Common Core

Review- The Mystery of Darwin’s Frog

Crump, Martha L, Steve Jenkins, and Edel Rodriguez. The Mystery of Darwin’s Frog. Honesdale, Penn: Boyds Mills Press, 2013. Print.


Frog fans unite! Marty Crump has created a wonderful experience for readers and viewers of his book, The Mystery of Darwin’s Frog.  The book is everything I want to see in non-fiction: it offers credibility in its authorship, accessibility in its use of language, engagement in terms of its visual content, and authenticity in the nature of its subject.

I am not a fan of frogs, lizards, and other such creatures. Ok, I like Kermit… and Frog & Toad …but that’s it. I say that so you will know my perspective in advance. But this book is almost enough to convince me otherwise. Despite my personal problems, one would do well to consider this book for inclusion in any library that serves children and most elementary classrooms. Why include it? It is rare to find an author and editorial team that can weave narrative, scientific principles, interesting subject matter and real life experiences into one compact edition.

Lavishly illustrated with pictures and drawings to enhance the experience, the reader will also find a wonderfully assembled glossary that explains some of those intentionally seeded words that were included to challenge the reader. There’s also a list of useful websites, some other recommended books, and even a complete bibliography. Teachers will want to use these areas to differentiate instruction and stimulate further inquiry. Teachers of younger children will want to make sure they have this book in their “frog” collection. This is a book that can grow with the reader.

This book could easily morph into a very interactive app. A clever programmer guided by the book’s creative team could turn this into a fun and educational adventure.

Kids need more books like this.


If You Were a Chocolate Mustache: Poems

Lewis, J P, and Matthew Cordell. If You Were a Chocolate Mustache: Poems. Honesdale, Penn: Wordsong, 2012. Print.


Kid’s poems are always fun, but they have always been problematic for me.  Finding and sharing good poems is not too difficult when one has the time. On the other hand, finding poems that approach greatness are rare.  This work is a case of the latter. Poet (Lewis) and illustrator (Cordell) have unleashed over 100 poems and sketches designed to entertain and challenge kids.


The challenge in reading the poetry in this volume is that it presents younger readers with some difficult words scattered throughout. (Hmm, that sounds like text complexity referred to by the Common Core). The poetry is accessible because it is what I like to refer to as “everyday stuff.” Isn’t that what language is for, to describe everyday stuff in different ways depending on the message one wishes to convey?


This is a perfect book for the classroom library, if you buy more than one copy. Teachers and librarians serving second grade and beyond need to put this into their daily routine and use it as a read-aloud. The beauty of poetry, especially kid’s poetry that is illustrated is that it is playful and lends itself to performance. Indulge yourself and treat your kids to this scrumptious volume.

The Ice Man Cometh- A Cool Common Core Nonfiction Selection

Pringle, Laurence. Ice!: The Amazing History of the Ice Business. Honesdale, Pennsylvania: Calkins Creek, 2012. Print.


Sometimes you can judge a book by its cover and Pringle’s Ice is no exception. Ice is a well-organized and chronicled history of the ice business. Okay, it’s ice, how exciting can that be?  It’s more exciting than watching ice melt. Yes, it exciting and it is simply about the ice industry. But what makes ice interesting? Not having ice? Trying to keep it from melting? Harvesting? You name it, this book delivers in a big way.


Given the emphasis on the Common Core by so many education agencies this book should become an exemplar.  It’s not that ice is so important these days as described in the book ; it is what the book doesn’t suggest that makes it valuable. Early keepers of ice were plagued with finding the perfect insulating material to preserve their investment and reduce melting. Can you imagine a group of student conducting their own controlled experiments to determine the same with modern day materials that are often bound for the garbage? Many opportunities for further investigation are ripe for the harvest inside the pages even if the author does not identify them.  And that makes this book even better because the author sticks with the program and writes about ice.


The illustrative content is superb. The pictures chosen have significance and are not just something loosely associated with the history. Readers come away with a feeling of the struggle that influenced innovation and made everyday life much more comfortable and profitable.


Libraries and teachers of science and social studies should give this book high priority on their selection lists.  Others interested in Americana should also find a way to read it and enjoy the well-written text that is useful and attractive. If I owned a business with a waiting room this book would occupy a prominent place.