Curious McCarthy's Power of Observation is a clever, charming look at the life of a budding scientist. As a fifth grade teacher, I loved this book on many levels.
Children need experience with a variety of texts. The author found an effective way to incorporate definitions and explanations for some complex ideas by using footnotes. In addition to exposing children to content normally seen only in non-fiction text, and in a manner normally seen in high school and college level text, the footnotes also added a delightful dose of humor to the story. I think the use of footnotes was a great idea! I’m not sure of the leveling system used, but with the complexity of the footnotes, it seems perfect for upper grade readers. In addition to at-grade-level readers, students in my classroom needing an easier read (learning disabled, EL/ESL, etc.), wouldn’t have to get all hung up on the footnotes and whether or not they fully understood them. I re-read a few chapters without the footnotes and it still made perfect sense. This book would help level the playing field for all readers in my classroom, and would be great as an independent read or for group instruction. Some readers simply need more confidence, and the footnotes offer a safe environment for below-grade-level readers to explore more difficult text.
As a read aloud, this book is the perfect length. I am often left with little time for read aloud (sad, but true) and a longer book can drag on for what seems like forever. I think students will find it easy to relate to the antics of this large family – I’m sure everyone has a John Glenn and Charlotte in their family somewhere. Though the ending doesn’t seem as obvious as it could be, it’s a great example of how readers sometimes need to re-read and infer in order to make sense of text – that’s what reading is all about.
Something else I feel compelled to mention is that Curious explores the art of observation. Speaking from a scientific perspective, this is key – it’s refreshing to see a character model this powerful approach to science. Too often I feel teachers are limiting the natural tendency of children to observe and explore by forcing them to follow a certain set of rules surrounding scientific ideas. Children are naturally curious and can learn so much by just observing the world around them.
In addition to the story, I thought the illustrations were cute. As a visual learner myself, I appreciated having so many illustrations, especially the bios at the beginning. I think the addition of this family photo album will allow kids to get their feet wet without completely jumping into the water headfirst. It was a fun read – I would definitely recommend Curious McCarthy to my students.