Porcupines From Two “Points” of View

(Borrowed this photo from Free Stock Photos for websites - FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

“The North American porcupine waddles through the forests of North America” begins Porcupines by Sandra Markle. As part of the Animal Prey series, this book explains what prey and predators are and how porcupines are prey. Porcupines can defend themselves with their quills, special hairs that are stiff and needlelike.

In contrast, Porcupines by Jen Green starts out with a Fact File summary of information and then asks, “What animal is pricklier than a pincushion?” This version is part of the Nature’s Children, Second Series, a revamped version of the popular earlier Nature’s Children series.

Both books have amazing photographs of porcupines, and in fact it is obvious that some of the photographs came from the same sources. With a larger size, the photographs in Markle’s book are stunning and definitely attract your eye. Green’s smaller format book, however, fits comfortably in smaller hands. While Green’s book starts out with a Fact File summary, Markle’s has a “Looking Back” section at the end, which is an interesting way to review the material.

As far as information, both books cover how porcupines are nocturnal, that they eat plants and that they crave salt. Both mention that porcupines have a waddling gait and that they are surprisingly good swimmers. Markle’s book states that porcupines have a fatty substance on the quills that acts as an antibiotic and protects the porcupines from infection should they stab themselves accidentally. I never thought that a porcupine might be a danger to itself!

Green’s book reveals on page 16 that porcupines smell like “sawdust or old wood.” I have to admit I picked these two books up because I was interested in how porcupines smell. I had seen a television show that listed porcupines in the top 10 smelliest animals. The porcupine at our zoo was named “Stinkerbell.” I had read that the fatty substances on the quills create odors that serve to warn animals away. Somehow, “old wood” doesn’t sound like a warning smell. I guess I have to keep researching that topic.

Overall, Markle’s book might be easier to find for the average parent because the Nature’s Children Series seems to be sold as part of a set for schools or libraries. Both would be helpful and informative to a child who wants to learn more about porcupines.

Porcupines (Nature’s Children, Second Series) by Jen Green
Grolier (Scholastic) Series
7 1/4″ x 8 5/8″
More information available at Scholastic

Porcupines by Sandra Markle

Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 39 pages
Publisher: First Avenue Editions (February 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0822564424
ISBN-13: 978-0822564423


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 About Alligators

Who Lives in an Alligator Hole? by Anne Rockwell and Lizzy Rockwell (Illustrator) is an excellent addition to the Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science Series. As the authors suggest on the first page, most of us probably think of alligators as scary animals with sharp teeth. Alligators have a vital role in their environment, however, one that scientists and conservationists didn’t realize until it was almost too late.

In this book the Rockwells explain how alligators are keystone species, meaning they make changes to their environment that allow many other plants and animals to survive and flourish. During times of drought, the alligators dig out holes that become small ponds. The ponds become home to a vast array of other creatures. When the alligators almost went extinct in the 1960’s, the fish, plants and birds that depended on these ponds almost disappeared too.

As well as explaining how alligators are so very important in their habitats, the authors also note that alligators were once thought to only occur in the southeastern United States, but then another kind of alligator was found in China. Wild!

The illustrator is the author’s daughter, and she has done a marvelous job. Obviously their family has an appreciation for alligators, one they have passed on to our family. We can’t wait to try the activity at the end to make our own gator hole. We also want to go to Florida and see alligators, something I never would have thought before reading this book.


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 The Miss Rumphius Effect

Who Lives in an Alligator Hole? (Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science 2) by Anne Rockwell and Lizzy Rockwell (Illustrator)

Reading level: Ages 4-8
Paperback: 40 pages
Publisher: Collins (November 7, 2006)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 006445200X
ISBN-13: 978-0064452007

Linnea in Monet’s Garden: A Children’s Book Review

Are you ready for a trip to Paris, or at least a pretend one?

After completing the list in the previous post of children’s books set in each of the 50 United States, I tried to think of books with strong settings from other countries. I immediately thought of an older book, Linnea in Monet’s Garden by Cristina Bjork, Lena Anderson (Illustrator), and Joan Sandin (Translator). This unique book is a combination travel journal and biography, all wrapped into a beautiful piece of art in itself. The exquisite illustrations and superb photographs are enchanting.

In the book, our tour guide to Paris and Monet’s gardens is Linnea, a lively and charming young girl. Interested in nature and art, Linnea goes to Paris with her knowledgeable older friend, Mr. Bloom, to see Monet’s water lilies. On the way they encounter the sights like the River Seine, Notre Dame Cathedral and the second oldest tree in Paris. They take the train to Giverny, where Monet’s house and gardens have been turned into a museum.

Linnea’s descriptions make us feel like we are traveling right along with her, seeing the sights as she does. Particularly compelling is how the authors show a painting of a water lily close up and from far away, demonstrating how Impressionism works in a memorable way. On another page we see four paintings of the same bridge Monet did over his lifetime. We can see how the details change as his eyesight began to decline.

It is a marvel how the author and illustrator have packed so much information into 56 pages. In addition to descriptions and examples of Monet’s work, the book covers a detailed treatment of the restored gardens and a brief, but intense description of Monet’s life (warts and all), all woven into a compelling story. Also included are photos of Monet and his family, some previously unpublished.

If you are traveling to France with children, this book is a must. If your children are interested in France, art, photography, art history, Monet and nature, they will enjoy it as well. Finally, if you are simply ready to be carted off to a lovely garden/art museum for a few minutes, then you are ready for Linnea in Monet’s Garden.

The State(s) of Children’s Books

Edit: Click on the Wrapped in Foil Website – Reading through the States – for even more books by state. The state names in this post are now linked to a list of books for that state.

A few days ago, I saw a post in On Living By Learning entitled “So Many Places to See.” Sandra Foyt says she is planning to travel this summer and she adds, “I’d also like to add a bit of Storybook Travel by stopping at sites that are the setting for children’s books.”

This post inspired me to write down a list of books for children and young adults with strong settings in US, at least one for each of the 50 states. It took me longer than I expected, but it was fun. I think this list might be useful for reading groups who want to read their way through the states, as well as for writers who want to explore how others have handled the issue of setting. Of course, it would be terrific to have the opportunity to see all the places the authors wrote about as well.


Alabama Moon by Watt Key

About a boy named Moon who is raised in the forest by his dad. When the land is sold and his dad dies, Moon faces many challenges (including time in jail).


Williwaw! by Tom Bodett

This story is a family-friendly action adventure about a brother and sister living in rural Alaska who fry the family’s radio, their only means of communication.


Brighty: Of the Grand Canyon by Marguerite Henry and Wesley Dennis (Illustrator)

This book is a classic. It is the tale of actual incidents in the life of a burro that lives in the Grand Canyon.


Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene

This is a sad, complicated tale of a Jewish girl living in a small Arkansas town who meets an escaped German prisoner of war during WWII.


The California Library Association has two lists of books set in California available in .pdf format (fiction and nonfiction) at EUREKA! California in Children’s Literature

Orphan Runaways by Kristiana Gregory

Danny and Judd run away from an orphanage in 1879 California. They head for the mining town of Bodie, where they hope to find their uncle.

Colorado (Colorado Rockies)

Bearstone by Will Hobbs

Story of Cloyd, an American Indian boy who is sent to live with an old farmer in the Colorado Rockies when nothing else seems to work out.


Children’s and Young Adult Fiction Set in Connecticut

Down the Rabbit Hole (An Echo Falls Mystery) by Peter Abrahams

In this mystery for children, eight grader Ingrid Levin-Hill works to solve a murder case.


Red Knot: A Shorebird’s Incredible Journey by Nancy Carol Willis

Although the bird in this nonfiction book migrates long distances, one important stop on the way is Delaware Bay.


Hoot by Carl Hiaasen

A boy discovers new friends and burrowing owls after moving to Coconut Grove, Florida. Hiaasen has written numerous quirky books for adults and this book is also filled with unusual characters.


Simon and the Game of Chance by Robert Burch

Robert Burch tells the story of the Bradley family that live in the small town of Redwood, which was gradually becoming a suburb of Atlanta.


Eyes of the Emperor by Graham Salisbury
This book is the account of a Japanese American who enlists in the US Army during World War II. (For older kids)


The Garden of Eden Motel by Morse Hamilton

Dal moves with his step-father to rural Eden, Idaho during the 1950’s.


A Long Way from Chicago: A Novel in Stories by Richard Peck

Joe and Mary Alice Dowdel go to visit their lively grandmother who lives in a sleepy Illinois town during the 1930’s.


The Beef Princess of Practical County by Michelle Houts


Squashed by Joan Bauer

This is a story about growing up while trying to grow a prize-winning pumpkin.


Grasslands by Debra Seely

A story that explores life in Kansas during the 1880’s.


Tarantula Shoes by Tom Birdseye

When he and his family move from Arizona to Kentucky, Ryan’s life changes in more ways than one.


My Louisiana Sky by Kimberly Willis Holt

In this book set in the 1950s in Saitter, Louisiana, twelve-year-old Tiger Ann Parker, the normal child of “slow parents” (their words), tells the story of the summer she learns to accept the challenges her parents present.


One Morning in Maine by Robert McCloskey

Sal, of Blueberries For Sal fame, is losing a tooth. Although for the younger set, worth a revisit.


Misty of Chincoteague
by Marguerite Henry and Wesley Dennis (Illustrator)

Okay, so it is off the coast of Maryland. The story of the wild ponies that live on Chincoteague Island.


Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Although Little Women is set in New England, the Alcott family home is in Concord, Massachusetts.


The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich

Describes the life of an American Indian girl during a smallpox outbreak. Sad, but excellent.


Minn of the Mississippi
by Holling Clancy Holling

Minn is a snapping turtle who begins a journey along the Mississippi river.


Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry
by Mildred D. Taylor

Unlike many other Black families in Mississippi during the Great Depression, Cassie Logan’s family owns a farm. They struggle against racism in many forms.


Front Porch Stories at the One-Room School by Eleanora E. Tate

Twelve-year-old Margie’s father entertains her with stories about people and events in their small Missouri town’s past.


Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson

Hattie Brooks leaves Iowa in 1918 and travels to a Montana homestead inherited from her uncle.


Worth by A. LaFaye

When Nate’s leg is crushed at his 19th-century Nebraska homestead, John Worth, a boy taken off the orphan train helps take up the slack.


Rhyolite: The True Story of a Ghost Town by Diane Siebert and David Frampton (Illustrator)

New Hampshire

Lucy’s Summer by Donald Hall and Michael McCurdy (Illustrator)

Lucy is seven when she spends the summer at her family’s New Hampshire farm.

New Jersey

Everybody Moos At Cows by Lisa Funari-Willever, Elaine Poller (Illustrator), and Glenn Byrne (Illustrator)

The author says this tale was inspired by New Jersey, based on her experiences growing up there.

New Mexico

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

New York
The city:
The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden and Garth Williams (Illustrator)

In this classic, Chester Cricket comes to New York City’s Times Square by mistake.

A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly

A young adult novel that is about a girl torn between her family and her future, set in 1906 in the Adirondacks.

North Carolina

Surviving the Applewhites by Stephanie S. Tolan
Previously reviewed in this blog

North Dakota


Lentil by Robert McCloskey

For younger children (ages 4-8)


Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse


Henry and Beezus (Henry Huggins) by Beverly Cleary

Many of Beverly Cleary books were set in Portland.


The Cubby Files; Tales of a Pennsylvania Black Bear Growing Up by John P. Irwin

Bet you didn’t know there were black bears in Pennsylvania.

Rhode Island

Finding Providence: The Story of Roger Williams
by Avi and James Watling (Illustrator)

South Carolina

The Girl Who Ate Chicken Feet by Sandy Richardson

This is a book that about ten-year-old Amy Claire who lives in Midville, South Carolina in 1960, to the backdrop of the civil rights movement.

South Dakota

Grasshopper Summer by Ann Turner and Erika Meltzer (Illustrator)

It’s actually set in the Dakota Territory after the civil war.


Daniel’s Duck by Clyde Robert Bulla and Joan Sandin (Illustrator)

Set in Tennessee during the pioneer days, this tale of a youngster who is bothered when other laugh at his woodcarving, is for ages 4-8.


The Underneath
by Kathi Appelt and David Small (Illustrator) an Ala Notable Children’s Book

Magical tale about a mother cat that befriends an old hound dog.


The Great Brain by John D. Fitzgerald and Mercer Mayer (Illustrator)

Set in 1890’s Utah, this is one of those rare books that almost everyone enjoys.


The Night the Bells Rang by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock and Leslie W. Bowman (Illustrator)

This book is about a boy in rural Vermont coming to terms with the fact a boy who bullied him has been killed in WWI.


Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson and Donna Diamond (Illustrator)
Jesse really wants to be the fastest fifth grader in his rural Virginia town, but Leslie the new girl beats him. What will he do?


Larry Gets Lost in Seattle by John Skewes and Robert Schwartz

Cute book that seems to appeal to a range of ages.

Washington D.C.

West Virginia

Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor and Barry Moser (Illustrator)

A classic tale of a boy and his dog, who he rescues from an abusive owner.


Hope Was Here by Joan Bauer

Hope moves from New York to a small town in Wisconsin, where she works in a restaurant and learns some lessons about life.


Shane by Jack Schaefer and Wendell Minor (Illustrator)

Although considered young adult, this classic western is showing up on a lot of middle grade reading lists.

That’s it. Hope you enjoy some of these books and find this list useful. Let me know if you have any suggestions.