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. 

Evaluation
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. 

Evaluation:
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.

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