Lizards (Nature Watch) Review

Lizards (Nature Watch) by Mark O’Shea

Mark O’Shea is an expert from the UK who has written numerous books on reptiles for children. This particular book for middle school ages caught my eye because of the incredible cover photograph of a brilliant green iguana. The book is indeed filled with eye-popping photography of lizards from throughout the world.

Once your eyes are done feasting on the gorgeous visuals, however, you find that the text is clearly written and highly informative, too. Did you know that most lizards in warm climates lay eggs, but those in colder climes give birth? I was surprised to learn that the world’s smallest lizard was discovered in 2001, and is also the world’s smallest land-living vertebrate. It is called the Jaragua gecko from the Dominican Republic and it is just ½ inch long!

The sections at the end on how to watch lizards and about lizard science/conservation are excellent. The author suggests to kids that they can become herpetologists (scientists who study reptiles), too. After reading this highly interesting book, I’m sure he is going to have quite a few children taking him up on that.

Paperback: 61 pages
Publisher: Lorenz Books (2006)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0754815013
ISBN-13: 978-0754815013

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 Book Scoops.

Beatrix Potter Biography

Today we are featuring the picture book Beatrix Potter by Alexandra Wallner.

Children’s book biographies can be difficult to write well. It is hard to pull out the details of a person’s life to tell their story without including too much, making the story long and tedious, or too little. Real life can also be full of “sticky” experiences or calamities that might be inappropriate for young children. Do you leave the details in or take them out? It is a delicate process.

Alexandra Wallner’s biography of well-known children’s author Beatrix Potter is an excellent example of how to do things right. She calmly states the facts of Beatrix’s life, including the low points and struggles. Because the details are matter-of-fact and straightforward, they don’t have an excessive emotional impact. The truth that Potter’s first fiancée died before they were married had a hand in shaping Beatrix’s life and needed to be included. Wallner did not shy away from reality. In fact, this book is a shining example of the way to distill a person’s life into an exquisitely-crafted story.

Wallner is also the illustrator of the book and she has painted some lovely pictures of Potter’s life, obviously carefully researched. The illustrations introduce children to the historical look and feel of Great Britain during the era of Potter’s life.

In addition to history, Beatrix Potter could be used to accompany an author study or could be used as an jumping off point for an art project. The fact that Beatrix Potter had numerous serious disappointments in her life and still went on to be successful is an inspiring story.

Reading level: Ages 4-8
Publisher: Holiday House (September 1998)
ISBN-10: 0823414078
ISBN-13: 978-0823414079

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 Chicken Spaghetti.

Summer Books

Ahh, the pile of summer books has started to build. Our summer books, however, aren’t the typical escape to the beach reads that you might expect. We do our most serious reading in the summer.

Why? First of all, in Arizona it is too hot to go outside unless you enjoy dehydration and heat exhaustion. In that way, our summer is like winter in other places. You curl up next to the air conditioner with a cold drink, and a good book. Secondly, in summer we have huge blocks of free time. No reading twenty minutes and then having to run somewhere. I have read to my son for hours, until my voice is hoarse and then we read silently together.

With this strong commitment to reading, we have to be prepared with our private library of books. I usually weed out our current library, hit the used bookstores and trade for as many bargain books as we can afford. We can go to the library and run our errands now while it is relatively cool, no need to get in a hot car and swelter in July. And studies have shown that having books around the house is important, so I don’t mind the investment.

Here’s what is on the bookshelf right now. I’m sure you’ll be seeing reviews as the summer progresses.

Grow by Juanita Havill and Stanislawa Kodman (Illustrator)

I’m really looking forward to trying this one, because we already enjoyed another by Juanita Havill.

I Heard It from Alice Zucchini: Poems About the Garden by Jaunita Havill and Christine Davenier (Illustrator)

The Underneath by Kathi Appelt and David Small (Illustrator) an Ala Notable Children’s Books.

It has animals!

The Secret Life of Lobsters: How Fishermen and Scientists Are Unraveling the Mysteries of Our Favorite Crustacean by Trevor Corson

Yes, this is an adult book. I tend to read adult nonfiction aloud with a bit of “filtering,” if the themes are really adult.

A Country Year: Living the Questions by Sue Hubbell

A traditional favorite from years past that we will probably revisit.

If you have any further suggestions for summer books, we would love to hear them.

Pet Science Book Review

Pet Science: 50 Purr-fectly Woof-Worthy Activities for You & Your Pets by Veronika Gunter and Rain Newcomb, Illustrated by Tom LaBaff

What do you think of when you hear the term “animal science?” Do you think of wild animals, like tigers or bears bounding through the brush? Wildlife biologists and ethologists do study wild animals in the natural habitats. Many of us, however, have animals right in our homes that can be studied as well and we tend to overlook them. Authors Veronika Gunter and Rain Newcomb have come up with 50 science-related activities to answer questions about our pets that don’t involve going on a safari or visiting an exotic locale.

This book covers all sorts of pets, not just dogs and cats. Birds, rabbits, rodents, and even snakes and hermit crabs are all included. The authors also bring up and answer some compelling questions, such as why do cats lie on magazines, newspapers or books and do they have a preference? Why do dogs circle around before they lie down? Why do cats like to get into paper bags (or in our case, the cloth bags we use instead of paper bags)? Each question is followed by a list of materials to gather to perform the experiment and then instructions on how to perform it. Once the experiment is finished, the authors then answer the question in depth.

Gunther and Newcomb might have separated the answers to the experimental questions into another section, for a couple of reasons. First, I have found that if the answer is readily available, the child is less likely to perform the activity. Second, if the child sees the expected answer, then they try to match it, regardless of their actual results. Finally, when people find out an answer for themselves, then they tend to remember it longer. That is not to say that the authors shouldn’t have given the answers, because the answers are highly informative.

I think the authors have done a good job in choosing activities that will engage children, but will also be safe and enjoyable for their pets. Many of the activities have potential to be developed further into science fair projects. I don’t usually pay much attention to the glossary, but theirs is extensive, obviously the product of their collaboration with a veterinarian. It covers from pages 76-80. Did you know that the chemical that is attractive to cats in catnip is nepetalactone? That is an example of the type of information that can be found in the glossary.

Overall, I would way this book would appeal to children who are interested in their pets, in science and/or who enjoy hands-on learning activities. Children who have expressed an interest in becoming a veterinarian might also find it useful. The book even suggests that if the child doesn’t have a pet, he or she can still do the activities with a friend’s pet, with the class pet or by observing animals at the zoo. With all those options, a lot of fun and learning are sure to ensue.

nonfictionmonday

Nonfiction Monday is a blogging celebration of nonfiction books for kids. For more information, stop by Picture Book of the Day. This week the celebration is at Tales From the Rushmore Kid.