Celebrating Earth Day: A focus on Molly Bang’s science picture books (ages 4-10)

Among my very favorite books are those by Bay Area author-illustrator Molly Bang. She captures a sense of wonder, respect for a child’s perspective and a passion for helping kids understanding the science that underpins the way our world works. I love highlighting these books as we celebrate Earth Day with our students.

Ocean Sunlight
How Tiny Plans Feed the Seas
by Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm
Blue Sky/Scholastic, 2012
Your local library
ages 4-9

The ocean shimmers with the sun’s light, but did you know that the sun fuels a billion billion billion tiny plants called phytoplankton? “Half the oxygen you breathe every day … is bubbling out of all the tiny phytoplankton floating in your seas.” Bang and Chisholm capture this majestic beauty and fascinating science.

For more of Molly Bang’s “Sunlight Series” books, head over to Great Kid Books. Join me on Wednesday for an interview with Molly Bang.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

On the Move: Mass Migrations

On the Move: Mass Migrations
by Scotti Cohn (Author) and Susan Detwiler (Illustrator)

Booktalk: Imagine seeing hundreds of the same type of animal gathered at the same place at the same time! Right here in North America, many animals gather in huge numbers at predictable times and locations. Not all migrations are tied to seasonal food changes, some are tied to life cycles. Certain birds, reptiles, mammals, amphibians, fish, and even insects migrate during spring, summer, fall, or winter. Travel along with them as you learn about what puts these animals On the Move.

Snippet: Spring swoops onto the prairie on a brisk, bold breeze. A warbling, trumpeting, chirping noise gets louder and louder. Soon hundreds of thousands of sandhill cranes fill the sky. They’re on the move!

Nonfiction Monday

It’s Nonfiction Monday!

See more booktalks at the Booktalking #kidlit blog.

Copyright © 2014 Anastasia Suen All Rights Reserved.
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Missing Math A Number Mystery

Missing math : a number mystery
Missing math : a number mystery

Missing Math: A Number Mystery
by Loreen Leedy
ATOS 2.7 460L

Essential Question: Why are numbers important?


Unit Summary: Students will examine the essential question, “Why are numbers important?” They will work in groups to locate numbers from five books from an assigned section of the library based on the Dewey Decimal System. The groups will find books holding specified number criteria and will fill out a chart to show the numbers they have located. They will use their numbers in number sentences to show greater and less than statements. Then students will discuss the value of numbers and ways they use numbers every day.

See more of this lesson plan on the Teaching STEM blog.


Benny Goodman & Teddy Wilson: Taking the Stage as the First Black and White Jazz Band in History by Lesa Cline-Ransome, illustrated by James E. Ransome

Benny Goodman & Teddy Wilson


Benny Goodman & Teddy Wilson traces the very different backgrounds of two very talented musicians who eventually met and formed the first interracial trio to play in public.

In the 1920s, Jazz was the music of the moment. Benny Goodman, the son of Jewish immigrants and living in Chicago, learned to play the clarinet when he and his brothers were signed up for free lessons at their synagogue and playing in its marching band, but he much preferred the exciting sounds of Jazz.

Teddy Wilson, the son of music educators living in Tuskegee, Alabama, learned to play the piano, the oboe, the violin and the piano as a child, dutifully practicing classical music, but he, too, preferred the cool Jazz sounds of Duke Ellington, Fats Waller, and Earl Hines.

As men, both continued to play in different venues around the country, earning the admiration and respect of their fellow Jazz musicians. But the stage was a segregated world, and it was only in jam sessions offstage that musicians from different races could play together. Then one day, in Forest Hills, Queens, NY, their two men met and it was kismet – two different men who thought the same way musically.

Along with Gene Krupa, the Benny Goodman Trio was formed and beautiful music was made. There was just one problem – Goodman was reluctant to play onstage with a black musician. But finally he said yes, and not just music, but history was made. And people loved their sound! Lionel Hampton later joined them and the trio became a quartet.

Can you tell I love this book? Well, I love music, especially Jazz and Swing. And the husband and wife duo of author Lesa Cline-Ransome and illustrator James Ransome has done a suburb job of making the story of these two great musicians accessible to young readers. The snappy language used to tell the story along with illustrations in cool blues and hot yellows make reading Benny Goodman & Teddy Wilson feel like you are listening to a good Jazz performance.

There is plenty of back matter giving more information on Benny Goodman and Teddy Wilson, a Jazz timeline focused on these two men, and a who’s who in Jazz, including all the musicians mentioned in the book. This is such an excellent addition to the growing body of Picture Books for Older Readers that are ideal for introducing young readers to new people and events.

I’ve often wished that there were books like this around when my Kiddo was young. Every time I tried to introduce her to things like Jazz, Swing, Classical, even Classic Rock, I met resistance. But as she grew older, she began to embrace these different musical genres and significantly expanded her musical appreciation and seriously wanted to know why didn’t I ever tell her about this great music?

This book is for readers aged 7+
This book was purchased for my personal library

It’s Nonfiction Monday!




Beneath the Sun by Melissa Stewart

I am so excited to be on the blog tour for Melissa Stewart’s latest seasonal/habitat book in the series that includes When Rain Falls and Under the Snow. Somehow I’ve never gotten around to reviewing either of those titles, although I use them regularly in storytime and they are everything I want in a nonfiction picture book. Happily, Beneath the Sun is equally delightful. For the full review, visit my blog http://jeanlittlelibrary.blogspot.com/2014/04/nonfiction-monday-beneath-sun-by.html

Sorting Through Spring

Sorting Through Spring (Math in Nature)
by Lizann Flatt (Author) and Ashley Barron (Illustrator)

Booktalk: Numbers, patterns, shapes — and much more! — can be found by observing everyday plants and animals.

Would prairie chickens practice their moves so they match?
Woo-woo flap, stampity stomp-stamp.

Can you perform this pattern?

Nonfiction Monday

It’s Nonfiction Monday!

See more booktalks at the Booktalking #kidlit blog.

Copyright © 2014 Anastasia Suen All Rights Reserved.
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Build It

What keeps a bridge from falling down? 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: Build It! by Tammy Enz (GRL Q / G740L)

Build it : invent new structures and contraptions

Unit Summary: Students will examine the essential question, “What keeps a bridge from falling down?” In groups, students will search for and locate information related to the four major kinds of bridge supports— beams, arches, trusses, and suspension. They will complete a graphic organizer to explain how each of the four supports work to hold up bridges. Then they will use toothpicks or Popsicle sticks to practice forming arches or trusses and use that knowledge to plan and draw a design for a bridge of their own for their group.

See more of this lesson plan on the Teaching STEM blog.

Copyright © 2014 Anastasia Suen All Rights Reserved. Site Meter


Is This Panama?: A Migration Story

Is This Panama?
written by Jan Thornhill; illustrated by Soyeon Kim
2013 (Owlkids Books)
Source: Mebane Public Library

Sammy is a Wilson’s Warbler that lives near the Arctic Circle. He notices frost on the leaves early one August morning. Sammy thinks to himself that it’s time to migrate. He doesn’t know exactly when to do this since he’s never migrated before. Looking for other warblers, Sammy notices that they are all gone. (Reviewer’s note: Apparently Sammy missed the morning memo about finding a migration buddy for the trip to Panama.) Having to do the Lindy and go solo, Sammy asks a caribou if he is heading the right way. The caribou concurs, but also mentions that he has no clue where Panama is located. He’s simply going south to his winter forest home where he can more easily scoop off lichens with his hooves. As the book progresses, Sammy meets a succession of animals that help him find his way. Sandhill cranes give him a lift on their way to Texas. After narrowly avoiding becoming an early bird special for a garter snake (I write this blog to crack myself up. Sometimes I’m the only one who reads it. Cue Eleanor Rigby and her face in a jar.), Sammy keeps company with dragonflies. Later he meets up with a flock of warbler cousins who follow the stars and migrate at night. Other migrating animals to meet his acquaintance include monarch butterflies, a Hudsonian godwit ( A real bird, but I would have guessed it came from the Harry Potter series), humpback whales, and other migrating birds. Eventually, Sammy finds himself in Panama as a happy but exhausted bird.

Is This Panama? would be a good companion piece to a nonfiction text about migration. With a K-1 audience, I would read it over two days since there is a lot of story to be told. It will be important to explicitly tell students that this is a piece of fiction so they don’t confuse fictional elements with informational text. The story and illustrations are engaging so you may have better luck teaching about migration by adding this book than by solely relying on an informational text. I really liked the back matter with extra information about the migrating animals, a great piece on how animals migrate, and a map showing the migration pattern of the Wilson’s Warbler. I would think about reading the “How Animals Migrate” back matter piece before reading the fictional narrative. I write this blog to share info about good books. Is This Panama? certainly fits the bill (lame bird pun) of an entertaining and informative book.

PURE GRIT by Mary Cronk Farrell

(I hope no one will mind… I posted this on my own blog last Monday, but I wasn’t able to post it here until this week. Enjoy!)

Normally I read every book before I post about it, but–just this once–I was going to cheat. As much as I’ve been dying to read PURE GRIT by Mary Cronk Farrell, my to-do list is huge right now: writing new books, promoting BE A CHANGEMAKER, volunteer projects, critiques, family, pets, home… and let’s not forget, TAXES! To top it off, I’ve been sick way too much this winter. So, I sat down planning to just skim the book for the time being, write the post, and come back later when I had time to settle in, read it in more detail, and take it all in.

PURE GRIT book cover

PURE GRIT book cover

Several hours later, I was surprised to notice the time! I hadn’t checked Twitter or Facebook or even email all day, despite the “helpful” little alerts coming from my phone. I hadn’t even eaten lunch. Instead, I’d spent the better part of the day reading PURE GRIT, in detail, from cover to cover. I simply could. not. put. it. down. An engrossing blend of fact and storytelling, PURE GRIT tells the harrowing tale of U.S. Army and Navy nurses who endured first battle, then internment in the Philippines during WWII. Despite increasingly deplorable conditions, these female POWs continued to help others during their years in the prison camps. Amazingly, every single one of them eventually made it home alive.

I urge you all to devote an afternoon to reading this beautifully done book ASAP, but first, I’m delighted to introduce you to the author, Mary Cronk Farrell, who graciously agreed to answer a few questions for me.

Author Mary Cronk Farrell

PURE GRIT author, Mary Cronk Farrell

LT: Welcome, Mary! Wow, what a powerful book. I learned some valuable lessons and insights from reading it. Other than the facts involved, what did you learn from the process of writing this book?

Sorry, but if you want to read Mary’s answer to this and many other questions about writing PURE GRIT, you’ll have to read the rest on my blog!