Remarkable Women Writers Book Resonates

Do you know a child who wants to be a writer and/or has a writing talent that should be nurtured? Remarkable Women Writers by Heather Ball is a wonderful examination of the lives of ten women writers that may be just the powerful encouragement he or she needs. For readers, this book is an insightful look into how some of our favorite books came about. Finally, adult writers will find passages that resonate strongly with their own experiences.


Starting with a perennial favorite, Jane Austin, and ending with superstar J.K. Rowling, these biographies tell of personal struggles, doubts, and rejection letters. Mary Ann Evans, writing in the 1800’s, took the pen name of a man, George Eliot, in order to be taken seriously as a writer. (Have times changed so much? Read interviews by modern mystery writer J.A. Jance.) Funny, talented Judy Blume faced criticism and censorship. Yet these women did not give up and eventually found success.

You can’t help, but to learn from these stories. Heather Ball writes:

Sometimes, a writer’s ideas come from her own experiences. She writes about her family, friends, her home and how she feels about things that go on around her… Sometimes, a writer wants to protest an injustice or express a strong opinion… And then sometimes, a writer is compelled to write suddenly, as if she has received a gift.

Remarkable Women Writers is part of the Women’s Hall of Fame Series. I love the format of relatively short, easy-to-read biographies that are still filled with rich detail. Each chapter has appropriate black and white illustrations and photographs (depending on the era), and interesting sidebars to pull the reader in. There is a very useful list of sources in the back, organized by author, so that you can quickly delve more deeply into the lives of the writers who interest you.

The biographies would be appropriate for approximately age nine and up. If you are a reader and/or a writer, this book definitely has something for you.

Paperback: 100 pages
Publisher: SECOND STORY PRESS (2006)
ISBN-10: 1897187084
ISBN-13: 978-1897187081
Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6 x 0.4 inches

I wish to thank the publisher for being willing to provide a copy of this older book.

Dynamic Women Dancers

For a little change a pace, we’re going to be celebrating the arts this week at Wrapped in Foil.

Let’s start by taking a look at an important, enjoyable and uplifting book, Dynamic Women Dancers by Anne Dublin, part of The Women’s Hall of Fame Series. Women-dancers

The cover of this book really catches your eye, the bright pink toe shoes set the stage for what is to come. Inside you find the biographies of ten world-class dancers who have made a real difference in other people’s lives. Author Anne Dublin has chosen a nice diversity of women, from many different parts of the world and with many different styles of dance.

Each chapter covers one dancer, starting with ballerina Anna Pavlova, who was born in 1881. The chapters are arranged chronologically based on the dancer’s year of birth. Next we learn about Anna Sokolow (born in 1910), Carmen Amaya (born in 1913), and others, through Geeta Chandran, born in 1962. Many of the women faced severe challenges, often due to the times and circumstances they grew up in, making these stories of history as well as dance.

Because of Dublin’s own background in dance – she has a Bachelor of Fine Arts in dance from the University of Wisconsin – she can eloquently express the struggles and triumphs of each dancer in a way that makes us relate. She also knows the vocabulary of dance, and includes definitions of the “Forms of Dance,” as well as a glossary, in the back. Her lists of “Sources & Resources” for each dancer are quite impressive.

The text is illustrated with black and white photographs. Using black and white photographs helps ties together images from various eras and sources into a coherent whole. The text is also sprinkled with tantalizing sidebars that draw the reader in and reinforce learning.

This book is listed as young adult at Amazon, but for ages 9-13 in the promotional materials. I would say that any child interested in dance from age nine up couldn’t help but be inspired by this book.

Reading level: Young Adult (Amazon)
Paperback: 128 pages
Publisher: Second Story Press (May 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1897187564
ISBN-13: 978-1897187562

Dynamic Women Dancers really made me to want to see these women dancing, moving. Through the wonder of YouTube, I was able to find videos of three of the dancers. I hope you enjoy them.

Anna Pavlova is still amazing to watch, even after all the years.

Carmen Amaya came to be synonymous with flamenco, a traditional dance from the south of Spain.

Geeta Chandran’s expressive gestures and facial expressions are mesmerizing.


Nonfiction Monday is a blogging celebration of nonfiction books for kids. For more information, stop by Anastasia Suen’s Nonfiction Monday page. This week’s post is at Simply Science.

Review copy provided by publisher.

The Buzz About The Hive Detectives

The Hive Detectives: Chronicle of a Honey Bee Catastrophe is a new book in the fabulous Scientists in the Field series, by Lorre Griffin Burns, with photographs by Ellen Harasimowicz. hive-detectives

Time for a disclosure: I have been interested in honey bees for a long time and co-authored some lesson plans about honey bees during the 1990’s. I think all bees are really cool, and especially honey bees. So, when I found this book at our local library, I grabbed it.

I was not disappointed. Burns starts into the topic with a visit to Mary Duane’s backyard. Mary calmly works the bees as she explains many aspects of honey bee biology and the culture techniques she uses. I love the photographs of the brightly-colored hives.

The author moves next to colony collapse disorder or CCD – the problem with honey bees disappearing that has been in the news – by going right to the beekeeper who first noticed missing bees. Dave Hackenberg runs a large company, Hackenberg Apiaries. He moves thousands of hives around the country. When he found 400 empty hives in Florida, he knew something big had gone wrong and he sounded the alarm.

Burns then introduces us to four bee scientists who are at the front lines of CCD research, and explains their roles in the investigation. The honey bees have been hit with Varroa mites, tracheal mites and a parasite called Nosema in recent years, but none of those seemed to be correlated with CCD. Diana Cox-Foster has identified a virus that is correlated with CCD called “Israeli acute paralysis virus.” She is now running experiments to establish causation.

Finally, Burns wraps up by taking us back to Mary Duane’s beeyard for a lesson about gathering and processing honey. Nice!

The author has also included substantial additional information at the end of the book, with an appendix, a glossary, a list of books, magazines, videos and websites, as well as some select references and an index. This book is a researcher’s dream.

I did question one sentence on page 13: “Wind, rain, spiders, and others animals pollinate plants, but nothing does the job as efficiently as the honey bee.” Okay, many plants are definitely wind pollinated. The “rain and spiders” part gives me pause, though. The author may have found some rare examples of rain or spider pollination, but on the most part rain and spiders are hazards that inhibit pollination.

The effect of spiders on pollination is demonstrated graphically in this video:

So, why didn’t the author mention the other beneficial pollinators such as a diverse collection of bees, wasps, flies, butterflies, moths, bats, and birds, instead of “other animals?” I’m not altogether sure. I think everyone agrees that honey bees do an important job.

The rest of this book is exemplary. You should take a look at it for the stunning photographs alone.

Reading level: Ages 9-12
Hardcover: 80 pages
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children (May 3, 2010)
ISBN-10: 0547152310
ISBN-13: 978-0547152318

For some hands-on activities, try:

Honey Bees:  Science Activities for Kids


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 Lori Calabrese’s Blog.

Planet Hunter: At the Frontier of Space Research

Have you ever wanted to visit the laboratory of a ground-breaking research scientist? Now you can, because Planet Hunter: Geoff Marcy and the Search for Other Earths by Vicki Oransky Wittenstein will allow you to feel like you are standing right next to Dr. Geoff Marcy in his quest to find extrasolar planets (planets that revolve around stars other than our sun).planet hunter

Vicki Wittenstein begins by taking us to the site of the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii. The telescopes are on a mountain so high that it rises above the clouds. The temperatures are below freezing, even in the summer, and getting to the telescopes is treacherous because of the narrow icy roads and high altitude (The author had to have an oxygen supply to visit.) Who knew that astronomy could be dangerous?

Once we’ve met Dr. Marcy and his team, the author explains carefully and clearly how to go about looking for planets orbiting around far away stars. The planets themselves are not visible because they do not reflect enough light to be detected by a telescope. Dr. Marcy uses a spectrometer to look for evidence that a star is wobbling. Stars wobble when gravity from nearby planets is tugging on them. Gathering data to establish the presence of a single planet can require years and years of tedious work. Dr. Marcy and his team have been successful, however, and have discovered half the extrasolar planets now known.

Can you imagine what it must be like to find a planet revolving around a far away star? What are the planet’s characteristics? Is it able to support life? How many extrasolar planets are out there? These are the kinds of difficult and exciting questions Dr. Marcy pursues.

This book is filled with gorgeous full-color photographs and illustrations. The “To Learn More” section at the end contains plenty of additional sources of information, as well as an extensive and helpful glossary to explain all the terminology used.

Planet Hunter is sure to thrill children interested in science and particularly those enamored with space and astronomy. It covers such a unique and contemporary topic (the first planets outside our solar system were found in 1992). Although listed as middle grade, this book is also appropriate for high school and adults who want to catch up on this area quickly, because of the high level of detail given.

For another review of Planet Hunter and suggested activities, see Simply Science.

Growing With Science celebrates Planet Hunter with related hands-on activities for children.

Reading level: Ages 9-12
Hardcover: 48 pages
Publisher: Boyds Mills Press (March 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1590785924
ISBN-13: 978-1590785928

Book was provided by author.