Actual Size by Steve Jenkins

Actual Size by Steve Jenkins

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Publishing: Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 2004

Description: Seeing animals in pictures often gives us a distorted picture of their size. Jenkins has cleverly brought illustrations of animals to the reader at their actual size, a concept I still have problems with. The largest and smallest animals were chosen.

Programming: This would be a great book to use when teaching students how to measure in the metric and imperial systems. They might use the book to measure the images or be given worksheets or printouts where they have to measure certain animals. They might be asked which animal is bigger, etc. Perhaps students could do their own “actual size” scavenger hunt outside to measure plants instead of animals: leaves, stems, trunks, etc.

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Mermaid Queen by Shana Corey, Ill. by Edwin Fotheringham

Mermaid Queen by Shana Corey, Ill. by Edwin Fotheringham

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Publishing: Scholastic, New York, 2009.

Description: Corey tells the inspiring story of Annette Kellerman, who broke swimming records and revolutionized the world of the women’s swimming costume, or bathing suit. The illustrations are just as bright and engaging as the story, and the author plays with text placement that makes the story even more fun to read. A more detailed biography at the end supplements the story.

Programming: I would probably read this story in conjunction with other tales of people who were the “first” to do something, or did something that they were told they could not do. Students are often told they cannot do things because of their age, and could reflect on how that feels. I would probably supplement this text with more photographs of what bathing suits used to look like for both women and men, and talk about how and why things change in fashion.

Can We Save the Tiger by Martin Jenkins, Ill. by Vicky White

Can We Save the Tiger by Martin Jenkins, Ill. by Vicky White

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Publishing: Candlewick, 2011.

Description: Though the title only mentions the tiger, this book discusses the possible extinction and rarity of many different species. Jenkins divides these species by the status of their existence (already extinct, saved from extinction but still rare, etc) or by the cause of their problems (extinct/rare because of other predators, extinct/rare because of human consequences, etc.). Jenkins covers all different types of species. The illustrations are mostly black and white, and each animal has facts displayed next to it, such as the animal’s breeding habits, number in existence, and places it is found. The back has a somewhat sparse index and a list of websites with further information.

Programming: This would be a great book to care with Kakapo Rescue by Sy Montgomery and Nic Bishop because it mentions this very rare bird. With all of the online resources, students might be interested in tracking more up to date information about how many of each species there are. They could make a list of reasons that these animals are endangered or extinct and see if there is anything they can do to help reverse this. They might even plan a trip to the zoo and talk about which species are there because they are endangered.

Guts: Our Digestive System by Seymour Simon

Guts: Our Digestive System by Seymour Simon

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Publishing: Harper Collins, New York, 2005

Description: Simon takes the reader through every stage and organ of digestion. From the teeth that chew up food to the large intestine and colon where the process ends, Simon doesn’t skip over any of the details. Text is arranged in paragraphs on one page, while a full-page photograph of a digestive organ spans the next page. Fact-filled, but still gross enough to engage many young boys.

Programming: Obviously, this would go perfectly with a lesson on the digestive system, within a unit about the body. It could be read before a lesson, but I personally like the idea of using it as a review. Someone very talented with art skills could make a felt board and have a piece of food that is moved to the different parts as they are discussed.

Ladybugs by Gail Gibbons

Ladybugs by Gail Gibbons

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Publishing: Holiday House, New York, 2012

Description: Gibbons pairs bright, detailed illustrations with facts of all kinds about ladybugs. The colors and overall layout is inviting, and the text covers all aspects of the ladybug’s life cycle, diet, predators, and its impact on the environment. It does list two websites at the end, but does not include many other sources or resources for further research.

Programming: Information about the ladybugs could be used to review information about insects in general. (How many legs does it have? Where is the thorax?) Students might go on a hunt for ladybugs to see if they can catch any to observe for a little while, or there are several ladybug crafts available online.

Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11 by Brian Floca

Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11 by Brian Floca

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Publishing: Atheneum, New York, 2009

Description: Floca tells about the historic flight of Apollo 11 and the landing of man on the moon. The book is beautifully designed as much or maybe more than creatively and informatively written, making use of endpapers and balancing detailed illustrations with large black spaces to reflect the subject matter. The text is rendered in short, poetic lines that reflect the magnanimity as well as the logistics of the trip.

Programming: It would be great to show a clip of the footage of Aldrin and Armstrong walking on the moon. Classes might take a trip to a local planetarium, and they could do all kinds of research about the preparations astronauts have to make to travel into space, as well as write about how they think they would feel.

Redwoods by Jason Chin

Redwoods by Jason Chin

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Publishing: Neal Porter, New York, 2009.

Description: A little boy finds a book on the subway that literally transports him into what he is reading. Dinosaurs appear outside the windows, he finds himself sitting between two Romans, and then when he emerges from the subway he finds himself in a forest filled with redwoods, able to explore every aspect as the text describes it. In this clever blend of fantasy and nonfiction, readers are absorbed into the material-a feat not many nonfiction works can claim.

Programming: There are many great scientific concepts found in this book. Students could learn/review the parts of a tree (canopy, branches, roots, trunk, etc), or they could discuss symbiosis and how the redwoods help other plants and animals in the forest ecosystem. The end also has a note about the dangers of disappearing redwoods and how it affects the rest of the ecosystem, making for a great tie-in to conservation efforts.