Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birute Galdikas by Jim Ottaviani

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NF PB 2013

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and was started to help promote the reading of nonfiction texts. Most Wednesdays, we will be participating and will review a nonfiction text (though it may not always be a picture book). Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy and see what other nonfiction books are shared this week!

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Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birute Galdikas
Author: Jim Ottaviani
Illustrator: Maris Wicks
Published June 11th, 2013 by First Second

Summary: Three woman in the 1960s and 1970s took part in primatology research that would change the way that we think about primates. Three woman who took a chance and researched potentially dangerous animals in their wild habitats. Three woman who took risks when many did not believe that woman should be part of the sciences. Primates tells the stories of Jane Goodall, a researcher of chimps, Dian Fossey, a gorilla expert, and Birute Galdikas, an orangutan researcher, and how their lives overlap and differ.

My Review: I may be bias, but this is one of my favorite nonfiction graphic novels ever. Bias because I am a huge ape advocate and am fascinated by them. These creatures are amazing; their intelligence is so remarkable that it is hard to even fathom. The reason why I loved this book is because it takes you through the research of three groundbreaking woman scientists and what they learned about the three completely different apes. It makes sure to show how each ape is different and spectacular as well as how each lady’s research made an impact.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: I think that this book is a great introduction to apes and would be a perfect read aloud before book talking other books such as Endangered (about a different ape that isn’t mentioned in Primates), Hurt Go HappyHalf Brother, and other nonfiction like Chimpanzees I LoveMe…Jane, and Gorillas in the Mist.  Check out my Nerdy Book Club Post: Top Ten Ape Books (which I would definitely add this one to) to see what other books you could connect Primates too.

Discussion Questions: How do the apes that Jane, Dian, and Birute study similar? Different?; How did Dr. Leaky play a part in all three women’s research?; Which ape is your favorite? Why?

We Flagged: Part 1: But in my dreams, I did bigger things Ever since I was a very young girl I had Africa in my blood so to speak. Sometimes my mother Vanne might have hoped I’d get over it, but even as I grew older I never did. “I do wish you’d read something… else, on occasion” “But I do! I just finished Dr. Dolittle.” “Yes, for the… How many times is that?” “Seven, Mummy.” “Well you’ll never get into a top school if that’s all you study.” “I shan’t be going to college – I want to live with wild animals when I grow up!”” (p. 3)

Also check out the School Library Journal Blog’s interview with Jim Ottaviani to see some of the artwork.

Read This If You Loved: Me…Jane by Patrick McDonnell, Gorillas in the Mist by Dian Fossey, Any nonfiction book about apes including Chimpanzees I Love by Jane Goodall, Endangered by Eliot Schrefer, Hurt Go Happy by Ginny Rorby, Half Brother by Kenneth Oppel, Little Beauty by Anthony Browne, The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

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What is your favorite ape book?
Have you read Primates yet? What did you think?

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Zebra Forest by Adina Rishe Gewirtz

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Zebra Forest
Author: Adina Rishe Gewirtz
Published April 9th, 2013 by Candlewick Press

Summary: Annie and Rew have only vague memories of their father who died triumphantly and don’t remember their mother at all who decided she didn’t want to be a mom. They now live with their grandmother who suffers with an agoraphobia-type disorder. Some days she rarely leaves her room leaving Annie to be in charge of the household, her brother, and any tough decisions including lying to her social worker. This has lead to Annie having to grow up faster than other 11-year-olds. Most of her days, she spends time with her brother near the zebra forest telling stories and reminiscing about their father and the adventures that he would have taken if he was still alive. Though, like in all of our lives, one moment can change everything and with a rattling, stuck backdoor Annie and Rew’s lives will never be the same.

My Review: Sometimes you come across quiet novels that aren’t being talked about in the mainstream that  are very entertaining and well done. This is one of those books.  It starts out quietly with amazing stories being told between Annie and Rew and great character development. Then the plot twist changes everything! And the suspense, emotion, and background story really starts to build.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: The most specific aspect of this book that I see to use in the classroom as a mentor text is the creative storytelling talents that she displays throughout the book. She tells amazing stories that include extensions from Treasure Island and adventures of her father (ex. p. 21-26). Also, this book is contemporary fiction and takes place during the Iranian Hostage Crisis which would be a way to teach this important part of history that many students may not be aware of. Mostly, I see this book being used as a read aloud or lit circle to lead to discussion of the plot and characters.

Discussion Questions: After reading Treasure Island, do you agree with Annie and Rew’s favorite characters (p. 70-71)?; Have you ever lied in a situation because you felt that it was necessary? Explain.; Research the Iran Hostage Situation. From Annie we learned the basics about the crisis; what did you learn from research about it?

We Flagged: “Outside, I could smell the Zebra. Even if for some reason I stopped feeling cold or hot or rain or sun, I bet I could close my eyes and still tell which season I was in just by the smell of the tees and dirt there. Spring was sweet mud and flowers. Fall had a kind of moldy edge to it, and winter was all dust and bark. As for summer, the Zebra carried a mossy, thick aroma full of baking leaves and oozing sap, which I guess was its growing smell.” (p. 87)

“Most recently he [their father] was a secret agent, working to free those hostages in Iran. Rew loved to imagine the Middle Eastern desert, sandstorms and mullahs and veiled ladies, and our father somewhere among them, bartering for hostages in a dusty marketplace or smoking a hookah with a sheik.” (p. 22)

Read This If You Loved: One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia, Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson, Paperboy by Vince Vawter, My Mixed-up Berry Blue Summer by Jennifer Gennari [Zebra Forest is a very unique book. I chose the books because they have similar tone or the characters and are for similar age levels.]

Recommended For: 

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What is a favorite book of yours that flies under the mainstream radar?

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**Thank you to Candlewick Press for providing a copy for review. Jen also reviewed this book at Teach Mentor Texts, so make sure to check out her review, too!**

Tom T’s Hat Rack by Michele Spry

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Tom T’s Hat Rack
Author: Michele Spry
Illustrator: Peggy A. Guest
Published January 2, 2013 by Spry Publishing

Summary: After Mr. T’s bout of cancer, he has decided that he wants to help make other people’s journeys during their chemo and radiation a bit easier. To do this, he asks his young friend Shelby to help him make a special project. Shelby Summers is one of those young people who understands the golden rule- she is good to all around her because she knows that is the right thing to do. This book shares with us the story of Mr. T and Shelby building their gift for others and what it is like to pay it forward.

My Review: This book’s purpose is more than just a narrative. The author, in her letter to me that came with the book, shared how she hopes the book would inspire others to pay it forward. “This simple act of kindness towards others is so simple to do and encourage others to do.” Too many children are growing up without thinking about this important aspect of humanity. Tom T’s Hat Rack is a great platform for starting that conversation.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: In the back of the book, the author has laid out ways for students to pay it forward just like Mr. T and Shelby. First, there is a brainstorming page to consider how the reader could help his or her community. Then the author’s page shares with the reader the story behind the book (Michele’s inspiration was a friend of hers that was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and was still positive and upbeat during his treatment). Finally, the hat rack plans are included so that the readers could make a hat rack for their community just like Mr. T and Shelby. I think that this is an important book because of what it teaches and the conversations that it’ll start. It’ll be perfect for a read aloud or book club in middle elementary grades. You could even combine it with the amazing picture books I’ll list below to make a kindness unit.

Discussion Questions: What can you do to help others in your community? List some ways you can help – big or small – it doesn’t matter as long as you are doing something positive to help others. (p. 91)

We Flagged: “Tonight, Mr. T talked about how he wanted to have Shelby help him with a little project. After going through these tough health issues with his cancer, he decided to do something positive to benefit others. He knew with Shelby’s caring heart, and vision to help people, he and Shelby would be able to accomplish this idea over summer break.” (p. 22)

Read this if you loved: Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson, Because Amelia Smiled by David Ezra Stein

Recommended for: 

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**Thank you to Michele Spry for providing a copy for review**