Sunday, October 11, 2009

Fascinating animal books for new readers - Easy Readers for Nonfiction Monday

Kids love animals, especially learning about dangerous or exotic animals.  As children launch into reading on their own, it's great to tap into interests that they have.  Here are three books for children in 1st, 2nd or 3rd grade who are reading longer sentences, and learning to read for information.  What I like about each of these books is that they provide interesting information in a format that is engaging and doesn't overwhelm new readers.
Dangerous Animals
(Scholastic True Or False)

by Melvin and Gilda Berger
NY: Scholastic, 2009
ages 4 - 7
Dangerous Animals is part of Scholastic's True of False series that engages young readers with a fun question-and-answer format, and bright, vibrant photographs.  This Easy Reader book plays on kids' fascination with exciting, dangerous animals.  Kids will want to turn the page to find out the answer to questions like:
- Big animals are more dangerous than small ones.  True or false?
- Tigers have the sharpest teeth of all big cats. True or false?
- The beautiful poison dart frog is not really poisonous. True or false?
- The Gila Monster kills with one quick bite. True or false?
I particularly like the format, with these high interest questions and eye-catching photos.  This book is written using fairly simple sentences, but the vocabulary can be tricky.  The entry on hippos starts simply: "Hippos have huge teeth."  But by the end of the paragraph, the sentences become more complex: "Demonstrating their great strength, the beasts swing their heads like sledgehammers and bite each other."  It's dramatic writing, but might be difficult for a 1st grader to read.
National Geographic Readers

by Melissa Stewart
DC: National Geographic Society, 2009.
ages 5 - 8
There is something about snakes that certainly makes my skin crawl, but so many kids are fascinated by them. Snakes! is part of National Geographic's series for Early Readers, and combines clear information with stunning photographs.  This book has detailed information, supported by clear, concise explanations.  I particularly liked how the author included definitions of new words right on the page.  For example, I learned that scutes are the "wide scales on the belly of a snake."  New words are set in eye-catching boxes on the pages that use them.  In addition, the pictures are clearly labeled, often with arrows pointing out important points.  Kids will clearly see the difference between a snakes' scales and skin.

But best of all, are the pictures.  I just wish I could show you some of the inside photos.  They grabbed my attention, and give me the slithery willies.  But then, I'm not a snake lover.  I know many little kids that will be all over this book.
Deep Ocean Creatures (Planet Earth)
by Lisa L. Ryan-Herndon
NY: Scholastic Inc, 2009.
ages 7 - 9
I was drawn to Deep Ocean Animals because 2nd graders in our school study oceans. I like the way each page is focused on a different deep ocean animal.  There are not many books that present this information in a way that new readers can access.  The photographs are interesting, and the text is limited on each page.  But this book was not as easy to read as I had hoped.  New, difficult terms are only defined in the back, where few kids will look.  The text varies between clear, straightforward sentences to very long, complex ones.  Here are two sentences from the entry on blue whales.
The blue whale is the largest animal in the world and can weigh up to 200 tons! ... Blue whales are filter feeders.  They have bristles, like a toothbrush, on the inside of their large mouths, which act as filters, sifting through mouthfuls of water to catch krill. (red words are defined in the back)
New readers will have difficulty reading all of these different clauses in one sentence.  They need shorter, clearer sentences with pictures to illustrate the meaning.  Even with these problems, I would recommend this book to 2nd or 3rd graders who are interested in learning about deep ocean animals.

Nonfiction Monday is a regular feature of the Kidlitosphere online community.  It's a wealth of information.  For more great nonfiction books for kids, check out this week's roundup hosted by Jean Little Library.

The review copy of these books came from one of my local bookstores, Diesel Books in Oakland. Stop by your local bookstores to check out their Easy Reader selection. You can also find them at your local public libraries through these links: Dangerous Animals, Snakes & Deep Ocean Creatures.

These books are available online at Amazon. If you make a purchase by clicking through to Amazon, Great Kid Books receives a small percentage, which will be used to buy more books to review.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for yoru great review of my book, Snakes! It was s-o-o-o much fun to write.

    Didn't my editor, Amy Shields, do a fantastic job selecting photos? National Geo rocks!