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Monday, May 18, 2015

Booked: Shhh...I Have A Secret!

I. Love. Books.

I always have, I always will.  When I was little, I used to go to the library with a canvas bag and my mind would race with possibility.  Why a canvas bag?  Well, when you check out the limit (which I believe was 20 books), you need a reinforced bag to carry them home.  That's why!

I was pretty balanced in my reading.  I loved fiction stories, but I was also really into non-fiction.  In 2nd grade I read a 75 page chapter book on hurricanes.  Why?  Because I was enthralled with them.  Little did I know, the next year, I'd get to see one in person. 

My two favorite subjects as a kid were animals and weather.  Funny enough, as a little girl, I remember checking out numerous books on sharks, snakes, and dinosaurs.  Not exactly your typical fare for a little girl, but hey, I was breaking those barriers before it was cool.  And weather?  Wow.  I was convinced I was going to be a meteorologist for the National Hurricane Center. Well, that or a marine biologist.  After all, I was going to research and completely decode sea mammal communication...  Yeah, I had ambition.  But, hey, it was because reading opened up a whole world of opportunity.

But, what does all this have to do with my post today?  Well, one name I have always associated with non-fiction is Usborne.  Even when buying books for my classroom, I always got excited to buy books from Usborne because of the quality of the content, pictures, illustrations, and their uncanny knack to make any topic super interesting!

Today, I wanted to share two books with you that I recently bought for my twin niece and nephew.  They just turned one, but I would have still bought these for them even if they were 8!  One thing I love about a lot of the non-fiction Usborne books is that they have a lot of leveled information.

These two books, "Secrets of the Seashore" and "Secrets of the Rain Forest" by Carron Brown and Alyssa Nassner are not just informative, but they have a great "hook" to pull in the kids interest!  They are "Shine-A-Light" books, which means that there are pages where you shine a flashlight, or hold the book up to a light source and an image/shape is revealed to them that they couldn't see before.

How. Cool. Is. That?

Very cool.  I could even see my fourth graders getting excited to see what was under that leaf, or hiding up under the rock.  And this isn't just a "gimmick" to sell a book.  These books hold their own just with the information alone.  I love that it calls the animals by their proper names instead of just "bird" or "snake."  When the kids see a bird by the tidal pool, it asks them what the Oystercatcher sees in the pool, and not the "sea bird."

I also love how this book addresses adaptations and life cycles.  It talks about some of the animals hiding to hunt for food, or hide from getting eaten.  I also like the "cycle" feel to each of these books where the "Secrets of the Seashore" starts with the tide coming in an the pool filling up, then the tide goes out, and it says the animals go back to hiding and wait for the tide to come in once more.  In the "Secrets of the Rainforest" it discusses the animals as they are during the day, but as night falls, it talks about how other animals will be coming out until the sun rises again.

Another great feature are the facts in the back of the book!  Each of these books has a section in the back with an illustrated "glossary" of facts.  As the child gets older, these are something that would be a great discussion piece.  Or, in the classroom, these would be great to write on cards, pass out to groups and have them illustrate or act out some of the facts.

All in all, I was super impressed with these books.  They are beautifully and brightly illustrated, and the animals and scenery is realistic.  None of the "cartoonish" eyes and weird smiles you see in some books.  They are well made hardback books, which make for a long life span, and the covers and inside illustrations could catch the eye of anyone, even an adult.

As a teacher, I could see using these in my class as a read aloud during a lesson on animal adaptations, ecosystems, or life cycles.  I'd use the facts in the back for group activities, or assign students animals from the books to enrich and further connect to the standards we were covering.

As an aunt (I'm not a mom), I would love snuggling in with my niece and nephew and reading these as we "discover" what is hiding under the rock waiting on prey, or what the spider monkeys are carrying on their backs.  When they get older, I'm sure it would be great springboard for talking about animals, being an intro or end of a visit to the zoo, or discussing some of my travels to the rainforest and shorelines!

Want to see that awesome "Shine-a-Light" feature one more time?!  Sure you do.

Now, I do want to add that if you are excited about these books, my good friend Laura (who was an educator too!) sells Usborne books!  She has provided me with a link HERE so you guys could purchase them.  She also is a fountain of knowledge and help if you'd like to buy other books for relatives, or for your classroom.  It is also worth is to ask about their 50% teacher "grant" matching program.  I put "grant" in parenthesis because it can be a purchase your team makes for your grade level, it doesn't have to be an actual "grant."  Definitely ask about that!

Thanks for reading, and I hope to bring you many more reviews (and giveaways!)

Just FYI, the link goes to an "Book eShow" with my name on it.  If you are wondering, I do get "points" for books that are purchased through this link.  My plan is that if I get free books, I will review them, give you my take on how they could be used at school or at home, and then I'll be doing some giveaways!  Woo, free books for you too!


  1. I love this blog post; I love these books; I love YOU, my dear friend; and I love our mutual enthusiasm over all things books, teaching, kids, and Science! Well done, Carrie!

  2. Aw, thanks buddy! I just love how much fun they make science and history, and so excited to see so much fiction now as well! :)