Friday, May 30, 2014

Dinosaur Week - How Big Were Dinosaurs?

How Big Were Dinosaurs?
by Lita Judge
32 pages; ages 6-9
Roaring Brook Press, 2013

Theme: nonfiction, dinosaurs, comparisons

“Stalking, running, stomping, crushing. When we think of dinosaurs we think of huge monsters,” writes Lita Judge. “But how big were dinosaurs REALLY?”

Through text and illustrations, Judge puts dinosaur size into context. A Stegosaurus, she notes, weighed about as much as three cows. But those plates on his back made him look a lot bigger. And Microraptor? That little guys was no bigger than a chicken. Leaellynasaura was nearly as tall as your average Emperor penguin and Velociraptor was only the size of a dog. A large dog, mind you. One of the largest dinosaurs, Argentinosaurus, was as long as four school buses and weighed more than a herd of elephants – but most dinosaurs fell somewhat short of that.

What I like about this book: It’s fun. Judge uses size comparisons to relate cool facts about dinosaurs, and combines creative storytelling with her wonderful illustrations to share authentic information about these ancient reptiles. In her illustrations she places dinosaurs next to modern animals (and cars) to give some perspective on relative sizes, and provides a fold-out chart that compares dinosaurs to each other.

Judge knows her facts; she spent three summers as a teen, volunteering at dinosaur digs. But she also has fun with her illustrations, imbuing her dinos with great expressions and hints of personality. For example: Torosaurus, with a 10-foot skull, is not the sort of beast you could force into the veterinarian’s clinic.

Beyond the book: How big is big? Relative size is cool, but what does it look like on the ground? Create size comparisons with sidewalk chalk on the parking lot or sidewalk or wherever pavement can be found. Pace off the size of various dinos and draw a line from nose to tail. Use different colors of chalk. Then you can do your own comparisons: how many kids lying end-to-end? How many hopscotch courts? How many school buses can park on the hugest dino? How long does it take to run from one end to the other (you need a stopwatch). Can you toss a beanbag from nose to tail? How many leaping steps does it take? How many dinosaur lengths is it from your school door to the post office?

You can see out what other bloggers are reviewing over at the STEM Friday blog. Then amble over to Sally’s Bookshelf to check out If I Had a Raptor. Today's review is also part of PPBF (perfect picture book Friday), an event in which bloggers share great picture books at SusannaLeonard Hill's site. She keeps an ever-growing list of Perfect Picture Books. Review copy provided by publisher.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Dinosaur Week Begins!

This week I'm digging into dinosaur books - here on Archimedes with nonfiction, and over on Sally's Bookshelf for a more imaginative take on dinos. Come back Friday for another book and some hands-on stuff to do.

If You Were Raised by a Dinosaur
by Isabella Brooklyn; illustrated by Haude Levesque
80 pages; ages 6 & up
Imagine! Publishing, 2010

If you’re looking for something for older readers, this is a good resource – and it’s written and illustrated by people steeped in science. The first chapter introduces the science of paleontology and some insight into how scientists determine whether a dinosaur walked on two feet or four.

Chapter two poses a question: what came first, the dino or the egg? Of all the things scientists know, or surmise about dinosaurs, the one fact they all agree on is that dinosaurs hatched from eggs. And those eggs came in a range of sizes and shapes- some were a foot long and ten inches wide, others only an inch long. The next chapter asks whether dinosaurs were good parents. Some dinosaurs protected their young from predators; some brought food back to the next for their hatchlings. Parental care in dinosaurs is one of the “hot” topics these days, as scientists uncover evidence that babies had no teeth – so someone had to feed them. And Massopondylus babies started out walking on four legs before they eventually learned to walk on two.

One chapter focuses on T. rex, comparing skeletons of youngsters against adults. Turns out humans share some similarities with this Tyrannosaurus: the young of both species take about the same amount of time to mature from juveniles to adults, and hit a growth spurt near 12 years of age. The book ends with a chapter about the future of paleontology, a pronunciation guide, and a useful index. 

Today it's Nonfiction Monday round-up. Head over to the Nonfiction Monday Blog to see what other folks are reading - and writing about. And check out a review of Tyrannosaurus Wrecks over at Sally's Bookshelf. Review copy provided by publisher.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Colors of the Season

Every season has its color. Here in the northeast, spring is full of yellow daffodils, coltsfoot, forsythia and dandelions. Red maple trees dot the sky with pale red buds and the ground is covered with the neon green of tree pollen. Hidden in the grass are the blues of Heal's all and violets.

Later, apple blossoms bloom white, and cherry blossoms pink. Buttercups dot the lawn and poppies open.

What colors are around your neighborhood this spring? If you have a camera, take pictures of the changing palette in your yard. If you don't, then use some paints or crayons to capture the colors of the season in your journal.

While you're at it, check out what insects are visiting the different colors of flowers. Bees are attracted to yellows and blues, but what about butterflies? What about flies and beetles?

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

Friday, May 16, 2014

Flight of the Honey Bee

Flight of the Honey Bee
by Raymond Huber; illus. by Brian Lovelock
32 pages; ages 3 - 7
Candlewick Press, 2013

Theme: nature,insects, nonfiction

A honey bee tackles different jobs over her short lifetime: she cleans the hive, babysits larvae, helps build and guard the nest, serves as scout and harvests food.

"This is the story of a scout..." begins Raymond Huber. "Scout has spent her whole live in the crowded hive. Now it is time for her to fly out and explore the world - time to search for flowers from which to collect pollen and nectar for food."

We follow Scout as she picks up scents with her antennae, dodges a hungry blackbird, and finds shelter from a sudden storm. Finally she makes it home and dances her dance to tell her sisters where to find the best nectar and pollen.

What I like about this Book: Aside from the marvelous honey-colored cover and those wise bee-eyes staring out at the reader? I love the name "Scout" - it's perfect for a bee on a reconnaissance mission. I like the "fact notes" tucked into the page: how many bees in a hive, how far a honey bee travels to find honey. I love the warm, honey-color running through the illustrations, and the splatters of color like bits of pollen that manage to get on every page. There's great stuff at the back, too - notes on how to "save the bees" and an index for impatient folks who want to quickly flip to the facts.

Bee-yond the book: Although Scout's story is set in the fall, right now is a perfect time to get outside and get to know your neighborhood bees. Go on a Bee Walk to see who's buzzing around your neighborhood. You might recognize honey bees and bumble bees, but there are lots of other bees around too - like the metallic green bees that hang around my flowers. If you're not sure what's buzzing in your yard, here's some help.

Make your Yard Bee- (and Butterfly-) Friendly. When honey bees and bumble bees and all the other kinds of bees in your neighborhood visit flowers, they do more than take nectar home to their nest. The also carry pollen from one flower to another. A lot of the food we eat depends on bee-pollination - like strawberries. How could you have strawberry shortcake without bees? Learn how to make your yard pollinator-friendly  here.

Learn the Waggle Dance. That's how Scout tells her sisters where to find the honey. You do a waggle run, then circle 'round right. Do the waggle run, then circle 'round left. Here, let the bees show you:

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.
  On Monday we'll scout the Nonfiction Monday round-up, where you'll find all kinds of great nonfiction for children and teens.  Review copy provided by publisher.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Butterfly Packages ~ Handle with Care

Handle with Care: An Unusual Butterfly Journey
By Loree Griffin Burns; photos by Ellen Harasimowicz
32 pages; ages 5 – 10
Millbrook Press, 2014

“A mysterious package has arrived at the museum. It’s shiny and has traveled a long, long way. It’s sturdy. And it’s inside this silver box….” What could this mysterious package be?

Themes: animal, nature, nonfiction

It’s a pupa! And what’s a pupa, you ask? It’s the teenage stage of a moth or butterfly’s life – where they hang around the house and look like they’re doing nothing, but a lot is going on inside.

This particular pupa started life as an egg on a butterfly farm in Costa Rica.

What’s a butterfly farm? Well, that’s what this book is all about!

What I like love about this book: Aside from the gorgeous photos and excellent writing, I love the endpapers. The front endpapers are chrysalises; the back endpapers are the adult butterflies. Book-ended between them is the story about how farmers in Costa Rica raise butterflies for museums around the world. They make sure caterpillars have plenty of food, and they scout for predators that sneak in. When the caterpillars are ready to pupate, the farmers move them into special screened cabinets. I also like the way Loree Burns explains terminology in easy-to-understand language, and the wealth of information tucked into the back pages. 

Beyond the book: 

Summer is a great time to watch butterflies around your neighborhood. Look for butterfly eggs on and under leaves in your garden. Here’s a guide to some common butterfly eggs.

Follow a caterpillar. How fast does it move? How far does it travel in a minute? And what is it eating? Draw a picture of what it looks like: is it fuzzy? Smooth? Striped or spotted? Does it have horns that shoot out of its head or big eyespots on its butt? If you don’t have a caterpillar guide handy, you can use this online caterpillar identification tool.

Whose chrysalis is that? Chances are you won’t find a chrysalis, because caterpillars climb to a safe and hidden place to pupate. But I’ve found Baltimore Checkerspot chrysalises on onion leaves – when there are plenty of tall weeds to give it cover! Here’s a guide to chrysalises.

Go to Butterfly School. Want to learn more? Then check out Butterfly School. If you have a chance to visit a live butterfly zoo or greenhouse this summer, do it. And ask the curator if any of their butterflies come from Costa Rica. 

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.
  On Monday we'll flutter 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 publisher.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Woolly Bear Secrets Revealed

The Secret Life of the Woolly Bear Caterpillar
by Laurence Pringle; illus by Joan Paley
32 pages; ages 5 - 7
Boyds Mills Press, 2014

“Bella is no ordinary caterpillar,” writes Laurence Pringle. “She is a banded woolly bear...” So begins this introduction to the secret life of a well-loved caterpillar.

Bella has 16 legs – how do you even walk on 16 legs? Not to worry – Pringle explains how different legs help Bella climb, move, and even help her eat. And eat. And EAT… woolly bears, it turns out, eat a lot. And produce a lot of frass (a cool word for caterpillar poop).

Bella eats all summer long, and then finds a safe place to sleep away the winter. In the spring, wooly bears wake up and start eating. Again.

Perhaps you’ve seen Bella and her buddies wandering about your yard searching for tender grass and tasty dandelion leaves to nibble. If so, take a few moments to watch them. If you have a glass plate or petri dish, put a woolly bear in it and watch how they walk. If you have a sandy area, put a woolly bear down and see what sort of tracks it makes.

Then help it get to a green and grassy place  because soon, very soon, Bella will spin a cocoon and change into an Isabella Tiger Moth. And then, one day later this summer, she’ll lay her eggs that will hatch into baby woolly bears.

Pringle gives us a great view into the every day life of a common caterpillar, and Joan Paley's bright and bold illustrations are perfect for spring. 

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