Plastic Ahoy! Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch by Patricia Newman


Photographs by Annie Crawley. 48 p. Millbrook Press/ Lerner, April 1, 2014. 9781467712835.

Three grad students spent three weeks on board the ship, New Horizon, participating in the Scripps Environmental Accumulation of Plastic Expedition (SEAPLEX) in 2009. They were part of a crew who motored out to a huge area in the Pacific Ocean know as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch or the North Pacific Central Gyre, formed by four oceans and the winds and currents which direct plastic  and other bits of pollution to the area and don’t allow it to escape. 

The scientists had many questions that they wanted answered and used the scientific method to start to find answers. The book focuses on three young women who were graduate students and the specific experiments they were performing. Chapters also include information about the rest of the crew and what life is like on board. For instance, it took a week to even get to the gyre. What did the scientists do? The reader learns that organized and tested equipment, dealt with seasickness, bunked with a roommate in rooms so small that “only one could stand on the floor at a time,” and worked out on exercise equipment on deck. (8) 

Once they hit the gyre, they were hard at work collecting samples on the surface and below. The crew collected plastic in “130 of their 132 net tows over 1,700 miles of open ocean.” (36) While plastic doesn’t biodegrade, it does break down into smaller and smaller pieces. Pieces that are ingested by sea life. Pieces that contain poisons. The scientists hope to discover how this affects the animals.

The book is attractively designed. Pages have an hombre background of sea green. They are filled with plenty of crisp, full-color photographs, maps and interesting text boxes and sidebars. A final chapter includes information about what the reader can do to help reduce this problem.

The back-matter includes links to some videos of the SEAPLEX team in action, other websites as well as books for further reading. Source notes, a glossary and index round out the volume.

I’ve mentioned before on this blog that I love these types of science-in-real-life books. This one belongs right up there with my best-beloved titles. I heap some additional love on it because the scientists are young and female, hopefully encouraging more young women to consider studying science. The text and photographs work together so effectively to hammer home the seriousness of this problem and encourage the reader to rethink habits.

This book will fit in beautifully in several curriculum areas at my school, especially in seventh grade science. Surely a must-purchase item for school and public libraries.


The Nazi Hunters by Neal Bascomb

Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World’s Most Notorious Nazi by Neal Bascomb

In the aftermath of World War II, many Nazi leaders were made to account for their transgressions and accept punishment for their role in the Holocaust of over 6 million Jews through the Nuremberg Trials. Some of the most horrific actors, however, managed to escape Germany, fleeing to other countries and assuming new identities in hopes to evade capture and accountability.  One such man was Adolf Eichmann, the head of operations for The Final Solution – the rounding up and shipping off of Jews to death camps. After the war, Eichmann fled to South America and lived there for many years without anyone’s notice. After a team of Israeli spies are tipped off to his whereabouts a massive covert operation spanning several years begins.  The goal: take Eichmann alive and willing to stand trial for his crimes in Israel.  And don’t let anyone find out about the plan until he’s been safely transported to Jerusalem.

Filled with suspense and research backed by interviews, tons of photos, forgeries and kidnapping diagrams, you’ll quickly understand why this title won the 2014 YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Award.  A must for any collection for 12-18 year olds*.

– Alicia Blowers (aka The LibrariYAn)

*Oh, and the trim size only adds another reason to love this book.  I can’t be the only middle school librarian who squeals with delight when a nonfiction book is published in trade size (like a novel) instead of picture book size, can I? I can’t get my kids to read the ones that look like picture books, but they will eagerly checkout something that *looks* like “adult” nonfiction.

The Boy on the Wooden Box – an audiobook review

Below is my starred review of The Boy on the Wooden Box: How the Impossible Became Possible on Schindler’s List, as it appeared in the February, 2014, edition of School Library Journal.


LYESON, Leon. The Boy on the Wooden Box: How the Impossible Became Possible … on Schindler’s List. 4 CDs. 4:15 hrs. Recorded Books. 2013. $46.75 ISBN 9781470369439. Playaway. Digital download.

Gr 4-9–In an intimate look at one family on Oskar Schindler’s famous “list,” Leyson’s (born Leib Lezjon) memoir (S & S, 2013) begins with his earliest memories of his poor but idyllic life in a Polish village. His large Jewish family was short on money, but never on love or a sense of purpose and belonging. They eventually move to Krakow, a city that Leib finds enchanting. When the Nazis invade, however, life becomes desperate for the 10-year-old protagonist, his parents, sister, and three brothers. By sheer happenstance, Leib’s father becomes a worker for Schindler, beginning a chain of improbable events that leads to Leib’s survival, despite pogroms, ghettos, and Nazi work camps. Young Leib’s feelings of fear, dread, and despondency are relayed simply. Narrator Danny Burstein speaks in decorous, measured tones, yet sounds conversational. The words have power, no embellishment is necessary. Despite the horrific subject, Burstein imparts Leyson’s peaceable nature and even delivers a natural-sounding laugh or chuckle when relating the rare bright spots. Leyson here shares only his own memories and does not speculate or pontificate on the larger story. If he does not know the fate of a relative or friend, that uncertainty, too, is part of his story. Randomness, luck, and split-second actions that delineated life and death–these are the truths of the Holocaust, and of those on Schindler’s list. A moving and heartfelt conveyance of Leyson’s gratitude to his family and to Oskar Schindler.

Copyright © 2014 Library Journals, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc.
Reprinted with permission.

The Boy on the Wooden Box was recognized as an Honor Book for Older Readers in the 2014 Sydney Taylor Book Awards.

You can find other “book reviews (and news) you can use – for busy librarians, teachers and caregivers” at Shelf-employed.

Copyright © 2014 L Taylor. All Rights Reserved.


Weeds Find A Way

Do you work with children who always grab fiction, leaving the nonfiction on the shelf?


Weeds Find a Way by Cindy Jenson-Elliott and illustrated by Carolyn Fisher is a perfect example of the kind of picture book that will entice the fiction addict to give nonfiction a try.

Jenson-Elliott’s text conjures up lighthearted word pictures. For example, can’t you imagine seeds coming out of pods “…like confetti from a popped balloon?”  As a perfect complement, Fisher’s mixed media and digital collage illustrations are intriguing and playful. The back matter includes a serious discussion of weeds, including why they are interesting and important, and a list and descriptions of some common weeds.

Weeds Find a Way introduces young readers to the wonders of the natural world by exploring these often ignored, deplored plants. Pick up a copy and you will find out, as the author says, “Weeds are amazing!”

For a full review and related activity suggestions, visit Growing with Science.

Under the Freedom Tree

Under the Freedom Tree
by Susan VanHecke (Author) and London Ladd (Illustrator)

Booktalk: One night in 1861, three escaped slaves made their way from the Confederate line to a Union-held fort. The runaways were declared “contraband of war” and granted protection. As word spread, thousands of runaway slaves poured into the fort, seeking their freedom.

May moon
bright as
Colonel’s buttons.

Three slip out unseen.

Nonfiction Monday

It’s Nonfiction Monday!

Copyright © 2014 Anastasia Suen All Rights Reserved. Site Meter

Secrets of the Apple Tree

Secrets of the Apple Tree
written by Carron Brown; illustrated by Alyssa Nassner
2013 (Kane Miller)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

If you want to know the secrets of the apple tree, you’ll need a flashlight or a lamp. In this inventive book about the apple tree, hidden pictures are included behind the illustrations. Placing a light source behind the page, you can see the hidden picture. The first picture is a full apple tree with the question “Can you see what it looks like in winter?” Flash a light behind and you see a bare branched tree with birds. The following page talks about animals living around the tree. A bird’s head is perched barely above the ground. The question for this page is “Can you see who the bird is about to grab?”. The light will reveal wriggling worms working to loosen soil. On the back side of each illustration is an explanation of the answer to the previous question. All aspects of life in and around the tree are explored. What’s under the leaves? Be careful because you might disturb a frog. See a tail poking out of a rock? You’ll find a lizard looking for insects and other food sources. A great exercise to do with children before reading this book would be to list all of the animals you think might live in or around the tree. A circle map would be a good format for doing this. Another skill that you could work on with Secrets of the Apple Tree is teaching main idea. Read the whole book and ask students to think about the big idea of how this tree is valuable to so many living creatures.

Find out more about this new book at NC Teacher Stuff

Look Up! Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard

Cybils 2013 Non-Fiction Picture Book awarded to Annette LeBlanc Cate’s “Look Up! Bird Watching in Your Own Backyard!”

Cate says, “You don’t have to go anywhere fancy to watch birds!” And it seems you don’t need to know their fancy Latin names either! What about binoculars? Do you really need one?

Look Up Bird Watching page

Annette LeBlanc Cate’s “Look Up! Bird Watching in Your Own Backyard” invites you into your own backyard to look up and around and spot some birds. But before you begin, she gives us a useful list of Bird Watching Do’s and Don’ts, what not to bring with you and what you need to make this activity useful and fun.

Detailed Review here.

Books about Libraries

Did you know February is Library Lover’s Month is some places? At Wrapped in Foil we are honoring libraries with a special series of posts.


Today we have two titles that help children learn about libraries around the world:  My Librarian Is a Camel: How Books Are Brought to Children Around the World by Margriet Ruurs, and Hands Around the Library: Protecting Egypt’s Treasured Books by Susan L. Roth, Karen Leggett Abouraya and illustrated with collages by Susan L. Roth.


My Librarian Is a Camel lives up to its intriguing name by revealing ways people find to distribute books to children in remote areas of countries from Australia to Zimbabwe. The reader may be familiar with bookmobiles, but how about libraries delivered by wheelbarrow, libraries by boat, by bicycle, by elephant and yes, even by camel. Ruurs has collected the stories through the years by corresponding directly with the librarians who run these surprising libraries and the book is illustrated with color photographs taken by the librarians themselves. What an intriguing project.

Hands Around the Library

Hands Around the Library is based on events that occurred in January 2011 during the nationwide protests in Egypt, this book reveal a spontaneous demonstration of support for the Alexandria Library. As crowds of protesters jostled by the library, some were concerned there might be looting or worse. Instead, some of the protesters joined hands and formed a human chain around the library, protecting it. To them, the contents of the library represented freedom, a freedom that deserved protection.

In addition to collage illustrations, the book contains a two-page spread of photographs of the library, the protests and the human chain.

Visit Wrapped in Foil for links to related educational activities and lesson plans.


Throw it out!

Yes, books are wonderful.  Books are precious.  Books should be treasured…

but some belong in the trash!

If you’re reading this, chances are good that you’re a teacher, librarian or caregiver; and as such, you’re in an important position.  You’re someone to whom children look for answers.  They also look to books, and therein lies a problem.  Not all books are good books.  A good book today may be a bad book tomorrow.

Allow me to illustrate.

In first grade, my daughter borrowed a book about the moon from her school library.  It concluded with the inspirational sentiment, “someday men will go to the moon.”  She thought this a wonderful suggestion, until I explained to her that men had already been to the moon numerous times and had now set their sights on Mars.  I don’t care how true the rest of the book may have been, it belonged in the trash.  It may have been a good book in the 1960s, but it is (or should be) garbage now.

If yours is not a special focus library and your primary patrons are children,  hyper vigilance is in order when deselecting old nonfiction books – particularly biographies. Kids believe what they read.

Currently, we’re in the “perfect storm” of biography assignments.  Between President’s Day, Black History Month, the new Common Core State Standards, and Women’s History Month coming up fast, the biography shelves see more action this time of year than any other.

I gave mine a good, hard look the other day, and here are some things I discovered.


If this is on your shelf, it’s time to replace it ….


… with this. Same author, same book, updated information.

The President of the United States – He’s a very popular choice for assignments, but some of my books were written soon after his first election.  Plenty of things have happened since then, and plenty of new biographies have been published.  Unless the older titles offer a unique perspective not present in other books (the road to the White House, the story behind a particular speech or inaugural address, his childhood), they can go.

More advice on what to do with your Justin Bieber and A-Rod books at Shelf-employed.

Happy President’s Day!

Copyright © 2014 L Taylor. All Rights Reserved.

Multimedia Artist and Animator

How can technology be used to create art? Help K-5 students answer this essential question (and meet the Common Core State Standards) with the Teaching STEM lesson plans for this mentor text: Multimedia Artist and Animator by Matt Mullins (ATOS 4.9690L)

Multimedia artist and animator

Unit Summary: Students will examine the essential question, “How can technology be used to create art?” They will work as individuals or in pairs to explore using an image as their canvas and adding features that will become animated after completing their creation to their satisfaction. They will explain their choices by discussing them and then writing about them on a graphic organizer. They will then relate this activity to a job using art or animation. The students or pairs will save their work for the librarian to print.

TeachingSTEM.medThe Library Activity begins on page 104. The Collaborative Teacher Activity is on page 106.

Extension Activities (sample)

1. Turn the art they created into a four comic panel and include text to go with it.

2. Have the students design a book cover that they might like their favorite book to have in place of the current one.

3. After reading the book, have the students write a short description of the main idea of the book. Use the phrase, “I am a technology specialist. I know that _________.”

You can find more Teaching STEM lesson plans on the Teaching STEM blog.

Copyright © 2014 Anastasia Suen All Rights Reserved. Site Meter