Monday, December 28, 2015

A Cartoon Prehistory of Life on Earth

When Fish Got Feet, When Bugs Were Big, & When Dinos Dawned: A Cartoon Prehistory of Life on Earth
by Hannah Bonner
128 pages, ages 8 - 12
National Geographic Kids, 2015

Given all the holidays, I'm hopping over to Monday to post a review of this fun book. This book is for kids who want to take a journey back in time ... to when life came out of the seas and onto land. It's a true story. As author Hanna Bonner says, "I didn't make up the plot... it was set in stone - the stone of the fossil record." But since fact is weirder than fiction, this tale includes plenty of bizarre plants and animals, dancing continents, and lots of fun cartoons. (well, OK, the cartoons aren't part of the fossil record.)

Way back, when Pennsylvania was covered by a shallow sea (430 million years ago plus-or-minus), there was a lot of life in that water: trilobites and coral, brachiopods that looked like clams but aren't related, and crinoids that look like flowers but aren't. There were also eurypterids - extinct relatives of scorpions, some reaching more than six feet in length. And there were bony fish that looked like armored tanks.

Bonner shows what it took for fish to become land animals, how bugs got their wings, and the beginning of dinosaurs. Back matter includes a timeline of life on earth, a vertebrate "family tree" and lots of activities for curious kids including a few on climate change and extinction. And, for parents - a dictionary of "how to pronounce the Scientific terms in the book" - because kids seem to have no problem with words like Eudimorphodon and Herrerasurus rolling off their tongues.

Today we're joining the roundup over at the Nonfiction Monday blog where you'll find even more book reviews. Review copy provided by the publisher.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Brain Games!

Brain Games ~ The Mind-blowing Science of Your Amazing Brain
by Jennifer Swanson
112 pages; ages 8-12
National Geographic Kids, 2015

"Your brain is the most powerful and complex supercomputer ever built," writes Jennifer Swanson. It's about the size of a softball, weighs about three pounds, and looks like a wrinkled up sponge - but it pretty much runs this show we call our body.

Every chapter focuses on a different aspect of the brain: how it creates memory, controls emotions, makes decisions, and solves problems. There are plenty of challenges (can you solve a Rubik's cube?) sidebars filled with fun facts and fancy words, and cool trivia. You'll learn about earworms - which are delightfully different from earwigs, but just as annoying - and why heart-pumping music helps you make better decisions.

I especially like the Brain Breaks - diverse puzzles and games that provide a break from reading and a chance to kick back and play - and the "try me" activities. Want to try an experiment right now? Smile. Yup, that's all: just smile. Smile for as long as it takes you to count to 10. Feel any better? (if not, smile longer)
What happens if you smile at other people? How do they respond? For a real challenge: try smiling instead of yelling at your brother... and observe what happens to you and to him.

There's even a section for people with busy busy crammed full busy lives - about multitasking. Our brain might do better if, instead of trying to do lots of things at once, we do one thing for a short period of time and then move to a different task (sequential tasking). Jennifer's "Rule of 20" goes like this: focus on one task for 20 minutes (set a timer). When it buzzes, take a breath, stretch your legs, then set the timer for 20 minutes and go on to a different task. Try this with your homework... your brain  cells will thank you. But remember Archimedes' Rule of 40: after 40 - 50 minutes of sitting, get up and move around for 10 minutes. Your body will thank you for that!

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 author & the folks at the GROG blog.

Monday, December 7, 2015

It's "Play Around with Computer Code" Week

It's Monday.... so why am I here? Because this week - December 7 through 13 - is Computer Science Education Week, and there are all kinds of fun things to do. 

It's also a great week to celebrate Grace Hopper and Ada Lovelace, two pioneers in computer science. 

Ada Lovelace was born in London on December 10, 1815. She had a talent for mathematics, and is often considered to be the first computer programmer. She also introduced the concept of repeating processes, or “looping,” using a computing engine. The programming language, Ada, is named after her.

Grace Hopper developed the first compiler for a programming language. She also popularized the term “debugging” - using used the phrase when she had to remove an actual moth from the computer.

What better way to celebrate than to learn how to write computer code? If you've never written any code before, don't worry. There are plenty of books and online resources to help you learn how.

One new book that I really like is Hello Ruby: Adventures in Coding. It's written and illustrated by Linda Liukas, a computer programmer herself. You can find a review of the book and interview with Linda over at Sally's Bookshelf - plus a link to Ruby's game page where you can play around with coding.

A really great resource is the Hour of Code site where you'll find some videos and puzzles to get you started. Use blocks of code to take two characters on a Minecraft adventure, build a Star Wars galaxy, ice skate with Anna and Elsa, and make flappy bird games and more. 

Go. Play. Have fun. In the process you'll learn a little bit about logic and spacial orientation and maybe even computer coding. Plus... I'm betting you'll spend way more than an hour.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Extreme Planet

Extreme Planet
by Carsten Peter & Glen Phelan
112 pages; ages 8-12
National Geographic Kids, 2015

If you're looking for adventure, this book opens up lots of possibilities. Tucked within the covers are photographs of some of the wildest places Carsten Peter has visited: volcanoes, caves, glaciers, and canyons.

But since it's winter, let's explore chapter 2: Glaciers and Ice Sheets. Greenland is cold and icy - a huge ice sheet one-to-two miles thick covers most of the island. This sheet was built up over thousands of years, with snow falling on top of older layers and compressing them into layers of ice. This ice pushes outward from its thickest region, says Carsten, like cake batter spreading out as you pour it in a pan. But a lot slower.

Each chapter includes current topics and science activities. In this chapter, Carsten addresses the issue of climate change and provides tips on things you can do to reduce global warming. He also includes a hands-on activity challenging readers to find fabrics that could keep them the warmest in an Arctic expedition.

Carsten writes - and explores - far away places. But, he says, there's a lot to explore right in your own community. Visit a nature center and learn about the plants and animals that live there. Learn what it was like before people settled in the area. Or settle down in your back yard and watch the wildlife that visit your part of the planet.

Today is STEM Friday. Drop by the STEM Friday blog for book reviews and other STEM resources.

Friday, November 27, 2015

A Trio of Animal Books for Early Readers

National Geographic Children's Books has a series of leveled readers for curious kids at every reading level. Here's a sample of three of their books about animals published this year.

Hoot, Owl!
by Shelby Alinsky
24 pages, ages 2-5
 level: pre-reader

Instead of a table of contents, the first page has a "vocabulary tree". In this case the list begins: animals. Under that: Snowy Owls. Then on one side a list with words related to Where they Live (snow, cold) and on the other side, What they Do (swoop, glide).

Easy-to-read text is accompanied by high-quality photographs. The last page in the pre-readers is devoted to an activity: pretending you're the featured animal and moving the way it moves, matching words to photos, drawing...

 Red Pandas
by Laura Marsh
32 pages; ages 4-6
level: 1 (starting to read)

This book opens with a table of contents and a question: Guess Who? Red pandas share the name of "panda" but, we learn, they are not any relation to the black-and-white pandas people are used to seeing.

Readers learn about life in the trees, what red pandas eat, and how they talk with each other. Large font text explains most of the material, with text-boxes for cool facts, new words, and even some panda jokes. There's even a panda centerfold - with Five Fun Facts and adorable photos of red panda babies.

The neat thing about books at this level is the "What in the World?" puzzle at the back: close-up photos with hints like "these are used for climbing." There is a word bank (words kids should be familiar with) and a photo glossary at the back.

Ugly Animals
by Laura Marsh
32 pages; ages 5-8
level 2 (independent readers)

This book is the antithesis of an animal beauty contest. Laura Marsh has rounded up some of the weirdest-looking creatures from air, sea, and land - even space!

There's a table of contents at the front and a photo glossary at the back. In-between are portraits of jumping spiders, tapirs, vultures, and bats. The text is more complex, with longer sentences and new words. There are plenty of text-boxes with cool facts, jokes, and "critter terms", and a centerfold featuring Five Ugly Frogs. At the back there's a quiz.

Kids who want to go beyond the book can become "Super Readers". National Geographic has a special Super Reader site with posters, activities, and games.
Today is STEM Friday. Drop by the STEM Friday blog for book reviews and other STEM resources.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Lichen-looking leaves me liking lichens

Foliose lichens

Lichens are an odd lot. They look sort of greenish and make their own food using sunlight, but they don't have flowers or leaves or roots. So they're not plants. They are a composite of two organisms: fungi and algae. Usually the algae is sandwiched in between layers of the fungi. They have a symbiotic relationship - both organisms benefit. The algae make food, and the fungi provide the structure and help retain moisture.
Fruticose lichen - bushy appearance

You'll find them everywhere - from the highest rocky tops of mountains to the rainiest rainforest. You may have seen crusty lichens clinging to rocks - they are the first colonists and secrete acids that gradually break down the rock surface, helping soil development. But it takes time; lichens grow really really slowly. A fast-growing lichen may add 1/2 inch a year.

Trumpet lichens
 Lichens will grow on just about anything that holds still long enough for it to attach to: tree trunks and branches, gravestones, old farm equipment, wooden picnic tables ... even sand dunes. If the sand is stable for a long enough period of time, a soil crust of lichens can form. That allows other communities of plants to move in and establish themselves over the top.

British Soldier lichen
Lichens do more than help the soil; they provide food for animals and insects, and birds use them in nest-building. People use lichens, too. Some lichens are used in dyes. When mixed with pine sap or urine, or burned to ash, they produce a range of colors from yellow to purple and reds. Some lichens are edible, used as food or to flavor food.

You might find lichens in your bathroom cabinets; lichens are used in toothpaste, salves, perfumes and deodorants. Some lichens produce chemicals that inhibit the growth of neighboring lichens - and scientists have found uses of lichen chemicals in herbicides as well as medical applications.

So what's not to like about lichens?
Today is STEM Friday. Drop by the STEM Friday blog for book reviews and other STEM resources.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Two Books about Animals

Arbordale has a couple of new books about animals this fall ~ one about instinctual behavior and one about food chains. They're both 32-page picture books aimed at the 4-8 crowd.

 The Hungriest Mouth in the Sea
by Peter Walters

"Who has the hungriest mouth in the seas of the south?" That's what author Peter Walters wants to know so he sets off exploring the waters around New Zealand, starting with the plankton that drifts with the tide and soaks up energy from the sun.

Using the refrain, "But look - a hungrier mouth in the seas of the South" he asks the reader who would be heading this way? His cut-paper illustrations give hints of the next possible link in the food chain. Kicking krill swarm and blue cod are out hunting, but neither is fierce enough to be the top in this habitat. Could it be the sharks? Pointy-tailed rays? The barracuda? Or is there something bigger out there waiting for supper?

The artwork is delightful and will inspire young artists to try their hand at cut paper illustrations, and the rhyming text is engaging enough to be read over again. Back matter includes a fun section on marine mammals that will have kids comparing their own bodies to whales. There's a predator-prey matching game and food web cards for a "Hungry Mouth" game.

They Just Know: Animal Instincts
by Robin Yardi; illus. by Laurie Allen Klein

"No one reminds a caterpillar to eat her leaves, or to make a chrysalis when she's old enough. Caterpillars just know." And once they turn into butterflies, they know how to fly - without even going to flight school.

Sharks are born knowing how to swim, frogs know how to sing, and baby sea turtles know how to swim across the ocean. Using simple text, the author helps children understand what instinct is. More challenging information about instinct versus learned behaviors is included in the back matter, along with a quiz about behaviors: learned or instinct? There's also some life cycle charts for those animals whose young look nothing like the adults (butterflies, frogs, ladybugs) and a matching game.

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.

Friday, November 6, 2015

What in the World? Look Again

What in the World? Look Again: Fun-tastic Photo Puzzles for Curious Minds
by National Geographic Kids
48 pages; ages 8 - 12
National Geographic Kids, 2015

This is not your average book. For one thing, it's good for your brain. For another, the format is completely different: it's a 10-inch (plus a smidgen more) square. And that makes it interesting.

There are pages of amazing photos: birds, frogs, ocean creatures, unusual architecture, feathers, scales, stones and bones.... and more. Some close-up; some from a distance; some not even real. And all of them are pieces of puzzles - that's where the "good for your brain" part comes in.

Your brain, it turns out, is a muscle just like your heart and your biceps. You exercise your arms to get strong, and your heart to stay fit. So why not exercise your brain, too? Picture puzzles help strengthen your visual perception. They also strengthen cognitive skills - that's the ability to think and process new information.

This book has different kinds of puzzles. "What in the World?" pictures challenge you to think about what you're looking at. It might be a piece of a photo, like an animal's nose or a snake eye. Each puzzle has an anagram clue, in which the letters of the word(s) are all mixed up.

"Real or Fake" asks puzzlers to determine which photos are real and which are faked. It's not as easy as it sounds, especially in this age of digital photography. So be skeptical about what you see. "Take a Look" puzzles require time: you have to search for things in a large picture. Think: "I Spy" or "Where's Waldo".

"Up Close" puzzles are photos taken with microscopes. A scanning electron microscope can magnify something 50,000 times - so it may look a lot different than the way you see it in the real world. The challenge is to match a photo (like magnified pollen grains) with a flower.

"Hidden animal" puzzles challenge you to find spiders, butterflies, and other critters that blend in with their background - and that calls for attention to detail. "Optical Illusions" trick your brain, while "Double Takes" make you take second - and third - looks to determine what the differences are between two photos.

What makes this a STEM pick? Well, if you want to be a spy (or a biologist or an explorer or an engineer, astronomer, geologist) you have to be really good at observing and remembering details. And a good scientist doesn't believe everything he - or she- sees in a photo - especially if someone else takes the photo. 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.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Perfect Pick for Halloween: That's Deadly!

That's Deadly: Fatal Facts that will Test Your Fear Factor
by Crispin Boyer
176 pages; ages 8-12
National Geographic Children's Books, 2015

How can you resist a nonfiction book that opens with "Abandon hope, all ye who open this book"? Especially when it's followed by, "Certain death awaits!"

Author Crispin Boyer brings us to the topic of death immediately by introducing us to our guide, none other than the scythe-wielding guy himself: Timothy. But before tossing us into deadly situations, this personable grim-reaper takes a moment to tell us how to use the book. Sorta like the intros you find in field guides.

So you'll find the usual warnings (this stuff is deadly - don't do it at home), a handy list of "terminal terminology", and a Kill-o-Meter that rates the degree of deadliness from risky to run for your life.

The book is conveniently divided into chapters on the ways you may meet your end: plagues, things that bite, extreme sports, natural disasters.... too many to list, but you get the idea. Pages are filled with photos (it is, after all, National Geographic!) and there are enough sidebars and text boxes to fill a journalist's heart with joy. Not only does Timothy include important stuff like official rules for dueling, but he sprinkles "fatal facts" throughout the chapters. Plus he answers the ultimate question: pirates or ninjas?

Tim the Grim Reaper also interviews folks, like Stephanie Davis who enjoys wingsuit skydiving. And for those of you thinking about future careers, he lists America's most dangerous job. Then there's killer toys, killer cars, and an entire killer continent. There is, of course, a killer "final exam" at the end, and a few Last Words uttered by famous people.

Caution: Read at your own risk!

 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.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Kyle Goes Alone

Kyle Goes Alone
by Jan Thornhill; illus. by Ashley Barron
32 pages; ages 3-7
OwlKids, 2015

theme: nature, animals, nonfiction

"I have to go," said Kyle.

The problem is that Kyle is a three-toed sloth living high in the rainforest canopy. And he's a slowpoke. And the "bathroom" is wa-a-a-ay down on the forest floor. And on this day, of all days, mama sloth decides that Kyle is old enough to go on his own.

What I like about this book:  As Kyle descends down, down, down the tree, he is never alone. Not only does mom follow him (though she stays mostly hidden), he meets other inhabitants of the rainforest: a red-spectacled parrot, a whipsnake, a tree frog.

I also like the repetition of Kyle saying, "But I'm all alone!" followed by "No you're not" croaked or screeched or hissed by an animal living somewhere on or near Kyle's tree. I like that the illustrator uses the book, making us turn the book sideways for more vertical illustrations that help depict just how far down Kyle has to climb. And I like that Kyle makes it all the way down by himself... and "goes".

Plus there's back matter, which I love because it fills in the gaps of the story. And I love the cut-paper illustrations. A completely different take on your "Going to the Potty" book.

Beyond the book:

Find out more about life in the canopy. There are lots of animals that live in the canopy of the rainforest jungles. But what about the canopy of forests near you? Is there a nature center with a tree house where you can sit and watch animals?

Go on a field trip to a zoo. Take along a camera or your sketchbook so you can draw pictures of animals you see that live in the rainforest canopy.

Watch how illustrator Ashley Barron makes Kyle from cut paper.

Try your hand at creating some cut paper animals. Or maybe you'd like to use fabric or scraps of paper and feathers. For more ideas, check out this post over at Sally's Bookshelf.

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 publisher.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Animal Partners

Animal Partners
by Scotti Cohn; illus. by Shennen Bersani
32 pages; ages 4-8
Arbordale, 2015

themes: animals, nature

It's hard to choose "opening lines" in a book filled with poems about animal partnerships. But here's an example of one:

Behold the wily crocodile.
Who will scrub his pointy smile?  

This book is a collection of poems that examine partnerships between animals. Usually, animals hang out with others of their kind. But sometimes one species associates with another if there's something to be gained. The crocodile mentioned above allows a small bird to hop into its mouth and clean between his teeth. In another poem, a sea turtle laments the barnacle attached to its shell, while another investigates a partnership between warthogs and mongooses.

What I like about this book: The poems are fun, short, and snappy. And the author explores different poetic forms. I like that there's backmatter: the author describes different types of symbiosis and gives examples of each kind from the text. There's a "match the animal partners" game and a "name the habitat" challenge. But I wish there was a page that described the different creatures. Especially the pseudoscorpion, a tiny arthropod I've come to know.

Beyond the Book:
Investigate how animals living in your area relate to other animals. Maybe you have birds that flock together and understand each others' alarm calls. Maybe you have wood ticks that suck blood from your dog (parasitism). Maybe you have some pseudoscorpions in your very own house, waiting to hitch a ride on a fly.

Write a poem or a song about animals that help each other out.

Can animals have partnerships with plants? Think of some cases where that might happen, like a bee pollinating a certain kind of flower, or a plant that depends on a bird or other animal to disperse its seeds.

Learn more about the animals mentioned in the book. Check out this video of barnacles eating. Or this one of warthogs and mongooses.

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 publisher.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Rude Bugs ~ They Don't Mind Their Manners! Plus Author interview

How Rude! 10 Real Bugs Who Won't Mind Their Manners
by Heather L. Montgomery; illus. by Howard McWilliam
32 pages; ages 6 + up
Scholastic, 2015

"Some bugs litter. Some pass gas. Others throw poop."
This book introduces some of the rudest bugs around... although they are still young - larvae or nymphs - so we might excuse their juvenile behavior if it wasn't SO gross!

Author Heather Montgomery introduces the bugs as contenders in a "Battle for the Grossest"- and you get to choose the winner. Each spread focuses on one insect and its uncivil behavior: mesquite bugs who pass gas, caterpillars who ooze green goo, beetle larvae who carry their poop around on their backs, and even one youngster who turns to cannibalism.

There is, of course, great back matter: some explanations about why this behavior is adaptive and not just "bad" juvenile hijinks, a handy map showing where to find these insects when traveling across the US, and a glossary.

These bugs are so bad that I just had to ask Heather why she wrote the book!

Archimedes: What inspired you?

Heather:  I love bugs! Ever since I started writing for children, I've been trying to write a book on bugs. I'm fascinated with bug behaviors, and the grosser, the better... at least for hooking kids. The idea for this book really began with the antlion, a true "litter bug". I found that idea amusing, but it wasn't until I was procrastinating one night when the idea for a bug contest hit me. Maybe I was inspired by one of those contest shows on TV or maybe it was a school field day event - but when those two ideas came together it seemed like the perfect way to present this quirky - but highly scientific - information to kids.

Archimedes: What sort of research did you do?

photo provided by Heather Montgomery
Heather: I started collecting research for this book more than 9 years ago! It may sound extravagant, but research is my life! I'm all about quests for information, asking questions, and making discoveries. To find the "bad boys" for this book, I climbed trees, stood shoulder-deep in a scummy pond, and sprawled across a forest floor. I also drove to far-flung libraries, dug through dusty books, and asked scientists lots of questions. I have more than 500 files in my "research" folder for this project. I guess you could say I'm obsessed with researching bugs. But I believe kids deserve accurate information.

Archimedes: Do you know any of these rude bugs up-close-and-personal?

Heather: Antlions under my deck were the genesis for this book. I was lucky enough to be shocked by the break-dancing behavior of azalea caterpillars one day while at the McDowell Environmental Center in Alabama. One day I smelled something putrid in my front yard and discovered a dead bird carcass in a nest. In flew a carrion beetle. And I sure hope there are some decapitating flies busy at work in the fire ant mounds in my back yard!

You can learn more about Rude Bugs - including how to find your own "bad boys" - and vote for your choice of the Grossest of All at Heather's website. And keep your eyes peeled for another bug book, because Heather says she can't stop at just one!

 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 author.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Amphibians and Reptiles

Amphibians and Reptiles: a Compare and Contrast book
by Katharine Hall
32 pages; ages 4-8
Arbordale Publishing

People who study amphibians and reptiles are called herpetologists. Ask them what they study, and they lump 'em all together into one large group they call "herps". Still, frogs and toads have some similarities, and they are very different from snakes and tortoises.

Katharine Hall compares how reptiles and amphibians are similar - they are cold-blooded and hatch from eggs. She also compares how reptiles differ from amphibians. Most amphibians have smooth skin, while reptiles tend to have dry, scaly skin. Photographs illustrate the important features: eggs, skin, fangs, webbed feet.

At the back are pages that go beyond the simple story. There kids can learn more about the five classes of  vertebrates (things with backbones) and play a mystery sorting game. There's a wonderful page that explains what being a herpetologist is all about, and what you'll need in your "herpetology research kit" and more.

If you really love frogs, then head over to Sally's Bookshelf today where there's a bunch of frog-related activities.

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.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Super Moon, Eclipse, and Space Books

Sunday night will be special - not only is it the night of the full harvest moon (a "super moon" no less) but it's also a chance to see a complete lunar eclipse. The moon orbits around the earth in an imperfect circle, so sometimes it is far away from the earth and sometimes it is closer. This fall, the moon is closest to the earth, and so the full moons look bigger that usual. People call them "super moons".

What makes the moon turn dark and red? Find out in this infographic.Something else cool is happening, too: this coming Sunday night is a lunar eclipse. An eclipse happens when the moon passes through the earth's shadow. If you're in the eastern part of the US, head outside around 9 pm and watch the moon. Here's more about the lunar eclipse - or you can click on the poster.

Earth isn't the only planet in our solar system that has a moon - Saturn has more than 50 moons, and Jupiter has at least 67. Makes you wonder what a "super moon" or eclipse would look like from one of those planets.

Speaking of Saturn and Jupiter... Capstone has just published a new series called "Smithsonian Planets". Got questions about where the fastest winds in the solar system are? Whether people are going to Mars? What Saturn's rings are made of? Then you'll want to read about "The Secrets of Jupiter" and all the other planets: Earth, Mars, Mercury, Neptune, Saturn, Uranus, and Venus.

(What about Pluto, you ask? As you might recall, Pluto was determined to be "too small" for regular planet-hood, so is now considered a dwarf planet or Kuiper Belt object - even though it has plenty of moons of its own.)

The Secrets of Saturn
by Kassandra Radomski
32 pages; ages 7-10
Capstone Press, 2015

What I like about the books in this series is that they begin with some basic info about the planet: distance from the sun (886 billion miles for Saturn), number of moons, day-length. On Saturn a day is 10 and a half hours, but it takes 29 Earth years to make one complete orbit around the sun. So winters would be really long.... great for skiers, though how one would ski on a gas giant is anyone's guess.

Then there's the wind: at Saturn's equator, wind speeds reach up to 1100 miles per hour. Compare that to the fastest wind on Earth, 246 mph, and that was during a hurricane. Kids will learn a lot about the planet, moons, and history of ancient astronomers in this photo-rich book. The text explains concepts well in kid-friendly language, and there's lots of fun stuff: a timeline of Cassini mission, a scientist spotlight, speculation on what scientists will find next.Here's the latest news from Saturn.

Future space cadets might be interested in Enslow's new "Launch into Space" series. These books explore the earth, moon, stars, solar system and the sun. Here's one I like:
Astronauts Explore the Galaxy
by Carmen Bredeson
32 pages; ages 7-10
Enslow Publishing, 2015

The book opens with some introductory information about astronauts, with each page focusing on one aspect: free fall, what jobs they do, space walking. What do they eat in space? Apparently the same stuff I eat for lunch, only packaged differently - and there's a great photo of some of their food. You learn how astronauts brush their teeth, use the toilet, and keep their muscles in shape. There's even some tips for astronauts to be.

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