October 17, 2012


Ocean Sunlight

How Tiny Plants Feed the Seas

By Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm

The Blue Sky Press, 2012

ISBN #978-0545273220

Grades K-5

Nonfiction picture book

“Dive into the sea! Now flip over slowly, and look up. The water is shimmering with light—my light. I am your sun, your golden star. All ocean life depends on me; so does all life on land.”

I love books about the food chain, and this one delivers on a grand scale. Ocean Sunlight begins with an  explanation of photosynthesis and its value, and then goes on to relate that ocean plant life is part of the food chain. Seaweed is obvious, but the explanation of the food-producing phytoplankton is one of the best I’ve seen.

The book continues with the photic levels, explaining the amounts of light at the different divisions of the world’s oceans and shows the food chains in them. It continues to the deepest levels and discusses adaptations that the life has there to survive, including marine snow, the detritus that falls to the sea floor. The cycle concludes with the sun’s heat causing the water to move upward and bring the nutrients and CO2 back around.

This book can be read with many different grade levels and matched to the level of the children’s understanding. The art is bright and inviting and adds details to the informational text. It’s a lovely book and could lead to many discussions about food chains and webs while making a perfect introduction to the concept.

Several pages of back matter give much more detail, but as a science teacher, I’d love to have seen sources, a glossary, and more reading included in the back matter. Nonetheless, it’s a terrific book and one that every science teacher should know and introduce.

Activity 1 (younger)

List the plant and animal life in one of the food chains depicted in the book. Create a diagram or flow chart to show the different levels. Label and illustrate the food chain.

National Geographic has good information.

Here’s a fun food chain e-game.

Activity 2 (older)

Look up the word chemosynthesis. Compare and contrast the food production by chemosynthesis with photosynthesis. Identify what hydrothermal vents are. Then explain how tube worms and clams at deep sea vents use the hydrogen sulfide to make food.

This site has good information, but you might want to enlarge it so it doesn’t look so intimidating.

National Geographic has good information.

This site has a comparison of photosynthesis and chemosynthesis.

Author website with information

This review was a good one.

National Science Standard: LS2: Ecosystems: Interactions, energy, and dynamics

Common Core: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.5 Describe the overall structure (e.g., chronology, comparison, cause/effect, problem/solution) of events, ideas, concepts, or information in a text or part of a text.

Book provided by Scholastic for Librarians’ Choices Book Reviews


June 20, 2012


By Sean Callery

Kingfisher, 2012

Discover Earth’s Ecosystems Series

ISBN #9780753468104

Grades 2-5


“Mountains are cold, high, and rocky, so plants and animals must be tough to survive. Birds may fly elsewhere, but most other animals stay near shelter and food.”

Mountain explores the life cycles of different animals in three sets of mountain ranges. The animal information explores their life and needs and the page turns transition into what eats them on the food chain. The Rocky Mountains, the Himalayas, and the Andes serve as a backdrop for the different habitats and habits of these mountain dwelling animals. A variety of animals allows the reader to see a different sort of food chain than often presented and the text traces the chain up to the top predator. One plant, the Alpine butterwort, is included in the narrative.

The text is accessible and broken into text boxes with the life cycle presented in the center of the spread in four sections. Photos and insets give the text support and allow the reader to experience the book features that come with nonfiction. The final spreads show silhouetted food webs derived from the food chains presented in the reading.

Back matter includes the food webs, a glossary, websites, and an index. This is a terrific way to include both life cycles and food chains in one book. It would make a good introduction to either of these science concepts and lends itself to further exploration.


Choose another ecosystem and look up the animals and plants in it. Use them to create your own food web. Draw or cut out the animals and paste them on a large sheet of paper. Draw in the arrows to show the energy flow.

This website has really good food chain information. Arrow down to the bottom to see examples of food chains in other ecosystems. This page has an interactive food web diagram that you can print when you finish.

Enchanted Learning has some good information, too.

National Science Standards:  interdependent relationships in ecosystems; cycles of matter and energy transfer in ecosystems; growth and development of organisms

Book provided by Kingfisher

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

A Coral Reef Food Chain

November 4, 2009


A Coral Reef Food Chain : A Who-Eats-What Adventure in the Caribbean Sea

Follow That Food Chain series

by Rebecca Hogue Wojahn & Donald Wojahn 

Lerner, 2010

ISBN # 0-8225-7611-2

Nonfiction, grades 3-6

“This coral reef lies hidden in the warm, shallow water just off the shore of a Caribbean island. From the beach, waves gently roll over calm water. But duck your head under the waves, and you’ll see an underwater jungle full of life.”

This new food chain book from the series Follow That Food Chain allows the reader to create a food chain by choosing the next link in the food chain and then following that organism to the page listed. This particular book is especially good because it includes so many invertebrates and other varied species that are not well-known to children within the complex ecosystem of a coral reef. Animals such as fan worms, corals, sawfish, parrotfish, moray eels, nudibranchs, and sea urchins are among the consumers, with the producers and well-explained phytoplankton included in the chain information. Decomposers and their job in the chain are also included.

The sidebars add additional sections of information and the value or relationship of some of the organisms are explained. The main text highlights the unfamiliar words that are in the glossary. Bright photos and diagrams of specific connections forming a food web from the chains allow the reader to picture the connections of the organisms they’ve just read about. The book also contains a further reading section, a bibliography, and an index.

I’ve blogged on the temperate forest food chain book in this series, but this one has so many invertebrates I wanted to highlight  it. Food chains are important parts of the science curriculum, and these books provide an excellent way of teaching both organisms and the complex ideas within a food web.

Activity 1

Create your own food chain by following one of your choosing from the book. Make a diagram to show the energy flow.

Activity 2

Look through the book and find the invertebrates. Choose one invertebrate and look it up. Find out in which group it is classified according to the phylum, class, or order. Then find other animals in each group.

For more information about food chains and definitions, see this site.

This site has good information about the energy flow within a food chain.

Lovely coral reef and organism pictures

My previous blog on temperate forests is here. Go to my website and click on links in the toolbar to see my TLA presentation that includes a lesson on food chains.

See another book in the series at Miss Rumphius Effect.

Other books:

Ecosystems – Life in a Coral Reef by Hayley Haugen

Jump Into Science: Coral Reefs by Sylvia Earle

National Science Standard: organisms and environments

 Book provided by Lerner

A Who-Eats-What Adventure

April 15, 2009

A Temperate Forest Food Chain


By Rebecca Hogue Wojahn and Donald Wojahn

Lerner Publications, 2009

ISBN #978-0-8225-7496-5






Following an introduction to the woodland habitat and a review of related terms, this book asks the reader to choose a tertiary consumer from a list on page 7. According to which animal is chosen, the reader is directed to turn to a specific page for more details. From that page, facts are detailed in the text and further choices are provided for the next link in the food chain. Interactive and entertaining, A Temperate Food Chain provides a fun-filled trek though the forest habitat as it shows specific examples of energy flow.


Filled with photos and game board-appearing pages, this book will educate as it entertains, keeping the reader moving back and forth to find the next piece of the food chain puzzle.


This book is one in a series that covers various habitats in a who-eats-what adventure set. It could be used in conjunction with biomes.



In food chains, the strongest predators are called tertiary consumers. They hunt other animals for food and have few natural enemies.




Trace one food chain from the book and write down the path of the energy flow. Then choose another animal whose food chain links with the first one. Create a diagram to show the overlapping aspects of food chains into food webs. Draw arrows to show the direction of energy flow.



For more food chain activities, visit me and see the lessons I presented at TLA April 1. The lessons will be up for about a week longer.


Trout Are Made of Trees by April Pulley Sayre

The Wolves Are Back by Jean Craighead George

When the Wolves Returned by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent


See a review at Miss Rumpius Effect





A Wolf Story

January 7, 2009



The Wolves Are Back

By Jean Craighead George

Illustrated by Wendell Minor

Dutton Children’s Books, 2008


Nonfiction picture book

 The Wolves Are Back relates in lyrical narrative the reasons why wolves disappeared from Yellowstone National Park and shows the positive impact they made on the food web in the park following their reintroduction. Author Jean Craighead George, known for Julie of the Wolves and My Side of the Mountain, allows the relationships of the living organisms in the story to evolve naturally to let readers discern the conclusion-the wolves helped restore the natural balance. Illustrator Wendell Minor spent time with Ms George in Yellowstone before painting the lush, accurate pictures depicting the plants and animals in the park.

 The wolf pup pricked up his ears, pattered out of the den, and followed his father down the slope.

 Activity 1

Read the book a second time. This time, stop and list the plants and animals mentioned in the book. Point out the relationships among the various living organisms. Create simple food chains from this list.

 Activity 2

Review the vocabulary words. Then use the organisms listed from Activity 1 to create a food web. Use arrows to show the energy flow from the producers to the consumers. Add the flow back to the decomposers.

 Terms and explanations 

Food chain-the path of energy transfer from producers through the consumers.

 Producers-organisms that use the sun’s energy to make energy in the form of food; plants, algae, and some bacteria.

 Consumers-organisms who consume plants or other organism to get energy.

 First level-producers who use the sun’s energy to make food.

 Second energy level-herbivores who eat plants

 Third energy level-carnivores who eat herbivores (meat); including top level consumers who eat other carnivores or

                        –omnivores who eat both plants and meat.

 Decomposers-bacteria and fungi who consume dead and decaying animals and wastes for their energy; they break down the dead matter, releasing wastes of their own that return nutrients back to the environment.

This is an article about the return of the wolves to Yellowstone.

A good follow up to read aloud is Julie of the Wolves.  

Trout Are Made of Trees, by April Pulley Sayre, is a good look at a food chain.

National Science Standard: life cycles of organisms, organisms and environment


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