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Giving ABDO fiction

  • Posted on November 30, 2009 at 12:00 AM

I received a few fiction titles from ABDO  for consideration and am packing them in the box for River Valley to enjoy. These are appropriate for elementary ages and have reinforced library bindings to last longer than paperback versions. 

Pirate School series of 6 titles by Brian James  Attack on the High Seas: #3 ©2010 ISBN 978-1-59961-584-4 $15.95 64 pages Published by arrangement with Grosset & Dunlap / Penguin Young Readers.

On the pirate ship the Sea Rat, Pete and his friends live, go to pirate school and deal with the nasty first mate named Rotten Tooth  who seems to deliberately give them the hardest and most boring jobs. I’d hand this series to second and third graders. Attack on the High Seas! involves knot tying so pair this title with string books. 

Airy Fairy Magic Mix-Up! by Margaret Ryan. ©2010 ISBN 978-1-59961-500-4 $15.95 Intended to interest 2-4th graders with a 4th grade reading level. Produced by agreement with Barron’s and originally published in 2005. 75 pages

Airy Fairy irritated me. She was so good, patient, and understanding when Scary Fairy continually bullied her and deliberately sabotaged her good work – making her look like a clumsy useless fairly. I was irritated because I wanted someone to intervene sooner and right the wrongs. I decided I have a typical reaction for the culture I was raised. I wanted retribution, revenge, and immediate righting of wrongs. Girls will appreciate this title more than boys. I’m interested in whether anyone else is irritated when they see a character gently suffer through this. Second and third graders will read this. Girls will pick it up for the cover, too.

Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew #9 The Halloween Hoax. Carolyn Keene illustrated by Macky Pamintuan. ©2010 ISBN 978-1-59961-644-5 $16.95 Published by agreement with Aladdin Paperbacks, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division. This is a reinforced library bound edition. 88 pages

Nancy Drew as an eight year old beginning detective? I have to wonder why someone thought there was a need. I remember being 8 years old and happily reading my original Nancy Drew titles. Sure, she was older than I was but it gave me something to dream about – owning a roadster, going on adventures, traveling… Why couldn’t they develop a new heroine and her sidekicks for girls? Oh, well, I’m going to sit down and read this title and I’ll be right back with my notes. 

Okay, I’m back. If I were in 2nd grade, I’d be reading all of these Nancy Drew books because I voraciously read every series book I could. They are definitely written for a much younger audience and have been updated to be more politically correct. There are moments when I want to scream reading today’s "literature" – some parenting is portrayed as overly protective with 5 block rules but then there are moments where the adults are obviously clueless. Would I be fooled by my children to continue to take them to a tv studio and drop them off without knowing who they’d be with, what they’d be doing, and when they’d be finished?

For those of us who are purists, Nancy, George and Bess have similar characteristics. Nancy’s dad and Hannah remain true to their characters but with slightly improved parenting skills. Reading titles like this make me realize that nearly anyone can write to a formula. Will we have preschool Nancy in picturebook form next? I’m wondering if the intention of publishers is just to keep selling books forever with the characters from the original Nancy Drew. 

I continue to buy many variations of Nancy Drew and would put this in the very youngest collection for beginning readers but not in my middle school collection. 

Personally, my favorite Nancy Drew titles are those that are much longer than the yellow binding versions I read from my local library in the early 70s. I recall one was called The Sign of the Twisted Candles. The wikipedia article on this title shows the original 1933 version was changed as the 1968 version "changes character names, modernizes, condenses, and simplifies the vocabulary of the story." 

When I’m talking about being a Nancy Drew purist, I am referring to the original versions of the books #1-34. I read many of those in dingy, rebound versions as they were discarded from various libraries in the NW part of Iowa. While I kept a few, I wish I’d collected all of the originals. The history of Nancy Drew series makes for interesting reading, even on the wikipedia site. To this day adult women are happy to share their reading of the series when they were young. My BFF Shirley even dressed as Nancy Drew for her community library costume party this year. I wonder if today’s generation of Nancy Drew will engender such passion. 

Thanks for letting me go off on my tangent. While I appreciate that we provide younger, easier versions of fiction, I wish we were providing more difficult versions to stretch readers.

Giving ABDO early nonfiction titles

  • Posted on November 29, 2009 at 5:00 PM

Nurses at Work by Kenney and DummNonfiction Monday
Cinco de Mayo by Owens and Conger
In the Llama Yard by Stockland and Ouren
October by Kesselring and Rooney
It’s a Baby Spiny Anteater! by Hengel
Screwdrivers by Hanson
Cool Sets & Props by Kenney
Patricia Nixon by Wheeler 
Sleek Siamese by Hanson 

Nurses at Work by Karen Latchana Kenney and illustrated by Brian Caleb Dumm. ABDO ©2010. ABDO price $18.95 Part of the Meet your Community Workers series which includes librarians (see cover). 

Why am I giving this to an elementary school instead of keeping it? It has drawings, not photographs. There are four-five sentences on a page. It is definitely written for prek-two. The publisher indicates this is on a second grade reading level. I think that would be the highest grade to utilize this title.

The page on different kinds of nurses includes neonatal, registered nurses or RNs and licensed practical nurses or LPNs. These are not early elementary vocabulary words, but it appears this series is meant to be read to or read with a child for early career and community information. I liked the page at the back "A Day as a Nurse" with a look at tasks early morning, late morning, afternoon, and early evening. 

Community workers in the set: Firefighters, Mail Carriers, Police Officers, Teachers, Librarians, Nurses. 

Cinco de Mayo by L.L. Owens and illustrated by Holli Conger is part of the Cultural Holidays series. ©2010 $18.95 ISBN 978-1-60270-602-6  

There is more information in this title than I expected. The drawings appear to be intended for the youngest of students, yet there is information that older students studying holidays could use. This would work as a read-aloud for older students in grades 3-4, but they would be less likely to think the title was intended for them in the drawings in my opinion. 

Cinco de Mayo includes two recipes – one for Mexican Limeade and one for Horchata Water.  There are lyrics to a Cinco de Mayo song set to the tune of Pop Goes the Weasel.

Cultural Holidays in this series: Chinese New Year, Christmas, Cinco de Mayo, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Ramadan 

In the Llama Yard by Patricia M. Stockland and illustrated by Todd Ouren is part of the Barnyard Buddies set. ©2010  $17.95 ISBN 978-1-60270-644-6. 

I know of two farms in Iowa where llamas were raised so I was very interested in this title. I’d love to show you the cover, but ABDO only puts one cover of a title on their website per series. This is part of the second set, but the goats are the featured cover. 

Barnyard Buddies Set 1 ©2008  includes: cattle, chicken, horse, sheep, pigs, ducks
Barnyard Buddies Set 2 ©2010 includes: buffalo, goose, goat, llama, rabbit, turkey

I definitely would purchase the second set of Barnyard Buddies. I found the information interesting – particularly the fun facts page at the end. The text is simple and reads well aloud. I’m not thrilled with the illustrations, but the text makes up for it in this set. I found only two other llama nonfiction titles on the market. Both had photographs, but their focus wasn’t upon llamas as farm animals. 

Libraries will need In the Llama Yard to accompany the rising number of picture books with llamas as main characters. Think of Llama Llama, Red Pajama and his sequels, The Littlest Llama, The Llama’s Secret, Is Your Mama a Llama?, and The Llama Who Had No Pajama: 100 favorite poems by Mary Ann Hoberman.

October by Mari Kesselring and Ronnie Rooney is part of the Months of the Year series. This title had rhymes on every page. It included leaves falling, Yom Kippur, Columbus Day, fire safety week, Popcorn Poppin” Month, Dinosaur Month, and Halloween. One page included the confusing fact that October once was month number eight instead of ten, but doesn’t elaborate. I suspect they needed the fact for rhyming purposes only. See’s wikianswers. Additional purchase if additional read-alouds are needed. See questions I raise about Holiday books on this blog post.

It’s a Baby Spiny Anteater! by Katherine Hengel. Part of Sand Castle’s Baby Australian Animals set. ©2010 $13.95 ISBN 978-1-60453-578-5. The description from the publisher’s website is:

Some of the most intriguing animals in the world live exclusively in Australia. This endearing series teaches kids about the births and early lives of six of these amazing creatures. Astonishing photography and easy-to-read sentences bring these baby animals to life for early readers. Each book highlights a different Australian animal, detailing its growth patterns, eating habits, enemies, parenting style, and more.

This Sand Castle title had 2 flags, so it is intended for transitional readers. There are vital statistics on the first page. It took me aback because I expected a table of contents and almost skipped this centered listing.  Buried in one little fact box towards the end of the book is the statement that the spiny anteater is also called the echnida. When I researched Australian animals with first graders, we always looked for books on the echnida. Since the word isn’t even listed in the index, you might miss this.  The format of information is easy to read for beginning researchers. (see inside illustration of the layout from the publisher’s website)
Baby Australian Animals set includes: Australian Fur Seal,  Flying Fox, Kangaroo, Koala, Tasmanian Devil, and Spiny Anteater.

Screwdrivers by Anders Hanson. (Tools of the Trade) Sand Castle Fluent Reader level. ©2010 $13.95 ISBN
Specific tools included in this book are hex keys (aka Allen wrenches), screw gun, Phillips screwdriver, slotted driver. 

After growing up in a carpenter/mechanic’s house, I wish this title had been available to me when I was younger. I would have read this so I could understand what my dad and brothers seemed to be simply born knowing. I remember my dad telling me I couldn’t learn everything in a book. Hah! Dad, you’d be surprised what’s out there now and how they explain just what I needed to know and was always too embarrassed to ask.

Tools of the Trade includes Drills, Saws, Hammers, Wrenches, Pliers, and Screwdrivers. I’d buy the entire set for both the students who want to learn about "real stuff" and for those first and second grade tool lessons that accompany the reading textbooks every year.

Cool Sets & Props by Karen Latchana Kenney. (Cool Performances series) ©2010 $17.95 ISBN 978-1-60453-718-5. 

AHA! This title has much more information in it than the previous series. Schools that have drama clubs and that put on dramatic performances will utilize this information. Intended for grades 3-6 this title is filled with color photographs and d-e-t-a-i-l-s. This is what students who need inspiration are looking for – details. I’d purchase the set for drama clubs and for those creative students who like to design props or who are looking for creative craft ideas.

Cool Performances series: Cool Costumes, Cool Makeup, Cool Productions, Cool Scripts & Acting, Cool Sets & Props, Cool Special Effects

Patricia Nixon by Jill C. Wheeler (First Ladies series, set 2) ©2010 $17.95 ISBN 978-1-60453-632-4
When I opened the box and saw I’d received Patricia Nixon to review, I was initially disappointed. I knew "of" Patricia Nixon only in reference to Nixon and Watergate. Remember, I was a very little girl at that time. The first lady I was really conscious of doing good things was Rosalynn Carter. 

I’m so glad that I read this biography of Pat Nixon. I feel a bond because she loved to travel. Until Hillary Clinton, Patricia Nixon was the most traveled of all first ladies. She was also the first 1st lady who wore pants. I can remember having to wear skirts most of the time, putting pants on underneath them to travel through the snow and then taking them off for school. Patricia Nixon supported the Equal Rights Amendment and women’s rights. She is a far more interesting person than I expected and I’m glad this biography was available to me.

There were 12 titles in the original set with set two adding six new first ladies: Abigail Adams, Mamie Eisenhower, Harriet Lane, Patricia Nixon, Michelle Obama, and Edith Wilson. 

To give or not to give? That is my dilemma now. I really like the Super Sandcastle Cat Craze title Sleek Siamese by Anders Hanson. ISBN 978-1-60453-725-3 

Sure, the series is written at a third grade reading level and is expected to interest grades K-4, but I like this title and I want to possess all of the books in the series:  
Awesome Abyssinians, Hip Himalayans, Marvelous Maine Coons, Popular Persians, Smooth Sphynx, and Sleek Siamese. There are statistics out there about librarians being bibliofiles, aren’t there?

Let’s face it, I’d like to have all those cats, too, if I didn’t have to have a job to go to earn money to feed those cats. Be sure to read the checklist to help readers decide what kind of cat is right for them. I am so moody that I think all cats are right for me. The question will be which cats can live with each other? 

 I know those elementary students at River Valley will love this book, but what about my middle schoolers? We like cats, too. In fact, I am a fan of the cats Koko and Yum Yum from The Cat Who series by Lilian Jackson Braun. Whether they will get this title or not shall remain a mystery tonight. 

Take a look at the inside of the Abyssinians title:

This is well-designed and interesting. Happy Reading! I’m off to have a talk with my cats about sharing.

Giving Enslow's Math books

  • Posted on November 29, 2009 at 12:44 PM

Enslow Publishing company has a math series that I like for elementary called Math Fun with Sebastian Pig and Friends! Written by Jill Anderson and illustrated by Amy Huntington, these titles incorporate math and literature with pictures to visually represent the math. I appreciate the use of a notebook or journal to record his learning. I think a classroom math teacher could easily expand upon this. This is an example of a series that incorporates math in a fun manner for elementary-age students. I wanted to use the title with middle school resource students, but they deemed it too young for them.

Finding Shapes with Sebastian Pig and Friends at The Museum ISBN 978-0-7660-3363-4 © 2009 grades 1-3.
Finding Shapes presents a great way to incorporate math and art in one title.  The focus is on geometry as Sebastian and his friends visit a local museum seeking ideas to decorate his room. Each pages invites the reader to interact to locate the geometric shapes. I like the "Now You Know" section at the back with the list of Plane Shapes and the list of Solid Shapes. It has a chart with the shape, a written description, a column for the sides and a column for the corners.

The Web Sites listed in the back take you to general game sites. I was frustrated with one of the sites because I answered 35 questions and it was still throwing me new questions. I need an indicator of my progression to stay with a game. I see that amongst elementary students, too. That’s why games have many short rounds and lots of feedback. Even with grown-up games like Mafia Wars on Facebook, there is a great deal of recognition for achievement along the way.

Other titles in the set:
Adding with Sebastian Pig and Friends at the Circus
Counting with Sebastian Pig and Friends On the Farm
Measuring with Sebastian Pig and Friends On a Road Trip
Money Math with Sebastian Pig and Friends At the Farmer’s Market
Subtracting with Sebastian Pig and Friends On a Camping Trip

Giving 7 Great Picture Books

  • Posted on November 29, 2009 at 9:00 AM

I do like to mix up my gift boxes with fiction and information titles. Each of these titles deserves a complete blog post so please read all the way through and don’t make me have to post each individually.

The Vowel Family: A Tale of Lost Letters by Sally M. Walker with illustrations by Kevin Luthardt. Carolrhoda. © 2008. I love playing with this book. I wonder if everyone can read it as easily as I did or if you have to have taught early elementary to be able to easily insert missing letters from vowel families? 

The students I show this to one-on-one or in small groups think they are the most brilliant students in the world when they successfully fill in the missing vowels on each page. I wonder if struggling readers will appreciate this to the same extent. What has your experience been?

Activity Suggestions for how to use this title from Margo Dill’s blog

A review from The Reading Tub includes these pros and cons:
"Pros: Kids who enjoy word play will laugh at this story about what happens when words are missing vowels. 

Cons: You will need patience and a sense of humor to work through the book. The focus on trying to read the "words" and having to explain that the Vowel family member has to be on the page to make the words work takes away from the value of the story."

While being included in Book Links Lasting Connections of 2008, I’d expect this title to be recognized more. It is included in critical thinking catalogs, gifted and talented catalogs, and reading/language arts resources. I hope everyone has their copy. 

I’m off to continue making words by inserting vowels into the consonant strands on the inside front cover.

Corkscrew Counts: A Story About MultiplicationCorkscrew Counts: a story about multiplication by Donna Jo Napoli and Richard Tchen with pictures by Anna Currey. (A companion to The Wishing Club which dealt with fractions) Henry Holt & Co. © 2008. ISBN: 978-0-8050-7665-3

Corkscrew Counts will not magically teach your children multiplication. To benefit from the grouping possibilities, it will take a teacher or librarian’s leadership. If I were in storytime with this title, I’d set out 14 objects for students to manipulate with one distinguished as Corkscrew the pig and one as Pirate the parrot. After reading the first time through, I’d ask the students to move the objects into groups so they could see and feel that Corkscrew and Pirate were left out of the play for most of the book.
Teaching Mathematics through Reading: Methods and Materials for Grades 6-8
There is a page of more sophisticated ideas at the end of the book that any math teacher could utilize. Taking literature into the math class helps bridge that learning for linguistic students who struggle mathematically. One of the best books I brought home from AASL was Teaching Mathematics through Reading from Linworth. Aimed at grades 6-8 this title has become an instant hit with my change coach. 

About Rodents: A Guide for Children by Cathryn Sill and illustrated by John Sill. Peachtree. © 2008 ISBN: 978-1-56145-454-9

About Rodents Let me slip in a book that defies classification. About Rodents is a picturebook that is informational. Will you put it in the rodents section? Yes, it does contain information about the rodents, particularly in the back when each illustration plate is explained in more depth. But, it is a story book to read aloud to the early elementary students. This would make a perfect read-aloud for first grade classes which always seem to be reading and studying about mice and other rodents. It is respectful to its audience and introduces a wider variety of rodents than many straight nonfiction titles. Part of the About series, this is an essential purchase for rodent research for young students.

Awards: 2009 Kansas State Reading Circle Recommended Reading List (primary)
Nominee, 2009 North Carolina Author Awards (AAUW Award for Juvenile Literature) 

In the Night Garden by Barbara Joosse and illustrated by Elizabeth Sayles. Henry Holt & Co. © 2008 ISBN: 978-0-8050-6671-5 

In the Night GardenI’m always looking for a good bedtime story. This one helps parents with children who just can’t seem to let go of their imaginative waking world to enter dreamland. Barbara Joosse on the jacketflap says, "Children fight sleep because they don’t want to leave the most magical time behind – the velvety, moonlit night. I wanted to weave a story that suggested they don’t have to." 

Awards: Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year. This title is not related to the UK TV program with your favourite characters, Igglepiggle, Upsy Daisy, Makka Pakka, but I couldn’t resist giving you their link

Double Trouble Groundhog Day  Double Trouble Groundhog Day by Bethany Roberts. illus. by Cauley, Lorinda Bryan. Henry Holt and Company. © 2008. ISBN 978-0-8050-8280-7 PreS-Gr 3 Reviewed by Dana Stem last year on this blog. Just in case you forgot to order your copy, I thought I’d mention it in time for this year’s orders. 

Buster Goes to Cowboy Camp by Denise Fleming. Henry Holt and Company. © 2008 ISBN: 978-0-8050-7892-3. 

Be sure to check out the activity sheets for this title available from the publisher. 
Buster Goes to Cowboy Camp
Buster Goes to Cowboy Camp would be a good book to offer students who are facing a night away from their own homes for the first time whether its camp or a sleepover. 

Buster’s fear of staying somewhere new away from his family is understandable in this preschool-grade 1 title.( Awww. Nice touch with the wanted poster and the use of negative space for his friend Betty.) Even when Buster is having fun, he still misses and loves his family. Yet he learns to try new things because he might be better than he thinks and to enjoy his moments of play. 

Awards: American Library Association Notable Children’s Books; CCBC Choice (Univ. of WI); CPL: Chicago Public Library Best of the Best; Virginia Young Readers Award Master List.

No Mush Today CoverNo Mush Today by Sally Derby and illustrated by Nicole Tadgell. Lee & Low Books. 

Be sure to check out the interview on Lori Calabrese Writes. You’ll be amazed at how Lori combines text and illustrations in this interview. Between Lori Calabrese and Jules of Seven ImpossibleThings Before Breakfast, I enjoy the best author interviews by bloggers! 

No Mush Today was featured on several blogs and has some important reviews. 
Write for a Reader,
The Brown Bookshelf,
Anastasia Suen’s Picture Book of the Day
Big A, little a  

While this book features an African-American family and is a vital addition to the multicultural books we have available in elementary for our students to relate, it is an important story about being the older sibling and just wanting to run away to a better home sometimes – especially a home where they don’t serve mush. 

The author’s note at the front of the book explains what mush is. I’m including that definition below. When I grew up my family would eat things like oatmeal, white rice with sugar, cinnamon & raisins on it, and Cream of Wheat. Ou of those I could only stand Cream of Wheat, if it was drenched in milk and sugar and I ate it with at least 2 slices of very buttered bread. Now I enjoy grits and polenta, but I still won’t touch oatmeal. I’ve never had mush but I’m not in a hurry to eat it either. 

"Mush is a cornmeal that has been stirred into boiling water and cooked until it has turned into a thick, soft sort of porridge. Nonie eats her out of a bowl, like oatmeal, with milk and sugar or syrup poured over it. Mush may also be chilled overnight in a loaf pan, then sliced thin and fried crisp in bacon drippings. Served with butter and maply syrup, fried mush is a heart breakfast. Grits and polenta are also types of cornmeal similar to mush."

Awards: Best Children’s Books of the Year Bank Street College of Education

Every time we hear about the dearth of multicultural books for children, I am grateful to the hard work of Lee & Low Publishing. From their website: LEE & LOW BOOKS an independent children’s book publisher specializing in diversity. It is the company’s goal to meet the need for stories that children of color can identify with and that all children can enjoy. LEE & LOW makes a special effort to work with artists of color, and takes pride in nurturing many authors and illustrators who are new to the world of children’s book publishing.  Keep up the good work Lee & Low, and librarians, if you have visited their site lately, please do. 

I also appreciate the links on various blogs including note of a review by M. LaVora Perry. While I was seeking Click here to Enlarge Imageout her review on her site (as opposed to just being mentioned on the No Mush illustrator’s site), I discovered this page of reviews on M. LaVora Perry’s book Taneesha Never Disparaging. Great cover by Floyd Cooper drew my eye to the book and then I read the reviews. Now I have a new title to seek out for my students. Let me know if you’ve read this, too. I’m afraid River Valley will have to buy their own copy of Taneesha Never Disparaging, because I am closing the lid on this box of books. It’s rare to find a book with a Buddhist character and I need it at my school.

I want to apologize for the authors and publishers who have been waiting for me to write about these titles. I don’t know how I became so busy that I let these pile-up around me. They are wonderful titles and they deserve to be in the hands of students immediately. I’m sealing the box and sending them to River Valley right away. I finally got around to it.

Giving WR First Concepts rhyming Learn with Animals set

  • Posted on November 28, 2009 at 10:16 PM

Had to mention these rhyme in the title because I have many teacher colleagues in preschool-grade 1 who love to read-aloud rhyming books and books in verse. The Learn With Animals set from Weekly Reader / Gareth Stevens is surprising. In 32 pages they introduce us to ten animals of each habitat. 

Each two-page spread has an illustration of the animal appropriate for the very youngest preschooler on one page and a poem about the animal written in a child-friendly font on the other page. The poetry is very simple (don’t expect Robert Louis Stevenson) but with appropriate child vocabulary. From In the Arctic we read:

I am a walrus.
My tusks are quite nice.
I use them as hooks
To climb onto the ice. 

I really like the font of these books. I wish the publisher had indicated which font was used in the making of this set. I wonder if it’s First Grader? No matter what it is, the font is larger and easy for beginning readers to decipher. I can just picture toddlers picking up these books and demanding their parents read their first nonfiction series to them. (shudder with delight!)

Laura Ottina is the author, Sebastiano Ranchetti is the illustrator, and Barbara Bakowski adapted these from their original Italian version published in 2008 in Italy. Visit to learn more about the author and illustrator. Of course, the site is in Italian, so you’ll have to muddle through like I did to find beautiful images. I wonder if these are the covers in Italy:
 The series' Italian covers
Titles in the series include:Here is the cover of the US edition

Giving Weekly Reader series for Grades K & 1

  • Posted on November 28, 2009 at 7:43 PM

Today’s box to give River Valley Elementary contains Weekly Reader / Gareth Stevens Publishing titles intended for kindergartners and first graders.  

Months of the Year is a WR Social Studies set. ©2010 Containing between 142-186 words each title is written at Fountas & Pinell Levels H and I. I’m loving the reinforced library binding on these books intended for the toughest kids in school – the kindergartners and first graders. S&L Price is $198.00 or $16.50 each.

Months of the Year includes twelve titles, one for each month, in a smaller 7"x7" size which immediately signals these are for the youngest set.  These titles are for beginning readers and include basic information on the number of days, weather, the season, and special events like holidays. Since every kindergarten class and many first grades begin with calendar activities daily, I read these to see whether students would learn anything new each month. 

I was pleased with the multicultural photographs and events included. The October title included Diwali which sometimes falls in October. September includes Hispanic Heritage Month. May includes Cinco de Mayo. March includes Women’s History Month. February includes Chinese New Year (as does January) and Black History Month.

Since this is the month of November, I decided to look at November most closely. November includes mention of fall, harvest, election day, Veteran’s Day, and Thanksgiving Day.

Yikes! No mention of Native American Heritage Month. But then, May didn’t include Asian Pacific American (APA) Heritage Month either. I might not have noticed but I was on the Smithsonian Education page and saw they celebrate all 5 Heritage Month Celebrations. I recalled the army celebrates each of those months so I wondered if this is the new standard for holidays to be included in elementary literature. I’ll have to examine each new holiday set in the future with this in mind. Need a website for an Interfaith calendar? Try the BBC’s Interfaith Calendar.

The two websites at the back of the November title have activities for parents and teachers to use. One links to Veterans Day Activities while the other links to Thanksgiving. I like the links to animations from From’s theme page, I found a Native American set of links that I’m busily checking in the background. I subscribed to the newsletter for Apples4theTeacher after perusing their resources on Veterans Day. These links are useful to a title like this.

The second set of books I’m packing are the Weekly Reader Science Second Edition "Animals That Live …" habitat sets by JoAnn Early Macken. Wow! Have they have vastly improved their covers?! 
New:  Previous Cover:  

Compare the old with the new. Which will a child pick up? ‘Nuff said. 

These titles contain the basic facts including a chart of Fast Facts of height, length, weight, diet, and average life span. I love being able to help the youngest students compare and contrast animal facts. I wish I could be there when the students see these books for the first time. They’re going to love them. I know because I noticed Carl Harvey was the library consultant for this series. He’s always looking out for the elementary learner. Here are some of the titles I’m sending.

Animals That Live in the Desert.

  • Coyotes
  • Gila Monsters
  • Jackrabbits
  • Rattlesnakes
  • Roadrunners
  • Vultures

Animals That Live in the Mountains

  • Bighorn Sheep (yes! we need this)
  • Condors
  • Cougars
  • Elk (yes! we need these, too)
  • Golden Eagles
  • Mountain Goats (Hooray! They included the big bovines.)

Animals That Live in the Forest 

  • Black Bears
  • Deer
  • Moose
  • Opossums
  • Owls
  • Porcupines

Animals That Live on the Farm

  • Chickens
  • Cows
  • Goats
  • Horses
  • Pigs
  • Sheep

Giving Amazing Machines

  • Posted on November 27, 2009 at 12:00 AM

Julie Dos Santos is the author of the series Amazing Machines from publisher Marshall Cavendish Benchmark. © 2010. Discounted price $19.95 each.

Cranes ISBN 978-0-7614-4401-5

Diggers ISBN 978-0-7614-4402-2

Fire Engines ISBN 978-0-7614-4403-9

Aircraft ISBN 978-0-7614-4404-6

Tractors ISBN 978-0-7614-4406-0

Trucks ISBN 978-0-7614-4407-7

Trucks We’ve all had students who loved one form of transportation and wanted to read and re-read every book you had on it. Sometimes the students love airplanes. Sometimes trucks. Seldom can you provide enough information to satisfy them. Try the Amazing Machines series from Marshall Cavendish. It’s distinctive layout allows an adult to read each page 3 different ways depending upon the interest level and vocabulary of the child. This enables the child to grow with the book and return to it for "re-reads."

Let’s look at the page for Pickup Trucks as an example (since my oldest son Anthony loved to see pickup trucks when we were living in a Chicago suburb and every trip to the country was a joy for him.) For the youngest reader the parent can read the title of the page "Pickup Truck" and the text highlighted in orange "People ride in the cab of the truck." The main photo has captions detailing major parts like the cab, bed, and side mirror.

For the next level of interest, and in larger letters, comes the text: "People use pickup trucks to carry supplies. Some people like to drive pickup trucks instead of cars."

For the most interested child, the parent can share this text: "Pickup trucks can carry many things. Pickup trucks have strong engines to pull heavy objects like boats. The bed of the truck holds a lot, which helps gardeners, farmers, and other people.

There are at least two photos on each page with the minor photo on the pickup truck page captioned "This pickup truck has hay in the bed."

Perfectly matched illustrations for the youngest child with lots of interesting details in the photos to delight older readers. This makes Trucks a must have on my elementary nonfiction list.

My negative for this title: Of the three web links in the Web Finder at the back of the book, only one had information on trucks. The other two were for truck crafts using supplies like egg cartons. Both of those links were so long that even I mistyped a letter and fumbled around trying to get to the correct page. This tells me there must be a dearth of information on trucks on the internet for the youngest reader.

Fire Engines. I learned something from this book. Don’t you love nonfiction books that teach you new information?! I learned about ten different types of fire engines. Did you know that the different colors of fire hydrants show how fast the water comes out of them? I need to go look up the two colors of the hydrants near my house. Also, did you know that Fire Prevention Week always includes October 9th because that is the day the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 started? I mention that since a dear friend of mine (who shall remain nameless) had never heard of the Chicago Fire and thought because she was from Boston that they must only teach that in the Midwest.

Another must have purchase because this book contains so much new information in a very accessible fashion. The Web Finder links in this title were wonderful. Easy to enter. New knowledge at varying levels of interest. Fun games. Interactive. Just what I want links for this age to be.

Diggers is a must have for students interested in construction work, plowing, mining, and tunnel boring. I had to follow up and research more information after reading about some of the types of equipment that dig. I even viewed videos of Bagger 288 to marvel at its size. I wish the author and publisher had researched a little more for the web finder for these. The first link was appropriate for all construction interests.

The second link takes you to the top of the page where you hope the child will know to click construction or will scroll through the lost list of career choices. If they had simply included #construction, the material would be a better match.

The third link was 73 characters long. It took us to an interesting website with a video showing how to use a Chinese takeout box to make a bulldozer. I’d still much rather have a video of real trucks than of craft projects. Maybe I wouldn’t mind the links so much if there was any description of them in the web finder, but all you see are the three links.

Tractors. Love it. Coming from Iowa I know there are many types of tractors. Some of the urban students I have may not realize they’ve seen a tractor called the utility tractor which pulls lawn mower blades, rakes, or wagons. Whether your students are rural or urban, you’ll want this title.

The web finder is passable in this title, even though the first two links made me quote Elizabeth Bird "meh." The last two links redeemed the list. I’d add the National Farm Toy Museum site from Dyersville, Iowa, to the list with their kids corner page that allows you to move your mouse over a part of the tractor to see what it’s called. Of course, I wasn’t advising them at the time. Hopefully they’ll consider my suggestions on future early elementary web lists.

Aircraft. My son’s first word wasn’t mama or baba (Chinese for papa). No, it was feijiFei Ji - Airplanethe Chinese word for airplane. We were living at the end of the runway of the Palwaukee Airport outside Chicago which was the third busiest airport in Chicago after O’Hare and Midway. Re-named Chicago Executive Airport in 2007, approximately 200,000 take-offs and landings occur annually. No wonder he loved airplanes.

If you have students fascinated with flight, they’ll love this title. Of the three web finder links, two were still valid. The first one has changed already to Be sure to note that correction in your title. It’s a constant problem in publishing to include web links in print when they change so rapidly. Maybe that’s why I like services like Capstone’s FactHound where the student goes to the company website and the company continually monitors and updates their links.

Cranes. I’m happy with the three web links for Cranes’ Web Finder. is always a favorite of mine since I’m so curious about so much of this world. The link provides more in-depth information for an older reader.

When I picked up this title, I couldn’t imagine how they were going to fill a book with information about cranes. Silly me! I learned about a wide variety of cranes and gained a deeper appreciation for the construction industry as a whole. I also spent an hour trying to find more information online regarding this Amazing Fact:
*"In the 1950s, a crane sunk completely in the sand when building a lake in Nebraska. It is still at the bottom of the lake today."

Someone help me out and send me the link to this story. Maybe it’s because its midnight while I’m writing this, but I can’t find it and I want to read more. I’ve heard of the homes still at the bottom of some Tennessee man-made lakes and find this topic fascinating. Where is this lake and wouldn’t this become a boating hazard? I am curious.

I hope you will include the entire set of titles for your elementary library. Our world still needs people to operate these machines and they are fascinating. (Shh! don’t tell my dad the mechanic because I usually show disdain for vehicles.) These are amazing machines and the series lives up to its name.

One thing I don’t like about the website for Marshall Cavendish is that they don’t include pictures of the individual titles in a series. Instead they have the large photo you see at the top of this blog post which gives you a glimpse at a title and an inside spread. I still want to show you the individual titles of each book, but then I’m a very picky librarian.

Giving books – Marshall Cavendish Benchmarks' The Gross and Goofy Body series

  • Posted on November 26, 2009 at 12:46 PM

Today we pause to give thanks for all we have. It’s also the starting line for people to GIVE. I’m packing some books for the River Valley Elementary School library in Washta, Iowa (my hometown) and I wanted to be sure to include you in the packing. As you are placing orders for elementary libraries, you might want include this interesting nonfiction series.

The Gross and Goofy Body series which according to publisher Marshall Cavendish Benchmark is "body science at its most interesting…and absurd" was written by Melissa Stewart and illustrated by Janet Hamlin. © 2010. Each title is discounted to $20.95 and well worth it. 

  • Now Hear This!: The Secrets of Ears and Hearing ISBN 978-0-7614-4161-8
  • Up Your Nose!: The Secrets of Schnozes and Snouts ISBN 978-0-7614-4170-0
  • Blasts of Gas: The Secrets of Breathing, Burping and Passing Gas ISBN 978-0-7614-4155-7
  • Pump It Up!: The Secrets of the Heart and Blood ISBN 978-0-7614-4164-9
  • It’s Spit-acular!: The Secrets of Saliva ISBN 978-0-7614-4163-2
  • The Eyes Have It: The Secrets of Eyes and Seeing ISBN 978-0-7614-4167-0

Noted acknowledgment on verso of title page: "This book was made possible, in part, by a grant from the Society of Children’ Book Writers and Illustrators." (Go SCBWI

There is an amazing amount of information packed into every page. I thought it would be useful to my middle school readers, but they insisted the illustrations were better for elementary schools grades 3-5. I argue that the table of contents contains 23 entries and the text will be of interest to grades 3-8.There are fascinating facts that my middle schoolers should be reading, if they hadn’t rejected the titles as too young for them due to some of the drawings. Too bad for them, but these are wonderful human body titles for elementary schools in the meantime. I can’t wait to hear what the students at River Valley think.

The Eyes Have It: The Serest of Eyes and Seeing. Fascinating information on the haw, or third eyelid that many animals have just below their outer lids. Did you know the haw opens and closes sideways instead of up and down, and that it’s transparent? There is a photograph of a man popping his eyeballs that made me yell out "EWWW!" – a signal for a fascinating title. If you have a middle school library, you might go ahead and try out these titles with your students. The information is unique and very up-to-date as mentioned in the author’s "A Note on Sources." 

Be sure to visit the author’s website You need to read about the author’s A-HA! moment to understand why she writes nonfiction for children.

It’s Spit-acular!: The Secrets of Saliva is a spectacular recreational nonfiction read. I haven’t found any other children’s books on spitting and saliva so this is a must-have. The amount of trivia and facts about saliva included earn this book a spot on my must have list. Want a definition for drool, loogie, slobber, lungie, gob, and sputum? Got it. Want to know why throwing spitballs is illegal? Now I know after reading this title. I’m also glad that I was never married in Greece (my weddings were in China/Taiwan and Denmark), but you’ll have to read the book to see why.

Pump It Up!: The Secrets of the Heart and Blood In addition to the fascinating trivia, this title contains a chart comparing animals heart rates (bpm) and their average life span (years). Wonderful for higher level thinking and using math, logic, and reasoning. This would be a perfect page to display using an Elmo (if only I had one) and asking the class to discuss the results. Want to know why royalty were called blue-bloods? I know after reading this title.

Up Your Nose!: The Secrets of Schnozes and Snouts I’ve mentioned the author’s Note on Sources earlier, but I want to emphasize how interesting Melissa Stewart has made her research and writing process. Her notes show you her original intention – in this case she was going to focus on how humans and other animals smell – but then she realized she had to include the nose’s critical role in breathing and tasting. Her books are collaborative as she collected ideas from kids and even elicited help from her nephew who wanted to understand the difference between boogers and snot. Her books’ research took time as she writes "I had a hard time finding books with specific information about the nose, so it took a long time to compile all the information in this book." She combines information from a variety of sources – books about respiration but also descriptions of the nose from medical journal articles about plastic surgery. AND, she interviews people like doctors and scientists for the most up-to-date information. Be sure to share this page with your students before they begin research projects and writing assignments. Students need to understand that even individual titles in a series are separate works, not just fill-in-the blank templates. This series illustrates this beautifully with the variety of information presented. The one area I wish this book had discussed was broken noses.

Now Hear This!: The Secrets of Ears and Hearing Long-time readers know I have a hearing problem and have had 7 ear surgeries so any titles on ears are interesting to me. Until you have been shut-off from clear sounds around you, you cannot appreciate the desperation I have felt at times when someone was trying to talk to me and I couldn’t distinguish exactly what they were saying. I was hoping to read about the problems that ears can have and medical advances helping people to hear, but that’s not what this title is about. 

Instead it gives many details on the different parts of the ear and their functions. Readers will understand far more about how ears work in hearing and in balance. I’ll have to use some of the web links at the back to understand why my ears are constantly filled with fluid and why my eardrum ruptures. Still, this is a good starting point for healthy ear understanding.

Blasts of Gas: The Secrets of Breathing, Burping and Passing Gas Come on, admit it. The title of this book is so intriguing that you’ve been waiting to hear about gas. Did you know that you inhale about 1.6 gallons of air a minute (2,300 gallons per day)? Did you know that your lungs work hardest in the late afternoon between 4 and 5 p.m.? Do you know how cows’ burping contributes to global warming? Which foods make you fart the most? Answers to all these questions are inside. I especially appreciate the last one. Now I know which foods to avoid when I have an event coming up and really don’t want to pass smelly gas.No cauliflower, eggs, and meat if I don’t want the smelly stuff. 

I now know that "Most kids pass wind about fourteen times a day and give off enough gas to fill a 1-liter soda bottle." So releasing gas is normal, readers. Just be sure to use the phrase "pass gas" around me. I ardently dislike that f- word and refused to let my children say it around me, I even shuddered as I typed it. We had mom-talk and dad-talk in our house and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I’ll help you research the facts on it, but I can still choose how I call it. 

Want to know what else is in that box? You’ll have to read the next blog post.

Give Thanks for NONFICTION MONDAY in Practically Paradise

  • Posted on November 23, 2009 at 9:16 AM

Give Thanks for great friends and colleagues as we share our favorite nonfiction titles with  Nonfiction Monday here in practically paradise. Nonfiction Monday Nonfiction Mondayis a celebration of nonfiction children’s books. Kidlitosphere Bloggers with nonfiction posts will be featured here today as we host. Keep checking back & clicking Read More throughout the day as the links grow. I hope you will discover reasons to be thankful for nonfiction on this Monday.

If you have written a nonfiction post today to include, you can email me (best option) or you can leave the URL in the comments section. Just remember to leave off the http:// because the comments machinery rejects it. 

Mother Reader

The heart of a Mother.
The soul of a Reader.

MotherReader (Pamela Coughlin) is helping your holiday shopping by pairing up nonfiction books with other gifts at 


Great Kid Books:

A site to help parents learn about great books for their kids ages 4 – 14

Mary Ann Scheuer of Great Kid Books writes about resources to learn more about Wampanoag and English people living in Plimoth in the 17th century: Thinking about Thanksgiving (ages 5 – 12).


In Need of Chocolate

Books, Parenting, Homeschooling, and More Books

Sarah Neal has reviewed Pilgrims  (A Magic Tree House Research Guide) at the blog In Need of Chocolate.

Magic Tree House Research Guide #13: Pilgrims

A Patchwork of Books Amanda Snow has a review of If I Had a Hammer over at A Patchwork of Books.

Abby (the) Librarian

The blog of a semi-new public librarian posting about good books, children’s programming, and anything else library or kid-lit related.

Abby (the) Librarian reviews The Grand Mosque of Paris: A Story of How Muslims Rescued Jews During the Holocaust by Karen Gray Ruelle and Deborah Durland DeSaix. 


Simply Science

Using books for easy science lessons.

Shirley Duke has a post about Life in the Boreal Forest at SimplyScience 


The Book Nosher

Noshing my way through children’s literature, one book at a time 

Robin Gaphni at The Book Nosher posted about Life-Size Zoo:

Wild About Nature

A Place to Go Wild About Books and Their Creators

Heidi Bee Roemer reviews How Many Ways Can You Catch A Fly? by Steve Jenkins this week at the Wild About Nature blog:


Bedtime Booktalks:
Short, mini reviews of adult and young adult books from 2 Librarians. Laura Warren-Gross at  Bedtime Booktalks shares her review of Go Straight to the Source by Kristin Fontichiaro which is part of the forthcoming 8-title series "Super Smart Information Strategies." 

Wendie’s Wanderings 

Wendie Old at Wendie’s Wanderings talks about Inside-Outside Dinosaurs, today.

Chicken Spaghetti:

Books for Children and the Rest of Us, Too

Susan Thomsenhas a post  
Chicken Spaghetti called "Nonfiction for Older (Kid) Readers," which is about the Cybils nominees in the Middle Grade/Young Adult Nonfiction category.


Observations on reading and writing children’s books.

Roberta Gibson reviewed Earth Scientists: From Mercator to Evans (Mission: Science) by Lynn Van Gorp at WrappedInFoil.

Pink Me Paula Willey reviewed Pam Turner’s Prowling the Seas: Exploring the hidden world of ocean predators on Pink Me today.

Prowling the Seas: Exploring the Hidden World of Ocean Predators

Seven Impossible Things

(Why Stop at Six?) ~ a blog about books.

Jules at 7 Imps is in for Nonfiction Monday today with a visit from British author/illustrator Neal Layton


Cyndi and Lynn at Bookends Blog are looking animals in the eye in their blog for Life-Size Zoo by Teruyuki Komiya (Seven Footer Kids, 2009)


Miss Rumphius Effect

The blog of a teacher educator discussing poetry, children’s literature and issues related to teaching children and their future teachers.

Trisha Stohr-Hunt takes a quick look at three science books on the Miss Rumphius Effect blog entitled What’s Under There? 

Lori Calabrese Writes! Take a captivating Safari adventure at Lori Calabrese Writes

Cover of Sounds of theWild Safari


Books With Positive Views of Fathers & Fatherhood

BookDads tell us about Hey, Daddy! an engaging nonfiction book for younger readers about the many examples of animal fathers, from penguins to insects. 

Hey, Daddy!: Animal Fathers and Their Babies Cover


Biblio File

Jennie Rothschild from Biblio File is reviewing 4 MG/YA nonfiction Cybils nominees: I Can’t Keep My Own Secrets, Episodes: My Life As I See It, Chelsey, and Emily.

Check It Out: 

Life and Books in a K5 Library School Setting Jone Rush MacCulloch on Check It Out is doing mini-reviews for three books on Darwin: 

One Beetle Too Many: The Extraordinary  Adventures of Charles Darwin


For Practically Paradise’s pick nonfiction series of the day, I chose Tell me About Sports from Marshall Cavendish and written by Clive Gifford.  I’ll have to show you the Tell Me About Sports covers from their website. I’d take a photo of the book with a student, but since I first opened the box of books, they’ve been checked out. 

The door flies open and in rushes a student to tell me the boy behind him is bringing back this Football book and he wants to check it out. It has circulated so often that nearly every student into football knows the contents of that book, yet I haven’t had it in my hands long enough to add it to my computer catalog. 

I managed to snag Basketball from my 6th graders with the promise that as soon as I’m done sharing with you, I’ll deliver it to them. 

Why is this series so popular?

  • *The photographs are spot on for this series. The youth pictured are not too young for my 8th graders to accept, yet not too old to be out of reach for third graders.

* The covers are very exciting. The dramatic design of the cover photograph catches their eye. The title can be clearly read from across the room and draws the students to it.

* The content is very detailed and accessible for a student who wants to learn how to play the game. If you are a complete novice, there are details about the fundamentals with words defined in the text and in the glossary.

* While there are professional athletes pictured, the focus is on students demonstrating fundamental techniques. 

* The Where Next? section in the back has fundamental websites listed that won’t disappear overnight. 

Titles in the series include:

  • Basketball
  • Swimming
  • Baseball
  • Running
  • Tennis
  • Soccer
  • Football
  • Martial Arts

You’ll want all of this set as cross-sport interest is high. Students who have played team sports like basketball are exploring individual sports like tennis and swimming. As the publisher states: "Both individual and team sports are a lot of fun. Sports help kids meet new people, develop their skills, and maintain a healthy lifestyle." 

This fall I have been pleased to rediscover Marshall Cavendish with their expanded title list. While always a great resource for Middle School libraries, MC has some elementary titles to please this very picky librarian. I’ll be sharing more of their hits this year so you can add it to your orders before the calendar year ends.

Note: the blog wasn’t working properly today and I lost all the post two times before I called for reinforcements. (Thanks, Dan Blank!) Please let me know of any mistakes and I’ll fix them ASAP. I’m still adding beautiful graphics and fixing the html code so this is a work in progress.

National Educational Technology Plan

  • Posted on November 22, 2009 at 10:58 AM

Julie A. Walker, Executive Director of the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) has asked us to forward the information below widely. I hope you will participate on behalf of all school librarians and our students. 

Late in October, I sat in on a webinar regarding the National Educational Technology Plan. If you have not done so already, I want to urge all of you to go to the site: . The developers are seeking input on all four aspects of the plan: learning, assessment, teaching and productivity / infrastructure. At the time of the late October webinar, the developers expressed concern about the LOW VOLUME of comments they had received. They are particularly looking for examples of districts doing INNOVATIVE things.

I urge those of you who feel that school library media specialists can bring value to this planning process to register and to comment. I noted a number of topics of importance to the field:

Lifelong & Lifewide Learning
Measurement of equitable access to learning resources
Learning skills
Technology literacy
Equality of access (including gap between home & school)

For those of you interested in an overview of the slides from the webinar hosted by the National Coalition for Technology in Education and Training (NCTET) and PBS, “Shaping the Future of Education Through Technology” with Jim Shelton, Assistant Deputy Secretary, Office of Innovation and Improvement, U.S. Department of Education, they can be downloaded here:

Please register and comment before the end of the month.