I love being able to talk to my daughters about art and share a love of viewing art. We don’t have a lot of access to museums where we live, so I have to supplement with books and through their amazing art program at school. To engage kids in art, you have to make it come alive. That is exactly what Carolyn Bracken managed to do in her upcoming book, Mr. Owliver’s Magic at the Museum.
In this fabulous book, Mr. Owliver is a night watchman at the Animaltown Art Museum. He loves his job and is perfectly happy to have the night shift, considering he is an owl. His job starts when everyone is leaving the museum at the end of the day, so he spends his night being able to see famous paintings without any crowds and at whatever pace he wants. Over the years, he has come to see the characters in these paintings as his friends. Continue reading →
All animals are pretty amazing, but what child hasn’t been fascinated by elephants? In North Carolina we are fortunate to have one of the largest natural habitat zoos, so watching the elephants roam and frolic is pretty special. The huge animals are pretty awesome to watch, especially if they are coating themselves in dirt or playing with each other.
One thing that we have been told about elephants is that they have amazing memories. In Thirsty, Thirsty Elephant, author Sandra Markle tells us of the true story of an older elephant in Tanzania who helped her herd find water during a drought. As the synopsis explains:
During a drought in Tanzania, Grandma Elephant is in search of water for her herd. Little Calf follows along and mimics her grandmother at each stop on their journey. When Grandma leads them to a watering hole she recalls from years before, the elephants are overjoyed and Little Calf splashes about with her tender leader. Grandma’s persistence and powerful memory is something Little Calf will never forget.
The story is told through the fascinating generational differences between Grandma Elephant and Little Calf. While Grandma leads the herd in search of water, we see how Little Calf hasn’t yet mastered getting water from her trunk to her throat. Unfortunately, the watering hole is being used by a wide variety of animals and soon there is not enough to go around. Continue reading →
Alan Rabinowitz is an American zoologist who has spent his life studying wild cats and was called ‘The Indiana Jones of Wildlife Conservation’ by TIME Magazine. But as a child, Rabinowitz struggled to fit in due to a very pronounced stutter. In the picture book, A Boy and A Jaguar, Rabinowitz tells his story to young children as a way to encourage those who struggle to find their own voices and for those who have found their voice, to speak up for those in need.
As a child, Rabinowitz simply couldn’t get the words out. It made it difficult for him to go to school, let alone have friends. However, when he talked to animals, he could speak without stuttering. He felt a bond with the animals. He felt that they were misunderstood and mistreated, just has he was. As a child, he promised his pets that if he ever found his voice, that he would keep them from harm. Fortunately, his father saw the bond that he had with animals and frequently took him to the Bronx Zoo.
Rabinowitz learned tricks to get him through school and finally found a program that helped him deal with his stutter. But even when speech was less of an issue, he still much preferred the company of animals over humans. His work took him to Belize to study jaguars and to ultimately fight to protect them.
This is a beautiful book that can really encourage children to think about they way that they treat others, the way that they treat and respect animals, and how one person can be a change for good. Rabinowitz was up against a lot of really challenging obstacles, and yet he persevered. The story also shows how Rabinowitz followed his passions and made good on his childhood promise to protect the animals. In a world where we are told by many different people how we should act and what we should do when we grow up, Rabinowitz listened to his inner voice and took solace in the places that gave him the most peace.
The only thing that I felt was missing from this book was any sort of author’s note to explain just who Rabinowitz is and the work that he has done. He is a very well respected animal activist and he founded the organization Panthera, a group devoted to protecting wild cats and their ecosystems. Turns out that Rabinowitz also does work advocating for stutterers as a spokesperson for the Stuttering Foundation of America. From a childhood where teachers considered him “disturbed,” he proved them wrong and has truly become a voice for those in need.
Every Wednesday I try to post a non-fiction picture book as part of the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy. There are truly so many amazing nonfiction picture books being published these days, it can be hard to contain myself sometimes. Make sure to check out Kid Lit Frenzy and the linked blogs to find some more fabulous books!
Out of heartbreak can come amazing strength.
Helen Frances Theresa Delaney Martini was an ordinary woman living in New York. When her first baby died and doctors said that she couldn’t have any more children, her heart broke. So did her husband’s. To ease that pain, her husband, Frank, followed his heart and got a job at the Bronx Zoo. Two years later, he brought home an abandoned lion cub and Helen’s life changed forever.
In Mother to Tigers, George Ella Lyon tells the amazing story of Helen Martini. When her husband brought a lion cub named MacArthur home, he told her to “do for him what you would do for a human baby,” and she did. She fed and cared for the lion cub in her living room. When she helped her husband bring three tigers back to the zoo after nursing them at home, she realized that not only did the cubs still need her attention, but that there would always be zoo babies in need and yet there was nowhere at the zoo to take care of them.
She begged the zoo to give her a room and on her own she created the first zoo nursery. For a time her work was unpaid and then in August 1944 she became the first woman keeper in the history of the Bronx Zoo. She helped many baby animals survive and her concept of a zoo nursery soon spread. Her work was monumentally important in the lives on many animals and it is about time her achievements were shared.
I have been encouraged by the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy to post about a nonfiction title each week. While I wouldn’t classify this book as a nonfiction picture book, most of the books that I post on Wednesdays will be. Please check out Kid Lit Frenzy for an amazing resource of nonfiction picture books.
“Long ago, everything from the changing of the seasons to the passage of the Sun through the sky was an unsolved mystery. So people came up with stories to explain how things came to be. These stories – known as myths or fables – varied from place to place, but all had a shared thread running through them: they set out to explain the inexplicable, to offer a version of the world that made some sense.”
So begins the book the Usborne Illustrated Fables from Around the World. This beautiful book offers 18 wonderful myths and fables from around the world that at one point helped people try to understand the world around them. Continue reading →
Sharon Robinson invites us to travel with her to Tanzania in her book Under the Same Sun published by Scholastic Press. This lushly illustrated book is based on a family trip that Robinson and her mother took to Africa to visit her brother and his family and to celebrate her mother’s 85th birthday. Robinson is the daughter of the famous baseball superstar Jackie Robinson, and while she and her brother grew up in the suburbs of Connecticut, her brother moved to Tanzania in 1984.
The most beautiful portion of this book takes place in the first half when the family in Tanzania gets the home ready for their guests, when they wander through the marketplace, and then when the go on a safari through Sarengeti National Park. The illustrartions of the animals, by AG Ford, were absolutely stunning. Continue reading →
I’m always on the lookout for new and interesting books to challenge my kids and everyone else’s. From storyline to embellishments, kids get excited when things are a little different. So I was thrilled when I opened the pages of The Curious Case of the Missing Mammoth.
The story tells of a magic hour where the animals and other things within a museum come to life. The only problem is that Teddy, a baby mammoth, has gotten loose and his older brother Timothy needs to find him and get him back to the museum before the clock strikes one. A young boy, Oscar, see Timothy outside of his bedroom window and goes to help. Continue reading →
Every week I volunteer in one of our local elementary school’s libraries. It is fascinating to see what the kids check out and which books get taken over and over again. One section of the library that is in constant rotation are books about animals. Kids are absolutely fascinated by them and each child has their own particular favorites. My own daughters, who are not huge non-fiction fans, both love reading about animals. J has had a long fascination with dolphins and both girls enjoy animals that live in the water. So it isn’t surprising that National Geographic Kids has combined that pure love with a natural curiosity about oceans in their latest book – The Ultimate Oceanpedia.
This gorgeous book is broken down into seven sections – Oceans, Ocean Life, Ocean in Motion, Wild Weather, Underwater Exploration, Along the Coast, and When People and Oceans Meet. The information itself has large chunks about main topics and then fills in holes with lots of little details, so while it is an encyclopedia, it could be read like a book – which is what fascinated kids like to do.
What is great is that this is a book that can grow with your kids. Younger kids will love looking at the pictures and maybe checking out information on their favorite animal. Older kids can get a ton of information about oceans and ocean life without turning to google. There are amazing pages about the different ocean layers and who lives there as well as impressive explanations about waves and tides.
As kids start to get older and have more appreciation not only for nature but for their place in it, there is a ton of information about the impact of humans on the ocean and things we can do to help it.
I was fortunate enough to grow up on the west coast and able to explore the ocean and shore line on vacations as well as part of my education with field trips to various locations, but my kids are not quite as lucky. For the many children in this country and all over who can’t experience what a tide-pool is like, this book is a great resource.
There are many wonderful things that I can say about this book, but the best is the knowledge that it will be used time and time again over the years as a valuable source of trusted information.
**Note – I received a copy of this from the publisher but all comments and reviews are completely my own.
For a long time we’ve really focused on the books that J has enjoyed reading. Now that E is in kindergarten and her reading has grown by leaps and bounds, I felt like I should include some of the items that she is picking out and bringing home.
In E’s class they are allowed to pick a book for whatever level they are at and we are supposed to read it together. After she can read it with me or her father, she brings it back to class, reads it with her teacher and picks out another book. What I have been fascinated by is that the last number of books that she has chosen have all been non-fiction texts about animals. We had dolphins, sharks and the latest was polar bears.
Getting kids hooked on non-fiction at an early age is really important. We start them out on all kinds of stories, but as they grow and start to develop their own passions, non-fiction texts get them more involved with the subjects that intrigue them. We’ve always known that E had a love of all things fashion, music, and art, but I was actually shocked when she started bringing home books about wild animals.
Follow the Polar Bears was one of our books from last week. This is a simple story that talks about two polar bear cubs and things they do as they are just starting out in life. The pictures are the main focus, but there are simple words with rhymes that help it move along.
Some of the words were challenging for E, but she learned a lot about the polar bear and enjoyed watching the cubs grow.
These books along with the Step into Reading non-fiction titles are a great jumping off point for young readers. I didn’t get my post up on Wednesday, but I’m still going to include this in the non-fiction picture book challenge. Check out Kid Lit Frenzy for more outstanding titles!
In my random grabs at the library, I picked up a book called Anook the Snow Princess, by Hans Wilhelm. This story was inspired by Shakespeare’s tale King Lear and while both girls enjoyed the story, it was J’s desire to know more about the story of King Lear and Shakespeare in general that made me realize how marvelous this book truly is.
For those that don’t remember, here is a quick explanation of King Lear as it pertains to this story:
Lear, the aging king of Britain, decides to step down from the throne and divide his kingdom evenly among his three daughters. First, however, he puts his daughters through a test, asking each to tell him how much she loves him. Goneril and Regan, Lear’s older daughters, give their father flattering answers. But Cordelia, Lear’s youngest and favorite daughter, remains silent, saying that she has no words to describe how much she loves her father. Lear flies into a rage and disowns Cordelia.
Anook is a bear version of Cordelia. Anook is one of three sisters. She is a kind bear, but being the smallest, her sisters tended to tease her and make life a little more difficult. She was not one to she never spoke up for herself when they were mean.
When her father decides to “choose the daughter who shows him the most love and loyalty,” one sister plans to sing a song, the other will write a poem, and Anook tries to catch him a fish. She gets the fish, but falls into a hole in the ice and her sisters steal the fish from her and leave her in the hole. The girls pretend the fish is theirs and the king is furious when Anook doesn’t have anything to give him, so he banishes her.
Out on her own, Anook is kind to a young wolf cub and is thanked by the wolf pack by being asked to stay with them. The taught her how to run and hunt and play. Anook and the little wolf club grew stronger as their friendship also grew. One winter, her father’s advisor find her because when her sisters became queens, they threw him out of the palace. Along with her new wolf pack, they rid the castle of her selfish sisters. She rescues her father, he apologizes for his behavior, and live happily ever after.
This is definitely a simplified version of the story, but it’s the most important part of the King Lear story. The message is clear – love doesn’t need to be displayed in large items, big gifts or showy productions, but love is something that is earned over time and displayed on a daily basis.
My daughters did enjoy this book. The full story of King Lear is definitely beyond them, but this is a great way to teach a good lesson and perhaps get them interested in classic stories.