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Kids' Books Celebrate Earth

This week, Education World highlights four new kids' books that celebrate Earth. Grow a great garden, ride through the rain forest, track down tree names, or meander mountain habitats -- in these four new books that every school library should have!

Grow It Again Book CoverWant to have some classroom fun? Why not Grow It Again? Don't throw out those carrot tops and apple cores -- grow them instead! By using the pointers packed into this handy new paperback from Kids Can Press, your students will be growing a gourmet garden in no time.

  • Use the tops of some familiar favorites to grow carrot, yam, pineapple, and turnip plants.
  • Or use common seeds -- from beans, watermelons, oranges, peas, peanuts, apples, kiwis, papayas, mangoes, and avocados -- to grow new plants.
  • Add tubers and bulbs such as garlic, potatoes, and ginger to your classroom garden
. Growing plants from recycled food items is easy, if you know the secrets. And Elizabeth MacLeod shares those tricks-of-the-trade in Grow It Again. For example, some seeds -- such as those from watermelons, apples, grapes, and peaches -- need to be tricked into "thinking" they've gone through winter before they'll sprout. The trick: Just place a few of the seeds in a small plastic bag full of moist soil and put the sealed bag in your refrigerator to stratify -- or "winterize" -- the seeds. Soon they'll be ready to plant!

MacLeod provides directions for planting more than 15 common food items. But that's not all the fun she has in store! Sprinkled among the classroom crops are a handful of fun activities. Consider using food coloring to dye seeds, then make necklaces from them. Or press flowers from your "grow-it-again" garden plants just like the pros do. The directions for those activities and more can be found in Grow It Again!

Then there are the recipes -- simple recipes for tasty snacks. How about making carrot-pineapple muffins? Start with these delicious muffins, then use the tops of the carrots and pineapples to add some green to your classroom windowsills. Concoct some other recipes -- for example, guacamole, baked apples, or fruit salad -- and add to your garden!

Whether you're planting or cooking or creating, Caroline Price's clear illustrations make the job as easy as 1-2-3.

Grow It Again includes all the ingredients (except the seeds!) for some great classroom lessons!


First Field Guide Book Cover Scholastic and the National Audubon Society have joined forces to create a magnificent "First Field Guide" Series for kids from 5 to 50!

To date, the First Field Guide Series includes guides to trees and to wildflowers plus guides to birds, insects, reptiles, rocks and minerals, and mammals. Each guide's colorful photos, hand pocket "spotter's card," and informative text will make naturalists out of all your students!

A classroom idea! Why not gather in a learning center a handful of tree leaves or wildflowers that grow in your area? Students can use the guides to "eye-dentify" Mother Nature's samples. They'll be challenged, they'll learn, they'll build their researching skill, and they'll have fun! For older students, post some questions to check comprehension of the guides' easy-to-read text!

The First Field Guide to Trees is a perfect combination of pictures and text. The book opens with an introduction to trees, which presents readers with information about the two classes of trees (needleleaf trees and broadleaf trees). The pages that follow provide the basics of tree anatomy, shape, growth, bark, and much more.

Then comes the best part, the actual "field guide" -- more than fifty spreads, all following a similar format. Each spread highlights a tree common to many parts of North America. On the left side of each spread appears a glorious full-color photograph of the tree. The facing page offers brief explanatory text that provides a bit of history along with information about how to identify the tree, its shape and height, and its habitat and range. An inset photo provides a close-up of a leaf from the tree to help make identification easy. A sidebar offers information on two more trees, often related to the featured tree.

For example: Take the Northern Red Oak, one of the most common U.S. trees. A brief intro explains why this tree is one of the most popular -- it is both a handsome tree and a fast grower. Then the details follow:

  • Look for: Leaves 5 to 8 inches long and 4-5 inches wide, with 7-11 toothed, pointed lobes, green above and paler beneath. Acorns 1-1/2 inches long with shallow cups. Brownish-black bark with deep ridges.
    • Shape and height: Oval; to 70 feet.
    • Habitat: Rich or sandy soils at many elevations.
    • Range: Eastern Canada and U.S.
  • To help nature lovers discern and identify related trees, the sidebar to the Northern Red Oak introduces readers to the Black Oak and the Blackjack Oak.

    The "First Field Guide" Series is a bunch of science lessons just waiting to happen!


    Mondo Publishing is just about to introduce the latest book in its "Exploring" series. Each book -- offered in hardcover or paperback -- explores in detail a different habitat. Targeted for students ages 6-10, the series includes previously published explorations of freshwater, saltwater, and tree habitats.

    Exploring Mountain Habitats Book Cover What these books are best at is exposing kids to the variety of habitats and the tremendous ranges of species that inhabit them. Exploring Mountain Habitats takes students on a world tour (maps included!) of a wide assortment of mountain habitats. Readers will visit the Alps in south central Europe, the Virunga Volcanoes in central East Africa, the Canadian Rockies, Mount Kinabalu in Southeast Asia, and a mountain on the island of Kauai in the Hawaiian Islands. Each stop on the tour is explored in four pages. The opening page details plants common to the habitat, the center spread introduces the wide variety of animal life, and the closing page explores how plants and animals adapt to the habitat.

    Loaded with fun and interesting facts pulled together by Scarlett Lovell and Sue Smith, these books offer young students a quick introduction to an array of habitats. If the books have any drawbacks, they tend to be very busy; as a result, some label words can be hard to read against like-colored backgrounds. But those sorts of things tend to bother an adult's eye much more than they do a child's eye. If anything, the "busy-ness" might force students to focus, to look more closely at the detail of Robert Noreika's wildlife illustrations.

    Some adult readers might also take issue with the anthropomorphization of creatures in Miriam Katin's cartoon illustrations. (For example, in winter the speckled brown ptarmigan grows white feathers so it will blend in with its surroundings in the Alps. Katin's cartoon shows the bird, in white feathers, holding up its summer coat.) But those cartoons can be an effective way to drive home to kids some important concepts.

    Mondo's Exploring Mountain Habitats offers a purposeful introduction to the wide differences among mountain habitats. It might be just the tool to motivate students to use library and Internet resources to explore further some of Earth's most interesting places and wildlife.


    Magic Schoolbus Book Cover All kids love to learn when the fabulous Friz is their teacher. She's so full of surprises! And her journey into the rain forest (The Magic School Bus In the Rain Forest) is no exception.

    Based on the TV series (which is based on the original Magic School Bus books written by Joanna Cole and illustrated by Bruce Degan), The Magic School Bus In the Rain Forest (Scholastic) opens with a problem posed by Mrs. Frizzle: The cocoa beans she usually gets each birthday from her great-uncle Fudge didn't arrive this year.
    Instead, Mrs. Frizzle got a note from Fudge that explained how the cocoa crop was suffering.

    All aboard the Magic School Blimpbus!

    In the rain forest, students uncover many amazing surprises as they learn the importance of pollination in the life cycle of the cocoa tree. Teachers will enjoy reading aloud this adventure of Mrs. Frizzle, which challenges students to uncover the mystery of the bare cocoa trees. They'll learn lots of information about rain forests as they try to solve this perplexing puzzle!

    All of the books highlighted in this article are available at bookstores. If you are unable to locate any of the books, ask your bookseller to order them for you or contact the publishers.

    • Grow It Again, written by Elizabeth MacLeod and illustrated by Caroline Price, is published by Kids Can Press, Ltd., 85 River Rock Drive, Suite 202, Buffalo, NY 14207.

    • First Field Guide to Trees, written by Brian Cassie, is published by Chanticleer Press, Inc., an imprint of Scholastic, Inc. The Magic School Bus In the Rain Forest, based on the TV show, is illustrated by John Speirs and published by Scholastic, Inc. Call 1-800- SCHOLASTIC.

    • Exploring Mountain Habitats, written by Scarlett Lovell and Sue Smith and illustrated by Robert Noreika, is published by MONDO Publishing, One Plaza Road, Greenvale, NY 11548.

    Article by Gary Hopkins
    Education World® Editor-in-Chief
    Copyright © 1999 Education World

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