Friday, March 28, 2014

Abayomi, an Orphaned Puma Cub

Abayomi, the Brazilian Puma
by Darcy Pattison; illus by Kitty Harvill
32 pages; ages 6-10
Mims House, 2014

In October, 2012 a puma cub was born in Brazil. That's not unusual because pumas, also known as mountain lions, range across North, Central and South America. They live in a variety of habitats, from desert to swamp to forest. This particular puma lived in a forested place close enough to a city that he could see the skyscrapers every day. But while he and his mom could see the city, nobody could see them. The pumas moved between forest and human habitation silently; unseen.

Until one night. The mother, hunting for food, revisited a chicken coop she’d raided a few weeks earlier. But this time the farmer was ready for her – with a trap. Unfortunately, the mother was injured and died, leaving the cub to fend for himself until, a month later, scientists finally rescued him.

When Darcy Pattison first heard about the orphaned puma cub, she knew there was a story… but where? Part of that story, she knew, would have to be about the impact urbanization has on wildlife.

Darcy: Now more people live in urban areas than rural. That changes the question from “how can we save this species” to one of how we can live in a way that we share the world so that both humans and wild things can survive. Some city planners try to create green spaces and corridors that link forests to each other so that wild populations can move from one place to another.

Archimedes: What intrigued you so much about this particular story?

Darcy: The fact that pumas live so close to people and yet they are invisible. When I looked at a “Google Earth” map of where the chicken coop is, it’s within a mile or so of a large city. The pumas hunt over wide areas, so they wander through human territory. But no one has documented their existence. It’s similar to the cougar (mountain lion) sightings in the northeast and mid-south. People swear they’ve seen “big cats” but there’s no documented trace of them. Their secrecy – and their adaptability – are a big part of why I like this story.

Archimedes: What can people do to make it easier for pumas and other wildlife to survive in and around expanding urban areas?

Darcy: In Brazil the government established policy that requires landowners and farmers to set aside a certain amount of land for wildlife. But there’s more to it than just putting aside acreage. When deciding to create wildlife corridors – swaths of land that animals can use to travel from a forest on one side of a city to a forest on the other – land-use planners need to think about where animals normally go. Most animals follow rivers and creeks, so working those into the corridor plans makes sense. Road crossings are the most dangerous. As we become more urban, this problem increases. The question we need to ask ourselves is: How do we make room for the animals that we share the planet with?
Drop by STEM Friday to see what other science books and resources bloggers are sharing. Review copy provided by publisher.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Exploring Forest Habitats

About Habitats: Forests
By Cathryn Sill; illus by John Sill
48 pages; ages 3-7
Peachtree publishers, 2014

The latest addition to the About Habitat series highlights the diversity of the forest biome. As with previous books, each spread introduces one concept in simple language and eloquent illustrations. Each illustration focuses on a particular type of forest -  deciduous, rainforest, dry forest, boreal forest, or cloud forest - and highlights animals, birds, plants or fungi that live in those forests.

For example, Sill introduces the idea of plants and trees growing in layers. The illustrations of a tropical rainforest shows the forest floor, the understory, and the canopy. Sills shows the seasons of a forest, how animals use the trees and plants for food, and how people use forest products that include everything from paper to medicine and chocolate.

One of the things I love about these books is the yummy back matter: six pages of detailed notes about each illustration, a glossary, websites and books. There's a handy map at the front, too, showing the major forest areas of the world.

This is the last stop for the Forests Blog Tour . Take a minute to drop by Peachtree to find the list of other blog stops, and read what others have to say about this book. Then amble on over to STEM Friday to see what other bloggers are writing about.
 On Monday we're over at the Nonfiction Monday blog. You'll find lots of nonfiction resources there. Review copy provided by publisher.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Bedtime Math for Pi Day!

Bedtime Math 2; This Time It's Personal
by Laura Overdeck; illustrated by Jim Paillot
ages 3-8; 96 pages
Feiwel & Friends, 2014

Laura Overdeck has released her new book full of fun and crazy math - and just in time for Pi Day! Like her earlier book, this one is full of silly questions, puzzlers, and other math fun for kids who love to ponder stuff whilst in PJ's. And like her earlier book, there are problems for wee ones, for little kids, and for big kids.

But wait - that's not all! This time Overdeck includes a BONUS level where, she says, "readers can tackle math acrobatics that require two or more steps." And this time the theme is personal, with problems that feature spaghetti, underwear, duck-duck-moose, and the ever-annoying mystery of missing socks. You might notice that there are lots of socks all over the cover. What you won't notice, unless you take your book into a dark room, is that those socks glow in the dark.

I called Laura last week and asked her some questions about her book, math and Pi. First off, she pointed out that although her book was released this week (in honor of Pi Day) there's not even a slice of a Pi problem between the covers.

Laura: Pi is a really tough concept, and is a bit above the level of most readers (up to second grade) of this book. However, today's Bedtime Math blog will feature something Pi-related. The thing with Pi, and why it's important, is that people tend to underestimate the distance around circles. Or curves - if you're ever stuck in a traffic jam on a curve, you want to be in the inside lane. So knowing that Pi is a bit more than 3 helps people estimate the distance around a circle, or how far a ball will travel in one roll.

Archimedes:You've added a BONUS problem. Anything else new with this second book?

Laura: I expanded the type of problems for wee ones, making them more concrete. Now there are problems that ask them to count objects on the page, or determine what is bigger, or figure out what comes next. I wanted to make it easier for young children to jump into doing math. At the same time, I want to make parents comfortable with sharing math with their kids. Over the past couple years I've learned that people are reluctant to change things - so in this book I wanted to make sure that if we asked kids to count something, it would be an item almost everyone would have in their home.

Archimedes: What are the Crazy Eights?

Laura: We're launching a nation-wide math club that will be available to schools for free. There are four age levels: PreK, kindergarten, grades 1-2, and grades 3-5 - and they all feature hands-on activities. The idea is to make math a fun, social activity. Click here for more info.

Thanks, Laura - and now....  Time for Pi! One of the activities Laura suggested for Pi Day is to compare the distance around two circular things. For example: how much farther does a large bike tire go in one rotation compared to a kid's bike tire? Or how much farther does a beach ball go in one roll than a soccer ball? Or if you were a lego-man, how much farther would you have to walk if you were walking along the crusty edge of a large pizza compared to a medium pizza?

And what does this have to do with Pi, anyway?

Pi is the ratio of a circle's circumference (distance around) to it's diameter (distance across). Put in math language,  π = c/d. But don't take my word for it. Go on a Pi Hunt. All you need are a tape measure (or string), a ruler, a pencil and paper, a calculator and a few  round things: soup cans, the compost bucket, cheerios, m&m’s, a cocoa mug, cookies, marshmallows, cupcakes, a pizza….

Use the tape measure or string to measure the distance around your object (circumference). Now measure the diameter (the distance from one side to the other, through the middle of the circle). Divide C by d to get ... oh, perhaps you didn't get 3.14159. Not a problem – compare the circumference and diameter of another round thing. And another. Do any of them come close? If you get 3.14 you’re doing well.  Check out more Pi Day activities here and here

Drop by STEM Friday to see what other bloggers are writing for about science, technology, engineering and math today.

Review copy provided by the publisher.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Weeds Find a Way - Blog Tour & Author Interview

Weeds Find a Way
by Cindy Jenson-Elliott;
illus. by Carolyn Fisher
49 pages; ages 4-8
Beach Lane Books, 2014

Theme: nature, nonfiction

"Weeds find a way to live where other plants can't grow", begins Cindy Jenson-Elliott. They send their seeds into the world on parachutes or velcroed onto animal fur. The seeds find a way to wait until the conditions are just right for growing.  They grow and flower, providing insects with food and us with beauty. Whatever they need to do to survive, weeds find a way.

What I like love about this book: I like the seasonal structure. I like the repetition of "weeds find a way", and the celebration of how weeds solve problems they encounter. I like the bold illustrations and the "meet the weeds" section at the back - a mini-field guide with drawing and notes about weeds that we might find in and around our homes. I especially like the tone: weeds make the world a prettier place one blossom at a time.

Beyond the book: So many things today. Below is an interview with the author, but first some hands-on activities. 
  • Draw a weed. Find a cool weed and draw or paint a portrait of it. Make it big!
  • Adopt a weed. Plant a flag next to your weed so you can return to it - and so no one mows it. Then measure it and sketch (or photograph) it every few days. How does it grow? Do the leaves change as it gets taller? What does the bud look like? the flower? the seed pods? How far do the seeds travel?
  • What do the weeds in your neighborhood find a way to do? 
When author Cindy Jenson-Elliott taught school, she took her students outside to study the weeds around the schoolyard. She graciously answered three questions about her writing.

Archimedes: What inspired you to write a book about weeds?

Cindy: I like introducing children to things they see all the time, but we don't really notice. Weeds - especially those in urban environments - make us ask "how did these plants get here?" People think of cities as "urban wastelands" but they are home to many plants. I hoe that children (and adults) will appreciate the small, oft-overlooked things in their environment ... like the weeds.

Archimedes: How did you come to the "weeds find a way" structure of the book?

Cindy: While in the school garden with students, I noticed there weren't too many vegetables, but there was a tremendous "crop" of weeds. So I turned that into our lesson and we studied how they grew, how they spread their seeds, and ways they created a home in the garden. There were no books on weeds, so I thought about what a book might look like. I knew I wanted to focus on adaptations.

Archimedes: How did the book change during the writing process?

Cindy: I originally envisioned pictures of weeds around the page with notes - like margin notes or a sketchbook. Then Carolyn (the illustrator) brought her ideas to the project and the weed pictures and notes got transformed into the "meet the weeds" section at the back. Another thing that happened was bringing a second, visual story into the book. That's the story of the girl and her dog going on a walks through the seasons.

Cindy says she's busy working on another book about gardening which may or may not feature weeds. Meanwhile, spring is on its way, and weeds will be finding their way into your neighborhood. So head outside and meet a few of them.

Drop by STEM Friday to see what other science books and resources bloggers are sharing.

Today's review is part of PPBF (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.

Then on Monday we'll head over to join the Nonfiction Monday round-up, where you'll find all kinds of great nonfiction for children and teens.  Review copy provided by Blue Slip Media.

This is the last stop on the Blog Tour. If you missed any stops, here's the tour schedule:

February 24 -     Growing With Science
February 25 -     As They Grow Up 
February 26 -     Kid Lit Frenzy
February 27 -     Sharpread
February 28 -     Children's Book Review
March 3 -           Let's Go Chipper
March 4 -           Just a Little Creativity
March 5 -           Unleashing Readers