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Heinemann's Investigating Cells series has me delirious with joy

  • Posted on November 30, 2010 at 5:15 AM

Seldom do I become so excited about a series that I call the individual titles my babies and show them off to everyone around me. The Investigating Cells series by Heinemann has caused this state of delirium.

The Investigating Cells series was an answer to my requests / pleas / demands/ even whines for more books directly related to middle school science cell studies. The first year I arrived at JFK the entire curriculum for seventh graders seemed to revolve around cells. At the end of the year, one of the science teachers used grant money to provide tours of a life-size cell her students spent hours building. The library, however,  was not able to support an in-depth study of cells, so I started to request more books from various publishers.

Heinemann answered my call with these titles:

  • Animal Cells and Life Processes
  • Cell Systems
  • Plant Cells and Life Processes
  • DNA and Heredity
  • Cells and Disease

These titles are exactly what I needed. The covers are appealing with colorful illustrations of microscopic views of cells. Each title highlights major achievements of several scientists. There is a variety of information packaged in ways to engage the readers. Charts, captions, text boxes, and narratives lead the reader through an in-depth exploration of each of these areas of cell study.

Students have enjoyed reading these titles. I have watched them avidly pouring over the text and re-reading sections. Students have compared the illustrations and photographs with what they’ve seen under microscopes. Several commented that looking at the photographs was better than looking at the slides because the photos were focused and detailed, while looking through a microscope could be a hit-or-miss experience.

I double-checked my collection and the only other recent series of titles focusing on cells was published by Rosen in 2005. I’m going to keep my eyes out for other cells series. Be sure to let me know if you’ve seen a great one recently.


  • Posted on November 22, 2010 at 4:24 PM

I love hosting Nonfiction Monday so we can share the wide variety of nonfiction titles members of the Kidlitosphere group are blogging on each week. You might notice that I am including the publisher information for these titles so you can see the wide variety of publishers of nonfiction titles.

Camille Powell at BookMoot writes about the Machines of the Future series with her review of Ultimate Trains. Then she slips in a peak on Looking Closely at the Rain Forest. Both of these titles are published by Kids Can Press.

Amanda Snow at A Patchwork of Books is showcasing 2 books today, 101 Freaky Animals by Melvin and Gilda Berger published by Scholastic and Just One Bite by Lola Schaefer published by Chronicle Books.

Jeff Barger posted a review of Come See The Earth: The Story of Leon Foucault at NC Teacher Stuff Published by Tricycle Press.

Kim Hutmacher the Wild About Nature blog has posted a review of Champ’s Story: Dogs Get Cancer Too! by Sherry North.(May I add a personal note that Kim has written a Therapy Dog book with Capstone Publishing that I meant to include in my review list below?) Published by Sylvan Dell Publishing.

Shirley Duke blogs about I’m a Scientist Kitchen by Lisa Burke at SimplyScience. This is a DK Publishing title.

Alex Baugh has a post at The Children’s War today for In Defiance of Hitler: Secret Mission of the Secret Mission of Varian Fry by Carla Killough McClafferty and published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.   It  is a book about a little known hero named Varian Fry who helped save some very famous people during World War II.

Jone Rush MacCulloch has a review of the book Growing Patterns with an original  Fibonacci poem review at the MacLibrary blog.  Published by Boyds Mill Press and written by Susan C Campbell.
Catherine Nichols post at The Cath In The Hat blog is on wild turkeys “Ten Things You Might Not Know About Turkeys” All About Turkeys was written by Jim Arnosky and published in 1998 by Scholastic.
Anastasia Suen is in today with Christian the Lion by Anthony Bourke and John Rendall. Published by Henry Holt and Co.

Margo Tanenbaum’s link for non-fiction Monday shares her take on Barbies, and Tanya Stone’s new book, The Good The Bad and the Barbie, published by Viking.

Roberta Gibson’s blog Wrapped In Foil has a book with an intriguing title,  Kitchen Science Experiments:  How Does Your Mold Garden Grow? by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen and  illustrator Edward Miller published by Sterling.
At 100 Scope Notes Travis Jonker reviews Case Closed? Nine Mysteries Unlocked by Modern Science published by Kids Can Press.
Pink Me is in, with reviews of two new books about Barbie, The Good, the Bad, & the Barbie by Tanya Lee Stone and Barbie: A Rare Beauty by Sandi Holder published by Krause Publications.
Tammy Flanders (Apples with Many Seeds blog) has written about an interesting book Our Living Planet that would have great cross-curricular connections.Published by Harry N. Abrams.
At Bookends – – Cindy Dobroz and Lynn Rutan have a plethora of pop-ups! Take a look at some great books for all ages.

Wendie Old is talking about Caroline Arnold’s series about animals, featuring A Walrus’ World, which Arnold both wrote and illustrated. Published by Picture Window Books (an imprint of Capstone).

Three Turtles  and Their Librarian pops  in with the Salem Witch trials and their review of Witchcraft in Salem by Steven Stern and published by Bearport Publishing:
Abby the Librarian has a review of Skit Skat Raggedy Cat: Ella Fitzgerald by Roxeanne Orgill and published by Candlewick Press.

Janet Squires selection is One Grain of Rice: a mathematical folktale written and illustrated by Demi (published by Scholastic).

Diane chimes in (and hopes you will too)

  • Posted on November 22, 2010 at 1:29 PM

Susan mused about why her students love the library. I can think of a few additional reasons. OWNERSHIP, OPPORTUNITY, and BELONGING are three of the big ones.

Our students hear me state continually “This is your library, not my library.” Then we go to work teaching what ownership of a space means including maintenance, establishing rules and procedures they want & need, determining what items to buy and to weed, and generally learning how to make decisions.

Opportunities exist for students to select materials for themselves, for other teachers who call & email requests, and for future purchases. There are always tasks to complete and plenty of work for anyone seeking the opportunity. No matter how bad a student’s past experience in school may have been, the library gives him or her the opportunity to begin again. Don’t forget about the opportunities to learn about anything a student can dream about. Technology opportunities help diminish the gap between those who have and the many students who have none. A student who wants to be involved finds that opportunity in the library which leads to belonging.

Belonging to something, being part of something special, giving part of oneself to a school, identifying with something good. These are all things that students have talked to me about when asked why they wanted to be in the library club or to be a volunteer. They want to be valued and recognized for their contributions. They want to be connected.

Libraries are places of learning. Not all learning is academic. The emotional and social growth occurring is also important to middle school students.

Why do you think students love the library?

Susan asks why her students love the library so much

  • Posted on November 21, 2010 at 5:15 AM

Susan Norwood guest blogged this discussion today:  There is no doubt in my mind that the Library is the most vibrant place in our school. My students know that it is my “Happy Place.” There is no place I love better than a good library, except for a good bookstore. In the bookstore I can buy books, depending on my budget.

Anyway, why do my students love the library so much? I have been thinking about this. For readers, it is simply that they can check out books and read in peace. Most students enjoy the opportunity to get out of the classroom, which can be too confining. Studies show that guys especially like to have more space. Let’s face it, most classrooms are crowded. The computers are a huge draw for students. Other than a computer class, there isn’t a regular opportunity to use computers in the school, other than in the library. We have a computer lab, but my classes are scheduled to go in only once every two months. When my lucky day comes, I have forgotten about going. Plus, it takes too much time to retrain students how to log-in, etc.

I have also noticed the phenomena of students who love the library, but don’t really like to read. I can think of at least two students, a boy and a girl, who ask to go to the library every day! They like to work in the library. They are great at shelving books, tidying the tables, putting up posters, and checking in books. As soon as we go to the library, they step up behind the front desk and go to work. They tell students what books they need to turn in. You would be impressed at their efficiency! They really can run the place, when given the opportunity.

This is really valuable on-the-job training. You may not see it in Ms. Chen’s lesson plans, but she is teaching these kids important skills, such as serving customers, taking inventory, maintaining a clean work site, etc. In the process, I believe that these students are reading. They have to read to be able to do their jobs. Working in the library is an “authentic” task. I hope Ms. Chen will blog on the work that students perform in the library. She told me that students have to “train” and pass a test before they can become her assistants. She will have to tell you more about this.

Everyone has a story to tell & a unique way of doing so

  • Posted on November 15, 2010 at 2:20 PM

Driving through town we spotted an RV with an interesting sign “Willie Taylor Walking Across America to Honor Veterans & Support Our Troops.” We pulled into Aldi’s and I whipped out my phone to go online and check out who Willie Taylor was. (Hey! This is 2010!)

I found several links to news articles using Google <gasp> and was reading aloud some of the information when Willie himself came over to the car to chat. Soon we were outside talking about his story and mission (see below) and meeting several local people in the music business with their own stories to tell.

Buddy Brock, the songwriter, was there. He had been with them at the Aaron Tippin concert last night. Michael “Huff Daddy” Huffington and his wife Penny were taking Willie Taylor and his driver (former Marine) George Petrovich in grocery shopping to help continue his mission of raising awareness of Veterans, the American Legion, and the U.S.O.

Michael Huffington has written songs for veterans including Boys of ’44 (a tribute to the Army) and Guys Like You and Me (a tribute to Marines).  We huddled around Buddy Brock’s truck and I watched grown men sharing music, a memory, and a few tears as they recalled buddies who didn’t come home from war.

I think one of the most fascinating parts of this chance encounter was listening to Willie describe how he is collecting stories of real American heroes as he journeys across the country. If you happen to see George driving Willie’s RV, take time to leaf through his journal and you will see the message many others and I wrote inside. Here’s Willie’s message:

Walk Across America

Willie A. Taylor, an American Legion member recently accepted the challenge to ‘Walk Across America’ in support of our veterans and troops. His ultimate goal is to raise public awareness and support for the USO and the American Legion.

On April 3, 2010 Willie began a year long Walk Across America, starting in his hometown of Maple Rapids, Michigan, and making stops at various American Legion Posts. During his visits, he is documenting the service of any willing Veteran whom he meets to capture the stories of our real American heroes.

In times of peace and war, the USO has consistently delivered its special brand of comfort, morale, and recreational services to the military. Since 1919, The American Legion has an outstanding record of supporting our Nation’s Veterans with programs and activities from the local community grass roots to the national level. Both non-profit organizations rely heavily on the generosity of individuals and local businesses to support their activities.

How can YOU Support this Mission?

To share in this effort and show support for our Veterans and for all our service men and women in the armed forces, your help is needed to make this project a success.

  • Go to the USO or American Legion websites and make donations
  • Help defray Willie’s cost with cash, gas cards, meals, etc. when he strolls into town
  • Spread the word regarding this worthy cause and join Willie for portions of his walk.

If you have any questions you can contact Willie directly at www. or email him. You can call him at 517-281-6299 and even find him on Facebook under

Want to hear the songs HuffDaddy wrote for the Twisted Lester CD? Contact him at

I hope that as you recognized and remembered Veteran’s Day last week that you enabled and exposed your students to real heroes and their stories. There are so many men and women who did not make it home or who have returned as Wounded Warriors. We need to keep their stories fresh and alive for the next generation. As the Wounded Warriors Project states “The Greatest Casualty Is Being Forgotten.”

How do you apologize for your library being so popular?

  • Posted on November 14, 2010 at 3:52 AM

What if the students start skipping their classes to come to the library all the time? They’ll work while they’re in the library. Sometimes they’ll have large group projects going like the banners for Veteran’s Day or the individual research projects they sit down and avidly pursue for an hour. Sometimes they’ll bring forged notes and then volunteer for you pulling 95 titles on Science Fair projects or other topics needed for the next period class.

When a student hands me a permission slip or a group of three tells me their sub sent them, I usually believe them. When the exceptional education student shows up with his books, a timer, and a list of topics to research, I help him locate and utilize resources. Why would I even doubt them? These seem to be legitimate projects and activities.

Kids are definitely getting very adept at skipping classes. I probably should be embarrassed that the library is so popular they skip. Instead, I’m just going to continue to put everyone to work whenever they show up. I’ll let the campus supervisors, SRO officers, and assistant principals track down the missing students while I try to keep teaching students skills for life-long learning and the pursuit of information for their own personal interests.

Susan writes, "Where is Diane?"

  • Posted on November 11, 2010 at 8:26 AM

While we wait for Diane to write something erudite, I will tell you what’s going on in the life of this public, middle school librarian. First of all, she is doing an inventory on all of the technology in our school. It is a huge PITA. She has to get all of our 35+ faculty members to give her the serial numbers on our telephones, TVs, overhead projectors (embarrassingly old-school), pull-down screens, projectors, calculators, lap tops, and probably other items as well.  I had to climb up on a desk to get the miniscule number off of the overhead projector. No wonder other teachers are slow to give her this information.

At the same time, she is working with Metro Nashville Public Schools Library/Media Services Coordinator regarding a challenge to Susan Campbell Bartoletti’s They Called Themselves the KKK.  It seems the committee who is to judge the book’s fitness to be in our schools needs copies and expects Diane to supply them. She already gave them her copy and CDs provided by the publisher. The committee of seven wants more—does she have a Spanish version for the mother who objects, but may not be able or willing to read it?

Meantime, kids stream into the library. Classes arrive for check-in and check-out. I send un-attended students to Diane. I want her to help my kids write book reviews and to make sure that they are grammatically correct.

I try to touch base with Diane after school. I stop by the library at 4:30. Every table is filled with chatting students. After-school tutoring is about to begin. Where is the A/C? It feels like about 85 degrees in here. I see the fans that I’ve loaned to Diane, but it’s still hot.

Does this blog sound chaotic? If so, then it is realistic! Next: Diane is supposed to teach a TCAP (High-Stakes End-of-Year Test) prep class in addition to everything else. Wait—I forgot to mention all of the new non-fiction that is stacked on tables awaiting review.

To be continued…

Diary of A Wimpy Kid

  • Posted on November 8, 2010 at 8:06 AM

I don’t think I should go to work on time Tuesday! The bookstore doesn’t open until 9 a.m. My school demands my presence in the hallway at 8:40. AND… Diary of a Wimpy Kid – The Ugly Truth comes out in 3 hours, 53 minutes, 2 seconds. Somewhere that is.

Not in my local bookstore. No fun parties for us on a school night. In fact, one of their employees suggested that so many kids have been asking about The Ugly Truth and pre-ordering it, that they are afraid they’ll run out. She suggested I go to <gasp> Wal-mart or the grocery store at 4 a.m. and snatch their copies.

How many copies will you have ready tomorrow? I have a waiting list of 27 students and many many more clamoring for it. I wonder how many will mob me. Could I have an advance on my paycheck please so I have enough copies?