Many teachers already use picture books at the secondary level. I’m a huge fan of using picture books in my classroom, and I’ll be adding Sandra Markle’s extensive line of nonfiction children’s books to my browsing list.
The images are striking. On one page I can actually see the veins and tissue of a bat’s wing – it looks like crinkly tissue paper. Another page with a stark black background shows a bright bat with wings wide about to catch a furry moth in its jaws. What student (especially elementary level, but also at the middle school level) wouldn’t be engaged by such an image?
This “Scientific Mystery” book is one of three. Markle also published The Case of the Vanishing Honeybees (2013) and The Case of the Vanishing Golden Frogs (2011). Her first “Scientific Mystery” book about the Golden Frogs was a 2013 Recommended Book for the NCTE Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children. All three texts are formatted in a similar manner. The Case of the Vanishing Little Brown Bats is scheduled to be published in September 2014. Markle tells the story of a mysterious illness that is killing little brown bats in North Eastern United States. She entwines this narrative with factual information about science, nature, and bats (of course!).
What I love the most about this text is that Markle does not just give the solution immediately. She explores multiple potential causes for the bats’ illness that takes us through the trial and error that is involved in real life problem solving of any kind. It is important, no, vital, that our children learn that solving problems is a process. I’ve watched too many students shut down when faced with a challenge because they feel like failures when the first thing they try doesn’t pan out the way they thought it would. Children need to learn how to be creative, resilient, and confident enough to persevere through all the challenges life throws at them. This is an excellent life lesson for school and academic issues, but it certainly flows over into general life as well.
One more feature that caught my attention was Markle’s insistence on making her books easily interactive. She provides a glossary, the names of the scientists she worked with to gather this true story, ways for kids to get involved in their local communities to help bats, and books and websites for further research. Children could connect directly with the scientists working on this issue through social media or parents could take their children outside in the evening to watch for bats. Whether this book is being read by a teacher or a parent, or an older sibling, there are plenty of ways to interact and enrich the learning experience that are already built into the format. This would be a perfect starting point for parents who are trying to incorporate interactive reading strategies with their kids from Jason Boog’s Born Reading which I reviewed here on the PCTELA News blog last week.
Check out Sandra Markle’s other “Scientific Mystery” books now, and get ready for The Case of the Vanishing Little Brown Bats coming out in September!
Publisher: Millbrook Press (a division of Lerner Publishing Group)
Released for Sale: September 1, 2014
Reviewed by: Allison Irwin, PCTELA Executive Director