Frozen in Time

20819633Kurlansky, Mark. Frozen in Time: Clarence Birdseye’s Outrageous Idea About Frozen Food 
Published November 11th 2014 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers

I know that not everyone likes to curl up with nonfiction books on obscure topics the way I do, but middle school librarians need to take a look at this one. For one thing, I love Kurlansky’s writing. I don’t know why. It just always sucks me right in, and gets me interested in stuff that I really don’t care about, like the history of salt. For another thing, National History Day should be flooded with projects on Clarence Birdseye and Philo T. Farnsworth, and it’s not. What is more influential on modern life than frozen food? And who made it commercially viable? (I loved Kurlansky’s assertion that it doesn’t matter who invents something, it’s the person who makes money at it who becomes famous!) Birdseye. I do have one student doing a project on it this year, but this is a must purchase for nonfiction collections. It will get used for research, and read by the three students every year who are willing to read literary nonfiction to make me happy.

I would have spaced out the pictures rather than putting them in an 8 page photo insert– with today’s graphic heavy series nonfiction from Lerner, etc., students are not as used to the text heavy versions of nonfiction.

See more middle grade book reviews at Ms. Yingling Reads.


Matisse’s Garden

Matisses GardenMatisse’s Garden
by Samantha Friedman; illustrations by Cristina Amodeo
48 pages; ages 4-8 (and beyond!)
Abrams, 2014

Starting the year off with two Matisse Mondays in a row is a perfect way to counteract the gray and white landscape outside my window. Last week it was Henri’s painting. This week it’s all about cut paper.

As Samantha Friedman tells it, one day Henri Matisse cut a small bird out of a piece of white paper. He pinned it to his wall to cover a stain. But it looked so lonely, that he cut out more shapes and pinned them on the wall. The rest is history….

Cristina Amodeo’s cut paper illustrations are perfect for this book – and the colors are vibrant and rich. Gatefolds open to reveal reproductions of Matisse’s works… a bit like taking a field trip through the book to the Museum of Modern Art (where you can view Matisse’s cut-outs through Feb 10)

Henri played with the relationship between colors. He played with shapes – those he cut out, and those left behind. Some cut-outs were complex, others simple. Some of his works were small, others stretched across the walls of his studio.

Want more? Then grab your scissors and head over to Sally’s Bookshelf for some beyond the book activities.

Nonfiction Monday

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Copyright © 2015 Sue Heavenrich All Rights Reserved. Site Meter

Playing Pro Football

Playing Pro Football
by Paul Bowker (Author)

Booktalk: Playing professional football is a dream for many—but it’s also a high-pressure, grueling job. If you’re the pro player on the field, millions of people are scrutinizing your every play, expecting you to make your blocks, outsmart your opponents, move the ball to your end zone, and score. To play at 100 percent on Sundays, you are constantly preparing for the next game—practicing, lifting weights, going to meetings, or watching video. Throughout the year, you must also maintain your fitness through proper workouts, rest, and nutrition. Playing in the pros is an incredible challenge. But for those who suit up on Sundays, the journey is totally worth it.

Snippet: Getting to the NFL is one thing. Staying in the league is a whole other challenge. The NFLPA lists the average NFL career as approximately 3.5 seasons. The best and most consistent players often stay in the league much longer. However, many careers are cut short by injury and ineffectiveness. Athletes such as Peyton and Eli Manning who last for many years in the NFL must dedicate themselves to the sport. After all, football is their full-time job. They must stay fit, They must continue to improve and perform well. And, importantly, they must stay healthy. A badly timed injury or a poor performance can end one’s career in an instant.

See more booktalks at the Booktalking #kidlit blog.

Nonfiction Monday

It’s Nonfiction Monday!

Copyright © 2015 Anastasia Suen All Rights Reserved.
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written and illustrated by Tom Clohosy Cole
2014 (Templar)
Source: Orange County Public Library

I dreamed of Dad breaking through the wall and rescuing us. But I knew my dreams were unlikely to come true.

A family is separated while the Berlin Wall is being built. The father is in West Germany while his wife and children are in East Germany. The son worries that his dad is lonely, but his mother tells him that life is much better for his dad than for them. The boy imagines many ways to cross over to West Germany. His family witnesses several escapes but also several fatal attempts. Finally, the boy starts digging a tunnel. When he finishes, the biggest concern is crossing a field to the tunnel’s entrance. As the family approaches the tunnel, they are stopped by a soldier. Will they be able to cross over into West Germany and be reunited with their beloved father?

This is an impressive picture book by Tom Clohosy Cole. Using several true-life stories as inspiration, Cole has written a story that helps young readers understand the brutality of the Berlin Wall without being graphic. The artwork is amazing. His choice of colors help dictate the mood in each spread. The story is simple but very poignant. I would pair this with Peter Sis’s The Wall if you are teaching about the Berlin Wall. It would also be good for teaching character traits like determination.

If you want to read more nonfiction book reviews, check out NC Teacher Stuff.

Eyes Wide Open by Paul Fleischman

Eyes Wide OpenLynn: Renowned author Paul Fleischman is a man on a mission. He wants teens to look beyond their own “internal movie,” beyond the dazzling technological changes in our world to the side effects and huge environmental problems we face. Using in-your-face, blunt language in Eyes Wide Open: Going Beyond the Environmental Headlines (2014), Fleischman sets about giving teens the tools to find the truth. This is not a book that lists 50 ways to save the planet. Instead, he outlines how teens can create their own lists: “Notice. Gather Information. Reflect. Refine. Act.”

While this is a book that will gladden the hearts of environmentalists everywhere, it is a book that will make teachers and librarians cheer even more loudly. This is a primer on how to observe, think, investigate, evaluate, and think again—something that should be the foundation of every educational system…(more)

Cindy: I gave this to an activist who recently graduated from college and he reported back very positively. He agreed with Lynn’s assessment that it would make a great primer for teens to understand the buzzwords and issues in the environmental news. He liked the call to get informed, do your research, consider the bias of the source, and take action.

Source notes, recommended reading/viewing lists, and bibliographies are important for informational books but I know few teens who spend much time in the back matter. If they even use the index I get excited. For this reason, I like Fleischman’s choice to include many prompts for further exploration in the mix with the text and photographs in each section…(more)

Check out our whole post about this book, including Common Core Connections, at our Bookends Blog post for Eyes Wide Open over at the newly designed Booklist Reader.



By Jan Pinborough

Anne Carroll Moore ran the Central Children’s Room at the New York Public Library and was responsible for making the children’s room inviting for the child patron. This picture book biography will introduce the reader to the important contributions she made.

Sample: “She gathered collections of shells and butterflies to display. Then she filled the shelves with the very best children’s books she could find.”


  1. Miss Moore had a wooden doll named Nicholas Knickerbocker she used during story hours.

Pretend that Nicholas could talk and was interviewing a child who had just immigrated to the U.S. and was at his or her first story hour.

What questions would Nicholas ask the child about his or her life?

What country the child came from? What customs from that  country did the child  especially like?

  1. These are Nicholas’s treasures. http://www.missmoorethoughtotherwise.com/#!nicholass_treasures/cwvn.

Pick one and write a paragraph about one of them using the Who, What, Where, When of journalism.

Nonfiction Monday

It’s Nonfiction Monday!

Copyright © 2015 Deborah Amadei All Rights Reserved.
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The Iridescence of Birds

Iridescence of BirdsThe Iridescence of Birds
by Patricia MacLachlan; illus. by Hadley Hooper
40 pages; ages 4-8
Roaring Brook, 2014

If you come to this book hoping to gain understanding of things ornithological, you might be disappointed because it’s a biography of artist Henri Matisse told in two questions – one that spreads over the first 32 pages and the other quite short.

But you don’t have to read the entire book in one breath. In fact, you’ll want to take your time on each page as the story unfolds.

It begins: If you were a boy named Henri Matisse who lived in a dreary town in northern France where the skies were gray…

If you were such a boy, and you wanted color and light, what would you do? In this portrait of words and art MacLachlan and Hooper bring Henri to life. Color begins to seep into the pages until, by the end of the story, the pages are as full of color as a Matisse painting.

This is the sort of book that makes your fingers itch with wanting to paint, or tack warm-colored tapestries on your walls. It will also have you taking a second look at those ubiquitous pigeons whose feathers and feet may have inspired Matisse.

Head over to Sally’s Bookshelf and check out some book-related activities for young naturalists and artists.

Nonfiction Monday

It’s Nonfiction Monday!

Copyright © 2015 Sue Heavenrich All Rights Reserved. Site Meter


The Cart That Carried Martin

The Cart That Carried Martin
by Eve Bunting (Author) and Don Tate (Illustrator)

Booktalk: This story about the funeral procession of Dr. King begins with the two men who found the cart to carry him through the streets of Atlanta.

The cart was old.
Its paint had faded.
It was for sale outside Cook’s Antiques and Stuff.
Nobody wanted it.
Then two men came along.

Nonfiction Monday

It’s Nonfiction Monday!

**Don is one of my former students!**

See more booktalks at the Booktalking #kidlit blog.

Copyright © 2015 Anastasia Suen All Rights Reserved.
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Fire Birds: Valuing Natural Wildfires and Burned Forests.

Clearly, great minds think alike, since Roberta at Wrapped in Foil just reviewed this book as well!

23885266Collard, Sneed B. Fire Birds: Valuing Natural Wildfires and Burned Forests.
1 January 2015, Bucking Horse Press
Copy received from the author

Well illustrated with photographs, this large format (10″x12″) book discusses how forests can become good habitats for a variety of birds after they have been burned, and how the managing of burned forests has some topics of dispute. Working closely with scientist Dick Hutto, Collard describes what features of a burned forest are helpful to birds, and how leaving these burned forests is good for the environment, since forests can become filled with dead plant matter. Acknowledging that companies often come in after fires to reclaim wood because it is financially expedient, the point is made that stripping the land of burned material can lead to erosion and the introduction of invasive plants. This is a good length for a nonfiction book, and very readable. The pictures, taken by Collard, are beautiful and also illustrate the information being covered. I can see my students picking this up readily and getting a lot of good information out of it. My only quibble is a stylistic one– I might have credited the book as being written “with Dick Hutto” so that he wouldn’t have had to be quoted, and the information could have just been presented.

Have more Middle Grade Monday fun over at Ms. Yingling Reads, where there is a giveaway of Stephanie Faris’ 25 Roses today, and a giveaway of Patrick Jennings’ Hissy Fitz tomorrow!