Friday, May 29, 2020

Get to know the trees...

If you can’t get out for a walk in the woods, then check out these “armchair” forest walks. One takes you high into the tree tops, the other deep into the woods.

theme: trees, animals, habitat

The Forest in the Trees 
by Connie McLennan
32 pages; ages 4-8
Arbordale Publishing. 2019

Deep in the woods near a foggy sea, there’s a hidden forest in the trees.

Coast redwoods are the world’s tallest trees, stretching up, up, up nearly 380 feet into the sky. To get that high in a city, you’d have to climb to the 37th floor of a skyscraper. If you could climb up into a redwood tree, you’d find … more redwoods growing! New trees growing up from the branches of the old tree. And on those branches, soil collects, ferns and moss sprout – even elderberry shrubs take root. Salamanders and squirrels, butterflies and birds make their homes in this forest in the sky.

What I like about this book: It’s fun to read, with one level of text building layer upon layer using “the house that Jack built” structure. A second level of text is found in sidebar boxes, additional information for older readers and parents who want to know more about the animals and plants living high on the redwood’s branches. And there is back matter: four pages of activities and challenges “for creative minds”

Can You Hear the Trees Talking? Discovering the Hidden Life of the Forest 
by Peter Wohlleben
84 pages; ages 8 - 10
Greystone Kids, 2019 (English reprint edition)

Let’s go on a journey of discovery. 

This book is a walk through the woods, broken into seven chapters. We begin by exploring how trees work, how they grow, then learn about friends and enemies, animals that live in and around then, and what makes trees awesome and important. Peter Wohlleben devotes each full spread to a single question: how do trees drink? Do trees make babies? Can they talk? What are trees afraid of, and are some trees braver than others? Do they sleep? Can they make it rain?

What I like about this book: It is a perfect mix of information and discovery. I love the one-question quizzes scattered through the pages, the “Look” sidebars inviting you to notice something, and the “Try This” activities that provide some hands-on STEM activities to explore the forest around you. I also love that the pages are edged in green, giving one the feeling of having fallen into the deep, deep woods.

Beyond the Books:

Play Tree Bingo. You can download these cards from Mass Audubon – or make up your own tree bingo cards for a family walk.

Go on a tree seed safari. Some trees produce fruit. Others make pods, or prickly balls, nuts, or samaras that helicopter to the ground. Some trees make their seeds in summer, others in fall. Check out what the trees in your neighborhood do.

Make a neighborhood tree guide. You might need to collect leaves to press, or draw pictures or snap photos … and you might even need a field guide to help identify the trees you find. But once you’ve gotten to know your neighborhood trees, figure out a way to share them with other people. Here’s one way.

Today we're joining Perfect Picture Book Friday, an event where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website. Review copies provided by the publishers.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Explore Outdoors ~ tree blossoms

Just outside our Town Hall are some flowering trees. So last week I took some "blossom portraits" ~
What are some things you notice about the flowers?
How many petals do they have?
What about leaves?
What do you notice about tree blossoms where you live?

Friday, May 22, 2020

ICK! a delightfully disgusting book

ICK! Delightfully Disgusting Animal Dinners, Dwellings, and Defenses 
by Melissa Stewart
112 pages; ages 8 - 12
National Geographic Children's Books, 2020 (releases June 23)

Some of the coolest things in science are also gross – so leave it to Melissa Stewart to dig deeper until she has enough to write a totally disgusting book about things slimy, smelly, and altogether ICKY! Things like animals that eat poop, squirt blood from their eyes, fling their feces – or weaponize their farts.

But, she warns, “don’t be too quick to say ick!” There’s a good reason that baby pandas eat their mom’s poop … or that cockroaches eat the fingernail clippings left on the bathroom floor. As for building a home, animals use the resources at hand. For white-nest swiftlets, that means layering thread upon thread of sticky saliva against a cave wall until a nest is formed. If that sounds yucky, you’ll want to skip the section about the bone-eating snot flower worm. And yes, that is really its name.

And you know how toads eat flies? Turns out there are flies that eat toads. Alive. Pretty disgusting, right?

Like many of Stewart’s books, this one began years ago. While on safari in Kenya and Tanzania she watched a mother black-backed jackal vomit up partially digested food in order to feed her pups. The following day she learned that some antelopes regurgitate and re-chewe their food as many as four times to extract every possible nutrient from the plants they eat. So of course, she began jotting a list of animals that vomit their dinners … and kept adding to it until she had enough examples to make a book.

I caught up with Melissa by email to ask her One Question:

Archimedes: As gross as this book is, are there any tidbits you left out that were just too ... disgusting?

Melissa: Every disgusting detail I could possibly unearth ended up in the book, but there were places where I had to tone down my language a bit. My awesome editors, Shelby Lees, encouraged me to go all out in the rough draft. Then, during revisions, she let me know when I needed to rein it in.

Right at the end of the process, Shelby and I were surprised by a mandate from someone higher up. We had to limit the number of times we used the word "fart."

We didn't have to eliminate it completely (Thank goodness!), but we did have to use it very sparingly. This was especially tricky for the spread about the western hooknose snake, which makes a farting sound to defend itself. If you read the text, you can see all the creative synonyms we came up with. It actually turned into a fun challenge.

Field trip time: keep your eyes open for disgusting and gross things in nature. Maybe you'll see a mama bird clean out the nest (that is disgusting!) or watch a wasp sting a caterpillar and then roll it into a gooey ball to carry home for hungry larvae. Even if you are limited to your back yard or balcony, there are plenty of revolting, unappetizing, nasty, odious, and yucky things happening all around you - all you have to do is pay attention.

Melissa is a member of #STEAMTeam2020. You can find out more about her at her website, and make sure to drop by her blog, Celebrate Science, where she talks about writing, nonfiction, and science (of course). Review copy provided by the publisher.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Explore Outdoors ~ Flowers!

We had a break in the clouds, so I took my camera for a walk. And I was not disappointed. My neighbors have beautiful gardens.

Head out (being mindful of safety and distance) and visit some flowers growing in your yard or around the neighborhood. Take photos, draw pictures, write a poem... enjoy their beauty.