Category Archives: Non-Fiction

Haven’t You Heard?

The Dangerous Book for Boys.  This reference book first caught my attention several months ago when Taylor read me an article about it from the Wall Street Journal.  Originally published in England, where it was wildly popular, the book had now been slightly altered for an American audience, and was gaining popularity here.  Last month, it was brought to my attention again in my Children’s Lit class.  The instructor commented that he was giving it to all his grown sons for Father’s Day.  What a marvelous idea, I thought. But even if you don’t read the WSJ or attend Children’s Lit classes, you may have still heard of it.  I’ve seen some talk of it throughout the mighty blogosphere, and noticed that Father’s Day weekend, it was on the top 10 bestseller lists at Borders, Barnes&Noble, and Amazon.  Sheesh!  


Why didn’t you recommend this before Father’s Day, silly Mrs. Cropper?!  My apologies.  Truth be told, I was procrastinating.  In fact, Blaine and I snuck out the Saturday afternoon before Father’s Day only to discover that it was sold out at our local Borders.  So Taylor got his gift 2 weeks late, courtesy of Amazon.  (By the way, I believe Amazon was inspired by God.)  So although this suggestion is too late for Dad’s Day 2007, I highly recommend it as a birthday, Christmas, or anytime gift for the men and boys in your life.

After all that babble, let’s talk about what this book is all about!  The authors, Conn Iggulden and Hal Iggulden sum it up beautifully on the back cover: “Recapture Sunday afternoons and long summer days.  The perfect book for every boy from eight to eighty.”  Essentially, it’s a reference book for boyhood.  Page 35–Making a Bow and Arrow.  Page 136–Map of the United States.  Page 79–Making a Go-Cart.  Page 146–The Golden Age of Piracy.  Page 171–Skipping Stones.  Page 18–How to Play Stickball.  Page 39–Understanding Grammar-Part One.  Page 250–Role-Playing Games.  Page 139–Extraordinary Stories-Part Two: The Wright Brothers.  Page 89–Juggling.  Page 163–The Declaration of Independence.  Page 238–Hunting and Cooking a Rabbit.  Page 73–Making Crystals.  Are you getting the idea?  And it’s chalk full of pictures, diagrams, intructions, charts, etc.  Taylor’s favorite section?  Page 21–Building a Treehouse.

My boys love it–and so will yours! 


This Week’s Rainbow Book–George Washington’s Teeth

george-washingtons-teeth1.jpg February was my favorite month as a teacher.  There’s Chinese New Year, Groundhog Day, Valentine’s Day, the 100th day of the school year, Black History Month, and Presidents’ Day.  It was so fun to incorporate all of those events into our class discussions, reading, writing, art, etc.  But, did you know that February is also National Children’s Dental Health Month?!  Oh yes, in our classroom we heard from special guest speakers (dental hygenists), celebrated how many teeth we’d lost, and read this week’s rainbow book–George Washington’s Teeth.  I know what you’re thinking, “A book about dental hygeine and George Washington?  That’s perfect for February!”  Exactly.  And this book is an absolute gem.  The authors, Deborah Chandra and Madeleine Comora (with illustrator Brock Cole) present this absolutely true account of how and when George Washington lost all of his teeth–in verse–and it’s hysterical!  Kids laugh and laugh–and you will too!  Here’s a little teaser…

“Poor George had two teeth in his mouth the day the votes came in.  The people had a President, but one afraid to grin.”    

Chandra and Comora include a timeline in the back of the book that tells more of the specific details of President Washington’s dreadful dental woes.  This comes in especially handy when the children ask, “Is this for real?!”  Indeed…poor man.  (By the way, the story that George Washington had wooden teeth is as much a legend as the story of him chopping down the cherry tree.  His dentures were made of ivory.)

Make sure to read this book!  And don’t forget to brush your teeth!                                                                                               

Hail to These Books!

Happy Presidents’ Day everyone!  Here are some of my favorite books on Washington, Lincoln, and all…

wannabepres.jpg So You Want to Be President? is absolutely phenomenal!  Judith St. George cleverly presents scads of presidential trivia accompanied by David Small’s outstanding and hilarious caricatures of all 43 (42 really, since we had Grover Cleveland twice!) presidents.  In fact, Small’s illustrations were so good that this book received the Caldecott Medal in 2000.  What I love so much about this book is that it’s full of fascinating information, and absolutely hysterical at the same time (which makes it popular with both children and adults).  We learn everything about our presidents from their children and pets to their musical and athletic talents to their idiosyncrasies and foibles in the office.  We hear about John Quincy Adams skinny-dipping in the Potomac River and William Howard Taft bathing in his specially-made extra large bathtub.  We learn the pros and cons of being the commander in chief.  For example: “Another good thing about being President is that the President has a swimming pool, bowling alley, and movie theater.  The President never has to take out the garbage.  The President doesn’t have to eat yucky vegetables.  As a boy, George H. W. Bush had to eat broccoli.  When George H. W. Bush grew up, he became President.  That was the end of the broccoli!”  Well, I’ve gone on long enough!  Read this book!  You will laugh out loud!

lincoln.gif Lincoln: A photobiography by Russell Freedman is a fabulous read.  This Newberry Medal winner is intended for an older audience–I’d say 6th grade and up, and is a really great book for adults.  Here are some things I love about this biography: it is comprehensive yet succinct, it is organized in a very reader-friendly way, and it helped me learn many things about President Lincoln that I’d never known before.  For example, did you know that he didn’t like to be called Abe?  And did you know that he struggled with depression for much of his life?  The photographs are the icing on the cake.  This is an excellent biography of one of our most beloved American Presidents–read it! 

georgewashington.gif A Picture Book of George Washington is one of David A. Adler’s (with John and Alexandra Wallner as illustrators in this case) many picture book biographies.  They are all excellent.  He packs in  a lot of content and nice detail, while keeping it simple and enjoyable for a young child (around 3rd grade and up).  In fact, Adler does a lot of non-fiction for children, mostly historical.  His books are fun to read and a very informative. 

ourcountryspres.jpg Our Country’s Presidents by Ann Bausum is a fabulous resource.  As a rule, you can count on anything published by National Geographic to be well done, and this is no exception.  Two features I particularly love: 1) Besides the several pages of informative text about each president, there is a section of quick facts about each one (including nickname, political party, number of terms, etc.).  2) In typical National Geographic fashion, the book is full of wonderful photographs.  I think this would make a great “coffee table” book that would interest the children (about 5th grade and up) in the family as much as the adults.

 Enjoy the holiday and make some time to read!