Secrets of a Civil War Submarine

After reading Why boys don’t like to read: Gender differences in reading achievement at Lessons in Learning, I decided to look at books likely to interest older boys for the next few weeks.

Secrets of a Civil War Submarine: Solving the Mystery of the H.L. Hunley by Sally M. Walker is fine example of a book with wide-ranging appeal. Those interested in history, marine archeology, the Civil War, naval engineering and/or science will all find something to discover in the comprehensive coverage. It should be noted, however, that this book is really for older children due to both subject matter and density of the text. Several times the crews of the submarine are killed, and in the last case the bones are shown, as well as reconstructions from skeletal remains.

Walker has thoroughly researched this book and her quest for detail has uncovered some truly remarkable stories in a submarine that remained hidden in the ocean sediments for 131 years. For those looking for all the answers, however, be aware that many questions about how the Hunley sank lingered at the time the book was published.

What I found most amazing was the amount of care and effort that went into preserving and recording every aspect of this project. Marine archeologists have to have a large range of skills to be able to accomplish this extraordinary task, from being able to scuba dive to finding out what might stop a old watch. Astounding!

Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 112 pages
Publisher: Carolrhoda Books (January 2005)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1575058308
ISBN-13: 978-1575058306

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 Aunt.

Fireworks for Fourth of July

Reading Fireworks by Vicki Cobb and Michael Gold (Photographer) is a wonderful way to get ready for the Fourth of July.

fireworks1

The author says, “You’ll get a bang out of this” and she is right. You can almost see the lights, hear the explosions and smell the smoke from reading the first few pages. She calls it “painting the sky with light and sound.” Cobb quickly points out, however, that although spectacular and interesting, fireworks are not toys. They can be extremely dangerous and even deadly.

In addition to discussing the nuts and bolts of fireworks themselves, Cobb also packs in a lot about the science behind the show. She educates the reader about scientific terminology, such as combustion, what an element is and how a match works. She even describes how a “party popper” works, which is the type of explosive a child might have experienced first hand.

The photographs definitely add to the quality of this book. Did you know that different types of fireworks have beautifully descriptive names like chrysanthemum, peony, soaring palm and silver willow? Michael Gold’s images make you want to “ooh” and “aah” just like for the real thing.

Interspersed throughout the book are great hands-on activities. Some are familiar, like growing crystal gardens using laundry bluing. Others are innovative, like doing a flame test to show how the fireworks get their colors. This experiment will require more than just adult supervision; the author suggests an adult should carry out the final step of adding the materials to an open flame of a gas stove.

Vicki Cobb has a friendly, conversational style that makes even difficult material easy to read. In the case of this book, younger readers may need some help with the unfamiliar terminology. Adults wanting to learn more about pyrotechnics will also find this book fascinating and useful.

If you are interested in adding new dimensions to your Fourth of July fireworks experience, this book can provide it.

Reading level: Ages 9-12
Library Binding: 48 pages
Publisher: Millbrook Press (September 2005)
ISBN-10: 0761327711
ISBN-13: 978-0761327714

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 Tales from the Rushmore Kid.

Photo provided by Public Domain Pictures

Porcupines From Two “Points” of View

porcupine
(Borrowed this photo from Free Stock Photos for websites - FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

“The North American porcupine waddles through the forests of North America” begins Porcupines by Sandra Markle. As part of the Animal Prey series, this book explains what prey and predators are and how porcupines are prey. Porcupines can defend themselves with their quills, special hairs that are stiff and needlelike.

In contrast, Porcupines by Jen Green starts out with a Fact File summary of information and then asks, “What animal is pricklier than a pincushion?” This version is part of the Nature’s Children, Second Series, a revamped version of the popular earlier Nature’s Children series.

Both books have amazing photographs of porcupines, and in fact it is obvious that some of the photographs came from the same sources. With a larger size, the photographs in Markle’s book are stunning and definitely attract your eye. Green’s smaller format book, however, fits comfortably in smaller hands. While Green’s book starts out with a Fact File summary, Markle’s has a “Looking Back” section at the end, which is an interesting way to review the material.

As far as information, both books cover how porcupines are nocturnal, that they eat plants and that they crave salt. Both mention that porcupines have a waddling gait and that they are surprisingly good swimmers. Markle’s book states that porcupines have a fatty substance on the quills that acts as an antibiotic and protects the porcupines from infection should they stab themselves accidentally. I never thought that a porcupine might be a danger to itself!

Green’s book reveals on page 16 that porcupines smell like “sawdust or old wood.” I have to admit I picked these two books up because I was interested in how porcupines smell. I had seen a television show that listed porcupines in the top 10 smelliest animals. The porcupine at our zoo was named “Stinkerbell.” I had read that the fatty substances on the quills create odors that serve to warn animals away. Somehow, “old wood” doesn’t sound like a warning smell. I guess I have to keep researching that topic.

Overall, Markle’s book might be easier to find for the average parent because the Nature’s Children Series seems to be sold as part of a set for schools or libraries. Both would be helpful and informative to a child who wants to learn more about porcupines.

Porcupines (Nature’s Children, Second Series) by Jen Green
Grolier (Scholastic) Series
LP978-0-7172-8082-7
7 1/4″ x 8 5/8″
2008
More information available at Scholastic

Porcupines by Sandra Markle

Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 39 pages
Publisher: First Avenue Editions (February 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0822564424
ISBN-13: 978-0822564423

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 Jean Little Library.

All About Alligators

Who Lives in an Alligator Hole? by Anne Rockwell and Lizzy Rockwell (Illustrator) is an excellent addition to the Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science Series. As the authors suggest on the first page, most of us probably think of alligators as scary animals with sharp teeth. Alligators have a vital role in their environment, however, one that scientists and conservationists didn’t realize until it was almost too late.

In this book the Rockwells explain how alligators are keystone species, meaning they make changes to their environment that allow many other plants and animals to survive and flourish. During times of drought, the alligators dig out holes that become small ponds. The ponds become home to a vast array of other creatures. When the alligators almost went extinct in the 1960’s, the fish, plants and birds that depended on these ponds almost disappeared too.

As well as explaining how alligators are so very important in their habitats, the authors also note that alligators were once thought to only occur in the southeastern United States, but then another kind of alligator was found in China. Wild!

The illustrator is the author’s daughter, and she has done a marvelous job. Obviously their family has an appreciation for alligators, one they have passed on to our family. We can’t wait to try the activity at the end to make our own gator hole. We also want to go to Florida and see alligators, something I never would have thought before reading this book.

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 The Miss Rumphius Effect

Who Lives in an Alligator Hole? (Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science 2) by Anne Rockwell and Lizzy Rockwell (Illustrator)

Reading level: Ages 4-8
Paperback: 40 pages
Publisher: Collins (November 7, 2006)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 006445200X
ISBN-13: 978-0064452007