Every Monday, kidlit bloggers celebrate the fantastic non-fiction available for kids and teens.  I’m excited to be today’s Non-Fiction Monday Round Up!  Leave a link to your post about a non-fiction title in the comments, and I’ll update throughout the day.

My contribution for today is Serengeti Journey: On Safari in Africa, a National Geographic Science Chapters book. The book includes an introduction, chapters on elephants, giraffes, and cheetahs, a short summary chapter, and information on writing a report.

We’re using it as part of a unit study on African animals. My 7-year-old devoured each chapter this week and then told me fact after fact that she had learned. I loved seeing her so excited about reading non-fiction. Next week, we’ll do a writing project based on what she learned.

There are lots of titles in the National Geographic Science Chapters series, including Amazon Journey, Mysteries of the Sea, and All About Ants. We’ll definitely be using more of them in the future.

Post from around the kidlitosphere:

Read about an amaizng graphic novel about violence among children, Fist Stick Knife Gun at Pink Me.

Jeff at NC Teacher Stuff has a review of Get to Know Wedges.

Hop over to Charlotte’s Library to read about DK’s Ask Me Everything.

Abby the Librarian tells us about The Buzz on Bees.

Learn about Creative Kitchen Crafts at A Patchwork of Books

Read a review and enter a giveaway for The Barefoot Book of Dance Stories, a mix of non-fiction and folktales.

Learn about Survival at 40 Below at Wild About Nature.

Wendie Old has a review of The Little Kids First Big Book of Animals.

Get Face to Face with Wolves at Book Dads.

Learn more about Bring Me Some Apples and I’ll Make You a Pie at Rasco from RIF.

Jupiter joins Non-Fiction Monday for the first time with Recycle This Book.

Read about Time is When at The Cat in the Hat blog.

Roberta from Wrapped in Foil shares Beautiful Oops.

Shirley Duke at Simply Science shares her own Infections, Infestations, and Diseases.

Rock out with  Jimi Sounds Like a Rainbow at Bookends.

Anastasia Suen shares The Shocking Truth About Energy.

Read about Benno and the Night of Broken Glass at Maclibrary.

Michelle Markel at The Cat and the Fiddle shares a post on story arcs in picture book biographies.

Check out a few National Geographic Easy Readers (Ants and Great Migrations: Elephants) at The Reading Tub.

Another book blending folklore and non-fiction, How the Moon Regained Her Shape is the subject of today’s post at A Wrunge Sponge.

Learn about What Rot! Nature’s Mighty Recycler at Apples With Many Seeds.

Head over to Chicken Spaghetti to read about Liberty or Death, Candy Bomber, and The World Famous Miles City Bucking Horse Sale.

Janet Squires joins us with a review of Math Appeal: Mind-Stretching Math Riddles.

We’re continuing our study of African animals, and lions are our focus today. Both of my daughters were fascinated by the stunning photos and cool facts in Face to Face with Lions by Beveryly and Dereck Joubert. The authors have spent 25 years studying the lions of Africa and living among them, and their passion for these amazing creatures shines through in their book. Readers learn about the impact of habitat loss and hunting on lion populations and receive information about what we can do to make the world a better place for lions and other top predators. I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in big cats, predators, animals conservation, or animal life in Africa.

This week’s Non-Fiction Monday Round-up is at Capstone Connect.

Handprint Spiders

We’re taking a break from our regular work this week and making time for lots of art and an African animal study that I hope to make time to blog more about. Today, we started the day by making these adorable handprint spiders inspired by this post at Laugh, Paint, Create.

Zombie Cookies

This little ghost refuses to turn right side up no matter what I do 🙂

By accident, we discovered a simple way to make zombie cookies. The girls wanted to make gingerbread cookies and decorate them so I got out our Halloween/fall themed cutters and some sprinkles. They wanted to also use candy corn. I warned them that it would likely melt in the oven but they wanted to try it so we did. The results: the candy corns melted completely, turning a reddish orange and looking like decayed flesh. Ta da! Zombie cookies aka dead body gingerbread.


One of our favorite homeschool activities this year is our nature study time. Either on Friday or over the weekend so Brent can participate, we read about a topic in a book and/or field guides, then we take a walk, usually just around our neighborhood, looking for our subject. When we come home, we draw in our nature journal. We don’t always find what we’re looking for. The week we hoped to find lots of birds to observe, we didn’t see many that weren’t high in the trees, but we saw plenty of birds the next week when we couldn’t find any butterflies. We always see something interesting and our walks have become a favorite part of our week.

A few weeks ago, we discovered a nature park close to M’s art class and while we were exploring, we discovered lots of cool mushrooms. The girls insisted we bring their dad that weekend and have a mushroom nature study session. I searched the library for mushroom books and discovered The Mushroom Hunt by Simon Frazer. We brought it along with us and the girls loved listening to it while nestled in a pile of leaves.

The book begins with a young girl named Ruthie and her family preparing to go on a mushroom hunt in the woods. The story of their explorations is interspersed with facts about mushrooms such as their ability to grow in the dark and how a network of tiny threads spread into the soil underneath them. By following Ruthie on her family outing, the reader learns how mushrooms grow, how they differ from plants and the characteristics of many different species.

Today’s Non-Fiction Monday Round-Up is at Write About Now.

We’ve been studying Egypt over the last few weeks and doing lots of reading. Two books stuck out as particularly well-written, engaging and educational: Pharoah’s Boat by David Weiztzman and The Great Pyramid by Elizabeth Mann.

Pharoah’s Boat tells the story of shipwrights building a funerary boat for the Phaoroah Khufu (Cheops). M and I were amazed at the detail of their work and the skill with which they constructed a boat that survived thousands of years buried in a limestone pit next to Khufu’s pyramid (The Great Pyramid at Giza). The boat pit was discovered in 1954 when sand was being cleared from the side of the pyramid. Ahmed Youssef Moustafa, an Egyptologist who’d struggled as a young man to be respected in his own country, spent 15 years re-constructing it including time apprenticed to modern Egyptian shipwrights and much trail and error as attempts were made to understand how the 1224 pieces fit together. The boat now stands in its own museum next to the Great Pyramid.

The Great Pyramid begins with a short, fictional tale of a boy called to Giza to work on the pyramid which Khufu (Cheops) has ordered constructed for his burial chamber. The rest of the book tells what Egyptians believed about the after life, describes the construction of earlier, simpler tombs, and explains how such a massive structure as the Great Pyramid (2,300,000 stone blocks) could have been constructed with no wheeled vehicles.

This week’s Non-Fiction Monday Round-up is at Wendie’s Wanderings.

Both my girls enjoyed reading The Rabbit by Sally Tagholm (part of her Animal Lives series). We’re going to do a re-read when we study rabbits for nature study next week. The book follows a litter of rabbits from birth until maturity. Readers learn about rabbit family structure, challenges the young rabbits face, how they stay safe and what they eat. Since my girls are such animal lovers, I’m excited about having found another good series. I’ve got The Frog on request at the library.

This week’s Non-Fiction Monday Round-up is hosted by The Miss Rhumphis Effect.

I wanted to share our weekly schedule for M’s second grade year even though I know we will rarely if ever have a week that looks just like my planning spreadsheet. I’ve tried to make each day a balance between written work and activities that will have us moving around more. I’m also balancing work I know M will enjoy and those things that tend to elicit complaints and eye rolls. And we’re working around weekly and monthly activities and C’s preschool so we have more time for work on some days than others.

Monday: Nature Study, Copywork, Free Writing/Drawing/Journaling time*, Reading Comprehension, 1 or more Narrations, Math. For 9 weeks of the fall, we’ll have co-op from 11-2 and M will have an art class from 3-4:30 every week.

Tuesday: History, Dictation, Free Writing/Drawing/Journaling time, Silent Reading, 1 or more Narrations, Math. Every other week we will have art group and on the off weeks we will occasionally attend a nature study class for C.

Wednesday: Chemistry, Dictation, Silent Reading, 1 or more Narrations, Math, Latin. C will be at preschool in the morning.

Thursday: History, Writing Assignment, Grammar, Silent Reading, 1 or more Narrations, Math. C will be in preschool in the morning. Once/month we will have science class at a museum in the afternoon.

Friday: Nature Study, Logic Puzzles, Math (usually a game or special activity), Free Writing/Drawing/Journaling time, Silent Reading, Music Appreciation. We may participate in a monthly nature study class.

Saturday: Chemistry with Brent

*M, C, and I each have notebooks that we will use for free writing/drawing/journaling time. We will spend 10 minutes with our notebooks communicating our thoughts on paper in some way – through words, pictures, doodles, anything. Obviously C may not sit for the whole time or even participate at all but I knew she would want to be included and she can get quite focusing when drawing or doodling.

Over the course of last school year, M gained the confidence to read short chapter books on her own and by early summer was devouring them at a rapid rate.  I knew about easy readers – we’d explored Elephant and Piggie, classics by Dr. Seuss, Mr. Putter and Tabby, Amanda Pig and many others as Meg began to read. When she was ready for something longer, she started with the Magic Tree House series and moved on to Cam Jansen, Rainbow Fairies, Keeker and the Sneaky Pony, Secrets of Droon, and other short chapter series.

But when those became easy reads, I wasn’t sure what was next.  She started several significantly longer books that we’d read aloud – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and The Lightning Thief for example. She could read them but her slow progress, the length of the books and the small print discouraged her so she only read a chapter or two. I wanted to encourage her to keep reading whatever she chose no matter the level, but I also wanted to present her with some choices that would challenge her but not be discouraging. I questioned a few teacher friends and learned more about different systems of leveling books, particularly Lexile and Fountas and Pinnell.

Based on what I’d learned I began to assemble a list of books that were at her current ability level or just above it. So if you are looking for some reading suggestions for a reader who is gaining confidence with chapter books, here are some options. Most of these are O, P, Q on the Fountas and Pinnell scale or 500-750 on the Lexile scale. They are more or less listed from easiest to hardest but all scales don’t agree and interest or familiarity with the story makes a big different in how difficult it seems to a reader at this stage.

Ivy and Bean series by Annie Barrows

Encyclopedia Brown series by Donald Sobol

Dragon Slayer’s Academy series by Kate McMullan

Time Warp Trio series by Jon Scieszka

The Boxcar Children (and sequels) by Gertrude Chandler Warner

Socks by Beverly Cleary

Henry Huggins by Beverly Cleary

Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary

Betsy, Tacy and Tib by Maud Hart Lovelace

Animal Ark series by Ben Baglio

Dolphin Diaries series by Ben Baglio

M and C and I have been catching up on books we’d checked out of the library but not gotten around to reading yet. One evening we read through A Tree Is Growing by Arthur Dorros. Both girls were excited to see features of trees they recognized and all three of us learned many new facts about the various trees included. This book would be an excellent choice for a nature study day or the jumping off point for a unit study on trees or a nature study. We’re going to follow up by taking a nature walk today, seeing if we can count the species of trees we recognize and making a sketch of a tree once we get home.

Another night last week, we read Desert Giant: The World of the Saguaro Catcus by Barbara Bash. I realized that I knew very little about Saquaro cacti, certainly not that they could grow as high as a five-story building. We learned about many different animals that make their home in the Saquaro, how the fruits are used by people and animals and the fascinating details of the Saquaro’s life cycle.

This week’s Non-Fiction Monday is hosted by Zoe by Playing by the Book.