Nonfiction for this "What Are You Reading?" Monday: "The Genius of Islam" and "Creep & Flutter"

Nonfiction Monday is hosted by The Swimmer Writer
It’s Monday! What are you Reading is hosted by Jen and Kellee at Teach Mentor Texts

1. The Genius of Islam: How Muslims Made the Modern World by Bryn Barnard is a fascinating overview of Islamic history and culture.  In his introduction, Barnard writes:

During Islam’s first five hundred years, from the seventh through the twelfth centuries, this new religion created one of the most innovative and influential civilizations on earth, an essential bridge between antiquity and modernity…..The books we read, the music we play, the words we speak, the numbers we count, the clothes we wear, the food we eat, the science we depend on-all were shaped, at lest in part, by Islam.

Some of these innovations – our number system, the way we make paper-  I was already aware of, but many were a complete surprise.  I did not know that the percussion section in orchestras and bands originated in the Islamic Ottoman Empire, or that the astrolabe developed in medieval Islam would go on to become the most important navigational tool in the Age of Exploration, or that the idea of making the tropical agriculture we are all so fond of (orange juice in the morning? cucumbers with our salad?) readily available began with Muslims over a thousand years ago who decided to make this possible.
Beautifully illustrated, with pull out maps, timelines and detailed diagrams, this will be a great addition to the nonfiction section of any class library – it is on my wish list for the Fall.

2.  I hate bugs, and I especially despise spiders (yuck!), but I was nevertheless drawn to Jim Arnosky’s Creep and Flutter: The Secret World of Insects and Spiders.   Perhaps this is because this new book instantly reminded me of Arnosky’s gorgeous Thunder Birds: Nature’s Flying Predators,   which was also illustrated with dramatic paintings and fold outs.  

I love the way Arnosky brings nature to life – weaving in technical terms with an insects habits and habitats, even its peculiarities.  Best of all, and here I am thinking as a writing teacher as well as a reading teacher, he simply writes well!  Here, for instance is a glorious passage about (shudder and shiver) a bumblebee:

One afternoon, while fishing for brook trout, I spotted a large bumble bee floating helplessly downstream.  How it happened to fall in the water is a mystery.  But, there it was, caught in the swift current.  The bee drifted over small trout that rose and nipped at its wet legs.  As the bee floated over a pocket of water that I knew to a streamside boulder, where the bee climbed onto the dry rock.  Its yellow-and-black body was sodden. Its wings were heavy-looking and it couldn’t fly.  I moved as close as I could and gently blew them dry until the bee took off.

Wasn’t that lovely?! It’s vignettes like this that make Creep and Flutter such a pleasure to read, this is  nonfiction writing at it’s best.   We are gearing up for nonfiction book clubs in about a week’s time, and this is the title I will use to launch our whole-class investigation.  High quality writing, and brilliant illustrations … a perfect combination to get us excited about nonfiction book clubs.


6 thoughts on “Nonfiction for this "What Are You Reading?" Monday: "The Genius of Islam" and "Creep & Flutter"

  1. Hi Tara, I love the new look and feel of your blog. The Genius of Islam sounds like a great and fascinating read. Did I tell you that I taught in Bahrain for a period of time, so the Middle East has a special corner in my heart. Will look for this book. Thank you for sharing both lovely reading materials for Nonfiction Monday. 🙂

  2. Sounds like a great book, and Myra, I think it is so neat that you taught in the Middle East. I would love to go there. I have always been interested in traveling to other countries to learn about other cultures and religions. I stumbled across a great book titled, "Drifting on a Headwind" by Jim Harlan I found to be extremely fascinating… it was an in-depth memoir detailing the author's travels around the world over the past 30 years. I learn so much through these books. Thank you so much for suggesting "Genius of Islam." I will for sure check that one out!

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