Written by Sally Isaacs
Illustrated by Iva Sasheva
When you go for a walk, do you usually have to worry about polar bears? Not as long as you’re not walking alone to the north pole. But that’s exactly what Helen Thayer did in 1988. Helen was a mountain climber and adventurer who was always looking for a new challenge. When she reached the drop off point – a small village in northern Canada – a hunter insisted she take one of his dogs, Charlie, with her. It was a good decision, as the dog provided some protection against a bear and added warmth during a blizzard. Winds blew away many of her supplies, but Helen and Charlie reached their destination and were able to radio for pick up.
Detailed and accurate illustrations help to make the story come to life and become accessible to students. Reading the story aloud with a class would stimulate discussion on the perils faced in an arctic environment. Reading activities could include imagining what supplies need to be taken on such an expedition and how much they would weigh.
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- Title: Helen Thayer’s Arctic Adventure
- Author: Sally Isaacs
- Illustrator: Iva Sasheva
- Published: Capstone Press, March, 2016
- Reviewer: Sue Poduska
- Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
- Grade Level: 4 to 6
- Genre: Nonfiction, History
- ISBN: 978-1-62370-607-4
- Extras: Map, Note from Helen Thayer, More About Helen Thayer, More About Charlie, Glossary, Read More, Internet Sites, Discussion Questions, Index
Written by Alexis O’Neill
Illustrated by Terry Widener
When it became time to build a bridge across the enormous Niagara Falls between the United States and Canada, the best way to begin seemed to include a single string. But how could anyone get a string between the two nations?
Charles Ellet, Jr. decided to sponsor a kite flying contest, with a reward for anyone who could span the chasm with a kite string. That was exactly what a young Irish immigrant boy named Homan Walsh loved to do more than anything else. Fly kites.
This is his story. It is written sparingly, like exquisite poetry. But it tells details. How he designed his kite, built it, named it, tested it. This story tells of his hardship of getting stranded by a huge winter storm.
Readers will cheer for Homan. Readers will be amazed and want to read about Niagara Falls. They will want to build kites and go outside to fly them. Fourth grade readers will dream big dreams and go forth to follow those big dreams.
Teachers and librarians can use this book in the core curriculum to teach geography, biography, history and research in a really entertaining way.
- Title: The Kite that Bridged Two Nations
- Author: Alexis O’Neill
- Illustrator: Terry Widener
- Publisher: Calkins Creek, 2013
- Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
- Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
- ISBN: 978-1-59078-938-4
- Genre: Nonfiction
- Grade Level: 3-6
- Extras: Extensive author’s note/ timeline/resources/ sources for further research
Written by Penelope Arlon
Once again Scholastic has produced a breath takingly beautiful book about ancient Egypt full of mummies and gold.
The diagrams are clearly marked and everything is easy to read. Pages are full, and yet, not busy. Fourth grade readers will enjoy learning the names for ancient symbols and names for seasons of the year. Of course, the pharaohs still command much attention and interest. Timelines help keep the succession in order. Homelife, board games, personal beauty secrets are shared here as well as information about food, drink and the Rosetta stone.
Teachers and librarians can use this accessible research book to meet literacy and common core standards both for the confident elementary reader and the reluctant, struggling older reader.
Students will spend hours enjoying the beauty of the artifacts and will be able to read the short passages of text printed in a slightly larger font than has been typical of nonfiction of the past.
This is an excellent addition to the set of “Discover More“ books put out by Scholastic.
- Title: Ancient Egypt
- Author: Penelope Arlon
- Publisher: Scholastic, 2014
- Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
- Format: Paperback, 80 pages
- ISBN: 978-0-545-62739-9
- Genre: Nonfiction, social studies, history
- Grade Level: 4 and up
- Extras: Photographs, glossary, index and special code to download Amazing Mummy Tales
Written by S.N. Paleja
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Despite some effort to provide culturally diverse education for students, information on Native Americans is largely ignored or just plain nonexistent. In this ambitious text, the author provides an excellent overview and beginning point for learning about the first North Americans. Each page uses graphics to provide information and should capture the attention of fourth graders with numerous charts, graphs, and timelines. Naturally, the author begins with where the people came from and when. He gives a great explanation of the land bridge called Beringia and how and when it disappeared. He also shows that many groups used shoreline exploration rather than overland routes for migration. The various climate zones in which the groups lived and the names of the tribes are discussed, as well as the types of shelters they constructed, the community structures and the food they ate. A particularly striking graphic of the many uses for the bison is shown. The reader learns about environmental impact, the diverse languages of Native Americans, their spiritual beliefs, and their inventions. When Europeans entered the picture, looking for riches, the lives of Native Americans changed drastically. The author explores their current situation and possible future.
With all the infographics presented, the author implicitly suggests further reading activities, such as drawing more detailed maps over smaller regions. This is a dispassionate treatment of the overall subject, which affords a great opportunity to learn the true facts. The extensive bibliography and index make it easy for the curious reader to continue study of the topics introduced. The publisher’s website (www.annickpress.com) has more about the book, the author, and the publisher.
- TITLE: Native Americans: A Visual Exploration
- AUTHOR: S.N. Paleja
- PUBLISHER: Annick Press
- REVIEWER: Sue Poduska
- EDITION: 2013
- ISBN: 978-1-55451-485-4
- GENRE: History, Native American Affairs
- LEXILE: 1070
Written by Andreas Schroeder
Illustrated by Remy Simard
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Readers on the 4th grade reading level and up who like adventure and action will enjoy the drama and intrigue in Robbers! True Stories of the World’s Most Notorious Thieves! Presented in chapters this 166-page text provides stories of famous historical robberies. Each chapter presents one robber, an in-depth look at one of their heists, and briefer descriptions of their other crimes. From a team of thieves who stole the Mona Lisa to an individual who hijacked a plane and parachuted as an escape, Robbers! illustrates the creative approaches criminals have taken.
But Robbers! doesn’t only highlight illegal successes. Through stories of criminal mistakes, such as a pair of thieves who didn’t know how to fly their get-away plane to a team who forgot to run the dishwasher (and thus left numerous fingerprints for police to use), this book shows how crooks get caught. Robbers! details criminal techniques such as how to case a bank, how to run pearls over your teeth to determine if they are genuine or fake, and how to act your way through a situation to bluff authority figures. This is information some adults may not want in the hands of young readers so this book might not end up on third grade reading lists; on the other hand, the stories do teach the values of attention to detail, careful work and determination and the book might intrigue risk-seeking students who need practice with their reading skills. A book that highlights criminal action could glorify the thieves or show them as villains. Robbers!, however, presents these histories with a non-judgemental tone. The book concludes with a robber-turned-good – the story of Willie Sutton, a bank-robbing addict who eventually turned his energies to helping banks improve their security.
Each story is accompanied by brief cartoon-style illustrations placed in-line with the text. This presentation style requires the cartoon caption to be read as a part of the main text and may confuse some readers, but the illustrations themselves help lighten the book. Every spread includes at least one illustration and some pages include a call out note with additional information. Backmatter includes a chapter-by-chapter bibliography, an index and further reading. Unfortunately all of the books listed in the further reading are at least twenty years old, so may be out-dated and hard for young readers to access.
- TITLE: Robbers! True Stories of the World’s Most Notorious Thieves
- AUTHOR: Andreas Schroeder
- ILLUSTRATOR: Remy Simard
- PUBLISHER: Annick Press
- REVIEWER: Heather L. Montgomery
- EDITION: Paperback: 166 p.
- ISBN: 978-1554514403
- GENRE: Nonfiction, History
- LEXILE: 1230GN
Written by Anna Olswanger
Illustrated by Miriam Nerlove
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Imagine being an elementary school boy. You are forced to move to a new country. You are thrown into a boarding type school. You know no one. You have no family. You have only one possession. You are a Holocaust survivor.
Now imagine again being an elementary school boy. You attend a boarding school filled with bullies. You talk about your father all the time. You have a significant speech impediment.
You just met Daniel and Aaron.
Greenhorn is a short read at only forty-eight pages, but huge issues are found within those pages. While it seems that the Holocaust would be a major theme here, it really comes across as just a background issue. The more intricate themes are about bullying, belonging, self-discovery and friendship.
What is brought forth immediately, and throughout the book, is the name calling and bullying that was common for the 1940’s Brooklyn. I was taken back by this while in the read, but after realizing that is what life was like in that time, it came together for me. Linked, as a result of the bullying from other students, Aaron (has a speech impediment) and Daniel (the Holocaust survivor) find a friendship. Its that sense of belonging in a group that helps these characters survive their time within the school.
I can’t divulge what’s in the box. No spoiler alert here. Just read the book.
Not being Jewish, or knowing much about the Jewish culture, I found it hard to understand many of the words used. However, there is a vocabulary list of these words and I would strongly recommend having the students learn those before reading. It will definitely enhance the readers comprehension of the events. The illustrations enhance the reading material and give fourth grade readers a nice break within the pages. The publisher, NewSouth, has made an extensive Discussion Guide for families and Classroom Guide for teachers (http://www.newsouthbooks.com/greenhorn). When you are ready to introduce the Holocaust to your students, Greenhorn will bring the students in gently.
- Title: Greenhorn
- Author: Anna Olswanger
- Illustrator: Miriam Nerlove
- Publisher: NewSouth Books
- Reviewer: Ann H. Norris
- ISBN: 1588382354
- Edition: Hardback, 48 pages
- Genre: History, Relationships
- Lexile: 870
Written by Cheryl Harness
Illustrated by Carlo Molinari
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I’m writing this review wearing pants, no shorts. My freedom to wear these “outrageous,” “positively sinful,” “scandalous” clothes is due, in part, to Mary Walker and other brave, stubborn women like her. Mary Walker Wears the Pants is a read-aloud biography that tells the story of a mid-nineteenth century woman who became one of the world’s first women doctors. She persistently helped soldiers and civilians during the Civil War, even when no one acknowledged her or requested her help. Walker was a prisoner of war (for her probable role as a spy for the Union), yet after the Civil War, she labored on as a doctor and was eventually awarded the Medal of Honor. Walker also travelled the U.S. and abroad as a paid speaker about her service, imprisonment, and pants!
Mary Walker Wears the Pants is well-suited for reading aloud in a fourth grade class as a part of a Civil War or Women’s History unit. It is also a perfect biography for a fourth grader to read for a biography book report. Carlo Molinari’s illustrations distinctly demonstrate the contrast of what women traditionally wore to what Mary Walker’s pants suits were like. Girls today take for granted the freedom they have to express themselves any way they want, and Cheryl Harness provides a fresh perspective about how fortunate we are to have such stubborn women like Mary Walker in our rich history.
- Title: Mary Walker Wears the Pants: The True Story of the Doctor, Reformer, and Civil War Hero
- Author: Cheryl Harness
- Illustrator: Carlo Molinari
- Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company
- Reviewer: Sharon Schulte
- Paperback, 32 pages
- ISBN: 978-0-8075-4990-2
- Genre: non-fiction/biography/women physicians/Civil War/history
- Lexile: – AD910
Written by Marion Dane Bauer
Illustrated by C. B. Canga
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Mr. Geo is on the move again in Celebrating New York. This time he is taking a trip to the state of New York. On this visit, he goes to Times Square, the Statue of Liberty and Niagara Falls, just to mention a few places. He even goes to the 86th floor, which happens to be the top, of the Empire State building. Many people think of New York City as just a bunch of buildings and skyscrapers, but Mr. Geo shows us that is not the case with Central Park being right the middle of Manhattan. This park takes up several city blocks with carousels, horseback riding, museums and even a zoo. How’s that for city living? Even the site of the World Trade Center is mentioned, along with the new construction of the One World Trade Center.
Celebrating New York is loaded with fun facts and illustrations of not only New York City, but other parts of the state, too.
While written for fourth grade reading, other elementary grades would also enjoy this book. There is also a page of activities, at the end of the book as well. Geography, history and fun trivia facts about the state of New York are all covered in this one book. The author has also included a glossary page as well. Students will develop further reading skills by using Mr. Geo’s trip as a jump start to some further research and discovery of the state.
- Title: Celebrating New York
- Author: Marion Dane Bauer
- Illustrator: C. B. Canga
- Publisher: Sandpiper Publishing
- Reviewer: Cheri Liddy
- Paperback: 36 pages
- ISBN: 978-0-547-89781-3
- Genre: geography, history
Written by Madeline Donaldson
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Deadly Bloody Battles by Madeline Donaldson is aimed at the fourth grade reading level and up. It covers twelve of history’s deadliest battles including: Thermopylae and Salamis, Battle of Watling Street, Battle of Baghdad, Taking Down Tenochtitlan, Battle of Saratoga, Battle of Borodino, Battle of Antietam, Verdun and the Somme, Battle of Stalingrad, and the Battle of the Bulge.
Each spread provides key details and facts, as well as pictures, photos, and art that represent the battles mentioned above in some unique manner. Readers will feel planted in each battle as if they were transported back in time to witness the facts and bloody gore for themselves. Donaldson also provides an index, as well as a detailed list of sources and websites for readers to dig more deeply for further information. Deadly Bloody Battles will appeal most to fourth grade boys and up and will likely inspire imaginative play. What better way to reinforce the facts as kids act out what they have just learned? Be sure to keep sharp, pointy objects out of reach.
Deadly Bloody Battles is part of the series called Shock Zone: Deadly and Dangerous. Other books in this series are: Deadly Adorable Animals, Deadly Venomous Animals, Deadly Danger Zones, Deadly High-Risk Zones, and Deadly Hard-Hitting Sports. Teachers and librarians would be remiss not to include Deadly Bloody Battles in their nonfiction titles of their library. Parents with active boys with inquiring minds, Deadly Bloody Battles could be the book that turns your child into a more active reader.
- Title: Deadly Bloody Battles
- Author: Madeline Donaldson
- Publisher: Lerner
- Reviewer: Annemarie O’Brien
- Paperback: 32 pages
- ISBN: 978-1-4677-0601-8
- Genre: nonfiction, history
Written and photographed by Jan Reynolds
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What is it like to grow up in a culture that is radically different than your own? Children are fascinated by other ways of life, and introducing them to books and other representations of different cultures at a young age is a vital way to broaden their worldview and make them more accepting of other ways of life.
In Only the Mountains Do Not Move, author and photographer Jan Reynolds provides a vivid glimpse in the culture of the Maasai tribe of East Africa. Reynolds introduces readers to several members of the tribe and describes what their typical days are like. The Maasai are nomads whose life revolves around grazing cattle. However, as the amount of grazing land shrinks and the landscape becomes more barren, these people have been forced to change their way of life in order to survive. Reynolds looks not only at the people of the Maasai and their lives, but also at how their environment is changing and how they are also changing in order to keep their traditions alive.
I think Only the Mountains Do Not Move is a good choice for a fourth grade library. Although the reading level is likely to be above the average fourth grade student, the topic is fascinating and the photos are eye-catching. These elements make this a great book for a classroom read aloud. Reynolds does a wonderful job of bringing the Maasai people to life and showing the value of their culture. The book is sprinkled with Maasai proverbs, which could lead to an interesting classroom project or creative reading worksheets. A glossary, pronunciation guide, and source notes add to the value of the book. There is even a link to a website where students can connect with Maasai children and help build schools for them! Although the comprehension level of this book is advanced for fourth graders, the beautiful presentation, excellent writing, and appealing message make it a great addition to a classroom library.
- Title: Only the Mountains Do Not Move
- Author and photographer: Jan Reynolds
- Publisher: Lee & Low Books, 2011
- Hardback: 40 pages
- ISBN 978-1-60060-844-5
- Genre: Social Studies, World Cultures
- Lexile: 990L