Saturday, March 31, 2012

Picture Books: Birds and Independence

Spring is definitely here.  It really has been here since January!  We’ve barely had a cold day.  I am not complaining though!   With spring come books on animals and seasonal changes.  I have a couple books on birds today.  They are not directly about spring, but they could certainly fit since the activity of birth and leaving the nest often takes place during the season.

Blue the Bird on Flying (by Becky Due)   
Blue hatches from an egg and grows up.   He does not want to fly on his own though.  Instead, he rides on the backs of other birds.  Needless to say, his friendship circle dwindles because others get tired of carrying him around.  They move on to fly with other birds that are experiencing life to its fullest.  Blue decides to make friends with a bird flying by.  After jumping unannounced on the young bird’s back, they quickly begin to fall.  Before they can crash, Blue spreads his wings to carry the young bird to safety.   Blue realizes not only can he fly, but it is fun and exciting.   He travels to places he never dreamed existed. 

Blue the Bird on Flying is a metaphor to teach children the importance of growing up and becoming independent.  Sometimes the possibility of going off to kindergarten or spending the night at a friend’s house is scary.  If they never venture out, they will miss out on all the possibilities.   I also saw this book as a political and social parable.  When adults stop expecting others/the government to carry them around, they will gain independence, self-respect, and fulfilled dreams that are not possible with dependence.  This book has the possibility to translate to a wide array of ages and situations. 

If I Never Forever Endeavor (by Holly Meade)  
Following a similar situation as the aforementioned book, this selection is written in poetic form.  It begins with a young bird in his comfortable nest contemplating:

If in all of forever,
I never endeavor
to fly, I won’t know if I can. 
I won’t know if I can’t.

He looks down at the frightening distance to the ground.  Then, he imagines two possibilities:  failure or freedom.   Next, he pictures himself seeing the world or getting lost.  Safely in his nest, he decides to “forget the endeavor.”  But then, he sees other birds soaring and swooping through the sky.  Realizing how much he will miss out on, he leaves the nest.  He has some minor setbacks as he spreads his wings, but he soon learns to dip, glide, and fly gracefully through the sky.   The young bird finds another advantage to his new found freedom.  

The illustrations use the neutral and green colors of the forest to contrast nicely with the colorful birds.  The collage and watercolors work together well to create a nice texture and dimension.  I enjoyed the poetic text.  The theme is like Blue the Bird on Flying.   To get most out of life, you need to embrace all that you have been created to do and be.  Part of that journey is taking risks and learning independence. 

Disclaimer: As per FTC guidelines, I received a copy of Blue the Bird on Flying from the publishers in exchange for my honest review. I received no monetary compensation. All opinions expressed here are mine and mine alone. 

Picture Book (Early Reader Series): Brownie & Pearl (Cynthia Rylant)

Brownie and Pearl, by Cynthia Rylant, is series perfect for early and new readers.  The main characters are Brownie (a little girl) and Pearl (her orange and black cat).  The adorable duo experience everyday life together, showing emerging independence.  The two-page spreads are usually limited to one scene in the experience of the book with 1-4 sentences, primarily made up of sight and foundational words for reading.  Here is an example:

Brownie likes the party.
She plays games.
She eats cake.
She eats ice cream.

One of my favorite parts of this series is the illustrations by Brian Biggs.  The characters are depicted in a sweet and lovable manner.  Brownie is always smiling and Pearl looks content and curious.  The colors are bright and colorful with lots of yellows, pinks, teals, and purples—colors most little girls love. 

Young girls, in particular, will be drawn to Brownie and Pearl’s adventures.  The sentence structure allows for early reading success.  The values of independence, optimism, curiosity, friendship, and kindness are shown throughout.  Here are a couple of the books I read:

Together they go through a typical bedtime routine:  bathing, dressing, and snacking.  Then, Brownie reads Pearl a book.  When it is time to “hit the hay,” they go up to bed with no fussing or delaying.  They curl up as a “happy little bed ball” and go to sleep.

Brownie and Pearl are invited to a birthday party.  Brownie feels nervous and shy as she walks to the birthday child’s door.  Pearl isn’t though.  She goes right in the kitty door, urging Brownie to knock.  When she overcomes her fear, she realizes everyone is excited she has arrived.  Brownie and Pearl have a fun time at the party. 

It is a hot, summer day.  Brownie and Pearl decide to cool off in the pool.  Brownie puts on her swimsuit while Pearl finds the beach ball.  Outside, they fill up a small kiddie pool.  They both splash around in the pool until they are nice and cool.  They finish off their fun laying out in the sun to dry off.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Poetry Friday: If Peas Could Taste Like Candy (by Crystal Bowman)

I discovered If Peas Could Taste Like Candy and Other Funny Poems for Kids (by Crystal Bowman) on a 50 Best Poetry Books for Kids list. This anthology reminds me of Shel Silverstein’s work--both the illustrations and the types of poems. Centered on a white background, they are often accompanied by pencil drawings by Lynn Jeffery. Many of the illustrations reflect the lines of poetry while others expand the meaning to reveal ironies and/or humor in the situations. 

A broad range of subjects are covered about friends, school, family, and God.  Each is a slice of every day life through the eyes of a child.  A few are didactic in nature, generally using irony and humor, such as “The Happy Hippopotamus” (making friends) and “Cool Kids” (dealing with mean peers).  Some are especially conducive to teaching literary concepts, like “Stomachache” (irony) and “Elevator Ride” (hyperbole).

Bowman has written an entertaining, heartening collection of poems. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it! I often laughed out loud while reading the book, causing people around me to stare with puzzled expressions.  If Peas Could Taste Like Candy and Other Funny Poems for Kids is a first-rate selection for any home or school library.  Here is one of my favorites: 

“I’m Not Afraid”
I’m not afraid of spiders,
I’m not afraid of frogs.
I’m not afraid of buzzing bees,
Or even barking dogs.

I’m not afraid of monsters,
I’m not afraid of sharks.
I’m not afraid to be alone,
Not even when it’s dark.

I’m not afraid of thunderstorms,
Or very scary books.
I’m not afraid of boogeymen,
Or mean old Captain Hook.

I’m brave and I’m courageous,
I’ve got confidence inside.
Oh, no! Here comes a girl—
I think I’ll run and hide!

This post is linked up for Poetry Friday at My Juicy Little Universe

Charity Hopping Around the World Giveaway Hop

I am A Reader, Not a Writer blog is hosting the Charity Hopping Around the World giveaway hop.  

The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.   Dr. Seuss

One of my favorite organizations is Legacy of Literacy.  It was started two years ago in memory of Jill Jones, a beloved university professor who was tragically killed in a car accident.  Jill left a beautiful legacy of a love for Christ, for others, and for literacy.  Legacy of Literacy collects new and gently used children's books.  To date, the ministry has distributed, in several states, over 7,400 books to children and programs benefiting young, underprivileged readers.  Books have also been shipped and handed out in different countries.  Legacy of Literacy is positively impacting their local and world community by making accessible literature that expands the mind, fosters the imagination, and fuels the dreams that makes success possible.  

Click HERE for a list of all participating blogs with Giveaways.   Books4Learning is offering a $10 Gift Card from Barnes & Noble to help build your library. 

You must be a follower of Books4Learning on Google Friend Connect to submit a qualifying entry.  To enter, comment below.  You can earn additional entries by:

·         Being a Twitter Follower of Books4Learning*
·         Being a Fan of Books4Learning on Facebook*  
·         Tweeting about this giveaway

Be sure to have a new comment for each additional entry and a link to post or provide name if different than blogger one.  The giveaway hop begins on March 30 and ends on April 4. Winner will be announced on April 5.  

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Picture Books: Favorite Bedtime Stories of 2011

Many families cherish the tradition of bedtime reading.   I love books that help children transition into sleepytown.  These books soothe with images and words that portray youngsters settling for the night, no matter how much they want to resist.   In 2011, there were many new bedtime stories published.  With so many to chose from, here are my favorites to help you narrow down your search for the next new favorite book for your family bedtime routine. 

Farmyard Beat (by Lindsey Craig)
This bubbly text is sure to engage young listeners.  Using each of the animals on the farm and a sound, it follows this pattern:   

Chicks can’t sleep.
Chicks can’t sleep.
Chicks can’t sleep
‘cause they got that beat!

Peep! Peep!  Peep-peep-peep!
Peep! Peep!  Peep-peep-peep!
All that peeping wakes up…

A new animal is introduced on the next page, offering the opportunity for children to predict which one it is.   In the end, even Farmer Sue catches the beat and joins the animals in their dance until …. “they fall in a heap!  Asleep.”  Marc Brown has created lively illustrations of the animals dancing using hand-painted papers and a collage technique using mostly primary shapes.  I love this book because it has a catchy repetitive verse that invites children to read along.  It uses rhyme and onomatopoeia, two early reading skills to discuss.   The text is simple and repetitive enough that early readers can practice with it.

Goodnight,Goodnight, Construction Site (by Sherri Duskey Rinker)  
This selection will be especially popular with little boys who are the most frequent fans of all things trucks.  On the big construction site, the tough trucks—dump truck, excavator, crane truck, cement mixer, bull dozer—are busy all day.  As the day comes to a close, they quiet down one by one. Artist Tom Lichtenheld contrasts the night and day activities using lots of primary colors in various shades.  The trucks are personified with facial features and depicted with bedtime objects, such as a blanket and a teddy bear. The rhyming text begins dynamically but gradually shifts to more peaceful imagery for each truck:    

Spinning, churning all day long,
Cement Mixer sings his whirly song.
Now (yawn!) he’s weary
And so dizzy, for the fun that keeps him busy.

With one last spin, he pours the load.
He’s ready now to leave the road.
He takes a bath, gets shiny-bright,
Pulls up his chute, turns off his light.

He cuts his engine, slows his drum.
And dreams sweet dreams of twirly fun.

Each episode concludes with “Shh…goodnight, [name of vehicle], goodnight.”  The closings use bedtime language like “curls up in bed,” “takes a bath,” and “dims lights.”  Once the construction site is “tucked in tight,” the light is off and the final goodnights are said.  It’s a perfect way to end story time!

Creepy Monsters, Sleepy Monsters: A Lullaby (by Jane Yolen)   
Little monsters run, stumble, hip-hop, and slither around after school while playing outside with others. When they return to their cave home, they eat and bathe.  Prayers are said and then off to bed.  The little monster toss, turn, and bounce instead.  A melody of noises follows—growl, gurgle, burp, grrrr, snarl, and snarf—representing the action in the pictures before they finally are lulled off to sleep despite protests of the contrary.  

Kelly Murphy, the illustrator, depicts with humor and whimsy the sparse but fun text, providing a perfect opportunity for children to guess what is happening when the monsters snarf or gurgle.  This lullaby is an amusing way to finish off any day.

Chicks Run Wild (by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen)    
The chicks are all tucked in their beds.  Momma hen kisses each one, but when she leaves…”those chicks run wild!” A rhyming quatrain describes each of their escapades, such as this one:   

They count ONE, TWO, THREE, and FOUR!
Then do cartwheels on the floor.
When they somersault and leap,
someone sees they’re not asleep.

Mama catches them each time and instructs them to go to bed.  Then, she tries a different approach once she realizes the chicks still have some energy they need to burn.  She asks, “Where is Mama’s invitation?”  Baffled at first by this shift in events, they all join in a bedtime romp until the chicks tire out and beg to go to bed.   After tucking them in and kissing them good-night, she leaves to have her own “wild” time (which is an ironic twist).   The pictures by Ward Jenkins are spirited and vivid.  The chicks are just plain adorable!  Children will be drawn to the characters and brisk text.  

This post is linked up with Read Aloud Thursday at Hope is a Word.

Picture Book: Willy (by Geert De Kockere)

Summary of Willy (by Geert De Kockere):  
The book begins with a description of Willy. He has:   

legs like pillars….
a body as big as two…
two huge ears that flap in the wind...
a trunk that dangles…
a tail with a ridiculous little brush at the end…

Willy is an elephant. Even though he is enormous and awkward in size, he uses his unique traits to help others. For instance, he uses his huge ears to listen to others while his trunk keeps the beat in the choir. He is seldom home because he is "extremely" welcome—everywhere. 

The narrative shifts away from Willy, the elephant, to people. Each phrase has a picture of a person with that physical quality. 

So if you have legs like pillars
Or ears that flap in the wind,
Or if you have a body as big as two,
Or arms that dangle…
Think of Willy.

This book is a celebration of individual differences. Willy is loved and accepted despite his gawky, enormous body because he demonstrates good manners, selflessness, and helpfulness. By beginning with an animal that is accepted as large, DeKockere creates the vision that size and physical imperfections do not matter. The shift to people is unexpected. His technique made me feel the truth of the story more powerfully. Artist Carll Cneut has created whimsical illustrations in neutrals and reds to reflect the text. The characters are not attractive in the traditional sense.  Sometimes their features, like Willy's, are exaggerated.  All of these parts effectively together with the theme of the narrative.

Willy is an ideal story to accompany others about individuality like Stand Tall Molly Lou Mellon, Wink, and Ten Big Toes and a Prince’s Nose. In a culture that pushes an unrealistic standard of beauty and perfection, children can benefit from stories about confident, successful people who do not fit into the expected mold--both to encourage acceptance of others and themselves. I recommend this book for ages 3-9.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Picture Book (Math): Seeing Symmetry (Loreen Leedy)

The idea of symmetry had not really consciously crossed my mind until one day I observed a student teacher I was supervising present a lesson on it.  He did an amazing job showing a multitude of real world examples.  Then, he had a PowerPoint presentation in which the students had to determine which objects were symmetrical and which were not.  The lesson was a big success both in student engagement and learning
When I saw Loreen Leedy’s new book Seeing Symmetry, I knew I had to review it.   I have rarely seen a trade book on the topic, and this one looked wonderful.   

I love how she begins with a sort of riddle:  

Butterfly wings have it.
Triceratops had it.
The word Mom has it. 

Each subject is illustrated on the page to prompt student guessing what the three items have in common.  Next, the two-paged title page is a fantastic example of symmetry, perfect for keeping the conversation going.  The early pages describe with words and illustrate with pictures the concept of symmetry in simple terms.  After the concept is clearly laid out, Leedy offers a multitude of colorful examples from holidays, buildings, furniture, animals, machines, and other everyday items children will be familiar with. 

For parents and teachers, additional notes are offered in the back to help with instruction, whether formal or informal.  There are two fun activities suggested for practicing the math concept and an explanation on how symmetry is an important math concept.  The book is rounded out with a list of symmetry words and their definitions to help build subject vocabulary.  The book has everything necessary to teach this concept. 

I enjoyed reading and experiencing Seeing Symmetry.  It is much like the superb lesson my student teacher gave—engaging, relevant, and enriching.  I highly recommend this title for school or home.  Children will enjoy the book so much they won’t even realize they are learning an essential math concept! 

I also have Pinterest board on Math Symmetry Teaching Ideas.  I will add more as I come across ideas on the web. 

This post is linked up with Math Monday at love2learn2day.   

Disclaimer: As per FTC guidelines, I received a copy of this book from Holiday House Publishers in exchange for my honest review. I received no monetary compensation. All opinions expressed here are mine and mine alone. 

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Picture Books (Science): Underground Animal Life

I was delighted when I saw the new Spring 2012 series The Hole Truth:  Underground Animal Life by Bearport Publishing.   There are currently four books in the series:  Chipmunk’s Hole, Fox’s Den, Groundhog’s Burrow, and Prairie Dog’s Hideaway.   

Some Noteworthy Aspects of the Series
The books are visually appealing.  Each two-page spread has a title on a wooden sign hovering between the grass above and the underground.  It fads in to light green, making it easy for the text and photographs to pop off the page while signifying the theme of the series:  the mysterious underground world of the animal.  The right page is always a full page view of some aspect of the animals’ lives, usually as vivid and detailed photographs.  Text is added to the photographs, which is great for sight word and vocabulary development.  Small leaf icons offer additional information.  The books are also interactive.  In small text boxes, children are asked to imagine and to predict.  These prompts could be used as discussion prompts or as informal writing activities.   The books close with a Science Lab activity and a visual glossary of Science Words. 

Information about Specific Books
Foxes are magnificent creatures.  Recently, I caught a glimpse of one in the wild.  I was in awe!  This book reveals a great deal about their lives, adding to my admiration of them.  The pictures are nothing less than stunning!  The photographs of newborn cubs are priceless.  I also love the action shot of a fox pouncing.  Each page turn is a wonder.  I enjoyed seeing what a typical den looks like and witnessing their life cycle and daily activities at different levels of development from birth to adulthood. 

Prairie dogs are adorable!  The photographs catch them digging a burrow, doing a jump-yip (to warn others of danger), collecting food, and growing up from infancy.  Their burrow is more elaborate than the foxes.   It even includes a “listening room” to avoid predators.  The information about their communication and family life is of particular interest.  The book is an engaging read. 

Final Thoughts
Dee Phillips is the author of The Hole Truth series.  She does a brilliant job balancing writing a straightforward text for easy understanding and early reading while also keeping the information informative and interesting.   I highly recommend the series for ages 5-10.  

This post is linked up with Science Sunday at Adventures of Mommydom and Sunday Showcase and Momto2lilPoshDivas.  

Disclaimer: As per FTC guidelines, I received copies of these books from Bearport Publishing in exchange for my honest review. I received no monetary compensation. All opinions expressed here are mine and mine alone. 

Friday, March 23, 2012

Picture Book (Poetry): Mirror Mirror (By Marilyn Singer)

                                        I checked out Mirror Mirror from the library several months back , but I did not get around to reading it before it was due.  This issue is not uncommon because I usually have well over 100 books checked out at any given time.  I guess my literary desires are greater than the amount of hours I have in a day to read.  After seeing it reviewed at a couple blogs, I checked it out again during a recent trip to my favorite library. 

What initially drew me in was the enchanting title and the eye-catching cover art by Josee Masse. The colors are rich. The picture is intriguing.  Inside, the illustrations continue to amaze me with their ironies and contrasts which work so brilliantly with the parallel poems.   The pictures, like the poems, are split screen, working together to reveal the meaning and multiple point of views. 

A well-written poem is a work of art.  Marilyn Singer has taken the art form to another level with her unique collection of reversible verse (reverso).   Using classic fairy tales, Singer reveals there is two sides to every story and every poem.  With a few changes in punctuation or word position, the meaning changes when the poems are read in reverse.  "In the Hood" is my favorite:

(Little Red Riding Hood's Perspective)
In my hood
skipping through the wood,
carrying a basket,
picking berries to eat --
juicy and sweet
what a treat!
But a girl
mustn't dawdle.
After all, Grandma's waiting. 

(The Wolf's Perspective)
After all, Grandma's waiting,
mustn't dawdle...
But a girl!
What a treat --
juicy and sweet,
picking berries to eat,
carrying a basket,
skipping through the woods
in my 'hood.

Mirror Mirror is a celebration of the vigor and potential of language.  Readers can discover multiple meanings of words, the affect of tone, and the importance of punctuation.  The smallest grammatical changes can signify huge differences in meaning.  I highly recommend this unique book of poetry for all ages.

This post is linked up with Poetry Friday at A Year of Reading. 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Middle Grade Reader: Hauntings & Heists (Dan Poblocki)

I love picture books!  I read them all the time—fiction, non-fiction, poetry, fairy tales.  It does not matter.  I love them all.  I have a goal for myself though:  To read at least one chapter book a week and review it.  While at the library this week, I spotted a new Scholastic series called The Mysterious Four.   I picked up one of the titles.  Here is my review.

Summary of Hauntings and Heists (by Dan Poblocki)  
Inquisitive Viola Hart moves into a new neighborhood in Moon Hollow, New York.  She enjoys finding mystery and intrigue in every day life.  Viola quickly makes friends with three of her neighbors—Rosie, Sylvester, and Woodrow.    Their backyards meet at one point, referred to by the group as the four corners.   The three new friends quickly catch Viola’s passion for mystery and critical thinking.   They form a club they call The Four Corners Mystery Club.  Together, they tackle crimes and puzzles, both big and small, from a photograph hoax to a signature fraud to a dog knapping.  Their biggest mystery takes the entire book to unravel! 

The characters in Hauntings and Heists are not complex, but they are genuinely nice and overall respectful.  Perhaps, they are more so than the typical tween, but in some ways it is refreshing.  As a parent, I cringe as a read about sassy, know-it-all kids who rarely have any consequences for their poor behaviors.  Sure, it is realistic, but should it be?   The protagonists do have minor flaws though.  The focus is on the plot, specifically the critical thinking the children do as they solve the daily puzzles they encounter.  The format of the book invites readers to make their own inferences based on the facts.  Sometimes these puzzles are simple like the snapped snake and the bully.  Others are a bit more intriquing and complex, such as the mysterious noise in the basement and "monster" in the lake.  For the most part, the mysterious are realistic.  My hope is that the books might inspire children to look carefully at their surroundings to understand others better as well as to examine events around them more closely so as to not be easily deceived.   

There are two ethic issues I think might have been glossed over a bit too neatly.  First, a father is a deceitful.  He throws away a part of the meal but allows the children to be accused for it.  After being caught, I did not see evidence of true repentance, but rather, an attempt to appease the family. The second is a bit of a larger issue.  A professor commits fraud.  He has a “good” reason for doing it, but there are no consequences.  It is assumed that the end justify the means.  I believe these are perfect opportunities to open up a discussion about morals, values, and ethics with children.

Hauntings and Heists is a high interest middle grade book with educational opportunities.  I recommend it for ages 9-12. 

Teaching Opportunities:
  • The children in the book have come up with a system for identifying how challenging a mystery is to solve.  In a classroom or at home, adults can encourage their youngsters to seek to understand the world by looking at the genuine mysteries and clues around them.  Then, label them based on difficulty.         
  • Read other mysteries and books together.  Prompt children to ask questions and make guesses as to what will happen next. 
  • Exercising these brain muscles can be applied to looking at stories or reading passages for greater comprehension by making inferences in formal classroom assignments.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Picture Books (Science): Animals, Adaption, and Interdependence

Sylvan Dell has two new Spring Releases that focus on interdependence adaption, and food webs in nature.

Summary of Gopher to the Rescue!  (by Terry Catasus Jennings)  
The ground moves and shakes.  Rumbles penetrate the silent mountain woodlands.  Steam and ash trickle into the air.  Gopher busily digs in his burrow.  The rumbling and shaking become more intense.  Then, a sound resonates through the woods, violent and thunderous.  Gopher continues digging in his burrow.   The mountain explodes and disappears in a cloud of ash and rock.  Even though many animals and plants are destroyed in the blast, gopher is safe in his home.   In this now nearly desolate area of the mountain, few creatures have survived.   The remainder of the narrative describes how the mountain recovers with the vital help of gopher and other survivors, drawing on the scientific observations made after the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens. 

Gopher to the Rescue!  A Volcano Recovery Story is a good balance of engaging narrative and nonfiction information.  The text is straightforward enough that young readers will enjoy it, but dense enough to be a springboard for many science topics like environmental changes, volcanoes, habitats, landforms,, food chains, and so forth.  The illustrations (by Laurie O’Keefe) are rich and detailed, revealing not only the beauty of the woodlands but the desolation of the area after the eruption.  This book is a beautiful story of the resilience of nature and a testimony of hope in the midst of disaster.  I recommend it for ages 4-11.

For more teaching ideas and resources, visit the book page at Sylvan Dell and the 40-page Teaching Activity Guide

Summary of Home in the Cave (by Janet Halfmann)   
Deep within a dark cave, Baby Bat snuggles close to his mother.  He is comfortable and safe.  He never wants to leave the cave—ever!   When his mother leaves for her nightly insect hunt, he hears the other youngster describe the dangers lurking outside the cave.  He is determined to never leave!  While practicing his flying, he crashes into a wall and lands in a packrat’s nest.  His new rodent friend leads him on a tour of their habitat where they meet birds, snakes, salamanders, fish, and a host of insects.  Baby Bat learns his vital role in the cave food chain, and he overcomes his fears of the outside world. 

Using the point of view of a child, Home in the Cave creates a narrative framework for youngster to explore the unknown on two levels.  First, he is venturing into and learning about his physical environment in a calm and simple manner.  Second, he is learning a valuable lesson about growing up and conquering fear.  Both of these lessons are beneficial to children.  Next, the book broadens a child’s experience with nature and expands his science vocabulary/background knowledge by fluidly revealing the wonders of the cave habitat.   Also, there are some excellent opportunities to discuss literary elements with examples of similes, hyperbole, and alliteration sprinkled within the text.  Finally, Shennen Bersani does an amazing job with light and color.   he maintains the dark atmosphere while illuminating the creatures and other elements in there (stalactites, stalagmites, nests, watering holes).  This book is recommended for children ages 4-9.  

For more teaching ideas and resources, visit the book page at Sylvan Dell and the 51-page Teaching Activity Guide

Disclaimer: As per FTC guidelines, I received copies of these books from Sylvan Dell Publishing in exchange for my honest review. I received no monetary compensation. All opinions expressed here are mine and mine alone.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Picture Books (History): Code Red Series

The Code Red series from Bearport Publishing vividly recreates nine of the worst disasters in modern history.  Using a narrative format, the setting is established and the causes are revealed.  Readers feel the impact of the incident and the aftermath through first-hand testimonies, photographs, and descriptive details.  There are ten books in the series—The Challenger Space Shuttle Explosion, Emergency at Three Mile Island,  Earthquake in Haiti, The Exxon-Valdez’s Deadly Oil Spill, The Great Chicago Fire, The Hindenburg Disaster,  Nightmare on the Titanic, The Texas City Disaster, The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, and The 2001 World Trade Center Attack Here are the highlights of a few of the books I read.

The Challenger Space Shuttle Explosion (by William Caper) 
This disaster is one I remember clearly.  I used to live on Merritt Island where we watched (and felt) the shuttles launch outside of our school buildings or homes.  My mother used to run the banquets for the astronauts.   I remember the shock and disbelief as we watched the coverage on the television at school.   Caper brings out the human side of the space catastrophe by highlighting many of the people on the craft—including how Christa McAuliffe was chosen and trained to be the first civilian and teacher in space.  The narrative concludes with hope—both in the positive changes that were made to the space program and the words of President Reagan.  In his speech he said, “It’s hard to understand, but sometimes painful things like this happen.  It’s all part of the process of exploration and discovery.”    With risks, there are failures—sometimes tragedy.  We should never give up though. 

The Hindenburg Disaster (by Aaron Feigenbaum)  
I had previously heard of this incident, but I did not know any details.  The Hindenburg was one of the early passenger airships.  With nearly 100 people on board, the ship had a smooth trip from Germany to the United States. The passengers enjoyed luxurious accommodations.  As they were in the process of landing, the craft caught on fire.  People were screaming and jumping out of it, many badly burned.  One reporter, on the scene, referred to it as “the worst catastrophe in the world” and “the worst thing [he] ever witnessed.”  The event had a huge impact on the people as they listened to the news reports on their radios.   The age of the airship ended, but man was not discouraged from venturing into flight.

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire (by Jacqueline Dembar Greene)  
This event was entirely new to me.  I could not help but to think as I read that it was in some ways to New Yorkers in 1911 what the collapse of the Twin Towers was to them in 2011.  The Triangle Waist Company was in the top three floors of the ten-story Asch Building.  It was one of New York City’s new skyscrapers.  When the fire broke out, people (primarily women) were crowded into the noisy building working in harsh conditions, often behind locked doors.  Many people were trapped.  Others fell to their deaths as they attempted to get out using the fire escape. This tragic event led to factories becoming safer, better places to work, and it prompted stricter fire safety codes.  Unfortunately, many lives were lost though.

The Code Red series deals with a broad range of historical events—both recent and long ago.  The books are ideal as supplements to history unit studies, for book reports, or for general background knowledge and reading.  Written for ages 9 and up, the series delves into high-interest, engaging topics that are sure to become favorites in any home, school, or classroom library. 

It is Nonfiction Monday.   Read about other notable non-fiction titles at EMU's Debuts.

Freedom Over Me (Ashley Bryan)

Title:   Freedom Over Me:  Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life Author :   Ashley Bryan Illustrator :   Ashley...