Tuesday, June 18, 2019

National Pollinator Week

Who knew?

June 17th to 23rd is National Pollinator Week. This is the first time I've come across this week of commemoration and by coincidence, it fit in with a few new books I had selected to blog about, focused on bees. Here are some suggestions for elementary grades:  

Bee: a peek-through picture book by Britta Teckentrup
This one is for young bees with a gently rhyming text and die-cut illustrations showing exactly how a bee goes about its business. This one is for the primary grades.

Bee Dance by Rick Chrustowski
This focuses on the way bees communicate to each other about where to find good sources of flowers. Basic expository test clearly explains this process making it accessible for the primary grades. Lovely, bright illustrations are very inviting.

The Honeybee by Kirsten Hall and Isabelle Arsenault
Whereas the first two books really focused on the collection of pollen and communicating the source of food between bees, The Honeybee goes a bit further.  Additional  information (in rhyme) explains what happens when pollen and nectar laden bees go back to the hive and how honey in made. The illustrations are more fanciful and less anatomically correct then the first two books. Another one for the early grades.

The Bee Book by Charlotte Milner

Of the four books, this one has the most information about all things pertaining to bees such as various kinds of bee, anatomy, activities in the hive, seasonal activities, pollination, swarming, communication, importance of bees and the threats that bees are currently exposed to. The text is typically broken into small chunks so as to not overwhelm the reader. I like the illustrations for being fairly simplistic. A good book for report writing for grades 3 to 6.

There seems to be many books written about bees recently making it pretty easy to find one for studying bees, insects, interconnectedness between species and environmental issues. 

Soooo easy to bee-in-the-know, isn't it?

Monday, May 27, 2019

Tara Books

Looking at the book, An Indian Beach: by Day and Night created by Joelle Jolievet, I realized that I hadn't gushed about a favorite publisher of mine, Tara Books, for quite sometime.

An oversight, to be sure.

The books that I love most from Tara Books are handmade (from the paper, to the images being screenprinted, to being bound by hand) and/or often illustrated in unique and interesting ways showcasing traditional Indian folk art styles..

For example, An Indian Beach. This book illustrates the typical activities that go on from morning til night on Elliot's Beach near the city of Chennai, South India. The author depicts people waking up in the morning, engaging in all sorts of activities such as selling fish, repairing nets, eating, jogging, going to work, and playing.  At the hottest time of the afternoon there are very few people out, only a couple of dogs or birds. But by early evening the pace picks up again and people are out and about selling food, playing games, relaxing until nighttime when it's time to return home.

But it's the way in which the daily happenings on Elliot's Beach has been displayed for the reader that makes it stand out. Wordlessly, it has been illustrated as a series of predominately black and white panels joined together to create a never-ending, circular flow of activities from dawn til night. It's a wonderful display that invites the reader to stop and take in the details of each scene. On the inside of the joined panels are multitudes of various species of fish to be identified reinforcing the proximity and importance of the sea to the people living close to this beach. There is a blue border at the top of each page 
identifying the presence of the sea. On the inner side of the book blue colours the water for the fish.

The folder packaging the book provides us with additional descriptions about what's going on in the panels. It also includes suggestions as to how the book can be used and read. Because of the foldout nature of the pages the scenes can be 'read' in various configurations, inviting the reader to create their own stories.

This would make a terrific addition to the Alberta social studies unit studied in grade 3 where students learning about India. I think the book design is provocative enough to be of interest to almost anyone.

As I said at the top of this blog, I love Tara Books because of the books they publish. I love that they take on the challenge of storytelling in unique and innovative ways. An Indian Beach is an excellent addition to my favourites list.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Unexpected Surprises in The Great Journey

I love books like The Great Journey by Agathe Demois and Vincent Godeau.

It's super fun with lots to look at as we follow a tiny bird on a long journey across various landscapes and see hidden, unexpected and surprising images along the way. I especially love the special effect of the green line drawings that are embedded in the bold red line drawings which the reader can only see when they use the magic view finder.  (The red lens of the view finder cancels out the red line drawings.) The hidden or embedded illustrations really make this book special.

Let me give you a couple of my favorite most playful examples.  As I've already mentioned, the little bird flies across various landscapes, countrysides, cities, factories, oceans, jungles etc.  When flying across the ocean scape it looks like there are several ice bergs. But look through the red lens and we discover that the ice bergs are actually the tops of ice cream cones. There is some kind of mining operation going on underwater with seals, penguins and polar bear bringing some kind of material to the surface. In another corner, we see a school of fish escaping a penguin through a twisty tunnel. One other segment of the same pages shows penguins bottling water.  It's a busy place!

Another fun illustration is a group of people walking about what looks like a city but the magic view finder shows us what's going on inside their bodies and brains mostly unexpected happenings. One fellow's leg is made up of a couple of hams, maybe or bird legs (unexpected). A young woman's insides are comprised of all sorts of gears (unexpected). A man in a puffy coat turns out to have a tattoo, pierced ears and wearing only briefs (typical). There's a woman carrying a guitar case filled with a very long, curvy snake (unexpected) but the animal carrier next to a different woman has a barking dog inside (expected). The one image I really like is of the two gentlemen in the foreground showing what's going on in their minds as they talk with each other. One man has two teeny-tiny men pulling a string straight from the mind of the other man's brain which shows a tangled mess of string.  Haven't we all had conversations like this?

The little bird does eventually reach his or her's destination which is in a jungle. Here a large tree that looks uninhabited is really filled with a mass of birds as revealed by the red lens viewer.

The viewer is attached to the book so it shouldn't get lost too quickly.

It's a fun, witty book which will  appeal to many ages but I would expect that kids in elementary and middle grades will be the main audience. 

If this sort of book appeals to you, I would also recommend Illuminature by Rachel Williams. It does a similar thing  uncovering various natural environments and associated plants, daytime or nighttime animals using a view finder with three coloured lens. Fascinating.

Both of these books would make great gifts.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Summer is on the way

I always know summer is almost here when I get a notification from Sync about their upcoming season of free YA audiobooks. So, starting this Thursday, April 25th you can starting downloading a terrific list of YA reads that you can listen to at home, in the garden, on the bus, in the car, on a plane, while exercising...well, you get the idea.

In Sync's own words: 
SYNC is a free summer audiobook program for teens. Returning April 25, 2019, SYNC will give away two complete audiobook downloads a week - pairs of high interest titles, based on weekly themes. Sign up for email or text alerts and be first to know when new titles are available to download at www.audiobooksync.com.

And, here's the line up: 

This is an incredible list.  The first two books have been on my To-Read-List for a while and I know I'll final get to them.

So, check out this fantastic opportunity and load up on free audiobooks. 

Happy listening, Everyone.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Guest blogger : An Inspiring Story

Paula Hollohan is my guest blogger today raving about a recent addition to the Doucette Library's collection  that has great classroom potential, connecting to STEM, science and language arts. Thanks, Paula.
Hedy Lamarr’s Double life: HollywoodLegend and Brilliant Inventor written by Laurie Wallmark and illustrated by Katy Wu

Now here is the kind of book I would love to see in K-5 classrooms.  While reading through a number of new picture books that came into the Doucette Library over the last little while, this one caught my eye.
This story has EVERYTHING! An accomplished woman, also pictured as a young girl, who loved learning and wondering, a great invention that helped modern day electronics, like cell phones, keep texts and calls private, a Hollywood movie star with a contract with Louis B. Mayer. Hedy’s curiosity led to many personal inventions including a cube that changed plain water into flavoured soda, a ladder to help get in and out of a bathtub.
It is really not about the glamorous life she led or the amazing inventions.  This story captures the curious mind of a girl and a woman about things that were happening around her - in her real life.
After meeting George Antheil, Hedy and George came up with the idea of “frequency hopping” to help torpedoes send fragmented messages not easily intercepted by the enemy.  They co-patented the invention together.  Although this invention would have proven useful, the American Navy put it aside to fight World War II.  Hedy used her Hollywood star power to volunteer to sell war bonds and to meet soldiers at the Hollywood Canteen.
A book like this one in every classroom would be a great addition for children who are tinkerers.  They would recognize themselves in the realistic story of Hedy who, as a child, was interested in life and curious about everything including going to the movies.
"Inventions are easy for me to do.  I suppose I just came from a different place." Hedy Lamarr

Monday, April 8, 2019

Case study in fake news

I find the story about Orson Welles’ 1938 radio production of the War of the Worlds and its impact on many Americans who had tuned into their favourite radio program, utterly fascinating.

On October 30th, 1938 (Halloween Eve or Mischief Night) the American public were about to get punked big time.  The story goes, that Orson Welles and the players of the Mercury Theater had adapted the novel by H.G. Wells, The War of the Worlds, into a radio play.  The play was presented as if it was taking place in ‘real time’ with credible sounding newscasters describing the unfolding invasion of aliens in Grovers Mill, New Jersey. Many of the listening audience thought the story was true and panicked, thinking they were about to be captured or killed by Martians.  Police were called, hospitals were overrun, switchboards at CBS and other media were swamped with calls, and people were running amok in the streets. The story goes viral.  Fascinating, right?

Spooked!: How a Radio Broadcast and The War of the World Sparked the1938 Invasion of America by Gail Jarrow presents an absorbing account of how this all came to be, played out in reality and the aftermath.  It is a well-researched book that frames the context of the radio play in terms of the mindset of the American people at this time (post-Depression era, increasing unease over the rise of Nazism in Europe, increasing interest in Mars) and why it was seemingly, possible to dupe the public.
Fake news, anyone?

That’s right.  Fake news.

But the book goes beyond looking at the radio play and its unintended consequences. It also explores the characters involved in the production, the public’s response and it looks at the media’s coverage of the aftermath, presenting another angle of fake news.  The mass hysteria that supposedly gripped the nation after the play’s broadcast was greatly exaggerated. The studies done at the time are shown to be inaccurate and then wrongly reported.

This book presents a terrific historical case study to bring into the classroom to look at fake news today, understanding how the media can slant a story and the importance of critical thinking.

The book includes sections of the radio broadcast, descriptions of how the play was read, the pacing, the music, the characters, as well as excerpts from letters, telegrams and editorials sent to CBS, Orson Welles, newspapers describing the impact it had on listeners. The breakdown of the myth of mass hysteria shows how to work through information and fact check.

Additional material such as a timeline, a list of web resources, an author’s note, source notes, a selected bibliography and an index provides substantial support for students to follow up and explore the story on their own. You’ll be happy to know that there is a link to a site that has the original radio play for you to listen to.

Gail Jarrow does an amazing job with all her books.  As already mentioned, they are well-researched.  She picks stories that allow us to connect on an emotional level to the people involved and then gets us thinking.

I highly recommend this book for middle grades and up.

Reviews for other books by Gail Jarrow: 

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