Monday, March 31, 2008

The Brook Book - Nonfiction Monday

The Brook Book: exploring the smallest streams
Jim Aronsky
Dutton Children’s Books 2008

Before I left for vacation, I stopped by my favorite children’s bookstore, Cover to Cover. Sally, the owner, helped me locate several new fiction and nonfiction books for my classroom. I was specifically looking for nonfiction that was well written, since we will soon be writing nonfiction in class, and I wanted good models of nonfiction text. The Brook Book was one of those great new finds.

From the moment I saw the front cover of The Brook Book, I was intrigued. I have always lived near a stream or a creek. Some of my fondest childhood memories involve wading in streams, trying to catch insects or frogs there, or collecting rocks and assorted wildflowers growing on the banks of the stream. Therefore, I loved that Aronsky tapped into this topic that is so accessible to many children, but that maybe goes unnoticed.

The book speaks directly to the reader – very kid-friendly. The pronoun “you” is used frequently. This technique really helps the readers feel connected to the text. Throughout the book, there are many ways listed to interact with a brook: directions for safety when exploring a brook, suggestions for how to collect things at a brook, a how-to on sketching wildflowers, bird watching at the brook, looking at animal tracks, and directions on the best way to catch fish. It made me yearn for warmer weather so I could go explore the brook near our house! Who knew so much could happen at a brook?!

On a first read, my fifth graders might feel that this book is too young for them, but I loved that a topic like a brook seems so simple, but is really quite multi-layered. I think with multiple reads, each student would be able to find an entry point that interests them.

In addition, this book is well organized, and would be an excellent mentor text that would help students write good, solid literary nonfiction. It contains many nonfiction characteristics – diagrams and labels, life cycles, and section headings, just to name a few. Those nonfiction characteristics are not overwhelming, as they can be in some texts. They are only used as it might advance the understanding of the text. As a mentor text, we will also have a huge conversation about the “voice” of the book, and how it draws the reader into the text.

There is an author’s note to teachers at the end. Aronsky includes some great suggestions for how to use the brook nearest your school for further educational purposes. Just as with students, there are many different entry points for educators. On the final page, he also includes the titles of “more books for brook explorers and naturalists”.

The Brook Book is an excellent addition to my nonfiction collection. When I read it, I was amazed at how rich with life a stream can be! Now, I am hoping that my students can disconnect from their electronic gadgets and extracurricular activities long enough to experience the wonder I did as a child, exploring the creeks and streams around me!

The Nonfiction Monday roundup is at Picture Book of the Day.


  1. After reading your review, I think I'm going to have to buy this book! I've had my eye on it, and asked the library to buy it. But. Looks like we NEED to have it! I am a HUGE creek, brook, and stream fan (who isn't?) and grew up catching tadpoles in the ditch/creek across the street from my house.

    Thanks for the review. I'm there.

  2. We have this book on our book buying list. I'm glad to see you review it!