Category Archives: Common Core & NGSS

Weird and Wacky Facts

worstSometimes while authors are researching books, they run across strange and interesting facts. Some of these discoveries make it into the book, but others don’t. Editors may decide certain facts shouldn’t be included. Other times there isn’t enough room to include them all.

I recently finished writing a book called Exploring Ancient Rome that will be coming out next year. The editors wanted to include information about government and road building; I want to include odd and unusual details about daily life.

If you were reading the book would you rather know that Rome was once an empire, or that the emperor Caligula built his horse a marble stable and gave his horse a top government position? Or that gazing on the emperor’s balding head was a capital offense?

Would you rather know that Romans used the arch to create the Pantheon, or that they ate flamingo tongue, stuffed dormice, and pickled sow udder?

Would you rather know that the Romans adopted ideas from other cultures, or that they washed their clothes with urine? The ammonia in urine gave a washing solution good whitening power, so Romans also used urine to brush their teeth. Other cosmetic tips from ancient Rome:horrible

  • To dye hair black, let leeches rot for 40 days in wine
  • Instead of soap, rub your body with oil and scrape off the dirt.
  • Hippopotamus skin helps prevent balding.
  • To cover gray hair, boil walnut shells, earthworms, and ashes.

egypt For me, quirky information like that is what makes a subject come alive. A few books that provide unusual facts about Rome are Horrible Jobs in Ancient Greece and Rome by Robyn Handyman, The Totally Gross History of Ancient Rome by Jeremy Klar, and Top 10 Worst Things about Ancient Rome You Wouldn’t Want to Know! by Victoria England and David Antram. Other books in these series cover different countries.

For a little extra fun, author Bobbi Miller volunteered some interesting tidbits she unearthed while researching her book, Girls of Gettysburg. 51nj-iaqbkl-_ac_us160_

  • The youngest soldier serving in the Civil War was a nine-year old boy from Mississippi.
  • In a single day, the one million horses serving in the Civil War would have peed enough urine to fill more than 12 swimming pools.
  • Robert E. Lee had a pet chicken named Hen. Every morning, Hen laid an egg under Lee’s cot, which Lee then cooked for breakfast.
  • The artillery barrage during Picket’s Charge could be heard 100 miles away in Pittsburgh.
  • After President Lincoln was diagnosed with a mild form of smallpox, he said, “For once in my life as President, I find myself in a position to give everybody something.”

Perhaps people who find history boring are reading the wrong things. What fascinating facts have you discovered?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

A former teacher and librarian, Laurie J. Edwards is now an author. In addition to Exploring Ancient Rome, she has written more than 2300 articles and 30 books under several pen names. Some of her other books on history include Pirates through the Ages, Imperial China, West African Kingdoms, Exploring Ancievt Rome.  Visit Laurie at www.lauriejedwards.com.

March New Releases

Happy March! Here are some of the of the fabulous books hitting the shelves this month, including our own Jen Swanson’s EVERYTHING ROBOTICS: ALL THE PHOTOS, FACTS, AND FUN TO MAKE YOU RACE FOR ROBOTICS which comes out March 8th from National Geographic. Congratulations, Jen!

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TheLandOfForgottenGirlsTHE LAND OF FORGOTTEN GIRLS by Erin Entrada Kelly releasing March 1st from Greenwillow Books. Soledad has always been able to escape into the stories she creates. Just like her mother always could. And Soledad has needed that escape more than ever in the five years since her mother and sister died and her father moved Sol and her youngest sister from the Philippines to Louisiana. Then he left, and all Sol and Ming have now is their evil stepmother, Vea. Sol has protected Ming all this time, but then Ming begins to believe that Auntie Jove—their mythical, world-traveling aunt—is really going to come rescue them. Have Sol’s stories done more harm than good? Can she protect Ming from this impossible hope? Erin Entrada Kelly writes with grace, imagination, and deepest heart about the meaning of family and about finding hope in the hardest circumstances.

DreambenderDREAMBENDER by Ronald Kidd releasing March 1st from Albert Whitman & Company. Everyone in the City is assigned a job by the choosers–keeper, catcher, computer. Callie Crawford is a computer. She works with numbers: putting them together, taking them apart. Her work is important, but sometimes she wants more. Jeremy Finn is a dreambender. His job is to adjust people’s dreams. He and others like him quietly remove thoughts of music and art to keep the people in the City from becoming too focused on themselves and their own feelings rather than on the world. They need to keep the world safe from another Warming. But Jeremy thinks music is beautiful, and when he pops into a dream of Callie singing, he becomes fascinated with her. He begins to wonder if there is more to life than being safe. Defying his community and the role they have established for him, he sets off to find her in the real world. Together, they will challenge their world’s expectations. But how far will they go to achieve their own dreams?

DorotheasEyesDOROTHEA’S EYES: DOROTHEA LANGE PHOTOGRAPHS THE TRUTH by Barb Rosenstock and illustrated by Gerard Dubois releasing March 1st from Calkins Creek. After a childhood bout of polio left her with a limp, all Dorothea Lange wanted to do was disappear. But this desire not to be seen helped her learn how to blend into the background and observe others acutely. With a passion for the artistic life, and in spite of her family’s disapproval, Dorothea pursued her dream to become a photographer and focused her lens on the previously unseen victims of the Great Depression. This poetic biography tells the emotional story of Lange’s evolution as one of the founders of documentary photography. It includes a gallery of Lange’s photographs, and an author’s note, timeline, and bibliography.

TheMidnightWarOfMateoMartinezTHE MIDNIGHT WAR OF MATEO MARTINEZ by Robin Yardi releasing March 1st from Carolrhoda Books. Life is confusing for Mateo Martinez. He and Johnny Ramirez don’t hang out anymore, even though they used to be best friends. He and his new friend Ashwin try to act like brave, old-time knights, but it only gets them in trouble. His parents keep telling him to hold his sister’s hand when crossing busy streets, even though she’s the one who always runs ahead.
And last night, two skunks stole Mateo’s old trike. Wait—two skunks stole his trike? Mateo is too big for that rusty kid toy. He has a cool, shiny new bike anyway. But Mateo also has a neighborhood to protect. And he’s about to begin a big, stinky quest to catch the thieves. A quest that starts in the middle of the night

IsabelFeeney,StarReporterISABEL FEENEY, STAR REPORTER by Beth Fantaskey releasing March 1st from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. It’s 1920s Chicago—the guns-and-gangster era of Al Capone—and it’s unusual for a girl to be selling the Tribune on the street corner. But ten-year-old Isabel Feeney is unusual . . . unusually obsessed with being a news reporter. She can’t believe her luck when she stumbles not only into a real-live murder scene, but also into her hero, the famous journalist Maude Collier. The story of how the smart, curious, loyal Isabel fights to defend the honor of her accused friend and latches on to the murder case like a dog on a pant leg makes for a winning, thoroughly entertaining middle grade mystery.

EgyptworldEGYPTWORLD: DISCOVER THE WONDERS OF THE ANCIENT LAND OF TUTANKHAMUN AND CLEOPATRA by Stella Caldwell releasing March 1st from Carlton Kids. Unlock the secrets of an ancient and mysterious civilization. Through breathtakingly vivid images—including awe-inspiring CGI scenes—Egyptworld travels down the Nile River, through the land of the pharaohs. Return to a world where the desert sun sparks the gleaming tips of majestic pyramids, treasure-filled tombs hold mummified rulers, and colossal beasts of stone stand guard. This sumptuously illustrated book makes a perfect gift for all budding archaeologists!

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HOUR OF THE BEES by Lindsay Eagar releasing March 8th from Candlewick Press. While her friends are spending their summers having pool parties and sleepovers, twelve-year-old Carolina — Carol — is spending hers in the middle of the New Mexico desert, helping her parents move the grandfather she’s never met into a home for people with dementia. At first, Carol avoids prickly Grandpa Serge. But as the summer wears on and the heat bears down, Carol finds herself drawn to him, fascinated by the crazy stories he tells her about a healing tree, a green-glass lake, and the bees that will bring back the rain and end a hundred years of drought. As the thin line between magic and reality starts to blur, Carol must decide for herself what is possible — and what it means to be true to her roots. Readers who dream that there’s something more out there will be enchanted by this captivating novel of family, renewal, and discovering the wonder of the world.

MuttsPromiseMUTT’S PROMISE by Julie Salamon and illustrated by Jill Weber releasing March 8th from Dial Books. Luna is a farm puppy who loves to dance, and has only known a happy, serene life surrounded by her mother, Mutt, and her siblings, and cared for by Gilberto, the son of farm workers. But now Gilberto and his parents have moved on, and Mr. Thomas the farmer doesn’t feel he can take care of a whole family of dogs. He finds new homes for the puppies, not realizing that the man who took Luna and her brother does not have their best interests at heart. Luna and Chief, hungry and scared, are trapped in the smelly barn of a puppy mill—until they take matters into their own paws and find a way to escape. But can Luna and Chief find their way home?

TheEyeOfMidnightTHE EYE OF MIDNIGHT by Andrew Brumbach releasing March 8th from Delacorte. On a stormy May day in 1929, William and Maxine arrive on the doorstep of Battersea Manor to spend the summer with a grandfather they barely remember. Whatever the cousins expected, Colonel Battersea isn’t it.
Soon after they settle in, Grandpa receives a cryptic telegram and promptly whisks the cousins off to New York City so that he can meet an unknown courier and collect a very important package. Before he can do so, however, Grandpa vanishes without a trace. When the cousins stumble upon Nura, a tenacious girl from Turkey, she promises to help them track down the parcel and rescue Colonel Battersea. But with cold-blooded gangsters and a secret society of assassins all clamoring for the same mysterious object, the children soon find themselves in a desperate struggle just to escape the city’s dark streets alive.

EverydayHeroEVERYDAY HERO by Kathleen Cherry releasing March 15th from Orca Books. Alice doesn’t like noise, smells or strangers. She does like rules. Lots of rules. Nobody at her new school knows she has Asperger’s, so it doesn’t take long for her odd behavior to get her into trouble. When she meets Megan in detention, she doesn’t know what to make of her. Megan doesn’t smell, she’s not terribly noisy, and she’s not exactly a stranger, but is she a friend? Megan seems fearless to Alice—but also angry or maybe sad. Alice isn’t sure which. When Megan decides to run away, Alice resolves to help her friend, no matter how many rules she has to break or how bad it makes her feel.

THE EXTRAORDINARY SUZY WRIGHT: A COLONIAL WOMAN ON THE FRONTIER  by Teri Kanefield releasing March 15th from Abrams. Children are taught much about the men who shaped early America, but history-shaping colonial women remain largely unknown and undiscussed. The Extraordinary Suzy Wright sets about to change that, telling the little-known story of Quaker Susanna (Suzy) Wright (1697–1784), a renowned poet and political activist. Suzy helped settle the Pennsylvania frontier, where she acted as legal counselor to her less literate neighbors, preparing wills, deeds, indentures, and other contracts. Surviving documents and correspondence between Suzy and a host of her contemporaries—including Benjamin Franklin; James Logan, Pennsylvania’s governor and chief justice; and a few signers of the Declaration of Independence—reveal that Suzy, from her home on the frontier, exerted considerable influence in the highest circles of Pennsylvania government. This fascinating and inspiring story includes an author’s note, bibliography, and index.

TheCharmedChildrenTHE CHARMED CHILDREN OF ROOKSKILL CASTLE by Janet Fox releasing March 15th from Viking. Something is not right at Rookskill Castle, a rundown Scottish manor shrouded in mystery. The castle is a temporary boarding school for children escaping the Blitz, but soon it’s clear there is something terribly wrong. There are clues hinting that a spy is in the house, and there are undeniable signs of a sinister magic. When the children in the castle’s temporary boarding school begin disappearing one by one, it’s a race against the clock for twelve-year-old Kat Bateson, her two younger siblings, and their new best friend.

Summerlost_BOM.inddSUMMERLOST by Ally Condie releasing March 29th from Dutton Books for Young Readers. It’s the first real summer since the devastating accident that killed Cedar’s father and younger brother, Ben. But now Cedar and what’s left of her family are returning to the town of Iron Creek for the summer. They’re just settling into their new house when a boy named Leo, dressed in costume, rides by on his bike. Intrigued, Cedar follows him to the renowned Summerlost theatre festival. Soon, she not only has a new friend in Leo and a job working concessions at the festival, she finds herself surrounded by mystery. The mystery of the tragic, too-short life of the Hollywood actress who haunts the halls of Summerlost. And the mystery of the strange gifts that keep appearing for Cedar.

Which books are you looking forward to reading this month? Are there any that you’re excited about we might have missed? Happy Spring Reading!

Louise Galveston is the author of By the Grace of Todd, In Todd We Trust (Razorbill). She lives in southern Kansas with a passel of kids and a loud-mouthed parrot.

Avian Flights of Fancy: MG Books That Feature Birds and Birdwatchers

I am a self-confessed bird brain. My Mom got me hooked as a bird watcher in the 4th grade. Something about watching birds go about their daily lives outside my window, and in the larger world, has always inspired me and made me want to know more about this amazing array of cretures.

They jockey for position in a hierarchy I can’t quite understand, persist against all odds, strut and preen and relax and fight, and it’s all before my eyes if only I will slow down and look. They’re beautiful and funny and puzzling.

Here are some Middle Grade reads that have something to do with birds. Some feature people as the main characters. Some feature birds as the main characters, or perhaps birds are important in some way for helping the characters to make connections. Some feature bird brains like me, kids obsessed with their binoculars or bird guides.  One nonfiction book and one picture book round out the collection, providing the reader with a broad look at the ways birds are shared in story, and the ways our actions affect their eistence on the planet.

All synopses from IndieBound.

Hoot, by Carl Hiassen

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A book for young readers. It involves new kids, bullies, alligators, eco-warriors, pancakes, and pint-sized owls. A hilarious
Floridian adventure!

Nest, by Esther Ehrlich

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For fans of Jennifer Holm (“Penny from Heaven, Turtle in Paradise”), a heartfelt and unforgettable middle-grade novel about an irresistible girl and her family, tragic change, and the healing power of love and friendship. In 1972 home is a cozy nest on Cape Cod for eleven-year-old Naomi “Chirp” Orenstein, her older sister, Rachel; her psychiatrist father; and her dancer mother. But then Chirp’s mom develops symptoms of a serious disease, and everything changes.
Chirp finds comfort in watching her beloved wild birds. She also finds a true friend in Joey, the mysterious boy who lives across the street. Together they create their own private world and come up with the perfect plan: Escape. Adventure. Discovery.

The True Blue Scouts of Sugarman Swamp, by Kathi Appelt

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Meet Bingo and J’miah, raccoon brothers on a mission to save Sugar Man Swamp in this rollicking tale and National Book Award Finalist from Newbery Honoree Kathi Appelt.
Raccoon brothers Bingo and J’miah are the newest recruits of the Official Sugar Man Swamp Scouts. The opportunity to serve the Sugar Man–the massive creature who delights in delicious sugar cane and magnanimously rules over the swamp–is an honor, and also a big responsibility, since the rest of the swamp critters rely heavily on the intel of these hardworking Scouts.
Twelve-year-old Chap Brayburn is not a member of any such organization. But he loves the swamp something fierce, and he’ll do anything to help protect it.
And help is surely needed, because world-class alligator wrestler Jaeger Stitch wants to turn Sugar Man swamp into an Alligator World Wrestling Arena and Theme Park, and the troubles don’t end there. There is also a gang of wild feral hogs on the march, headed straight toward them all.
The Scouts are ready. All they have to do is wake up the Sugar Man. Problem is, no one’s been able to wake that fellow up in a decade or four…

The Desperate Adventures of Zeno and Alya, by Jane Kelley

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An orphaned African grey parrot who can speak 127 words. A girl so sick she has forgotten what it means to try. Fate and a banana nut muffin bring them together. Will their shared encounter help them journey through storms inside and out? Will they lose their way, or will they find what really matters?

Here is a story that will remind readers how navigating so many of life’s desperate adventures requires friendship and, above all, hope.

Wild Wings, by Gill Lewis

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When Callum spots crazy Iona McNair on his family’s sprawling property, she’s catching a fish with her bare hands. She won’t share the fish, but does share something else: a secret.

She’s discovered a rare endangered bird, an Osprey, and it’s clear to both her and Callum that if anyone finds out about the bird, it, and its species, is likely doomed. Poachers, egg thieves, and wild weather are just some of the threats, so Iona and Callum vow to keep track of the bird and check her migratory progress using the code a preservationist tagged on her ankle, no matter what.

But when one of them can no longer keep the promise, it’s up to the other to do it for them both. No matter what. Set against the dramatic landscapes of Scotland and West Africa, this is a story of unlikely friendships, the wonders of the wild—and the everyday leaps of faith that set our souls to flight.

Sparrow Girl, by Sara Pennypacker

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Ming-Li looked up and tried to imagine the sky silent, empty of birds. It was a terrible thought. Her country’s leader had called sparrows the enemy of the farmers–they were eating too much grain, he said. He announced a great “Sparrow War” to banish them from China, but Ming-Li did not want to chase the birds away.
As the people of her village gathered with firecrackers and gongs to scatter the sparrows, Ming-Li held her ears and watched in dismay. The birds were falling from the trees, frightened to death! Ming-Li knew she had to do something–even if she couldn’t stop the noise. Quietly, she vowed to save as many sparrows as she could, one by one…

Blue Birds, by Caroline Starr Rose

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It’s 1587 and twelve-year-old Alis has made the long journey with her parents from England to help settle the New World, the land christened Virginia in honor of the Queen. And Alis couldn t be happier. While the streets of London were crowded and dirty, this new land, with its trees and birds and sky, calls to Alis. Here she feels free. But the land, the island Roanoke, is also inhabited by the Roanoke tribe and tensions between them and the English are running high, soon turning deadly.
Amid the strife, Alis meets and befriends Kimi, a Roanoke girl about her age. Though the two don t even speak the same language, these girls form a special bond as close as sisters, willing to risk everything for the other. Finally, Alis must make an impossible choice when her family resolves to leave the island and bloodshed behind.

One Came Home, by Amy Timberlake

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A Newbery Honor Book
An ALA-ALSC Notable Children’s Book
Winner of the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Juvenile Novel

In the town of Placid, Wisconsin, in 1871, Georgie Burkhardt is known for two things: her uncanny aim with a rifle and her habit of speaking her mind plainly.
But when Georgie blurts out something she shouldn’t, her older sister Agatha flees, running off with a pack of “pigeoners” trailing the passenger pigeon migration. And when the sheriff returns to town with an unidentifiable body wearing Agatha’s blue-green ball gown everyone assumes the worst.Except Georgie. Refusing to believe the facts that are laid down (and coffined) before her, Georgie sets out on a journey to find her sister. She will track every last clue and shred of evidence to bring Agatha home. Yet even with resolute determination and her trusty Springfield single-shot, Georgie is not prepared for what she faces on the western frontier.

Wringer, by Jerry Spinelli

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Palmer LaRue is running out of birthdays. For as long as he can remember, he’s dreaded the day he turns ten — the day he’ll take his place beside all the other ten-year-old boys in town, the day he’ll be a wringer. But Palmer doesn’t want to be a wringer. It’s one of the first things he learned about himself and it’s one of the biggest things he has to hide. In Palmer’s town being a wringer is an honor, a tradition passed down from father to son. Palmer can’t stop himself from being a wringer just like he can’t stop himself from growing one year older, just like he can’t stand up to a whole town — right? Newbery Medal winner Jerry Spinelli’s most powerful novel yet is a gripping tale of how one boy learns how not to be afraid.

Wildwood, by Colin Meloy

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For fans of The Chronicles of Narnia comes the first book in the Wildwood Chronicles, the New York Times bestselling fantasy adventure series by Colin Meloy, lead singer of the Decemberists, and Carson Ellis, acclaimed illustrator of The Mysterious Benedict Society.

In Wildwood, Prue and her friend Curtis uncover a secret world in the midst of violent upheaval a world full of warring creatures, peaceable mystics, and powerful figures with the darkest intentions. And what begins as a rescue mission becomes something much greater as the two friends find themselves entwined in a struggle for the very freedom of this wilderness. A wilderness the locals call Wildwood.

Wildwood captivates readers with the wonder and thrill of a secret world within the landscape of a modern city. It feels at once firmly steeped in the classics of children’s literature and completely fresh at the same time. The story is told from multiple points of view, and the book features more than eighty illustrations, including six full-color plates, making this an absolutely gorgeous object.

Supports the Common Core State Standards.

The Guardians of Ga’hoole, by Kathryn Lasky

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Ga’Hoole is a classic hero mythology about the fight between good and evil. This new version of The Capture will feature art from the movie, due out in September 2010!

After Soren, a young owlet, is pushed from his family’s nest by his older brother, he’s plucked from the forest floor by agents from a mysterious school, the St. Aegolius Academy for Orphaned Owls. When Soren arrives at St. Aggie’s, he suspects there is more to the school than meets the eye. He and his new friend, the clever and scrappy Gylfie, find out that St. Aggie’s is actually a training camp where the school’s leader can groom young owls to help achieve her goal–to rule the entire owl kingdom.

The Race to Save the Lord God Bird, by Phillip Hoose

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The tragedy of extinction is explained through the dramatic story of a legendary bird, the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, and of those who tried to possess it, paint it, shoot it, sell it, and, in a last-ditch effort, save it. A powerful saga that sweeps through two hundred years of history, it introduces artists like John James Audubon, bird collectors like William Brewster, and finally a new breed of scientist in Cornell’s Arthur A. “Doc” Allen and his young ornithology student, James Tanner, whose quest to save the Ivory-bill culminates in one of the first great conservation showdowns in U.S. history, an early round in what is now a worldwide effort to save species. As hope for the Ivory-bill fades in the United States, the bird is last spotted in Cuba in 1987, and Cuban scientists join in the race to save it….

“The Race to Save the Lord God Bird” is the winner of the 2005 Boston Globe – Horn Book Award for Nonfiction and the 2005 Bank Street – Flora Stieglitz Award.

If all these these books about birds and birdwatchers sparked your curiosity, maybe you’d be interested, as I have been, in participating in citizen science that involves watching birds. There are great opportunities to be a part of real science through your binoculars.

The Great Backyard Bird Count , coming February 12-15, 2016, is a great way to get out and see some of your  own neighborhood birds. Cornell University’s Project Feederwatch, through the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, is another good way to become a bird brain yourself! It’s great for just about anyone who has a window; everyone can participate, kids and adults alike. It’s not too late to join in this year’s watch season, either. Still hungry for more? Check out the Cornell Lab’s Education page for a wide range of information and activities.

Whatever you do, the world of birds is right outside your window, AND btween the pages of a book. Check it out!

In fourth grade, Valerie Stein touched an ancient artifact from an archaeological dig. Though she never got to travel the world in search of buried treasure, she ended up journeying to new and exciting places between the pages of books. Now she spends her time researching history, in museums and libraries, which is like archaeology but without the dirt. Valerie’s book, The Best of It: A Journal of Life, Love and Dying, was published in 2009.  Both her current work and an upcoming middle grade series are historical fiction set in Washington State. Valerie is Publisher at Homeostasis Press and blogs at Gatherings, the blog of Gather Here: History for Young People