Consider the Peacock

9781476510323Recently I read the book Peacocks to the second graders, and they had a lot to say about it. The local zoo has some of these beautiful birds, and many of the kids have seen them there. Second graders are less fanciful than first graders, but every year there is someone in the class who chimes in with a tall tale during discussion time. This week not one but two children told us about peacocks who had gotten into cars with them. Logistically such a scenario seems unlikely, considering six-foot tails and all, but who I am to quibble? I usually just say something like, "Wow!" and move on.

I asked the class what other animals they would like to read about, and various students mentioned puppies, kittens, dinosaurs, and sharks. There was a lot of enthusiasm for puppies. Then, beaming, one girl added, "Tarantulas!"

2012 "Growing Good Kids" Book Awards


The Junior Master Gardener Program and the American Horticultural Society announced the winners of the "Growing Good Kids" Book Awards on July 20th. This year's blue-ribbon crop is as follows:

The Mangrove Tree: Planting Trees to Feed Families, by Susan L. Roth & Cindy Trumbore (Lee & Low)

Meadowlands: A Wetlands Survival Story, by Thomas F. Yerzerski (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Planting the Wild Garden, written by Kathryn O. Galbraith and illustrated by Wendy Anderson Halperin (Peachtree)

For more information about the prizes, which honor "engaging, inspiring works of plant, garden, and ecology-themed children's literature," go to the Junior Master Gardener website. Don't miss the list of classics, which includes Miss Rumphius, The Lorax, Too Many Pumpkins, among many others.

Children's Lit Blogger Awards, Science Books

The Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards (the Cybils) were announced on February 14th. You'll lots of good reading in a variety of categories, from book apps to young adult fiction.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science recently announced the winners of  the AAAS/Suburu Science Books & Film Prize for Excellence in Science Books. The prize honors books for children. You'll see only the winners on the AAAS site. The list of finalists is accessible only to subscribers of Science magazine.

Best Children's Science Books of the Year (According to the NSTA)

The list of best children's science books of the year is out! Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K-12: 2012 (PDF file) was announced last week at a meeting of the National Science Teachers Association. This list with the dry title is always a good resource for gift givers, librarians, teachers, parents, and scientifically minded kids. After a quick scan of the titles, one publisher looks overrepresented to me, but I suppose I'll just have to read up and see.

Garden Reads: "Growing Good Kids" Book Awards, 2011

With all the interest in school and community gardens these days, the list of  "Growing Good Kids" book awards is a wonderful resource. The latest winners, announced last weekend, are as follows. (Don't miss the roster of classics, too.)

Amazon_title Water, Weed and Wait, written by Edith Hope Fine and Angela Demos Halpin; illustrated by Colleen Madden (Tricycle Press, 2010)

Nibbles: A Green Tale, by Charlotte Middleton (Marshall Cavendish, 2010)

In the Garden with Dr. Carver, written by Susan Grigsby and illustrated by Nicole Tadgell (Albert Whitman & Company, 2010)

A description from the American Horticultural Society:

The Junior Master Gardener Program and the American Horticultural Society honor engaging, inspiring works of plant, garden and ecology-themed children's literature through the new "Growing Good Kids—Excellence in Children's Literature Awards" Program.

This award recognizes a select group of children's books that are especially effective at promoting an understanding of and appreciation for gardening and the environment.

You'll find additional children's book titles about gardening today at A Year of Reading. That post inspired this one. Thanks, Franki and Mary Lee.

Beach Reads (for Nature Loving Kids)

9780736820646 On Saturday I got to be the Story Lady at the beach. The "friends" group of the nearby state park, Sherwood Island, sponsors several summer read-alouds, and as the day's pinch hitter, I took over when the regular reader had to be out of town. 

I had two requirements for each book I chose: 1. Natured-themed in some way., 2. Not too long or wordy.

Nic Bishop Frogs (Scholastic 2008). Mostly we looked at (and exclaimed over) the fantastic, close-up photographs of frogs. I kept the text short and sweet, leaving out most of it, since one of the listeners was only three. It was very exciting to look at all the fwogs!

Sea, Sand, Me!, written by Patricia Hubbell and illustrated by Lisa Campbell Ernst. (HarperCollins, 2001) Fun for the littles: "Flippy-floppy sun hat./Wiggly-waggly toes./Mommy rubbing lotion/On my nose, nose, nose."

Actual Size, by Steve Jenkins. (Houghton Mifflin, 2004) Recommended by Adrienne at the blog What Adrienne Thinks About That, this collection of colorful, cut-paper illustrations of real-life-sized animals (and parts of animals), like bear, squid, and great white shark teeth. Everyone thought my hand would be as big as a gorilla's (um, thanks?). But it wasn't, and neither were theirs! We all held up our hands to the illustration. A keeper for my list of good second-grade books for next fall. (I'm a volunteer reader in a second-grade classroom.)

Jellies, by Twig C. George. (Millbrook, 2000) I love this book for its odd, second-person point of view. "If you were a jellyfish you would have two choices—to go up or down. That's it. Two. You would not have a brain, so you could not decide what to have for breakfast or where to go for lunch." The seven year olds in the group got it right away. We talked about the cool photos of jellyfish, too.

Herons, by Margaret Hall. (Capstone, 2004) A beginning reader from a series called "Wetland Animals," this was a good selection for the park because of all the herons that can be found there. I learned something, too. "Herons eat during the day. They sleep standing in water at night." A couple of kids imitated how a heron might sleep standing on one leg.

Whale in the Sky, by Anne Siberell. (E.P. Dutton, 1982) Relatively short for a folk tale, this "Reading Rainbow" selection is a re-telling of a Native American legend from the Pacific Northwest.  Siberell's wood-block illustrations show well to a group. 

I also had on deck, in case story time ran long:

Crab Moon, written by Ruth Horowitz and illustrated by Kate Kiesler. (Candlewick, 2000) A story about horseshoe crabs and a boy at the beach, with a dash of educational information.

A Beach Tail, written by Karen Lynn Williams and illustrated by Floyd Cooper. (Boyds Mill Press, 2010) Beautiful, realistic illustrations depict a boy drawing in the sand and getting farther and farther away from his dad. "A gentle story for young readers [that] touches on independence and problem-solving..," writes Pam at MotherReader.

Good Reading & Happy New Year

Happy Year of the Rabbit! First up, check Wild Rose Reader's archives for some good books on the Chinese New Year. InCulture Parent presents a reading list, and School Library Journal chimed in last year, too. Time Out Kids offers the details on Sunday's Lunar New Year parade in New York's Chinatown and a free lion dance performance at the China Institute on East 65th Street.

At GeekDad, Jonathan Liu shares a few thoughts on the Lunar calendar and new year.

Looking back at 2010 on the Gregorian calendar, I grabbed a few of the newish "best books" lists.

Books for children

Charlotte Zolotow Award. For best writing in a picture book.

Amelia Bloomer Project recommendations. Feminist books for children and teens.

Edgar Award nominations, presented by the Mystery Writers of America. Actually, books for adults and kids are on this list.

National Science Teachers Association: Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K-12. One of my favorite lists, available earlier than usual this year, in a PDF format.

Sydney Taylor Book Awards, presented by the Association of Jewish Libraries.

Books for adults

Best science books. John Dupuis at Confessions of a Science Librarian has compiled a good master list of 2010 titles.

Best Translated Book Awards: Fiction Longlist,

Coffee Talk, 1.6.11: "Culture is a conversation..."

IMG_0117 Susan Wyndham, the literary editor of the Sydney Morning Herald,  compiled a list of ''15 Australian books - and some extra suggestions - that every Australian can enjoy if they want to understand our literature, our country and ourselves. Culture is a conversation and knowing these books enables us to talk to each other." You can read Wyndham's list here.

As a followup to Wyndham's list, journalist and children's book expert Judith Ridge rounds up the "15 Australian picture books that everyone should know." She's planning to do the same for middle-grade and YA books, too. Ridge writes, "It is a list that, if you read them all, would go some way towards an understanding of. [...] the preoccupations Australian children's literature, and what those preoccupations say about Australian childhood and adolescence (or perhaps our adult perceptions of and ideas about Australian childhood and adolescence)."

The prolific children's book author Dick King-Smith died earlier this week. King-Smith's book The Sheep-Pig (published in the U.S. as Babe: The Gallant Pig) was the basis for the movie "Babe." Obituary at the Guardian. (news via @pwkidsbookshelf)

Jason Wallace's debut novel, Out of Shadows, won the UK's Costa Children's Book Award. The Herald Scotland reports that Out of Shadows, based on the author's experiences in post-independence Zimbabwe, was turned down by more than 100 agents and publishers before Andersen Press picked it up. The book will be published stateside by Holiday House in April.

Back to the States, Rita Williams-Garcia's middle-grade novel One Crazy Summer has won the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction. Details at Read Roger, the blog of The Horn Book's editor, Roger Sutton.

Will One Crazy Summer go on to win the Newbery? We'll see soon. The Newbery, Caldecott, Coretta Scott King, etc., are announced on Monday morning, January 10th. The American Library Association provides more information.

Speaking of the Coretta Scott King Award, author Kyra E. Hicks offers some thoughts on potential winners of the prize  for "outstanding books for young adults and children by African American authors and illustrators that reflect the African American experience." See Hicks' blog, Black Threads in Kid's Lit. Good list!

Book Links just published "Lasting Connections of 2010," the magazine's "favorite books of the last year for K–8 classrooms and libraries. The 30 titles...are all outstanding, with a multitude of possibilities for use in the core content areas." (Hat tip to The Miss Rumphius Effect for the link.)

Science-resource alert: Dr. Tricia Stohr-Hunt, who blogs at The Miss Rumphius Effect, has started Teaching Elementary Science, a new blog for this semester's class. The U. Richmond prof already posted links to lists of kids' science books and more.

Happy Three Kings Day! Usually I'd be hanging out with second graders today, but they have the day off of school. For the read-aloud next week,  Miss B's class requested How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Yay for extending the holidays.

Added 1.8.11: don't miss a fantastic roundup of "best book of 2010" lists at SCC English, the blog of the English Department at St. Columba's College, Dublin. Lots of UK links. (via Choice Literacy)

The Bat Scientists


They are certainly not cute,


but they're important.

The Bat Scientists, a Scientists in the Field book by Mary Kay Carson, makes a good case.

"'We can't just help the most popular animals and save ecosystems,'explains Merlin [Tuttle, founder of Bat Conservation International]. Bats play an important role in so many ecosystems. They eat insects, pollinate plants, and spread seeds. Whether you like bats or not, the plants and animals of many ecosystems depend on them."

The Bat Scientists, with photography by Carson's husband, Tom Uhlman, is a Cybils middle grade/YA nonfiction nominee. Children aged ten or so and older are the target audience for the popular Scientists in the Field series, but grown-ups will find plenty to like, too.

Note: The bat photograph is not in the book, but from Wikimedia Commons. Taken by Mnolf, "Whiskered Bat (Myotis mysticinus)" appears here under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license.

Book details:

The Bat Scientists
by Mary Kay Carson, with photography by Tom Uhlman
Houghton Mifflin, 2010
80 pages

Our Life in Books, 11.29.10

In the car

An unabridged audiobook of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl (HarperChildren's Audio, 2005). Monty Python's Eric Idle is the narrator. It had been a long time since I read this one, but I remember Charlie's yearning as he breathed in the delicious chocolate aroma on the way to school. I'd forgotten how insane the Oompa-Loompas' songs are.

We're on the hold list for Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Random House Audio, 1999). Audiobooks have proved to be an ideal remedy for people (like me) who get fidgety/impatient/wildly bored in the car.

Junior, age 11

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth, by Jeff Kinney (Amulet Books, 2010). The latest in the popular series.

Controlling Earth's Pollutants, by Christine Petersen (Marshall Cavendish, 2010). An ideal hour of reading for the kiddo: cocoa, blanket, cozy chair, and a book on pollution.

On the nightstand is Nic Bishop Lizards (Scholastic, 2010). Fantastic photos, per usual with Bishop. "Lizards lead lives that are full of surprises." Yeah.


In the Wild,  a picture book written by David Elliott and illustrated by Holly Meade (Candlewick, 2010). Poems about wild animals. Sheesh, this is a beautiful book, with its watercolored woodcuts and all. I asked my son to vet this one for the second grade class I read to. He thought they'd like it.

Pop! The Invention of Bubble Gum, by Meghan McCarthy (Paula Wiseman/Simon& Schuster, 2010). We're thinking the second graders will like this one, too. Great idea for a nonfiction picture book.


Lots of Cybils middle grade/YA nonfiction books, including The Dark Game: True Spy Stories, by Paul B. Janeczko (Candlewick, 2010). Two of the most famous Civil War spies were women. I never knew that.

Second-grade class read-aloud

Lousy Rotten Stinkin' Grapes, written by Margie Palatini and illustrated by Barry Moser (Simon & Schuster, 2009). A new take on the Aesop fable. Very funny, with priceless expressions on the animals' faces. The class loved it. Now, clearly, we must get a hold of Palatini and Moser's Earthquack! (Simon & Schuster, 2002).