Life in the Boreal Forest by Brenda Z. Guiberson

boreal-forestCindy: Biome research never looked so gorgeous as it does in Life in the Boreal Forest (Henry Holt, 2009). My sixth graders know this biome as the “tiaga” but Guiberson references that alternate name for this important ecosystem. The boreal forest covers most of the Northern Hemisphere and shelters so many creatures, many of which are endangered due to human intervention. The facts are delivered in such an engaging way that students will be reading with gaping mouths, and quoting to each other while pointing at the paintings and finding all the animals hidden in the scenes.

“Grrowll! The bear needs a five-inch layer of body fat to survive a long winter sleep. In one frenzied day he gobbles 70,000 berries. His droppings spread seeds that grown into new bushes.”

The bogs soak up water that the permafrost layers can’t absorb; spagnum moss holds up to twenty times its weight, preventing flooding. In this area grow pitcher plants that will fascinate young readers:

“In this chilly, squishy soil, there are swarms of mosquitoes and flies but not much food for plants. so the pitcher plant makes sweet nectar that attracts a fly. Trapped by stiff hairs, the fly slips into the pool at the bottom and joins a pile of ants, grasshoppers, mosquitoes, and a frog that are being slowly digested by this carnivorous plant.”

In these pages are numerous intriguing examples of the interconnectedness of living things that deliver a subtle, but powerful message about our role as a member of this circle of life. Many young children may never walk in a temperate forest let alone a boreal forest so far north, but after reading this book they should be prompted to keep their eyes open for wildlife wherever they walk.nonfiction_monday

Lynn: I saw this wonderful book at the ALA Annual Conference this summer and fell in love with it on sight. The cover commands attention, demanding readers to open the book immediately. The promise of the cover is carried through inside, even to the end papers. The illustrations are exquisitely beautiful, sweeping across three quarters of each two-page spread with a tall panel providing the text. We looked through the whole book first, as it was impossible to resist turning the pages to see what came next. Then we settled in to read the text and look for all the wonderful details in each illustration. Look especially for the hare in many of the pages and the clouds of intriquitely drawn mosquitoes as one season yields to the next. This is a book that is a pleasure to read aloud too as the text is lively and fills the senses as well as imparting important information. Our focus group was captivated with this book but it could be used in so many ways and by all ages. A helpful page of online resources is provided and a teacher’s guide is available. Here’s another book that has me yearning to acquire the stunning original art! Oy vey – I need to raise my rates for this blog!



About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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