Friday, February 21, 2020

Wood, Wire, Wings!

Wood, Wire, Wings: Emma Lilian Todd Invents an Airplane 
by Kirsten W. Larson; illus, by Tracy Subisak
48 pages; ages 7 - 10
Calkins Creek, 2020

theme: flight, invention, women in science

To Emma Lilian Todd, problems were like gusts of wind: they set her mind soaring.

Lilian grew up in a family of innovators, during the golden age of invention. While Grandpa worked on a carriage wheel, Lilian created her own things: a weather vane from a broken toy. She took things apart and put them back together – and sometimes they never worked quite right afterwards…

But invention wasn’t for women. So Lilian took a job at the U.S. Patent Office, typing up other people’s inventions. Fascinated by plans for flying machines, she built models and tested them. The designs weren’t very practical. So Lilian decided to build her own airplane.

What I like about this book: I like that Kirsten shows the journey from idea to success is not a straight line. When Lilian tests her first designs – they crash. Failure! But Lilian persisted. She knew she was on to something. I like how Kirsten includes the practical side of invention: Lilian needs space and money to construct a plane. Finally she gets it built, fires up the engine and … goes nowhere. Failure! But now Lilian knows what went wrong. All she needs is a better engine – one she’ll have to wait for a year to get.

I like the back matter: an author’s note about inventions and more about Lilian Todd, a timeline of flying machines, historic photos, and sources for readers who want to deep dive into more history about planes.

One Question for Kirsten:

Archimedes: What inspired you to write this story?

Kirsten: One of my StoryStorm ideas was “Rosie the Riveter.” I went through my story ideas in early 2014, and checked out a slew of books on the topic, including Rosie Revere, Engineer, by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts. The name of Lilian Todd and a note that she was the first female airplane designer appeared in one of David’s illustrations. Though I’d lived and worked around airplanes my whole life, I’d never heard of Lilian. Neither had my husband, who’s a test pilot and aviation history buff. I knew Lilian’s story was one I needed to tell.

Thank you, Kirsten. Kirsten is a member of #STEAMTeam2020 - find out more about her at her website.

Beyond the Books:

Read about Lilian and four other women who helped push the aviation industry forward

Check out some photos of Lilian’s airplane here.

Download an educators guide from Kirsten Larson's website.

We’ll join Perfect Picture Book Friday in a couple weeks -  once the Valentine story contest ends. PPBF is a gathering of bloggers who share their reviews of picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website. Review copy provided by the publisher.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Explore Outdoors ~ Cold Reflections

Does cold water reflect images more sharply than warm water? I've been wondering about this lately, as I observe the reflections in the river that runs through town. Though, at this spot the water isn't "running" anywhere - it's slowed to stillness by a small dam. Still, I wonder what will happen as winter turns to spring. I plan to return every couple weeks to snap photos of reflections and... reflect on the changing season.





This year I'm encouraging everyone to spend 1,000 hours outdoors. So on Wednesday I'll be posting ideas for nature breaks, field trips, and outdoor play. The goal: to have fun!

Teachers and homeschoolers who want to use nature breaks as field trips can grab a sketchbook or journal, something to draw and write with, and some watercolors, colored pencils, crayons, or markers. Think cross-curricular: art, language, science, math, engineering, movement, exercise! And come back Friday for some STEM book-talk.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Books Can Help Us Think Like a Scientist!

Today I’m sharing picture books that feature scientists – and want-to-be scientists.
Theme: biography, STEM, inspiration 

Dream Big, Little Scientists: A Bedtime Book
by Michelle Schaub; illus. by Alice Potter
32 pages; ages 3-7
Charlesbridge, 2020 (releases Feb. 18 

Dream BIG, little scientists, and close your sleepy eyes…
This is the perfect bedtime story to read your STEM-enthused youngster. Each spread illustrates a young scientist getting ready for sleep. Posters on their walls, quilts, and books on their shelves highlight their passion for a particular field, from astronomy to geology to chemistry.

What I like about this book: I love the calming rhymes that incorporate principles from the different disciplines. For example, one room has posters of Donna Strickland and Stephen Hawking, books about Newton and flight and gravity, and paper airplanes scattered on the floor. The text is perfect: As motion slows and quiet grows, objects come to rest.

I also love the ending – which I am not going to spoil for you – and the back matter that encourages kids to Think Like a Scientist! That’s where readers can learn more about the different fields introduced in the book. (review copy provided by Blue Slip Media)


Mario and the Hole in the Sky: How a Chemist Saved Our Planet
by Elizabeth Rusch; illus. by Teresa Martinez
40 pages; ages 6-9
Charlesbridge, 2019

 Mario Molina was born in Mexico City on March 19, 1943. By the time he was six, the world was awash in amazing new products made from amazing new chemicals.

When he turned eight, his parents gave him a microscope. Mario put a drop of water – and then some dirty, smelly water – under his microscope lens. He looked at salt crystals, food, even toothpaste. When Mario wanted to turn a bathroom into a chemistry lab, his parents encouraged him – even buying chemicals he couldn’t find in children’s chemistry sets.

As Mario studied chemistry, he wondered about the safety of new chemicals. Soon, he was studying chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), chemicals used as a propellant in spray cans and used in refrigerators. They stuck around in the atmosphere and broke up the ozone molecules. Mario had to warn people, and quickly, before the hole in the ozone got too large to fix.

What I like about this book: Scientist-becomes-hero! A great story – but wait! What happens when people don’t want to believe what you have discovered? That, too, is part of this story. What I really like: that leaders from around the world listened and took action. It gives you hope that maybe, just maybe, we can come together again to solve global environmental problems.

I like that back matter includes a comparison between the Ozone hole and global warming. There’s a list of books you can read. And there is a short list of things you can do right now to reduce your contributions to greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. (review copy provided by publisher)


Buzzing with Questions: the inquisitive mind of Charles Henry Turner
by  Janice N. Harrington; illus by Theodore Taylor III
48 pages; ages 7-10
Calkins Creek, 2019

As a passionate insect-watcher, I am happy to see a picture book about Charles Turner. He loved to study plants and animals, and bugged his parents with unending questions. When a teacher urged him to go find out the answers, Charles did. At a time when most colleges didn’t accept black students, Charles Turner went to college.

Charles asked BIG questions about small creatures: how does an ant find its way home? Could a cockroach learn to solve a maze? Can bees use color cues to find sweet rewards? He never tired of asking questions and sharing what he learned with his students. Back matter includes a timeline and resources for curious readers. (review ARC provided by publisher)

Beyond the Books:

Check out the biographies of the scientists whose posters are tacked to the walls of the kids in Dream Big... here at Michelle Schaub's website.

Learn more about Charles Turner here

Learn more about chemist Mario Molina here.

Think Like a Scientist – tips from a fun video.


We’ll join Perfect Picture Book Friday in a couple weeks -  once the Valentine story contest ends. PPBF is a gathering of bloggers who share their reviews of picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Explore Outdoors ~ Snowflake Size

Last week we had a bunch of snow fall from the sky. At first, the flakes were large and fluffy. They looked like downy feathers about as long as my index finger. In the space of a half hour they were replaced by smaller flakes. Over that time, the temperature had fallen from near 30 degrees F to about 24 degrees.

If you get snow during these last few weeks of winter, pay attention to the flakes. What do they look like? How big are they? Do they float or are they intent on reaching the ground? And how do they change over the course of a storm?




This year I'm encouraging everyone to spend 1,000 hours outdoors. So on Wednesday I'll be posting ideas for nature breaks, field trips, and outdoor play. The goal: to have fun!

Teachers and homeschoolers who want to use nature breaks as field trips can grab a sketchbook or journal, something to draw and write with, and some watercolors, colored pencils, crayons, or markers. Think cross-curricular: art, language, science, math, engineering, movement, exercise! And come back Friday for some STEM book-talk.