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)
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.
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)
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.
In Celebration of Poetry Month
I Heard It From Alice Zucchini: Poems About The Garden by Juanita Havill
Illustrated by Christine Davenier
I have to admit a bias about this book right up front. The author, Juanita Havill, lives in Arizona and loves to garden. Anyone who can successfully garden in Arizona gets my respect right away.
The poems in this book make me feel like I’m a small person wandering through an actual garden, or perhaps even one of the plants, getting to know those around me in a down to earth way. Peas, beans, carrots and dill all get their turn in the spotlight, as well the garden creatures such as worms, crickets and bees.
The scientist in me does ponder the events of one poem, “Sweet Cicely and the Bee.” The bee is “an elegant gentleman bee.” Although honey bees do produce males, they spend almost their entire short lives in the hive and do not visit flowers. All the honey bees you see at flowers are technically females. To give her the benefit of the doubt, perhaps Havill knows a lot about bees and was thinking of the tiny male “sleeper” bees that do spend the night in flowers. Perhaps she could let us know?
This book is a wonderful companion to a gardening project because it lends another level of interest. I would recommend it as a companion for cooking activities as well, because it connects children to where their food comes from. Havill includes a poem “Vegetable Stew” that just cries out to be paired with a nice warm bowl of ratatouille. Yum!
Reading level: Ages 9-12 (other reviewers suggest k-3 and k-6)
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Chronicle Books (February 23, 2006)
Nonfiction Monday is a blogging celebration of nonfiction books for kids. For more information, stop by Picture Book of the Day.
In Celebration of National Poetry Month
Douglas Florian is a prolific writer of children’s poetry, particularly with animal themes.
I have a problem with his book insectlopedia, albeit it is a good problem. I don’t know whether to put it on the poetry shelf or stash it with my insect books. With twenty-one poems, it definitely qualifies as a top-notch poetry book. The quality of the information and the freshness of the observations provided, however, suggests it should be on the shelf with some of my better entomology books for children. Maybe I just need to get another copy. Or maybe I should buy two copies, because it should be on the humor shelf as well. I have read that Douglas Florian was formerly a cartoonist, and his fun, silly side comes through in his poetry books.
The illustrations that accompany the poems are quirky. Florian painted them with watercolors on brown paper bags. It gives them an informal look that makes them appealing and kid-friendly. Some of the poems don’t even need illustrations, like the inchworm for example, because the words form a shape. These could be used in lessons on concrete poetry.
Douglas Florian’s in the swim has playful poems about numerous animals found in the sea, from blennies, to sea horses and whales. Although they are fun, once again Florian fills the poems with accurate information and even trained scientists will find them intriguing. They are guaranteed to make you smile and probably even laugh out loud.
As with insectlopedia, Florian slips in some concrete poems to add visual interest. The illustrations are done on watercolor paper this time, but still have a fanciful appeal. The watercolor adds to the feeling of being down in the water with the creatures. His imagination is wonderful, like having the sea horses wear saddles.
Florian’s newest book about dinosaurs has gotten some great reviews. Catch a peek at his blog.
Nonfiction Monday is a blogging celebration of nonfiction books for kids. For more information, stop by Picture Book of the Day. This week the celebration is at Mommy’s Favorite Children’s Books.