One of my students checked out Animal Groups by Jill Esbaum from the library a few weeks ago. When I flipped through it, I knew it was a book I'd want for the classroom. There was just enough text on a page for my students to move beyond merely reading facts. Plus I loved the umbrella that pulled this book together--the things we call groups of different animals.
When I spent a bit more time with the book, I realized that this would also be a great mentor text for informational writing. I am always struck by the quality of the writing in many of the NG Kids books. The writing in this book can definitely be used to study the craft of nonfiction and each page is a short enough piece to be used on its own in a mini lesson for this study.
The word choice is what stood out to me at first. The vets the author chooses are great for helping kids choose specific verbs in their writing. Lines like "parents dive for dinner" and "Flitting through sunshine" are on each and every page. Are there are also phrases that will give kids options for nonfiction writing beyond just writing facts. The page on sea otters starts out "The ocean is a perfect playground for sea otters...." and "They hang upside down, wings folded, awaiting the warmth of the morning sun."
As readers, the book is organized in a way to support readers--good headings, Did You Know? boxes with extra information, a map at the end of the book, and a list of animal groups not included in the main text.
This book is filled with interesting information and great nonfiction writing. I think kids will love it as readers and also as growing writers. So glad to have a copy for the classroom! It looks like Jill Esbaum has several other nonfiction books and I am definitely going to check them out as I think her writing is great for middle graders to study and learn from!