The Magic School Bus: Lost in the Solar System

Picture Book

Bibliographic Information: Cole, Joanna. The Magic School Bus: Lost in the Solar System. New York: Scholatic, 1990.

Plot Description:
Arnold’s cousin Janet joins Ms. Frizzle’s class for an informative adventure in outer space. She keeps bragging how her school is better, even as the school bus transforms into a rocket ship. The class visits the moon, the sun, the inner planets, the asteroid belt, and the outer planets. All the kids are relieved when they arrive back on Earth, and together make a mobile of the solar system.

Quantitative Reading Level: Lexile: 480; Accelerated Reader: 3.7

Qualitative Reading Analysis:
This book is written in third-person, focusing on teaching the reader about our solar system. Janet’s bragging quickly becomes annoying. Most words in the book are two syllables.

Content Area: Physical Science: Astronomy

Content Area Standard:

  • CCSS for Literature for K-5: #3 Describe how characters in a story respond to major events and challenges; #4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, distinguishing literal from nonliteral language; #7 Explain how specific aspects of a text’s illustrations contribute to what is conveyed by the words in a story; #10 Read and comprehend literature in grade level text complexity range.
  • CCSS for Informational Text for K-5: #2 Identify the main topic of a multiparagraph text as well as the focus of specific paragraphs within the text; #7 Explain how specific images (e.g., a diagram showing how a machine works) contribute to and clarify a text.
  • CCSS for Foundational Skills for K-5:  #4 Read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension.

Curriculum suggestions:
This is a great early reader’s science book. It is best suited to 3rd grade through 5th grade. It explores themes like school and the solar system.

Character Diversity:
Mostly Caucasians, plus African-Americans, Asian-Americans, and Latinos.

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Mama Provi and the Pot of Rice

Picture Book

Bibliographic Information: Rosa-Casanova, Sylvia. Mama Provi and the Pot of Rice. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997.

Plot Description:
Mama Provi lives in the same apartment building as her children and granddaughter, Lucy. Lucy visits often and loves hearing stories. They always make a big breakfast together, because Mama Provi came from a big family. One day, Lucy can’t visit because she is sick, so her grandma decides to make arroz con pollo (rice with chicken) and bring it upstairs to her. Along the eight-floor trip up the stairs, Mama Provi trades portions of her dish with her neighbors for some of the food they happen to have, like bread, frijoles negros, salad, collared greens, tea, and apple pie. Mama Provi sets up this culturally diverse feast for Lucy, and they eat.

Quantitative Reading Level: Lexile: 900; Accelerated Reader: 4.6

Qualitative Reading Analysis:
This book is written in third-person, focusing on the relationship between Mama Provi and Lucy, and Mama’s happy food-based relationships with her neighbors. It teaches the reader a few phrases in Spanish.

Content Area: English, Friendship, Food

Content Area Standard:

  • CCSS for Literature for K-5: #2 Recount stories, including fables and folktales from diverse cultures, and determine their central message, lesson, or moral; #4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, distinguishing literal from nonliteral language; #7 Explain how specific aspects of a text’s illustrations contribute to what is conveyed by the words in a story; #10 Read and comprehend literature in grade level text complexity range.
  • CCSS for Informational Text for K-5: #5 Know and use various text features (e.g., captions, bold print, subheadings, glossaries, indexes, electronic menus, icons) to locate key facts or information in a text efficiently; #7 Explain how specific images (e.g., a diagram showing how a machine works) contribute to and clarify a text.
  • CCSS for Foundational Skills for K-5:  #4 Read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension.

Curriculum suggestions:
This is a great modern book to use in English Language Arts Curriculum. It is best suited to 3rd grade through 5th grade. It explores themes like family and friendship.

Character Diversity:
Puerto Rico-American main characters, with appearances from Caucasian, Latino, African-American, and Asian-American.

The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA

Science title for high school.

Bibliographic Information: Watson, James. The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA. New York: Scribner, 1968.

Plot Description:
This book shows James as he definitively discovers the structure of DNA, the molecule of life. There is a little backstory on how he came to this point in his life. He introduces his teammates, especially Francis Crick. He describes the thrill of working against other gifted scientists and the bitter rivalries, as with Linus Pauling, that resulted. In the epilogue, he says that all of the members of the team may remember details differently, but acknowledges that Rosalind Franklin was a much better scientist and human than he initially thought.

Quantitative Reading Level: Lexile: 1220

Qualitative Reading Analysis:
James, in his mid-twenties, writes in the first person language of a scientist. His sentences are fifteen to twenty words, usually, and often use language that need context to understand. Some key phrases are repeated often (helical, cytosine, etc.) and are understood without context by the end of the book.

Content Area: Science-Biology

Content Area Standard:

  • CCSS for Reading for 6-12: #2 Determine the central ideas or conclusions of a text; summarize complex concepts, processes, or information presented in a text by paraphrasing them in simpler but still accurate terms; #4  Determine the meaning of symbols, key terms, and other domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context; #5 Analyze how the text structures information or ideas into categories or hierarchies, demonstrating understanding of the information or ideas; #9 Synthesize information from a range of sources; #10 Read and comprehend science/technical texts in appropriate grades.
  • CCSS for Writing for 6-12: #9 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
  • CCSS for Language 6-12: #3 Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening; #4 Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases.

Curriculum suggestions:
This is a fascinating science book, and should be used in conjunction with a biology lesson teaching about DNA. It is best suited to 9th grade and above. It is a surprisingly honest account of discovery. It should be read with other accounts by the scientists who James worked with, due to the controversy over his general exclusion of Rosalind Franklin.

Sea Horses Picture Book For Kids

One Science picture book

Bibliographic Information: Jacobs, Emma. Sea Horses Picture Book For Kids. Austin, TX: A Reading Place, 2013.

Plot Description:
This picture book has large photographs of seahorses in their native environment. It takes the reader through their appearance, their homes, their food, their predators, their babies (and how the males carry the young), and their lifespan. It also gives details on various species: lined seahorses, pot-bellied seahorses, dwarf seahorses, and sea dragons.

Quantitative Reading Level: Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease: 84.7

Qualitative Reading Analysis:
This book has a mild amount of technical terms, but most sentences are easily understandable by an elementary school student. Sentences have an average of twelve words; words average two syllables. This is an engaging book.

Content Area: Science-Life Science, Marine Biology

Content Area Standard:

  • CCSS for Reading for K-5: #1 Ask and answer questions to demonstrate understanding of a text, referring explicitly to the text as the basis for the answers; #4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text; #7 Explain how specific aspects of a text’s illustrations contribute to what is conveyed by the words in a story.

Curriculum suggestions:
This is a good introduction to seahorses, which are always popular with elementary school students. It is best suited to 3rd through 5th grade. It has many useable facts for a “My First Animal” report.

How Big Is A Foot?

One Math picture book

Bibliographic Information: Myller, Rolf. How Big Is A Foot? New York: Yearling, 1962.

Plot Description:
A King and Queen were happy. The Queen’s birthday was approaching, so the King decided he would give her a bed. He asked the Prime Minister, sho asked the Chief Carpenter, who told his apprentice to make a bed. But they all passed a question back up: How big is a bed? The King asked the Queen to lay down, and he walked, barefoot, around her, determining that the bed should be three feet wide and six feet long. This measurement was passed back down to the small apprentice, who measured using his own feet. The bed was not big enough for the Queen, and the apprentice was thrown in jail. He thought and realized that the King’s feet were bigger than his; if he knew the size of the King’s foot, he could make a bed for the Queen. The King had a stone copy of one foot made. The apprentice made a new bed, and it fit the Queen perfectly. Thereafter, anyone who wanted to measure anything used a copy of the King’s foot.

Quantitative Reading Level: Lexile: 660; Accelerated Reader: 4.0

Qualitative Reading Analysis:
The language was very simple and very repetitive. The word “apprentice” is the most complicated word in this story. Sometimes an entire page was one sentence, but kids will easily fall into the rhythm of “…told the Prime Minister, who told the Chief Carpenter, who…”

Content Area: Math-Measurement

Content Area Standard:

  • CCSS for Reading for K-5: #1 With prompting and support, ask and answer questions about key details in a text.; #7 Use information gained from the illustrations and words in a print or digital text to demonstrate understanding of its characters, setting, or plot; #10 Read and comprehend literature, including stories and poetry, at appropriate grade level.

Curriculum suggestions:
This is a cute picture book to use as a way to teach measurement. It is best suited to 3rd grade and below. It can help kids learn both how measurements are set, and relative measuring.

President Taft Is Stuck in the Bath

One picture book on a historical topic

Bibliographic Information: Barnett, Mac. President Taft Is Stuck in the Bath. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press, 1967.

Plot Description:
William Taft was the 27th president of the United States. One day, he was stuck in his bathtub. He wiggled, but couldn’t get out. Hours passed and he was still stuck. His wife discovered that he was in the bathroom, and he pretended that he wasn’t actually stuck; then he admitted it. She brought the vice president for him, who is prepared to become president in his stead. More advisors are brought in; a diet is proposed, or butter to grease him up to get him out, or blowing up the bath with dynamyte. As more ridiculous solutions are proposed, his wife keeps being cut off. Eventually she was able to suggest everyone in the room just yank him out of the bath, and it finally worked.

Quantitative Reading Level: Accelerated Reader: 3.2

Qualitative Reading Analysis:
The story uses short sentences well. The alliterations were great. The illustrations on each page had full-color and helped tell the story when there were only very small sentences on the page. The book was a short read, but very amusing.

Content Area: Social Science, US Presidents

Content Area Standard:
•    CCSS for Reading for K-5: #3 Describe characters, settings, and major events in a story, using key details; #4 Identify words and phrases in stories or poems that suggest feelings or appeal to the senses; #7 Use illustrations and details in a story to describe its characters, setting, or events; #10 With prompting and support, read prose and poetry at appropriate grade level.

Curriculum suggestions:
This is a fun book to use as part of a around President’s Day. It is best suited to 3rd grade and below. It also introduces many officers of the White House, and their solutions involve their jobs at a level elementary school students can understand.

The Diary of a Young Girl

One non-fiction historical work (memoir or narrative non-fiction)

Bibliographic Information: Frank, Anne. The Diary of a Young Girl. New York: Doubleday, 1967.

Plot Description:
Anne Frank has a pretty typical girlhood, until the persecution of Jewish people began. Her family fled Germany to the Netherlands. When Germany invaded the Netherlands, the Franks were forced into hiding with another family. They pay attention to the war by listening to the radio. Anne writes her thoughts about the war in her diary. The news affects the mood of the adults; Amsterdam as a whole is suffering.  Anne writes about her feelings of isolation, and about the volatile relationships she has with the adults in hiding. Her entries become deeper and more philosophical as she matures before her time, finding it difficult to understand why the Jewish people are being persecuted. The diary abruptly ends, because they are betrayed to the Nazis and arrested. Her father was the only survivor, and published Anne’s diary according to her wishes.

Quantitative Reading Level: Lexile: 1080; Accelerated Reader: 6.5

Qualitative Reading Analysis:
Anne writes very properly for a young teenager, and decides that her diary is her friend, whom she names Kitty. The sentence structure is mid-level, and most of the words are one- or two-syllable. Nevertheless, her tale is tragically enthralling.

Content Area: Social Science, World History-World War II, Autobiography

Content Area Standard:

  • CCSS for Reading for 6-12: #2 Determine theme or central idea and analyze in detail its development; #3 Evaluate various explanations for actions or events and determine which explanation best accords with textual evidence, acknowledging where the text leaves matters uncertain; #4 Analyze complex characters; #5 Analyze in detail how a complex primary source is structured, including how key sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text contribute to the whole; #9 Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources; #10 Read and comprehend literature in grade level text complexity range.
  • CCSS for Writing for 6-12: #9 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
  • CCSS for Language 6-12:  #3 Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening; #5 Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuance in word meanings, such as interpret figures of speech.

Curriculum suggestions:
This is a powerful autobiography to use as part of a core English Language Arts Curriculum. It is best suited to 6th grade and above, with mild profanity. It explores themes like the loneliness of adolescence, the inward versus outward self, and the generosity and greed that happens in wartime.