Thursday, December 1, 2011

STEM Friday - Prairie Storms

Prairie Storms
Written by Darcy Pattison; illus. by Kathleen Rietz
32 pages, for ages 4-8
Sylvan Dell Publishing, 2011

December on the prairie can be tough. “A blizzard rages, a sudden whiteout. The bison herd turns, facing into the teeth of the wind,” writes Darcy Pattison in her newest book, Prairie Storms.

Storms may not bother the bison, but when I hear the wind howling and the sleet rattling at my windows, I make a hot cup of cocoa and snuggle up with a good book.

Pattison raises an interesting question: what do animals do when the snow flies? How do they deal with rain and hail? Month-by-month she takes us into the secret lives of prairie animals: into the burrows of prairie dogs; into the den of a cougar. Who knew that skunks roll up balls of straw to close their doorway? At the end of the book she's included some activities for curious and creative minds.
Pattison lives in Little Rock, Arkansas, a town right on the edge of the prairie, she says. And while it’s not the “Great Prairie” of the Midwest, it served as inspiration and an outdoor lab for her as she worked on the book.

“I wanted to write about animals,” she said. She wanted to explore the relationship between animals and their habitats, but in a different way. “And when you live on the prairie, the sky is the biggest thing around,” she said. So Pattison began investigating how different creatures deal with weather. And that meant a lot of research. And a lot of field trips to the Baker PrairieNatural Area, just outside of Harrison.

Then she started thinking about how to pull all the nifty stuff she learned into a book. Picture books have 14 spreads (the double-page illustrations), she pointed out. “So doing something that focused on the 12 months seemed natural.” Pattison then made two lists: one of the mammals and birds and reptiles she’d seen; the other about the kinds of storms her prairie areas experience over the span of a year.

How did she get the prose so lyrical? “I wrote it as poetry, first,” Pattison admitted.

What was the neat new thing she learned? “Earless lizards!” she said. Despite their name, they hear well enough.
This is part of STEM Friday. Review copy provided by the publisher.

Check out what great books other people are reviewing below. To add a link to your blog, just leave a comment or send an email to sueheaven [at] gmail [dot] com. I'll check periodically throughout the day.

Jeff Barger reviews How Does Medicine Know Where you Hurt? over at NC Teacher Stuff.

Shirley reviews The Life of Rice at Simply Science. She always includes some activities with her reviews.

Anastasia Suen introduces a pop-up physics book, Feel the Force over at Chapter Book of the Day.

Not a review, but worth checking out: an interesting post on the importance of integrating art with STEM at INK.


  1. Sue, thank you for hosting today and for the review of Prairie Storms! I need to find this for my unit on weather. I have a post about a Wonderopolis article that deals with how pain relievers work in your body:

  2. I have The Life of Rice at SimplyScience today. Thanks!

  3. thanks for dropping by. I never knew how pain relievers worked, Jeff. And Shirley - "The Life of Rice" looks like an awesome photo-journey not just into science, but also into another culture.

  4. Thanks for hosting today, Sue! I'm in with Super Science: Feel the Force!: Full of Pop-Up Physics Fun by Tom Adams (Author) and Thomas Flintham (Illustrator)

  5. A pop-up physics book! how cool is that! Thanks for sharing.

  6. Sounds like a wonderful book and an amazing author--I can't even imagine writing a book as poetry first. Thanks for a great interview and I'll have to check out Darcy's book.

  7. Sue--
    Thanks for the review!
    STEM is so important and I'm glad to be a small part of it!

  8. This looks like a great book - thanks for the review! I also enjoyed the great links - hopefully I can join in soon.