A Place for Wonder by Georgia Heard and Jennifer McDonough

I rarely read books, especially professional books, aimed at the primary grades.  I often read those aimed at grades 3-5, but kindergarten is a good ways away from my 6th graders (even though there are days when they don’t feel that far apart in age!)

However, I absolutely love Georgia Heard so I knew I wanted to read A Place for Wonder: Reading and Writing Nonfiction in the Primary Grades as soon as it was published. I use many of Heard’s ideas and resources in my poetry unit, so I knew her nonfiction ideas would be stellar. I was not wrong- this is a great book for any teacher interested in growing his/her students’s knowledge about writing nonfiction.

A Place for Wonder: Reading and Writing Nonfiction in the Primary Grades discusses how to create a “landscape of wonder” in your classroom by sharing activities and anecdotes from Heard and McDonough (a 1st grade teacher). While the activities are aimed at the primary grades I was thrilled by how much I found I could use with my 6th graders with minimal tweaking. Students of all ages need to be infected with passion and wonder! Specifically, I foresee using a lot of the activities as introduction and immersion activities when we begin our research unit. Students are always more enthusiastic when they are writing about something they feel passionate about and McDonough and Heard have developed some amazing ways of drawing those passions out of them!


*Review copy courtesy of the publisher


Nonfiction Monday- Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin

Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin is one of my favorite books to use as a mentor text during the year. Needless to say I was ecstatic when I saw that it was being reissued in paperback next month! I just received my review copy and have to say it is wonderful. I love hardcovers, but sometimes it is nice to just have a paperback copy to keep with my notes and the unit that I use the book with.

I use Snowflake Bentley during my multigenre unit of writing because it is a wonderful example of multigenre writing. The inner portions of each page tell the narrative biography of Wilson Bentley, a Vermont farm boy who was fascinated by snowflakes. He spent his life photographing and studying these tiny flakes of snow. Many of his photographs are still used today! The story is biographical and reads as a narrative, so this would make a great read aloud for any age.

The outer edges of each page offer more information on snowflakes and the science used by Bentley. The sidebars read less like a story and more like interviews or informational text. However, both sets of text meld together almost seamlessly….it’s a phenomenal example of multigenre writing!

Not to mention, the woodcut illustrations are gorgeous, hence the book receiving the 1998 Caldecott Medal. Snowflake Bentley is a picture book that should be in all classroom libraries, from preschool to high school!

Webcast with Georgia Heard and Jennifer McDonough

Tomorrow evening Stenhouse will be hosting a live webcast with Georgia Heard and Jennifer McDonough – their new book is out and it’s called A Place for Wonder: Reading and Writing Nonfiction in the Primary Grades.  The book is available for preview in its entirety on our website.  I’m almost finished reading it and it’s wonderful!  The activities are geared toward the primary grades but can definitely be modified and used in the upper grades.  I am looking forward to using some of the activities in my classes this year.

The webcast is tomorrow, Oct. 26, at 8 p.m. EST. All participants need is a phone and a computer – no special equipment of software. You can direct all inquiries to Zsofia: zmcmullin@stenhouse.com

If you are interested, send Zsofia and email by tomorrow morning!

Lego Star Wars Visual Dictionary

The following is a guest review by my fiance’, a huge Lego fan.

I reviewed LEGO Star Wars: The Visual Dictionary by Simon Beecroft. I was very excited to review the book when Sarah received it in the mail because I am fan of Legos and Star Wars. The book seemed to be written just for me! And as a bonus, the book includes a free mini figure and that immediately won me over.

LEGO Star Wars: The Visual Dictionary is a chronicling of all the Star Wars sets Lego has issued to date. It is especially written for Lego fans and collectors. It goes into detail to show the differences between sets issued in 1999 and say 2008, for example. It made me appreciate the sets Lego has created for the Star Wars universe. The text of the book gives a summary of the different aspects of the movies ad Star Wars lore, including the Death Star and the Rebel Army.

I would recommend this book to Lego fans and collectors of the Lego Star Wars memorabilia. However, it does lack real insight that pure Star Wars fans would be looking for. I do think kids would love this book, though!

Nic Bishop Marsupials

Pick up any of Nic Bishop’s amazing nonfiction books and you will realize it’s a gateway book.  Suddenly, your world will be opened to his world of nonfiction.  Bishop brings his knowledge of biology and life on earth to his books and also fills them with his own gorgeous photographs.   The result is a smart and beautiful books that kids and adults alike won’t want to put down.  I learn something new from all of his books and his newest title, on shelves next Tuesday, is no exception.

Nic Bishop Marsupials does not disappoint. I made the mistake of assuming it would focus only on the most well-known marsupials, like kangaroos and koalas. While these animals are mentioned, Bishop dives deeper into the world of marsupials, exposing his readers to weird and exotic marsupials that aren’t as well-known. My favorite? The numbat, which doesn’t even have a pouch like most marsupials!  Bishop offers biological information on many different marsupials from all over the world but the information is in an easy to digest format.  And I LOVE the formatting of the pages because it will fit in perfectly with my nonfiction unit in writing.  His use of techniques like bolded letters, different colors and size fonts for important information, and his fascinating photographs will serve as prime examples in my classroom later this year!

I also enjoyed his epilogue, where Bishop explained how he researched the book and how he took the pictures. Those two pages will be great to share with my middle schoolers this year during our research unit. It’s always my goal to share with them real authors doing research for real books, to impart to them the importance of research!

Nic Bishop Marsupials is a fantastic addition to any library. I know I’ll be running out to order a few more of his titles this month when school starts!



Review copy courtesy of the publisher

Biology: Life as We Know It by Dan Green

I’ve been reading this one on and off all day.  It’s definitely a great book to flip through and read what interests you.  But I love these books because they always hook my students.  The illustrations by Simon Basher are fun to look at and always catch my students’ attention.  

The topics in this edition of Basher’s science series, Biology: Life as We Know It! include cells, mammals, DNA, and much more.  A great addition to any science teacher’s library.

My Season With Penguins: An Antarctic Journal by Sophie Webb

Next year, one of my goals is to infuse more non-fiction reading into my curriculum. I did a fantastic unit this year on non-fiction and want to expand it. That means I need to infuse more non-fiction into my own reading life. I decided to read at least 3 non-fiction books during the 48 Hour Book Challenge this year to help me achieve my goal.

My Season with Penguins: An Antarctic Journal (Robert F. Sibert Honor Books) by Sophie Webb is the second informational book I read during the Challenge. A Sibert Honor book, I highly recommend it. Sophie Webb shares her experience spending two months studying Adelie Penguins in the Antarctic using a journal format and her own paintings as illustrations. The tone is conversational, which makes the information accessible to kids. And this isn’t a boring science book- it’s actually gross at times! Webb doesn’t shy away from the gory details of nature, which I know my students will appreciate. There are paintings of mummified penguins (adults and chicks) and a leopard seal killing and eating an Adelie. And I even learned that human waste is flown out of the Antarctic because of the cold, dryness, and lack of bacteria. Nothing decays in the Antarctic. I actually yelped, “Eww!” out loud while reading. I know my kids will revel in that information.

I also liked that while I learned a lot about Adelie Penguins, I also learned even more about scientific expeditions in Antarctica. Webb shares “insider information” on how camps are set up, the type of clothing and supplies available, and past exploration of the area. Information like this will engage readers who love animals and readers who love survival stories.

Highly recommended for classroom libraries and science teachers!