I am always on the look out for non-fiction books that can serve as “reading hooks” – something to get my kids interested in a topic so that they will want to go off and research it further (i.e. read MORE non fiction!), and National Parks: A Kid’s Guide to America’s Parks, Monuments and Landmarks by Erin McHugh is just such a book.
This state by state guide to parks, monuments and landmarks is written in an engaging “you gotta check this out!” style that is sure to grab my sixth graders’ attention. Here, for instance is a lead-in to Carlsbad Caverns National Park:
As a young boy, Jim White (1882 – 1946) found the most incredible caverns near Carlsbad, New Mexico. He went there all the time, bringing along his home made ladder: Most folks he told didn’t even believe there were any caverns. And when he grew up, Jim White became…a park ranger! You can walk into a huge, yawning hole in the caverns or take an elevator down to the bottom. As you do, think of sixteen-year old Jim White, discovering all this bit by bit…
The vintage photographs and gorgeous reproductions of the National Parks poster series makes this book a visual treat as well. I know my kids will pause at each page to read the information and take in the visuals with equal delight.
As a big fan of baseball, I could not resist this book when I saw it at our library:
Brothers at Bat: The True Story of an Amazing All-Brother Baseball Team, written by Audrey Vernick and illustrated by Steven Salerno is exactly what it claims to be – a true story of the Acerra family from Long Branch, N.J. – twelve boys in a family of sixteen (wow!) who loved each other and loved the game of baseball. They were able to field a team and were one of twenty nine baseball teams made up of brothers who played from the 1860’s until the 1940’s. Amazing! Here is an actual photograph of the brothers:
And here they are, in an old home movie:
Although this book is more suitable for elementary school, the writing is wonderful and I can imagine my sixth graders studying lines such as this for writing strategies:
“When winter’s chill melts into spring, back doors swing open and slap shut as kids from home run outside – mitts, bats, and balls in hand.”
I also came across, Marching with Aunt Susan, written by Claire Rudolf Murphy and illustrated by Stacey Schuett:
The jacket copy notes that the story is “based on the family papers of the real Bessie Keith Pond, a ten-year-old girl who lived in California during the suffrage campaign.” Bessie meets Susan B. Anthony through her aunt, and is inspired to work on the movement to earn women the right to vote.
I did not know that women first earned this right in the Western states, through campaigns just like the ones young Bessie works on in 1896. I did know that it took many years and much sacrifice, and I do know that for many of my students the Suffragette Movement is entirely unknown…so this would be another book with which to pique their curiosity. I especially loved the fact that the perspective of this book is that of a young girl, who wants to know: “Why can’t girls do the same things as boys?”
The last few pages of this book include information about the suffrage movement and resources for further investigation. Since we read about Susan B. Anthony during our biography book club cycle, this will be a perfect addition to our “look here for further information” resources shelf.