Archive for Geography


Written by Sue Whiting
Illustrated by Mark Jackson

This is a great opportunity to learn about the creature that fascinates observers and puzzles scientists. Kids will love the platypus and want to know more.

The author starts out by following a male platypus as he goes about his daily foraging. His burrow is warm and cozy and nestled on the bank of a creek. His body and fur help him to move around his semiaquatic world. His flexible bill allows him to find and capture worms, insect larvae, crawfish, and beetles. He dives repeatedly to the creek bed until he fills the pouches in his cheeks for the coming meal. He has to hide quickly from predators. Meanwhile, the female tends to the eggs and nurses the babies.

The beautiful illustrations give a real feel to the environment of the platypus, the other animals, and even the plant life.

Third graders will get a chance to practice literacy skills while learning about life in Tasmania and Australia. This would be a good read aloud for discussion of what a monotreme is and how it differs from a mammal.

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  • PlatypusTitle: Platypus
  • Author: Sue Whiting
  • Illustrator: Mark Jackson
  • Published: Candlewick Press, March 8, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: K to 4
  • Genre: Science, Nature, Geography
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-8098-5
  • Extras: Numerous sidebars, Index, author’s note “The Puzzling Platypus”

The Girl Who Buried Her Dreams in a Can


“Achieveable,” Really? Girls going to school? Not born in Zimbabwe during the war. Then girls rarely got to attend school. Only after she grew up and had children of her own was Trent encouraged by the women of her village to learn to read. They needed her to read letters from their faraway husbands.

This beautifully illustrated story is based on the true life experiences of Dr. Tererai Trent, who now hold many degrees and is an advocate for learning and education world-wide.

Traditional values, beliefs and thatched roofed homes are described and illustrated in this full color book. Teachers, librarians, and reading specialists will fulfill core curriculum standards in geography, history, and literacy by using this book with grade three readers.

It also highlights the good possible accomplished by just one person in advocating and supporting education. While Trent dreamed of education in Zimbabwe, it became a reality in America, as she explains in the body of the text as well as in her author’s notes.

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  • Girl who buried her dreamsTitle: The Girl Who Buried Her Dreams in a Can
  • Author: Dr. Tererai Trent
  • Illustrator: Jan Spivey Gilchrist
  • Publisher: Viking, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 40 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-670-01654
  • Genre: Non-fiction, biography
  • Grade Level: K to 3
  • Extras: Author’s Note, Afterward

Over On A Mountain

Written by  Marianne Berkes
Illustrated by Jill Dubin

Marianne Berkes continues her great series with this book that introduces 20 different animals that live on ten different mountain ranges on seven different continents of the world. This book will make teaching geography fun and easily fulfills the core curriculum standards for elementary literacy skills, math, and geography. It will be a wonderful addition to your school, classroom or home library.

Readers can count the animal babies, and read the numeral on the page, or vice versa. Likewise, they will enjoy the natural rhymes of the story and sing a song they already know with different words. Besides all that, they can identify the continents and animals that live on each. The cut paper illustrations are realistic enough to jump right into. Readers of all ages will be tempted to make their own cut paper illustrations.

This is a book that just keeps on giving.  The end pages have tips from the author as well as tips from the illustrator so readers can try out the techniques on their own. That is on top of all the added detailed information about the animals included in the book.

A particularly helpful section in the end pages deals with what parts of the book are facts and which fiction. These are decisions always difficult for young readers to distinguish on their own.

Facts about mountains and suggestions about how to compare and contrast are added benefits as well as suggestions for further reading.

While the youngest readers might not grasp everything in the end pages, older students will soak up everything this book has to offer.

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  • Over on a mountainTitle: Over On A Mountain
  • Author:  Marianne Berkes
  • Illustrator: Jill Dubin
  • Publisher: Dawn Publications, March 1, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: paperback/32pgs
  • ISBN:  978-1584695196
  • Genre: picture book
  • Grade level: Preschool to 4
  • Extras: Tips from the author, tips from the illustrator, fact or fiction, mountain facts, compare and contrast. More books related

What Was Ellis Island?

Written by Patricia Brennan Demuth

Illustrated by David Groff


January 1, 1892 was Annie Moore’s fifteenth birthday. She celebrated by being the first immigrant to set foot on Ellis Island. A long ocean voyage brought her from Ireland to a new life in America. Officials awarded her a ten dollar gold piece for being the first person to enter.

Interspersed within the narrative of the Island’s history and development are short two page biographies of famous immigrants who passed through Ellis Island, such as Golda Meir, Andrew Carnegie, Fiorella La Guardia, and Bob Hope.  Other interesting passages include diagrams of the ships who carried the immigrants, informative article about child labor at the time, the statue of liberty, and the kissing post.

Readers will also learn about the health requirements for entering the country and what it was like to be turned away and sent back across the ocean.

Pen and ink sketches help transport the reader into the story of what is now Ellis Island National Monument. It has become one of America’s most popular historic landmarks. Two million people visit each year.

This book is an addition to the popular series of Nonfiction books called, “What Was?”

These books are well designed to fulfill core curriculum standards in the areas of history and geography specifically, though they are also very useful for teaching how to read nonfiction, charts, graphs, and diagrams. Students introduced to one of these books might naturally want to continue reading through the set. Several more are planned for the coming year.

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  • Ellis IslandTitle: What Was Ellis Island?
  • Author: Patricia Brennan Demuth
  • Illustrator: David Groff
  • Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap, 2014
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Paperback, 113 pages
  • ISBN:  978-0-448-47915-6
  • Genre: Non-Fiction
  • Grade Level: 3 to 7
  • Extras: Bibliography, 16 pages of historic photos, timeline of the world, timeline of Ellis Island, related websites

Mr. Ferris and His Wheel

Written by Kathryn Gibbs Davis
Illustrated by Gilbert Ford
America was preparing for the Chicago World’s Fair for 1893, and anxious to surpass France’s Eiffel Tower. But what could possibly do that? A contest was announced and engineers began sketching all manner of tower’s and novelties.
George Ferris won the contest with his idea of a giant wheel that people would ride in closed rooms furnished with velvet chairs. While the contest sponsors liked his magnificent idea, they never thought it would work. In fact, they refused to help finance the project. They seemed to sit on the sidelines watching for it to fail. However, at the conclusion of the fair, they were so amazed by its overwhelming success, they decided to name the magnificence wheel after its creator.

Kathryn Gibbs Davis has written a fascinating account of this episode in American history, including quotes and facts. The illustrations by Gilbert Ford are realistic and magical at the same time capturing the environment that was the 1893 World’s Fair. The illustration of the fair at night is especially meaningful when readers learn that this introduction of electric lights at night gave L. Frank Baum his idea for the Emerald City in his Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Grade three readers, as well as those younger and older, will be interested in the first Ferris Wheel and amazed by its size.

Core curriculum standards of American history, science, geography, and literacy skills will be met by use of this book. It is an excellent example of combining a narrative with factual paragraphs. This book is an excellent addition to every nonfiction library.

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  • Mr. FerrisTitle: Mr. Ferris and His Wheel
  • Author: Kathryn Gibbs Davis
  • Illustrator: Gilbert Ford
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 40 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-547-95922-1
  • Genre: Nonfiction
  • Grade level: K-3
  • Extras: Endpapers include a Selected Bibliography, Quote Sources and related websites.

Four Famous Faces

Written by Jean L.S. Patrick
Illustrated by Renee Graef

Four beautiful Native American animals are pictured on the cover as a group of friends off on a hike. The story begins as a prairie dog pup sets off to find the “four famous faces” that all the tourists traveling past in their cars and campers are going to see. For so much traffic, they must be very important faces.

Young readers will giggle as the prairie pup asks first bison, elk, then bats and finally mountain goats if they are the four famous faces before finally reaching the welcome center to the real famous faces of Mount Rushmore. Along the journey, third grade readers will visit several fantastic National and State parks. At the back of the book, an in-depth section is presented for each of the parks as well as for each of the animals. This makes the book of particular value for teachers and librarians. The information section will fulfill the core curriculum and literacy skills of any school system.

The readers will be able to distinguish easily between the fiction and non-fiction sections of the books and can use this as an example when they are doing their own classroom writing. It is a great addition to the study of geography as well as a neat travel guide for families preparing to take their vacation in this region of our country. Otherwise, it would be a great reminder of a trip taken a couple of years ago. The story ends on a very satisfying note, as does every trip away from home.

Extras: Several non-fiction pages in the back of the book that each focus on a particular park: Devil’s Tower National Monument, Mount Rushmore National Park, Wind Cave National Park, Jewel Cave National Park, Badlands National Park, and Custer State Park. Each of these pages also include a non-fiction fact box about each of the animals who starred in the picture book story at the beginning of the book. (bison, prairie dog, elk, and big-eared bat)

A lengthy list of books for further reading and web sites.

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  • Four Famous FacesTitle: Four Famous Faces
  • Author: Jean L.S. Patrick
  • Illustrator: Renee Graef
  • Publisher: Stories in Stone, 2014
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN:  978-0-9798823-8-8
  • Genre: Fiction