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Books categorized as 'Non-Fiction'

Some Writer! The Story of E.B. White

Some Writer! The Story of E.B. White by Melissa Sweet
Recommended for: Grades 3 – 7

E.B. White gave readers the very best of what children’s books are meant to be. (Think Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little and Trumpet of the Swan.) In this well-researched biography, Melissa Sweet gives readers a peak into the amazing life of E.B. White. To document his youth in Mount Vernon N.Y, summers on the Belgrade Lakes in Maine, his work at the New Yorker, his writing of children’s books, and farming in Maine, Sweet uses White’s many letters, handwritten drafts, photos and her own collaged art. A Timeline and Selected Bibliography are included. Some Writer! has won a New York Times Bestseller, People Magazine Best Children’s Book, A Washington Post Best Book, A Publishers Weekly Best Book, and is a Boston Globe/Horn Book Nonfiction Award Honor recipient.

Reviewed by Mrs. Wettergreen

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Brown Girl Dreaming

brown girl dreaming coverBrown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
Recommended for: Grades 4 and up

Brown Girl Dreaming is an autobiography about Woodson’s life growing up and into an award-winning author. The book is comprised of many short poems, each with lots of detail that made me feel like I was with her. Woodson’s mom is constantly searching for a place that feels like “home” and abruptly moves the family from South Carolina to New York City when Woodson is young. Woodson tells us many stories of her friends, family, hair, and food throughout her childhood. And, since she grew up in the 1960s and 1970s, Woodson’s family introduces her to the Civil Rights Movement. The back of the book includes pictures of Woodson’s extended family members, who are key characters in her memories. Through all her stories, Woodson shows us how she learned to read, “listen”, and write. If you love poetry or coming of age stories, this book is for you. The poems flow so well into one another; it was hard for me to put it down.

Reviewed by: Ms. Harwood

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The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

boy who harnessed the wind coverThe Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer
Recommended for: Grades 2-5

When William was 14, he had a great interest in mechanical things. By learning English and reading from old textbooks, he replaced magical explanations of the natural world with scientific facts. He knew magical thinking could not bring rain to their drought stricken Malawi village. Because of the resultant drop in family income, he could not attend school, but he could go the library – a gift from the American government. There he read about windmills that could power electricity and pump water. With a broken bike, bottle caps, a plastic pipe and a small generator, he was able to provide electricity for their home and later water for the village! William now studies engineering at Dartmouth College, with plans to return to Malawi to work on renewable energy.  This is an inspiring biography about a young adult who really made a difference in his community.

Reviewed by: Mrs. Wettergreen

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Citizen Scientists: Be a Part of Scientific Discovery From Your Own Backyard

citizen scientists coverCitizen Scientists : Be a Part of Scientific Discovery From Your Own Backyard by Loree Griffin Burns
Recommended for: Grades 3 and up

Dr. Loree Burns defines citizen science as the “study of our world by the people who live in it. All men, women and children, who use their 5 senses and smarts to understand this world, can be citizen scientists.” She especially welcomes children who are just the right height, have active five senses, and strong focus. Her explorations (and chapters) are Fall Butterflying, Winter Birding, Spring Frogging and Summer Ladybugging. In the butterfly section, she explains the capture and tagging process from 1952 -75 that enabled scientists to know where the monarchs went in winter. She cites the successful work of 2 contemporary children who help with current data from their respective homes in America and Mexico; she tags monarchs and he counts them.  At the family fun-level, she provides notes on preparation for any nature walk.  The accompanying photography is exquisite.

Reviewed by: Mrs. Wettergreen

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The Great Molasses Flood : Boston, 1919

great molasses flood coverThe Great Molasses Flood : Boston, 1919 by Deborah Kops
Recommended for: Grades 4 and up

Did you know that in 1919, a huge tank of molasses exploded and flooded Boston’s North End neighborhood? You can learn all about this fascinating historical event in this beautifully packaged nonfiction book. It includes exceptional photos and research, a detailed map, and primary source materials. The author guides the reader through the fateful day, and the court case that ensued over who was to blame for the deaths, injuries and massive destruction. A very interesting read!
If you want to read fictionalized stories about the flood, check out A Place for Joey and The Trouble with Jeremy Chance.

Reviewed by: Mrs. Wettergreen

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The Mighty Mars Rovers: the incredible adventures of Spirit and Opportunity

Mighty Mars Rovers coverThe Mighty Mars Rovers: the incredible adventures of Spirit and Opportunity by Elizabeth Rusch
Recommended for: Grades 4 and up

Are you a curious kid who loves to explore, play with LEGOs, and build rockets and robots? Steve Squyres was a kid like that, and he grew up to become a Professor of Astronomy at Cornell. Steve pursued NASA for 8 years to accept his Rover project. This book chronicles his journey, the creation of his team, and the remarkable triumphs of the twin Mars Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity. It is interesting to know that NASA held a naming contest which was won by a 9-year old girl, born in Siberia and adopted by a family in Arizona. She was thankful for the ‘Spirit’ and ‘Opportunity’ provided by America. This book reads like a suspense novel, and reminded me of an Indiana Jones movie; it is filled with anxiety (deadlines, lost contacts) and accomplishment (a quarter million photos, signs of water). Opportunity is still operating, joined this summer by Curiosity.

Reviewed by: Mrs. Wettergreen

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Mrs. Harkness and the Panda by Alicia Potter

Mrs Harkness coverMrs. Harkness and the Panda by Alicia Potter, illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Recommended for: All ages

In 1934, Ruth Harkness left NYC, bound for China via Ceylon and Singapore. Her goal was to bring a panda back to America for the first time. Among her 22 pieces of luggage, she packed dried milk and a baby bottle. Escorted by a guide through treacherous weather and travel conditions, Ruth finally found an adorable baby panda! She named the bear Su Lin, meaning “a little bit of something cute.” The baby bottle and milk turned out to be keys to the success of this mission! When they returned to the US, she cared for and nurtured Su Lin as a pet, before donating him to the Brookfield Zoo outside Chicago.  This engaging and colorful picture book biography would be a great read for all ages.

Reviewed by: Mrs. Wettergreen

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The Fairy Ring, or, Elsie and Frances Fool the World

The Fairy RingThe Fairy Ring, or, Elsie and Frances Fool the World by Mary Losure
Recommended for: Grades 5 and up

Have you ever innocently told a lie, then it get out of your control?  Have you ever wanted to tell the truth, but were scared of the consequences?  At the end of WWI, two cousins in Cottingley, England, told a lie that ended up fooling many important grown-ups and got the girls swept up in a media frenzy.  Elsie (15) and Frances (9) saw fairies in the beck behind their house.  When the grown-ups refused to believe them, they staged photographs with beautiful hand-painted paper fairies.  The adults (including some famous and well-respected ones) believed the photos were real, and Elsie and Frances quickly saw their innocent prank spin out of control.  The cousins took their secret almost to their graves.

This was a fascinating story, illustrated with wonderful photographs and illustrations done by Elsie, a talented artist, when she was a young woman.

Recommended by: Mrs. Waring

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Scranimals

Scranimals by Jack Prelutsky
Recommended for All Ages

Jack Prelutsky and Peter Sis have surpassed earlier levels of rhyme, wordplay and humorous illustration.  On a journey to Scranimal Island, which is not found on the map, we meet many animal combinations with flowers, vegetables and other animals like the Porcupineapple, Bananaconda and a clutch of Spinachickens.  Families will be memorizing these poems and laughing at them in the bathtub, on walks and long car rides.  This book  is a great gift for a child and will be a favorite on the bookshelf for years to come.

Reviewed by: Mrs. Baumgartner

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Field Trips

Field Trips by Jim Arnosky
Recommended for:  Grades 1 – 4

Field Trips will not take you on the bus to the museum or airport, but will take you on an eye-opening adventure in your own backyard, local conservation land or a national forest.  Focusing on bug hunting, animal tracking, bird-watching and shore walking, Aronsky gives clues for finding all kinds of wildlife and signs that they have left behind.  The pencil illustration is similar to a field notebook and may encourage you to make a record of your own trip!  Put this together with a pail, magnifying glass and bug box, and a backyard safari will ensue.

Reviewed by:  Mrs. Baumgartner

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