New Titles to Draw Readers to Your Bookshelves

These four books will help your pupils learn about animal habitats, community helpers, and the Titanic.

By Erin Bailey

Students reading books

As welcome as spring is, it never fails to throw me off my routines. One habit I have gotten away from lately, is finding time for a read aloud. To reenergize my zeal for sharing new books with my students, I browsed the shelves of my local bookstore and found several titles worthy of making their way back to the classroom.

Mossy by Jan Brett

Grade Level: Pre-K - 2

Genre: Fiction

Mossy is an eastern box turtle with a unique shell. A plethora of plant-life has taken up residence on Mossy’s back, making her the loveliest turtle in the woodland, at least in her friend Scoot’s eyes. But Scoot isn’t the only one who recognizes Mossy’s unique beauty. Dr. Carolina has spotted Mossy and wants to make the turtle the showpiece of a museum exhibit. Mossy is moved to the museum where she lives in a glass box and is kept on display. Eventually, Dr. Carolina’s niece, Tory, realizes that Mossy is very sad and helps return the turtle to her home and her friend Scoot.

As always, Jan Brett’s pictures steal the show. She perfectly captures the lushness of the woodland. Children will instantly recognize Mossy’s feelings about being taken from her home.

This story is sure to raise a few questions about whether or not it is okay to keep animals captive. Make sure you have your answers ready. If you’re studying habitats, Jan Brett provides rich pictures of a woodland that children can turn into dioramas. This is also a fun way to begin a study of the different types of turtles and tortoises and the variety of spaces they populate.

ZooBorns! by Andrew Bleiman and Chris Eastland

Grade Level: Pre-K - 2

Genre: Nonfiction

If you are not familiar with the ZooBorns series, be prepared for lots of squealing and “Awww!” because these newborn animals are just too cute for words. Featuring actual animal babies born in zoos around the world, any of these books will have youngsters clamoring for more of the story. Short biographies of each animal are included as well as its home zoo information. Children can also go online to get more pictures and a longer story without a lot of distracting advertising. Some animals have videos that will appeal to even the youngest learners.

For young children, this would be a motivating way to introduce a research project. Have each learner select an animal baby and locate information on its current residence as well as its natural habitat. These can be compiled to make a class book or children can design a poster for an oral presentation. Or, you could try one of these project ideas:

  • Matching parents and their babies.
  • Learning the names for different babies: armadillo pups, giraffe calves, and koala joeys.
  • Making play dough sculptures of a favorite ZooBorn.
  • Writing letters to a particular ZooBorn zoo.

Lucky Ducklings by Eva Moore

Grade Level: Pre-K - 3

Genre: Fiction based on true events

From the chalk illustrations, to the rhyming duckling names, to the animal rescue ending, this book evokes Robert McCloskey’s classic Make Way for Ducklings. Read both and create a Venn diagram to compare and contrast the two.

Mama takes her five ducklings on a walk to get a yummy breakfast at the park. They become separated and it isn’t long before Mama realizes that her ducklings have fallen into a storm sewer. Suspense builds as the dramatic rescue, led by the city’s civil service, begins. Children will cheer when the ducklings are safely returned to Mama.

  • Have children think about the ways that animals and humans must interact. Have your students ever seen a duck crossing sign? Or how about a “Don’t Feed the Animals” sign? Why are such warnings necessary?
  • Because the story highlights the help rendered by firemen and policemen, use Lucky Ducklings to talk about the services that these community members provide.

Titanic Sinks! by Barry Denenberg

Grade Level: 4th grade and up

Genre: Nonfiction and historical fiction hybrid

This high-concept book artfully combines fiction and nonfiction to bring the story of Titanic’s maiden voyage to life. Denenberg creates a fictional passenger who makes news reports about traveling on the ship and it’s sinking. The photographs are true to the period, which will help readers immerse themselves in the era. Many quotes from survivors and the captain of the Carpathia make it a good collection of primary sources. However, be careful because much of the fictional story is written to look like newspaper articles. Young researchers will need to discern between a primary source and this fictionalized account. They can practice this skill when you print text passages and ask learners to determine whether or not it is a primary source.

Have your class visit Titanic Primary Sources for a collection of international newspaper articles, letters, and photographs. Because primary sources are often incomplete and have little context, learners must use prior knowledge and work with multiple primary sources to find patterns. Inquiry into primary sources encourages students to wrestle with contradictions and compare multiple sources that represent differing points of view.

A separate activity would be to compare and contrast modern cruise ships with Titanic. Cruise line advertisements abound and the members of your class have likely seen one. They might consider safety features, onboard entertainment, and menus.

As the end of the school year comes into sight, consider sharing new books to reinvigorate your read alouds and send children into summer break smiling.

More Resources from Lesson Planet:

Using Primary Sources in the Classroom 

This lesson, adapted from the Library of Congress, focuses on using primary sources to teach about historical events. Pupils examine a photograph and then predict what happened before and immediately after the photo was taken. It is appropriate for grades 4-12.

Habitat Hunt 

This kinesthetic activity for grades K-3 has participants consider the difficulty that animals face to find resources in their habitat. After the teacher hides a series of 10 resource cards, teams begin their hunt for food, shelter, and water. Teams reassemble to evaluate their success and equate it to animals. Try the activity again using one of the suggested extension ideas.

Lions and Tigers and Bears -  Oh My! 

A far-reaching lesson that has many great objectives and ideas to achieve them. Consider: 1) Pupils will investigate the main features of five animal groups using photographs. Then they make an art project to represent their photo. 2) Learners will pose research questions about specific animals. They use the Internet to find the answers to those questions.

Lions and Tigers and Wolves, Oh My! 

More picture book reviews for animal lovers. Titles include Wiener WolfIf All the Animals Came Inside, and Gilbert Goldfish Wants a Pet. Lesson plan ideas are included.