Seven Voyages: How China’s Treasure Fleet Conquered the Sea

Authors: Laurence Bergreen and Sara Fray

Publisher: Roaring Book Press

Release Date: Jan. 19/21

Length: 176 pages

Reviewer: Laurie

Thank you to the debut author Sara Fray, the publisher and Edelweiss + for an eARC copy.

I have never described myself as a nonfiction reader, but lately, I am discovering that I enjoy reading about various explorations. I did not know anything about China’s explorations, but I was about to learn a lot and be fascinated.

Seven Voyages: How China’s Treasure Fleet Conquered the Sea provides readers with some background information about the Yongle Emperor, Admiral Zheng He in charge of the fleet , the construction of the boats and the seven voyages taken with these ships. 

The first few chapters introduce Zheng He and the Yongle Emperor and the relationship between the two men. Zheng He, born Ma He was the son of a Muslim family. When Yunnan city was captured, Ma He, now a prisoner, was castrated and became a eunuch (a common practice of the time). Ma He served in Zhu Di, the Prince of Yan’s, household and later became the Yongle Emperor. Ma He became a trusted advisor and soldier to the Prince, and when he usurped his nephew, (the Emperor at that time), Zhu Di, Prince of Yan, became the Yongle Emperor. The new Emperor promoted Ma He to be the Grand Eunuch (the highest possible rank) and gave him his new name, Zheng He. 

Learning where the two men came from and how their paths crossed allowed me to see the connections and how they both respected one another despite the class differences. The Yongle Emperor provided Zheng He with some extraordinary opportunities to represent the Emperor and China. In return, Zheng He wanted to represent the Emperor in the best light and not let him down. Throughout the book, it talked about how Zheng He tried to use diplomatic measures rather than force when dealing with other countries or dignitaries.

Knowing nothing about this fleet and little about this time in history, I became enthralled with the building of the Treasure ships themselves. The sheer size of these boats and what they had aboard was simply mind-blowing. The Treasure ships were 450 feet in length, ships that housed horses carry supplies, and transport troops ranged from 165 -339 feet. The illustration that compared the Treasure ship and Columbus ship demonstrated how Columbus’s ships simply dwarfed in size. For years, Emperor Yongle would build over 1 600 of these types of vessels. Each of the seven voyages varied in the number of ships and the size of the personnel. The first voyage had 317 ships and 28 000 crew members. Compare that to Christopher Columbus with three ships and 90 crew or Ferdinand Magellan who had 5 ships and a crew of 257.

The number and size of the ships for the voyages were astonishing, but onboard, those ships are what displayed innovative thinking. The vessels would have not one but two hulls and house water tanks that would hold enough fresh water for the entire crew for thirty days. It had floating gardens to grow food and tanks to keep caught sea life fresh. They used pulleys, adjustable rudders and early forms of the compass, all evidence of Chinese ingenuity.

The Yongle Emperor wanted to dominate not only the seas but establish ports and routes for trading power. Each of the Seven Voyages had a specific purpose and goal and laid a foundation for the subsequent voyages. The voyages also served to transport royalty and dignitaries bearing gifts to and from China. During this time, it was evident that the Chinese dominated when it came to the sea.

I appreciated the maps and illustrations showing the cross-sections of the boats. Despite having those text features, I still had oceanic maps open on my phone to learn more about the routes. I admire the scaffolding of the voyages and the patience and strategy it took to build safe ports and routes. I think readers interested in exploration will find these voyages fascinating. Many (like myself) unfamiliar with this time of exploration will learn a great deal. 

Beneficial for readers interested in learning about Chinese exploration of the seas in the early 1400s, there is a great deal to discuss. The implications of ceasing the explorations and how history may have looked very different if the Chinese had continued to use the fleet. This book would be best suited for upper middle-grade readers due to some content explained in a fair amount of detail (concubines and subsequent violence). 

Other Books By Laurence Bergreen: Columbus: The Four Voyages, Marco Polo: From Venice to Xanadu and Over the Edge of the World: Magellan’s Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe

#IMWAYR (It’s Monday What Are You Reading?) Jan. 18/21

This week I read another nonfiction book and discovering that I am enjoying the adventure type nonfiction books. I continue to be grateful to my local library, Alice Turner library that keeps me supplied with picture books. I miss the luxury of going to bookstores and buying books and have to rely on the library to purchase, process and get out on the shelves.

Seven Voyages by Laurence Bergreen and Sara Fray is a nonfiction upper-middle grade book, sharing details of China’s greatest ocean explorer, Zheng He and the Seven Voyages, in the early 1400s BC. This book taught me a great deal about the construction, magnitude and size of the Treasure Ships.  

I also finished one of my Winter Reading Challenge books, The Puck Drops Here, by Canadian author Kevin Sylvestor. This read reminded me of Aaron Reynolds Bad Guys series, and the appeal is there for this new series – hockey, kids who love hockey, evil genius and mutant giant ice squids. These kids will be popular; problem solvers, learning to work together as a team to save the world. 

Currently, I am listening to the final book of the Magisterium series (The Golden Tower). I finished books three and four of the Magisterium series (The Bronze Key and The Silver Mask), and now I am listening to the final book, The Golden Tower.  I still am reading Stuart Gibb’s Belly Up, which I am enjoying. 

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I continue to play a bit of catch up with pictures books from 2020 that I wanted to read. This week I would recommend the following books to add to your classroom and/or library.

A Year of Everyday Wonders by Cheryl B. Klein, illustrated by Qin Leng. Oh, how I needed this reminder of the many wondrous things that can happen over a year with a touch of humour when it comes to things involving your siblings. Illustrations with a variety of sizing and vibrant colours will be a great one to read in January.  

Your Place in the Universe by Jason Chin. Wow! I loved how Jason took young eight-year-olds and used relative size to work our way to the vastness of the universe and back again, teaching readers relative size. There is additional information to take in as we compare distances, size and scale. The visuals will help readers quickly see the differences, as Mr. Chin moves us farther away from earth and back again.

Field Trip to the Moon by John L. Hare. A wordless picture book about a classroom field trip to the moon where one of the students misses the bus-ship back to earth after falling asleep off the beaten path. What happens as the student awaits rescue becomes an adventure in itself.

Sugar in Milk by Thrity Umrigar, illustrated by Khoa Le. A young immigrant is missing her family and friends, unsure about how to embrace her new country and make friends. Her aunt tells her the story of how another group of immigrants were not welcome by the king. They looked different, spoke another language, and there were too many of them. The king said there was not enough room and wanted them to leave. The immigrant leader showed him a cup and filled it with milk suggesting the cup was full and could not add any more. Then slowly, the leader added sugar to the milk, carefully stirring and sweetening the milk. The king understood the metaphor and accepted that the group could live among his people and make it better. The young girl makes a plan of her own to sweeten the place where she lives.

I want to acknowledge the two that started this all. It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? changed from becoming a meme for adults to the sharing of children’s lit. This idea to include #kidlit came from Unleashing Reader blogger Kellee Moye and Jen Vincent, from the Teach Mentor Texts, blog. They thought there should be a children’s lit focus too, and hence a version for #kidlit began! So join in on the fun every Monday by sharing what you just finished reading, currently are reading, or are anticipating reading. Use the hashtag #IMWAYR on your social media sites to share, follow what others are reading, and show support for #kidlit bloggers by reading and commenting.

Happy reading!

Laurie

#IMWAYR (It’s Monday What Are You Reading?) Jan. 11/21

Last week was a decent reading week despite everything else that became distracting. My reading in 2021 is off to a good start – finishing a few digital and audiobooks plus several picture books from my local library. I am trying to share more picture books on my IG account to include more photos of each book read. Highlights from this week include my usual mixed bag of middle grade, audio and picture books.

Race to the Bottom of the Earth by Rebecca E.F. Barone, which I highlighted last Thursday on the blog is F A N T A S T I C. I found the format and the content riveting, and I could not stop reading it. This title is one to purchase for adventure and nonfiction fans.

I also thoroughly enjoyed the second Charlie Thorne book titled Charlie Thorne and The Lost City, released in March. Charlie is back with a new adventure and more people after her, wanting to control Pandora. This time, the mystery revolves around Charles Darwin and clues he has left behind regarding a treasure. I think this book is stronger than the first, and there is a tremendous amount of research that allows readers to learn about the rain forest and scientist Charles Darwin. With Alex Rider on Amazon Prime, this will be a great series to suggest for those fans and strong female protagonists.

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Right now, due dates from my library dictate my reading, so I am reading some of my #MustReadin2021 titles, Belly Up by Stuart Gibb, followed by a Winter Reading Challenge Book Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger. Audiobook wise, I continue to enjoy two John Flanagan’s series and finished two Ranger Apprentice books; The Siege of Macindaw and Erak’s Ransom (Books 6 and 7), and the Brotherband Chronicles’ fifth book Scorpion Mountain. I am now listening to the third book in the Magisterium series, The Bronze Key by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare.

A few highlights of the picture books read this past week are Crossings: Extraordinary Structures for Extraordinary Animals by Katy S. Duffield and Mike Orodan, highlighting how architects help animals safely cross high traffic areas. An #ownvoice story  I’m Not a Girl by Maddox Lyons, Jessica Verdi, and illustrated by Dana Simpson is a transgender boy’s identity story very well done and not often seen from a transgender boy perspective. A Gift for Amma Market Day in India by Meera Sriram, illustrated by Mariona Cabassa, is a beautiful book about a young girl looking for a present for her Amma. The book shares unique colours and items found in the market of the author’s hometown Chennai. Additional information about the items shown in the market is in the endnotes. Finally, Addy’s Cup of Sugar by Jon J Muth shares a young girl dealing with the grief of losing her cat. This book is a beautiful adaptation of the Buddhist story of The Mustard Seed. I recommend purchasing all of these picture books for libraries, and I strongly encourage you to read all of these gorgeous books.

I want to acknowledge the two that started this all. It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? changed from becoming a meme for adults to the sharing of children’s lit. This idea to include #kidlit came from Unleashing Reader blogger Kellee Moye and Jen Vincent, from the Teach Mentor Texts, blog. They thought there should be a children’s lit focus too, and hence a version for #kidlit began! So join in on the fun every Monday by sharing what you just finished reading, currently are reading, or are anticipating reading. Use the hashtag #IMWAYR on your social media sites to share, follow what others are reading, and show support for #kidlit bloggers by reading and commenting.

Happy reading!

Laurie

Race to the Bottom of the Earth

Author: Rebecca E.F. Barone

Publisher:  Henry Holt & Company

Release Date: Jan. 5/21

Page Length: 272 pages

Reviewer: Laurie

Thank you Edelweiss+ and the publisher for an eARC of this book.

Race to the Bottom of the Earth was my first book of 2021, and what a DEBUT read! It was surprising how little I knew about Antarctica and its exploration of this continent, and I suspect that many middle-grade readers will be similar. The format that author Rebecca E.F. Barone chose by alternating the different eras, trips and types of explorations is appealing and keeps you turning the pages to find out what will happen next.

The book covers the initial team race to the South Pole by explorers by Captain Robert Scott and his crew from England versus Roald Amundsen and his group from Norway set in the early 1900s. The second race is an individual competition set in 2018 by adventurist Colin O’Brady and Captain Louis Rudd to be the first to travel solo across the continent.

Ms. Barone has divided the book into three sections; The Set-Up, The Race, and Epilogue followed by Bibliography and Endnotes. Each section alternates between the competitors; Amundsen/Scott and O’Brady/Rudd. Presented this way kept me racing to find out what would happen next. Perhaps this was my lack of knowledge about the individuals and Antarctica in general, but talking with others more familiar and read the book found the story enjoyable. I am not sure what the final images look like having an eARC, but I did appreciate having the maps to see the path and know the photos will also help readers appreciate the conditions these men experienced.

As a retired educator, there are numerous ways one could use this story; research and primary sources, author’s craft, comparing and contrasting between the two different eras and engagement. The realities exposed and perseverance from all the individuals who were part of the trips would also fit into many middle-grade themes. I found that I wanted to find out more and searched on the side. Now I have Alfred Lansing’s Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Journey narrated by Simon Prebble to enjoy and further my learning.

Released on January 5th, be sure to add this nonfiction title to your purchases and TBR piles!

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: Gr 5+

#IMWAYR (It’s Monday What Are You Reading?) Jan. 4/21

Happy New Year!I know 2020 was an unsettling year, but there were many gifts in terms of books! I think last year my TBR pile was at it’s highest with so many phenomenal books that I wanted to read! I couldn’t keep up (and will address that in tomorrow’s post). There were times that I also struggled with reading and had trouble focusing. Since November, I have found comfort revisiting friends from books already read.

Currently, I am listening to John Flanagan’s Ranger Apprentice books and the series spinoffs Brotherband Chronicles, the Early Years, and the Royal Rangers. I am happy to be on waitlists from my local library to revisit these series in a new audiobook format. Despite it being an older series, it is still extremely popular, resulting in long waitlists for all four series. I now have finished the recently released Royal Ranger The Missing Prince that left readers with a cliff-hanger, so I will be watching for the publication of the next book in that series to find out how that gets resolved! 

If you enjoy fantasy fiction, with a medieval setting, heroes with imaginary wars and battles with young apprentices, this series will keep you entertained. The series began as twenty short stories to encourage his then 12-year-old son to read and that Will is based on his son, sharing similar physical characteristics and interests. One of my all-time favourite series, this was one I would often recommend to readers.

 I am not totally caught up in the past! I am almost finished my first book of 2021, Rebecca E.F. Barone’s Race to the Bottom of the Earth, which is spectacular! I am trying to read more nonfiction and this book has me up late at night. I love how Ms. Barone has set up the book alternating between two different time periods and two different types of races. I am learning so much about Antarctica and the courageous individuals who explored that continent. My next read will be one from the Winter Challenge, as I have a lot of catching up to do with so many participants getting several books read!

I ALWAYS need to have an audiobook on the go so while I wait for my audiobook holds, I began a series new to me, but many of you will have already read The Magisterium series. I am now listening to the second book, The Copper Gauntlet.   I like the struggle that Callum is battling and see similarities to the other popular fantasy series.

I want to acknowledge the two that started this all. It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? has changed from becoming a meme for adults to the sharing of children’s lit. This idea to include #kidlit came from Unleashing Reader blogger Kellee Moye and Jen Vincent, from the Teach Mentor Texts, blog. They thought there should be a children’s lit focus too, and hence a version for #kidlit began! So join in on the fun every Monday by sharing what you just finished reading, currently are reading, or are anticipating reading. Use the hashtag #IMWAYR on your social media sites to share, follow what others are reading, and show support for #kidlit bloggers by reading and commenting.

I also managed to pick up a pile of picture books, some graphic novels and chapter books from my local library. My hold and request have skyrocketed after scouring the various lists and blogs to find the ones I missed. I look forward to reading those in between breaks of walking Kaizer and being with my family. I hope you all have had time to spend time with your loved ones and to read. I already know this year is going to be a great year of sharing and reading books!

Happy Reading,

Laurie

Celebrating Winter!

No #IMWAYR post today, instead I want post about the official first day of winter! Yes, exclamation point! For many, the winter days where we see less and less daylight can put a damper on our spirits, especially this year. Although today is the shortest day of the year – meaning the least amount of sunlight, we no longer celebrate Winter Solstice the way we used to. To help you embrace the longest night of the year, I have a few books on the winter solstice, on the night, some published this year and some favourites from years past.

Night Walk by Sara O’Leary, illustrated by Ellie Arscott (2020) Groundwood Books

Night Walk by Sara O’Leary, illustrated by Ellie Arscott (2020) Groundwood Books. A young girl cannot fall asleep, so her father takes her on a night walk. Excited to be up and outside when she should be sleeping, she shares a special walk with her father and observing the many different sights the night has to offer in her neighbourhood and briefly where there are fewer lights. Reminiscent of Owl Moon (although not quite the same descriptors), this was another take on the one-on-one child-parent time.

In the Dark: The Science of What Happens at Night by Lisa Deresti Betik, illustrated by Josh Holinaty (2020) Kids Can Press.

In the Dark: The Science of What Happens at Night by Lisa Deresti Betik illustrated by Josh Holinaty (2020) Kids Can Press. Another nonfiction book to add to your collection, this book shares topics of what happens during the night. Included are chapters on What Happens After Dark, Sleep Uncovered, Nocturnal Creatures, Plants at Night and The Night Sky. Back matter includes a glossary, resources for further investigation and an index. Well researched with vibrant coloured photos, this is an excellent introduction to readers. Readers receive answers to questions; why do we need sleep, why do we dream, why are some animals and plants are more active at night, and why do stars twinkle.  

Animals in the Sky by Sara Gillingham (2020) Phaidon Press.

Animals in the Sky by Sara Gillingham (2020) Phaidon Press. A simple but effective board book illustrates the seven most common constellations found in the night sky. Readers receive clues and the cluster line drawing of the constellation with a gatefold revealing the animal illustration with additional information about the constellation itself along with the stars within the constellation. Despite being a board book, this would prove to be helpful to beginner stargazers.

If You Were Night by Mượn Thị Văn, illustrated by Kelly Pousette (2020) Kids Can Press

If You Were Night by Mượn Thị Văn, illustrated by Kelly Pousette (2020) Kids Can Press. A book that poses the question, what if you were night. Although it does not depict winter scenes, its poetic form of asking your response to different night scenarios is beautiful. So spin this one to If You Were Night in winter, what would you do? The possibilities are endless.

Sky Gazing: A Guide to the Moon, Sun, Planets, Stars, Eclipses and Constellations by Meg Thatcher (2020) Storey Publishing.

Sky Gazing: A Guide to the Moon, Sun, Planets, Stars, Eclipses and Constellations by Meg Thatcher (2020) Storey Publishing. The beauty of this book is that it covers all the bases. There is detailed information on everything in the title, accompanied by a cartoon named Star Dude to help readers throughout the book with tips and tricks. Readers can look up something specific or read cover to cover. It is well organized, includes activities rated easy to more difficult by the number of stars and provides instructions for viewing special events. It encourages readers to begin an astronomy journal to track their findings and includes lots of hands-on activities. An excellent resource for those interested in astronomy.

Lights Out by Marsha Diane Arnold and illustrated by Susan Reagan (2020) Creative Editions

Lights Out by Marsha Diane Arnold and illustrated by Susan Reagan (2020) Creative Editions. A book I have on hold from my local library, this book looks at the effects of light pollution on how animals are searching for darkness. A topic often overlooked and looks to be a great way to introduce the conservation of darkness.

Lights Out by Marsha Diane Arnold and illustrated by Susan Reagan (2020) Creative Editions.

Flashlight by Lizi Boyd (2014) Chronicle Books.

Flashlight by Lizi Boyd (2014) Chronicle Books. The power of a wordless book! The book Flashlight shines by illuminating images to alleviate the fear and noises of the dark outside. Young and old will take delight in the art images shared in this wordless picture book.

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen, Illustrated by John Schoenherr (1987) Philomel Books.

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen, Illustrated by John Schoenherr (1987) Philomel Books. No list about the night in my mind would be complete without this classic. A father and daughter go out late one winter night owling, and the poetic descriptions and close relationship between the two still is a solid choice for today.

The Darkest Dark by Chris Hadfield and Kate Fillion and illustrated by Terry Fan and Eric Fan (2016) Tundra Books.

The Darkest Dark by Chris Hadfield and Kate Fillion and illustrated by Terry Fan and Eric Fan (2016) Tundra Books. Inspired by Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, this is the story of young Chris who loved all things to do with rockets and space – except he was afraid of the dark. After watching the moon landing, Chris realizes that space is the darkest dark and shares its beauty and that by facing your fears, dreams can come true. Lots of ways to use this inspiring book.

Night Animals by Gianna Marino (2015)
Viking Press

Night Animals by Gianna Marino (2015) Viking Press. A delightful spin on nocturnal animals as various animals are terrified of the animals scaring them in the night until the bat reminds them that they are the night animals. The comical looks of fear as each night animal claims to be scared of another is a delightful read for younger readers.

What Color is Night by Grant Snider (2019)Chronicle Books

What Color is Night by Grant Snider (2019)Chronicle Books. You may think that night is black, but if you look closely, many other colours emerge. Hand-drawn images digitally coloured make this is a delightful look at the many colours we may be missing at night.

Spirit Sisters by Jan Bourdeau Waboose, illustrated by Brian Deines (2002) Kids Can Press.

Spirit Sisters by Jan Bourdeau Waboose, illustrated by Brian Deines (2002) Kids Can Press. Luminous illustrations help bring to life this Objiway tale of two sisters travelling out in the cold wintry woods to see the sky spirits dance in the sky at midnight. As they make their way into the woods, the younger sister is having trouble being quiet as she marvels at all the woods show her. Her sister reminds her that they must be quiet for the Sky Sisters to dance. Once atop the hill, they return the call of the coyote, and the sisters begin to dance. Although there is not an explanation of Aurora Borealis, it is a gorgeous winter book.

Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Rick Allen (2014) HMH Books for Young Readers.

Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Rick Allen (2014) HMH Books for Young Readers. A collection of poems highlighting animals during the winter months. The artwork that used linoleum blocks that were individually cut and coloured and then digitally layered create a wonderful layout for the immersed poetry.

The Shortest Day by Susan Cooper and illustrated by Carson Ellis (2019) Candlewick Press.

The Shortest Day by Susan Cooper and illustrated by Carson Ellis (2019) Candlewick Press. A poem celebrating the shortest day, the longest night of the year singing the return of the light and the traditions that connect us. Gorgeous illustrations help bring to light Susan Cooper’s poem. 

Mouse Celebrates Winter Solstice by Terri Mack, illustrated by Bill Helin (2014) Strong Nations Publishing.

Mouse Celebrates Winter Solstice by Terri Mack, illustrated by Bill Helin (2014) Strong Nations Publishing. An Indigenous view, celebrating the winter solstice. A wise mouse speaks about community, friendship and strength. Beautiful illustrations capture the stillness and beauty of a cold winter night.

One Short Day in December by Lilith Rogers, illustrated by Noni Cox (2012)  Earthy Mama Press.

One Short Day in December by Lilith Rogers, illustrated by Noni Cox (2012)  Earthy Mama Press. One other book on this list, that I have not read, but the cover illustration alone has put this book on my TBR/Options pile. A story of two doe deer and their baby deer celebrating Winter Solstice.

Some may be tracking and watching the alignment or conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn. Below are additional books on Saturn and Jupiter, along with a link for tips to watch this evening.

Great Conjunction 2020: NASA tips to see Jupiter and Saturn shine as Christmas Star

The days now start to get longer readers… HAPPY WINTER to you all!

Laurie

Maybe You Missed…Nonfiction Books

Ever since I attended NeRDCaMP back in 2018 and had the chance to listen and learn from Melissa Stewart and her trailblazing way of reading and categorizing nonfiction, I have been trying to see nonfiction books through that lens.

When Kathie and I started this blog, I wanted to practice this, and again @MStewartScience has been very gracious in sharing her expertise, slides and opinions. Many of these books were part of my Noteworthy and Nourishing posts, as I wanted to increase the number of nonfiction books I read.

As promised, from yesterday’s post, below are 12 nonfiction books that I recommend and would purchase for a library. Again not a “best list,” but rather a maybe you missed these books and want to add to your TBR/Options pile or purchase for your libraries and classrooms.

Small Matters: The Hidden Power of the Unseen by Heather Ferranti Kinser  Millbrook Press

A Bowl Full of Peace: A True Story by Caren Stelson, illustrated by Akira Kusaka 

On A Snow-Melting Day by Buffy Silverman

Honeybee The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera by Candace Fleming, illustrated by Eric Rohmann 

You’re Invited to a Moth Ball: A Nightime Insect Celebration by Loree Griffin Burns, photography by Ellen Harasimowicz 

111 Trees: How One Village Celebrates the Birth of Every Girl by Rina Singh, illustrations by Marianne Ferrer

All Thirteen: The Rescue of the Thai Boys’ Soccer Team by Christina Soontornvat

The Talk: Conversations About Race Love & Truth: edited by Wade Hudson and Cheryl Willis Hudson

This is Your Brain on Stereotypes: How Science is Tackling Unconscious Bias by Tanya Lloyd Kyi , illustrations by Drew Shannon

Bringing Back the Wolves: How a Predator Restored an Ecosystem by Jude Isabella, illustrated by Kim Smith

A Dictionary for a Better World by Irene Lathan & Charles Waters, illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini 

Two books that I have yet to read, but waiting patiently for them to arrive from my library are Crossings:Extraordinary Structures for Extraordinary Animals by Katy S. Duffield , illustrations by Mike Orodan and Tiny Monsters: The Strange Creatures That Live on Us, In Us and Around Us by Steve Jenkins, illustrated by Robin Page. I have heard nothing but good things about these book, so be sure to add these as a bonus.

I am sure that you are not surprised that I have gone over my dozen. What books did I miss and need to put on my TBR/Options pile? Please leave my omissions in the comments. On Thursday I will share a picture book edition of Maybe You Missed. See you then.

Laurie

Maybe You Missed…

Image by CongerDesign

Instead of my usual #IMWAYR post, I thought I would let you know what I will spend a good part of December sharing. I did have a good reading week, and some of those books will undoubtedly show up in later posts. For now, they will remain a mystery.

Late November, early December, those “Best Lists” roll in, and yes, I will admit to looking at them, but it is more to see what I may have missed rather than see what others have deemed “Best.” I am always on the lookout for new books to read, enjoy and share with others and seek out a variety of places to add to my TBR/Options pile. In the next few posts, I will share with you some books that perhaps you may have missed and can add to your reading stack. I hope to include 12 – one for each month of the year, but as of this post, it has been hard to narrow it down.

So here is the list and the dates, and I hope YOU will add books Maybe I Missed to my TBR/Options pile in the comments.

Dec. 8: Nonfiction 

Dec. 10: Picture Books

Dec. 15: Early Chapter Books and Graphic Novels

Dec. 17: Graphic Novels

Dec. 22: Middle Grade

Dec. 29: Young Adult

Happy Reading,

Laurie

All is Calm…

Well, we have almost made it! Soon we can say we survived the unprecedented year of 2020, and yet for many of us, December tends to kick us into a whole new level of craziness and chaos. For many, this may have started this past weekend with Thanksgiving. With the growing number of COVID-19 cases and the many celebrations that occur this month, our anxiety levels and urgency to get things bought, baked and prepped for the holiday season are probably at elevated levels.

So I wanted to take a moment to provide you with some books that may help remind you and our younger readers stay in the moment, take in the beauty of the season, look after yourself, and the people in your life.

A Day So Gray by Marie Lamba, illustrated by Alea Marley 

Two friends are spending the day together when one friend comments negatively using colours; the day is so gray, blah brown, and boring white. The friend has a different perspective pointing out how there are other colours and how grateful she is for all the colours within the colours the friend doesn’t like. A lovely way to show how your outlook can determine your frame of mind.

The Calm and Cozy Book of Sleep by Beth Wyatt

Author Beth Wyatt certified in sleep science and life-coaching shares her insights about sleeping and how we all can do some practical things to get a better night’s sleep. Never having trouble falling asleep, I know many do, and this short informative book may provide the answer for a night of better sleep.

Home in the Woods by Eliza Wheeler

Based on the true story of the author’s grandmother Marvel, Home in the Woods tells the story of how Marvel’s mother and her seven siblings, ages three months – 14 years, lived in a tar papered shack during the depression. Although times were tough, the family worked and played together to make a home and make the best of an unpleasant situation. Even in tough times, we can come together and thrive.

In A Jar by Deborah Marcero

Llewellyn, a quiet rabbit likes to collect things – buttercups, feathers and heart-shaped stones. He places them in a jar where he can look at them to remember what he saw. One day he meets another rabbit Evelyn, and they become friends and collect things together that you think could not be placed in a jar like rainbows and the wind just before it snows. Together they create memory jars until Evelyn moves away. Llewellyn figures out he still can collect new memories and send them to Evelyn to share with her, just as she sends memories to Llewellyn. A beautiful, magical story about friendship and the way we can collect memories no matter the distance – one that many of us will experience this year and perhaps months to come.

Often overlooked, Ms. Underwood invites readers to see unique ways to define how we are quiet. One of the sequels, The Christmas Quiet Book, focuses on periods when we are silent during the festive season. A reminder to appreciate and savour those moments of silence no matter when they happen.

The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld. 

A young boy has something terrible happen, and all the animals have different answers or ways to help the boy without a great deal of success until the rabbit arrives and listens. A powerful lesson that sometimes, when someone is struggling, all we really need to do is listen.

Saturday by Oge Mora

Some days do not turn out the way you planned them, which is what happens in this mother-daughter story. The two look forward to their Saturdays together, but things go amiss. Instead of getting upset and letting it ruin their day, the daughter reminds her mother that being together is what is matters. With so many of us having a different holiday season, being together, no matter how it looks, is a timely reminder.

Slow Down: Bring Calm to a Busy World with 50 Nature Stories by Rachel Williams,
illustrated by Freya Hartas

An illustrated book that provides readers with fifty examples of how nature follows its timeline. It can take seconds or months, all interconnected and all there for us to observe if we take the time to stop and look. The book includes all forms of nature, from animals to insects, to dewdrops to the phases of the moon. Part prose and part facts, there is a balance on the two pages and allows readers to appreciate the world around us.

Ten Ways to Hear Snow by Cathy Camper, illustrated by Kenard Pak.

A beautiful story about a granddaughter who wakes up to snow and walks to her grandmother’s house. Her grandmother has trouble with her sight, and so Lina listens for ways her grandmother would experience snow. A marvellous way to prompt us to use all of our senses.

Wait, Rest, Pause by Marcie Flinchum Atkins. 

The photography alone is worth taking the time to savour and listen to the title. Marcie Flinchum Atkins shares the many ways in which nature waits, rests and pauses during the dormant months. Nature modelling what we need to do more of during the winter months.

Windows by Julia Denos

Technically still fall until December 21st, I am adding this one for those who may not have snow on the ground. During the evening, a boy walks his dog and is given a glimpse into the lives of the people as the windows light up as it grows dark. Written in the second person, we walk with the boy and his dog, witnessing the daily events and how we are all connected.

Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May. 

Suggested by @KmcMac74, this book may intrigue readers as it has me, even as I just began reading it. Ms. May is sharing with readers her own experiences of how rest and retreat assisted her in getting through the tough times, drawing on literature, mythology and nature. She talks about the nature of wintering and how it does not have to be the dismal depressing season, but one of strength, reflection and even revitalization. Her writing voice is strong and has immediately drawn me in, and I look forward to seeing how she weaves everything together.

 I hope that during this month, you find calm in the chaos and take comfort in your home and savour the joy provided by the ones you love as you create new memories and revisit the old ones.

Happy December and Happy Reading.

Laurie 

Nourishing and Noteworthy

November


In my first Noteworthy and Nourishing post, I talked about Melissa Stewart’s five nonfiction classifications. I continue to learn and grow as a nonfiction reader and added an asterisk non-category of what Melissa Stewart called Informational Fiction (you can read more here). It is a reminder for me to differentiate between Ms. Stewart’s 5 Kinds of Nonfiction and Informational Fiction, which is not nonfiction. We need to be clear, letting readers know that there are parts of these books that are fictional and therefore are NOT nonfiction.

Below are the five genre types that Ms. Stewart created with a brief description so you can ponder my category choices of the books shared. 

  • Traditional: what we typically think of nonfiction: writing/prose that explains, describes and informs the reader – mainly text with illustrations or photos alongside. (Think: True Book series and author Seymour Simon books)
  • Browseable Nonfiction: writing that has short amounts of text in a block- like layouts with illustrations. (Think: Guinness World Record Books)
  • Narrative Nonfiction: tells a true story or experience, has a setting and real characters, a central theme and usually follows a short story structure (rising action, climax and resolution). (Think: Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla)
  • Expository Literature: well researched, engaging design, art and layouts with rich language and a particular text structure (Think: Jess Keating’s World of Weird Animal series, Pink is for Blobfish, Cute as an Axolotl)
  • Active Nonfiction: the result of the maker movement writing that teaches skills and has readers engage in an activity or activities. (Think: Cookbooks and How to Books)
  • *Informational Fiction: Books that provide nonfiction information using fiction to present that information. Methods may include invented dialogue and/or imagined scenes or use made-up characters, animals or inanimate objects as narrators (pseudo-narrator). 

Based on the true story of Nagasaki atomic bomb survivor Sachiko, we learn the history of her grandmother’s bowl and how it came to be a symbol of peace. A moving recount of the after-effects of the Nagasaki bombing and how the survival of Sachiko’s grandmother’s bowl offered hope and connections to family members lost.  A Bowl Full of Peace is another much-needed addition of books to share in November for Remembrance Day.

Curricular Connections: English Language Arts, Social Studies, Health

Nonfiction CategoryNarrative Literature – tells a true story or experience, has a setting and real characters, a central theme and usually follows a short story structure (rising action, climax and resolution).

Hall-of-Famer Elgin Baylor changes the game of basketball not only on the court with his athletic prowess but off the court by standing up for equality. I am not a big basketball fan but appreciated learning more about Elgin Baylor’s journey and the social justice story off the court. The illustrations by Frank Morrison are riveting and capture the grace and athletic ability of Baylor. This book received the Orbis Picture Book Award for 2020.

Curricular Connections: English Language Arts, Social Studies, Physical Education

Nonfiction CategoryNarrative Literature – tells a true story or experience, has a setting and real characters, a central theme and usually follows a short story structure (rising action, climax and resolution).

All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys’ Soccer Team
by Christina Soontornvat

A meticulously researched book detailing the people and the events that led to the successful rescue of the Thai Boy’s Soccer Team. What stands out for me as a reader was the focus on the many Thai individuals that made the success possible. The way Ms. Soontornvat weaved background information allows readers to gain a deeper understanding of the complexity of the rescue.  For more detail please read my earlier post on this phenomenal book

Curricular Connections: English Language Arts, Life Sciences, Social Studies, Health

Nonfiction CategoryExpository Literature – well researched, engaging layout with a variety of photos and captions.

I love April Pulley Sayre’s photographing skills and marvel at the photos she captures. In her latest book, she answers the question, what is it like to be a frog, with an insight of someone who spends time with them, as noted in the back matter. Rich in vocabulary yet sparse in length, Being Frog allows the reader to see life as a frog. A beautiful book that brought back happy childhood memories of catching and releasing leopard frogs and will spark new readers to see frogs in a new way. 

Curricular Connections: English Language Arts, Life Sciences, and Social Studies, Arts Education

Nonfiction CategoryExpository Literature –  engaging layout with unique and stunning photos along with rich vocabulary with poetic phrasing

What a unique hands-on way to engage readers to learn about an insect people know by name but know little or very little about them beyond the differences between a butterfly and a moth. Readers learn facts about moths, lifecycle and characteristics along with step by step instructions about how to attract moths for a closer inspection.  You’re Invited to a Moth Ball, would be a great story and evening activity as a family or as a kid get together.  

Curricular Connections: English Language Arts and Life Sciences

Nonfiction CategoryActive NonFiction & Expository Literature– provides the steps to take to study moths at night while including information about moths, with an engaging layout with a variety of photos and captions.