Friday, March 27, 2015

Flowers are Calling

Flowers are Calling
by Rita Gray; illus. by Kenard Pak
32 pages; ages 3-8
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015

Theme: nature, nonfiction, ecology

Flowers are calling a little black bear. 
No, not a bear! He doesn't care.
They're calling a butterfly to dip from the air.
  The flowers call a bumblebee, a hummingbird. Each creature, it turns out, answers to a different flower. For the bee it's Monkshood. For the butterfly, Queen Anne's Lace. The hummingbird uses his long tongue to sip nectar from long tubular flowers.

What I like: Rita Gray introduces us to three nectar-sipping, pollen-collecting critters and then, over the spread of two pages, introduces us to the plants they pollinate. And there's a diversity: insect, mammal, bird... daytime feeders, night feeders. And the illustrations are very nice.

What I really like: After introducing us to a dozen flower/animal pairs, she challenges us to look at flowers: their shape, color, pattern, how they smell, and when they open. Then she addresses how plants make sure they connect with their special pollinators. Some plants give off heat to tempt an insect into staying there on a chilly night. Other flowers have ultraviolet designs that are visible only to certain pollinators. The designs help guide the pollinators to nectar. Oh, and did I mention the illustrations?

Beyond the Book: Check out flower shapes. Butterflies like to land on flowers that provide a platform, like Queen Anne's Lace. Can you find other plants like that in your neighborhood? What about long, tubular flowers?

Flower Time: Spend a couple days watching flowers open and close. Our hawkweed opens when the sun is up and closes in the evening. Do you have any flowers that open and close with the sun? Could you plant a flower clock?

Who visits yellow flowers? What insects or birds visit yellow flowers in your area? What about red flowers? Blue flowers? White flowers?

 Today's review is part of the STEM Friday roundup. Drop by STEM Friday blog for more science books and resources. We're also joining 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 BooksReview copy from the publisher.

Friday, March 20, 2015

How does spring sound?

A couple weeks ago the sun burned through the clouds, and soon I could hear the drip-drip-drip of icicles melting. Faintly, from the other side of the ravine, I could hear the dull drumming of a woodpecker tapping out coded messages from a dead tree.

Spring is but a day away - what do you hear around your house as the season changes? Go outside for a listen. Find a dry place to sit, and close your eyes. Just listen. What do you hear?

Then take a minute to jot down some notes. If you can't determine what bird is calling, then describe how the call sounds. Does it slide up the scale, whistle, or chitter? Are there woodpeckers drumming on old trees or against the metal roof of a garage? Can you hear water moving? Snow melt? Sap drip?

Make sure you write the date on the page. Because every year is different. Two years ago it was 80 degrees in early March here in my neck of the woods. This year, on the same date, it was barely over freezing (32 degrees)... quite a difference.

If you're looking for more end-of-winter start-of-spring activities, check out this book review and related activities.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Once in a Hundred Years Pi Day

Tomorrow - Saturday, March 14 - is a historic day. It's Albert Einstein's birthday for which, if he were still alive, he'd have 136 candles on his cake.

It's also Pi Day. March 14.
3.14. Get it?

But this year, Pi Day is extra special because it's 2015, which means tomorrow is 3.1415. And if you chow down on a slice of pizza at 9:26 and 53 seconds - either for breakfast or a bedtime snack - you get even more Pi: 3.141592653.

You won't see that again for another hundred years.

Celebrate Pi day! Here's How:

Have a Pi Picnic: Fill your picnic basket with Pi food. Pie, of course - apple, cherry, key lime - but there are other kinds of food that qualify. For example: pizza, pineapple, pickles, pita triangles with pinto bean dip and picante sauce, pistachios, or pierogis.

Play Pi games: like Pictionary, pitching horseshoes, pick-up sticks, or swinging at a pinata.

Run: a Pi marathon of 3.14 miles. Or 3.14 laps around the track. Unless you're still buried beneath eight feet of snow, in which case, pull out your snowshoes or skis ...

Go on a Pi hunt: Pi is tricky to find. It is the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter. In math language, Pi = c/d. To find Pi, you need a tape measure, a ruler, a pencil and paper, a calculator, and lots of round things: cans, cocoa mugs, pizza.... Measure the distance around an object (circumference) and divide that by the object's diameter (distance from one side to the other through the center). If you get anywhere close to 3.14 you're doing great.

Speak a Pi language: Pirate, pig latin, or pi-thon (you can find out how to speak like a snake here).

Write in Pi-ku or Pilish. Here's an example of pi-ku:
Preheat, roll the dough
Add sauce and cheese and garlic ~
Pie are round, not square!
To learn more about writing poetry in \Plish, go here.

Compose a piece of Pi for Fano or piccolo. Here's some inspiration.

For a real challenge, memorize Pi to the first million digits.  Or at least to the first 100 because, after all, this is a once in a hundred year event.

Today is STEM Friday. Head over to the STEM Friday blog to see what other bloggers are talking about.

Happy Pi Day    ~   3.1415

Friday, March 6, 2015

When the Wind Blows

When the Wind Blows
by Stacy Clark; illus. by Brad Sneed
32 pages; ages 4-8
Holiday House, 2015

theme: nature, nonfiction, engineering

When the wind blows
   Porch doors sway
      Dune grass bends
         Sea waves spray

This is a wonderful book about harnessing the wind's energy - how it is transformed from a force of nature that spins turbines into electricity that powers our cities.

What I like about this book: The lyrical language. This is a nonfiction book, filled with wind turbine innards and magnetic forces and electrons. It is also written is lovely poetic language. I also love the way each page begins with "When the wind blows..." I also like the structure: we start at the beach, head offshore to wind turbines, then back onshore with electricity, and finally end up right back where we started: at the beach.

Beyond the Book: 
Make a Pinwheel. All you need is a square piece of paper, a pair of scissors, a thin dowel and a long pin (like a hat pin) or a long push-pin. Check out the directions here.

What's in the Wind? Maybe there are dandelion seeds or tiny moths... here's directions on how to find out.

Make a Wind Painting. Splot some tempera paint onto a paper plate. Then take it outside and let the wind blow the paint around.

Go on a Windy Walk. Grab your journal and head outside on a windy day. Jot down all the things that you see blowing in the wind: flags, leaves, branches swaying.

Make some Wind chimes out of recycled soup and tuna cans. Kid-friendly directions here.

Today is STEM Friday - head over to the STEM Friday blog to see what other bloggers are reviewing. It's also PPBF (perfect picture book Friday) over at  Susanna Leonard Hill's site. She keeps an ever-growing list of Perfect Picture BooksReview copy provided by publisher.