Judith Jango-Cohen is the author of lively and lyrical books exploring topics from bees, to bionics, to Ben Franklin. Since the publication of Judith’s first book, Digging Armadillos, (Lerner, 1999) she has gone on to write thirty-six nonfiction titles for young readers in kindergarten through high school. She is also a journalist and writes news stories for Scholastic’s science magazines. The high quality of her writing has received recognition from the IRA/CBC with a Children’s Choices award for Real-Life Sea Monsters and by the NCSS/CBC for Chinese New Year, as a Notable Social Studies Trade Book. Titles have also been named as Best Children’s Books of the Year by the Children’s Book Committee at Bank Street College and have been recommended by the National Science Teachers Association.
Judith’s career began in the classroom after earning a degree in Biology. For nine years she used innovative techniques to excite children about learning and to help them develop critical and creative thinking skills. Judith’s talent for engaging children carried over into the literary world when she began writing. The inspiration for much of her work springs from her experiences as a naturalist and photographer while exploring swamps, canyons, deserts, and glaciers, and observing their myriad inhabitants.
Judith’s school and library programs weave together her three passions and areas of expertise: teaching, writing, and nature exploration. During her visits students participate in fast-paced, interactive programs that incorporate a multi-sensory approach. The presentations include activities involving role-play, music, movement, sound effects, photos, and puppets. Children, teachers, and parents have enthuisiastically embraced Judith’s programs, inviting her back year after year. Not only are students riveted, they are discovering ways to improve their writing in the context of Science and Social Studies. After the visit Judith distributes materials to teachers to reinforce the concepts she presented.
Real-Life Sea Monsters
The first beautifully illustrated page sets the stage: Sailors gathered around a driftwood fire on the beach are telling strange tales about mysterious, terrifying creatures that live in the sea. Among these are the Kraken, a giant creature with glowing eyes and tremendous tentacles that can drag ships under water; mermaids that make their harps out of drowned men’s bones; and a sea serpent that can emerge from the waves to kill an unwitting sailor. Today, scientists think they have identified the origins of these mysteries. The Kraken is probably the giant squid, an elusive creature that scientists know little about. The mermaids, which even Columbus reported seeing, could be the gentle manatees, air-breathing mammals who surface in tropical waters to breathe. The sea serpent? It could be an oar fish, whose silvery, snake-like body with blue head and red spines can grow to fifty feet–the same creature one observer described as the most beautiful creature he had ever seen. This book, part of the “On My Own Science” series, does a fine job of informing young readers while keeping the sense of awe and mystery that surround such creatures. The author points out that not all ocean mysteries have been solved, especially since scientists may discover more than a hundred new creatures every year. With its lovely, ethereal illustrations and lively text, this book should both spark the readers’ imaginations and encourage them to want to know more. The book includes a glossary, a page of fun facts, a selected bibliography, and lists of resources for further reading and online research. 2008, Lerner Publishing Group, $25.26. Ages 8 to 12. Reviewer: Judy Crowder (Children’s Literature).
Let’s Look at Iguanas
As a classroom teacher, I was impressed with many aspects of this book, which is perfect for research reports because it has beautiful photographs and interesting morsels of information. The graphic design of the contents page, on which the page numbers are in bubbles, is interesting and inviting. The map and diagram were excellent ideas and are perfect for this text, and the glossary, with challenging vocabulary words and easy-to-understand definitions, was an excellent and crucial addition. Text boxes are highlighted with a different font and print color, and there are many suggestions for further reading. This book would be great for a classroom read-aloud. The colorful photographs, entertaining information, and print size allow it to be used in both small- and large-group settings. The text is interactive, asking readers questions throughout. Kids will love the roadrunner eating the iguana and the iguana devouring a cactus. It’s a perfect book for group discussions because there are questions throughout. The lightning bolt at the top of a page warns readers that a new idea will be discussed. In summary, this book has many excellent uses–as an easy read for a child, a great read-aloud for teachers to supplement a unit of study, an entertaining book to read independently, and/or a useful book for a research report for an early childhood reader. Grades K-2. 2009, Lerner Publications, 32p, $25.26. Ages 5 to 8. Reviewer: Tracy Alley (National Science Teachers Association (NSTA)).
Ben Franklin’s Big Shock
Franklin had been studying electricity for some time by 1752. He could create electricity and store it in a glass-and-metal Leyden jar. He had done experiments to discover which materials were good conductors of electricity (metal and water) and which ones would slow or block the current (glass, silk, feathers). He was convinced that lightening was electricity and he was trying to figure out a way to prove his theory. He decided to make a kite of silk and cedar wood. During the next storm, he and his twenty-one-year-old son took the kite and a key and ran to a nearby barn. They got the kite into the air and then felt the metal key. At first they were disappointed. Then they felt the weak electrical shock. Franklin was elated. He immediately constructed a lightening rod for his own home and after proving its worth there, he made rods for many other buildings in Philadelphia. Colorful pictures depict Franklin as an active older man with gray hair and spectacles. A glossary, a list of suggestions for further reading, and some recommended web sites will enable young researchers to find further information. A nice addition for primary school units on electricity and how it works. This is part of the “On My Own Science” series. 2006, Millbrook Press, $23.93. Ages 6 to 10. Reviewer: Phyllis Kennemer, Ph.D. (Children’s Literature).
As a former teacher, Judith loves visiting classrooms and meeting children and teachers. During her programs, she shares her adventures as a naturalist, writer, and photographer. She helps students with the exciting process of expressing themselves through poems and stories. She also works with adults, giving writing workshops in her home and teaching at conferences and for adult education programs.
- Gators, Octopi, and Grizzlies, Oh My!: Researching and taking photographs for her 41 nonfiction books has been an adventure. Through stories, games, puppets, music, and photos, participants will relive her humorous and harrowing experiences–all the while learning about animal behavior and biology. They will even learn how a “mystery animal” saved her life. This science program also delves into researching and revision from both a writer’s and an illustrator’s perspective and includes descriptive and lyrical writing activities. Follow-up writing sheets with exercises and activities will be given. (Grades K-Adult) Any size group.
- Exciting Writing: Through games, music, puppets, and activities, children will analyze the writing process. They will sharpen their skills in building paragraphs with topic sentences and strong conclusions. They will also learn the steps to improving their work during revision. First they will take out their paint brushes to create pictures using vibrant words and similes. Then, during the “Revision Decision” game, students will take batons in hand to bring music to their writing through the use of alliteration. Follow-up sheets for students and teachers will be given. (Grades 2-6) Groups of up to 60. Also available as a multi-day residency.
- Happy (Chinese) New Year! This program introduces children to the Chinese festival celebrated with family, food, flowers, and fireworks. Through puppets, props, a dragon parade, and the singing of a New Year song in Chinese, students will learn about lucky money, the Chinese Zodiac, the Door Gods, and special poems called spring couplets. The program is an accompaniment to the book, Chinese New Year (Carolrhoda, 2005) which was named a Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People. (Grades K-5) Groups of up to 60.
- Images of Immigrants: Between the late 1800s and early 1900s, millions of immigrants journeyed to America. Why did they come? What was their journey like? What did they experience at Ellis Island–the Isle of Hope and Isle of Tears? Through costumes, games, music, photos, and props children will experience the heartrending and heartwarming stories of these brave and determined people–some of whom came to America with only faith, hope, and a story. The program accompanies the book, Ellis Island (Scholastic, 2005). (Grades 1-6) Groups of up to 60
- $930 for three programs (includes three gift books)
- $650 for two programs (includes two gift books)
- $345 for one program (includes one gift book)
Additional fees for locations farther than 40 miles from Burlington, Massachusetts.
To learn more about Judith Jango-Cohen and her publications please visit www.jangocohen.com.