Tag Archives: Non Fiction

Non-Fiction Children’s Animal Books!

My two younger children adore reading and learning about animals so much so that that has been the bulk of our reading for the past 8 months.  There are two favorites that I will discuss first and then two more that we read after requesting them from netgalley which I will review subsequently.

 

National Geographic Animal Encyclopedia: 2,500 Animals with Photos, Maps, and More! by National Geographic Kids

Pages:  304

Published: October 23, 2012

 

 

 

 

 

This book is fabulous!  I cannot believe this book that is so densely packed with information entertained my 4 and 6 year old nightly for a period of 6 months.  I might have thought the content would have been too dry, describing the diet, habitat, size and lifespan of animal after animal, however, my children were riveted.  The book is divided into sections by taxonomy:  mammals, birds, fish, invertebrates, amphibians reptiles.  Within each section, each page is devoted to a particular animal group and then goes more in depth on 8-10 particular species of that group.  I personally loved learning so much about all these animals.  We would make each page a game with me quizzing my children at the end of each page to see how much they retained.  Our  “Guess the Animal” game in the car has become quite sophisticated as a result of this book.  I loved how at the end of each taxonomy there is a page that goes into records: biggest, fastest, most poisonous, etc.  There are also pages describing researchers studying animal species in the wild which has served as a source of professional inspiration for my son.  If you have an animal lover in your family, I cannot recommend this book enough!  The photos are stunning, the maps detailing where the animals live are highly educational and there is so much depth to this book for great discussion to occur.  

 

Did You Know? Animals by DK Publishing

Pages: 144

Published: May 17, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

Having already tackled the National Geographic Encyclopedia of Animals, there was great enthusiam when this book entered our house, especially from my 4 year daughter.  This book was exactly what she wanted.  She would carry it around the house, begging for someone to read it to her and once it was finished, we would start again at the beginning.  Each page focuses on one animal species and starts with a question to get you thinking.  It discusses the answer to the question and gives descriptive information about the animal with arrows from the text to the relative anatomy.  It usually talks briefly about a couple of other animals who may have a similar behavior or adaption.  Then there is a “quick quiz” which covers topics that usually have not been covered in the text.  This did not cause concern for us.  We usually discussed the question, made a guess and then checked our answers in the back.  The re-reading was satisfying for my daughter because she was able to remember many of the answers to these “quick quizzes,” most of which we had been guessing at the first time around.  The photos are beautiful, the text engaging, and as demonstrated in our family… a great book for reading over and over.  

 

“Different?  Same!”  by Heather Tekavec and  Pippa Curnick (Illustrator)

Pages:  32

Expected Publication Date: May 2, 2017

 

 

 

This is a beautiful and playful animal book that seeks to engage young readers by pointing out differences between groupings of widely different animals and then asking what similarity exists.   The similarity might be stripes, horns, whiskers or shells.  It  is wonderfully written and beautifully illustrated.  It was engaging and fun to read with my four year old.  I would highly recommend this to readers 2-5 years old.  It makes you consider animals in different ways and think about why these vastly different animals might all have horns, whiskers, shells, etc.  We had fun with the last page of the book, pointing at various animals that all had a particular characteristic or habitat.  This is a great book for re-reading and generating discussion! 

 

“Animals Do Too!:  How They Behave Just Like You”  by Etta Kaner and Marilyn Faucher (Illustrator)

Pages:  32

Expected Publication Date:  May 2, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

This book asks the child a question followed by a discussion of how a particular animal likes to do the same thing.  It is playful in that it makes animal behavior seem childlike and fun.  A couple of examples are:  honeybees dance and gazelles play tag.  There are eight such children activity – animal behavior comparisons explored in this book.   This is a great read for any young animal lover, aged 2-5.  

 

Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family by Amy Ellis Nutt ~ Book Review & Discussion Guide

Pages:  279

Published:  October 20, 2015

Awards:  Stonewall Honor Book for Non-Fiction (2016);  One of New York Times 100 Notable books of 2015;  One of Amazon’s 2015 Best books of the Year: Top 100

Format:  E-book

 

 

I consider myself quite open to LGBT people and the movement for greater recognition and consideration, especially in terms of legal rights.  However, I also went to school at a time when transgender individuals were not coming out as such.  So, in a way, I was uninformed on much of the difficulties faced by transgender individuals and this book changed that for me.  It really opened my eyes to what it means to be transgender.  Being transgender in today’s society is easier than it’s ever been, but that is not saying much.  There are so many inherent biases built into our culture, that it takes a very loving, supportive family, school and community to create a safe environment for transgender children.

This biography does an amazing job of giving an unbiased straightforward approach to the life and struggles of the Maines’ who adopted identical twin boys at birth.  It was clear very early on that one of the twins, Wyatt, was identifying as a girl.  He wore tutus and high heels, played with barbies, and hated his penis.   Wayne and Kelly Maines were very loving parents who did everything they could to honor who their child really was. It took Wayne, an avid hunter and air force veteran, longer to come around to the idea that Wyatt was really a girl, but once he did, he fully embraced it. He became a huge supporter of his daughter and advocate of trangender rights in the public.

Amy Ellis Nutt, a health and science writer at the Washington Post, skillfully offers research, statistics and other information within this biography that provides insight into the history, politics, biology and sociology regarding this complex subject.

The Maines family found tremendous support in some places.  However, Nicole also had to endure the bullying and stalking behavior of a peer that led to her being banned from the girls’ bathroom in grade school.  The Maines family filed a lawsuit which they eventually won in the Maine Supreme Court against the school system in Orono bringing transgender rights movement even further.  This became the first lawsuit granting transgenders the legal right to use the bathroom of their perceived gender, rather than their biological gender.  Maine became the second state (behind California) to have such a law in place.

This is a book that might your perspective. It is a very timely with all the recent legal changes regarding transgender rights.  This book demonstrates the strength an courage of an amazing girl who had an incredible family to support her and together they helped to change the law.  I would recommend this to anyone interested in the subject.  I really think it is an important book for everyone to read, in order to grasp and understand transgenderism better from a historical, biological and most importantly personal point of view. 

 

 

 

Nicole and Jonas Maines

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nicole Maines

 

 

 

The Maines Family

 

 

 

Discussion Questions:

  1.  Discuss Wayne and Kelly’s different approaches to Wyatt’s gender dysphoria.  How does this change with time?
  2. Discuss Jonas’ role in the Maines family.  How does this affect him?
  3. Was your viewpoint regarding transgenders changed or affected by this book?  How?
  4. How do you feel about transgenders transitioning prior to puberty?  Does this seem young to make such a decision or crucial to prevent undergoing puberty and developing as the wrong gender?
  5. What do you forsee as the future for transgenders?
  6. Discuss the bullying that Nicole faced from Jacob?  Why did bullying in this case occur?  Discuss the groups that speak out against transgenders and the reasons they do so.

 

Boston Globe article that made Nicole’s transgender life public in 2011

NPR’s StoryCorp Piece on Nicole Maines

New York Times Review by Jennifer Senior

Review in New York Times by Lisa Miller

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie ~ Book Review

 

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Pages:  49

Published:  July 29, 2014

Format: paperback book

 

 

 

 

This short essay by one of my favorite authors is based on a popular TED talk of hers, thus it reads like she is speaking to you.  I love and agree with the content.  I love how personable and relatable she is, how human and humble she can be, how honest and genuine she comes across in her writing.  I love her vitality of spirit and the way she infuses humor into her stories.  Maybe, though, I was hoping for more from this. Maybe, because of her easy manner, this seemed too obvious.  Yes, women have come a long way, yet there is much further to go.  Yes, there are deep cultural biases that put men early in life in more positions of power.  Yes, we need to raise our daughters and sons more equally, not hold them to different standards.  Yes, we need to begin to redefine gender.  It’s an easy, beautiful quick read with an important message.  Adichie’s manner of explaining feminism and what it means makes it understandable and relatable to everyone.  images-2

Discussion Questions:

  1.  How does Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie redefine feminism?
  2. What cultural biases does she suggest that people have against feminism or people who call themselves feminists?
  3. Describe some ways you feel that your culture treats boys and girls differently.  At what age does this start?
  4. What are some ways we could try to effect change?
  5. Adichie discusses how women feel they need to dress like men in certain situations in order to gain more respect.  How did this make you feel when you read it?  Do you think this is because of the definitions we assign to gender within our society and culture?
  6. Adichie talks about feeling invisible at times.  Hosts of restaurants won’t look at her or address her.  Do you ever feel invisible because of your gender?

Review from The Telegraph

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi’s website

Chimamanda’s TED talk above.

When Breath becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi ~ Book Review & Discussion Guide

 

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Published: January 12, 2016

Pages:228

Format:  E-book

 

 

 

This brief memoir is interposed between a foreword by Abraham Verghese, the brilliant author of Cutting for Stone and an epilogue by author’s wife, Lucy Kalanithi.  It is a beautiful, heartrending, deeply philosophical piece by an accomplished young man who dedicated heart and mind to his work and study in neurosurgery.  He discovers that he has terminal lung cancer at the age of 36, just before completing his grueling neurosurgical residency and embarking on the career he has worked so hard to attain.   The book is very thoughtful and reflective in nature, especially upon the meaning of life.  It made me wonder if the author was truly always so interested in finding the meaning of life, or if only when told of this terminal diagnosis, that reflection back on  his life made this search so apparent.  As one nears death, what is most important, becomes glaringly more obvious, and Paul Kalanithi describes this so well.

Abraham Verghese speaks in the foreword of how he had met Paul in person several times before his death, but it was not until he read his book that he felt  he really knew him.  I too, felt like I got to know Paul through this book.  He is very open and honest about himself, his sickness, his relationships, and struggles and triumphs throughout the process of dealing with cancer.

I find it interesting that Paul did not always think he wanted to be a physician, but rather thought he might be a writer.  He may not have realized his full potential as neurosurgeon and professor, but he surely achieved his goal to be a writer.  He has left behind a beautiful book that will be read for many years to come.  It will be of great interest to those with life-threatening disease, their family members, and really everyone, because we will all be in those shoes at some point.  He has also left behind a wonderful gift of himself to his daughter.  She will not remember her time with him, but she will be able to know him through this book and well as through the memories that I’m sure his close relations will share with her.  Aside from writing and even delving back into neurosurgery residency at one point, he spent the last years of his life following his diagnosis, building closer bonds with his family, and the love there was overflowing.

Aside from being an important read for anyone facing a life-threatening illness themselves or loving someone who is, I think it is a very important read for all medical professionals.  It puts a face behind a patient, who is clearly able to articulate the thoughts and feelings of being a patient in our medical system.  It emphasizes and highlights the importance of the physician-patient relationship.

I give this memoir images for it’s thought provoking, beautiful prose, as well as for writing it’s way through a death with utmost dignity.  He strengthens his belief systems, forges stronger relationships with family and loved ones, and finds greater meaning in life once he is given this terminal diagnosis.

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Stanford University neurosurgeon Paul Kalanithi savors a moment with his daughter, Cady, earlier this year. Kalanithi, who had never smoked, was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2013. He died March 9 at the age of 37. Illustrates SURGEON-ESSAY (category l), by Paul Kalanithi , special to The Washington Post. Moved Friday, March 13, 2015. (MUST CREDIT: By Mark Hanlon/ Stanford University)
(MUST CREDIT: By Mark Hanlon/ Stanford University)

Discussion Questions:

  1.  What do you think is the meaning of life?  What makes life meaningful?  Are these two questions different?
  2. Paul says in his book, Darwin and Nietzsche agree that the defining characteristic of live is striving.  Do you agree?
  3. Why do think doctors sometimes lose sight of the doctor-patient relationship?
  4. How does terminal illness change Paul’s identity?
  5. If you were to die tomorrow, what meaning would your life have?
  6. Jeff kills himself because of a bad outcome.  Do you think we put too much responsibility upon physicians?
  7. Do you think the long hours that residents work is a good thing?  How does it affect the doctor-patient relationship and the quality of care?
  8. How do you think physicians are treated differently when treated for illnesses than people unknown to physicians?  Do you think there is a difference in the care they would receive?
  9. Lucy asks Paul at one point, “What are you most afraid of?”  He answers that it is leaving her.  What would you be most afraid of?
  10. How did you feel about Paul and Lucy’s decision to have a baby?
  11. What does “death with integrity” mean to you?

Paul Kalanithi’s website

New York Times Review

Discussion Questions by Random House