Monday, November 25, 2013

Getting their man

We are introduced to Adolf Eichmann, a top Nazi official responsible for the collection and transportation of Jews from around Europe ultimately contributing to millions of people dying horrific deaths.  After Germany concedes defeat at the end of World War II, Eichmann was a wanted man.  He eventually made it to Argentina and established a new life there.   This new life was anything but glamorous.  With very little money, he and his family lived in poor quarters.

In fact, that Eichmann was seemingly poverty stricken fooled the Israelis into thinking this was not the man they sought.  Eventually, with enough surveillance they confirm his identity.

And, so the suspense begins to build.  Will Eichmann escape again? How will Israelis secret service agents capture him? How will they get him to Israel without tipping off the Argentine government? Will they get him to Israel to stand trial? Will Holocaust survivors get justice?

The extreme lengths that the Israelis went to, to capture their man is an amazing and fascinating read.  A lot seems to happen in 219 pages interspersed with lots of photographs throughout.  The book is well researched and each chapter has a comprehensive number of footnotes to support it.

I highly recommend this for grades 9 and up.  Adults with an interest in World War II will be impressed with this one.

Today is Nonfiction Monday.  Pop by Jean Little Library is see reviews for nonfiction children's literature.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Well. Finally…

The United Nations has just this past summer adopted a resolution that officially recognizes November 19th as World Toilet Day for evermore.  

Regardless of the ridiculous sounding name, it’s a serious problem for about 2.5 billion people – the other half of the clean water issue. Since 2001, the World Toilet Organization has worked at tackling taboos, to increase awareness and deliver sustainable sanitation.  

And, this year the United Nations has jumped on board supporting international and civil organizations that strive to ensure safe, clean toilets.

My recommendation for today is Toilet: how it works by David Macaulay.

This is a levelled reader (level 4) from the My Readers series published by Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group.

In about 30 pages you learn what a toilet is used for (dog’s drinking bowl, goldfish disposal), the basics about body waste, the mechanics of how it works, where the waste goes after flushing (sewers, septic tanks, treatment plants) and the final product, clean water returned to the river system.

The writing is clear, succinct and a bit humorous.  The illustrations are classic Macaulay with subdued colours and detailed pictures on every page.  A glossary, index and reading list are included.

A good introduction for the topic.

Check out the following blogs for additional books to tie into World Toilet Day.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Dear Teen Me

What a great idea.

What would you (the adult) tell yourself (the teenager) about life, what’s to come or how to get through the tough times that might be ahead?

In DearTeen Me: authors write letters to their teen selves edited by E. Kristin Anderson and Miranda Kenneally, 70 authors do just that. 

Typically, within a couple of pages we get a sense about the kind of kid the authors were, stuff about family life and school life, events and incidents that are defining moments (some good, some bad) and but mostly encouragement to just keep on truckin’.

Some of the stories are funny, poignant, or distressing.  It’s real life in all its varied forms, telling us that authors are people too ; that all the moments making up life contribute to who we become and look, teen-self, “You will become someone.”

I can’t say I know all the authors who’ve contributed to this volume, but here are some of the names I was drawn to: Ellen Hopkins, Joseph Bruchac, Nikki Loftin, Robin Benway, Isla Bick, Mariko Tamaki, Mitali Perkins, Jodi Meadows, Mari Mancusi, Ken Lowery, Charles Benoit and many, many more.

This is a terrific read.  Pick it up, put it down, and pick it up again and again.  The stories always engaged me.

Recommended for grades 9 and up.  

Monday, November 11, 2013


Lest We Forget.

Today is November 11th
It is Remembrance Day. 
Please take a moment to think of those who have served and are serving in the Armed Forces.

Today’s Recommendation.

Just a quick post about the importance of understanding the real cost of stuff and knowing where your money goes after it leaves your hot little hands.

Follow Your Money by Kevin Sylvester and Michael Hlinka explain what is money, its history and several examples of breaking down the cost of consumer goods that would be of interest to kids.

For example: Breakfast consists of bacon (estimated cost $3), eggs ($3), bread ($2) and a glass of orange juice (.50).  The breakdown includes the amount of money the producer gets with their item is purchased.  But when we the cost of what it takes to produce the item is accounted for we get to see what their actual profit is.  Take the bacon.  A consumer pays $3 for the bacon.  The farmer gets $1.  But factor in the cost of buying and feeding the pig and the cost of running the farm, the farmer only makes about 10 cents.

Other examples that break down the real cost good included items used in school, clothes and shoes, jewellery, gas/fuel, transportation (car vs. bus), food, entertainment and various pieces of technology.  As you can see a real range of items and activities.

I like that they included many aspects that are hidden or that we just don't know about when in comes to producing, distributing and consuming goods.  Who knew that the ink in computer printing cartridges works out to be "more expensive - by weight- than the same amount of gold" . (p.29)  What I didn't see were costs related to transportation or waste.

A few additional online resources are listed to follow up.

The information isn't too dense and very accessible for students in middle school.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

I recently saw this ad:

Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.  

And though I might argue that it's not the 'only' thing, I can certainly appreciate the intent behind the message.

Journey by Aaron Becker is a beautiful, wordless picture book that perfectly captures the importance of imagination and the power of finding your way whether it's in the real world or those of fantasy. 

A girl is looking for someone to play with.  Everyone in her family is too busy and she’s left to brood in her bedroom.  Check out her bedroom walls.  Within one panel we learn that she is a dreamer and dreams of travel in faraway places.  A world map, a travel poster of Egypt, sail boats on her bedspread and a hot-air balloon mobile tell us of her desire to explore/experience the world.  Her sepia-toned reality has little interest to hold her interest.

So what does a bored child do when no one wants to play?

She picks up a red crayon and draws a door (escape-hatch) on her bedroom wall.  She enters a verdant forest filled with soft green trees gently lit with exotic lanterns and fairy lights.

Her red crayon is truly magical as it allows her to draw a boat in which she drifts down a gentle stream until she reaches a castle-city. She is welcomed by everyone she sees drifting through canals until she cascades over the end of one of these canals.

But, not to worry - her red crayon and imagination come to the rescue again.  She draws a hot-air balloon that allows her to sail high above the clouds.  She witnesses the chase and capture of a beautiful purple bird that is kept caged on a steampunk-looking airship.  She releases the bird, which incurs the ire of the inhabitants and is then kept prisoner until the bird, in turn, rescues her. 

Yet again, the red crayon enables her to escape her prison on a magic flying carpet that glides over a desert landscape eventually arriving in an oasis.  There the purple bird shows the girl a palm tree with a purple door.  She and the bird enter and arrive back home.  And, lo the bird is welcomed by a boy with a purple crayon. The adventure ends where it began except the girl now has someone to share in future journeys of the imagination.

Highly recommended for elementary grades.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Nonfiction Monday and …

Today’s Nonfiction Monday event is being hosted here.  Please stop by the other blogs listed below that feature reviews about nonfiction children’s literature.

 Bloggers, please  leave a message in the comments.  I'll add each posting as the day progresses. Thank you for participating in today's event.

Nature + Numbers = 1 Fascinating Book

 It would be easy to see Lifetime: the amazing numbers in animals lives by Lola M. Schafer as another science/nature/animal book.

But it’s even better to think of it as a science/math book that uses facts about particular characteristics (behaviours or features) of animals and how many times something will occur for that animal within an average lifespan.

Here are a few of my favourites:

*Mountain caribou will grow a new set of antlers 10 times over the course of its life.

*A male seahorse will be responsible for producing 1,000 baby seahorses over its lifetime.

*And, over the lifetime of a giant swallowtail butterfly, it will sip the nectar of about 900 flowers.

Each animal is featured on a 2-page spread that also shows the 10 sets of antlers, 1,000 baby seahorses and 900 flowers.  (I didn't count these last ones and I'm OK with trusting the illustrator on these points.)

The mathematical aspect of the book is marked in a few ways.  The book starts with the number one.  “In one lifetime this spider will spin 1 papery egg sac.”  It moves onto the 10 sets of antlers grown by caribou.  Next, we learn that alpacas grow 10 different fleeces over their lifetimes.  And, on it goes with each animal featured with a progressively larger number of occurrences, characteristics or behaviours over its lifetime.

Background information about each animal and the basic equation the author used to work out her statistics is provided here.  This is where I learned that mountain caribou travel as far south as Washington, Idaho and Montana from British Columbia, Canada.  I did not know that, and thought they stuck to northern latitudes.  Also, on average, a caribou lives 8 to 12 years and is 2 years old when it grows its first set of antlers.  Thus, 12 years for lifespan – 2 years for maturity = 10 years for antler production.  10 years for antler shedding x 1 set per year = 10 sets altogether.

The statistics for the seahorse are more involved but tell you that over the average lifespan of a seahorse in the wild, 1 ½ years, they birth a lot of babies every few months to average the 1,000 baby seahorses mentioned above.

The author includes an easy to understand explanation of what an average is and how she came up with her numbers for each animal.

The author’s fascination with numbers is apparent and applying them to the lives of the animals she wanted to learn more about is explained well. She takes us through the thrill of discovering that an American lobster will sheds its exoskeleton on average 80 times with most of this shedding occurring in the first year of its life.  She presents a couple of ‘word problems’ for kids to work through themselves to figure out how many times an armadillo will roll into a ball and how many scorplings will a Florida bark scorpion produce over their lifespan.

A terrific book with lots of interesting facts gathered and presented in a cross-disciplinary way that will work in elementary classrooms.

So, here's today's line for Nonfiction Monday:

Three Cybil nominations are featured here todayWhen the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop by Laban Carrick Hill, Flying Solo: How Ruth Elder Soared into America’s Heart by Julie Cummins , and Electrical Wizard: How Nikola Tesla Lit Up the World by Elizabeth Rusch.

Jean Little Library
A historical book entitled, The Port Chicago 50 by Steve Sheinkin is a tough story to read about but well worth reading for middle grades.

Stacking Books
Revisit fairy tales with fresh eyes with Grumbles from the Forest poems by Jane Yolen and Rebecca Kai Dotlich.

Perogies & Gyoza
Check out another book from the Scientists in the Field series, Dolphins of Shark Bay by Pamela Turner. 

Sally's Bookshelf
Another dolphin book is featured here, Eight Dolphins of Katrina: A True Tale of Survival by Janet Wyman Coleman

Army Special Forces: Elite Operations by Patricia Newman is today's featured book.

Prose and Kahn
For the Good of Mankind: the Shameful History of Human Medical Experimentation by Vicki Oransky Wittenstein is being recommended for high school or advanced readers in middle school for this intense sounding look at doctors and scientists using humans as test subjects.

True Tales & a Cherry On Top
The Tree Lady: the True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed a City Forever by H. Joseph Hopking looks like an fascinating biography. 

Gathering Books 
 Check out a 1800s classic, The Butterfly Ball and the Grasshopper's Feast by William Plomer, illustrated by Alan Aldridge with nature notes by Richard Fitter.

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