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The Prairie that Nature Built

prairie nature builtThe Prairie that Nature Built
by Marybeth Lorbiecki; illus. by Cathy Morrison
32 pages; ages 4-10
Dawn Publications, 2014

“This is the prairie that nature built.” Starting with the critters that worm and squirm under the prairie, and the diggers that burrow, Marybeth Lorbiecki builds a prairie bit by bit. Soon it’s populated with plants and insects, birds and beasts… all playing essential roles in maintaining the prairie.

This is one of those books that’s just plain fun to read. Everyone living on the prairie has a role: tunneling, rooting, providing food, hunting to keep the population in balance. I also like the detailed illustrations, and the way Cathy Morrison uses the page. Sometimes you need to turn the book to get the full length of it all, from root to sky. I also like how, in the end, Lorbiecki brings the prairie home to us, as a place where a child and her dog could roam and explore.

As with all Dawn books, there is great back matter. This one ends with a “Prairie Primer” and some more in-depth notes about the soil partners, grazers, flowers and other life essential to the prairie ecology. There’s a page full of Prairie Fun activities, and some resources: books, websites and more.

Drop by Sally’s Bookshelf for some “beyond the book” activities.

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The Kite that Bridged Two Nations: Homan Walsh and the First Niagara Suspension Bridge

The Kite that Bridged Two Nations: Homan Walsh and the First Niagara Suspension Bridge
by Alexis O’Neill (Author) and Terry Widener (Illustrator)

Booktalk: Homan Walsh loves to fly his kite. And when a contest is announced to see whose kite string can span Niagara Falls, Homan is set on winning…

Snippet:
Through snow, on ice, and two miles north,
I took my place above the grasping Whirlpool Rapids.
Don’t look down, I told myself.

I set my gaze aloft and launched my kite.

See more booktalks at the Booktalking #kidlit blog.

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Copyright © 2014 Anastasia Suen All Rights Reserved.
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Ordinary People Change the World

I AM ABRAHAM LINCOLN

by Brad Meltzer, illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos
Dial Books for Young Readers, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-8037-4083-9
Picture Book Biography
Source: purchased
All opinions expressed are solely my own.

ABOUT THE BOOK

We can all be heroes. That’s the inspiring message of this lively, collectible picture book biography series from New York Times bestselling author Brad Meltzer. Kids always search for heroes, so we might as well have a say in it, Brad Meltzer realized, and so he envisioned this friendly, fun approach to biography for his own kids, and for yours. Each book tells the story of one of America’s icons in an entertaining, conversational way that works well for the youngest nonfiction readers, those who aren’t quite ready for the Who Was series. Each book focuses on a particular character trait that made that role model heroic. For example, Abraham Lincoln always spoke up about fairness, and thus he led the country to abolish slavery. This book follows him from childhood to the presidency, including the Civil War and his legendary Gettysburg Address. This engaging series is the perfect way to bring American history to life for young children, and to inspire them to strive and dream.

REVIEW

Not only does this book have delightfully appealing illustrations but there is a remarkable amount of content for a book aimed at young children. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and the picture it presented of one of our most influential presidents. These books would be a great way to introduce biographies to young readers. There were even some stories about Lincoln that I hadn’t heard before which is great considering how much I’ve read about the man. The only thing I might have wished for is a bibliography or works cited at the end of the book, but considering the age the book is aimed at that’s not too surprising. Although, the author does acknowledge the help of the Lincoln Studies Center at Knox College. And I recognized the several of the quotes used as words that Lincoln actually used. Overall, an informative and delightfully useful new series.

I AM ROSA PARKS

by Brad Meltzer, illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos
Dial Books for Young Readers, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-8037-4085-3
Picture Book Biography
Source: purchased
All opinions expressed are solely my own.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Rosa Parks dared to stand up for herself and other African Americans by staying seated, and as a result she helped end public bus segregation and launch the country’s Civil Rights Movement.

REVIEW

I’ve long admired Rosa Parks and her courage in standing up for herself and others by sitting down. What amazes me most about this new biography series for young readers is how in only a few words the author manages to convey the spirit of the person. In this story of Rosa Parks the picture of a person determined to stand up for herself becomes very clear. The author combines Rosa’s story with a bit of the Civil Rights story as well, a great way to introduce the importance of standing up for the right to young readers. A fabulous addition to a fabulous new series perfect for young readers.

I AM AMELIA EARHART

by Brad Meltzer, illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos
Dial Books for Young Readers, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-8037-4085-3
Picture Book Biography
Source: purchased
All opinions expressed are solely my own.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Amelia Earhart refused to accept no for an answer; she dared to do what no one had ever done before, and became the first woman to fly a plane all the way across the Atlantic Ocean. This book follows her from childhood to her first flying lessons and onward to her multi-record-breaking career as a pilot.

REVIEW

I have to say that the cartoon Amelia’s cries of, “That was awesome!” made me laugh out loud, especially the excited look on her face. This is a story of pursuing one’s dreams despite the doubts of others. The book does not go into her disappearance or some of the other things that happened in her life which is appropriate for the age group this is aimed at. The inclusion of photographs at the end of the book makes the story all the more realistic.

I AM ALBERT EINSTEIN

by Brad Meltzer, illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos

Dial Books for Young Readers, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8037-4085-3

Picture Book Biography

Source: purchased

All opinions expressed are solely my own.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Even when he was a kid, Albert Einstein did things his own way. He thought in pictures instead of words, and his special way of thinking helped him understand big ideas like the structure of music and why a compass always points north. Those ideas made him want to keep figuring out the secrets of the universe. Other people thought he was just a dreamer, but because of his curiosity, Einstein grew up to be one of the greatest scientists the world has ever known.

REVIEW

This book is as awesome as the other three but adds a couple of features that I am very happy to see.  First there is the inclusion of a bibliography.  Also the addition of a timeline is very useful for teachers and parents. The humorous jokes about the hair that Einstein was so well known for made me smile.  These books are sure-fire winners for parents, teachers, and especially young readers.  I especially liked the emphasis on the power of thinking and not being afraid to be different even when the world doesn’t understand.  A great introduction to the power of biography in the lives of young readers.

For more reviews check out my blog at Geo Librarian.

The October 20th Nonfiction Monday Round-up

  • Add your post to the weekly Nonfiction Monday Round-up on this group blog!
    There are 2 ways to participate…

    1. Become a member of this group blog and add your post to our lineup each week so it will be mailed to our subscribers on Mondays.
    2. Share a link to your blog post by adding a comment to this Sunday call for posts announcement.
      • On the Nonfiction Monday blog, click on the heart at the upper right of the post to open the comments.
      • In the Nonfiction Monday email, click on the blue Comment button (at the bottom) to open the comments.

We look forward to seeing what you’re reading…so we can read it too!

Copyright © 2014 Anastasia Suen All Rights Reserved. Site Meter

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Queen Victoria’s Bathing Machine

aqueen copy 2

Paula Wiseman Books (Simon & Schuster Books)

Published 5.6.2014 *  40 pages

A True Tale with A Cherry On Top

Author:  Gloria Whelan
and Illustrator: Nancy Carpenter

Character:  QUEEN VICTORIA

Overview from the jacket flap:

“No one ever said being queen would be easy. But one thing that Queen Victoria never thought about was not being able to swim – ever. It would be so indelicate to have your loyal subjects see your bathing suit and you, Her Royal Highness, in it! What is a queen to do?

If you are Queen VIctoria with a smart and loving husband like Prince Albert, you have no worries because your husband will make sure you have a bathing machine that is fit for a queen.”

For a Tantalizing Taste and Something More, visit the blog of kidlit author, Jeanne Walker Harvey *** True Tales & A Cherry On Top  ***  to learn more about this book.

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Party Time series from Lerner

Okay, look, we can’t all be the queen of Pinterest. Most of us aren’t ridiculously rich, either. Our kids’ birthday parties can’t all involve pony rides and bouncy houses and rock bands. Fortunately, my kids and their friends all being mountain kids means I can put out a cake, fill a trash can outside with water, and say, “Have a ball. Don’t bite the mountain lion.”
As kids get older, though, they start to want something a bit different. Fortunately, at that stage they can start doing some of the planning themselves! This series from Lerner, aimed at teens/preteens, gives some great ideas to start the brainstorming and get the creative juices flowing.
Plan a Birthday Party
9781467738354
In “Plan a Birthday Party”, Stephanie Watson gives suggestions for locations (from mundane to unusual), cake alternatives (sundae bar!), and entertainment (henna!). A simple checklist helps really put the responsibility on the party planner. A few etiquette tips are mentioned gently, but can’t go amiss.
Plan an Outdoor Party
9781467738330
I was hoping this one would have ideas for all seasons, but it focuses on summer time. Again, there are suggestions for food (to BBQ or not to BBQ?), creating a guest list without drama, and the helpful checklist. Pest control (including pets and siblings) is addressed, as well as house rules, and not overscheduling – things that might not be first on a teen’s mind, but which can help things run SO much more smoothly!
Other titles in the series include Holiday and Sleepover parties, and we will be purchasing those as well. My only concern is that I may have to hand sell them at first, simply because it’s not a section teens think to look at. A good collection for a special display!

Gift accompaniment? A party, of course! If you have a birthday coming up, you are all set (Shane’s and Sheridan’s are both around Christmas, but so far they are in the earlier, easy to please category!). Or, plan a party together for Christmas break – something to beat the post-holiday, miss-my-friends doldrums. And make sure to invite me!

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Behold the Beautiful Dung Beetle by Cheryl Bardoe

dungbeetle

Behold the Beautiful Dung Beetle by Cheryl Bardoe. Illustrated by Alan Marks. unpgd. Charlesbridge, March, 2014. 9781580895545. (Finished copy courtesy of publisher for review.)


I’m sure that you’re thinking, “Ew! Why should I behold the dung beetle and why is it portrayed in an insect version of Rocky’s triumphant pose on the top of the stairs of the Philadelphia Museum of Art?” Apparently, the ancient Egyptians were impressed and immortalized them in jewelry and art. It reminded them of the rising sun and was a symbol of renewal. Scarabs are dung beetles. Who knew?


Readers learn that and so much more about the life cycle of the three types of dung beetle, dwellers, rollers, and tunnelers, in two levels of text. Easier text in larger font appears on the left and more detailed text with harder language and smaller font appears on the right hand pages (mostly). All this info floats on glorious single and double-page spreads featuring nature’s industrious janitors doing what they do best with freshly dropped pats of poop. 


Dwellers chow down immediately. Rollers shapes a hunk of poo into balls much larger than themselves, grab themselves a mate and roll off into the sunset. Eventually, they will bury the dung and the female will insert eggs inside. Tunnelers burrow and store the dung inside for their eggs. Dwellers lay their eggs in whatever dung is left.


The watercolor paintings vividly portray the three types of beetles at various stages, including cross-sections of the larval stages and underground scenes. The backgrounds are lovely and a bit impressionistic but the beetles themselves are marvelously detailed. I hope they were portrayed larger than life. There was nothing in the way to show scale except for one bit of text which states, “The largest rollers, which are about the size of tennis balls can roll dung balls up to fifty times heavier than themselves.” Yikes.


A page at the end contains helpful advice for finding one’s own dung beetles (including a reminder to wash hands) and four fascinating facts. A final page contains a glossary and three books for further reading. Both author and illustrator have web sites.

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Chasing Cheetahs

SITF CheetahChasing Cheetahs: The Race to Save Africa’s Fastest Cats (Scientists in the Field)
by Sy Montgomery; photos by Nic Bishop
80 pages; ages 10- 14
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014

A full-grown cheetah weighs about 90 pounds and can run 70 miles per hour – as fast as a car driving on a highway. It can go from zero to 40 in three steps, but after a few hundred yards it has to stop for a rest, or it will overheat.

These fast cats live in one place: Africa. But they are endangered and, without help, may go extinct. This book shows how Laurie Marker – and other scientists working with the Cheetah Conservation Fund in Namibia – is working to preserve remaining cheetah populations. Saving cheetahs, she says, is about more than saving the big cats. “It’s about antelopes and birds, leopards and giraffes, soil and trees, dogs and goats.” That’s because, if you save the cheetahs you end up saving all of the other plants and animals in that ecosystem.

One strategy is to use dogs to save cats. Farmers shoot cheetahs because the big cats take goats from their herds. But in cases where herds are protected by large dogs, cheetahs don’t bother the livestock. Instead, they chase down wild game. So Laurie’s strategy: give a dog to every farmer, and teach them how to protect their flocks so both wild and domestic animals can share the landscape.

In one chapter Sy Montgomery and Nic Bishop take us on a forensic expedition to determine which cheetahs have been in an area, and what those cheetahs are eating. Using DNA from scat and hairs left behind, scientists can figure out whether cheetahs are dining on gazelles or goats. They also check in with a wildlife vet for some hands-on lessons on cheetah health.

I particularly like how the book ends with Laurie’s “advice for saving the world”. Her first (and most important) bit of wisdom: “Don’t wait for ‘somebody’ to do it.” If you’re ever thinking that “somebody should do something”, then that somebody might be you. Her last and just-as-important words of advice: “We can save the world. There’s no reason we can’t. But we have to actively do it.” Everyone- even kids- can do something to make this world a better place.

Nonfiction Monday

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The October 13th Nonfiction Monday Round-up

  • Add your post to the weekly Nonfiction Monday Round-up on this group blog!
    There are 2 ways to participate…

    1. Become a member of this group blog and add your post to our lineup each week so it will be mailed to our subscribers on Mondays.
    2. Share a link to your blog post by adding a comment to this Sunday call for posts announcement.
      • On the Nonfiction Monday blog, click on the heart at the upper right of the post to open the comments.
      • In the Nonfiction Monday email, click on the blue Comment button (at the bottom) to open the comments.

We look forward to seeing what you’re reading…so we can read it too!

Copyright © 2014 Anastasia Suen All Rights Reserved. Site Meter

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Review: Who Was Here? by Mia Posada, with gifting suggestions

Who Was Here?: Discovering Wild Animal Tracks
9781467718714
A simple introduction to the tracks and daily habits of animals from all over the world. Each begins with a riddle in rhyme (sometimes a bit awkward, so practice before reading aloud), and the reader is invited to guess “who was here?”. The next two pages hold an illustration of the animal, with a paragraph of basic information.
The riddles make it pretty easy to guess what the animal is, giving a boost to children who have not ever looked at different animal prints before. The illustrations are very clear, which is helpful for instruction, but if you decide to take your reader out looking for tracks, you will want to explain that they don’t usually appear so sharply in the ground! You could even have them run across the mud or snow, then come back to look at how their footprints blurred in places.
A promise to go looking for tracks would be a perfect gift accompaniment to this book. Some other ideas:
a backpack to use on hiking trips, or similar equipment.
A handheld microscope, or some good binoculars.
Maybe some quick-setting plaster to make casts of prints you find.
No chance to go outdoors? These rubbing plates have been almost ridiculously popular at the library art table!
If you do get to go on a ‘track hunt’, let me know what you find!