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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Darwin Sets Sail

According to the Writer's Almanac, today is the day in 1831 that Charles Darwin set sail from England aboard the HMS Beagle for his famed trip to the Galapagos Islands.  That trip and his forthcoming book, On The Origin Of Species, became one of the great milestones in scientific thought.

There are two books for kids on Darwin that I highly recommend.  The first is Peter Sis' book, The Tree of Life.  Published in 2003, it follows Sis' other beautifully illustrated and well researched picture book biographies.  You can see an animated excerpt of the book here.


  The other is Deborah Heiligman's Charles and Emma.  Unlike other biographies on Charles Darwin, this book switches the focus to Charles' relationship with his wife, Emma.  Their marriage greatly influenced Darwin's scientific work.  Emma was a deeply religious woman and Charles was exploring theories that would greatly change social and scientific thought forever.  The book is well-researched and is a great read for both adults and kids.


There are great resources to accompany these titles for classroom use.  Discussion questions, teachers guides and book group materials can be found online.  Both afford students and teachers great critical thinking opportunities and work well with core curriculum standards.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Year in Review

As 2012 draws to a close I can't help but look back at my reading journal and take note of the books on my list.  I began the year with the challenge of reading one nonfiction picture book per week.  The year started out strong, but when I started researching and writing my own nonfiction book with an October deadline, that challenge took a back seat.  Even so, I did read more nonfiction picture books this year than last and I will bump up the pace up for 2013.

My reading list for 2012 is a mixture of picture books, both nonfiction and fiction, middle grades and novels for teens and adults.  Setting aside the books I read for research, here are some of my natural history picture book  highlights:

Thunder Birds by Jim Aronosky
Under the Snow by Melissa Stewart
The Watcher: Jane Goodall's Life with the Chimps by Jeanette Winter
Coral Reefs by Jason Chin
Butterfly Eyes… by Joyce Sidman
A Leaf Can Be by Laurie Purdie Salas
UnBEElievables by Douglas Florian
More by IC Springman



Wishing everyone a naturally wonderful New Year!  May it bring you peace, inspiration and an abundance of joy!



Tuesday, December 18, 2012

NF Tip Of The Day

Nonfiction Tip Of The Day



It was my turn last year to give my nonfiction tip of the day.  If you asked me today for my tip, I'd say RESEARCH!    Thorough research leads to great nonfiction.   (And it's addictive to nonfiction writers!  We love it!)

Well, short post today…I'm off to a Skype visit with an elementary school in St. Louis, MO!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

ICE! by Laurence Pringle



Thanks, Laurence Pringle, for bringing us a book about the ice business.  I took a peek at this book during the SCBWI Falling Leaves Master Class Retreat on nonfiction and can't wait to get my hands on my own copy.  Having grown up in Rockland County, I was well aware of our historic ice business.  Every year Rockland Lake hosts a fantastic festival, complete with ice sculptures and historical fanfare. Unfortunately, the festival is on hiatus for 2013, but they promise it will return in 2014.  In the meantime, we can enjoy ICE! by Laurence Pringle!  

Here are a few photos I took the last time I enjoyed the festival.





Tuesday, December 4, 2012

It's that time of year!

I'm so excited by the books that made this year's NY Public Library nonfiction list.  They represent a wide range of topics as well as a wide range of creativity.

There are stories of artists and scientists, historical events and the people they impacted, microbes and zombie makers…each book inspired by the author's own curiosity.  Marc Aronson wrote about a conversation he had about American nonfiction in a recent NY Times book review.  He extolled its virtues including the fact that our nonfiction is unique in that it is written out of our own  passions and is often a  "labor of love".   How true!

At our recent SCBWI Falling Leaves Retreat focusing on nonfiction I was overjoyed to chat during meals about the stories within us -- our passions, curiosities, and research.  What fun it is to gather with a group of nonfiction authors!  Their enthusiasm for their subjects is unparalleled.  My NF writer buddies are all research junkies who love the chase as much as the writing.  And they continue to challenge us with their ideas.  They know how to appeal to the kid inside us all --the kid who peeked under rocks or searched for treasure or made concoctions in their bathrooms before their parents were up each morning.

This holiday season is a great time to pick up one of these books for the kid on your list or yourself and feed your own curiosity.


NY Public Library's 2012 List of Nonfiction Titles


A Black Hole Is Not a Hole by Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano. Illustrated by Michael Carroll. CharlesbridgeDive in to this lively and engaging exploration of one of our universe's most mysterious and misunderstood marvels.
Chuck Close: Face Book by Chuck Close. Abrams Books for Young ReadersThis innovative, large-scale portrait artist answers kids' questions about his life, his art, and other challenges he's faced.
Citizen Scientists: Be Part of Scientific Discovery from Your Own Backyard by Loree Griffin Burns. Photographs by Ellen Harasimowicz. Henry Holt and CompanyKids are scientists too! A year's worth of experiments and activities, including Fall Butterflying, Winter Birding, Spring Frogging, and Summer Ladybugging.
Creep and Flutter: The Secret World of Insects and Spiders by Jim Arnosky.Sterling Children's BooksThink you know bugs? Think again! Get all the facts about everything from mayfly nymphs to praying mantises in this lyrically written and gorgeously illustrated book.
The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau by Michelle Markel. Illustrated by Amanda Hall. Eerdmans Books for Young ReadersA toll collector achieves his dream of being an artist by painting a world he imagines. With illustrations that echo the self-taught master's style.
The Great Molasses Flood: Boston, 1919 by Deborah Kops. CharlesbridgeWhat do you get when 13,000 tons of molasses meet the streets of Boston? A sticky situation.
The Human Body Factory by Dan Green. Illustrated by Edmond Davis. KingfisherMaking a body work is a team effort, so get an inside peek into the mechanics of you!
Invincible Microbe: Tuberculosis and the Never-Ending Search for a Cure by Jim Murphy and Alison Blank. Clarion BooksA frightening look into the history of a disease that still infects people today.
It Jes' Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw by Don Tate. Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie. Lee & Low Books Inc.Why did 85-year-old Billy Traylor suddenly pick up a pencil one day and start to draw? As the book says, it just happened.
Jazz Age Josephine by Jonah Winter. Illustrated by Marjorie Priceman. Atheneum Books for Young ReadersYoung Josephine Baker "grew up singing nothin' but the blues" and went onstage to become the toast of Paris and the world. A jazzy "fairy tale" with vibrant, high-steppin', high energy art.
Life in the Ocean: The Story of Oceanographer Sylvia Earle by Claire A. Nivola.Farrar Straus GirouxFollow a modern day explorer who has spent more than 7,000 hours underwater. Includes engaging illustrations.
The Mighty Mars Rovers: The Incredible Adventures of Spirit and Opportunity by Elizabeth Rusch. Houghton Mifflin Books for ChildrenTake a trip with the ultimate explorers to the red planet. A place where no human foot has ever stepped.
Monkey Colors by Darrin Lunde. Illustrated by Patricia J. Wynne. CharlesbridgeDid you know that the mandrill with the most colorful face is the leader of the pack? Learn this and other fun facts in this book for young children.
Spirit Seeker: John Coltrane's Musical Journey by Gary Golio. Illustrated by Rudy Gutierrez. Clarion BooksThe highs and lows of a legendary jazz artist explored through dynamic, vivid art.
Stay: The True Story of Ten Dogs by Michaela Muntean. Photographs by K. C. Bailey and Steve Kazmierski. Scholastic PressSometimes a dog and a person find each other at just the right moment. Ten troubled shelter dogs find a loving home and a new life in the circus.
Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World by Sy Montgomery. Houghton Mifflin Books for ChildrenThis biography tells the story of an extraordinary scientist who used her autistic experiences to design humane animal-processing facilities.
Titanic: Voices from the Disaster by Deborah Hopkinson. Scholastic PressYou only think you know the full story, but just wait until you read this gripping account in the words of the survivors of history's most infamous shipwreck.
Those Rebels, John & Tom by Barbara Kerley. Illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham.Scholastic PressHere are twin portraits of founding fathers, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson – one short, stout and blustery and the other tall, thin and quiet. How this odd couple played a pivotal role in shaping the history of the United States of America.
We've Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children's March by Cynthia Y. Levinson.Peachtree PublishersWould you go to jail to fight for your rights? These kids did!
Zombie Makers: True Stories of Nature's Undead by Rebecca L. Johnson. Millbrook PressFor anyone who thinks that zombies aren't real, here is a "no-brainer" introduction to some worms, germs, molds and other parasites that control the minds of their hosts!