Sunday, December 16, 2012

Career advice for girls

Schools often have career days in which people from many walks of life come in to talk about what they do for a living.
It is my pleasure to introduce Girls Succeed: Stories Behind the Careers of Sucessful Women by J.Q. Rose.

The author thanks the women who freely gave her interviews because they hope to inspire girls to seek out the careers they want to pursue as adults.

The author belongs to one of my critique groups and I had the pleasure of reading these profiles at earlier stages. In addition, she was kind enough to provide me with a review copy.

How many little girls dream of being truck drivers when they grow up?
In this book they meet Barb Totten, a semi truck driver.

Here is a sample: "[Barb] drives a big rig with a fifty-three foot trailer. That would be like hauling two and  a half  pickup trucks behind her."

Do you know a little girl who loves chemistry and wants her own chemistry set?
That's what Juanita Merchant wanted when she was a girl. When she entered college, she was encouraged to join the Medical Science Training  Program at Yale University. She got her medical degree in gastroenterology, problems of the digestive tract. Today she works at the University of Michigan, where she sees patients and does medical research as well.  It wasn't easy for her. In addition to working hard at her studies,  she encountered people who thought she couldn't do it because she was African American. That didn't stop her.

J.Q. would love for readers to contact her and welcomes participation in this interactive e-book.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Timeless Thomas

Timeless Thomas:How Thomas Edison Changed Our Lives by Gene Barretta is a useful look into what influences Edison contributed to our lives. This picturebook does not give biographical information. It goes straight into his adulthood and his two laboratories in New Jersey.

The author discusses techology in this manner: the left side of the spread is present day. The right side Edison's lab.

Here's a sample:

"Present Day- The photocopier and the tattoo needle seem to have nothing in common, Edison's Lab-Yet they wre both based on Edison's electric pen--it was the first motorized copier."

The book includes a list of employees who worked for Edison, including the mathematician Francis Upton. A good list for other class projects.

Also recommended are "Thomas Triva" and the bibliography.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Learning about evolution

Here is a great book to introduce evolution to grades 4-6: Billions of Years, Amazing Changes: the Story of Evolution by Laurence Pringle. Here is  a sample from chapter 12:

"Trilobites, dinosaurs, giant megalodon sharks, woolly mammoths-these are just a few kinds of animals that thrived long ago and are now extinct. When they lived, and for how long, was once a great mystery. Now scientists have several ways of figuring out the age of ancient rocks and the fossils in or near them."

You might not think about dinosaurs and evolution but this is a take that could draw students in. Of course the book also talks about subjects like DNA. Chapter 13 on genetics is worth a look.

One summer I attended a writers conference at Chatauqua, NY and Laurence Pringle was a member of  the faculty. It's nice to read books by those whose paths have crossed with yours.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Seabird in the Forest

You probably wouldn't expect a seabird to lay eggs in a tree. That was a surprise to scientists in California, who actually discovered a chick in a tree. This bird, the marbled murrelet, is the subject of  Seabird in the Forest: the Mystery of the Marbled Murrelet by Joan Dunning.

Here is a sample:

 "Most seabirds simply fly to the safety of offshore rocks and islands and lay their eggs on bare ground or in burrows. But not these birds."

The book takes the reader through the journey of a marabled murrelet chick from the mother laying an egg in a tree until the youngster is ready to leave the nest and return to the sea.

This book is enhanced by the illustrations done by the author and has a list of sources at the back. It is a good candidate for use in second and third grade science classes.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

A Poem for the Classroom

Back when I was in the sixth grade, my teacher, Mrs. Grimes, required the entire class to memorize a poem each month and then write it out from memory.

I  don't know whether today's teachers would want to require their students to do this but I do have a very good poem for them to share with their classes: I, Too, Am America by Langston Hughes; illustrated by Bryan Collier.

Here is a sample: "I, too, sing America. I am the darker brother."

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Planet Hunter

With the start of school, it's time to think about  astronomy, the science of searching for other planets. Many amateur astronomers like to observe the night skys looking for constellations.

This week's selection, Planet Hunter: Geoff Marcy and the Search for Other Earths by Vicki Oransky Wittenstein introduces readers to Geoff Marcy, an astronomer working at the W.M.  Keck Observatory, located on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Astronomy has progressed beyond the telescope. Here's a sample:

"Astronomers like Marcy no longer look directly through a telescope eyepiece. Instead, a device similar to a digital camera records the image in the telescope. The image is transmitted to computers for analysis."

Although this book tells Geoff's story, readers are introduced to other astronomers as well. At 48 pages, it is a good choice for grades 3 to 5.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Justin Bieber

This week's selection has only a tangential connection to swimming. The Olympic medalist Missy Franklin is a fan of the subject of this book:
Justin Bieber by Lynn Peppas.

 With  32 pages, a glossary and an index this title should be a draw for fans of his who are reluctant readers.

For me, the interesting fact about Justin Bieber is his use of YouTube to build his career. This is a business model for sure.

Saturday, August 11, 2012


Dedicated birdwatchers (also known as birders) are familiar with Roger Tory Peterson's A Field Guide to the Birds.  Young readers  can learn all about him in For The Birds: The Life of Roger Tory Peterson by Peggy Thomas. This  40-page picturebook chronicles how Roger's first love was  observing birds and how he experimented with different forms of capturing their images, by photography and painting.

Here's a sample: "Roger knew that watching a bird in the field meant you had just a second or two to remember its shape, color, and size before it flew out of sight. So Roger painted only the memorable bits....Simple outlines against a light background showed a bird's shape, and Roger added arrows to point out the most important field markings that distinguished one bird from another."

The color illustrations done by Laura Jacques enhance this book.

Roger's own collection of illustrations are housed at  the Roger Tory Peterson Institute, Jamestown, New York. I saw them a few years ago and they are worth a visit.

Here's an activity for birdwatching grandparents and their grandchildren.
While grandparents are watching birds through binoculars, their grandchildren can draw birds using Roger's tips: 1. outline the bird's shape.
2. Show distinctive features of the bird through the use of arrows or other marks.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Looking at sculpture

Parents, do you have a house of bored kids but it's not a pool or beach day?
Do I have an idea for you! Look! Look! Look! At Sculpture by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace and Linda K. Friedlaender have combined some fictional mice with a real-life sculptor  in this picturebook.

The three mice, Kiki,  Kat and Alexander find an invitation  to a viewing  of an sculpture called Four Rectangles with Four Oblique Circles by Barbara Hepworth. So they hitch a ride to the museum and find the sculpture that was on the invitation.

 Here's a sample: "They clasped their hands behind their backs and did a museum walk around the sculpture. They looked at the sides. They looked at the back. They looked at the front."

Then they sketched what they saw and made clay sculptures.

This book has an activity: how to create  a sculpture out of paper. Do you have creative kids? Maybe they'd like to give it a try.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

My adventures with Nellie Cashman

I just had an adventure with Nellie Cashman without leaving home. Nellie has a chapter in Women Explorers by Julie Cummins.  Nellie's  explorations
took her from Ireland to Boston and out to the American West. She worked as a cook in Nevada while she learned how to prospect for gold. Then she went to the Canadian North and staked a claim there. When she heard that men in a mining camp were starving, she and some fellow prospectors
went to their rescue. Nellie nursed the sick men back to health.  Next she  moved to Tombstone, Arizona and opened a restaurant. Although the book says Nellie Cashman's Restaurant is still open, it closed a couple of years ago. Cafe Margarita is at that site now.

 This book has chapters on other women explorers readers will enjoy learning about.
Nonfiction Monday

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Scooping Method For Swimming

Young Boy Swimming

On a recent visit to my pool, I saw a grandmother coach her small grandson. She performed a basic freestyle stroke with her arms while standing  in the pool while she kept saying "scoop, scoop." I commented to her that I liked what she was doing. "It is very good for boys," she said. "Because they perform the same movement when they play in the sandbox."
Sounds like it might be good for girls too.

Read Cork & Fuzz: the Swimming Lesson by Dori Chaconas. This easy-reader level 3 title shows what happens when Cork, a muskrat, teaches his friend, Fuzz, a possum, how to swim.

Here's a sample  as it appears on page 28: "Fuzz!" Cork yelled again. "Paddle!" Fuzz paddled. "Kick!" Cork yelled. Fuzz kicked. Paddle! Kick! Paddle! Kick!

The context of this passage is that Fuzz accidentally fell into the water and  is afraid of it. Parents of children who are afraid of water could use this passage as a discussion point.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Gold Medal Swim

The Summer Olympics are nearly here and my favorite events are the swimming events: freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly and the individual medley, a combination of all four.

Gold Medal Swim from the Jake Maddox sports series is a fictional account of competitive swimmers preparing for a freestyle competition. From the illustrations, it appears to be geared for the high school crowd although it is aimed for a younger audience.  

I give it high marks for its portrait of competitive swimming. Here is a sample:
"For the next two hours, Sam helped Julien practice swimming  laps. He showed Julien how to be sure to roll his whole body with each stroke."

Body roll is very important in freestyle.   The crawl is another name for this stroke.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Katniss and me

I share an interest with Katniss Everdeen, the plucky heroine of the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. We both like swimming. Katniss was taught to swim by her father. I learned at summer camp.
 Here's Katniss: "I just remember diving, turning somersaults, and paddling around...Floating on my back...staring at the blue sky..." (Catching Fire, p. 34.)

Like Katniss, I have felt the muddy bottom of a lake between my toes.

When I go to my pool this summer I will do what I call "The Katniss workout."  This one is backstroke only. Using my swimming fins I will do a round of backstroke kicks. Using my pull buoy, I will work only my arms.
Doing the complete stroke will finish things.

Join Katniss and me this summer! For tips, view this video.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

A Place for Bats

Now that summer beckons, I am walking around the lake by my house. It is approximately 2.7 miles and takes me 45-50 minutes, depending on how fast I walk. Today I saw a turtle resting. I don't know what species of turtle it was but I stopped to watch it until it got tired of being stared at and crawled back into the lake.

  This week's topic is not an animal I really want to get close to. A Place For Bats by Melissa Stewart. This book tells you about different types of bats  as well as what people can do to coexist with them.

   Here is a sample: "When people build bat boxes that are the right size and shape, bats can live and grow."

The illustrations by the artist, Higgins Bond, enhance this book.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Police Dog Heroes

For dog lovers everywhere, here is a title that should appeal: Police Dog Heroes by Linda Bozzo. Chapter One introduces the reader to K-9 Lucky, an officer with the Edison, New Jersey Police Department. Here is a sample of an arrest Lucky made with his human partner, Officer Shawn Meade: "Officer Meade hooks Lucky back on his leash. This time the man follows the officer's orders. He lies down on the ground."

  This book gives other information,  such as  the best breeds for police work and how they are trained.   In many cases, retired police dogs are adopted by their handlers.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Kennewick Man

Imagine that you found a skull along the bank of the Columbia River in
Washington State that turned out to be 9,500 years old? Read all about this in
Mysterious Bones: the Story of Kennewick Man by Katherine Kirkpatrick. In addition to the skull, the rest of the skeleton was recovered but years of litigation ensued before scientists could study it.

  Their initial finding was that Kennewick Man was not related to any living Native Americans.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Nonfiction Monday


Welcome to Nonfiction Monday!  My featured title is The Elephant Scientist by Caitlin O'Connell & Donna M. Jackson.

Caitlin O'Connell is an American scientist who has been studying elephants in the African country of Namibia. Her area is elephant communication.
Here is a sample describing an a-ha moment:
"Then slowly, almost imperceptibly, many of the elephants turned toward the source of the signal-a shaker buried nearby...The entire herd had responded-just as I had witnessed years ago."

This book covers African elephants.  For Asian elephants I invite you to visit an earlier post.

Here are links  to other titles:

Ms. Yingling Reads:  Witches: the Absolute True Tale of Witches in Salem.
NC Teacher Stuff:   Tornado! 
A Teaching Life:  Genius of Islam and a second title Creep & Flutter.
Laura Salas: For the Life of Birds: the Life of Roger Tory Peterson.

For  more, please visit the comments section below.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Bayard Rustin

A  good title to keep in mind for next Black History Month is We Are One: the Story of Bayard Rustin. He was a civil rights activist who was largely responsible for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, August 28, 1963.

Here's a sample: "Bayard strolled over to the Washington Monument to see how the march was shaping up. Journalists and the security patrol greeted him, but there were only a handful of protesters."

I have a personal connection to Larry Dane Brimner, the author of this book.
 He was an instructor at the Writers Workshop at  Chautauqua the summer I attended and I benefitted from discussions with him.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Patience's Grand Adventure

You may have never heard of Patience Wright who created wax sculptures for important people in England. Born in Philadelphia, she also served as a spy for the American cause during the Revolution. Read all about her in
Patience Wright: America's First Sculptor and Revolutionary Spy by Pegi Deitz Shea.

Here is a sample: "London, England already had a thriving wax-sculpting industry in the late 1700s. So in 1772, American-born Patience Lovell Wright moved across the the Atlantic Ocean, and her sculpting business soared."

This is a letter George Washington wrote to Patience. It  is a primary source: a letter written by George Washington himself. It's not only letters but also newspaper and magazine articles written during a person's lifetime.
Can you find a primary source from this year?

Visit The Nonfiction Detectives, today's hosts for Nonfiction Monday.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Have You Ever Visited Trinidad?

One day I plan on visiting Trinidad and Tobago, two islands in the West Indies that comprise one nation. Here is a sneak peak:  Kamal Goes to Trinidad by Malcolm Frederick.

This sample tells how the steelpan, the native instrument of Trinidad and Tobago is made: "First they take an old oil drum and cut it in half, then they bang the top of the drum to make a  big dent..."

The photographs greatly add to the enjoyment  of this book.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Manatee -A Fascinating Mammal

A few years ago I visited a nature preserve in Florida where manatees live. I could only see a ripple underneath the water but I knew they were there.  Did you know that they live in other places besides Florida? Well they do: coastal West Africa and rivers in the Amazon basin.

 Read all about this in The Manatee Scientists: Saving Vulnerable Species by Peter Lourie.

 Here is a sample: "Manaus [Brazil] is one of the only places you can pet young Amazonian mantees...But you have to make a little noise in the water so they know someone is nearby."

Test your manatee knowledge:

Do manatees have eyelashes?
How long do they live?
How often do they surface for air?
Are they an endangered species?

(For the answers click on the link in the first paragraph.)

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Only the Mountains Do Not Move

Readers, come along on a visit to the Maasai people of Kenya in Jan Reynolds' photo essay, Only the Mountains Do Not Move.
Visit with Noonkuta and her family, which includes her baby daughter, Ramati. After Noonkuta milks her cows and goats, her husband, Ole Kiyaa,
must keep an eye on his livestock while they graze out in the bush.

The beautiful photographs include one of  the family's hut, an enkaji. which is made from trees lashed together, Mud is used to seal the walls.

Teachers, Jan Reynolds provides this resource to use in the classroom.

She also includes proverbs from the Maasai people. Here is a sample:
"Nobody can say he is settled anywhere forever; it is only the mountains which do not move from their places."

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Late to the party

March 7th was World Maths Day and I wanted to have titles to recommend on that day. Better late then never! So here are two titles of interest:

Flowers and Showers: A Spring Counting Book by Rebecca Fjelland Davis.
Here is a sample: "One colorful kite dances in the sky. Hold the string tight and watch it fly." 

  One Hundred Shoes : a Math Reader by Charles Ghigna.
  Here is a sample: "Centipede, Centipede, how do you choose? Where do you shop for one hundred shoes?"

 Teachers, I recommend a visit to Zoe's site for more book titles and an activity.