Monday, October 22, 2007

Genre 4 NonFiction: Team Moon: How 400,000 People Landed Apollo 11 on the Moon

Team Moon: How 400,000 People Landed Apollo 11 on the Moon
1. Bibliography:
Thimmesh, Catherine. 2006. TEAM MOON: HOW 400,000 PEOPLE LANDED APOLLO 11 ON THE MOON. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0-618-50757-4

2. Plot Summary:
Catherine Thimmesh tells the story of the behind-the-scenes workers who helped take part in the greatest American space accomplishment of our time. Through quotes and interviews with people connected with the Apollo 11 mission, Thimmesh reveals their stories and draws together the huge undertaking that put the first Americans on the moon.

3. Critical Analysis:
In her personable account of the enormously complex task that was Apollo 11, Catherine Thimmesh relays the true stories of the men and women who helped make that mission possible. Through photographs (some of which were actually taken on the moon!) maps, and charts, Thimmesh conveys the thoughts and worries of the team that engineered, built and tested the Apollo 11 system. The author relates the magnitude of people responsible for ensuring the successful accomplishment of landing a man on the Moon and returning them to Earth. In a clear, organized manner, she details the background of this endeavor, beginning with John F. Kennedy’s mission statement, “I believe this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to Earth.” Her fact filled account tells of the separate organizations that worked together in support of the mission. “The lunar module was built by Grumman, 7,500 strong.” So as not to overwhelm the reader, a glossary, index and information on various Apollo missions is included at the end of the story. Readers who want to extend their knowledge of the U.S. Space Program can explore additional websites, investigate other sources, and read chapter notes included in the back of the book. Photographs support the text and provide a visual account for the reader to connect with the true-life details that weave together to form the fabric of this tale. People, young and old will appreciate the heroic particulars, great and small, that came together to create this successful enterprise. Thimmesh proves that no great deed is solitary, it takes a team.

4. Review Excerpts:
Orbis Pictus Award: Outstanding Nonfiction for Children 2007
Robert F. Sibert Award 2007
Outstanding Science Tradebooks for Students K-12 2007
Starred in KIRKUS. “This beautiful and well-documented tribute will introduce a new generation to that triumphant time.”
Starred in HORNBOOK. “The narrative balances what could have been a recitation of corporate names with a colloquial approach and high drama; primary source material gives specificity to the thousands.”
Reviewed in SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL. “Despite occasional contrast issues when the white-on-black text is printed over blown-up photographs, this dramatic account will mesmerize even readers already familiar with the event-and also leave them awed by the level of care and dedication it took to surmount so many daunting technological challenges.”

5. Connections:
Other books by Catherine Thimmesh:
Related books:
Schyffert, Bea Usuma. 2003. THE MAN WHO WENT TO THE FAR SIDE OF THE MOON. ISBN 0-8118-4007-7
Godwin, Robert. 2005. APOLLO 11: FIRST MEN ON THE MOON. ISBN 1-894959-27-2
*Research other space missions and compare them to the Apollo 11’s problems and successes.
*Read biographies of Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldren and Michael Collins and other astronauts.
*Write to NASA and get information on upcoming missions and projects

Genre 4 NonFiction: Tornadoes

1. Bibliography:
Simon, Seymour. 1999. TORNADOES. New York, NY: Morrow Junior Books. ISBN 0688146465

2. Plot Summary:
Seymour Simon once again captivates readers with his spectacular full-color photographs and gripping, informative text. Simon details how tornadoes are formed and the conditions and degrees of their power. Readers will learn how scientists classify and track tornadoes and where some of the most powerful ones in history have occurred. This book introduces readers of all ages to one of the most tremendous acts of nature.

3. Critical Analysis:
In his interesting and informative book, Seymour Simon introduces the reader to the power and destruction of one of nature’s most violent and spectacular phenomena, tornadoes. Students of all ages will be attracted to the large, full-color photos, showing an ominous sky, various kinds of tornadoes and their paths of devastation. In addition to the pictures, there are a few maps, graphs and diagrams to help clarify the reader’s understanding of the makeup of the storms and where they most likely form. The clear, well organized text describes the weather conditions necessary for tornadoes to form, when and where they most likely occur, and how scientists forecast, rate, and track them. Simon also includes common myths about tornadoes and unusual facts that are sure to entertain. “A tornado once sucked up a pond full of frogs and rained them down on a nearby town.” Adding a nice balance to the ferocity and devastation of the subject matter, Simon also gives tips on what to do if one finds themselves in a situation where a tornado might arise, “Go to the basement of a solidly built house. Staying under the stairs or a heavy table helps to protect you from crumbling walls.” Simon’s passion for weather phenomena will sweep the reader off their feet and leave them wanting more. Known as ‘the dean of the children’s science book field’, Seymour Simon has written more than 200 books, more than half of which have been honored with the Outstanding Trade Books for Children Award by the National Science Teachers Association.

4. Review Excerpts:
Outstanding Trade Books for Children 2000
Reviewed in SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL. “Simon’s clear, well-organized text discusses the weather conditions necessary to spawn these violent storms; how they form; where they are most likely to occur; and how scientists predict, rate, and track them. He also describes some of the major tornadoes recorded in the U.S. and includes weather maps and a diagram. Make room on your shelves for Simon’s standout view of a cataclysmic manifestation”

5. Connections:
Other books by Seymour Simon:
HURRICANES. ISBN 0-06-117072-0
LIGHTNING. ISBN 0-06-088435-5
WEATHER. ISBN 0-06-088439-8
*Compare other books about the weather written by Seymour Simon and look for similarities and differences.
*Look at other topics by Seymour Simon and make comparisons to how he approaches and showcases each.
Other related books:
Berger, Melvin. 2000. DO TORNADOES REALLY TWIST? ISBN 0-439-14880-4
*Compare Simon’s book to the way tornadoes are discussed in the other books.
*Have students investigate storm trackers and find out what they do and how they predict where storms might occur.

Genre 4 NonFiction: I See a Kookaburra!

I See a Kookaburra!
1. Bibliography:
Jenkins, Steve and Robin Page. 2005. I SEE A KOOKABURRA!. Ill. by Steve Jenkins. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Company. ISBN 0618507647

2. Plot Summary:
Teaming up yet again, Steve Jenkins and Robin Page create a delightful book about animals in their habitats. Each page represents an area of the world and the animals that inhabit that region. Through bright, colorful illustrations, children can discover a variety of animals and how they live. There is even a more detailed description of each animal listed at the end of the book. Students will enjoy finding a hidden ant on each page.

3. Critical Analysis:
Jenkins and Page have integrated a unique feature into each page of this book about animals in their natural habitats. Camouflaged in the beautiful and vibrant collage illustrations, animals are hidden in their surroundings. Along with the animals native to that region, the authors place an ant into each of the environments because they say, “There are thousands of different kinds of ants. They live almost everywhere on earth and can be found in each of the habitats shown in this book. Along with the eight animals in each picture, there is an ant—somewhere. Can you see it?” Six different parts of the world are shown, and each habitat includes eight animals, which may at first be difficult to spot. Children will enjoy trying to name and find the hidden animals. The pattern of “I see…” is repeated throughout to encourage readers to look for indigenous animals to that region. (“In the desert I see….) Turn the page and the hidden animals are uncovered against a white background and finish the sentence with appropriate nouns, verbs and adjectives (…a kangaroo rat bounding over the sand). The elusive ant is also exposed! Charming and lively, this approach also informs and describes the animals and their biomes in an accurate, distinct way. Lengthier notes on all the environments are placed at the end of the book with a map of the habitats as they are located in the world. Additional readings are provided for enthusiastic readers interested in more information. This dynamic, captivating book encourages critical thinking and influences readers to take a closer look at the world around them.

4. Review Excerpts:
Reviewed in KIRKUS. “While the animals have the lush, textured look one associates with Jenkins's work, the habitats are much less well-developed, resulting in a flatness and skewing of perspective that distorts the relative sizes of the animals shown. Unfortunate.”
Reviewed in HORNBOOK. “In an appealing game of hide-and-seek, readers look at one of eight different habitats with glimpses of animals. Turn the page, and the plants and rocks are gone, revealing the animals. The lush cut-paper illustrations invite detailed scrutiny, but the plants seem to be more of a nuisance than critical components of the ecosystems. Nevertheless, readers will be attracted to this handsome book.”
Reviewed in BOOKLIST. “The animal illustrations are reprised in miniature at the close of the book, each one presented with brief facts in tiny type, which are apparently directed to adults or older kids sharing the book with young children. Further readings and a small map round out the text. The bright and playful design will attract an enthusiastic audience.”

5. Connections:
Other books by Steve Jenkins:
DOGS AND CATS ISBN 0-618-50767-1
Related books:
*Student can create their own camouflaged animals in habitats and see if others can find them.
*Allow students to write their own “In the _________ I see….” Modeling the sentence structure found in the text.
*Research endangered animals and study their habitats. Discover why they have become endangered or extinct.
*Find information about a Kookaburra and other Australian animals.
*Visit a local zoo to find other animals listed in the books.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Genre 3 Poetry: Aleutian Sparrow

Aleutian Sparrow
1. Bibliography:
Hesse, Karen. 2003. ALEUTIAN SPARROW. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0689861893

2. Plot Summary:
In her historical account of the relocation of the Aleut people, Karen Hesse tells the story of Vera, an Aleutian Islander, who must move from her home with her family during World War II. Vera describes her journey of being placed in the internment camps designed to protect the people from the invading Japanese through a series of diary-like entries.

3. Critical Analysis:
Newbery Award winning author, Karen Hesse, tells the tale of Vera, an Aleut native, along with the rest of her people, displaced to an internment camp during World War II. Through unrhymed verse Hesse paints a poignant picture of Vera’s journey. Told from Vera’s point of view, the reader gains insight to the harshness and injustice faced by the Aleuts at the hands of the United States Government. “We are citizens of the United States, taken from our homes. / We did nothing wrong, and yet we get little to eat and / no doctoring, and our toilet is an open trough washing into the creek.” Vera’s eternal hope to return to her native land and customs drives the story. Through reflection, tribal storytelling, and morale boosting activities Vera and the Aleuts are able to endure and overcome their hardships. The reader can feel their strength and pain as they celebrate Christmas with minimal supplies; sickness and death an everyday occurrence. “Someone from Ketchikan donated a worn pair of lace / curtains. / We washed them, cut them to shape, / And used starch to form them / Into angel wings for the children.” Hesse uses symbolism of the wings to signify the hope for freedom of their internment, salvation and rebirth. Her use of imagery adds beautiful details to the story. “My spirit rises with the sun, which parts the fingers of trees / And slides its light through to the forest floor.”
This is a timeless story of oppression and the strength of the human spirit to overcome. Children will enjoy Vera’s humor and wit in everyday situations. When told to make glue from fish eyes, Vera decides it is worth it to buy glue from the store instead. She also suggests that a construction project might go more quickly with Alexie not helping. Like the title Aleutian Sparrow, Vera continues to sing her song of hope and rise above the injustice of her situation and returns to her nest.

4. Review Excerpts:
Starred in KIRKUS. “With a whisper-soft touch, Hesse's clear, resonant verses and delicate imagery will break hearts.”
Reviewed in BOOKLIST. “As Vera talks about her life in the camps, she also weaves in her people's past history and culture, ensuring that readers will want to know more.”
Reviewed in HORNBOOK. “Some of the poems are quite graceful, conveying much in just a few lines, but in general, the format doesn't serve the author well.”

5. Connections:
Other books by Karen Hesse:
OUT OF THE DUST. ISBN 0590360809
STOWAWAY. ISBN 0689839898
WITNESS. ISBN 0439271991
Related books:
Mansell, Donald E. 2003. UNDER THE SHADOW OF THE RISING SUN. ISBN 0816319766
*Compare Vera’s story with the missionary family in Donald Mansell’s book. How was life similar and different in each situation?
*Read other novels by Karen Hesse. What do they have in common? Why do you think she writes about people and their struggles to overcome prejudice?

Genre 3 Poetry: Eureka! Poems About Inventors

Eureka! Poems about Inventors
1. Bibliography:
Sidman, Joyce. 2002. EUREKA! POEMS ABOUT INVENTORS. Ill. by K. Bennett Chavez. Brookfield, CT: The Milford Press, Inc. ISBN 0761316655

2. Plot Summary:
In this illustrated collection of poems about relatively famous and even some unknown inventors Joyce Sidman captures the thoughts and ideas behind each person’s discovery. Chavez’s beautiful illustrations create a strong visual account of each creation. This book offers 16 creative and inspired poems describing some of history’s most important inventions.

3. Critical Analysis:
In her collection of free verse poems about inventors Joyce Sidman captures the essence of various inventors and their creations. The poems are chronologically organized from the earliest inventions to the latest starting with the discovery of clay to the invention of the Internet. They describe the passionate struggle each person experienced in achieving the discovery for which they are most famous. In “The Light—Ah! The Light”, the poem, told through the voice of Marie Curie, describes the hardship of being discriminated against for being a female, Polish scientist and the discovery of radium, which would eventually take her life. Sidman uses personification of life to beautifully express Curie’s emotions. “I, Manya, the poor Polish girl from Warsaw, pried open life’s hidden heart and discovered the bright burn of its decay.”
Chavez’s illustrations delve deeper into each inventor’s discoveries and add additional details that extend the impact of their work. In “Enquire Within”, a poem about the discovery of the Internet, a series of circuits and electrical schematics interconnect along with a picture of an early computer, a spider web woven with the word, “WEB”, and images of the Revolutionary war with part of the word Revolution visible. These visual symbols impact the change and interconnectedness that Sidman conveys in the line, “I flung out the first strands freely, and others felt their pull, a revolution of thousands, worldwide, all helping weave the Web.”
Grouped into four sections, the poems follow discoveries throughout history that have changed our lives for the better. After each section additional information is given about each inventor and their discovery. This helpful information provides insight and understanding into the background of the inventor. For example, the poem, “The Real McCoy” is made much clearer to the reader after reading the background information which states that Elijah McCoy was trained as a Railroad Engineer in Scotland before coming back to America, the son of freed slaves. We can deeper understand his frustration at not being listened to as he tries to ‘sell’ his invention of the self-lubricating engine. Children will especially enjoy the section called “A Light Interlude” that tells of inventors whose names have become synonymous with their inventions. Recognizable names like Levi Strauss and Louis Braille will be familiar to some but others like Sir Thomas Crapper and Amelia Bloomer add humor to the list.

4. Review Excerpts:
Reviewed in BOOKLIST. “In 16 poems, mostly free verse, Sidman commemorates the best-known achievements of dozens of inventors.”
Reviewed in HORNBOOK. “In unfortunately small type, the chronologically arranged poems, accompanied by attractive paintings, are followed by brief biographical notes.
Reviewed in SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL. “The entire book reads beautifully as one amazing journey from before recorded time to the present.”

5. Connections:
Other books by Joyce Sidman:
*Use poems about each inventor as a starting point for research about that inventor to create a biography told from the inventor’s point of view.
*Find other inventions to research and students create poems told from inventor’s point of view.
*Read other books by Joyce Sidman and compare the different styles of poems.

Genre 3 Poetry: Please Bury Me in the Library

Please Bury Me in the Library
1. Bibliography:
Lewis, J. Patrick. 2005. PLEASE BURY ME IN THE LIBRARY. Ill. by Kyle M. Stone. Orlando, FL: Harcourt, Inc. ISBN 0152163875

2. Plot Summary:
J. Patrick Lewis’s collection of fanciful poems is a kid-friendly homage to reading. His poems come in a variety of formats such as Haiku, Limerick and Acrostic to name a few. With a definite nod to Shel Silverstein and Edward Lear, the tone ranges from macabre to capricious. Anyone who enjoys books and reading will enjoy this different take on language and literature.

3. Critical Analysis:
In his whimsical collection of humorous poems, J. Patrick Lewis provides a different point of view on everyday items and ideas. His skewed thinking creates a fantasy world in which Alphabet letters do the backstroke in soup and butterflies and caterpillars discuss the future. The illustrations by Kyle M. Stone capture the essence of each poem. His beautiful watercolor drawings echo the mood and tone of the poems. In “Eating Alphabet Soup”, the letters are depicted floating among carrots and mushrooms in a swamp like environment and the text reads, “While K, Z, and B do the backstroke / across this hot, steamy lagoon, / the fun-loving Vowels / may want tiny towels / to dry themselves off on the spoon”. Lewis’ use of rhyme, rhythm, and alliteration will appeal to children and offer exciting opportunities for read alouds.
The book is organized with a table of contents helpful for finding poems. Even the Acknowledgements in the back of the book are written in rhyming verse. “Whose book this is I hardly know, / considering the debt I owe.” He gives a nod to the poets, like Edward Lear and Shel Silverstein, who have inspired him. Lewis uses many different styles and forms throughout the collection such as Haiku, Acrostic, and Limerick. In the poem, “Reading in the Dark”, multiple meaning can be inferred in the stretched out font for the words “w e e w o n d e r “, as the owls, who stay up late (night owls, perhaps?) pondering over the book, “The Field Mouse’s Guide to Midnight”. The wee wonder could mean the small mice or the fact that the owls are contemplating them. Lewis word choice and figurative language brings a deeper level of meaning to each unique creation.
The internal rhyme of the title alone is enough to capture a child’s interest and curiosity and leave them wanting more.

4. Review Excerpts:
Starred review in KIRKUS. “In 16 poems, all but two appearing here for the first time, the Midwest's cleverest living comic poet enjoins readers, "Please bury me in the library / With a dozen long-stemmed proses."
Reviewed HORNBOOK. “Not all of the poems read smoothly or easily, but many of them display wit and humor.”
Reviewed in BOOKLIST. “Despite the picture-book format, it will take children older than the preschool crowd to appreciate the wordplay, which on occasion is quite sophisticated (Lewis credits Lear, Carroll, and X. J Kennedy as his inspirations).”

5. Connections:
Other books by J. Patrick Lewis:
Related books:
Silverstein, Shel. RUNNY BABBIT: A BILLY SOOK. ISBN 0060284048
Prelutsky, Jack. BENEATH A BLUE UMBRELLA. ISBN 0688064299
*Student can create other book titles from the poem, “What if Books had Different Names?” and illustrate them.
*Research Edward Lear, Jack Prelutsky, Shel Silverstein, Lewis Carroll, and X. J. Kennedy and see how their poems and style has influenced J. Patrick Lewis.