Monthly Archive for April, 2008

Nonfiction Monday – The Planet Hunter


The Planet Hunter: The Story Behind What Happened to Pluto, written by Elizabeth Rusch and illustrated by Guy Francis, is a nonfiction picture book that introduces readers to Mike Brown, the astronomer whose discoveries led to the reclassification of Pluto.

We first meet Mike as a young boy. He is wearing a homemade space helmet on his head, dancing in mud puddles he created to mimic the way craters are made on the moon. (You can view an excerpt of this page.) We learn that he grew up in Hunstville, Alabama, home of the Marshall Space Flight Center, and that his fascination with astronomy carried him through childhood and into his adult career. He approached the study of the heavens systematically, as described in this excerpt.

Mike remembered how as a kid, he was always losing his sneakers. The only way he could be sure to find them was to start at one end of the house and search room by room.

“That’s the way to find a planet,” he said.

Using an old telescope, Mike began searching the sky, section by section.

Mike and a fellow astronomer made a bet, in which Mike suggested that someone would find a new planet within four years. He set about the task of searching in an effort to make sure that someone was him. The book goes on to describe how Mike searched for objects in the sky. Finally, five days after losing the bet, he found an object he hadn’t seen before. He pointed as many telescopes as he could at the object he named Eris. Ultimately, photos from the Hubble Telescope confirmed he had found something that was bigger than Pluto!

This discovery led astronomers to rethink the definition of a planet. At an international meeting of astronomers, a planet was defined as “a body that circles the sun. It is large enough to be round. And it orbits alone, far from anything else its size.” This redefinition meant that Mike’s discovery was not a planet, and now, neither was Pluto.

This is a terrifically interesting biography that provides scientific information in an accessible way for young readers. In addition to the story of Mike Brown, throughout the book there are interesting facts and informational tidbits “bubbled” into the corners of the pages. The book also contains a pull-out poster of the solar system (newly reconfigured), with information about dwarf planets, the Kuiper Belt and the Oort Cloud. Overall, I found this to be an informative and thoroughly engaging book. I highly recommend it.

Book: The Planet Hunter: The Story Behind What Happened to Pluto
Author: Elizabeth Rusch
Illustrator: Guy Francis
Publisher: Rising Moon
Publication Date:
Pages: 32 pages
Grades: 4-8
ISBN: 978-0873589260
Source of Book: Review copy received from TEOTF.

This post was written for Nonfiction Monday. Head on over to Anastasia Suen's blog and check out all the great posts highlighting nonfiction this week.

For those of you interested in learning more about the ideas presented in this book, check out these resources.

Measurement Podcast – Counting on Frank


In this podcast, Kelsey Rdzanek introduces listeners to the book Counting on Frank, written and illustrated by Rod Clement.

I selected Counting on Frank because it was very creative and included amazing facts that I thought kids would be interested in. For example, how many blue whales would fit into a house and how long a line a pen could draw until it ran out of ink. This book can be used for teaching about measurement and ratios, as well as topics like addition or subtraction.

Related Books
Actual Size by Steve Jenkins

More Information
Look at this sample performance assessment where students read Counting on Frank and then wrote a letter to the author commenting on at least one example of the mathematical claims made.
Try this NCTM lesson on volume that is based on the book.
Here is a series of lessons on estimation that are based on the book.
Here is a short video introduction to Counting on Frank. It also includes a handout on estimation.

Measurement Podcast – How Big is a Foot?


In this podcast, Megan Ney introduces listeners to the book How Big is a Foot?, written and illustrated by Rolf Myller.

How big is a foot? This is a good question, and an important one. When a King wants to have a bed built for his Queen, he proceeds to walk around her and gives the measurements in feet. However, when the apprentice uses foot measurements to build the bed, things don’t turn out as everyone would have hoped. Thrown into jail for making a bed that is too small, the apprentice must solve the puzzling question of why his bed didn’t measure up.

Related Books
Measuring Penny by Loreen Leedy
Twelve Snails to One Lizard: A Tale of Mischief and Measurement by Susan Hightower

More Information
Try this lesson using the book that includes a reader’s theater script.
NCTM also has a measurement lesson based on the book.
Follow this outline for a computer (Excel) graphing lesson based on the book.
Here’s a great chapter of information on nonstandard measurement.

Measurement Podcast – Once Upon a Dime


In this podcast, Cory Widdowson introduces listeners to the book Once Upon a Dime: A Math Adventure, written by Nancy Kelly Allen and illustrated by Adam Doyle.

Follow Farmer Truman Worth, a young boy and their animal friends Lewis and Cluck, and Grover Clevelamb in an exciting story about a tree that actually grows money! Truman and the boy use different organic fertilizers on the tree, each of which cause the tree to grow different kinds of money. If only they could find out which fertilizer grew the most money€¦

Related Books
The Coin Counting Book by Rozanne Lanczak Williams

More Information
Try this economics lesson that is based on the book.
The author has some class activities for the book on her web site.
Try a word search puzzle based on the book.
Here is an activity guide for use with The Coin Counting Book.

Measurement Podcast – Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday


In this podcast, Kristin Coffee introduces listeners to the book Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday, written by Judith Viorst and illustrated by Ray Cruz.

Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday incorporates math facts into a traditional children's book format. Judith Viorst writes in the voice of Alexander, a boy who, after receiving a dollar from his grandparents, tries to save up for a set of walkie talkies but ends up spending his dollar over the course of several days. By the end of the week, Alexander is left with only bus tokens, but readers have been provided with many opportunities to practice their math skills through reading about his adventures.

Related Books
The Berenstain Bears' Trouble with Money by Stan and Jan Berenstain
The Story of Money, written by Betsy Maestro and illustrated by Giulio Maestro

More Information
You can visit the official site for the Berenstain Bears.
You can read an interview with the Judith Viorst.
Visit this site for kids about the history of money.
Try this economics lesson that is based on the book.
Try this problem-solving lesson based on the book.
Try this lesson on opportunity cost based on the book.
Young Investor has a web site for kids on saving money.

Measurement Podcast – A Second is a Hiccup


In this podcast, Jamie Malone introduces listeners to the book A Second is a Hiccup: A Child’s Book of Time, written by Hazel Hutchins and illustrated by Kady Macdonald Denton.

A Second is a Hiccup explains the differences between units of time, such as a second, minute, hour, day, week, month, and year. By using day to day activities, which are common and easy for students to understand, Hutchins does a wonderful job of introducing and teaching students about different units of time.

Related Books
It’s About Time! by Stuart Murphy
Just a Minute by Bonny Becker

More Information
Experiment with elapsed time at this interactive web site.
Visit this site where kids can practice telling time.
Check out this thematic book list on telling time.

Nonfiction Monday – If You Hopped Like a Frog


This book has been in my teaching collection for a while now. I pull it out every time I teach algebraic thinking and my students and I explore the concepts of ratio and proportion. If You Hopped Like a Frog, written by David Schwartz and illustrated by James Warhola, looks at the world of animal facts and applies them (mathematically) to children of average size. In the introduction, Schwartz lets readers in on a little secret–as a child, he wanted to hop like a frog! But how far could he hop? Realizing that a little bit of math would help him find the answer, he tells readers that with math, they can figure anything out!

The book looks at a series of if-then propositions. If you could hope like a frog, then you could jump from home plate to first base in one leap. In the back of the book, readers learn how each calculation was made. In this case, we learn that a 3-inch frog can hop 60 inches, or about 20 times it’s body length. If the child reading the book is 4.5 feet tall, this means he or she could hop 90 feet! This informational section on hopping like a frog ends with this.

How tall are you? If you could jump 20 times your body length, how far could you go? Measure your height and multiply by 20 to find out!

Some of the other comparisons explored in the book include:

  • If you were as strong as an ant
  • If you had the brain of a brachiosaurus
  • If you swallowed like a snake
  • If you ate like a shrew
  • If you high-jumped like a flea

The comparisons are startling and fun. The illustrations show just how fantastic some of these feats would be if you could indeed do them.

This is a wonderful book for encourage mathematical thinking and for introducing a concept that is often difficult for children to understand. This is an informative and thoroughly engaging book. I highly recommend it.

Book: If You Hopped Like a Frog
Author: David Schwartz
Illustrator: James Warhola
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Publication Date: 1999
Pages: 32 pages
Grades: 4-8
ISBN: 0-590098-57-8
Source of Book: Personal copy.

This post was written for Nonfiction Monday. Head on over to Anastasia Suen's blog and check out all the great posts highlighting nonfiction this week.

For those of you interested in learning more about the ideas presented in this book, check out these resources.

Measurement Podcast – Chimp Math


In this podcast, Farah Salman introduces listeners to the book Chimp Math: Learning About Time from a Baby Chimpanzee by Anna Whitehead Nagda and Cindy Bickel.

Chimp Math is full of adorable photos of Jiggs a baby Chimpanzee who grows under human care first in a Kansas Zoo and then in the Denver Zoo, Colorado. The authors give details of the chimp's growth through timelines, daily charts, graphs and calendars. The book can be integrated in Math (Time), Reading and Science lessons for 2nd through 5th grades.

Additional Books
A Second is a Hiccup by Hazel Hutchins

More Information
Learn more about the author.
Jane Goodall’s Wild Chimpanzees site has several good educational resources.
The San Diego Zoo has information on chimpanzees.

Measurement Podcast – All in a Day


In this podcast, Laura Bradlee introduces listeners to the book All in a Day by Mitsumasa Anno.

Mitsumasa Anno and eight other amazing artists have created an exceptional picture book all about measuring time and the different time zones in All In A Day. The book is comprised of unique illustrations depicting the activities of children in various parts of the world in one 24-hour day and encourages readers to accept and embrace cultural differences. Most any age audience would enjoy this book; however, if it were being used to help students understand the more complex concepts about measuring time, I would use it in a 3rd to 5th grade classroom. There are many activities that could be done to enhance the educational value of this book. Since the book only gives the time in digital format (standard and military), one way to help students would be to have them use models or diagrams of real clocks to represent the time in each country as the book is being read. Students could also practice elapsed time by giving and/or depicting the time on a clock in one country if it is a certain time in another (use examples other than what the book gives). Students could also come up with other activities that children might be doing in the eight different countries based on whatever time it is when the book is being read. This book is a great way to integrate science into math and teach across the curriculum on a very interesting subject. Subsequently, depending on the depth desired, students could investigate different time zones, how the Earth's orbit plays a factor in night & day and the seasons, and then give oral presentation of their findings to the class.

Additional Books by Mitsumasa Anno
Anno's Counting Book
Anno's Journey
Anno's Magic Seeds
Anno's Mysterious Multiplying Jar

More Information
Learn more about the author in this interview.
This sample from the The Big Book of Picture-Book Authors & Illustrators features Mitsumasa Anno.

Nonfiction Monday – Animals, Animals

There are many, many books written every day about animals. Here are two recent publications for young readers that take innovative approaches to looking at baby animals.

babyanimals.jpg closetoyou.jpg

Baby Animals: Little Ones at Play in 20 Works of Art by William Lach presents works of art in a variety of media in which baby animals take center stage. Each full page work of art is accompanied by a facing page with two words of text in large font that read baby __. Young readers will find baby dogs, baby deer, baby elephants, baby owls, and more. Below these two-word descriptors is a single sentence on each page that tells what the particular baby animal is called. The baby deer page reads “Baby deer are called fawns,” and the baby bats page reads “Baby bats are called pups.” Looking at the selected pieces of art provides wonderful opportunities to try and guess the media they were created in. Pieces include an embroidered carpet (the cover image), a dragon robe, a bark painting, ivory carving, Japanese scroll painting, lithographs, and more traditional works in oil and watercolor. With few exceptions, nearly all of these pieces come from the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Close to You: How Animals Bond by Kimiko Kajikawa presents photographs that highlight animal parents and their young during the intimate moments of bonding. Each full page photograph is accompanied by a facing page containing a short sentence about the animal pair. The rhyming text briefly describes how the animals communicate and/or share affection. Here is an excerpt.

nestle and go for a ride.
walk closely side by side.
pucker up, sniff, and lick.
whistle, clack, and click.

The pictures and text on each double-page spread are matted and framed by layers of color, with pages beautifully framed in purples, yellows, blues and oranges. The text ends by highlighting the ways in which humans show affection and caring. At the end of the book is an informational section that presents a bit of background information on each animal. A chart is also included that presents data on each of the animals in the book, including number of babies typically born, weight at birth, weight at maturity, and age of independence. Also listed are some animal web sites of interest.

Both of these books provide interesting views of baby animals and will make outstanding additions to collections for young children.

Book: Baby Animals: Little Ones at Play in 20 Works of Art
Author: William Lach
Publisher: Abrams Young Readers
Publication Date: 2008
Pages: 46 pages
Grades: preK-2
ISBN: 978-1588391827
Source of Book: Copy received from publisher.

Book: Close to You: How Animals Bond
Author: Kimiko Kajikawa
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Publication Date: 2008
Pages: 32 pages
Grades: preK-2
ISBN: 978-0805081237
Source of Book: Copy received from publisher.

This post was written for Nonfiction Monday. Head on over to Anastasia Suen's blog and check out all the great posts highlighting nonfiction this week.