April 19, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Star-Studded Science for Common Core Support │ JLG’s On the Radar

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Dolphins that use a sponge to hunt for food? Parrots that don’t know how to protect themselves from hawks? Crows that build fake nests? Scientists encounter amazing phenomena in their work. Narrative nonfiction provides readers with answers and teachers with informational texts for curriculum standards support. The following science titles, selected by the editors at Junior Library Guild, are sure to foster an interest in knowing more about our world, and the scientists who study it.

Wild Animal NeighborsDOWNER, Ann. Wild Animal Neighbors: Sharing Our Urban World. Twenty-First Century. 2013. ISBN 9780761390213. JLG Level: CE : City Elementary (Grades 2–6).

Why did the alligator cross the road? Because he lives on the other side of the street. As natural habitats shrink due to city development, wild animals become our next door neighbors. Consequently these animals lose their fear of humans, learn to forage for food in our trash, and as a result, either multiply beyond normal reproduction rates or dwindle in population numbers. Urban scientists study methods to balance the scale― redirecting bats to live in other trees, building wildlife overpasses for coyotes, and encouraging businesses to embrace dim zones, allowing the darkness to protect sea turtles from city lights.

Benjamin FranklinKRULL, Kathleen. Benjamin Franklin: Giants of Science. illus. by Boris Kulikov. Viking. 2013.  SBN 9780670012879. JLG Level: SCE : Science Nonfiction Elementary (Grades 2–6).

Everyone knows the story of Ben Franklin and his experiment with the kite, but did you know he wasn’t good at math? Ben was ten years old when his father took him out of school and put him to work in the family’s candle shop. He was also quite the ladies’ man and so popular in Paris that dolls made of his likeness sold in the shops. It was, however, his love of learning that drove him to wonder about how to make things work better. Inventor of the lightning rod, rather than obtaining a patent for it, he wrote instructions in his Almanack so that everyone could have one. As he told his mother in a letter, “I would rather have it said ‘He lived usefully’ than ‘He died rich.’’ Krull’s narrative biography is so conversational in tone, it reads as if you were listening to Franklin’s friends and family talking about him.

Lives of the ScientistsKRULL, Kathleen. Lives of the Scientists: Experiments, Explosions (and What the Neighbors Thought). illus. by Kathryn Hewitt. Harcourt. 2013. ISBN 9780152059095. JLG Level:  SCE : Science Nonfiction Elementary (Grades 2–6).

The best biographies are made of stories that you can’t wait to tell someone else. Lives of the Scientists is full of personal stories of scientists from our history books. Galileo not only refused to wear the formal academic toga―he wrote a three hundred line poem that made fun of it. Newton tested his vision by pushing his eyeball around in its socket. George Washington Carver grew tomatoes and created one hundred and fifteen ways to prepare them. When the Curies won the Nobel Prize in 1903, they installed a modern bathroom and bought caviar. Grace Murray Hopper was named the first “Computer Science Man of the Year.” When Jane Goodall was asked about the secret of her youth, she replied, “There’s so much to do.” The title has already been awarded a NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K–12.

Parrots over Puerto RicoROTH, Susan L. and Cindy Trumbore. Parrots Over Puerto Rico. illus. by Susan L.Roth. Lee & Low. 2013. ISBN 9781620140048. JLG Level: NE : Nonfiction Elementary (Grades 2–6).

And then there were twenty-four. Centuries ago, hundreds of thousands of parrots flew in the treetops of the Puerto Rican rainforests. Then people came in canoes. They hunted the birds. Hurricanes toppled their nests and more settlers came. New animals claimed their food and nesting grounds. They were hunted by humans and creatures alike. By 1967 there were only twenty-four parrots left. Puerto Ricans realized their iguacas were nearly extinct. A recovery program was developed to save and protect the parrots,  raise new birds, and teach them how to survive in the wild. Gorgeous cut papers illustrate the progress of the program’s efforts to move the parrots from endangered to threatened status. The title was just selected as an SLJ Best Book and a Booklist 2013 Lasting Connections for Social Studies.

Dolphins of Shark BayTURNER, Pamela S. The Dolphins of Shark Bay. illus. by Scott Tuason. Houghton Harcourt. 2013. ISBN 9780547716381. JLG Level: SCE : Science Nonfiction Elementary (Grades 2–6).

For more than 25 years, scientist Janet Mann and her team have studied the dolphins of Shark Bay. In this narrative nonfiction, author Pamela Turner shares her first-hand research to the fascinating world of life in the Australian cetacean world. Dolphins have learned to tear off a sponge to use as protection and as a tool to stir up prey on the ocean floor. They learn these skills from each other. Other dolphins beach hunt, leaving the sea for the sand in their hunt for food. Finding a mate works better if two males herd one female. Some females are better mothers than others. Scientists continue to learn about why dolphins are so smart. As Turner says, they offer us “possibilities.” The title was just selected as an SLJ Best Book a NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K–12.

For audio/video versions of these booktalks, please visit JLG’s Shelf Life Blog.

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.