The 50 States: Explore the USA (or at least NJ)

New Jersey knows that it’s the butt of jokes throughout the nation, but we also know that we’ve got a great state with unique features that no other state can match.  From the mountains to the shore, from the cities to the Pines, we’ve got a wealth of natural beauty, history, and culture.  It’s like a well-kept secret.  But now, The Fifty States: Explore the U.S.A. with 50 fact-filled maps, written by Gabrielle Balkin and illustrated by Sol Linero (Quarto, 2015) is bringing some of our secrets to light.

Take a peek at the New Jersey page, and then I’ll share a few of my favorite NJ gems.


Three of my NJ favorites which are featured in The Fifty States: Explore the U.S.A. with 50 fact-filled maps:

 BRIGHT IDEA In West Orange you can visit inventor Thomas Edison’s lab and house.

Thomas Edison National Historical Park is a fascinating place to visit.  In my opinion it beats visiting Thomas Edison Center in Menlo Park, NJ and his winter estate in Fort Myers, Florida.  He didn’t just invent the light bulb, he invented everything you need to use a light bulb – from the lamp to the power grid.  And of course, he invented much more than the light bulb.  Not a perfect man, by any means, but a perfectly brilliant inventor!

“Edison labs Main St Lakeside Av jeh” by Jim.henderson – Own work. Licensed under CC0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Edison_labs_Main_St_Lakeside_Av_jeh.jpg#/media/File:Edison_labs_Main_St_Lakeside_Av_jeh.jpg

LUCY THE ELEPHANT In 1881 the U.S. Patent Office granted inventor James
Lafferty the right to make animal-shaped buildings for 17 years. His
first creation, Lucy, still stands in Margate, Atlantic City.

She’s a whopping 6-stories high and 134 years old, and she sits right next to the beach.  And what a view from inside!  I’m not positive but I do remember that her interior paint color is “stomach,” or something similarly intestinal.

 

By Harriet Duncan (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

FEBRUARY 1913: Silk workers in Paterson begin a six-month-long strike for better working conditions.

Paterson, NJ, may not be your first thought when seeking tourist sites, but it’s well worth a visit.  Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park is one of the nation’s newest National Parks. The falls (one of the largest in the nation) and park sit in the midst of an urban city of more than 145,000 people. The falls and the people of Paterson were powerhouses of the U.S. Industrial Revolution.

Photo by L Taylor (c)

If you want to know more great sites in NJ, you’ll have to come see for yourself.

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Note:
Book images and quotes were provided by the publisher.  I have no publisher or bookseller affiliations and received no compensation.

Water Runs Through It, by Nancy Bo Flood (plus a giveaway!)

Over the weekend, I read Nancy Bo Flood’s new book, Water Runs Through This Book (Fulcrum Publishing, 2015). What a cool genre mash-up about one of my favorite topics–water!

This book is packed full of facts, photos, ponderings, poetry, quotations, questions, and wonder. It’s perfect for upper elementary and middle school students, but you could also share a lot of excerpts from it with your primary students.

Nancy’s writing is full of passion for both the huge topic of water conservation and the specific, lush details that bring to life water’s impact on the world. Here, she describes a spadefoot toad after a desert rain:

“Every male toad is calling, a seesaw baritone refrain, a symphony of rain song, of life song. Find a mate; lay eggs. Within a few weeks tiny tadpoles wiggle out and transform quickly into toads.”

And here, she makes a connection kids might not have thought about before:

“A lot of water is necessary to manufacture ‘things,’ such as the shirt you are wearing. That shirt? About 700 gallons. Those new shoes? At least 2,000 gallons. The more stuff we buy, the more water is used to make more stuff.”

Want to add this lovely book to your study of water? Nancy has kindly sent me two copies to give away! Just enter here to win one of the two copies. Visit this post on my own blog to enter the contest through Rafflecopter.

The contest goes all week–if you don’t win, you can find the book at an indie bookseller on Indiebound or through Amazon. This Friday, I’ll share a poem from the book, too, and don’t miss Nancy’s recent online roundup of picture books about water–all of which would make lovely pairings or bookalikes for Water Runs Through This Book.

A Tower of Giraffes

Tower of GiraffesA Tower of Giraffes: Animals in Groups
by Anna Wright
32 pages; ages 3-7
Charlesbridge, 2015

What do you call a bunch of geese hanging out at the park next to the river? A gaggle, says Anna Wright. Animals can live in large social groups or small families, but no matter how many are in a group, each species lives in a unique social order.

She writes about their social lives in this book of collective nouns. Squirrels hang out in “scurries”, and when danger threatens, they whistle out a warning to their buddies. They scurry away, and you realize that’s how they got their name.

Wright collects a bunch of the best collective nouns (question: what do you call a bunch of collective nouns, anyway?). For example: a flamboyance of flamingos, a romp of otters, a parcel of penguins. I’ve learned that I have a mischief of mice in my basement, and the correct name for my friend’s collection of hedgehogs is prickle.

The names are fun, and the tidbits about their social lives are cool – but what really drew me to this book are the illustrations. They are mixed media with fabric, feathers, wallpaper…. they are fun, fun, fun! Especially the sheep, who look like they are made from bits of sweater, and the peacocks with real peacock feathers.

So, what do you call a book that combines great science and imaginative art? STEAM. So go ahead. Pull out some field guides and your basket of scraps, and have fun creating your own artsy animals.

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101 Movies To See Before You Grow Up

101 Movies To See Before You Grow Up
written by Suzette Valle; illustrated by Natasha Hellegourach
2015 (Walter Foster Jr.)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

*Tell me your favorite movie as a kid in the comments section and you will have a chance to win a copy of this book. I will contact you if you win the book and it will be sent to you. 

Do you remember the first movie you saw in a theater? A Boy Named Charlie Brown was the first that I recall. I remember walking from our apartment to the movie theater and plunking down a quarter (Telling my age a little bit here.) for a ticket. Going to see a movie is a great experience as a child. I have thoroughly enjoyed taking my daughters to the movies. Movies are a constant source of discussion which makes 101 Movies a book you will want. A paragraph synopsis is given for each movie. On the side, you will see information about the director, release date, rating and reasons for the rating, and the length of the film. At the bottom of each movie section is a box that allows readers to take notes about the movie. They can record the date they saw the movie, who they saw it with, give a star rating, and write other thoughts that they have about the movie. My favorite part of these movie sections are the sidebars that give information you may not know. For example, it took John Leguizamo 40 tries to come up with the voice of Sid the sloth for Ice Age. After watching a documentary about sloths and how they store food in their cheeks, Leguizamo put a sandwich in his mouth and tried to talk.

One of the great uses of this book will be to introduce your kids and yourself to movies that you may not be aware of. The documentary Spellbound, about contestants in the National Spelling Bee, andBend It Like Beckham, about two teenage British female soccer players from different cultures, are two such movies. It’s also an opportunity to introduce your children to favorite movies of your childhood. Now if I could only find a copy of Yellow Submarine to show my daughters.

Fab Four Friends

fabjpefThe Boys Who Became the BEATLES

Christy Ottaviano Books
(Henry Holt and Co./Macmillan)

Published 8.18.2015 * 40 pages

A True Tale with A Cherry On Top

Author: Susanna Reich
           and Illustrator: Adam Gustavson

Characters: The Beatles

Overview from the jacket flap:

“In 1957 in Liverpool, England, a kid named John Lennon and his band played music at a local church fair. In the audience was Paul McCartney, who liked what he heard and soon joined the group. Pal’s friend George Harrison kept showing up at rehearsals until the older boys finally let him in. Eventually they found the perfect drummer – Ringo Starr – and the perfect name – the Beatles.

This is the story of how four ordinary boys, growing up amid the rubble of postwar England, found music to be a powerful, even life-saving, force. This is the story of the four fabulous friends who became the bestselling band in history.”

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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