Flowers Are Calling

It is now official:  the 2015 nominations for the Cybils awards are completed. Let the reading and reviewing begin!

For our first selection we have a delightful picture book nominated in the Elementary/Middle Grade Nonfiction categoryFlowers Are Calling by Rita Gray and illustrated by Kenard Pak. It introduces children to the relationships between flowers and pollinators.

The reader won’t be able to tell from the elegant cover featuring delicate flowers and a few small animals, but this book is likely to elicit giggles. Using short poems, the author suggests that flowers might be calling to a big animal (one that isn’t interested in flowers at all, hence the giggles), then reveals a little animal that really is attracted to the flower.

For example:

Flowers are calling a small brown snake.
No, not a snake for goodness sake!

In my library Flowers Are Calling is shelved in the fiction section, likely because of the fun poems introducing pollinators and flowers. Interspersed between the poems, however, are two-page spreads that give the common names of the flowers and explain some serious scientific details about how their structures relate to their pollinators, placing it squarely in the realm of nonfiction. For example, Gray explains that butterflies like to rest on the flat landing pads of Queen Anne’s lace, whereas only hummingbirds can drink from the deep tubes of the trumpet honeysuckle.

The watercolor and digital media illustrations match the mix of subtle humor and serious facts of the text. The big animals are looser, almost cartoonish, where some of the flowers are highly detailed.

As an aside, often children’s nature books concentrate on species from the northeastern U.S., but Gray also mentions cacti and flowers found in the Southwest. Kudos to the author for appealing to a range of readers even though she lives in New York City.

Pollination is a popular topic right now due to concerns about the decline in numbers of monarch butterflies and honey bees. Flowers Are Calling is a wonderful introduction that children are sure to enjoy and likely even laugh about. Share a copy with your young nature lover today!

Related:

At Growing With Science blog we have some plant science activities to investigate flowers.

See another review with activity suggestions at Archimedes Notebook.

Age Range: 4 – 7 years
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (March 3, 2015)
ISBN-10: 0544340124
ISBN-13: 978-0544340121

Disclosures: This book was provided by my local library. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at not extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

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Two Tree Books for Arbor Day

Next Friday, April 24, 2015, is Arbor Day. To get ready, let’s share two children’s books about trees so children can learn how special and important trees can be.

Celebritrees: Historic and Famous Trees of the World by Margi Preus and illustrated by Rebecca Gibbon has been out for a few years, but it is well worth a revisit.

In addition to the main series of two-page spreads telling the stories of 14 famous, tall and exceptionally-old trees from around the world, the back matter gives more information about the trees and a number of suggestions about what the reader can do to help and encourage trees.

Interestingly, Celebritrees is as much a discourse about human history and behavior as it is about trees. We are attracted to big and old trees, as well as those with unique stories or features. In fact, sometimes humans are so attracted to certain trees that by sheer numbers visitors have damaged and sometimes killed the very trees they revere. The author notes that the exact identities and locations of some of the trees has been hidden so the trees are left alone to continue their lives.

Rather than photographs, Rebecca Gibbon created lighthearted, fun illustrations using a mix of acrylic ink, colored pencils and watercolor. The illustrations allow for a more coherent look and also incorporate details of the text in ingenious ways. The look would definitely appeal to young readers who prefer fiction.

Celebritrees is an exceptional book about exceptional trees. Check out a copy today!

Age Range: 6 – 10 years
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR); First Edition edition (March 1, 2011)
ISBN-10: 0805078290
ISBN-13: 978-0805078299

Branching Out: How Trees Are Part of Our World by Joan Marie Galat and illustrated by Wendy Ding investigates 11 special kinds of trees from around the world. It is for middle grade readers.

Using four-page spreads, the author describes a particular species of tree, how it used by humans, and what animals depend on that particular kind of tree. The trees included range from red maples and downy birches to pau brasil and cork oaks.

Filled with color photographs and sidebars, this title takes a more serious and scientific tone than the previous one. The introduction about why trees are important is particularly well done.

You can see for yourself what the book is like in this short video trailer:

Branching Out: How Trees Are Part of Our World is a perfect choice for Arbor Day or any other day children want to find out more about trees!

Age Range: 8 – 12 years
Publisher: Owlkids Books (October 14, 2014)
ISBN-10: 1771470496
ISBN-13: 978-1771470490

Don’t forget to visit our giant, redwood-sized list of books about trees for kids.

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trees

Disclosures: These books were from my local library. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

Come visit the STEM Friday blog each week to find more great Science, Technology, Engineering and Math books.

 

Change the World with Plant a Pocket of Prairie

Have you heard about how the monarch butterfly is rapidly disappearing? The children’s picture book, Plant a Pocket of Prairie by Phyllis Root and illustrated by Betsy Bowen, is a quiet, gentle book that just might inspire you and your family to plant a garden to help the monarchs and the many other plants and animals harmed by loss of habitat.

Phyllis Root starts by disclosing how the prairies are almost all gone, in fact the back matter she explains that less than one percent of native prairies remain. She then highlights examples of relationships between specific plants and animals in the prairie ecosystem, such as between foxglove beardtongue (a type of Penstemon) and hummingbirds;

hummingbird-dbg-wkids
Hummingbird

 

between monarch butterflies and milkweeds;

beautiful-monarch
Monarch Butterfly
common-milkweed
Common Milkweed
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Butterfly Weed

 

goldfinches and sunflowers;

goldfinch-ps
Lesser Goldfinch
sunflower-back
Wild Sunflowers

and purple coneflower and skippers.

skipper-on-lantana
Skipper Butterfly

She explains that by growing prairie plants, even in small pockets, the animals that use them will come to visit. In a whimsical twist, she asks who else might come if the pockets of prairie are big enough and the illustration shows a bison mother and calf.

In the back matter are lists of mammals, birds, reptiles, insects and plants found in prairies, perfect for a jumping off point for designing a garden.

Betsy Bowen’s woodblock print illustrations are a lovely accompaniment to Root’s text. They capture the open, airy look of the prairies beautifully. You might want to buy a bookstand and display the open book on a shelf or coffee table because the illustrations are that moving.

Even though Plant a Pocket of Prairie explores the prairies of Minnesota, the book has a much more general appeal and a serious message about preserving habitats that can apply anywhere. It is an inspirational book for children of all ages who love being outdoors and who enjoy nature. Pick up a copy today!

 

prairie-look-2Wouldn’t a garden like this be wonderful? Let me know if you are encouraged to plant a garden with your children.

Ages 5-10
Hardcover: 40 pages
Publisher: University of Minnesota Press (May 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0816679800
ISBN-13: 978-0816679805

Related:

See more about Plant a Pocket of Prairie and related activities in a previous post at Growing with Science.

Disclosures:  This book was provided by the publisher for review purposes. I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at not extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

Nonfiction Monday is a blogging celebration of nonfiction books for kids. Join us at the Nonfiction Monday blog, or now at the Nonfiction Monday FaceBook page.

Peculiar Plants

One of the first things you notice about the Sonoran Desert (where I live) is the extreme variety of plants, some of which are pretty bizarre. Take, for example, trees with green bark instead of leaves or a plant that looks like a giant carrot root sticking upside down out of the ground (a boojum tree).  One of the most iconic, the saguaro cactus, is even featured in the book, Peculiar Plants (Read Me!: Extreme Nature) by Anita Ganeri. This nonfiction picture book will intrigue older children (level 3-5) who are reading at level 1-3.

Each unusual plant is featured in a two-page spread with big color photographs and a “Did You Know?” sidebar with an interesting fact about each. Plants range from a giant sequoia to a tiny edelweiss. Note:  technically the giant kelp in the book are actually algae, which are now sometimes classified as protists rather than plants.

The book wraps up with a “What Am I?” quiz to help reinforce learning. It also has a glossary and places to “Find Out More.”

Peculiar Plants would be a great book to accompany a unit on plants and especially to entice struggling readers to learn more about these fascinating oddities of nature.

Paperback: 32 pages
Publisher: Heinemann-Raintree (August 1, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1410947033
ISBN-13: 978-1410947031

Book was provided for review purposes.

 

 

 

 

Come visit the STEM Friday blog each week to find more great Science, Technology, Engineering and Math books.