Stripes of All Types

November 22, 2013

stripes of all types

Stripes of All Types

by Susan Stockdale

Peachtree Publishers, 2013

ISBN #978-1-56145-695-6

Grades PreK-3

Nonfiction Picture Book

Visit STEM Friday

Exciting news! Anastasia Suen and I co-wrote a new book. It’s based on my blog and is packed full of lesson plans, STEM, mentor texts, and the Common Core.

coverimage - Copy (2)

Stripes of All Types follows animal life with stripes as part of their coloration in their native habitats. The book reveals simple information in a rollicking rhyme and bright art.  It takes the reader from the ocean to land to a familiar striped animal at home.


Define the word “camouflage” in nature as protective coloring that helps animals hide in plain sight. Then show these images and together locate the animal. You may have to point out where it is in some pictures. Discuss why animals need to use camouflage and the ways it helps them.

Pair the book with the nonfiction book Toco Toucan Bright Enough to Disappear by Anastasia Suen.  Compare the ways the toucan uses colors to the stripes in the Stripes of All Types book.


Next Generation Science Standards


ESS3.A: Natural Resources

§ Living things need water, air, and resources from the land, and they live in places that have the things they need. Humans use natural resources for everything they do. (K-ESS3-1)

ESS2.E: Biogeology

§ Plants and animals can change their environment. (K-ESS2-2)


LS1.A: Structure and Function

§ All organisms have external parts. Different animals use their body parts in different ways to see, hear, grasp objects, protect themselves, move from place to place, and seek, find, and take in food, water and air. Plants also have different parts (roots, stems, leaves, flowers, fruits) that help them survive and grow. (1-LS1-1)

LS1.B: Growth and Development of Organisms

§ Adult plants and animals can have young. In many kinds of animals, parents and the offspring themselves engage in behaviors that help the offspring to survive. (1-LS1-2)

LS1.D: Information Processing

§ Animals have body parts that capture and convey different kinds of information needed for growth and survival. Animals respond to these inputs with behaviors that help them survive. Plants also respond to some external inputs. (1-LS1-1)

LS3.A: Inheritance of Traits

§ Young animals are very much, but not exactly like, their parents. Plants also are very much, but not exactly, like their parents. (1-LS3-1)

LS3.B: Variation of Traits

§ Individuals of the same kind of plant or animal are recognizable as similar but can also vary in many ways. (1-LS3-1)


LS4.D: Biodiversity and Humans

§ There are many different kinds of living things in any area, and they exist in different places on land and in water. (2-LS4-1)

For a Common Core experience, discuss the main idea of the book. Use each spread and talk about how that animal’s stripes are located and positioned. Ask the listeners why animals have stripes. Then show the spread with the striped images. Identify each picture in turn to review the animals’ names and where they live.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.2 Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.1 Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.K.1 With prompting and support, ask and answer questions about key details in a text.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.K.2 With prompting and support, identify the main topic and retell key details of a text.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.K.3 With prompting and support, describe the connection between two individuals, events, ideas, or pieces of information in a text.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.K.5 Identify the front cover, back cover, and title page of a book.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.K.6 Name the author and illustrator of a text and define the role of each in presenting the ideas or information in a text.

Look up the CCSS to see the remaining Literacy.RI.1-2 standards.

Come See the Earth Turn

June 24, 2013


Come See the Earth Turn

By Lori Mortensen

Illustrated by Raul Allen

Tricycle Press, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-58246-284-4

Nonfiction picture book

Ages 8-12

Come See the Earth Turn tells the story of Leon Foucault and the way he proved that the Earth turned using a pendulum to show the movement. Lacking formal training, Foucault, a poor student, found his place in developing “clever instruments and magnificent contraptions.”

He wondered about questions relating to light, its speed, and how to prove these sorts of things. And while people had begun to think the Earth turned, no one had proved it—until Foucault did.

Even though he’d received honors for his work, he wasn’t formally trained and it wasn’t until three years before his death that he was granted membership into the French Academy of Science.

The book contains an author’s note, glossary with pictures of the instruments, and bibliography.  In this day of Common Core State Standards, this book begs to be included in classroom and library lessons.

It would make a wonderful introduction to a lesson on Earth science, gravity, and the Earth’s motion. The invention could be compared with that of another early scientist and used as a way to show the scientific method.

Determine the main idea and find examples of how the story supports it. Look up the tools listed in the vocabulary to find more about how they worked to support academic and domain-specific word acquisition.

Compare the book with a scientific explanation of the Earth’s motion and discuss they different ways the authors used to explain this principle.

With the Next Generation Science Standards now available, the book fits perfectly with the Motion and Stability: Forces and Interactions and Earth’s Place in the Universe strand. It would kick off a fun lesson to begin a study of these topics in the relevant grades.

Nonfiction is a terrific way to liven up lessons and provides a fun introduction to many topics. It gives teachers, parents, and librarians the opportunity to show children the pleasure and fun of nonfiction.

This site has a good biography of Foucault.

Nonfiction Picture Book Cybils Winner!

February 14, 2013

We have a winner for the nonfiction picture book Cybils award! I was on the committe for nonfiction picture books and we all  agreed that Mrs. Harkness and the Panda was our favorite. Take a look at the book and the other winners here. I loved this book and think you will, too.

Nonfiction Picture Books

Mrs. Harkness and the Panda By Alicia Potter, illustrated by Melissa Sweet Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers Nominated by: Cathy Potter

Who could forget the endearing face of a panda bear like the one on the cover of Mrs. Harkness and the Panda? It is more difficult to remember, however, who brought the first panda  bear to America. In 1934, when the story starts, only a few people even  knew pandas existed. Mrs. Harkness, a young New York dress designer,  seemed to be the least-likely person to go to far-off China to look for  one. Yet when her husband dies during an attempt to find a panda, off  she goes on the adventure of a lifetime to fulfill his quest.

Reading this book is an adventure of its own. It delves into China with rich  colors, using actual Chinese writing on the paper in the background of  the illustrations, photographs of Chinese coins, and even including some well-placed Chinese words. Each page and each reading reveals new  discoveries.

The story of a young woman heading off into the unknown is one of bravery  and perseverance that is sure to appeal to a wide range of readers. Mrs. Harkness would be perfect to introduce a geography or history lesson about China.  Although it is a biography, this book is also likely to stimulate  conversations about animal conservation, particularly discussions about  endangered animals and how our views of how to care for rare animals  have changed. It is truly a memorable and inspiring book.

See a complete review at Wrapped in Foil.



Environmental Disasters

November 7, 2012

Environmental Disasters

By Shirley Duke

Rourke, 2012 (available now)

ISBN #978-1-61741-784-9

Grades 4-6


“In 2010 an explosion shattered a quiet April evening in theGulf of Mexico. Flames roared into the air on the Deepwater Horizon offshore oil platform. Startled workers scrambled to escape. Most of them reached safety. Millions of gallons of light crude oil gushed from the site.”

After writing a report on fires in 7th grade, my interest in disasters grew, along with learning the science of them. It’s interesting that I ended up writing this book. It followed Enterprise STEM and Forces and Motion at Work, and it was fascinating to research. I learned much more about our environment and the charge we have to keep it healthy. The most interesting part of writing this book was revisiting the history of some disasters that had happened in my younger days.

Each section in Environmental Disasters relates the situation about how the disaster happened, explains the consequences, and tells what may prevent it in the future. The book opens with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. It goes on to discuss solid wastes like those at Love Canal and the problems with plastics and electronic wastes, nuclear meltdowns here, in Chernobyl, and Japan, acid rain, and the ozone. It includes a chart of small changes children can make to get involved in making the Earth safer. Each chapter includes diagrams that illustrate new vocabulary and more details about the processes involved.

The book has bright photographs with captions containing pertinent information not included in the text. It has a glossary, websites, and index, and an about the author section.

Activity 1

Look up information about the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown, the Three Mile Island disaster, and the more recent Japanese reactor problems following the tsunami. Use a graphic organizer or develop your own  to contrast and compare two of those disasters and their results.

Three Mile Island



Activity 2 (easier)

Make a timeline of disasters and display it. Use the book’s information to begin and find others to include.

Find more disasters at this site.

National Science Standards: matter and its interactions; human impacts on Earth systems

CCSS: I.5.3:

3. Explain the relationships or interactions between two or more individuals, events, ideas, or

concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text based on specific information in the text.

Desert Baths

October 3, 2012

Darcy Pattison is a guest blogger for today’s book, Desert Baths. Read on to to discover the fascinating way this fun nonfiction book about ways desert animals stay cleam came about.

Desert Baths started when I read an article about anting. Anting is when birds walk onto an ant mound and spread their wings, allowing the ants to crawl over their wings and clean off parasites. Alternately, some birds will pick up an ant in their beaks, crush the ant and then use the ant like a washcloth to brush parasites off their wings. Scientists believe the formic acid from the ant functions as an antiseptic.

After reading about this remarkable method of hygiene, I started searching for other ways that animals take a bath, however odd: spit, rolling in something like dirt or grass, and using dew or mud wallows. The Western Gecko, with its long tongue darting out to lick its eyeball, was just the sort of odd fact that turned up. Slowly, I started to focus on desert animals because the contrast between deserts with no water and the expectation of a water bath was funny.

One problem I faced in writing this was balancing the types of animals. Mammals and birds used a variety of ways to bathe, but reptiles, amphibians and arachnids rarely do what we would call a bath because their skin doesn’t need the same sort of regular hygiene. I wanted to include a tarantula in the book, but they just molt their exoskeleton—not exactly a bath. Instead, the illustrator Kathleen Rietz  kindly included this desert dweller in the illustrations. I squeezed in a diamondback rattler shedding his skin and a desert tortoise looking at a sky empty of cloud. But mostly, the animals had to be mammals and birds.

I also needed to find a variety of animals, from nocturnal to diurnal, or those awake at night and those awake during the day. That would allow me to use a 24-hour day to structure the story.

After I decided to balance nocturnal – diurnal and mammal/bird/reptile/amphibian, it was simply a matter of research, looking for the best possible combination of desert animals. I talked to scientists and studied scientific journals. Finally, I wrote, this time, paying attention to the sounds of the words, to the literary aspects of the story. I always work hard to create stories that are easy to read-aloud.

Desert Baths is a companion book to last year’s Prairie Storms, a book about how prairie animals survive a year of storms. Sylvan Dell Publishing has 50+ page teacher/parent guides available as an pdf download on its site for Desert Baths and Prairie Storms. Desert Baths is also available in Spanish, Las duchas en el desierto.

See all Darcy Pattison’s books here.

Activity 1

Do one of the activities in the book. Compare your answers with a friend.

Activity 2

Do the “Food For Thought” activity. Write a paragraph to demonstrate your knowledge.

National Science Standard: organisms and their environment

Book provided by author.

I, Galileo

September 26, 2012

Nonfiction Monday is at Shelf-employed.

I, Galileo

By Bonnie Christensen

Illustrated by author

Alfred A. Knopf, 2012

ISBN #078037586753

Grades 3-5

Nonfiction picture book

“Imagine a world with no clocks, thermometers, or telescopes. A world where everyone believes the earth stands still as the enormous sun travels around it once each day.”

Written in the voice of Galileo Galilei, the famous “father of modern science,” I, Galileo shows the brilliant yet human side of this radical thinker who was considered a heretic and imprisoned at the end of his life. The book traces Galileo’s work with his father to his interest in mathematics rather than medicine, as his father wished, to his studies that revolutionized astronomy.

Over time, people began to distrust Galileo and he went before the Inquisition, well-handled for young readers by Christensen in the lovely narrative text. Initially I was concerned at using first person to tell this story, but Christensen’s voice as Galileo’s manages to convey the information while keeping it authentic but readable for this age.

Back matter includes an afterward, chronology, Galileo’s experiments, inventions, and discoveries, along with a glossary, bibliography, and websites.

This is a wonderful book toread to introduce science to elementary aged readers and provides an insight into a world long past. It would be a good way to introduce standing up for your beliefs as well as promoting interest in science. This book is one that should be in every library.

Activity 1

Choose an invention or experiment and look it up to learn more about that invention. You may have to look up the individual inventions as you research.

Activity 2

Read about the phases of the moon and draw and label each phase.

This site has good information and diagrams.

This site gives some general information about Galileo.

This site has background on Galileo.

National science standards: forces and motion; influence of engineering, technology, and science on society and the natural world

Book provided by publisher for Librarians’ Choices Committee

ANIMALS a visual encyclopedia

September 5, 2012

ANIMALS  a visual encyclopedia

Edited by Carrie Lowe and Caroline Stamps

Dorling Kindersley, 2008

ISBN #9780756640279

Ages 5 – 9 years


What is an Animal?

The animal kingdom is a vast collection of weird and wonderful creatures. Members of this group come in many different shapes and sizes, but they are all made up of cells, and they all have nerves and muscles to move and respond to the world around them. Most important, all animals eat food to make energy.”

This visual encyclopedia first defines animals and then begins with a chart showing the relationship of life as it is divided into various categories. From this introduction, filled with charts, photos, and sidebars explaining animal relationships, the book continues with information about behavior, life cycles, habitats, and endangered animals.

Following this introduction, each group of animals is defined and detailed in sections about vertebrates and invertebrates. The information is excellent and a good way to introduce any study of animals and how they interact. Bold and large photographs make the wide range of text narrative appealing and will draw in the reader. The representative animals are both familiar and unfamiliar. For example, the water bird heading in the bird section includes the Black swan, the Mallard, and the Muscovy duck.

I can see readers picking up the book to browse or using it for the information. It does not read like a typical encyclopedia and invites children to read and explore the world of animals. This book is perfect for the library, classroom, or home and it would be a wonderful gift for any child.

Activity 1

Choose an animal and read about its habitat. Identify why it lives in that particular habitat. Look up more information about the animal and read about it. Make a list of adaptations the animal has that allows it to live and thrive. Illustrate the adaptations or write an explanation of those adaptations.

Activity 2

Choose an animal from the book. Read about its life cycle. Then create your own chart to illustrate the life cycle. Don’t overlook the wide number of interesting invertebrates!

Find animal information at National Geographic Kids.

The San Diego Zoo has good animal information.

See more animal information here.

National Science Standard: growth and development of organisms; interdependent relationships in ecosystems; adaptation

Book provided by publisher

Flip, Float, Fly

June 27, 2012


I’m revisiting this book (one of my favorites) while I’m working this week on a Quality Review Panel. You can learn more about this organization at Creating Quality. This book was featured on The Reading Rainbow App Trailer.

Flip, Float, Fly: Seeds on the Move

By JoAnn Early Macken

Illustrated by Pam Paparone

Holiday House, 2008

ISBN# 0-8234-2043-4

Nonfiction picture book

 Vivid illustrations add depth to this book that traces the wide variety of ways seeds move about. In simple, sparkling language, the movements by seeds as they spread are shown and explained as they complete their life cycle. Back matter includes more seed and plant facts and a final page adds notes about why seeds must move.

 Tumbleweed plants grow as round as globes. In autumn their stems snap off. On the flat, open prairie, they ROLL, ROLL, ROLL, sprinking their seeds as they tumble.

 Activity 1

Use this book to start a seed experiment. Choose one variable to test (amount of water, light and dark, planting depth, or seed type). Give each student two small paper cups and fill with soil. One is the control and the other is the variable. Use 2-3 seeds for each cup. I recommend bean seeds, because the plant grows well and relatively fast.

Set up the experiment and plant the control seeds normally. Then set up the second cup according to your choice of variable. From now on, keep everything other than the variable equal. Fill out the scientific method form as you plan and perform the experiment and watch the seeds grow.

Activity 2

Use a metric ruler and measure the growth of the two sets of bean plants in millimeters. Record the results each day. Use the results to make a line graph of both and make your conclusions.

National Science Standard: understanding about scientific inquiry, life cycles of organisms

See a review of Flip, Float, Fly.

Gone Fishing!

June 13, 2012

I’m on a fishing trip to Lake Navajo–really!–and will get a new post up as soon as I can.

Update on the fishing: I caught an undersized smallmouth bass and a northern pike, which slipped off the hook at the last minute. My husband caught a keeper bass, but it wasn’t enough to feed four so we let him go. It was a great time at a beautiful lake anyway.

About Hummingbirds

May 23, 2012

Visit STEM Friday and see the excellent recommendations today.

About Hummingbirds

by Cathryn Sill

Illustrated by John Sill

Peachtree, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-56145-588-1

Grades K-3

Nonfiction picture book

The hummingbirds have returned to New Mexico, so I thought this would be a good book to preview. Our feeders are out and almost empty already.

“Hummingbirds are small birds that get food from flowers.”

About Hummingbirds, in the Peachtree About… series, shows the life and habits of hummingbirds of different species. Short, lyrical sentences deliver the facts on the left side of the spread, while the right side shows in vivid, lush color the image from the text opposite it.

The subject matter covers food, adaptations, behaviors, flight, perching, size, coloration, and breeding in language easily understood by the younger learners. The pictures show specific species and are just gorgeous.

Back matter includes further information about hummingbirds, a glossary, further reading, and websites. This is a lovely Peachtree book and will be a hit with any young birder.


Look up information about five different birds. Choose a measurable fact and record it for each bird under the birds’ names. Then make a bar graph that will compare the different birds. You might want to use bill length, wingspan, weight, or any other statistic you like. Discuss your results. You can order them from increasing sizes or decreasing sizes.

Here is a place to get a graph page.

Find lots of bird choices here.

For older readers, you may want to read Hummingbirds by Jeanette Larson  and Adrienne Yorinks. Here’s my blog post on that book with more sites and activities.

National science standard: Characteristics of  organisms; life cycle

Book provided by publisher


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