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Children’s Nonfiction | Folktales, Farming and Fossils

Posted by Rebecca G. Aguilar, M.Ed. on August 23, 2013

Whiskers, Tails & Wings By Judy Goldman

Whiskers, Tails & Wings By Judy Goldman; Fabricio VandenBroeck (Illustrator)

ISBN-13: 9781580893725
Publisher: Charlesbridge Publishing
Publication date: 8/1/2013
Pages: 64

Who knows better than Judy Goldman that the magic of Mexico comes from the diverse and colorful lore of its indigenous cultures? In her travels through Chihuahua, Durango, Jalisco, Oaxaca and Chiapas, she stays on the lookout for storytellers. A dual national of Mexico and the United States and author of many children’s books like Uncle Monarch and the Day of the Dead, Goldman stands apart in bringing this lore to younger readers.

“These legends and folktales speak to the heart and soul of a people. They reflect ancient wisdom and help strengthen the memory and identity of a culture. They pass on beliefs and values. They give meaning to life and help explain the universe. They are also a lot of fun to hear.”

Goldman taps into her knowledge of the Tarahumara, the Seri, the Huichol, the Triqui and the Tsetal—their history, traditions and present-day lifestyles—in her recent book Whiskers, Tails & Wings: Animal Folk Tales from Mexico.

Featuring a map showing the location of each of the native groups in Mexico, illustrator Fabricio VandenBroeck heads each chapter with beautiful acrylic and watercolor paintings of the animals featured in Goldman’s retellings.Impeccable research on the culture follows with a glossary for words featured in each folktale.

“While Old Woman gobbled the tunas, Tlacuache pretended to sleep, keeping one eye slightly open. After a while Old Woman started to nod off. Though she tried to keep her eyes open, soon she was snoring.

“Tlacuache picked up a branch and inched closer to Bright Thing. He was about to invite it to step onto the branch when…”

—From “A Huichol Tale: Tlacuache’s Tail”

Read the book to find how Tlacuache tricks Old Woman, whether he fruitfully pilfers Bright Thing for the Headman and his people and why he has no hair on his tail.

A first-rate resource on Mexico’s native peoples for ages 8-11 featuring the tales of a fearless cricket, a humble sea turtle, a clever opossum, a persistent flea and a round-bellied frog.

No Monkeys, No Chocolate By Melissa Stewart

No Monkeys, No Chocolate By Melissa Stewart; Allen Young; Nicole Wong (Illustrator)

ISBN-13: 9781580892872
Publisher: Charlesbridge Publishing
Publication date: 8/1/2013
Pages: 32

Curious chocoholics might know that the delicious confection they love comes from cocoa trees growing in tropical rain forests. Do they know what part monkeys play in the microhabitat that sustains the cocoa tree?

On a trip to Costa Rica, children’s science book author Melissa Stewart discovered the cocoa tree and wanted to know more about the plant. After a search in the scientific literature that came up short, she interviewed leading expert Allen Young to uncover what pollinates the plant, what disperses the seeds and what feeds on its foliage. Then, Stewart set about devising a format for conveying what she learned in an engaging way.

She experimented with the text and chose a familiar “House That Jack Built” structure with smart-alecky bookworms for commentary. (“Is a cocoa pod like an iPod?”) The result is her recent book No Monkeys, No Chocolate with lively and edifying illustrations by Nicole Wong.

According to Stewart, cocoa trees survive through the interdependence of plants and animals in the tropical rain forests—pollen-sucking midges, aphid-munching anole lizards, brain-eating maggots—as well as seed-scattering monkeys.

“If a cocoa bean lands in just the right place, a tiny root pushes down into the soil. Then, a slender shoot stretches up toward the sky. As time passes, the little seedling grows into a tree. When it’s about five years old, the cocoa tree beings producing flowers and fruit. Some cocoa trees live up to sixty years.”

A Junior Library Guild Selection and a superb resource on cocoa farming and rain forest preservation for ages 5-8.

Terror Bird by Sarah L. Thomson

Terror Bird By Sarah L. Thomson; Andrew Plant (Illustrator)

ISBN-13: 9781580893992
Publisher: Charlesbridge Publishing
Publication date: 8/1/2013
Pages: 32

Thank the stars that no terror birds exist on Earth today. Fifteen million years ago, Kelenken guillermoi roamed the grasslands of South America. Author Sarah L. Thomson writes about the largest of this carnivore bird species: “It could swallow a dog in one gulp.”

Thomson offers other clear and concise facts about this flightless bird of prey in Ancient Animals: Terror Bird with dramatic and detailed illustrations by Andrew Plant. From a fossil study of their bones, scientists know some things about this predator and the environment in which it thrived for sixty million years.

“We know that terror birds were hunters. They had sharp, curved beaks. Hunting birds today have beaks like this. Sharp, curved beaks are made for biting, slicing and tearing meat.”

Paleontology enthusiasts will find Terror Bird as fascinating as other apex predators—wolves, tigers and sharks. A great addition to a science classroom library for ages 6-9.

Whiskers, Tails & Wings; No Monkeys, No Chocolate; Terror Bird… highly worthwhile reads in nonfiction for children from Charlesbridge Publishing.

Category: Juvenile Nonfiction, Folklore & Mythology, Agriculture, Paleontology

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