Wonderful Windmills

Wind and windmills were “hot” topics at our house last week, and therefore I was pleased to find The Wind at Work: An Activity Guide to Windmills by Gretchen Woelfle. Even though it is an older book (1997), it virtually stands alone on the topic of wind power and windmills for children.

Wind at Work covers the history and social aspects of using wind as a power source in great detail. From the early Persian windmills, through the use of windmills to pump water in the American West, Gretchen Woefle has done her homework. She provides many fascinating historical tidbits, such as how the saying “rule of thumb” came about. Who knew that the official seal of New York City has a windmill on it because windmills were so critical to early New Yorkers? In the final chapter, titled “Fulfilling the Promise,” Woefle explores the future potential of wind turbines as a renewable energy source. Even if you had some inkling of about wind power, Woelfe really brings home how important windmills and wind turbines were to our past and are to our future.

The chapters in this book are well-researched and clearly written. The accompanying activities, however, are a bit of a disappointment. Rather than emphasizing and/or clarifying concepts from the text of the chapter where they are included, the activities often seem to fit awkwardly. For example, for the chapter on ancient wind machines, the activity is to make a weather vane and wind sock. I think those would have fit better with the chapter on “A Windmiller’s Life” where the author says that the windmillers were the village weathermen. The “A Windmiller’s Life” chapter contains an activity to draw a landscape. The examples shown are landscapes with windmills, but the activity doesn’t suggest to draw windmills or even try to incorporate the idea of wind, simply draw a landscape. Surprisingly, the book does not contain a single activity for making a pinwheel, model windmill or even a kite that moves by wind.

Weaknesses with the activities aside, Wind at Work brings deserved attention to an often-overlooked topic. For those interested in wind as a power source, in history and/or in some of the modern environmental issues concerning wind power, this book stands out from the rest like a proud windmill at the top of a hill.

Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 156 pages
Publisher: Chicago Review Press; 1st edition (June 28, 1997)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1556523084
ISBN-13: 978-1556523083

From the same author, based on a true story:
Katje, the Windmill Cat (Paperback)
by Gretchen Woelfle (Author), Nicola Bayley (Illustrator)

If you are interested in some hands-on projects related to wind, visit Wind Power at my Growing With Science blog.

nonfictionmonday

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

Tarantulas Inside and Out

While looking for a book to review this morning, Uncover a Tarantula by David George Gordon popped out at me, and I remembered it fondly. A few years ago I was helping a fourth grader who was a reluctant reader with his report about tarantulas, and I brought in my copy of the book to help him find some cool facts. He opened the book and started exclaiming. Before I knew it, the whole class was gathered around, totally fascinated. He proudly showed them what he had discovered. It was a wonderful moment.

The Uncover series are definitely unique. They contain a plastic model of whatever organism is being studied right in the middle of the book. As the reader turns the pages, he or she delves deeper inside the tarantula (in this case), like viewing a dissection. Around the central model is an explanation of the inner organs that are displayed at that page, and also detailed information about the biology of tarantulas and spiders in general.

The text is good and I even learned a few things, like the practical joke itching powder once contained the urticating hairs (stinging hairs) of tarantulas, and how tarantulas walk with eight legs to keep under control. Although it must be a organizational nightmare to create these books, the work is worth it because the model creates a visual and physical experience like no other.

The first thing that an educator might say when seeing the plastic model is, “Will it hold up to probing fingers?” Although the plastic looks flimsy, it is also flexible and it will definitely hold up to standard classroom use. Library level wear and tear could be another matter. I do know of one copy that is used at a museum and it is still intact.

What I particularly like about the text is that it presents the scary aspects in a factual way instead of playing them up to generate sensationalism. Too many books these days go for the creepy, scary aspects of arthropods to generate interest, when in reality the arthropods are pretty fascinating without all the hype once you get to know more about them.

Although listed as for ages 9-12, this book could easily be used with older ages and even adults. Take a look inside this book and you will be amazed.

Uncover a Tarantula: Take a Three-Dimensional Look Inside a Tarantula!
by David George Gordon

Reading level: Ages 9-12
Hardcover: 16 pages
Publisher: Silver Dolphin Books (September 29, 2004)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 159223237X
ASIN: B00112AVMI

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 All About Children’s Books.

Books to Take to the Beach

In my Growing With Science blog I have been doing a series on science you can do at the beach, for example this week’s activity about tide pool animals. In the process I’ve discovered a number of wonderful books about seashore and ocean creatures, plus rediscovered some old favorites.

How to Hide an Octopus and Other Sea Creatures
, written and illustrated by Ruth Heller, is a longtime favorite of ours. This is a lively introduction to camouflage in the animal kingdom that teaches about a number of novel sea creatures. This book is where we first learned about pipefish and red sea dragons. I love the rhyming text, because it helps young ones just learning to master language. The bright illustrations are unique and eye-catching, and looking for the animals hiding in each spread is great fun. This is a classic that is well worth revisiting.

What Lives in a Shell? written by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld and illustrated by Helen K. Davie, is the perfect book for younger readers to learn more about the seashells they discover at the beach. They quickly find out that a seashell is someone’s home. What Lives in a Shell? is part of the Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science series, which always seem to be high quality introductory science books.

If you going to the beach or visiting an aquarium close to home, there are a number of exciting nonfiction books out there to heighten and reinforce your experience.

How to Hide an Octopus and Other Sea Creatures by Ruth Heller

Reading level: Ages 4-8
Paperback: 32 pages
Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap (April 29, 1992)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0448404788
ISBN-13: 978-0448404783

What Lives in a Shell? (Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science 1) by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld and Helen K. Davie (Illustrator).

Reading level: Ages 4-8
Paperback: 32 pages
Publisher: Collins; 1 edition (April 22, 1994)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0064451240
ISBN-13: 978-0064451246

nonfictionmonday

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

Nonfiction Monday Round-up


Welcome to Nonfiction Monday, a celebration of nonfiction children’s books. As usual, please leave your links in the comments section.

nonfictionmonday

For my review, I have chosen a lovely book that is hard to find, at least it isn’t in any of our local libraries. Greene & Greene for Kids by Kathleen Thorne-Thomsen is loaded with history, gorgeous illustrations, information about turn-of-the-century architecture, and inspired hands-on activities. After writing a very popular book about Frank Lloyd Wright, Kathleen Thorne-Thomson has chosen to use a similar format to honor two architects with less name recognition, Charles and Henry Greene.

The Greene brothers designed houses in California, particularly in the area around Pasadena. They were big in the Arts and Crafts movement, and designed charming craftsman bungalows. The author obviously is passionate about the Greene brothers’ work and does a wonderful job of finding the details that children would be interested in reading. She also gives a feeling of what America was like when the brothers were growing up and how their designs are influenced by their time and environment. For example, she explains how at the turn of the century people started having the money and the desire to have creative and interesting homes.

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The 19 activities are creative, too. They range from art projects, such as carving an Ivory soap sculpture, through making a root beer float (complete with history of the ingredients), to creating a small water garden. With this variety, a child can easily find something to spark his or her interest.

On the cover this book says, “art, architecture, activities.” I’d say that adds up to A+.

Be sure to take a look at all these wonderful posts.

Abby at Abby (the) Librarian takes us to new depths in the ocean with her review of Down, Down, Down by Steve Jenkins.

At Lori Calabrese Writes!, Lori reviews Eleanor, Quiet No More by Doreen Rappaport. It is a biography about former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.

Kim reviews Plant Secrets by Emily Goodman at the Wild About Nature blog.

Shirley takes a look at Why is Snot Green? And Other Extremely Important Questions (and Answers) at SimplyScience. As usual, she includes two neat activities to reinforce learning.

Sarah at In Need of Chocolate shows us first hand that nonfiction is popular with children with her post about First Field Guide: Mammals.

Carol discusses an editor’s essential tools for editing children’s nonfiction at the Lerner Books Blog. A purple pen and dark chocolate, how fun!

Today Mary Ann reviews The Frog Scientist by Pamela Turner at Great Kid Books blog. She says it’s a fascinating look at Tyrone Hayes’s research about how pesticides affect frogs.

Barbara has a number of great reviews at INK: Interesting Nonfiction for Kids. See A ‘Super’ Find by David Schwartz, Artist Discoveries by Anna M. Lewis, Writing Across the Species Divide by April Pulley Sayre, Cultural Sensitivity: A Humbling Experience by Gretchen Woelfle, and Finding My Next Big Love by Deborah Heiligman.

Jone over at Check It Out writes about Yellow Star by Jennifer Roy, the story of Roy’s own aunt’s experiences during World War II.

Becky at Becky’s Book Reviews loves Clara’s War by Clara Kramer, another book about events during the Holocaust.

Amanda at A Patchwork of Books reviews the popular ER Vets: Life in an Animal Emergency Room.

Elizabeth at A Fuse # 8 Production may have pulled a few pranks in her day, but today she investigates Sir John Hargrave’s Mischief Maker’s Manual.

Cindy says, “At Bookends we reviewed Mission Control: This is Apollo by Andrew Chaikin and Alan Bean. Apollo 12 veteran Bean’s paintings are a fine addition to this stellar book.”

At Scrub-a-Dub-Tub Terry examines Famous Figures of Ancient Times, a set of historical paper doll/puppets that can be used to re-enact events or make up new stories.

Wendie wraps up our round-up with her review of the beautiful picture book One World, One Day at Wendie’s Wanderings.

Nonfiction Monday is a blogging celebration of nonfiction books for kids. For more information on past and upcoming round-ups, stop by Picture Book of the Day.