Exploring Oceans with Children’s Books

This week I had some wonderful books come across my desk with an ocean theme, so I’ve decided to devote the week to them.

First up is a biography, Sylvia Earle: Ocean Explorer (Women in Conservation) by Dennis Fertig.


Sylvia Earle is an amazing woman. She is a scientist and conservationist who has devoted her life to oceans. At last count she has logged more than 7,000 hours underwater! She is also in the news this fall because she is the subject of the documentary, Mission Blue.

Sylvia Earle: Ocean Explorer is a timely addition to any library. Pull it out to learn about marine science, women’s history or save it for Earth Day. See Growing with Science blog for a full review and related activities (being added throughout the week).

If children are inspired to learn more about oceans, here are two informational books to get them started.

Beginning readers might be ready to explore Oceans and Seas (Acorn: Water, Water Everywhere!) by Diyan Leake, available soon.


Parents and teachers should read the last page of Oceans and Seas first, because it offers some well-thought-out ideas for activities to do with children before and after reading the book. As you would expect from a beginning reader, the text is age appropriate and the sentences are short.

Oceans (Habitat Survival) by Claire Llewellyn is for slightly older children, grades 2-4.


It would be appropriate for learning about the ecology of oceans. It explains concepts like the ocean zones, habitats, and food webs. A brief summary of threats to our oceans and ideas about how to protect them is also included.

A review of both these books is available at Wrapped in Foil blog.


Colors of the Wind

At the age of 15 George Mendoza suddenly began to go blind. In only a few months he had lost most of his sight, retaining only his peripheral vision. Despite what must have been a devastating loss, Mendoza found ways to overcome his disability. He first found an outlet in running: setting the world record for a mile run by a blind runner and twice going to the Olympics for the Disabled. Later, at the prompting of a priest friend who told him to paint what he saw, he began to turn his visions of colors and shapes into works of art.

Those works of art are the clear stars of this book. Each page layout has a full page full-color image of one of Mendoza’s bright joyful paintings. Many kids will enjoy looking at the book solely for the paintings alone. The story itself is told in spare prose on the other page of each layout accompanied by a simple pen and ink illustration. The illustrations often have a bit of color from the painting on the paired page which works well to tie everything together. The text by author J. L. Powers gives a summary version of Mendoza’s story, focusing on his determination to share his unique “vision” of the world.

The only thing I wished with this book was for slightly more information. There is an author’s note at the end which fleshes out some of the details of the story that are skimmed over in the text. However, I think even young kids will feel that there are places in the story that they are left wanting more. The most striking for me was when Powers quickly glosses over Mendoza’s trips to the Olympics and left me wondering how exactly he was able to accomplish such a feat. And maybe it’s just my medical background, but I really wanted to know even a little more about Mendoza’s blindness and his visions.

The title of the book comes from a blind girl who asked the teenage Mendoza what colors the wind is. Later when he began to paint he remembered that question and tried to show what colors he saw in the wind and the world around him. As I’ve mentioned here before, I like to do art projects associated with books about artists. This book seems like it would be a perfect jumping off point for some really cool art with the kids.

I received a review copy of this book from the publisher. I have not been compensated for my review and the opinions are my own.

Originally posted at Supratentorial.


Bugged: How Insects Changed History

Bugged: How Insects Changed History
by Sarah Albee (Author) and Robert Leighton (Illustrator)

Booktalk: For as long as humans have been on earth, we’ve co-existed with insects . . . for better or for worse. Once you begin to look at world history through fly-specked glasses, you begin to see the mark of these minute life forms at every turn. Beneficial bugs have built empires. Bad bugs have toppled them.

Snippet: When Spanish conquistador Hernando Cortes first encountered the Aztecs of Mexico in 1518 he was amazed by the brilliance of the red robes worn by the Aztec leader, Montezuma II, and his high-ranking officials. The color was brighter and richer than any red seen in Europe…Cortes was doubly astonished when he learned that the Aztecs’ brilliant red was made from squashed bug bodies.

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Copyright © 2014 Anastasia Suen All Rights Reserved.
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The September 15th Round-up

  • Add your post to the weekly Nonfiction Monday Round-up on this group blog!
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We look forward to seeing what you’re reading…so we can read it too!

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The Amazing Travels of Ibn Battuta


The Amazing Travels of Ibn Battuta 

Written by: Fatima Sharafeddine

Illustrated by: Intelaq Mohamed Ali

Published by: Groundwood Books

Published on: May 13, 2014

Ages: 5+

Originally posted at http://www.perogiesandgyoza.com

This picture book biography introduces a 14th century traveler and a very different view of the world.

Can you imagine going somewhere without a map? Never mind something that tells you exactly where to turn on your mobile device. Ibn Battuta didn’t have a travel website to go on when he departed, he had to rely on his wits and what other travellers told him.

This Moroccan adventurer started off from Tangier and made new friends in countries like Iraq, Egypt, and India. He even made it all the way to China. He was a resourceful man who used many different modes of transportation, from camel riding to ships on the ocean.

The reason why Ibn Battuta’s name is still known so many centuries later is that he wrote down his impressions on seeing all these places and meeting so many people. Writing things down and sharing them with people not only entertained and enlightened his readers but also guaranteed his place in history.

This is a great book to be tied into a journal-writing activity for early elementary students, or to tie into geography lessons. 

This review is for Nonfiction Monday. Pop by the Nonfiction Monday page and check out other great reviews of children’s nonfiction.


With Books and Bricks: How Booker T. Washington Built a School

With Books and Bricks: How Booker T. Washington Built a School
by Suzanne Slade (Author) and Nicole Tadgell (Illustrator)

Booktalk: When Booker T. Washington arrived in Tuskegee, Alabama to teach, he found many eager students but no school. So, Booker and his students decided to build their own school–brick by brick.

Snippet: Booker searched the town until he found a old shed he could use. The building had no windows or doors and huge holes in the roof, but it was all he had.

Soon the whole town of Tuskegee was talking about Booker’s school. Dozens of students lined up on the first day. They squished and squeezed inside the tiny shed. Each week the school became more crowded.

See more booktalks at the Booktalking #kidlit blog.

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Copyright © 2014 Anastasia Suen All Rights Reserved.
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Be a Changemaker

Be a Changemaker cover

Simon Pulse/Beyond Words, 2014 240 pages; ages 12 & up

Be a Changemaker: How to Start Something That Matters

by Laurie Ann Thompson

We’ve all had moments when we’ve thought: “someone should do something about that”. But if you want something to change, you might have to be the changemaker. The cool thing: you don’t have to be a president or congressman to be a changemaker. You don’t even have to be “old”.

In Be a Changemaker, Laurie Thompson profiles young people who saw a need and took action. One 12-year old boy, appalled at how children were forced into labor in slave-like conditions, founded a group that became Free the Children. Another kid formed a club at his school that he called Earth Savers, which grew and evolved into Greening Forward, a group that helps kids develop their own Earth Savers clubs.

Thompson writes about kids who’ve created gang-free community centers, raised money to feed the homeless, developed an acting company focused on preventing accidents, and more. In each chapter she also focuses on specific skills needed to bring about change. Want to know how to conduct interviews and surveys? Check out the chapter on researching your ideas. Need advice on how to raise money through donations and grants? Thompson’s got a chapter on that, too. She also includes personal reflections about everything from raising money selling Girl Scout cookies to taking the plunge to become a writer.

Head over to Sally’s Bookshelf today to read an author interview and find out how you can win a copy of Be a Changemaker.

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