Friday, June 26, 2015


Woodpecker Wham!
by April Pulley Sayre; illus. by Steve Jenkins
40 pages; ages 4-8
Henry Holt & Co, 2015

Swoop and land.
Hitch and hop.
Shred a tree stump.
Chop, chop, chop!

I love listening to the woodpeckers in spring, as they drum on the dead trees in the woods around me. I don't like it when they cling to the side of my house and chip away - but those are the little downy woodpeckers and they fly away when I knock on the wall.

So I was especially excited to get a copy of this book to review. I love April Pulley Sayre's lyrical verse combined with Steve Jenkins's awesome cut paper artwork. Sayre shares the details of woodpecker life: communicating by drumming on trees, flaking off bark to find insects hiding in the nooks and crannies, preening, flirting, excavating a nest. We get a good look at woodpeckers up close and personal. Plus, now I know who gets my cherries before I get out there with a basket...

Jenkins populates his illustrations with a diversity of woodpeckers. We meet red-bellied and red-headed woodpeckers, downies and sapsuckers, flickers and pileateds.

I especially love the back matter - and there is plenty of it: six pages filled with info about woodpecker tongues, interesting behaviors, dining etiquette,and nest-building. There's great information about how we can help woodpeckers by making sure they have habitat to live in, and advice about how to find a woodpecker - especially handy for those who don't live in wood houses adjacent to forested landscapes.

Want to learn more about woodpeckers? Check out this quick guide at Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Today's review is part of the STEM Friday roundup. Drop by STEM Friday blog for more science books and resources. Advanced review copy from publisher.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Bee Dancing

Bee Dance
by Rick Chrustowski
32 pages; ages 4-8
Henry Holt & Co, 2015

This seems like a perfect book to end National Pollinator Week - and it's hot off the press. Written with a second-person point of view, it begins:

When sunlight warms your honeybee wings, off you go on flower patrol!

So begins a day of adventure - and work - for this honey bee flying over a prairie. Simple language allows young readers (and listeners) to join the bee as she returns to the hive and begins the waggle dance. The description is so good that you could do the waggle dance yourself.

The illustrations are multi-media: collage with pastel pencil - and from a bee's point of view... or maybe a beetle's point of view. From below, the stems and leaves seem huge, flowers towering above, bees coming in for a landing.

At the back there's an info-packed page that discusses why honey bees dance. If you're looking for a book about honey bees for older readers, check out this post.

If you want to get involved in citizen science projects that involve pollinators, click here.

Learn how to create pollinator-friendly yards here. And if you're looking for some hands-on bee science, check out last week's bee-watching activities.

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

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Not so Wordless Wednesday

Birds do it. Bees do it. Even bats and flies do it.... Pollinate the food we eat. But without bees, we wouldn't have many of our favorite picnic foods. Without bees our burgers would be tomato-less, our shortcakes strawberry-free, our deli sandwich served without pickles. 

No Bees, No Picnics

Without bees we wouldn't have:
  •  Apples
  • Apricots
  • Avocados
  • Beans
  • Beets
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Broccoli  
  • Cantaloupes
  • Cherries
  • Cocoa
  • Cranberries
  • Cucumbers
  • Grapes
  • Lemons
  • Limes
  • Mangos
  • Nectarines
  • Onions
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Peppers
  • Plums
  • Raspberries   
  • Strawberries
  • Tangelos
  • Tomatoes       
  • Walnuts
  • Watermelons  

Friday, June 12, 2015


Next week is National Pollinator Week. It's a perfect time to go bee-watching. Bee-watching is a lot like bird-watching except you don't need binoculars, and you can get closer to bees than you can to birds. But not too close!

  • How do the bees in your neighborhood sound? Listen carefully and soon you'll be able to tell whether it's a honey bee or a bumble bee or some other kind of bee flying around you. Even different kinds of bumble bees hum at different pitches.
  • Draw pictures of the different kinds of bees you have in your yard or neighborhood - even vacant lots with lots of weeds will have bees to watch. Color them so you can remember if this one was the shiny green bee or the dark black bee. Jot down some notes too: is it bigger than your thumb? Smaller than your pinkie nail?
  • Follow a bee around. Bumble bees are the best because they don't care if you give them some room. Plus they're slow. What color of flowers does your bee visit? How long does she stay on one flower? If you have a watch with a second hand, you can time her. How many flowers does she visit before she flies away home? And are they close together or in a line?
  • What happens if another bee - or a large moth or hummingbird - visits the same flower? Does your bee stay or leave?
Count bees for science! Become a bee-watcher for the Great Sunflower Project.  Let part of your lawn grow a bit wild so the weeds can produce flowers to feed the bees. Or, if you have room, plant some flowers for the bees. All you need are a few containers on a patio or rooftop or balcony...

Wild bees like:
  • Aster
  • Bee balm
  • Bellflower
  • Bleeding heart
  • Borage
  • Chives
  • Coreopsis
  • Cosmos
  • Daffodil
  • Dandelion
  • Geraniums
  • Goldenrod
  • Hyssop
  • Joe-pye weed
  • Lemon balm
  • Milkweed
  • Mints
  • Mullein
  • Oregano
  • Poppy
  • Purple coneflower
  • Roses
  • Sage
  • Sunflower
  • Thyme
  • Violet
  • Yarrow
  • Zinnia

Friday, June 5, 2015

Explore Honey Bees!

Explore Honey Bees! with 25 great projects
by Cindy Blobaum; illus. by Bryan Stone
96 pages; ages 7-10
Nomad Press, 2015

This book is hot off the press and just in time because in just 10 days we begin celebrating National Pollinator Week. It's chock-full of all things honey bee: anatomy, social behavior, a tour of the bee hive, There are lots and lots of things to do. Twenty-five of 'em, in fact. You can try stinger designs, check out what you'd see if you had bee eyes, and try your luck at communicating the location of sweets with a waggle dance. My favorite is how to make a bee buzzer.

There are lots of sidebars and text boxes with highlighted information, and cartoony illustrations to keep things light and fun. And there are lots of new words to learn, like spiracle, and pheromone. You can't learn about bees without learning some flower anatomy too. Because if you can't find the stamens, you can't collect that high-value food, pollen.

If pollen is important to honey bees, it's doubly important to flowers. They can't make their seeds (or fruit) if the pollen doesn't find its way to the stigma. Fortunately, honey bees - and wild bees - do a good job of helping move the pollen. Though they do it by accident.

The last chapter focuses on threats to bees: colony collapse disorder, climate change, and pesticides. But there's hope - and there are things you can do to help make the world a safer place for bees. One thing is to plant a honey bee garden. Another is to not spray pesticides in your garden and yard, and even the trees.

The book ends with a fun mad lib, a glossary, index, and list of resources - and a handy metric conversion chart so you can start thinking like a bee scientist and talk about meters instead of yards.

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