as rewarding rereading?" Food for thought!