Little Black Ant on Park Street

As some of you may already know, I studied ants in graduate school and I still find them fascinating. Therefore, I was thrilled when I received a copy of Little Black Ant on Park Street by Janet Halfmann and illustrated by Kathleen Rietz, the newest installment in the Smithsonian’s Backyard series published by Soundprint. Our family already had several titles from the series that we had enjoyed and we were looking forward to seeing one on ants. Little-black-ant

We were not disappointed. As you would expect with a book labeled with the venerable Smithsonian name, it is a quality nonfiction picture book. As with the other books in this series, it also has a fictional flavor. What do I mean by fictional flavor? The author has created a main character, the little black ant, who experiences rising levels of conflict and finally resolution. Overlaying this rich story is amazingly accurate and up-to-date information about the biology of ants.

The name “little black ant” may sound generic, but it is an actual common name of a species of ant. The choice of this species is interesting because they aren’t the usual fare. The ants are tiny, occasionally considered to be pests, and they don’t have the typical ant lifestyle. For example, the colonies of little black ants have multiple queens, rather than a single queen as many ant colonies do. Tiny might mean they are less noticeable to children in real life, but on the other hand, you have to root for these feisty little ants when a big carpenter ant comes to steal their food.

Janet Halfmann is an experienced writer of children’s books and this is her ninth book with Soundprints. She has done a superb job translating technical jargon into age-appropriate language without losing meaning. I can’t emphasize enough what a wonderful job she did of this difficult task.

The illustrator, Kathleen Rietz, created big, vibrant scenes to tell the story at another level. The large illustrations are perfectly scaled for holding the book up and reading to a group. Everyone will be able to see the action. In the back is a list of “Points of interest” in the book that identify the elements in the illustrations, such as the type of flower shown.

We read the softcover version, but the book comes in a wide variety of options. Both the hardcover and the softcover are available, with or without read-along CD’s. The book also comes in a “microbook” format, with or without a plush toy ant. We have several of the microbooks. They are 5 7/8 inches by 4 3/4 inches, a size which definitely attracts youngsters.

Little Black Ant on Park Street is a marvelous little book, sure to inspire children to learn more about ants and the world around them. With so many options, I’m sure you can find a version that fits your needs.

For related activities, try making marshmallow ants and guarding an ant nest at my Growing With Science blog. Here’s more about the biology of the little black ant.

Reading level: Ages 4-8
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Soundprint (December 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1607270021
ISBN-13: 978-1607270027

This book was supplied by the publisher.

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 Wild About Nature.

Into the Deep with William Beebe

The first thing you notice about the reviews of Into the Deep: The Life of Naturalist and Explorer William Beebe by David Sheldon is that they are all about William Beebe. David Sheldon has done such a great job of presenting his subject that details of the book are in the background. William Beebe is the star from page one.

into-the-deep

And what an exciting star he is. A naturalist, explorer and prolific writer, William Beebe accomplished a great deal in his lifetime. Although called Into the Deep in reference to Beebe’s record breaking descent into the ocean in the pioneering Bathysphere, the story actually covers Beebe’s entire life. Beebe explored nature around his home and made collections as a child. He even had an owl for a pet. Later he traveled around the world, first on collecting expeditions and later to study animals in their natural habitat. After his retirement, he founded a research station in Trinidad. He was a man of many hats, being a naturalist, pioneer in the field of ecology, explorer of ocean depths, and an ardent conservationist. To paraphrase David Sheldon, William Beebe did what many of us only dream about (after all, who gets to have an owl as a pet?)

As for the book, you have to admire people who are more than capable as authors and illustrators, too. David Sheldon has done a lovely job capturing both the exotic animals Beebe encounters and the look of wonder and joy on Beebe’s face. At the end is a “Diving Deeper into the Story” section with more details of Beebe’s life and quotes from his books. A glossary and list of resources are also included, making this book a very useful reference as well as an interesting biography.

I didn’t know much about William Beebe before reading Into the Deep. Now I can’t wait to find Beebe’s books listed in the “Resources” and read more about his adventures.

If you are interested in some ocean-inspired activities, try my Growing With Science blog.

Reading level: Ages 9-12
Hardcover: 48 pages
Publisher: Charlesbridge Publishing; New edition (July 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1580893414
ISBN-13: 978-1580893411

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 Playing by the Book.

Look to the Stars

Several children’s books have been released to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the flight of Apollo 11. Look to the Stars by Buzz Aldrin and Wendell Minor (Illustrator) is remarkable because it is much more than merely an account by the second human being to touch the surface of the moon. Dr. Aldrin shows us how this incredible accomplishment is part of a long history of discoveries and advancements, and how it may lead to many more new things in the future. In fact, he spends relatively little time on the Apollo 11 mission, given his giant part in it. When he does mention it, he humbly thanks all the nearly 400,000 others that worked to make the project possible. Here is a man who understands his place in history.

Look-to-the-stars

I admit I didn’t know what to expect when I picked up Look to the Stars. Even though it was a New York Times bestseller, it hasn’t gotten as much ‘buzz” (sorry) as some of the others on the same topic. Once I had read it, however, I was hooked. Yes, Buzz Aldrin is a “celebrity,” but he has still done a good job keeping the information relevant and exciting to children. The quotes on every page and the phases of the moon over the page numbers let us know that extra thought was put into the details of this book. The illustrations are perfect, such as a view of a future child space tourist looking back over the surface of the moon towards a vibrant blue earth in the distance. The personal touches, such as putting his wedding day on the fascinating time line in the back of the book, made me smile.

Although recommended for ages 4-8, I would say that this picture book would definitely be appealing to older children as well. Pick up a copy and go on your own personal journey into space.

Reading level: Ages 4-8
Hardcover: 40 pages
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile; First Edition, First Printing edition (May 14, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0399247211
ISBN-13: 978-0399247217

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 also happens to be at Picture Book of the Day.

Cybils 2009 Finalists Revealed

Time to check if your favorite children’s and Young Adult books of 2009 made the cut at the Cybils Website.

For those of you that I have contacted about reading these books, here are the nonfiction picture book finalists. I can’t say anything about them right now, but these would be what I would be sharing. Check the Cybils website link above for more information on each book.

Non-fiction Picture Books

Or if you are looking for books to share with your children, the other genre finalists are some fantastic ones.

Fiction Picture Books

Middle-Grade/YA Non-Fiction

Note: I added Cars on Mars because Amazon won’t make a carousel widget with less than 6 books. Cars on Mars is a good book that didn’t make it as a Cybils finalist.

Finally, Amazon also created a list of Best of 2009 Picture books, although they combined both fiction and non-fiction. Some of the ones on this list couldn’t be nominated for Cybils because of requirements about the date of publication. In any case, it is fun to compare the choices. Only The Lion and the Mouse and The Curious Garden made both lists.

Please read my financial disclosure page for information about my affiliation with Amazon.