The Cockroach Invasion
by Dr. Sherry L. Meinberg
Archway Publishing

"We do not have to kiss frogs, bats, skunks, or cockroaches; we only need to respect the 'unloved' creatures with which we share the world."

The Cockroach Invasion is based on a true story that took place among a class of third graders. Meinberg's eleventh educational book focuses on gaining knowledge to build a healthy respect for all creatures, especially ones that nobody loves. Meinberg grabs the attention of school-aged readers by opening her narrative with a scene that takes place in the Boys' Room. Unbeknownst to the girls standing outside the lavatory who hear a lot of shouting and stamping of feet, the boys are having a game with a slew of cockroaches that are madly crawling on the bathroom floor. But it does not stop there since the third graders are quite surprised by a mass invasion of these creepy critters in their classroom the following morning. Instead of creating panic, Ms. Matson, the third grade teacher in the story, seizes the situation as a teachable moment.

Award-winning author and teacher Meinberg knows how to engage children in the creative learning process by first collaborating with the winners of The Cockroach Invasion Art Contest. Indeed, her recent book is not flashy or splashed with bright color photos. Rather, over three-fourths of her book is laced with simple black and white pictures that aptly complement Meinberg's appealing narrative. Designed with a dialogue setting, Meinberg continues the learning process through Ms. Matson. She encourages the students not to limit their understanding of these insects as merely undesirable, but also to do the appropriate research to learn more about them. The end result is nothing but eye opening.

Utilizing the scientific method, Meinberg highlights the importance of collecting information through observation, measurement, and experiment, as well as the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses. Not necessarily using these terms, Ms. Matson gathers what the students initially know about cockroaches on a large sheet of butcher paper followed by the students looking up dictionary definitions. That search raises questions for further investigation. At that point, the students are psyched to learn more, and thus their curiosity leads them to do class reports.

The information the students gather ranges from cockroach history, their habitat, and cockroach varieties to their life cycle, common enemies, and how to get rid of them. Each chapter is replete with pictures that not only enhance each student's reports, but also reflect whether their research answers the questions they raised at the beginning of their learning venture. Meinberg's inclusion of data relevance is pertinent, something that is not always covered in nonfiction books for kids. In the story, the students aggregate conflicting data on the number of cockroach species. Ms. Matson's response is a combination of scientific evidence, which she states has to be proven, and observing copyright dates. Meinberg's narrative closes with vocabulary words and "name the body parts of a cockroach" questions, more interesting facts about cockroaches, and a "what's good about cockroaches" section.

There are many nonfiction books on this topic, all of which present material in a factual format. Meinberg's recent story may not have the colorful appeal that most informational books have. Nonetheless, her classroom-style approach coupled with delightful dialogue makes this book a wonderful stand-alone or classroom read. Designed with a reading level appropriate for reluctant readers, Meinberg has created a captivating book that is perfect for children ages 8-12.

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