I could say, “here’s an informational book that will tickle your funny bone” or  “it’s so good it’s scary”, but Bones: Skeletons and How They Work by Steve Jenkins needs no rib-tickling tricks to get kids’ attention. For Halloween or health units, this book is thoroughly engaging.  Using cut paper, Jenkins makes incredible illustrations of all kinds of bones to show how structure aids function. Some of the bones are shown actual size, so it’s easy to compare a human skull to that of a baboon, a dog, a parrot, or an armadillo. Some bones are too large to show in actual size, so Jenkins makes the bones to scale. Kids can compare an adult human’s foot bones to the fossil foot bones of a Tyrannosaurus rex!  Not only is this book visually a treat, it’s chock-full of “who knew?” facts that kids love: “a giraffe’s neck is as long as a man is tall, but giraffes and humans have the same number of neck bones: seven.”

I love sharing informational books like this with students. With Steve Jenkins’ books, I’m squeezing in the Common Core State Standards of Range of Reading and Key Ideas and Details, I can work interesting books into math and science units, I’m immersing my students in nonfiction, and all the while the kids think they’re just enjoying a good book. Because  most of Jenkins’ illustrations are actual size or to scale, you can use Bones: Skeletons and How They Work in a measurement lesson. Kids can estimate how long a bone is and measure it with a ruler. For higher level math, have students measure the to-scale illustrations and multiply to get actual-size measurements.

If you read this book with students around Halloween, it can be a springboard to make some spooky decorations. At enchantedlearning.com, you can print off a human skeleton template for students to cut out and put together with brads to see how all our bones fit. Hang up the skeletons and your decorations are not only scary, they are scientific! For a treat that’s not loaded with sugar, try serving “Bones Dipped in Blood” (pull breadstick dough into bone shapes, bake, and serve with pizza sauce.) To incorporate a bit of technology and to rock it old school, go to YouTube and treat your students to the Schoolhouse Rock video clip of “Them Not-So-Dry Bones”. “Right now there’s a skeleton locked up inside of you!”

For more information, please visit Steve Jenkins’ website: stevejenkinsbooks.com.

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