Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Look Up!

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday

Here at Teach Mentor Texts we are always looking for more ways to support teachers! We've found that teachers seem to be constantly on the lookout for great nonfiction. We know we are! To help with this undying quest for outstanding non-fiction, we are excited to participate in Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and The Nonfiction Detectives. Every Wednesday, you'll find a non-fiction review here - although it may not always be a picture book review. Please visit Kid Lit Frenzy to see what non-fiction others have to share, too.

Title: Look Up! Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard
Author: Annette LeBlanc Cate  
Illustrator: Annette LeBlanc Cate  
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication Date: March 12th, 2013 
Genre/Format: Non-Fiction/Picture Book 
GoodReads Summary: You don’t have to own binoculars and know a bunch of fancy Latin names to watch birds! No matter where you live, they’re in your neighborhood — just look up.
     This conversational, humorous introduction to bird-watching encourages kids to get outdoors with a sketchbook and really look around. Quirky full-color illustrations portray dozens of birds chatting about their distinctive characteristics, including color, shape, plumage, and beak and foot types, while tongue-in-cheek cartoons feature banter between birds, characters, and the reader ("Here I am, the noble spruce grouse. In a spruce grove. Eatin’ some spruce. Yep."). Interactive and enjoyable tips bring an age-old hobby to new life for the next generation of bird-watchers. 
What Jen Thinks: I know I say this all the time, but it's true: I fall in love with non-fiction all over again with every new great non-fiction book that I read. This is another non-fiction book that doesn't disappoint. I do have to say that this book is very busy but still very engaging and accessible for readers. From the beginning, Annette talks to readers as they listen to her story of falling in love with bird-watching. There's a little, sketched Annette right there in the book talking to the readers. I love that! First thing, she addresses the misconception that bird-watching is boring. What a great time to stop and think about how Annette really is asking readers to engage in bird-watching and how the entire book is persuading while also informing. She starts with the why by addressing any counter-arguments one might have and then she goes ahead and tells you exactly how to do it so that can't be an excuse either. It's great!
     As I read, I realized how this book can be used when talking about brainstorming ideas for writing. So many kids either love to draw or would rather draw than write and Annette asks readers to go out and draw. Go out and see what stories there are to be told just by observing what is all around you. I like to have students do this with their writer's notebooks. We talk about having a writer's eye and how when you put yourself in that frame of mind, stories seem to be all over the place. To go even beyond the writing process, this activity could be linked to or compared to the work that scientists do. Kids can think like scientists and notice what they observe. I can see how this book can be used to connect science and literacy and to help kids recognize this natural connection.
     One of my favorite books is Okay For Now by Gary D. Schmidt. Any time I read anything about birds, I think of Doug Swieteck and his fascination with Audobon's drawings of birds. I never knew that the Audobon Society was named after a man who drew birds until I read Okay For Now. I think readers who like this book would like reading Doug's story and I also think readers who enjoy Okay For Now might then like to go and observe and draw some of their own birds. I will never ever look at a bird the same after reading both of these books. It also reminds me of Me...Jane by Patrick McDonnell which is about Jane Goodall and how her observing as a child became her life's work. This book can be about so much more than watching birds when you think of all the great texts you can connect it with!
What Kellee Thinks:  What a great way to get kids out and about in nature even if they don't live in a rural area. Cate does a wonderful job making bird-watching sound exciting and adds a lot of personality to the book. She also promotes sketching the birds you see and the observations you make which is a great way to introduce observing to anyone. I recently sat with my father looking out his window in Chattanooga watching the birds come to his bird feeder. We had a TN bird guide as a reference and spent almost an hour seeing which birds were visiting his home. This book, with a bird guide of a kid's area would result in a great afternoon activity and great conversation. 
Read Together: Grades 1 and up
Read Alone: Grades 2 - 4 
Read With: Robin, Where Are You? by Harriet Ziefert, Little Bird Germano Zullo, Those Darn Squirrels! by Adam Rubin, She's Wearing a Dead Bird on Her Head! by Kathryn Lasky, Okay For Now by Gary D. Schmidt, Me...Jane by Patrick McDonnell 
Snatch of Text:  
"...spending time outside observing life and drawing in a sketchbook can help you see the world in a whole new way. You've always known that the birds and the trees and the insects and the rocks were there...but when you take the time to sit and patiently draw them, you do more than see them: you experience them. You feel yourself more connected to the natural world, more at home in it." (p. 3)

"Birds will show you a whole world of brown! Look closely and you will soon be a connoisseur of this color. Study our bird color wheel and see how brown can be almost black...dark like tree bark or mottle like leaves...lovely russety-red or almost pink...golden like autumn grass...dusty and gray and plain as a mouse...or pale as sand...

Be a birdbrain: Why do you think so many birds are so many different kinds of brown, with all manners or streaks and spots? Can you think of any advantages for brown birds?" (p. 13)
Reading Strategies to Practice: Activating Background Knowledge, Making Connections, Asking Questions, Using Non-Fiction Text Features
Writing Strategies to Practice: Writing Process, Expository, Descriptive, Onomatopoeia, Metaphor, Simile, Word Choice, Persuasive
Writing Prompts: After observing nature outside your school or house, write about what you noticed and how it made you feel to stop and connect with your surroundings. Write a descriptive piece using your five sense to bring to life what you observed or heard.  
Topics Covered: Integration - Science - Birds, Birds, Exploration, Observation, Discovery, Drawing, 5 Senses
Jen *hearts* It:
Kellee *hearts* It:

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