Sunday, November 30, 2008

Cybils Book Reviews - The Explorers Series

In the Explorers series, Sandra Markle introduces readers to a decidedly different approach to the history of exploration. It is best described in the Note to Parents and Teachers found at the front of each book.
The books in the Explorers series take young readers back in time to share explorations that had a major impact on people’s view of the world. Kids will investigate why and how the explorers made their journeys and learn about animals they discovered along the way. They’ll find out how some animals affected the outcome of the journey, helping explorers find their way, causing key events to happen, or helping the explorers survive. Young readers will also learn that, because of the explorers’ journeys, animals were introduced to places they’d never lived before, sometimes with dramatic results.
The book on Columbus begins this way.
Would you believe that, once, worms inspired people to explore the world? In fifteenth-century Europe, silk made from the thread of silkworms was more valuable than gold. Silk and silkworms could only be found in the areas now known as China and Japan, and finding the fastest sea route between these areas and Europe could make an explorer very rich. Christopher Columbus was determined to find that route. In 1492, he set off with three ships, and while he did find land, it wasn't what he expected. Neither were the animals he found along the way.
Readers learn about the Silk Road and the quest to find an easier route to the silk and spice trade. It took more than eight years for Columbus to sell his plan. The description of the ships includes information about cats and rats, both of which were common shipmates, as well as "bugs in the grub." The fleet set sail on August 3, 1492. They had problems early on and landed in the Canary Islands before they set sail again. They entered the Sargasso Sea in mid-September. The wealth of animals they spotted led them to believe they were close to land, but this was not the case. Finally, in mid-October, they spotted land.
Christopher Columbus leapt out of his boat ahead of all the others and waded onto the beach. There he dropped to his knees and gave thanks for a safe voyage. He named the new land San Salvador and claimed it for Spain. Neither Columbus nor the Spanish rulers cared that a group of people Columbus came to call the Tainos (TI-nohz) had already settled on the island and called it Guanahani (Gwah-nah-hah-KNEE).
The author makes no bones abut Columbus' actions towards the natives and states that "Columbus ordered his men to capture six of the natives. In his logbook he described them as strong, healthy, smart, and likely to be good slaves." Columbus sailed through the islands of the Caribbean for two months before departing in on Christmas Eve in 1492. Around midnight, the Santa Maria struck a coral reef and began to sink. Columbus was forced to join the crew of the Niña and left the crew of the Santa Maria behind to found a colony on the island he named Española. On January 6, the Pinta and Niña finally reunited to sail home, but it was a difficult journey. Both ships finally returned to the Spanish port of Palos on March 15, 1493. In April of 1493, Columbus went to meet the King and Queen and show them all he had brought back from the Caribbean, including the Taino captives, gold, and animals.

As the story of Columbus is told, sidebars and other text bits describe the animals Columbus encountered. The page displaying a map of the islands that Columbus explored describes seabirds, painted fish, baby turtles, and mermaids (manatees). The page describing the sinking of the Santa Maria is accompanied by the following text.
Coral reefs are really large groups of animals called coral polyps. Each coral polyp produces a hard skeleton around itself, forming a little cup it can hide inside. Neighboring coral polyps link their skeletons together. When they die their skeletons become the foundation on which new coral polyps build. Slowly, the coral colony becomes big enough to form a reef.
I found there was less of an emphasis on animals in the volume on Robert Scott. This book seemed to focus more on Scott and the men who made the trek with him. Here is how this one begins.
Imagine a place that is so far away from where most people live that for ages no one knew it existed. It can be reached only during the summer because in the winter it is surrounded by ice and it's dark nearly all the time. Much of the land is also covered in ice year-round, and the weather is among the fiercest in the world. This place is Antarctica (ant-ARK-ti-kuh).

Since it's such a long journey to get to Antarctica and conditions there are so unpleasant, why did Robert Falcon Scott go there twice? You may be surprised to learn that animals had a lot to do with why he went and also played a major role in what happened while Scott was there.
Throughout this book, "boxes" resembling index cards provide information about the exploration, animals, and important findings. Since these explorations took place in the early twentieth century, there are photographs to accompany the illustrations.

Readers first learn a bit about Scott and Dr. Edward Wilson, the assistant surgeon on the expedition who also happened to be a skilled painter who loved to study birds. While Scott oversaw preparations in England, others were being made in New Zealand. Dogs for the expedition were shipped there ahead of the ship's arrival so that they could train for their work. Scott's ship, the Discovery, left Scotland in 1901 on the last day of July. On board were all the supplies they needed, 47 men, and Scott's dog, Scamp. On the way to New Zealand, the ship stopped at Macquarie Island to investigate the wildlife. It was here that Scott and his crew first saw penguins. The Discovery reached New Zealand in November of that same year. It took a month for the crew to overhaul the ship, load more supplies, and take on the sled dogs to prepare for the final journey to Antarctica. Scott and his crew (minus Scamp, whom Scott found a home for) set sail on December 21, 1901.

By the end of January, 1902, the Discovery and her crew were anchored in McMurdo Sound and setting up camp. During the first year they had many preparations to keep them busy. It wasn't until November of 1902 that Scott, Dr. Wilson, and Ernest Shackleton headed south to try and reach the pole. The trip was disastrous, so the group turned back a few days before Christmas. When they returned to McMurdo Sound in February of 1903, they found a ship anchored in the harbor prepared to accompany them back to New Zealand. However, the Discovery was trapped in ice and unable to sail, so the relief ship set sail after leaving behind fresh supplies and a few members of its crew. Scott was happy to stay in Antarctica to further his explorations, while Dr. Wilson was eager to study the Emperor penguins. This second year in Antarctica brought another failed attempt to reach the pole.

Scott returned to England in September of 1904. He was surprised to find he was famous. He returned to service in the navy, married, and dreamed of returning to Antarctica. A second expedition was funded in 1909. Because another explorer was also setting off for Antarctica, papers around the world billed this as a competition to reach the South Pole first. However, Scott's expedition was to study the wildlife, weather, and rocks. This time they brought dogs and ponies with them. Their goal was to drop off supplies along the route they would take the next summer to the South Pole. The trip was fraught with difficulties the entire way. After a winter of study, Scott and a team of 11 men left on November 1, 1911 to try and reach the pole. When the team reached the Beardmore Glacier, 3 men and the dog teams were sent back. In January of 1912, three more men were sent back. Only 4 men remained with Scott to reach the Pole. In March a dog team set out to meet Scott's team at a supply depot, but after six days of waiting, they left alone.

In reading about Scott's quest to reach the Pole, I found myself wondering why anyone would persist in the face of such difficulties. My son was caught up in the story of the dogs and horses, and what he perceived to be terrible treatment of them. He couldn't get past how difficult and deadly the work was for them. No matter what captures your fancy, there's no denying this is a gripping tale.

On first glance I thought the Animals __ Saw in the title was a bit misleading. While there is plenty of information about the animals that were encountered, studied, and even eaten along the way, particularly in the Columbus book, the emphasis really is on the exploration.

In the end, I found I was utterly fascinated with these books. In addition to the wealth of information in the texts, both contain a glossary, extensive index, and information on books and web sites where readers can learn more. Teachers will be happy to know that there is a guide for this series.

Book: Animals Christopher Columbus Saw: An Adventure in the New World
Sandra Markle
Jamel Akib
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Date Published:
48 pages
Source of Book: Local public library

Book: Animals Robert Scott Saw: An Adventure in Antarctica
Author: Sandra Markle
Illustrator: Phil
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Date Published:
48 pages
Source of Book: Local public library

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Cybils Book Review - Underwear: What We Wear Under There

My mother called them unmentionables. My son calls them skivvies. Seeing them hanging out of a person's pants often prompts a smile. Why does underwear spark such interest? Is it the needless giggles that erupt around it's mention, or is it something to do with knowing the tortuous nature of apparel of old? No matter the reason, kids and adults seem to love learning about the fascinating history of undergarments.
Underwear: What We Wear Under There, written by Ruth Freeman Swain and illustrated by John O'Brien, looks at underwear through the years. It begins:
People have giggled about it, snickered about it, whispered about it (shhh) for hundreds of years. They've made jokes; they've teased. They've been too embarrassed to talk about it out loud, even though they have a pretty good idea what's under there.

What is it? What is so funny about underwear?
And ends:
Will underwear still be funny in the future? Maybe it always will be. There's just something about it. Is it because underwear is usually hidden? Because it's the layer between being dressed and undressed? Because it's colorful, silly, skimpy, or just because it's . . . under there?

Can you say it in a whisper? Can you say it out loud? Can you say it without a smile?
"I see London,
I see France,
I see Laura's under ____?"
In between, a skillfully written, engaging text, accompanied by clever, cartoon-style illustrations describes the evolution of underwear from early days to the present. There is much to learn and enjoy here. The illustrations are downright funny. While much of the humor may escape young readers, adults will enjoy every bit of it. For example, one illustration shows shows a woman catapulting into a hoop skirt, while the opposite page shows women fully dressed and parachuting to the floor instead of taking the staircase. Another illustration shows a group of men, women and children dressed in "union suits," skating on a pond. Below them, a bull chases a family dressed in red union suits out of a field. There is also a wonderful illustration of a soldier parachuting out of the sky with what appears to be a nylon stocking.

Here are some of the interesting things I learned while reading this book.
  • Loincloths were the earliest form of underpants and were worn in all parts of the ancient world, including Africa, China, Rome and the Incan empire.
  • Knights wore padded underwear to protect their bodies from their suits of armor.
  • In sixteenth century England, underwear was alive with fleas, ticks and mites because people rarely bathed.
  • A "bum roll" was a cushion a woman wore tied around her waist to hold her skirts out away from her body.
  • Ruffled pantalettes were worn beneath dresses and eventually morphed (shrunk) into drawers, bloomers, and finally the underpants women wear today.
  • Corsets so changed a woman's body that they not only altered the position of internal organs, but made digestion and childbearing difficult.
  • In 1911, with the introduction of the tango, came the need for more flexible "bust supporters" to replace corsets. These supporters eventually led to the invention of the brassiere.
  • On the first day nylon stockings were sold in America, three quarters of a millions pairs sold out immediately.
In addition to the history of underwear, there is a bit of an introduction to the history of diapers. There is also information about what happens to old underwear.
Instead of going into a landfill, the used clothing may be sold at a Goodwill store, or sold to a recycling company that converts it back into cotton fibers to be used in new ways, such as stuffing for dolls. Used clothes are also shipped in large bales to countries such as Zambia in Africa.
The book ends with a timeline on the history of underwear, and includes a list of books and web sites where readers can get additional information.

My son and I had a great deal of fun reading this book. There were oohs and aahs, guffaws, and giggles galore. Upon finishing the text there were several sections we went back to reread. Overall, this is a fascinating read that is well-written and fancifully illustrated. I highly recommend it.

Book: Underwear: What We Wear Under There
Ruth Freeman Swain
Illustrator: John O'Brien
Holiday House
Date Published:
32 pages
Source of Book:
Interlibrary loan (Thank you Alexandria library!)

Cybils Book Reviews - Friends and Enemies

Lincoln and Douglass: An American Friendship, written by Nikki Gionvanni and illustrated by Bryan Collier, is a story that begins with Lincoln awaiting the arrival of his friend at his second inaugural reception. As the two men journey across the ballroom to meet, the story flashes back to their individual histories. This brief introduction to their early lives is written in italics. It begins with a double-page spread of a young Douglass in the woods on a moonlit night. The text reads:
Young Frederick Douglass, refusing to be whipped again, ran away from his owner after fighting with the overseer.

He crossed streams and fields until he came to sympathetic Quakers who offered him refuge.
The next double-page spread shows Lincoln, with outstretched hands, speaking to a man in front of a store. The text reads:
Young Abraham Lincoln walked five miles back to the country store because the clerk had given him a nickel too much change.
Readers next see both young men, on opposite sides of a spread, studying by the light of a kerosene lamp. Readers also learn that while Douglass worked as a ship's caulker in Baltimore, Lincoln sailed down the Mississippi hauling produce.

The italicized section ends here and the story of their relationship begins. The illustration depicts the two men talking together and is accompanied by this text.
When Lincoln was elected to the House of Representatives, Douglass called upon him as he called upon all the newly elected congressmen. Douglass wanted to teach; Lincoln wanted to learn. A friendship flowered based mutual values, a love of good food, and the ability to laugh even in the worst of times.
Readers learn how both men hated slavery, though they weren't the only ones. One double-page spread is devoted to the story of John Brown and the attack on Harpers Ferry. Another is devoted to the story of Mary Ellen Pleasant (Mammy Pleasant), a woman who had helped John Brown raise funds and had gone to Virginia to support his cause.

The Civil War was raging during this time, and the darkness of war that hung over the inaugural celebration is shown in a large gatefold in which the the flaps depict the ballroom of the White House, while the fully opened gatefold (four pages wide) depicts a battle scene between the gray and blue. It is one of the most beautiful and astonishing collages in the text.

In the final pages, when Lincoln and Douglass finally meet, they briefly discuss the long journey that has brought them together. The final page of the text includes a timeline that begins with the birth of Lincoln (1809) and ends with the death of Douglass (1895). Important events in the lives of both are included.

This book provides a welcome introduction to this friendship and will offer a unique perspective for young student's studying the Lincoln presidency and his views on slavery.

Duel!: Burr and Hamilton's Deadly War of Words, written by Dennis Brindell Fradin and illustrated by Larry Day, is the story of two men who were bitter enemies, and how their personal feud came to a tragic end.

Their story begins this way.
As the sun rises on a July morning in 1804, two men stand ten paces apart on a New Jersey cliffside. One is Alexander Hamilton, a signer of the Constitution. The other is Aaron Burr, the vice president of the United States. They are risking arrest—and their lives—to fight an illegal pistol duel.
The story of the duel is told in italics, while the history of the two and events leading to that event are told in regular font. Readers first learn about their childhoods. Hamilton was born on an island in the Caribbean. By the age of 13 his mother was dead and his father gone. At the age of 17 he sailed to the states to study at an academy in New Jersey. Around the time that Hamilton came to New Jersey, Burr was graduating from Princeton College. Burr's childhood was also a difficult one. He was an orphan by the age of two and raised by his uncle. He was often beaten and ran away, but his uncle always managed to find him.

Both Hamilton and Burr fought for independence during the Revolutionary War. both also served as aides to George Washington. Though Hamilton felt others saw him as an outsider because of his foreign birth, Washington was very fond of him. The same could not be said for Burr. Washington saw him as a troublemaker and dismissed him from his staff. This event marked the beginning of tensions between Hamilton and Burr.

Both men worked as lawyers in New York City, where they often met on opposite sides in the courtroom. Hamilton went on to become Secretary of the Treasury in 1789. Two years later, Burr defeated Hamilton's father-in-law for a seat in the Senate. In his anger over this, Hamilton wrote letters to lawmakers, "calling Burr "the worst sort" of pubic figure." In 1800 when Burr ran for president against Jefferson, the two men tied for first place and it was up the House of Representatives to choose the president. Hamilton wrote letters to representatives, calling Burr "wicked" and saying many other negative things. Burr lost the presidency to Jefferson and had to settle for the vice presidency. In a final act against Burr, Hamilton's negative words and name-calling led to Burr's defeat in the election for governor of New York. Burr was so angry with Hamilton over all these offenses that he challenged him to fight a duel.
Knowing that they might not survive the gunfight, Hamilton and Burr said farewell to their loved ones. Hamilton spent the Sunday before the duel with his family. On the eve of the duel, Burr wrote a parting letter to his daughter Theo.

Early the next morning, oarsmen row Hamilton and Burr across the Hudson from New York City to Weehawken in separate boats.
Both men fired their pistols. Both staggered and appeared to be injured. However, Burr only stumbled on a stone, while Hamilton was gravely wounded. He died the afternoon of the next day. Even though he was allowed to finish his term as vice president, his future in politics was destroyed in the wake of Hamilton's death. The text ends with information on the tradition of dueling, and includes a bibliography, as well as ideas for further reading.

I have read this book a number of times. I love the ink, watercolor, and gouache illustrations, and am fascinated by the history. This story may be more than 200 years old, but it still rings true for students today, as perhaps the ultimate anti-bullying tale.

Book: Lincoln and Douglass: An American Friendship
Nikki Giovanni
Illustrator: Bryan Collier
Publisher: Henry Holt and Company
Date Published:
40 pages
Source of Book: Copy received from publisher for Cybils consideration.

Book: Duel!: Burr and Hamilton's Deadly War of Words
Dennis Brindell Fradin
Larry Day
Publisher: Walker Books for Young Readers
Date Published:
40 pages
Source of Book: Copy received from publisher for Cybils consideration.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Poetry Friday - Thanks

I'm still basking in the warmth of Thanksgiving, so today I'm sharing thoughts about gratefulness.
by W. S. Merwin

with the night falling we are saying thank you
we are stopping on the bridges to bow from the railings
we are running out of the glass rooms
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky
and say thank you

Read the rest.
If you want to read more like this, has a wealth of lovely Thanksgiving poetry.

The round up this week is being hosted by Lisa Chellman at Under the Covers. Do stop by and take in all the great pieces being shared this week. Before you go, be sure to check out this week's poetry stretch results. Happy poetry Friday, all!

Poetry Stretch Results - Lunes

The challenge this week was to write in the form of a lune, a haiku variant with lines of 5/3/5 syllables. Here's what we have.
Julie Larios at The Drift Record shares A Question, An Answer.

cloudscome at a wrung sponge left this one in the comments.
    the rise of his breath
    in the dark;
    nothing but shush
Annie at Write Now in Room 204 left this one in the comments of my Thanksgiving post.
    Goodnight Lune

    Just back from Iraq tonight,
    My own Ferdinand
    Smells his new baby's hair.
My poem was inspired by the "naked trees" my son keeps pointing out. Here are two versions of the same thought. As you can see, I'm still trying to find the best words.
Trees dressed in winter
robes, wait in
stillness for spring's gown.

Trees dressed in winter
white, wait in
silence for spring's green.
It's not too late if you still want to play. Leave me a comment about your poem and I'll add it to the list.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Reflections on Thanksgiving

I go to mass at 9 am every Thanksgiving. It's become a tradition I love. In fact, I'll admit that it's probably my favorite mass of the year, winning over Christmas and Easter Sunday. In part, I love the joyfulness of the music. We sing such great songs of thanks. I also love it because Father Fred says mass this day each year. He is our associate pastor who also happens to have a PhD in English. His homilies are full of references to pieces of classic literature. He provides a bit of backstory and always makes the connection between the lives of the characters and the lives of the faithful.

Today he reminded us of Grover's Corners and the words of Emily Webb, revisiting a time in her childhood after her death. She remarks to the narrator, "Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?—every, every minute?” He encouraged us to live our lives to the fullest, and to place in our hearts today what we are most thankful for, and carry it with us every day. I did, and I will.

Here's wishing you all a wonderful Thanksgiving full of the very best things, and a reminder to enjoy every minute of it.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Things I've Done

I got this one from Libby. Play along if you like. All the things I have done are in bold.

1. Started your own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea (From the top of the main mast, furling sails!)
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty (Yes, when it was actually allowed.)
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon (Heavens no! Why would I?)
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo's David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class (does Tai Chi count?)
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar (Once, and never again!)
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle (Yes, I was driving!)
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury (I've been called, but always dismissed.)
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee
100. Read an entire book in one day.

That's 59 out of 100. It seems I've got some work to do, though a few of these I would gladly pass up (like 22, 46, and 97).

Gorgeous Endpapers

Today at Shelftalker, Allison Morris shares some gorgeous endpapers. Check them out at Endpapers on Parade. After sharing a number of examples she asks, "Have you seen any great endpapers in the recent or more distant past? If so, tell us what books we should open to find them."

I'm quite fond of the endpapers from Velma Gratch & the Way Cool Butterfly, which are pictured in the article. Other recent favorites include A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams, largely because I love the Williams' poems written across the pages. I also like the endpapers for Astronaut Handbook, which picture different rockets blasting off into space. (Both of these are Cybils nonfiction picture book nominees, by the way!)

I'm sure this is a cost issue, but I'm always sad when I open a new book to find just plain endpapers. I love them decorated. How about you? Do you like "fancy" endpapers? If so, what are some of your favorites?

Mad Magazine Fold-Ins

While most of my teenage friends were reading Tiger Beat and 16 Magazine (okay, me too!), I had a secret crush on Mad Magazine. Folding the cover was the best part, so I waited until I'd read it all before creasing my magazine. I also didn't want to fold it unless I thought I knew the answer (I usually got it wrong).

Thanks to the New York Times, I've been able to revisit some terrific covers. You can too at Fold-Ins, Past and Present. This is an interactive feature that lets you drag the edge of the magazine cover to fold it and reveal the hidden image and answer to the question at the top of the page. It's brilliant!

**Warning** - Do NOT click that link unless you have some time to kill! (You will find 23 covers, ranging from the 60s to the present.)

Thanks to Neil Gaiman for helping me procrastinate today.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Monday Poetry Stretch - Lunes

Back in August of 2007 we first attempted writing in the form of the lune. It's been more than year, so I thought this might be a good time to revisit it. The lune is a haiku variation, invented and named by the poet Robert Kelly. The poem is called a lune because the right edge is bowed like a crescent moon. This is a thirteen syllable form arranged in three lines of 5/3/5 syllables.

So, do you want to play? What kind of lune will you write? Leave me a comment about your poem(s) and I'll post the results here later this week.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Cybils Book Reviews - Two Heartwarming Tales of Survival

Two of the books on our list of nonfiction picture book nominees are stories of survival in the wake of Katrina. The fact that they both depict animals wins them big points in the kid appeal department.

Molly the Pony: A True Story, written by Pam Kaster, is the story of a small pony of the Americas (a cross between a Shetland and an Appaloosa) that opens with Molly being left alone in her barn to ride out hurricane Katrina. The pony survived on hay and puddles of water while she waited for someone to come for her. Two weeks after Katrina, she was found in her barn, the door having been blocked by a tree. Workers had to cut a hole in the side of the barn to get her out. Molly was taken to Ms. Kaye's farm until her owners could come and get her. Three months later, Molly became a permanent resident on Ms. Kaye's farm.

This, however, is only the beginning of the story. One day while Molly was napping in the pasture, a large Pit Bull ran into the pasture and bit her. Molly fell and kicked the dog, but it would not go away. The mauling left Molly with a badly damaged front leg.
At first the veterinarians thought they could not do anything to help Molly. Then they watched her closely for a few days. They were happy to see that she rested her healthy front leg by shifting her weight onto her back legs.

"Molly is a smart pony with a great attitude," said one veterinarian. "I think she could learn to walk with a prosthetic limb.* She knows how to take care of herself."

The veterinarians decided it would be best for Molly to go to the animal hospital at nearby Louisiana State University for the special surgery. They amputated* the injured leg below the knee and attached a stiff white cast. Molly stayed at the animal hospital for four days. Then Ms. Kay took her home.
The rest of the text follows Molly through her recovery and new role as an ambassador to children in hospitals and the elderly in retirement homes. Molly not brings smiles to the faces of all she meets, but she also leaves them behind, for the rubber hoof on the end of her prosthetic limb bears a smiley face.

The book uses photos of Molly to help tell the story. Challenging vocabulary words are printed in bold and marked with an asterisk. At the bottom of the page, readers find the words defined. An author's note at the end provides a bit more information about Molly, as well as resources to learn more about her story.

Just as Molly was left behind as families evacuated New Orleans before Katrina hit, so too were a dog and cat, both without tails, and both named Bobbi. Two Bobbies: A True Story of Hurricane Katrina, Friendship, and Survival, written Kirby Larson and Mary Nethery and illustrated by Jean Cassels, tells how these two friends survived the storm and the harrowing months that followed. It also tells of the national effort made to find them a permanent home.

When Katrina hit, Bobbi was tethered to a porch with a length of chain. Bob Cat stayed by her side. There they rode out the storm and waited for help. Even though many were rescued, no one came for the Two Bobbies. Bobbi finally broke loose, and with Bob Cat at her side, the two tried to make their way around the city. The amount of damage caused by the hurricane made it impossible for them to find a home. For months the two wandered the city, often chased by packs of hungry and homeless dogs. After a time, Bobbi's ribs began to show, and Bob Cat's markings began to fade.

Four months later, the Two Bobbies found their way to a construction site. A worker's dog rushed over to greet them. The worker, named Rich, saw how thin they were and began to feed them. However, after a week of caring for the two friends, his boss came to the job site and told him the strays had to go. Rich took the two to a temporary shelter run by the Best Friends Animal Society. When the Two Bobbies were placed in separate rooms, Bobbi howled all night long, and Bob Cat paced back and forth. It wasn't until the were placed in the same cage that they were happy.

It was at this point that workers in the shelter realized that Bob Cat was blind. All those months wandering homeless in the city, Bobbi had been keeping Bob Cat safe. The volunteers at the shelter began to look for their family, but they were never found. When it was time for the shelter to close its doors, the Two Bobbies still had no home. Desperate to find them a family, the volunteers arranged for the two friends to appeared on CNN.
The very next day, the Best Friends volunteers left New Orleans. One of them drove Bobbi and Bob Cat to the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Utah, where they would stay until a new family could be found. They were on their way west when the news came in.

Hundreds of people wanted to adopt them!
Yes, the story has a happy ending, and I dare you to keep a dry eye when you read it. I've read this a number of times with my son and every time he asks, "Mom, are you crying again?" ("Why yes son, your mother's a sap.") I wish I could find some word other than heartwarming, but it's absolutely the best one to describe this incredible tale. You'll not only feel good reading it, but also buying it, as the authors are donating a portion of their proceeds to the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary.

Book: Molly the Pony: A True Story
Pam Kaster
Publisher: Louisiana State University Press
Date Published:
36 pages
Source of Book: Interlibrary loan (Thank you Sweet Briar College!)

Book: Two Bobbies: A True Story of Hurrican Katrina, Friendship, and Survival
Kirby Larson and Mary Nethery
Jean Cassels
Publisher: Walker Books for Young Readers
Date Published:
32 pages
Source of Book: Copy received from publisher for Cybils consideration.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Cybils Book Review - Little Green Frogs

I've seen my fair share of frog life cycle books, as this topic is a staple in the elementary curriculum. Egg . . . tadpole . . . froglet . . . frog . . . egg . . . Well, you get the idea. What I haven't seen recently is a fresh approach to this story. Until now.

Little Green Frogs
, written and illustrated by Frances Barry, is what Candlewick calls a "Fold Out and Find Out" book. Not nearly as fragile as a pop-up book, it is constructed in such a way that I consider it a novelty book. Translation - Great for read aloud, but if you want it last (particularly in a classroom), I wouldn't recommend putting it in the hands of the very readers it's aimed at! The pages in this book don't simply open to the left, they unfold in a circular fashion until the pages resemble the petals of a flower that has opened. Here's a view of the book partially opened.
The first page reads:
Frog eggs, frog eggs,
floating in the pond,
how will you grow?
The illustration shows five jellied eggs with a black mass in the center. Opening/unfolding the page reveals a lily pad and fish on the reverse. The next page reads:
Frog eggs, frog eggs,
hatching in the pond,
how will you grow?
The illustration nows show five eggs with tiny tadpoles emerging. The back side of this page reveals another lily pad, flowers, and insects.

And so it goes. Each page moves the story of the frog life cycle forward in text and illustrations. It also grows the reader's view of the pond, adding more lily pads, fish, flowers, rocks and more. The final page show five frogs climbing on some rocks, one with its long tongue darting towards an insect. It reads:
Green frogs, green frogs,
crawling from the pond,
read, steady, hop, hop.
When the book is completely open, five grown frogs are hopping off the pages to the words "Off you go!" The words "Lift here" appear at the top of the octagon that serves as the book's center. Lift here really means fold down. Upon doing so, readers will find information on how to raise tadpoles at home.

The metamorphosis as displayed in this format brings the magic of this change to life. The presentation is lovely and livens up the life cycle story. It does take some care to fold the pages back into the binding, but it is well worth the effort. I recommend this one for adding a hint of wonder and surprise to your life cycle lessons.

Book: Little Green Frogs
Frances Barry
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Date Published:
22 pages
Source of Book: Interlibrary loan (Thank you Alachua County Library District!)

**NOTE - Frances Barry has another Fold Out and Find Out book entitled Sunflower. I'm sure you can imagine how this seed to flower story unfolds.

Poetry Friday - How I Write

Today I'm sharing an original poem, inspired by this week's poetry stretch to write a list poem.
How I Write

Empty notebook
  Fine blue pen
    Comfortable chair
      Quiet room

Stare at page
  Just write
    Tap fingers
      Write something
        Twirl pen
Write anything!

Look closely
  Lines on my hand
    Drape of a blanket
      Spider on wall
        Bird at the feeder
          Squirrel climbing tree
            Dog at my feet
Pen glides across the page
  Line after line unfolds

Great Frustration
Cross out
    Change form
      Make it rhyme
        Revise, revise, revise
Take out rhyme
  Search thesaurus
    Revise, revise, revise
      Tear out pages
        Put them back
          Close the book

Tuck away in dresser drawer
  Safe beneath pajamas
    Life intervenes

    Months pass
Preparing dinner
  Thoughts drift
    In my head
Run to drawer
  Open book
    At last!
      I’ve found the words
But is it poetry?
The round up this week is hosted by Holly at Brimstone Soup. Do stop by and check out all the great poetry being shared this week. Happy poetry Friday, all!

Poetry Stretch Results - List Poems

The challenge this week was to write a list poem. Here's what we have.
Juliet at Crafty Green Poet shares a poem entitled Late Autumn.

Lirone at Words that sing shares a poem entitled What I have learned.

cloudscome at a wrung sponge gives us the poem What I Would Photograph.

Elaine at Wild Rose Reader gives us a wealth of list poems!

Tiel Aisha Ansari at Knocking From Inside shares Things I'm Grateful For.

Julie Larios at The Drift Record shares a poem entitled Things to Worry About.
You can read my poem, How I Write, at today's Poetry Friday post.

It's not too late if you still want to play. Leave me a comment about your poem and I'll add it to the list.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Cybils NFPB: Checking Out the Reviews

I am slowly making my way through the Cybils nominees in the category of nonfiction picture books. Here is the list of nominated titles I have reviewed so far.
That's just under 20% of the titles. WOW! I have a lot of work to do! My esteemed colleagues on the nominating panel have also been hard at work reviewing titles. Take a look at some of their posts.
At least one of the nominees has a book trailer. I dare you to watch it without a hankie handy.

Finally, many of the nominees have also been reviewed around the kidlitosphere. If you are looking for the buzz on even more Cybils NFPB titles, check out these posts. (P.S. - Some of these titles were reviewed by multiple blogs, so whenever possible, I tried to share the link-love.)

As Good as Anybody: Martin Luther King Jr. and Abraham Joshua Heschel's Amazing March Toward Freedom, written by Richard Michelson and illustrated by Raul Colón (Reviewed at Seven Imp)

Before John Was a Jazz Giant: A Song of John Coltrane, written by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by Sean Qualls (Reviewed at A Fuse #8 Production)

Duel! Burr and Hamilton's Deadly War of Words, written by Dennis Brindell Fradin and illustrated by Larry Day (Reviewed at the excelsior file)

Gone Fishing: Ocean Life by the Numbers, written and illustrated by David McLimans (Reviewed at A Patchwork of Books)

Keep Your Eye on the Kid: The Early Years of Buster Keaton, written and illustrated by Catherine Brighton (Reviewed at A Fuse #8 Production)

Lady Liberty: A Biography, written by Doreen Rappaport and illustrated by Matt Tavares (Reviewed at Writing and Ruminating)
**Also listen to the podcast review at Just One More Book!!

The Last Black King of the Kentucky Derby: The Story of Jimmy Winkfield, written by Crystal Hubbard and illustrated by Robert McGuire (Reviewed at Write for a Reader)

Manfish: The Story of Jacques Cousteau, written by Jennifer Berne and illustrated by Éric Puybaret (Reviewed at The Well-Read Child)

"Mrs. Riley Bought Five Itchy Aardvarks" and Other Painless Tricks for Memorizing Science Facts, written by Brian Cleary and illustrated by J. P. Sandy (Reviewed at Crazy For Kids Books)

Planting the Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangari Maathai, written and illustrated by Claire Nivola (Reviewed at Kids Lit)

A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams, written by Jen Bryant and illustrated by Melissa Sweet (Reviewed at A Fuse#8 Production)

The Road to Oz: Twists, Turns, Bumps, and Triumphs in the Life of L. Frank Baum, written by Kathleen Krull and illustrated by Kevin Hawkes (Reviewed at Seven Imp)

Seven Miles to Freedom: The Robert Smalls Story, written by Janet Halfmann and illustrated by Duane Smith (Reviewed at a wrung sponge)

Sisters and Brothers: Sibling Relationships in the Animal World, written by Robin Page and illustrated by Steve Jenkins (Reviewed at the excelsior file)

This is the Feast, written by Diane Z. Shore and illustrated by Megan Lloyd (Reviewed at BooksForKidsBlog)

Trout are Made of Trees, written by April Pulley Sayre and illustrated by Kate Endle (Reviewed at A Year of Reading)

Two Bobbies: A True Story of Hurricane Katrina, Friendship, and Survival, written by Kirby Larson and Mary Methery and illustrated by Jean Cassels (Reviewed at Chasing Ray)

Wanda Gág: The Girl Who Lived to Draw, written and illustrated by Deborah Kogan Ray (Reviewed at Young Readers)

What to Do About Alice?: How Alice Roosevelt Broke the Rules, Charmed the World, and Drove Her Father Teddy Crazy!, written by Barbara Kerley and illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham (Reviewed at Wild Rose Reader)

What's Inside Your Tummy, Mommy?, written and illustrated by Abby Cocovini (Reviewed at The Well-Read Child)

Yours for Justice Ida B. Wells: The Daring Life of a Crusading Journalist, written by Philip Dray and illustrated by Stephen Alcorn (Reviewed at Abby (the) Librarian)

Reading Worldess Picture Books

I have a large collection of wordless picture books that I use in my classes. Students are always asking, "How do you read these books with students? There are no words!" So, we talk about this.

For those of you who have ever asked this question, check out The Well-Read Child and the post entitled How to Read a Book without Word (Out Loud). It's a real gem.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

New Book Reviews - Civics

Over at Open Wide, Look Inside my students have been reviewing books that connect to the teaching of social studies. Each of their posts includes a brief summary of a book, curriculum connections, links for some supporting resources, and general information about the book.

This week the focus is civics. You'll find books about the Pledge, our Constitution, Rosa Parks and much more in this group of titles. In addition to this week's selections, other areas of focus have been:
This is our last set of reviews for the semester, so please stop by and check out this last installment. I promise you won't be disappointed.

WBBT - Can You Guess Who Said It?

Here's a quote from today's fab list of Winter Blog Blast Tour interviews.
My god, they were wearing actual pants! It was bliss!
Can you find it? Are you surprised? (You shouldn't be, actually.) Here are the sites you can peruse to find this quote in context.
Go now and read every last word for a hefty dose of inspiration and imagination.

3-D ABC - Pop-Up Alphabet Book

I don't often recommend pop-up books, but this one is really intriguing with some very cool constructions. Have a look at this little work of art. (P.S. - For authors thinking about these things, this is a terrific book trailer with great music!)

The book is ABC3D by Marion Bataille.
*Thanks to Richard Hanks at Getting Reading for sharing this.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Book Giveaway - The Magician's Book, Sponsored by Book Dads

Book Dads is sponsoring a book giveaway. Three lucky winners will receive a copy of The Magician’s Book: A Skeptic’s Adventures in Narnia by Laura Miller.

Here's a description of the book.

THE MAGICIAN’S BOOK is the story of one reader’s long, tumultuous relationship with C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia. Enchanted by its fantastic world as a child, prominent critic Laura Miller returns to the series as an adult to uncover the source of these small books’ mysterious power by looking at their creator, Clive Staples Lewis. What she discovers is not the familiar, idealized image of the author, but a more interesting and ambiguous truth: Lewis’s tragic and troubled childhood, his unconventional love life, and his intense but ultimately doomed friendship with J.R.R. Tolkien.

Finally reclaiming Narnia “for the rest of us,” Miller casts the Chronicles as a profoundly literary creation, and the portal to a life-long adventure in books, art, and the imagination.

The contest ends on Tuesday, November 25th. Head to their site to learn more.

P.S. - How did I learn about this blog and the giveaway? The comment challenge, my friends!

Author Feature

Over at Cynsations, Cynthia Leitich Smith has posted a wonderful feature on Marilyn Singer. Go now, read and be inspired.

I'll be posting a review of Singer's newest poetry book, First Food Fight This Fall and Other School Poems, on Friday. (How's that for alliteration!)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Cybils Book Review - Boys of Steel

What does it take to bring superhero to life? In Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman, readers learn that imagination and perseverance both were essential in giving America, and the world, its very first superhero.

Superman debuted in 1938, at a time when the Great Depression had lasted nearly a decade, and the world was teetering on the brink of war. If there was ever a time when people were looking for a fantasy hero, this was it. However, Superman's story began long before that date of publication.

When the book opens we meet Jerry Siegel, a shy kid with glasses who preferred books, and movies to the real world.
But Tarzan, Flash Gordon, and Buck Rogers were fictional characters. They saved other fictional characters in pulp magazines and comic strips. They couldn't save anyone in the real world, where millions of people were struggling to find jobs during the Great Depression of the 1930s. They couldn't save Jerry's father, who died of heart failure during an after-hours robbery in his clothing store in Cleveland.
Not only did Jerry immerse himself in these fantastical worlds, but he also let his imagination wander, writing his own adventure and fiction stories. The retro- comic-style illustrations by MacDonald perfectly fit the subject matter. In the page that describes Jerry's love for writing, he is depicted working at his typewriter, while a group of boys plays ball outside his window. It's clear that Jerry doesn't fit in. He doesn't share the interests of other boys. However, there is one boy who is so like him that they "could've passed for brothers."

Joe Shuster was also a boy who enjoyed the worlds found in comic strips and pulp fiction. Like Jerry he was shy and not athletic. While Jerry created stories with words, Joe created them with pictures. He often spent his time at the kitchen table, drawing his ideas. Like Jerry, he had a difficult home life. When his family couldn't afford art paper, he made due with the back discarded wallpaper or wrapping paper from the butcher shop. In the winter when the family's apartment was cold because it had no heat, he drew "while bundled in several sweaters, one or two coats--even gloves."

Joe often illustrated Jerry's stories. Joe had a plan to to work with Jerry to develop a new character and comic strip, one that they could perhaps sell to a newspaper. Their first attempt centered on a man who fought for truth and justice. When the first publisher said no to the idea, Joe tore up the pages in disappointment.

In 1934, during a fitful night of sleep, Jerry woke to record his ideas for a new hero. A double page spread with a series of story boxes (4 on a page) shows Jerry in his pajamas while the hero in his head begins to take form. The hero would be strong, an alien (though he would look human), capable of leaping so high it would look as though he were flying, full of confidence, and a man with a secret identity. Early in the morning, Jerry ran to Joe's house to share his ideas. He looked over Joe's shoulder as he sketched. Jerry sketched all day, and finally their hero was created on paper. They put an "S" on his costume, for super, but also for Siegel and Shuster.

Joe and Jerry spent more than three years trying to sell their Superman idea. Finally, a man who was publishing a new type of magazine (a comic book), said yes. The Superman comic book was an enormous success. Joe and Jerry's superhero moved from comic books to radio, cartoons, books and movies. He even ended up on television.

The story ends this way.
Some people look up in the sky and see a bird or a plane, but nothing beyond. In the trying days of yesteryear, Jerry and Joe looked up and saw a star that no one had discovered before. They brought him to Earth and watched him become a superstar.

And today, on every story where his name appears, theirs do, too.
While the text itself ends on a happy note, Joe and Jerry's story is not nearly as rosy. Because they believed they might not have another chance to publish their story, they sold it and all the rights to the character for $130.00. Joe and Jerry did not get profits from the continuing sale of Superman stories, though they were employees of the company that is now DC comics and were well paid. When they asked for royalties, they were denied. In 1947, they sued DC for 5 million dollars and the rights to Superman and lost their suit. DC did offer them $100,000 to surrender all claims, which they did. Upon doing so, they were fired.

The author's note is extensive and continues to describe the difficulties that Joe and Jerry faced. In 1975, upon hearing that Warner Bros. Studies has paid DC 3 million dollars for the rights to make a Superman movie, Jerry began a letter-writing campaign. He told the story of how DC ruined their lives and got rich off their creation. There's more to the story, and to this day, negotiations with the families are still ongoing.

This dark part of their story is not told in the illustrated text, but it needn't be. Readers will be inspired enough by the story of how two young men came to create one of the greatest superheroes of all time. Overall, this biography is well-written, perfectly illustrated, and quite engaging. I highly recommend it.

Book: Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman
Marc Tyler Nobleman
Ross MacDonald
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Date Published:
40 pages
Source of Book:
Copy received from publisher for Cybils consideration.

This post was written for Nonfiction Monday. Head on over to Anastasia Suen’s blog and check out all the great posts highlighting nonfiction this week.

If you want to use this in the classroom, don't miss the teachers guide. (Hey, I know it looks wrong (it IS wrong), but that's how Random House spells it!)

Other Reviews - Fuse #8
Interviews - Read this fab interview with Nobleman at Guys Lit Wire. (Thanks, Jules!)

Monday Poetry Stretch - List Poems

I spent the weekend watching my son write out his Christmas list. It's not nearly as long as last year's, largely because he wants a guinea pig, and he wants to make sure he gets it. While he circled items in catalogs and wrote his priorities, I wrote out my Thanksgiving grocery list, my Christmas card list, and my gift-buying list.

As you can see, I'm in a list mood. Here's what Betsy Franco has to say about list poems in her book Conversations with a Poet: Inviting Poetry into K-12 Classrooms.
The list poem or catalog poem consists of a list or inventory of things. Poets started writing list poems thousands of years ago. They appear in lists of family lineage in the Bible and in the lists of heroes in the Trojan War in Homer's Iliad. About 250 years ago, Christopher Smart wrote a famous list poems about what his cat Jeoffrey did each morning. It starts with the cat inspecting his front paws and ends with the cat going in search of breakfast.
Franco also lists some characteristics of a list poem.
  • A list poem can be a list or inventory of items, people, places, or ideas.
  • It often involves repetition.
  • It can include rhyme or not.
  • The list poem is usually not a random list. It is well thought out.
  • The last entry in the list is usually a strong, funny, or important item or event.
There you have it. The challenge this week is to write a list poem. Leave me a note about your poem and I'll post the entries here later this week. Happy writing!

Giving Thanks Book

The new edition of Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord's newsletter is out. The project this month is a Giving Thanks Accordion Book. I love this idea and think William and I will make a few books on Thanksgiving morning, perhaps one for each person who will sit at our table, so that we can share our appreciation for them.

For more information about this project, visit Gaylord's web site where you can learn about making accordion books and watch a video with detailed instructions.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Have You Read THIS? - read this b4 u publish :-)

I'm not an author. I don't write novels or picture books. I do write a lot of poetry and blog posts, so I guess that makes me a writer. I read blogs by publishers, editors, authors, illustrators and other book lovers. Some day, perhaps when I retire, I will be a published author. Until then, I'll keep reading, learning, and practicing the craft of writing.

For all you would-be and published authors out there thinking about writing YA and thinking about male readers, you MUST read this piece. Written by an eighth grade boy, the author talks about the problems with books aimed at teenage boys. It is very well-written, entertaining, and insightful. Here is an excerpt.
The first problem with many books for teens is archaic language. Seriously. It is the kiss of death for teenage boy literature. Any book infested by it is destined to become an eternal object of derision around the cafeteria lunch table. It is a problem that applies not only to the “classics” (yes, I will use quotations whenever I use that word. Live with it.), but also modern teenage literature. “Methinks”? “Doth”? Really? So we are constantly ridiculed for “lol,” while these offenses go unnoticed? To all writers of books aimed at teenage boys, I beg you: please use only modern language, no matter what time period or universe your book takes place in.
Go now and read the article entitled read this b4 u publish :-).

P.S. - Will someone please send this kid to Guys Lit Wire?

P.P.S. - Okay, this is why Guys Lit Wire is totally cool. The brains behind the site already posted about this article. Head over there and read What kind of books do teen boys really want?

Poetry Friday - The Uses of Poetry

I was planning on posting my thoughts about the biography A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams today, but I logged on this morning to find Fuse has posted an amazingly thorough review. Really, what more can I add? Go read her review. It's terrific.

Instead, I'll share a favorite poem by Williams.
The Uses of Poetry
by William Carlos Williams

I've fond anticipation of a day
O'erfilled with pure diversion presently,
For I must read a lady poesy
The while we glide by many a leafy bay,

Hid deep in rushes, where at random play
The glossy black winged May-flies, or whence flee
Hush-throated nestlings in alarm,
Whom we have idly frighted with our boat's long sway.

For, lest o'ersaddened by such woes as spring
To rural peace from our meek onward trend,
What else more fit? We'll draw the latch-string

And close the door of sense; then satiate wend,
On poesy's transforming giant wing,
To worlds afar whose fruits all anguish mend.
This poem can be found in a volume entitled Poems that Williams self-published in 1909. A new version entitled Poems, by William Carlos Williams and Virginia M. Wright-Peterson was published by the University of Illinois Press in 2002. It contains the self-published edition of Poems with previously unpublished notes Williams made on writing poetry.

The round up this week is being hosted by Yat-Yee Chong. Do stop by and take some time to enjoy all the great poetry being shared. Before you go, please check out this week's poetry stretch results. Happy poetry Friday, all!

Poetry Stretch Results - Ekphrastic Poems

The challenge this week was to write a poem inspired by the Franz Marc painting entitled Tiger.
The work of art depicted in this image and the reproduction thereof are in the public domain worldwide. The reproduction is part of a collection of reproductions compiled by The Yorck Project. The compilation copyright is held by Zenodot Verlagsgesellschaft mbH and licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.
Here are the results.
Tiel Aisha Ansari at Knocking From Inside shares a poem entitled Franz Marc's "Tiger."

Tiel also wrote a sestina (just before the challenge was issued) called Cat Views. It works nicely too!

Lirone at Words That Sing shares a poem entitled Tigress.
Since I couldn't get Blake's poem out of my mind, this was a difficult challenge for me. I'm cheating a bit and sharing an acrostic of the word ambush, the name for a group of tigers, that I wrote some time ago.
Animal, animal burning bright
Moving swiftly in the night
Blur of shapes in leaves and grass
Unique stripes that hide its mass
Silent steps so strong and steady
Hunter strong is at the ready
It's not too late if you still want to play. Leave me a note about your poem and I'll add it to the list.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

New Book Reviews - History

Over at Open Wide, Look Inside my students have been reviewing books that connect to the teaching of social studies. Each of their posts includes a brief summary of a book, curriculum connections, links for some supporting resources, and general information about the book.

This week the focus is history. You'll find a wide range of topics and biographies in this group of titles. In addition to this week's selections, other areas of focus have been:
We have only two class sessions left, so next week will mark the end of these reviews. Please stop by and check out their latest selections. I promise you won't be disappointed.

Gift Books for Kids Who Love Animals

Lots of folks around the kidlitosphere have joined in the effort to promote buying books as gifts for the holidays. This is a no-brainer for me, as I always give books. I am however, a year-round shopper, so when I see the perfect gifts for my friends and family, I buy them. Whether or not I remember or can find the gifts come holiday time is another matter entirely!

In honor of this effort, I thought I would put together a series of thematic lists containing the titles of some of my favorite books. Today I'm focusing on books about animals.

For the kid in your life who can't get enough of "animal fact" books, here are some nonfiction titles you may want to consider. This list is organized around a few authors that routinely publish engaging and highly readable texts for elementary age readers.

Steve Jenkins (Visit his web site.)
For kids who want to examine the world of animals thematically and not by species, Jenkins has written (sometimes along with his wife Robin Page) and illustrated a number of books that explore animals through shared, yet distinctive traits. The books listed here are the ones my 7-year old and I return to again and again.
Biggest, Strongest, Fastest - This book highlights animals in the extreme, from the biggest to smallest, fastest and slowest, and more. Jenkins calls them "the record holders of the animal world."

How Many Ways Can You Catch a Fly? - The newest book from Steve and Robin looks at animal ingenuity. Did you know animals are problem-solvers? You will after reading this book. Each double-page spread includes a question with an introductory statement and illustrations of six animals on the left, with an enlarged image of the question's focus on the right. Readers will learn how animals hatch eggs, use leaves, snare fish, and much more.

Living Color - Why do animals come in so many colors? This 2007 Cybils finalist in nonfiction picture books examines what color says about a variety of animals. Red says things like "I'm all grown up," "Don't even think about it," and "It must have been something I ate." Readers will learn about an amazing array of colorful creatures. Back matter includes more detailed information on animal color and a brief description of each animal in the book.

What Do You Do When Something Wants to Eat You? - How do animals protect themselves from danger? This book introduces a variety of animals and their defense mechanisms, from spurting ink, to expanding in size, shooting hot chemicals and more.

What Do You Do With a Tail Like This? - In this Caldecott honor book written with Robin Page, Jenkins asks readers to consider why animals have structures shaped in certain ways. On each double-page spread, the highlighted body part of five different animals accompanies the question "What do you do with a __ like this?" The next double-page spread shows the five animals in full and offers a brief explanation for the structure and function of that body part.
Sneed Collard III (Visit his web site.)
The author of more than fifty books for children, Collard's science books explore the wonders of the natural world. I am particularly enthralled by the thematic books that examine animal parts in detail.
Beaks, illustrated by Robin Brickman - This one is all about birds, providing a veritable feast of information. Each spread highlights one or two species and how they use their beaks. Readers will have many opportunities to consider the enormous variety of beak shapes, sizes, and functions.

Teeth, illustrated by Phyllis V. Saroff - While we most often think of teeth as tools to chew food, they are also used to warn predators and attract mates. Readers will learn about different types of teeth, how they are used, the number of teeth animals have, and how they grow. The differences between teeth and horns or antlers is also explored.

Wings, illustrated by Robin Brickman - This book isn't strictly about birds, because other animals have them too, like bats and insects. Collard explores the enormous diversity of wing styles, including differences in size, color, and covering, as well as the mechanics of flight.
Gail Gibbons (Visit her web site.)
A prolific author and illustrator of nonfiction, Gibbons has published a number of titles on specific animal species, both wild and domestic, as well as books on habitats. This list focuses on wild animals, but for kids crazy about Cats, Dogs, Horses, Pigs and other farm animals, be sure to look for those titles.
Bats - One of my favorite books about this much maligned mammal, Gibbons explores their physical characteristics, habits, and life cycle, as well as the myths that surround them. (You can read my review.)

Elephants of Africa - The newest in a long line of animal books, Gibbons explores the world's largest land animal and how they are threatened. Readers will learn about their trunks, tusks, skin, ears, eyes, and teeth, as well as many interesting facts about their social groups and how they live from day to day.

Giant Pandas - Gibbons explores the physical characteristics, habits, life cycle, and present status in the wild and in zoos in this book. A final page of facts and statistics is included.

Grizzly Bears - Packed with information, this book examines where grizzlies live, what and how much they eat, and their seasonal habits, life cycle, and much more.

Owls - Numerous species of owls exist in North America. This book explores this variety while looking closely at the habitats in which they live, as well as anatomy, behaviors, life cycle, and more.

Penguins - What kid isn't crazy about penguins? Gibbons introduces readers to the seventeen species of penguins and shares information about where they live, what they eat, their lifestyles nesting/brooding habits, and predators.

Polar Bears - This completes the trio of bear books, offering readers information about polar bears and where they live, what they eat, how they find food, rear young, and much more.

Snakes - This book explores everything about snakes, from their physical characteristics to how they give birth, how they eat, where and how they live, and much more.
Nic Bishop (Visit his web site.)
While the books listed above are all illustrated in various forms of media, Nic Bishop's books contain the most amazing photographs I have ever seen. The writing is equally engaging. I couldn't pry his most recent work out of my son's hands, and that is saying something.
Backyard Detective: Critters Up Close - In seven double-page photo collages, readers explore the various forms of life that live in the backyard. Each double-page spread is followed by a description of the animals found in the collage.

Forest Explorer: A Life-Size Field Guide - Double-page spreads highlight an area of the forest. Readers search to see what they can find and then turn the page to learn all about the animals pictured there.

Nic Bishop Spiders - This Sibert honor book provides an intimate and extensive view of spiders. Readers will learn that more than 38,000 types of spiders exist today, as well as an incredible amount of information, like the difference between spiders and insects, how they eat, reproduce, and much more. Cool and quirky facts abound in this winning volume.

Nic Bishop Frogs - In this, the year of the frog, could any book be more appropriate? Just like the volume on spiders, readers will be dazzled by the photographs and mountain of information. (You can read my review.)
That's it for now. If you have a favorite author or animal book you'd like to share, please let me know. I'd be more than happy to expand this list.