Red Clover ~ a wildflower growing in abundance along our roads and in abandoned fields.Look closely, and you'll see that the flower head is made up of many tiny flowers. Look even closer and you might be able to count the petals (there are 5).
The leaves have white or pale green chevrons on them. Look closer and you'll see that the edges are fringed with hairs. Clover provides food for wildlife including pollinators and tiny caterpillars that dine on their leaves.
Who doesn’t love learning
more about the secret lives of animals! Here are three books that give us a
glimpse into the lives of elephants, foxes, and more.
Thirsty, Thirsty Elephants
By Sandra Markle; illus. by
32 pages; ages 3-7
It’s a hot, dry day in
Tanzania when Grandmother elephant smells water in the distance. Mama, Little
Calf, and the rest of the herd follow Grandmother’s lead. It’s been a long, dry
season of drought, and the river they find gets smaller by the day. There’s
barely enough grass for the zebras!
It’s so hot, and so dry that
Little Calf drops from exhaustion. But finally Grandmother finds a waterhole
filled with cool, thirst-quenching water. She remembered it from a long time
ago. Back matter reveals the true tale behind this story and lots of fun
elephant facts, plus resources for those who want to dig deeper.
The Secret Life of the Red
By Lawrence Pringle; illus.
by Kate Garchinsky
32 pages; ages 6-9
Boyds Mills Press, 2017
We have foxes living in our
area; some nights you’ll see one running across the road and leaping through
the fence into a field. But they’re secretive critters, so it’s nice to find a
book that gives an up-close look at their lives.
This book opens as Vixen sets
out on her hunt. She has a mate – they send wild foxy calls into the night – and
it’s time to look for a den so she can provide a safe place for her kits.
Eventually we see them, as they emerge to explore the world above ground.
Back matter includes more
information about red foxes, a glossary, and books for curious kids who want to
Whose Poop is That?
By Darrin Lunde; illus. by
32 pages; ages 3-7
There are lots of books about
animals: how they make homes and raise families, how they escape predators, and
how they hunt. There are even books about what animals eat - but there aren’t
very many about what comes out the other end.
Whatever you call it – poop,
dung, scat – it comes in all sizes and shapes. And if you look at it closely,
it can tell you a lot about an animal. This book presents footprints on one
side of a spread, with the animal’s scat on the other. The reader’s job is to
figure out the mystery animal. You don’t have to be an expert because with the
flip of a page you learn whose scat that is and a bit about the critter. There’s
turtle poop, owl pellets, and even fossilized dung.
Back matter includes the
“scoop on poop” and some animal scat facts. That fossilized animal poop? That’s
called a coprolite.
We’re on day 8 of the Blog Tour for Two Truths and a Lie. Thanks
for dropping by to play…
Two Truths and a Lie
by Laurie Ann Thompson and Ammi-Joan Paquette
176 pages; ages 8-12
Walden Pond Press, 2017
When a nonfiction book begins with a warning that some of
the stories included are not true – you know it’s going to be a wild read. The
thing is, the authors point out, there are lies all around us. Truths, too. Anyone
trying to keep up with political news knows that sorting fact from fiction is
But lies aren’t partial to politics; you’ll find plenty of
shady stories masquerading as scientific truths. Like stories about a fungus that
infects insects and takes over their brains, creating bug zombies. Oops – that IS a true story.
What Laurie and Ammi-Joan (who likes to go by Joan) do in
their book is play a game with readers. They present three wacky science stories
and challenge you to figure out which one is fake. For example, one group of three
animal stories features a chicken who lived without its head – and performed in
a circus sideshow, a cave-dwelling salamander that looks like a dragon, and a
tree-dwelling octopod that lives in rainforests.
Laurie Ann Thompson
Which two are true? Which is the lie? They tell you at the
back, and give lots of source notes for the stories so you can do your own
research. They also include a few words about how to tell truth from lie when
reading articles online and in the paper. It’s like a guide to finding facts in
the news world:
Stick to facts from well-known and respected sources, such
as an established newspaper, museum website.
When perusing Wikipedia, remember to look at the reference
section for citation of sources.
Train yourself to be skeptical when you read something that
is surprising or hard to believe.
And use your common sense. Ask yourself who gains from this
story? How does it fit with what you already know about the world? Have you seen it on more than one news site?
Keep those tips in mind because in a minute we’re going to
play an interview game called “Two Truths and a Lie” with authors Laurie and
Joan. The rules are simple: I’ll ask three questions. They will each give two
true answers and one lie. See if you can determine which ones are the lies
(answers at bottom of post).
But first, an introduction.
Archimedes: Hi Laurie. Hi Joan. I gotta know, do you listen
to the NPR show, “Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me”? It’s a bit like your book, but in
that show the panelists present 2 lies and a truth.
Laurie: Neither of us had heard “Wait, Wait” before we
started working on this book, but now it's one of our favorite podcasts! Yes,
it was partially because there is so much really weird but totally true stuff
out there, and partially because of all the fake but believable stuff we were
Joan: That’s right! The true stuff we were seeing was so
unbelievable that it seemed like a ready-made challenge in believability. Would
people be able to tell the difference?
Archimedes: Okay, let’s get started. Remember, readers: each
author will give one fake answer and your job is to figure out which one it is.
Question 1: While working on this book, what is the most
interesting researching experience you had, the weirdest interview, or most
bizarre way you discovered a fact?
Laurie: There were so many, but one of my favorites is when
I was looking for a specific article from Life magazine in 1945. I had scoured
all of the online databases and couldn't find it. I was working from home,
still in my pajamas, and decided to email the reference librarian at my local
library to see if they had the issue I needed. Within five minutes I received a
reply that they did have it... and an offer to photocopy the article I needed
and send it to me! I told her what pages I needed, and within 10 minutes I had
a PDF of the full article in my inbox. I hadn't even left the couch, and a
thorny research problem was solved for me in 15 minutes. I LOVE librarians, and
I LOVE King County Library System!
Joan: One of the most out-there interviews I had was with a
curator at the Boston Atheneum. I was researching books bound in human skin and
the Atheneum holds one in their collection. In the end, we decided to cut this
article from the final book—since we are pointing students to online research,
this was not a topic we wanted to spotlight!—but that interview certainly was
fascinating and revelatory.
Question 2: Tell me about your daily writing routine.
Laurie: I'm not a morning person, so contrary to popular
advice I tackle all of the distracting, smaller jobs first (with coffee!).
Then, I take a short lunch break (usually a caprese salad). Finally, I'm ready
to dive into an afternoon of focused writing time.
Joan: Most people might not know this, but I’m actually a
highly advanced android—I know I look like a regular human, but in reality I
don’t need to sleep, ever! (Or eat, but of course I do that anyway. Food,
amirite??) For this reason, I can work equally well at any time of the day or
night. For that reason, my routine can be a bit boring—but there’s lots of time
for researching fun facts!
Question 3. Tell about how you came to be a writer - or at least
think of yourself as a writer - and why nonfiction?
Laurie: I was a
software engineer until I had kids, then I decided I wanted to stay home with
them. In my spare time while they were napping, I wrote a program that would
read to them so my husband and I wouldn't have to read the same book 42 times
in one day. Once that was up and running, I decided to see if I could build on
what I had to make it write, too. It took awhile, but eventually it worked!
Computers are very logical and like information, so getting them to write
nonfiction wasn't too difficult. I haven't quite worked out the kinks with
fiction yet, though. It still feels a bit too... robotic. Stay tuned!
Joan: I actually am a fiction writer—originally, the idea of
writing non-fiction intimidated me. We had first thought that I would write the
fiction stories and Laurie the non-fiction ones. Once we got started, though,
we both found we enjoyed writing the opposite of what we were used to. For
myself, the amazing and unbelievable non-fiction stories were the ones which
had first sparked the idea for the book—and those have been by far the more
enjoyable to write.
Today we're joining the STEM Friday roundup. Drop by STEM Friday blog for more science books and resources. Review ARC from
No matter where I went last week - whether it was a walk down the road or following the bees through the tall grass where buttercups and yarrow are growing - there were plants covered with spitballs. Those spitballs are the foam homes of spittlebugs, immature froghoppers.
Spittlebugs are true bugs, related to aphids and cicadas. They have pointy beaks that they stick into stems and use to suck up the plant sap. They pump excess sap out, forcing air into it to make a bubble mass that will cover their bodies. These bubble homes protect the spittlebugs from parasites, keeps it from drying out, and also protects it from predators, such as ants.
What kind of plants do spittlebugs hang out on? Take a walk and find out. Look at pine trees and plants growing in weedy areas of your lawn or a park.
Where do they hang out? Look in leaf axils - where leaves meet the stems.
Do they like tips of plants? The middle of plants? The bases of plants? And does it depend on what kind of plant it is? Jot down the kinds of plants you find them on, and where they are on those plants.
Do they share their plants with other spittlebugs? How many foam homes do you find on plants? Are they close together or far apart?
How long does it take to make a spit-bubble home? To find out, gently remove a spittlebug (remember, they are babies) from its home and put it on another part of the plant. Then watch it start creating a new spit bubble home.
Two recent books allow kids the opportunity to explore science through poetry. They tickle the imagination and make you want to learn more.
themes: nature, imagination, poetry
Cricket in the Thicket
by Carol Murray; illustrated by Melissa Sweet
40 pages; ages 6-10
Henry Holt, 2017
Cricket in the thicket, cricket. Cricket in the house, cricket. Cricket in the bedroom, not as quiet as a mouse, cricket.
Playful, whimsical verse about a diversity of bugs, accompanied with the wonderfully bright, bold illustrations of Melissa Sweet. Can you ask for more?
What I like love about this book: It's about bugs! Butterflies, bumble bees, dragonflies, and even the least-loved members of the tribe: cockroaches, mosquitoes, ticks... yeah, even ticks. While the poems may be whimsical - they are also factual, and for each arthropod there is a text-box at the bottom of the page with a cool fact about the critter. For example: dragonflies are not true flies, daddy longlegs are not spiders, and roly-polies are related to shrimp.
I love the illustrations! This one, of inchworms and ladybugs is one of my favorites - probably because they feature common insects we can find in the garden. Or in your front yard, back yard, playground, neighborhood park. And there is Back Matter: notes on each featured creature, plus a table of contents.
by Jane Yolen; illus. by Josee Masse
32 pages; ages 5-10
Thunder under- ground. That's the sound beetles make when walking 'round.
These poems explore the world beneath our feet - both natural and man-made. We explore ant cities, fox dens, beetle mazes, subways, fossils, and plate tectonics.
What I like love about this book: The way Jane Yolen incorporates unusual aspects of nature. Did you know that plants talk to each other? Corn roots do - they send secret messages we can't hear. But they can be picked up by recording devices. In her end notes, Yolen notes that other plants make noise, too. What juicy gossip are we missing out on? I like that she includes plate tectonics and lava, and a pirate ship that sails across a number of pages.
And there is Back Matter: the notes where she explains in more detail about the natural features and creatures in each poem. There's also a table of contents.
Beyond the Books:
Write a poem about a bug. Or a fossil, skull, rock, tree, plant, or animal that lives in your area. There are so many kinds of poems to try: haiku, cinquain, or an acrostic. One thing to keep in mind: the best poems grow out of close observation. So take a good look at whatever you're going to write about. Look at it up-close. Look at it from a distance. Notice whether it smells, or moves, or makes noise. Most of all, have fun. Explore science through art. Paint or draw or tear paper and glue it into a collage - to create a picture of something in nature. Maybe a ladybug. Or a flower. Be bold and try something new.
This is the time of year you might find fuzzy pink-and-yellow moths clinging to your window screen or perched on the side of your house. At least that's where I find them. They are Rosy Maple moths. They spent the winter just below the surface of the ground, pupating, and in May and June they emerge.
The adults don't eat anything but spend their days mating and laying eggs. Those eggs will hatch into green-striped "maple worms" that munch on a variety of maple leaves (sugar, red, silver, box elder) as well as oak leaves.
photo by Colleen Wolpert, used with permission
According to Mary Holland, who wrote Naturally Curious, the caterpillars engage in possum tricks when handled. That is, they lie on their sides and curl their abdomen up under their thorax, pretending to be dead.
The Maple moths have a place in their local food web: they provide food for blue jays, tufted titmice, and black-capped chickadees. They also serve as hosts for parasitic flies and wasps.
So as you're out and about this spring, carry a magnifying lens along. If you come across this critter, take a close look at its antennae, wings, and furry body. Learn more about these moths here.
Spring is when seeds swell and burst, the new plant pushing through soil and leafing out. Same with books, apparently.
theme: nature, plants, scientist
Karl, Get Out of the Garden! Carolus Linnaeus and the naming of everything
by Anita Sanchez; illus.by Catherine Stock
48 pages; ages 7-10
Karl Linne was in the garden again. He just wouldn't stay out of it! Karl, get out of the garden!
Karl's mom dreams that he'll become a lawyer, or perhaps a minister. His father thinks he should apprentice to the shoemaker. But Karl loves spending time in the garden. He loves learning the plants, and watching the insects. So he tells his father that he wants to go to medical school.
Once there, he begins learning how to use plants for healing. There's a big problem though: with so many names for plants, how does he know which is the correct plant to use? Karl decides that what the world needs is a consistent system for naming plants (and other living things) - a system that will help organize life.
What I like about this book: It's a fun way to delve into the history of science, and also learn why we have scientific names for plants and animals. I also like that author Anita Sanchez includes some of the controversies about naming species - especially the idea of including humans. Imagine! Naming humans as if they were just another animal! Worse yet - lumping them in with mammals like groundhogs and cats! The very nerve!
Plants (a Reader - level 1)
by Kathryn Williams
48 pages; ages 2-5 years
Look around! There are plants everywhere!
This book is designed to be shared by two readers: an older reader who reads one side, and the just-learning-to-reader who reads the other. It opens with a tour of habitats where one might find plants: in the city, the rainforest, by the pond, and even in the desert. The next chapters explore what plants are, how they grow, and how people use them for food, fuel, and fiber.
What I like about this book: The photos help put the text into context, and show a diversity of examples when discussing fruits, for example. At the end of each chapter is an activity: a matching game, a problem to solve, or something to talk about. I also like the spreads are designed for two readers to share.
Green Green, a Community Gardening Story
by Marie and Baldev Lamba; illus by Sonia Sanchez
32 pages; ages 2-5
Farrar Straus Giroux, 2017
Green, green, fresh and clean.
Kids and adults rake and plant and water the garden. But when backhoes come in and dig the ground, the city grows. Everything looks like stone and concrete. but wait - there is a place where weeds grow through the mesh of discarded shopping carts.
Brown brown, dig the ground?
Soon everyone is working together to clear and rake and then the garden grows. and Grows. and GROWS.
What I like about this book: Plants grow everywhere! And with some work, kids and their adult friends turn a vacant lot into a community garden. I like the colors (green, green; brown, brown) and I LOVE the back matter - about how you can make your world more green. There are also notes about how you can help bees and butterflies by planting the flowers they need for nectar and pollen, and by not spraying your garden with chemicals.
Beyond the books:
Visit a garden. It can be your own, or a community garden, or a garden in a park or a botanical garden. Take along a sketchbook and draw some pictures of plants you find there. Paint or color them with the colors you see. Then go again in a few weeks and see what's changed - what colors are the plants now?
Plant some flower seeds in a pot, flower box, or garden. Watch them grow, and put them outside for the bees and butterflies to enjoy. Bees and butterflies like cosmos, bee balm, purple coneflowers, asters, marigolds, and calendula. If you have room, plant a few sunflowers - bees and butterflies like those, too.
Visit a farmer's market and buy some fruits. Fruits have seeds - so you might buy some strawberries (seeds on the outside) or peas (seeds on the inside) or peaches or tomatoes or even zucchini - they are fruits, too (even if your mom says they are vegetables)! Be adventuresome and try a fruit you've never eaten before.
Today we're joining the STEM Friday roundup. Drop by STEM Friday blog for more science books and
resources. We're also joining others over at 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 publishers.