Friday, March 27, 2015

Flowers are Calling

Flowers are Calling
by Rita Gray; illus. by Kenard Pak
32 pages; ages 3-8
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015

Theme: nature, nonfiction, ecology

Flowers are calling a little black bear. 
No, not a bear! He doesn't care.
They're calling a butterfly to dip from the air.
  The flowers call a bumblebee, a hummingbird. Each creature, it turns out, answers to a different flower. For the bee it's Monkshood. For the butterfly, Queen Anne's Lace. The hummingbird uses his long tongue to sip nectar from long tubular flowers.

What I like: Rita Gray introduces us to three nectar-sipping, pollen-collecting critters and then, over the spread of two pages, introduces us to the plants they pollinate. And there's a diversity: insect, mammal, bird... daytime feeders, night feeders. And the illustrations are very nice.

What I really like: After introducing us to a dozen flower/animal pairs, she challenges us to look at flowers: their shape, color, pattern, how they smell, and when they open. Then she addresses how plants make sure they connect with their special pollinators. Some plants give off heat to tempt an insect into staying there on a chilly night. Other flowers have ultraviolet designs that are visible only to certain pollinators. The designs help guide the pollinators to nectar. Oh, and did I mention the illustrations?

Beyond the Book: Check out flower shapes. Butterflies like to land on flowers that provide a platform, like Queen Anne's Lace. Can you find other plants like that in your neighborhood? What about long, tubular flowers?

Flower Time: Spend a couple days watching flowers open and close. Our hawkweed opens when the sun is up and closes in the evening. Do you have any flowers that open and close with the sun? Could you plant a flower clock?

Who visits yellow flowers? What insects or birds visit yellow flowers in your area? What about red flowers? Blue flowers? White flowers?

 Today's review is part of the STEM Friday roundup. Drop by STEM Friday blog for more science books and resources. We're also joining PPBF (perfect picture book Friday), an event in which bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's site. She keeps an ever-growing list of Perfect Picture BooksReview copy from the publisher.

Friday, March 20, 2015

How does spring sound?

A couple weeks ago the sun burned through the clouds, and soon I could hear the drip-drip-drip of icicles melting. Faintly, from the other side of the ravine, I could hear the dull drumming of a woodpecker tapping out coded messages from a dead tree.

Spring is but a day away - what do you hear around your house as the season changes? Go outside for a listen. Find a dry place to sit, and close your eyes. Just listen. What do you hear?

Then take a minute to jot down some notes. If you can't determine what bird is calling, then describe how the call sounds. Does it slide up the scale, whistle, or chitter? Are there woodpeckers drumming on old trees or against the metal roof of a garage? Can you hear water moving? Snow melt? Sap drip?

Make sure you write the date on the page. Because every year is different. Two years ago it was 80 degrees in early March here in my neck of the woods. This year, on the same date, it was barely over freezing (32 degrees)... quite a difference.

If you're looking for more end-of-winter start-of-spring activities, check out this book review and related activities.