August 15, 2019

Seashells: More than a Home by Melissa Stewart, illustrated by Sarah S. Brannen

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 4:54 pm by suebe2

More than a Home
by Melissa Stewart
illustrated by Sarah S. Brannen

There are jars of seashells on the dresser in our family room.  One is full of shells from Myrtle Beach.  Another from Pensacola.  Sea shells have always fascinated me so I Stewart’s book was a must read.

Stewart explains that there are so many different looking shells because they do so many different jobs.  The nautilus can rise and dive like a submarine. The spirals on a turritella act like an anchor, holding the animal fast to the sea floor.  The chiton even has flexible plates so that the animal can roll up in a protective ball.

I think my favorite was when I learned something new about a shell I have seen.  Abalone shells have a row of holes. It is through these ports that the waste escapes.  I had always wondered why those holes were there.

Brannen’s watercolor illustrations bring these creatures to life.  In the back matter, she confesses that shells are tricky to draw but she’s done a top notch job.  She brings the varied colors and textures of these shells to life.  My favorite illustrations may be the inset drawings that help explain certain features.  These illustrated sidebars look like a spiral field notebook.

Don’t be afraid to pick this book up even if your child has read numerous books about sea animals. As much as I love scientific programming and reading, I still learned a lot. The endpapers, the pages inside the front and back cover, include maps that show young readers where in the world these various animals live.

This book is a must read for any young ocean enthusiast or animal lover.  Share it with your classroom for a jumping off point when discussing ecological diversity and ecosystems. For more information on this topic, flip to the back of the book where the author and illustrator both share books they used in their research.  There are also additional titles listed for young readers.

Science lovers and sea shell lovers alike will want to read this book.


January 22, 2015

Feathers: Not Just for Flying by Melissa Stewart, illustrated by Sarah S. Brannen

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 12:13 am by suebe2

Not Just for Flying
by Melissa Stewart
illustrated by Sarah S. Brannen

If you are looking for books for young scientists, be sure to check out Feathers: Not Just for Flying by Melissa Stewart.  We all know that birds use their feathers to fly.  Some of us realize that they use them for show and for insulation as well.

But did you know that birds also use their feathers as sunscreen, musical instruments, carrying cases, and shovels?  Neither did I.

Each spread (two facing pages) includes a fact about a type of feather (cusions like a pillow), a bird that has this type of feather (Wood duck), details about this bird and type of feather and several illustrations.  Some of the birds, such as the blue jay and peacock, are fairly well known.  Others, including the club-winged manakin and anhinga, aren’t familiar to most people.

Following the main body of the text, Stewart included a section on how scientists classify feathers.  Stewart is very forthright in admitting that scientists themselves have not come to an agreement on how to do this and that the system she presents is only one of several.

Brannen’s watercolor illustrations are almost photographic in their accuracy when it comes to depicting the look of individual feathers.  That said, the images in this text are not photographic in appearance.

Pick this book up for bird lovers and young scientists and be prepared to spend some time observing individual birds and how they use their feathers.



July 17, 2014

Animal Grossapedia by Melissa Stewart

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 1:17 am by suebe2

Animal Grossapedia
by Melissa Stewart

Need an enticing summer read for a reluctant reader?  Or a young reader who is simply too busy to read more than a page or two at a time?  Then pick up Grossapedia.  

From animals who roll poop (dung beetles) to animals that eat poop (baby elephants) this book is a store house of animal things icky.  Poop, pee, saliva, vomit and blood — they’re all covered within this 110 page book.

Animal nut that I am, I still learned a lot including the fact that a desert tortoise pees on anything that picks it up as a defense mechanism and that the saliva of the short-tailed shrew is toxic and paralyzes potential meals with one bite.  Chomp!

The animals in the book range from been there (dogs) to little known (giant petrels) and everything in between.

Some animals get a full two pages while others get only a page.  This means that there isn’t any in-depth coverage but it does make fora  book that is easy to pick up and put down — great for reluctant readers.

Is this book too gross?  Not by a long shot — it is a strictly factual look at the biology of a wide variety of animals.  I didn’t think that some of it was gross at all (limpid mucus) but would also get a little gaggy if I spend too much time thinking about baby animals eating poop.

Whether your young reader loves to learn odd ball facts about animals or just likes reading about things that are a big icky, pick this one up.  It really is a quick read and would be great for a few moments here and there throughout the summer.  That said, you will probably have to listen as he reads about jackals or pigs or parrot fish.


May 23, 2013

A Place for Bats by Melissa Stewart, illustrated by Higgins Bond

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 1:06 am by suebe2

A Place for Bats
by Melissa Stewart,
illustrated by Higgins Bond
AR 5.0

Mention bats and you get one of two reactions from people.  Cool! or Eww!

I learned I wasn’t alone in thinking they’re awesome on a Scout camp out when I spotted them zipping around the campsite, gobbling up mosquitoes.  When another Mom asked me what I was looking at, I just shrugged.  “Oh, I thought you might have seen the bats. They’re awesome.”

And they are. Bats pollinate crops (including mangoes), keep pests down, and are part of the food chain for other predators.

Unfortunately, we do many things that can harm bats.  In addition to pesticides, Stewarts book taught me that even wind turbines can be harmful.  It isn’t because the bats fly into them, but the difference in air pressure actually causes blood vessels to burst.  Eww!

Don’t think this is one of those gloom and doom books.  Stewart peppers the text with ways that people can help the bats who live around them.

The text is composed of a short main text that gives information on how we share our environment with bats.  There is also a sidebar for each spread that talks about a specific type of bat, such as an Indiana Bat or a Western Red Bat, and how it’s struggle to survive can be helped by simple steps taken by caring humans.

Bond’s acrylic paintings show an amazing amount of detail ranging from the finger bones in a Mexican Free-Tailed Bats wings to the amazing ears on the Virginia Big-Eared Bat.

I have been fascinated by bats since I was little and my grandfather would walk me into the mines where I would see wee tiny figures clinging to the walls.  Whenever I’m in a cave, I look for bats.  And I’ve learned where to spot them in the roofs at Scout camps or soaring around bill boards lit along the highways.

Share this with the young nature lover in your life and spend your evening searching for the swooping, diving figures of the bats that share our world.




January 22, 2010

Snakes! by Melissa Stewart

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , at 4:34 pm by suebe2

Snakes! (AR 3 .2 )

by Melissa Stewart

In this case, you can judge a book by its cover which is no great surprise when the cover says National Geographic Kids.  Vibrant photos and fascinating facts fill this early reader.

Readers will learn all about snake anatomy, where they live, snake babies, how they get around, what they eat and snakes as pets.  My son thinks snakes are beyond cool so I know a lot of snake trivia, but I still learned some new facts:

  • Snakes that give birth to live young live in cooler climates and the puff adder can give birth to up to 150 babies at a time!
  • Snakes with round pupils hunt in the day time and those with slitted pupils hunt at night.  My son was not surprised by this.  “Like a cat’s eye, mom.”  Uh, yeah.  Just like that.
  • The long belly scales that grip the ground and move the snake forward are called scutes.

This book is a Level 2, for children who are reading independently.  The font is large and the text is broken up enough that it shouldn’t intimidate — but any kid who is fascinated by snakes will be drawn in by the photos.  I’m a little iffy on snakes myself — they’re compelling and totally creepy at the same time — but I couldn’t put the book down.  Even in a paper back, the photo quality lets you see the texture of the scales and the amazing range of colors.

The one spread that might not be for the faint of heart is “Snake Snacks.”  It is one thing to read about a snake chowing down on a frog or an antelope but it is quite another to see it in glorious color.

If you’ve got a boy who is reluctant to pick up a book, give him this.  You might even leave it open to “Snake Snacks” or “Snakes All Around,” which shows a pile of hibernating garter snakes.  The creep factor is high enough to get his attention and would have definitely pulled my son in.

This is one of the best beginning readers I’ve ever read.  Slither on out and get it for the young reader in your life.


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