For the Birds

Killdeer eggs  Photo courtesy Mike Williams
Killdeer eggs
Photo courtesy Mike Williams

We are batty about birds at our house.

About 10 days ago we discovered a killdeer nest. These shorebirds create nests on the ground, rather than in trees. Our bird laid four speckled eggs among the decorative rocks in our front yard. We’ve been checking the nest periodically to see how our birds are faring.

Photo courtesy Mike Williams

These birds have an interesting defense against predators. Whenever someone approaches the nest, one bird acts as if it has a broken wing to draw the predator away. It’s fascinating to watch.

Today we discovered NestWatch from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. We were able to create our nest on the site, get certified as nest watchers and input data from our nest checks. Cornell scientists are especially interested in nests from the following species: American Robin, Northern Mockingbird, Northern Cardinal, Mourning Dove, Barn Swallow, and House Finch. But if you discover any type of nest, you can put it on the site and share your data. This is a fun and easy way for kids to become animal scientists.

We also recently discovered male California quail on our property. These birds just make us giggle. What fun it would be to find a quail nest. We’ll keep you posted.

California quail
Photo courtesy Mike Williams

Perfect Picture Book Friday: NOAH WEBSTER AND HIS WORDS

TITLE: Noah Webster and His Words

AUTHOR: Jeri Chase Ferris

ILLUSTRATOR: Vincent X. Kirsch

PUBLICATION INFO: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children

ISBN: 978-0-547-39055-0

SOURCE:  library

INTENDED AUDIENCE: ages 4 through 8

GENRE: nonfiction (biography)


“Noah Webster always knew he was right, and he never got tired of saying so (even if, sometimes, he wasn’t). He was, he said, “full of CON-FI-DENCE” [noun: belief that one is right] from the very beginning.”

From the publisher’s Web site:

Webster’s American Dictionary is the second most popular book ever printed in English. But who was that Webster? Noah Webster (1758–1843) was a bookish Connecticut farm boy who became obsessed with uniting America through language. He spent twenty years writing two thousand pages to accomplish that, and the first 100 percent American dictionary was published in 1828 when he was seventy years old. This clever, hilariously illustrated account shines a light on early American history and the life of a man who could not rest until he’d achieved his dream. An illustrated chronology of Webster’s life makes this a picture perfect bi-og-ra-phy [noun: a written history of a person’s life]”

THEMES/TOPICS: biography, arts

WHY I LIKE THIS BOOK: This book has won every award under the sun. The form perfectly matches the subject: Ferris sprinkles definitions throughout the text, intermingling Webster’s life’s work with his life story. Ferris also makes Webster accessible to children and parents today. His nose is always in a book (I know someone like that!). His dad takes out a loan to send him to Yale (I think most parents could relate). Noah made little money on his early books, but the  printers made a bundle. Ferris’s book is filled with humor for everyone. And Kirsch’s “big head” line drawings of Webster add to the amusement.


  • Ferris, an expert biographer, has rich backmatter in her book that could be used for lessons.
  • Her site has a downloadable teachers’ guide.
  • Here’s a lesson plan from Read Write Think for grades 3 through 12. It includes a fun “Balderdash”-type dictionary game.
  • Speaking of Balderdash, why not play that game, Scrabble, or another word game?
  • Thanks to The Picture Book Review for this suggestion: test your vocabulary skills at, which donates to the World Food  Programme for each correct answer.

Every Friday bloggers review “Perfect Picture Books.” Find a complete list of book reviews organized by topic, genre and blogger at author Susanna Leonard Hill’s site.

Book Review: Tasty Desserts (Little Chef Recipes)

TITLE: Little Chef Recipes: Tasty Desserts

AUTHOR: Mercedes Segarra


PUBLICATION INFO: Enslow Publishers, Inc., 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4644-0465-8

SOURCE: Publisher-provided copy

INTENDED AUDIENCE: kindergarten through third grade

GENRE: how-to

SYNOPSIS: Are you hungry for some delightful desserts? From staples like brownies and cheesecake to new foods like “watermelon soup,” children will learn how to make delicious desserts with a parent’s help.

THEMES/TOPICS: how-to, cooking, baking

WHY I LIKE THIS BOOK: You would not believe how difficult it is to create a good cookbook for the youngest children, but Segarra and Curto have done it. This book is much more than a collection of recipes, but a good overview of how to become a “Little Chef.” The book includes a “Before You Start Cooking” section with sound advice on preparing to cook, like washing hands, donning an apron and reading the recipe thoroughly. “Words to Know”  in the back uses pictures to show children what key kitchen terms mean, for example “separate” (eggs) or “line” (a baking sheet). It also shows children pictures of kitchen equipment that they might not be familiar with.


Best of all, each recipe includes an illustrated ingredients list and step-by-step instructions. Finley, who can’t read yet, was able to look at the recipe, point to each picture, and describe what we would do in that step. I can’t wait to check out the other recipes in the series: Fun Party Foods, Pizza and Pasta, and Yummy Snacks.

Perfect Picture Book Friday: BRAVE GIRL

I have read so much about this incredible book, and I was delighted to win an autographed copy through one of my favorite blogs, Teaching Authors. Michelle’s inscription reads: “For Kirsten, Be bold, brave and fearless with your writing!”

TITLE: Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909

AUTHOR: Michelle Markel

ILLUSTRATOR: Melissa Sweet

PUBLICATION INFO: HarperCollins’ Balzer + Bray, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-180442-7

SOURCE: author-provided copy

INTENDED AUDIENCE: ages 4 through 9

GENRE: nonfiction


“A steamship pulls into the harbor, carrying hundreds of immigrants — and a surprise for New York City.”

From the publisher’s Web site:

“When Clara Lemlich arrived in America, she couldn’t speak English. She didn’t know that young women had to go to work, that they traded an education for long hours of labor, that she was expected to grow up fast.

But that did not stop Clara.

She went to night school, spent hours studying English, and helped support her family by sewing in a factory.

Clara never quit. And she never accepted that girls should be treated poorly and paid little.

So Clara fought back. Fed up with the mistreatment of her fellow laborers, Clara led the largest walkout of women workers in the country’s history.

Clara had learned a lot from her short time in America. She learned that everyone deserved a fair chance. That you had to stand together and fight for what you wanted. And, most importantly, that you could do anything you put your mind to.”

THEMES/TOPICS: history, immigration, labor relations, biography

WHY I LIKE THIS BOOK: Markel’s expertly crafted text begins with the promise of a new and better  life in America and ends with the fulfillment of that promise through one girl’s grit, determination and bravery. Markel includes a bibliography of primary and secondary sources and backmatter on the garment industry. Sweet’s illustrations are a perfect match for the story, giving the book a personal,scrapbook-like quality.


Every Friday bloggers review “Perfect Picture Books.” Find a complete list of book reviews organized by topic, genre and blogger at author Susanna Leonard Hill’s site.

Book Review: Draw the Magic Blue Fairy



PUBLICATION INFO: Enslow Publishers, Inc., 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4644-0473-3

SOURCE: Publisher-provided copy

INTENDED AUDIENCE: preschool to adult (Yes, I joined the fun!)

GENRE: how-to

SYNOPSIS: If you’ve ever wanted to create a fairy world, here’s your chance. This how-to book shows you how to draw fairies, forest creatures, food and more.

THEMES/TOPICS: how-to, drawing, fairies

WHY I LIKE THIS BOOK: Curto boils down these designs to simple shapes like triangles, ovals, and circles, so even preschoolers can participate. She also relies more on step-by-step drawings than words. I drew the fairy below (colored by Finley), while Cooper drew the cake and fairy wand. Not too bad, eh?