Sunday, November 29, 2009

Panda Kindergarten (Nonfiction Monday)

Welcome to Nonfiction Monday at The Book Nosher! I am so pleased to be hosting (for the first time). Bloggers, please leave your information and links in the comments below. I will periodically update your links over the course of the day. My own post about Panda Kindergarten will follow below, or you can click here.

Nonfiction Monday Roundup:

1. Sarah at I Need Chocolate Reviewed Flamingos by Jean Malone. Click here .

2. Jen at Jean Little Books has a couple of how-to books. Click here.

3. At Lori Calabrese Writes!, she reviews In Her Hands: The Story of Sculptor Augusta Savage

4. 100 Scope Notes has a review of Under the Snow by Melissa Stewart:

5. Abby (the) Librarian is posting about her favorite nonfiction titles for the young reader on your holiday gift giving list!

6. Over at The LibrariYAn Alicia has reviewed two biographies of Charles Darwin:

7. Shirley at SimplyScience has Waiting for Winter.

8. This week at the Wild About Nature blog, we are featuring a review of Steve Van Zandt's River Song.

9. Amanda at A Patchwork of Books has a review up of The Story of Snow:

10. At Bookends, they have reviewed The Boy Who Invented TV: The Story of Philo Farnsworth by Kathleen Krull:

11. At The Happy Nappy Bookseller, Doret reviewed Jim Thorpe Original All American by Joeseph Bruchac

12. At Miss Rumphius Effect, Tricia reviews Bob Barner's book DINOSAULinkRS ROAR, BUTTERFLIES SOAR!.

13. Kelly Fineman is in with a review of Star Wars LEGOS: The Visual Dictionary.

14. The Cat and the Fiddle has a blend of non-fiction and fantasy: some math lessons (one based on a William Steig book):

15. At Pink Me, Paula steps into the often-underappreciated 400's with a review
of Ursula Dubosarsky's The Word Snoop.

16. At 3T News and Reviews they have some old and new favorites to recommend for Christmas gifts.

17. Easter at Owl in the Library reviewed a guide to poetry writing for

18. Wendie Old at Wendie's Wanderings added her mite to the many reviews of
-- Nubs, the True Story of a Mutt, a Marine & a Miracle.

19. Charlotte from Charlotte's Library reviewed Pick Me Up, from DK

20. Jen at Biblio File has three books about the Civil Rights Movement.

21. And finally from Mama Librarian comes this review about Honk, Honk Goose Click here

Panda Kindergarten

Written by: Joanne Ryder
Photos by: Katherine Feng
Recommended Ages: 4-8

Warning! The photos in Panda Kindergarten are almost too cute to believe. There are close-ups and action shots capturing panda cubs at their most natural (and most adorable). This is a wonderful book to read to your young animal lover.

Panda Kindergarten introduces us to sixteen young panda cubs born at the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda at the Wolong Nature Preserve. The book explains that pandas often have twins, but a mother is only able to care for one cub at a time. So there is a nursery to care and protect the other twin. What's particularly interesting about this project is that the people at the center swap the cubs back and forth, so that the twin gets care from the nursery helpers, as well as time with their mother. There are some amazing close-ups of very young pandas; they are blind and only weigh four ounces when they are born (about the size of a stick of butter).

Once the pandas are old enough to leave their mothers and the nursery, they are let out together into their own "panda playground." Here they learn to play together and climb and swing. They stay together in the panda kindergarten for about a year. After that, some will stay in the Wolong Nature Preserve and have cubs of their own, while others are chosen to leave and go live in the bamboo forests nearby. The skills they learn as cubs at Wolong enables them to survive in the wild.

The text is simple and inviting, perfect for a four to six year old. It's kind of hard to resist a sentence that reads: "An ever-so-big mother panda carries her ever-so tiny baby, holding it firmly but tenderly." But what will draw kids in the most are the spectacular photographs. Whether you see a tiny newborn nuzzling on the chest of her mother, or her twin being fed out of a bottle, you cannot help but be amazed by these delightful animals.

BookNosher Activity: Panda Kindergarten is a great introduction to younger children about endangered animals. It also begins the conversation about what we, as humans, can do to help. Here are a few good websites that provide more information about endangered animals:

World Wildlife Fund: You can learn more about the Giant Panda and other endangered animals at this comprehensive website. The panda has been their mascot since 1961. You can even symbolically adopt a panda or other endangered animal (a great idea for a holiday gift).

Earth's Endangered Creatures: More information about the panda, including a fascinating video of Giant Pandas in the wild.

National Geographic Kids: Great website with lots to do for kids.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Life-Size Zoo

Life-Size Zoo: From Tiny Rodents to Gigantic Elephants, An Actual Size Animal Encyclopedia

Written and Photographed by: Teruyuki Komiya
Recommended Ages: 4-8

If you have a young child who is interested in animals, then Life-Size Zoo might be the perfect holiday gift. It's an actual-size encyclopedia with true-to-life photos of animals, and interesting facts to go along with them.

What I mean by actual-size is that you have life-size photographs of animals in a very large picture book format (14.5" by 10.2"). In some cases, like the koala bear, you can see the entire bear on a large two-page spread. In others, like the gorilla, you get just a side profile of a head on two pages. In still others, like the giraffe, you have a four-page spread stretching from its tongue to just the top part of its neck. It's a pretty awesome way to get a feel for how big (or small) an animal is in actual life.

But the real fun comes with a closer reading of the facts. For instance, did you know that an anteater eats up to 30,000 ants in one day, and that they have a small mouth and no teeth? Or did you know that there are three types of zebras, and the way to tell the difference is by their stripe patterns? Their muzzles are black with no stripes (the close-up photograph is fascinating; you can see the individual wiry whiskers surrounding her lips). I bet you also didn't know that a baby elephant sucks her trunk the way that a human baby sucks her thumb! Or did you know that a rhino's horns are actually made of a bundle of hair?!

Besides the unique facts given about each animal, we are also treated to a rundown of some of the more basic facts such as body length, height, weight and habitat. The Table of Contents is made to look like an aerial map of a zoo. All in all, it's a clever layout from cover to cover.

I think Life-Size Zoo is a book that kids will return to over and over again as they revisit their favorite animals and discover new ones. It would make a great gift for a child you care about, or, better yet, for the classroom of a child you care about.

BookNosher Facts: Life-Size Zoo won the Parent's Choice Gold Award in Spring 2009.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Written by: Sara Pennypacker
Illustrated by: Marla Frazee
Recommended Ages: 5-9

I've written before that one of the things I like most about writing The Book Nosher is discovering all the new children's books that have come out since my kids were at the read-aloud stage (they are teenagers now). Yesterday I discovered and devoured Clementine by Sara Pennypacker. She's a great companion for the emerging reader.

Clementine is in the third grade and has a penchant for getting into trouble. She doesn't mean to misbehave; in fact in most instances it's quite the opposite. She tries to be helpful and kind, but somehow her actions always backfire on her. For instance, she finds her friend Margaret in the school bathroom with a pair of scissors trying to cut some glue out of her hair. The only thing is, she is doing a horrible job. So naturally Clementine offers to help and ends up cutting off all of her hair. She then tries to make things better by coloring red curls all over Margaret's head (in Flaming Sunset permanent markers). You can see that she has good intentions, but somehow they manage to go awry.

Clementine lives with her very understanding parents and little brother in an apartment building. Her dad manages the building, and her mom is an artist who dresses in overalls, instead of dresses like the other mothers. Her parents understand and accept her for who she is, despite the fact that she always seems to be doing the wrong thing. We never find out what her little brother's name is, for she calls him Spinach, Pea Pod or Rutabaga to get back at the fact that he wasn't named for a fruit (like she was).

I think that one of the most endearing parts of the book is the way that Pennypacker shows us the world through Clementine's eyes. It is told in the first person, and through skillful writing, we get a sense of who Clementine is, and what makes her tick. For instance, she is constantly being told to pay attention and to sit still. Here's an exchange between Clementine and Mrs. Rice on one of her many visits to the principal's office:

"I'm allergic to sitting still."
"Nobody is allergic to sitting still, Clementine," she said.
"I am," I said. "My brother is allergic to peanuts. If he eats one he gets all itchy and swelled up and he can't breathe right. If I try to sit still I get all itchy and swelled up and I can't breathe right. So that means I'm allergic to sitting still." . . . "Plus," I explained, "if my brother eats even one tiny peanut he might have to go to the hospital with the ambulance and sirens and everything! So if I sit still for even one minute...Uh oh." I gave my body an extra little jiggle just to stay safe.
"Phew!" I said. "That was close!"

You see what an original little girl Clementine is. Her voice is loud and clear. Your child will be enthralled with the various scrapes she gets herself into, and the humor with which she handles everything that comes her way. The illustrations by Marlee Frazee add the perfect touch to an already pretty perfect story. I highly recommend Clementine to the first through third grade crowd. And when they are done with it, they'll be happy to hear that there are two sequels: Talented Clementine and Clementine's Letter.

BookNosher Tidbit: Clementine was a 2007 Boston Globe/Horn Book Honor Book;
Winner of the 2007 Bank Street/Josette Frank Award
A Child Magazine Best Book of the Year

Monday, November 16, 2009

Never Smile at a Monkey

Never Smile at a Monkey: And 17 Other Important Things to Remember
Written and Illustrated by: Steve Jenkins
Recommended Ages: 4-9

This fascinating book is chock-full of interesting facts about some of the lesser known and somewhat unusual ways that animals protect themselves. But what makes this so appealing to younger readers is that each page comes with a warning directed to them (i.e. Never Smile at a Monkey), followed by facts explaining why (a rhesus monkey "may interpret your show of teeth as an aggressive gesture and respond violently").

There is a lot of information packed in this standard 32-page picture book. The reading level is perfect for the beginning reader, and along the way they will pick up some new words such as entangled, unpredictable, predator and venomous.

Here are some of the more interesting facts that I picked up:

"NEVER PET A PLATYPUS: ...The platypus is the only poisonous mammal. It has venomous spurs on its hind legs, and it can give you a very painful jab."

"NEVER CLUTCH A CANE TOAD: ...It's harmless except for two large sacs of venom on its neck. If pressed, these pouches squirt out a blinding, and sometimes deadly poison."

"NEVER CONFRONT A KANGAROO: A kangaroo can deliver a kick powerful enough to cave in a person's chest."

You can see why first, second and third graders will eat this up. Reluctant readers will love the somewhat gory facts, and be drawn in by the pictures. The pictures are paper cuts, and they're colorful and appealing. I think Never Smile at a Monkey is a must for teachers and school librarians to have on hand.

BookNosher Tidbit: It appears that Never Smile at a Monkey is Steve Jenkins' tenth book. For more information, visit his website at

BookNosher Activity: To me, his verb choices are really appealing and quite informative. Harass, jostle, clutch, poach, cuddle, caress, antagonize and badger are great words and not in your typical first to third grader's vocabulary. How fun to do more with these words, so that they too begin to use them in their written and spoken vocabulary.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

A Really Short History of Nearly Everything

A Really Short History of Nearly Everything

Written by: Bill Bryson
Recommended Ages: 8-12

Back in 2003, bestselling author Bill Bryson published a book about life, the universe and everything called A Short History of Nearly Everything. It came in just over 500 pages and explained science in a very understandable, very readable manner...for adults. Now, he has come up with A Really Short History of Nearly Everything, which every third through sixth grade classroom should consider having on their shelves.

From it's opening paragraph, you realize you are in for a treat: "This is a book about how IT happened--in particular, how we went from there being nothing at all to there being something. And then, how a little of that something turned into us, and also some of what happened in between--and since."

A Really Short History of Nearly Everything is divided into six sections:
  • Lost in the Cosmos
  • The Size of the Earth
  • A New Age Dawns
  • Dangerous Planet
  • Life Itself
  • The Road to Us

Each section then has mini chapters devoted to a particular subject. For instance, in Lost in the Cosmos, one of the chapters is called The Big Bang. Spread out on a two page layout are lots and lots of facts about the Big Bang, presented in an appealing way. For instance, eight of the facts are on eight planet-sized circles. Surrounding the planet facts, are four other paragraphs with lots more information all about the Big Bang. Here's a sample:

"Most of what we think we know about the early moments of the universe is thanks to an idea called 'inflation theory." Imagine that a fraction of a moment after the dawn of creation, the universe underwent a sudden dramatic expansion, that it inflated at a huge speed. In just one million million million million millionths of a second - the universe changed from something you could hold in your hand to something at least 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 times bigger."

While I imagine there are some kids who will sit down and read A Really Short History of Nearly Everything cover to cover, I think the vast majority will use it to look things up. This is a book to have on hand as questions arise. It has an extensive index where you can find information about everything from amino acids to Fritz Zwicky (the astronomer who coined the term 'supernova'). Bill Bryson has done an admirable job of taking generally difficult topics such as Newton's Bulge Theory or Einstein's Theory of Relativity and making them understandable, and even entertaining. There are helpful illustrations and photographs that are sure to draw a reader's attention to the subject at hand.

The last three chapters are titled "Humans Take Over," "What Now," and "Goodbye." In them, Bryson talks about the impact humans have had on the planet, and reminds us to take care of it. He addresses issues of extinction, pollution and global warming, ending with this: "We really are at the beginning of it all. The trick, of course, is to make sure we never find the end. And that will require a lot more than a series of lucky breaks."

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Anatole: A Mouse Magnifique!


Written by:
Eve Titus
Illustrated by: Paul Galdone
Recommended Ages: 4-8

Long before Ratatouille or Despereaux, there was another famous Parisian mouse named Anatole. Anatole was first published in 1956 and was re-released in 2006. It's a charming story about an industrious mouse with a true sense of honor.

Anatole lives in "a small mouse village near Paris." One day, he overhears some humans talking disparagingly about mice. He is quite upset to hear that humans don't like mice, and feels that his honor has been insulted. He decides then and there that he will no longer break into human's houses to steal food. Instead, he sets out to do something about it, and becomes the chief cheese taster for the struggling Duval Cheese Manufacturer. Of course, the only way that a mouse can become a chief cheese taster is in secret. So Anatole leaves signed notes by each cheese, with suggestions on how to make it better. The cheeses manufacturer follows Anatole's suggestions, and soon his business is turned around, and he is regarded as the best cheese maker in Paris. If only they knew how to find the mysterious Anatole and thank him...

Eve Titus's prose is quite lyrical, with a fair amount of French sprinkled throughout the story. Anatole himself wears a beret and blue jacket with a red scarf, all of which give him an air of panache. He is also father and husband to a lovely little family of mice, who have names like Doucette, Georgette, Paulette and Claude. All of these are sweet touches and create an overall feeling of being in another place and another time.

The illustrations by Paul Galdone are done in black and white, along with the French flag colors of red, white and blue. There are wonderful little details on each page that are worth taking the time to point out and talk about. They are tres magnifique! I'm not the only one who thinks so. Mr. Galdone won a Caldecott Honor award in 1956.

BookNosher Tidbit: Not only did Paul Galdone win a Caldecott Honor award for Anatole in 1956, but he won again for the sequel Anatole and the Cat. Both books were recently re-issued and are available again.

BookNosher Activity: After reading Anatole, I found that I had a hankering for some cheese. I think that a fun activity would be to have a cheese tasting with your child and introduce some different cheeses to them. You could have them describe those differences to you in one or two adjectives such as salty, smooth, sharp. Wouldn't this be a great way to create a lasting memory around a timeless book?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Ruby Lu, Empress of Everything!!!!

Ruby Lu, Empress of Everything

Written by: Lenore Look
Illustrated by: Anne Wilsdorf

Lenore Look has created a memorable character with a lot of moxie in Ruby Lu. Ruby Lu, Empress of Everything is the second book in what I hope will be a long-running series. It's an early chapter book, perfect for emerging readers in first through fourth grade. Like another of Lenore Look's chapter books--Alvin Ho--it's a good read-aloud book for these ages too.

Ruby Lu, Empress of Everything
begins in the spring of Ruby's second grade year. Her cousin Flying Duck has just immigrated to the United States with her family, and is living with Ruby's family. Ruby could not be more excited, for she gets the role of tour guide to Flying Duck. She's the one who gets to show her all the ordinary things of her city.

Another thing about Flying Duck that's fascinating to Ruby Lu is that she reads lips. After an accident at age four where she burst her eardrums, she was deaf. So while she is able to talk, she also reads lips and signs in Cantonese. Ruby thinks that "Lip-reading is a very useful skill. It comes in handy when you want to watch TV, but the TV is supposed to be turned off. And it comes in handy if you are outside looking in and your parents are inside talking about you."

Most importantly, Ruby gets appointed as Smile Buddy at school. This is the person who helps a new child feel welcome and shows them around. It's a job she's coveted since kindergarten, and comes complete with a big badge that she proudly wears pinned to her shirt.

As you might imagine, the newness of having a cousin living with your family, soon begins to fade. Suddenly, only Cantonese is spoken at home. Chopsticks replace the silverware. And Oscar, Ruby's baby brother, is able to sign more than he can speak. Ruby is ready to send Flying Duck back to China.

What makes Ruby so endearing is the earnestness with which she tackles everything that comes her way. For instance, more than anything she wants glasses. So much so, that she tapes an eye chart above her bed at night, memorizing it, so that she'll pass and get glasses (it's a great twist on how kids might perceive the purpose of eye exams).

There's a pivotal playground scene, where Ruby's on-again/off-again friend Emma calls Flying Duck an alien and start saying that "she's come to snatch us all away and use us in medical experiments! And she's already got you in her clutches!" Needless to say, Ruby defends her cousin and a scuffle ensues. Parents are called into the principal's office and the recommendation is made that both Ruby and Flying Duck attend summer school to help ease the transition they are going through.

So second grade ends on a less than stellar note for Ruby, and she begins the summer with a to-do list:

"My 12-Step Summer Plans:
1. Hold breth in swiming skool.
2. Put face in water.*
3. Blo bubels.*
4. Be frends again with Emma.*
5. Play with Flying Duck
6. Play with Oscar

Reluctantly she added:

7. Go to summer skool.*


There are lots of fun incidents throughout the summer that will further endear Ruby to her readers. She faces her biggest fear-the water-and ultimately, though not easily, emerges as a swimmer. It's an important lesson for all kids, because it's clear that up until that point, she had not been successful in the pool, and dreaded it. As the summer passes by, she is able to cross things off of her "12-Step Summer Plans" list. Her friendships with both Flying Duck and Emma go through rough patches, but ultimately survive and thrive.

Lenore Look has created a winner with Ruby Lu. The breezy writing makes each chapter fly by, leaving the reader craving for more. The book ends with just enough of a teaser to make you think (hope!) that a book about Ruby's experiences in third grade will soon be on its way.

There's a glossary at the end of the book that is funny and educational: "Ruby's Amazing Glossary and Guide to Important Words." Here are a few terms:

"Cantonese-Language needed to order yummy Chinese Food. But also shouted by parents when you are busted. Also used in Chinese school."

"goose bumps-A radar system for detecting anything scary or dangerous or wonderful or breathtakingly beautiful."

"Poh~Poh-(sounds like "paw paw") Grandma on your mother's side."