Here I go again, another summer, another reading goal.  I simply must get a better understanding of my nonfiction collection, weed what I can, make notes for what needs to be updated and added, and make repairs to bindings, spine labels, and catalog records.  It's a project that will have to extend to the school year, but I'd like to tackle as much as possible over the summer.  

Here's the plan...

  • Create a spreadsheet to track all the required information
    • Last circulation date and number of times circulated in the last 4 years
    • Copyright date
    • Repairs needed:  spine label, barcode label, torn pages, binding
    • AR Level correct on book and in catalog record
    • Location in catalog correct
    • Notes: for use, display, updates
    • Weeding decision - I know I will keep things that I can't afford to update
  • Review at least one shelf a week
  • Make a plan for using books in library lessons next year, or at least highlighting them for others to enjoy.
There are over 70 shelves of nonfiction books in my library and some of them are packed full.  It is so hard to get rid of books.  Yet, I need to make room. I need to free up the top shelves so students are no longer standing on chairs to reach them.  I can use that space to display interesting books, but that's more work and I barely keep up as it is.  Isn't there a creative mom or dad out there that wants to volunteer to do this every week for the WGS library?  Actually, that could be a good student project, too.  Curating and designing are important skills to develop, right?  Hmmm... I might be on to something.

Pi in the Sky

Pi in the Sky
by Wendy Mass
A.R. 4.6
Genre:  Science Fiction

To start, I have to say that I don't enjoy science fiction or fantasy, in general.  Students, however, do.  Living so close to one of the nation's largest space towns gives me another incentive to keep sci-fi in my reading list.  I like the play on words in this book title, Pi in the Sky, and that alone was enough to get me started.

The main character, Joss, is one of the seven sons of the Supreme Overlord of the Realms (a.ka., the Universe).  His job is to deliver pies, which he believes to be a trivial job.  But, when an earthling catches a glimpse of the Realms through her telescope, the Earth has to be destroyed.  It's up to Joss to figure out how to rebuild space and time so that he can reconstruct everything that led up to the moment when the Realms were revealed.  There are plenty of themes to explore for every type of reader - language (pi, pie, even the author's last name!), relationships, and, of course, the science.  It was a fun read.  I already know which student I am going to recommend it to first.

The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #1)
Lightning Thief
by Rick Riordan
A.R. 4.7
Genre:  Fantasy

When Mr. Brandon tells the classic mythology tales to his fifth grade students, they flock to the library for more.  I have been slowly adding good collections of the Greek and Roman myths to the collection.  Then, I realized we didn't have The Lightning Thief series.  Serious oversight.  I have added all the books in the series, and read the first.  Riordan does a good job creating likeable characters which makes this book series an enjoyable read, even for someone that doesn't enjoy the genre.  In this introduction, Percy Jackson is being thrown out of boarding school again.  Learning that he is a half-god explains some of the trouble he's had all his life - like the fact that he's dyslexic because he was supposed to be reading in ancient Greek.  It creates much bigger problems though as he has angered the gods who believe he has stolen Zeus's lightning bolt.  This is an action-packed read that teaches a lot of lessons along the way.  If you like Harry Potter, you will enjoy this series, too.

Smile (Smile, #1)

by Raina Telgemeier
AR 2.6
Genre: Realistic Fiction/Graphic Novel

One night after a Girl Scout meeting, Raina trips and falls down resulting in a serious injury to her two front teeth.  It's an accident that changes everything as she learns to deal with bullies, overcome adversity, and persist through the ordeals of multiple dental surgeries and procedures to bring back her smile.  The story is based on the author's life and has many valuable lessons to share.

14 Cows for America
14 Cows for America
by Carmen Agra Deedy/illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez
AR 4.1
Genre: Nonfiction/327.676 - International Relations

When America was attacked on September 11, 2001, there was an outpouring of support from other countries.  Those of us who were old enough (not my elementary students, who weren't even born yet!) can remember headlines like Le Monde's "We Are All Americans" declaring that support to the world.  Many of us may not have heard the story of a small village in Kenya that signified their support by donating their most cherished possessions in honor of America.  This is the story of how the village learned of the tragedy many months later.  Kimeli Naiyomah was living in New York City on September 11, 2001, and returned to his village the following spring.  When he asked the elders if he could offer his only cow - a symbol of life - they give their blessing.  His gift inspired others in the village to do the same.  The story ends with this powerful sentiment:  "There is no nation so powerful it cannot be wounded, nor a people so small they cannot offer mighty comfort."

Bridges!: Amazing Structures to Design, Build & Test
Bridges!  Amazing Structures to Design, Build & Test
by Carol A. Johmann and Elizabeth J. Rieth
illustrations by Michael Kline
Genre:  Nonfiction/624.2 -  Civil Engineering

Blending science, history, and hands-on activities, this book teaches you all about bridge-building basics.  You will not only learn about the different types of bridges, but also the many different professionals involved in designing and constructing them.  For each chapter, there are projects and suggestions for students to make decisions about materials, costs, and design of bridges.  The last chapter is a list of bridges by state representing the different styles of bridges.  I would pair this with a Google Earth search for a virtual tour of bridges, and of course hands-on bridge building activities!

Discovering New Planets
Discovering New Planets 
by Mae Jemison and Dana Meachun Rau
A.R. 5.5
Genre: Nonfiction/523.2 - Astronomy

Ever since Mike Brown (Huntsville native and Grissom High School graduate, by the way) discovered a dwarf planet that led the scientific community to demote Pluto as one of the 9 planets in our solar system, I have found the space research more interesting.  It truly is the last frontier!  Learn about how planets are made, discovered, and explored by reading this book.  Then, be thankful that we live in a community so close to Huntsville, Alabama where you can explore your interest deeper at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, meet local scientists working on these issues, and carve out a career for yourself some day.

The 100 Year Starship
The 100 Year Starship
by Mae Jemison and Dana Meachun Rau
A.R. 5.6
Genre: Nonfiction/629.45 - Astronautics

Did you know that NASA and DARPA are working on a plan for interplanetary space travel?  That's the space beyond our solar system!  Of course, this isn't necessarily new as you will find by reading the book.  NASA has been researching this since the 1970s.  In that time, they've cut the travel time from 70,000 years to about 40,000 years.  Dr. Jemison, co-author of this book, is leading the 100-Year project to figure out how to address all the challenges of interplanetary space travel, including how to get there, how to survive once there, and why this all matters.  

Product Details
Days that Changed the World Series
by Colin Hynson
A.R. 8.3
Genre:  Nonfiction/940.54 - Military History of World War II

The soldiers' courage on that day overwhelms me every time I read about it.  This book introduces the D-Day landing by providing the events that led up to the invasions at Normandy, Omaha, Utah,  Gold, Juno, and Sword beaches.  Then, it follows the soldiers liberation of France, Belgium, and Holland on their way to defeating Germany in battles on their own soil.  It's an information packed text that is sure to make you understand why the men and women who fought and supported that war through efforts at home are rightly known as The Greatest Generation.

Noah's Ark
Noah's Ark
by Jerry Pinkney
A.R. 3.3
Genre:  Nonfiction/222 - Historical books of Old Testament
Caldecott Honor Book

This picture book adaptation of the flood story from the Bible portrays the ark construction, the migration of the animals to the ark, the 40 days of falling rains, and the final receding of the waters beautifully.  The larger format helps to convey the epic nature of this story.  I read the dedication, "to the caretakers of all things, big and small" as a call to us all to be stewards of the land and life around us.

The One and Only Ivan
by Katherine Applegate
A.R. 4.0
Genre:  Fantasy
Newbery Award

This is the story of the real-life Ivan, an ape held as the main attraction in the Big Top Mall and Video Arcade.  He spends his time watching TV and talking to his friends, Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, the stray dog.  He has human friends, too, and will need to find a way to communicate with them to keep his promise to Stella.  The events in the story are not real, but the emotions they create definitely are.  You will cheer for Ivan, think a little deeper about your own humanity, and never forget this book.  

Nursery Rhyme Comics: 50 Timeless Rhymes from 50 Celebrated Cartoonists
Nursery Rhyme Comics
by Charles Duffy
A.R. 3.8
Genre: Nonfiction/398.8 Nursery Rhymes

Collaborating with 50 famous cartoonists, Duffy has compiled a collection of nursery rhymes in comic form.  Today, students know fewer nursery rhymes than they have in the past.  This collection will help introduce them to the classics in a unique way.  There are some tough vocabulary words in some of these nursery rhymes and the comic illustrations give young readers visual cues to help them understand.  We have access to several comic strip and animation apps that students can use to create their own comic versions of nursery rhymes once inspired by this collection.

The Milk Makers
The Milk Makers
by Gail Gibbons
A.R. 3.0
Genre:  Nonfiction/637 - Farming

This book begins with the cows grazing in the field and ends with a family sitting at a table enjoying their carton of milk from the grocery store.  In between,  the reader learns about all the things the cow and the farmer does to bring that milk to the market.  The informative, engaging writing is accompanied by beautiful drawings with labels and diagrams to help explain all the complicated processes.
Old Liberty Bell
by Frances Rogers and Alice Beard
Genre:  Nonfiction/974.8 - American History

This book was published in 1942 making it a good candidate for weeding except that it is so interesting.  It tells the story of the liberty bell from its commission by the Assembly of the Province of Pennsylvania in 1752 through its participating in the 150th anniversary of Independence Day in 1926 (which was less than 20 years prior to the publication of this book!).  You'll learn how it got the famous crack, how it was saved during the Revolutionary War, and how it was used throughout our history to ring for freedom and liberty. 

Jim Thorpe's Bright Path
Jim Thorpe's Bright Path 
by Joseph Bruchac, illustrated by S.D. Nelson
A.R. 5.5
Genre:  Biography

Jim Thorpe was a Native American born in 1887.  He had to overcome many personal hardships, including the loss of both parents and his twin brother before he finished high school.  He remained devoted to hard work and developing his athletic potential eventually winning gold medals in pentathlon and decathlon at the summer Olympic games and playing professional baseball and football.  In 1999, Congress passed a resolution honoring him as the athlete of the century.  I'm guessing many of my students still have never heard of him.  These shorter biographies for the upper grade level readers don't get as much attention as they should.  I need to do a better job promoting them so that students can learn from the triumphs and trials of ordinary people that became famous.

Elvis Presley
Elvis Presley
by Adele Q. Brown
A.R. 6.8
Genre: Biography

I dare say, all of my students have heard of Elvis.  This is a thorough biography of Elvis's early life through his death.  It's a great text for teaching nonfiction reading skills too, with plenty of captions, timelines, insets, and headings/subheadings to organize the information.  A child of the 70s, I knew most of the facts here except for one disturbing new one for me - Elvis received his only failing grade in music class.  It really makes you think, as a teacher, about how to authentically assess what your students know and can do in a given subject.

The Elements
The Elements (A True Book series)
by Matt Mullins
A.R. 6.0
Genre:  Nonfiction/546 - Chemistry

Like all the books in the True Book series, this text begins with a true or false question to frame your reading.  Did you know that chemistry developed out of attempts to find a way to make gold from less expensive matter and to find a potion that could extend life?  The elements are the building blocks for all matter, which is the focus of chemistry.  Eye-catching pictures, diagrams, and captions draw your attention to key facts while the text is organized in concise sections to aid comprehension.  You'll learn all the famous scientists in chemistry, including Boyle, Brand, Mendeleev, Ramsey, Rutherford, and Newton and how their contributions led to the creation of the periodic table we know today.  Read this book to learn all about how the periodic table is used to organize elements and how scientists are still discovering new elements today. 


The Aurora County All-Stars
The Aurora County All-Stars
by Deborah Wiles
A.R. 4.5
Genre: Sports and Realistic Fiction

House Jackson spent the year off from baseball recovering from a broken elbow.  His teammates don't know he also spent that year reading to the town's mysterious, and recently deceased, citizen, Mr. Norwood Boyd.  Now, that he is finally able to return to baseball, it looks like the only game they play all year will be preempted by the town's 200th anniversary pageant.  It's up to House to figure out a solution, explain his connection to the mysterious Mr. Boyd, and come to terms with his past.  This is not your average coming of age story.  To be honest, there were times when this book got long and boring to me... not unlike a baseball game (even though I am a fan).  Stick with it, and you will be rewarded with some glorious plays by the end.

Antarctic Journal
Antarctic Journal
by Meredith Hooper
illustrate by Lucia deLeiris
A.R. 5.3
Genre:  Nonfiction/591.998

Meredith Hooper and Lucia deLeiris traveled to Antarctica together to combine research with art.  You might be surprised to learn about all the life living in the freezing waters surrounding the Antarctic and the importance of sea ice on the entire ecosystem.  I know I was.  It's a short, but informative read that goes well beyond the focus of penguins and icy tundras in the Antarctic.

Bad Kitty School Daze

Bad Kitty School Daze
by Nick Bruel
A.R. 3.3
Genre:  Fantasy

Puppy has managed to drag Kitty into another bad situation.  This time, they are both sent to school for manners training.  Things only get worse when Petunia, a bulldog at school, admits that she cannot stand cats.  Kitty thinks quickly and convinces Petunia that she is a cow.  How long can she keep up the charade?  Will Puppy, Petunia, and Kitty learn to get along with each other?  You'll have to read this book to find out.

*I didn't have time to read my 7 books this week.  I'm busy preparing for ISTE.  It's a long road trip, so maybe I'll make up for it next week.

Milton Hershey: Young Chocolatier
Milton Hershey: Young Chocolatier
by M.M. Eboch
AR 4.1
Genre: Biography
Childhood of Famous Americans Series

Reading an entrepreneur's biography never fails to inspire and astound me.  I wish I was a risk taker, but I'm not; and I know I could never continue in the face of repeated failures on the scale of bankruptcy and shame that most eventually successful people have in their background.  Hershey started 3 candy companies before he had any sustainable success.  He also had to overcome childhood poverty and a father whose irresponsible dreaming cost them their home when he was a child and multiple businesses as an adult.  Unlike his father, Milton Hershey coupled idealistic dreams with hard work and tenacity.  After becoming a successful, not to mention extremely wealthy, businessman, Hershey never forgot his ideals.  He created a town around his factory that offered the workers comfortable, unique homes, park space, entertainment, and educational facilities.  He also opened a boys' orphanage and maintained hands-on involvement in the lives of the boys to ensure that they had a happier childhood than his own and access to opportunities to improve their futures.
Woody's 20 Grow Big Songs
by Woody Guthrie and Marjorie Mazia Guthrie
Genre: Nonfiction/782.42 

Finding this book in the collection delighted me.  Folk music has always been among my favorite styles, and Woody Guthrie's music filled my childhood.    Written for his children, the songs are perfect for sharing with our K-5 students.  There were some old standards that I knew well, like Howdy Do, Bling Blang, and Riding in My Car. Others were new to me.  If only I could play an instrument, I'd be using these in my story time.  There are great action songs like Dance Around that will get kids moving and following directions at the same time.  What a refreshing change All Work Together would be to the Clean Up Song and yet serve the same good purpose.  Oh yeah!  This is a keeper.  I'm looking for the recorded songs to go with it.

God is in the Mountain
by Ezra Jack Keats
Genre:  Nonfiction/290

Keats selected quotes from world religions and published them with illustrations of the natural world.  There is no indoctrination here, just a common "awareness of a dimension without which life is indeed meaningless."  I enjoyed this work immensely. 

The Trail of Tears

The Trail of Tears
by R. Conrad Stein
AR 6.8
Genre:  Nonfiction/970.004

This brief text tells the heartbreaking story of the Cherokee removal from their land in Georgia.  In spite of treaties, a Supreme Court decision upholding the Cherokee's right to their land, and a peaceful, productive nation of educated people, the government of Andrew Jackson forced them off their lands with no time to even gather their possessions.  A quarter of all the Cherokees died along the Trail of Tears making their way west to land that would, in time, be taken from them again.  


The History of Money
The History of Money
by Roberta Basel
AR 3.1
Genre: Nonfiction/332.4

Have you ever wondered how paper bills became what we know as money?  If so, this book has you covered from bartering to shells and beads to the computerized money we use today.

Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reversible Verse
Mirror, Mirror
by Marilyn Singer
illustrated by Josee Masse
Genre: Poetry/811

A reverso is a poem that when read from top to bottom is one poem.  Then, when read from bottom to top, with changes allowed for punctuation and capitalization only, it is another poem.  This book of reversos is especially enjoyable as the poems tell both sides of traditional fairy tales.  Consider this excerpt from In the Hood:

     In my hood,
     skipping through the wood,
     carrying a basket, 
     picking berries to eat --
     juicy and sweet
     what a treat!
     But a girl
     mustn't dawdle.

                        Mustn't dawdle...
But a girl!

What a treat--
juicy and sweet,
picking berries to eat,
carrying a basket,
skipping through the wood

in my 'hood.
I'm keen to try this form on my own and introduce it to my students.  This is definitely an exercise that meets common core standards of rigor.

Glacier National Park
by Mike Graf
National Parks Series
AR 4.5
Genre: Nonfiction/917.86

Glacier National Park is bigger than Rhode Island, has received a foot of snow as late as August, and home to more than 1,800 different kinds of plants.  This book, like the others in the National Parks Series, gives you basic information about the history of the park, weather, wildlife, and activities.  Most of the national parks are west of the Mississippi river, but all of them hold treasures waiting to be enjoyed.  Read this series and you'll be ready to pack your bags for one trip or more!