Feathers: Not Just for Flying

I had the great honor and opportunity to serve again as a second round judge on the Elementary/Middle Grade Nonfiction book award panel for the Cybils Awards.  If you’re not familiar with the Cybils awards, they are the Children and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Awards.

Our judging panel chose the following as the 2014 Cybils Award winner for best Elementary/Middle Grade Nonfiction book:

Congratulations to Melissa Stewart,  Sarah S. Brannen, and Charlesbridge

The judging panel’s description:

Using child-friendly similes, Feathers shows that there is both beauty and purpose in nature and that, although we do not fly, we have many things in common with birds, such as the need to be safe, attractive, industrious, communicative, and well-fed. The simple, large text is suitable for reading to very young children, while the inset boxes contain more details for school-aged kids. The scrapbook-style watercolor illustrations show each feather at life size, and provide a nice jumping-off point for individual projects. Science, art, and prose work together to make this the perfect book to share with budding young artists, painters, naturalists, and scientists, and it will be appreciated by parents, teachers, and kids.

Melissa Stewart’s website offers teaching resources and activities to go along with Feathers.
Be sure to check out all of the Cybils award winning books (and apps!) at [http://www.cybils.com/2015/02/the-2014-cybils-awards.html ]
See all of my news and reviews at Shelf-employed.
Copyright © 2015 L. Taylor [Shelf-employed]. All Rights Reserved.

History Through the Stories of Unknown People


Sometimes you can learn about  American history through stories of people you may have never heard  of.  One example is: Searching for Sarah Rector : the Richest Black Girl in America by Tonya Bolden.

Because Sarah and her family had a relationship with the Creek Nation, they qualified to receive land.  Sarah’s land had oil wells.

Sample: “If that first oil well kept kicking…. eleven-year old Sarah Rector would be able to afford piles of playthings, clothes, and doodads, not to mention a bigger house for her family.”


Do you know someone who  participated in a historical event?
Ask this person for an interview.
Find out what he or she thought while the event was going on.
What details does the interviewee remember?




Nonfiction Monday

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Winnie by Sally M. Walker

WinnieCindy: After a year on the 2015 Sibert Medal committee I said I was taking a short break from nonfiction, but when I saw the cover art, the title, and the name Sally Walker on Winnie: The True Story of the Bear Who Inspired Winnie-the-Pooh (2015), I just couldn’t resist. Last year saw the publication of many soldier-and-dog stories, including Ann Bausum’s Stubby the War Dog: The True Story of World War I’s Bravest Dog (2014)—but a bear?

Harry Colebourn, a Canadian Army Veterinary Corps lieutenant, had a chance meeting with a bear cub at a train station in 1914. He bought the cub for $20 and named him “Winnipeg” for the Corps’ hometown. Winnipeg became “Winnie” and Harry’s fast friend. The two were inseparable until the war took them too close to the battlefront and Harry made the hard decision to leave Winnie at the London Zoo. It was there that a young boy named Christopher Robin met a bear so gentle that children were allowed to pet and hand-feed him. That night, Christopher’s teddy bear got a new name, “Winnie-the-Pooh,” and his father, A. A. Milne, told him the first of many stories about a bear and boy—stories that children are still reading to this day….

Check out our whole post about this book at our Bookends Blog post for Winnie over at the newly designed Booklist Reader.

Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom



Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom: My Story of the 1965 Selma Voting Rights March by Lynda Blackmon Lowery (Dial Books, January 2015).

“By the time I was fifteen years old, I had been in jail nine times.” (pg 13)

So begins Lynda Blackmon Lowery’s story of growing up in the Jim Crow South and marching for justice. At a young age, Lynda got involved in the Civil Rights movement in her hometown of Selma, Alabama. Even after she and her friends were jailed for protesting, even being put inside the “sweatbox” where the airless heat was so intense that all the girls passed out, Lynda would not stop in her quest for equal rights. When organizers put together a march for voting rights in Selma, Lynda knew she would be part of it. And even when she was horribly beaten by state troopers in an event called “Bloody Sunday,” Lynda knew that she needed to find the courage to keep going, to keep marching.

If you’ve seen the movie SELMA or are interested in the Civil Rights Movement and Black History, this first-person account of the marches at Selma is definitely something you should pick up.

Read my full review on abbythelibrarian.com.

Cheery Celebrates a Special Arizona Frog

Cheery: The True Adventures of a Chiricahua Leopard Frog by Elizabeth W. Davidson and illustrated by Michael Hagelberg tells about a threatened species of frog found in Arizona and New Mexico.


The main character, Cheery, is a tadpole who becomes a frog and goes on a series of adventures as he faces some of the challenges of his species. What happens when he is caught in a net one night?

Told in the first person, the text walks the line between fiction and nonfiction, but Dr. Davidson has done a wonderful job of presenting the facts in a logical way. Michael Hagelberg’s illustrations are also engaging as the frogs’ eyes are very expressive.

Although this book centers on one species of frog found in Arizona, it is really the story of challenges facing amphibians throughout the world, such as loss of habitat, introduced competitors, and diseases. Be sure to pull Cheery out for units on amphibians, life cycles, as well as for discussions of threatened and endangered animals. Hopefully, by spreading the word about the importance of helping frogs, Cheery’s tale really will have a happy ending.

See Wrapped In Foil blog for the full review.


The White House for Kids

The White House for Kids: A History of a Home, Office, and National Symbol, with 21 Activities
by Katherine L. House (Author)

Booktalk: Have you ever wondered what it’s like to live and work in the most important house in the country, or what it’s like to grow up there?

Kids can:

* Build a model White House

* Design an official china pattern

* Play key passages of “Hail to the Chief”

* Practice signing a bill the way presidents do

* Make White House fruit punch

* Play an aerobic game designed for President Hoover

* And much more

The White House itself has six levels if you count its two-story subbasement. It boasts 132 rooms, 35 bathrooms, and 12 chimneys. The president and his family live mainly on the top two floors. Only family members, invited guests, and employees have the privilege of seeing those floors.

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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Two New Books About Monarch Butterflies

Monarch butterflies have been in the news a lot lately and kids are curious about them. At the same time, events like Groundhog Day can also get youngsters wondering about where other animals go in the winter. Today at Wrapped in Foil blog we have two new books that highlight the monarch butterfly and reveal many aspects of its life.



When Butterflies Cross the Sky: The Monarch Butterfly Migration (Extraordinary Migrations) by Sharon Katz Cooper  and illustrated by Joshua S Brunet follows a female monarch on her annual migration. With lush oil, acrylic and pencil illustrations, and a narrative-style text, this book is definitely one to pull out for young readers who say they don’t like nonfiction. It is so beautifully done, they are sure to be won over.



In contrast, Life Story of a Butterfly (Animal Life Stories) by Charlotte Guillain will appeal to those young readers who consume books for information. It is illustrated with bright, colorful photographs, emphasizing those of monarch butterflies and their offspring.

Both books cover the life stages the monarch and talk about the migration, but Life Story of a Butterfly gives much more detail about the life cycle, and When Butterflies Cross the Sky concentrates on the migration.

What perfect titles to get us in the mood for spring!