Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Fly Guy Presents the White House

I am always on the look out for books that present non-fiction material accurately, but in ways kids will want to read. That is often a hard balance to achieve. I'm always willing to look at author's who make the move from using their fictional characters to introduce non-fiction material, but I have a high standard for accuracy and age appropriate material.

While searching our libraries new available titles I ran across Fly Guy Presents: The White House (Scholastic Reader, Level 2)and decided to preview it to see if it met my standards.

I know several younger readers who love Fly Guy although he's never been on my favorite character list, so I thought he might draw readers into non-fiction topics. With the election year being in the news I thought parents and teachers might want some age appropriate material to discuss with children.

One of the strengths and the weakness of this book is it attacks a wide range of topics. From a leveled reader perspective I'm not sure this would hold the reader's attention. As a shared read with the teacher or parent, I think this book might be more effective in discussing the amount of information the author has embedded in this short book.

The book begins with an introduction to the White House, using a map to show where it is located in the United States. From there the book goes on to discussing the various people who live and work in the White House. I though this was rather an interesting point as I know as a child I never thought much beyond the President and his family. It never really occurred to me how many people it took to run the White House and the governmental staff. This is only a brief introduction, but it is better than just saying this is where the President lives. The book continues by discussing the role of First Lady and in light of the current election situation, what that role would be should a woman be elected.

From there the book provides a brief discussion of the election system, bypassing the electoral college, which was likely deemed to complicated to explain for a Level 2 reader.

The book continues with a brief history of the White House including portraits of all the Presidents. I liked the map of the White House and the stories of the President's children that were included in this section.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Fred Flintstone's Adventures with Wedges

Fred Flintstone's Adventures with Wedgesis part of a Simple Machine series starring the Flintstone's characters.

This series breaks down the individual components of simple machines into separate books. The focus is for younger readers and the text, dialogue and pictures are designed to introduce, define, and provide examples of wedges. The book does a great job introducing the concept and provides some interesting examples to help young readers understand what a wedge is and how to identify one.

Fred discusses door wedges, wheel chocks, axes, nails, chisels, darts, knives, and teeth. Each is illustrated and the characters explain why these fit the definition of a wedge.

My one question about this series is name recognition. I loved the Flintstone's as a child. However, talking to my niece's boys they don't seem to know much about them. Parents might enjoy sharing their memories of the series with their kids. I'm just not sure if the connection will be the same if there isn't a connection to the cartoon.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Yogi Bear's Guide to Plants

I am always on the look out for books that engage kids with science concepts and vocabulary. Yogi Bear's Guide to Plantsprovides younger readers with fun characters to guide them through learning the basic language, vocabulary, and scientific concepts associated with plants.

The book begins with the introduction of seeds and how seeds turn into plants. I particurally liked the picture that shows the progression in bean plant growth. While not labeled it is a great visual that demonstrates plant growth from the hard seed to the beginnings of a leaf plant.

The book gave a very basic attempt at explaining chlorophyll and photosynthesis. I looked at this a couple of times before deciding this was actually an age appropriate explanation of the topic. Some books choose to ignore the science of plants, thus making it harder for kids to learn later. Some bombard them with so much information they can't absorb it all and it gets shut off. To pardon a pun, this planted the beginnings of the concepts in language that is accessible by younger children without teaching them inappropriate science language or ignoring the science concepts. It begins to explain photosynthesis without all the chemistry that most younger readers aren't going to absorb. However, it does it in a way that once they are ready for the chemistry of photosynthesis, nothing they have learned will need to be relearned. It will be building on knowledge already introduced.

The book goes on to discus the purpose of leaves, stems, and roots. I thought the explanations and illustrations were again age appropriate and designed to engage and entertain. While there are practical examples, there are also some very wild looking roots introduced as well.

Yogi goes on to discuss seeds and how they are spread, as well as other forms of plant reproduction. I was impressed with this section. Often in books written for younger readers you see the basic seeds discussed and the topic is left there. However, this discussed a wide range and scope of how plants reproduce. The book begins with bean seeds, continues with fruits, but then continues to conifers, ferns, moss, then flowering plants and trees. Clearly each is addressed at a basic level, but it does open the topic for further exploration and discussion.

While I've enjoyed all the books in the Yogi series, I will say this is my favorite that I've reviewed to date. I'm hoping more will be written and that they will eventually be published in something other than library binding, so I can put them on my Christmas list for my younger family members.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Aliens and Energy

Aliens and Energyis another entry in the Monster Science series.

Agnieszka Biskup chose aliens as a method to teach children about energy. The book begins by introducing the readers to the relationship between matter and energy. The author uses illustrations to help children access the vocabulary and concepts. I do prefer when the the characters are more integrated into telling the story, but I've come to accept that some in this series are only going to use the characters as illustrations, not as storytellers.

The story continues by defining the types of energy for readers. I was impressed by the explanation of kinetic vs potential energy. The explanations were clear and the illustrations added provided humor and more ways for students to access the material. Sound, light, and electrical energy are also addressed.

Changing energy is lightly covered. I thought the best part of this section was the explanation that energy can be changed but it isn't created or destroyed. The examples are less consistent. I found some were good in this section, others less strong.

The end was the weakest when it discusses energy conservation and renewable sources of energy. It lacked the consistency of the previous sections.