What a fascinating thing to be celebrating the birthdays of these two remarkable men on the same day.
First of all, there are many new books out about Darwin, but my favorite still has to be Peter Sis‘s superb Tree of Life . I read it to my class yesterday. Not only was it a great discussion starter about Darwin, but about how to do a biography as well. A truly outstanding book. For fun, I followed that up with something silly — this little ditty of Jon Scieszka‘s in Science Verse :
Glory glory evolution,
Darwin found us a solution.
Your mama is that shape,
And your knuckles always scrape,
‘Cause Grandpa was an ape.
Here’s what I wrote last month about it.
I also am a huge fan of Candace Fleming’s scrapbook biographies and her latest, The Lincolns, is really wonderful. I just love the scrapbook approach, lots of small and fascinating tidbits to pour over. Reading doesn’t always have to be linear and this book encourages a dipping in and dipping out approach. You can read it through quickly and then go back to parts of greatest interest, look at the photos, the letters, or other stuff. The research is impeccable, the writing lively and engaging; a very, very impressive work of nonfiction.
And just a few minutes ago I read aloud the delightful Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek by Deborah Hopkinson with illustrations by John Hendrix. This is a superb work of meta fiction, perfect for 4th graders. Author and illustrator collaborate beautifully to show young readers how you can never truly know history, that the best you can do is use what we do know for sure thoughtfully and carefully. As Deborah reminds us, “For that’s the thing about history — if you weren’t there, you can’t know for sure.”