Archive for Nonfiction

Here Come the Girl Scouts!

Written by Shana Corey
Illustrated by Hadley Hooper

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Girls of all ages will enjoy this true story about Juliette Low and her founding of the Girl Scouts. It is a fun read with great illustrations and quotes from Juliette, who was always known as Daisy.

Third grade readers will enjoy reading this story independently and especially will like the short grouping of text around the illustrated pages. It will be a great book to use for developing picture clues as that is where much of the humor is found.

Readers will be encouraged to be brave, courageous and hard working in all that they do in order to succeed. But none of these things are described in a negative or dull way. Oh no, excitement and adventure is what the Girl Scouts expect out of life whether it is when camping out under the heavens or earning badges on how to cure hams.

The art work supports how multicultural the Girl Scouts are in welcoming members from all over the world. It would also provide an art teacher with many examples of what can be done with images in a book as the actual quotes are in a kid-printing type font while the narrative is in a regular typed font. Many literacy skills can be practiced and enhanced through this fun nonfiction story.

This book could be the beginning of a great writing activity for individual girls to use as a model for writing about their own lives and what they enjoy doing.  It is an introduction to girls to develop spunk, gumption and initiative.

While some might consider this a biography of Juliette Low, it only briefly refers to her childhood in terms of her near complete loss of hearing and how she overcame it. Then her development of the Girl Scouts is explained. No other information about her later life is included so it is really the history of the organization.

The last two pages of the book show cartoon caricatures of famous women who were Girl Scouts. Women like Lucille Ball, Gloria Steinem and Hilary Clinton are included as well as an empty frame labeled only as “you,” meant for readers.

This is the kind of book that will draw even reluctant readers to the nonfiction section of the library.

Extras: Added information is included in the end matter, but the reading level is comparable and can be handled by the same readers enjoying the body of the book. It will take a longer time and more intensely interested reader.

  • Girl ScoutsTitle: Here Come the Girl Scouts!
  • Author:  Shana Corey
  • Illustrator: Hadley Hooper
  • Publisher: Scholastic Press, 2012
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover/40p
  • ISBN:  978-0-545-34278-0
  • Genre: Nonfiction
  • Lexile: 720

Booker T. Washington: African-American Leader

Written by: Patricia and Fredrick McKissack

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When Booker T. Washington was a child, all he wanted to do was go to school. But he couldn’t. He was born a slave and put to work on a Virginia plantation as soon as he turned five years old. When slaves were freed during the Civil War, Booker and his family were left with no money and they didn’t know how to read or write. This book, part of the “Famous African Americans” series, tells the story of Booker’s determination to become educated.

When a school opened for black children, Booker jumped at the chance. He couldn’t go everyday because he had to work, too, but he read anything he could get his hands on. As he grew, he had a goal: he wanted to go to the first black college in Hampton, Virginia, even though it was 500 miles away. He walked, begged for rides, and hopped trains – it was a difficult journey, but he made it. He dedicated his whole life to education, first becoming a teacher, then principal, then community leader. In 1895, he landed on the national stage at the Atlanta Cotton Exposition and became a voice for a people that had to fight to be heard.

Themes of perseverance and overcoming all odds will leave a lasting impression with third grade readers. Authors Patricia and Fredrick McKissack present Washington’s story in short chapters mixed with archival photographs, mock-ups, and illustrations to support reading comprehension. The book fulfills common core standards for grades K-3 and provides a “Words to Know” section along with additional reading resources and age-appropriate websites. Other titles in this series can be found on the publisher’s website:

  • Booker TTITLE: Booker T. Washington: African-American Leader
  • AUTHOR: Patricia and Fredrick McKissack
  • PUBLISHER: Enslow Elementary / Enslow Publishers, Inc.
  • REVIEWER: Lauren Abbey Greenberg
  • FORMAT: Paperback: 24 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-4644-0194-7
  • GENRE: Non-Fiction / Biography


Strange Foods

Written by Michael J. Rosen and Ben Kassoy

Illustrated by Doug Jones

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Warning:  Do not read this review before breakfast!  Or any other meal for that matter!  This is a warning that should also be applied to Michael Rosen’s latest book, which more than delivers on the title Strange Foods.

Part of the “No Way” series, Strange Foods gives readers a taste for bird spit (in Bird Nest Soup, a Chinese delicacy), maggots (in Casu Marzu, Sardinian cheese that tastes like ammonia and smells like a stink bomb), jellyfish (in Echizen Kurage, a Japanese Candy), and cat poo (in Kopi Luwak, a coffee made from beans that have been partially digested by an Asian Marsupial).   And if that’s not enough – how about some poison on the side?  This book dishes it up in tiger blowfish, which contains enough tertodotoxin to “pleasantly” numb your lips and tongue.  But if you eat too much of this Japanese dish you can experience dizziness, exhaustion, nausea and muscle paralysis that can lead to death!  Strange Foods also introduces readers to mithridatism, the practice of ingesting small amounts of poison to build up immunity to snake bites, poison ivy encounters and attempted assassinations in the case of one Turkish King.

The food description and recipes in this book are served up with a combination of food photography and humorous cartoon style illustrations, set on a bold color background.  The effect is visually striking and appealing – although most of the food pictures will have readers yelling “yuck!”

There is a glossary at the end to increase the third grade readers comprehension and source notes to help readers get more information.  All this makes Strange Foods an essential addition to the non-fiction library.  But it is a book that’s best kept out of the kitchen.  Otherwise, you just might start getting requests for chicken feet, pig hooves, or giant water bug soup!

  • Strange FoodsTitle: Strange Foods
  • Author: Michael J. Rosen and Ben Kassoy
  • Illustrator: Doug Jones
  • Publisher: Millbrook Press (Lerner Publishing Group)
  • Reviewer: Yolanda Ridge
  • Book Length: 36 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-7613-8984-2
  • Genre: Non-fiction, food preferences, social studies

Children of the Tipi: Life in the Buffalo Days

Edited By Michael Oren Fitzgerald

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A book of photos and quotes, the superb layout allows you to sneak into the camp with the Native American’s shown. We see mothers and babies, women working on beading, children playing with dolls and small bow and arrows. Children will be rightly fascinated by children of another era and another culture — children who had to learn to hunt and fish, and yet played with familiar toys of dolls and balls.

With each double-page spread divided into natural categories of mothers, fathers, children at play, etc., the writing comes from interviews with members of many different tribes. Some of these quotes are broad and philosophic “When you see a new trail you do not know, follow it to the point of knowing.” Others are specific recollections, paired with a photo of the toy in question, in this case a buffalo-rib snow sled: “In the summer we played lacrosse. In the winter we coasted upon the ribs of animals and buffalo robes.”

These are snippets from many individuals in many tribes about many different topics and  Fitzgerald points out that the individual talking represents only him or herself. Students might need to be reminded to be careful about generalization from one quote, but this is a minor quibble for a powerful and charming book.

Since most of the power comes from the pictures, the book is appropriate for pre-kindergarten, kindergarteners, and first graders. Second and third graders can probably read it for themselves. It is also a lovely book for fourth grade and above to page through and read, especially when students study their home state and learn about local Native Americans.

  • Children of the TipiTitle: Children of the Tipi: Life in Buffalo Days
  • Edited By Michael Oren Fitzgerald
  • Publisher: Wisdom Tales
  • Reviewer: Amy S. Hansen
  • Paperback/hardcover/ebook: 42 pages
  • ISBN:978-1-937786-09-0
  • Genre:  nonfiction (history, science, nature, environmental, math, etc.), fiction (historical, fantasy, mystery, etc.)
  • Lexile Score: 680


Mister and Lady Day, Billie Holiday and the Dog Who Loved Her

Written by Amy Novesky

Illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton

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Getting third grade children interested in history is not always easy.  Mister and Lady Day has done an excellent job of grabbing the attention of young animal lovers and teaching them a little bit about the history of jazz.

Billie Holiday, or Lady Day, had many dogs, big ones and little ones, pure bred and “mutt”.  She loved her dogs.  But she did have a favorite.  Mister, her favorite, was with her almost all of the time.  She cooked for him and even made sweaters for him.  He loved her and protected her.  Lady Day “had to leave home for a year and a day”.  She did not sing for that entire time because she was so sad to be away from Mister.  She worried that he would not remember her.  But he did!  She began to sing again and on the night of her biggest show Mister was right where he always was when she was on stage, waiting in the wings.

What a wonderful way to integrate music and history into literacy.  This sweet story of the bond between Lady and Mister is an easy read.  The lovely illustrations help with comprehension for words such as “Chihuahuas”.  A picture walk for younger children would be a walk in the park with this book.

Learning about history and music is great.  However, there are social/family aspects that are much more subtle.  The text of the book does not tell why Lady Day “had to leave home for a year and a day”.  An author’s note at the end of the book tell that this time away was due to a prison stay for drug possession.  When teaching about the problems associated with drugs, children can more easily relate to being separated from a beloved pet than to the seemingly abstract notion that they might go to prison.  Then there is the reality that some children have parents (or siblings) who are away for a variety of reasons; military service, divorce, prison.  This book can help them understand that even though their loved one is gone, they are still much loved and not forgotten.

Amy Novesky ( and Vanessa Brantley Newton ( have done a masterful job of blending their talents to create this precious story of the loving bond between Lady Day and Mister.  Be sure to visit their websites to learn more about these talented women and their other works.

  • Mister and Lady DayTitle:  Mister and Lady Day, Billie Holiday and the Dog Who Loved Her
  • Author:  Amy Novesky
  • Illustrator:  Vanessa Brantley Newton
  • Publisher:  Harcourt Children’s Books
  • Reviewer:  Sandi Waymire
  • Hardcover:  unpaged
  • ISBN: 978-0-15-205806-7
  • Genre:  History (biography)
  • Lexile score:  580

Celebrating California

Written by Marion Dane Bauer

Illustrated by  C. B. Canga

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A new approach to state books in an easy-to-read format.  Mr. Geo is a hip geography teacher who explores new places and takes his young readers along.  In this volume, he is learning about California.  He goes to destinations such as a studio where a television show is being filmed, the San Diego zoo, a Spanish mission, Disneyland, Los Angeles, the Santa Monica pier, Silicon Valley and San Francisco.  He introduces readers to the diverse land forms such as Mount Whitney, the tallest mountain in the state, and the Mojave Desert with its dry Death Valley.  He even takes readers through, literally, a redwood tree in the famed forest.  He shows farm products grown in California and the wildlife that resides in the state.  He even touches on issues facing modern-day Californians as well as some of the state’s colorful history.

For such a short format, many things are covered in the text, making this a good book for an introduction to research.  Even though it lacks an index and a table of contents, the information is presented logically.  Back matter includes Fast Facts, a timeline of dates in California history, a glossary and a literacy activities section.  Mr. Geo is a fun and entertaining tour guide, making the book a possible class read aloud or a good book for a third-grade produced audio book.  The illustrations capture a whimsical side of Mr. Geo, driving around in his red convertible, as well as capturing the wonder of California sights.  There is a discussion guide at the publisher’s website: (

  • Celebrating CaliforniaTITLE: Celebrating California
  • AUTHOR: Marion Dane Bauer
  • ILLUSTRATOR: C. B. Canga
  • PUBLISHER: Sandpiper/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013
  • REVIEWER: Risa Brown
  • EDITION: Paperback, 36 p.
  • ISBN: 978-0-547-89697-7
  • GENRE: Geography, Readers
  • LEXILE: 530

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

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




Balloon Trees

Written by Danna Smith

Illustrated by Laurie Allen Klein

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Where does rubber for balloons and tires come from? Balloon Trees follows the process of harvesting latex from rubber trees, to shipping, chemical processing, vulcanization, and distribution of balloons. Dana Smith’s simplified prose may be a bit deceptive, for the ideas within Balloon Trees are anything but “simple”; her research and collaboration with rubber manufacturers is combined in this book to make a non-fiction description of the route balloons take from beginning to end.  The extra information in the “For Creative Minds” of Balloon Trees also gives resources that allow teachers and students to take learning beyond the pages of Balloon Trees.  Laurie Allen Klein illustrations are nothing short of stunning; the colors and textures bring to life the process of balloon manufacturing. Each illustration has a beautiful green bird that seems to be observing the different steps of balloon manufacturing, and in many of the illustrations, the bird imagery is echoed subtly, almost as a bonus seek and find.

After reading Balloon Trees aloud with a third grade class, be prepared to research answers to more questions that students may have because this book provides just enough information to inform students about balloon manufacturing and to pique students’ appetites to understand the greater concepts of rubber use and manufacturing. In the back of the book, there are several ready-to-use resources, such as a sequencing game and a true or false comprehension quiz about rubber. Balloon Trees also gives readers access to myriad free online resources at Sylvan Dell’s website. These resources are an asset to any busy teacher who wants to give the best information and tools to students on their journey as life-long learners. This book is a natural fit in any third grade classroom library.

  • Balloon TreesTitle: Balloon Trees
  • Author: Danna Smith
  • Illustrator: Laurie Allen Klein
  • Publisher: Sylvan Dell Publishing
  • Reviewer: Sharon Schulte
  • Paperback, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-60718-6243
  • Genre: non-fiction/rubber/latex/manufacturing
  • Lexile: 730

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  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


Hero Mom

Written by Melinda Hardin

Illustrated by Bryan Langdo

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When you were a kid, did you ever wonder what the adults in your life actually do all day? Figuring that out is even more difficult for children whose mothers are deployed in the military. In this amazing picture book, seven kids explain from their perspective what their mothers are doing for their country and the people of the world. All these moms are superheroes, though none of them wears tights and a cloak. Instead of leaping tall buildings, one mom builds them. One girl’s mom literally flies in to save the day – in a helicopter. One mom works with animals to help find missing people and dangerous objects. A boy’s mother is not a Transformer, but she does keep machines running. Delivering supplies where needed keeps one mother rolling at merely human speed. As a healer, one mom may actually have super powers. As a commander, a girl’s mom leads other heroes.

Seeing the variety of jobs women perform is important for all third graders. The illustrations show not only the variety of jobs, but the variety of moms. The illustrator helps keep the subject light, yet realistic. The author and illustrator also demonstrate how the kids keep in touch through computers, phone calls, letters, and pictures and how the moms eventually come home to hugs.

Military families rarely get enough support, but organizations do exist to help. One such organization is the National Military Family Association ( A quick internet search will provide many more connections and provide nearly unlimited opportunities for reading activities.

  • Hero MomTitle: Hero Mom
  • Author: Melinda Hardin
  • Illustrator: Bryan Langdo
  • Publisher: Amazon Children’s Publishing
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Hard cover: 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1477816455
  • Genre: Picture book, Jobs, Women, Military


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