February 23, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

JLG’s On the Radar: Stars to Chocolate Bars—New Science Nonfiction for Elementary Students

Pluto has three moons and rotates in an elliptical pattern which caused a pull on the orbit of nearby planets. It takes thirty to forty cocoa beans to make one bar of chocolate. Small birds often band together to drive away a larger bird, like a hawk. Henrietta Leavitt studied photographs of stars for a number of nights before she realized that they blink at different rates. Reading today’s new nonfiction can inform and inspire young readers as they learn about their world―from roots to stars.

Henrietta LeavittBURLEIGH, Robert. Look Up!: Henrietta Leavitt, Pioneering Woman Astronomer. illus. by Raúl Colón. S & S/Paula Wiseman. 2013. ISBN 9781416958192. JLG Level: SCE : Science Nonfiction Elementary (Grades 2–6).

When Henrietta was a young woman, male students outnumbered the females in her college astronomy classes. Once she graduated, the young astronomer was paid thirty cents an hour to record information that male scientists in the observatory researched. Hour after hour she poured over the photographs. Eventually she began to see differences in the dots that represented the stars. Some stars dimmed while others brightened. Determined to unlock the mystery, Henrietta kept a chart and slowly a pattern began to emerge. What had she found? What impact would it make on astronomy? Burleigh’s text is beautifully illustrated by the acclaimed Colón, and supplemented with back matter for use in further research about this little-known pioneering woman astronomer.

Look up bird watchingCATE, Annette LeBlanc. Look Up! Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard. Candlewick. 2013. ISBN 9780763645618. JLG Level: SCE : Science Nonfiction Elementary (Grades 2–6).

“More exciting than slugs! More varieties than squirrels! Less dangerous than grizzly bears!” Perhaps best of all: bird-watching can be done in the safety of your own backyard. With a sketchbook and a pencil, even kids can learn about a bird’s characteristics. Observing its color, shape, actions, and interactions, the careful young scientist can learn to study nature. From “Be a Birdbrain” suggestions to “Wing Tips” that provide facts for novices, this new picture book is loaded with prodding questions. For example, observers can notice how a bird spends its time. Is it a loner? Does it stay in groups? Silly cartoons and speech bubbles punctuate the text, encouraging readers to linger over the detailed drawings to extract a plethora of facts. No matter where kids live, by looking up, beginning hobbyists can observe the world around them. Now they know what to look for.

No Monkeys No ChocolateSTEWART, Melissa and Allen Young. No Monkeys, No Chocolate. illus. by Nicole Wong. Charlesbridge. 2013. ISBN 9781580892872. JLG Level: SCE : Science Nonfiction Elementary (Grades 2–6).

What does it take to make chocolate? Milk? Sugar? Beans? Coffin flies? Lizards? Monkeys? Learning about the life cycle of a cocoa tree becomes fun and informative as readers discover how plants and animals work together to produce the bean that becomes chocolate. Cocoa pods don’t form without flowers and the midges that pollinate them. Flowers won’t bloom without the maggots that eat the ants’ brains which prevent the leaf-cutter ants from killing the leaves that feed the flowers. Fungi in the soil break down dead plants and animals, providing nutrients for the roots of the cocoa tree. A supporting cast of bookworms adds humor to the text. “I thought this book was about monkeys,” he says. “Well, we aren’t done yet. They must be coming,” she replies. To find out how monkeys help in the production of cocoa beans, kids will have to read it for themselves.

Pluto's SecretWEITEKAMP, Margaret A. with David DeVorkin. Pluto’s Secret: An Icy World’s Tale of Discovery. illus. by Diane Kidd.  Abrams. 2013. ISBN 9781419704239. JLG Level: SCE : Science Nonfiction Elementary (Grades 2–6).

Remember when Pluto’s status as a planet was revoked? Since 1930, when the small planet was discovered, idiosyncrasies kept scientists from being completely satisfied with its inclusion in the list of nine planets. Finally in 2006, scientists created the definition of a planet, and Pluto was outvoted. Weitekamp’s new informational picture book takes the reader back through time as Pluto is discovered, studied, and named by an eleven-year-old girl. Index, glossary, and a Who’s Who guide support common text nonfiction needs. Humorous illustrations and Pluto’s witty comments ensure that this new title will be a hit in a science classroom or in a storytime.

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.


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.

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