Giraffes and Common Core: A Booklist for Primary Grades

Giraffes and Common Core: A Booklist for Primary Grades

By Sharon Salluzzo

A child’s natural curiosity about an animal is a good starting point for a science unit in the primary grades. Allowing the child to select their report topic is important and means you need to have books on a wide range of animals. When was the last time you added new titles and took a close look at those currently in the animal section of your library? CLCD is an excellent resource to help you find replacement books that have the features necessitated by the Common Core State Standards. I have chosen to investigate books about giraffes for this booklist but my search can apply to any animal. I included books that compare and contrast animals as well as books that present only the subject of my search.

Helpful Hints:

1. The multiple reviews in CLCD can help you determine the complexity, language, features, and format of the book, which is important information in determining how the book fits into the Common Core instruction.

2. The listing of series titles is very helpful in finding books about other animals, and discovering which ones the series includes.

CLCD Search Methodology:

    Step 1.

  • The word giraffe (All Fields)
  • Singular and plural forms
  • Restrict to nonfiction books published between 2006 and 2020
  • Grade level: third grade
  • Lexile range 400 to 750
    Step 2.

  • Search without a lexile range, thereby broadening the range to find books that would challenge the student if read alone, or to be read with an adult.
    Step 3.

  • Giraffe (singular and plural forms)
  • Grade level: third grade
  • Restrict to nonfiction books published between 2006 and 2020



Giraffes Up Close

Carmen Bredeson

Part of Enslow’s “Zoom In on Animals” series, this entry offers young children a fun and informative look at these unusual creatures. A brief glossary is presented at the beginning, so readers will be prepared for unfamiliar words. While there is information on giraffe homes and babies, most of the two-page sections are devoted to giraffe body parts. Two features stand out: a small “up close” picture of the body part (such as the tongue), and a beautiful full-page photo on the facing page. Each section contains a brief, easy-to-read paragraph that highlights important facts. A short index and list of Web sites and books are provided (which includes a Spanish language title). This book provides a memorable introduction to giraffes for children in first through third grades. 2009, Enslow, Ages 6 to 9, $21.26. Reviewer: Blinn D. Sheffield (Catholic Library World, June 2009 (Vol. 79, No. 4)).

ISBN: 9781598454147

Reading Measurement Programs:

Accelerated Reader: Book Level 2.4

How to Clean a Hippopotamus: A Look at Unusual Animal Partnerships

Steve Jenkins & Robin Page

Jenkins and Page explore the fascinating world of animal symbiosis, depicting the surprising partnerships established between creatures in nature. Some animals forage together for the benefit of both, such as when one debugs another, eating the parasites that pester their hosts. Some aid others in hunting. The pages are filled with multiple examples of these interactions, ending with the symbiotic relationship between humans and dogs. Jenkins once again unearths just the right scraps of colored and textured papers to create naturalistic collage pictures of both ordinary and exotic creatures. The oxpecker bird picks tics off the giraffe; the badger and the coyote cooperate in hunting prairie dogs. Unlike Jenkins’ other books, with their large-scale illustrations, most of the visual information here is delivered in vignettes, four or more per page, separated with white borders. Page designs are made attractive by varying placements and sizes of the creatures at work; the brief, descriptive lines of text are integrated for ready reading. The size, habitat and diet of all of the more than fifty featured animals are included. 2010, Houghton Mifflin Books for Children/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, Ages 6 to 9, $16.00. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9780547994840

Best Books:

John Burroughs List of Nature Books for Young Readers; John Burroughs Association; United States

Notable Children’s Books, 2011; ALSC American Library Association; United States

Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K-12, 2011; National Science Teachers Association; United States

Reading Measurement Programs:

Accelerated Reader: Book Level 5.2

Lexile Measure 950

Serengeti Journey: On Safari in Africa

Gare Thompson

Come along on an African safari to see giraffes, cheetahs, and elephants. Presented in an easy-to-read-and-hold format, this title in the “National Science Chapter” series certainly upholds the reputation of the publisher. Colorful photographs enhance the informative text on every page. The three animals are given separate chapters that focus on basic facts about their habits, physical structure, and how they take care of their families. Brief chapters, with even briefer sub-topics, and high-interest content make for quick and easy reading. Following the text are a Report Guide (useful information for writing any report), a brief glossary, bibliography, and index. Even without the text, this book can be studied just by looking at the photographs and imagining what comes next. A delightful introduction to The National Geographic Society if readers are unfamiliar with this organization. 2006 (orig. 2002), National Geographic Society, Ages 4 to 8, $17.90. Reviewer: Elizabeth Young (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9780792259527

Reading Measurement Programs:

Accelerated Reader: Book Level 3.4

Baby Giraffes

Bobbie Kalman

Many facts about giraffes are included in this nonfiction text in the “It’s Fun to Learn about Baby Animals” series. Simple explanations are given about the giraffe being a mammal, its birth, and nursing. There are descriptions of their heights, the different kinds of giraffes, and their patterns of spots. An illustration of a giraffe’s skeleton with labels is shown next to a page that shows how a giraffe uses the various parts of his body. Photographs on each page have additional facts. Information about habitats, predators, the life cycle, and food is given. How giraffes live in herds is discussed, and a chapter called “Neck Messages” asks the reader to try to identify the neck message in a group of photos. Answers are provided. There is a table of contents, and a “Words to Know and Index” page shows some photos with the words and also has a list of additional words from the text. This is a good factual text for young readers, but they may need guidance with some of the vocabulary. 2010, Crabtree Publishing, Ages 6 to 9, $21.27 and $6.95. Reviewer: Vicki Foote (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9780778739807

Reading Measurement Programs:

Accelerated Reader: Book Level 3.4

Lexile Measure 650

What Are These Animals Doing?

Bobbie Kalman

Animals do fascinating and amazing things. The wonderful, color photographs throughout this book illustrate what animals do to survive. The book, a part of the “Looking at Nature” series, provides an introductory look at some of the things that animals do. The book is divided into short, two-page chapters. The first chapter of the book introduces the theme and there are captioned pictures with questions addressing the animal’s behavior. The captions include references to the pages for the answers. The chapter about how animals hide describes and differentiates camouflage and mimicry and includes close-up snapshots of a gecko, a katydid, and a unicorn mantis. Another chapter tells and shows how the male anole and the porcupine fish defend themselves against their predators. Other areas covered are migration, courtship rituals, tongues, and survival instincts. One section called “True or False?” has a mixed bag of animal behaviors. The last chapter of the book was confusing because it moves the reader in a different direction by taking a creative stance, asking the readers to use their imaginations to write about what the animals are doing in the photographs. There are great photographs and pieces of information but chapters and organization are tricky to follow. 2009, Crabtree Publishing Company, Ages 8 to 12, $21.27 and $6.95. Reviewer: Carrie Hane Hung (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9780778733447

Reading Measurement Programs:

Lexile Measure 570

Giraffe: The World’s Tallest Mammal

Meish Goldish

Like snowflakes, no two giraffes are exactly alike. While there are similarities–they grow to be eighteen feet tall, travel in herds and watch out for each other when they need to bend way down to drink–it is their spotted coat that makes each unique. Although alike in color, look closely and you will see that no two giraffes have exactly the same spotted pattern. Aimed at emerging readers, this book uses simple text and large print without “dumbing down” the content. Topics covered include habitat, diet, life cycle and behavior. But real life examples–the giraffe is compared to three adults standing on each others shoulders–and a chart offering comparisons to other large mammals give readers a perspective they can easily grasp. Indeed, if the dearth of fun facts does not draw one in, certainly the high-quality photographs will. Appropriate for children in kindergarten through third grades, the book is written at the second grade/emergent reader level. One of fourteen titles in the “SuperSized!” series about the world’s largest animals, each book includes a table of contents, a glossary, an index, a bibliography, and an online resource guide. This is a well written resource that will enhance any life science curriculum, not to mention whet the appetite of kids interested in one really tall animal. 2007, Bearport Publishing Company, Ages 5 to 9, $21.28. Reviewer: Kris Sauer (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9781597163743

Reading Measurement Programs:

Accelerated Reader: Book Level 3.1

Lexile Measure 650

Reading Counts-Scholastic: Interest Level K-2, Reading Level 4

A Giraffe Grows Up

Amanda Doering Tourville

Illustrated by Michael Denman and William J. Huiett

Picture books are a wonderful way for children of all ages to learn about a given topic. The picture book, A Giraffe Grows Up, is a story about the life of a giraffe from birth to adulthood. It is beautifully presented through stunning illustrations and informative text. In the early grades, this book would be excellent as a read aloud during a science lesson about animals. The text is easily comprehended, and even nonreaders would be able to understand the information. Below the text there is a colorfully framed box with more specific facts about the giraffe that would add to the discussion of the text on that page. At the back of the book there is a picture of a giraffe and more specific information about the body of this animal. Also included at the back is a map of the world showing where the giraffe is found, plus a glossary of specific words and their definitions. This is a fun, interesting, and informative book about the tallest land mammal on earth. 2007, Picture Window Books, Ages 3 to 7, $25.26. Reviewer: Triss Robinson (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9781404831582

Reading Measurement Programs:

Accelerated Reader: Book Level 3.9

Lexile Measure 790


A Giraffe Goes to Paris

Mary Tavener Holmes and John Harris

Illustrated by Jon Cannell

An interesting book about a giraffe that was a gift from Muhammad Ali, a pasha in Egypt, to King Charles X of France is told from the point of view of the care giver to Belle, the giraffe. The tale is narrated in a chronological fashion. According to the authors’ note, their retelling is based on a true story according to records in French museum archives and other sources. There is a glossary of French words on this page as well. The illustrations are engaging, and many of them are prints of original documents kept at the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Museum Nationale d’Histoire Naturelle; they would give a young emerging reader a story all by themselves. There are great notes in the front of the book which point to information beyond that on the printed pages. The story itself is information-heavy, written in narrative fashion, is very factual and historical; it would appeal to a child who has such an interest, but would not necessarily lend itself to being read aloud. 2010, Marshall Cavendish Corporation, Ages 8 to 10, $17.99. Reviewer: Patricia Williamson (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9780761455950

Best Books:

Choices, 2011; Cooperative Children’s Book Center; United States

Reading Measurement Programs:

Accelerated Reader: Book Level 4.2

Lexile Measure 760

Reading Counts-Scholastic: Interest Level 3-5, Reading Level 5

The Giraffe Who Was Afraid of Heights

David A. Ufer

Illustrated by Kirsten Carlson

This tale addresses fears young children may have by highlighting the same fears in three animals. The giraffe is scared of heights, the monkey is scared of climbing trees, and the hippo is afraid of water. So they head off together to go to the doctor. However, help is closer than the giraffe, monkey, and hippo believe. Collectively they learn to conquer their fears because they choose to help each other when the need arises. This scenario lets children learn about the idea of cooperation in an understandable way. The characters are delightfully presented, and the illustrations fit the tale well. Material at the end of the book includes creative and factual activities. Only a few lines on each page keep the pace moving forward. The same activities are also available from Sylvan Dell’s web site. The book meets national science and math curriculum standards in the categories of life science and numbers and operations. 2006, Sylvan Dell, Ages 4 to 8, $15.95. Reviewer: Nancy Garhan Attebury (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9781934359051

Reading Measurement Programs:

Accelerated Reader: Book Level 3.7

Lexile Measure 740

Reading Counts-Scholastic: Reading Level 4

Tales of the Full Moon

Sue Hart

Illustrated by Chris Harvey

Spinosa the spider is known to all as the busybody of the bush. She seems to know everything that goes on. During the time of the full moon the animals gather together as she shares stories of events that have occurred in their habitats. There are always interesting and resourceful solutions to the problems. Some of these include how the giraffe got rid of her sore throat, Zillah the zebra’s search for her lost stripes, how Splash the hippo became separated from his mother, and the sad demise of Mr. Rana Frog. Hart presents both large and small animals, from the elephant to the honey bee. These ten original stories present excellent descriptions of the physical characteristics of the animals, their habitats, and the ways of the bush. Readers will learn a great deal about these South African animals. There is a fine balance between information and story, but there are times when the stories get bogged down with the introduction of new characters and their descriptions. The watercolor illustrations capture the strong sunlight of the day, as well as the cool of the evenings in the bush. The lifelike animals are drawn in their habitats, as well as shown individually. There are some drawings in which an animal seems to be staring directly at the reader who will want to stare right back for a few moments. This work of fiction may appeal to nonfiction readers since it is so full of facts about the animals. These stories can be read aloud as introductions to units on ecology and the animals of South Africa. To distinguish the characters in a classroom reading, the teacher may want to present these stories in a readers’ theatre format. 2006, Fulcrum Publishing, Ages 9 to 12, $16.95. Reviewer: Sharon Salluzzo (Children’s Literature).

ISBN: 9781555915827

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Updated 10/1/12

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