Monday, September 29, 2014

Get the Scoop on Animal Puke!

Get the Scoop on Animal Puke!
written by Dawn Cusick
2014 (Charlesbridge Publishing)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

One of the most visceral memories from my childhood is the smell of the pellets that were poured on any vomit that was released by a fellow student. You forget many things, but it's not hard to recall incidents related to vomit. I was prone to carsickness as a kid and I once ruined my sister's Tiger Beat magazine. Shaun Cassidy's feathered hair took a beating. We know that our gut reaction to vomit is painful, but what you may not realize is how useful it can be. Need to defend yourself? If you are a northern fulmar bird, your projectile vomit keeps your species alive. Only laying one egg a year, these birds need this defense to protect their future. Page 19 has a fabulous photograph of this hurling bird in action. You and I can put a lock on our refrigerator. The turkey vulture does not have this luxury. Instead it will vomit on animals that try to take its food away. It's bad to get thrown up on by any animal, but a vulture? That's got to be particularly heinous. Insects vomit to deter predators. Did you know that insects vomit? Hyenas roll in their vomit to disguise their scent in order to surprise prey. They are working hard for their food! And we complain if the drive-thru line at Bojangles is too long. Get the Scoop on Animal Puke! makes you think of vomit in a whole different light. There is plenty of terrific science here. Pages 36-37 contain an informative discussion of why animals chew their cud. You may be thinking that the subject matter will be too distasteful for readers. I will argue that they will be fascinated. My wife and youngest daughter thought the facts that I hurled at them were very interesting. One of my favorite sections is located on pages 34 and 35. Plants release chemicals when insects and spiders chew and spit on them. These chemicals send a signal to insect and spider predators to come on by for a free meal. Plants fighting back. You can't make this stuff up! Students will love this book. The photographs are fantastic and will stop readers in their tracks. I can't wait to leave this book in our nonfiction basket tomorrow.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Annika Riz, Math Whiz

Annika Riz, Math Whiz
written by Claudia Mills; pictures by Rob Shepperson
2014 (Farrar Straus Giroux)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Third grader Annika Riz loves math like other kids love video games. She even counts down the minutes until math class begins. With a father who teaches math and a mother who is a tax accountant, it's not surprising. Magnetic equations adorn the refrigerator. In the kitchen are salt and pepper shakers shaped like numerals. This is a serious number crunching family. On this particular day, Annika's teacher presents her with an appealing challenge. A citywide sudoku challenge for elementary school students is being hosted by the public library. The student with the correct answer in the fastest time will be the winner. Annika has a week to compete. Normally, a math challenge like this would keep all of Annika's attention, but this week is different. The annual Franklin School carnival is being held on Saturday. This leads to some errant cookie baking by Annika and her friends during the week leading up to the carnival. As Annika practices during the week, interesting questions develop. She wonders why her classmates don't like math as much as she does. When she finds out the result of the contest while attending the carnival, it's a bittersweet conclusion to her efforts. This is one big reason why I like this series of books. There are loose ends here as well as in the previous book, Kelsey Green, Reading Queen. Like real life, there are questions that linger and are not neatly answered. I also like the focus on math. Every year when we dismiss students for the year, what do we encourage them to do? Read over the summer! What about math? Shouldn't students be working on this as well? How often do we encourage new parents to do math with their young children? It's not that reading isn't important, but let's not push math to the side. With role models like Annika Riz, hopefully it will be full STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Design, Math) ahead!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Eat Your Science Homework: Recipes for Inquiring Minds

Eat Your Science Homework
written by Ann McCallum; illustrated by Leeza Hernandez
2014 (Charlesbridge)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

"Jeff, have you eaten your homework yet?" I don't believe my mother ever said those words. That's a shame, because I would have enjoyed following the recipes in this book more than some of the book reports and dioramas (Old school pain) I labored over. Starting off each chapter is a brief overview of the science behind the recipe that follows. The section titled "Atomic Popcorn Balls" begins with a lesson on molecules- units of two or more atoms. Inside each atom is a nucleus with protons and neutrons. Elements are composed of only one type of atom. Think about water. You have two hydrogen atoms along with one oxygen atom. Now think about using food coloring along with marshmallow coated popcorn to illustrate this scientific fact. I think popcorn is an excellent conduit for teaching about atoms. Take some toothpicks and connect different color pieces of popcorn and you have a fun model of a molecule.

Want to illustrate miscible and immiscible (liquids that can and cannot be combined) and density? Create a density dressing! How about teaching chemical processes like oxidation? You need to make Invisible Ink Snack Pockets. Take pizza dough and put toppings on top. Fold over the dough and spread a paste, made of baking soda, sugar, and water, over the dough. Then you can write a message on the dough. When you bake the pockets, your message will appear!

Eat Your Science Homework is a fun way to teach scientific processes. If you are looking for ways to keep your child's mind sharp during a long weekend or the summer, this would be a great resource.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Be a Changemaker Blog Tour

Be a Changemaker
written by Laurie Ann Thompson
2014 (Simon and Schuster)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

It's easy to criticize the generation that comes after you. I have found myself veering into "Hey you kids! Get off my lawn!" territory and I haven't even hit a half century on this earth yet. You might think that teenagers are just a bunch of texting and video game playing zombies occasionally revved up by an energy drink. You would be wrong. I know plenty of teens, including one in my house, who work their tails off and are great people. They try to spread kindness and want this planet to be a better place. Most of them are also getting prepared for college and one of the things they should do is show an interest in volunteering in their community and the world beyond. One of the ways you could help such a student is to find a copy of Be a Changemaker. Laurie Ann Thompson has created a great guide for young people (and old geezers like me!) who want to take up a cause and make a difference. Each chapter guides the reader as to how they can get started. I recommend viewing the table of contents on this link so you can see how Thompson covers all of the bases and then some. There are chapters on doing research, running meetings, budgeting, using social media, and planning events. One of the best parts of this book is the profile of a successful venture in each chapter. For example, the chapter on meetings features a group of young women in Massachusetts who want to improve their neighborhood. Young people will appreciate these examples of peers who have been successful in their social ventures.

Be a Changemaker is a unique and important book. It provides the tools needed for young people who are seeking to be a positive influence. If you are a middle or high school teacher that sponsors a club, you will want your students to have access to this book. A group that puts together a food drive or a car wash to raise money for a charity will find these chapters invaluable. My wife teaches high school social studies and I'm giving her my copy of the book. Find a group and help them become changemakers.

Visit the other blogs that are part of this tour:
*Thanks to Sue Heavenrich for the cut and paste!

Tues, Sept 9 ~ at Girl Scout Leader 101 
Wed, Sept 10 ~ at Unleashing Readers 
Thurs, Sept 11 ~ at Teen Librarian Toolbox
Fri, Sept 12 ~ at The Nonfiction Detectives
   and Kirby's Lane   
Sat, Sept 13 ~ at The Styling Librarian  
Mon, Sept 15 ~ at NC Teacher Stuff   
Tues, Sept 16 ~ at The Hiding Spot 
Wed, Sept 17 ~ at Kid Lit Frenzy   
Thurs, Sept 18 ~ at GreenBeanTeenQueen   
Sat. Sept 20  ~ at Elizabeth O. Dulemba  

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Boy on the Page

The Boy on the Page
written and illustrated by Peter Carnavas
2014 (Kane Miller)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

How much time do you spend on your phone? How much time do you spend in lines? If you are like me, probably way too much time and not enough time on important things like family and friends. Do we stop often enough and ask ourselves, "Why are we here?" The Boy on the Page asks himself this question and I'm glad he did. One day the boy finds that he has landed on the page of a book. Initially alone, he sees a world beginning to appear around him. As it grows, he does too, but he is troubled as to why he is there. He has experiences like riding a horse and catching a fish. The boy paints, plays an instrument, and saves an animal. Eventually he falls in love and sees the world through the eyes of his child. Having aged and experienced much more, the boy is now an older man but is still wondering why he landed on the page. In his search for an answer, he leaps off the page. What happens next surprises him and provides the answer he is looking for.

Peter Carnavas, an Australian author/illustrator, is quickly becoming one of my favorites. Like his previous book, The Children Who Loved Books, Carnavas gives readers a sweet story with plenty of depth packed in two page spreads. My wife, a high school teacher, read this book last night and remarked on how lovely it was. With the question that is at the heart of the story, I think you could read this book to people of all ages and have them think about who they have influenced. I think young readers will connect and think about all of the people in their lives. Older readers may need to reach for a Kleenex if they're not careful. One of my favorite books of the year.

Here is a video of a song Peter Carnavas wrote that is based on the book. Your students will enjoy listening to this.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Bob is a Unicorn

Bob is a Unicorn
written and illustrated by Michelle Nelson-Schmidt
2014 (Kane Miller)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Bob's friends think he is having an identity crisis. Bob thinks he is a unicorn. Bob's friends think differently. Marvin, a moose, can't tell that he is a unicorn. Ted, a polar bear, doesn't realize what is on Bob's head. Margo the rabbit thinks Bob is just being silly. Other animals in the neighborhood are either too busy, too old, or too important to play with Bob or realize that he really is a unicorn. It's not until Bob meets a like-minded fairy princess that he finds someone who thinks he is a unicorn.

Bob is a Unicorn is a story that runs strictly on a dialogue between Bob and his friends. Bob's parts are in a white font and his friends' in a black font. This is very different than the standard format of a picture book. This was a bit of a challenge for the kindergarten class that I share these books with, but their teacher was pleased about having something different and wants to read it again. I like books that show us something we haven't seen before or very often. Bob is a Unicorn is a great book to share with preschool or kindergarten students when you want to talk about using your imagination or being yourself. It's easy to follow the standard paths, but much more difficult to do what Bob does which is to stick to your dreams even though others want to "tut-tut" you along the way. Take a break from convention and imagine yourself as a unicorn or whatever floats your boat. Bob the Unicorn would approve.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Hank Has a Dream

Hank Has a Dream
written and illustrated by Rebecca Dudley
2014 (Peter Pauper Press)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

On the back flap of this book, it states that Rebecca Dudley is a builder, creator, photographer, architect and artist. I wouldn't be surprised if she climbs mountains and makes a mean lasagna or can do anything else in this world. When you look at the artwork for Hank Has a Dream, you're just amazed at all of Dudley's handiwork. She made everything in the illustrations. Check out the dirigible in the picture below.

Look at the hummingbird in the nest above. The visuals are terrific, but don't overlook a sweet story where Hank recalls his dream for his hummingbird friend. In the dream, Hank is flying over different settings. He finds a path and follows it to the sea. Later, in his dirigible, Hank flies through the clouds and gently floats back down to earth. The final page of the story is a lesson in friendship and how to include others.

Hank Has a Dream would be a great text to promote imagination and spur young writers and illustrators to share their dreams. Teachers can use this book to teach sequence and talk about being a friend. It would be fun to have students read this book and then write about their dreams. Hank Has a Dream is amazing visually, but with a story that teaches a sweet lesson on friendship.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Nonfiction Minute Next Week

The good folks at iNK(Interesting Nonfiction for Kids) are rolling out the Nonfiction Minute next week. Different authors will be presenting a short selection for students to read each day. Here is the line-up for the first week:

9/8  How to Interview an Historic Building by Andrea Warren --
You will be amazed at how willing a building is to communicate with Andrea Warren.
9/9 What Is a Light Year? by David M. Schwartz 
Math maven David Schwartz is going to throw some pretty big numbers at you.
9/10 Something's Rotten in Rome by Sarah Albee --
Pee-ew!  There's something really smelly going on in Ancient Rome and Sarah Albee is going to tell you how to make an equally big stink .
9/11 September 11, 2001, a poem for young readers by Vicki Cobb--
Scientist Vicki Cobb turns to poetry to share her grief over the 9/11 attacks.
9/12 Hard Crackers in Hard Times by Jim Whiting--
Jim Whiting will explain why tens of thousands of men have appreciated the chance to eat maggot-filled crackers.

This is going to be a terrific resource for students, teachers, and parents. Check it out and also think about supporting this worthwhile effort financially by going to their Indiegogo site