Picture of Melissa Stewart

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: 978-0-7660-3677-2
Binding: Library Ed.
List Price: $22.60
Discount Price: $16.95

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

Buying Options

ISBN: 978-0-7660-3889-9
Binding: Library Ed.
List Price: $22.60
Discount Price: $16.95

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: 978-0-7660-3999-5
Binding: Library Ed.
List Price: $22.60
Discount Price: $16.95

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

Buying Options

ISBN: 978-0-7660-3678-9
Binding: Library Ed.
List Price: $22.60
Discount Price: $16.95

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

Buying Options

ISBN: 978-0-7660-3966-7
Binding: Library Ed.
List Price: $25.27
Discount Price: $18.95

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

Buying Options

ISBN: 978-0-7660-3968-1
Binding: Library Ed.
List Price: $25.27
Discount Price: $18.95

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Melissa's Latest Blog Entries

5 Faves: Expository Nonfiction Recommended by Lesley Burnap

This year I’ll be working to increase the academic independence of the  young dreamers, thinkers, problem-solvers, and explorers in my classroom. The nonfiction books and series listed below will help support these budding independent readers.

The World of Weird Animals series by Jess Keating (Knopf)
Pink is for Blobfish: Discovering the World’s Perfectly Pink Animals (2016) and What Makes a Monster? Discovering the World’s Scariest Creatures (2017) reel the reader in with big, bold photographs on the left-hand side of each double-page spread.  The right-hand side gives us some fascinating facts about the featured creature, including a sidebar with species name, habitat, diet, and more. Bold words in the text are defined in the glossary. Clever cartoons illustrate a particular fact from the page. Concise and engaging, readers can linger over their favorite creatures or continue on to the next. I look forward to the next book in this series!

Tortoises and Turtlesby Sally Morgan (QEB Publishing, 2007)
This book is part of the Animal Lives series, which also includes such titles as Alligators and Crocodiles, Bears, Bees and Wasps, and Eagles. Photographs dominate the text here, connecting the pictures to the information shared with the reader. Bright bubbles pop with a “Tortoise and turtle fact” on almost every double-page spread. Headings, subheadings, captions, bold words, glossary, and index help readers navigate through the informational text. While most readers will want to read this book cover to cover, each heading can be used as a place to stop and pick up the book another day. I need to purchase more of these titles for the classroom library.

Zoom in on Insects series by Melissa Stewart (Enslow, 2014)
This new-to-me series, which I found in my local library, highlights several insects, including bees, dragonflies, ladybugs and lightning bugs. Limited text on each page allows a child to explore the close-up photos of a given feature (eyes, legs, etc.). Topic-specific vocabulary is explained in the book’s front matter, before the reader encounters it. A full-page photo of the insect is labeled to show each important body part. At the end of the text, the life cycle of the insect is represented through photographs and labels. Even readers who are just beginning to read more independently will feel successful navigating this text. I’ll be sure to bring these into the class for students who have an interest in insects!

Sea Turtles by Gail Gibbons (Holiday House, 1995)
This is just one of the many survey books by this author/illustrator that I’ve collected throughout my teaching career. Her titles cover a vast array of topics, including animals, holidays, modes of transportation, the solar system and much more. Within Gibbons’ books, the definitions of topic-specific vocabulary is embedded within the text or among the illustrations. Unlike many nonfiction titles, photographs give way to illustrations colored with pencil and/or watercolor paints. Developing readers will find pronunciation guides within the text for more difficult words. Additional information, often accompanied by drawings, can be found in the back.

Children are all about superlatives: fastest, fiercest, toughest, indeed! The reader does not need to read this text sequentially but can move around as the mood strikes. At 200-plus pages, this volume is unlike the others in my list (most of which are around 32 pages), but it’s not intimidating, perhaps due to the nature of the eye-catching paper collage art and fun infographics. The book’s design guides the reader through the content, which includes clear headings (family, predators, senses, defenses, etc.), a brief introductory paragraph, and specific animal information that highlights the trait or topic being discussed. Due to some of the topic-specific vocabulary, some readers may need more teacher assistance with this book than with other texts listed here. This is definitely a book that I’ll need to share with my young readers.

Lesley Burnap is a third grade teacher who loves nothing more than to hang out with her dog and read. A happy member of NCTE, MRA, and the Nerdy Book Club, she has worked in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts for 27 years. (Phew!) You can follow her on Twitter @LBurnap90.

In the Classroom: What a Great Idea!


Don’t you just love this photo?

Last spring, Fran Wilson (@mrswilsons2nd), a second grade teacher in Ohio, and her teaching partner Nicole Prater shared eight of my books with their students. The books had a range of text structures and features.

After the class discussed the content of a book, Fran and Nicole asked the children: “What do you notice about the writing craft the author, Melissa Stewart, used in a book?”

In some cases, this led to the class re-reading the book under a document camera. The teachers recorded the students’ observations. For example, in When Rain Falls, they noticed:
--italic type is used to label the habitats,
--the text was written as a journey,
--repetition was used throughout the book. 

When a child spontaneously announced that they could write a book like When Rain Falls, the whole class got excited. Fran seized the opportunity. She invited students to brainstorm new ideas for books with the same structure and writing crafts as the books they had explored. The children had lots of great ideas, including:

When Night Comes
When Spring Comes
When Leaves Fall
When the Sun Comes Up
No Bees, No Flowers
No Squirrels, No Oak Trees
Close Up on Monarchs

Each student chose a topic and began writing. During this process, they viewed the video mini-lessons on my website. According to Fran, this made the children “feel very connected to you and that they themselves were real writers too.”

When the drafts were complete, the children asked to type their manuscripts using google docs.  They decided to add real photos instead of drawing illustrations. This led to teach a lesson on how to search for photos, insert them, and include credit for the source of the photos.  

But the project didn’t stop there.

This weekend the Cincinnati (Ohio) Nature Center will feature the students’ books at their Great Outdoor Weekend event. If you live in the area, you may want to stop by and see their great work.

And if you don’t live nearby, look for the students’ writing samples and learn more about this great project in the “From a Child’s Point of View” column in an upcoming issue of the International Literacy Association’s Dragon Lode journal. You may want to give this project a try at your school.

Wait, that’s Not Broccoli. It’s Chocolate Cake! Part 2

Last week I shared two academic articles with evidence that nonfiction in general and expository nonfiction in particular is more popular among primary students than most of us might think. Simply put, what the children’s literature community calls broccoli, many kids call chocolate cake.

Today I’m back with another study. It’s similar to the one I was interested in conducting myself (though the boy vs. girl angle wasn’t on my radar), but thanks to Ray Doiron, I don’t have to.

Doiron, Ray. “Boy Books, Girl Books: Should We Re-Organize Our School Library Collections?” Teacher Librarian. 2003, p. 14-16.

In a previous study, Doiron had found that students at his elementary school checked out twice as much nonfiction as fiction. For this study, he focused on just the books students were choosing to read. To do this, he eliminated data for books being checked out for school assignments.

Over 3 years, Doiron collected data for 10,000 library transactions among students in grades 1-6 and found that students checked out about 60% fiction and 40% nonfiction for pleasure reading. Boys chose nonfiction more than twice as often as girls.

In last week’s post, I asserted that the children’s literature community has a bias against expository nonfiction because people who choose jobs as editors, librarians, literacy educators, etc. connect more strongly with stories and storytelling than the general population, and I still believe that’s true. However, the results from this study as well as the studies I highlighted last week indicate that boys have a stronger affinity for nonfiction, especially expository nonfiction, than girls. Is this due to societal influences rather than an innate preference? Maybe, but that’s a topic for another day.

Here’s what I want to focus on right now: Since the children’s literature community is overwhelmingly female, I suspect that gender may be a contributing factor to the bias against expository nonfiction.

Once again, I encourage you to get the full article and read it. I’ll be sharing more research next week.

5 Faves: Expository Nonfiction Recommended by Jenny Lussier

Animals by the Numbers: A Book of Infographics by Steve Jenkins (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016)
My students could not stop looking at this one. The infographics are fascinating and when you add Jenkins' unique artwork, it makes for a very special book. We learned about what animals really are dangerous (not what we thought) and that there are a LOT of insects in this world. Really I could have picked anything by Jenkins. His books continue to be some of the most popular each year. 

Frogsby Nic Bishop (Scholastic, 2008)
Nic Bishop's book are extraordinary. My students and I cannot get enough of them because his photography is stunning. Coupling the amazing photos with interesting facts, these books are some of my favorites for getting kids to wonder and ask questions! One of my favorite pictures has a frog with a mysterious item coming out of his mouth. Many kids thought it was a tooth, but no, it belonged to a critter!


Plants Can't Sit Still by Rebecca Hirsch (Millbrook Press, 2016)
I love the slightly different take the author has on plants. When I first saw it, the book really connected with me because I had been fascinated (while mowing the lawn) by weeds that burst when you touched them and their seeds went EVERYWHERE! Amazing pictures too!

Toilet: How It Works by David Macaulay (David Macaulay Studio/Macmillan, 2013)
If you have kids who just have to know how things work, here you go. Castles, jet planes, toilets—all fascinating! I love Macaulay's books because they are illustrated, which is a little different. This new series is for a younger age level than Macaulay's previous titles, which I appreciate. 

Thunderbirds: Nature's Flying Predators by Jim Arnosky (Sterling, 2011)
Jim Arnosky continues to amaze me with his attention to detail and gorgeous illustrations. He packs so much information into this book and, of course, readers love the pages that open up to really give a sense of how big the predators are. 

Jenny Lussier is a teacher librarian for grades PreK-4 and formerly a fifth/sixth grade teacher in Regional School District 13 in Durham & Middlefield, CT. She has a passion for research, children’s literature, and technology and loves to share and learn with kids and adults! You can find her hiking, biking, gardening, and of course sharing favorite books wherever she goes.

In the Classroom: Reading Nonfiction Picture Books Aloud

Reading nonfiction picture books aloud can be tricky because they often contain significantly more words than fiction picture books. And even if the art is enticing and the writing is engaging and the information is fascinating, a picture book read aloud for K-2 shouldn’t last too long.

When I plan a nonfiction read aloud, I ask myself a lot of questions. What parts of the book should I highlight? Should I skip over anything? Would additional visuals or props improve the audience’s experience? Would using a document camera help? Sometimes I make the right decisions on the first try. But other times, the kids surprise me, and I make adjustments as I go along.

For Can an Aardvark Bark?, I thought K-2 students would be excited to make the animal sounds throughout the book’s main text. But I worried that reading the spreads that featured secondary text about four animal examples might be too much. I considered reading just the main text and pointing out the four exemplar animals shown, but that would mean skipping over a lot of cool information.
 
When I asked author Josh Funk (@joshfunkbooks) for advice, he suggested that I read just one or two of the examples.

“And kids can choose the examples,” I said, piggybacking on his idea. I was confident that this combination of strategies—making animal sounds and choosing animal examples—would make for a great read aloud. But I was wrong.

It turns out the K-2 students weren’t as enthusiastic about making the animal sounds as I expected. What captivated them was the information. They stayed quiet so they wouldn’t miss a thing.

Luckily, my other strategy—letting students choose the animal examples—was a huge hit. On pages where the vote was close, I read the two top choices, and everyone was happy.

What was my take away from this experience? I was delighted to discover that the thing kids liked most about the book—the fascinating information about how and why animals communicate—was the same thing that inspired me to write it in the first place. What could be better than that?
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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?