Currently viewing the category: "Informational Nonfiction"

If I Were a Park Ranger
Author: Catherine Stier
Illustrator: Patrick Corrigan
Published April 1st, 2019 by Albert Whitman Company

Summary: If you were a national park ranger, you’d spend every day in one of the most treasured places in America. You’d have an amazing job protecting animals, the environment, and our country’s natural and historical heritage, from the wilds of Denali to the Statue of Liberty!

About the Creators:

As a child, Catherine Stier wanted to be an author or park ranger. She visited her first national park as a baby and has been a fan ever since. She is the author of If I Were President and several other award-winning picture books, and has worked as a magazine writer, newspaper columnist, writing instructor, and children’s literature researcher. She lives in San Antonio, Texas with her husband and volunteers with programs that connect families and children with nature and the outdoors. To learn more, and to download free activity sheets and curriculum guides, visit her website:

Patrick Corrigan was born in the north of England and grew up drawing and designing. After University, he was an art director in a design studio for nearly ten years. He now lives in London with his wife and cat, illustrating children’s books. See more of his work at

Review: What a great informational text about National Parks and the park rangers that take care of them! The text did a wonderful job introducing not only the National Parks and all the different ones throughout the country but also all of the amazing things that park rangers do to take care of these national treasures. I was most impressed by how it was all inclusive of all the different types of jobs that keep the parks going as well as all the different types of parks that can be visited. The text, filled with information, along with the colorful illustrations bring it all to life for the reader and keeps them engaged in a way that other non-narrative informational texts struggle with sometimes.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: 

2019’s National Park Week is April 20-28th, and If I Were a Park Ranger is a perfect read aloud for the week! It would be perfect for when a class is learning about Theodore Roosevelt or any other founder of National Parks also.

The author’s website also includes activity pages for the book:!

Discussion Questions: 

  • What National Park would you want to visit?
  • What does it take to be a park ranger?
  • What type of person do you think would succeed the most as a park ranger?
  • How does science fit into a park ranger’s job? Technology? Engineering? Math? Art?
  • What is the author’s purpose for creating the text?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: National Parks, Nature, Conservation

Recommended For: 



Ten lucky winners will receive a copy of If I Were A Park Ranger by Catherine Stier. One Grand Prize winner will receive a signed copy of the book PLUS a Park Ranger Stuffed Doll, a “National Park Geek” Iron-on Patch, National Park Animal Cookies, Camping Stickers, Woodland Animal Mini Notebook, and Book Cover Postcards! Winners will be selected at random and notified via email. One entry per person, please. US addresses only. Entries are due by 5/3/19. Follow this link to enter!


**Thank you to Blue Slip Media for providing a copy for review!**

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“Talking Trash!”

Life with kids is pretty busy, and it can be easy to forget to consider the environment with every purchase we make. Bottled water, individual snack packages, and upgraded devices all seem like the standard price we pay for being parents and educators in modern society, but in fact, the garbage we produce from this lifestyle has an impact that lasts far longer than—or just as long as—a laminated piece of child’s artwork.

What have you tossed in the trash today? A gnawed apple core? A plastic straw? A tattered handbag? A piece of furniture?

We throw tons of garbage away every day. Anywhere you find people, you’ll find garbage—mounds and mounds of it. A gyre of plastic trash floats in the middle of the ocean. Garbage is even marooned on the surface of the moon.

Usually, we don’t realize how much stuff we throw away. In just one year, an average family of four in the United States churns out 6,351 pounds of waste. That’s enough to fill a three-bedroom house to the ceiling.

And where does all that trash go? It doesn’t simply disappear, as much as we’d like to think so. Even the stuff that gets lugged to the landfill requires a careful process of sorting and arranging so that the runoff and off-gassing doesn’t make us ill. Or it might get burned and filtered to reduce the amount of toxins that are released into the atmosphere.

But still—our oceans fill with plastic, which gets eaten by marine life. Our highways and back roads are lined with litter. Our beaches are minefields of trash.

However! Through effort and education, we can make a difference and be part of the cleanup. And we owe it to our kids to model behaviors that will result in positive changes to the world—such as reducing the amount of trash we create! While the three R’s of Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle are critical in our quest to make Earth healthy, there’s another R of equal importance—Rethink. Rethink the way you make purchases and the way you use what you have. This is an incredibly important lesson for kids to see acted out on a daily basis.

To help, try these environmental activities with the children in your life!


What’s in your rubbish? For one week, track and record every item your family discards. Be very careful because trash can contain broken or sharp objects.

  • Use a scale to weigh three large empty plastic tubs. Record the weights in a science journal.
  • Reuse cardboard, index cards, or scratch paper to make three labels for the tubs: “Trash,” “Reusable,” “Recyclable.” Attach the labels to the tubs.
  • For one week, become your family’s garbage collector. Put on rubber gloves to rummage through every item of trash. Be on the lookout for broken or sharp items and handle with care. Categorize each as trash, reusable, or recyclable. Place each article in the appropriate container.
  • At the end of the week, weigh each tub of stuff. Subtract the original weight of the empty tub from the total and record how much waste each tub has.
  • Compare and contrast your totals with those published by the EPA. Did each person in your household produce about 31. pounds of garbage, which is the national average?
  • Challenge your family to cut down your amount of garbage. Rethink your trash choices. What can you reuse or recycle, instead of discarding? If you get a composter, you can compost food waste.
  • A month from now, try this activity again to observe your success. Are your results different?


Has your old T-shirt seen better days? No need to let it die. Dye it instead! Next time your family boils colorful veggies, don’t dump the water. Use it to brew natural dyes the way colonists and pioneers did. Then, use those dyes to jazz up your shirt and give it new life.

Choose your color. Beets will make red. Carrots produce orange. Gold onions make yellow, red cabbage produces purple, and spinach gives you green. Put the vegetables in a pot, cover with water, and boil them. Drain the liquid and strain out any solid bits. Store the liquid in a glass jar until you’re ready to dye the shirt.

Before you use your colored liquid, you’ll need to make sure the dye will set in the fabric. Pour 4 cups of cold water and 1 cup of vinegar into a large pot. Place the T-shirt into the mixture. Then, put the pot on the stove and simmer the shirt for a full hour. Check on it now and then to make sure the mixture doesn’t boil away. After an hour, remove the shirt and rinse it in cold water.

Now you’re ready to work with your dye. Return the pot and T-shirt to the stove and pour in the colored water. Simmer again. When you are happy with the color of the shirt, turn off the heat. Wear rubber gloves to handle the shirt because dye stains skin. The color will dry a few shades lighter than it looks in the pot. Hint: When it’s time to launder your shirt, wash it separately in cold water. The dye will last longer and won’t stain anything else.


It’s fun to get a card or package in the mail. But junk mail? Not so much. You don’t ask for junk mail, but it shows up anyway. It’s usually advertising materials such as catalogs, flyers, credit card applications, and even CDs. One credit card company sends out materials in a fancy gold box with a plastic window, two Styrofoam bumpers, and five individual flyers inside! According to the New York University School of Law, most families in the United States receive 848 pieces of junk mail annually. About 46 percent is never even opened. Many people toss it straight into the trash, so about 5.6 million tons of the stuff clogs landfills.

Reuse junk mail to create colorful trash-to-treasure paper beads for a necklace.

Hint: Reuse clasps from broken jewelry. You can also string pearls, beads, and charms along with your completed paper beads.

Collect all the mail your family receives for one week. Make one pile of regular mail and one of junk mail. Tally the number of pieces in each, and record your totals in your science journal. Weigh each pile and jot down those totals. How do they compare?

Place the junk mail into categories of your choice. For example, make piles of catalogs, advertisements, flyers, or magazine subscription offers. How many pieces are in each pile? Note your findings.

Now it’s time to reuse! First decide how long you’d like your necklace to be. Measure a length of thin cord or fishing line and cut it.

Create a template with a piece of cardboard. Draw a triangular shape 1 inch wide at its base and 6 inches long. Cut out the template and use it to trace about 30 strips on glossy paper from your junk mail. Cut out the strips. If you discover later that you need more beads, then come back to this step.

Firmly wrap the wide end of the first strip around a wooden skewer or chopstick and roll the strip toward the pointed end. The tighter the paper, the more decorative the bead. When you have about 2 inches of bead left to roll, use a glue stick to swipe the remaining length.

Finish rolling the bead and hold it firmly in place until the glue sets. Carefully remove the bead from the stick and set aside. Repeat with all the strips until you’ve made all the beads.

For strong, durable beads, seal them with a coat of decoupage glue, or Elmer’s glue with water added. This makes a nice finish. You might find it’s easier to apply glue if you place each bead back on the skewer tip first. After applying the glue, set each bead aside to dry.

Tightly tie a metal clasp to an end of the fishing line. When the beads are dried and feel firm to the touch, string them on the line. Once the line is completely full, tightly attach the other clasp. Enjoy your junk mail jewelry!

Discussion questions:

Why does it matter where our garbage goes after we throw it out?

Do you produce more inorganic or organic waste?

How has garbage dumping changed throughout history?

What role do landfills play in solid-waste management?

How does hazardous waste cause problems in landfills and the environment?

How will you recycle and reduce to limit what you dump into the waste stream?

How can you use creativity and ingenuity to reuse items?

How will you challenge yourself to recycle more?

How can you rethink choices to develop a waste-reduction action plan?

About the Author: Donna Latham is an award-winning author and playwright. She is the author of Amazing Biome Projects You Can Build YourselfBackyard Biology Investigate Habitats Outside Your Door With 25 ProjectsDeciduousForestsDesertsGarbage Investigate What Happens When You Throw It Out With 25 ProjectsNorah JonesOceansRespiration and PhotosynthesisSavannas and Grasslands, and Tundra. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and the Society of Midland Authors. She lives in Batavia, Illinois. Website:

About the Book: That potato chip bag you tossed in your trash can this afternoon—where does it go when it leaves your house?

Garbage: Follow the Path of Your Trash with Environmental Science Activities for Kids invites middle graders to investigate the world of trash! The average American produces more than four pounds of trash every day—multiply that by 300 million people and you’ve got a lot of garbage! Where does it go? How does it break down? What are the challenges of dealing with so much waste? What can we do decrease the amount of stuff we are throwing away? Garbage explores questions like these while encouraging kids to think about the choices they make that generate garbage in the first place.

Try these hands-on environmental projects!

  • Investigate a mini midden
  • String a junk mail bead necklace
  • Snag air pollution on a stick-it can

More information including free teacher resources at 

Thank you to Donna for her important and thought-provoking post!

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A Brief History of Life on Earth
Creator: Clémence Dupont
Published March 19th, 2019 by Prestel Junior

Summary: The story of life on earth unfolds in dramatic fashion in this amazing picture book that takes readers from 4.6 billion years ago to the present day.

It’s difficult to grasp the enormous changes life on Earth has undergone since it first came into existence, but this marvelously illustrated book makes learning about our planet’s fascinating history easy and entertaining. In an accordion style, the series of pages take readers through every major geological period, with bright artwork and detailed drawings. Opening on lava-filled oceans and smoking volcanoes, the book unfolds, era by era, to show how life evolved from tiny protozoa and crustaceans to dinosaurs and mammals.

Fully expanded to 8 meters (26 feet), this spectacular visual timeline is a very impressive panorama that reveals evolution in all its glory. Each page is brimming with illustrations that readers will turn to again and again. A celebration of life, this extraordinary and beautiful book illuminates the history of Earth for young readers in an unforgettable and delightful way.

About the Author: Clémence Dupont is an illustrator living in Strasbourg, France. This is her first book.

Review: This book is so beautiful, useful, and just plain neat! First, I love that it folds out (as does Trent!):

When folded out, it reaches 26 feet with one side showing the images created by the author for each of the time periods while the other side has a timeline which is to scale showing how long respectively each time period was.

This book is a work of art. How each time period stands alone yet also is part of the entire timeline when folded out is beautiful to see. Additionally, I adore the artist’s technique of art with rough edges and bright colors.

Each spread focuses on one time period and the life on Earth at the time with a brief write up in the bottom left corner; however, many of the organisms/animals/plants not mentioned in the paragraph are labeled allowing readers to jump into inquiry about them if they wish.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Did anyone else do the activity in elementary school where the teacher had the class convert the miles(?) between planets into centimeters then had the class create a to-scale solar system showing just how far apart the planets are? This book reminds me of that activity in that it shows the true expanse of time Earth has existed versus the very small time humans have. I would use this timeline to create a similar to-scale idea for students to show the history of life on Earth.

Also, as I stated above, each time period only has a brief write up and leaves much to research if one is interested.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What surprised you about the history of life on Earth?
  • What did the timeline on the back show you about the history of life on Earth?
  • When did dinosaurs appear? When did the first human ancestor appear? (etc.)
  • What animal surprised you that has been around a long time?
  • What do you believe is the author’s purpose in creating the book in this structure?
  • How did the Earth change from one period to the next? Take two periods and compare and contrast them.

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Animals, Biology, Geology, Earth’s history

Recommended For: 


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Make This!: Building, Thinking and Tinkering Projects for the Amazing Maker in You
Author: Ella Schwartz
Published February 2019 by National Geographic Children’s Books

Summary: This book is designed to inspire the next generation of engineers and supports all kinds of kid creators: those who prefer guided instruction, those who prefer to dream up and design objects on their own, and everyone in between. Within the nearly 160 pages of this book kids get the tools and the know-how to tackle all kinds of exciting projects: building a kaleidoscope, designing a fidget spinner, planting a rain forest, creating a musical instrument, and more. Unconventional scenarios inspired by real National Geographic Explorers give kids a chance to think outside the box and apply their maker skills to real life. Chapters are divided up by scientific principle, such as simple machines, energy, and forces. In each chapter, kids can start by following step-by-step activities, or get creative by tackling an open-ended challenge. Helpful sidebars explain the science behind what’s happening every step of the way.

My Review: My son loves this book so much that he took it for show-and-tell at his preschool. The teacher liked it so much that she purchased a copy for the classroom. This is a phenomenal book with loads of hands-on, easy-to-do activities. Many of the activities use materials that were available in my house (or easy to acquire). The first project my son completed was the straw rocket. He used two straws, some tape, and some paper to draw his own rocket and shoot it into the air. He has folded down the corners of almost every project as his next to-do. I love how the book is sectioned off into scientific principles. This even impressed my engineer husband. The sidebars allow me to read about the science behind the project as my son is constructing it. It is a wonderful book for learning. Although the book is marketed to ages 8-12, my 5-year-old was able to complete the projects with my help. I think 8-12-year-olds will appreciate this book just as much and be able to self-create.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book just screams for use in classrooms. It makes science learning incredibly fun. I can see it in classrooms as young as preschool and all the way through elementary school. The concepts can be scaffolded to the age of the learners, and the projects range in difficulty level.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Which scientific principle(s) do you enjoy learning about? Which projects taught you a lot about the principle?
  • Which real-life things (e.g. airplanes, hydraulic systems) relate to these scientific projects?

Read This If You Love: Science Books; Engineering Books; National Geographic’s 100 Things to Know Before You Grow UpMastermind by National Geographic, Weird but True series by National Geographic, Animal Atlas

Recommended For: 



**Thank you to Karen at Media Masters Publicity for providing a copy for review!**

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Don’t Mess With Me: The Strange Lives of Venomous Sea Creatures
(How Nature Works series)
Author: Paul Erickson
Photographer: Andrew Martinez

Summary: How Nature Worlds books don’t just catalog the natural world in beautiful photographs. They seek to understand why nature functions as it does. They ask questions, and they encourage readers to ask more. They explore nature’s mysteries, sharing what we know and celebrating what we have yet to discover.

Scorpions and brown recluse spiders are fine as far as they go, but if you want daily contact with venomous creatures, the ocean is the place to be. Blue-ringed octopi, stony corals, sea jellies, stonefish, lionfish, poison-fanged blennies, stingrays, cone snails, blind remipedes, fire urchins—you can choose your poison in the ocean. Venoms are often but not always defensive weapons. The banded sea krait, an aquatic snake, wriggles into undersea caves to prey on vicious moray eels, killing them with one of the world’s most deadly neurotoxins, which it injects through fangs that resemble hypodermic needles.

About the Creators: 

Paul Erickson creates websites, exhibits, guides, and videos for zoos, museums, and aquariums nationwide. He has authored or co-authored numerous magazine articles and three books about undersea life. His book The Pier at the end of the World (Tilbury House) was named an Outstanding Science Trade Book of 2016 by the National Science Teachers Association.

Andrew Martinez specializes in images of the undersea world and is the author and photographer of Marine Life of the North Atlantic. He travels the world to photograph sea life, and was the photographer for The Pier at the End of the World.

Review: Don’t Mess with Me is a step up on the reading ladder from basic nonfiction books about undersea life because it takes the basic information about these venomous sea creatures and dives deeply (pun intended) into the actually whys and hows of their existence.

I was fascinated by so many of the facts in the book, and I loved learning about creatures I didn’t know about as well as learning more about ones I did. Check out the Flagged Passages to see how in depth the authors got which allows the reader to get a quite solid foundation about the different creatures. Additionally, the photographs are so cool because many of these creatures live where we’ll never see them.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Use the Nature Works series (Catching Air; City Fish, Country Fish; Extreme Survivors; and One Iguana, Two Iguanas) in a lit circle/jigsaw setting where each group becomes an expert on the different topics in the series the creates a presentation of their choosing to share what they learned about nature with their classmates.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What is the difference between poisonous and venomous?
  • What are some clues that an animal is venomous?
  • Why are some animals in the sea venomous?
  • How does the “How Nature Works” text features help when reading this nonfiction text?
  • What are some ways that animals are venomous?
  • Pick a venomous sea creature. Create a list of 5 facts about the sea creatures to share with your classmates.

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Nonfiction texts exploring nature and animals

Recommended For: 


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The Story of Rock
Published: May 7, 2019 by Silver Dolphin Books

Summary: 1…2…3…4! Let’s rock and roll, babies!

From Elvis Presley to Beatlemania, from Janis Joplin to David Bowie—rock has transformed through generations while ringing true with passionate sound. Rock along with the greats in this delightful baby book that introduces little ones to the rockers that started it all!
Parental Advisory: May cause toddlers to play the air guitar with adorable frequency.

My Review: Last night, my husband was reading to my son, and he asked me to bring this book from downstairs. It’s a great, enjoyable book to read and entertained both my 2-year-old and my 5-year-old. I liked how I could cater my reading differently to each of them. For my 5-year-old, I was able to show him pictures of the bands online and talk about the evolution of rock. For my 2-year-old, I was able to talk about music and instruments. We played sample music of many of the bands and had a lot of fun. I could see this working well in the classroom setting. Students might create their own Story of _________ books for children. It teaches excellent skills of summary, synthesis, and brevity.

The Story of Rap
Published: May 7, 2019 by Silver Dolphin Books

Summary: Lay down a baby beat and learn all about the history of rap!

From Grandmaster Flash to Kendrick Lamar, rap has shaped generations and brought a voice to the voiceless. Bop along with the greats in this adorable baby book that introduces little ones to the rappers that started it all!
Parental Advisory: May cause toddlers to develop excessive amounts of swagger.

My Review: I will admit that I know a lot less about rap than I know about rock, so reading this book was a different experience. I knew many of the names but had less background information to share with my children. So together, we looked up the musicians to read and learn more about them together. It was fun to learn more about a music genre that I am less familiar with. This is another book that would pair well with a student assignment to create their own Story of _________ books for children. I love nontraditional synthesis assignments.

Wild Bios: Frida Catlo
Published: January 8, 2019 by Silver Dolphin Books

Summary: Frida Catlo was one purr-fect painter!

Meet one of history’s greatest figures in this adorable board book with an animal twist! Famous Meowxican painter Frida Catlo was a pioneer for female artists. She always painted from the heart, even in the face of health problems and personal struggles. With hilarious puns and colorful illustrations, this book brings Frida’s legacy to life for babies and parents alike!

My Review: Ahh, how I love Frida Kahlo. This book made me chuckle a bit. I will admit that I read it to my kids the first time without any of the cat references, but then I went through and read it again with the cat jokes. I wanted them to get a sense of Frida (who they are unfamiliar with) before they considered the cat jokes. This would make for a really fun classroom book. I can envision students enjoying a project that asks them to create their own Wild Bios for a person in history.

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Happy 2019! 

This year, I reread more books than any previous year. I am not including the billions of pictures books that I reread to my children in that statistic, either. 🙂 But for this list, I am focusing on my favorite reads of 2018. These are books that will stick to my bones for years to come!


Favorite Books Marketed Toward Young Adults

#NotYourPrincess: Voices of Native American Women, Edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale

Americanized: Rebel Without a Green Card by Sara Saedi

The Astonishing Color of After by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Mary’s Monster by Lita Judge

Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

Pride by Ibi Zoboi


Favorite Books Marketed Toward Upper Elementary and Middle Grade

Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed

Bob by Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead

Marcus Vega Doesn’t Speak Spanish by Pablo Cartaya


Favorite Picture Books

The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson

Drawn Together by Minh Lê

Dreamers by Yuyi Morales

I Walk With Vanessa by Kerascoët

Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love

The Wall in the Middle of the Book by John Agee

We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorrell


Which were your favorite reads of 2018?

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