Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Wednesday Explorers Club ~ Look Closer

A flower ...
     but look closer. There, between the petals - a tiny insect. Who is it? What is it doing?

Raindrops glisten on the grass and leaves. Look closer - what do you notice?

Friday, May 26, 2017

Animal Babies

If you love to read about baby animals, here are two new books that are just delightful. 

Baby on Board
by Marianne Berkes; illus. by Cathy Morrison
32 pages; ages 3-8
Dawn Publishing, 2017

When you were a baby, someone carried you.
Have you ever wondered what animal parents do?

They may not have baby backpacks or strollers or carriers...  but wild animal moms have figured out how to transport their kids from one place to another.

Kangaroos use pockets, mama otters become rafts, and mother possums give their young piggy-back rides. Even dads get into the picture.

Fun, rhyming language and realistic illustrations introduce youngsters to the diversity of transport their woollier - and featherier - wild friends experience. Back matter includes a matching game and plenty of resources for further exploration.

Baby Animals (Animal Bites series)
by Dorothea DePrisco
80 pages; ages 4-8
Animal Planet/ Time Inc. Books, 2017

Many animals lay eggs and build nests - and not just birds! This photo-rich book focuses on  babies from across the animal kingdom. Information is presented in small, "browsable" chunks with many entry points. You can use the table of contents, or use the colored tabs to guide you in your wildlife safari: yellow for close-up look at animals, orange for a gallery exhibit highlighting diversity, and there's even an icon labeled "just like me" that compares how animals and humans behave in similar ways.

Some of the animals highlighted are bunnies, owls, red pandas, dogs, skunks, and more. Back matter includes baby animal activities, resources, and a glossary.

Today we're joining the STEM Friday roundup. Drop by STEM Friday blog for more science books and resources. Review copies from publishers.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Wednesday Explorer Club ~ watching time go by

Seems like just yesterday all my dandelions were bright yellow flowers, busy with bees and beetles collecting pollen. Then - poof! Suddenly the lawn is a sea of white fluffy seed-heads.

The cool thing about dandelions is that they are so ubiquitous you can probably find them at all life stages on your lawn (or in sidewalk cracks). Look closely and you'll see some that are still buds, not quite ready to open. A day later you might spy a bit of yellow. Then they flower and go to seed.

But how long does that take? This week, try to find some dandelions that are just about ready to open, or have just opened. Watch them for a few days.

How do the flowers change with time?
How long do the dandelions flower?
What happens as the dandelion grows older?
When do the fluffy white parachute seeds happen?

If you have a camera, try to take pictures of the dandelion as it changes over time. Or keep track by sketching it in your journal.

Another thing to ponder: do all the dandelions in one area get old and fluffy at the same time? Or are there new flowers opening as old ones lose their seeds to the wind?

And how long does it take for a seed to grow into a plant, anyway?

Friday, May 19, 2017

Books about doing Citizen Science

Arbordale, 2017; ages 4-9
Arbordale Publishing has two new books out that feature citizen science. That's when kids and their families help scientists do research. It might be tagging butterflies, or counting birds, bats, or even crabs. 

theme: nonfiction, nature, animals

Moonlight Crab Count opens with a list:
Full moon. Check.
High tide. Check.
Flashlight. Check.
Clipboard. Check....

Leena is getting ready to do science. She and her mom, and Bobie, the dog, head out to a beach where they will count horseshoe crabs. The crabs are ancient creatures, with hard, spiny shells and pointy tails. They are an essential part of the ocean ecosystem, and medical companies use their blood to test medicines. But experts worry that horseshoe crabs are disappearing, so every summer volunteers help count the crabs.

Arbordale, 2017; ages 4-9
 Bat Count begins with sunset:
The sun is dropping behind the ridge and the red-winged blackbirds have quit their squalling, so I know it's almost time.

Jojo remembers a time when there used to be more bats living in their barn. But then newspapers told how bats were dying of white-nose syndrome, and so Jojo and her mom began doing bat counts. At the beginning of summer, they saw only one bat. Tonight, Jojo hopes to see more. She is rooting for the bats to return to the night sky.

What I like about the books - They portray kids and their families engaged in citizen science: collecting data that will help researchers understand more about crabs and bats. Both books contain back matter that adds to the understanding of both the animals, and the research being done.

Beyond the books:

Find out more about Horseshoe crabs. This blogpost tells more about the crab count behind the book, and has links to citizen science crab counts. Here are some more links for horseshoe crab counts in Delaware Bay and New York.

Learn more about Bats at Anna Forrester's website.

Become a citizen scientist. You don't have to tag crabs or count bats - there are tons of projects to be involved in. Check out the links over to the right under "Get Involved in Real Science", or find a project on the Scientific American citizen science page or Scistarter. 

Today is 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. Review copies from the publisher.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Birds on the Brain

Birds are returning to our hill and staking out nesting sites. This is a great time of year to be watching birds, and here are three books for kids with birds on the brain.

theme for the day: nature, birds.

Duckings (Explore my World series)
by Marfe Ferguson Delano
32 pages; ages 3-7
National Geographic Kids, 2017

It's a wood duck!

High in a tree, a wood duck mother checks her nest.She sits on her eggs to keep them warm. Then one day, peck, peck, peck. Ducklings are ready to hatch.

What I like about this book: it is perfect for preschoolers, with large words or simple phrases that set off sections of a baby bird's life. Crack! They hatch. Jump! They leap out of the nest and down, down, down ... to a pond. Text describes the life of a duckling, and photos invite us right into their day, from learning what to eat (bugs are good) to following mom everywhere. Back matter includes comparing ducks with other animals that hatch out of eggs, "ducky details", and how to be a duckling.

Otis the Owl
by Mary Holland
32 pages, ages 4-9
Arbordale Publishing, 2017

Otis is a barred owl. When he grows up, he will have brown stripes, or bars, on his feathers.

Beautiful, detailed photos take us right into the first few months of a baby owl's life. Otis, and his sister, are the cutest, fluffiest sad-eyed babies you've ever seen.

What I like about this book: It shows all aspects of a baby owl's life, from hatching to eating voles, mice, and the occasional chipmunk. Sometimes Otis and his sister fight over the food their parents bring. Other times, he and sis are best friends, preening each other's feathers and standing watch at the nest hole. Back matter includes information on owl pellets, a guessing game, and details on owl anatomy. 

Birds Make Nests
by Michael Garland
32 pages; ages 4-8
Holiday House, 2017

Birds make nests. 

Two-page spreads show a diversity of birds and the nests they build. Some nest in trees, others nest on the ground. Some use grass to make their nest, or animal hair, spider silk, lichens. Others use sticks and mud. Some nests open at the top; some nests open at the bottom.

What I like about this book: It introduces readers to common and uncommon birds. Kids might recognize some as visitors to their back yard or local park. Others live half-way around the world, giving parents an opportunity to show on a globe or world map where those birds build their nests. It doesn't matter how big or how small a nest is, it serves an important purpose. I also like Garland's images, created using woodcuts and digital tools.

Beyond the books:

Do the "Ducking Dance" (adapted from Ducklings):  Shake out your feathers. Shake, shake, shake! Swim in the water. Paddle, paddle, paddle! Go for a walk - waddle, waddle, waddle! Then spread your wings and flap! flap! flap!

Learn to talk like an owl. You might have to go on a night walk or open your windows and listen for owls. Here and here are pages with information on barred owls and recordings of their calls. And here's a nest cam so you can watch owlets in Indiana.

Look for bird nests. Here are photos showing different kinds of nests you might find. Remember to be respectful of the birds - their nest is their home. Here are important tips for nest watching.

Today is 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.We're also joining the STEM Friday roundup. Drop by STEM Friday blog for more science books and resources. Review copies from publishers.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Wednesday Explorers Club ~ Find a Funky Nest!

Hummingbird nest on metal artwork. Photo by Marshall Raintich ~ Celebrate Urban Birds

The Funky Nest contest is back! Maybe you've found a bird nest in an odd place, like on the tire swing, traffic lights, in a barbecue grill, on the wind chimes, in an old boot .... anywhere. Now you can take a photo of a nest built in a quirky place and enter it in the Funky Nest contest.

"Wherever you find a nest, send in a picture, video, poem, or artwork about it," says Karen Purcell. She's the project leader of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology citizen-science project "Celebrate Urban Birds". The contest isn't just about bragging rights; there are prizes, including binoculars, bird feeders, posters, and more.

Nesting season is well underway, so now is a good time to head outdoors to enjoy nature and, if you're lucky, discover nesting birds in unexpected places. And there's lots of time - the deadline is June 30.

Who can enter? Anyone: all ages, individuals, a class, a scout troop or after school program. People all around the world can enter. More information, and link to upload entries here.

Click here for suggestions on how to approach nests when observing and photographing them.

Want to know more about kinds of nests and how to find them? Check out this page.

Friday, May 5, 2017


by Tim McCanna; illus. by Richard Smythe
32 pages; ages 4-8
Simon & Schuster, 2017

themes: nature, rain, ecosystems

Drip drop
      plip plop
           pitter patter pat ...

A rainstorm moves in as a fox trots through a marsh. As the storm builds, fox looks for a safe place to shelter.

What I like love about this book: The language. Reading the words aloud is like listening to a rainstorm. Whish! Hiss! Whoosh.... The illustrations are stunning, and capture the storm from all angles, including from above.

 You can feel the energy of the leaves whirling in the wind! I love the beat of the words, and the way they are grouped on the pages. At first the words are soft, few on the page, but as the storm intensifies the words become rougher, more intense, louder.

I also love that there is back matter: notes about ecosystems, watersheds, and the importance of water to plants and animals. The story itself doesn't explain the water cycle or ecology of a marsh, but we see it. Notes add some context that an older reader can share with a youngster.

Beyond the book: 

Follow the sound of Rain. Next time you have a rain storm, listen to the sounds. Write down what the rain sounds like. Feel the beat of the drops against the roof or earth.

Go on a "sense" walk. After rain, walk outside and listen. Smell the air, mud, plants. Feel the air, grass, drips and drops from leaves above. Look for glitter, rainbows, reflections.

Where does water go? Follow the rivulets - do they join a stream? a river? how does the water get from your house to a lake or ocean? Where else does water go after the rain?

Measure a raindrop. You'll need a cookie sheet or shoebox lid, flour, a bowl, a fine-mesh sieve, and a ruler. Here's how to do it.

Today is 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.We're also joining the STEM Friday roundup. Drop by STEM Friday blog for more science books and resources. Review copy from my personal library.