Tag Archives: nonfiction

Phineas Gage: A Gruesome but True Story About Brain Science by Jon Fleischman

27 Apr

Phineas Gage is a biographical account  of  a man that accidentally lodges an iron rod into his head from an ill-fated dynamite accident. What is most remarkable about this story is that moments after this life altering event happens Phineas Gage is recounted as telling the story of what happened to himself with the iron rod still lodged in his head! Bystanders were quite perplexed. Fleischman does an effective job in narrative style revealing the events surrounding Gage’s accident using diagrams, charts and photographs chronicling his Gage’s accounts and the scientific community’s explanations. Additionally, Fleischman relates Phineas Gage’s story to the history of brain science and the amazing insight that Phineas Gage’s happening was able to provide to the scientific community and further the understanding of the brain and its processes.

This story is not for students that are squeamish. Fleischman provides vivid descriptions of this horrific event as well as accurate descriptions of the brain and its processes. This book comes highly recommended, especially for those students interested in how the brain works. This book should be considered for any middle school or high school library and is sure to be of great interest to students by making the impossible seem possible.


Holy cow! This guy got an iron rod lodged in his head and was still standing and talking after. Weird. Do I really need to say more? The human brain is an amazing thing and well…brains in general are just pretty awesome. Bird brains, fish brains…you name the brain and it is pure awesomeness! My husband had an uncle in Colombia that had a room full of preserved biological items. Yes, he was a doctor, but that is kind of creepy in a Dr. Jekyll and Hyde kind of way.

Suggested Library Activity:

School librarians can use this book to impress upon students the true joys of nonfiction. This book is an excellent book to use as a way of introducing nonfiction and nonfiction features to students. Using multiple copies of the book have students break out in to groups and with stickies identify and label nonfiction features such as captions, charts, sources, etc.

Bibliographic Citation:

Fleischman, J. (2002). Phineas Gage: A gruesome but true story about brain science. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Additional Book Review:

Gr 5-8 –Beginning with a medical miracle, and ending in mystery, this case study of a railroad worker who not only survived having an iron rod blast through his head, but also went on to lead a (more or less) normal life, serves as a rousing reminder that there is much about the brain that we do not know. The photos and computer-generated reconstructions are as striking (so to speak) as the story.

Peter, J. (2003, May 1). What’s the go of that? Message posted to



What the World Eats by Faith D’Aluisio

8 Apr

A book that is sure to inform

Let’s face it, nonfiction is often just not that appealing for young readers. D’Aluisio’s book begins to break this outdated prejudice by writing a book that is informative, interesting and fun. The layout of the book has a logical progression with photographs of families from around the world. Included in the photographs are each family’s weekly food items. Readers learn about the different diets from around the world, different cultures and facts about food.

One notable feature is the Area in Square Miles chart (p. 31) comparing size of countries around the world to the United States. Children often have difficulty with understanding size of countries, but by comparing the countries with known states, readers gain insight in to the true size of countries throughout the world. The author touches upon the obesity epidemic in the United States by comparing the number of obese people in the United States with Chad. The visual aid is  quite shocking showing the degree to which Americans living in the United States are obese. Young readers are sure to love this book and it will certainly elicit more questions from readers. This is an essential addition to any library’s nonfiction collection.


After borrowing this book from the public library, I sat mesmerized eating up every page (pun intended). The design of the book beckons readers and the layout is exceptional.  It saddens me that the United States has such an “issue” with food. I say “issue” because I think we are taught from a young age to relate food to emotion. I am generalizing, but in other countries where food is scarce, people eat to live, not eat to fill a void. I especially loved how the charts emphasized the obesity epidemic in the United States. This book wants to be taken home, read and discussed. Who knows, maybe it will even be a good family discussion starter about all kinds of topics like nutrition, culture and money.

Suggested Library Activity:

This book is an excellent resource and can be used in a number of ways. This book can be used as a bridge to world geography and can also be used to introduce the nonfiction and nonfiction features such as captions, headings, charts, etc. Students can use this book to create an informational report using the myriad of Web 2.o tools available.

Bibliographic Citation:

D’Aluisio, F. (2008). What the world eats. Tricycle Press. Berkeley.

Additional Book Review:

Gr 6 Up–This adaptation of the adult book Hungry Planet takes readers on an intimate, cross-cultural journey that focuses on the typical food choices of families in 21 countries. Splendidly illustrated with crisp color photographs of proudly displayed fare and filled with thought-provoking facts, this work is an eye-opener to savor.

Jones, T. (2008, December 1).School Library Journal’s Best Books 2008. What the world eats [Review of the book What the World Eats]. School Library Journal online. Message posted to http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/article/CA6617203.html#Nonfiction