Book Review: Nonfiction for Developing Readers from Bellwether Media Inc.

Posted by Big Universe on Nov 1, 2012 5:30:16 AM

Earlier this week I wrote about the importance of having ready reference materials within arms' reach of young learners. Kids have lots of questions about all kinds of things ... almost from the time they start talking.

There are plenty of places to find the answers, but finding tools that meet them "where they are" is not as easy. As educators, our goal is to help them independently discover the answers in a way that makes sense to them. That is, the material neither talks down to them nor is it so complex they can't understand it.

I recently discovered the Bellwether Media easy readers, and think they are an excellent addition to the early learner bookshelf. Among the collection on Big Universe readers will find books on nearly every type of transportation (civilian and military), animals and insects (stink bugs anyone?), geography, sports, and people.

The number of high-interest topics for boys exceeds anything I've ever seen by a single publisher. The books will also appeal to districts with a strong military community. Last but not least, these are titles that naturally complement - and expand on - the material kids can find in illustrated dictionaries, atlases, and fact books.

Bullet Trains
by Denny Von Finn
Torque series
Bellwether, 2010

First put into use many decades ago, bullet trains remain one of the fastest ways to get from Point ! to Point B. This easy reader covers the history, technology, and how-it-works elements of this phenomenal transportation vehicle.

  • This is for readers in the second or third grade.
  • The author does a great job explaining the physics of how a bullet train works, making it a nice selection for science class, too.
  • The glossary includes multi-syllable words, including several Japanese and French.
  • Given the company's target audience, the book needs phonetic presentations of foreign language terms.
byWalter Simmons
Blastoff Readers series
Bellwether Media, 2011
Readers explore the geography, flora, and fauna of this island country in the Gulf of Mexico. The photographs and text are annotated with Spanish words and concepts.
  • Third and fourth graders can enjoy and draw information from this books.
  • All readers will learn something, as access to the country by US citizens has been restricted for more than 50 years.
  • The Spanish references are excellent and would make this a great partner read for ESL students.
  • The Fun Facts and Did You Know? insets are text heavy, making this a selection for more confident readers.
by Emily K. Green
Blastoff Readers series
Bellwether Media, 2007

Deserts may be dry, but not all deserts are sandy ... the world's largest desert is actually covered in earth 365 days a year! Young readers will discover new facts and learn that pre-conceptions can be misconceptions. They'll love telling their parents about Antarctica being a desert!

  • This is an easy reader for the first grade into second grade audience.
  • The sentence structure is simple, but it also introduces words that will require deciphering and an understanding of sound patterns (e.g., evaporate, oasis).
  • The links - particularly the videos - help deepen a reader's understanding of this subject.

The EA-6B Prowlers
by Carlos Alvarez
Torque series
Bellwether Media, 2009

Wherever and whenever its needed, the US Navy's EA-6B Prowler is in the air, jamming enemy communications systems and protecting our military forces. Military units have been relying on the EA-6B for more than 40 years.

  • The most likely audience for this book are third and fourth graders.
  • The Fast Facts insets have the "wow" factor that grab readers and keep them on the page the read the rest of the text.
  • Readers must know how to read large numbers (e.g., 61,500) and understand some basic military concepts (e.g., electronic jamming and countermeasures).

World of Insects: Walkingsticks
by Emily K. Green
Blastoff Readers
Bellwether Media, 2007

There is more to a walkingstick than what meets the eye ... if you can spot one, that is. These creatures, found in warm, wet parts of the world, are masters of camouflage. Each species adapts to the habitat within which it moves.

  • Kindergarteners and first graders will be fascinated by this book.
  • The vocabulary words in bold are also tagged in the actual illustrations, pointing out the object the reader needs to decode.
  • The book talks about camouflage and has plenty of illustrated examples, but it does not use the word in the text.

These are just a few of the Bellwether books you'll find on There are more than 180 titles in the collection that you can read online. Visit to see their complete catalog for classrooms and libraries, including the Torque (sports, vehicles, adventur); Blastoff Readers (general nonfiction, for emerging and developing readers); Pilot (wild & dangerous animals, learn to draw); and Epic (military) series.

In the interest of full disclosure and transparency, I first learned of Bellwether Media Inc via The opinions expressed are my own and do not represent either company.

Topics: Reviews, Reading Lists

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