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August 12, 2008

Fossil Fuel

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Fossil Fuel

Author: Nigel Saunders and Steven Chapman         

Page Length: 48

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Non-Fiction           

PLOT SUMMARY: Fossil Fuel begins with a description of fuels and the three different types: coal, oil, and natural gas.  It describes how each of the fuels originate, how they are extracted from the earth, and their multiple uses.  Next, the problems of fossil fuels are discussed and then the alternatives that are available for energy usage.

REVIEW: This is an educational and informative book that is written and presented in a format that is eye-catching and interesting.  The text is written on the center portion of the pages, but on the borders there are many supportive facts and illustrations that give additional information.  The pictures are colorful and authentic. In addition, there is a “Word Store” with definitions at the bottom of each page.  At the end of the book, the authors included sources to find more information about fossil fuels and a complete glossary.

This is a great book for boys who prefer non-fiction to fiction. 

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Main Idea and Supporting Details, Informative Texts

RELATED BOOKS: Science Topics: Energy, Energy Files: Water, Solar, Wind, Energy for Life: Fossil Fuels, Energy Essentials: Renewable Energy


REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

April 8, 2008

The Talking Earth

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The Talking Earth

Author: George, Jean Craighead

Page Length: 151

Reading Level: 6th

Genre: Fiction


PLOT SUMMARY: Have you ever wondered what it would be like to survive all alone in the wilderness?  How might you escape the clutches of a forest fire, or avoid being eaten by wild animals? The Talking Earth forces its reader to do just that, as it chronicles a young girl’s twelve-week adventure through the Florida Everglades. 


When Billie Wind doubts the teachings of her Seminole people, she is sent into the wilderness to revive her faith.  What begins as a weekend lesson turns into a months long ordeal when a forest fire breaks out and Billie is trapped in the swamps.  She finds refuge in a cave, which is not only stocked with fresh fish, but is also the habitat of a playful young otter that she names Petang.  During her stay in the cave, Billie discovers that her shelter was once home for Calusa Indians.  Finding several ancient artifacts is exciting to her, as the Calusa people have been extinct for many years.


As the ground begins to cool Billie and Petang begin their journey out of the Everglades.  During their trip they encounter many obstacles such as alligators, panthers, finding food, and building their own houseboat.  But they also make a few new friends along the way: a panther cub named Cootchobee, and a turtle named Burden, and finally an American Indian boy on his own quest for meaning.


Billie’s adventure climaxes with the arrival of a hurricane.  By climbing onto high ground and digging a shelter, she and her friends ride out the terrifying storm and finally find their way home.


In the end, Billie’s ordeal has confirmed three vital Seminole beliefs: animal god’s talk, a great serpent lives in the Everglades and punishes bad Seminoles, and there are little people who live underground and play tricks on people.  With her spiritual transformation, Billie is welcomed back into the tribe with open arms.


REVIEW: This book is ideal for students who strongly identify with an American Indian heritage.  It’s also a good book for students who enjoy wilderness adventure stories. Though, like many of Jean Craighead George’s novels, the plot in this book is at times extremely naïve and unrealistic.  For example, Billie Wind becomes instant friends with each of the wild animals that she encounters.  She also shows no concern for the alligators that patrol her homemade raft and daily kill the wildlife around her.  That aside, The Talking Earth is built on an interesting concept, and the character Billie is a strong role model for girls as she is independent, determined, and true to herself. 


RELATED BOOKS: Hatchet & My Side of the Mountain




REVIEWED BY: Jennifer John

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