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Melissa Stewart

Author

Trained as both a scientist and journalist, Melissa Stewart is the award-winning author of more than 100 books for young readers. While gathering information for her books, Melissa has explored tropical forests in Costa Rica, gone on safari in Kenya and Tanzania, and swum with sea lions in the Galápagos Islands.

Melissa's Books

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Alligator or Crocodile?

Alligator or Crocodile?

How Do You Know?

Melissa Stewart
Alligators and crocodiles may look the same to you, but you might be surprised to learn just how different these animals are! Get a close up look at the differences between these animals with brilliant color photographs...Read More

Buying Options

ISBN: 978-0-7660-5655-8
Binding: eBook
List Price: $24.60
Discount Price: $18.45

Amazing Eyes Up Close

Amazing Eyes Up Close

Melissa Stewart
Did you know that honeybees have more than two eyes? Or that a giant squid's eyes are bigger than dinner plates? AMAZING EYES UP CLOSE, in the ANIMAL BODIES UP CLOSE series, lets you learn all about how animals use their eyes to look for food and to stay safe...Read More

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ISBN: 978-0-7660-4369-5
Binding: eBook
List Price: $24.60
Discount Price: $18.45

Blue Animals

Blue Animals

Melissa Stewart
Who knew so many animals were blue?! Another title in the ALL ABOUT A RAINBOW OF ANIMALS series, BLUE ANIMALS lets new readers practice their colors with vibrant photos and simple text...Read More

Buying Options

ISBN: 978-0-7660-4330-5
Binding: eBook
List Price: $24.60
Discount Price: $18.45

Butterfly or Moth?

Butterfly or Moth?

How Do You Know?

Melissa Stewart
How can you tell a butterfly from a moth? What is the difference? With colorful photographs and clear language, author Melissa Stewart shows young readers how to identify these animals using critical thinking skills...Read More

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ISBN: 978-0-7660-5564-3
Binding: eBook
List Price: $24.60
Discount Price: $18.45

Creepy, Crawly Jokes About Spiders and Other Bugs

Creepy, Crawly Jokes About Spiders and Other Bugs

Laugh and Learn About Science

Melissa Stewart
Who said science can't be funny?! Read some fascinating science facts about bugs, including butterflies, beetles, and bees. Then learn some seriously silly jokes! And the fun part? The section of the book that teaches you to write your own jokes about bugs! Get ready to laugh and learn about science...Read More

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ISBN: 978-0-7660-4452-4
Binding: eBook
List Price: $27.27
Discount Price: $20.45

Dino-Mite Jokes About Prehistoric Life

Dino-Mite Jokes About Prehistoric Life

Laugh and Learn About Science

Melissa Stewart
In DINO-MITE JOKES ABOUT PREHISTORIC LIFE learn about everything from early arthropods to dinosaurs and early humans. After reading all the silly jokes, follow author Melissa Stewart's directions to create your own jokes! Get ready to laugh and learn about science...Read More

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ISBN: 978-0-7660-4449-4
Binding: eBook
List Price: $27.27
Discount Price: $20.45

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Melissa's Latest Blog Entries

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Info Writing Tip: The Idea Incubator

In most schools, students do an informational writing unit in the winter—right after the holiday break. But now’s the time to do one small thing that will make a HUGE difference when January rolls around.

We all know that students do their best informational writing when they select their own topics. They’re more invested in the process, from research to revision.

But we also know that choosing a topic from the wide world of possibilities is intimidating, even paralyzing, for some children. How can we support them? By setting them up for success—now.

Ideas don’t materialize out of thin air for anyone. That’s why I have an Idea Board in my office. Anytime I have an idea or a question, anytime I hear a tantalizing tidbit, I write it on a scrap of paper and tack it up there. Then, when it’s time to start a new book, I look at all those ideas and choose one. I have options right there in front of me. Lots of them.

Young writers can mimic my technique by creating what I call an Idea Incubator—a bulleted list of potential topics on the last page of their writer’s notebook. Every time they have an idea or question about something they see, read, or experience, they can add it to their Idea Incubator. They can also include cool facts they come across.

If they start now, their Idea Incubator will be ready for action when they need it.

When it’s time to start a nonfiction writing project, students can use their Idea Incubator as a starting point. If they’re choosing their own topic, they may be able to pull an idea directly from their list.

What if you assign a whole-class topic that aligns with your content-area curriculum? No problem. A list of facts, ideas, and questions is still a valuable tool. Working alone or with a partner, students can search for a common thread among the items on their list and brainstorm ways to apply that to the whole-class topic you’ve assigned.

For example, let’s say your class is studying the American Revolutionary War, and you want everyone to write a report related to that whole-class topic. Obvious choices might be George Washington or the Battle of Bunker Hill. But let’s face it, not everyone has a deep natural interest in a dead white guy or a skirmish that happened in Boston almost 250 years ago.

That’s where the Idea Incubator can come in handy. As a student looks at her list, she may notice a lot of facts, questions, and ideas about the weather and wonder if she could write a report about the weather during the Revolutionary War. After doing some research, she discovers that the 1770s were an exceptionally cold, snowy period in history, and the weather influenced the outcome of many battles. Bingo! She’s identified a great topic that she’s excited about.

Another student notices that his list includes some facts, questions, and ideas about numbers and math. He might decide to create a series of infographics comparing statistics related to different battles or the two competing armies.

A third student who’s fascinated by fashion could focus on the kind of clothing the soldiers wore, including how a severe shortage of boots affected the Colonial troops.

When students use an Idea Incubator to recognize their natural interests and find ways to discuss a whole-class topic through that lens, they’ll be more invested in the process and their final piece will burst with passion and personality. But for this tool to work, students need to start working on it now. Why not give it a try?

For more suggestions to make the process of teaching informational writing more authentic, more like what professional writers do and how they approach their work, check Nonfiction Writers Dig Deep, an anthology with essays by 50 of today's leading authors of nonfiction books for children.


A School-wide Heritage Timeline: Nonfiction Learning Fills the Hallway by Paula Januzzi-Godfrey

Last spring, I saw images of the incredible heritage timeline school librarian Paula Januzzi-Godfrey had facilitated at her school on Facebook and wanted to know more. I reached out to Paula, and over the summer, she wrote this wonderful description of how it began and developed over time. Thank you, Paula! Your students are SO lucky to have you.

Last September, I began a new job as an elementary librarian at a school that serves predominantly Black and Brown children that represent a variety of cultures and countries of origin. One of my goals was to find meaningful ways to celebrate heritage months. I saw this as a perfect way to generate school-wide enthusiasm about our nonfiction book collections and the many ways we can learn about people, places, history, cultures, and ourselves through nonfiction literacy instruction.


Inspiration for the heritage timeline project developed organically, beginning as I was teaching a lesson in January. I had pulled out some of my favorite books about Martin Luther King, Jr. to share with students. I began each lesson by showing a photo of MLK, Jr. and asking if anyone recognized him.

The majority of the students were not sure, and some identified him as another person, such as LeBron James and Barack Obama. This led to rich, informative discussions about when and why the civil rights movement began, Black Lives Matter, and why we celebrate certain people on certain days.

I began to see that putting people, places, and events in historical context would help student understanding tremendously. Most importantly, I wanted the children to realize that what they were learning about the past was relevant to their lives now. I knew that visual teaching tools like timelines, maps, and photos could play a powerful role in expanding their knowledge.


Using a document camera, I began sharing timelines from a variety of nonfiction books. One of my favorites is The Doctor with an Eye for Eyes: The Story of Patricia Bath by Julia Finley Mosca. I used maps and photos to show where events on the timelines occurred, and I connected people and events that had happened across our country or world. These visuals helped students put everything into perspective.

Next, I told students what year I was born and what was happening in history when I was their age, and what was happening when their parents and grandparents were their age. Student engagement was high, and they were asking thought-provoking questions.

As I thought about building on this momentum in a way that made what they were learning interactive, I began to envision a life-size heritage timeline in the main hallway of the school. It would consist of content created by students, teachers, and staff—the entire school community.


So I used black construction paper secured with putty (so that I could remove it later without leaving any marks on the walls) to layout a timeline that began in 1619 and ended in 2022. I provided some templates and invited students and teachers to draw or write about a person or event that we had discussed. Over time, more and more students and teachers added pieces to the timeline.

There was representation of Black artists, politicians, athletes, authors, poets, activists, musicians and more. All genders and people with many shades of black and brown skin tones covered the walls as you entered the school.

One of our guest speakers was a city councilman who could be found in a photo on our timeline with his wife, as local business owners.

I began to notice teachers and students stopping in the hallway to read items on the timeline, and I received feedback about how much our students and staff were enjoying watching the unfolding of the timeline display. Most importantly to me, I heard and saw that students and teachers were seeing themselves reflected in the photos on the timeline.



At the end of the month, I placed two mirrors under the year 2022 along with the words “World Changer”. Our students are our future world changers, so I wanted them to see themselves on the timeline.


The timeline was so well received that staff members asked if it could be kept on display beyond February. That inspired me to not only keep it up in the hallway, but to encourage the school community to keep adding to it for Women's History Month, Poetry Month and Asian Pacific Month. I’m hoping we’ll keep adding to the timeline this year, starting with materials related to Hispanic Heritage month.

Paula Januzzi-Godfrey began her career 37 years ago as a high school special ed teacher. She then taught grades 4-5, became a literacy coach, and currently serves as an elementary school librarian at Glenn Elementary School in Durham, North Carolina. In 1998, she founded and directed a children’s museum in Durham, NC. She has also served as a board member for nonprofit organizations that advocate for children, families, and education.

5 Bedtime Books for Curious Kids

Kids love nonfiction! Studies show that 40 percent of elementary-aged children prefer fact-based books and another 30 percent enjoy fiction and nonfiction equally. So doesn’t it make sense to share these titles with young readers at home as well as at school? 

Here are five fantastic nature-themed nonfiction picture books that are perfect for exploring as a family before kids drift off to sleep.


13 Ways to Eat a Fly by Sue Heavenrich and David Clark



Birds of a Feather Bowerbirds and Me by Susan L. Roth

 

Crossings: Extraordinary Structures for Extraordinary Animals by Katy S. Duffield and Mike Orodan

Tree Hole Homes by Melissa Stewart and Amy Hevron

What’s in Your Pocket: Collecting Nature’s Treasures by Heather L. Montgomery and Maribel LeChuga

A Deep Dive into Nonfiction by Kim Haines

After reading school librarian Meredith Inkeles’s blog post about students writing book reviews for nonfiction books, fourth grade teacher Kim Haines was inspired to combine that lesson with a variety of other activities that I’ve share on this blog, on my website, and in 5 Kinds of Nonfiction: Enriching Reading and Writing Instruction with Children’s Books to create a rich, multi-faceted nonfiction exploration for her students.

Thank you for sharing your experience here, Kim. I hope it inspires other educators.


I'm a long-time reader of Melissa’s blog, so her ideas and resources have been simmering in my brain, apparently waiting for just this catalyst. I quickly gathered mentor texts and launched our study with my fourth graders.


We started by talking about text features, with my students sharing all their prior knowledge. I recorded their responses on an anchor chart, making corrections or clarifications if needed. This was a great way to assess what they already knew and create an ongoing resource for our unit. Then students conducted text feature scavenger hunts with a partner and quickly discovered firsthand that not all nonfiction books contain every single feature.

 


Next we compared narrative and expository writing styles. I read two different books about similar topics to illustrate the similarities and differences. Building off our first scavenger hunt, I created a new worksheet that included a list of text features plus questions related to this new element: Is it narrative or expository? How do you know? What evidence do you see? I listened to great conversations between students, especially when partners disagreed at first.


Then we shifted gears to study rich language and writer’s voice. When introducing rich language, I wrote an excerpt from one of the mentor texts on an anchor chart and we looked for examples together, marking up the excerpt. In pairs, students read excerpts from different books to examine the writing. Then I provided typed versions of these excerpts so students could annotate the text with colored pencils, as described here.  


Using a similar technique, we looked at printed excerpts to evaluate writer’s voice. Then we used a Venn Diagram to compare the two different books. I created a cumulative worksheet, so that pairs of students could repeat the series of activities on their own—evaluating text features, writing style, rich language, and voice. this gave students an opportunity to refine their understanding.


Text structure was our last element to tackle. Using an anchor chart describing the five major structures, we worked together to determine the structure of various books we had read. Then students went on another scavenger hunt to assess the text structures of additional books. We did this for three class periods, so they had plenty of time to look at a wide variety of books. 


During these activities, I changed partners frequently to build opportunities for students to work with different people and see a wide variety of strengths in their classmates. Additional practice looking for all of these elements came through our daily picture book reading where we would notice examples of everything we had learned. We were immersed in looking at nonfiction books!


When it came time to launch the book review portion of the unit, I selected additional books from the library. I wanted students to apply their learning to a book they hadn’t already examined with a partner, so having more titles bolstered both the available choices and ensured that each student would get a fresh book.

 

As students read, they wrote observations using a note catcher that incorporated all of our studied elements. In the note-catcher, I included other questions that would help them write their reviews: questions about intended audience and the most interesting information they learned. I also encouraged them to play with two or three different leads for their review. 



Finally, it was time to write the full reviews. Students used checklists to make sure their paragraph contained all of the required information and met certain writing expectations.


Because their writing was done digitally, it was easy to include a book cover thumbnail and print out their finished products. I displayed their reviews with the actual books. 



Here are a few excerpts from student reviews:


“I think this book is targeted to girls under the age of 18, because the purpose of the book is to inspire girls to fight for what they want.” (She Persistedby Chelsea Clinton and Alexandra Boiger)



"It is surprising, I know, but this book tells you how when animals die, tiny bacteria immediately start chomping at the dead animal’s body. Wow!” (Dining with Dinosaurs by Hannah Bonner)


“With a lyrical voice this book has a soothing and wondrous feel to it.” (The Wisdom of Trees by Lita Judge)

I loved this project. I’m already thinking about changes to make next year. For example, I want to move this unit to the fall so that when we finish we can participate in the Sibert Smackdown. Having been immersed in nonfiction study, students will be ready to evaluate books with a critical eye. I’ll be curious to see if this study has an impact on their independent reading choices for the remainder of the year. 

 

Kim Haines has been involved with teaching and coaching for more than 30 years. She currently teaches 4th grade Language Arts at Bixby School in Boulder, Colorado. She loves sharing the magic of books and reading with her students and learning alongside them. You can follow her on Twitter @KimHaines10 or reach her at kimh@bixbyschool.org.

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Melissa's Award Winners

Why Are Animals Blue?

2009 SOCIETY OF SCHOOL LIBRARIANS INTERNATIONAL HONOR BOOK AWARD IN SCIENCE

Why Are Animals Blue?

Why Are Animals Blue?

An NSTA-CBS OUTSTANDING SCIENCE TRADE BOOKS FOR STUDENTS K-12 1997 2010 Selection

Why Are Animals Blue?