Feel I should apologize for complete lack of mojo last week. Since then, our levy has passed, my mother is out of the hospital, and my cold is gone, so I'll try to be a bit more interesting with reviews!
Mecozzi, Maureen. The Uncanny CanThis short (34 pages) book told me everything I could want to know about the "tin" can, including the history of preservation, the reasons that food needed to be preserved and carried about, the types of metals that go into cans and the science behind that engineering, crops grown specifially for canning, advertising for canned food, and even a bit about recycling. This is well illustrated with plenty of terms explained, glossary, index, places to go for additional information etc. While paying $18 for such a short book rather hurts, this was an appealing selection for students.
Next year, the language arts curriculum will start its slow slide away from fiction and toward the Common Core, which will be heavy on nonfiction reading skills. Since many, many students wrinkle their nose at the thought of nonfiction, it will be very important to find high interest, intriguing books that support the curriculum. This would be one of those books, and even includes science!
One thing that is very confusing about the Common Core is the Lexile Level. Even though Lexile.com seems to indicate that lexile levels should not be tied to grades (instead, students should be tested, given a level at which they are reading, and books should be chosen at levels that will build their skills), the Common Core explanations I have seen DO tie lexile levels to grades. Specifically, grades 6-8 are assigned 955-1155. Of course, I found this out AFTER I placed a nonfiction book order. It is of note that ATOS levels differ somewhat from lexile levels, so a book that has an ATOS of 6.9 might come in at an elementary level on lexile. Whew.
I'm still happy with the nonfiction books that I ordered. Some of the books listed as exemplars in the Common Core make me want to hurt myself. Longfellow's Paul Revere's Ride? Little Women? The Adventures of Tom Sawyer? Riveting for middle school students. Students gain different skills from reading nonfiction than they do from reading fiction. The key here, however, is that they have to READ it. The ones below (which thankfully come in at about 1220) are ones that students will definitely pick up.
This series is reminiscent of the Rosen series with Marijuana and Your Lungs: The Incredibly Disgusting Story (2000). I liked how each book gave a history of the food discussed, talked about why the ingredients are added to the foods to make them more appealing, gave the different health hazards that the different types of food additives pose, and then describe what healthier alternatives would be. While all four books are fairly alarmist, they have good reason to be. Understandably, the Mystery Meat book is a bit preachier than the others, and the pictures of tapeworms will probably turn a lot of children into vegetarians!
I appreciated that while there are plentiful illustrations and sidebars, the pages are filled mostly with connected text. There is a glossary at the end of each book (although highlighting words on the pages might have helped a bit), a bibliography, and a list of helpful organizations. At 36 pages, this is just the right length to have a student read during study hall, although it hurts to pay $18.00 for a Follett Bound Sewn copy.