Monday, September 28, 2015

My Favorite Nonfiction Read Alouds

I decided to share some of my favorite nonfiction titles I read when classrooms visit my public library throughout the school year or in summertime with the local summer campers. I look for books that have an exciting narrative, large, beautiful illustrations, and offers listeners an interesting perspective on familiar or new topics. I kept the publication date no later than 2012. 

by Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm
Simple language and Bang’s illustrations that makes clear the science being shared, the book describes how all life on Earth is dependent on photosynthesis, both on land and in the sea. All the titles in the Sunlight series are great read alouds.

by Alicia Potter; illustrated by Melissa Sweet
It was Ruth Harkness, in 1934, who brought the first panda to America.

by Shana Corey; illustrated by Hadley Hooper
The perfect title to read when Girl Scout troops visit the library. 

Woodpecker Wham! 
by April Pulley Sayre; illustrations by Steve Jenkins
From a birds-eye view, or in this case a woodpecker, experience its everyday life hiding from hawks, feeding hungry chicks, and excavating a hole in a tree to build a new home. 

I love this collection of poems about the life and work of honeybees.

What are some of your favorite nonfiction books you share with children?

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

From the Backlist: 10,000 Days of Thunder by Philip Caputo

From the Backlist: 10,000 Days of Thunder: a history of the Vietnam War
Philip Caputo
Atheneum Books for Young Readers. 2005
ISBN: 9780689862311
Grades 8+
I borrowed this book from my local public library.

The Vietnam War defined a generation. It was the inspiration behind scores of songs, sparked dozens of riots, and came to be known as the most controversial war in American history. Associated with the Vietnam War was the anti-war movement, and the rise of the hippy generation, Daniel Ellsberg and The Pentagon Papers. (Read Cathy's review of Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War Steve Sheinkin).

For a time the only books on the origin of the Vietnam War were found in the adult department. But all of that changed when, in 2005, Philip Caputo, a Vietnam veteran and Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, wrote a long-overdue history of the Vietnam war; the first of its kind for young readers. 10,000 Days of Thunder explained the origins of the war which had roots in Communism, colonialism and the Cold War. 

The Vietnam War has three dubious distinctions: It was the longest and the most unpopular war in American history and the only war America ever lost. 

Whether as advisors to the South Vietnamese Army or as combat troops directly engaged in fighting the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese Army, U.S. soldiers served in Vietnam from 1959-1974.

The book’s design is inviting; it includes hundreds of photographs, key campaign and battlefield maps, anecdotes from soldiers and civilians, and, most important, a compelling narrative. Back matter includes a glossary, bibliography, a list of Vietnam related websites (that still work), index, and on the end pages a timeline.

Informational books on Vietnam: Most Dangerous by Steve Sheinkin, Last Airlift: a Vietnamese Orphan’s Rescue from War by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch. Fiction titles: Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers, Vietnam series by Chris Lynch, Year of the Jungle by Suzanne Collins, Cracker! : the best dog in Vietnam and A Million Shades of Gray, both by Cynthia Kadohata. 

For those students who are drawn to books about the Vietnam War, suggest the following movies: The Most Dangerous Man in American: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers  and The Fog of War : lessons from the life of Robert S. McNamara.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Most Dangerous by Steve Sheinkin

Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War 
by Steve Sheinkin
Roaring Brook Press, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-59643-952-8
Grades 7 and up

Fans of Bomb and Port Chicago 50 will not be disappointed with Steve Sheinkin's latest work, Most Dangerous. In true Sheinkin style, the prologue launches readers into an exciting scene as G. Gordon Liddy and Howard Hunt break into the office of a psychiatrist in an attempt to discredit Daniel Ellsberg. Chapter One then introduces readers to a young Daniel Ellsberg who graduated from Harvard and joined the Marine Corps. Ellsberg was then recruited by John McNaughton to work on Vietnam policy at the Pentagon.

The book describes how the U.S. became involved in Vietnam and provides readers with an overview of Vietnamese history needed to understand the conflict. Middle school and high school readers will gain insight into the Vietnam War, the anti-war movement, and how Daniel Ellsberg changed history by leaking the classified Pentagon Papers.

The most exciting parts of the book are when newspapers publish pages from the Pentagon Papers as the government races to stop classified information from being made public. As one newspaper is forced by the courts to stop publishing classified information, the Pentagon Papers are leaked to another news organization. During this time Daniel Ellsberg and his wife remain in hiding to avoid being arrested. Young readers who may have limited knowledge of the Watergate scandal will get a front row seat as Sheinkin describes Liddy and Hunt's botched attempts to break into various offices including the DNC offices in the Watergate Hotel.

Sheinkin's meticulous research, exciting narrative writing style, and use of quotes make this a thrilling historical account of a tumultuous time period in U.S. history. In addition to interviewing Daniel Ellsberg, Sheinkin read dozens of books and articles to research the events in the book. (The bibliography lists 96 books and articles.)  History teachers could use Most Dangerous to spark debate about freedom of speech and national security.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Koala Hospital by Suzi Eszterhas

Koala Hospita
Written and photographed by Suzi Eszterhas
Owl Kids Books. 2015
ISBN: 978177471404
Grades 1-5
I borrowed a copy of this book from my local public library

Koala Hospital, located on the southeast coast of Australia, has been rescuing and treating sick and injured koalas for over 40 years. Similar in focus to the Scientists in the Field series, this new offering in the Wildlife Rescue series is intended for a younger audience. Readers will learn the process of caring for the injured koalas and steps taken to rehabilitate them before returning them to the wild.

For koalas, living with people can be challenging and dangerous. That’s where the Koala Hospital comes in. A big-time koala lover, Cheyne Flanagan runs the hospital with her team of volunteers. They all give their time and energy to help give koalas a second chance at life.

Information is conveyed using double-page spreads that includes a color photo showing the work that is being explained in the brief narrative. Each entry explains a specific aspect of the center’s operations in language younger children can understand.

As the injured and sick patients at the hospital continue to recover, they receive 24-hour care from the team. Some koalas spend only a few days at the hospital, but others stay for weeks or even months.

From what happens when a koala gets hurt, how they are transported to the hospital through their care and eventual release back into the wild.

Eszterhas is a wonderful photographer, capturing these cuddly marsupials from infancy to adulthood as they go from sick or injured to fully recovered. Her narrative is persuasive as she reinforces the dangers faced because of human intrusion into their habitat and ways activists have been working with the Australian government to protect these quiet, solitary creatures.

Back matter includes a Q&A with the author, information on how you can help save the koalas or other wildlife in your own backyard, glossary, index, and source notes.

A beautiful, well-composed title that is a must read for all animal lovers.

Monday, September 7, 2015

From the Back list: Weeds Find a Way by Cindy Jenson-Elliot

Weeds Find a Way
Words by Cindy Jenson-Elliot; pictures by Carolyn Fisher 
Beach Lane Books. 2014
ISBN: 9781442412606
Preschool to Grade 3
I received a copy of this book from the publisher.

“Weeds send their seeds into the world in wondrous ways: fluffing up like feathers and floating away on the wind.” 

Jenson-Elliot has penned a lovely informational picture book about how weeds disperse their seeds. The sparse text is packed with lots of facts about these mighty plants that are able to live in places other plants cannot. We find them in sidewalk cracks, fields, tiny crevices, and, as in my yard, always in the vegetable garden. Their roots reach deep, making them nearly impossible to eradicate. 

Complementing the well-written text are colorful illustrations by Carolyn Fisher.
Done in mixed media and digital collage, they offer lots of details about each plant, making identification doable.

Back mater includes a brief explanation about the weeds, such as the fact that some are native to areas while others are invasion. A plant guide with brief descriptions of weeds shown in the books. A small illustration accompanies each entry.

A lovely addition to library collections. Use it in flower or fall themed story times or with classes studying about nature.

Visit the author's site for a curriculum guide and to watch the book trailer. 

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Happy Birthday, Anita Silvey

According to FaceBook, September 3rd was Anita Silvey's birthday. As someone who has been an outspoken advocate for quality literature for children, and an author of several nonfiction titles, The Nonfiction Detectives would like to wish her a very Happy Birthday.

As as a publisher for Houghton Mifflin and editor of the Horn Book Magazine, Anita's conviction that children deserve only the very best in children's literature is reflected in every book she published, reviewed, or promoted.

If you ever have an opportunity to hear her speak, go! Anita is an excellent speaker on all things related to children's literature. She is charming and full of wonderful stories that are all interconnected to books. She's got a great sense of humor, too!

We reviewed these titles on the blog:

Roaring Brook Press, 2012
ISBN: 9781596437081 

Farrar Straus Giroux, 2012
ISBN: 9780374309084

Untamed: the wild life of Jane Goodall
National Geographic Kids, 2015
ISBN: 9781426315183 

A few more titles by Anita

 Henry Knox: Bookseller, Soldier, Patriot
Clarion Books, 2010
ISBN: 9780618274857 

Everything I Need to Know I Learned From a Children's Book: life lessons from notable people from all walks of life
Roaring Brook Press, 2009
ISBN: 9781596433953

To learn more about Anita visit her website.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Courage & Defiance Blog Tour

Courage & Defiance: Stories of Spies, Saboteurs, and Survivors in World War II Denmark
by Deborah Hopkinson
Scholastic Press, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-545-59220-8
Grades 5 and up

We're pleased to participate in the Courage & Defiance blog tour today.

Deborah Hopkinson won a Sibert Honor for Titanic: Voices from the Disaster in 2013, which was a popular book with the middle grade readers in my library. In her latest nonfiction book, Hopkinson turns her attention towards the Nazi invasion of Denmark during World War II.

The stories in Courage & Defiance are thoroughly researched. In a narrative style, Hopkinson describes how courageous Danish citizens risked their lives to become saboteurs and spies in an attempt to stop the Nazi invasion of Denmark. Themes of resistance and bravery pulse throughout the story. Tommy Sneum secretly photographed German radar equipment then flew a plane to England with the evidence. Niels Skov set fire to Nazi vehicles. Others joined the resistance by illegally publishing Frit Danmark, a publication that called on citizens to take action and resist the German occupation. When the Nazis began rounding up Jews, Poul Thiessen and Niels Skov helped Jewish families escape by hiding people on fishing boats headed to Sweden. The book also contains black and white photographs, a timeline, a map, and a list of people featured in the book.

Courage & Defiance is an exciting true story about ordinary people who put their lives on the line to save their country from Nazi control. It's the perfect book for history buffs in middle school and high school. Pair Courage & Defiance with His Name was Raoul Wallenberg by Louise Borden or The Boys Who Challenged Hitler by Phillip Hoose.

 For other stops on the Courage and Defiance blog tour please check

The reviewer received an advanced copy of the book from the author.