Sunday, November 24, 2013


This has been my second time using a blog for a class assignment, and overall I thought this was a good way to share information about nonfiction materials.  I enjoyed having freedom to choose the books I read and reviewed, and reading other blogs gave me the opportunity to read about books I may not have known about or been drawn to.  At the beginning of the semester, I visited some other blogs, such as The Nonfiction Detectives and I.N.K. just to see how other bloggers set their blogs up and what kinds of things they include in posts.  One of the most beneficial things about using blogs to review books is that anyone can access the information.  I use Book Review Digest Plus through IUPUI to look up book reviews, but obviously not everyone has access to databases like that.  Granted, those are professionally written reviews, but having a few blogs that you can rely on for quality information is a great tool!  Another thing I enjoyed about reading and posting blog posts was that there is more freedom to express ideas for extension activities and other resources than in a professional review.  There are just endless amounts of ideas when it comes to using a blog to share information about books with colleagues, parents, and kids.  Many of my posts included photos of pages of the book to support things that I wrote about, and I noticed that some other people in the class did this as well.  I liked this as a way to get a sneak peak into a book, though I wondered if it was frowned upon by publishers?  I suppose for a small, personal blog it might be alright but for larger operations perhaps not. 

While I enjoyed writing blog posts, sometimes I struggled more with commenting.  I enjoyed reading other posts, but I felt that sometimes my comments were repetitive.  This is something that I would like to improve on.  The main thing that would slow me down when commenting was if I had a hard time getting excited about a particular title.  I'm glad I had this experience though, because it's important to be able to find out information about books that may not be interesting to me.  Just because it's not appealing to me does not mean I shouldn't promote it to other readers.  This is also something I need to work on as a professional.  Another thing that can be frustrating about commenting on blogs is if you ask a question and it goes unanswered by the poster.  I know someone asked me a question in a comment on my blog and I forgot to reply back until a week or so later.  I felt bad about the late reply. So even though blogs are a relatively easy way to share information, it is still a commitment when it comes to communicating with readers. 

I recently learned about Feedly, which is a website and app for smart phones and tablets that basically organizes blog posts of blogs you follow in a news feed setup.  It's a nice, 'one stop shop' for keeping up on blogs you follow.  I'm still looking for some other blogs related to library science to add to my list, if anyone has any great suggestions.  :)

Here are the links to my comments:

Frogs Strange and Wonderful
My Two Moms
Swirl By Swirl: Spirals in Nature
Look Up! Bird Watching in Your Own Backyard
How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous
And Tango Makes Three
P is for Princess
Balloons Over Broadway

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Seeds's been a week!  I'm excited to finally be sharing this book though.  I came across Seeds by Ken Robbins (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2005) while working on a project for my marketing class and I was really pleased with this book.  The book is intended for 1st to 4th graders, but I think it could even be used in Pre-K and Kindergarten as well.  Robbins uses photography and simple text to explore MANY types of seeds, including milkweed seeds, cherries, wheat, corn, berries, acorns, avocados, and even coconuts!  I really like that there is such a wide variety, including so many that children have either seen or eaten before.  This seems like a wonderful way to help young readers make text-to-life connections.  Here are some examples of how the pages are laid out:

I especially like the sticktights picture of the sock, because I'm sure that's something that many kids have encountered while playing outside, and this shows them up close what those tiny, prickly, things really look like!  

This book could be used for a read aloud, as well as for independent exploration.  The one thing I think could be stronger about Seeds is the "extras."  So many of the other nonfiction books I've read this semester have impressed me with the other features included such as resources for further exploration or ideas for extension activities, but Seeds does not have any of these "extras."  Which doesn't make it a bad book in my opinion, I think I've just grown so accustomed to seeing them that I was a bit surprised that this didn't include anything.  

Here are a few resources for exploring seeds with kids:

The National Gardening Association has a site for kids that includes information about seeds and gardening for kids, as well as information about family and school gardening projects.  The school gardening page has a lot of helpful resources, including Lesson and Activity Guides, Classroom Projects, and Professional Development Opportunities.

The BBC Gardening with Children guide is a fun page to explore!  There are plenty of interesting facts available about things from insects to cacti.  Ideas for indoor and outdoor projects are available, as well as detailed information pages about things such as seeds, compost, and worms. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Who Were the Accused Witches of Salem?

A year ago I was just finishing up a wonderful trip visiting Boston, Plymouth, Salem, and Cape Cod.  It was such a beautiful time to visit that part of the country, and we couldn't resist a night in Salem right before Halloween.  The town was quaint and friendly, and we toured Nathanial Hawthorne's home during the day and went on a ghost tour at night.  It was entertaining to say the least!  So I've been daydreaming back to the trip a lot over the last week, and now here I am with Who Were the Accused Witches of Salem? by Laura Hamilton Waxman (Lerner, 2012).  The book is intended for students between 6th and 8th grade, which I agree with.  The book may touch on subjects that would be scary for younger readers, but for tweens looking for some interesting tidbits of spooky history, this book could be just the ticket!  Waxman breaks the book up into six chapters detailing how the witch troubles began, including information about the background of Puritans, to the trials and the aftermath.  There are photographs, maps, and sketches, drawings, and writings from the time of the trials scattered throughout the pages, almost like a scrapbook.  My favorite part of the book is the last few pages, because there are some nice 'extras' that could be very useful for students doing a report or wanting to seek out more information.  The first example is an explanation of what a primary source is, followed by Ann Putnam's Declaration against Mary Easty.  I thought this was a nice way to explain a primary source.  Next, readers are invited to pretend to be reporters during the trials, and different questions are provided that they may want to have answered before they write their story.  After that, a detailed timeline is included.  Finally, there is a bibliography and suggestions for further reading and research.  One other thing I noticed about this book that I found interesting was a note to readers that many parts of the English language have changed since the time of the trials, so some spellings have been changed from the original way.  I like that this was pointed out, and could lead to a conversation or research about how language was different during the time of the trials than it is today, especially when using Twitter and texting! 

The Salem Witch Museum website has a section for kids with information about the trials, which is set up as a set up common questions.  When you click on a question, you're taken to a video of a child asking the question, then someone from the museum answering that question.  This could be a great tool to use in a classroom setting.

Discovery Education also provides good information about life in Salem, the trials, and the people behind the trials.  There is a teacher connection part of this page that has connections to standards, as well as ideas for teaching about the trials. 

I hope everyone has a spooktakular Halloween week!  We haven't carved pumpkins yet, so that's up on the agenda tomorrow night.  Here is a photo of one of the graveyards in Salem:

Monday, October 21, 2013

To Market, To Market

Well, the fall weather has settled in and I'm realizing that another summer has flown by with fewer farmer's market visits under my belt than I would have liked.  I supposed I need to find a winter market to try!  On the subject of markets, I came across To Market, To Market by Nikki McClure (Harry N. Abrams, 2011) while doing some shelving one day and was intrigued.  I wasn't familiar with Nikki McClure's paper cut art until reading this book, and she has a new fan in me.  The book details a family trip to a farmer's market, and on the first page you see the list of items they're shopping for.  Then each subsequent two page spread goes into detail about that item, including how it is grown, harvested, made, etc.  For example, here is the page on honey:

McClure's beautiful paper cut art paired with a few paragraphs about how Benjamin (the honey-seller!) keeps the bees who make the honey.  Each page-long description ends with a thank you message for the person at the market responsible for selling each individual item.  Other market items included in this book were: apples, kale, smoked salmon, blueberry turnover, napkins, cheese.  At the very end of the book, readers see a whole family gathered around a table, enjoying a meal prepared with the items purchased at the market, while acknowledging the people and creatures who contributed to the meal. 

To Market, To Market is recommended for children between 4 and 8 years old, but I tend to try and think creatively to extend that upper age limit.  For a unit on studying community, this would be a great tool for students to use to learn more about the culture of farmer's markets, as well as to learn about where the foods they eat come from.  On a deeper level than, 'the store,' that is!  While I enjoyed the book, I also like most of the foods that were written about, which makes it easier for me to make a personal connection.  If this book were used in a classroom or school setting, it might be a good idea to find out if students would be able to relate before trying to have a discussion about salmon and kale with a bunch of kids who don't even know what kale is.  :)  If a group trip to a farmer's market was possible, this book would be a nice supplement to either prepare or debrief.  But all in all, for the right group or child, this book could provide wonderful insight into the world of beautifully fresh food. 

Here are some other ideas for books (fiction and nonfiction) about farmer's markets:

Farmers' Market Day by Shanda Trent, Tiger Tales, 2013, 4 to 8 year olds 
Farmers Market Measurements by Dawson J. Hunt, Capstone Press, 2011, 6 year olds and up
Farmer's Market: Families Working Together by Marcy R. Rendon, Carolrhoda Photo Books, 2001,
     4 year olds and up

And finally, the Portland Farmers Market website has scavenger hunts available to print out for kids to use while visiting a farmers market.  There are two scavenger hunts available, one for 6-11 year olds, and one for 12 year olds and up.  Now I'm totally inspired to find a winter farmer's market!  Happy hunting!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Nursery Rhyme Comics

I stumbled upon this book completely on accident while shelving another book...and boy, I'm glad I did!  I always enjoyed comics when I read them as a child, but never made much of an effort to seek them out.  Nursery Rhyme Comics (First Second, 2011), edited by Chris Duffy, features 50 nursery rhymes written as comics by 50 different cartoonists.  Each cartoonist incorporates their own individual style and twist on the comic, and while some are traditional, others give a cheeky look at what might otherwise be an old-fashioned nursery rhyme.  I had this book in my car while driving the 6 and 7 year old kids I babysit for after school, and they got quite a kick out of "Jack Be Nimble."  Jack questions why anyone would suggest that a kid jumps over a candle, and they laughed and laughed about the last picture...I'll let it speak for itself! :)

After the laughing subsided, Katie, the 8 year old, read "Three Little Kittens" with such sweet expression and enthusiasm.  She agreed to another reading when we got home so that I could record it as a voice memo. Here is Katie reading "Three Little Kittens."

This book is recommended for children aged 3 to 8, but I would extend that range because this book would be a great tool for comparing and contrasting different versions of the same story or nursery rhyme.  Older children could definitely enjoy the variety of cartoon styles telling such familiar stories.  There were some nursery rhymes included that I hadn't ever heard of before.  

Does anyone else have a great, non-traditional nursery rhyme book you'd like to recommend?  

Monday, September 23, 2013

Here Come the Girl Scouts!

As a Girl Scout myself, (once a Girl Scout, always a Girl Scout!) I was naturally intrigued by a book all about Juliette Gordon Low, nicknamed Daisy, the founder of the Girl Scouts.  Here Come the Girl Scouts!(Scholastic, 2012) is the illustrated biography of Daisy, highlighting her adventures as a child and how these adventures made her into the brave and innovative woman she grew to be.  Readers learn about Daisy's inspiration for starting the Girl Scouts, as well as how it got off the ground in the Victorian era.  Each page is largely dominated by fun illustrations, some of which have speech or thought bubbles.  There is text that corresponds with the illustration, spanning Juliette's life experiences.  Every other page or so readers are treated to a quote from the original Girl Scout handbook.  Here are some examples of the quotes throughout the book:

At the end of the biography, there is a two page spread of well-known women who are Girl Scouts, including Lucille Ball, Hillary Clinton, and Rebecca Lobo, just to name a few.  After these pages, there is more in-depth information about Girl Scouts, including a list of sources as well as information about how to learn more about the Girl Scouts.

This book is intended for four to eight year olds, but I think girls up to ten or eleven might enjoy it as well.  It would be a wonderful choice for an adventurous girl looking for some inspiration, or as research book for a biography assignment.   Here Come the Girl Scouts is a shoo-in for any girls already involved in Girl Scouts, and could provide background information for parents who may be unfamiliar with the organization, as the sources and suggested websites in the back are helpful.  If nothing else, this book will teach readers that there's more to the Girl Scouts than those tasty cookies we enjoy every year!  :)

For slightly older readers still interested in learning more about Juliette Gordon Low, I would recommend:

Daisy and the Girl Scouts: The Story of Juliette Gordon Low by Fern Brown, Albert Whitham & Co., 1996, 8-11 year olds

For adults or experienced readers, this title published by the Girl Scouts of the USA is full of background information on the organization's history:

Girl Scouts: A Celebration of 100 Trailblazing Years by Girl Scouts of the USA, Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2011

The Girl Scouts website has a wonderful section of historical information, including the original Girl Scout film, The Golden Eaglet, an interactive timeline of Juliette Gordon Low's life, photographs, and a quiz so visitors to the site can test their Girl Scout knowledge! 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!

Looking to escape the stresses of everyday life in 2013?  Well look no further than Laura Amy Schlitz's Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!: Voices from a Medieval Village (Candlewick Press, 2007)This collection of 22 monologues explores the lives of children in an English village in 1255.  Just Twitter, no texting, just life in the village.  Readers learn about children who have to work at a young age to help support their families, but through vivid monologues.  Intertwined between the monologues are footnotes and full pages that describe aspects of a particular monologue with a more informative tone.  For instance, in Edgar the Falconer’s Son’s monologue, there is a footnote to explain the “seeling” of a birds eyelids:  “In the early stages of taming a bird, the bird’s eyelids were “seeled” – sewn shut.  This was said to calm the bird (it wouldn’t calm me)” (39).   This provides an answer to a question many young readers may have, but in a casual and personal way. 

The book won the 2008 Newbery Medal, and was written by Schlitz (a school librarian!) for a group of her students to perform.  And what a fun idea...this book can be used in the classroom to learn about history while tapping into the creative side of students.  A search of "Good Masters, Sweet Ladies" on YouTube yields endless videos of students reciting monologues. 

The book is intended for readers 10 years old and up, and I'd go pretty far up, as I enjoyed reading this immensely!  History lovers will enjoy this, as well as reluctant nonfiction readers, as the story will draw them in.  This book may also be a good choice for a reader who likes to have easy stopping points while reading, as each monologue only spans a few pages at the most.  The book does not seem long and drawn out, and is easy to split up into manageable reading bits. 

Check out a more eloquently written review of Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!, by John Schwartz of the  New York Times review here.

For readers who may have already read (and loved!) this titles but are still interested in reading more about the Middle Ages, the following titles may be of interest:

The Horrible, Miserable Middle Ages by Kathy Allen, Capstone Press, 2010, 8 and up 

This book is a good choice for readers who don't get squeamish easily, as just browsing the table of contents could cause queasiness!  Chapter titles that may entice gross-fact finders include "Rotting Teeth," "No Flushing," and "Barber-Surgeons," just to name a few.  "Foul Facts" are scattered throughout the short book.  For example:  "Diners at nobles' feasts used their best manners.  They remembered not to fart of pick flea bites at the table" (12).  GROSS! 

Till Year's Good End: A Calendar of Medieval Labors by W. Nikola-Lisa, Atheneum Books for Yount Readers, 2009, 6 and up 

Less disgusting than the previous suggestion, this book describes in more detail the daily work load of peasants and villagers in Medieval times.  Each month has it's own page, and readers learn more about tasks of the time, maybe making their own chores seem menial! 

One last is a website for kids and teachers with links to a lot of other sites with information about all aspects of life in Medieval times.  This site could be used a great starting point for kids hoping to learn more about this time period, as well as for teachers or librarians looking for resources when developing lessons or programs.