Monday, January 06, 2014

My First Read of 2014

Thanks to a Facebook post by the amazing Kate Messner,  I discovered the new book Handle With Care: An Unusual Butterfly Journey (Nonfiction - Grades Prek-4) by Loree Griffin Burns.  It was a great first read of 2014!

I have been struggling with pulling my science teaching together this year as it's a new grade level and new content.  I love teaching science when it is authentic and kids are involved in real world issues and thinking. But it always takes a little while for me to find the right resources when starting a new grade level.   I have worked to add some great books to my collection lately--books that really share the work of real scientists.  My students believe that all information comes from reading and as much as I want them to see the power of nonfiction reading, I want them to understand that real research is about discovery and often happens out in the world.

When Kate posted about Handle With Care, I knew I had to have it. First of all, it was recommended by Kate so it had to be good!  And, it looked gorgeous from the cover.  It also ties into our science study on life cycles.  And it seemed to offer a unique story instead of the typical "life of a butterfly" type story.  In this book, the life cycle info is embedded in the story of a butterfly farm in Costa Rica.

The book begins in a museum, where a mysterious package arrives filled with pupa! The the author/photographer team take us back to the butterfly farm where they began. Readers learn about the importance of the farm, what it takes to keep the caterpillars safe and healthy, and information on the life cycle of this butterfly.

I love so much about this book. First of all, I love stories of science/research that are new or behind-the-scenes. Important work by important people. I love how this book embeds the important work of so many people. I love how the content and vocabulary is embedded in an engaging, current science narrative.  And the pictures are not only gorgeous, but they are full of information. (The endpages deserve their own award:-)

I love that the author and photographer share a bit at the end about their research process at the end of the book and in the "about the author" blurb.

But what I  love most is that this book is accessible to younger readers than most books that include this kind of complex information. I LOVE LOVE LOVE the Scientist in the Field series but they are a bit too intense for my 3rd graders. This book does a similar thing in that it explores the life and work of real scientists on real projects, but it does so in a way that allows younger children to engage without making it too simple for older readers to also learn from and enjoy.

It wasn't until I finished this book that I realized I already LOVED this author. She has written my very favorite Scientist in the Field book  (and the one that hooked me on the series), The Hive Detectives: Chronicle of a Honey Bee Catastrophe (Scientists in the Field Series) . And she also wrote Citizen Scientists: Be a Part of Scientific Discovery from Your Own Backyard, another of my favorites.

Other Great Books by Loree Griffin Burns

I can see this book in every K-5 classroom. The photos will engage the youngest readers and the information will captivate students of all ages.  I think I'll read this one aloud to my students. It is still not easy to find compelling nonfiction read alouds for 3rd graders but this one is EXACTLY what I look for!  I am sure they will all want to read it independently too. And I think they'll be as excited as I am to discover this amazing science writer.  Anxious to introduce my students to Loree Griffin Burns with this incredible book!


  1. This looks like a fabulous book, as do the others by Loree Burns. I'm especially interested in the Tracking Trash, which I hadn't seen before.

    Thanks for sharing your reading.

  2. Steve, get TRACKING TRASH and HIVE DETECTIVES. You won't regret it!

  3. I will definitely take a look at this book - I am captivated by the cover, and the use of photographs. I will definitely check out this author!


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