Friday, March 30, 2018

Where Science meets Art

It's been rainy this past month (snowy, too) - but still, on those not-too-wet days I've loved heading outdoors to see what is happening with the changing season. Here are two books to inspire your own investigations as we welcome April showers, mud and flowers.

themes: nature, water cycle, imagination

 I am the Rain
by John Paterson
32 pages, ages 3-8
Dawn publications, 2018

Sometimes I'm the rain cloud
       and sometimes I'm the rain.

Using poetic language and art, author John Paterson takes us on an adventure through the water cycle. He knows water - where it flows and how to paddle through it. And he knows its many moods, from wild and splashy to misty fog.

What I like about this book: I like the first-person point of view - a story about the water cycle from the perspective of the water. I like how we learn about water through the different seasons, and in different states - gas, liquid, solid. Water is everywhere on our planet and, as it notes, "All of life depends on me."

The back matter is filled with so much information and ideas for exploration. There are notes to explain the "science behind the poetry" and tips for taking care of water. Plus science, engineering, and math activities.

Anywhere Artist
by Nikki Slade Robinson
40 pages; ages 4-7
Clarion Books, 2018

I am an anywhere artist.

Who needs paint and paper? All this artist needs is her imagination! And maybe a few leaves from the forest, or driftwood and seaweed. Mud, stones, lichens - they can make art. Or perhaps your art can fill the sky, created from nothing more than water vapor and imagination. Who hasn't created cloud dragons?

What I like about this book: it is so fun, free, and filled with the joy of discovering art in the natural world. As one who collects leaf skeletons for their lacy beauty, I love that this wild artist uses leaf skeletons in her creations. I love that she takes us to very different environments to find natural materials: the forest, the beach, a muddy puddle, the sky.

The title focuses on the art, but inside the pages this is a book about discovering nature. If your kids haven't hunted for leaf skeletons yet, they will once they see them used as art materials. The other cool thing about this book is that all the art materials are biodegradable.  I'd just add a caution: if you go collecting natural materials for your own art, use things that are dead, and only take a tiny tiny bit of living plants.

Beyond the Books:
How much rain falls during a storm? The easiest way to find out is to set a bucket in an open area of your yard and, after the storm, measure how much water is in it. Or you can make your own rain gauge out of a plastic bottle.

Where does rain gather in your neighborhood? And where does it go? Does it create a wetland in your yard? Make rivers in the gutter? Whoosh down storm drains? Fall over boulders in a creek? Find out where it goes.

Create art from natural things you find. It can be as simple as painting with mud, or creating a pattern from stones. This time of year you might find leaf skeletons beneath old piles of leaves. Or if you live along a beach you can find all kinds of seaweeds and driftwood, shells, and claws. Leave your art in nature, and return in a day or two to see what has happened to it.

Ephemeral Creations ~ choose a dry day so you can lay on the ground and look at the sky. Then create art from the cloud shapes. Do tree branches frame your art? Does mist turn it into rainbows?

Today we're joining the STEM Friday roundup - and 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 publishers

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Wednesday Explorers Club ~ Mud Season

If you live in the northeast, you know about mud season. Squeezed in between winter and spring, it can run anywhere from the last part of March to the beginning of May.

It sounds boring, but there's so much to do:
  • hunt for bird and insect tracks
  • watch mud dry
  • paint with mud
  • take a mud bath
  • make mud pies
  • measure mud depth 
  • test its friction coefficient - mud hockey anyone?

Friday, March 23, 2018

Izzy Gizmo shows us Girls can be Engineers

Got a problem? Then grab your tools and figure out how to solve it. That's something anyone can do regardless of their age or gender. Here are two books perfect for kids who hang out at the library maker-space or tinker in the basement.

theme: engineering, problem-solving

Izzy Gizmo
by Pip Jones; illus. by Sara Ogilvie
32 ages; ages 4-8
Peachtree Publishers, 2018

Izzy Gizmo, a girl who loved to invent, carried her tool bag wherever she went... 

Izzy mends things that don't work. She also tweaks them and embellishes them or invents something new. Her inventions are marvelous, magnificent ... and too often malfunction. Like the spaghetti-eating machine, and the nearly-automatic hair cutting robot. Just when Izzy is ready to quit in frustration, she finds a crow with a broken wing. Izzy knows she has to help.

What I like love about this book: I love the feisty and determined Izzy. I also like her patient and supportive grandpa who reminds her that inventors make a lot of mistakes before they get to "ah-ha!" What I really love, though, is when Izzy decides to help the crow regain flight. She'll invent wings. Sounds easy, but she's got to collect some materials (I love the scene where she liberates a couple engine sprockets from a motorcycle while the leather-jacketed guys aren't paying attention!).

I love the bright illustrations, the wonderfully expressive characters, and even the end pages that look like an erector set blew up and landed on the paper.

A few years back there was a wonderful book about Rosie Revere, Engineer. She's the shy girl who creates wonderful gizmos from recycled stuff... including a flying machine. It flops, but Rosie keeps on tinkering until she overcomes the problems. The book is fun, and inspired a lot of girls to grab their own tools and engineer their own solutions. So I was really happy when, last year the publishers released a wonderful, fun activity book for Rosie Revere fans.

Rosie Revere's Big Project Book for Bold Engineers
by Andrea Beaty; illus. by David Roberts
96 pages; ages 5-7
Abrams, 2017

If you have not read Rosie's story, fear not - this book begins with the original story (though condensed onto fewer pages). Then there's a great list of stuff you should have in your "inventor's toolbox" and 40+ things to invent, draw, and make.

First thing: a page for you to write down questions. Because engineering begins with a question. How can we do this? How can we make that better?

What I like love about this book:  There's space for you to reinvent the wheel (yes! really!) and instructions for constructing a catapult. There are challenges, places to write notes, graph paper, and inspiration for inventing.

Beyond the books:
Check out what engineers do - from creating structures to coding programs to creating ways to keep our environment healthy.

Create structures using jellybeans and toothpicks. You might find jellybeans on sale this week, and you can check this site for inspiration.

Construct things, like a Marble Roller Coaster or a Snack Cracker Pulley machine.

Today we're joining the STEM Friday roundup - and 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 provided by publishers.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Wednesday Explorers Club ~ Catch the Wind

It's the first day of spring, and some of us are dreaming of heading out on a breezy day for a bit of kite-flying. After all, March is a windy month.

But kites aren't the only way to enjoy the wind. We have a "wind garden" around the house - chimes hanging from branches. They create a symphony of sound all year round. Some are finely-tuned, crafted by chime-makers. Others are shells, bamboo, spoons, and other things we've hung to capture the wind.

Up at the airport they catch the wind in a huge sock. And outside the monastery they've got strands and strands of prayer flags that flap in the breeze.

Here are directions on how to make a kite from a plastic garbage bag.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Celebrating Women in Science ~ Archaeology and Architecture

Archaeology: Cool Women who Dig
by Anita Yasuda; illus. by Lena Chandhok
112 pages; ages 9-12
Nomad Press, 2017

March is Women's History month, and I can't think of anything more appropriate than to share a couple of books from Nomad's "Girls in Science" series.

Archaeology begins by making an important distinction between collecting and archeology - you might have a stamp or coin collection, but archaeological collections demand careful notes and context that provides insight into he society that created the artifacts.

Chelsea Rose, for example, studies a Gold Rush town in Oregon. In addition to field work and interviews, she researches census records, mining claims, and newspapers. Justine Benanty is another archaeologist, but her passion is maritime archaeology and slave ships. So in addition to sifting through documents, she dives deep into cold water to uncover the facts.

Our world may be mapped, but the past remains largely unexplored. Which means there is a lot of room for you - if you love history and enjoy solving mysteries. It's not all about deserts and dirt - there are space archaeologists, and garden archaeologists!

Architecture: Cool Women who Design Structures
by Elizabeth Schmermund; illus. by Lena Chandhok
112 pages; ages 9-12
Nomad Press, 2017

Are you creative? Do you like solving problems? Architecture combines art and science - not only do you have to understand physics and engineering, but you get to design beautiful buildings. Or bridges.

Patricia Galvan designs post offices and modernized schools. She works at a small firm where she gets to see projects through, from start to finish. Farida Abu-Bakare remembers that she was inspired by the computer game "Sim City". And Maia Small is an urban designer. She remembers building structures in her back yard when she was a kid.

While the young women agree that the jobs they do are fun and challenging, they say that they are treated differently than men in the same position. They tend to be cut off when talking, or their proposals may not be taken seriously by their male colleagues. Still, they can't think of more fulfilling work. Their advice: study hard and try to get a mentor when you head into the working world.

Today we're joining the STEM Friday roundup . Review copies from the publisher.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Wednesday Explorers Club ~ a great day for Pi!

 Have some Pi!


Oh, you probably wanted some of this kind of pi!

However you slice it, today is Pi Day. March 14th. 3.14. Kinda cool, right? So many ways to celebrate:

Bake a pie. It can be berry or apple or pizza.
Compose a tune using pi. Here's how one pi-anist did it.
Write some pi-ku. They are like haiku, but focus on things with circumferences and diameters. Like pizza.
Tackle a Pi-mile challenge. That's right, get up and go outside for a 3.14 mile run. Or walk.
Create a paper Pi chain. Use slips of different colored paper for each digit, and glue links together in the order of pi.
Calculate pi of hula hoops, then hula with your hoops.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Recently hatched Bird Books!

Geese started flying north overhead a couple weeks ago! So I figured it's time to share some new books that feature birds.
themes: nonfiction, birds, poetry

For the youngest readers, a couple of board books that introduce colors paired with photographs of common birds.

 Look and Learn: Birds
24 pages (board); ages 2-5
National Geographic Kids, 2017

Splashy, splash, splash.

A red bird is taking a bath. Simple language introduces youngsters to colors, bird sounds, feathers and features such as a crest of feathers. Bright photos bring birds close to the reader. Fun and engaging, with some interactive components: touch the bird's feathers. I would have liked text to introduce the common names of birds.

My Colors (Early Birds series)
by Patricia Mitter
24 pages; ages 1-3
Cornell Lab Publishing Group, 2017

The Early Bird board books aim to introduce young children to nature and concepts. This one pairs colors to common birds children might see in their neighborhood.

What I like about this book: Each page features a bird, as well as a natural feature. For example, cardinal is paired with red berries. Text also describes the birds' calls. Tabs allow young children to grab hold for easy page-turning. At the back is a spread of all the birds introduced and QR codes linked to the sounds the birds make.

Bird Builds a Nest
by Martin Jenkins; illus. by Richard Jones
32 pages; ages 4-6
Candlewick, 2018

It's a beautiful day. Bird is up early - she's got a lot to do.

Breakfast, collecting nesting materials, and building a nest ... that's a long "to do" list. But Bird sets off, and soon she's found breakfast. A worm!
What I like about this book: it's about birds, sure. But also about physics and the forces Bird uses in her life. She pulls worms; they resist. She gathers twigs in her beak and, as she flies up, gravity pulls them down. When she builds her nest she has to push twigs and pull twigs to weave her home. Front and back matter include information about forces and some simple activities kids can do to explore them.

A Place to Start a Family, Poems about Creatures that Build
by David L. Harrison; illustrated by Giles Laroche
32 pages; ages 5-9
Charlesbridge, 2018

For thousands of years people have built shelters, writes David Harrison. Many animals are builders, too.

In this book he and illustrator, Giles Laroche, introduce readers to birds and other animal architects, and the cool shelters they construct.

The poem about Red Ovenbird is a list of questions: How do you hide your nest like that?  There is one about white storks and their nests high on chimneys. Poems also introduce wasps, spiders, moles, prairie dogs, and more.

What I like: that the poems raise questions for readers to consider. And I love the layered artwork. Laroch combines drawing, cutting, painting, gluing.... up to seven or eight layers in each illustration. Makes me want to get my fingers busy with art.

Beyond the Books:
Go on a bird walk! All you need is your legs, a place to walk, and a pair of binoculars. Take along a notebook so you can draw birds you see or write notes. Maybe you will hear an interesting song, or notice a nest. 

Make a list of the colors of birds you see. Learn a bird song.  

Make a nest! Gather some nesting materials and build a nest. Write down a poem about the shelter you built. Draw a picture of it.

Make your own layered art inspired by birds living in your area. Check out this post to learn more about how Giles Laroche does his artwork. Then have fun!

Today we're joining other reviewers 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.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Wednesday Explorers Club ~ Buds are Bursting

Depending on where you live (in the northern hemisphere), spring may already be on its way. Buds are swelling, opening, flowering... providing the first pollen of the year for bees.

Some tree buds open earlier than others. A good way to get to know the signs of spring in your area is to "adopt" a tree in your back yard or the local park. Visit it every week and take photos or draw pictures of what the buds look like.

  • What sort of flowers does it have? 
  • When do they open?
  • What do the flowers look like close-up?
  • How long do they last?
  • When do the leaves burst out?
You can become a "citizen scientist" bud-watcher for Project BudBurst and share data with others - check out their website here. One thing scientists have noticed is that buds are opening earlier and earlier each year. People's observations are contributing to their understanding of how climate change is affecting the natural world.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Life on Surtsey

Last week I shared a book about a long, deep hole in the ground - the Grand Canyon - featuring ancient rocks from millions of years ago. Geology, though, isn't just about old rocks.

This week's book features younger stone, rock, and land forms: an island born on November 14, 1963 from the eruption of a volcano. In the ocean. Off the coast of Iceland. 

Life on Surtsey, Iceland's Upstart Island
(Scientists in the Field)
by Loree Griffin Burns
80 pages; ages 10-16
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017

 "For the people who live in Iceland and the kids who grow up here, ice and fire just aren't that unusual," writes Loree Burns. But for everyone else around the world, this was big news. A new island! Scientists were eager to explore it - as soon as it cooled off enough to step foot on.

In this book,  Burns invites us on an adventure of exploration to the shores of an island now just over 50 years old. We meet some of the scientists who have been studying Surtsey since before she was a teenager. Erling Olafsson is one of those scientists who has been keeping an eye on the island's development since the summer of 1970. That was when he joined a small crew to study plants and other life on the island. They found insects, seagulls, plants...things that flew or floated to Surtsey's shores and made a life for themselves.

Through the pages, we join the 2015 expedition and watch scientists at work in the field. They set pitfall traps for insects, and sweep the grasses for flying bugs. Since the island was born, gulls have changed the soil, making it more suitable for plants. Seeds and insects have hitched rides to the island, and life has taken hold. The work is methodical, and it pays off: they find new species of insects!

What I like about this book: it's a marvelous adventure! The photos are gorgeous. In addition to plants, insects, and bird life, Loree introduces us to Icelandic culture, and the alphabet. The back matter is a rich resource, and she includes a section about other recently formed volcanic islands.

Learn more about Iceland here.
Check out this cool video of Surtsey.

Today we're joining the STEM Friday roundup - Review copy from the publisher.