Beauty and the Beak

There are few people who would disagree when I say that a bald eagle is truly a breathtaking sight. Sadly, there are just that very few who don’t see their majesty and instead see a target. Today’s book is Beauty and the Beak: how science, technology and a 3-D printed beak rescued a bald eagle by Deborah Lee Rose and Jane Veltkamp.

The story starts at the beginning of the eagle’s life, with her hatching as a fuzzy grey chick, to her first flight and then reaching maturity. One day when she was about four years old though, someone shot the eagle, destroying the top of her beak and damaging her eye. For some eagles, this would have led to death, but Beauty, as she became known, was found by a police officer who took her to a wildlife center.

While the wildlife center was able to bandage her wounds and give her antibiotics to prevent infection, they were ultimately unable to keep Beauty in their care. Beauty’s beak had not regrow so she couldn’t return to the wild. Janie Veltkamp took Beauty to her raptor center in Idaho and began telling people about Beauty’s story. An engineer heard one of Janie’s talks and had an idea of how to help Beauty.

Thanks to technology, Janie and the engineer were able to create a prosthetic beak for Beauty. It was carefully fitted and adjusted to fit Beauty in a 3 hour procedure.

Beauty was able to once again preen her feathers, and she could eat and drink almost normally (her meat had to be precut into strips).

Beauty’s beak has begun to regrow. It is made of keratin like human fingernails. Her prosthetic beak no longer fits and so she remains in the raptor center. No one knows if her beak will fully regenerate, so she relies on her human caretakers for now. Janie is keeping close measurements and records of the beak’s regeneration to provide scientific data that we just haven’t had before.

I was very excited to get this book! It is written in a simple and straightforward way. I think that when it gets an Accelerated Reader level, it will be in the third grade range. I plan to read it to third grade later this year when they are focusing on animals.

I learned a lot from the additional back matter the book includes. I didn’t know that young bald eagles are mostly brown and don’t grow their white feathers on their heads and black feathers on their bodies until they are mature. The back matter covers the adaptations that help the eagles like their feet, feathers, wings and bone structure. It also talks about the near extinction eagles faced in the 1960s and 1970s. Kids today probably have never heard of DDT and it’s effects on eagle eggs.

I hope that reading books like this with children will help prevent more tragic injuries to these majestic birds.

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Oregon Trail

I am taking a fairytale break to tell you about a book I’ll be using at school in a few weeks. Fourth graders study the history of South Dakota in social studies, so I try to supplement their lessons. The book I’m excited to share with you today is You Wouldn’t Want To Be An American Pioneer!

This book is part of a huge series that covers all parts of history. Kids love them because they don’t gloss over the gross and gruesome truth of how people lived in days gone by.

The book reads quickly and has little sidebars with great illustrated facts.

I learned a lot reading this book! The sidebar on the illustration above is about what what to do when your oxen get infected feet.

Cut the infected tissue out and seal the would with hot tar. Make a waterproof cover with buffalo hide.

I think the kids will really like this lesson. We played the old game The Oregon Trail last year but it ate up too much class time. I do plan to give them the link to play it at home though. You know you’re dying to play it again too!

I will also be reading another book about the pioneers:

I haven’t read it yet so I can’t give you a summary.

I also like to teach about the Native Americans from this area. These books are great!

What’s New In Children’s Literature

Wow. I did it. I taught my first professional development class to educators! I was nervous, I mean I'm used to my audience being shorter than I am, after all.

What's New In Children's Literature

What's New In Children's Lit Resources

The link above is for my resource handouts. I talked about a lot of books today.

The session covered:

  • Nonfiction
  • Biography
  • Poetry
  • Fiction (Early and Middle Grade chapters)
  • Graphic Novels
  • Picture Books

For each book, I made slides to show the cover and the illustration style. The corresponding resource page included the author, illustrator (or photographer), Accelerated Reader information, notable titles by the author, further reading bibliographies on the topics and any useful links.

I worked so hard on this project and the feedback was fabulous! I'm so proud of myself. I styled my session after an amazing woman who travels the country teaching sessions like this, Judy Freedman. I was fortunate enough to attend one of her sessions a few years ago and I learned so much!

I am kind of drained so I won't write about a particular book today, but if you are interested, check out the links.

Jack the Ripper

My family loves a good mystery. My husband isn't a reader, though, so the mysteries we share tend to be on tv. Right now we are watching s History Channel series about H.H. Holmes, a serial killer from Chicago in the 1890s.

Holmes is actually an alias, one of many, as this man was a con artist and committed fraud many times for money as well.

The series is based on the theory that H.H. Holmes could have also been Jack the Ripper. This theory has been put forward by his great-great-grandson. The grandson and a former CIA investigator are looking for clues to either prove or disprove this theory. It is a compelling argument and I think it has a strong basis in fact. We are only two episodes into the eight part series, so I can't tell you anything definitively.

What I can tell you is I have read books of differing theories on who the Ripper was.

Cornwell is the author of a bestselling mystery series. She believes in research and backs up her theories. She postulates that Jack the Ripper was a troubled impressionist artist who was known for painting odd subject matter. Walter Sickert followed the Impressionist art style and so would have painted things he actually saw.

This painting is called The Camden Town Murder, and the Ripper's last known victim was killed in her bed.

A second book I have read is
The theory here is that the man who was Jack the Ripper stopped killing because he was institutionalized after slitting his own wife's throat.

If I was going to pick one suspect based on these two books, I'd go with Sickert, but now I think H.H. Holmes could be him.

One of the things about this mystery is that I don't think we will ever conclusively prove who he was. Crime scene investigation was in its infancy at that time and the scenes were often contaminated by unwary gawkers and police officers. DNA could yield clues but I don't know that much of the evidence remains. There is a shawl from Mary Eddows being tested for the show but I doubt the blood is anyone but hers.

I wish I had more time to read other theories for comparison, but I just don't right now. I'll have to rely on the History Channel series to sate my curiosity for now.

Shark Lady: Eugenie Clark

Today’s book is a new picture book biography of Eugenie Clark. Clark was a trailblazing scientist who left a grand legacy to science.

Eugenie was discouraged from going into a scientific career, but was unwilling to give up her love of the oceans. Eugenie specifically loved sharks, but did advance the study if other species of fish. She even discovered three new species early in her career: the Red Sea sand diver, the barred Xenia pipefish and the volcano triplefin. 

Her scientific discoveries did not stop there. She discovered that sharks were able to stop moving to rest, dispelling the myth that they must keep moving to stay alive, and that they could be trained like a dog and would remember that training for up to two months. She also discovered a rare six-filled shark.

I learned all of these facts about Eugenie from this book, but there are other books about her:


 Eugenie Clark died in 2015 at the age of 92. You can learn more about her at the website mote.com.

Even famous people start out small.

I’m not joking. Did you know that Thomas Edison fed someone worms once?

It’s true! He thought that worms might be what gave birds the power of flight. While it was a good observation that birds eat worms and are able to fly, it wasn’t one of his best theories on how to imbue humans with the power of flight.

It’s true, Martin Luther King, Jr. was a kid once and he did regular everyday kid things. One thing he never did though was respond to violence with more violence.

This fun new series of narrative nonfiction biographies is by Mark Weakland. I have them on my purchase list for the upcoming school year and I’m hoping to read the other two books here at the public library.


I have heard about Amelia’s rollercoaster, I think in Brad Meltzer’s Ordinary People Change the World Series, but I have not heard about Wilma playing basketball.

These books have nice illustrations and are easy to read and understand. I think they will go over well with my K-4 audience. I plan to put them with the biographies but here at the public library, they are in the picture books.

Basher Science

I’m a total nerd. And not just for books! I love science and math and history too. So I find it pretty exciting that my girls love that kind of stuff. So why not find fun ways to expand their horizons?

This weekend at Target, we found the cutest game, it had decks in biology, chemistry and minerals and elements. The cards can be paired with books by Basher Science. I’ve seen them in Scholastic book orders and they look fun, giving each element or cell or chemical a cartoon persona. 

The card game is relatively simple. The cards are numbered 1-8 and each person takes one from each number and shuffles their hand. The game is then played kind of like war (you’ve all played it) where the larger card laid down wins, except that each card has a special ability. It might affect the round it’s played in or it might affect other cards later on.

The cards also have facts about whatever they represent and the decks can be mixed. This is a fun game, although the 10 year old kept beating me. And there’s another fun side to the game. You can buy bonus packs with more cards and the little characters in plastic figures (take a hike Shopkins!)

I’m hoping that Basher comes out with more decks to match their huge variety of books. Go check them out at their site by clicking here.

So yeah, it was more about the game than the books, but I think the game will open the doors to the books with reluctant readers.

The Secret Project

I was randomly picking up new books the other day at the public library when I found this book:

The cover isn’t flashy but I thought I’d give it a try, seeing as I have recently discovered how much I enjoy Jonah Winter’s nonfiction books.

The Secret Project in this inconspicuous book is the Manhatten Project, where Oppenheimer and some of the greatest minds in the world worked to create the atom bomb.

The project was handled in utmost secrecy, with many of the lower level employees not having any real idea of what was really being researched in the New Mexico desert. 


It is now known that they were working to split the atom and create one of the most destructive weapons in history. Jeanette Winters’ illustrations are simple and clean. They convey the story perfectly. After showing the fully formed mushroom cloud, the pages go black and the narration ends. 


There is a lot of information within this story and I think it would be a great companion to read aloud a about Sadako, Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

While I don’t believe we should ever use these weapons again, I do think providing the truth about The Secret Project is essential to teaching our children about America’s history. It is an instance where the consequences of our actions are immediately visible and long lasting as well as far reaching.

Shocking Science

I love history but I also love science. The good news is that with today’s book, I don’t have to choose, I can have both!

Shocking Science by Steve Parker and illustrated by John Kelly wasa Thrift Store Score the other day. It’s subtitle is 5,000 years of mishaps and misunderstandings. It’s not lying. Parker  manages to cover a huge amount of scientific history in a concise and humorous manner. 

Topics in the book span creation theories, world exploration, space travel, fossils, invasive species, alchemy, engineering failures, medicine and accidents that led to great discoveries. These aren’t all the topics, only about half. Each topic gets a two-page layout with 5 to 6 paragraphs that discuss the topic from different times and parts of the world.

I’m glad I found this book. I’m wondering if it was part if a set. A lot of nonfiction books are published with half a dozen books linked by a similar theme. I’ll have to look this one up.

Cracked Corn and Snow Ice Cream

Every year I teach Reference books to 4th grade. Most may not have seen a dictionary – I’m not joking, or a thesaurus, and they think of encyclopedias as “Google, but in a book.” Some have never looked at a road map so an atlas is a new concept too. But I can show them physical copies of each of these items and they get the idea. He last type of reference book is an almanac. I can explain until I’m blue in the face about needing to know when it’s best to plant, and when to expect rain, but for the most part, it’s just not something we typically use in our technological age.

I don’t buy the yearly Farmers Almanac because they aren’t cheap, they aren’t super durable and there just aren’t that many kids concerned about when the tides will change.

But yesterday, I made a Thrift Store Score with this book:

I bought it for a couple of reasons. First, it’s not for a specific year so it can’t really become outdated. Second, it’s hardbound, so it will last awhile on my shelves. Third, it gives me a physical copy to show students during lessons, and fourth, it’s just old-timey country goodness.

Besides the monthly advice there are little tidbits scattered throughout the book like HowTo Find Your True Love:

  • Walk around the block with your mouth full of water. If you don’t swallow it, you’ll be married within the year.
  • Set a silent supper late at night, taking care to do everything backward. Keep perfectly silent. Take your seat backward and at the stroke of midnight you will see the face of your true love.
  • Count Fifty white horses as you see them, and a white mile. Your groom will be the first unmarried man you shake hands with afterward.

This book is so fun, I can’t wait to show it to one history-loving teacher in particular. Of course, that’s after I read the whole thing!