Monday, October 29, 2012

Title: Rachel Carson and Her Book That Changed the World
Author: Laurie Lawlor
Illustrator: Laura Beingessner
Publisher: Holiday House
Publication Date: 2012
Genre/Format: Picture Book/Nonfiction
Classification: Biography

Rachel Carson loved two things: being outdoors and writing.  In fact she loved writing so much she wanted to be a professional writer. But writing didn’t pay the bills and she had to help her mother and sister with household expenses. After a visit home, Rachel returned to college and entered a biology class and changed the focus of her studies. Eventually, she found she could do both things she loved; being outdoors and writing about what she experienced in the outdoors.  Rachel’s most famous book, Silent Spring, is a book that pointed out the dangerous effects of chemicals and pesticides have on animals and the air we breathe.

Personal thoughts and connections:  I love reading biographies. Even as a young child, reading about other people's lives was one of my favorite passtimes. I can remember my parents reading and talking to my brothers and I about the book Silent Spring. I remember how cool it would be to be some sort of scientist and travel the world. 

I like the way the author documents her research in the Epilogue and Source Notes at the end of the book. Included in the Source Notes is a recommended reading list of other books by Rachel Carson. In addition, there is a list of  books about Rachel Carson by several authors.
Read Together:  K-3
Read Without Help: 3-12
Other book connections: Rachel: The Story of Rachel Carson, by Amy Ehrlich; A Clean Sea: The Rachel Carson Story, by Carol Hilgartner Schlank
Snippet of Text:
All her life, Rachel Carson was curious and determined. She was born on May 27, 1907, on the outskirts of Springdale, a small town in Pennsylvania. Since her brother and sister were much older and neighborhood seldom came to visit, Rachel often went on her own to explore her family’s sixty-five acres of woods, orchids, and fields. (Unnumbered page)
As early as 1945, Rachel had read about studies of the declining bird populations across the country. Each year researchers reported fewer nesting and migrating birds. The more she investigated, the more alarmed she became. Insecticides were deadly to birds, insects, fish, and other animals. But what about people? (Unnumbered page)
Connections to Writing--Expository (1) Explain how different the world might look if pesticides were not banned. (2)  Rachel Carson often observed fish and reef animals in a scuba diving suit.  Describe the steps it would take for you to learn how to scuba dive.
Connections to Writing--Narrative (1) Simulated diary entry--pretend you are Rachel Carson and write a journal entry about the time you went scuba diving off the coast of Nova Scotia. (2) Rachel Carson loved her job as a biologist and a writer. If you could have any career or job you wanted, what would it be? Why?

Connections to other content areas: Biology, Science, Social Studies
Other formats: None
I borrowed this book from my local public library.

Have you read this book? I would love to hear your ideas on how you used this in your classroom.


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Title: Barnum's Bones: How Barnum Brown Discovered the Most Famous Dinosaur in the World
Author: Tracey Fern
Illustrator: Boris Kulikov
Publisher: Margaret Ferguson Books/ Farrar Straus Giroux
Publication Date: 2012
Genre/Format: Picture Book/Nonfiction
Classification: Biography

Summary: Barnum was a very unusual boy. He loved hunting fossils. He collected so many fossils his mother asked him to move his collection to the laundry house. In 1902, Barnum went to Hell Creek, Montana in search of dinosaurs. Today the Tyrannosaurus rex dinosaur skeleton is housed in the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.
Personal thoughts and connections: I saw the word "Barnum" and assumed this book was about the Barnum and Bailey circus.  A pleasant surprise when I read this book was about Barnum Brown, the man who found the largest skeleton of Tyrannosaurus rex dinosaur. I waited to read this book to my three grandsons who are dinosaur fanatics. They loved the book--and the book spurred us to take a virtual tour of the American Musuem of Natural History. Fabulous read.

The Author's Note and bibliography are terrific. A great way to get started to research dinosaurs.
Read together: K-3
Read alone: 3-12
Other book connections: Rare Treasure: Mary Anning and Her Remarkable Discoveries, by Don Brown
Snippet of Text:
Barnum, who was an unusually nice dresser, sometimes went prospecting in a fur coat, a suit and tie, buffed black boots, and a bowler hat. (Unnumbered page)
One morning in 1902, Barunum's friend William Hornaday, the director of the New York Zoological Park, gave Barnum and interesting rock that he found on a hunting trip...The rock wasn't any rock--it was the horn of a Triceratops. (Unnumbered page)

Connections to writing: Expository-- (1) You have just found out that you have been selected to participate in a dinosaur dig in another state. Write a letter  to persuade your parents to let you participate in this once in a lifetime experience. (2) Barnum Brown took pride in fossil discoveries. Discuss the importance of pride in the work you do.

Connections to writing: Narrative--(1)Pretend you are Barnum Brown on an archeological dig. Write a letter to "My Dear Professor" about your first week in the field. (2) Write an acrostice poem about Barnum Brown.

Connections to other content areas: Social Studies, Science,
Translated to other languages: No

This book was checked out of my local library.

I'd love to know your thoughts and ideas about this book.  What other content areas could you connect to with the book?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Title: Brothers at Bat: The True Story of an Amazing All-Brother   Baseball Team
Author: Audrey Vernick
Illustrator: Steven Salerno
Publisher: Clarion Books
Publication Date: 2012
Genre/Format: Picture Book/Nonfiction
Classification: Biography

Summary: The Acerra family had sixteen children; twelve were boys. In fact, for twenty-two years their local high school baseball team had at least one of the Acerra boys on the team. For fifteen years, the Acerra brothers were a semi-pro baseball team and coached by their father. This is the story of Anthony, Joe, Paul, Alfred, Charlie, Jimmy, Bobby, Billy, Freddie, Eddie, Bubbie and Louie Acerra of Long Branch, New Jersey.

My thoughts and connections: My two brothers played on the same baseball team and their coach was our father. During baseball season, baseball was the topic of conversation at our house; even at the dinner table.  Looking through the local library, I came across this book as was intrigued by the title--I had never heard of a whole baseball team made entirely made up of brothers! A delight to read and the illustrations take nostalgic look back into a different time.

This book includes both author and illustrator notes about the Acerra brothers. The author reveals how she became interested in the Acerra brothers and their story.
Read together: Grades K-3
Read alone:  Grades 3-12
Other book connections:  Poem Runs: Baseball Poems, by Dan Florian; Baseball Saved Us, by Ken Mochizuki; H is for Home Run: A Baseball Alphabet, by Brad Herzog.

Snippet of Text:
In one New Jersey town near the ocean, back in the 1920s and 30s, you could hear the same door slam over and over. Three brothers raced out. Out went three more. And more. And still more. It sounds like a fairy tale: twelve baseball-playing brothers. But Anthony, Joe, Paul, Alfred, Charlie, Jimmy, Bobby, Billy, Freddie, Eddie, Bubbie and Louie Acerra were real. (Unnumbered pages)

In 1938, the brothers ranged in age from seven to thirty-two. The oldest nine formed their own semi-pro team and competed against other New Jersey teams. Their father coached them and never missed a game. Their uniforms all said the same thing: Acerras. (Unnumbered pages)

Connections to writing:  Expository-- (1) Most students have a favorite baseball team. Write to explain why your team is your favorite. (2) Create an ABC book of baseball terms.

Connections to writing : Narrative-- (1) You are a member of a professional sports team. Write a letter home about your life on the road.
Connections to other content areas: Physical education--professional sports, Social Studies,

Translated to other languages: No
Other formats: None

I borrowed this book from the local library.

Monday, October 8, 2012

 Title: The Fabulous Flying Machines of Alberto Santos-Dumont
Author: Victoria Griffith
Illustrator: Eva Montanari
Publisher: Abrams Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: 2011
Genre/Format: Picture Book/Biography
Classification: Nonfiction

 Alberto Santos-Dumont, born in Brazil and raised in Paris, France, loves to fly. In the early 1900’s you could look up in the sky and you might see him flying his dirigible, his personal flying machine, from one errand to another as he moves about the city. Although he loves flying in his dirgible, Santos-Dumont wants to move faster and fly longer distances. In 1906, three years after the Wright brothers first flew at Kitty Hawk, he becomes the first person in Europe to take and lnad a completely self-propelled airplane.

Personal thoughts: I fell in love with this book by accident. I was at my local library looking at for another book when I chanced to hear the children's librarian book talk the book to a group of elementary students. After the book talk, I asked the librarian if I could take a look at the book. Well the rest is history because I checked out the book from the library. (I've since purchased my own copy.) The endnotes add rich details and facts about this adventurous man. An excellent read-aloud story. Dreamy pictures. Wonderful end notes and bibliography.

Read Together: Grades 1-3
Read Without Help: Grades 3-12
Read With: The Wright Brothers: How They Invented the Ariplane, by Russell  Freedman; Amelia Earhart: The Lost Aviator, by Shelely Tanaka

Snippet of Text:
Alberto Santos-Dumont loved floating over Paris in his own personal flying machine. It had helped make him one of the most famous men in the city, if not the world! Everyone, he thought, should have this much fun running a simple errand. (Unnumbered page)

For a moment, it seemed the airplane would come back down to Earth with a thud. Instead, it pushed into the sky until it was soaring over the heads of the spectators. Higher and higher it went. Alberto turned around in the air and headed back. (Unnumbered page)

Connections to Expository Writing—(1) You are going on a trip to Paris, France. Research your destination and create a list poem of all the places you might visit. (2)  Create an obituary for Alberto Santos-Dumont.
Connections to Narrative Writing—(1) Create a journal entry from the point of view of Alberto Santos-Dumont as he is thinking about his first self-propelled flight. (2) In this story, Alberto and Louis Cartier are best friends. Write about a time in your life in your life when you and your best friend did something  fun.

 Connections to Content Area: Social Studies, Science
Topics Covered: Dirigibles, Airplanes, Cartier, Wright Brothers, Flying, Wrist Watch
Translated to Other Languages: No
Other Formats: CD; Audio Cassette

Monday, October 1, 2012

Title: Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee Story
 Author: Paula Yoo
Illustrator: Dom Lee
Publisher: Lee and Low Books Inc.
Publication Date: 2005
Genre/Format: Picture Book
Classification: Nonfiction/Biography


Sammy Lee fell in love with diving and dreamed of diving in the Olympics. As a Korean-American, and a person of color, he was only allowed to use the pool one day a week. His father wanted Sammy to be a doctor and only agree to let Sammy dive if his grades were good enough to get him in medical school. In 1940 and 1944, the Olympics were cancelled  due to World War II and in 1943 Sammy’s father died. Sammy decided to honor his father’s dream for him and in 1946 he worked hard and became a doctor. Even though Sammy became a doctor he never gave up his dream of diving in the Olympics.  In 1948, in London, he finally got his chance and became the first Asian-American to win a gold medal.

Personal thoughts:
 I read this book several years ago and fell in love with the story. A dream that came to fruition at age 28, after becoming a doctor and honoring his father’s dream, a story of perseverance and following one’s dream. I became curious about Dr. Sammy Lee and found out he was still living. Fast forward to the summer of 2012 and, as an avid Olympic watcher, I heard on television Dr. Sammy Lee was going to be honored at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Sixty-four years after he won a gold and bronze medal, both he and Mrs. Lee were honored guests of the United States Diving Team. What an inspiration!

Read Together:   grades K-4
Read without help: grades 4-12

Read With: Duke's Olympic Feet, by Ellie CrowG is for Gold Medal: An Olympics
Alphabet by Brad Herzog

Other notes of interest: The author has included an Author’s Note page telling other facts about Dr. Sammy Lee. Connect to her website

Snippet of Text:
“The sign on the swimming pool read: MEMBERS ONLY. Twelve- year- old Sammy Lee knew exactly what the sign meant—only whites were permitted to enter even though it was a public pool. This was the practice in 1932. Sammy would have to wait until Wednesday when people of color were allowed to go inside.” (Unnumbered page)
“For the final dive in the 10-meter platform event, Sammy decided to perform the forward three-and-a half somersault. This was a very dangerous move. The slightest miscalculation in timing could lead to a serious, even fatal, injury. Never before had Sammy felt such intense pressure. He had trained for sixteen years for this—a moment that would last barely sixteen second from the time he dived to when the scores would be revealed.” (Unnumbered page)
Connections to Writing: Expository (1)Each year millions of people visit California. Before you write, think about California and the many places people like to visit on vacation. Now write to explain why California is such a popular place for families to go on vacation. (2) Sammy Lee was born in Fresno, California but he was raised, along his older sisters, in Highland Park, California. Create a brochure for a travel company listing things to do and see in both communities.
Connections to Writing: Narrative(1) Write a journal entry, from the point of view of Sammy Lee, how it felt to be excluded from the public swimming pool.( 2) Create an alphabet book about the life of Dr. Sammy Lee, doctor and Olympic gold medal diver.
Connections to Social Studies: Racism in California in the 1930’s, Migrant farm workers in 1930’s,  Dust Bowl of 1930’s
Topics Covered:
Translated to Spanish: No
Translated to other languages: No
Other formats: None

How might you use this book as a springboard for writing in your classroom?


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Monday, September 24, 2012

Georgia in Hawaii: When Georgia O’Keefe Painted What She Pleased

Author: Amy Novesky
Illustrator: Yuyi Morales
Publisher: Harcourt Brace
Publication Date: 2012
Genre/Format: Picture Book
Classification: Juvenile Fiction

Summary:  Georgia O’Keefe sailed to the Hawaiian Islands in 1939 courtesy of the Hawaiian Pineapple Company (later known as Dole). This company wanted Ms. O’Keefe to create two paintings to promote the pineapple business and benefits of pineapple juice.  Instead she fell in love with the Hawaiian landscapes and painted flowers, the islands and the sea.

My thoughts and connections: In the early 1980’s my parents moved to the Big Island of Hawaii and I fell in love with the culture and the landscape. Akaka Falls on the Hilo side of the Big Island has the most beautiful flowers and fauna I’ve ever seen.  The pictures in this book truly captured the very essence of family photographs and the pictures that are etched in my mind.
The book includes both an author’s note and an illustrator’s note page, map of the Hawaiian Islands, bibliography and end papers that truly capture the essence Georgia O’Keefe favorite Hawaiian flowers.

Read Together:   grades K-3
Read without help: grades 3-12
Other Book Connections: 

Through Georgia’s Eyes by Rachel Victoria Rodriquez

Snippet of Text:

Georgia painted waterfalls and green pleated mountains, lava hardened into fantastic shapes and delicate, feathered fishhooks that she collected like seashells. And Georgia painted the blue, blue sea.” (Unnumbered page)
“Georgia had created nearly twenty paintings of Hawaii. But she had not painted a pineapple. Instead she gave the Hawaiian Pineapple Company paintings of a heliconia flower and a papaya tree.  They were not happy. They wanted a pineapple. Georgia was not happy either. She was not going to be told what to paint.” (Unnumbered page)
Connections to Writing: ExpositoryMost of us travel to Hawaii by airplane; however that was not the case when Georgia O’Keefe traveled there at the request of the Hawaiian Pineapple Company.  (1) Research the types of transportation Ms. O’Keefe took to travel from her home in New York City to Honolulu, Hawaii. (2)  Georgia O’Keefe was a major figure in American art. In this era of school budget cutting, many fine arts teachers are being told they no longer have a teaching position. Explain why this is not a good decision for students.
Connections to Writing: Narrative— (1) Write a simulated diary journal or blog as if you were Georgia O’Keefe as she travels from New York City to Honolulu, Hawaii. (2) Create an obituary celebrating the life of Georgia O’Keefe.
Connections to Art: Study the mediums Georgia O’Keefe

Topics Covered: Art, Hawaii, flowers, landscape, The Hawaiian Pineapple Company
Translated to other languages: No
Other formats: None

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

White Water

Title: White Water
Author: Michael S. Bandy and Eric Stein
 Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication Date: 2011
Genre/Format: Picture Book
Classification: Fiction
Summary: Inspired by a true story by the author (Bandy), Michael and his grandmother travel to town in a hot, dusty bus. When they arrive in town, Michael is very thirsty and runs to get a drink at the Colored drinking fountain. After a few sips, the water tastes rusty. Michael notices a white boy drinking at the White drinking fountain, and he decides the water from that fountain must taste “icy cold” and is determined to drink from that fountain.
Personal thoughts: Not familiar with the co-authors, I was first drawn to this book because of illustrations.  As the story unfolded, I found myself caught up in Michael’s antics on meticulous plans he made to drink out of the forbidden water fountain. A delightful twist at the end of the story when he happens to fall at the water fountain and finds the same pipe fed both fountains!
Read Together:   grades K-3           
Read without help: grades 2-4
Read With:  The Other Side, Jacqueline Woodson (2001), Sit-In; How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down, Andrea Davis Pinkney (2010).
Snippet of Text:
“By the time we finally got to town, I was really thirsty. I couldn’t wait to run to the drinking fountain and take a big, long drink. I guess that other boy was thinking the same thing.” (Unnumbered pages)
“I was so thirsty that even the warm, rusty water tasted OK. But only for a few sips. After those first few sips, it tasted like nasty, muddy, gritty yuck.” (Unnumbered pages)
“It didn’t make any sense to me when that boy from the bus kept on drinking. The water he must be drinking must be cool. It must be fresh. I was sure it must be pure and icy cold, like mountain water. Suddenly I just had to know what that white water tasted like.” (Unnumbered pages)
Connections to Writing: Expository— (1) Many people believe that one small change can make the world a better place. What one change would you make to make the world a better place to live? Be sure to explain to the reader why your change would make the world a better place. (2) Have students pick a specific historical event and write their own picture book.
Connections to Writing: Narrative—(1) Simulated journal—pretend you are Michael and write in a journal as he makes his plans to drink out of the “White” drinking fountain.
(2) Dialogue—create a dialog between Michael and his grandmother when she finds out his plan to drink out of the forbidden drinking fountain.
Connections to Social Studies: This book can serve as catalyst to talk about segregation at the beginning of the Civil Rights movement.
Topics Covered: Segregation, African-American
Translated to Spanish:  No
Translated to other languages: No
Other formats: None