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Books and life in a school library

Nonfiction Monday: Little Green Frogs

I am in need of spring. What better way to find spring than to read about tadpoles?  Little Green Frogs by Frances Barry is a delightful and whimsical way to explain the life cycle of little green frogs. By the way go to her website.  It reflects her whimsy as an author/illustrator.

First of all the book is not your standard rectangular or square book. No it resembles the shape of a lily pad by having seven sides (okay so, a lily pad with straight lines).  Then the title page is circular in nature followed by petal shaped pages which fold out to read.  At the end of the book, you are left with a flower like pond scene.  The last page has a secret flap which when you lift it, provides instructions for the care of tadpoles at home.

The text is playful and leads you through the development of a tadpole   The repetitive “Frog eggs, frog eggs” and “tadpole, tadpoles…etc.” creates a rhythm that the youngest readers will love. 

Barry’s paper collage illustrations match the text that makes a reader wish for spring sooner than later.  I hope the unique folded pages will survive the many hands I expect it to be in.

Title: Little Green Frogs
Author: Frances Barry
Date Published: 2008
Pages: unpaged
Grade: pre-K-2
Publisher: Candlewick Press
ISBN: 978-0-7636-3725-5
Source of Book: Publisher sent for CYBILS consideration.

Anastasia Suen is rounding up Nonfiction Monday at Picture Book of the Day. Exciting news for Nonfiction Monday: soon to be hosted by a variety of bloggers just like Poetry Friday.

Happy Reading.


Nonfiction Monday:Flip, Float, Fly Seeds on the Move

The earlier sunrises and tulips and daffodils peeking through the soil, makes me think of spring. Thinking of spring makes me thing of seeds.  And what better book to feature than Flip, Float, Fly Seeds on the Move by Joann Early Macken and illustrated by Pam Paparone.

Do you wonder about seeds?  How they move about the world?  Like last spring, there was a single yellow tulip in my garden bed. A tulip that I did not plant.  How did it get there?

Macken’s book explores the many ways seeds are transported in this world.  Some seeds fly on the wind, others cling to some one’s socks, and some are carried by water.  The text is poetic:

“A wild oat sees curls up in the sun like a comma.  The seed straightens out when it rains. Wiggle! Jump! One way, then the other.  It works its way into the ground.”

Macken uses onomatopoeia that fully illustrates how the seeds move.

Paprone’s illustrations show the bigger picture with circular insets depicting a close-up of the seeds. The acrylic paintings are a great complement to the text.

Flip, Float, Fly Seeds on the Move is an excellent choice for the budding young gardeners and botanists.


Title: Flip, Float, Fly Seeds on the Move
Author: Joann Early Macken
Date Published: 2008
Pages: unpaged
Grade: K-5
Publisher: Holiday House
ISBN: 978-0-8234-2043-8
Source of Book: Publisher sent for CYBILS consideration.

Please visit here for more nofiction books.

By the way, I am listening to the ALA Book awards just heard that several books I have reviewed were honor selections: A River of Words(Caldecott Honor), Wolf Snail (Geisel Honor), What to Do About Alice, March On (I think this was a video award).  Yay!

Happy Reading. 


Nonfiction Monday: Martin Luther King, Jr.

Two books on the topic of Martin Luther King, Jr. were presented to the CYBILS NFP Book committee.  Both  are slices of life from this larger than life person.

March On! The Day My Brother Martin Changed the Worldby Christine King Farris looks at that the events of August 28, 1963. Known as the “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom”, 250,000 marchers descended upon Washington Mall.  It was during this event that Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream Speech”.  Farris’ book brings readers into that day and London Ladd’s illustrations provides great visuals for the texts.  Last week when I was reading this book to students, gasps could be heard as I showed the illustration of the people on the mall.    March On! is a great compliment to Farris’ earlier book, My Brother, Martin which highlights his childhood.  I was surprised to learned that Christin King Farris was not in Washington, D.C. on the day of this powerful speech.  The book read as if she was recounting her experience on that day.  She includes an author’s note following the story.

As Good as Anybody Martin Luther King, Jr. and Abraham Joshua Heschel’s Amazing March Toward Freedon by  Richard Michelson tells about another part of Martin Luther KIng, Jr.’s life.  Have you ever heard of  Abraham Joshua Heschel? I had not until this book.  His life journey parallelled Marting Luther King, Jr.’s journey.  Having known persecution as a Jew living in Europe, Heschel was happy to come to the aid of King when he asked for “all of God’s children to walk.”  A timeline is included at the end of the book. 

This year,  the work of Martin Luther King, Jr seem to be having a significant impact on me.  I teared up ion a couple spots while reading both books.  I am sure this is due to November’s election.  I found myself looking into the faces of many students and realizing just how much our country has moved forward (and yet, I know it is not enough).

Both books will work really well for older elementary students.  Those students who have the basic information about King and are now ready to delve into specific events of his life.

As always, Anastasia Suen is heading up Nonfiction Monday.  How will you honor the work of Martin Luther King, Jr. this weekend?  For me, I will donate blood.

Happy Reading.

Nonfiction Monday: Wanda Gag: The Girl Who Lived to Draw

Do you know a budding artist? Why not wrap up a copy of Millions of Cats and Wanda Gag; the Girl Who Lived to Draw by Deborah Kogan Ray?

In this book, readers are treated to the words from Wanda Gag’s diaries, letters, and papers.  Deborah Kogan Ray has written a biography which will introduce those readers not familiar with the creator of Millions of Cats  (A favorite book for me).

The combination of quotes from Gag and information about the her give readers a sense of a time long gone. Wanda Gag was born in 1893 in New Ulm, Minnesota.  Her family loved the arts and encouraged all seven children to either draw, write, sing and/or dance.

Wanda received much of her encouragement from her father, an artist.  “Always look at the world in your own way, Wandachen.,” were words frequently used by her father.

As much as her childhood was immersed in fairy and folk tales from the old world, her own life mirrored a fairy tale itself.  Her father died when Wanda was only 15.  Through perseverance and dedication, She set out to make good on her father’s dying words, “What Papa couldn’t do, Wand will have to finish.” 

Finish she did through scholarship, art school,working in the fashion industry, and helping her family make ends meet.  In 1929, her book Millions of Cats was awarded the John Newbery Honor by the American Library Association.

Deborah Kogan Ray provides readers with a wonderful companion piece to Millions of Cats.  We also learn a bit about the world of fine art that was also Gag’s world.  Her illustrations are compliment the text with wonderful vibrancy and detail.  They are the kind of that readers will spend time looking at before turning the page.  The book can be used at many levels: as a biography, an inspiration story and a story of persevere through life’s challenges.

The book concludes with an author’s note and bibliography.

Title: Wanda Gag: The Girl Who Lived to Draw
Author: Deborah Kogan Ray
Date Published: 2008
Pages: unpaged
Grade: K-5
Publisher: Viking Press
ISBN: 978-0-670-06292-8
Source of Book: Publisher sent for CYBILS consideration.

As always a list of great nonfiction blog posts can be found here.

Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas.  Happy Reading.


Nonfiction Monday: Winter Trees

I am snowed in today while my district (25 miles to the north) is open for business. Funny thing about the weather around here.

So today is the perfect day to talk about Winter Trees by Carole Gerber. (after a reminder at 7-Imp yesterday about this book).  A boy and his dog discover the magic in winter as they take a walk  in the wintry forest. 

Leslie Evan‘s bold yet simple illustrations makes it easy for even the youngest readers know what someone walking in the winter might see.  The illustration are a combination of linoleum block prints, watercolor and collage.  This book could also be used as a primer for how to draw trees in winter.

Gerber’s text brings the reader along on the walk in a playful way. Yet, within the text is lots of information to uncover about trees in winter. For example:

“They stand distinct as skeletons,
We clearly see the form of each:
the egg shape of the maple tree:
the taller oval of the beech…
The V formation of the birch;
the yellow poplar, wide and high;
the spreading structures of the the oak,
its branches reaching toward the sky.”
The illustrations compliment the text presenting a way to recognize trees in winter.

 A guide for identifying trees is available at the end of the book.

The book is as quiet as the snow keeping me home today.  I have a fascination with winter trees and the fractals they create against the sky.  This would be a terrific book for any young nature lover.

Title: Winter Trees
Author: Carole Gerber
Date Published: 2008
Pages: unpaged
Grade: K-5
Publisher: Charlesbridge
ISBN: 978-1-58089-168-4
Source of Book: Publisher sent for CYBILS consideration.

For more great nonfiction books, visit Picture Book of the Day. To see my house in the snow, visit here.

Happy Reading.


Nonfiction Monday: Wolfsnail, a Backyard Predator

Better late than never, yes? I got to school today and before I knew it the morning (in which I have time to post on this blog) was gone.

Good for me though, I got home and found Wolfsnail by Sarah C. Campbell on the dining room table.

Who knew that snails could be so interesting?  Did you know that some snails will climb on hostas in search of other snails to eat? That is what the wolfsnail does.  They are carnivorous little creatures.Did you know that this species of snail has a special detection system with four tentacles and a lip extension?

 Sarah C. Campbell’s son’s fascination with wolfsnails inspired the book.  It is clear that Campbell has done quite a bit of research on the topic.  The text is spare and yet packed with great information for the youngest of backyard bug enthusiasts.

And the photos! Oh my, they are amazing.  Up Close and personal with many details that supports the text.  Both Sarah C. Campbell and her husband, Richard took the photos.

The book ends with a two page spread on wolfsnail facts as well as a wolfsnail glossary.  This book is sure to be a hit with readers of all ages.

Title: Wolfsnail: Backyard Predator
Author: Sarah C. Campbell
Date Published: May 2008
Pages: 32 pages
Grade: K-5
Publisher: Boyds Mills Press
ISBN: 978-1-59078-554-6
Source of Book: Publisher sent for CYBILS consideration.

So if you are in your yard, look closely before destroying the lowly snail. It could a be a wolfsnail which actually eats the leaf eating snails. As always a list of great nonfiction blog posts can be found here.

Happy Reading.


Non-fiction Monday: Gone Fishing

Kids love to count and count they will in David McLimans’ Gone Fishing: Ocean Life by the Numbers. McLimans, troubled by the current status of ocean life, features 20 ocean species with a play on negative and positive space. In Gone Wild the positive and negative space was done in black and white, this time around black and ocean blue play off each other.


The reader counts up and then counts down. Each number has a part of the featured animal as well as an illustration of the animal.


A quick fact list includes:


Aquatic regions



Did you know that less than one per cent of water on earth is fresh water or that 1 billion people list in coastal urban centers? These are part of the “Ocean Facts by the Numbers” in the middle of the book.

The book concludes with “Diving Deeper” section that has more information about the sea animals featured. It also has a terrific resource page.


Title: Gone Fishing: Ocean Life by the Numbers
Author: David McLimans
Date Published: 2008
Pages: unpaged
Grade: K-5
Publisher: Walker and Company
ISBN: 978-0-8027-9770-4
Source of Book: Publisher sent for CYBILS consideration.

 This book can be used on so many different levels. I like that in a book.

Happy Reading. Happy Thanksgiving.


Non-Fiction Monday:What to Do About Alice?

I have been thinking about what the White House will be like when a family with two girls take occupancy in January.  If the Obama girls are anything like Alice Roosevelt, it could be a lively place.

What About Aliceby Barbara Kerley explores the life of Alice Roosevelt, daughter of President Theodore Roosevelt. Alice never what anyone’s pity , therefore she  took charge of her life at a young age.  Her mother died two days following her birth, dad remarried and had more children.  But Alice always remained his favorite.

Her predicaments are laugh out loud funny like insisting that her father give her a piggy back ride each morning,  joining an all-boys club, and gallivanting around Washington, D.C. on her bicycle.  As young adult, her travels overseas gave something for people to talk about.

When Roosevelt became president he commented that , “I can be be president of the United States, or I can control Alice.  I cannot possibly do both!”

Alice became an advisor to her dad. Her love of politics, good will with people, and curious mind helped her to lead an interesting life.

Edwin Fotheringham’s illustrations are whimsical and capture the tone of the book.   There is an author’s note at the end of the book. This would be a great addition to any library.  It is a timely book.

Book: What About Alice
Author/Illustrator: Barbara Kerley
Publisher: Scholastic
Date Published: 2008
Pages: unpaged
Grade: K-5
ISBN: 978-0-439-92231-9
Source of Book: Publisher sent for CYBILS consideration.

Head over to Picture Book of the Day to see what else is available this week.

Happy REading.


Nonfiction Monday: The Art of Freedom

Today’s review is on the book The Art of Freedom: How Artists See America by Bob Raczka. It is a timely choice. Tomorrow we honor the veteran’s of our country who have protected our precious freedoms.

In the world of school, where much focus is on state assessments and students starved for art, this book arrived in my mail. Raczka has selected paintings, photographs, and sculptures depicting many views of America to share with kids of all ages.

The text is simple: “America is… Such examples include “America is an idea” with the infamous painting, “The Declaration of Independence” by John Trumball. “America is baseball” combined with Samuel Anderson Robb’s sculpture, “Baseball Player”, and “America is the open road.” is depicted by the Ansel Adams photo, “Desert Road”.

There is an appendix providing information about each painting, photograph, and sculpture.

The book lends itself easily to great discussions about art and visual literacy. It will be a fabulous resource for my staff and “Art Friend” volunteer.  I believe it will be a hit among students as well because of the simple text and the rich illustrations.

Book: The Art of Freedom: How Artists See America
Author/Illustrator: Bob Raczka
Publisher: Millbrook Press
Date Published: 2008
Pages: 32 pages
Grade: K-5
ISBN: 978-0-8225-7508-5
Source of Book: Publisher sent for CYBILS consideration.

Head over to Picture Book of the Day to see what else is available this week.

Happy Reading.


Nonfiction Monday: Cybils Edition

Last week was early release for conferences.  I decided to have students partner read some of the the nonfiction picture book nominees that I had in my possession.   There are 61 nominated titles. I can pretty much figure our which ones have kid appeal but it is fun to have students peruse and review.  Students were very engaged in the process and I may do it with additional classes with other books.

Reading some of the nonfiction picture book nominees for the CYBILS.  Students were to rate the book on kid appeal and whether they would checkout the book more than one time.

The library vibrated with conversation about the books. Look at these overheard comments:

“pictures matched the words”

“…has big describing words”

“it showed how woman could be strong”

“the hidden words”

“good word choice and long sentences”

I feel compelled to not target any specific title on the nomination list, however, I am very happy with the ones I have viewed thus far.  I am looking forward to some spirited conversations with my team in the near future.

For more Nonfiction Monday posts visit here.

Happy Reading.