Friday, September 22, 2023

Helping Species Survive

The Great Giraffe Rescue: Saving the Nubian Giraffes 
by Sandra Markle
40 pages; ages 9-12
Millbrook Press, 2023

Didn’t we just talk about giraffes a couple of weeks ago? Ah, yes – but those were math giraffes, and these are Nubian giraffes. And they have a problem. “People,” says Sandra Markle, “were destroying giraffe habitats as they dug into the land for its natural resources or cleared it for farms, roads, and homes.” Add to that the threats from oil drilling – well, you can see why giraffes might need a bit of help. 

When oil drillers laid out plans to begin drilling in one part of Uganda’s Murchison Falls National Park, wildlife scientists knew they had to move giraffes to another part of the park to preserve the population. There was only one small problem: to get to the other part of the park required crossing a river, and there was no bridge.

What I like about this book: I like how Sandra Markle sets up the problem (how do you move a herd of giraffes) and then shows how wildlife scientists solved it. Along the way she includes a lesson on giraffe biology, “Nubian Giraffe 101” and plenty of sidebars. Readers learn how interconnected giraffes are with the trees and savanna. The illustrations make you feel like you’re right there in the field with the wildlife scientists and conservation workers.

Raising Don: The True Story of a Spunky Baby Tapir 
by Georgeanne Irvine 
36 pages; ages 8-12
‎San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Press, 2022

When a baby tapir is born, everyone at the zoo is excited – except his mom. She wants nothing to do with him. A first-time mother, maybe she was surprised by his birth? wondered the animal caretakers. So they snuggled and fed the cute spotty and striped baby and named him Don.

But how can people teach a young tapir what he needs to know to survive? For one thing, tapirs learn to swim from their moms. Don’s humans got him started in swimming lessons by enticing him into a kiddie’s wading pool. They slowly introduced him to new animals. And bit by bit, Don began to learn the ways of his species.

What I like about this book: I like the honesty about what’s involved in raising a zoo baby by hand. And author, Georgeanne Irvine shares the inside scoop, as she has worked at the San Diego Zoo. I also like that backmatter highlights things families can do to help wildlife.

Thanks for dropping by today. On Monday we'll be hanging out at Marvelous Middle Grade Monday with other  bloggers. It's over at Greg Pattridge's blog, Always in the Middle, so hop over to see what other people are reading. Review copies provided by the publishers.

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Explore Outdoors ~ Fall Flowers

Happy Fall! Saturday is the fall equinox, and fall flowers are coming into their own. Like this aster...


Asters are composite flowers, being a composite of yellow disc flowers and purple ray flowers. The center disc flowers open a few at a time, from the outside in - you can see their cup shape and the stamens that hold pollen. Sometimes they look like spirals. 

This week take a closer look at the centers of flowers. What do you see?

Friday, September 15, 2023


 I’m always looking for books about math. Here’s one that came out just recently.

The Queen of Chess: How Judit Polgár Changed the Game
by Laurie Wallmark; illus by Stevie Lewis 
32 pages; ages 6-9
‎little bee books, 2023 

Themes: biography, women in STEM, math

Judit Polgár peeked through the door of the “chess room.” Her oldest sister Susan was playing, and Judit wanted to be part of the fun.

She gets her wish when she turns five, and joins her older sisters for five to six hours a day studying chess. Judit loved playing, and even more loved competing. Soon she was winning tournaments, and at the age of 15 became a grandmaster.

What I like about this book: I like how Laurie shows Judit as a ferocious and fearless chess player – and also as a young girl who does other things, too. Chess doesn’t look as exciting as soccer or skating, but for the players it’s an electrifying game of strategy. As a non-chess player, I appreciated that back matter includes a section on the mathematics of chess. Not only do young players learn to recognize patterns and develop spatial reasoning, playing chess helps critical thinking – because players need to think several moves ahead and be able to quickly change their strategy.

We’ve got a couple chess boards on the game shelf, but for some reason I never got the hang of chess. So I had to ask Laurie One Question:

Me: Did you play chess as a child?

Laurie: I did, but only for fun – I never competed. Playing the game didn't inspire my writing, but my knowledge of chess definitely helped me get into the mind of Judit Polgar. 
I think the best way to learn to play is by doing chess puzzles. These are not entire chess games but rather the board is set up with only a few pieces. The goal is to figure out how to get to checkmate by using a limited number of moves. Chess puzzles offer the opportunity to practice the rules of the game and to improve pattern recognition skills.  

Beyond the Books:

Read more about the life of Judit Polgar at her website here.

Learn the rules of Chess and how to move the pieces. Here’s one site. ChessKid is another place that’s set up for kids to learn how to play (requires that you sign up)

You can play other, non-chess games to increase your powers of pattern recognition. Here are a few: Uno, Clue, Memory Minesweeper, Tetris, and Connect Four. If all you’ve got is pencil and paper, try tic-tac-toe.

Laurie is a member of #STEAMTeam2023. She has written tons of biographies about women in STEM, many of which I have reviewed on this blog. You can find out more about Laurie at her website.

Today we’re joining Perfect Picture Book Friday. It’s a wonderful gathering where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website. On Monday we'll be hanging out at Marvelous Middle Grade Monday with other  bloggers. It's over at Greg Pattridge's blog, Always in the Middle, so hop over to see what other people are reading. Review copy provided by Blue Slip Media.