Archive for ‘Non-Fiction’

October 25, 2013

People

peopleTitle: People
Author & Illustrator: Peter Spier

Publisher: Doubleday, 1980
Book Type: Non-Fiction
Ages: 4-8
Themes: Diversity, Population, Individuality

Excerpt:

“People around our world wear different clothes — or none at all.

All of us want to look our best. Still, what is considered beautiful or handsome in one place is considered ugly, and even ridiculous, elsewhere.”

Synopsis:

Celebration of people everywhere around the world, reminding us that we are all unique, different from one another – each deserving respect.

Activities:

There are many, many activities, classroom plans available on-line. I have listed just a few here.

Why I Like This Book:

I loved that my 7 year old poured over the pages of this book for over half an hour, looking at the myriad of detailed illustrations, and most importantly learning about the world’s people. Mr. Spier goes through all sorts of physical and cultural attributes – appearances, clothing, homes, jobs, food, religion – while constantly reminding the reader that what may appear strange to one culture is completely normal to another. As we become a tighter global community, the importance of books like this will continue to grow. This is a must have book for every classroom.

This review is part of Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book series. Visit her site to see the other books recommended.

May 9, 2013

On a Beam of Light

On a Beam of LightTitle: On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein
Author: Jennifer Berne
Illustrator: Vladimir Radunsky
Publisher: Chronicle Books, 2013
Book Type: Non-Fiction
Ages: 6-9
Themes: Physicists

Opening Lines:

Over 100 years ago, as the stars swirled in the sky, as the Earth circled the sun, as the March winds blew through a little town by a river, a baby boy was born. His parents named him Albert.

Synopsis (from Chronicle website):

A boy rides a bicycle down a dusty road. But in his mind, he envisions himself traveling at a speed beyond imagining, on a beam of light. This brilliant mind will one day offer up some of the most revolutionary ideas ever conceived. From a boy endlessly fascinated by the wonders around him, Albert Einstein ultimately grows into a man of genius recognized the world over for profoundly illuminating our understanding of the universe.

Jennifer Berne and Vladimir Radunsky invite the reader to travel along with Einstein on a journey full of curiosity, laughter, and scientific discovery. Parents and children alike will appreciate this moving story of the powerful difference imagination can make in any life.

Activities:

Young Kids:

Discovery Station – Compass and magnet games. Good for preschoolers – 2nd grade.
The Why Files – Einstein’s theories are presented in a simple and straightforward manner. The site includes articles about the speed of light, gravity, black holes, and space-time. Recommended for 4-6th grade students.

For Teens & Adults:

Einstein: Image & Impact – Explores Einstein’s life through historical accounts, photographs and sound clips by the American Institute of Physics.
Einstein Archives Online – Comprehensive information about Einstein’s life. Digitized manuscripts.

Why I Like This Book:

When I first heard of this book, I was like I HAVE to read it. I mean it’s about Einstein!!  Then I was like wait it’s about Einstein … there is so much to cover and a lot of it is theoretical physics. How in the world is the author going to discuss that in a picture book, it seemed like a very daunting task to me. But I had faith since this book was written by one of my favorite authors Jennifer Berne (Manfish, Calvin Can’t Fly). Ms. Berne DELIVERED on writing a book that is informative and captivating and sure to engage scientists young and old.

Kids will be engaged from the beginning when they learn Einstein didn’t talk until he was three, or that he loved to asks questions all the time much to the chagrin of his teachers. Kids will learn that Einstein was always wondering about the world around him, whether it be about a beam of light or how sugar melts in tea. It was this inquisitiveness that propelled Einstein to keep learning and questioning and eventually discovering some of nature’s secrets.

The illustrations are quirky and whimsical, appropriate for describing Einstein and his eccentricities. I particularly enjoyed the spread discussing atoms where the illustrator use “dots” to color in the pictures instead of a solid color. See illustrations from the book at Chronicle’s website.

The endpages contain additional information on Einstein’s theories, personality, and pacifism.

This book can be used in elementary science classrooms.

Check-out these other great reviews.

This review is part of Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book series. Visit her site to see the other books recommended.

Disclosure: I received my copy of this book from the publisher Chronicle Books. This review nevertheless reflects my own and honest opinion about the book.

I have a special treat this time. I have an extra copy of this book that I will be giving away. Leave a comment by May 16th 9pm PST for a chance to win.

October 9, 2012

Librarian on the Roof! A True Story

This post is dedicated to all the hard-working librarians.
This review is a few days early since the on-line book fundraiser, that I listed in the Activities section, ends this Sunday Oct 14th. Please go check out the post, and if you can donate a book or spread the word. Thanks!

Title: Librarian on the Roof! A True Story

Authors: M.G. King (interview at Miss Marple’s Musings)
Illustrator: Stephen Gilpin

Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company, 2010
Book Type: Non-Fiction
Ages: 6-8
Themes: Activism, Library

Synopsis (from Amazon website):

When RoseAleta Laurell begins her new job at the Dr. Eugene Clark Library in Lockhart, Texas, she is surprised that the children of the town think the library is for adults. She vows to raise the money for a children’s section and spends a week living and working on the library roof, even surviving a dangerous storm. With the help of the entire town, RoseAleta raises over $39,000 from within the community and across the country.

Today if you look through the front window of the Eugene Clark Library, you will see shelves stacked full with children’s books and tables and chairs just the right size. You will see artwork on the walls, and a row of busy computers. Best of all, you will always find crowds of children who love to read and learn inside the walls of the oldest library in Texas.

Activities:

Additional Info:

  • The Austin Chronicle newspaper article.
  • Local news video clips of the fundraising event. Video1 Video2

Make a Difference:

  • Opportunity to help out the library at Ballou Sr Highschool in Washington D.C. Please read this post at Guys Lit Wire blog site.  This is the third year they are running an online book fair to help stock the shelves of the Ballou library. The book fair ends this Sunday, October 14th. Excerpt from the post:

“When we began with Ballou in 2011 there were just over 1,500 books in the library, or 1.25 for each of the nearly 1,200 students. Now, they have 5,484 which means we are about a third of the way to our goal of meeting the ALA standard of eleven books for each student.”

  • Donate books to your local library!
  • Check out this awesome post from Playing by the Book – Worldwide List of Reading/Literacy Charities 2012.

Why I Like This Book:

An inspiring story of one woman’s vision and sheer determination to make people take notice of the importance of libraries for the youth. The book does a wonderful job of capturing RoseAleta’s passion and gum-shin, she clearly doesn’t take no for an answer. The story reads likes a tall-tale which is what makes it even more unbelievable to know that everything is true: tent on top of the roof, boombox and mic, storm, fundraising by the community. It is true there were mixed feelings by the community about here being up on that roof, but thankfully there were more supporters than naysayers as they were able to raise double their original goal.

This review is part of Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book series. Visit her site to see the other books recommended.

August 24, 2012

Puffling Patrol

Title: Puffling Patrol

Author & Illustrator: Ted & Betsy Lewin

Publisher: Lee & Low Books, 2012
Book Type: Non-Fiction
Ages: 7-10
Themes: Puffins, Animal Conservation, Iceland

Synopsis (from Lee & Low website):

Every April, the Westman Islands off the coast of Iceland become home to hundreds of thousands of puffins, small black-and-white seabirds with colorful bills. They spend the summer on the rocky cliffs of the islands, caring for their newly hatched chicks. By the middle of August, it is time for the young puffins, called pufflings, to make their way to the sea. And that is when the children of The Puffling Patrol are called to action.

Ted and Betsy Lewin have journeyed to the Westman Islands to experience The Puffling Patrol’s endeavors firsthand. In the company of Erna, Dáni, and their father, they drive through town at night, carefully searching for confused little birds that have glided down onto the streets instead of out to sea. Will the children find the pufflings before the birds encounter danger? Will the pufflings ever make it to the sea to spend their lives with other puffins in the North Atlantic Ocean?

Activities & Resources:

Puffin Sites:

Classroom:

  • News story in National Geographic about children’s effort to save pufflings on Heimaey
  • Puffin related activities to do in the classroom.
  • Coloring sheets at Kidzone and Puffinpalooza.

Photos &Videos:

  • National Geographic for Kids has a page for puffins.

Why I Like This Book:

A simple, easy-to-read book with beautiful artistry, a great way to learn to learn about animals. The authors recount their puffling rescue experience on a visit to Heimaey, an island off of Iceland. This is a wonderful book to show kids that they too can make a difference in the world. The yearly puffling rescue is something that the whole community young and old partake in. I especially liked that it was Dani, an eight-year old, that had “Eagle Eyes” in spotting the lost birds.

The illustrations are the gem of this book. The two styles of Ted and Betsy Lewin, blend together seamlessly. Betsy’s spot illustrations are cute and playful, reminiscent of her work in the Click Clack Moo series.

Ted’s larger photographic styled illustrations of the pufflings bring out the exquisiteness of these birds.

The story is told in first-person narrative, giving readers a feeling that they are right there experiencing the rescue first-hand. Unfortunately, the scene-by-scene narration also slowed down the pacing. The text at times seemed wordy.

The end pages are packed with information, puffin facts, information about the volcano on Heimaey, and a glossary.

The book can be used in classrooms to supplement discussions on animal conservation, birds, and Iceland.

Disclosure: I received my copy of Puffling Patrol from the published Lee & Low Books. This review nevertheless reflects my own and honest opinion about the book.

June 15, 2012

Looking at Lincoln

Title: Looking at Lincoln

Author & Illustrator: Maira Kalman
Check out the interview (Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast)

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books, 2012
Book Type: Non-Fiction
Ages: 5-10
Themes: Presidents, Civil War, American History

Synopsis (from Amazon website):

Abraham Lincoln is one of the first giants of history children are introduced to, and now Maira Kalman brings him to life with her trademark style and enthusiasm. Lincoln’s legacy is everywhere – there he is on your penny and five-dollar bill. And we are still the United States because Lincoln helped hold them together.

But who was he, really? The little girl in this book wants to find out. Among the many other things, she discovers our sixteenth president was a man who believed in freedom for all, had a dog named Fido, loved Mozart, apples, and his wife’s vanilla cake, and kept his notes in his hat. From his boyhood in a log cabin to his famous presidency and untimely death, Kalman shares Lincoln’s remarkable life with young readers in a fresh and exciting way.

Activities:

This book was based off an on-line tribute that Maira Kalman authored and illustrated for the New York Time in 2009. I highly recommend checking out.

ProTeacher! website contains links to for various Abraham Lincoln classroom activities: crossword puzzles, lesson plans, reading list, etc.

PBS documentary series “Abraham and Mary Lincoln: A House Divided” may be interesting for older students and adults. I just found out about it, looks interesting.

Why I Like This Book:

Beautiful tribute with a contemporary voice and bright, bold colored gouche illustrations that will hook any reader young or old. This is not your typical picture book biography.

The story reads as if you are listening to a friend tell you about her day

“One day, while walking through the park on my way to breakfast I saw a very tall man. He reminded me of someone, but I could not think who … And then I remembered. The man I had seen looked exactly like Abraham Lincoln.”

The author doesn’t just spew out a lot of facts but also theorizes about Lincoln’s thoughts, reminding readers that our 16th president was just an ordinary person too.

“What was he thinking about? He was thinking about democracy … And maybe he was also thinking about getting a birthday present for his little son.  Maybe a whistle. Or pickup sticks.”

Text which are the narrator’s thoughts are in a different font from the factual information.

The highlights of this book are the illustrations. Especially the final few pages. The spread about the assassination, with the pistol on the left with the empty rocking chair and fallen top hat on the right made me pause for a bit. Equally moving in an uplifting way are the final two spreads letting readers know that Abraham Lincoln will live FOREVER.

The book also has Notes and Bibliography sources at the end.

I loved this book, except for one topic which really bothered me, regarding the reason the Northern and Southern states went to war. In a picture book format for young kids facts, thoughts, the truth will be bent sometimes as the topic maybe too complicated or not appropriate for young readers. Below is the text that concerns me:

It was a difficult time to be president.
The Southern states (the Confederacy) wanted
their own country where slavery was allowed.
Lincoln said no. We must stay one country.
The Northern states (the Union) believed
that slavery should be abolished.
And so they went to war.

While the text does reference the Southern states wanting to secede and the North (Lincoln) saying no. The text implies that the issue was slavery, which would be an oversimplification. Wouldn’t it be better to simply state that the Southern states wanted to create their own country without giving a reason, thereby leaving it up to the teacher/parent/librarian to answer the child’s question of why, or that the Southern states wanted state governments to have more power. Neither of these alternate choices are much better, but I still think that would be more accurate than to say the Civil War was fought over humanitarian reasons. What do you think?

This review is part of Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book series. Visit her site to see the other books recommended. PPBF is on hiatus for the summer, however I will still continue to post book reviews. I may try different formats and may try to squeeze in one or two MG novels. As a result I may not have a consistent posting schedule for the summer, but rest assured I am still very interested in telling you about great children’s books.

If you would like to stay current with what I am reading, click Goodreads and then click on “follow reviews” button to get my updates.

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