The Book Reviews – Website

December 12, 2008

Heat Hazard Droughts

Heat Hazard Droughts 

Author: Claire Watts

Page Length: 48

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Non-Fiction

REVIEW: Heat Hazard Droughts is a fact-filled book about the weather phenomenon of the same name. It is a part of the “Turbulent Planet” series that highlights various occurrences in nature from an “engaging science text” format. From vivid pictures of starvation, drought, and relief efforts to historical accounts of the U.S. Dust Bowl and Great Fire of London, this book makes a great companion to any required science textbook. In addition to pictures and facts, the book contains defined vocabulary at the bottom of every page, predictive questions, tips on how to save water, and actual written accounts of human experiences during a drought.

This book really got me to think about how much water I waste as an individual. When you read about people forced to drink contaminated water to survive, it makes you stop and think. I learned that we as humans add to the increase in droughts because of the way we use the land (ie. farming too much in a single area for too long a period and stripping away too many trees). Also, I learned about the relief efforts of the Red Cross and UNICEF. The topics of climate change and global warming were also mentioned.

Many students may not be able to relate to the topic of drought. However, this book would be a good way for them to learn about a new topic. The book concludes with suggestions for further books to read on the topic as well as how to search for “drought” on the Internet. A glossary and index are also provided at the back.

I would definitely recommend this book to students, especially to those that struggle with an interest in science and nature.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: vocabulary, predictions, fact vs. opinion, text to self, text to world, historical context, reading a map, literature connections, Text to text with The Grapes of Wrath

RELATED BOOKS: Wild Weather: Drought by Catherine Chambers, Dust to Earth: Drought and Depression in the 1930s by Michael Cooper, Droughts of the Future by Paul Stein, and other books in the “Turbulent Planet” series

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: “The Grapes of Wrath” (1940), “The 20th Century with Mike Wallace: El Nino” (1996)


REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton


August 12, 2008

Night of the Twisters

Night of the Twisters

Author: Ivy Ruckman       

Page Length: 151

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Realistic Fiction   

PLOT SUMMARY: Night of the Twisters is a narrative told by Dan Hatch, the oldest of two children, and resident of Grand Island, Nebraska.  It is based on the actual tornadoes that struck Grand Island and the surrounding areas on June 4, 1980.

As the story begins, Dan has just won a bike after entering the Dairy Queen Bike Race because his best friend, Arthur, dared him to race.

Dan and Arthur spend most of their free time together.  Dan prefers being at Arthur’s house, to get to eye Stacey, Arthur’s 14-year-old sister.  Arthur likes to be at Dan’s house, so that he can escape his six sisters.  They both appease the wishes of Dan’s, Aunt Goldie, by participating in her craft projects and self-improvement classes. Dan is a bit jealous of his baby brother, Ryan, who requires most of his mother’s time and attention.

The book is written in chapters from hour to hour on the afternoon of June 3rd.  At 5:00, Arthur and Dan are leaving the beach as clouds begin to build.  At 6:00, Arthur has dinner with Dan and his family and then, Dan’s dad leaves to go to his grandpa’s house that lives in the country. After doing the dishes and folding some diapers, about 7:00, the boys went for a bike ride.  They visited Mrs. Smiley and went by Arthur’s house to see if he could spend the night at Dan’s.  Everything and everybody were very calm-before the storm hit.

By 8:00, warnings are being given on the radio that tornadoes have been cited.  Dan’s mother gets worried, that Mrs. Smiley, who lives down the street, may not know to take cover.  She decides to drive down the street to help Mrs. Smiley get into her basement.  However, before her return, the sirens sound.  Dan and Arthur hurry to get Ryan, Dan’s baby brothers, Minerva, the cat and themselves down into the basement.  They make it to the basement as they heard the roaring of a freight train.

The boys survive the storm, but do not realize what comes after a severe tornado demolishes a town. They must make adult decisions about how to survive and help others survive.

REVIEW:  Ivy Ruckman does a great job of getting the reader involved with the characters at the beginning of the book.  The way in which he writes the events, hour by hour, create suspense as to what will happen next.  He develops the character of Dan, and shows how he changes and matures in just a twelve hour period. 

I think this book would be a good read aloud for a class.  It has good character development, description, and an order of events that the class could discuss and develop as writing projects.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Sequence of Events, Cause and Effect, Characters, Setting, and Conclusions, Predictions, and Generalizations

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: “Twister” (1996)


REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

June 23, 2008

Violent Skies Hurricanes

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Violent Skies Hurricanes

Author: Chris Oxlade

Page Length: 48

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Non-Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: The book opens with a vivid description of hurricane and a quote that states “the city looks like a giant garbage dump.” Brilliant photos show a hurricane from a satellite view and one in progress. The reader learns about ocean storms and currents, when hurricane season is, how hurricanes are named, and even reads first-hand about the devastation of Hurricane Andrew. Cyclones and the science of hurricanes are detailed. Readers learn how hurricanes are measured and even predicted. Oxlade educates the reader on how to prepare for a hurricane. More hurricane facts and fascinating photos conclude the book.

REVIEW: These Turbulent Planet books are awesome non-fiction tools for getting kids excited about reading something. The graphics are compelling and the statistics and information presentations gripping. This book is high interest. Several lessons could be planned over the material it covers. Students can map the sequence of events in which a hurricane occurs. They can complete concept definition maps on different vocabulary terms within the book; science vocabulary is defined on the bottom of each page. The graphics are excellent and should engage 99% of our students. These books are an excellent source!

AREAS FOR TEACHING: cause and effect, part to whole relationships, connecting text to self, concept definition, vocabulary development, sequence

RELATED BOOKS: Hurricanes, Isaac’s Storm, Extreme Weather, The Magic School Bus Inside a Hurricane

RELATED MOVIES:  National Geographic: Inside Hurricane Katrina, Nova: Storm that Drowned a City, Nova Field Trips: Weather Gone Wild Hurricanes


REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

January 29, 2008

Forest Furnace – Wildfires

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Forest Furnace – Wildfires

Author: Mary Colson

Page Length: 48

Reading Level: 5th

Genre: Non-fiction


REVIEW & AREAS FOR TEACHING: Forest Furnace – Wildfires is another in a line of disaster books authored by Mary Colson. This book comes alive with vibrant action photos of wildfires in progress and the devastation they have caused. The book begins by exploring the conditions under which a forest fire can occur. A reference is even made to the Native American and Greek explanations for the origin of fire. An anticipatory set of questions are offered for students to ponder: How fast can a forest fire move? Are all forest fires started by accident? How can forest fires be stopped?


Types of fires are described. A world map details regions most prone to fire hazards. Fire speeds and dangers facing firefighters are also detailed. Fire focus facts pop out on the sides of pages showing statistics and information about fires that have occurred and their devastating effects. Wild Words (new vocabulary) is detailed at the bottom of each page. How fires are started, what chemical components cause them to burn, and what continues to feed a fire is covered in depth. Methods for fighting fires including water bombers, hotshots, smokejumpers, and backfires are also explained. This book offers great connections to careers connected with firefighting; after reading the story, numerous research topics could be generated


What happens after the fire is put out? The book examines the effects of smoke and ashes, the potential for landslides, and the effects of deforestation. Students are provided tips for surviving and preventing fires. The text naturally lends to connections with other cultures who, like American culture, are affected by fires and who share in the misery and devastation.  The last pages of the book offer additional titles for reading, World Wide Web search tips, and key organizations from which to seek information.


Overall the book is highly informative. So much information is packed into each section or page that the text should be addressed with a guide for students; or, reading the text for different purposes on several occasions might also prove useful.


Another great resource for teaching: cause and effect, vocabulary development, setting up an anticipation and reaction set, analysis of events and preventative measures, analysis of the effects of human actions on the world, sequence of events, map reading, part to whole, and classifying.


RELATED WEBSITES:  (great video resource)


REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor


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