GRASSLANDS About Habitats

March 2, 2011

Visit Nonfiction Monday at Anastasia Suen’s Picture Book a Day blog.


About Habitats

By Cathryn Sill

Illustrated by John Sill

ISBN# 978-1-56145-559-1

Nonfiction picture book

Grades 1-4

I’m so excited about this new Peachtree book because I was asked to write a teacher’s guide for the series About Habitats. I finished it and sent it in, so look for it soon on Peachtree’s website. I’ll add a link from my webpage, too! It’s written to be used with any of the About Habitats books or with them all at one time. Check out the other eight Peachtree guides I’ve written, too.

“Grasslands are large open places where most of the plants are grasses. The grasses may be short, tall, or mixed.”

Grasslands is one in a series of books about habitats, their life, and their ecology. Clear, distinctive text narrates the facts about the habitat, its distinguishing characteristics, and the plant and animal life there. This book shows the relationships of the plants and animals and their adaptations and defenses that suit them to this particular habitat.

The Sills’ love of science is evident in the text and lovely, full-paged art that adds detail to the information. The front matter shows a world map of major grasslands, a very nice addition to the book, and back matter includes additional information about the art plates, a glossary, bibliography, and websites. Many other books in the About… series relate to individual animals.


Use a graphic organizer to list all the different grassland habitats in a large group discussion. Then fill in the animals and plants in each one. Using the organizer, write about grasslands as a habitat.

Web cluster graphic organizer

Learn more about grasslands at National Geographic.

National Science Standard: organisms in their environment

Book provided by Peachtree for me to write the series teacher’s guide.


December 22, 2010

Oceans & Seas

By Margaret Hynes

Kingfisher, 2010

ISBN #978-0-7534-6415-1

Grades 4 to 7


“From the seashore to the deepest depths, oceans are home to the most diverse life on Earth. Plants are found only in the sunlit parts of the ocean. Animals are found at all depths, though more than 90 percent of all marine species dwell on the seabed, where a single rock can be home to as many as ten major groups of animals, such as corals, mollusks, and sponges.”

In another life I would be a marine biologist and this book confirmed that idea. In the new series, Navigators, Oceans and Seas is an in-depth look at the life in and around the oceans. It defines oceans and seas and provides information about the physical as well as life science of marine environments. Including archaeology, ecology, biomes, coastlines, Pangea, deep-sea exploration and the future of oceans, the layout is filled with facts and visually appealing art, diagrams, and photos.

I had great fun poring over this book and students will, too. The appealing cover holds a sea tortoise, along with colorful fish and a puffin. The art is stunning and catches the reader’s interest from the introductory information through the final back matter, which includes a large glossary, index, and final page of investigations.

Aimed at the middle ages, this book should be in every library. It’s comprehensive, fits with the science standards, and contains facts in a layout that is reader friendly, allowing the reader to go from cover to cover or select specific topics or sections. It’s a gorgeous book and the reasonable price makes it within the reach of library budgets. Take a look at this one. It fills a need for that middle group of readers—interesting and appealing.

Activity 1

Look up waves and study the physics of wave motion. Write a paragraph to explain the energy transfer from the wind to the water. Design a simple wave machine to show the action of waves.

Activity 2

Look up the destructive force of waves. Find two or three ways waves change coastlines and report on them, giving true life examples of their force.

This site has good information about the physics of waves.

This site has some interactive activities on waves.

National Science Standard: motion and forces; transfer of energy

Book provided by publisher.


November 24, 2010

Wild Animal Atlas 

Earth’s Astonishing Animals and Where They Live

Priyanka Lamichhane, Project Editor

National Geographic, 2010

Grades K-5


“North America is 9,449,000 square miles (24,474,000 square kilometers) in area. It is the third largest continent and makes up almost 17 percent of Earth’s land area. It stretches from ice caps and tundra in the north to tropical forests in the south with grasslands, wetlands, mountains, and deserts in between. These ecosystems are home to many animals, including this Grizzly Bear trying to catch a salmon in a river in Alaska.” A three quarters-sized image of a fish headed straight for a grizzly’s open mouth dominates the introduction to North America.

This atlas has it all. Perfect for the elementary ages, the atlas presents its fascinating information by continent and ecosystems. When many states are including more about biomes in their standards, the atlas is right on top of the information. The book begins with the table of contents and a map of the world across the spread depicting the animals on each of the continents. The tiny animals dot the continents with a key for each one. The next spread identifies the animal ecosystems and shows a bright, bold picture for each.

Each continent opens with a gripping photo and a paragraph of information about the continent. The subsequent pages provide the animal information, including habitat, diet, and survival of the group. The National Geographic standard “Facts at a Glance” box gives basic, short information. Two sets of map keys designate animals and habitats.

Filled with fascinating animals and an abundance of information, this book is a winner for me. Every library should have at least one copy of this useful, inexpensive ($18.95) reference book. Kids can spend hours poring over it and it hits the standards for science and social studies both.


Choose an animal from one of the continents. Look up facts about that animal and list as many ways the animal is adapted to it habitat as you can find.

The National Geographic website is a good place to begin your search.

Here’s a fun place to see animal adaptations.

Take a look at Playing by the Book for Nonfiction Monday and see many other great nonfiction books for kids.

National Science Standard: organisms and their environment

Book provided by publisher for Librarian’s Choice Book Review Committee.


July 28, 2010

Ocean Soup

Tide-Pool Poems

By Stephen R. Swinburne

Illustrated by Mary Peterson

Charlesbridge, 2010

Ages: elementary grades



The Soup That Bites

“Tide-pool soup is really good,

A most delicious snack.

But careful! When you take a bite,

This soup might bite you back.

Crabs will pinch and urchins poke,

It’s rough out there—no joke!”

 This book of rollicking poems presents ten tide-pool animals in witty, irreverent poems, with a section of brief facts about the animal spaced in between the bright, cartoony illustrations. After an introduction to the tide pool with a poem and facts, the animals presented include barnacles, sea slugs, sea urchins, sculpins, mussels, starfish, hermit crabs, anemones, lobsters, and octopus. The book ends with an explanation of plankton and back matter includes a glossary, author’s note, and resources.

Tide pool animals aren’t often the inspiration for poetry, and the fun, humorous treatment of this group of animals should appeal to a range of kids. The book would be a good way to introduce children to the animals in a tide pool or before going to an ocean museum. Good readers might prefer to read it on their own. The language in the fact section is definitely for upper elementary science and would be a great way to open a science lesson on habitats or invertebrates. I can also see it done as a Reader’s Theater or class presentation–picture the costumes. Tide Pool poetry isn’t the usual science or poems, and that’s what  makes this book a fun choice.

Activity 1

Look up information about the tides. Explain why the level of water changes in the intertidal zone.

Enchanted Learning has simple tide information.

This site has more tide information.

Activity 2

Create a chart showing the zones of the tide pool. Write a description of the changes that take place in a tide pool.

Learn more about tide pool animals here.

This virtual tide-pool shows more and includes how the animals are adapted to their habitat.

Check out Nonfiction Monday at Three Turtles and Their Pet Librarian for more great books.

National Science standard: organisms and environment; characteristics of organisms

Book provided by publisher.

Nonfiction Monday Round-Up and My End of Year Books

December 21, 2009


When I took December off, I forgot about my time for Nonfiction Monday. So I’m back! Welcome to SimplyScience. Put your information and link in the comments and I’ll update them throughout the day.   

From Abby (the) Librarian, The Story of Snow by Mark Cassino with Jon Nelson.

Robin at The Book Nosher has a new National Geographic book: live, laugh, celebrate.

Roberta at Wrapped in Foil has Dragonflies of North America by Kathy Biggs

In Need of Chocolate has Paleo Sharks

Wild About Nature reviews About Penguins: A Guide for Children

Three Turtles and Their Pet Librarian reviews Zero is the Leaves on the Tree by Betsy Franco

Amanda at A Patchwork of Books has reviewed lots of picture book biographies 

Wendie’s Wanderings looked outside her window and decided that 20 inches of snow was the order of the day and so is offering Snowflake Bentley

Lost Between the Pages has Emily Post’s Table Manners for Kids

Check It Out has Redwoods by Jason Chin

Bookends Blog has a fabulous pair of poetry/animal camouflage books: Where in the Wild and Where Else in the Wild


Frosty Treeless Land

By Laura Purdie Salas

Illustrated by Jeff Yesh

Picture Window Books, 2009

This fact filled book explained tundras in detail with excellent, reader-friendly text and supplied additional, fun information in sidebar Fun Facts. One in the series of Amazing Science—Ecosystems, it’s fun to read. Carefully labeled illustrations highlight the digital art. Tundra facts appear in the back matter. It includes a glossary, index, and further reading section.


Create a food chain for the tundra.

National Science Standard: organisms and environments

Book sent by publisher

Box Jellyfish

Killer Tentacles

By Natalie Lunis

Bearport Publishing, 2010

The deadly difference between box jellyfish and regular jellyfish are detailed in this book. The book begins with a girl being stung and explains the treatment, then goes on to discuss these tropical invertebrates. One in the series Afraid of the Water, this book contains fascinating photos and one of the stings is sure to be remembered. It includes a glossary, index, and further reading section.


Create a chart comparing the differences in box jellyfish and regular jellyfish. Don’t forget to include habitat, eyes, swimming, tentacle placement, and lots of other differences.

National Science standard: organims and environment

Book donated by publisher

Let’s Look at Snails

By Laura Hamilton Waxman

Lerner Publications, 2010

Lightning Bolt Books

Bold, bright photos mix with big text to describe snails and how they live. Labels point out specific facts and the book has additional fun facts and a snail diagram in the back matter. It includes a glossary, index, and further reading section.


Look up snails to find out all of the places snails live. Make a chart to show these habitats.

 National Science standard: organisms and their environment, life cycle

Book donated by publisher

Out of This World

The Amazing Search for an Alien Earth

By Jacob Berkowitz

Kids Can Press, 2009

This text dense book about the hunt to find an alien Earth that supports life as we know it begins as fiction, but is filled with facts. Sidebars provide additional information. It will appeal to the budding astronomer who can distinguish fact from fiction. Some of the ideas provide food for thought and this could be a fun book for the right reader.


Find out more about exoplanets.

National Science standard: objects in the sky

Book donated by publisher

Many thanks to the publishers who contributed their books. The blog has been a pleasure and I’ll be able to include my two new science books in the blog in the coming year!

Life in the Boreal Forest

November 18, 2009


Life in the Boreal Forest

Brenda Z. Guiberson

Illustrations by Gennady Spirin
Henry Holt and Co., 2009
ISBN #978-0-8050-7718-6

K-5th grades


“Tika tika tika swee swee! A Tennessee warbler sings in a forest so huge that it covers one third of the earth’s total forest area. It grows across Alaska, Canada, Scandinavia, and Russia. A swath of trees this big has many names, like taiga and boreal forest. Boreal means northern, from  Boreas, the Greek god of the north wind.”

This gorgeous book describes the variety of life in the boreal forest in its natural context of habitat and the food web. Including even a bit on the relationship of the predators and prey, the text portrays the life cycles and habits of the life within the forest and the effects the environment cause to its inhabitants. The text explains the reasons for the dwindling amount of boreal forest, a primary premise of the book, but does so in a slightly heavy-handed manner. The information is detailed and ecologically oriented, and includes the food web relationships of the organisms along with their adaptations for survival in the rugged climate.

The illustrations are beautifully rendered in lifelike paintings positioned across three-fourth of the spread with the text in the remaining space, positioned on one side or the other of each spread. The starving animals make an interesting, if pitiful, addition to the realities of life in the boreal forest and its harsh conditions and illustrator Spirin has done an excellent job with them. The animals in action are fascinating and I personally love the snow covered, frozen pond with the beaver lodge and a passing dogsled team.

Activity 1

List the adaptations that enable the inhabitants of the boreal forest to survive the harsh conditions.

Activity 2

Create a food chain using some of the organisms from the book.

Activity 3

Look up information about tropical rain forests. Compare and contrast the differences in the rain forest and the boreal forest. Look for adaptations the organisms in the rain forest have that help suit them for that biome.

Rain forest biome information.

More details about rain forests.

This site has information and facts about the loss of rain forest habitats

Read more information here.

This site has good general information.

 This site has good information and games; however, some links wre not not working. If you have patience, there were a couple of them, including one about The Lorax, that looked fun.

Anastasia has a 6 Trait writing activity for this book at Picture Book of the Day.

National Science Standard: organisms and environments

Book supplied by publisher to Librarian’s Choices review committee


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