Books, Education, Homeschool, Nature, Science/Math

Perfect Picture Book Friday: FROM SEED TO PLANT

Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book Fridays are back. I missed the boat last week, but I wrote my post early this week so I wouldn’t forget.

TITLE: From Seed to Plant

AUTHOR/ILLUSTRATOR: Gail Gibbons

PUBLICATION INFO: Holiday House, 1991

ISBN: 978-0823410255

SOURCE:  library

INTENDED AUDIENCE: ages 5 and up

GENRE: nonfiction

OPENING and SYNOPSIS:

“Most plants make seeds. A seed contains the beginning of a new plant.”

Gibbons moves through a plant’s life cycle, showing children how seeds are formed through pollination, how they are dispersed, and how they grow into new plants.

THEMES/TOPICS: nonfiction, educational, nature, science

WHY I LIKE THIS BOOK: Cooper was working on a plant life cycle project for school this week, and we checked this book out from the library. Gail Gibbons is a nonfiction favorite in our house. She uses beautiful drawings and simple writing to explain science concepts in a way young children can understand.

RESOURCES/ACTIVITIES:

  • The book has a “Seed to Plant” activity in the back using bean seeds. It’s a different take on the classic bean sprout in a baggie activity used in many preschool classrooms.
  • We’ve also done seed collections before to spark discussion about the different types of seeds and how they are scattered. You’ll find that activity…here.
  • Finally, for older students, you can try the plant life cycle project that Cooper’s class did. Students had to collect five different types of seeds and draw or collect pictures that showed the seedling, mature plant, flower and fruit. They had to label each stage, and I had Cooper draw arrows so he could see that the whole cycle is a circle. I’ll blog about our project next week.

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.

Writing

Magazines: Just Starting Out

Antique Writer's Friends

I’ve been feeling really blessed lately. Today I received an assignment from a new (to me) magazine market, meaning I’ll have at least six articles coming out between December 2013 and March 2014 in three different children’s magazines, provided all goes well. Wahoowa!

I’ve received so much help along the way in my burgeoning writing career, and I finally feel like I have something I can offer to other writers. I’ve been inspired by Nancy Sanders’ recent series about her efforts to break into HIGHLIGHTS FOR CHILDREN with a nonfiction article, as well as some questions I’ve received from a fellow writer. So, I’ve decided it’s time to share some tips and tricks for breaking into children’s magazines with nonfiction articles.

I’ll admit, I floundered around for a year before my freelance career got off the ground. I wrote a pretty terrible article about capybaras and sent it to a number of children’s publications. I came up with recipes and crafts and flung them far and wide. I tried to submit to nonpaying markets and parenting magazines, which people advised were easier to break into. I amassed more than a dozen rejections before I figured out what worked for me.

What works. The first thing I would suggest is to play to your strengths. Are you a master gardener? A former teacher? Were you a lawyer in your past life? If you are trying to break into children’s nonfiction, you have a better chance if you write about something that you’re an expert in.

I spent six years doing public relations for NASA. Aviation and space are my areas of expertise. My interests, however,  are pretty wide-ranging. The first articles I wrote were NOT about aviation and space. And those articles were roundly rejected. I’m sure it had a lot to do with my writing and my knowledge of the magazine markets, but I also didn’t have the credibility to back up the articles.

The bottom line is that having some knowledge of a subject makes it more likely your article will be picked up, especially if you are submitting a query instead of a full article. Your expertise doesn’t have to be work experience. If you’ve quilted for 20 years, you’re an expert. If you’ve taken courses in a subject or had a volunteer position in a field, that qualifies you as someone who knows what they are talking about.

I would encourage you to write about something you know for your first submission. Once you’ve had one success, you can build upon it and write about other subjects. As a mini homework assignment, make a list of your hobbies, education and work experience. What kinds of related articles might you write?

Books, Food, History

Review: THERE’S A RAT IN MY SOUP

TITLE: THERE’S A RAT IN MY SOUP: COULD YOU SURVIVE MEDIEVAL FOOD? (Ye Yucky Middle Ages series)

AUTHOR: Chana Stiefel

ILLUSTRATOR: Gerald Kelly

PUBLICATION INFO: Enslow, 2012 (Paperback)

ISBN: 978-0-7660-3785-4

SOURCE: Publisher-provided copy

INTENDED AUDIENCE: Grades 3-5 (Amazon), Grades 5 – 9 (publisher); I think Amazon’s grade-level designation is more appropriate.

GENRE: nonfiction

OPENING and SYNOPSIS:

“Turning a long metal skewer, the cook roasts a whole swan over a blazing fire. For gravy, he mixes the bird’s blood with its heart, liver, and guts. He stirs in pieces of bread and adds some broth. The swan’s skin and feathers are then stuck back onto its body to make it look alive. Dinner is served!”

Enjoy reading about mouth-watering “delicacies” like this roast swan, pottage (think gruel), blackbird-filled pies and more in this delightful romp through medieval cooking. In 48 pages, Stiefel covers royal food and feasts, as well as the peasants’ plight. She also looks at the constant threat of starvation that plagued the people of the Middle Ages.

THEMES/TOPICS: history (European), cookery

WHY I LIKE THIS BOOK: This gross-out books is gobs of fun. Stiefel’s prose is delightfully descriptive. Her conversational and humorous voice truly put the “story” in this history. Yet, at the same time, it’s clear this is a well-researched text. Stiefel includes quotes from people who lived in the Middle Ages, as well as other tidbits, like the shopping list for a 6,000-person feast. Gerald Kelley’s lively illustrations are a perfect match for the text, keeping the book fun and engaging for young readers. You’ll find it hard to put down.

RESOURCES/ACTIVITIES:

Books, Nature, Uncategorized

Review: Can You Find These Butterflies?

Author: Carmen Bredeson
Illustrator: Lindsey Cousins
Publication Info: Enslow Elementary, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-7660-3980-3
Source: publisher-provided complimentary copy
Intended audience: PreK through first grade
Genre: nonfiction, picture book (24 pages)
Themes/topics: butterflies, nature
Opening and synopsis: “A butterfly starts out as an egg. A tiny caterpillar hatches from the egg. It eats and grows.” Using simple language, Bredeson describes how a caterpillar transforms into a butterfly. Then she challenges young readers to learn about nine different types of butterflies and spot them in nature.
Why I like this book: This book invites children to become butterfly experts. Rather than just feeding them facts about butterflies, it encourages them to explore their own backyards, parks and open spaces and see if they can tell a Monarch from a Viceroy. Stunning time-lapse photography shows a caterpillar forming a chrysalis and emerging as a butterfly. Additional, close up photographs show primary features of each butterfly. Simple language geared towards first-grade readers make this a wonderful book for progressing readers.
Resources/activities: Raising butterflies is always a favorite for small children. You can order caterpillars through Insect Lore. Also, if you are on the migration path for monarch butterflies, you can record your sightings online.
Books, Science/Math

Perfect Picture Book Friday: Seeing Symmetry


Author/Illustrator: Loreen Leedy
Publication Info: Holiday House, 2012
Intended audience: Grades 1-3  (NOTE: Meets Common Core math standards for Grade 4.)
Genre: nonfiction picture book
Themes/topics: math
Opening and synopsis:
“Butterfly wings have it. Triceratops had it. The word MOM has it.When you know what to look for, it’s easy to start…seeing symmetry.”
Symmetry is all around us: on our bodies and in plants, animals, the alphabet, art and more. Leedy’s dynamic illustrations make it easy for students to “see symmetry” on the page and in their world. Check out her book trailer:
Why I like this book: Symmetry is a math concept you have to see to believe. Leedy’s images clearly show both line and rotational symmetry and help students understand key concepts like “line of symmetry” and “asymmetrical.” Her backmatter is extensive and includes notes, activities, a glossary and an explanation of why symmetry is something students should know.
Resources: Seeing Symmetry includes two activities in the backmatter. There are instructions for making a Symme-TREE by folding paper in half and drawing a tree along the fold line. Students can cut out and decorate their tree for an example of line symmetry. She also has instructions for making a paint blot picture by putting blobs of paint on a sheet of paper. Children fold the paper in half one way and then the other to complete the picture. Leedy also has a wealth of resources (many free) on her TeachersPayTeachers Web site.
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.
Nature

Perfect Picture Book Friday: Swirl by Swirl

Author: Joyce Sidman
Illustrator: Beth Krommes
Publication Info: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Children, 2011
Intended audience: Ages 4 and 8
Genre: nonfiction, picture book
Themes/topics: science, nature
Opening and synopsis: “A spiral is a snuggling shape. It fits neatly in small places. Coiled tight, warm and safe, it waits…”
Spirals snuggle, grow, protect, grasp, move, stretch and reach out to explore the world. In her lyrical book, Sidman shows how this shape appears repeatedly in nature, from calla lilies to shells and galaxies. Her notes in the back explain the strengths of the shapely spiral. Krommes’s bright wood engravings are a perfect complement to the text.
Why I like this book: Melissa Stewart recommended this book on her blog as an example of creative nonfiction that doesn’t necessarily have a narrative. This much-lauded book is a must-read for anyone aspiring to write children’s nonfiction. Sidman is a master of free verse, which makes this book appealing for young readers. And there’s much to learn about this mysterious and fascinating shape. Older readers will enjoy learning about Fibonacci spirals, DNA helix and spiderwebs in the back matter.
Resources: The fantastic blog, The Classroom Bookshelf, has a comprehensive list of activities and further resources for Swirl by Swirl. One of my favorite suggestions is to arm your child with a digital camera and seek out spirals in nature. Sidman’s Teachers page includes a Teacher’s Guide for the book, as well as a poetry kit for use in the classroom.
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.
Books, Geography, Science/Math

Perfect Picture Book Friday: Me on the Map

Author: Joan Sweeney
Illustrator: Annette Cable
Publication Info: Knopf Books for Young Readers, 1996
Intended audience: 3 and up
Genre: nonfiction, picture book (32 pages)
Themes/topics: cartography, maps, geography, nonfiction
Opening and synopsis: “This is me. This is me in my room. This is a map of my room. This is me on the map of my room.” Step-by-step, this young girl shows the reader her room, her home, her street, her city, her state, her country and her planet and how each would appear on a map. This book is a wonderful way for children to learn about their place in the world and how it’s represented in two dimension.
Resources/activities: Taking a cue from the book, children can learn about scale and dimensions by drawing a map of their bedroom or home. For older children, you could use graph paper to teach scale, allowing the child to measure his or her room and pieces of furniture and plotting them on graph paper. You could also challenge a child to draw a map of a location from a favorite book using clues found in the text.
Why I like this book: This book is immensely popular. I had it on hold at the library forever. My five-year-old wanted to renew it as the due date approached, but someone else had already placed a hold on it. Simple language and strong visuals make this an excellent introduction to cartography.
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.
Books, Nature, Science/Math

Perfect Picture Book Friday: Vulture View

Author: April Pulley Sayre
Illustrator: Steve Jenkins
Publication Info: Henry Holt and Company, 2007
Intended audience: Preschool and up
Genre: nonfiction, picture book (32 pages)
Themes/topics: nature, animals, science, natural history
Opening and synopsis:
“The sun is rising.
Up, up.
It heats the air.
Up, up.
Wings stretch wide
to catch a ride
on warming air.
Going where?
Up, up!”
With her signature lyrical style, April Pulley Sayre tackles the seemingly ungraceful topic of turkey vultures. These animals eat what we wouldn’t dare — stinky, rotting meat. In “Get to Know Vultures” Sayre explains the turkey vulture’s important role in breaking down large, dead animals so mice, beetles, maggots and worms can do their jobs and return nutrients to the soil. She also notes areas that budding scientists might want to study when they grow up. For example, scientists know little about how the vultures communicate and what they do in the winter.
Resources/activities: Sayre includes many resources in “Get to Know Vultures,” however her rich Web site provides even more resources. For teachers, she provides appropriate curriculum standards….here. She also recommends the Turkey Vulture Society. You’ll find a turkey vulture dot-to-dot and crossword puzzle on the State of Ohio’s parks page….here.
Why I like this book: One of my favorite nonfiction PB authors, Melissa Stewart, originally recommended this book as an outstanding example of picture book nonfiction. Sayre’s strength is her lyricism, which makes turkey vultures interesting and attractive. And, of course, Sayre’s stellar writing is paired with illustrations by the legendary Steve Jenkins. The duo have created a not-to-be-missed reading experience.
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.
Books, Nature, Science/Math

Perfect Picture Book Friday: Just One Bite

Author: Lola Schaefer
Illustrator: Geoff Waring
Publication Info: Chronicle Books, 2010
Intended audience: Preschool and up
Genre: nonfiction, picture book (32 pages)
Themes/topics: nature, animals, science
Opening and synopsis: ”With just one scoop, a worm can eat… –> . this much dirt (and everything in it)!”
Schaefer and Warning reveal how much nectar a butterfly sips and how much bamboo an elephant bites. They rely upon simple sentences and vivid visuals to show how much 11 animals consume in only one bite. Backmatter includes more detailed discussions of 12 creatures and their eating habits. For example, reticulated giraffes use their sticky saliva to coat thorns making them easier to chew. Komodo dragons can eat up to five pounds of food every minute. That’s a lot of meat!
Resources/activities: This book is a great excuse for a trip to the zoo. Our zoo features komodo dragons; after reading about their insatiable appetites, I was ready to take a peek at them again. If you can’t make it to the zoo, check out National Geographic’s Kids site for more information about animals and their appetites. Finally, the National Science Teachers Association, which selected the book as an Outstanding Science Trade Book, recommends a scaling activity found….here.
Why I like this book: This book is a cross between two of my favorite Steve Jenkins books, Actual Size and Time to Eat. Children find animals fascinating, and this book spurs discussion about animals and their environments.
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.
Books, Nature, Outside, Science/Math

Perfect Picture Book Friday: Bug Shots

Author: Alexandra Siy
Illustrator: Dennis Kunkel
Publication Info: Holiday House, 2011
Intended audience: Ages 6 to 10
Genre: nonfiction, picture book
Themes/topics: science, nature, insects
Opening and synopsis: ”Bugs bite. Some drink blood. Bugs rob. They steal food from gardens and fields. Bugs kill — mostly each other, but also plants, animals, even people sometimes. Bugs destroy. They eat houses, clothes, and furniture. Bugs bug. (Is bugging a crime?)”
In her latest book, Siy invites children to become Fellow Bug Investigator (FBI) agents, surveying page after page of bug “mug shots” (photomicrographs) and learning more about them via their “rap sheets.” Thus informed, Siy encourages  children to deliver a verdict: are bugs good, bad or just plain bugly?
Why I like this book: Siy is one of my favorite nonfiction science writers for children. We love her Cars on Mars book, which chronicled the adventures of Spirit and Opportunity as they roved the Red Planet. She has a snappy, engaging style that ensures her subjects are never boring. With that said, this book would be nothing without Kunkel’s photomicrographs — essentially colorized pictures taken using a scanning electron microscope. Imagine a honeycomb-like grasshopper exoskeleton magnified more than 3000 times. Picture the hairs on a water strider’s legs magnified 2100 times, so you can truly understand how it walks on water. Even my three-year-old wants me to read him this book because the pictures captivate him.
Resources: This would be a great addition to any unit on bugs. Teachers and homeschoolers also can reserve time on the University of Illinois’s BugScope so kids can control the scanning electron microscope on their own while taking a close up look at the bugs they captured.
At home w collect our own bugs and look at them using our 99-cent magnifying glasses (thank you 99 Cent Store). I also bought a bug catcher at Target for a couple of dollars a few weeks ago. This can provide endless hours of entertainment on a nice spring day. A friend introduced me to Insect Lore a wonderful Web sit chock full of fun bug products. We just ordered painted lady larvae. Finally, Penn State has a list of fun bug  sites for kids….here.

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.