In October, eyes are usually drawn to ghosts, goblins, and things that go bump in the night, but reality can be just as scary. Wasps sting the brains of cockroaches, paralyzing them so that they can lay eggs in the zombified body. Tarantulas liquefy their prey in order to suck up dinner with their stomach muscles. Crocodiles can grow 3000 teeth in their lifetime, but they can’t chew their food. Detection rats use their sense of smell to sniff out explosive land mines. Forest fire beetles can discover a conflagration more than 20 miles away. And there’s nothing more unique than the distinct shape of wombat poop.
Sometimes reality is stranger than fiction. These new informational texts are scary, bizarre, but grossly enlightening.
ALBRIGHT, Rosie. Detection Rats. PowerKids Pr. 2012. ISBN 9781448861491. JLG Level: CK2: Series Nonfiction: Science K-2 (Grades K-2)
Detection Rats introduces primary readers to African pouched rats in this volume of the Animal Detectives series. With a large font and controlled vocabulary, kids learn that these large rats can be trained to use their sense of smell to locate land mines. They are also taught to decipher diseases. Includes an index, words to know, and links to websites.
FRANCHINO, Vicky. Tarantulas. Scholastic. 2012. ISBN 9780531209080. JLG Level: C35: Series Nonfiction: Science 3-5 (Grades 3-5)
Fondly known in elementary school libraries as “those blue animal books,” Tarantulas is part of the “Nature’s Children” series, and is filled with full-page photographs that will have your students quoting facts as if they were the scientists who discovered them. Some of those tidbits include: Tarantulas have eight eyes but their vision isn’t very good; they don’t have teeth, so they liquefy their victims in order to digest them; their stomach muscle acts like a straw and draws the liquid in. From fun facts to vanishing habitats, this “blue book” is sure pique interest and fly off the shelf.
JENKINS, Steve. The Beetle Book. Houghton Harcourt. 2012. ISBN 9780547680842. JLG Level: SCE: Science Nonfiction Elementary (Grades 2-6)
“Line up every kind of plant and animal on Earth…and one of every four will be a beetle.” With gorgeous torn paper illustrations, Jenkins again delivers fascinating research about more than 75 beetles. The poison in an iron cross blister beetle can kill a horse. When a deathwatch beetle bores into the walls of a house, its taps are loud enough for a person to hear. A female firefly may use her light to attract a mate and then eat him. Full size illustrations and highlighted enlargements strengthen the text.
Consider using the concluding list of beetles for your students to use in their research. What other amazing facts can your students discover?
JOHNSON, Rebecca L. Zombie Makers: True Stories of Nature’s Undead. Millbrook Pr. 2012. ISBN 9780761386339. JLG Level: SCE: Science Nonfiction Elementary (Grades 2-6)
Easily the most memorable, information-rich, and intriguing book in this list, Zombie Makers will send shivers up your spine. A jewel wasp locates a particular place in the brain of a cockroach and causes it to become a zombie. It lays its eggs in the body where they remain until they hatch and eat the roach (which is still alive). Scientists learned about zombie ants and the fungus that claimed them when they discovered that the ants were nearly all found in cool places about 10 feet from the ground. They observed zombie crickets drowning themselves in a pool. When they pulled them away from the water, the crickets walked right back into it. Nearly all of the crickets had the same fungus.
Horrific and amazing, these gross facts will have you reading aloud―and leaving the light on at night. You may never look at flies, roaches, wasps, and worms the same way―ever again.
WOOLF, Alex. Killer Crocodiles. Arcturus. 2012. ISBN 9781848379473. JLG Level: C35: Series Nonfiction: Science 3-5 (Grades 3-5 )
Magazinelike in layout, this volume from the “Animal Attack” series, explores the world of the crocodilian. It is the family of aquatic reptiles that includes alligators, crocodiles, caimans, and gharials. Punctuated by sidebars, the two-page spread highlights a topic with facts while drawing in reluctant readers with “Snack on This!” American crocodiles regurgitate their food to use as bait to attract their next meal. Crocodilians cannot chew, so they bite their food into pieces and throw their heads back to help it go down their throats. Full glossary and index complete the text and make it an excellent choice for your nonfiction fans.
And the shape of wombat poop? Unusual Creatures by Michael Hearst spills the facts― wombat’s feces is a six-sided cube. Why? You’ll have to read it to find out.
For ideas about how to use these books and links to supportive sites, check out the Junior Library Guild blog, Shelf Life.
Junior Library Guild is a collection development service that helps school and public libraries acquire the best new children’s and young adult books. Season after season, year after year, Junior Library Guild book selections go on to win awards, collect starred or favorable reviews, and earn industry honors. Visit us at www.JuniorLibraryGuild.com.
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