Coral Reefs

November 9, 2011

Coral Reefs

By Jason Chin

Roaring Brook Press, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-59643-563-6

Nonfiction picture book with fantasy element

“For more than 400 million years, corals have been building reefs in the earth’s oceans. Corals may look like plants, but they are actually animals. Some are soft and sway back forth in the water, while others, called hard corals, are rigid. Corals are made up of polyps, and most have hundreds of tiny polyps on their surface.”

A young girl pulls a book off the shelf at the New York Public Library and begins to read. Like the boy carried into the forest in Redwoods, she is swept into the undersea world of corals. Before this happens, however, Chin presents some of the fascinating information about corals and the skeletons of these animals that form coral reefs. As the girl experiences slides into the coral reefs, she meets up with the plants and animals that live there.

Chin brings to life the brilliant colors and variety of animals living in the tropic seas where reefs are formed. Each spread presents information and brings what the child is reading to life. This book provides excellent information and makes the relationships among the life there clear and real.

This book slips into the undersea world more effortlessly than Redwoods. It’s lovely and lush—and guaranteed to be popular, especially among New York librarians!

Activity 1

Create a food chain or web from the organisms in the book.

 This site has a food chain explanation.

Activity 2

Look up the term for the relationship between two animals that is mutually beneficial called mutualism. Find other examples of beneficial relationships.

Here are two examples.

Activity 3

Find ways some of the animals have adapted to escape their predators using the book’s information.

Visit my post on Follow That Food Chain Coral Reefs post to pair the books and find more activities.

National Science Standards: Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems, Cycles of Matter and Energy Transfer in Ecosystems, Ecosystems Dynamics, Functioning, and Resilience

Book provided by Blue Slip Media and Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group

Yucky Worms

February 2, 2011

Yucky Worms

By Vivian French

Illustrated by Jessica Ahlberg

Candlewick Press, 2010

ISBN #987-0-7636-4446-8

Grades Pre-K – 3

Story with facts

“One day when I was in Grandma’s garden, Grandma dug up a slimy, slither, wiggly worm.

‘Yuck!” I said. “Throw it away!’”

Thank goodness Grandma refused to throw it away. The story goes on to show and tell how worms benefit the garden with its castings and hole digging. The story continues with a sassy worm inset scattered about some of the pages and relates the value of worms, which are really yucky at all. The story ends with the little boy convinced he’s got lots of new friends—worms!

The back matter has worm tips, experiments, and a short index. The soft watercolor is attractive and just right for the book’s feel. The text is informative and the book ran a close race for the Cybils NFPB finalist list. It’s a fun read with lots of good information and one that kids will enjoy.


Get a worm using the methods described in the book or at a bait store. Moisten a paper towel and lay the worm out. Take care not to harm the worm. Use a magnifying glass to identify the parts discussed in the book. When you finish, put the worm in your own garden.

All About Earthworms has a fun site to explore.

Learn new vocabulary here.

National Science Standard: organisms and their environment.

Book provided by publisher for Cybils consideration.


December 15, 2010

Welcome to Nonfiction Monday. Add your links in the comments below and I’ll update them throughout the day.

The Little Brainwaves Investigate…ANIMALS

Illustrated by Lisa Swerling and Ralph Lazar

DK Publishing, 2010

ISBN # 9780756662806

Ages 5-10


“What is an animal? All living things fall into two main groups. They are either an animal or a plant. They all grow, feed, and have young. But animals can do something plants can’t do—they move) or at least most of them can)? Join the little Brainwaves to find out more.”

This is a book I wish I’d written. From the beginning, it captures the spirit and joy of learning about animals and reveals the fascinating side of this area of life science.

This series, for younger audiences, follows the Brainwaves series for older kids using the little characters called the Little Brainwaves, a set of helpful guides to direct the reader throughout the book.

The book begins with an introduction to animals, distinguishing vertebrates from invertebrates. It also introduces scientific nomenclature in a simple way. It’s divided into clear sections, with small segments of information explained in an easily understandable way. Spreads following further distinguish the animals and their activities, including details about the different groups. It covers life cycles, parents, habits, habitats, and invertebrates. The concluding spread gives interesting facts and a little history about animals and grouping. A detailed glossary and index make up the back matter.

Bright, inviting photos are mixed with the Little Brainwaves guys in an attractive layout. The designer did a wonderful job on this book. It’s appealing and bright, friendly and fascinating. It would make a great story time book or would be a good book to book talk. It’s a great reference and an even better bargain at a reasonable price for a resource kids will return to again and again.


Choose an animal from the book. Look up its scientific name. Then create that animal’s life cycle in an interesting way, showing the stages it undergoes as it is born, develops, and becomes an adult. Include a timeline in the project. This might be a power point, a chart, or a diorama. Maybe you can create another way to show information about your animal.

For more animal information, see National Geographic’s pages.

The Animal Diversity Web has examples of animal life cycles.

Enchanted Learning has good life cycle examples.

This site has a variety of information.

Growing With Science has lots of great life cycle ideas.

National Science Standard: life cycle of animals; organisms and their environment

 Book provided by publisher.


Welcome to Nonfiction Monday. We have some great books and posts about literature for kids today and every Monday. Take a look at them all!

Wild About Nature blog has a review of Jean Marzollo’s new book, Pierre the Penguin: A True Story. They will also be giving a copy away to one lucky reader!

Abby the Librarian has  a review of OLD ABE, WAR HERO by Patrick Young.

Bookends  Booklist Blog has BONES by Steve Jenkins.

 NC Teacher Stuff has a review of SHATTERING EARTHQUAKES by Louise and Richard Spilsbury.
Bookends  reviews Steve Jenkins’ fascinating  BONES.

Stacey has Ubiquitous at her blog.

The Cath in the Hat has She Loved Baseball: The Effa Manley Story, a picture book biography about the first woman inducted into the Hall of fame. It’s by Audrey Vernick and illustrated by Don Tate.

Bookish Blather continues  reading the YALSA nonfiction award shortlist titles with The Dark Game by Paul Janeczko.

Roberta at Wrapped in Foil offers a book nominated for a Cybils in the nonfiction MG/YA category.  Journey into the Deep is by Rebecca L. Johnson.

Pink Me has a review of Code Quest: Heiroglyphs by Sean Callery and  illustrated by Jurgen Ziewe.

Jone at Check It Out reviews three dinosaur books from the Cybils NFPB nominees–and dinosaurs are always a hit with kids.

100th Post! Infections, Infestations, and Diseases

November 10, 2010

Infections, Infestations, and Diseases

By Shirley Duke

Rourke, 2011

Let’s Explore Science Series

ISBN #978-1-61590321-4

Grades 4-6


It’s my 100th post and I’m still blogging! All thanks to Anastasia Suen, who told me I should.

“I don’t have time to blog.” That’s what I said. After I took her class and got started, with lots of questions and frustrations, I found I liked having a way to keep a tiny bit of teaching and lots of science in my life. I did it on my own terms, and I kept going, delighted by the wealth of new books that relate to science. Now I’m part of the first round CYBILS panel for nonfiction picture books. I can’t wait to blog on many of them.

“Health means being free of disease or pain. Health can refer to the mind, spirit, and body. A body that is healthy can function properly. Muscles, organs, and other systems all work together to help a person live day-to-day life with relative ease. Bodily health is sometimes taken for granted—that is, until someone gets sick. What are the different ways a person can become sick?”

I wrote those words! I still can’t believe it. Even as I’m working on two new science books, I have to stop and remember that I’m writing science books—a goal I’ve desired for a long time.

This book also reminds me why I didn’t continue teaching kindergarten. I interned in kindergarten during my master’s year, but there was simply too much snot! I moved up through the grade levels as the job allowed, spending time in elementary school, middle school, and then high school. Each grade had its own good things, but through the years I taught mostly science, except for the few years an ESL certification beckoned me into a new district or school.

My two favorite grades were second, with its mellow seven year olds, and my year of sheltered biology. It’s amazing how closely science words in Spanish resemble the English words and those students were mostly a delight. I loved writing this book, and actually wrote it before You Can’t Wear These Genes, since genetics wasn’t my best subject (I became knowledgeable again before writing it!) and I’ve always loved health.


“Where’s the Kleenex?”

“I don’t feel well.”

How many times has a teacher moved back or a mom has hurried to get the thermometer? Or you’ve checked for nits, worried over vaccines, or stayed up most of the night with a sick child? This book is a starting point for kids interested in what makes you sick or those who are curious about the world and themselves.

The first three chapters address the meaning of the title, covering health and illness, infestations, and then diseases. The next chapter continues with how they are spread, prevention and treatment, and eliminated and emerging diseases. The book addresses current topics like bed bugs, HIV, and the H1N1 flu virus. It has a table of contents, glossary, index, and suggested websites to visit.

Health is important to everyone, and eager young scientists and kids alike should enjoy the fascinating facts in the book. Each book in the series has straightforward science and facts presented in an interesting way to readers. The appeal of each title is evident. The hardest part of talking about these two books? Trying to say them both in one breath!

My scientist blogger friend, Roberta, has a lovely review of my Genes book at her terrific blogs: Wrapped in Foil at and Growing with Science. Be sure to check out her excellent and fun ideas. 

Activity 1

Research how to wash hands properly. Create a poster to display the correct techniques and practice singing happy birthday two times to show children how long they should spend scrubbing them.

The CDC has a child-friendly set of directions.

The Mayo clinic has additional information about dos and don’ts for hand washing.

Activity 2 (for older kids)

Look at the comparisons of hands that have been washed or cleaned in various ways. Draw a conclusion about the most sanitary means of cleaning hands and write a paragraph about how to properly wash hands to remove bacteria.

You can find good information and pictures here.

Here you’ll find more interesting bacteria and hands information.

National Science Standard: organisms and their environments; develop an understanding of personal health

Book supplied by publisher to author (me!).


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.


April 28, 2010

Insect Detective

By Steve Voake

Illustrated by Charlotte Voake

Candlewick Press, 2010 (US), 2009 (England)

ISBN #978-0-7636-4447-5


Grades K-3

“Right now, all around you, thousands of insects are doing strange and wonderful things. But you can’t always see them right away. Sometimes you have to know where to look.”

This beautiful, sparely-worded book uses lyrical language to take the reader on an investigation of different insects in their natural habitats. The insects include common and less well-known groups as examples and an identifying characteristic or habit is described as the text tells the way to discover the insect.

During the overturned log investigation, the defining characteristics of an insect are included in a way that clearly illustrates that all crawling creatures are not insects. This is one of the best examples I’ve seen for young children that distinguishes the the difference between insects and animals like spiders and centipedes. Additional, short facts scattered on each spread give details about insects in general.

The watercolor art highlights the line drawings that show the young boy’s investigation and the lifelike, accurate depictions of the insects. The book concludes with activities of how the reader can also be an insect detective. A short index is included.

Activity 1

Follow one of the activities from the book’s back matter or collect an insect to observe. List qualitative observations (using the senses) and quantitative observations (using numbers), write an accurate scientific description of the insect.

Activity 2

Look up metamorphosis and learn the difference between complete and incomplete metamorphosis. List the insects from the book. Make a chart that identifies the insects listed that undergo complete and incomplete metamorphosis.

This is a good explanation of metamorphosis.

Here’s a more complex explanation.

Visit Candlewick Press

National Science Standard: life cycles; organisms in their environment

Book provided by publisher for Librarian’s Choices Committee


March 24, 2010

Bugs and Bugsicles

Insects in the Winter

by Amy S. Hansen

Illustrated by Robert C. Kray

Boyds Mills Press, 2010

ISBN #978-1-59078-763-2


Ages 6-10

“It is late September and the sun is still warm when a Monarch Butterfly lands on a purple aster. She’s grabbing a quick sip of nectar before flying south.

A Honeybee aims for a yellow marigold. She will need food to get thorough the winter.

On the grass below, five Pavement Ants hurry past, carrying seeds. They march underground, going down to their nest to get away from the dangers of frost.”

I always wondered what insects did in the winter and where they went. This realistically illustrated picture book answers just that. Following the gentle introduction describing the preparations for the fall season, the book follows different insects as they prepare and settle in for the winter, and in some instances, die, after leaving their eggs safely secured. Text filled with specifics and interesting details about the insects traces among others, a dragonfly, praying mantis, field cricket, ladybug, a pavement ant, and Arctic wooly bear caterpillar (turns into a wooly bear moth), whose body is adapted to freeze and thaw and the alluded-to bugsicle. The book ends with a poetic slide into winter and a promise of spring to follow.

The large illustrations contribute well to the text and show the insects up close, in their natural habitat, and in detail. There is an author note, additional reading suggestions, and an index. Best of all, the back matter suggests two experiments related to freezing that the readers can easily do.

This book holds great information and should delight any nature lover or curiosity-filled kid and will answer the questions about where insects go in the winter for anyone.

Activity 1

Look up insect life cycles and find out the difference between metamorphosis and incomplete metamorphosis. Name two insects that exhibit the different life cycles.

Use this page to follow the Monarch butterfly’s development.

Use this page to follow the dragonfly’s development.

This site has lessons to follow the development of some insects.

Use this information to learn about metamorphosis.

Activity 2

Carrry out one of the experiments in the book. Record the results and write up the findings using the scientific method.

Use this form to guide your write up.

Learn more about Amy S. Hansen and see her other books.

National Science Standard: life cycles; organisms and their environment

Book provided by author.


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