Archive for Nature

Mouse Bird Snake Wolf

Written by David Almond

Illustrated by Dave McKean

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Ancient myths are fascinating for those at the third grade reading level, especially when the story is a fresh take on mythology. This interesting story will capture youngsters with comprehension at the third grade level with a story full of gods, magic, and adventure, although older readers will enjoy this as well.

Mouse Bird Snake Wolf  is a creation myth about a world designed by some gods who did not quite finish the job. They created a world with, a sea, a sky, and mountains. There were some people and creatures and trees and plants, but there were also many blank spaces. The gods spend their time napping and lying around the clouds having cake and tea instead of finishing their work. Some young people, Harry, Sue, and Little Ben, wondered about the blank spaces. They feel like there should be creatures to fill those blanks. Little Ben thinks there should be a mousey thing. He creates one from plants, wool, and nuts and forms them into a mousey shaped thing and conjures it into a living thing. Sue decides to try to make a birdie kind of thing, and she pulls that off as well. Harry creates a snake from mud and brings it to life. The gods snooze on and never interfere. The real trouble is caused when Harry and Sue get together and decide what needs to happen is a wolf. Little Ben tries to stop them, but they are intent on bringing their creature to life.

Creation myths exist in every culture in the world. This would be a wonderful book to add to a unit on creation myths. Because it is so unusual and fresh, this will give youngsters a great starting point for writing and illustrating their own creation myths. Both the author and the illustrator have web sites. The author’s page can be found at http://www.davidalmond.com/ and the illustrator’s site is http://www.davemckean.com/.

  • Mouse Bird Snake WolfTitle: Mouse Bird Snake Wolf
  • Author: David Almond
  • Illustrator: Dave McKean
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press
  • Reviewer: Rosi Hollinbeck
  • Paperback: 80 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-5912-7
  • Genre: Fiction, Creation Myth, Graphic Story
  • Lexile Score: 640

 

Animal Helpers: Sanctuaries

Written by Jennifer Keats Curtis

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Animal Helpers: Sanctuaries is more than a picture book for the kindergarten to third grade level reader. This book is a fun and informative study of who and how animals can be helped and cared for. Many times exotic animals are purchased when they are tiny, but when they grow and become too big for their caregiver, who takes over the care? Animal Helpers: Sanctuaries is the book to launch those discussions and learning.

Educators and parents will appreciate the clear information presented in the book for the kindergarten through third grade reading level students. Whether the book is read aloud or students study it independently, the beautiful pictures will help tell the story of a bear, a lynx, two tigers, and a variety of other beautiful and exotic animals that cannot live alone in the wild.

The publisher has numerous resources for teachers on their website and the book includes four pages of activities to do at home or in the classroom. Readers will learn hands-on about sanctuaries and the care of animals, rescue and habitats, and how to identify domestic animals from those that should be wild. Many more free learning activities are available online at www.SylvanDellPublishing.com.

This is a great book to add to the classroom or the homeschool library but it also is a good book for parents to read and share at home. Summer reading can open discussions about animals, the environment, and even volunteer opportunities available for children who love to know more about helping animals. The additional pages for “Creative Minds” are a plus for parents and teachers offering a wide variety of fun learning experiences to share with the third grade student.

  • Animal Helpers SanctuariesTitle: Animal Helpers: Sanctuaries
  • Author: Jennifer Keats Curtis
  • Publisher: Sylvan Dell Publishing
  • Reviewer: Terri Forehand
  • ISBN: 978-1-60718-6236
  • Genre: Juvenile Nonfiction, Picture book
  • Lexile Level: 860

 

 

 

Burton’s Friendship Garden

Written by V. A. Boeholt

Illustrated by Nathaniel P. Jensen

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Burton, the kind scarecrow, invites his friend Ribbon to watch as Farmer Green works the field with his tractor. First, the farmer plows all of last year’s growth to make natural fertilizer, and then he readies the discer. He follows that with dragging tied-together wagon wheels across the field to make it smooth. After he’s picked up the rocks, the farmer tells Burton that he’ll return tomorrow to plant the seeds. Imagine the scarecrow’s concern when he doesn’t show up. After two days of waiting, Burton finds out from the crow that the farmer has broken both legs. Now he’s even more worried. What will happen to Farmer Green’s family if he cannot grow crops? Burton, always kind and thoughtful, bands the animals together to form a plan to help.

Boeholt’s book, as Book 2 in the series called Friendship Tales from the Farm, is so much more than a book about farming. Teachers will surely appreciate the Resource Guide (included within the book), the page on the history of gardening, comprehension questions, the ideas for activities, and the glossary of words unfamiliar to many third graders. In addition, Burton’s Friendship Garden provides an opportunity to teach character development and service, as the scarecrow, alongside his friends, finds a way to work together to achieve a worthy goal. As Boeholt brings Burton to life, she’s able to reach children with that important message of friendship. Read aloud or silently, Burton’s Friendship Garden should be near the top of the third grade reading list.

Author’s Website: http://scarecrowstories.com/

Illustrator’s Website: http://www.natepjensen.com/#

Related trailer for the first book in the series, Burton the Kind Scarecrow: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JVUZrnZEehk

  • Burtons Frindship GardenTitle: Burton’s Friendship Garden
  • Author: V. A. Boeholt
  • Illustrators: Nathaniel P. Jensen
  • Publisher: Five Star Publications, Inc.
  • Reviewer: Bonita Herold
  • Paperback: 36 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-558985-210-5
  • Genre: Picture Book
  • Lexile Score: 800

 

Barnaby the Bedbug Detective

Written by Catherine Stier

Illustrated by Karen Sapp

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Did you know “an adult bedbug lives about twelve to eighteen months”? Or that “adult bedbugs can go months, and in rare cases, more than a year, without eating”? You know a book is going to be a great read when even the inside of the cover pulls you in with such fascinating facts! Barnaby the Bedbug Detective highlights the life of a working dog unlike most we are familiar. Seeing-eye dogs, therapy dogs, and the canine unit for police stations are familiar to almost everyone, but dogs’ trained as bedbug detectives shows just how industrious and useful these furry creatures can be!

Students read about a pound dog, Barnaby, who is passed up as a family dog but is later hand-picked as a perfect candidate for canine training in bedbug detection. Author Catherine Stier weaves a fiction tale based on facts, which triggers readers’ curiosity about different aspects of Barnaby’s job and perhaps other unlikely jobs that dogs can perform. Karen Sapp’s illustrations are bright and cheerful, yet informative; one particular illustration shows the lifecycle of the bedbug. This book would be a perfect fit in a unit about pets, careers, health or as an addition to a unit on research. After reading Barnaby the Bedbug Detective, students may be encouraged to ask questions and find the answers through research in the media center. To promote comprehension, students may be assigned to research a canine job and present their findings in a multimedia presentation. If students are interested in learning more about bedbugs in particular, there are several resources listed at the end of Barnaby.  This book is well-suited for reading aloud in any second or third grade class; most students will relish in learning more about the gross facts and fascinating job of Barnaby.

  • BarnabyTitle: Barnaby the Bedbug Detective
  • Author: Catherine Stier
  • Illustrator: Karen Sapp
  • Publisher: Albert Whitman and Company
  • Reviewer: Sharon Schulte
  • Hardback, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-8075-0904-3
  • Genre: fiction/dogs/working-dogs

 

Shark Baby

Written by Ann Downer

Illustrated by Shennen Bersani

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Shark Baby is a picture book that bursts at the seams with facts and fun information for any grade level that enjoys picture books. Independent readers at a third grade level can easily master the language in the picture book text, although some may need assistance with pronunciation or comprehension.

The illustrations are fabulous and keep the reader turning the page. The illustrations also keep those being read to interested because they depict action with each page. Third grade level readers will enjoy the mystery of discovering what type of shark the new baby shark is. Students will be amazed at all the interesting facts they will learn about the sea, creatures who live in the ocean, and the habitats that are depicted as Shark Baby travels to find out what kind of shark he is.

This picture book is a treasure for the classroom teacher because along with a good story based on science facts, this book includes 4 pages of activities and additional lesson material to support information about sharks. Additionally, Sylvan Dell Publishing offers more teacher assistance on their web page at www.SylvanDellPublishing.com  making this a must to any third grade level classroom.

  • Shark BabyTitle: Shark Baby
  • Author: Ann Downer
  • Illustrations: Shennen Bersani
  • Publisher: Sylvan Dell Publishing
  • Reviewer: Terri Forehand
  • ISBN: 978-1-60718-6342
  • Genre: Juvenile/ Nonfiction

 

Deadly! The Truth About the Most Dangerous Creatures on Earth

Written by Nicola Davies
Illustrated by Neal Layton

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Isn’t it amazing how different words, a different word order or even a punctuation can change the focus and often the meaning of the same bit of information? Take the two sentences: “Call me, Ishmael”, and “Call me Ishmael”. Same words, same word order. Just one comma totally changes the meaning.

Deadly! presents scientifically accurate facts about both predators and prey, and how they are equipped for survival in the natural world. Nature is not tame, and the book can be a good way of introducing second and third-grade readers to the food chain. However, the very first spread contains the sentence, “In fact, when you look around the animal world, its clear that animals have been almost as good at finding different ways to hurt and murder one another as humans have,” which is a pity, because it distorts the purpose and focus of a worthwhile book.

The book is neatly organized, with information on one animal handing off to the next through a connected fact. Cheetahs, for example are superb runners, but they overheat in about 60 seconds, and have to give up. This segues into the section on dogs because “unlike cats, dogs can run and keep running.” Big animals give way to the small and tiny. Each creature has its own method of obtaining its meals.

There are many little-known facts sure to fascinate the readers: a mantis shrimp (about the size of a pencil case) creates a shock wave that can stun its prey. The trap-jaw ant “can snap its pincer-like jaws shut 2300 times faster than you can blink your eye.” The electric eel can generate 500 volts of electricity. Each interesting fact can lead to classroom discussions and more reading activities.

Towards the end of the book the author makes the case for living with these deadly predators, because they can be very useful to humans. The last page, Living With Deadly reminds us that animals “……..even the armed and deadly ones, have just as much right to their place on the planet as we do.” Another great discussion point. “When we enter a wild animal’s world, we shouldn’t expect it to be either a monster or a best friend. It is just itself…”

Additional Resources:
Bio: http://www.nicola-davies.com/about.php
About predators and prey: http://www.brooklynkids.org/attachments/Predators&Prey_FIN_HR.pdf

  • DeadlyTitle: Deadly! The Truth About the Most Dangerous Creatures on Earth
  • Author: Nicola Davies
  • Illustrator: Neal Layton
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press
  • Reviewer: Anjali Amit
  • Hardback: 61 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-6321-8
  • Genre: Nonfiction/Science

On the Move: Mass Migrations

Written by Scotti Cohn

Illustrated by Susan Detwiler

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Most youngsters are fascinated by animals of all kinds, and that fascination is fed by wonderful books as children become proficient readers at the third grade reading level. On the Move: Mass Migrations should become a staple for students’ reading lists, although it certainly can be a read aloud book for younger children as well.

On the Move: Mass Migrations has sections discussing the migrations of spotted salamanders, sandhill cranes, horseshoe crabs, caribou, chimney swifts, Brazilian free-tail bats, monarch butterflies, polar bears, snakes, elephant seals, salmon, and gray whales. These represent animals from a wide variety of places on the North American continent. Some move in order to find food, some to find mates, some need to go from a cold climate to a warmer one, some to find an appropriate or safe place to give birth or lay their eggs. Some sections discuss more than one season’s migrations for an animal. The section on horseshoe crabs even tells about red knot birds and common green darner dragonflies which both have a relationship to the crabs and the crabs’ habitat, but have their own migration patterns as well. Every section (or spread) has a lush, detailed illustration to give youngsters a true picture of the animals in their natural habitat. Everything in this beautiful book will delight youngsters and whet their curiosity and start their interest flowing. It will surely lead to further questioning and learning.

Four pages in the back of the book add some information and have some learning activities, but the real gift with this book is the 42-page teaching activity guide which can be downloaded at http://www.sylvandellpublishing.com/documents/TeachingActivities/OnTheMove_TA.pdf  contains everything from comprehension questions to writing prompts to a wide variety of activities such as word searches, a science journal, vocabulary activities, animal charts, and much more. This book will be a great addition to any classroom library.

  • On the MoveTitle: On the Move: Mass Migrations
  • Author: Scotti Cohn
  • Illustrator: Susan Detwiler
  • Publisher: Sylvan Dell Publishing
  • Reviewer: Rosi Hollinbeck
  • Paperback: 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-60718-6251
  • Genre: Nature

Python

Written by Christopher Cheng

Illustrated by Mark Jackson

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Pythons are beautiful. Who knew? In this lyrical, non-fiction book, Cheng uses a duel narration technique. First and foremost, we follow a specific python in the bush. She suns. She hunts and misses a beautiful bird. She hunts and captures a rat. Then she prepares her food by squeezing it.  Eventually, after she has digested, she will lay eggs and take care of them. The eggs hatch and small pythons appear. This is the main narrative, told with both poetry and accuracy. On most spreads, however, is another presentation of interesting facts about pythons and how their bodies work. For example: “Pythons, like all reptiles, are ectothermic. That means they acquire heat from their environment.” These factoids are set in a different font, but not a pull-out box. This choice means the book appears as a lovely single unit, with two types of text and wonderful paintings working together.

Python as a topic will instantly appeal to many kids. Snakes have always been cool to some and scary to others. Their coolness isn’t just the fact that they scare younger siblings, but also in their differentness. Snakes move differently. They’re covered in scales instead of skin or fur. They need the sun. And yet, this book emphasizes the similarities as well. Without anthropomorphizing Python, we see that when she is hungry she hunts, when she is cold and she finds a way to get warm, and when she lays her eggs, she cares for them. What she thinks about all of this, we don’t know, but we can see actions parallel to other animals and to us.

This book will fit in well to studies of reptiles in second or third grade and will make a wonderful read aloud, helping to diversify the science curriculum that often focuses on animals with fur and feathers.

Additional Information:

Smithsonian has wonderful pictures of reptiles, including pythons:

http://nationalzoo.si.edu/animals/photogallery/reptilesamphibians/default.cfm

National Geographic has links to videos of pythons and other reptiles:

http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/reptiles/burmese-python/

  • PythonTitle: Python
  • Author: Christopher Cheng
  • Illustrator: Mark Jackson
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press
  • Reviewer: Amy S. Hansen
  • Hardcover: 32
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-6396-4
  • Genre: nonfiction, nature

 

Deadly Venomous Animals

Written by Matt Doeden

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The Table of Contents tells it all. You’d better watch your step because these twelve deadly animals could wreak serious damage. Appealing to boys in particular, both boys and girls possessing second to third grade reading skills will enjoy the nastiness this book has to offer. Whether the venom comes from a snake, a scorpion, or an innocent-looking snail, it’s nothing to mess with.

The photographs are amazingly beautiful, and the facts in the sidebars may present information that could save your life. If you’re visiting Australia, for example, you may just want to shake out your shoes before putting them on. And if a Brazilian wandering spider starts an awe-inspiring dance, step back! Their name “wandering” didn’t come about because they like to pack their bags and travel. Scientists named it this because the spiders wander around at night hunting for prey. (On the other hand, those little arachnids aren’t particularly tied to their homes; they can hitch rides in shipments of pineapples, too.)

But guess what? While venom is undoubtedly dangerous, it’s also helpful in making medicine, such as powerful painkillers. The cone snail venom, in particular, may be used to create medicines that treat nerve diseases, such as Parkinson’s.

Reading comprehension is given a boost by the various vocabulary words sprinkled in the colored boxes throughout. After reading Deadly Venomous Animals, the reader may want to refer to page 30 for eight additional sources of information. Studying nature should always include a study of venomous animals and insects, if for no other reason than to appeal to a child’s sense of the gross.

  • Deadliest Venomous AnimalsTitle: Deadly Venomous Animals
  • Author: Matt Doeden
  • Publisher: Lerner Publishing Group, Inc.
  • Reviewer: Bonita Herold
  • Paperback: 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-4677-0599-8
  • Genre: Nature

 

Stink and the Freaky Frog Freakout

Written by Megan McDonald

Illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds

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Stink and the Freaky Frog Freakout is sure to make its way to reading lists as it will stretch both reading skills and science literacy. This eighth book in the Stink and Judy Moody series by prolific author Megan McDonald takes Stink on a froggy adventure. Stink Moody can’t swim his way out of the Polliwog level swim class because his head just won’t go under water. Then, frogs start popping up everywhere – in his shower, boots, and bathtub. Stink bonds with the frogs and convinces his friends to visit a vernal pool. There, they learn about challenges amphibians face such as shrinking habitat and pollutant-induced mutations. Croak! Squeenk! Ribbet! Stink is not happy about that and decides to join a frog-counting project.

When Stink is licked by a blue frog (surely a radioactive mutant), things get a little freaky. As he hippity-hops through the day, Stink gobbles up once-despised raisins which now look like tasty flies. The webbing betweens his toes seems to grow, and he is tempted to spend the night in the dark, damp basement. When he is eager to go to swim class, Stink’s sure he’s turning into a frog!

The story comes to a comforting conclusion as Stink froggy-kicks his way across the pool, happily dives underwater, and ribbets his way from the polliwog to the frog level in swim class.

With plenty of boy-appeal and humor on the third grade level, this book will inspire future scientists. It is perfect for young readers who enjoy froggy facts and reading games such as fun quizzes. (Did you know Northern green frogs eat their own dead skin?!) Several pages of Stink Frog superhero comics will please graphic novel fans.

Although the text includes a few inaccuracies (for example, the implication that skinks are amphibians), teachers will appreciate the scientific content (life cycle, scientific skills, field science techniques) as well as the conservation message. The classic classroom activity to accompany this book is raising tadpoles, but the book would also complement field trips to a pond or wetland area and a unit on freshwater ecology. Additional resources and lessons can be found on the website of the Center for Global Environmental Education, A Thousand Friends of Frogs (http://cgee.hamline.edu/frogs/), a project begun by students who found malformed frogs and decided to do something about it.

  • StinkTitle: Stink and the Freaky Frog Freakout (Book #8)
  • Author:  Megan McDonald
  • Illustrator: Peter H. Reynolds
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press
  • Reviewer: Heather L. Montgomery
  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0763661403
  • Genre: Chapter book, nature, contemporary, science
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