Saturday, January 9, 2016

Elephant Babies Around the World

This past week, I have been reading the nonfiction PA Young Reader's Choice nominee, A Baby Elephant in the Wild, with first and second graders.  I have been able to read the Follett Shelf eBolk version through the Bryte Wave reader app on an iPad and project to the SmartBoard via a wireless Apple TV.  I could just as easily read the eBook at the SmartBoard, but I have really liked the freedom of the iPad and Apple TV to circulate around the library.  Reading the book this way also allows me to zoom in on text sequences to highlight how good readers find evidence in the text and make personal connections to information.  Likewise, I can zoom in to enlarge some of the fantastic photographs.  

Earlier this week, I hosted a PD opportunity and one of the first grade teachers mentioned that in Social Studies, they are beginning to talk about maps and globes.  This lesson with A Baby Elephant in the Wild was already planned but I had planned to teach it in a month or so.  With the information that teachers were talking maps and globes, I adjusted my plans.  For that day.  And bumped the lesson up.

Why?  This lesson has an opportunity for a seamless discussion of maps and globes.  Really, any nonfiction (or fiction for that matter...I've done similar lessons with The Three Little Dassies and other stories with distinct settings that can be found on a map) with an interesting setting near or far does.  A Baby Elephant in the Wild features a map of Africa with the Congo and Namibia highlighted.  We talked about the difference between a continent and a country, the oceans around a continent and then looked at the globe and Africa in relation to the United States and North America.

Following our reading, students had questions about elephants.  I found a "teachable moment" and introduced one of our online encyclopedoa databases.  We searched the text for answers to our questions.  And found them!  We also noted information about African elephants and Asian elephants and went back to the map and globe to look at both continents and some of the countries where elephants live.

Finally, for the reason I was inspired to write this right now.  I'm sitting in my public library.  Right now.  I walked in and saw the gorgeous book, Soon, by Timothy Knapman and Patrick Benson on display.  I snatched it up and read  it right away.  The perfect companion, it highlights a fiction story about a mother and baby Asian elephant.  I highly suggest you check out both A Baby Elephant in the Wild and Soon. 


Thursday, January 7, 2016

I Don't Like Snakes

I Don't Like Snakes

Don't Like Snakes is an interesting blend of a story of a girl who (at first) doesn't like snakes but learns to grow more and more interested as she learns from her snake loving family.  She learns about how they slither in different ways, and that they don't JUST slither, they sidewind, fly, twine, swim, and climb.  Facts like these make me like this book too.  The inclusion of an index will help young readers recognize this as nonfiction and the bibliography will help them recognize the sources that have been cited to craft this tale.

I Don't Like Snakes
Author: Nicola Davies
Illustrator: Luciano Lozano
Published 2015 by Candlewick Press

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Untamed: The Wild Life of Jane Goodall

Untamed: The Wild Life of Jane Goodall

Untamed: The Wild Life of Jane Goodall takes the reader back to the beginning, when she was young growing up with her mother, father, and sister Judy during the turmoil of World War II.  As a result of the war, her father was away fighting, and she and her sister along with her mother relocated to Bournemouth.  Throughout her childhood, Jane explored and practiced scientific observation with dedication.  Growing up in a primarily female household, Jane recalled "I was never, ever told I couldn't do something because I was a girl."

I was interested to learn more while reading about how Jane came to be in Gombe where she made many famous discoveries.  After a friend suggested she meet with Louis Leakey, he hired her as a secretary and quickly realized her potential.  But then came a hurdle.  Jane, who had never been told she couldn't do something because of her gender was told by African officials when seeking permits to conduct observations in Gombe National Park that she could not do so by herself.  Because she was a woman.  Fortunately, her equally impressive mother, Vanne, offered to accompany her to camp.  Her first discovery, that chimpanzees used tools to acquire food, was groundbreaking.  Her simple act of being a woman scientist observing in the field was groundbreaking as well.  She paved the way for other female scientists like Dian Fossey and Birute Galdikas.

The final paragraph of the book is inspired and inspiring:
"Jane believes that anyone who loves animals can take that passion and turn it into a path for life.  All animals matter.  All life matters.  And our planet can be changed by one small action at a time.  As Jane has said, "Together we can make the world a better place for all living things.""

Untamed: The Wild Life of Jane Goodall also earned a place on the list of Finalists for the CYBILS award.  Stay tuned for the announcement of the winner on February 14th.

Untamed: The Wild Life of Jane Goodall
Author: Anita Silvey
ISBN: 978-1-4263-1519-0
Published 2015 by National Geographic Society

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Guts and Glory: The Vikings

Guts and Glory: The Vikings
Thompson condenses approximately 273 years of vicious history with a sense of humor and candor, weaving Norse mythology and folktales into the stories and crediting them as (probably) being such.  Guts and Glory begins with a view of the world in the year 800, followed by an overview of Norse mythology.  My favorite was the transformation of Odin's Yule time "Wild Hunt" on an eight legged horse named Sleipnir to his melding with Saint Nicholas who now rode the night sky with the assistance of eight reindeer.

Following is a veritable greatest hits of the Vikings, from Ragnar "Hairy-Breeches" and his son Ivar the Boneless (who may have had a musculoskeletal degenerative disease, explaining why he was carried on a shield into battle and his nickname) to Saint Olga of Kiev who just happened to be saintd some time after burying twenty men alive, setting King Mal's greatest warriors on fire while they thought they were going to clean up in the sauna and then proceeding to set fire to her enemy's kingdom by way of birds with slow burning candles.  Stories like this made "Guts and Glory: The Vikings" hard to put down and left me wanting more.  Fortunately, there are two other books in the series (Civil War and World War II) that I can't wait to check out.  An extensive bibliography offers more reading on the topic for the avid historian.

Guts and Glory: The Vikings also earned a place on the list of Finalists for the CYBILS award.  Stay tuned for the announcement of the winner on February 14th.

Guts and Glory: The Vikings
Author: Ben Thompson
Illustrator: C.M. Butzer
ISBN: 978-0-316-32056-6
Published 2015 by Little, Brown, and Company

Monday, January 4, 2016

One Plastic Bag

One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia

Ignorance is bliss.  Or so they say.  In One Plastic Bag, Isatou, as well as many other people in Africa and around the world, are ignorant of the problems associated with plastic bags.  As they have done with other baskets, made from biodegradable materials, they drop the plastic bags on the ground.  There are no trash services to clean them away and so they pile.  Goats eat the plastic and get sick and Isatou learns more information from the butcher about how the bags have hurt the goats.  Now she can't ignore the problem.  Now that she knows.  She also notices mosquitoes gathering because of standing water.  Along with women in her town, she starts to crochet change purses made from the plastic bags.

I found this story both beautiful and empowering.  Instead of looking at the problem and throwing her hands in the air, or proclaiming it was too big a problem for one person to tackle, Isatou picked up one bag.  She was one person and she picked up one bag.  Then she picked up more.  And she made something beautiful.  I only hope that our young people who might pick this book up find themselves inspired to do the same.  Solve problems and create something beautiful.

On a personal note, I am hoping to create a maker space within my library walls, using materials to create and I hope that by sharing this story, I can inspire some of the students at my school to embark on a similar project.  Time will tell, of course, but I hope.
One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia also earned a place on the list of Finalists for the CYBILS award.  Stay tuned for the announcement of the winner on February 14th.

One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia
Author: Miranda Paul
Illustrator: Elizabeth Zunon
ISBN: 978-1-4677-1608-6
Published 2015 by Millbrook Press