Park Scientists: Gila Monsters, Geysers, and Grizzly Bears in America’s Own Backyard

Park Scientists: Gila Monsters, Geysers, and Grizzly Bears in America’s Own Backyard (Scientists in the Field Series)
by Mary Kay Carson (Author) and Tom Uhlman (Illustrator)

Booktalk: America’s National Parks are protected places and have become living museums for as many as 270 million visitors per year! In addition, researchers are able to perform long term studies of a wide number of subjects from salamanders the size of thumbnails to gigantic geothermal geysers. These parks are natural laboratories for scientists.

Snippet: Taking care of the parks in the responsibility of the National Park Service. NPS depends on scientists to study the best ways to preserve and protect the landscapes and life forms under its care. Park scientists track numbers of bears, eagles, and sequoia trees. They monitor volcanoes, measure glaciers, and look after caves. Scientists in parks collect weather information, restore habitats, and oversee animal populations.

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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Plant a Pocket of Prairie



Plant a Pocket of Prairie
written by Phyllis Root; illustrated by Betsy Bowen
2014 (University of Minnesota Press)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Once native prairies covered almost forty percent of the United States. Less than one percent of that native prairie remains, making prairie one of the most endangered ecosystems in the world. 

Plant a Pocket of Prairie
is a beautifully illustrated book with a distinct purpose, which is to encourage readers to bring back pieces of the prairie by planting native plants. The prairie ecosystem is in trouble as a map in the back matter clearly shows. By taking away pieces of the ecosystem, we are destroying the entire thing. If you don’t have land for the goldenrod plant, then you don’t have a place for goldenrod soldier beetles. If you don’t have goldenrod soldier beetles, you won’t have the Great Plains toad. So what can we do? Plant coneflowers and Joe Pye weed so prairie butterflies can bounce around and eat. Plant bottle gentian, milkweed and hairy mountain mint so birds can build nests on the hidden ground and prairie skinks have cover for safety. One of the big ideas of Plant a Pocket of Prairie is how all living things are dependent upon each other. By providing more space for these plants to grow, we are benefiting all kinds of animals.

In the Classroom
You can certainly use this book for teaching about ecosystems and the interdependence of all living things. Students would be encouraged to garden after reading so you can find or create a flower bed and observe this relationship up close. I think Plant a Pocket of Prairie would be a great nonfiction text for teaching the skill of cause and effect. Learning how one thing can lead to another will be made easier by the numerous examples in the text. Think of it as a nonfiction fiction equivalent of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. One more possibility is using this book to jump start your students’ desire to learn about their own native plants and animals.

Plant a Pocket of Prairie is an excellent book to showcase the need to take care of our ecosystems and to excite students about planting native plants to create little pieces of what once was a vast area of wildlife.

Industrial Revolution for Kids

Have you seen the newest title in the Chicago Review Press For Kids series:  The Industrial Revolution for Kids: The People and Technology That Changed the World, with 21 Activities  by Cheryl Mullenbach?


The Industrial Revolution is a tough time frame to teach to kids because so much was happening. Technology was changing, people were moving – both from rural areas to cities and through migration – and industries were starting to play a significant role. Mullenbach does a wonderful job of giving the big picture, while at the same time telling the stories of lesser-known individuals who younger readers will find especially relevant. She pulls no punches, revealing the hard times as well as the good things that came out of the era.

As is usual for this series, the text is sprinkled with instructions for hands-on activities to reinforce learning. For example, Mullenbach suggestions looking into the tank of two toilets to see how many interchangeable parts there are, a feature developed during Industrial Revolution. Although adults might find the idea distasteful, the workings of the insides of a toilet tank can be fascinating to kids (Note:  toilet tank lids can be heavy and are breakable if dropped).

See Wrapped in Foil for a full review of the book and another activity suggestion.


Reporting Under Fire: 16 Daring Women War Correspondents and Photojournalists

Reporting Under Fire: 16 Daring Women War Correspondents and Photojournalists
by Kerrie Logan Hollihan (Author)

Booktalk: A profile of 16 courageous women journalists who risked their lives to bring back scoops from the front lines. Without exception, these war correspondents share a singular ambition: to answer an inner call driving them to witness war firsthand, and to share what they learn via words or images.

Snippet: Peggy [Hull] may have dressed to fit in, but the fact was that any girl reporter would cause a ruckus among thousands of soldiers. Even General Pershing knew her name. Peggy had ridden out to meet the general as he led his soldiers back from Mexico, and their picture ran the next day in the Morning Times. Pershing was not pleased to see himself upstaged by Peggy, whose place in the photo made it seem as if she had led the parade.

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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Nonfiction Monday: Master of Deceit by Marc Aronson


J. Edgar Hoover and America in the Age of Lies

by Marc Aronson
Candlewick Press, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-7636-5025-4
YA Nonfiction
Grades 9 and up
Source: purchased
All opinions expressed are solely my own.


A fascinating and timely biography of J. Edgar Hoover from a Sibert Medalist.

“King, there is only one thing left for you to do. You know what it is. . . . You better take it before your filthy, abnormal, fraudulent self is bared to the nation.”

Dr. Martin Luther King received this demand in an anonymous letter in 1964. He believed that the letter was telling him to commit suicide. Who wrote this anonymous letter? The FBI. And the man behind it all was J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI’s first director. In this unsparing exploration of one of the most powerful Americans of the twentieth century, accomplished historian Marc Aronson unmasks the man behind the Bureau- his tangled family history and personal relationships; his own need for secrecy, deceit, and control; and the broad trends in American society that shaped his world. Hoover may have given America the security it wanted, but the secrets he knew gave him— and the Bureau — all the power he wanted. Using photographs, cartoons, movie posters, and FBI transcripts, Master of Deceit gives readers the necessary evidence to make their own conclusions. Here is a book about the twentieth century that blazes with questions and insights about our choices in the twenty-first.


Before reading this book I had heard of J. Edgar Hoover and the control he wielded over the FBI as well as the illegal activities he and his agency engaged in in their pursuit of ‘justice.’  But after reading this book I now have a much better understanding of exactly the sort of things Hoover and the FBI accomplished, both good and bad.  Aronson does a great job of showing that while Hoover went too far in many cases the threats he feared were all too real. As I read this, the question that presented itself to me over and over was, Do the ends justify the means?  In my opinion, the answer is no.  If we use the same methods that our enemies use then we become just like them. But Hoover didn’t agree and it shows in the atmosphere of secrecy and illegal procedures that Hoover created.

One thing that I really liked about Aronson’s presentation was his detailed presentation of the environment in which Hoover lived.  The gangster era, the Depression, World War II, and the anti-Communist era all helped create Hoover and the other men in power.  That does not of course justify the often illegal means they used to get their way or the lives they ruined along the way, it just creates a clearer picture of the time period.

Interestingly enough, Hoover himself generated numerous rumors and secrets that even today don’t have definitive answers. Aronson does not shy away from these issues that would have been very scandalous during Hoover’s time.  This creates a book that presents many issues that would make for some very interesting discussions.  As always, I appreciated the author’s note at the end that explained the approach the author took in researching and presenting his subject.

For more reviews, visit my blog here.


A Cool Summer Tail

A Cool Summer Tail
by Carrie A. Pearson (Author) and Christina Wald (Illustrator)

Booktalk: Do you ever wonder how animals stay cool in the summer? Well they wonder how humans do too!

(Baby fox)
How do humans stay cool in the summer, Mama?
Do they hang out their tongues,
like a spring that’s been sprung,
breathing fast in and out like this?

(Mama fox)
No panting! No puffing!
No huh, huh, huh huffing!
They sweat through their skin when it’s hot.

Two years ago, I hosted this author on the blog tour for her first children’s book. Today Carrie A. Pearson is back for the sequel as she answers just 3 questions….

Q. When did you start writing?
A. I started writing very early in life and continued because I realized my words provoked a response. Some of it was good—like when I wrote an affectionate note to my grandma and received a warm hug—and some was not so good—like when I wrote a fictionalized biography that conveyed my teen angst (rather than the truth) and hurt people I loved. My teaching degree in early childhood education further reinforced the impact of words on people, especially little people. I love choosing just the right words to tell the story I want to share. To me, the power of words will never grow old!

Carrie headshot

Author Carrie A. Pearson

Q. Describe your writing process.
A. Since June 2013 when I took on the volunteer role of co-Regional Advisor for SCBWI-MI, my writing days often begin with email correspondence about various projects and activities for our region or the larger organization. At first, I worried my writing time would be eaten up, but the opposite is true; my brain is more engaged for creative writing after it has been called into service to solve problems or work out details. I am careful to chart out how my time will be spent early in the week and check my progress daily to stay on track. I write at my computer in my office that has a lovely view to the outside world. This view reminds me that as much as I’d like to be writing 24/7, my product will be more interesting if writing time is interspersed with doggy adventures, running, hiking, mountain biking, family and friends.
Sierra in rocking chair 001

Sierra in rocking chair

While I dabble in pure fiction, I’m most at home at the intersection of fiction and nonfiction. Science is the underpinning of a lot of my work so accurate research is crucial. I use the internet to begin my research, but find that personal interviews with experts often lead in directions I might not have dreamed. So, after I’ve pulled together intelligent questions, I pick up the phone—or visit locations whenever possible. In fact, when this interview posts, I will have just returned from Redwood National Park to interview and tour with a well-known park ranger for an exciting new project funded by a grant from SCBWI.

Q. Tell us about your latest book.

A. A Cool Summer Tail (Arbordale Publishing, March 2014) is a nonfiction picture book for readers ages 4-8 that explores how woodland animals adapt to summer heat. While the content is true to life, the story is told in a fictional style with lyricism, rhyming, alliteration, and imagery. The book is unique because it is told from animals’ perspectives, and because it compares and contrasts how animals and humans adapt. A Cool Summer Tail is a companion to my earlier book called A Warm Winter Tail which won a Gelett Burgess Award in the Nature for All Ages category. Christina Wald, the illustrator for both books, created visuals that are authentic but still child-friendly and ask to be explored over and over. We hope each book individually and both books together will provide insights into the amazing world of animal adaptation.

WarmWinter cover art high res with Burgess Award

A Gelett Burgess Award Winner in the Nature for All Ages category.

Readers who visit each stop on the blog tour and comment are eligible to be chosen for a free copy of A Cool Summer Tail and a plush animal featured in the book. One winner will be chosen randomly. Here are the tour stops and hosts:

August 11: You are here!
August 14: Brittney Breakey: Author Turf
August 15: Deborah Diesen: Jumping the Candlestick
August 18: Jennifer Chamblis Bertman

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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Hope for Winter

Hope for Winter: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship by David Yates, Craig Hatkoff, Juliana Hatkoff, & Isabella Hatkoff.  (Scholastic, 2014)9780545686693_xlg

Anyone who has seen the movie, Dolphin Tale, knows the story of Winter, the rescued dolphin fitted with a prosthetic tail.  Now, in the book Hope for Winter (and in the upcoming Dolphin Tale 2 movie), people will learn of Hope, another bottlenose dolphin rescued in circumstances remarkably similar to those of Winter’s and destined to bring them together.

In simple language, this paperback picture book tells the story of Hope’s rescue and new life at the aquarium,

     When the cast and crew finished filming Dolphin Tale, they threw a party at Clearwater Marine Aquarium.  They were happily celebrating, when they received an urgent call —a baby dolphin was on her way to the aquarium.  She was very sick and might not survive the trip.  A group of veterinarians, dolphin trainers, and volunteers left the party and started getting prepared.  When the baby dolphin arrived, it was clear that every minute counted.

Back matter includes several pages of information on Clearwater Marine Aquarium, two pages of “Amazing similarities between Winter and Hope,” and “Dolphin Facts.”

Fans of the original movie, animal enthusiasts, and teachers should love this one.


See all of my reviews at Shelf-employed. Or follow me on Twitter @shelfemployed

Copyright © 2014 L Taylor All Rights Reserved.