Category Archives: Non-Fiction

Bat Spit, Maggots and Other Amazing Medical Miracles

Bat Spit, Maggots and Other Amazing Medical Miracles

Bat Spit

It turns out a lot of useful stuff is made from unusual, even gross, stuff from animals. Bat spit, snake venom, rooster combs and even…poop…can be used to make medicine. Really. Some of the things in this book make you say, “oooh gross!” but mostly you just feel like, “wow, some people must be really smart to figure all of this out!” While I don’t really want to experiment with bat spit, I’m glad someone does!

If you are interested in the extreme gross side of natural science and biology, then you’ll also like some of these!
Gross Body Invaders Clot and Scab Itch and Ooze Rumble and Spew
Hawk and Drool Crust and Spray Gut Bugs and Dust Mites Farts, Vomits and Other Functions That Help Your Body
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Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart

Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart

Amelia Lost

I have always been fascinated by the mystery surrounding Amelia Earhart, the thrill seeking, adventure loving pilot who disappeared over the Pacific trying to fly around the world in 1937.

This book is full of pictures and stories that reveal a lot more about Amelia than just her disappearance. In this book, you get a look at why Amelia was so compelled to adventure and do things no one else had ever tried before. You also get a first hand account of the hours and days following the moment her plane seemed to disappear into thin air. There are actually many many clues…the trick is figuring out which ones have anything at all to do with what really happened.

I think the reason people, including myself, are so interested in Amelia can be best understood by reading the note Amelia wrote before she left on her trip:

Please know I am quite aware of the hazards. I want to do it because I want to do it. Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail, their failure must be but a challenge to others.” (page 110)

She was an adventurer and took on the risks willingly. I think we are all interested in people that are unafraid of challenges, whatever the challenges are. Next summer you can follow another attempt to find out what happened to Amelia Earhart. There is going to be an underwater search take place in July, 2012. Maybe this time someone will find something and solve this 75 year-old mystery.

Some more about Amelia as well as other daredevils and adventurers in the sky:
Amelia Lost Sky High Women Daredevils Daring American Heroes of Flight
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Mirror, Mirror A Book of Reversible Verse

Mirror, Mirror A Book of Reversible Verse

Mirror, Mirror

Mirror Mirror is a book of poems. You read each poem, then you read each poem again backwards. You read each line but in reverse order. It’s amazing and  hard to believe, but both poems work.  This seems unbelievably difficult to me. To make it even more complicated, each poem tells the story of a classic fairy tale…when you read the poem in one direction, it is from one character’s point of view and when you read the poem backwards it is from another character’s point of view. I have no idea how the author managed to do this. It’s word brilliant. Major word skills. Each poem is like a word puzzle in the same way soduku is a number puzzle. THEN, to make it even better, the illustrator made the pictures the same way.

I gave this a try using Grover and Tyson from the Percy Jackson books. It’s lame, four lines, but hey, I’m a beginner.

Together til the end
Percy is my friend
And now
Brothers in arms

See, if you read it from top to bottom it’s about Grover. Percy is his friend at school before Percy knows he’s a demi-god, but then they become brothers in arms in the war against Kronos. If you read the lines in reverse, it’s about Tyson. Tyson and Percy are Brothers in arms first fighting their way back into to camp half-blood. It’s only later that they become friends.

It kinda works. Trying it shows you how hard this is. You have to consider each line and how it will work for the two different points of view. And mine doesn’t even rhyme or anything. Marilyn Singer’s poems have everything: the poems flow right, the rhyming is right, the poems make total sense read both ways. Really. How in the world did she do this? Amazing.

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Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker

Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker

Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker

This is the story of Elizabth Keckley, a slave who became a free woman and a business owner as well as the favored dressmake of Mary Todd Lincoln – President Lincoln’s wife.

Her story begins on a plantation in Virginia. Elizabeth was only four years old when she was given the job of taking care of her mistress’s brand new baby. She was so excited to take care of the pretty baby that she rocked the cradle a little too hard and the baby fell out onto the floor. She was whipped for that…a four year-old! And that whipping would not be her last. Elizabeth had a very hard life as a slave. It’s a wonder she even survived, let alone growing up to be a free woman and the owner of her own business.

Elizabeth’s mom was a gifted seamstress and she taught Elizabeth how to sew. Their master would hire Elizabeth out to other ladies in St. Louis who wanted pretty dresses. One of those clients loaned Elizabeth the money to buy her own freedom. Elizabeth moved to Washington DC and was soon sewing dresses for famous wives – Mrs. Robert E. Lee and Mrs. Jefferson Davis. It was only a matter of time before her dresses caught the eye of Mrs. Lincoln.

That’s when the story gets really intersting. It is the tale of two very different women in very different circumstances who manage to carve our a friendship in the oddest of circumstances. Mary Lincoln didn’t just need pretty dresses, she needed a friend.

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Maritcha: A Nineteenth-Century American Girl

Maritcha: A Nineteenth-Century American Girl


Maritcha Reymond Lyon was born in the mid-1800s.  Her family was free but still had to deal with discrimination and injustices that put obstacles in their path to success. When Maritcha was a teenager one of those obstacles was that fact that she could not go to the all-white high school. It was the only high school in her town, Providence, Rhode Island. Maritcha and her family made the bold decision to sue the state so that Marticha could go to high school. Maritcha was black, and a girl too – two things that many people of her time would have said made it a waste of time for her to go to high school. Maritcha proved them all wrong and went on to become a teacher and school principal in New York City. Author: Tonya Bolden

I don’t know about you, but when I think about black kids fighting to integrate public schools, I think of names like Ruby Bridges and the Little Rock Nine…but these kids fought there fight in the 1960s…not the 1860s!!

  • PBS: My Story: Ruby Bridges
  • PBS: Stand Up for Your Rights
  • On the Front Lines with the Little  Rock Nine
  • Scholastic: Integrating Central High
  • Think about that – Maritcha fought her battle almost a hundred years before these other students. That goes to show you that school integration took a very, very long time. The timing also depended on which state and in what part of the country a student lived. Maritcha lived in the North, Ruby Bridges and the Little Rock Nine lived in the South. It took the South much longer to have integrated schools.leora-school

    About the time Maritcha was fighting to attend high school in Rhode Island, black kids in Indiana were just getting a school. The Leora Brown School opened in Corydon, Indiana in 1891 as the Corydon Colored School. The Corydon Colored School graduated its first class of students on May 14, 1897. Leora Brown, a former student who graduated in 1923, returned to the school as a teacher in 1924 after having attended Miss Blaker’s Teachers College in Indianapolis. One year after Brown’s arrival at the Corydon Colored School, the school’s high-school-age black students were integrated into Corydon High School which was previously attended by white students only. The Corydon Colored School, however, remained open until 1950, when the grade schools were integrated.

    More about kids like Maritcha: Ruby Bridges, Linda Brown & the Little Rock Nine.
    Through My Eyes The Forbidden Schoolhouse Little Rock Brown vs. Board of Education
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