Archive for Geography

Over in the Grasslands: On an African Savanna

Written by Marianne Berkes
Illustrated by Jill Dubin

The latest installment of the Marianne Berkes series has a lot going on. It is a counting book, reinforced by both the numbers of baby animals and the lineup of African gourd rattles. It is poetry, set to the rhythm of the traditional song “Over in the Meadow.” It is for learning about the African savanna and the animals that inhabit that area. It is hunting for nearly hidden animals in the pictures. It teaches about the song itself and about the techniques used by the illustrator.

Over in the grasslands
Where the acacia trees grew
Lived a tall mother giraffe
And her little calves two.

Altogether, first or second graders get to learn about twenty animals. Some of them may seem familiar from the zoo, – zebra, giraffe, elephant – but many are probably animals the readers have never seen – redbilled oxpeckers, naked mole rats, leopard tortoises. And none of them live your backyard. In the last pages, Berkes writes about the many themes used, including the ten different adjectives and the different baby names used. She also mentions many places to learn more, and she was careful to expalin that the numbers of babies each animal can have is fictional. Dubin writes about her collage technique, how important the different papers are, and what inspired the details.

A great addition to the counting library.

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  • over-in-the-grasslandsTitle: Over in the Grasslands: On an African Savanna
  • Author: Marianne Berkes
  • Illustrator: Jill Dubin
  • Publisher: Dawn Publishers, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Paperback, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 2
  • Genre: Nature, Geography, Counting, Poetry, Music
  • ISBN: 978-1-58469-568-4
  • Extras: Fact or Fiction?, Life on the African Savanna, Who Are the “Hidden” Animals in the Grasslands?, About the Animals, Tips from the Author, Tips from the Illustrator, Over in the Grasslands [music]

A Moon of My Own

Written by Jennifer Rustgi
Illustrated by Ashley White

Inspired by the notion that the moon follows us wherever we go, this new book would work well as a read alone or as a part of a unit on the Moon or the seven continents. Each two-page spread shows a child near a famous landmark, shown in silhouette, with the moon in the sky. This gives the book a mysterious quality kids will love. The landmarks are scattered across all seven continents: the Eiffel Tower in Europe; the Trans-Siberian Railway, the Great Wall of China, and the Taj Mahal in Asia; Serengeti National Park in Africa; Sequoia National Park in North America; the Amazon Rainforest in South America; the Great Barrier Reef in Australia; a penguin colony in Antarctica; and the Aurora Borealis above the Arctic Circle. The Moon is shown in progressive phases. The gorgeous illustrations are accompanied by simple questions and observations, such as “And when I’m tired, you’re there to guide me home.”

The end material suggests many ways to learn more about the Moon and its phases. It includes facts and activities, such as creating a Moon journal and demonstrating how Moon phases happen.  The resources included are both websites and books. Great for learning about the world around you.

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  • a-moon-of-my-ownTitle: A Moon of My Own
  • Author: Jennifer Rustgi
  • Illustrator: Ashley White
  • Publisher: Dawn Publishers, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Paperback, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 3
  • Genre: Nature, Geography
  • ISBN: 978-1-58469-572-1
  • Extras: Wonderful Places Around the World, Seven Continents of the World, Explore More – For Teachers and Parents, Recommended Resources

Arctic White

Written by Danna Smith
Illustrated by Lee White

How many shades of white do you see around you?

Danna Smith introduces the nuances of white in the beauty of the arctic using short melodic sentences. Lee White does an exquisite job of illustrating various whites amid classic winter blue hues.

But grandfather has a secret about something extra special he can only show the children in the darkest dark. He leads them out on an adventure. What might it be?

Something sure to delight every reader. The double-paged spread depicting the Northern Lights is glorious.

But the story doesn’t end yet. The children hurry home to recreate marvelous full color pictures to display inside their igloo. The double meaning of colors existing on the inside, will intrigue adults and children alike. It could lead to interesting discussions.

While this book easily fulfills core curriculum standards in literacy, geography and science; the art teacher might get the most mileage from it. Surely the children can produce wonderful colors from any part of the world to decorate their winter hallways.

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  • Arctic WhiteTitle: Arctic White
  • Author: Danna Smith
  • Illustrator: Lee White
  • Publisher: Henry Holt & Co, 2016
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-62779-104-5
  • Genre: Picture Book
  • Grade level: PreK to 2

Maya & Filippo Visit San Francisco

Written by Alinka Rutkowska
Illustrated by Konrad Checinksi

Great new addition to the Maya and Filippo series.

Arriving on a cruise ship, Maya and Filippo set off to explore San Francisco with their mother. Their time is limited, so they try to plan their sightseeing in advance. Mother lists the most famous features of San Francisco for them to consider. Of course, the children have completely different ideas of what would be fun. They try to go to Alcatraz but find all the tickets sold out for that day. A cable car takes them up and down the hills. Their picnic in Yerba Buena Gardens is cut short by rain, a common occurrence in the city. So they have lunch in a café on Union Square. At Fisherman’s Warf and Pier 39, they watch the sea lions play. Feeling bad that they didn’t have time to go to the Golden Gate Bridge, they board the ship and realize the ship will pass directly under the bridge.

The illustrations are very colorful and convey the delight of exploring new territory.

Second grade readers will increase their literacy skills and comprehension through the adventures. They will learn about the geography and history of San Francisco. The author even includes a quiz to be sure the reader has learned something. Readers will also learns that compromise is a good way to be sure everyone has a great time.

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  • Maya-Filippo-San-FranciscoTitle: Maya & Filippo Visit San Francisco
  • Author: Alinka Rutkowska
  • Illustrator: Konrad Checinski
  • Published: 2015
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 40 pages
  • Grade Level: K to 2
  • Genre: Fiction, social studies, travel, compromise
  • ISBN: 978-1506126715

Celebrating Texas

Written by Marion Dane Bauer

Illustrated by C. B. Canga

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Readers at the second grade reading level don’t need to get on a bus or a train to see the great state of Texas. They can read this latest in the 50 States to Celebrate Series, Celebrating Texas. It will be a great addition to students’ reading lists, although it certainly can be a read aloud book for children with lower reading comprehension.

Celebrating Texas is a guided tour through the state led by a pleasant character named Mr. Geo. He starts with a couple of nice maps. One is a map of Texas showing some cities and important sites. The second map places the state for the readers according to its relationship to other states and the country of Mexico. Mr. Geo guides the reader through pages about rodeos, what famous sites are in various cities, and the kinds of foods and dancing for which the state is famous. Animals are always of interest to youngsters, so Mr. Geo hikes to different areas of the state to introduce some of the animals native to Texas. The Caddo, who lived in bee-hive shaped grass houses, were a tribe of Native-Americans who first farmed the vast lands of Texas. Their word for “friends” is the origin of the name of the state. Famous Texans Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston also are introduced to readers along with a bit of information about how they helped build Texas. Crops, sports, industries, and natural resources are also part of the state’s story, and Mr. Geo doesn’t forget those. Fun facts are found along the bottom of many pages.

Four pages in the back of the book add some information and have some learning activities. A reading guide with summary, discussion questions for read aloud, teaching ideas, and a lesson can be found at The author’s website address is The illustrator’s portfolio can be viewed by going to Early readers will enjoy learning from this colorful book.

  • Celebrating TexasTitle: Celebrating Texas
  • Author: Marion Dane Bauer
  • Illustrator: C. B. Canga
  • Publisher: Sandpiper
  • Reviewer: Rosi Hollinbeck
  • Paperback: 40 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-547-89786-8
  • Genre: Non-Fiction, Geography
  • Lexile Score: 600


Celebrating Florida

Written by Marion Dane Bauer

Illustrated by C. B. Canga

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Now young travelers in second grade or above do not need an airplane, train, or even a car to explore the enchanting state of Florida. They simply open the book, Celebrating Florida, to read aloud and learn about the wild life, including alligators and crocodiles and a fact that people may not know. They find out how people travel in swamps and where they must go to find sponges. This adventure even takes them to the beaches to make a sand sculpture or learn what a sand dollar looks like as they improve their reading skills. Don’t stop here! In the back of the book, they discover more facts like the state capital and important dates in history.

Colorful, and sometimes dramatic, illustrations provide a more in depth approach to seeing what someone can behold. For instance most people know about the orange trees, but what about grapefruits and strawberries. The state flower, orange blossoms, smells sweet, while the state animal, the panther, can be terrifying. Skip over to page 34 and find reading activities that extend the facts so they can be shared with others. Even though it has a glossary in the back, it would have helped to add accent marks to help sound out the unusual vocabulary words such as Seminole or Tobocaga. Due to the target 2nd grade reading level, the character, Mr. Geo may have been more effective as someone closer to their age instead of someone closer to their parent’s age. The book is part of the “50 States to Celebrate” series.

  • Celebrating FloridaTitle: Celebrating Florida
  • Author: Marion Dane Bauer
  • Illustrator: C. B. Canga
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Reviewer: Julia Beiker
  • Edition: Paperback
  • ISBN 978-0-547-89699-1
  • Genre: Nonfiction, geography


Gooney Bird on the Map

Written by Lois Lowry

Illustrated by Middy Thomas

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Mrs. Pidgeon’s second grade class is counting the days until February vacation. With just ten days until the school vacation begins, Mrs. Pidgeon’s class celebrates  Valentine’s Day, a couple of Presidents’ birthdays, practices math facts, studies geography, and tromps around in the snow during recess.

Some of the students in Gooney Bird’s class are taking exciting vacations – to Vermont, Hawaii, and Florida. But most of the classmates will be staying home in Watertower.

When the vacationers begin to brag constantly about their vacations, Gooney Bird hatches a plan to show them just how it feels when others gloat, and it involves a very large “frozen” map of the United States that the class, with the help of the school custodian, Mr. Furillo, outlines in the snow-covered playground.

By the end of the story, everyone is happy about the map project, and the gloaters tone down their vacation bragging. The book culminates with Mrs. Pidgeon’s class presenting a program to the entire school about the various states they’ve studied, using their outdoor map in the snow.

Author Lois Lowry uses this story of Gooney Bird, which is one of several Gooney Bird installations, to teach geography concepts in an interesting, yet subtle way. She makes Mrs. Pidgeon’s classroom seem like a happy place to be, where much learning – and fun – takes place.

A fun reading activity to continue the geography concepts introduced or taught by author Lowry might be to place a large United States map on the wall and encourage the children to place sticker-flags on the states they have visited.

  • Gooney BirdTITLE: Gooney Bird on the Map
  • AUTHOR: Lois Lowry
  • ILLUSTRATIOR: Middy Thomas
  • PUBLISHER: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • REVIEWER: Julie Lavender
  • EDITION: Paperback, 125 p.
  • ISBN: 978-0-547-85088-7
  • GENRE: Contemporary