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1. Extra Facts in Picture Books

Remember, in picture books, you can always show those fascinating facts in the illustrations or mention them in the back matter.

http://picturebookbuilders.com/2015/03/those-fascinating-facts-keep-or-cut/

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2. A Rock Can be – Perfect Picture Book Friday

Title: A Rock Can Be Written by: Laura Purdie Salas Illustrated by: Violeta Dabija Published by: Millbrook Press, 2015 Themes/Topics: rocks, nonfiction, poetry, rhyme Suitable for ages: 5-8 Opening: A rock is a rock.                       … Continue reading

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3. Review of March: Book Two

lewis_march bk 2star2 March: Book Two
by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin; illus. by Nate Powell
Middle School, High School   Top Shelf Productions   192 pp.
1/15   978-1-60309-400-9   $19.95   g

Lewis and Aydin begin this second volume of the graphic memoir trilogy in Washington, DC, on January 20, 2009 (President Obama’s first inauguration), then they move back in time to 1960 to pick up where March: Book One (rev. 1/14) left off. Dramatic descriptions and vivid black-and-white illustrations of SNCC’s direct action campaigns in Nashville (sit-ins at fast-food restaurants and cafeterias, “stand-ins” at a segregated movie theater) are followed by accounts of the Freedom Rides into the “heart of the beast” in the Deep South, and on through the March on Washington on August 28, 1963, where Lewis spoke alongside Dr. King. (Back matter includes the original draft of Lewis’s speech, a more fiery, radical version of the speech he delivered, a debate about which took place up to the moment he stepped onstage.) Since this is Lewis’s personal story, the account has the authority of a passionate participant, and the pacing ramps up tension and historical import. Events and personalities aren’t romanticized in the text or the illustrations, which themselves don’t flinch from violence; in addition to exploring the dream that drove the civil rights movement, the story also portrays its divisions. Flash-forwards to Barack Obama’s inauguration appear judiciously throughout, an effective reminder to readers about the effects of the movement. Among the many excellent volumes available on the subject of civil rights this is a standout, the graphic format a perfect vehicle for delivering the one-two punch of powerful words and images.

From the May/June 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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4. Crafting Nonfiction: Conducting Research and Organizing Information

Melissa Stewart, award-winning author of more than 150 nonfiction books for children, steps into our Author's Spotlight today. In her post, she shares about the chunk and check process, which will help your students conduct research.

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5. War Bonds (2015)

War Bonds: Love Stories from the Greatest Generation. Cindy Hval. 2015. Casemate. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I enjoyed reading Cindy Hval's War Bonds. The book is a collection of love stories. Each chapter features a new couple. Each chapter is short in length, but, not lacking in heart. What the chapters all have in common, of course, is that all the husbands fought in World War II. Another commonality is that all the marriages lasted. Each story is worth sharing; each voice deserves to be heard.

I enjoyed meeting all the men and women in this book. I enjoyed their stories: stories about how they met, when and where they met, how they fell in love, their courtships--in some cases years, in other cases mere weeks, their proposals, their weddings, their marriages. The book shares their challenges and struggles: before, during, and after the war.

I really enjoyed the photographs as well!

I would definitely recommend War Bonds. I love reading about World War II both fiction and nonfiction. I love reading love stories. This book was just right for me.


© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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6. Displacement: Review Haiku

Lucy takes her grandparents
on the worst/best cruise ever:
Heart-wrenching.

Displacement by Lucy Knisley. Fantagraphics, 2015, 168 pages.

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7. #696 – I Wish You More by Amy Krouse Rosenthal & Tom Lichtenheld

coverI Wish You More

Written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld
Chronicle Books  3/01/2015
978-1-4521-2699-9
40 pages Age 3+
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“Some books are about a single wish.
Some books are about three wishes.
This book is about endless wishes.

“Amy Krouse and Tom Lichtenheld have been called the “Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers of children’s books” and here they have combined their extraordinary talent to create a compendium of wishes—wishes for curiosity and wonder, friendship and strength, for joyous days and quiet moments.

What will you wish for?”  [book jacket]

Review
I Wish You More is the perfect book for a (grand)parent to give their (grand)child for any occasion or no occasion at all. I Wish You More is also the perfect book to give the child heading off to college, summer camp, or any other get-away.

I wish you more can than knot.

I wish you more can than knot.

Beginning with two children racing with the wind, a kite flying high above, the text reads:  “I wish you more ups than downs.” Each spread continues with a wish and an image expressing that wish. Children will understand most of the test and each of the images. Lichtenheld has created a multicultural set of children, which make the spreads that more adorable—if this is possible.

I Wish You More is simply a wonderful, joyous, high-spirited, positive celebration of what a wish can do for those who receive them, and for those who give them. There really is not much more to say about this beautiful picture book. Read I Wish You More to a young child and they can learn the benefits of kindness and well wishes toward other humans. And, I believe, you can help your little one with their self-esteem.  I Wish You More would have been in my office and read to every child.

I wish you more stories than stars.

I wish you more stories than stars.

Each spread is one wish—one special wish with an equally special illustration. Narrated by the voice of a parent, I Wish You More  concludes by stating it contains all these wishes, “. . . because you are everything I could wish for . . . and more.”

**Chronicle Books is making two posters from the book available for anyone who would like them. This may be for a limited time, I do not know, so go HERE and get your set of two. They are perfect for any child’s room. There is also an activity kit for teachers HERE.

I WISH YOU MORE. Text copyright © 2015 by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Tom Lichtenheld. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Chronicle Books, San Francisco, CA.

Purchase I Wish You More at AmazonBook DepositoryChronicle Books.

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER! (#4)
Learn more about I Wish You More HERE.

Meet the author, Amy Krouse Rosenthal, at her website:  http://www.whoisamy.com/
Meet the illustrator, Tom Lichtenheld, at his website:  http://www.tomlichtenheld.com/
Find more picture books at the Chronicle Books website:  http://www.chroniclebooks.com/
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Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved
Review section word count = 222

i wish you more


Filed under: 6 Stars TOP BOOK, Children's Books, Favorites, Library Donated Books, NonFiction, Picture Book, Top 10 of 2015 Tagged: 978-1-4521-2699-9, Amy Krouse Rosenthal, books for parents to give children, Chronicle Books, creative, empowering, I Wish You More, illuminating, reflective, self esteem, Tom Lichtenheld, wishes

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8. Review of Tricky Vic

pizzoli_tricky vicTricky Vic: The Impossibly True Story of the Man Who Sold the Eiffel Tower
by Greg Pizzoli; illus. by the author
Intermediate   Viking   48 pp.
3/15   978-0-670-01652-5   $17.99

Amidst the current plethora of picture-book biography role models, it’s nice to see a book about a con artist. “Ah, yes. But an artist all the same.” “Count Victor Lustig” (born Robert Miller) fleeced his way as a card shark back and forth across the Atlantic until WWI put an end to that; after obtaining the blessing of Al Capone, Lustig went into a “money box” counterfeit-counterfeiting scam in Chicago before returning to Europe and his greatest trick of all — convincing a Parisian businessman that the Eiffel Tower was about to be dismantled and taking his cash bid for the salvage. Lustig’s exploits did not end there, but they did end eventually, with the apparently nine-lived (and forty-five-pseudonymed) con man finishing his days on Alcatraz Island. With a sophisticated, genially sinister design incorporating cartoons and photographs into a low-toned red and mustard palette, the book signals the right kind of reader: one for whom venality is no obstacle to a good time. There’s no moral here, except perhaps for the one that closes the excellent author’s note: “Stay sharp.” Sidebars throughout provide historical context, and a glossary and thorough source list will give young crooks cover for school reports.

From the May/June 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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9. Sacajawea (2015)

Sacajawea (Women Who Broke the Rules) Kathleen Krull. 2015. Bloomsbury. 48 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Kathleen Krull has a new nonfiction book series: Women Who Broke The Rules. So far the series features biographies of Sacajawea, Judy Blume, Dolley Madison, and Sonia Sotomayor. Biographies of Coretta Scott King and Mary Todd Lincoln are listed as 'coming soon.' I think the series has some potential for its intended age group. Especially when I think about the oh-so-limited options I had as a child.

Krull has written plenty of picture book biographies, but these new books are chapter books. (They do feature illustrations. One of the most important things to me as a kid when it came to picking a nonfiction book for a book review.)

What did I think of Sacajawea? I liked the introduction to this new series. I thought it was a quick, informative read. As an adult, I have read a few books on the Lewis and Clark expedition, and so I knew a little about it. But I hadn't read a book specifically focused on Sacajawea. It was a nice introduction, I believe.

Overall, I'm happy to recommend the series. I think it would be a good choice for elementary students.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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10. Writing Nonfiction

Even if you write nonfiction, you can (and should) use many of the same techniques used for writing fiction.

http://www.teachingauthors.com/2015/03/writing-nonfiction-using-fiction.html

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11. Review of the Day: Finding Winnie by Lindsay Mattick

Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear
By Lindsay Mattick
Illustrated by Sophie Blackall
$18.00
ISBN: 978-0-316-32490-8
Ages 4-7
On shelves October 20th

What is it with bears and WWI?  Aw, heck.  Let’s expand that question a tad.  What is it with adorable animals and WWI?  Seems these days no matter where you turn you find a new book commemorating a noble creature’s splendor and sacrifice on the battlefields of Europe.  If it’s not Midnight, A True Story of Loyalty in World War I by Mark Greenwood or  Stubby the War Dog: The True Story of WWI’s Bravest Dog by Ann Bausum, it’s Voytek, the Polish munitions bear in Soldier Bear or,  best known of them all, the inspiration for Winnie-the-Pooh.   With the anniversary of WWI here, the children’s literary sphere has witnessed not one but two picture book biographies of Winnie, the real bear that inspired Christopher Robin Milne and, in turn, his father A.A. Milne.  The first of these books was Winnie: The True Story of the Bear That Inspired Winnie-the-Pooh by Sally M. Walker.  A good strong book, no bones about it.  But Finding Winnie has an advantage over the Walker bio that cannot be denied.  One book was researched and thought through carefully.  The other?  Written by one of the descendants of the veterinarian that started it all.  Add in the luminous artwork of Sophie Blackall and you’ve got yourself a historical winner on your hands.

Now put yourself in Harry’s shoes.  You’re suited up. You’re on a train. You’re headed to training for the Western Front where you’ll be a service vet, aiding the horses there.  The last thing you should do is buy a baby bear cub at a train station, right?   I suppose that was the crazy thing about Harry, though.  As a vet he had the skills and the knowledge to make his plan work.  And as for the bear, she was named Winnipeg (or just Winnie for short), and she instantly charmed Harry’s commanding officer and all his fellow soldiers.  During training she was great for morale, and before you knew it she was off with the troop overseas.  But with the threat of real combat looming, Harry had a difficult decision to make.  This little bear wasn’t suited for the true horrors of war.  Instead, he dropped her off at The London Zoo where she proceeded to charm adults and children alike.  That was where she made the acquaintance of Christopher Robin Milne and inspired the name of the world’s most famous stuffed animal.  Framed within the context of author Lindsay Mattick telling this story to her son Cole, Ms. Mattick deftly weaves a family story in with a tale some might know but few quite like this.

Right from the start I was intrigued by the book’s framing sequence.  Here we have a bit of nonfiction for kids, and yet all throughout the book we’re hearing Cole interjecting his comments as his mother tells him this story.  It’s a unique way of presenting what is already an interesting narrative in a particularly child-friendly manner.  But why do it at all?  What I kept coming back to as I read the book was how much it made the story feel like A.A. Milne’s.  Anyone who has attempted to read the first Winnie-the-Pooh book to their small children will perhaps be a bit surprised by the extent to which Christopher Robin’s voice keeps popping up, adding his own color commentary to the proceedings.  Cole’s voice does much the same thing, and once I realized that Mattick was playing off of Milne’s classic, other Winnie-the-Pooh callbacks caught my eye.  There’s the Colonel’s surprised “Hallo” when he first meets Winnie, which struck me as a particularly Pooh-like thing to say.  There are the comments between Harry’s heart and head which reminded me, anyway, of Pooh’s conversations with his stomach.  They are not what I would call overt callbacks but rather like subtle little points of reference for folks who are already fans.

I was struck my Mattick’s attention to accuracy and detail too.  The temptation in these sorts of books is to fill them up with fake dialogue.  One might well imagine that the conversation with Cole is based on actual conversations, possibly culled together from a variety of different accounts.  Since Mattick isn’t saying this-happened-like-this-on-precisely-this-date we can enjoy it for what it is.  As for Harry’s tale, you only occasionally get a peek into his brain and when you do it’s in his own words, clearly taken from written accounts.  Mattick does not divulge these accounts, sadly, so there’s nothing in the back of the book so useful as a Bibliography.  However, that aside, the book rings true.  So much so that it almost makes me doubt other accounts I’ve read.

As for the text itself, I was mildly surprised by how good the writing was.  Mattick makes some choices that protect the young readers while keeping the text accurate.  For example, when little Cole asks what trappers, like the one who killed Winnie’s mother, do, Lindsay’s answer is to say, “It’s what trappers don’t do. They don’t raise bears.”  Hence, Harry had to buy it.  She also has a nice little technique, which I alluded to earlier, where Harry’s heart and mind are at odds.  The heart allows him to buy Winnie and take her overseas.  The mind wins in terms of taking her to The London Zoo in the end.

I like to put myself in the place of the editor of this book.  The manuscript has come in.  I like it.  I want to publish it.  I get the thumbs up from my publisher to go ahead and then comes the part where I find an illustrator for it.  I want somebody who can emote.  Someone just as adept at furry baby bear cubs as they are soldiers in khaki with teeny tiny glasses.  But maybe I want something more.  Maybe I want an illustrator who puts in the rudimentary details, then adds their own distinctive style to the mix.  I’m willing to get an artist who could potentially overshadow the narrative with visual beauty.  In short, I want a Sophie Blackall.

Now I’ve heard Ms. Blackall speak on a couple occasions about the meticulous research she conducted for this book.  The Canadian flag she initially mistakenly placed on a ship of war has been amended from an earlier draft (the Canadian flag wasn’t officially adopted until 1965).  She researched The London Zoo for an aerial shot that includes everything from the squirrel enclosure to Winnie’s small block of concrete or stone.  Blackall also includes little visual details that reward multiple readings.  A scene where Harry departs on the train, surrounded by people saying goodbye, is contrasted by a later scene where he returns and far fewer people are saying hello to their loved ones.  One soldier has lost a leg.  Another greets his much larger son and perpetually handkerchief clutching wife.  Another doesn’t appear at all.  And finally, Blackall throws in beautiful two-page spreads for the sake of beauty alone.  The initial endpapers show an idyllic woodland scene, presumably in Canada.  Later we’ve this red sky scene of the ship proceeding across the Atlantic Ocean to Europe.  For a book about WWI, that red is the closest we come (aside from the aforementioned missing leg) to an allusion to the bloody conflict happening elsewhere.  It’s beautiful and frightening all at once.

In the world of children’s literature you never get a single book on the subject and then say, “There! Done! We don’t need any more!”  It doesn’t matter how great a book is, there’s always room for another.  And it seems to me that on the topic of Winnie the bear, friend of Christopher Robin, inspiration to a platoon, there is plenty of wiggle room.  Hers is a near obscure tale that is rapidly becoming better and better known each day.  I think that this pairs magnificently with Walker’s Winnie.  For bear enthusiasts, Winnie enthusiasts, history lovers, and just plain old folks who like a good story.  In short, for silly old bears.

On shelves October 20th.

Source: F&G sent from publisher for review.

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12. LIMERICK REVIEW: SISTERS by Raina Telgemeier

click to embiggenA surfeit of conflicts sistericalMakes this graphic novel hysterical - And a journey by carMakes it all worse by farA truce would be some sort of miracle!Other Noteworthy Info: This incredibly fun graphic novel, published last year,... Read the rest of this post

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13. Environmental Book Club

Heroes of the Environment: True Stories of People Who Are Helping to Protect Our Planet by Harriet Rohmer with illustrations by Julie McLaughlin is a terrific collection of  minibios. No big names here, at least, none I'd heard of. These are stories of people who became immersed in an environmental situation. One of the things that's so good about this book is that in writing about the people, Rohmer writes about the issues they deal with.

I was grabbed right away by the first story about Will Allen who works with city farms. There are also stories here about people who are making use of salvaged materials (I learned about deconstructing buildings instead of demolishing them), bringing solar power to a Hopi reservation, and treating sewage with plants. This is an ethnically diverse group of people, giving readers the feeling that environmental concerns are shared by everyone. As, of course, they are and should be.

I also picked up a number of little scientific/technical details from this book in a painless way, which is how I like to pick them up.

The publisher suggests this book for older elementary school students.


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14. #689 – Dress Me! by Sarah Frances Hardy

CBW-email-childrens_2015

 

IMAGE 1X
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Dress Me!

Written by Sarah Frances Hardy
Illustrated by Sarah Frances Hardy
Sky Pony Press           5/05/2015
978-1-63220-823-3
20 pages               Age 3—7
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“This little girl can be a lawyer, doctor, superhero, or plumber. She can be graceful, creative, brave, caring, silly, and even scary. She can wear braids or glasses, a crown or a beret. There are infinite, limitless possibilities, and this little girl gets to choose who and what she wants to be. And there’s always the option for her to be ‘just me.’ From the author/illustrator of Paint Me! comes a delightful, imaginative story about a little girl with some incredible aspirations.” [book jacket]

Review
The nameless young girl, along with her loyal puppy, take readers through part of their day as they move from room-to-room, outfit-to-outfit, and activity-to-activity. They start their day deciding what to wear. Deciding to start with some exercise, the girl pulls down her pink tutu, matching top, a violet sash, and . . . wait, what about her feet? No worries, pup has fetched the girl’s pink ballet slippers, dutifully waiting for his friend to slip them on her feet. With a high twirl and a long leap the pair dance, never out of step. The young girl and her dog take on a gamut of outfits (tutu, smock, scrubs, dresses, and masks), and identities (artist, teacher, lawyer, diva, builder, or plumber), as they dance, paint, fly through the air, and take lunch orders.

Dress Me! interior 1pass JAM_page19_image17

Older children have books such as WIGU Publishing’s When I Grow Up I Want to be a . . . series to help them decide what they might like to become. Dress Me does the same for younger children, in terms they y understand. More than that, Dress Me is about being yourself while enjoying who you are, right now. The illustrations tell the majority of the story. I like that Dress Me leaves much of the narration to the reader—or he young listener. While the young girl teaches a couch full of attentive stuffed animals (and one real puppy), the text reads,

“Teacher me.”

I like that kids can decide why the girl is teaching, what she is teaching, and to whom she, dong a great job of blending in to the scene. Pup does the same in this scene. Dress Me will appeal to young girls more than boys, even though Hardy includes male-oriented careers and activities boys enjoy. The illustrations are delightful. Each spread is loaded with detail, adding continuity by carrying items from one spread to the next. For example, the puppy pulls a blue-striped tie from the laundry basket. In the next image he wears the tie while pretending to be in court, on the wrong side of the young girl’s law. She has pushed a pair of glasses atop her head while waitressing and worn correctly as a teacher.

Dress Me is the perfect book for preschoolers beginning to self-explore their world and their place in it. Parents will appreciate the creativity Dress Me can inspire in young girls, who will begin to think out of their prescribed female roles. More importantly, Dress Me encourages young girls to enthusiastically be themselves.

Dress Me! interior 1pass JAM_page19_image14

A final note: the illustrations are the best yet from Hardy who improves with each book. Dress Me! is Hardy’s third book. Her others are Paint Me! and Puzzled by Pink (reviewed HERE).

DRESS ME! Text and illustrations copyright © 2015 by Sarah Frances Hardy. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Sky Pony Press, New York, NY.

Purchase Dress Me! at AmazonBook DepositorySky Pony Press.

Learn more about Dress Me! HERE.
Meet the author/illustrator, Sarah Frances Hardy:
Website:  http://www.sfhardy.com/
Blog:  http://sfhardy.blogspot.com/
Facebook:  http://bit.ly/SarahFrancesHardyFacebook
Twitter:  https://twitter.com/sfhardy2
Find more picture books at the Sky Pony Press website:  http://www.skyponypress.com/

Sky Pony Press is an imprint of Sky Horse Publishing

Also by Sarah Frances Hardy

Paint Me!

Paint Me!

Puzzled by Pink

Puzzled by Pink

 

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Review word count = 455

Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews.

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dress me ftc


Filed under: 4stars, Library Donated Books, NonFiction, Picture Book Tagged: aspirations, be yourself, Dress Me!, enjoy being yourself, inspiration, little girls books, make-believe, puppies, Sarah Frances Hardy, self esteem, Sky Pony Press

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15. Dead Wake (2015)

Dead Wake. Erik Larson. 2015. Crown. 448 pages. [Source: Library]

Did I enjoy reading Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson? I'm not sure "enjoy" is the right word. But I certainly found it absorbing and compelling. It reads quite quickly despite the large cast of narrators and various perspectives. (I didn't miss a central narrator.)

It is abounding in detail: details about the ship, the captain and crew, the passengers, the cargo, about U-boats (submarines), about the war in Europe, about England, about Germany, about the United States.

One thing in particular that I found fascinating was "Room 40" the oh-so-secret British code-breakers that were decoding German transmissions and such. They were able to keep track of so much and make predictions about where the Germans might strike next. (But no warnings were sent to the Lusitania about all the recent activity by German submarines in their path just hours before.)

Another interesting aspect of the book is the focus on President Wilson--his personal private life and his public life. (Though it would be a huge stretch to say it is the most interesting aspect of the book.) Why was America so reluctant to enter the war? Why were they so sure they could avoid it no matter what? Did the loss of American lives really help change the general perception of the war and make the average American ready to enter the war? If it was, why wait almost two years to declare war?

The book definitely provides readers with a rich perspective of the times. It was suspenseful and full of tension in part because of all the questions that have no easy answers.

I would definitely recommend this one.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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16. Putting Into Practice What I Learned about Authentic Information Writing From Ralph Fletcher

The Monday morning after Ralph Fletcher’s presentation on Authentic Information Writing at Vassar College, I gathered my sixth graders at our reading area and shared what I had heard and learned....

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17. Solve the Outbreak app review

solve the outbreak menuWork your way up the Center for Disease Control’s ranks from trainee to master “disease detective” by uncovering the causes of disease outbreaks in Solve the Outbreak (CDC, 2013).

Every chapter presents background on a fictionalized outbreak and five clues, each followed by a multiple choice question to narrow down the outbreak’s source. The clues are supplemented with patient profiles and charts of data, notes on the diseases’ characteristics, tips for avoiding the featured disease, maps and stock photos, and clear definitions of unfamiliar terminology. After each chapter’s fifth Q&A, receive the “results” with your points and achievement badges — and hopefully a promotion! There’s also an opportunity to read about the real case(s) that inspired that chapter’s outbreak mystery.

As you investigate the cases, you’ll learn about specific diseases — culprits include E. coli, lead poisoning, West Nile Virus, Legionnaire’s disease, and norovirus — and their transmission as well as methods for tracking and containing outbreaks. The tone is light and engaging (e.g., snappy CSI-worthy chapter titles such as “Up Sick Creek” and “Connect the Spots”) without minimizing the dangers of disease epidemics or the importance of preventative measures.

solve the outbreak spring break

Earn a perfect score solving the twelve outbreak cases in level 1 (don’t worry; you can do-over as much as needed) to access the four cases in recently added level 2 and earn specialist honors.

A few of the Q&As are gimmes; here’s an example from “Midterm Revenge,” the case of college students with a stomach bug:

“What should you do now?

  • Tell the sick students to stop partying so hard and go to class
  • Keep the sick students in the same area until their symptoms are gone
  • Find out if others are sick as well”

But overall, the information is solid, the mysteries are satisfying, and the format promotes both critical thinking and understanding of the scientific method. An “About the CDC” section and interspersed links to the CDC’s website provide additional health tips and contextual information on the CDC’s mission and programs.

If (like me) you liked American Museum of Natural History’s The Power of Poison app, give this one a try. Solving the cases will have you feeling like legendary disease detective George Soper — or possibly just feeling a little more germophobic than before.

Available for iPad (requires iOS 6.0 or later), for Android devices, and on the web; free. Recommended for intermediate users and up.

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18. This Changes Everything, Part Two

coverartClimate change is happening right now and it is only going to get worse unless we take drastic steps immediately. Yesterday was the bad news portion of Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything. Today is the small ray of hope.

It is entirely possible to make the switch to 100% renewable energy for the entire world by as early as 2030. We have the technology to do this, what is lacking is the will and the money. The free market as it currently functions will not get us there nor will our politicians. What needs to happen, Klein says is a mass social movement. She believes it is the only thing that will save us now. There are precedents, remember the Arab Spring? The US Civil Rights Movement? The Women’s Movement? Granted, none of these brought about a complete revolution, but they made an impact and perhaps a world-wide social movement could take hold and save us all.

There are places where it is already beginning. Klein calls the movement “Blockadia.” Currently much of it exists in areas where people are trying to protect land from being fracked. In the United States and Canada there are arising coalitions between indigenous peoples and their traditional opposition: ranchers, hunters, large farming operations. There is also a growing movement begun in Totnes, UK called Transition Town. It is a community led project to build resilient, sustainable communities.

Then there is the divestment movement that seems to be growing rapidly especially among universities. Divestment is about large institutions getting rid of their investments in fossil fuels. Yes, someone else buys the shares when they are sold, however, the more places that divest, the more public awareness it gets, the more unacceptable it becomes to make money from fossil fuels.

The bad news is there is nothing we can do alone that will make a difference. The good news is that together we can make change happen. Klein understands the difficulty in this:

For most of us living in postindustrial societies, when we see the crackling black-and-white footage of general strikes in the 1930s, victory gardens in the 1940s, and Freedom Rides in the 1960s, we simply cannot imagine being part of any mobilization of that depth and scale. That kind of thing was fine for them but surely not us — with our eyes glued to smart phones, attention spans scattered by click bait, loyalties split by the burdens of debt and insecurities of contract work. Where would we organize? Who would we trust enough to lead us? Who, moreover, is ‘we’?

The key to it all is a change of mindset. We much let go of our extractivist thinking that allows us to believe we can take and take and take, that we can control and dominate nature. There must, as Klein says, be a “fundamental shift in power relations between humanity and the natural world.” We must give up taking and dominating and become caretakers focused on renewal and regeneration.

It won’t be easy, if it were, we would have changed our ways already. But it isn’t impossible and we shouldn’t give up. One of the great things about a mass movement is when you start to feel overwhelmed and like your work isn’t making a difference, you are surrounded by people who can help bolster and renew your spirit. So find a local group already active in your area, or if there isn’t one, start one. Talk to your neighbors, your friends, they probably feel the same way you do and are just waiting for someone to light the fire. You could be the spark that gets it going.


Filed under: Books, Nonfiction, Reviews Tagged: climate change

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19. Review of Trombone Shorty

andrew_trombone shortyTrombone Shorty
by Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews; illus. by Bryan Collier
Primary   Abrams   40 pp.
4/15   978-1-4197-1465-8   $17.95

In New Orleans parlance, “Where y’at?” means “hello.” As an opening greeting (repeated three times, creating a jazzy beat), it also signals the beginning of this conversational and personable 
autobiography. Andrews, a.k.a. Trombone Shorty, concentrates on his younger years: growing up in Tremé, a neighborhood of New Orleans known for its close-knit community and commitment to music; making his own instruments before acquiring and learning to play the trombone; practicing constantly; appearing onstage with Bo Diddley; and finally forming his own successful band. Collier’s expressive watercolor collages layer and texture each page, creating a mix of images that echo the combination of styles Andrews uses to create his own “musical gumbo.” Strong vertical lines burst from his trombone like powerful sounds, while circular shapes float through the pages like background harmonies spilling out of homes and businesses. Hot colors reflect the New Orleans climate, while serene blues are as cool as the music Trombone Shorty produces. An author’s note adds detail to the text; two accompanying photographs of Andrews as a child reinforce the story’s authenticity. Collier discusses his artistic symbolism in an illustrator’s note. Read this one aloud to capture the sounds and sights of Trombone Shorty’s New Orleans.

From the May/June 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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20. Review of How Jelly Roll Morton 
Invented Jazz

winter_how jelly roll morton invented jazzHow Jelly Roll Morton Invented Jazz
by Jonah Winter; 
illus. by Keith Mallett
Primary   Porter/Roaring Brook   32 pp.
6/15   978-1-59643-963-4   $17.99

Much like jazz itself, Winter has created a book filled with ebbs and flows, rhythm and rhyme, darkness and light, shadow and sunshine. Opening with a dreamy spread set in a dimly lit New Orleans with the city on the right-hand page and a small house on the left, the hushed second-person narration begins, “Here’s what could’ve happened if you were born a way down south in New Orleans, in the Land of Dreams a long, long time ago.” Facts about Morton’s life are sprinkled into the gentle prose: a stint in jail — as a baby! — when his godmother was arrested (he would not stop crying until the incarcerated men “commenced to singing”); a disapproving great-grandmother; and later the audacious claim, by Jelly Roll himself, that he invented jazz. Textured acrylic-on-canvas illustrations are punctuated by musical notes that create rivers and roads of music, allowing readers to imagine the beats, blues, and marvelous improvisation that were such a big part of the birth of jazz. Performers in silhouette — cornet-playing Buddy Bolden and Jelly Roll at different ages — add to the dreamy feel. An informative author’s note provides some (age-appropriate) background information and is written in the same loose conversational style as the book. This is a beautiful tribute to one of the parents of jazz (sorry, but Morton can’t claim sole ownership!) — and a fitting introduction for a new generation of jazz lovers.

From the May/June 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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21. A Raschka Moment


 



 

Last week, I chatted over at Kirkus with Paul B. Janeczko about The Death of the Hat: A Brief History of Poetry in 50 Objects (Candlewick, March 2015), illustrated by Chris Raschka. So today I am following up with two spreads from the book.

Enjoy!


 


(Click to see spread in its entirety)


 


(Click to enlarge)


 

* * * * * * *

THE DEATH OF A HAT. Compilation copyright © 2015 by Paul B. Janeczko. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Chris Raschka. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA. “The Dismantled Ship” by Walt Whitman. “Street Lanterns” by Mary Elizabeth Coleridge. “From Mercutio’s Queen Mab Speech” by William Shakespeare.

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22. WWF Together app review

wwf together menuWith Earth Day‘s 45th anniversary celebration yesterday, it seems a good time to review the World Wildlife Fund’s lovely awareness-raising app WWF Together (2013).

The app introduces sixteen endangered species from around the world, each characterized with a quality emphasizing its uniqueness: e.g., panda (“charisma”), elephant (“intelligence”), marine turtle (“longevity”), tiger (“solitude”). Each animal receives its own interactive “story,” comprised of stats (population numbers in the wild; habitat; weight and length; and “distance from you,” the user, if you enabled your iPad’s location services), spectacular high-def photos, information on threats to its survival, and conservation efforts (particularly WWF’s). Tap an info icon at a photo’s bottom corner to trigger a related pop-up fact — did you know gorillas live in stable family groups, or that bison have been around since the ice age? Many of the stories also include “facetime” (close-up videos with narration) and/or educational activities. At the conclusion of each animal’s section is an opportunity to share it via email or social media and to explore symbolic adoption options.

wwf jaguar menu

wwf together jaguar stats

In addition to truly gorgeous photographs and video of these endangered animals, a cool animated-origami design element illustrates the text throughout. Disappointingly, every time I tried to access the (real-life) origami folding instructions from the app, it crashed — which may well be the fault of our iPad. But they’re easy enough to find and download (for free, although email registration is required) on WWF’s website.

From an unobtrusive menu along the left side, you can access a globe — also with a “folded paper” look — which shows locations of all of the featured species for a global perspective and supplies information on additional endangered species. A news section frequently updates the app with current information. Soothing acoustic music by Copilot rounds out this informative and moving app.

Available for iPad (requires iOS 6.0 or later) and Android devices; free. Recommended for intermediate users and up.

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23. The Soda Bottle School: Creative problem solving led by kids & teachers (ages 7-10)

Our 3rd grade teachers are also focusing on persuasive writing this month, and they are asking kids to identify problems and suggest solutions. The challenge for kids is to explain how their solutions will work and persuade others that it's a good idea. We read The Soda Bottle School as an example of how kids and teachers in one community identified an important problem and led the way with a creative solution -- and the kids loved it.
The Soda Bottle School
by Seño Laura Kutner and Suzanne Slade
illustrated by Aileen Darragh
Tillbury House, 2014
Your local library
Amazon
ages 7-10
The town of Granados has a problem: they don't have enough room in their school to teach all the kids. But they have another problem, too, that kids can relate to: there is too much trash all around their community. One day, teacher Seño Laura notices that a soda bottle is the same width as the beam of an unfinished school building. She has a crazy idea: what if they used empty soda bottles to create walls for a school? It could take care of two problems at once!

The whole community pulled together to support the teachers and children, gathering thousands of empty plastic bottles and stuffing them with trash to create “eco-ladrillos” (bricks). These bricks were stacked between the framing for the building, held in place by chicken wire fencing. A thin layer of concrete was slapped on top as a final layer.

Slade and Kutner draw young readers right into the story, helping them relate to the protagonist, young Fernando. My students especially liked the photographs and authors note included at the end of the story. I just found this news clip that would be another great way to share this story.

My students were interested and inspired to think of problems they would want to solve around our school. I especially liked this example because Kutner and Slade emphasize the importance of teamwork and thinking outside the box.

The review copy came from our school library collection. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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24. 17 Carnations (2015)

17 Carnations: The Royals, the Nazis, and the Biggest Cover-Up in History. Andrew Morton. 2015. 384 pages. [Source: Library]

Did I enjoy reading 17 Carnations: The Royals, The Nazis, and the Biggest Cover-Up in History? Yes and no. I enjoyed reading the first half very much. It was fascinating and informative. I couldn't put it down. The second half, however, felt both rushed and prolonged. Rushed in that the last few years of war were covered quite quickly and with no real detail. Prolonged in that the coverage of the "secret files" recovered seemed to go on forever and ever. And at the expense of covering the lives of the Duke and Duchess after the war.

I definitely am glad to have read it. It was my first book about Edward VIII (later Duke of Windsor). And I felt I learned much from reading it. I just wish it had stayed focused more on him and less on decades of cover-up. Or that it had handled the cover-up aspects a bit differently--in a more engaging way.

So the book isn't quite satisfying as a biography or as a "war book." Though it is almost both. I would say the book is definitely rich in detail and provides a unique perspective of the war and the royal family.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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25. This Changes Everything, Part One

Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything was a seriously depressing book for me. It took a long time to get through because I could not bear to read more than twenty or so pages at a time. The book can be more or less broken up into two parts, the bad news and there is still a chance to do something news. This will be the bad news post.

Of all the things I have read about climate change, Klein’s book stands out for a number of reasons. First and foremost, she takes the economic angle and attacks capitalism, particularly the neoliberal kind we have been living under since the 1980s. Second, she presents a viable economic alternative that would not only save us from cooking the planet, but that would raise the living conditions of not only poor countries but also the poor in wealthy countries to a level where everyone had enough — food, decent housing, and good health care. Yes, this takes a massive redistribution of wealth and a good many people won’t like it, but such a move is part of a social justice issue that addresses many of the wrongs wealthy countries have perpetrated against poor, undeveloped and developing countries for hundreds of years.

Klein’s book is filled with lots and lots of facts and numbers. I won’t go into the details of those, if you want them, read the book or do some Googling or visit 350.org. I’m going to stay high level or else there will be more than two posts about this book. So let’s start where we are right now:

So we are left with a stark choice: allow climate change disruption to change everything about our world, or change pretty much everything about our economy to avoid that fate. But we need to be very clear: because of our decades of collective denial, no gradual, incremental options are now available to us. Gentle tweaks to the status quo stopped being a climate option when we supersized the American Dream in the 1990s, and then proceeded to take it global.

In other words, if we had begun immediately cutting emissions after the World Conference on the Changing Atmosphere in 1988, we’d be in pretty good shape right now because we could have gone about the whole thing gradually. But since we haven’t done that, in order to limit global warming to 2C (which is still huge and will cause, and is already causing as we move toward that number, untold disasters) we have to make drastic changes immediately and take less than a decade to get to the targeted reduction in emissions required. What kind of cuts are we talking about? Try 8-10% every year.

I was not surprised to learn about the horrors perpetrated by the extraction companies (coal, gas, oil) against the environment, people and even governments. I was, however, surprised to learn that some of the largest and most respected environmental groups take money from extraction companies and in the case of The Nature Conservancy, even have their own oil well on land that they are supposed to be protecting from oil drilling. I have lost all respect for them as well as WWF (World Wildlife Fund), World Resources Institute, the Environmental Defense Fund, and Conservation International. The Sierra Club was also extraction friendly for quite some time until a few years ago when they got a new president who put an end to that.

Unless we leave the oil and coal and natural gas in the ground there is at this point no “safe” emissions level. The free market is not going save us nor is technology. “Buying green” has become a thing, and yes, it is good to buy recycled products when you need them. The trouble is the free market tells us to buy in the first place. Buying green is not going to buy us into a livable environment. Not buying at all is what helps. But our economy is based on consumption and if we don’t buy, things go wrong. If we do buy, things go even more wrong.

Bill Gates (Microsoft) and Richard Branson (Virgin Group) among others are convinced technology will save us. They don’t think we should have to change anything we are doing at all and are funneling money into research that is looking for ways to suck carbon from the air. Still others are seriously considering geoengineering as a viable solution. Let’s make giant mirrors to reflect the sun away from our atmosphere! No, better yet, let’s go for the “Pinatubo option” and spray sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere! Problem is, while we know volcanic eruptions like Pinatubo had a cooling effect on the climate, we have no idea how it works and have no control over what happens up in the atmosphere and if we screw up there is nothing we can to about it. Not only that, climate models (and studies from the Pinatubo eruption) tend to reveal that such a maneuver would cause severe drought over a large area of Africa and South Asia. But somehow that is okay because why? The industrialized north will be saved and we can continue on our merry way without making any sacrifice other than then maybe sending food aid to all the starving millions. Of course, this is only a guess as to what would happen, we could also find ourselves suddenly in a Snowpiercer-like situation.

So if technology or the free market won’t save us, if the extraction companies refuse to cease operations and our politicians aren’t doing anything at all or not nearly enough, what can possibly be done? It looks pretty bleak but there is a small crack of hope. More on that tomorrow.


Filed under: Books, Nonfiction, Reviews Tagged: climate change

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