Monday, September 26, 2016

Oscar and the Bird: A Book About Electricity

Hello everyone!

Today's book is all about Oscar and the Bird: A Book About Electricity by Geoff Waring.

"What's electricity?" Oscar asked. "It's a kind of energy that people use to help things move, make sounds, light up, or heat up," Bird said." (Waring, 2009)

Image result for oscar and the birdPublication Information:
ISBN: 9780763653026
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publish Date: 2009
Lexile Reading Level: AD620L

A "Start with Science" Book

This is an narrative informational nonfiction book that is a part of a "Start with Science" series featuring Oscar the cat, and other animals that help answer his questions about science. Each book covers a different part of introductory science. For example there's also Oscar and the Bat, which is a book about sound, Oscar and the Cricket, which is about moving and rolling. There's also Oscar books about other basic concepts such as light and dark. I chose to focus on Oscar and the Bird because it's a book in this series that I have access to, and it's one that I've started to work closely with as we start our Circuitry activities at my local library.

This is another "Intro to nonfiction" book for youth that poses and answers questions in a instructional way, however using language and vocabulary that is familiar with young children. Waring's illustrations are friendly and curious, but very basic. The pages have a mostly solid, but bright colored backgrounds on the pages, so the characters and the diagrams stick out. Oscar the cat is drawn with very big eyes that make it clear that he is a very curious cat, ready to learn about new things. The examples look realistic, but have minimal detail so that way children have a good visual of the concept being learned. Oscar and the Bird focuses on electricity. Oscar stumbles upon windshield wipers on a tractor and asks the wipers move. Bird swoops in and explains that it's because of electricity, and breaks down the parts of a circuit.

Oscar and the Bird would be a great read aloud accompaniment to a circuitry activity for young children (Pre-K-2nd grade) because one of the key objectives in a basic circuitry lesson is to talk about how electricity works and that you need a power source, conductive materials, and a switch to move electricity around, and finally, a light/motor to create the desired effect. I would recommend it because it reads like a story book, however, there's really not much of a story. There is a fictional cat and a bird, but they're facilitating a discussion and explaining the concept. There's no dramatization and the characters are there to represent a voice that appeals to children. It does the work of providing a child-friendly definition of electrical concepts for us, and gives us more time to have productive discussions with children and applying the story to the rest of the lesson or activity.

The last pages of the book summarize everything that Oscar learned about electricity with visuals/diagrams, and t includes an index of key words. When continuing an activity this would be a great page to reference or blow up on a projector screen to remind children what concepts were introduced in the book.  There is not a bibliography in this particular book in the series, which is a little disappointing. However at the beginning of the book there is a credit to someone from the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education for input and guidance throughout the making of the book so that tells me that some professional advice was sought when putting the book together, which is better than no source citing at all.

I know that this book is a little bit older, however, it was reprinted again in 2011 and that's the current version that's available from Walmart, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other websites. I think it's harder to find in stores, but readily available online. Part of the reason why I wanted to highlight this book is because we are working on developing Circuitry activities at work and we spent quite awhile looking for a quality book that would be good to read aloud to young children to help explain the concept and tie in well with an introductory circuitry activity. Oscar and the Bird completely fits the bill for us because of it's clean illustrations and diagrams and child-friendly language. What I also like about it is that it furthers the discussion and talks about how electricity can be made from other forms of energy such as wind. I'd recommend it for any inquisitive child who likes to ask, "Why?"

Image result for oscar and the bird
"Is electricity helping them move?" Oscar asked Bird. "No," Bird said. "It's the other way around! The wind turns the blades, and the movement makes electricity." (Waring, 2009). 
Image result for little bitsThere are a lot of great activities that allow children to explore circuitry. Such as a Makey Makey or Little Bits. This book would pair well with either of these, perhaps Little Bits more than the Makey Makey. A Little Bits kit includes a battery (that is discussed vividly in the book), magnetic wires, a type of switch (button, switch, dial, slide), and the choice between a light, a buzzer, or a fan. The diagram of the circuit in the book could easily be replicated with the individual pieces of a Little Bits kit and keep the connection and conversation going during an activity where children make their own circuits with Little Bits. Another supplemental activity would be asking children to identify some of their every day objects at home that use electricity.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Finding Winnie

Hope everyone had an amazing labor day weekend! Be warned..Things are about to get cute and cuddly in here! 

Today's entry I'm going to be talking about Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World's Most Famous Bear by Lindsay Mattick, and illustrated by Sophie Blackall.

"There is something special about that bear." He felt inside his pocket and said, "I shouldn't." He paced back and forth and said, "I can't." Then his heart made up his mind, and he walked up to the trapper and said, "I'll give you twenty dollars for the bear." (Mattick, 2015)
Image result for finding winnie
Publication Information: 
ISBN: 9780316324908
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publish Date:Oct. 2015
Lexile Reading Level: AD590L
Awards/Recognition: Caldecott Medal

This is a narrative nonfiction picture book which follows the true story of how a World War One veterinarian, Harry Colebourn, rescues a baby bear that he named Winnipeg, or Winnie for short. This bear is quickly accepted as the mascot in Harry's regiment and trains with the soldiers for the upcoming war. It's a heart-warming and awe-inspiring narrative, so much so that it's hard to believe that it really happened. 

I absolutely love it, and I believe kids who love transportation, teddy bears, Winnie-The-Pooh, and other animals will too. We all grew up over the tale of Winnie-the-Pooh, and this book explains how A. A. Milne became inspired to create our beloved Pooh bear. 

This Caldecott award-winning book is filled with beautiful illustrations, with text that runs along the sides of each page. It's written by the great-grand daughter of Harry Colebourn, and she puts herself in the book telling the story of Colebourn to her young son, Cole. She includes some great details at the end such as a family tree, and images of Harry and Winnie from their time in the army as well as the journal page that Harry wrote in that shows the date Harry bought Winnie from a trapper. There's even a photo of Christopher Robin Milne feeding Winnie with A. A. Milne in the background - real proof for those who find this story hard to believe. 

Harry's Diary, August 24, "Bought Bear $20"

Harry and Winnie, the photo that inspired the pictured statue in Winnipeg and London

This is a cozy companion to read to a child at home, or as a read aloud at school. I would recommend it be read in segments for pre-school age, and maybe even kindergarten because it is a little long for a picture book. This story would also be compatible for first and second grade as they start learning to read on their own - great for practicing reading and comprehension skills. There is a lot of text, however, it's mostly easy to sound out words with a few challenging new words spread out occasionally in the book. 

How the text is oriented on each page.
If I were personally using this in a classroom read-aloud or for a library story time, I would consider omitting the italicized parts. My only criticism is that these italicized parts are just a sentence or two of conversation that happens between Lindsay and Cole that don't contribute much to the narrative and interrupt the story for me. As a read aloud it would also be confusing for the children to be listening about Harry and Winnie and all of a sudden be brought back to present day just so Cole could make a comment about his reaction to what is happening - instead of letting the book do the conversation and reflecting alone, have the conversation with the kids who are listening! Lindsay uses this to teach vocabulary, but this can be incorporated as a teacher led moment with the class during a read aloud - let these vocabulary teaching moments happen naturally and not forced. 

This book is a great introduction to a biography and history lesson for little learners, as it reads like a fictional picture book, however the content is a true story in the words of a direct descendant of the person the book is about. It's appropriate for this age group because it's of a subject matter that kids are interested in; children love teddy bears, pets, and Winnie-the-Pooh! 

As the kids get older this book would be great to open up discussion about World War One, or comparing the difference between what the past looks like, versus today. For example, the soldiers in the book take a large steam boat to cross the ocean, whereas today, we fly in airplanes. Do cars look different? How about how people dressed? Teachers can compare photos of army uniforms today versus uniforms in World War One. There's a great illustration of the regiment getting their photo taken with Winnie - cameras in the past were huge! We take pictures with smart phones and tablets now! This would tie in well with a Veterans Day or transportation themed unit. 

Here are a few Indiana Academic Standards that could be used with this book (I'm just sticking with Kindergarten for the purpose of this post! If you're interested in talking about other standards, let me know!): 

Social Studies, History Standard: K.1.1 Compare children and families of today with those from the past. Example: Compare clothing, houses, and other objects.

English Academic Standards: K.RN.3.1: Identify text features of a nonfiction text (e.g., title, author, illustrations) and describe the relationship between those features and the text in which they appear. 

Finding Winnie would be a great addition to any home or library, as a grown adult I found this story intriguing and fun!