September 29, 2017

The Nantucket Sea Monster: A Fake News Story by Darcy Pattison, illustrated by Peter Willis

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 8:10 pm by suebe2

The Nantucket Sea Monster:
A Fake News Story
by Darcy Pattison
illustrated by Peter Willis

In August 1937, a Nantucket newspaper, The Inquirer and Mirror, reported that a local man had seen something strange.  Bill Manville, a local fisherman, was out in his boat.  He hadn’t caught any fish and was looking around when he saw the head of an immense animal rise above the waves.  He had spotted a sea monster!

At the end of the story, the reporter asked anyone else who had seen something to come forward.  Several other people wrote in giving details about seeing the monster.  People were scared even before the giant footprints were found on the beach.  The monster had bene out of the sea walking around!

The story was reported all over the country. Things quieted down for a bit but then it happened.  In mid-August a local man captured the monster.  People flocked down to the beach.  Would it be a fisherman with sharks?  Wreckage from a downed ship?

No one expected what they saw.  It was a giant balloon.

It had all been a publicity stunt – the man who caught the balloon monster had made it.  He also made balloons for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  In fact the whole thing had been planned out ahead of time with full knowledge of the newspaper editors.  That’s why it wasn’t a hoax. They hadn’t been tricked into believing something.

They had willingly reported something that they knew was not true.  This was really and truly fake news.

Fake news is a tough concept to explain to young readers.  It isn’t an opinion that someone can choose to believe or not to believe. It isn’t a hoax where someone is tricked into believing something.  It is something that the publisher knows is false and they publish it anyway.

This is the perfect story to illustrate the concept. In part, this is because it doesn’t have any political overtones. Using a historic story also helps young readers understand that this is not a new situation. Fake news has been around for a long time and will be around for years to come.

Pattison has taken a complex topic (fake news) and brought it to life in a way that can be discussed by supporters of any candidate. This is a book for discussion over the dinner table and in the classroom and we all seek to help young learners understand how to evaluate the things they read.



February 4, 2010

Ballet of the Elephants by Leda Schubert

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , at 4:30 am by suebe2

Ballet of the Elephants (AR 3. 9)

by Leda Schubert

illustrated by Robert Andrew Parker

In April 1942, a special train (55 cars long) sped from Florida to NYC.  It carried lions, monkeys and all of the people who make up a circus.  it also carried 50 elephants.

These weren’t just any circus elephants.  These elephants had been specially trained to perform in a ballet written just for them by none other than Igor Stravinsky and choreographed by the amazing George Balanchine.

Sounds too odd to be true, doesn’t it?  But it is a true story.  And a dancer who worked with the elephants even reported that they so enjoyed the dance, that when they retired, they would perform it by themselves even without the music written specially for them.

Don’t be fooled by the off beat nature of this story.  This is straight up historic nonfiction — not a farce or a joke of some kind.  (Note from Sue: for some reason when I originally reviewed this, my brain went awol and I wrote that the book is historic fiction.  So not true.  Now.  Where oh where is my brain . . . I really miss it.)

If you have a young performer or an elephant enthusiast in your home, treat them to a tail like none other.  But don’t be surprised when they want to teach the cat to dance.


October 17, 2009

Hello, Bumblebee Bat by Darrin Lunde

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , at 1:25 am by suebe2

batHello, Bumblebee Bat

by Darrin Lunde


Don’t let the title fool you.  There is really and truly an animal called a bumblebee bat.  The size of a bumble bee and the weight of a dime, this rare animal flits across the skies of western Thailand.

Published for ages 4 to 8, this book is definitely short and simple enough for the younger end of this range but there is enough information to hold the attention of bat loving 8-year-olds too.

Delivered in a Question and Answer format, readers learn about the bat’s small size, how it finds food, what it must stay safe from and where it lives.

Patricia Wynne’s watercolor, ink and pencil illustrations are just a touch cartoony.  Don’t panic — the effect is just enough to give our little bat friend personality but doesn’t detract from the accuracy of the illustrations.

Thanks to my grand-dad, who took me into the mines to see bats up close, I’ve been fascinated by them for years and years. I would have latched onto this book in a heart beat.


March 20, 2009

Bubble Homes and Fish Farts by Fiona Bayrock

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 2:30 am by suebe2

bubbleBubble Homes and Fish Farts  (AR 5 . 7 )

by Fiona Bayrock



By now you’ve probably realized that I love great nonfiction, but the type of nonfiction that usually hooks me is nonfiction that tells a story.  An exciting event.  A thrilling life.  Something or someone with a story I just can’t put down.  Books of facts are interesting and I page through them, but read them cover to cover? 

I did with Bayrock’s fact-filled fun read. 

The central theme in Bayrocks book is bubbles, some small, some large but all vital in some way to the life of an animal whether you are talking about the bubbles that bottlenose dolphins blow for fun or the bubbles in which African Gray Treefrogs lay their eggs.   Sixteen animals in all, each with a two page spread and space in the author’s notes at the end.  The list is divided among mammals, insects, arachnids and fish.  

Carolyn Conahan’s watercolor paintings combine acurate depictions of the various animals with a playful sense of fun that sucked my husband in after he teased me for reading about farts.  

The reading level may be upper fifth grade but there is only approximately 12 lines of text on each spread, not too much for a reluctant reader. 

A good choice for fact junkies and nonfiction lovers of all ages. 


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