Rescuing Parrots

9780618494170 Kakapo Rescue:
Saving the World's Strangest Parrot
Text by Sy Montgomery; photographs by Nic Bishop
Houghton Mifflin, 2010
80 pages

The creative team of Sy Montgomery (writer) and Nic Bishop (photographer) is highly regarded in the children's book world for previous collaborations in the Scientists in the Field series, like Quest for the Tree Kangaroo (2006) and The Tarantula Scientist (2004). This time around, the two turn the lens on the kakapo, a flightless parrot in New Zealand. Spending part of nesting season at the kakapo's remote island home, they document the heroic efforts of conservationists, scientists, and volunteers to ensure that the species survives.

At the risk of sounding very un-scientific, I have to say that the fat green parrots are adorable; I was happy to read at Kakapo Recovery, a website mentioned in the book, that there are now 122 in the world. That number is up from the 87 when Montgomery and Bishop left the New Zealand island.

Kakapo Rescue has been nominated for a Cybil award, along with two other 2010 Scientists in the Field titles, The Hive Detectives and Project Seahorse (reviewed here). [Correction 11/21: There are four Scientists in the Field books nominated this year; the other one is The Bat Scientists.] The reading level for all is about fifth grade and older.

On Science Books for Kids

"Above all, a good science book is imbued with passion for science and nature, and invites readers to engage with, imagine, and experience science in ways they may never have thought of before."

Danielle J. Ford, in "More than Just the Facts," from A Family of Readers: The Book Lover's Guide to Children's and Young Adult Literature, edited by Roger Sutton and Martha V. Parravano. Candlewick Press, 2010. 368 pages.

Project Seahorse (Scientists in the Field Series)

9780547207131 Last year The Frog Scientist, by Pamela S. Turner, won the Cybils award for best middle grade/young adult nonfiction. One of the author's new books is Project Seahorse, another topnotch offering in Houghton Mifflin's Scientists in the Field series. This one concerns the world's first seahorse conservation group and a damaged reef in the Philippines. Turner deftly represents a number of the participants in a cooperative project, including the group's biologist founders, young Filipino scientists working on the effort, and the family of a local fisher, who makes his living from the sea.

Turner writes,

"[The village of] Handumon's problems aren't unique. Many coral reefs around the world face similar threats. How can reefs be protected, along with the livelihood of people like Digoy [the fisher]? Finding solutions to this thorny problem is a main goal of Project Seahorse."

The hallmarks of the series are all here: high-interest subject matter, large color photos, and portraits of scientists at work now. While children will learn plenty about seahorses, Turner also gives more resources at the end of the book for additional reading and for helping these beautiful, delicate animals.

Project Seahorse, a great independent-reading choice for fifth graders on up (younger for read-alouds), is a 2010 Cybils nominee in the middle grade/young adult nonfiction category.

Turner, Pamela S. Project Seahorse. Photographs by Scott Tuason. Houghton Mifflin, 2010.

Pulling Books from the Tar Pits

Yep, LA's La Brea Tar Pits. I pull book ideas from everywhere. Y'all have probably noticed that. I thought that the gift shop at the Page Museum, which is right there at the pits, offered an enticing array of woolly-mammoth-era reading for kids. Did I buy the books? No, I did not. I took pictures of them. (That was only one of many "stop-it-you're-embarrassing-me-Mom" moments for our 10 year old; I may also have called him "Honey" instead of his name that very same day. In public.)

We highly recommend a trip to the Page and the pits. Until then, read up:

Wild Cats, by John E. Becker (Darby Creek, 2008)

Prehistoric Mammals, by Alan Turner (National Geographic, 2004)

Big Cats, by Donna H. Bowman (Intervisual Books, 2008)

Sunset of the Sabertooth, by Mary Pope Osborne (Random House, 1996)

Sabertooths and the Ice Age: A Nonfiction Companion to Sunset of the Sabertooth, by Mary Pope Osborne (Random House, 2005)

Prehistoric Animals Stickers (Dover Publications, 1998)

Revenge of the Itty-Bitty Brothers, by Oliver Lin (Simon & Schuster, 2009)

Ice Age, by Stewart Ross (Barron's, 2009)

Sabertooth, by Patrick O'Brien (Henry Holt, 2008)

Mammoths and Mastodons: Titans of the Ice Age, by Cheryl Bardoe (Abrams, 2010)

Woolly Mammoth, by Mick Manning and Brita Granström (Natural History Museum [London, England], 2009)

You Wouldn't Want To Be a Mammoth Hunter!: Dangerous Beasts You'd Rather Not Encounter, by John Malam (Franklin Watts, 2004)

Rocks & Minerals (Eyewitness Workbooks), by Helen Whittaker (DK Publishing, 2008)

Dinosaurs came way before the time of the La Brea Tar Pits, but the store sells plenty of dino titles, too. More books from the Page's store here.


2010 Children's Science-Book Stars

Science-book fans, take note. The 2010 "outstanding science trade books for students K-12" were recently announced by the National Science Teachers Association. I'm surprised by the omission of a few books I expected to see on this excellent annual list, but excited about some titles I'd not heard of. (The books were published in 2009.) If I ran a library (and had unlimited funds), I'd buy all of these for the nonfiction crowd. 

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas, everyone! And happy 2010, too.

I hope your holidays are filled with books and reading. One present in Junior's stocking tomorrow morning is going to be Brian Floca's Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11. If Santa gets her his act together and stops eating Zapp's barbecue potato chips and catching up on hometown news with his mom, Junior may also find Theodore Gray's book The Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe under the tree. It's for grown-ups, but I think there's enough there for children interested in science. With a little help, Junior picked out Julia Child's My Life in France for his grandma.

Here, via the Guardian and my new pals at EA300 Children's literature: a tutor's blog, is a slide show from Walker Books of new illustrations of some children's classics.

Volcano Books, Again

Over at PBS Parents' Booklights blog, I've shared a list of favorite books about volcanoes. (I ran this same list here at the blog a few years back.) I hope you'll stop by and mention your top volcano tales, too.


Photograph: Augustine Volcano, Alaska. Photographer: Game McGimsey. Image courtesy U.S. Geological Survey. Via WikimediaCommons. See Alaska Volcano Observatory for more information.

Flipped Rocks + Wormy Books + Nature Blogs

Sunday, September 20th, was International Rock Flipping Day, a sort-of-goofy, sort-of-serious way to appreciate nature.

Here in southern New England, we know what to do with rocks.


Make a stone wall!

Near the stone wall, I flipped a rock and found...


an earthworm! See it right there in the middle? There are 2700 kinds of earthworms. I'm guessing that this one is a night crawler, or common earthworm.

I was reminded, naturally, of a few children's books. 

Wiggling Worms at Work, by Wendy Pfeffer (illustrated by Steve Jenkins)

Diary of a Worm, by Doreen Cronin (illustrated by Harry Bliss) Funny!

Compost Critters, by Bianca Lavies (She is a fabulous photographer who used to work for National Geographic.)

Continue reading "Flipped Rocks + Wormy Books + Nature Blogs" »

International Rock Flipping Day 2009

 6a00d834516d9569e200e554dffca98833-120wi International Rock Flipping Day is Sunday, September 20th. Turn over a rock, see and identify what's under it, and write a blog post or submit a Flickr set of photos. (And put the rock right back where you found it.) It sounds like something a six year old invented, but the credit goes to several grown-up nature enthusiasts, including one "doyenne of invertebrate bloggers." You'll find more information at Wanderin' Weeta, a nature blog.

Junior and I participated last year and found Asian shore crabs, mussels, and clams under rocks at the beach. See this report from September '08.

Dave Bronta, a flip-day founder who blogs at Via Negativa, wrote, "[P]eople flipped rocks on four continents on sites ranging from mountaintops to urban centers to the floors of shallow seas. Rock-flippers found frogs, snakes, and invertebrates of every description, as well as fossils and other cool stuff. As before, we advise wearing gloves for protection, and getting the whole family involved — or if you don’t have a family, rope in some neighborhood kids."

Five, six, and seven year olds interested in the rocks themselves might like Nancy Elizabeth Wallace's Rocks! Rocks! Rocks! (Marshall Cavendish Children's Books, 2009), a picture book that introduces concepts about rock formation and other topics in simple language. (I wish the author hadn't cutely called igneous rocks "iggy," but I doubt kids will care.) 

For more in-depth reading, older children can look for National Audubon Society First Field Guide to Rocks and Minerals (Scholastic, 1998).

Review copy of Rocks! Rocks! Rocks! provided by the publisher. The Audubon Society field guide from our home collection.

"The Periodic Table" and More

Wouldn't you know it? Just as soon as I say the kiddo isn't reading, I spot him with his nose in a book once or twice. So I'll put aside parental anxiety for now. Jeez. Lesson learned. 

We finished up Joy Cowley's middle-grade novel Chicken Feathers as a read-aloud; it's about a boy and a talking chicken who also likes to drink moonshine. Yes, a mite heavy on the quirk factor. Junior liked it.

This morning at the bookstore I picked up (for Junior) two novels recommended for their humor—David Lubar's Invasion of the Road Weenies, and Louis Sachar's Wayside School Is Falling Down. (I remember first hearing about the Wayside School books in Beth Kephart's Seeing Past Z: Nurturing the Imagination in a Fast-Forward World, a must-read book about encouraging children's reading.) I also bought some nonfiction: [Simon] Basher and Adrian Dingle's Periodic Table, which comes with a poster of the same. 

Back in 2007, the Farm School blog reviewed The Periodic Table:

Artist Simon Basher and chemistry teacher Adrian Dingle have created a vivid rogues' gallery of elements guaranteed to bring the periodic table to life and appeal to kids of all ages. I'll be the first to admit I'm the originally fuddy-duddy, but there's something about this anime-style, Facebook approach to the periodic table that's remarkably engaging. Not to mention a sensible approach to making the subject—indeed, the individual elements—memorable for everyone from fourth or fifth graders to college seniors (not to mention home educating parents who majored in, say, history).