Into the Deep with William Beebe

The first thing you notice about the reviews of Into the Deep: The Life of Naturalist and Explorer William Beebe by David Sheldon is that they are all about William Beebe. David Sheldon has done such a great job of presenting his subject that details of the book are in the background. William Beebe is the star from page one.


And what an exciting star he is. A naturalist, explorer and prolific writer, William Beebe accomplished a great deal in his lifetime. Although called Into the Deep in reference to Beebe’s record breaking descent into the ocean in the pioneering Bathysphere, the story actually covers Beebe’s entire life. Beebe explored nature around his home and made collections as a child. He even had an owl for a pet. Later he traveled around the world, first on collecting expeditions and later to study animals in their natural habitat. After his retirement, he founded a research station in Trinidad. He was a man of many hats, being a naturalist, pioneer in the field of ecology, explorer of ocean depths, and an ardent conservationist. To paraphrase David Sheldon, William Beebe did what many of us only dream about (after all, who gets to have an owl as a pet?)

As for the book, you have to admire people who are more than capable as authors and illustrators, too. David Sheldon has done a lovely job capturing both the exotic animals Beebe encounters and the look of wonder and joy on Beebe’s face. At the end is a “Diving Deeper into the Story” section with more details of Beebe’s life and quotes from his books. A glossary and list of resources are also included, making this book a very useful reference as well as an interesting biography.

I didn’t know much about William Beebe before reading Into the Deep. Now I can’t wait to find Beebe’s books listed in the “Resources” and read more about his adventures.

If you are interested in some ocean-inspired activities, try my Growing With Science blog.

Reading level: Ages 9-12
Hardcover: 48 pages
Publisher: Charlesbridge Publishing; New edition (July 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1580893414
ISBN-13: 978-1580893411


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 Playing by the Book.

Animal Tongues

Animal Tongues by Dawn Cusick is one of those fun nonfiction books that almost jump off the shelf at you. After all, on the cover is a giraffe sticking its very long tongue out. What child can pass that up?

animal tonguesThis fast-paced book is a perfect introduction to animal tongues, a subject most of us have probably not thought a lot about. Cusick starts with the familiar:  people tongues, dog tongues and cat tongues. With that basic understanding, she then moves into some wilder beasts.

In addition to clear and colorful photographs, and engrossing text, Cusick throws in some lively activities for kids to do. For example, she gives a quick activity to make a comparison of how long our tongue would be if we were a nectar bat. Fun!

Unfortunately, a few facts might have needed a bit more checking. On page 26, the author says “birds that suck nectar have hollow, straw-like tongues.” Okay, she doesn’t say hummingbirds, but my son immediately said, “That’s a myth about hummingbirds, mom.” I looked it up, and sure enough hummingbirds do not have tongues like straws. See for example, this website about hummingbird anatomy. Maybe she meant some other nectar-feeding birds.

On page 31 we ran into something I knew more about. In this case, she says a house fly has a “tongue like a soda straw.” After years of giving insect mouthpart demonstrations, I know house fly mouthparts are actually more like sponges. It’s too bad she missed this, because having a sponge for a tongue is really cool.

In any case, this is still a highly entertaining book. I think it is a good way to get children interested and inspired to find out more about animals.

If you want to learn more about human tongues and the sense of taste, I put up a few related activities at my Growing With Science blog, plus a video of a flower fly using its tongue to feed on a dandelion flower.

Reading level: Ages 4-8
Hardcover: 36 pages
Publisher: EarlyLight Books, Inc.; 1 edition (August 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0979745519
ISBN-13: 978-0979745515


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 Wendie’s Wanderings.

Leaf and Tree Guide

The Backyard Explorer Kit: 3-in-1 Collector’s Kit! by Rona Beame is for children who love hands on activities and want to learn more about trees. The kit includes a 3 1/2 by 8 inch Leaf and Tree Guide to trees (that will conveniently fit in a pocket or backpack), a plastic leaf-collecting bag, and an unbound 25 page Leaf Collecting Album. Although the product has been around for several years now, it is still a great deal of fun and worth a look.Leaf-and-Tree

The guide has information about trees, how to identify a number of common species (with color photographs of specimens), and 16 hands on activities. Some are the usual activities, such as making a bark rubbing or forcing buds. Others are novel, such as hatching leaf galls. We did one experiment and proved that open pine cones will close again if you soak them in water. Cool!

Dry, open pinecones will close up again if you put them in water.

The Leaf Collecting album has two awesome features. First of all it is unbound, and comes with a long shoelace so you can put it together yourself. This allows children to add as much of their own material as they want without worrying about crushing the material or breaking the binding of the book. Secondly, the album pages have lightly printed illustrations on them, which means that if a child hasn’t collected a particular leaf yet, the album still remains a useful learning tool. The best part is that it doesn’t ask for collection of a particular species of tree, only a leaf of a given shape. Therefore it can be used in almost any locale.

For the child who loves hands on and nature, this is a wonderful kit.

I bought ours at a garden gift shop.

Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 96 pages
Publisher: Workman Publishing Company; revised edition (July 1, 2004)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0761133194
ISBN-13: 978-0761133193


Nonfiction Monday is a blogging celebration of nonfiction books for kids. For more information, stop by Picture Book of the Day.

Look to the Stars

Several children’s books have been released to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the flight of Apollo 11. Look to the Stars by Buzz Aldrin and Wendell Minor (Illustrator) is remarkable because it is much more than merely an account by the second human being to touch the surface of the moon. Dr. Aldrin shows us how this incredible accomplishment is part of a long history of discoveries and advancements, and how it may lead to many more new things in the future. In fact, he spends relatively little time on the Apollo 11 mission, given his giant part in it. When he does mention it, he humbly thanks all the nearly 400,000 others that worked to make the project possible. Here is a man who understands his place in history.


I admit I didn’t know what to expect when I picked up Look to the Stars. Even though it was a New York Times bestseller, it hasn’t gotten as much ‘buzz” (sorry) as some of the others on the same topic. Once I had read it, however, I was hooked. Yes, Buzz Aldrin is a “celebrity,” but he has still done a good job keeping the information relevant and exciting to children. The quotes on every page and the phases of the moon over the page numbers let us know that extra thought was put into the details of this book. The illustrations are perfect, such as a view of a future child space tourist looking back over the surface of the moon towards a vibrant blue earth in the distance. The personal touches, such as putting his wedding day on the fascinating time line in the back of the book, made me smile.

Although recommended for ages 4-8, I would say that this picture book would definitely be appealing to older children as well. Pick up a copy and go on your own personal journey into space.

Reading level: Ages 4-8
Hardcover: 40 pages
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile; First Edition, First Printing edition (May 14, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0399247211
ISBN-13: 978-0399247217


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 also happens to be at Picture Book of the Day.