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Naturally Speaking

A Blog Journal by Author Nancy Castaldo

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge 2012
Announcing: The Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge 2012
I'm excited to announce the 
2012 Nonfiction Reading Challenge
The goal is to encourage everyone to read more nonfiction picture books this year.
Take the challenge by setting a goal for yourself.
Maybe you want to read one nonfiction picture book each week or each month.
Visit both the Kid Lit Frenzy and The Nonfiction Detectives blogs
throughout the year for nonfiction reviews and giveaways!
Tweet about the challenge using the hashtag #nfpb2012.

Mercury: Ready for Its Close-Up
 NASA has revealed the first photos of Mercury by the Messenger Spacecraft and they look amazing.  Mercury, the closest planet to the Sun, has been seen before, but never this close.  1,500 photos have already been taken this week and more than 75, 000 are still planned over the next year.   Scientists are hoping to gain a deeper understanding of how plate tectonics began on Earth from Messenger's photos of Mercury. 

Follow Messenger's mission to Mercury at NASA.

As The World Turns
 It's spring and like everyone else I'm ecstatic that winter is finally over and the warm weather is more than a wish on a winter breeze.  With the buds starting to become visible and the green shoots popping out of the ground I can't help but be reminded of our planet's cycles and how we are all connected.   (It doesn't hurt that I'm beginning a spring session for third graders on earth science and book arts!)

Here are some nonfiction reads that help demonstrate how connected we are to our Earth, each other and the rest of the universe:


Robert E. Wells does a fantastic job presenting children with the interconnections and wonders of the natural world in his titles, Did A Dinosaur Drink This Water and Why Do Elephants Need The Sun.    The illustrations are kid friendly and the text is playful and informational.

I think Older Than the Stars will become a classic.  It's definitely one of my favorite new picture books.  The bold illustrations by Nancy Davis marry Karen Fox's lyrical story of the big bang perfectly.  Sidebars with additional information are interspersed and give readers an opportunity to take their reading to another level.  It's what a nonfiction picture book should be!  


I'm Going Bananas Over This!
Keeping Our Earth Green
According to Nat Geo, researchers in Brazil have found a great use for banana peels ....and no, it is no laughing matter!   They've discovered that banana peels can be used to remove heavy metals from water and they're using them to clean up river water.  Lead and copper are just two metals that enter rivers through agricultural runoff and industrial waste.  The metals bond to the peels and then can be removed and properly disposed.  They've also discovered that other plant parts, like coconut fibers and peanut shells can also be used to remove toxins from water.  
Cool, huh?

For more

Plant a Sneaker... Grow a Tree
Check out this Dutch manufacturer of biodegradable sneakers. The best thing about theses sneakers is that after they wear out you can actually plant them rather than throwing them in a landfill. The sneakers are made with seeds imbedded into them so that a sapling will grow from the planted sneaker. How cool is that? Kudos to Oat Shoes!

Lunar Eclipse and Winter Solstice
Leap Into Space
This year's winter solstice on Tuesday will fall on the same day as a full lunar eclipse for the first time in 456 years.

The rare, 72-minute lunar eclipse — when the sun, the Earth and the moon align — will begin in the early morning hours on Dec. 21 in North America, and should cast an amber glow on snowy landscapes, said NASA.

The moon will pass through the darkest part of the Earth's shadow.

Tuesday marks the first day of winter in the northern hemisphere, and the winter solstice begins in the evening at 6:38 p.m. ET, which is 8:08 p.m. NT, 7:38 p.m. AT, 5:38 p.m. CT, 4:38 p.m. MT, and 3:38 p.m. PT.

Scientists said the last time a full lunar eclipse coincided with the winter solstice was in AD 1554. NASA forecasts that at 1:33 a.m. ET on Tuesday, "Earth's shadow will appear as a dark red bite at the edge of the lunar disk."

After roughly an hour, that "bite" will eventually grow to cover the whole moon. That stage, known as "totality," will probably start at 2:41 a.m. ET and last 72 minutes.

As for the best time to witness the cosmic event, NASA suggests being outside at 3:17a.m., "when the moon will be in deepest shadow, displaying the most fantastic shades of coppery red."

Although the arrival of the solstice cannot be seen, the moment describes the instant when the Earth's axial tilt is farthest away from the sun, resulting in the shortest day of the year as well as the longest night of the year.

Bonsai and Wabi Sabi

Meet my new bonsai!  I rescued it from Home Depot - removed all those ridiculous glued on stones and placed it in my office window.  I have had bonsai trees on my mind ever since my trip in July to the botanical gardens in Montreal.  They have the most amazing bonsai collection. The gardens not only inspired me to search out my own tree, but also inspired one of my lessons this summer for my class of 5-7 year olds.  I introduced them to a beautiful book - WABI SABI by Mark Reibstein and illustrated by Ed Young.  

Wabi sabi is a Japanese term that represents the view of seeing the beauty in ordinary things, imperfect things, like a simple tea bowl. Wabi sabi is beautiful and ordinary at the same time.   In the book, Wabi Sabi is a little cat who searches for the meaning of her name.  Reading this book is a wonderful way to share wabi sabi with the children in your life.  I guarantee you'll love it! 

Listen to the author and illustrator of Wabi Sabi share their story of the making of this terrific book.   


Heatwave Bookshelf
It's a heat wave.  Time to crank up the air, submerge into a mountain pond or sit in an air-conditioned movie.  I've got two books for you today that seem great reads for this cantankerous weather:
The Dust Bowl: Through the Lens by Martin W. Sandler shows us this horrible natural disaster through the spectacular images that influenced our nation.  If you weren't hot already, looking at these photos will put you right in the middle of those hot, drought-filled days. You'll thank the stars it is 2010 and our heat wave is a temporary blip.   Sandler does an awesome job of looking at the science behind this disaster and the agricultural practices that contributed to it. 

The Story of Snow: The Science of Winter's Wonder
by Mark Cassino with Jon Nelson is not only wonderfully illustrated by snow crystal images, but is also expertly written.  The text is sparse and purposeful.  A beautiful book!  And the perfect read on a hot summer day to put you in a cool frame of mind.  


Rabid Raccoons in Central Park
 Watch out if you are heading for a run in Central Park - I'm not talking about muggings  - This year you have to worry about rabid raccoons.  

I was so surprised to hear about this outbreak in the city.   It's been decades since New Yorkers have had to worry about rabies.   It's so important to keep your pets vaccinated and on leash.  

Keep yourself safe this summer, by not feeding or touching any stray animals- dogs, cats, or raccoons.  Keep your garbage secured.  Stay away from any animal that appears to be acting irregular - that might mean unusually friendly or ill.


Karen Romano Young - Arctic Explorer
 Wow, I must confess I'm a little jealous right now of author Karen Romano Young.  She's on board a ship headed to the Arctic!  How terrific is that?  She's blogging along the voyage and I'm sure it will be filled with great photos and tales of adventure and science.  Keep an eye out and enjoy the trip along with her!

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