June 20, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

JLG’s On the Radar: Snips and Snails and Puppy Dog Tails?

“Snips and snails and puppy dog tails―that’s what little boys are made of” says the old nursery rhyme. While that may hardly be true, kids do like to learn about creatures that crawl about, leave a slimy trail, or bite the hand that feeds them. Your male population (and many females too) will be especially delighted in these spring informational releases for independent readers. The list below even includes a “guide” that reads just like the other nonfiction titles.

Nonfiction title with Sports ScenesBIRMINGHAM, Maria. Weird Zone: Sports. illus. by Jamie Bennett. Owlkids. 2013. ISBN 9781926973616. JLG Level: SE : Sports Elementary (Grades 2–6).

Looking for baseball or basketball? You won’t find it here. Subtitled “The strangest, funniest, and most daringest events form the world of athletics and beyond!,” this book includes sports like bossaball ,which is a combination of soccer, volleyball, and gymnastics. It’s played on an inflatable court with a net like volleyball. Basic instructions are given for all kinds of sports, both team and solo. Readers can learn how to juggle and run―at the same time. Some of them are extreme―like roller-skating on a roller coaster or skate-boarding on a ramp as tall as an eight story building.

The author includes factual tidbits about sports dating as far back as .the early 11th century.  An Englishman attached wings to his hands and feet and jumped from tower. (He broke his legs.) Also, when there was a cheese shortage in England, Cheese Rolling continued. Organizers built a wheel with representative cheese within it. In sidebars called “Invention Dimension,” kids discover different inventions related sports. Rules, quizzes, and vocabulary round out the text. A fascinating read―for the sports fan or not.

Illustration of boy running from dangerous creaturesDavies, Nicola. Deadly!: The Truth About the Most Dangerous Creatures on Earth. illus. by Neal Layton. Candlewick. 2013. ISBN 9780763662318. JLG Level: NE : Nonfiction Elementary (Grades 2–6).

Davies’ latest nonfiction work focuses on killing techniques and defense mechanisms of a variety of animals. Suicidal ants explode to save their colony. Crocodiles perform the “death roll,” spinning in the water to twist off the limb (or head) it has clamped in its jaws. In spite of sometimes being as small as a fingernail, the box jellyfish may be the most toxic creature on the planet, according to scientists. A pack of wild dogs sometimes eats their victim before it’s completely dead. Readers will also learn to prevent attacks by not carrying food in their backpack (which draws bears) or avoiding a swim in the murky ocean water (where a shark might look for nourishment).

Though the material is far from being bedtime reading, Layton’s comic panel illustrations lighten the grim reality of animal survival skills. The author also points out that these dangerous creatures are important to our world. The cycle of life brings balance among plants and animals. Scientists have even found uses for lethal poisons: scorpion toxin is used in the fight against cancer; cobra venom can help relieve the pain of arthritis.

Readers may also enjoy the pairs’ companion books, Poop, Extreme Animals, and What’s Eating You.

Illustration of man with body parts displayedGRIFFITHS, Andy. What Body Part Is That?: A Wacky Guide to the Funniest, Weirdest, and Most Disgustingest Parts of Your Body. Feiwel & Friends. 2012. ISBN 9780312367909.  JLG Level: HE : Humor Elementary (grades 2–6).

“Ninety-nine percent fact free” reads the cover. What may sound like a book that belongs in 612 is actually fiction. A diagram of the human body and all its parts precedes the chapters. Readers are encouraged to read only the parts they find interesting. Diagrams contribute to the humor of these quick chapters and tickle the funny bone. The author and illustrator offer “A & T’s Fun Body Part Facts” in each chapter. Kids can also read about how scars are formed (which will leave them in awe). The book even covers “Private Parts.” “Private parts are private. That is not all there is to know about private parts but that is all I can tell you because they are private.”

Readers who enjoy Lemony Snicket or Dav Pilkey would enjoy the humor (and the drawings) in this light comedy about the body.

book cover with BlackbeardJENSON-ELLIOTT, Cindy. The Most Famous Pirates. Capstone. 2013. ISBN 9781429686099. JLG Level: H35 : Series Nonfiction: History 3–5 (Grades 3–5).

“Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for me,” might echo in readers’ minds as they peruse this tome of most famous pirates. Part of Capstone’s “Blazer” series (high interest, low vocabulary), Jenson-Elliott gives a brief introduction from the 1500s to 1730s. Sidebars feature highlighted vocabulary and facts for each chapter. The Barbarossa brothers often sold the crew and passengers of captured ships into slavery. Sir Francis Drake may have been the first to sail around the world, but he was also an English privateer―he was paid by his country to steal other ships and goods. Black Bart liked to dress in fancy clothing. One of Ireland’s most known pirates was a woman―Grace O’Malley. She owned at least five castles and all the land around them. Cheng Shih took her husband’s place on the sea and commanded more than 1,500 ships and 80,000 pirates. Nonfiction support material concludes the text.

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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Deborah B. Ford About Deborah B. Ford

Deborah is the Director of Library Outreach for Junior Library Guild. She is an award-winning teacher librarian with almost 30 years of experience as a classroom teacher and librarian in K–12 schools.