Vital Water

saving-waterCrisp, clear and concise are the words to sum up Buffy Silverman’s book Saving Water: The Water Cycle. Nothing is wasteful or sloppy. The clean photographs, the neatly drawn illustrations and the confident, professional tone remind one of a fresh, cool glass of water. It isn’t fancy, but does its job well and fills an important role.

With recent emphasis on issues such as global warming and energy, the importance of saving water has dropped somewhat from public awareness. It remains, however, an issue critical to the future. Here in Arizona, we are triply aware of the vital nature of water as a resource because we have so little rain. Saving Water shows how much we need fresh water, some of the unique properties of water, and also ways to conserve it.

Silverman’s book will be popular with both educators and children doing science projects because it is full of hands-on experiments. For example, the “Changing Density” experiment on page 12 distills to the essentials how water changes density with temperature. In the corner on a yellow sticky-note graphic is a short list of the materials you will need to perform the experiment. In four simple steps she lays out the instructions. Silverman gets high marks in my book because she doesn’t give the expected results with the experiment. Instead, she gives the essential questions to ask, which leads children to further questions. I will be using the activities in this book next time I teach about water.

On the back of the book, Silverman acknowledges that she always learns something new when she writes about science, and how writing this book motivated her to get a rain barrel for her home. Hopefully children reading this book will be similarly inspired.

Reading level: Ages 9-12
Hardcover: 48 pages
Publisher: Heinemann Library (August 15, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1432910922
ISBN-13: 978-1432910921
Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 7.5 x 0.4 inches

Saving Water: The Water Cycle (Do It Yourself) by Buffy Silverman


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 Writes!.

Next week Nonfiction Monday will be here.

Just the Facts?

Help! I need some advice from those of you who are children’s book review experts. I sat down this morning to review two books about ants. After reading them, I was disturbed by the number of factual errors and I felt like I couldn’t give either a positive review.

Some of the errors are big, glaring ones. For example, one book defined honeydew as the feces of aphids, and then in the glossary defined feces as the solid waste of animals. If you have ever had aphids on your plants, you know that honeydew is a sticky liquid. The sentence reads “Honeydew is the feces of aphids and some caterpillars and is a much-prized feast for several species of ants.” Knowing a bit about this, the liquid “honeydew” from caterpillars is actually a glandular secretion, not a form of excrement at all.

A number of the errors are smaller. For example, the other book says there are about 8,000 species of ants, whereas the website that keeps track of actual species names now has well over 12,000 listed.

Those are just two examples. Frankly, all these errors turned me off, but I am hesitant to write negative reviews. I know how much time and effort goes into writing a book. On the other hand, these errors are perpetuated as others read these books as references, and take them at face value. I once read a reviewer that suggested the reader not buy a book because it contained a few misplaced commas! What do you do when you come across something like this? Do you ever write negative reviews based on the number of errors you found in a book?

While I’m at it, some of the Cybils judges have been discussing what constitutes a nonfiction work these days. What do you do with a book like the Magic School Bus series, which mixes fiction to create a story, with great information? It’s a hard question to answer, but I wanted to take the question even further.

I don’t have any problem with books that mix fact and fiction when the fiction is clear. We all know that buses don’t really fly. But what about an author who uses creative nonfiction techniques in a book that “feels” like straight nonfiction? Let me give you an example. I was reading a book that was a compilation of biographies of several famous individuals. One was a figure I know a lot about from my own research. In the chapter about that figure the author took two unrelated events and combined them into an event that never actually happened, using creative nonfiction techniques.

Frankly, I was distressed. The event as she described it suggested that the figure had a different personality/temperament than shown in the two separate events that actually occurred. Knowing what I did about that chapter made me doubt the information in all the chapters. What do you think of all this? Does it bother you when nonfiction authors make things up? Do you think it would help if authors revealed their use of creative nonfiction at the outset? Should nonfiction books stick to just the facts? What do you do when the facts are debatable?

I would really love to hear what you think.


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 Cats Have Asperger Syndrome

all-cats-have-aspergerLife takes turns sometimes, and although All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome by Kathy Hoopmann has been out for a few years, it is worth taking a look at again. With cute pictures and a gentle, but highly informative text, this is one of those children’s books that is really for everyone. It is helpful for children with Asperger Syndrome, their families, relatives, classmates, teachers, and anyone else who works with children.

Hoopmann has done a wonderful job explaining not only the challenges of raising a child with Asperger Syndrome, but also the potential, giving a sense that through the differences are positives. For example, a child may be a picky eater and be highly sensitive, but he or she can also focus on a topic for long periods of time and may see the world with amazing insight.

Her choice of cats as subjects works not only because people with Asperger Syndrome may seem aloof like cats and only want contact on their terms, but also because the highly posed cats and kittens convey messages to children who might not understand the facial expressions and postures of human models. The soft and playful cats add a touch of warmth and humor to a subject that in other circumstances may be emotionally-charged or difficult to talk about.

After reading this book, you may find there’s a little cat in all of us.

Hardcover: 72 pages
Publisher: Jessica Kingsley Pub; 1 edition (October 26, 2006)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1843104814
ISBN-13: 978-1843104810
Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 8.4 x 0.7 inches

All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome

by Kathy Hoopmann


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 Moms Inspire Learning.

Winter’s Tail Book Coming Soon

winter's tailIf you work with children, you might be interested in all the exciting activities surrounding the October release of the children’s book Winter’s Tail by Juliana Hatkoff, Isabella Hatkoff and Craig Hatkoff. Winter’s Tail is the heartrending story of a young dolphin named Winter who lost her tail after becoming entangled in a crab trap line. After she healed, she was fitted with a prosthetic tail.

There will be a webcast of a virtual field trip to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Clearwater Florida on Wednesday, October 7, from 1:00 p.m. to 1:45 p.m. Sponsored by Scholastic and Turtle Pond Interactive, you find teaching materials at You can also see a short video introduction to Winter. Note: the video does show a mauled tail, so you might want to prepare young/sensitive children.

For an excerpt of the Winter’s Tail, see

Winter’s Tail: How One Little Dolphin Learned To Swim Again
by Juliana Hatkoff, Isabella Hatkoff and Craig Hatkoff


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 Bookends Blog.