Travels With Gannon and Wyatt

In the first book of a new series Travels with Gannon and Wyatt:  Botswana by Patti Wheeler and Keith Hemstreet, you immediately realize you are reading something unique. The book is a fictionalized account of the real life adventures of two real life boys, Gannon and Wyatt Wheeler, traveling to Botswana.

The book has the feel of nonfiction because the text is written as a journal, going back and forth between entries written by both boys. Each boy has his own voice and each tells of the same events from his individual perspective. Factual information about Africa, its people and animals abound. Sprinkled throughout are actual photographs of the boys and of Africa. To make it even harder to tell fact from fiction, the book comes with a DVD interview of the two boys talking about their experiences traveling to Africa to research the book.

As you read, however, it becomes apparent the adventures in the book are fictionalized. The boys would have to be pretty unlucky to encounter all the things that befall them. Starting out with a close call with a mother white rhino that knocks their own mother out of the vehicle they are riding in, the boys run up against everything from frightening giant crocodiles to being held hostage by an angry poacher. Through the book, Gannon and Wyatt experience one harrowing conflict after another.

In fact this intense drama, including graphic accounts of wounded and dying animals, also makes this book a bit difficult to classify as far as intended age of reader. Travels with Gannon and Wyatt:  Botswana just won a silver Moonbeam award in the Best First Book – Chapter Book category. On the other hand, it is listed as young adult at Amazon. I would say probably middle grade based on content. The main characters are supposed to be fifteen, and kids usually like to read about older main characters. It might be appropriate for reluctant readers who like their adventure rapid fire.

What we see in the video trailer is the part of the book that I enjoyed, the flavor of actually being in Botswana.

Doesn’t that make you want to travel, too?

As an aside, the boys, both real and fictional, are homeschooled. If you are interested in finding out more, Reading to Know has an interview with author Patti Wheeler

Reading level: Young Adult (Amazon)
Hardcover: 144 pages
Publisher: Claim Stake Publishing, LLC; Har/DVD edition (June 2010)
ISBN-10: 1936284006
ISBN-13: 978-1936284009

Book provided for review.

Edit: This book is nominated for a Cybils in Middle Grade Fiction.

Beautiful Oops is Just Plain Beautiful

What a fabulous book! Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg is sure to make you smile. Barney also has a great message: it okay to make a mistake. Use the “Oops” moments in your work (and your life) to stimulate your creativity and make something more exciting, innovative or just plain “more” than you originally planned. And Beautiful Oops has such fun hands-on appeal, you can’t wait to discover what is next.

Take a look for yourself:

You know what is sweet? Barney Saltzberg wrote the song for the video, too. Talk about a multi-talented person.

As an art masterpiece volunteer for many years, I wish I could give a copy of this book to every student I ever taught, but especially the intense little boy who tore up his art projects in first grade. But let’s face it, Barney’s message is wonderful for people of all ages in all sorts of situations. Beautiful!

Reading level: Ages 4-8 (and up!)
Hardcover: 28 pages
Publisher: Workman Publishing Company; Pop Ill edition (September 23, 2010)
ISBN-10: 076115728X
ISBN-13: 978-0761157281

nonfictionmonday

Nonfiction Monday is a blogging celebration of nonfiction books for kids. We invite you to join us. For more information and a schedule, stop by Anastasia Suen’s Nonfiction Monday page. This week’s post is at In Need of Chocolate.

This book is nominated for a Cybils in the nonfiction picture book category.

Hot X is Algebra Exposed!

I had seen a review of Hot X: Algebra Exposed by Danica McKellar at Pink Me and was intrigued. I heard about the book on Ira Flatow’s Science Friday. When I saw it at the library I knew it was saying, “Review Me!” But actually I also had an ulterior motive. You see, I know a boy who used to love math and now grimaces at the mere word. Would a book directed at getting girls to appreciate math hold any hope for an extremely jaded boy?

The good news is Hot X is much more than a guide to algebra. It’s also a hip call for young people to work hard, particularly at math, in order to attain their dreams. McKellar wants her readers to feel smart and confident, and develop the skills to be successful. It is a very positive message repeated throughout the book.

How is the math? A huge plus is that the questions are based on fresh, real world examples and each step is explained clearly. There are shortcuts and memory tricks. This celebrity author does know math. The book would be useful for anyone struggling with algebra, including adults.

Is Hot X too “girly” for guys? The illustrations of high heel shoes are probably not going to draw them in, but the cute girls are a whole different story. Let’s face it, at a certain age boys are going to find girls pretty interesting, and this book is in a way a look into the mysterious minds of young women. Plus it is easy to skip the parts aimed at young women and got straight to the math. Danica even admits she gets letters from boys who have used the book.

Although clearly written as a resource to purchase as a to supplement a math course, the tips and exercises could be a useful for instructors or for tutors looking for yet another way to get a point across. There are are additional solutions to problems on McKellar’s website.

The bottom line is that Hot X is much more than just a pretty face and a clever title. If you are studying or teaching algebra, you should take a look at it.

Hardcover: 417 pages
Publisher: Hudson Street Press (August 3, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1594630704
ISBN-13: 978-1594630705

nonfictionmonday

Nonfiction Monday is a blogging celebration of nonfiction books for kids. We invite you to join us. For more information and a schedule, stop by Anastasia Suen’s Nonfiction Monday page. This week’s post is at Write About Now.

Where Else In The Wild?

Where Else In The Wild? More Camouflaged Creatures Concealed and Revealed is a enchanting combination of poems by David M. Schwartz and his wife, Yael Schy, and photographs by Dwight Kuhn. It is a sequel to their award-winning Where in the Wild?: Camouflaged Creatures Concealed… and Revealed.

In each spread, on the right is a photograph with a creature or creatures hidden inside. On the left is a poem with clues as to the camouflaged critter(s) identity. The photograph page opens as a gatefold and underneath is the same photograph with the background faded to show where the animals are hiding, as well as a full page of information about the animal that has been revealed.

The photographs steal the show in this book. A lot of credit has to go to the photographer for locating interesting animals and finding appropriate backgrounds. That can’t have been easy. Some of the animals are definitely easier to spot than others, but they are all visually appealing.

The first book gathered numerous awards and the second isn’t far behind. Where in the Wild? won the 2008 SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books, as well as the 2008 Animal Behavior Society Outstanding Children’s Book Award. It was also a 2008 Cybils finalist in the nonfiction picturebook category. Where Else In The Wild? More Camouflaged Creatures Concealed and Revealed has been nominated for a Cybils in 2010, and is an Outstanding Science Trade Book for Students K-12.

These books are gaining attention because they are not just fun and informative, they also encourage children to develop their observation skills. Teachers will find the books especially useful because they encompass both language arts and science. See if you can find where one is hiding today!

Where in the Wild?

Reading level: Ages 4-8
Hardcover: 44 pages
Publisher: Tricycle Press; illustrated edition edition (September 1, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1582462070
ISBN-13: 978-1582462073

Where Else In The Wild? More Camouflaged Creatures Concealed and Revealed

Reading level: Ages 4-8
Hardcover: 50 pages
Publisher: Tricycle Press (October 13, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1582462836
ISBN-13: 978-1582462837

If your children enjoy these books, they might also like the older book How to Hide a Butterfly and Other Insects by Ruth Heller.

nonfictionmonday

Nonfiction Monday is a blogging celebration of nonfiction books for kids. We invite you to join us. For more information and a schedule, stop by Anastasia Suen’s Nonfiction Monday page. This week’s post is at Picture Book of the Day.