Literature Connections to
Terrarium Habitats

Teacher's Guides > Terrarium Habitats

Some of the books focus on snails, crickets, ants, or salamanders that could live in a terrarium or on a forest floor. Interdependence, life cycle, and scale are emphasized through fantasy stories that ask the reader to view life from an animal’s perspective. Other books look at the system of plants and animals that is nurtured by a decomposing tree. Four books in particular are written as inviting resource books or almanacs that give ideas for other fun, hands-on investigations of nature.

Chipmunk Song
Deep Down Underground
Earthworm
Earthworms, Dirt, and Rotten Leaves
The Empty Lot
The Fall of Freddie the Leaf
The Frog Alphabet Book
Frogs, Toads, Lizards, and Salamanders
The Girl Who Loved Caterpillars
Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices
Linnea’s Almanac
Linnea’s Windowsill Garden
The Magic School Bus Inside the Earth
Nicky the Nature Detective
An Oak Tree Dies and a Journey Begins
Once There Was a Tree
One Day in the Woods
The Salamander Room
The Snail’s Spell
The Song in the Walnut Grove
Two Bad Ants
When the Woods Hum

Chipmunk Song
by Joanne Ryder; illustrated by Lynne Cherry
E.P. Dutton, New York. 1987
Grades: K–5
A chipmunk goes about its activities in late summer, prepares for winter, and settles in until spring. The reader is put in the place of a chipmunk and participates in food gathering, hiding from predators, hibernating, and more. Roots, tunnels, stashes of acorns and other facets of the imagined environment loom large and lifelike.
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Deep Down Underground
by Olivier Dunrea
Macmillan, New York. 1989
Grades: Preschool–3
Cumulative counting book led off by “one wee moudiewort” (Scottish word for type of mole) and a creepy cadre of earthworms, caterpillars, beetles, toads and spiders, sowbugs, garter snakes, and red ants. The dynamic language makes it great for reading aloud individually or in a group wriggling, wrangling, scooching, and scraping.
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Earthworm
by Adrienne Souter-Perrot; illustrated by Etienne Delessent
Creative Editions, Mankato, Minnesota. 1993
Grades: Preschool–2
Simply and accurately written, and elegantly illustrated, this is an excellent early childhood introduction to earthworms and their revitalization of the soil.
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Earthworms, Dirt, and Rotten Leaves
by Molly McLaughlin
Avon, New York. 1990
Grades: 4–7
The earthworm and its environment are explored and suggestions made for experiments to examine the survival of the earthworm in its habitat. Answers the question, “Why would anyone want to have anything to do with earthworms?” Recipient of awards for writing from Library of Congress, American Library Association, New York Academy of Sciences, etc.
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The Empty Lot
by Dale H. Fife; illustrated by Jim Arnosky
Sierra Club Books/Little, Brown & Co., Boston. 1991
Grades: 2–4
What good is a vacant lot? City-dweller Harry Hale owns one, but when he goes to take a good look before selling it, he is amazed to find that the lot is far from empty. It’s pulsing with life: birds and their nests; ants, beetles, fungi, and molds in the soil; and frogs and dragonflies near the stream. He is so impressed by the utilization of the different habitat areas that he changes his for sale sign to read “occupied lot—every square inch in use.”
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The Fall of Freddie the Leaf
by Leo Buscaglia
Charles B. Slack, Inc./Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York. 1982
Grades: All ages
This simply told story, with beautiful color photographs and a real leaf on the inside back cover, describes the growth, maturity, decay, and death of a leaf named Freddie and his friends. It is “dedicated to all children who have ever suffered a permanent loss, and to the grownups who could not find a way to explain it.” Because the story is about leaves, it is also a good connection to the GEMS activities that relate to decomposition.
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The Frog Alphabet Book
by Jerry Pallotta; illustrated by Ralph Masiello
Charlesbridge Publishing, Watertown, Massachusetts. 1990
Grades: K–3
A beautifully illustrated book that shows the diversity of frogs and other “awesome amphibians” from around the world.
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Frogs, Toads, Lizards, and Salamanders
by Nancy W. Parker and Joan R. Wright; illustrated by Nancy W. Parker
Greenwillow Books, New York. 1990
Grades: 3–6
Physical characteristics, habits, and environment of 16 creatures are encapsulated in rhyming couplets, text, and anatomical drawings, plus glossaries, range maps, and a scientific classification chart. A great deal of information is presented, the rhymes are engaging and humorous, and the visual presentation terrific. “A slimy Two-toed Amphiuma terrified Grant’s aunt from Yuma” (she was picking flowers from a drainage ditch).
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The Girl Who Loved Caterpillars
adapted by Jean Merrill; illustrated by Floyd Cooper
Philomel Books/Putnam & Grosset, New York. 1992
Grades: 2–6
Based on a twelfth century Japanese story, this book is a wonderful and early portrait of a highly independent and free-spirited girl, Izumi, who loves caterpillars. Izumi wonders “Why do people make such a fuss about butterflies and pay no attention to the creatures from which butterflies come? It is caterpillars that are really interesting!” Izumi is interested in the “original nature of things,” and in doing things naturally. Clever poetry is interspersed as part of the plot. Great connection to the observation activities in Terrarium Habitats. An excellent and relevant portrayal of an independent-thinking female role model.
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Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices
by Paul Fleischman; illustrated by Eric Beddows
Harper & Row, New York. 1988
Grades: K–Adult
Fantastic series of poems celebrating insects that are meant to be read aloud by two readers at once, sometimes merging into a duet. It includes beetles and crickets, and many others such as grasshoppers and cicadas. The combination of rich scientific detail with poetry, humor, and a sense of the ironic contrasts and division of labor in the lives and life changes of insects is powerful and very involving. Students in upper level classes might love performing these for the class.
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Linnea’s Almanac
by Christina Bjork; illustrated by Lena Anderson
R&S Books/Farrar, Straus & Giroux, New York. 1989
Grades: 3–6
Linnea keeps an almanac tracking her indoor and outdoor investigations of nature over a year’s time. She opens a bird restaurant in January and goes beachcombing in July. The almanac is written in journal form with simple monthly activities for young readers to do at home.
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Linnea’s Windowsill Garden
by Christina Bjork; illustrated by Lena Anderson
R&S Books/Farrar, Straus & Giroux, New York. 1988
Grades: 3–6
Linnea tells about her indoor garden. From seeds to cuttings to potted plants, Linnea describes the care of her plants throughout their life cycle. The friendly narration and simple information invites readers to try the activities and games at home.
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The Magic School Bus Inside the Earth
by Joanna Cole; illustrated by Bruce Degen
Scholastic, New York. 1987
Grades: 3–6
Another in this highly educational and amusing series, Ms. Frizzle takes her class on a field trip to the center of the Earth and back again. Much geological information is interspersed throughout. This book could serve as a good extension to the soil activities.
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Nicky the Nature Detective
by Ulf Svedberg
R&S Books/Farrar, Straus & Giroux, New York. 1988
Grades: 3–8
Nicky loves to explore changes in nature. She watches a red maple tree and all the creatures and plants that live on or near the tree throughout the seasons. Her discoveries lead her to look carefully at the structure of the nesting place, why birds migrate, who left tracks in the snow, where butterflies go in the winter, and many more things. This book is packed with information and inviting graphic elements.
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An Oak Tree Dies and a Journey Begins
by Louanne Norris and Howard E. Smith, Jr.; illustrated by Allen Davis
Crown, New York. 1979
Out of print
Grades: 3–5
An old oak tree on the bank of a river is uprooted by a storm and its journey to the sea begins. Animals seek shelter in the log, children fish from it, mussels attach to its side. A story of how a tree, even after it dies, contributes to the environment. Students will appreciate the fine pen and ink drawings.
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Once There Was a Tree
by Natalia Romanova; illustrations by Gennady Spirin
Dial Books, Penguin, New York. 1983
Grades: K–6
A tree is struck by lightning, cut down, and left as a stump. A bark beetle lays her eggs under its bark, its larvae gnaw tunnels. Ants make their home there. A bear uses the stump to sharpen her claws. The stump is visited by birds, frogs, earwigs, and humans. It endures the weather. As a new tree grows from the stump, a question remains: “Whose tree is it?”
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One Day in the Woods
by Jean C. George; illustrated by Gary Allen
Thomas Y. Crowell, New York. 1988
Grades: 4–7
On a day-long outing in a woodland forest, Rebecca, a “ponytailed explorer,” searches for the elusive ovenbird. Her observation of, and interaction with, the plant and animal life are enhanced by realistic black and white drawings.
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The Salamander Room
by Anne Mazer; illustrated by Steve Johnson
Alfred A. Knopf, New York. 1991
Grades: K–3
A little boy finds an orange salamander in the woods and thinks of the many things he can do to turn his room into a perfect salamander home. In the process, the habitat requirements of a forest floor dweller are nicely described.
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The Snail’s Spell
by Joanne Ryder; illustrated by Lynne Cherry
Puffin Books, New York. 1988
Grades: K–5
Imagine how it feels to be a snail and in the process learn something about the anatomy and locomotion of a snail. Though the picture-book format gives a primary-level feel to the book, imagining you are a snail is interesting for older students as well. Outstanding Science Book for Young Children Award from the New York Academy of Sciences.
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The Song in the Walnut Grove
by David Kherdian; illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky
Alfred A. Knopf, New York. 1982
Grades: 4–6
A curious cricket named Ben meets Charley the grasshopper. Together they learn of each other’s daytime and nighttime habits while living in an herb garden. The friendship between Ben and Charley grows when Ben rescues Charley from being buried in a pail of grain and they learn to appreciate each other’s differences. This story weaves very accurate accounts of insect behavior with their contributions to the ecology of Walnut Grove.
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Two Bad Ants
by Chris Van Allsburg
Houghton Mifflin, Boston. 1988
Grades: Preschool–4
When two curious ants set off in search of beautiful sparkling crystals (sugar), it becomes a dangerous adventure that convinces them to return to the former safety of their ant colony. Illustrations are drawn from an ant’s perspective, showing them lugging individual sugar crystals and other views from “the small.”
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When the Woods Hum
by Joanne Ryder; illustrated by Catherine Stock
William Morrow, New York. 1991
Grades: 1–4
Young Jenny, who has heard her father reminisce about the wonder of hearing the woods hum, investigates periodical cicadas—“hummers.” They observe the wingless creepers emerging from underground, the adult cicadas shedding their old skins, and the female laying eggs. A page of sketches at the end of the book gives some detail, differentiating between the annual and periodical cicada. The cycle motif is reinforced when the grown-up Jenny and her father take her son to the woods so he can hear the humming.
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Science, like life, feeds on its own decay. New facts burst old rules; then newly divined conceptions bind old and new together into a reconciling law.


— William James
The Will To Believe


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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