Saturday, March 10, 2012

Kid Konnection: Nature Books Part 2

Every Saturday, I host a feature called Kid Konnection -- a regular weekend feature about anything related to children's books. This week, I'm going to review two new picture books that are perfect for this time of year.

Summary: Alice's family plants a vegetable garden each spring, and this budding naturalist reports all she sees about how the plants grow, what insects come to eat the plants, and what birds and animals come to eat the insects.  It's the food chain, right in her own backyard!

While Alice's narrative is simple and engaging, science concepts are presented in more depth in sidebars by a pair of very knowledgeable (and highly amusing) chickens! Noted science writer Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld knows how to layer information to make it accessible to a wide range of readers and useful for educators. And illustrator Priscilla Lamont's funny, friendly paintings make this a garden everyone will want to explore.

Kids will eat up this wonderful book of backyard science—and perhaps they'll even be inspired to eat their vegetables! -- Knopf

SECRETS OF THE GARDEN: FOOD CHAINS AND THE FOOD WEB IN OUR BACKYARD by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld and illustrated by Priscilla Lamont is a terrific picture book for the home and/or classroom. SECRETS OF THE GARDEN teaches children about what's involved in planting and taking care of a garden. Booking Son actually read this one to me, and we both thought it was fun and educational.

The story begins with Alice and her family prepping the soil in the spring for their garden. They plant the seeds and then anxiously await for the sprouts to appear and for them to grow big enough to be called seedlings. They also plant some plants that Alice's mother grew in small pots earlier in the spring. As the garden matures, Alice sees some animals, insects, and birds who also visit; and she realizes that a food chain is occurring right in her garden.

I loved how SECRETS OF THE GARDEN introduces so many concepts to children, and I even learned a thing or two about tending to a garden. However, I thought the way that the author presented these concepts was so original. She used two very intelligent chickens to explain the science behind the garden. Not only did these chickens provide some interesting material, but they did it in a very entertaining way.

I absolutely loved SECRETS OF THE GARDEN and the illustration were a major reason why. Each page is filled with cute paintings as well as lots of educational materials including poster boards that the chickens use to teach the reader. There is a great deal to see on each page and I have a feeling that this book needs to be read quite a few times for all of the concepts to be absorbed by the reader.

Highly recommended for elementary age children. Fun for home and school!

Summary: Old MacDonald had a … pond? Yes! Come along with Jo MacDonald and learn about the wild creatures at the farm pond. You’ll find fish, frogs and ducks – and a few surprises. This delightful riff on “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” playfully introduces youngsters to the concept of ecosystems. Quattlebaum engages little ones with rhythm, repetition, wordplay, and onomatopoeia, while Bryant charms them with lively watercolors of a pond community. A resource section in the back features both outdoor and indoor activities and games sure to encourage young naturalists at home and school. Jo MacDonald’s pond discoveries closely resemble those that Mary discovered, too, when she grew up in the country with fields, gardens and ponds. -- Dawn Publications

JO MACDONALD SAW A POND by Mary Quattlebaum and illustrated by Laura J. Bryant is another great book from Dawn Publications. You might remember that I reviewed the companion book JO MACDONALD HAD A GARDEN just last month. JO MACDONALD SAW A POND is just as cute the "Pond" book and Booking Son had fun reading it. Once again, the book can be "sung" to the tune of Old MacDonald Had a Farm, and what kid doesn't have fun with the E-I-E-I-Os?

JO MACDONALD SAW A POND tells the story of Jo, a little girl who discovers all of the creatures that live near a pond. Smaller children will like learning the animal sounds and slightly older children will appreciate the humor at the end of the story. This book introduces kids to the concept of ecosystems and would be ideal for preschool and early elementary science classes.

Booking Son was past the target age for this book, but he still enjoyed practicing his reading. He was hoping for some puzzles at the end of the book like there was for JO MACDONALD HAD A GARDEN, and there was a page where children can match the sound to the animal. However, he thought that was a little too easy and would have preferred a "search and find" activity. What we both enjoyed was the very end of the book which featured the various plants and animals that Jo encountered at her pond. This section also gives suggestions for additional resources about pond life and how children can start being a naturalist.

The publisher also offers an excellent activity guide for JO MACDONALD SAW A POND. There are ideas for activities related to dragonflies and frogs as well as some ways to increase their observation skills. In addition, there are instructions for reed weaving and ideas for creating a pond drama.

I was really impressed with JO MACDONALD SAW A POND and all of the supplemental activities the publisher provides. If you haven't taken a look at Dawn Publications yet, then I think you're missing out.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a copies of these books.

If you'd like to participate in Kid Konnection and share a post about anything related to children's books (picture, middle grade, or young adult) from the past week, please leave a comment as well as a link below with your name/blog name and the title of the book! Feel free to grab the little button too! 


Laura Fabiani said...

My kids have always loved books with rhyme and sing-song narrative. They were so much fun to read.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

My book on Kid Konnection tells the story of the first African woman to win the Nobel peace prize.

bermudaonion said...

Those look beautiful, especially Secrets of the Garden.