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.

Women Artists: Georgia O’Keeffe and Frida Kahlo

Because March is National Women’s History Month, let’s look at two books about famous women artists: Georgia O’Keeffe and Frida Kahlo. Both are in the “Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists” series by Mike Venezia.

Georgia O’Keeffe starts with a breathtaking portrait of a young Georgia by her husband, the famous photographer Alfred Stieglitz. The next few pages show some of her paintings with just a few lines of explanation. Following is a cartoon about how this famous artist ate dirt as a child. What person, young or old, can’t relate to that with a grin? Venezia makes a point to explain early influences in Georgia’s life and how she studied to become an artist. He also emphasizes her interest in nature and use of bright colors.

Frida Kahlo is another vibrant female artist who used bright colors, but her life was very different from Georgia O’Keeffe’s. Frida was ill as a child and then the victim of a severe bus accident. She was in pain and had serious health problems throughout her life. Frida is known for her intense, riveting self-portraits. Like Georgia O’Keeffe, Frida had a famous husband, the artist Diego Rivera.

Although I highly recommend these books, I do have one small note of caution. Because they contain paintings by adult artists, a few of the images may be unsettling. In Georgia O’Keeffe, one of her paintings shows a dead rabbit, and the author chose Paul Cezanne’s “The Large Bathers” as an example of an artwork that influenced O’Keeffe. I never thought much about nudity in art until I found a piece of construction paper taped over a nude in one of Venezia’s other books at the library, which is why I mention it. In Frida Kahlo there is a graphic painting of her illness where food is pouring out of her mouth that could be disturbing. The artwork by other Mexican artists consists of scenes of war.

On the other hand, the art can be exquisitely beautiful as well, and shouldn’t be missed. Georgia O’Keeffe’s giant flowers are soft and entrancing. Frida Kahlo is a petite woman with a huge presence in her paintings.

As an art masterpiece volunteer for five years, I learned to treasure Mike Venezia’s books. He gives clear and informative discussions of the artist’s life illustrated with a good number of well-chosen examples of their work. The format is always similar in a comfortable way, with humorous cartoons to add instant kid appeal. The books are slim 8 x 9 ½-inch paperbacks that are easy to hold and carry. The best part is the books can be used with children of a wide range of ages and levels of art experience.

If you want to expose children to artists and art history, you should consider these books.


Nonfiction Monday is a blogging celebration of nonfiction books for kids. For more information, stop by Picture Book of the Day. This week join the action at Lori Calabrese Writes!

Georgia O’Keeffe (Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists) by Mike Venezia

Frida Kahlo (Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists) by Mike Venezia