Hair Dance

The color, texture and style of our hair is part of our unique individuality, a reflection of our personality. But sometimes that uniqueness can feel more like “different,” especially for young girls. Enter Hair Dance by Dinah Johnson and Kelly Johnson, a celebration of the beauty of African American hair and youth.

hair-dancePhotographer Kelly Johnson introduces the book with a touching story of how she was inspired by her grandparents’ hairstyling business. Her photographs of children are lively, lovely and incredible pieces of art, just like the hairstyles.

The photographs are brilliant enough to carry the book all on their own, but the poetry by Dinah Johnson adds the bows to this hair piece.

As a book by two women that contains many pictures of girls, this is a book full of female energy and wisdom. It would be a great gift for any girl needing a little confidence or struggling with her identity. I can also envision it as a fun part of a birthday party celebration or sleepover where girls style each others’ hair.

Hair Dance is an awesome example of what I mentioned in my last post, how to make a nonfiction work personal and relevant.

The Brown Bookshelf has a post about the author, Dr. Dinah Johnson, as well as many other authors and books in celebration of Black History Month.

Reading level: Ages 4-8
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR); 1st edition (September 4, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0805065237
ISBN-13: 978-0805065237

nonfictionmonday

Nonfiction Monday is a blogging celebration of nonfiction books for kids. For more information, stop by Picture Book of the Day. This week’s post is at Simply Science.

Life Size Zoo is Life Size Fun

Life-Size Zoo: From Tiny Rodents to Gigantic Elephants, An Actual Size Animal Encyclopedia by Teruyuki Komiya (Creator), Kristin Earhart (Editor), and Toyofumi Fukuda (Photographer) was a Cybils finalist in the 2009 Nonfiction Picture book category and has won the Parents’ Choice Gold Award.

life-size-zooThe premise of Life Size Zoo is deceptively simple. Each spread shows fantastic life size photograph of an actual zoo animal, its head in the case of the biggest animals. The name of each animal, its gender and age are included. The spare words on the page point to a distinctive feature, such as the tiger’s rough tongue. The sidebar points out a few facts and asks some simple questions. It seems straightforward.

Once you start using the book, however, its real charm and value emerge. Every time I read this book to a group or with an individual child, the story has been different. Often I hear of trips to various zoos, individual animals that are favorites, the child’s observations of each animals, etc. Each time we find something new in the photographs. Often the discussion leads to more questions, which in turn lead to more stories. It is definitely a fun, kid-friendly book that is very much an open-ended story prompt. You won’t get bored reading this one again and again.

A note  to parents:  some of the sidebars include information about the animal’s bodily functions (a selling point to fourth grade boys :-)).

Reading level: Ages 4-8
Hardcover: 48 pages
Publisher: Seven Footer Press (April 7, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1934734209

nonfictionmonday
Nonfiction Monday is a blogging celebration of nonfiction books for kids. For more information, stop by Picture Book of the Day. This week’s post is at Practically Paradise.

Day-Glo Brothers Book Wins!

Ta-Da! The winner of the 2009 Cybils award for nonfiction picture book is The Day-Glo Brothers by Chris Barton
 and illustrated by Tony Persiani! (If you are interested in children’s and young adult books, you might want to see the Cybils winners in all the categories.) Day-Glo

The Day-Glo Brothers is about the Switzer brothers, Bob and Joe. Both boys were fascinated by science, probably due to the fact their father was a pharmacist, but Bob wanted to be a doctor and Joe wanted to entertain people. When Bob had a bad accident that kept him confined to home, his brother Joe entertained him by playing around with an ultraviolet lamp (also called a black light) that he had made from instructions out of Popular Science magazine. Joe had a magic show and he was interested in fluorescent paints to develop a new magic trick. After finding commercial uses for fluorescent paints that would shine under ultraviolet light, the brothers continued to experiment until they found a paint that would glow in regular daylight. They had created the “eye-popping” Day-Glo colors found today in products as diverse as highlighters and traffic cones.

One of the great characteristics of this book is the retro-look illustrations that use Day-Glo colors for emphasis. As explained in the back, these colors release an extra amount of light, which makes them glow. Using the colors in the illustrations in contrast to gray tones was a touch of genius.

Another important aspect of The Day-Glo Brothers is the fact that it is a story that hasn’t been written before. Both this book and Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice, written by Phillip Hoose, are about people who have been overlooked in the past, but whose stories deserve to be told. Both have gotten recognition and awards. Hopefully the popularity of these books will be noted and we will begin to see more like them. Perhaps instead of yet another book about the Wright Brothers for example, there might be room for one about the lesser-known but highly-interesting aviator/inventor Glen Curtiss.

Finally, this book is a fascinating glimpse at science and the process of invention. The brothers had an good idea of what they wanted to create and kept at it. They also had a lucky accident, which brought together the elements they needed for success. On top of that, the timing of the discovery coincided with an event (the coming of World War II) when there was a great need for their products. Luck, timing and perseverance led to a successful result.

In a similar way, author Chris Barton has brought together all the elements needed to make The Day-Glo Brothers an award-winning book. Congratulations!

For related science activities, try experiments with things that glow at Growing With Science.

Shirley at Simply Science blog reviewed this treasure back in August.

Thank you very much to the adults and children who worked with me on the Cybils project. You all made this a wonderful experience, and I appreciate your time and talents.

Disclosure:  As a round II Cybils judge, I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.

Little Black Ant on Park Street

As some of you may already know, I studied ants in graduate school and I still find them fascinating. Therefore, I was thrilled when I received a copy of Little Black Ant on Park Street by Janet Halfmann and illustrated by Kathleen Rietz, the newest installment in the Smithsonian’s Backyard series published by Soundprint. Our family already had several titles from the series that we had enjoyed and we were looking forward to seeing one on ants. Little-black-ant

We were not disappointed. As you would expect with a book labeled with the venerable Smithsonian name, it is a quality nonfiction picture book. As with the other books in this series, it also has a fictional flavor. What do I mean by fictional flavor? The author has created a main character, the little black ant, who experiences rising levels of conflict and finally resolution. Overlaying this rich story is amazingly accurate and up-to-date information about the biology of ants.

The name “little black ant” may sound generic, but it is an actual common name of a species of ant. The choice of this species is interesting because they aren’t the usual fare. The ants are tiny, occasionally considered to be pests, and they don’t have the typical ant lifestyle. For example, the colonies of little black ants have multiple queens, rather than a single queen as many ant colonies do. Tiny might mean they are less noticeable to children in real life, but on the other hand, you have to root for these feisty little ants when a big carpenter ant comes to steal their food.

Janet Halfmann is an experienced writer of children’s books and this is her ninth book with Soundprints. She has done a superb job translating technical jargon into age-appropriate language without losing meaning. I can’t emphasize enough what a wonderful job she did of this difficult task.

The illustrator, Kathleen Rietz, created big, vibrant scenes to tell the story at another level. The large illustrations are perfectly scaled for holding the book up and reading to a group. Everyone will be able to see the action. In the back is a list of “Points of interest” in the book that identify the elements in the illustrations, such as the type of flower shown.

We read the softcover version, but the book comes in a wide variety of options. Both the hardcover and the softcover are available, with or without read-along CD’s. The book also comes in a “microbook” format, with or without a plush toy ant. We have several of the microbooks. They are 5 7/8 inches by 4 3/4 inches, a size which definitely attracts youngsters.

Little Black Ant on Park Street is a marvelous little book, sure to inspire children to learn more about ants and the world around them. With so many options, I’m sure you can find a version that fits your needs.

For related activities, try making marshmallow ants and guarding an ant nest at my Growing With Science blog. Here’s more about the biology of the little black ant.

Reading level: Ages 4-8
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Soundprint (December 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1607270021
ISBN-13: 978-1607270027

This book was supplied by the publisher.

nonfictionmonday

Nonfiction Monday is a blogging celebration of nonfiction books for kids. For more information, stop by Picture Book of the Day. This week’s post is at Wild About Nature.