Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Wednesday Explorers Club ~ Who's visiting dandelions?

I don't worry too much about the dandelions sprinkled over my yard. They fit in, mixed among violets, strawberries, buttercups, and hawkweeds.

Plus, dandelions provide a pollen source for a number of insects. A couple weeks ago I watched skinny black wasps, tiny green bees, and different flies visit the flowers. Sometimes I find beetles on the flowers.

Who is visiting your dandelions?

Friday, May 25, 2018

Books that Celebrate Spring

theme: garden, plants, spring

A Seed is the Start
by Melissa Stewart
32 pages; ages 6-9
National Geographic Children’s Books, 2018

A seed is the start of a new plant life. Bury it in the soil and watch it grow, grow, grow.

But plants need room to grow. Good thing seeds have many ways of traveling to new places. In the pages of this book, Melissa Stewart explores the different ways seeds get from one place to another. Some fly, some float. Some travel inside animals, some hitch a ride on the outside. In clear, not-too-complex language, and with an abundance of photographs, she brings readers into the world of seeds.

What I like about this book: I like how each spread celebrates a method of seed travel. I love the photos. And I really like the front-matter: the first page lists six “words to know” that will help readers gain more from the book. Plus there’s an index of plants at the back – so kids who want to know about a particular plant can go directly to that page. And there’s a list of books and websites for further information.

In My Garden (Look & Learn)
by National Geographic Kids  
24 page boardbook; ages 2-5
National Geographic Children’s Books, 2017

In my garden, seeds hide in the dirt. Soon, the seeds will grow.

Over the course of a season, seeds grow into sunflowers in this garden.

What I like about this book: The main focus of this brightly colored book is the life of a plant, from seed to seedling to plant to flower. Interspersed are bits about other things you might see in the garden, such as a bird, or a caterpillar. Another thing I like is the interactive component: count the seeds, touch the caterpillar’s legs…..

Spectacular Spring: All Kinds of Spring Facts and Fun
by Bruce Goldstone
48  pages; ages 4-8
Henry Holt and Co, 2018

Spring is a season of spectacular beginnings. Green plants and colorful glowers begin to grow.

Such a busy season! Days are getting longer, we’re putting away our winter coats, and hunting for our rain boots.  In this book Bruce Goldstone explores different aspects of the season, from how umbrellas work to flowers and birds.

What I like about this book: It’s filled with unexpected surprises, like: what shape is spring? And what does spring sound like? Best of all, there’s a collection of fun spring activities, including mud paintings and how to make a rain stick.

Beyond the books:
Go on a Spring Scavenger Hunt. Create a list or bingo card that relates to things your kids might see, feel, smell, or hear in your environment. Get some inspiration here.

Look for plants that are in different stages of growth. Some might just be poking out of the ground. Others might have flower buds ready to open.

Plant a sunflower (or two or three) and watch it grow. And grow. And grow. Then watch what insects visit your flowers to collect pollen.

Make tissue paper flowers. You need scissors, tissue paper, and pipe cleaners or string. Here are some easy-to-followdirections.

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 publisher.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Wednesday Explorers Club ~ Sky views

The trees that frame our piece of the sky are changing with the seasons.
Look up!
What do you see now that is different from a couple weeks ago?
Find a tree that helps frame a piece of the sky and visit it over the summer. Notice what changes as we move from spring to summer to fall.
Take along your journal or camera to capture colors, clouds, flowers, leaves, insects, birds....

Friday, May 18, 2018

Eating Bugs with Rebecca Petruck

Boy Bites Bug 
By Rebecca Petruck
272 pages; ages 8 and up
Amulet Books, 2018

I love finding STEM-related fiction, especially when it involves insects! Boy Bites Bug is about middle school and growing up, discovering who you are who your friends are. It’s also about wrestling, racism, and respect. And, of course, bugs – some swallowed by accident, some on purpose.

This was the winter of the stinkbug invasion in our house, so I particularly loved the opening lines of the book: The intrusion of stinkbugs clumped on the ceiling in a back corner of the library, a splotch like crusty dried mud. 

Of course one of those bugs ends up in Will’s mouth! But instead of becoming an outcast, he becomes “bug boy”, and kids good-naturedly tease him by making up names for lunch items in the school cafeteria: French flies; maggot-aroni and fleas.

Turns out that people all around the world eat bugs as part of their meals. They’re a great source of protein. So Will decides to do a class project on eating insects, and enlists the aid of Eloy Herrera. Eloy agrees, in exchange for Will’s help with wrestling. As their friendship grows, Will’s friendship with Darryl cools. Darryl had called Eloy a racial slur, and seems jealous of the time Will spends with his new friend. Meanwhile there’s wrestling practices and… where did that box of live crickets come from?

I love that this book has back matter: a guide to eating bugs, and a few recipes. Author Rebecca Petruck even rustled up some grubs to taste test: waxworms in cookies, crickets in tacos, and earthworm jerky. Last week she graciously squeezed time between school visits to answer a few questions. 

Archimedes: This isn't a book about insects, but one about becoming a more thoughtful human. So what made you want to use entomophagy as one of the focal points? 

Rebecca: When I began thinking about a new novel, I actually started with the ideas behind edible insects. It took a while to find the story. It evolved naturally, I think, from the facts of edible insects being significantly healthier for the planet in that they use far fewer resources to raise while producing the same, more, and often better nutrients than “traditional” meats and many other food sources.

Our planet is experiencing climate change of a type not seen in millions of years, when Earth was not a homo sapiens friendly place. But, our country is not friendly to all homo sapiens either. Human rights are for everybody, no exceptions. I don’t recall a conscious moment of thinking, “These two facts go together.” It was that special alchemy of the brain making a connection.

We must respect the planet. We must respect each other. Our physical survival, as well as our emotional integrity depend on it.

Archimedes:  Tell us how you did your entomophagy research: what experts you talked to, field trips, events, publications? 

Rebecca: I immediately read The Eat-a-Bug Cookbook by David George Gordon, Edible by Daniella Martin, and National Geographic’s Ultimate Bug-opedia. All were invaluable in educating me and providing me with all sorts of cool buggy facts to use throughout Boy Bites Bug. 

I made dishes like cricket tacos and waxworm cookies from ingredients that arrived alive. I also sampled a variety of treats from several edible insect online shops. I interviewed leaders in the entomophagy community like Christina Socha of Bugs,Inc, and Stacie Goldin of Entomo Farms, who are making huge moves in the Canadian food market. And I follow an entomophagy group on Facebook with posts by leading chefs and edible insect advocates from around the world.

I think the biggest takeaway for me was how contagious their enthusiasm is. They genuinely love edible insects for their tastiness and feel passionately about insects’ healthfulness for our bodies and our planet. It’s a triple win!

Also, I went to Triton Middle School, where Boy Bites Bug is set. I was a seventh grader for a day, and I attended a wrestling team practice and later a tournament. Because a main character, Eloy Herrera, is Hispanic-American, I hired four Latinx middle school students in Minnesota to read an early draft of the manuscript, received notes from all, and was able to interview two of them. I also became a fangirl of Chef Enrique Olvera and modeled Eloy’s dad after him. (An episode of Netflix’s “Chef’s Table” features Olvera.)

Archimedes: What do waxworms taste like? (I haven't tried them yet)

Rebecca: They taste like soft macadamia nuts. In Boy Bites Bug, I describe the waxworms being overcooked in cookies and making the texture leathery and the worms a bit flavorless. That happened to me, too. Bake small cookies like the recipe recommends, and that problem is solved.

I ordered my waxworms from San Diego Waxworms. They arrived alive in two small containers of sawdust. That entire scene in Boy Bites Bug is pretty much a recreation of my experience.

Archimedes: I would feel bad about eating bee larvae. Are there any bugs you wouldn't eat?

Rebecca: I haven’t eaten bees because of the collapse of so many bee colonies, though there is a delicious-seeming recipe in Gordon’s cookbook called “Three BeeSalad.” I want to note that the first edition was printed in 1998, and the dramatic increase of colony collapse spiked in 2006. Responsible insect foraging and farming is as important to any entomophagist as the safe preparation and eating of insects.

As far as eating bugs, I’m game to try anything once. But I haven’t gone out of my way to track down dung beetles or cockroaches, both of which are edible. And I will never again eat earthworm jerky. Blech!

Head over to this page on Rebecca's website for some discount codes for edible insect online shops. You can also read the first five chapters of Boy Bites Bugs.

Thinking that you want to try eating some insects? Then check out this book:

Insects, An Edible Field Guide 
By Stefan Gates
144 pages; Ebury Press, 2018

This book covers more than 70 edible bugs from all over the globe. Part field guide, part cooking guide, it provides what you need to know before diving into dining on insects. It’s divided into sections by continent: northern Europe, southern Europe, Asia, Africa, North and South America, and Australia/Pacific Oceania.

The introduction includes safety issues (don’t eat arthropods if you have a shellfish allergy), and the environmental and nutritional benefits of chowing down on insect protein. While not a cookbook, it does introduce readers to a diversity of insects that you might not have thought edible.

 Today we're joining the STEM Friday roundup. Head over to see what other cool resources STEM bloggers are sharing. Review copies from publishers.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Wednesday Explorers Club ~ What the Daffodil sees two weeks later

Last week I posted this photo taken from a daffodil's point of view. The photo was snapped on May first.

In the intervening days, the weather has warmed, rain has fallen, and the daffodil has grown older.

Now what does the daffodil see?

Friday, May 11, 2018

Flying Deep with Michelle Cusolito

Flying Deep
by Michelle Cusolito; illustrated by Nicole Wong
 32 pages; ages 5-9
Charlesbridge, 2018

theme: oceans, exploration, nature

Imagine you're the pilot of Alvin, a deep-sea submersible barely big enough for three.

This book takes you on an adventure down, down, down to investigate a site where underwater volcanoes erupted. Two miles below the surface of the ocean, scientist are studying the living things taking hold near the hydrothermal vents. Getting there is a bit tricky, because you could get trapped in nets - and you only have three days of air - and who would come and rescue you?

What I like love about this book: The adventure of a day in Alvin! The story begins with launch, and divers checking that the submersible is dive-worthy. Then the pilot and scientists go down, down, down. I love the cool creatures that scientists discover in the deep, deep sea! There are ghost crabs, six-foot tall tube worms, and dinner plate-sized clams. I love the language Michelle Cusolito uses to describe fish - an elusive eelpout - and the technology - they toggle the slurp gun into position. Slurp Gun! How can you not love science when you've got a slurp gun? Another thing I love: that illustrations include women as scientists inside Alvin and on the research vessel, reflecting the reality of the Woods Hole crews.

And of course, the back matter - and there is plenty for everyone. Michelle writes about underwater food webs at hydrothermal vents. Too deep for sunlight and photosynthesis, the creatures of the deep depend on bacteria and microbes to convert chemicals vented from inside the earth into food. Those microorganisms are in turn eaten by bigger animals. She also writes about her sources: Don Collasius, a former Alvin pilot, and Bruce Strickrott, a current Alvin pilot. Illustrator Nicole Wong writes about her research to get the illustrations correct - from the technology to how it moves underwater. There are Alvin Facts, a glossary, and a guide to the organisms Alvin scientists have found, along with sources for further exploration.

A conversation with Michelle

Michelle Cusolito met Alvin pilot Don Collasius when she was teaching fourth grade. When he explained how microorganisms around hydrovents converted chemicals to food (chemosynthesis) she was hooked. Then while doing PiBoIdMo in 2014, she jotted down "Alvin". A couple months later she'd typed up a draft that was, she says, riddled with mistakes.

Now it was time to tackle the research. Michelle checked out kid's books to read, visited websites for Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and NOAA, and interviewed Don. As he talked about piloting Alvin, Michelle paid attention to sensory details. "For example, Don couldn't stand up inside because the space was so tiny." She also paid attention to details about safety protocols and how the submersible was prepared for underwater trips.

Then Michelle went to visit Woods Hole. "They have a science center with a portion of one of the old Alvin dashboards," she said. "And models of tube worms and clams." She read interviews with pilots, met Bruce Strickrott, a current pilot, and even got to go inside Alvin when it returned home for maintenance. "Bruce turned things on, like oxygen, so I could hear the noises that the pilot and scientists would hear. And he showed me how the joysticks controlled Alvin's collecting arm."

After revisions, she verified things with Bruce, such as the language that pilots and divers use during launch. Michelle encourages nonfiction writers to talk to experts. "Most of the time they want to talk to you," she said. "They are passionate about their work. As for Bruce, he also wanted to make sure that both the text and illustrations are accurate." Experts are especially helpful when writing about a complex topic for children.

I usually don't review books prior to their launch date, but Michelle has a special give-away opportunity for people who pre-order a copy of Flying Deep through her local bookstore, Eight Cousins. They will randomly select 5 pre-order customers to receive a crushed Styrofoam cup that went to the seafloor on Alvin. You can find out more about how pressures at the deep crush cups, and more about Michelle at her website. 

Beyond the Book

Go on a video voyage with Alvin. Click here for a video by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. Learn more at this page.

Check out pompeii worms in this video.

Explore hydrothermal vents near the Galapagos Island in this video.

Design an underwater vehicle for exploring. What would you include? Baskets for gathering samples? Long arms that you could control with a joystick?  

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 copy from publisher.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Wednesday Explorers Club ~ What the Daffodil sees

At the beginning of May our daffodils burst into color. Usually, I take photos of the flower faces. But on that day I wondered what the daffodils saw as spring moved in.

If you find yourself looking at flower faces, try looking at them from the back. What do you notice about the way they attach to their stems? Do the petals look different? And what do they see of the world?

Friday, May 4, 2018

Mission to Mars!

Mission to Mars
by Mary Kay Carson
32 pages; ages 6 & up
Sterling Children's Books, 2018

themes: space, technology, exploration

Mars. What image just popped into your head?

Science fiction movie? Roman god of war? Night sky-watching on a warm summer's night? How about space exploration? Because in your lifetime people could be headed to Mars.

In this book, author Mary Kay Carson begins by comparing Mars to Earth. Both planets are tilted, so Mars has seasons just like Earth does. And both have days that are similar in length - Mars days are 37 minutes longer than Earth days. But a Mars year lasts 687 days, and it's a lot colder. Think Antarctica. Now think even colder!

What I like about this book: Carson shares history of Mars exploration, from telescope to landers, orbiters, and the more recent rovers that roll across the desert-like landscape. The rovers send images back to earth, as well as data from their onboard labs that can detect bacteria and other signs of life. Carson goes into detail about what sort of evidence for life one might hope to find on the dry, cold planet.

Scientists continue discovering new information from the red planet. Just a couple years ago an orbiting satellite found evidence of water on Mars. And sometime in the next weeks, NASA plans to launch a new mission to Mars - perhaps as early as tomorrow (May 5) called InSight.  InSight will land on Mars and then drill into the crust to record geological data.

"NASA scientists want to know if Mars has a hot, liquid center like Earth, and how thick its outer crust layer is," writes Carson. As for future manned missions to Mars, humans will go there someday, she says. "We already have a lot of the technology and know-how." And should you think you might want to be one of the astronauts heading to Mars, there's a checklist at the end so you can determine if you're "mission ready".

Curiosity: the Story of a Mars Rover
by Markus Motum
56 pages; ages 8-12
Candlewick Press, 2018

Wherever you are in the world right now, I'm a very long way away. I'm not even on the same planet as you.

On August 6, 2012, the rover Curiosity touched down on the surface of Mars. This book is the story about her mission: to discover more about Mars and search for evidence of life.

What I like about this book: Curiosity tells her story in first person. How often do you get to read a story told by a Mars rover? First she tells why she was sent to Mars. It's a hostile environment for humans, so she and her rover sisters and orbiter buddies can send lots of good information back home to help humans get ready for a voyage. Curiosity takes us on a field trip to the lab where she was built and gives us the inside scoop on the tools she carries and her power source (plutonium).Then - her trip to Mars, and the tension-filled deployment from orbit to the surface. Of course she took a selfie!

The illustrations give this book a Martian ambiance. Motum uses the deep blues of space to highlight the warm, rusty hues of the Martian surface. Plus there's a timeline of Mars Missions at the back.

Beyond the Books:
Check out these Postcards from Mars - favorite images sent back by Curiosity.

People who go to Mars will need protective space suits that will also allow them to do work. Read about space suits here, and check out the latest in Martian fashion here. Then head over to NASA to design a spacesuit for Mars.

Watch InSight mission launch for Mars. You can watch it on the website here. 

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, May 2, 2018

Wednesday Explorers Club ~ Mars-watching

credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

This is going to be a great year for watching Mars. Over the next few months the red planet will get brighter in the sky - and by July it could outshine Jupiter. It will, says Deborah Byrd of Earth and Sky, look like a "red dot of brilliant flame" in the night sky. Check the sky maps at Earth and Sky over the next few months to follow Mars.