Monday, June 18, 2018

At the Mercy of Mother Nature


Volcanoes have been making the news lately with the Big Island of Hawaii and Guatemala reeling from the devastation caused by recent eruptions and a skeleton found underneath a large rock in Pompeii that had been jarred loose when Mount Vesuvius let loose in 79 A.D. Geology rocks! (Pun intended.)

Because erupting volcanoes can be such a dramatic and, sometimes, traumatic event, it can capture the imagination especially for young readers.  There are a number of books that I recommend to support this interest and learning for a budding geologist.

Here are a few of my top picks:


An Island Grows by Lola M Schaefer
A picture book for the primary grades that shows how an underwater volcanic eruption can be the starting block of new land mass being created. Over a long period of time, this mass of rock will result in new land being formed that will eventually allow life to take hold and begin to flourish. Told in rhyme with very few words it captures the dynamic nature of Earth and that things are changing all the time.  The concept of ‘geological time’ may be difficult grasp from this book as this process is not a quick process.


The next two books I recommend are from the Scientists in the Field series.  I love this series. It is fantastic and I highly recommend it.

The first one is Life on Surtsey: Iceland’s Upstart Island by Loree Griffins Burn. It is perfect for middle grades to see how new land off the coast of Iceland is being ‘colonized’ by plants and animals.  This has become an opportunity for scientists to observe this process as it happens in front of them.



The second book is Eruption!: Volcanoes and the Science of Saving Lives by Elizabeth Rusch.  This books looks at how scientists are able to prevent loss of life for populations living near active volcanoes around the world. Science is a critical tool for predicting when a volcano will erupt to give people enough notice to evacuate regions that will be hit with ash, lava, gases and related earthquakes.


Into the Volcano: a Volcano Researcher at Work by Donna O’Meara conveys the passion that volcanoes can ignite (no pun intended, here) in people.  O’Meara’s life work is tracking volcanos around the world to study and understand them better and to help people who live in the vicinity of active volcanoes.  As she describes her adventures, studying volcanoes, we learn a lot about all facets of volcanoes along the way. Student in middle grades will find this book appealing.


Another series that explores many different fields of science is the Max Axiom, Super Scientist Graphic Science series.  Using a comic book format, The Explosive World of Volcanoes with Max Axiom by Christopher Harbo, illustrated by Tod Smith will appeal to elementary level students for a basic introduction to the different kinds of volcanoes and their characteristics.



Some of the interest about volcanoes has come from scientists looking at historical eruptions and the impact they had on people.  The book, Bodies From the Ash: Life and Death in Ancient Pompeii by James M. Deem shows us what Pompeii the city looked like before 79 A.D., the eruption and then lots of pictures of the casts that were made of the people who died there. There is a morbid fascination with these images as we see who died and we are left to wonder about them as well. I recommend this for grades 7 & up.


My last recommendation is The Day the World Exploded: the Earthshaking Catastrophe at Krakatoa by Simon Winchester. This book is an adaptation of Winchester’s adult book, Krakatoa. This renown explosion took place in 1883 in the Sunda Strait, between the islands of Java and Sumatra. This volcanic eruption and the after effects were felt around the world, killing thousands of people. I would recommend this fascinating book for students, grade 7 and up.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Inspirational Photos Instilling Wonder While Teaching


In looking closely at the three books I’m blogging about today, I realized that there was a connection between them going beyond the fact that these are all coffee table books filled with beautiful photographs. The connection is that these beautiful books engage our imaginations, opening up the worlds they present to us, provoking questions, instilling wonder and informing us, along the way.

First up is a book published by National Geographic, Stunning Photographs compiled by Annie Griffiths. As soon as I mention National Geographic, you’re assured that this book will not disappoint. Divided into six sections, Mystery, Harmony, Wit, Discovery, Energy and Intimacy, the photos in each embody some sense of the section’s title. I especially enjoyed the section, Wit as there was a great deal of humour and playful tweaking of our perceptions in these pictures. Really lots of fun. There are hundreds of pictures in this book, created from every corner of the world, I’m sure, and that will amaze viewers of any age.

My next recommendation is, Microsculpture: Portraits of Insects by Levon Biss.  I adore macro photography and this book is fantastic. Using preserved insect specimens from the Oxford University Museum of Natural History collection, Biss takes thousands of pictures of each insect and its parts and then reconstitutes them to give the viewer an amazing close-up. We get to see every pockmark, scale, whisker, hair, and ridge, plus an array of beautiful colours and shapes of 36 insects from various parts of the world. Each insect is given a short descriptive paragraph often discussing some weird feature and the importance of this particular adaptation. There are some amazingly bizarre looking creatures out there. When thinking about the number of science fiction and fantasy movies  that incorporate ‘out-of-this-world’ looking creatures, designers need go no further than Earth’s own insect population for inspiration.


My last selection is Through Darkness to Light: Photographs Along the Underground Railroad by Jeanine Michna-Bales. This photographer recreated a 1400-mile journey, from Louisiana to Ontario that slaves may have taken when trying to escape to freedom. Based on her research, she went looking to document some of the areas that slaves and sometimes, those helping slaves escape, would have passed through but also convey the sense of what it might have been like traveling, mostly at night, through unknown landscapes, living in fear of being recaptured.  The photographs are not necessarily the most interesting as they’re often murky and show deeply shadowed forests, meadows, and wetlands. But taken in context of a fugitive running for their life, the book does convey the danger, fear, and beauty that might have been experienced. The accompanying essays also provide a lot of interesting information about the Underground Railroad. This book will be most effective in the classroom that is already studying American slavery and the Underground Railroad and would be an interesting companion book to novels such as Underground to Canada by Barbara Smucker, Crossing to Freedom by Virginia Frances Schwartz, and A Desperate Road to Freedom by Karleen Bradford.

I recommend all three of these books for all ages.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Fact or fiction?


Now this is a book that teachers, librarians and those of us who teach research skills will approve –

Two Truths and a Lie: it’s alive! by Ammi-Joan Paquette & Laurie Ann Thompson is a pretty fun book that teaches us about the natural world (plants, animals and us, humans, too) but promotes critical thinking and digging for the truth, along the way.

The book is divided into three parts each focused on either plants, animals or humans. Each part has three chapters and within each chapter there are three stories written loosely connected about a particular topic. 

Now, the three stories within a chapter has two stories based on facts and one that is fabricated.  All the stories capture the mystical nature and sometimes strange wonder of the natural world making it tricky to figure out which one might be the ‘lie’. The fake story often does contain bits of information that is true but the overarching information is false.

Along the way, there are pull-out boxes that give us additional information, quick lists of true or false statements to research, define words, provide maps and photos, and suggest activities and tips on research.  The answers are provided at the back of the book as well as a bibliography of the sources the writers consulted.

The introduction sets up the book, what to expect and how to read through it.

A section at the back of the book provides the reader with suggestions on how they might tackle figuring out which stories are true and which are not. It promotes using the internet and how to best work through the information found there. They caution the reader to be extra careful as there are people out there who intentionally want to fool us into believing false information. Selecting reliable sources, checking these sources, verifying information from more than one source, visiting libraries and thinking critically about what you’re reading are outlined in the book and promoted as crucial for good research.

This will appeal to a certain kind of reader who will likely be keen to work through it on their own but I think this book will have a bigger appeal for classroom work teaching research and critical thinking skills. The stories have a ‘wow’ factor that holds the reader’s attention and then there’s the gaming element that presents a challenge of figuring out fact from fiction.

I can see introducing this book to student-teachers when I next hold a workshop about information literacy or dealing with ‘fake news’.

I highly recommend this book for grades 4 to 8 but could see it being used at higher levels, as well.

Monday, May 21, 2018

#NotYourPrincess



Editors Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale have compiled writings and visual art from over 50 contemporary Indigenous women artists from across North America in their latest book, #NotYourPrincess.

These artists highlight aspects and issues of life as Indigenous women such as identity, assimilation, racism, abuse, murdered and missing Indigenous women, resiliency, connection to the land, hope and change for the future.

Each entry is one or two pages long and vary in format from short essays, poems, interviews, letters, brief quotes, to photographs and drawings.

The writing and images are strong and convey the strength, love and recognition about who they are and where they come from. These are contemporary women connecting past, present and future.

This book is another important resource to make available in high school classrooms for all students.

Charleyboy’s and Leatherdale’s first two compilations are Urban Tribes: Native American in the City and Dreaming in Indian: Contemporary Native American Voices which I also highly recommend.


Monday, May 14, 2018

In celebration of National Sea Monkey Day



Let’s hear it for Sea Monkeys and all cheesy things advertised in the back of comics from the days of yore.

Hurrah!

To celebrate this day, Paula and I thought it would be a great idea to list some of our favorite comic/graphic novels which is where most of us were introduced to the sea monkey phenomenon.

Primary Grades (K-4)
The Bad Guys (series) by Aaron Blabey
Baby Mouse (series) by Jennifer Holm and Matthew Holm
Binky Takes Charge by Ashley Spires
Dragon Breath by Ursula Vernon
Dragons Beware by Rafael Rosado and Jorge Aguirre
Jack and the Box by Art Spiegelman
Little Mouse Gets Ready by Jeff Smith
Squish, Super Amoeba (series) by Jennifer Holm and Matthew Holm
Zoe and Robot by Ryan Sias


Middle Grades (5-8)
Amelia Rules! By Jimmy Gownley
Amulet (series) by Kazu Kibuishi
Graveyard Book by Neil Gaimon, graphic adaptation by P. Craig Russell
Rapunzel’s Revenge by Shannon Hale, illustrated by Nathan Hale
Sisters by Raina Telgemeier
War Brothers: a Graphic Novel by Sharon McKay, illustrated by Daniel LaFrance
Zebra Fish by Peter H. Reynolds


Senior Grades (9-12)
American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
Fagin the Jew by Will Eisner
Ms. Marvel (series) by G. Willow Wilson, illustrated by Adrian Alphona
The 99 (series) by Naif Al-Mutawa, Fabian Nicieza
Noughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman, adapted by Ian Edginton
Red: a Haida Manga by Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas
Saga (series) by Brian K. Vaughan, Fiona Staples
Spinning by Tillie Walden
Three Feathers by Richard Van Camp, illustrated by K. Mateus


Teaching with Graphic Novels
Nonfiction
The Arab of the Future: a Childhood in the Middle East, 1978-1984, a Graphic Memoir by Riad Sattouf
Darwin: a Graphic Biography by Eugene Byrne and Simon Gurr
Feynman by Jim Ottoaviani, illustrated by Leland Myrick
Gandhi: a Manga Biography by Kazuki Ebine
Louis Riel :  a Comic Strip Biography by Chester Brown
Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales (series) by Nathan Hale
The Shocking World of Electricity with Max Axiom, Super Scientist by Liam O’Donnell
Two Generals by Scott Chantler
Understanding Photosynthesis with Max Axiom, Super Scientist by Liam O’Donnell



Fiction
Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 by Tim Hamilton
Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery: the authorized graphic adaptation by Miles Hyman
Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, illustrated by Fabio Celoni
Hamlet (Manga Shakespeare series) illustrated by Emma Vieceli
Romeo and Juliet adapted and illustrated by Gareth Hinds
7 Generations (series) by David Alexander Robertson & Scott B. Henderson

Monday, April 23, 2018

Listen up

Another sign that winter is over is the return of free audio books from SYNC: Audiobooks for Teens.


Though it promotes itself as a summer program, the start up date is this week, Thursday, April 26th.  And, let's face it people, most of us are sick to death of winter and an 'early' start to summer is more than welcomed.

The deal with SYNC is to download two paired audio books based on a theme each week starting this Thursday until July 25th, 2018. You get a week to download the books and then get to keep them - forever! Such a deal!

Sign up by going to the homepage and entering your email address or texting syncYA 25827 to receive title alerts each week. 

First up are The Great War by various authors (including David Almond, John Boyne and Tracey Chevalier and A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro. (Both available in the Doucette Library, in case you want to read along.)














Click on this page to see this season's line up.

Happy listening, Everyone.



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