Our Earth

March 21, 2012

Our Earth

By Joanne Mattern

Capstone Press, 2011

Fact Finders Series

ISBN #9781429653954

Grades 3-6


“We all call Earth home. Of all the planets and other bodies in the solar system, Earth is the only place that supports life. That makes our planet one of a kind!”

Our Earth introduces the planet we know so well in its place within our solar system. It continues with the formation of the solar system and the reasons Earth can support life. This first section explains orbit, axis, rotation, and revolution, and then begins to explore inner Earth.

The remaining chapters of the book fill in information about the land, the oceans, the atmosphere, and the biomes on Earth. The final chapter addresses photosynthesis, weather, and the water cycle, all parts of the processes that allow life to thrive here.

Our Earth is an excellent survey of our planet and a great introduction to each of these individual processes that take place. Photographs and diagrams add information and highlighted vocabulary is defined at the bottom of the page where it was introduced. The text is reader-friendly and the book has an appealing layout that shows the information well. Fun facts are sprinkled on some of the pages. Back matter includes a glossary, a read more section, Internet sites, and an index. Joanne Mattern does an excellent job with science subjects and it’s a fun book to read. The book hits on a number of science concepts—all in one book. In all its complexities, who can get tired of reading about the Earth and its amazing processes?

Activity 1

Choose a topic from the book and find out more about that subject. You might want to investigate plate tectonics, the water cycle, the carbon cycle (not in book but interesting!), Earth’s atmosphere, the moon, the Sun, or photosynthesis. Make your own poster or display to share the information you learned.

These links will get you started:  tides, plate tectonics, water cycle, carbon cycle, Earth’s atmosphere, photosynthesis, moon, Sun

Activity 2

Choose another planet. Then look up information about that planet and create a chart or Venn diagram to compare and contrast the Earth and that planet. This activity could be done as a group project, too.

NASA’s site has planet information. Click on the planet and then go down to the read more tab.

National Science Standards: Earth and the solar system; Earth Materials and Systems; Plate Tectonics and Large-Scale System Interactions;  The Roles of Water in Earth’s Surface Processes; Weather and Climate

Book provided by Capstone


September 28, 2011

Nonfiction Monday is a 100 Scope Notes today.

Polar Lands

By Sean Callery

Kingfisher, 2011

Life Cycle Series

ISBN # 978-0-7534-6691-9

Ages 7 to 10

Nonfiction PB

“The Arctic and Antarctic regions are known as the polar lands. These are the toughest habitats in the world: dark all winter long, with freezing temperatures and storms. Against the odds, plants and animals live there.”

If you’re looking for a book about biomes/habitats and life cycles, Polar Lands (and other books in this series) is the perfect one for elementary-aged learners. Sean Callery takes a region and introduces it, then takes the reader along the food chain page by page. This book includes Arctic and Antarctic animals ranging from krill (which I especially liked, having never seen this organism’s life cycle in a book) to seals to the Arctic wolf. The first page of the spread introduces the organism and traces its life cycle in four steps. A sidebar adds the animal’s adaptation in three picture bulleted details and one more fact at the bottom, which leads the reader to the page turn and next animal in the food chain.

Bright photographs illustrate the text and a circular graphic presents the life cycle, interspersed with more photos. The spread out text and chunks of information make the book inviting and readable. Back matter includes a large silhouette diagram of the entire food chain, a glossary, websites, and an index.

This is one of the most clever ways of writing about and illustrating a food chain that I’ve seen in a book. It’s clear and concise, making both the concept and life cycle easy to follow. I’ve read another book in the series, Grassland, and it’s just as good.  This is a terrific book for libraries and schools, and is great for reading and holding the interest of kids, especially animal lovers.

Activity 1

Take one of the animals from the book and create a graphic to show the food chain in which it is involved. Illustrate the steps along the way or print and cut out pictures for the animals.

National Geographic has good animal information and pictures.

Activity 2

Look up more information about the Arctic and Antarctic. Make a diorama or mural to illustrate its features and the life there. Label each animal.

National Geographic has lots of excellent information on ecosystems and biomes.

Activity 3

Choose an animal. Read more about the animal and create a list of ways it is adapted, or suited, to fit into its environment.

National Science Standards: Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems; Growth and Development of Organisms; Growth and Development of Organisms

Book provided by Kingfisher.


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.


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