Friday, September 22, 2017

Eye of the Storm

In the United States, 10 million people live in hurricane danger zones. Given the storms of the past few weeks, I figured now would be the perfect time to introduce Amy Cherrix's book - released this spring.

Eye of the Storm: NASA, drones, and the race to crack the hurricane code (Scientists in the Field Series)
by Amy Sherrix
80 pages; ages 10-14
HMH, 2017

Cherrix is no stranger to hurricanes, having survived the devastation of four major storms. So her first chapter, a story of a family caught by Hurricane Sandy (October, 2012) tingles with true life fight for survival.

Sandy, you may recall, was a "frankenstorm" - a combined hurricane-snowstorm. Thought it was classified as a category 1 hurricane (Irma was category 5, Harvey a category 4) it was much larger. Sandy measured 1100 miles across and affected 24 states, from Maine to Florida and as far west as Michigan and Wisconsin. While the coast suffered from rain and storm surge, inland areas were buried in three feet of snow.

The thing is, meteorologists can, using weather satellites and early warning systems, see hurricanes taking shape days - sometimes weeks - before they make landfall. Cherrix introduces us to the researchers behind the science and tools that meteorologists depend on. But first, she gives us a physics lesson in hurricane formation.

Did you know that Atlantic hurricanes are "born" in the driest place on earth? They come from the Sahara Desert, and some of that desert dust may affect the intensity of the hurricane. Cyclonic storms are forming all around the earth all times of the year. We may not be able to stop them from forming, says Cherrix, but we can certainly learn more about how they grow and change. And while she points out that we can't control the force (or intensity) of these storms, there are some who say that our contributions to climate change has done just that. "A warming planet means wetter storms, higher storm surges and more intense hurricanes, according to NASA's Earth Observatory," explains a recent article in the Houston Chronicle

Eye of the Storm reads like a science adventure. We meet the scientists who follow the data that their probes send back. Some of those are dropsondes, probes that fall through the storm and measure pressure, temperature, humidity, wind speed, and gps locations. They also send out thousands of rapid light pulses each second that scatter off particles in the storm and are bounced back to an instrument that reads the data. There are drone pilots on the ground and an in-air pilot to keep an eye in the sky.

At the end, Cherrix has an emergency preparedness checklist: an evacuation kit to put together before the storm, how to prepare for pet evacuations, and what to do after the storm. There's also a great list of apps for smart phones and tablets, and more.

Today we're joining the STEM Friday roundup. Drop by STEM Friday blog for more science books and resources. Review copy from the publisher.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Wednesday Explorers Club ~ Aging Flowers

A field of flowery color is lovely to see ... but what happens to flowers as they grow older? Spend some time watching a few individual flowers. Capture them by painting their portraits or taking photos.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Can an Aardvark Bark?

Can an Aardvark Bark?
by Melissa Stewart; illustrated by Steve Jenkins
32 pages; ages 2-8
Beach Lane Books, 2017

themes: animals, nonfiction, sounds 

Can an aarvark bark?
No, but it can grunt.
Lots of other animals grunt too.

This is such a fun book, filled with barks, squeals, grunts, roars, and whines. Also bellows, growls, and laughs. Animals, it turns out, make all kinds of sounds. For all kinds of reasons - and Melissa gives us an inside look at what those sounds mean.

What I like LOVE about this book: The sounds! If you're reading it out loud, expect your listeners to bellow, roar, grunt, and bark along with the animals. Every page if filled with SOUND - and plenty of examples of animals that make those sounds. Did you know that frogs bark and rats chortle? OK, I've heard frogs bark and quack, but laughing? I haven't heard wild things laugh, chortle, or giggle with glee. But they do and Melissa gives us the facts.

The illustrations! Steve Jenkins does such spectacular work, and it's always fun to open up a new book filled with his cut-and-torn-paper artwork.

The structure! This is subtle and it took me a couple pages to realize what was going on - but then I discovered a pattern to the questions and the answers.I don't want to spoil the fun of discovering it yourself.

The best thing? Readers learn that animals use a diverse array of sounds to communicate their thoughts and feelings. Just like people do. This is the perfect book to share with a kid who dreams of becoming a translator for their dog, cat, snake, goldfish, or pet rock. OK, maybe not the rock...

Beyond the Book:
Learn to speak a foreign language: animal. Listen to the sounds an animal makes, and imitate them. If you don't have an animal living in your home, find a place where you can listen to animals: a pet shop, zoo, or even sitting on a park bench listening to - and watching - squirrels and birds. Write down the different sounds your animal makes.

What does your pet say? Hang out with an animal long enough, and you begin to understand their language. Sometimes it's sound; sometimes it's posture; sometimes it's a combination. Can you write a dictionary to explain what your animals mean when they bark, growl, purr, or whine?

Go on a listening walk. Early mornings or evenings are good times to listen to animals out and about. What do you hear? Frogs? Geese and ducks talking to each other as they migrate? Insects?

Learn to speak bird. Cornell Lab of Ornithology has a site dedicated to songs and calls. 

On Monday, head over to the GROG Blog for an interview with Melissa. She'll talk about her journey from idea to book (and how long it took!) and a few other things.

Today we're joining the STEM Friday roundup. Drop by STEM Friday blog for more science books and resources. We're also joining others over at 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 Books Review copy from the publishers.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Wednesday Explorers Club ~ Strider Babies!

Strider babies at Baxter State Park (photo by Martha Mitchell)

About a month ago my friend and naturalist, Martha Mitchell, was exploring Baxter State Park in Maine. They were camping at the Northwest Cove campsite (you can get there by hiking or canoeing) when she saw a hatch of water striders. Like all members of the Wednesday Explorers Club, she had both her camera and her journal at hand.

page from Martha's field journal
"Tens of thousands of tiny young/ baby water striders skate on the calm water surface near the shore of the cove," she wrote. She measured the area they covered: 10 to 15 feet wide by 50 feet long. They were in constant motion.

"They move with the blowing wind and scatter when I stand or move... some hop on the surface... A hunting dragonfly occasionally dips to the water's surface for a meal. When the wind dies down, the striders move as a group to deeper water; then back toward shore when it picks up again."

As evening drew on, striders still covered the water's surface. Fish rose to the surface to feed, eating many of the striders, she noted.

The next morning the wind was gone. "The lake's surface is smooth - except for dimples like those made by raindrops. Looking closer... the dimples move." Water striders! still there, spread out across the lake. Martha paddled out onto the water, drifted awhile to watch the striders.

"They skated around in a seemingly random pattern, pausing only to change direction or take a smaller insect in its mouth. Periodically one would jump straight up into the air or dive beneath the water's surface. Striders that had captured small insects were chased by other striders who tried to steal the food."  
 More cool stuff about Water Striders:

Notes about life and ecology of water striders.
Seven Cool Facts about Water Striders.
video of water strider hunting flies