Monday, March 08, 2010

Nonfiction Monday: Kelly Milner Halls

Last month I took a class on Tweens through ALA, taught by Ed Sullivan One of the fun things about the class was that the teacher got many authors to talk about their work with the students.

One of the authors we got to talk with is Kelly Milner Halls, so I read five of her books.

Overall, what I really like about her work is that she picks topics that kids want to read about. She covers these topics from many different angles, and really shows how the research is done by the experts in the field. Many, many scientists appear in her books in many forms, but what I really love is that most of them have interview transcripts with different scientists, or parts written by scientists, so they can talk about their work in their own words.

Dinosaur Mummies: Beyond Bare-bone Fossils

Ok, did you know that dinosaurs didn't just leave bones behind? But when conditions were just right, parts were mummified? Not in the same way that people have been, because they're too old, but mummy fossils? We have more than just bones from these lizards, but pieces of flesh and skin and these bits are changing the way people think about dinosaurs.

This book takes us to different dinosaur mummy discoveries, the people working on the find, and what these finds mean to paleontology.

We always need more dinosaur books, but this is one that adds something to the shelf and the field.

Tales of the Cryptids: Mysterious Creatures That May or May Not Exist with Rick Spears and Roxyanne Young

This is an interesting one, because it looks at creatures that many look at as mythical- Big Foot, the Loch Ness Monster, mermaids and others. They unpack why people think these creatures exists, what evidence there is for and against, the fact and fiction surrounding each creature.

I especially liked when they looked at creatures that exist around the world (such as Big Foot) and how the information changes, or doesn't, in different locations and cultures.

My favorite was when they looked at "mythical" creatures that have been proven to really exist, such as the Giant Squid, Coelacanth, and the Chacoan peccary.

It teaches kids to keep looking and keep believing.

There's also a super-awesome mini-encyclopedia of Cryptids with a sketch and description of each creature, as well as a rating on how likely it is to be actually exist.

Albino Animals

A genetic condition that results in a complete lack of pigment can occur in every living thing. Starting with an explanation of genetics, Halls then looks at different albino animals, insects, and plants, and discusses the issues they cause in the wild. Many exist only in captivity and have very special health concerns that they often don't understand. For instance, alligators have to sunbathe in order to digest their food (!!!) but albino alligators will severely sunburn if they do this (!!!!!). In captivity, they have special warming rocks so they can digest while not burning.

Also, albino plants! They can't live long, because you need chlorophyll for photosynthesis, but dude ALBINO PLANTS.

There's a reason this is on our summer reading list.

Wild Dogs: Past & Present

An excellent look at the evolution of Canis over the millennia. We see how myths and bad feelings towards wolves sprung up, how branches split off to form the different species we know today, where they live, and the prehistoric creatures they all come from.

I especially liked how it looks at all these different species around the world and the current issues surrounding these species today, plus all the pull-out boxes of fun facts. A great, different look at a dog book.

Possibly, the best recommendation? I was reading this and Dan leaned over and started reading over my shoulder. His comment was "Why don't you read THAT book in story time? That'd get the boys interested!" There followed a brief explanation of age levels and text to picture ratio, but it became quickly apparent that he was jealous he didn't have this book when he was a kid.

Wild Horses: Galloping Through Time

All you need to know is that this is a horse book that boys and girls will BOTH like.

Like Wild Dogs, it looks at how horses evolved and where they live now and how they differ from each other. Many wild horses face many great concerns to survival and this book outlines those concerns and also what people can do to help, as well as places to see while horses.

Overall, Kelly Milner Halls just writes great books that kids love. She makes hard information easy to understand and fun to learn about. An author you need to know about.

Round up is over at Lost Between the Pages

Books Provided by... my local library

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Dreamybee said...

I love it when books make science cool and interesting! Also, albino insects?? I might have to go check out that book for myself. :)

Kelly Milner Halls said...

Hey, it was so much fun interacting with you guys! Thanks so much for this great write up on my quirky body of work. I hope I can keep writing books for reluctant readers for many years to come. With comments like yours my odds just got better. : )

Kelly Milner Halls
Children's Writer