Posted in Early Reader, Non-Fiction, picture books, Preschool Reads

Natural world nonfiction for young learners: See to Learn: Forest

See to Learn: Forest, by Kate Moss Gamblin/Illustrated by, Karen Patkau, (March 2019, Groundwood Books), $16.95, ISBN: 9781554988792

Ages 4-7

This first book in a new nonfiction picture book series encourages little learners to look at a location – in this case, a forest – and really see: see different footprints that travel the forest floor; the different leaves carpeting the ground; moss covering a stump. Forest encourages readers to think: is that moss older than your grandparents? What changes do seasons bring with them? What happens during the passage of day to night?

The quiet text promotes introspection, curiosity, and presence, and the interrelationships between nature – trees are referred to as our “cousins” – and our planet. Everything here exists for readers to observe and ponder, and Forest encourages them to think of nature, the world, and their place in it.

This is a great way to talk about the natural world and basic concepts with kids: talk about colors, talk about different functions, talk about different stages of life, whether you’re a human grandparent or a young caterpillar. We all age; we all exist; we all interact with the natural world. Let kids see themselves in nature, and they’ll respect it and care for it. Further reading provides additional resources for younger and middle grade readers. An author’s note explains the rationale and thinking points for the series.

I’m looking forward to more books in this series. See to Learn: Forest is a great addition to primary and elementary science collections and programming. This will fit nicely with Kate Messner’s nonfiction books, Over and Under the Snow, Over and Under the Pond, and Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt, for elementary readers; for primary readers, you can’t miss with Laura Vaccaro Seeger’s books, Green and Blue; and Denise Fleming’s In the Tall, Tall Grass, and In the Small, Small Pond.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Nature reveals its magic in The Magic Garden

The Magic Garden, by Lemniscates, (March 2018, Walter Foster Jr.), $16.95, ISBN: 9781633225138

Recommended for readers 4-7

Just stepping outside on any given day can reveal magic: leaves changing color on the trees; the tiniest caterpillar eggs on a leaf, or a chrysalis opening to release a butterfly into the world. In The Magic Garden, a young girl named Chloe takes her garden for granted, until one day, it decides to get her attention: throughout the season, branches wave, birds weave nests and spiders weave webs, bees dance, and the cycle continues.

How often do we actually stop and notice what’s going on around us? The Magic Garden speaks to the ubiquitous of nature and to how we move within nature without seeing the wonder around us. Award-winning author, illustrator, and designer Lemniscates’ mixed media, collage, and digital artwork come together to bring a textured, colorful world to readers, and popular questions about nature at the end of the book – Why do fireflies glow? Why do bees dance? – make this an enticing read-aloud that works in a science setting as easily as it would in a storytime setting. It invites children to stop and look at the world around them and ask why. This is the perfect story to accompany a nature journal craft I’ve had pinned to my Pinterest boards for over a year now: read the story, let kids make their journals, and have them go out and fill them!




Posted in Fiction, Preschool Reads

Toshi’s Little Treasures: An adorable Search and Find story

9781771385732_fe9f5Toshi’s Little Treasures, by Nadine Robert/Illustrated by Aki, (Apr. 2016, Kids Can Press), $17.95, ISBN: 9781771385732

Recommended for ages 3-7

Growing up, I loved Highlights magazine; one of my favorite features in the magazine was the hidden pictures page. When my own children were big enough to start getting Highlights, I’d pitch in and help them find some of the more challenging hidden pictures. When I came across Toshi’s Little Treasures, I was thrilled – it’s a seek and find storybook!

Toshi is a little boy who loves to take walks with his grandmother. During their walks, they discover new little treasures that Toshi can store in his brand new backpack. Toshi and his grandmother explore six places in this book: the riverbank, the town, the forest, the country, the park, and the beach. An introductory page to each location shows kids the treasures they can expect to discover, and a full spread of each spot promises fellow treasure seekers a good hunt. There are activities that help identify the treasures from each place by matching them to related items. An answer key at the back of the book provides interesting facts about Toshi’s treasures and the animals he and his grandmother encounter, really rounding out the experience and giving kids and parents a chance to learn more, together.

The art is very calming, relaxing readers and encouraging them to take their time searching for hidden objects. You’re a guest on a walk with Toshi and his grandmother, there’s no rush! There’s also a quiet nod to diversity with the renderings of Toshi and his grandmother, which I loved.

By offering facts about the animals in each location Toshi and his grandmother visit, the book also offers educators (and parents!) the opportunity to start discussing habitats and the environment with little readers and listeners. It could also inspire a fun field trip to discover treasures of your own.

Toshi’s Little Treasures will be in stores in April. Keep an eye on their website, too: Kids Can Press offers some great learning resources to accompany their books; I’m looking forward to seeing what they develop for this title.

Posted in Non-Fiction

Creepy Crawlies and the Scientific Method is perfect for educators, fun for kids!

creepy crawliesCreepy Crawlies and the Scientific Method, by Sally Kneidel (2015, Fulcrum Publishing), $24.95, ISBN: 9781938486326

Recommended for 16+

Who said science has to be boring? Kids love to play in the dirt, right? The dirt is FILLED WITH SCIENCE. Sally Kneidel brings a love of her subject – she’s got a Ph.D. in Biology and has written extensively on the environment, natural history, and teaching science to kids- to this updated version of her book, Creepy Crawlies and the Scientific Method. She explains that everyone can find a creepy crawly or two to learn more about, whether you live in a building or out in the middle of nowhere – it’s all about looking under a rock, or between some leaves.

More than finding and experimenting, Dr. Kneidel stresses environmental responsibility. She urges children and adults alike to respect nature, to be kind and humane, and to release our test subjects once we’ve observed them. Do no harm isn’t just part of a doctor’s oath; we all need to remember and take this mantra to heart. We share the planet with “creepy crawlies”, but what do we know about them? Dr. Kneidel knows a lot, and that’s why we need to listen to her.

Written more for adults that work with or enjoy kids in their lives, Creepy Crawlies and the Scientific Method has extensive profiles on various “critters”: bugs and insects – to give adults and children alike a background from which to work. She outlines the five steps of the scientific method: question, hypothesis, methods, result, and conclusion, and provides activities and questions that will stimulate fun and creative thinking among kids. Beautiful photographs and in-depth descriptions of various critters, including different appearances at different life stages, make this book a hugely valuable resource for any STEM library. Bring this book to your backyard, the park, or on vacation to learn science and have a great time doing it.

This book is absolutely going on my order lists for my teaching libraries! I can’t wait to hear the teachers talk about their field trips.

Dr. Kneidel’s webpage is a great additional resource, with photographs and blog entries on nature, the environment, and social responsibility. You can follow her on Twitter @sallykneidel.