• About Farm School

    "There are obviously two educations. One should teach us how to make a living and the other how to live."
    James Adams, from his essay "To 'Be' or to 'Do': A Note on American Education", 1929

    We're a Canadian family of five, farming, home schooling, and building our own house. I'm nowhere near as regular a blogger as I used to be.

    The kids are 18/Grade 12, 16/Grade 11, and 14/Grade 10.

    Contact me at becky(dot)farmschool(at)gmail(dot)com

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    "If you want a golden rule that will fit everybody, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."
    William Morris, from his lecture "The Beauty of Life"

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    English architect CFA Voysey (1857-1941)

    "The world of books is the most remarkable creation of man. Nothing else that he builds ever lasts. Monuments fall, nations perish, civilizations grow old and die out; and, after an era of darkness, new races build others. But in the world of books are volumes that have seen this happen again and again, and yet live on, still young, still as fresh as the day they were written, still telling men’s hearts of the hearts of men centuries dead."
    Clarence Day

    "Anyone who has a library and a garden wants for nothing."
    Cicero

    "Histories make men wise; poets, witty; the mathematics, subtile; natural philosophy, deep; moral, grave; logic and rhetoric, able to contend."
    Sir Francis Bacon, "Essays"

    "The chief aim of education is to show you, after you make a livelihood, how to enjoy living; and you can live longest and best and most rewardingly by attaining and preserving the happiness of learning."
    Gilbert Highet, "The Immortal Profession: The Joys of Teaching and Learning"

    "Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment."
    Walter Wriston

    "I'd like to give you a piece of my mind."
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    Ginger Rogers to Frances Mercer in "Vivacious Lady" (1938)

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    Booker T. Washington

    "Please accept my resignation. I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member."
    Attributed to Groucho Marx in "The Groucho Letters" by Arthur Sheekman

    "If you can't say something good about someone, sit right here by me."
    Alice Roosevelt Longworth

    "If we bring a little joy into your humdrum lives, we feel all our hard work ain't been in vain for nothin'."
    Jean Hagen as "Lina Lamont" in "Singin' in the Rain" (1952)
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I.N.K.’s Spectacular Fifteen Book Blast Giveaway

The bloggers at I.N.K. — Interesting Nonfiction for Kids — who also happen to be the authors of some of the most interesting nonfiction for kids nowadays* have come up with a dandy way to begin the school year in the autumn. The group at I.N.K. is giving away 15 autographed illustrated nonfiction books to one lucky winner. The titles include a variety of subjects, from sports, science, natural history, biography, math, history, geography, and poetry. All of the details are here at this post, and I confirmed with I.N.K. founder and contest organizer Linda Salzman that Canadians are indeed eligible (thank you, Linda and I.N.K. for your generous rules!).

An overview of the rules:

We’d love to hear from teachers, librarians, homeschoolers, writers, or anyone else from across the country [U.S. and Canada] who is promoting nonfiction.

Here are the rules. Each entry must consist of two parts:

1. In one sentence or less, tell us why you read the I.N.K. blog.

2. In as much space as you need, describe what you’ve done to support and encourage nonfiction in your classroom, library, home, or community. Photos are a plus.

We will select the winner based on the strongest, most original and all encompassing approach to getting nonfiction noticed.

All entries should be submitted by email to: interestingnonfictionforkids at gmail dot com. We will send you an email letting you know we’ve received your entry.

Entering the contest implies your consent to use the contents of your entry on our blog for promotional purposes.

The deadline to enter is Friday, September 5th. The winner will be announced on the I.N.K. blog.

Talk about starting the school year off with a bang! And here are the 15 books to be won:

Jennifer Armstrong‘s title of the winner’s choice

Don Brown‘s title of the winner’s choice

Vicki Cobb‘s We Dare You! Hundreds of Science Bets, Challenges, and Experiments You Can Do at Home, with Kathy Darling (Skyhorse Publishing, 2008)

Sneed Collard‘s title of the winner’s choice; his Pocket Babies and Other Amazing Marsupials was a 2007 Cybils nominee for middle grade/young adult nonfiction

Susan E. Goodman‘s See How They Run: Campaign Dreams, Election Schemes, and the Race to the White House (Bloomsbury, 2008)

Jan Greenberg’s Side by Side: New Poems Inspired by Art from Around the World (Abrams, 2008)

Steve Jenkins’s Sisters and Brothers: Sibling Relationships in the Animal World, written with Robin Page (Houghton Mifflin, 2008)

Kathleen Krull‘s The Road to Oz: Twists, Turns, Bumps, and Triumphs in the Life of L. Frank Baum (Knopf, 2008) or any other title of the winner’s choice

Loreen Leedy‘s Missing Math: A Number Mystery (Marshall Cavendish, 2008)

Sue Macy‘s Swifter, Higher, Stronger: A Photographic History of the Summer Olympics (National Geographic, 2008 Edition)

April Pulley Sayre‘s Trout Are Made of Trees (Charlesbridge, 2008)

David M. Schwartz‘s Where in the Wild?: Camouflaged Creatures Concealed … and Revealed with Yael Schy and Dwight Kuhn (Tricycle Press, 2007); a 2007 Cybils nonfiction picture book finalist.

Tanya Lee Stone‘s Elizabeth Leads the Way: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Right to Vote (Henry Holt, 2008)

Gretchen Woelfle‘s Jeannette Rankin: Political Pioneer (Calkins Creek, 2007); also a 2007 Cybils nominee for middle grade/young adult nonfiction

Karen Romano Young‘s Across the Wide Ocean: The Why, How, and Where of Navigation for Humans and Animals at Sea (Harpercollins, 2007); another 2007 Cybils nominee for middle grade/young adult nonfiction

In our home, and especially because we home educate, we rely tremendously on high quality children’s nonfiction books.  We use textbooks mainly as a last resort, and when we do they certainly can’t convey the thoughts, ideas, information, and knowledge that a well-written, often beautifully illustrated children’s trade book can.  What continues to astound me monthly as new titles come out is the nearly endless list of subjects covered by children’s nonfiction books.

* The I.N.K.lings include Susan E. Goodman, Jan Greenberg, Don Brown, April Pulley Sayre, David Schwartz, Sneed B. Collard III, Sue Macy, Anna M. Lewis, Tanya Lee Stone, Steve Jenkins, Loreen Leedy, Kelly Fineman, Dorothy Patent, Kathleen Krull, Karen Romano Young, Jennifer Armstrong, Vicki Cobb, Linda Salzman, and Gretchen Woelfle.

Announcing the Cybils shortlist for Middle Grade/Young Adult Nonfiction

The official announcement has been made over here, at the Cybils blog. You can find the remaining short lists up today, too, including Nonfiction Picture Books, one of our family’s favorite categories.

In alphabetical order:

Marie Curie (volume 4 in the Giants of Science series) by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Boris Kulikov; Krull’s Isaac Newton made it to last year’s short list
Viking Juvenile

The Periodic Table: Elements With Style! created (and illustrated) by (Simon) Basher, written by Adrian Dingle
Kingfisher

Smart-Opedia: The Amazing Book About Everything, translated by Eve Drobot
Maple Tree Press

Tasting the Sky: a Palestinian Childhood by Ibtisam Barakat
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Tracking Trash: Flotsam, Jetsam, and the Science of Ocean Motion (from the Scientists in the Field series) by Loree Griffin Burns
Houghton Mifflin

The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain by Peter Sís
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Who Was First?: Discovering the Americas by Russell Freedman (whose Freedom Walkers won this category last year)
Clarion

Getting down to brass tacks now is the Judging Panel, comprised of

Tracy Chrenka at Talking in the Library
Emily Mitchell at Emily Reads
Camille Powell at Book Moot
Alice Herold at Big A little a
Jennie Rothschild at Biblio File

* * *

It was a wild ride. Five panelists, one newborn baby, a couple of holidays over several months, and 45 nominated children’s nonfiction books published in 2007 — on the subjects of history, science, mathematics, reference, biography, memoirs, humor, how to, essays, popular culture, music, and more. Much more.

What an absolute delight to work on the MG/YA nonfiction nominating panel alongside Susan at Chicken Spaghetti, Vivian at HipWriterMama, Mindy at Proper Noun Dot Net, and KT at Worth the Trip, all under the leadership of master wrangler and organizer Jen Robinson. The other panelists made the job of distilling the 45 nominated titles down to seven as easy as possible under the circumstances, and I continue to be amazed at how smoothly our negotiations and jockeyings went. Thank you each, thank you all for several marvelous months.

While we had a fraction of the books some of the other panels had to read (though more than I had to deal with last year on the poetry panel), our hunting and gathering skills were put to work tracking down titles for which review copies weren’t furnished. So I’d also like to thank the patient and quick-working libraries in our system that sped books to me, often shortly after processing. And lastly, a big thanks to my kids, who put up with a good deal of questioning, poking, and prodding about what they liked and didn’t about the the books they read, with and without me.

And special thanks, again, to Anne Boles Levy and Kelly Herold for coming up with the idea of the Cybils and organizing everything.

One of the reasons I wanted to serve on this particular panel is that for our family, and so many other home school families we know, high quality nonfiction titles are the backbone of our curricula, as well as our some of our children’s favorite free-time reading. I wanted, through the Cybils, to be able to publicize some of the best of the bunch, so you and your kids can include these new gems on your “to read” lists.

The other reason is that I realize, sadly, that for many non-home schooling families, nonfiction children’s titles are considered the second rate, second tier, B List, utility grade, inferior choice when it comes to children’s books, and I wanted to be able to use an opportunity like the Cybils, with such a terrific short list of books of marvelous depth and range, to show that children’s nonfiction is not only chock full of superior choices, but every inch the equal of fiction.

I’d like to encourage other readers and fans of children’s nonfiction, especially those who are concerned about what children’s nonfiction author Marc Aronson calls “nonfiction resistance”, to keep up with the subject on Marc’s blog, Nonfiction Matters.

And one final note — a raft of terrific children’s 2007 nonfiction titles didn’t make it to the list of nominees to be considered for the above short list. If your favorite wasn’t nominated, it’s because you didn’t speak up for it. Don’t let that happen next year.

Quickie thumbnail reviews of Cybils middle grade/young adult nonfiction nominees, Part I

Not all of them, just the ones the publishers were kind enough to send along, because with the short list ready to be announced tomorrow, I want to finally finally finally pick up the pile of books from the carpet and put things away — on the shelves for the keepers, in the library bag for donation for the rest. Some of the links that follow are Cybils Amazon associate ones.

Smart-Opedia: The Amazing Book About Everything
translated by Eve Drobot
Maple Tree Press

This one is up first because every minute this one has been out of Davy’s possession, it’s been almost physically painful. For me too, what with the constant noisy reminders and bee-like buzzing around (“Could I please have my Bookopedia back now? Now? Soon? Now? Please? M-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-m!). In fact, he took such an instant like to this book right after it arrived — and it was one of the first, thank you very much to the kind folks at the Canadian publishing house, Maple Tree Press — that I decided to give it to him for his birthday. I told him it was his present from the Cybils and Maple Tree. And then promptly took it back to put on the pile for consideration. We’ve been having a tug of war over it ever since, and more than once I’ve had to steal it out of the bed of a sleeping child.

Smart-opedia is about as close to the entire world in only 200 charmingly illustrated pages as you’re going to get, with entries on everything from animals and art, history and human rights, to space and cyberspace, most with a double-page spread. Entertainingly and clearly presented, this is a one-volume reference book that eight- to twelve-year olds (and probably their younger and older siblings, and parents too) will be reaching for even when no homework assignment is in sight, one reason why you might want to consider springing for the hardcover instead of the only slighter cheaper paperback edition. Home schoolers will find this delightful for free, pleasure reading. By the way, those charming illustrations are the work of no fewer than 17 different artists, who’ve somehow managed to make their styles look of a piece. Very similar in style and tone as the Usborne reference books, but nowhere as busy.

Ms. Drobot has done a masterful job singlehandedly translating a team effort originally published in France; near as I can tell, this is the original French version, from publisher Editions (Fernand) Nathan. Maple Tree recommends this for ages nine to 12, but I’d follow the original publisher and get it into kids’ hands much earlier, at ages six or seven or whenever they’re reading well on their own. By the time they’re nine or 10, it will be a good friend and constant companion. This one’s definitely a keeper for us.

From Slave to Superstar of the Wild West: The Awesome Story of Jim Beckwourth
by Tom DeMund
Legends of the West Publishing Company

A solid and engaging biography of American frontiersman Jim Beckwourth, From Slave to Sueprstar of the Wild West has definitely been a labor of love for author DeMund, who self-published the book and sent it along to me with a delightful letter. The book is written in a very companionable, casual tone, the author more or less taking the young reader aside to tell his tale, made all the more interesting by the fact that it’s true.

Aside from the word “Awesome” in the subtitle (I tend to find it overused and it makes me cringe), there’s very little about this book I didn’t like. And a great deal that I did, especially Chapter 0, “Why Write — or Read — a Book about Jim?”, which functions as the author’s historical note the reader. Not only is at the front of the book where it should be, along with instructions to “Please read this Chapter 0 before charging on to Chapter 1”, but it also includes a Special Note on Names of Groups,

To be considerate of people’s feelings today, I should use the words African American, Native American, and Hispanic American. But during Jim’s lifetime those words were unknown. Because this book is all about Jim’s time (around 1800 to 1866), I’ve used the words used in that era. African Americans were called Negroes or blacks, Native Americans were called Indians, and Hispanic Americans were called Mexicans. know that I’m not being incorrect by modern standards, but for proper historical flavor I’ve used the words from the years between 1800 and 1866. I hope you won’t object.

Short, sweet, to the point, and much appreciated. The back of the book includes a timeline, comprehensive bibliography, and index. The Wild West is a popular subject around here, so this lively, comprehensive biography is definitely a keeper for us. Especially ecommended for ages eight or nine to 12 or so.

Another Book About Design: Complicated Doesn’t Make It Bad
by Mark Gonyea
Henry Holt and Co.

A vibrant, punchy explanation of basic graphic design for kids ages eight to 12 or so. A very effective way of presenting concepts such as color, shape, size, and space to a young audience, and a boon to young designers and design fans, who likely won’t look at their favorite comic books the same way. A keeper, and we plan to take it along to the next art lesson to show the kids’ teacher.

Artist to Artist: 23 Major Illustrators Talk to Children about Their Art
compiled by the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art
Philomel

For families who read a good deal of picture books, this book will be an absolute delight. You’ll find many old and exceedingly talented friends here, from Mitsumasa Anno, Eric Carle, Tomie dePaola, and Mordicai Gerstein, to Steven Kellogg, Leo Lionni, Wendell Minor, Alice Provensen, Sabuda and Reinhart, Maurice Sendak, Rosemary Wells, and Paul O. Zelinsky. Each artist gets four pages, with one page of text to tell the first-person story of how he or she (though the 23 artists represented are almost all men), grew into, and as, an artist; two pages of how they make their art; and the last page as a self-portrait. A very special book for children, and their parents, who want a peek into the artist’s studio. When Davy picked up the book, it opened immediately to Sabuda’s and Reinhart’s special pop-up, and Davy gasped. As Robert Sabuda writes in his section, “all of the hard work is worth it when someone opens the pop-up and exclaims ‘WOW!'”. This book gives you the how and the wow. A keeper for us.

Ox, House, Stick: The Story of Our Alphabet
by Don Robb, illustrated by Anne Smith
Charlesbridge

This is the kind of title that home schoolers tend to snap up, while the general reading public gives it a wide berth, in part because the material is considerably more interesting for those kids who already know something about ancient history and even, dare I suggest, some Latin and Greek (at the very least word roots). Which is a shame, because Don Robb gives a brief overview of the history of our alphabet, followed by a story for each letter, all delightfully illustrated by Anne Smith in her first children’s book. A wonderful addition to ancient history and English — and ancient — language studies, not to mention the perfect book to hand to the son or daughter who asks where the alphabet came from. And to those youngsters who think of the alphabet as something to be texted with thumbs, well, you don’t know what you’re missing.

Robb is also the author of the picture books This Is America: The American Spirit In Places And People, illustrated by Christine Joy Pratt; and, especially useful this year, Hail to the Chief: The American Presidency, illustrated by Alan Witschonke

Across the Wide Ocean: The Why, How, and Where of Navigation for Humans and Animals at Sea
by Karen Romano Young
Harper Collins (Greenwillow)

A fascinating account about the how the mysterious deep is navigated, in turn, by a sea turtle, a sailboat, a whale, a submarine, a shark, and a container ship. Young discusses currents, magnetic force, and navigation in a lively fashion. Unfortunately, the book’s design is too lively, and too dark as well, in shades of blue meant to evoke the ocean. By the end I was feeling more than a tad dizzy and seasick, which was a shame because with some restraint, this would have been a perfect ride. A keeper, but the kids will have to read it on their own next time.

Math Doesn’t Suck: How to Survive Middle-School Math Without Losing Your Mind or Breaking a Nail
by Danica McKellar
Hudson Street Press

Somewhere in this world there’s a happy medium between Hollywood actors who have co-authored groundbreaking mathematical physics theorems and Disney Princess Queen Bee Wannabees who detest math. This book isn’t it.

Which is a great shame, because underneath, way way underneath, all the cutsy-ness and pop culture expectations of girls worried about breaking nails and “running through the snow in pearls and four-inch heels” (as Ms. McKellar tells us her sister did, and at Harvard Law of all places — like, ohmygod!), and the execrable title, is a decent guide to upper elementary/middle school math, with some handy tips and tricks.

The entire style of the book undermines Ms. McKellar’s message, that “math is actually a good thing”, because “Most of all, working on math sharpens your brain, actually making you smarter in all areas. Intelligence is real, it’s lasting, and no one can take it away from you. Ever.” Especially when you are having trouble staying upright tripping across Harvard Yard in your four-inch heels. Though much as Ms. McKellar keeps telling her audience how cool it is to be smart, it’s hard to believe it as she tries so hard to appeal to her “I’d rather be shopping” audience. Another duality that disturbs me is the fact that though the book is meant for middle school girls, it goes on and on about bikini waxes, “perfect black heels”, sparkly diamonds, and iced lattes. Maybe middle school in Hollywood is different than it is here. And what the heck do they shop for when they hit high school?

As the home schooling mother of a 10-year-old daughter who has her struggles with math, this might have a been a good choice with a different presentation. Laura’s just too much of a tomboy, and isn’t as steeped in pop culture and worried about her looks as the book assumes she is, so the approach would be a huge turnoff for. A good choice for middle school girls who don’t favor the Teen Cosmo style, by the way, is Math Smarts: Tips, Tricks, and Secrets for Making Math More Fun! by Lynette Long for the American Girl Library. And for girls and boys, Marilyn Burns’s Math for Smarty Pants. By contrast, as you can probably guess, I don’t much care for Burns’s The I Hate Mathematics Book, either. I understand the idea behind the “I Hate Math”/”Math Sucks” type of books, but introducing ideas like that kids when they’re having trouble tends to cause more trouble than it solves. I’d like to see Ms. McKellar follow this book up with another one for young girls who, as she was 20 years ago, are unapologetically smart, interested in math and science even when the work gets tough, and like their studies. You know, the ones who would rather draw, ride horses, read a book, go for a hike, help a friend, or practice gymnastics than go shopping. And the ones who know that iced lattes at age 10 will stunt their growth, if not their bank accounts.

Cybils Review: The Periodic Table: Elements with Style!

The Periodic Table: Elements with Style!
created (and illustrated) by (Simon) Basher, written by Adrian Dingle
128 pages; for ages 10 and up
Kingfisher Publications (Houghton Mifflin Co.)
Library copy

I’ve been looking forward to reading this book ever since I saw it mentioned on Carol‘s and Rebecca‘s blogs.

Artist Simon Basher and chemistry teacher Adrian Dingle have created a vivid rogues’ gallery of elements guaranteed to bring the periodic table to life and appeal to kids of all ages. I’ll be the first to admit I’m the originally fuddy-duddy, but there’s something about this anime-style, Facebook approach to the periodic table that’s remarkably engaging. Not to mention a sensible approach to making the subject — indeed, the individual elements — memorable for everyone from fourth or fifth graders to college seniors (not to mention home educating parents who majored in, say, history).

And memorable is what you want when it comes to learning about the periodic table. Basher, who came up with the idea for the book, has said, “It’s really been designed to engage you on a gentle level and also to act as a memory trigger. There really is no reason to think of science as boring, as I’ve discovered, and I hope readers will see the fun side of it.” Echoed by Mr. Dingle, who writes, “This is not an academic book by any stretch of the imagination, but it does offer a window or gateway to getting interested in the elements. I see it as a very accessible opportunity to learn a little about some chemistry.” In fact, The Periodic Table takes the “memory trigger” several giant steps further than does another nonfiction book familiar to home schoolers — Yo, Millard Fillmore — because the illustrations and text are all about the elements.

The small book — seven inches square, and 128 pages — opens with an introduction explaining just what an element is and how (and why) the periodic table is arranged. Then nearly every element gets its own double-page spread, with an illustration and first-person narrative, accompanied by symbol, atomic number and weight, color, standard state, classification, etc. Here’s the write-up for Bad Boy lead, depicted as a Roman gladiator:

Don’t let my heavyweight status fool you — at heart I’m a completely malleable softy. I am so easy to work with that the ancient Romans used me for their water pipes. My chemical symbol (and the word “plumbing”) comes from by Latin name, plumbum.Over the years, I’ve gained a bad rep. People say that I build up in bones as a slow poison and that I have damaged childrens’ [sic] development. It’s true that I have an unfortunate ability to slip easily into the food chain — from pipes and cookware, leaded gasoline, and paints to fisherman’s weights. I have also been blamed for ending the ancient Roman civilization. Not fair! These days, I am closely regulated. But I am still used as a shield against x-rays, for roofing, and in stained glass.

Adding to the delight is a removable periodic table poster — definitely stylish, more cool than geeky — accompanying the book. Just the right thing for your young scientist to hang over the desk (or bed, depending on how much he or she really likes this stuff); though I realize, aside from the home educating crowd, who’ll be tempted to post it in the kitchen, most families will be content to borrow the book from the local or school library. Besides the poster, the book also includes an index and a glossary.

For more on the writer and illustrator, see interviews with each at Houghton Mifflin’s website. Asked, “Were you good at chemistry as a student? Would a book like this have helped you?” and “Did you have any inspirational teachers who got you excited about science or art?”, Basher replies,

I liked the idea of chemistry but found the textbook really unstimulating. I always had more of an interest in art and music.I was lucky enough to have a great high school art teacher who really encouraged me to look at new art and also introduced me to a lot of great music. My passion for science and math came much later in life. While working on the book I did meet a materials scientist from MIT who really gave me some fantastic ideas and tips for the book. He had a real passion for art as well and he loved the idea.

And my favorite bit, from Mr. Dingle the chemistry teacher,

Science is a serious business, and I think the way to get people engaged is to make it accessible while still presenting hard facts and knowledge. Also, I don’t believe that science is “for all.” Some people will have an academic bent for it, others will not — that’s fine, but the answer is not to dumb down science so that everyone can “get it.”

Now there’s something everyone can get.

* * *

More Periodic Table Fun

Further reading, for the younger set:

The Mystery of the Periodic Table by Benjamin D. Wiker, with charming illustrations by Jeanne Bendick; a delightful living book, published in 2003 by Bethlehem Books as part of their “Living History Library”.

Dawn‘s favorite chemistry book, It’s Elementary: Put the Crackle in Chemistry (look inside the book here)

Further reading, for older children and adults:

Nature’s Building Blocks: An A-Z Guide to the Elements by John Emsley (and if you liked that, just for fun don’t miss his entertaining — and “sordid” — history of phosphorus)

A Guide to the Elements by Albert Stwertka (Oxford University Press)

Mastering the Periodic Table: 50 Activities on the Elements by Linda Trombley and Faye Williams

The Periodic Kingdom: A Journey Into The Land Of The Chemical Elements (Science Masters Series) by P. W. Atkins

NEW The Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe by Theodore Gray (see below)

More periodic tables:

The animated version of Tom Lehrer’s ditty on The Elements (don’t forget to turn your sound up); many thanks to the generous and creative Mike Stanfill

The Periodic Table of Videos, from the University of Nottingham; more videos featuring the University’s Prof. Poliakoff are over at Test Tube.

Theodore Gray’s Wooden Periodic Table Table (no, that second “Table” isn’t a typo), and his very stylish periodic table posters. And don’t miss his fun columns at Popular Science. And new from Theodore Gray, as of October 2009, is his book The Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe

The Royal Society of Chemistry’s Visual Elements Periodic Table, available in Flash or HTML versions, and which you can buy as a wall chart or CD-ROM

The Los Alamos National Laboratory Periodic Table

The Comic Book Periodic Table of the Elements

Rader’s Chem4Kids Periodic Table and clickable Element List

Prof. Mokeur’s interactive and printable periodic tables, and his game of Elementary Hangman

An interactive periodic table. And another one.

Chemicool’s periodic table

John Pratt’s Periodic Table Memory Pages

A handmade crocheted periodic table, made by a 15-year-old for a school project

UPDATED to add: From the comments below, Crissy at Soliloquy‘s favorite periodic table is here. (If you have trouble with that link for some reason, try this one.) She downloaded the PDF and printed a 20″ x 30″ poster for each of her sons. Many thanks for sharing that one, Crissy!

UPDATED further to include The Periodic Table of Periodic Tables!

From Adrian Dingle:

His website, especially handy for AP chem students; don’t miss the links page, which includes some other Periodic Tables
His blog, Chemistry Pages

Learning more about the Periodic Table of Elements:

The Resource Room

Mrs. Gibson’s Periodic Table Adventure website, with information on the history of the periodic table and how to read a periodic table

We haven’t used Ellen McHenry’s chemistry curriculum for grades 4-8, The Elements: Ingredients of the Universe (also available from the McHenry website), but I’ve heard very good things about it. Also from the website, you can download a free periodic table game, the Quick Six card game about elements, organic molecules card game, and pattern for your own periodic table pillowcase,

Dawn gave me the idea about using Lego in connection with learning about elements and the periodic table. Here is her post with the photo of her son building elements; he’s taking a Lego chemistry class for middle schoolers at MIT, where the curriculum includes using Lego bricks to model the elements. And then I found this this Lego periodic table, as well as this Lego advertisement featuring another Lego periodic table.

“It’s Elemental”, science education resources from Jefferson Lab, including math, bingo, word search, flash cards, word scramble, and crossword puzzle.

The five-disc “Periodic Table for Students” DVD series from Schlessinger.

Articles on the Periodic Table:

It’s Elemental, “Chemical & Engineering News celebrates the Periodic Table of the Elements on the magazine’s 80th anniversary” in 2003

Periodic Table stocking stuffers, or, you’ll never believe what home schoolers will buy:

Periodic Table of Fruits and Nuts, and of Vegetables, and of Desserts

Periodic Table place mats

Periodic Table coffee mugs, to go on the place mats

And Period Table playing cards

ElementO, the board game, for ages 10 and up; also available at Carolina Biological Supply

How about a Periodic Table fridge magnet, where each element is a separate magnet?

Or would you believe a Periodic Table shower curtain? Which I suppose you can swap around with your Metamorphosis shower curtain

And for those who appreciate the mysteries of science, Dr. Camille Minichino, who has a Ph.D. in physics from Fordham University, is the author of the eight volumes in the Periodic Table Mysteries: hydrogen, helium, lithium, beryllium, boric acid, carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen are all accounted for so far.

And don’t forget the gumdrops and marshmallows

(Let me know if I’ve goofed up any of the links. I’m just about cross-eyed now.)

List of Cybils nominees for Middle Grade/Young Adult Nonfiction

Nominations for the 2007 Cybils awards closed last Wednesday (don’t say I didn’t warn you). So here’s the list of nominated titles in the Middle Grade/Young Adult nonfiction category. All of the Amazon.com and BookSense links Cybils-affiliated and provide a small commission to the Cybils to help pay for (modest) prizes.

1607: A New Look at Jamestown by Karen Lange
National Geographic
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

Across the Wide Ocean: The Why, How, and Where of Navigation for Humans and Animals at Sea by Karen Romano Young
Harper Collins (Greenwillow)
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

America Dreaming: How Youth Changed America in the 60’s by Laban Carrick Hill
Little, Brown Young Readers
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

Another Book About Design: Complicated Doesn’t Make It Bad by Mark Gonyea
Henry Holt and Co.
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

Artist to Artist: 23 Major Illustrators Talk to Children About Their Art, compiled by Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art
Philomel
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

Astrobiology (from the Cool Science series) by Fred Bortz
Lerner
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

Black and White Airmen: Their True History by John Fleischman
Houghton Mifflin
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

The Dangerous Book for Boys by Conn Iggulden and Hal Iggulden
HarperCollins
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

The Daring Book for Girls by Andrea J. Buchanan and Miriam Peskowitz
HarperCollins
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

Dinosaur Eggs Discovered!: Unscrambling the Clues by Lowell Dingus, Rodolfo A. Coria, and Luis M. Chiappe
Twenty-First Century Books
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

Face to Face with Grizzlies (from the Face to Face with Animals series) by Joel Sartore
National Geographic
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

From Slave to Superstar of the Wild West: The Awesome Story of Jim Beckwourth by Tom DeMund
Legends of the West Publishing
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

Grief Girl by Erin Vincent
Delacorte
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

The Halloween Book of Facts and Fun by Wendie Old
Albert Whitman
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

Jeannette Rankin: Political Pioneer by Gretchen Woelfle
Calkins Creek (Boyd Mills)
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

Let’s Clear the Air: 10 Reasons Not to Start Smoking by Deanna Staffo
Lobster Press
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

Marie Curie (volume 4 in the Giants of Science series) by Kathleen Krull
Viking Juvenile
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

Math Doesn’t Suck: How to Survive Middle-School Math Without Losing Your Mind or Breaking a Nail by Danica McKellar
Hudson Street Press
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

Morris and Buddy: The Story of the First Seeing Eye Dog by Becky Hall
Albert Whitman & Company
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

Muckrakers: How Ida Tarbell, Upton Sinclair, and Lincoln Steffens Helped Expose Scandal, Inspire Reform, and Invent Investigative Journalism by Ann Bausum
National Geographic Children’s Books
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

My Feet Aren’t Ugly by Debra Beck
Beaufort Books
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

Ox, House, Stick: The Story of Our Alphabet by Don Robb
Charlesbridge
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

The Periodic Table: Elements With Style! by Adrian Dingle, with illustrations by Simon Dasher
Kingfisher
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

Pocket Babies and Other Amazing Marsupials by Sneed B. Collard
Darby Creek Publishers
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

The Real Benedict Arnold by Jim Murphy
Clarion (Houghton Mifflin)
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

Red: The Next Generation of American Writers — Teenage Girls — On What Fires Up Their Lives Today edited by Amy Goldwasser
Hudson Street Press
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

The Secret of Priest’s Grotto: A Holocaust Survival Story by Peter Lane Taylor and Christos Nicola
Kar-Ben Publishing
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

Smart-Opedia: The Amazing Book About Everything by Eve Drobot
Maple Tree Press
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

Sneeze! by Alexandra Siy and Dennis Kunkel
Charlesbridge
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

The Snow Baby: The Arctic Childhood of Robert E. Peary’s Daring Daughter by Katherine Kirkpatrick
Holiday House
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

The Social Climber’s Guide to High School: A tongue-in-cheek handbook by Robyn Schneider
Simon Pulse
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

Superfood or Superthreat: The Issue of Genetically Engineered Food by Kathlyn Gay
Enslow Publishers
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

Tasting the Sky: a Palestinian Childhood by Ibtisam Barakat
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

The Titanic: An Interactive History Adventure by Bob Temple
Capstone Press
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

Tracking Trash: Flotsam, Jetsam, and the Science of Ocean Motion (from the Scientists in the Field series) by Loree Griffin Burns
Houghton Mifflin
Flotsam, Jetsam, and the Science of Ocean Motion (from the Scientists in the Field series) Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

The Ultimate Interactive Atlas of the World by Elaine Jackson et al.
Scholastic
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain by Peter Sís
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

We Are One: The Story of Bayard Rustin by Larry Dane Brimmer
Calkins Creek (Boyd Mills
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

The Whale Scientists: Solving the Mystery of Whale Strandings by Fran Hodgkins
Houghton Mifflin
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

What’s Eating You?: Parasites — The Inside Story by Nicola Davies
Candlewick
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

Who Was First?: Discovering the Americas by Russell Freedman
Clarion
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

Wildly Romantic: The English Romantic Poets: The Mad, the Bad, and the Dangerous by Catherine M. Andronik
Henry Holt
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

The World Made New: Why the Age of Exploration Happened and How It Changed the World
by Marc Aronson and John W. Glenn
National Geographic
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!: The Beatles, Beatlemania, and the Music that Changed the World by Bob Spitz
Little, Brown Young Readers
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

You Can Write a Story: A Story-Writing Recipe for Kids by Lisa Bullard
Two-Can Publishing, Inc.
Available from Amazon or from BookSense (your local independent bookseller)

The rest of the nominees in the other categories are here. Happy reading!

Science books and Cybils nominations

Nominations for the Cybils close tonight at midnight.

If you’re stuck for some science books in the nonfiction category, Susan at Chicken Spaghetti has a nifty post with the science book prize shortlist for the 2008 American Association for the Advancement of Science Subaru Science Books and Films Online Prizes. I know the Gregor Mendel picture book by Cheryl Bardoe was published in 2006, but most of the rest seem to be from this year’s crop.

Thanks, Susan.

CYBILS: Five days left…

…to nominate your favorite Middle Grade/Young Adult Nonfiction book published in 2007. I know some of you are busy polishing the silverware and preparing the nut cups for Thanksgiving next week, but please consider taking a break to give the nod to your favorite book.

Some titles still awaiting nomination:

The Voyage of the Beetle: A Journey around the World with Charles Darwin and the Search for the Solution to the Mystery of Mysteries, as Narrated by Rosie, an Articulate Beetle by Anne H. Weaver

Einstein Adds a New Dimension
(from The Story of Science series) by Joy Hakim;
Psst, Rebecca! The geeky physics post can wait. Your nomination can’t (unless of course there’s another title you’d prefer to nominate). Carol, did you get it yet and read it?

The Many Rides of Paul Revere
by James Cross Giblin

The Trailblazing Life of Daniel Boone and How Early Americans Took to the Road by Cheryl Harness

The Remarkable Rough-Riding Life of Theodore Roosevelt and the Rise of Empire America by Cheryl Harness

Who’s Saying What in Jamestown, Thomas Savage? by Jean Fritz

When Fish Got Feet, Sharks Got Teeth, and Bugs Began to Swarm: A Cartoon Prehistory of Life Long Before Dinosaurs by Hannah Bonner

The Dangerous Book for Boys
(US edition) by Conn Iggulden and Hal Iggulden

Daring Book for Girls
by Andrea J. Buchanan and Miriam Peskowitz

The Art Book for Children/Book Two, compiled by Amanda Renshaw and the editors of Phaidon Press

Amazing Ben Franklin Inventions You Can Build Yourself
(from the Build It Yourself series) by Carmella Van Vleet

Great Pioneer Projects You Can Build Yourself (from the Build It Yourself series) by Rachel Dickinson

Amazing Maya Inventions You Can Build Yourself (from the Build It Yourself series) by Sheri Bell-Rehwoldt

Down the Colorado: John Wesley Powell, the One-Armed Explorer by Deborah Kogan Ray

Up Close: Robert F. Kennedy, Crusader: A Twentieth-Century Life by Marc Aronson

One Thousand Tracings: Healing the Wounds of World War II by Lita Judge;
I know Chris Barton at Bartography thought highly of this one. And Karen, who knows a thing or two about good World War II books for children, calls it “fascinating”. Of course, Mary at Our Domestic Church could nominate it too. Yoohoo….

River Roads West: America’s First Highways by Peter and Connie Roop

Tales of Famous Americans by Connie and Peter Roop

Stories of the Zodiac (from the Dot to Dot in the Sky series) by Joan Marie Galat

600 Black Spots: A Pop-up Book for Children of All Ages by David A. Carter (I’m not 100 percent sure about the category for this one, but it’s definitely fun for all ages)

Home schooling for homebodies

It’s hard to home school when you’re not home much. I wrote last week that “I’m hoping to get back into a homebody routine again, with plenty of time for schooling at home (instead of out and about schooling, as we’ve been doing)”. With various lessons, rehearsals, and meetings (usually mine) occupying our Wednesdays and Thursdays, the rest of the week has become more precious.

We’ve fallen into a comfortable routine on the days we are at home, well, not including the hour or more it takes us to do winter livestock chores. Davy has been interested in learning more about Natives; what he would really like is to wake up one morning in an Iroquois longhouse c1600, but there’s only so much I can manage. Instead I pulled out Evan-Moor’s History Pockets: Native Americans. The kids work on their pockets while I read aloud, the latest installment of Paddle-to-the-Sea or some of our Lewis and Clark books. History Pockets has sections on eight nations: Inuit, Tlingit, Nez Perce, Maidu, Sioux, Navajo, Iroquois, and Seminole. Because I always need to fine tune and fiddle, I’m adding extra pockets — as well as increasing the challenge for Laura — by incorporating material from Donna Ward’s Canada’s Natives Long Ago and focusing on the nearby Cree and Blackfoot nations. The kids thought it would be fun to bind their pockets, and also their pocket dictionaries, with strips of leather from the deer and moose hides we’ve had tanned over the years. And Davy hauled back a deer skull found in the woods near our corrals so that he can make something (I hope not a candelabra for his mother for Christmas) out of it. And arrowheads out of the rest of the skull. As long as it all stays out of my house, I told him.

The kids have been going hunting with Tom early every morning just after sunrise, and again before sunset in the evenings. One morning the boys were trailing Tom when they came upon a doe and a fawn. To their great surprise, and the boys’ initial concern, the doe started approaching them, stopping when she was about 20 feet away. So far, no doubt to the great disappointment of my venison-loving mother, these have been more extended nature walks than food gathering expeditions.

Davy found a pair of homemade traditional mukluks, complete with fur and decorative beading, at the Goodwill shop, and I was happy with the price of $5. But he wants to be able to wear them outdoors and they have the same leather on the bottom as on the top, so we found a cobbler who is able to add rubber soles to the bottom and also warm liners. We visited him at his workshop yesterday, and he reports that they should be ready by next week, in time for Davy’s birthday.

There were a couple of warm days, but it went right back to being cold enough to skate on the slough, and when the kids finally make it back in the house we drink hot chocolate and eat Anna’s Swedish spiced biscuits with almond (thank you, Ikea). We’ve found that the slough is enormous, covering the better part of our neighbor’s pasture, meandering around for over a mile, past muskrat lodges, dried cattails and reeds, the occasional startled deer and snowy owl.

I’m rearranging the linen closet, still moving books around on the new shelves, helping the kids boil and shape their new mouthguards (I learn something new every day), and planning Davy’s festivities and figuring out when to cook the turkey, next Thursday not being anything approaching a holiday around here.

To make the most out of all of our time in the truck, we’ve been listening to audio CDs, including

Story of the World: Early Modern Times, volume 3 (I see a new edition is coming out in January)

Naxos Audiobooks’ Famous People in History, volume 1 (Alexander the Great, Queen Elizabeth I, Abraham Lincoln, Columbus, Horatio Nelson, Shakespeare, and Mozart) and volume 2 (with Alexander the Great, Joan of Arc, Leonardo da Vinci, Isaac Newton, George Washington, Beethoven, Louis Pasteur, Marie Curie, and Ghandi); and if you’re as nutty as I am and can burn CDs with your computer, you can remix the two volumes so that all the stories are in chronological order.

And, because you’re never too young for Stan Freberg, Stan Freberg Presents The United States Of America. I finally broke down the other week and moved it from my wish list to my shopping cart and hit “send”. And am I ever glad I did.

Cybils middle grade/young adult nonfiction nominations to date

The list of Cybils nominees so far for this year’s best middle grade/young adult nonfiction books (all titles pending copyright date verification). Nominations close Wednesday, November 21.

**Most of the links below each book are for Cybils affiliated programs (note that BookSense works only for the US, not Canada); many thanks for supporting the Cybils.

1607: A New Look at Jamestown by Karen Lange

Across the Wide Ocean by Karen Romano Young
Available from Amazon.com or your local bookstore (BookSense)

America Dreaming: How Youth Changed America in the 60s by Laban Carrick Hill

Another Book About Design: Complicated Doesn’t Make It Bad by Mark Gonyea
Available from Amazon.com or your local bookstore (BookSense)

Artist to Artist: 23 Major Illustrators Talk to Children About Their Art, compiled by the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art
Available from Amazon.com or your local bookstore (BookSense)

Black and White Airmen: Their True History by John Fleischman
Available from Amazon.com or your local bookstore (BookSense)

Dinosaur Eggs Discovered!: Unscrambling the Clues by Lowell Dingus, Rodolfo A. Coria, and Luis M. Chiappe
Available from Amazon.com or your local bookstore (BookSense)

Disguised: A Wartime Memoir by Rita De Clercq Zubli
Available from Amazon.com or your local bookstore (BookSense)

From Slave to Superstar of the Wild West: The Awesome Story of Jim Beckwourth by Tom DeMund
Available from Amazon.com or your local bookstore (BookSense)

The Good, The Bad, The Slimy: The Secret Life of Microbes by Sara Latta

Grief Girl by Erin Vincent
Available from Amazon.com or your local bookstore (BookSense)

The Halloween Book of Facts and Fun by Wendie Old and Paige Billin-Frye
Available from Amazon.com or your local bookstore (BookSense)

Jeannette Rankin: Political Pioneer by Gretchen Woelfle
Available from Amazon.com or your local bookstore (BookSense)

Let’s Clear the Air: 10 Reasons Not to Start Smoking by Deanna Staffo
Available from Amazon.com or your local bookstore (BookSense)

Marie Curie (from the Giants of Science series) by Kathleen Krull

Math Doesn’t Suck: How to Survive Middle School Math without Losing Your Mind or Breaking a Nail by Danica McKellar

Morris and Buddy: The Story of the First Seeing Eye Dog by Becky Hall
Available from Amazon.com or your local bookstore (BookSense)

Muckrakers: How Ida Tarbell, Upton Sinclair, and Lincoln Steffens Helped Expose Scandal, Inspire Reform, and Invent Investigative Journalism by Ann Bausum
Available from Amazon.com or your local bookstore (BookSense)

My Feet Aren’t Ugly by Debra Beck
Available from Amazon.com or your local bookstore (BookSense)

Ox, House, Stick: The Story of Our Alphabet by Don Robb
Available from Amazon.com or your local bookstore (BookSense)

The Periodic Table: Elements With Style! by Adrian Dingle
Available from Amazon.com or your local bookstore (BookSense)

The Real Benedict Arnold by Jim Murphy
Available from Amazon.com or your local bookstore (BookSense)

The Secret of Priest’s Grotto: A Holocaust Survival Story by Peter Lane Taylor and Christos Nicola
Available from Amazon.com or your local bookstore (BookSense)

Smart-Opedia: The Amazing Book About Everything by Eve Drobot
Available from
Amazon.com or your local bookstore (BookSense)

The Snow Baby: The Arctic Childhood of Robert E. Peary’s Daring Daughter by Katherine Kirkpatrick

Tasting the Sky: A Palestinian Childhood by Ibtisam Barakat
Available from Amazon.com or your local bookstore (BookSense)

The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain by Peter Sis
Available from Amazon.com or your local bookstore (BookSense)

Tracking Trash: Flotsam, Jetsam, and the Science of Ocean Motion (from the Scientists in the Field series) by Loree Griffin Burns
Available from Amazon.com or your local bookstore (BookSense)

The Ultimate Interactive Atlas of the World by Elaine Jackson et al.
Available from your local bookstore (BookSense)

We Are One: The Story of Bayard Rustin by Larry Dane Brimner
Available from Amazon.com or your local bookstore (BookSense)

What’s Eating You?: Parasites — The Inside Story by Nicola Davies
Available from Amazon.com or your local bookstore (BookSense)

The World Made New: Why the Age of Exploration Happened and How It Changed the World by Marc Aronson and John W. Glenn
Available from Amazon.com or your local bookstore (BookSense)

Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!: The Beatles, Beatlemania, and the Music that Changed the World by Bob Spitz
Available from Amazon.com or your local bookstore (BookSense)

You Can Write a Story! by Lisa Bullard

Our panel’s fearless leader, Jen Robinson, also has a post of nominated titles, and it was Jen who organized all the links and code. Thanks for all the extra compiling, Jen.

* * *

You still have more than two weeks, until November 21st, to nominate your favorite titles. Some nonfiction books, in random order as I’ve remembered them and as the kids have reminded me, that I’ve noticed have not yet been nominated, in part because a number have been published only in the past few months:

The Voyage of the Beetle: A Journey around the World with Charles Darwin and the Search for the Solution to the Mystery of Mysteries, as Narrated by Rosie, an Articulate Beetle by Anne H. Weaver

Einstein Adds a New Dimension
(from The Story of Science series) by Joy Hakim

One Well: The Story of Water on Earth by Rochelle Strauss

The Many Rides of Paul Revere
by James Cross Giblin

The Trailblazing Life of Daniel Boone and How Early Americans Took to the Road by Cheryl Harness

The Remarkable Rough-Riding Life of Theodore Roosevelt and the Rise of Empire America by Cheryl Harness

Who Was First?: Discovering the Americas
by Russell Freedman

Who’s Saying What in Jamestown, Thomas Savage? by Jean Fritz

When Fish Got Feet, Sharks Got Teeth, and Bugs Began to Swarm: A Cartoon Prehistory of Life Long Before Dinosaurs by Hannah Bonner

The Dangerous Book for Boys
(US edition) by Conn Iggulden and Hal Iggulden

Daring Book for Girls
Andrea J. Buchanan and Miriam Peskowitz

The Art Book for Children/Book Two, compiled by Amanda Renshaw and the editors of Phaidon Press

Amazing Ben Franklin Inventions You Can Build Yourself
(from the Build It Yourself series) by Carmella Van Vleet

Great Pioneer Projects You Can Build Yourself (from the Build It Yourself series) by Rachel Dickinson

Amazing Maya Inventions You Can Build Yourself (from the Build It Yourself series) by Sheri Bell-Rehwoldt

Down the Colorado: John Wesley Powell, the One-Armed Explorer by Deborah Kogan Ray

Up Close: Robert F. Kennedy, Crusader: A Twentieth-Century Life by Marc Aronson

One Thousand Tracings: Healing the Wounds of World War II by Lita Judge

River Roads West: America’s First Highways by Peter and Connie Roop

Tales of Famous Americans by Connie and Peter Roop

Stories of the Zodiac (from the Dot to Dot in the Sky series) by Joan Marie Galat

600 Black Spots: A Pop-up Book for Children of All Ages by David A. Carter (I’m not 100 percent sure about the category for this one, but it’s definitely fun for all ages)

* * *

and, not yet published but possibilities for those who receive advance copies:

The Great Adventure: Theodore Roosevelt and the Rise of Modern America: Theodore Roosevelt and the Rise of Modern America by Albert Marrin

Ain’t Nothing But a Man: My Quest to Find the Real John Henry by Scott Reynolds Nelson with Marc Aronson

Race: A History Beyond Black and White by Marc Aronson

For Boys Only: The Biggest, Baddest, Best Book Ever! by Marc Aronson and HP Newquist

The Brothers’ War: Civil War Voices in Verse by J. Patrick Lewis; original poetry (this one might get moved over to the poetry section but if you’ve had a chance to see an advance copy and find it worthwhile, please consider nominating it in either nonfiction or poetry)

10 ways to get you to read a book…

from the BBC Magazine website, which has an article on the top 10 “factors that could influence the next sales behemoth”. Few of which will gladden the heart of the professional critic — no doubt as it should be, according to Sir Howard Davies — especially:

Factor #1, “Word of Mouth”: “Who do we really trust? When the chips are down, it’s the opinions of our friends and family and colleagues that matter in all things. When you’re trying on an item of clothing you don’t scratch around for a piece of pertinent fashion journalism, you just ask a mate to have a quick look.”

Factor #9, “Praise for”: “Once upon a time in the monomedia world, the reviewer was king. Powerful newspaper literary critics bestrode the world of publishing like colossi. Now not so much. As Mr Rickett [Joel Rickett, deputy editor of The Bookseller] notes: “People themselves are the reviewers now on Amazon and on all kinds of sharing websites. Reader response has almost supplanted the top-down role of the critic.”

* * *

By the way, the latest online edition of The Bookseller includes an interview with Peter Usborne of Usborne Books, including his thoughts on children’s nonfiction:

Now Usborne wants to turn the spotlight back on traditional non-fiction publishing. “I initially thought that the internet would kill non-fiction, because teachers would tell children to use the internet to help with homework. But if you key in ‘castles’ [on a search engine], you get 900,000 possible websites. The internet is an inadequate resource for children.”

Although space that retailers devote to children’s non-fiction has declined, Usborne believes it is time to address this. “People’s attitudes are beginning to change. I really believe that we can bring back non-fiction and make it a success again, but that is up to the trade as much as the publishers. I hope that they will start to back non-fiction again.”

Figuring out if Cybils-nominated titles are child-friendly

Over at the Cybils blog, Cybils co-founder Kelly Herold wrote a post earlier this week, “Who Put the Kid in Kid-friendly?“:

When [Cybils co-founder] Anne and I led a panel session on the Cybils at the 1st Annual Kidlitosphere Conference this [past] weekend in Chicago, one theme in particular kept popping up during discussions: How do we decide if a book is child-friendly or not?

This is an important question for the ninety panelists and judges evaluating the hundreds of children’s and YA books nominated this year. One of our main goals is to find quality books children will love. In other words, we’re looking for well written, intelligent, and kid-friendly titles.

But how do we — a group of 88 adults and 2 [3?] teens — decide what is child friendly? What are our criteria? Will we know child-friendly when we see it?

Tell us what you think. How does an adult reader recognize a child-friendly book? What are your tell-tale signs of a fun and compelling read? Feel free to answer in the comments or on your own blog.

One of the reasons I was eager to participate in the Cybils again this year is that my kids had so much fun with all of the poetry books that arrived last year. With yet another package slip from Canada Post in the mailbox requiring a trip to the post office to pick up a brown box or padded envelope, the kids started squealing, “It’s just like Christmas!”

My simple answer for how I recognize a child-friendly book is that my kids enjoy that particular book. And I don’t expect all three kids — a ten-year-old girl who prefers historical fiction and stories about horses, an eight-and-a-half-year-old boy who likes best Asterix and how-to manuals, and an almost seven-year-old who enjoys stories about horses, pioneers, and how-to manuals — to enjoy the same books, either. One out of three is good enough for me, provided that that one child thinks the world of that one book.

Last year, the easiest way to find which books the kids really liked was to search their beds. The books they didn’t like — that didn’t catch the kids’ interests or left them cold — stayed in the designated “Cybils piles” in the living room. The books the kids enjoyed were discovered in their respective beds, under pillows and stuffed animals and on top of quilts, and with bookmarks (sometimes just torn slips of paper) between the pages.

This year, with middle grade and young adult nonfiction on my plate, it won’t be quite as easy for me to read all the books with my children, since some titles will certainly be too advanced in language or emotion (or both) for them, at least for the boys whose combined age is 15; often, I’ll use one book on a subject for Laura and something simpler, usually a picture book, for the boys. From all the review’s I’ve read of Grief Girl, Erin Vincent’s memoir about her adolescence following the death of her parents in a traffic accident more than 20 years ago when she was 14, it seems the sort of book I would gladly give Laura in a few years, but not now at age 10.

But even with some books meant for older readers, the kids in general and Davy (not quite seven) in particular have made their way by looking at the pictures and reading, or having me read aloud, the captions. And after all the books we’ve read together, I have a pretty good idea what their thoughts and tastes will be in a few years, which books will be worth keeping, and even adding to our home school studies. As home schoolers, too, we have the luxury of adding any books that arrive to our late autumn/early winter curriculum, or just to our afternoon and bedtime readalouds. We can set aside for the moment Farmer Boy or our study of Lewis & Clark, to spend a few afternoons and evenings reading about trash, dinosaur eggs, and James Beckwourth.

One thing I found interesting last year was how some of the titles that tried too hard to appeal, and be appealing, to kids — whether they are “educational” (a definite concern in this particular category, where a lot of the titles are purchased by libraries rather than individuals and many tend to be the kind of book children use “just for reports”) or simply (and sometimes scatalogically) underestimate children’s senses of humor and sophistication and awareness of what’s clever were among those that did not make it to kids’ favorites lists. Which is why, last year, Adam Rex’s Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich — a true Halloween delight, by the way, which you still have time to order from your favorite bookseller or via interlibrary loan — made a considerably larger impression on the assembled Farm School children than, say, Hey There, Stink Bug!

* * *

By the way, speaking of children and nonfiction, don’t miss author Marc Aronson‘s current post, “I Want to Be a Historian” at his blog Nonfiction Matters on the subject, or the conversation to which he refers over at Alison Morris‘s ShelfTalker: A Children’s Bookseller’s Blog, with her latest post, “Who’s Borrowing? Who’s Buying?”.

Following up on David McCullough

I ran out of time yesterday, and wanted to add this list of suggested readings to go with my post yesterday about David McCullough’s new 1776: The Illustrated Edition, the illustrated and abridged edition of Mr. McCullough’s original 1776.

All of the children’s books listed below are narrative histories and overviews of the period, rather than books about a particular element of the American Revolution (which means the list doesn’t include any biographies or the terrific Jean Fritz books, such as And Then What Happened, Paul Revere?). And interestingly, all are illustrated (the first two are picture books) and by authors who have written extensively for children about history, especially American history.

For children (ages 8 or 9 and up/younger as a readaloud):

Liberty or Death: The American Revolution: 1763-1783 by Betsy Maestro with illustrations by Giulio Maestro, from the Maestros’ wonderful “American Story” series

George vs. George: The American Revolution as Seen from Both Sides by Rosalyn Schanzer (useful for Canadians and other Loyalist types)

For children (ages 10 or so and up):

Give Me Liberty: The Story of the Declaration of Independence by Russell Freedman

For children (ages 12 or so and up):

The Real Revolution: The Global Story of American Independence by Marc Aronson; nifty free teacher guides at Marc Aronson’s website.

Gearing up for the Cybils

As I wrote last week, the Cybils are back, the Cybils are back!

I’m delighted to be on the Middle Grade/Young Adult Nonfiction committee, wrangled and organized by Jen Robinson, on the nominating panel along with

Mindy at Proper Noun Dot Net
Susan Thomsen at Chicken Spaghetti
KT Horning at Worth the Trip
Vivian at HipWriterMama

Following up later will be the Judging Panel, comprised of

Tracy Chrenka at Talking in the Library
Emily Mitchell at Emily Reads
Camille Powell at Book Moot
Alice Herold at Big A little a
Jennie Rothschild at Biblio File

As a reminder about how wonderful this category is, last year’s winner was

Freedom Walkers: The Story of the Montgomery Bus Boycott by Russell Freedman

and the rest of the short list included

Escape! The Story of the Great Houdini by Sid Fleischman
Team Moon: How 400,000 People Landed Apollo 11 on the Moon by Catherine Thimmesh
Immersed in Verse: An Informative, Slightly Irreverent & Totally Tremendous Guide to Living the Poet’s Life by Alan Wolf
Isaac Newton by Kathleen Krull (from her Giants of Science series)

For information on all of the other categories, including poetry (which has a fond place in my heart, and where I see Elaine Magliaro at Wild Rose Reader and Sylvia Vardell at Poetry for Children are holding down the fort!) and interviews with various participants, head over to the Cybils blog.

Nominations in all categories open on Monday, October 1st, so put your thinking caps on. The categories include picture books (fiction), picture books (nonfiction), poetry, middle grade & young adult nonfiction, middle grade fiction, young adult fiction, graphic novels, and fantasy & science fiction.

A final note: I usually include links from Amazon.com when I write about books, not because I think that’s where you should buy your books, but because their listings seem to be the most comprehensive of the ones online, more so than the wonderful Powells which continues to be a dandy place to buy books in the US and the terrific Chinaberry which is thorough but highly selective (not a bad thing at all), and more so even than Amazon.ca, whose website is a shadow of its American self. Amazon.com’s “Search Inside this Book” feature is pretty nifty, too, especially for those of us living in the back of beyond, far from any bookstores, independent, big box/chain or otherwise. Well, as long as we’re not limping along with dial-up service.

Erm, no thank you

Dangerous Book for Boys to Hit Screen: “Disney has snapped up the rights to the bestseller after a fierce bidding war.” It will be more than interesting to see how the folks at Disney plan to make a movie of a politically incorrect how-to-book that includes instructions on skinning a rabbit.

We’ll stick to the print version. And the UK edition at that.

A child’s introduction to classic art and classical music

New to me, from the March 2007 issue of Canadian Family magazine, found yesterday at the library:

Can You Hear It?, book and accompanying audio cd, by William Lach of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (published by Abrams); suggested for ages four to ten. From the Met Store website:

A bustling cityscape full of cars and people; the interior of a circus teeming with wild animals; ice-skaters gliding on a frozen pond in winter; a fascinating underwater world swimming with fish and sea creatures—classical music can inspire the imagination to envision scenes within melodies. Our book includes 13 pictures that set the stage for the music on the CD. A Japanese print by Ando Hiroshige of a hovering bee illuminates the trilling flutes in The Flight of the Bumblebee, while a Jazz Age painting by Kees van Dongen of a traffic jam at the Arc de Triomphe captures the rousing opening of An American in Paris, and a gilded Mughal watercolor of an elaborately-costumed elephant by an unknown artist gives life to the majestic creature from The Carnival of the Animals. Accompanying each image are guided questions and a CD track number that prime readers to listen for specific sounds. When the track is played, readers will look and listen as never before. The CD includes American and European orchestras playing 13 short works or excerpts of longer works by various composers like Rimsky-Korsakov, Vivaldi, Saint-Saëns, Gershwin, and others. Also included in the book is an introduction to musical instruments, illustrated with beautiful and historically significant examples from the Museum’s collection, including a Stradivarius violin, a crystal flute, the oldest piano in the world, and one of Segovia’s guitars. Following this section are notes on each artist and composer, and information on the visual and musical works presented both in the book and on the CD.

From the Met’s “Can You Find It?” series of art books for children.

Raising hep cats: Reading about, and listening to, modern American music

Children’s author and home educating father Chris Barton at Bartography is mulling over choices for picture books about modern American music and musicians, mostly for his almost three-year-old son, and wrote the other week, “As for those books already on the shelves, there are far more worthy titles than one family can take on in a single month. These that I’ve listed below are simply those that caught my eye. If you’ve read them already, what did you think? Which others would you recommend?” I started writing up my suggestions for the comment box at Bartography but when they started to grow like crazy I thought I’d better put them up here to avoid an unintentional hijacking.

Of the picture book list Chris posted, the ones we’ve read and liked the best, probably not so coincidentally, are the ones that come with an audio CD: Woody Guthrie’s This Land is Your Land; When Marian Sang: The True Recital of Marian Anderson; What Charlie Heard (book with CD), about Charles Ives, by the always elegant and poetic Mordicai Gerstein; and Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue (book with CD). You might want to add a few more CDs to the mix, especially Guthrie’s “Songs to Grown on for Mother and Child” and as much Pete Seeger as you can manage, especially the American Favorite Ballads series.

And just a few more book suggestions, based on my own gang:

Aaron Copland pairs well with Ives, plus the cowboy ballets are particularly appealing to young children. The only dedicated picture book about Copland I can think of is the Mike Venezia volume in his “World’s Greatest Composers” series. But Copland is included in The Story of the Orchestra: Listen While You Learn About the Instruments, the Music and the Composers Who Wrote the Music! (book with CD) by Robert Levine; and also in Lives of the Musicians: Good Times, Bad Times (and What the Neighbors Thought) (book with CD) by Kathleen Krull; meant for older kids so you might want to preview this for younger ones. Ives is also mentioned in The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra (book with CD) by Anita Ganeri, which is a bit heavy for most toddlers and preschoolers but great for slightly older siblings.

I’d be a very bad Cybils poetry panelist if I didn’t suggest the recent poetry picture book Jazz by Walter Dean Myers, illustrated by his son Christopher, and I’m glad to see that my fellow panelist Elaine was quick to suggest this one. Very nice when accompanied by the non-poetry picture book The Sound That Jazz Makes by Carole Boston Weatherford. And if you want to stick to a Myers & Myers theme, their Blues Journey (book with CD) is lovely; read it while listening to “Leadbelly Sings for Children“.

Davy found the new This Jazz Man by Karen Ehrhardt at the library recently. It’s a counting book based on the song “This Old Man” (you know, the one with the knickknack paddywhack business), but even though he’s six and playing around with multiplication, he — and the rest of us — got a big kick from the book. For kids who don’t know jack about scat, this is a wonderful introduction, especially if you’re going to read the Ella Fitzgerald book and listen to her music.

I know I probably don’t have to say this, but especially when the subject is music, books — no matter how great they are — are just part of the picture. CDs and movies are a wonderful way to saturate your kids with the music, and, maybe even more importantly, to expose them to the original, real stuff rather than the kiddie version. With younger kids, you can always fast forward through the talky bits and head straight to the singing and dancing. I have three ardent Frank Sinatra (and Gene Kelly) fans, and their love of the music came about not from any books but from hearing the music around the house and watching old movies, especially Anchors Aweigh (and what could be more appealing than Gene Kelly dancing with Tom & Jerry?), High Society (with some great music by Louis Armstrong…), and, the best of the bunch, On the Town. For Gershwin (see below, too), it doesn’t get any better than An American in Paris, where you get the benefit of more Gene Kelly, whose athletic dancing appeals greatly to boys; and then you may as well get Singin’ in the Rain, which is about singing, dancing, and the early history of the moving picture.

Some other fun, older movies about music for the kids:

Ball of Fire: Barbara Stanwyck as a nightclub singer who moves in with eight old fogey professors, including the appropriately wooden Gary Cooper and the always charming S.Z. Sakall, to help explain “slang” for the encyclopedia they’re working on. Stanwyck performs a couple of numbers with jazz great, drummer Gene Krupa. It’s actually a 1940s screwball comedy version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, with which it would pair nicely (though you might want to make sure it won’t scare your toddler/preschooler). Not to be confused, especially if you’re watching with the kiddies, Great Balls of Fire! about Jerry Lee Lewis, who, you might remember, married his 13-year-old second cousin.

As long as you’re watching Snow White, you should line up the classic Fantasia, which combines animation beautifully with classical music, including Igor Stravinksy’s “Rite of Spring” and Mussorgsky’s “Night on Bald Mountain”. Again, you probably won’t want to let little ones, or sensitive older ones, watch either Snow White or Fantasia without you nearby.

There are a bunch of movies about the birth of jazz that are fairly cheesy and have dubious historical accounts, but the music is wonderful: two of the better ones are New Orleans (1947) with Billie Holiday singing “Do You Know What It Means (to Miss New Orleans)” accompanied by Louis Armstrong and an all-star band; and Syncopation (1942), with Bunny Berrigan, Benny Goodman, Gene Krupa, and Harry James.

Irving Berlin’s Alexander’s Ragtime Band is great fun, and so are some composer biopics, which tend to be rather stronger on the music than the actual biographical facts:

St. Louis Blues, the biography of W.C. Handy, played by Nat King Cole; with Ella Fitzgerald, Mahalia Jackson, and Cab Calloway

Rhapsody in Blue, the story of George Gershwin, played by Robert Alda (Alan’s dad); pair it with the picture book and An American in Paris with Gene Kelly

The Glenn Miller Story, with James Stewart, and appearances by Gene Krupa and Louis Armstrong

The Benny Goodman Story starring Steve Allen

One of my kids’ all-time favorites, Yankee Doodle Dandy with James Cagney as composer and entertainer George M. Cohan

Another patriotic toe-tapper, Stars and Stripes Forever, with Clifton Webb as composer and bandleader John Philip Sousa

Movie musicals are a whole ‘nother post (don’t hold your breath right now), but if you’re interested, to wet your whistle try That’s Entertainment and the website for the 2004 PBS series The American Musical.

Not a movie, but now on DVD and one of the best ways to teach young children about music is the classic Leonard Bernstein television series, “Leonard Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts with the NY Philharmonic”; check your library. The series, on nine discs, includes 25 of the programs, such as “What Does Music Mean?”, “What is Orchestration?”, “What Makes Music Symphonic?”, “What is Classical Music?”, “What is American Music?”, “Humor in Music”, “Folk Music in the Concert Hall”, “Jazz in the Concert Hall”, “Happy Birthday, Igor Stravinsky” (see Fantasia, above), and much more. Bernstein’s passion for the subject and love of children come shining through.

Beyond movies, there are some useful websites. The PBS “Jazz” series by Ken Burns is wonderful, and the website is still up, including pages for younger children, with some lesson plans and activities for those in grades K through 5.

The Smithsonian has a jazzy website, too, which offers “Smithsonian Jazz Class” for children and is divided into two sections, each titled “Groovin’ to Jazz”, one for ages eight to 13 and the other for ages 12 to 25.

And just for fun, for a swinging Christmas next December, keep these in mind and don’t forget to have the kids compare and contrast the versions of their old favorites: Verve Presents the Very Best of Christmas Jazz, Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas, An Oscar Peterson Christmas, A Dave Brubeck Christmas, Ray Charles’s The Spirit of Christmas, and Mahalia Sings Songs of Christmas! Though I’m not brave enough, with or without kids, for Christmas with the Rat Pack.

Speaking of fictionalized versions of history in the movies, don’t miss Chris’s recent post about fictionalized versions of history in children’s picture books. Good reading for those of us who enjoy historical fiction.

And happy listening!

Great Science Books — for adults and kids

Susan at Chicken Spaghetti has a post* with links to Discover Magazine’s 25 Greatest Science Books of All-Time, what the magazine calls “the essential reading list for anyone interested in science”; at the Discover page, you can also find a link to an essay by Nobel laureate Kary B. Mullison on the greatest science books.

Worth mentioning that the books on the list are all for adults. Which makes me wonder about which titles you would put on a “Greatest children’s science books of all-time” list? I don’t know that I’d limit it to 25, or even “great” — I’d settle for very, very good and either “favorite” or “most useful”, especially for home education. I’m pressed for time right now (trying to get to a hay ride at 5 pm), so I’ll post my suggested titles later.

*In the same post, Susan also offers a wonderful roundup of all the recent lists of the best in children’s literature for 2006. Thanks, Susan.

* * * *

I’ll go first:

How to Think Like a Scientist: Answering Questions by the Scientific Method by Stephen P. Kramer with illustrations by Felicia (“If You Give a Mouse a Cookie”) Bond

And NPB is for Nonfiction Picture Books!

Here’s the Cybils list of nominated Nonfiction Picture Books, compiled by Chris Barton at Bartography — there are some gems here, for history, geography, biography, art, natural history, science, and more. Just the sort of things home educated children like to find under trees…

Thanks, Chris!

All of the lists of nominated books in each category are being put up at Cybils Headquarters, too. Just look for the heading “The Nominations”.